The final world title bout of 2018 saw a new WBO Super Flyweight world champion being crowned as Filipino Donnie Nietes (42-1-5, 23) shocked the gamblers and took a split decision win over Kazuto Ioka (23-2, 13) [井岡一翔] in a brilliant technical match up between two fantastic fighters who fought evenly through out a captivating contest. Not only was it a captivating contest, but it was one fought at such a high skill level that both men showed off technical mastery like so few bouts we've seen this year.
Nietes took the early lead. He was countering well and making the most of the opportunities Ioka was giving him by fighting on the inside. It was brilliant work from Nietes to land the sharper, cleaner, more accurate shots. The early success of Nietes forced Ioka on to the outside.
Boxing at range Ioka had a lot of success in the middle rounds, with Nietes slowing down, showing his age and struggling to catch up with Ioka, who seemed to run through the middle rounds with some ease to take the lead.
Ioka's success saw the bout tighten up, a lot, and going into the final rounds it seemed there was everything to play for. The success wasn't dominant, but was clear and it was obvious that fighting at range Ioka could control things, and if he was able to keep up the out put and the movement he should have been able to win.
In the final rounds however Nietes seemed to dig deep, find that extra bit of energy and close the distance. Ioka on the other hand slowed, began to stand his ground more and slow his movement. That allowed Nietes back into the fight, a fight that had seemed to be Ioka's after his strong middle portion of the fight.
With the final 2 rounds being ultra close, pick em rounds if left possibles score of the bout all over the place, potentially from 116-112 either way.
With the bout going the 12 rounds we went to the score cards and unsurprisingly they were split. Each man taking a 116-112 score card in their favour, though the bout was decided by a bizarre 118-110 card for Nietes, a score that would assume the judge had given Nietes every benefit imaginable.
With the 2 judges having Nietes as the winner he now becomes the third Filipino to become a 4 weight champion, the 3rd man to win world titles in each of the 4 lowest weight classes and a sure fire hall of famer. For Ioka there is strong argument to have a rematch, of if Nietes retires a chance at the title when it becomes vacant again.
For us fans this was the technical back and forth we had all anticipated. It wasn't a dramatic FOTY candidate but was a sensational bout, and the perfect way to close out the new year, even if one of the judges was watching something the rest of us wasn't.
The second, of 3, world title fights in Macau today saw IBF Flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane (37-2, 25) battle against little known Japanese challenger Masahiro Sakamoto (13-2, 9) [坂本真宏]
On paper this was a mismatch, a 2-time world champion, with notable wins against the likes of Muhammad Waseem, John Riel Casimero and Zolani Tete against a man who is best known for losing to a then little known Sho Kimura. It was however a bout that turned out to be a very, very entertaining contest with Sakamoto showing no quit and a lot of ambition.
From the first round it was clear that Sakamoto saw this as his chance to perform on the big stage, even though the bout was only shown in a few countries, not including Japan. He bit down hard on his gum shield and look to land combinations against the crisp punching and defensively sound Mthalane. We, as many, didn't really expect the Mechnical Engineering student to fight with such tenacity, but he did. Sadly for Sakamoto the clean shots from Mthalane were taking a toll.
Through the first 6 round Sakamoto really did much, much better than expected. He was clearly losing, and taking a fair bit of damage thanks to the clean, crisp, accurate shots of Mthalane, but he wasn't giving up. He was taking the fight to the champion and fighting on the inside, looking to wear Mthalane down with flurries.
Sadly for Sakamoto his effort, and the lack of pay off from the effort, took a lot out of him and he was looking exhausted at the end of round 6, with his face reddening and his right eye swelling shut. That eye would and his exhaustion would bee a major issues, with Mthalane landing more and more shots as the rounds went on.
Eventually, with their man a long way behind on the score cards, his face a swollen mess and his energy tank running on empty Sakamoto's corner pulled him out of the bout at the end of round 10.
For such an unknown, and we're not joking when we say that, Sakamoto put up a very brave performance in a bout that even those in Japan gave him little chance of winning. For Mthalane the win was expected, he was given a surprising tough work out here, and will now be looking towards a mandatory defense against another Japanese fight, Masayuki Kuroda in Spring.
The Light Flyweight division is one of the most interesting right now and today we saw interesting changing of the guard as the WBA Light Flyweight "Super" title was ripped from the hands of South African Hekkie Budler (32-4, 10) by Japanese sensation Hiroto Kyoguchi (12-0, 9) [京口 紘人], who became the first man to score a stoppage over Budler.
From the opening round Kyoguchi pressured the champion. That pressure wasn't successful early on, with Budler countering well, and making Kyoguchi pay for his technical mistakes. It was however pressure that began to pay off as early as round 2, when Kyoguchi began to land on the body of the champion with regularity. That regularity seemed to take a toll on, even if Budler was himself landing plenty of solid blows of his own.
In round 3 Kyoguchi continued to find the body of Budler, and also found success with more and more headshots, Budler seemed to have felt the power of Kyoguchi and was less willing to take risks, but used his speed, reach and footwork well to fight at range, a range heeded to be out. Sadly for Budler round 4 was his last with any notable success, as he seemed to grit his teeth, sadly the body shots seemed to take away some of his movement and he was being given more and more punishment, being stung notably in the later stages of round 5. From then on it was essentially more and more dominant from Kyoguchi.
The shots from Budler sounded like they were slapping blows, rather than real punches, whilst Kyoguchi was digging in his shots, really trying to hurt the champion. Something he did visibly in round 7, to both head and body. The consistency of Kyoguchi's work seemed to be slowly beating the fight out of Budler who was taking an increasing amount of head shots as the bout went on, especially uppercuts to the head. Budler's legs were still their but they were no longer getting him out of danger.
By the end of round 9 it seemed less a case of whether Kyoguchi would win, and more a question of whether he would stop Budler, who had been beaten up, battered and taken a lot of punishment. That question was answered at the end of round 10, a round that had seen Budler really dig into his reserve of toughness. That toughness was too much, and he was pulled from the bout between rounds 10 and 11, with his corner deciding enough was enough.
Despite a competitive start Budler began to look like an old fighter by the middle rounds, a combination of the body shots from Kyoguchi and his long career. When that happened Kyoguchi just broke his man, round by round.
For Kyoguchi this wasn't an amazing performance, it was a solid one though, but it was a fantastic result as he became the first man to stop the South African veteran, and a 2-weight world champion in just 12 bouts! A potential unification fight with Kenshiro looks on the cards and would be a massive fight for Japanese boxing. This also saw him gain revenge for stablemate Ryoichi Taguchi, from whom Budler took the title from earlier this year.
Earlier this year we saw Masayuki Ito (25-1-1, 13) [伊藤 雅雪] travel to the US and defeat Christopher Diaz to become the new WBO Super Featherweight champion. That bout saw Ito impress the US and UK fans, who had never heard of him, as well as becoming the first Japanese fighter to be crowned a world champion on US soil in over 30 years. Today he made his first defense of that title as he took on unbeaten mandatory challenger Evgeny Chuprakov (20-1, 10), from Russia. Despite it being a mandatory defense the bout was a mismatch, and there was several levels between the two fighters, with Chuprakov providing little challenge.
The open round was a messy one, with a lot of holding, wrestling and ugly action. The only real shots of any value were from Ito, who actually tried to box, whilst Chuprakov tried his best judo impressions and impressions of an angry goat, leading his head into Ito at every opportunity. Sadly for the challenger he was tagged by some brutal looking body shots as Ito showed he wasn't there to mess about. Chuprakov wrestled through round 2, and took more clean shots from Ito, who was starting to free himself from the messy spoiling, and landing more and more shots. Those shots became cleaner and cleaner round after round, with round 3 being another one where Ito dominated through his boxing, despite being cut from a clash of heads.
Ito managed to really begin dictating the range in round 4, as the wrestling seemed to tire out Chuprakov. That made life easy for Ito to land sharp jabs and open Chuprakov up for straight right hands. Up close Ito was having more success in the clinch, landing uppercuts and body shots on the inside. Those shots seemed to make Chuprakov think twice about trying to smother and left the Russian with out another gameplan. He was being out boxed on the outside and out fought on the inside.
In round 5 Chuprakov was hurt as he began to eat more and more head shots. He got through a doctors inspection on a cut, but wasn't able to avoid the punishment that Ito was sending his way. That punishment began to intensify with Ito really punishing Chuprakov in round 6, as the challenger's cut worsened and the fight was starting to become farcically one-sided. It seemed like the perfect time for Chuprakov's team to pull their man, who had no real chance of winning, out of the bout. Instead they let him go out for round 7.
By now Ito knew that Chuprakov wasn't much of a test and quickly hurt his man. Chuprakov held on, but Ito hit him with his free hand, and managed to totally break the clinch whilst backing Chuprakov into the corner and unloading. Chuprakov tried to respond, in an attempt to survive, and then spat his gumshield out. He managed to earn a short respite but was cornered again soon afterwards, with Ito again firing off with both hands. Chuprakov's corner had seen enough and climbed on the apron signalling that they wanted to save their man, who was just getting battered.
It was smart decision from the corner, their man had nothing left to offer though leaves us wondering what the WBO had had such a terrible mandatory challenger for Ito. Really Chuprakov didn't belong in the ring with Ito, or any top 10 type fighter. He was terrible. For Ito the fight didn't start how he would have wanted, but by the end end he was able to leave the impact he would have wanted, and threw enough in round 7 to have footage for a highlight reel.
It's now expected that Ito will be fighting in the US next time out, and he has spoke about unification bouts, specifically a bout with WBC champion Miguel Berchelt. Whether he gets a big stateside bout is yet to be seen, but we are expecting him to return to the US in the new year, for a much better test than the one he got today.
After years of being in Naoya Inoue's shadows today we saw his younger brother get his long awaited chance to announce himself on the world stage, as he took on Takuma Inoue (13-0, 3) [井上 拓真] unbeaten Thai Petch Sor Chitpattana (48-1, 33) [เพชร ซีพีเฟรชมาร์ท], also known as Petch CP Freshmart and Tasana Salapat, in a bout for the WBC "interim" Bantamweight title.
On paper this looked a good bout, two unbeaten men, each looking to cement themselves among the best in the Bantamweight division, and each looking to impress internationally, with the bout being aired in Japan, Thailand, Russia and the US.
Sadly the paper didn't really tell the full story, and didn't show the quality of oppositions, the skills of the two fighters themselves or the styles of the two men. Within seconds Inoue showed the difference between two fighters, shaking Petch with one of the first punches thrown, and then doing the same only moments later. It looked like Inoue was totally in a different league to the Thai, though to his credit Petch recovered well and was aggressive when the fight got into the second round, when he was again punished by the sharp punching of Inoue. It was in the second round where we had the only notable accidental foul, a nasty head clash that left both cut, but not too badly.
The Japanese youngster had spent a lot of time preparing for this bout by sparring top Japanese southpaws, and that showed as he repeatedly landed straight right hands onto the face of the Thai, and wonderfully timed left hooks. Petch kept marching forward, letting his hands go in volume, but kept falling short, missing wildly and and catching Inoue's guard. Through 2 rounds he looked a sensation, with brilliant timing, control and movement. In round 3 however he began to slow down and Petch began to have more success, that success was short lived however with Inoue shining again in round 4 with some more solid right hands.
The open scoring all had Inoue up, 39-37, after 4 rounds. He however did appear to be tiring, and slowed more in the middle rounds as Petch applied more and more pressure. It wasn't effective pressure from the Thai, but was making Inoue work hard and he tried to respond by going to war with the Thai, it was a short lived tactic that Inoue ditched when he went back to boxing and moving. It was was clear that Petch wasn't going to go away, he wasn't going to stop firing shots and he wasn't going to give up, but he was going to continue eating clean shots if Inoue moved around. Despite changing tactics a few times from the Japanese fighter was up 79-73, 78-74 and 77-75 when the scores were announced again at the end of round 8.
It seemed like Inoue was tiring through the middle rounds and like Petch felt their could be an opening late on. That opening however was slammed shut in round 9 when he was rocked hard towards the end of the round. Prior to hurting his man Inoue had looked back to his best, finding the space to land right hands, the occasional combination and showing the genius that he had shown early in the fight. He would go on to hurt Petch again in round 10, and it appeared that a stoppage could be on the cards, but Petch's toughness showed and he continued to grit his teeth and take the fight to Inoue, who was showing nasty bruising under his right eye.
With the bout essentially in the bag going into the final 2 round Inoue seemed to know he didn't need to take too many risks, and he didn't take them, instead doing as he had done through much of the fight. Boxing off the back foot, using lateral movement and make Petch look 1-dimensional and wild. He did invite Petch in for a fight towards the final moments, but it wasn't to be as the bell rang.
Going to the score-cards there was no doubting the winner with Inoue taking the decision 117-111, and with it the WBC "interim" Bantamweight title, to go along with his brother's WBA "regular" title.
For Petch this was evidence that he could fight, but stylistically Inoue was all wrong for him, and it showed round after round. For Inoue the bout showed he can hit hard than his record suggests, but there is something missing that he needs to work on to score KO's. It's also unfortunate, that Inoue didn't manage to really impress the US fans like he'd have wanted, he showed a lot of skill, but there was little drama during the middle of the fight.
Please note - This bout has not yet been shown on TV, there will be spoilers in the first paragraph below, and obviously the result will be given away in the article.
If you do not wish to know the result of the bout between Kenshiro and Saul Juarez, and instead wish to wait for the tape delay broadcast please stop reading.
Today fight fans at the Ota City General Gymnasium had a world title triple header, sadly however for those outside the venue one of the three bouts wasn't televised live anywhere. That bout was the WBC Light Flyweight title bout that pitted unbeaten champion Kenshiro (15-0, 8) [拳四朗] against Mexican challenger Saul Juarez (24-9-2, 13).
The bout saw Kenshiro coming into the contest seeking his 5th defense of the title, and completing an excellent year which had seen him stopping both Ganigan Lopez and Milan Melindo. Juarez on the other hand was looking to claim a world title for the Juarez family, with his brother having fought several times for world titles previously, losing notably in Japan in two of those world title bouts.
Fans in the venue saw the champion take his time in the first round, but he establish himself early in round 2, using his movement, sharp punching and significant size to pick away at Juarez. The skills and speed of Kenshiro saw him establishing the early lead, with scores of 40-36 on two cards and 39-37 on the other when the scores were announced publicly for the first time. The scores, the tempo, the distance was all being dictated by Kenshiro, who controlling everything being his accurate, sharp jab and movement. Not only was Kenshiro dominating but also left Juarez with reddening on the side of his face very early on.
The control over the bout that Kenshiro had extended through the middle rounds, with the champion holding a lead of 79-73, twice, and 80-72, after 8 rounds. He was proving to be too good in every way for the Mexican challenger, who was game but being out landed, out powered, out boxed and out sped. Although it was Kenshiro's jab that was controlling the action he showed enough variation to his shots to try and break through the Mexican's defense and take him out, though Juarez showed enough resolve to make Kenshiro think twice about taking too many risks,
Sadly for those expecting to see Kenshiro get his third stoppage of the year Juarez's toughness stopped it from happening, though Kenshiro continued to completely control the bout, taking the last 4 rounds on all 3 scorecards to wins 120-108 and 119-119, twice. By that point Juarez looked beaten, battered and exhausted, but still tough and game and credit needs to bee given to the Mexican for sticking in there in the final rounds.
Given the bout was "off TV" the performance won't have had his reputation for being in fun fights, because it seems that the fans in the venue were expecting a little bit more from the champion. For Kenshiro's development however 12 rounds here won't have been a bad thing, given he's only done 13 rounds in his last 3 bouts. He would have wanted a stoppage, but such a clear win, and test of his stamina, will do no harm as he looks to unify titles in the new year.
For Juarez it's his second loss in world title bouts, and his family's wait for a world title continues.
After the TV cameras stopped rolling at the Staples Center, following the 12 round classic between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury, there was one more world title bout to take place. That bout featured Filipino Mark Anthony Barriga (9-1, 1) and American Carlos Licona (14-0, 2) with the two battling to crown a new IBF Minimumweight champion.
Sadly for two fighters the audience had shrank, from a few million international viewers to just the handfuls left in the venue for what was essentially a world title bout that acted as a walk out bout.
Thankfully among those in the venue was the excellent Ryan Songalia, who posted a series of tweets regarding the fight, and it seems like it was the most competitive contest on the show, with the two men matching other incredibly well. Licona was the naturally bigger man, the taller, rangier and harder hitting fighter whilst Barriga was the more technically gifted, the one landing the more eye catching shots, but also the one struggling to really leave an impact on Licona.
According to the tweets posted by Mr Songalia the two really hard to split, with both men having some clear rounds, but a number of rounds were a toss up. This was always going to make life tricky for Barriga, given he was fighting in the US in the same state that Licona lives in.
World Title Results
Whether you like them or not World Titles add prestige to any bout as a result we've included the results of world title bouts in this special section.