In the final meaningful bout of the year we got something spectacular as WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka (26-2, 15) successfully defended his title, for the second time, and stopped 3-weight world champion Kosei Tanaka (15-1, 9) in a late contender for Fight of the Year.
The bout, which had been hugely anticipated by boxing fans world wide, was the first ever time two multi-weight Japanese world champions had ever faced off, and after the 2020 we'd had it was a bout that had, genuinely excitement going in to it.
In one corner we had the experienced champion, the man who had repeatedly told us "this wasn't a special bout" and that this wasn't going to be a problem to him. In the other corner we had a young challenger who had repeatedly told us this was going to be a generational shift, and that he was ready to lead the new generation. Not only that, but Tanaka was looking to secure a place in history, by taking a 4th division world title in just his 16th professional bout.
There was so many substories going into this. Ranging from the worlds of the two men, and the fact both were looking to secure their place in history.
From the opening bell this started quickly, with Ioka firing in a right hand almost immediately. His hand speed, as it always has been, was wickedly impressive, and he boxed well with his his speed offense. Ioka on the other hand looked slower, but smart, picking his shots a lot more intelligently, and landed some solid body shots through the opening round. It was hotly contested through out, and very much a round that set the tone for this to be something thrilling.
The excitement continued in rounds 2 and 3. Tanaka seemed to buzz Ioka at one point, before Ioka fired back with some amazing counter shots. It still seemed like the handspeed difference could prove to be the vital difference in favour of Tanaka, but Ioka, to his credit, was riding shots well, countering smartly, and not taking too many clean, showing his fantastic technical ability to limit the punishment he was taking whilst also getting a read on Tanaka.
By the end of round 3 it seemed like Tanaka was starting to get to Ioka, who was starting to swell around the eyes, and seemed to be on the worse end of things. Ioka however saw out the storm and roared back in round 4, one of his best rounds he began to make the most of what he had learned from the first 3 rounds. He was now making Tanaka miss, countering brilliantly, and getting the last word in the exchanges.
At the end of round 4 both men's faces were looking like they were getting beaten up, yet both were still landing their share making for a truly compelling contest.
In round 5 we saw the fight further swing to Ioka. Tanaka had started well, but body from Ioka continued to land clean, slowing the challenger who looked to land big rights. Mid way through the round we had some real tit for tat stuff, with Tanaka outlanding Ioka, but taking the much heavier blows. The final blow of the round was the heaviest, and was a perfect counter left hook from Ioka that dropped Tanaka hard and left his nose a bloodied mess. Had the shot come 20 seconds earlier we could have seen the end of the bout, but Tanaka rose and the bell saved him, giving him the chance to recover before round 6.
Heading into round 6 we had questions about how Tanaka would look after the knockdown, and he looked surprisingly good, taking the fight to Ioka early in the round. He seemed to catch with a really good right hand at one point, but a flurried response form Ioka hurt him and a counter left hook a few moments later dropped Tanaka for the second time in as many rounds. Amazingly Tanaka not only got back to his feet but took the fight to Ioka immediately afterwards, rocking the champion in the final seconds of the round.
In round 7 Tanaka looked to try and turn things around, know, after being dropped twice, he needed to do something big. Sadly though by the end of the round he began to look desperate, firing his right hand and getting frustrated as it missed time after time, whilst Ioka was regularly landing jabs. Ioka wasn't just countering Tanaka, but was essentially making Tanaka's best weapon look useless at times. Mentally crippling the youngster, who was realising that the hole he was in, was just getting deeper.
The depth of the hole became too much in round 8 as Ioka landed a short left hook-come and a clean right hand, leading to the referee immediately jumping in. It was an excellent stoppage as Tanaka's legs buckled beneath and the referee essentially held him up, letting him steady himself, before letting him congratulate Ioka on the win.
Following the bout Ioka took the microphone and spoke about the fight and, finally, gave a bit of respect to Tanaka. He stated "It wasn't a surprise match for me, but I've been saying that I'll show the difference, so I couldn't just say it as a man. I'm glad I could prove it as a champion. I don't know how long I can continue boxing, but he's the player who will carry the boxing world in the future. It was a good experience with him."
Ioka also revealed that he had been seeing double from his left eye from round 2, and was now hoping to fight against one of the other champions in the division, such as WBA "Super" champion Roman Gonzalez or WBC champion Juan Francisco Estrada.
At the time of the stoppage the scores were all heavily in favour of Ioka, with scores of 69-62 and 68-63, twice.
For Ioka this win was a career defining one, and it will sit up there along with his wins against Oleydong Sithsamerchai, Akira Yaegashi and Juan Carlos Reveco. It is one of those wins that showed how good of a ring technician he was, how smart he was and how he manages to solve problems in the ring, something we saw him do a year ago against Jeyvier Cintron. Ioka is among the most adaptable fighters out there, and with Ismael Salas behind him, it seems like they are coming up with excellent game plans fight after fight.
As for Tanaka the 25 year old will be disappointed here. It wasn't how he wanted to end 2020. At 25 years old however, this isn't the end for him. In fact the stoppage by the referee, the excellent Michiaki Someya, may well have helped prolong his career. This was a less for Tanaka in the end, but it was a less he learned at the age of 25. It is one he come rebuild from. He can come again. It's back to the drawing board for him, and likely time to change how he boxes. He has the tools to be an exceptional boxer, he has incredible speed but mentally he gets too excited. If he can tone down the excitement factor following this loss, he can easily go on to to claim a Super Flyweight title in a year or two.
The one big question mark here, is why did DAZN or ESPN pick this up for the US and use it to advertise a future opponent for Gonzalez, Estrada or Jerwin Ancajas. This should have been shown in the US, and it's a massive shame it wasn't! A real shame American fans had to look online streams for this one.
To close out a Showtime event earlier today we saw Filipino slugger Reymart Gaballo (24-0, 20) face off with former IBF Bantamweight champion Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-2, 12), in a contest for the WBC "interim" Bantamweight title. A contest that turned out to be a very, very controversial one, with Gaballo taking on a hugely questionable decision.
On paper this looked like it had the ingredients to be a very interesting match up, between an exciting slugger and a very good technical boxer. In the end however it never became the type of fight had expected. In fact seemed like the aggression and excitement of Gaballo had been stripped from him before the opening bell. Gone was the Gaballo we had fallen in love with and instead he was replaced by someone who didn't seem to know his identity in the ring.
Gone was the Gaballo that let shots fly, that was aggressive and wild. In his place was a man over-thinking things, and a man who was trying to out box a master boxer. It was a huge technical faux pas by Gaballo and his team, and one that seemed very counter-intuitive, given their man's best strength has always been his unpredictable offense.
Gaballo's attempt at boxing in the first round saw Rodriguez easily take the first, though to his credit Gaballo did kick up the pace and made round 2 a very competitive one, much more so than the commentary on Showtime made things seem. It was a similar case in round 3, where Rodriguez landed more shots, comfortably, than Gaballo, but the bigger single shots were from Gaballo, and it could well have been that the bigger heavier blows had caught the judges eyes.
In round 4 we saw Gaballo march forward, trying to up the pace of the bout, but he kept walking into counters and jabs. Rodriguez was, for the most part, outboxing Gaballo, but still the Filipino was the one who was making it look like he was aggressive. Horribly ineffective, but aggressive all the same. This could well have made an impact on the judges, who may well have seen the movement from Rodriguez as being negative, and he was very conservative with his own output.
Despite several competitive rounds Rodriguez really impressed in round 5, and seemed to not just let more of his own shots go, landing a number of solid right hands, but also completely shut down Gaballo, who looked lost and confused through the entire round. Credit though to Gaballo, who then began to find his groove in round 6, making for another competitive and close round. He was still being out landed, but once again he seemed to land the bigger shots, and made things uncomfortable for Rodriguez, who technically very accurate, but relied on his jab and movement, in what could have been seen as negative, again, in the eyes of the judges.
With Gaballo knowing he was behind he did, finally, get the motor going in round 7 and had a string string of rounds, much stronger than Showtime's commentary would suggest, in rounds 7, 8 and 9. Although still not the aggressive he had been in the past, such as against Yuya Nakamura, he was a lot more willing to let his shots go, and found a home for his body shots, his left hook and his right hand, even dragging Rodriguez into his fight in round 8.
Interestingly after 9 rounds Showtime's Steve Farhood had given Gaballo just 2 rounds, and he seemed to have been annoyed at needing to give him round 9. The team working for Spanish language TV on ESPN had the bout much, much closer at 86-85. More important than the scores however was the momentum, and it seemed like Gaballo was the man in the ascendency.
Sadly for Gaballo he was rocked early in round 10, and he did nothing to turn the action back in his favour in one of his worst rounds. The Filipino also seemed to struggle to get things going in round 11 as Rodriguez seemed to be back in control with his jab, his movement, and his ability to make Gaballo miss at will. In fact Gaballo seemed to miss that often that he became timid himself and in round 12 he again showed little hunger and desire and Rodriguez took the final round without much effort.
After 12 rounds Showtime had the bout a near shut out to Rodriguez, Spanish TV had the bout competitive, though also had Rodriguez winning. It seemed like the Puerto Rican was set to pick up the WBC interim title, then the scores were announced, with the first score being 116-112 to Gaballo, the second card being 118-110 to Rodriguez, and then the third card went 115-113 to Gaballo, giving him a very questionable decision.
The result will be one held as a robbery, and many will feel that Rodriguez was denied a clear victory. We'll admit that we felt Rodriguez won, though it does need saying the Showtime's commentary really did down play the success that Gaballo had, especially in the 3 or 4 close rounds we had early on.
We can also see how the judges perhaps did favour Gaballo, he wasn't effective, but from the ringside position he likely looked like the man making the fight, pressing the pace, and doing so much more than Rodriguez, who looked tentative at times and boxed very much within himself. From the TV camera angle the clean punches of Rodriguez were clean, and the misses of Gaballo were obvious, but from the outside looking in it probably didn't look the same, and Rodriguez probably did look negative.
Saying that however, this seemed like a decision that went the wrong way, and was the latest set back for Rodriguez, who was stopped by Naoya Inoue last time out, well over a year ago, in the WBSS, and had seen bouts with Luis Nery and Nonito Donaire fall through due to issues outside of his control.
As for Gaballo, he got lucky, and perhaps needs to be allowed to be himself in the ring. Let him be an aggressive swarming fighter. Don't try to reinvent the wheel with him. Yes polish his style, make him more defensively aware and smarten him up, but don't try to change him into a boxer. It is not a style which will suit him and he will not get lucky again like he did here.
After more than a year out of the ring we saw Kazakh great Gennadiy Golovkin (41-1-1, 36) [Геннадий Геннадьевич Головкин] return to action tonight as he successfully defended his IBF and IBO Middleweight titles against the horrifically over-matched Polish challenger Kamil Szeremeta (21-1, 5), in one of the most one-sided bouts we will see this year.
The opening round saw Golovkin dominate behind a busy jab early on through the round before going deeper into his arsenal, landing an eye catching uppercut and brutal left hook that dropped Szeremeta at the very end of the round. It was clear there and then that Szeremeta was not going to be in the bout, at all. To his credit the Pole got to his feet and came bout out for round 2, and once again he was on the wrong end of an horrific 3 minutes, being dropped for the second time in the bout.
To his credit Szeremeta showed absolute no quit, and managed to survive a torrid round 3 by remaining on his feet for the full 3 minutes. He took a whooping but some how avoided being dropped during the round. The challenger was however down again for a third time in round 4, as Golovkin's power, pressure and incessant jab just became too much for Szeremeta, who really was takin a lot of punishment and being broken down.
It seemed like the bout was going to be over incredibly soon and Johnathan Banks, working Golovkin's corner, even made a comment about waiting to go home to Golovkin. Instead Golovkin took his time, and seemed, at times, to be carrying Szeremeta a little bit, in rounds 5 and 6. He was still landing clean, but he seemed happy to get some ring time, and try things, even showing some very un-Golovkin like head movement.
In round 7 we saw Golovkin score his 4th knockdown of the fight, with a jab. Szeremeta got back to his feet, again, and saw out the round. Thankfully however the bout wasn't going to last much longer, with the referee waving off the bout in the corner between rounds 7 and 8.
For Golovkin this was the ideal comeback after a long lay off. It was dominant, it was easy, it was controlled and a chance to shake some ring rust. It was however relatively pointless for fans, and with DAZN repeatedly echoing the fact this was Golovkin's 21st successful defenses things did get a bet annoying to listen to.
As for Szeremeta, this could well be a career ending beating. He took a lot of punishment, and we wouldn't be surprised if he was damaged good next time we see him in then
World Title Results
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