When people start talking about fight of the year or round of the year when there is still an Akira Yaegashi (28-7, 16) [八重樫 東] fight on the calendar they are making a mistake. They should always wait for Yaegashi to fight for the final time in the year before making any sort of lists! Today Yaegashi finished his year off as he challenged IBF Flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane (39-2, 26), and unsurprisingly we ended with an exciting action fight.
The bout actually began in a less than thrilling fashion with Yaegashi fighting on his bike, using his footwork and boxing smart. It's something he's always had in his arsenal, but was last seen being used properly years ago, when he beat Edgar Sosa, way back in December 2013. If Akira fought smart we weren't going to get a classic, but there's a good chance he could fiddle himself to a decision victory.
That, of course, isn't Yaegashi's style. There's a reason Yaegashi has such a cult fan base and a reason he is regarded as a warrior. That is because smart boxing isn't him. He can do it, but it's not him. Instead having a fight is Yaegashi's style. By the third round, Mthalane was inviting Yaegashi into fight, and Yaegashi took the invitation, standing his ground more and fighting toe to toe with Mthalane, with the two men taking it in turns to unload flurries of shots.
Through rounds 4, 5 and 6 we had none stop action, each of those rounds could be considered for round of the year, with each of the rounds swinging one way then the other. One man seemed hurt, then they responded with a flurry of their own, hurting the other man. Not only were they hurting each other, but they were fighting an insane pace for two men who are the wrong side of 35. Sooner or later the tempo was going to catch up with one of them.
Sadly in round 7 it was Yaegashi was caught by the pace, and by a body shot from Mthalane. He tried to recover, tried to walk it off, and "old man" Mthalane, but the South African was having none of it, and kept the pressure up, not allowing Yaegashi to recover. To his credit Yaegashi's toughness kept him up right, and kept him fight, but it was clearly a diminished Yaegashi, who was starting to run on fumes, and take huge unanswered shots. Those fumes were however running out themselves and in round 8, with Mthalane landing an ever increasing number of shots, a stoppage began to look inevitable.
With Yaegashi's face swelling up, engine running low and the momentum clearly swinging in favour of Mthalane it seemed as if the Japanese warrior was going to need a miracle. Sadly for him that miracle never came as Mthalane continued to beat him up. It was getting one sided and in round 9 the referee seemed to be looking for a moment to stop the fight. His moment was a weird one, given that Yaegashi had stumbled a few moments earlier but was beginning to return fire, but it's hard to complain too much at the stoppage. Yaegashi, as he has often been, was too tough for his own good and the referee knew it.
Given Yaegashi turns 37 in February and has been in far too many wars for his own good it now seems like a good time to bow out, and retire, following yet another sensational fight. Round 4 in particular will be a hard one to forget. He could have made life easier for himself through much of his career, but the high, and lows, of Yaegashi's career have made him a Japanese legend. Hopefully retirement is next for a man who has given the sport so much during his often dramatic, always thrilling, rollercoaster like career.
As for Mthalane, the timeless South African is still a sensational fighter at the age of 37. He's ancient for a Flyweight but rarely have we seen him look his age, or looking on the verge of being stopped. He's tough, smart, and can change the direction of a fight. Whilst we suspect he's probably only got 1 or 2 more big fights, like this, in him he is a man who is racking up a Japanese-Killer reputation, with 3 successive wins against Japanese fighters, and is stacking his record with notable wins. It's a huge shame his first reign as the IBF champion ended the way it did, but he's making up for it in style now. A bout with Giemel Magramo, the highest ranked IBF contender, would be something that would be very appealing, and may well be next for the exceptional champion.
To begin today Japan had all 4 of the Light Flyweight world titles, though sadly for those hoping for a 4 man Japanese unification those dreams were shattered today as long term warrior, and 3-weight champion Akira Yaegashi (25-6, 13) [八重樫 東] lost the IBF title within a round to Filipino Milan Melindo (36-2, 13), who entered the bout as the "interim" champion and left as someone looking like a star.
The bout started with both men lookign to establish their jab, and it seemed liek Yaegashi was the quicker man as he began to move in and out, and he in fact landed the first blows of note. It was however short lived success for the popular warrior who was dropped when the two traded blows. It wasn't a hurtful knockdown, but it was a shock.
Yaegashi looked clear headed when he got back to his feet but was down moments later, and this time he looked hurt, and was clearly buzzed. The warrior spirit saw him get to his feet but Melindo could smell his prey and went on the hunt, dropping the Japanese fighter with a huge right hand, and this time the referee had seen enough, and Yaegashi looked like he was clearly in need of being saved.
It's a sad way for a warrior like Yaegashi to lose his title, in just 165 seconds, but it's fair to say that his history of wars have taken their toll on him and his punch resistence isn't what it once was. His wars with the likes of Pornsawan Porporamook, Kazuto Ioka, Toshiyuki Igarashi, Roman Gonzalez, Pedro Guevara, Javier Mendoza and Jose Martin Tecuapetla have all taken a toll on him. At the age of 34, and with a lot of miles on the clock, this is probably the end for Yaegashi, though we've said that before only for him to bounce back.
As for Melindo it was third time lucky, finally winning a world title after coming up short against Juan Francisco Estrada and Javier Mendoza, and it was the performance that puts him in the mix for some amazing fights down the line. He looked strong and powerful here and could well be offered some big money to come back to Japan for a unification bout.
The first of 7 world title fights in Japan over the space of 2 days was an IBF Light Flyweight title bout that saw defending champion Akira Yaegashi (25-5, 13) [八重樫 東] put on an educated performance to retain his title and beat down gutsy Thai challenger Samartlek Kokietgym (31-6, 11) [สามารถเล็ก ปูนอินทรียิม].
We had this bout pegged before hand as a potential FOTY contender, given Yaegashi's tendency to be in some thrillers, but instead the bout was a tamer than expected affair with Yaegashi comfortably and safely out boxing the Thai during the early stages with his speed, jab and movement alone. The Thai came to apply the pressure on Yaegashi but was often left following the champion around the ring in the early stages.
In round 4 the Thai challenger began to show more ambition and started to bring the fight to Yaegashi. It was still a round that the champion won but it seemed like Samartlek was getting the engine going and landed a notable right hand and several body shots, the shot that his team had said would be his key weapon. The success from round 4 for the Thai was quickly sniffed out with Yaegashi neutralising him with ease in rounds 5 and 6, and in fact Yaegashi seemed to begin loading up more whilst landing some huge right hand counters.
Although the fight had been relative quiet through 6 rounds there was always a risk a fight was going to break out and in round 7 that happened as Yaegashi changed up his tactics and went to war with Samartlek, and engaging in close combat. This was the Yaegashi we all love and this was the style of fight we had been hoping for. The change in tempo gave the fans a rush of excitement but showed that Samartlek was resilient and he fired back forcing Yaegashi to think twice about having a war.
The aggressiveness of Akira continued to be shown in flashed during round 8, and at one point he got the challenger against the ropes and looked for a finish with some smart body shots. Once again Samartlek saw off the storm but it was clear that he had nothing to trouble Yaegashi with. Yaegashi however had a lot to trouble Samartlek with and seemed happy to prove that again in round 9 as he continued to slowly turn the screw on the challenger and break him down with shots to both head and body. The Thai however showed bravery and toughness to see out Yaegashi's continuing assault, surviving rounds 10 and 11, despite taking a progressively worse beating in those rounds.
Going in to round 12 it seemed the best Samartlek could hope for was to see the final bell, and the referee seemed to looking over him very closely, knowing that whilst he was tough he was taking a beating. With a bout a minute left Yaegashi rocked him, and a follow up attacked forced the referee to mercifully saved the gutsy challenger form any further punishment, even though was only around 48 seconds of the bout left.
Next for Samartlek will likely be a return to Thailand where he will probably spring together some low key wins before being brought back over to Japan to be a test for some of the rising hopefuls. As for Yaegashi his attention will turn to mandatory challenger Milan Melindo with the two likely to face off in April or May
When we talk about Japanese fan favourites fer really rival the always fun to watch Akira Yaegashi (24-5, 12) [八重樫 東] who has been in some of the most memorable wars staged in Japanese rings over the last 5 or 6 years. Today he was in another thriller as he successfully defended his IBF Light Flyweight title with a split decision win against the against the exciting and determined Mexican warrior Martin Tecuapetla (13-7-3, 10).
The bout, picked by some as likely to be the fight of the weekend, lived up to the expectation of being an action packed war, with the fight being thoroughly exciting from the off. The opening round saw both having their moments, with Yaegasghi probably just edging the round on his slightly sharper shots.
In the second round Tecuapetla began to warm to the task and brought the fight to Yaegashi in what turned out to be the beginning of a number of very fun rounds between the two men. From the second round to the 5th round Tecupetla brought the action and made the fight his fight, whilst Yaegashi seemed to look somewhat leggy and almost as if he had over-trained.
Despite struggling through some of those earlier rounds Yaegashi began to find his rhythm in round 6, tagging the body of Tecuapetla with ease and he began to get out of the wheel house rather than remain in front of the Mexican. It suddenly seemed like Yaegashi had found his leg, had found his bounce and had found his energy as he began to get in and out, using his excellent speed to make Tecuapetla look like a brave but limited brawler.
In rounds 7 and 8 Yaegashi continued to use his speed and and avoid too many exchanges when he didn't need to engage in a war. By round 9 however the warrior spirit began to kick in and Yaegashi again decided to fight with a fighter, with the final seconds of the round being particularly exciting. That fighting continued in round 10 with Tecuapetla having some real success with his thudding shots and spiteful combinations. Yaegashi wasn't beaten up through the round but there were worrying signs for the Japanese fighter who's face began to show it's familiar swelling around his left eye.
The warring continued in round 11 with Yaegashi this time getting the better of it with his accurate shots and incredibly sharp combinations using Tecuapetla's head as a speed ball. The crowd fed from their hero's success cheering loudly as Tecuapetla was beaten into a shell for much of the round before gritting his teeth in the final seconds. By the final round both were looking like they were fighting on will power alone, and it was amazing they were both capable of standing toe-to-toe just letting shots go at an insane pace. It was a round that seemed to be better for the challenger than the champion, but it was a round that was really won by the crowd who get a 3 minute treat.
Given the fight's close rounds it was clear the cards could be all over the place. Yaegashi's face a swollen mess and Tecuapetla looking like a man who had fought like he was involved in a 15 rounder.
At the end the champion had done enough through the middle stages to claim the win, with scores of 115-113 and 116-113 in his favour whilst the third judge scored the bout 115-113 to Tecuapetla. Despite the win for Yaegashi this performance likely puts a target on his back for other top Light Flyweights who may view him as a man coming to the end of his fantastic career.
We have forever made a point of not doing our annual awards until the year is over, it doesn't make sense to do them until the final bell for the year has been rung, and it's actually a bit disrespectful to do the awards when numerous possible contenders have still got to fight. That was proven today when we had another FOTY contender and arguable the comeback fighter of the year.
The bout in question saw the amazing Akira Yaegashi (23-5, 12) claim the IBF Light Flyweight crown with a stirring performance against Javier Mendoza (24-3-1, 19) and mount an incredible comeback after back-to-back losses in 2014. Not only did he return to claim the title, and become Japan's 3rd 3-weight world champion* but he did so with a performance that summed up his entire career in 36 action packed, bloody and exciting minutes.
From the opening round it was clear that this wasn't going to be a typical boxing bout. There was no feeling out round, instead the pace started fast with Yaegashi using his incredible speed to make Mendoza look like a clumsy fool. Yaegashi hammered the body, landed counters and looked like the younger man despite being the better part of a decade older than Mendoza.
Yaegashi's speed continued to carry him through the first 3 rounds with out any real problems at all. All the problems were Mendoza's and the most notable of those was the fact he was wobbled on the bell to end round 2 as Yaegashi landed numerous straight right hands.
It was until round 4 that Mendoza seemed to really have a break through as he started the round fast and had the early success to build form. Yaegashi took it in his stride however and stood and traded with Mendoza in an action packed sequence of testicular fortitude. The success that Mendoza had in round 4 grew through the middle rounds with the 5th round being close, just like rounds 6, 7 and 8. A case could be made for Mendoza to have won any of them, though they were all competitive.
It seemed during those competitive rounds, especially in round 7, that Yaegashi was beginning to tire and that Mendoza had plenty left in the tank. The reality however was that that was all Mendoza really had and Yaegashi had taken it and fired back every time, despite starting to show the scars of war, with swelling around his face and blood seeping from his eye.
It seemed, that if Yaegashi was going to lose it would be due to a doctors stoppage due to his facial damage, in round 9 however Mendoza joined him in the damage stakes with a nasty cut of his own. That cut seemed to deflate Mendoza who was himself looking like a fighter who knew he wasn't going to be able to change things. Whilst Mendoza was looking tired and flat footed Yaegashi appeared to have a second wind and was bouncing on his toes, further adding insult to injury.
Mendoza would try and turn the action around in round 10 but Yaegashi managed to control the distance and tempo making life very easy for himself overall as he countered the jab of the defending champion and landed huge straight shots. For Mendoza time was running out and it seemed like he summed one final effort to fight in round 11, a round in which he seemed to hurt Yaegashi before almost being stopped himself as Yaegashi unloaded a huge attack on the bell, an attack that seemed to have Mendoza reeling and badly hurt. After the bell Yaegashi roared on the crowd and it looked clear that he knew the title was staying in Japan.
The final round started with Yaegashi looking like a man who knew the win was his and for the first 30 seconds or so he was skipping around, making Mendoza look silly. Then the warrior kicked in and Yaegashi took the fight back to Mendoza, rocking him, hurting him and almost stopping him in the final minute as he unloaded. Mendoza, to his credit, survived the storm but did look like a man who was happy to back track and hear out the final bell.
The scorecards were never in doubt with Yaegashi claiming a wide unanimous decision with scores of 120-107, 119-109 and 117-111, and cementing his place among the modern legends of Japanese boxing. His feat of being a 3-weight world champion has matched that of former rival Kazuto Ioka and Koki Kameda, and it's fair to say that his fights, including this one, will live on long after he has retired.
*Technically he's the 4th Japanese fighter to claim 3-weight titles after female fighter Naoko Fujioka also accomplished the feat.
The second of 8 world title fights over the new year period ended in a combination of heart break and disappointment as the insanely popular Akira Yaegashi (20-5, 10) suffered his second successive stoppage defeat, and failed in his attempt to become a 3-weight world champion.
The popular Japanese fighter, a fan favourite with the hardcore and the Japanese, was hoping to capture the WBC Light Flyweight title as he dropped from Flyweight, following a stoppage loss to Roman Gonzalez back in September. Unfortunately however he was fighting a younger, bigger and fresher fighter in the shape of the talented Pedro Guevara (24-1-1, 15). Guevara, a very talented Mexican, had come into the bout as the under-dog though had only lost once, to the fantastic Filipino John Riel Casimero in what was a notable step up in class for the Mexican at the time.
We suspected this one could be a thriller though it started really slowly with a lot of scrappy action in the first two rounds. It seemed the styles clashed as opposed to gelled and although there were moments of action they were few and far between. Thankfully things began to hear up at the end of round 3 and from then on each round became progressively better as the two managed to get a read each other, find their rhythm and get back to what they were good at.
Although the early action was scrappy it was very competitive with neither getting much of an upper hand. That resulted in 4 very hard to score rounds, though rounds that the judges tend to feel Guevara deserved scoring the bout 39-37, twice, and 38-38 when the opening scoring was announced.
The opening score, something that much maligned in the west, seemed to do it's job here and it spurred on Yaegashi who had a tremendous 5th round as he brought the action to Guevara and the two began to trade shots. This was what we had expected from the off, action, excitement and a lot of punches. It seemed that Yaegashi was mounting his charge though his face was beginning to show the trademark damage that he seems to pick every fight.
Yaegashi's drive continued in round 6 as he continued to bring the action in what was the fights best round and a round that again seemed to go Yaegashi's way and saw Guevara bleeding from the right eye. On our unofficial card it had levelled off the fight at 57-57 and it seemed that the fight was swinging Yaegashi's way.
Sadly the momentum shift was short lived and in round 7 it seemed Guevara managed to refind his groove and Yaegashi sudden began looking older and slower. It was as if Yaegashi had put a lot into the previous 2 rounds and, although he was still fighting, he seemed a little bit tired all of a sudden. His desire was there and continued trying though unfortunately received a devastating body which sent him down and kept him down in agony.
It was a shame to see Yaegashi go out like he did, and one would suspect this could be the end for him. Hopefully it's not, but the wars have added up and Yaegashi certainly needs to give his body a long break.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
Boxing's lowest weights might be ignored by many fans for whatever reason but time and time again they deliver the best fights, the most action packed contests and some of the most enjoyable rounds that exist in boxing. Today we saw another war in the lower weights as Akira Yaegashi (20-4, 10) attempted to defend his WBC Flyweight title against Nicaraguan sensation Roman Gonzalez (40-0, 36). Unfortunately for Yaegashi he was up against a man who was just a bit too good and too powerful.
The fight started like many, with a relatively quiet round as both men tried to figure the other out. It wasn't as quiet as many opening rounds but was certainly not an action packed round with both men having too much respect to throw caution to the wind too early. From then on however the bout got better and better, heating up from the second round and getting better as it went on.
In round 3 we saw the crazy side of Yaegashi as he tried to take the fight to Gonzalez and seemed to be on course to winning the round before being dropped late. Despite the knock down being a big one Yaegashi got up at 6 and went back to taking the action to Gonzalez who obliged him for the remaining 20 seconds or so. From then on the bout took a pattern that was some what repetitive but thoroughly entertaining. It saw both men standing in front of each other and taking it turns to unload on the other. For Yaegashi it was a case of using his fast hands to land relatively light but sharp combinations up top whilst Gonzalez stood his ground and mixed up heavy shots to the bead and body with the uppercuts punctuating the combinations.
The flurry and action from both was beautiful to watch with neither man backing down and neither man refusing to throw back through rounds 4,5,6 and 7. Even when one man was back up it wasn't long before he turned the tables and fired back in rounds that were close, competitive and action packed. It wasn't a brawl, but it was calculated aggression from both who combined skills with their assault.
Sadly for Yaegashi he began to look exhausted in round 7 and although he refused to back down his assaults were becoming less and less telling. He was beginning to break down and his face, which is always susceptible to swelling, was beginning to show signs of the battle he was in. Gonzalez was slowing himself though was becoming more dominant due to Yaegashi's problems.
Although the Japanese fighter had looked tired in round 7 he ended round 8 looking completely exhausted and Gonzalez seemed to be able to smell blood. The toe-to-toe action was becoming less frequent with Gonzalez gradually beating up Yaegashi who was forced on to the retreat just to stay up right. Gonzalez, like a hunter, knew his pray was wounded though couldn't see off Yaegashi who relied on his toughness and heart to see the bell. Although Gonzalez hadn't managed to take Yaegashi down the referee went down towards the end of the round, just as it seemed that Yaegashi was canvas bound. It was a clear slip from the referee though still mildly amusing.
In round 9 Yaegashi came out like a man possessed and unloaded a long series of shots on Gonzalez. It was as if the Japanese fighter knew it was now or never and that he wasn't going to last much longer. It was his last charge towards victory though he hit a brick wall and Gonzalez fired back. The men exchanged combinations though Yaegashi quickly became ragged and his work coming undone quickly. This time Yaegashi had run out of steam too early in the round and Gonzalez knew it as he turned it on and a vicious combination sent down Yaegashi. The Japanese fighter seemed to think about getting up though the referee knew better and stopped the bout. It was as if both men knew there was only going to be one result if Yaegashi did get up, and that was that he was going to go back down.
Sadly for Yaegashi this brings his reign as WBC Flyweight champion to an end after 3 successful defences. It did however come to an end at one of the sports truly elite fighters and a man who seemed to show all the traits of a great. Not only is Gonzalez a fine fighter, he's also a fine young man, a credit to boxing and the human race and as shown in the post fight celebration, a truly respectful fighter. A fighter who encompasses the lost mentality of being a good sport as well as a great sportsman.
The fight wasn't our favourite bout of the year though it certainly deserves to be put on a short list for FOTY alongside the recent contest between Katsunari Takayama and Francisco Rodriguez Jr, both of whom have been Gonzalez victims in the past, and the OPBF Flyweight war between Koki Eto and Ardin Diale. In fairness however both of those fights did lack the skill level shown in here even if they were slightly more action packed.
(Image courtesy of http://boxingnews.jp)
Earlier today WBC Flyweight champion Akira Yaegashi (20-3, 10) made the 3rd successful defence of his world title as he over-came spirited Mexican challenger Odilon Zaleta (15-4, 8) and set up a Flyweight super fight with Nicaraguan sensation Roman Gonzalez.
It didn't always look like Yaegashi was actually going to get the job done here as the exciting Japanese fighter did seem to start slowly and certainly lost the opening round to Zaleta who looked surprisingly better than expected in the opening round and managed to huse his reach to land some smart straight shots.
Although Yaegashi did look to be in a tough fight in the opening round he did manage to find a home for his over-hand right in the second round. It seemed that he was the first to change tactics and the shot continued to land through round 3. In round 4 however it Zaleta who was making changes to his game trying to line up his powerful straight right hand.
The open scoring of the WBC seemed to struggle to spit the two men after 4 rounds with 2 of the judges having the bout even and the other judge having Zaleta up 39-37. Not just was it close on the ards but worryingly Yaegashi's eyes were beginning to swell up. As anyone who has seen Yaegashi before knows his eyes swell up quickly and badly and it's always a worry that they will cause him to be stopped one of these days.
Yaegashi acted positively to the scorecards and seemed to do what the open scoring expected of him as he put his foot on the gas and went on the offensive, cutting the distance and applying very educated pressure. It was obvious that Yaegashi had so much more in the locker than he had shown in the first 4 stanzas whilst Zaleta seemed to be struggling to hold off the Japanese fighter. Zaleta's struggles to keep Yaegashi away resulted in a fantastic 6th round that saw both men spending time trading shots in eye catching moments of action. It was the sort of action that makes us love watch Yaegashi.
Although the 6th was highlighted by the back and forth trading the key work was really Yaegashi's body shot which Zaleta had absolutely no answer for.
Round 7 again saw the champion bring the pressure and it seemed clear that the pressure of Yaegashi was really taking it's toll on the challenger who was quickly becoming gun shy and trying to avoid a fight. Yaegashi refused to let Zaleta though and kept coming forward, eventually getting a chance to make Zaleta pay for his negativity in the final 20 seconds or so of the round.
After again being forced on the back foot for the first half of round 8 Zaleta seems to regain his confidence. It was as if he clicked and realised he had to fight back or Yaegashi would simply grind him down. The bravery of Zaleta gave us the bouts most fun round to watch though it did appear that Zaleta was beginning to fight out of desperation and this was almost suiting Yaegashi who appeared happy for a tear with the naturally longer Zaleta.
The hard work of Yaegashi's in the middle section of the bout had seen the Japanese fighter rewarded on the open scoring with cards which read 77-75, 77-76 and 76-76. We had felt that Yaegashi, despite his early struggles, had clearly taken over the bout but the judges felt that is had been competitive. In round 9 however the bout was taken out of the hands of the judges as Yaegashi dropped Zaleta hard. The Mexican recovered to his feet but was viewed as being in no fit state to recover by referee Ian John Lewis. It was an easy call for the referee as Zaleta walked aimlessly away from the referee and left little option for the official.
After the fight Yaegashi and Gonzalez shared a little back and forth in the ring to help build up the anticipation of their fight which is expected in the summer. Although the two men are seemingly set to fight each other they amazingly respectful to each other. Hopefully that respect will be put on ice when they fight and, with the style of the two men, they will hopefully put on a thriller when they meet.
(Poster courtesy of Ohashi Gym)
It's rare that Akira Yaegashi (19-3, 9) gives us a dull one. Win or lose he seems to be a magnet for in ring action, great fights and genuine displays of toughness. It was that toughness that was called on again today as he faced determined Mexican veteran Edgar Sosa (49-8, 29).
Yaegashi, defending his WBC Flyweight title for the second time, following a rare "dull" fight in his first defense, knew he was in for a tough night as soon as Sosa become the mandatory challenger.
Sosa, a one time Light Flyweight champion had earned his shot at Yaegashi the hard way, beating other top contenders including Ulises "Archie" Solis and Giovani Segura. This wasn't a Mexican getting a WBC title fight just because he was Mexican, but because he had earned, something that now appears to be forgotten in the world of boxing.
In the first 2 rounds it appeared that earning his fight had taken something out of Sosa who started slowly losing the first two rounds to the faster Yaegashi. Although they were close rounds, fought almost as a chess match, the Japanese fighter seemed to do enough in both to claim them with his slightly better work.
Many, including ourselves, had expected this to be a war. The first couple of rounds may not have looked like the beginning of a war but they were merely the calm before the storm and in round 3 the action caught fire with Sosa starting to connect with his right hand. If Sosa could draw Yaegashi into a war, something that Yaegashi has been known for, then there was much better chance for Sosa and this proved to be the case in round 4 as the Mexican began to grow more and more into the fight.
Although the WBC open scoring had Yaegashi unanimously in the lead with scores of 40-36 and 39-35 twice, it was obvious the fight was slowly turning in the favour of the Mexican challenger. Not just was the style of the fight turning his way but Yaegashi's face was showing signs of battle and puffing up from the right hands that Sosa was starting to land and he seemed to be bretahing much heavier than Sosa.
Yaegashi's case wasn't helped by the fact he was boxing so much off the back foot. This made it look like Sosa was in charge of the action. Sure the Mexican was forcing the fight, but he wasn't managing to get enough success to force Yaegashi to hold his feet that often. Instead Yaegashi controlled the distance and circled before picking his spots to trying and counter Sosa.
By the end of round 7 we were starting to see both men trading shots on a more regular basis. Yaegashi was still using his feet to a great effect but was being forced to answer back when Sosa was having success. This gave us some moments of great action as both men landed bombs on the other. It was in those short exchanges that the hand speed difference between the two men was notable with Yaegashi popping out 3 or 4 punches in a flurry whilst Sosa loaded up with a power shot.
Although we felt Sosa had certainly taken a number of rounds in the middle the WBC judges didn't seem that impressed by the fact he was forcing the fight. After 8 rounds the open scoring had Yaegashi winning 80-72, 79-73 and 77-75. Whilst we had Yaegashi winning Sosa had easily done enough in rounds 3, 6 and 8 to have gotten at least 2 rounds on the board.
Going in to the championship rounds all Yaegashi had to do, at least for 2 of the judges, was stay on his feet. Sosa was in desperate need of a KO if he was to dethrone the Japanese champion.
Unfortunately for Sosa his slow pressure wasn't having the effect on Yaegashi that he'd have been hoping. Yaegashi, despite looking tired between rounds, seemed to have boundless energy in the ring. His movement continued to leave Sosa chasing shadows and whilst it was certainly negative in parts from the champion Yaegashi made up for it when he did hold his feet and let his lightning bursts go.
By the final bell it had become a game of cat and mouse with Sosa the the catand Yaegashi the mouse. The mouse in this case was simply too fast for the cat to catch and in fact the by the end the eye catching connects appeared to be coming from Yaegashi on the counter.
With the open scoring making it obvious after 8 rounds that Yaegashi had won there was no shock when his hand was raised and the scores officially announced after 12 rounds. Unfortunately this a poor example of how the WBC opening scoring system should work. The scores were "wrong" after 8, had they reflect the close nature and all read around 77-75 (with a round either way) then their would have been drama. As it was however, the result was a forgone conclusion.
Interestingly the judge that had given Yaegashi the first 8 rounds appears to have given Sosa 3 of the last 4, as the official cards read 117-111 twice and 116-112. Unfortunately the scorecards will likely over-shadow what was a good fight with the right winner.
The biggest problem, for Sosa, wasn't the fact he was fighting in Japan, or even the judging. Instead it was his age. At 34 years old he simply lacked the speed, reflexes and movement to force Yaegashi to trade with him more. Had Sosa been able to make a total war of this he may well have won. Instead Sosa could only force some skirmishes and after those Yaegahi could get back on his bike and rack up rounds with his movement and pot shotting.
Courtesy of Boxrec.com
Over the past few years it's fair to say Akira Yaegashi (18-3, 9) has given us some of the best bouts the sport has seen. His war of attrition with Kompayak Porpramook was a barn burner from the off, his battle with Kazuto Ioka was was excellent and and tight throughout and his battle with Toshiyuki Igarashi was a bloody war.
It may have been time for Yaegashi to have a sleeper fighter but we'll be honest we didn't expect to see it come against a Mexican fighter, especially when on considers the Latin passion and fury that Mexican's are known for.
Unfortunately Oscar Blanquet (32-6-1, 23) seemed to have less of that Latin machismo than most other Mexican's and instead of putting on, as we expected, a battle with Yaegashi the Mexican was happier to hold, hug and generally spoil.
In his defense Blanquet did start well, he was throwing his fast jabs, using his reach and trying to keep Yaegashi defensively busy. This worked for a number of the opening rounds with Yaegashi fighting as a counter puncher, looking for, and landing, his left hook.
The work of Blanquet, over the first 4 rounds, was keeping the bout competitive and with the WBC's open scoring in effect it was clear to say the judges weren't against him and with scores of 39-37, 38-38 and 37-39 that was a split decision draw through 4 rounds.
After the fourth round Nieves became ever more negative as Yaegashi began to have more and more success. The little Japanese fighter, defending his WBC and Ring Magazine Flyweight titles for the first time really started to look like the fighter we all know and love. He pretty much swept the middle rounds with his classier punching and his aggression whilst Nieves seemed happier to hold, fall down in the clinch, complain and generally try to make things messy.
The messy action ended up effecting everything and Yaegashi twice landed blows that were ruled low, the second of which saw him deducted a point in round 8, the same round that he would score the fight's only knockdown. Although Yaegashi won the round 9-8 as a result of the knockdown and deduction it was obvious he was getting annoyed by an opponent who was less and less co-operative in making a fight.
When the open scoring after round 8 was known it was clear that Yaegashi was in a comfortable lead. His dominance through the middle rounds had opened up a comfortable, but not safe margin. The Japanese fighter made sure that he extended the lead in rounds 9 and 10 as he took both rounds before completely easing off in the final 2 rounds effectively telling Blanquet that he'd now need to make a fight of things.
Blanquet did, at least in the final round, take the initiative a little though by then Yaegashi has secured such a wide margin that the Japanese fighter needed to just stay on his feet to win, something he did with little to no trouble.
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.