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
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.