Typically Japanese fighters have not travelled well over the years, and many lost world title bouts on foreign soil. Today however we saw WBO Flyweight champion Junto Nakatani (22-0, 17) [中谷 潤人] take his chance to shine on US soil as he stopped hard hitting mandatory challenger Angel Acosta (22-3, 21) in Tuscon, Arizona. In what was a show case of Nakatani's ability and Acosta's will to win through serious adversity.
The opening round saw Nakatani begin slowly, getting his jab into play early on, before opening up his arsenal, and shaking Acosta several times through the round. Acosta, to his credit, showed no quit, and landed some solid shots through the opening round, but looked under-sized, under-powered and like a man who was really going to struggle with the size and power of Nakatani. Despite this being his US debut, it was the perfect round for Nakatani, and it ended even better with Acosta suffering a suspect broken nose at the very end of it.
That nose would be a major problem for Acosta was was a bloodied mess very early in round 2 as Nakatani continued to land big shots to both head and body. The left hand of Nakatani was a major weapon, landing clean, landing hard and really leaving Acosta in trouble time and time again, but it was the blood that was the major issue and part way through round 2 the doctor took a look at the challenger. After a long deliberation Acosta was allowed to fight on, and he knew he was in trouble, looking to land a hail Mary from when the bout continued. Sadly for him the urge to land something big saw him eating more big shots from Nakatani, who landed numerous big shots, and really didn't seem to feel the power of Acosta, when the Puerto Rican landed his shots.
After Acosta was bloodied, beaten and battered in the first two rounds, it seemed like the bout wasn't going to last much longer. To his credit however Acosta fought like a man willing to give everything, even with a blood pouring from his nose. He looked to land bombs, and did land one or two very clean shots of his own. Shots that, at 108lbs, would have potentially swung the bout his way, or dropped a fighter. Nakatani tasted the power of Acosta and just came forward, looking to break down Acosta. The Puerto Rican managed to get through a second doctor's inspection, but was pouring blood over the ring, taking huge body shots, and not looking like he had what was needed to turn things around. He had the heart and the desire, but not the accuracy, power, skills, or size to get Nakatani's respect.
At the end of round 3 it seemed clear the referee and doctor were both looking to stop the fight. Acosta was desperate for that not to happen and asked for more round. He was allowed out for round 4, but within seconds of the round starting blood was again pouring out of his nose forcing the doctor to say enough was enough, and stopped the bout.
The stoppage was explained as having been due to blood loss, it was a strange decision, though in fairness it seemed like Acosta being stopped was inevitable. He had lost a lot of blood, he had been hurt numerous times and had put a lot into rounds 2 and 3 to no real success, whilst taking brutal body shots. He had the heart of a lion, and that will not be questioned, but he also looked out gunned here by a truly sensational 23 year world champion, who looked a natural in his US debut.
A bumper weekend of Japanese fights kicked off earlier today with WBO Light Flyweight champion Kosei Tanaka (9-0, 5) [田中恒成] making his first defense of the title as he over-came Puerto Rican challenger Angel Acosta (16-1, 16), in a genuinely exciting mandatory title bout.
The challenger started really well, using his aggression early and putting a slow starting Tanaka on the back foot frequently with his combinations. It seemed as if Acosta's reputation as a huge puncher had worried Tanaka, who tried to fight off his jab but was often swarmed by the Puerto Rican. It wasn't until round 3 that Tanaka began to find his feet in the bout and he certainly warmed to the task, specifically in the second half of the contest as he began to back up Acosta and land some nasty body blows.
Tanaka's improvement in round 3 continued through much of the bout, as he used his speed, strength and more accurate punching to pick away at the challenger and land some solid shots to head and body, including an uppercut in round 5 that helped drop the challenger, in what was the bouts only knockdown.
Acosta recovered really well from the knockdown, and reapplied his pressure as he began a valiant fight back, but was again damaged to the body by Tanaka, despite some solid flurries from the Puerto Rican. It was back and forth action, but it always seemed like Tanaka's shots were having more of an effect than Acosta's, which were wide and looping and seemed unable to hurt the champion. What also didn't help the challenger was that he began to look incredibly tired, and in rounds 8 and 9 he looked like a man who was seriously wilting.
Despite being clearly tired Acosta refused to back down from the fight, and ended strongly, arguable doing enough to deserve either of the final rounds, both of which were close with Acosta doing everything he could to try and change the bout around. Sadly for his effort he was unable to ever hurt Tanaka, never mind secure the stoppage that he was needing.
At the end of the bout there was no questions over who had won, with Tanaka winning clearly on the scorecards, with scores of 117-110, twice, and 116-111.
Following the bout Tanaka was joined in the ring by WBA champion Ryoichi Taguchi, and it seems clear that a unification bout between the two is something that the camps will begin working on in the near future.
World Title Results
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