If there is one thing we need to thank DAZN for it's shining a light on the Light Flyweight division, which continues to deliver some of the best action we're getting. That was shown again this evening when Japanese legend Katsunari Takayama (32-9-0-1, 12) [高山 勝成] made his US debut and challenged WBO Light Flyweight champion Elwin Soto (19-1, 13) in a thrilling bout that saw Takayama get a chance to shine in the bright lights of the US.
It was a chance that was sadly ended in disappointment, not just with a loss, but also on the back of one of the worst stoppages we've seen in years, thanks to the often controversial Laurence Cole.
In the opening Takayama looked out of his depth. He was rocked repeatedly when Soto landed, anything clean, and it seemed as if the 37 year old legend was showing his age and the fact he wasn't a natural Light Flyweight. Soto seemed nailed on for an early stoppage win and Takayama really looked like his long career had taken it's toll on him. The challenger barely made it through the round. He was hurt again in round 2 and it seemed like Soto really was too big, too strong, too powerful and too young for Takayama.
What few were aware of however was just how fucking tough Takayama is. He refused to go down. He refused to give in and instead he fought his fight. He took it to Soto, he set a high tempo and challenged Soto to go with him. Soto failed to do that, as Takayama out worked him, out landed him and out boxed him at times. Sadly nothing Takayama landed seemed to do anything to Soto, who landed significantly less but landed much heavier shots, which caught the eye more than Takayama's lighter, quicker shots.
In round 4 Takayama started to really claw his way into the contest. Soto was doing much less than he had earlier in the bout, and Takayama was starting to grind away at Soto's body with some sustained body attacks. It seemed like, after a nighmare start, the momentum was shifting. That continued to shift in round 5 as Soto began to look tired, and was backing up. Soto on the back foot looked much less effective than he had earlier in the bout, and it seemed clearthat he was starting to feel the tempo.
Having seen Takayama build his way back into the bout Soto knew he had to take some of the wind out of Takayama's sailsand he did just that at the end of round 6 as he again rocked Takayama, as he landed huge right hands and a brutal uppercut. Takayama, foolishly, held his feet and tried to trade with the much bigger Soto, and it didn't work. He was just lucky the bell came when it did, as he looked about read to go.
After looking a beaten man at the end of round 6 Takayama came out for round 7 some how looking revitalised, and again out worked Soto, unleashing quick sharp combinations and really grinding Soto's body. It was an astonishing bounce back round from Takayama after the way he had ended the previous round.
The pace for the first 7 rounds had been high, frantic almost at times. In round 8 things chnaged, and the tempo dropped off, massively. This saw Soto doing very little, and Takayama picking his moments better. It was a breather for both the fans and the fighters before we moved into round 9.
The 9th round saw Takayama looking to up the pace, setting his tempo early on, and backing Soto up. Soto looked genuinely tired. That was until he managed to dig deep and land a rare combination on Takayama who walked through some huge shots trying to land his own blows. Soto continued to land in an exchange before the referee, stepped in and waved off the bout, stopping Takayama in a baffling decision that made little sense. Takayama had been significantly more hurt earlier on, he had been landing, and hadn't gone down or had his legs shaken like he had earlier on. It was a terrible stoppage that really looked like the referee had no idea of what he was doing.
Following the stoppage, which saw Sean Gibbons give an expletive to the crowd regarding the decision, Takayama took his moment to play to the crowd, basking in the moment and the opportunity to embrace himself to fans who had been won over by his heart and determination.
This is probably Takayama's last bout and the reality is that he had his opportunity taken from him by a terrible decision from the referee. Regardless he got a chance to shine on the big stage and prove to a wider audience what he can do, and why he's been one of the true favourites of hardcore fans during his great career. If this is, as expected, his last bout we want to say thank "Lightning Kid" for giving us so many fantastic fights through the years.
As for Soto this was probably the nightmare situation for him. The result, a TKO9, does little to cover up a performance that will leave the other champion licking their lips. Soto looked predictable, very low in terms of output, and like he could be out worked, out boxed and even out fought by some of the others. The likely plan is for him to face WBA "super" champion Hiroto Kyoguchi next but on this performance Kyoguchi would have a field day with him, Likewise Kenshiro Teraji would also be jumping at the chance to face Soto. That's not to say Soto's a bad fighter, but his flaws are evident and he's not yet the fighter he will become. In two or three years Soto will be a better fighter, but for now he's a champion with a lot to prove, and this performance will leave many with more questions than answers.
As for Cole the sooner he's out of boxing the better.
Late last night in the US we saw a WBO Light Flyweight title fight, as Mexican champion Elwin Soto (16-1, 11) made his first defense, narrowly defeating Filipino challenger Edward Heno (14-1-5, 5) in a genuine nail biting.
Soto seemed to take the first round, in what was a pretty even back and forth. The Mexican champion seemed to land the better punches and make the most of his defenses, neutralising the challenger's attacks. The champion also had success in the second round, as his power and speed let him take control.
The bout shifted in round 3, when Heno began to build on the bits of success he had had earlier in the bout. Heno was also helped by a slightly lucky call that saw the referee score a knockdown in his favour, even though it seemed like a less than legitimate punch and more like a push. That knockdown, whilst perhaps not the most legal of shots, did secure Heno a 10 round and began a real surge from the Filipino, who began to find the range and timing for his uppercuts. Heno seemed to take the 4th, closely, before building right through the middle of the fight and getting ahead of steam.
By the start of round 8 it seemed the Filipino was in control, though that began the next momentum shift, with Soto having a good round 8 and a big round 9. The champion was turning the bout around with big body shots, that were sapping the movement and energy from Heno. The Filipino gritted his teeth and fought back, going through some hell in round 10 as Soto's pressure began to tell, and took him through the championship rounds. The Mexican's work rate in the final round was incredible, as he seemed to know he had to put on a big finish.
In the end it felt incredibly finely balanced, and had been compelling through out. Despite being competitive, and another Light Flyweight thriller, it seemed Soto had just edged it, and that proved to be the case on the scorecards with the judges scoring it 114-113 and 115-112, twice, all in favour of the Mexican.
What we saw really was a bout that swung one way, than another. It was Soto early, Heno through the middle and Soto late. The bout showed up what makes each fighter great, with the power and will to win of Soto going up against the more refined skills of Heno, but Heno's stamina played a major part in his loss and showed something he needs to work on going forward.
A rematch, down the line, would be great and both of these men are legitimate world class talents in a division full of world class fighters.
A great bout and both fighters had the chance, and took that chance, to increase their standing and profile in the sport. Fans should be more than happy to see both men and follow both going forward. This was great and another show case of how good the little men can be.
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.