To end a super busy weekend of fights attention turned to the Portopia Hotel in Kobe as Reiya Konishi (17-2, 7) [小西伶弥] challenged hard hitting IBF Light Flyweight champion Felix Alvarado (35-2, 30).
The bout, which had no live TV coverage, promised a lot. Whilst the TV coverage lacked it was streamed via the team of Konishi's and proved to be a genuinely compelling contest, from start to end, with Alvarado's power punching going up against Konishi's physical strength and toughness. It wasn't the all out war we were expecting, but it sure was an engaging, and thrilling contest.
From the opening round it was clear neither man was there just to pick up a pay cheque, with Konishi pressing forward, trying to smother the power of Alvarado, whilst the Champion found room to get his shots off. Konishi, to his credit, got plenty off himself in the early stages, often forcing Alvarado backwards and unleashing flurries of shots to head and body, but it was the blows of Alvarado that caught the eye, especially his uppercuts as Konish came in with his head down.
Konishi's best moments came in the middle rounds, as he landed most of his best work, stopped Alvarado from creating the space here needed to get full extension on his shots. By smothering Alvarado's power shots and pushing him backwards Konishi had real success, and left the Nicaraguan looking a little bit like a bully. It did however come at a cost, and the energy that Konishi had to use, and the shots he took in return for his success, were apparent in the later rounds.
The final third of the bout was Alvarado's best. Konishi had slowed, his work rate had dropped, and his ability to cut the distance effectively was waning. This allowed Alvarado the space he needed to land his thunderous power shots, and in rounds 10 and 11 he hurt Konishi, who was left wobbling and looking ready to go. Unfortunately for the Nicaraguan the bell came to give Konishi both times, but it was clear that Konishi was relying on his toughness by then, and his chance to turn things round had all but gone.
The brave and determined challenger managed to put up a really spirited effort in round 12, despite losing the round. It was clear he knew he'd lost but he'd put up a great effort against one of the hardest hitting champions in the sport.
After 12 rounds the judges had the bout a clear win for the Nicaraguan, with scores of 117-111, 118-110 and 116-112.
In a sign of real class Alvarado stayed with fans on his way backstage, bumping fists with the locals, taking pictures with kids and really spending a lot of time with those who had been cheering on Konishi. The fans however had clearly been won over by the champion, and it was great to see from both sides.
Sadly for Konishi this is the second time he has lost in a world title bout, and it might just be that whilst he is very good, and very strong, he isn't quite good enough to win a world title.
The Light Flyweight delivered another action packed bout earlier today as Filipino Randy Petalcorin (29-3-1, 22) battled against heavy handed Nicaraguan Felix Alvarado (34-2, 30) in a bout for the vacant IBF Light Flyweight title, which had been given up by Hekkie Budler earlier this year. On paper the bout matched one of the best pure boxers in the division against one of the most destructive in a bout that really looked fantastic on paper.
For fans of Alvarado they would have known exactly what to expect from the Nicaraguan, and he fought true to form, bringing his trademark intense pressure. In the opening moments Petalcorin coped with it well, moving around the ring and fighting smart with sharp counter shots, but couldn't force Alvarado backwards or really get his respect.
The second round saw Alvarado pick up the pace, and really take the fight to the Filipino who failed to ever create space in a round that instead saw him being pinned against the ropes. It was a huge show of confidence from the Nicaraguan who looked like a monster. Petalcorin managed to have a better round 3, as he created some space, but was again on the back foot and forced to take some big shots from the Nicaraguan. To his credit Petalcorin landed some tasty counters, creating a welt under the right eye of Alvarado, but he was never able to get Alvarado's respect.
Round 4 saw more pressure from Alvarado as he continued to hunt his man, though his success was limited at times as he began to look sluggish, with the intensity dropping. The lower intensity allowed Petalcorin to have some moments in round 5, especially early on, but he was on the receiving end at the end of the round as Alvarado's pressure began to ramp up. That pressure continued to get more intense from Alvarado in round 6 as he began to really dig heavy body shots into the local favourite. Petalcorin rode a lot of shots well, and even landed some of his own clean counters, but it was clear that the damage was accumulating on the Filipino, who was being forced to take some massive body shots.
In round 7 Alvarado's pressure finally broke through as he dropped Petalcorin in the corner. The Filipino gritted it out and got back to his feet but was dropped again not long afterwards. He looked spent but got to his feet again and fought fire with fire, trading blows with Alvarado. In the trading sequences Petalcorin landed a huge head shot, but was taken apart by body shots, and was dropped again. This time the bout was stopped.
After coming up short to Kazuto Ioka and Juan Carlos Reveco this was third time lucky for Alvarado, who looks like he will be very hard to dethrone, though would make for brilliant fights with Angel Acosta or Hiroto Kyoguchi. For Petalcorin he's young enough to bounce back, but his performance here saw him really struggle with the pressure, and he will have to pick a smart route to a title if he's to go all the way.
When twi men enter a ring with a combined record of 31-0 (24) you don't tend to expect the fight to go the distance though some how Kazuto Ioka's (14-0, 9) bout with Nicaraguan challenger Felix Alvarado (now 18-1, 15) did just that, even though for much of the fight it seemed impossible that it would last 12.
Ioka, defending his WBA Light Flyweight title for the 3rd time this year knew he was facing one of his toughest tests of his career though few would have expected it to be as tough as it was, in fact it was probably his second toughest career bout behind his 2012 bout with countryman Akira Yaegashi.
Alvarado, a much vaunted puncher, set the tone of the bout from the off applying constant pressure and looking to hammer away on Ioka with uppercuts, hooks, crosses and almost everything in his arsenal. Ioka, who at first tried to box, met the pressure quickly by standing his ground and slipping shots in the pocket firing back his own accurate counters.
As a result of Ioka standing his ground the styles of the two men gelled almost instantly and gave us toe-to-toe action round after round after round which early on made things look extremely competitive. The competitiveness of the early rounds could well have seen the judges with cards 36-40 either way.
Unfortunately for Alvarado he was unable to keep up the same level of competitiveness as the bout went on. His shots became pushed, wider, and slower allowing Ioka to pick his counter opportunities more easily and in fact as we entered round 6 and 7 Ioka was beginning to take total control and take advantage of Alvarado's technical limitation and lack of experience. It was never looking easy for the unbeaten Japanese fighter but it was clear he was beginning to run away with the action.
Ioka's control of the bout wasn't just helped by the limitations of his challenger but also by the physical damage he had inflicted on Alvarado whose left eye had been swollen from round 3 and twice saw the doctor inspect it, at the start of round 3 and round 10. This swelling seemed to be the closest either man came to being stopped as they each took bombs from the other with out ever being too hurt.
By the end of round 11 it was clear that Alvarado was going to need to land something extra special though it was clear that was never going to happen. Ioka was fresh, in total control and seemed happy to fight "Alvarado's fight" as if to say "there is noway you can beat me" and at the end of the day he was right, Alvarado had nothing to worry him down the stretch. Despite being in control however Ioka was happy to trade shots with Alvarado and effectively put on a show for the fans by continuing to fight the challenger rather than get on his bike and cruise.
Although a number of rounds, especially early, had been competitive it was clear well before the judges announced the decision that Ioka had retained his title. Alvarado had shown off his toughness though his faults had seen him picked apart some what by a much more complete fighter who may well be looking to really shine in 2014. Yes this was Ioka's 3rd defense of the year though it was the only one where he really needed to impress, it was the only one where he faced a man who believed they had what it took and it was the only one where Ioka answered serious questions about himself.
From a fan's perspective we're hoping Ioka gets in with someone like Adrian Hernandez, the WBC champion, or former IBF Minimumweight champion Nkosinathi Joyi in bouts that would be enjoyable. We'd have loved him in with Akira Yaegashi again but the fact Ioka was well inside the Light Flyweight weight limit would suggest that bout isn't going to happen in the next 12 months. Going on this performance an all-Japanese bout with Naoya Inoue would be too early for Inoue though it's a bout that is likely to be spoken about a lot over the coming months.
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.