After non-stop complaints by boxing fans who had tuned in to see the predictably mismatched action on Showtime we then got the hardcore fans who moved on to the action from Mexico which always looked like the best part of the weekend. That was because we had two of the best Minimumweights on the planet trading leather to become a unified champion, a champion of champions.
The fight pitted Japan's Katsunari Takayama, the IBF champion, against Mexico's Francisco Rodriguez Jr, the WBO champion. We knew it was going to be good, in fact we knew it was going to be great. And if we're being honest the fight exceeded even our high expectations in many ways, though one thing did leave us with a sour taste, more about that later however.
Going in the bout was going to be decided on two things. Did Takayama have the speed and stamina to out work, out move and out land Rodriguez? And did Rodriguez have the power and strength to hurt Takayama? At the end we ended up having both questions landed in the affirmative leading to a thoroughly compelling and action packed fights that, if compubox was in use, could have set punch number records.
In the opening round it was clearly Takayama's speed and movement that decided who won it. Rodriguez looked slow and sloppy though very strong as the pro-Mexican crowd chanted "Chihuas", the Mexican's nickname. In the second round however things became more competitive with Takayama starting the round very well before being rocked in the final 30 seconds or so. Takayama was already being warned for holding, despite the holding being kept to a real minimum, and was already being forced to stand his ground and trade. Although we gave Takayama round 2 we could understand others scoring it to Rodriguez, it was one of those plain old "swing rounds".
Unfortunately for Takayama round 3 wasn't a swing round as the Japanese fighter was dropped. He was up as quickly as he was down but the round was still going to be a 10-8, though he did make a good effort of trying to erase the knock down, in fact if he was at home the chances are he may have managed to have won the round making it a 10-9. Away from home however that never really happens.
Although rounds 1 and 3 were clear cut not many of the others were and rounds 4 and 5 were both swing rounds impossible to call for certain either way. Takayama tried to win them on work rate alone, unloading flurries to the body up close ad measuring with a jab as he picked his raids carefully whilst Rodriguez tried to claim them with the heavy handed assault that he's going to make his trademark over the decade. Both rounds really were rounds that you could argue for either man with great give and take.
Going into round 6 the scorecards really could have said anything. They could have been 48-47 to Takayama or 49-46 to Rodriguez depending on your reading of the fight. In fact it could well have been 49-48 if you'd have scored the 3 close rounds in the most fair manner you could, giving them each as 10-10 rounds, and we know it's rare but they really were impossible to split.
In round 6 we saw Rodriguez charge at Takayama in the early stages as he moved through the gears for the first minute of the round. Amazingly however for the final 2 minutes Takayama backed up the Mexican in what looked to have become a clear round for the Japanese fighter and a major turning point with Rodriguez then looking very tired. The exhausted look on Rodriguez continued in round 7 as Takayama appeared to easily bag another round and appeared to be on his way to unifying the titles. Rodriguez looked all in as if his assault to begin round 6 was him cashing in his chips.
Amazingly the Mexican suddenly looked refreshed in round 8 as he hurt Takayama at several points. Takayama was looking ready to go as the fight swung, yet again. By the end of the eighth it seemed almost certain that Takayama was on his way to being stopped and his usually bouncing toes were now flat feet, his work rate has dissipated and he appeared to be kept in the fight on heart alone.
The heart of Takayama seemed to kick in again in round 9 as he was forced to stand and trade almost from the off as Rodriguez came out in search of a stoppage. Luckily for Takayama he was able to recoup his legs a little bit as Rodriguez continually threw some wild shots that missed by a mile, though when he connected Rodriguez really did look to hurt the Japanese fighter who stood his ground for the last 40 seconds as the two men went toe-to-toe. They started round 10 as they ended round 9, stood in front of each other unloading shots, showing reckless abandon in he search of that punch that would drop their foe and help them to victory. At the end of the round both men seemed to be looking for hail Mary's.
Going in to the championship rounds it seemed like the fight had swung just enough in the favour of Rodriguez that the titles were going to stay in Mexico. Suddenly however at the start of round 11 drama, and a little bit of controversy, struck as Rodriguez went down in his corner. Was it a knockdown or a slip? It was ruled a slip though on replay it was a hard one to call and had it been ruled a knockdown it would have neutralised the one scored by the Mexican in round 3. By the end of the 11h the knockdown/slip question was all but forgotten as the men stood trading and flailing punches at each other. It was insane as both men just stood firing bombs at each other as if the fight needed to be won by knock out.
The final round saw Takayama slip in exactly the same corner as Rodriguez's incident in the previous round. That slip was early on but for the following 2 minutes they men against stood toe-to-toe trading, bombing each other and trying to score the stoppage they may well have felt they needed. They were fighting themselves to a standstill as the insane and hyper-active fight continued to be fought in the most impressive of manners. It was a war and it was amazing to watch.
After 12 rounds the general view here was that Rodriguez had nicked it by a round or two, being helped by the crowd to just sneak the majority of the swing rounds. When the first score was read out as 116-111 we nodded in the agreement, then a score of 119-109 was read as our stomachs turned before a final card of 115-112 made us nod in agreement. The cards, which all favoured the Mexican seemed to get the right winner but we were left genuinely baffled by the wide card which seemed to be very off, even for a bout that had as many swing rounds as this one.
Takayama looked dejected having failed in his attempt to collect the grandslam whilst Rodriguez rightfully celebrated winning what could go down as one of the fights of the year. Sensational bout.
Takayama, who fell to 27-7-0-1 (10) is now 2-3-0-1 on the road and may well think twice about ever fighting outside of Japan again. He has been a road warrior but may well feel that it's not worth travelling when some judges, such as John Madfis on this occasion, have seemingly marked their cards before the fight has began. In fact he may well call it quits or try to secure a rematch back in Japan. For Rodriguez, now 15-2 (10), this leaves him as one of the top dogs at 105lbs following back to back wins over Merlito Sabillo and Takayama.
As for the Minimumweight division we're now poised for a few interesting months. Talk of a rematch between these two is something Takayama and fans would likely love, WBA champion Hekkie Budler is set to defend his title against former WBC champion Xiong Zhao Zhong, current WBC champion Oswaldo Novoa is set to defend against the unbeaten Wanheng Menayothin in Thailand in November and we're also expecting a WBA interim title fight between Carlos Buitrago and Knockout CP Freshmart in October. Whatever happens in the coming months this division is going to be red hot at the top and possible deeper, especially if Kosei Tanaka gets his wish and gets a fight with OPBF champion Ryuji Hara. What a time to be a fan of the Minimumweight division.
(Image courtesy of Nakazato Boxing)
Courtesy of boxrec.com
Earlier today in the US Nihito Arakawa (24-3-1, 16) attempted to become just the fifth Japanese fighter to claim a world title on American soil. Unfortunately for Arakawa he ran into one of the most promising and most exciting young talents in America in the the form of Omar Figueroa (22-0-1, 17), a guy with "superstar" and "PPV" written all over him.
Going in to the bout Figueroa had a reputation for wiping out opponents in the first 2 or 3 rounds. He had scored 8 opening round victories and 15 in the opening 2 rounds. The betting favoured him to do a similar job against Arakawa, despite the fact Arakawa is one of the genuine tough guys of boxing.
With the reputation for early victories it was fair to suggest that Figueroa had real question marks over his stamina. He had been 8 rounds twice and 10 rounds just once. The obvious game plan from Arakawa's camp was to see out the early rounds and then try and drown Figueroa late in the contest.
With the game plan being obvious Arakawa didn't try and hide what he was going to do and started the bout by trying to smother Figueroa and holding him every time a big punch was landed. The worked fine to help see the Japanese fighter through the opening round though it was already obvious that Figueroa had the sort of power to hurt Arakawa, something he did at least once in the opening stanza.
In the second round Arakawa attempted to move his game plan on a stage and started to push Figueroa backwards as if to suggest that he was the man and Figueroa was the boy. Forcing Figueroa on to the ropes was likely a plan to help smother him though with the hand speed and unreal power of Figueroa it unfortunately didn't work and Arakawa was again hurt. This time his legs went to jelly and he was really struggle to tie up Figueroa, something he appeared to just do before Lawrence Cole started a count. This was despite there being a "no standing 8 count" rule in effect.
Arakawa continued to push his young adversary on to the ropes where he attempted to tee-off. Unfortunately for Arakawa he was was unable to land enough to really bother Figueroa who fired back his own flurries that seemed to shake Arakawa up on a regular basis. Oddly Figueroa was able to square up and still manage to generate extraordinary power on his shots.
With the fight being fought at a brilliant pace and often up close it seemed only a matter of time before heads would clash and that's what happened in round 5 with an accidental clash leading to a cut on Figueroa's nose. Despite the cut Figueroa continued to unload combinations. Oddly this round was probably the closest in the first half of the bout and a case could have been made to have given it to the Japanese fighter.
Unfortunately for the Japanese fighter his success in round 5 was soon forgotten with Figueroa rocking him to his core in round 6. Once again Arakawa tried to hold and seemed to manage to clinch whilst remaining on his feet though was, for the second time in the fight, given a standing count.
The success from round 6 for Figueroa seemed to give him a huge boost and he came out firing on all cylinders in round 7. It seemed clear that Figueroa still believed he could stop Arakawa despite the fact he was starting to lose the snap on his shots.
Thankfully for the fans Arakawa managed to survive through the storm of round 7 and fought back hard in round 8 as he started to re-establish himself in the fight. Arakawa's fight back seemed to be ended later in the same round after a series of body shots had him reeling before the bell came.
Amazingly Arakawa refused to genuinely go down and fought back hard in round 9 as Figueroa appeared to be start to wilt. The America still had power in speed in his shots but they were becoming less frequent with only an odd burst of punches every so often as his feeling the pace.
With Figueroa clearly tiring and fighting in the 10th round for just the second time in his career it was now Arakawa's chance to turn it on. Unfortunately the body shots from Figueroa and the general pace of the fight had taken it's toll on Arakawa who was starting to look just as exhausted as Figueroa. Despite this Arakawa went on the offensive and looked for the stoppage that he clearly needed.
After having limited success in round 10 Arakawa managed to have a clear round in round 11 as we entered the championship rounds. This was the first time Figueroa had been so deep into a fight and it showed as he had very little energy left and did very little other than cover up and survive.
The final round saw Figueroa doing almost the same as Arakawa had done in the opening round. He held on, he spoiled and he threw some shots back but nothing major as he concentrated on seeing out the final bell. Unfortunately for Arakawa he was unable to close the show in the way that he'll have wanted to.
With the 2 knockdowns against Arakawa it was clearly going to be a decision victory for Figueroa who took it by scores of 119-107 and 118-108 twice. We had it 117-109 to Figueroa so cannot complain with the result, even if the 119-107 card was certainly a bit harsh.
Despite the loss it's fair to say Arakawa and Figueroa both made new fans tonight's and both threw their names into the hat to be "Fight of the Year 2013". Do not be shocked if this is replayed repeatedly on youtube over the next week or so.
Courtesy of Boxrec.com
It's not often that the Cruiserweight division managed to get the attention of the boxing world but that's exactly what happened recently thanks to Russian toughman Denis Lebedev (25-2, 19) and Panamanian Guillermo Jones (39-3-2, 31) who put on a true FOTY candidate. The clash, for the WBA Cruiserweight really had everything a fight fan could want to see in a fight including action, heart, bombs from both sides and genuine guts.
The fight started at a solid pace with Lebedev using his sharp, accurate right jab to connect on his taller opponent, though it was the powerful right hands of Jones that really looked like the bigger shots. Although Lebedev had clearly outworked Jones in the opening round his face was already looking a bit of a mess.
As the fight went on Lebedev's face went from bad, to awful, to worse and finally a total mess as the brave Russian fought through massive swelling to land his own monster shots on Jones. Despite the Panamanian being forced to take massive hooks and uppercuts he seemed completely unfazed by the shots whilst managing to land his own crisp uppercuts, sharp right hands and hurtful body shots that all took their tall on the much shorter Lebedev.
Although Lebedev's face was a genuine mess going through the middle rounds the Russian was doing well despite no help, at all, from his corner team (including Kostya Tszyu), the ringside doctor or the referee who acted as if a swollen face was the norm for a fight. Worryingly South African referee Stanley Christodoulou seemed almost oblivious to the fact Lebedev had too swollen shut eyes and was fighting on fumes for several rounds.
In round 11 a visibly exhausted Lebedev was knocked down and he stayed down before the referee waved off the bout, it was obvious that he was completely spent and although some may want to say "he quit" the fact that he had put on a true battle with a disfigured face really should silence those doubters.
The future for neither man looks great. We'd be shocked if Lebedev was ever the same fighter and whilst Jones may have won, the fact he is now 41 and took a number of massive shots may see him a diminished fighter in the future.
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.