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.
1Boxing, at it's best, is an incredible sport, a sport that has drama, excitement and a human tale. Sadly at it's worst it's a mess that is decided by something that feels unsatisfactory. Be that a poor decision from judges that appear to have not been watching the action or by an injury caused by an unintentional incident in the ring.
Sadly today we had one of those unintentional incidents curtailing what had looked like a brilliant WBO Minimumweight title bout between teenager Riku Kano (10-2-1, 5) and war torn veteran Katusnari Takayamo (31-8-0-1, 12). Not only did the incident curtail the bout but it left a disappointing taste in the mouth of all involved, including the winner, who was distraught at the conclusion of the action.
The bout started well with an intriguing first round that began as a feeling out round but heated up well with both men managing to get into their groove in the late stages. When the fighters were in full swing Kano was finding a home for his eye catching left hand whilst Takayama was looking to turn the fight into a brawl, knowing that the style would favour him and his style.
Having warmed up Takayama began to run through the gears in round 2 as he put Kano under pressure. The youngster coped well, landing a number of eye catching counters, but was certainly under pressure with Takayama ending the round well with his movement and aggression befotre throwing his hands up to the crowd to celebrate.
Sadly that previously mentioned injury occurred early in round 3 when a clash of heads left Takayama with a nasty cut over the left eye. The eye, which had been cut several times during the course of Takayama's long and thrilling career, didn't look like it was an immediately bad cute but it was in some well known scar tissue of Takayama's and was a clear target for Kano's straight.
The cut forced a sense of urgency in Takayama who went all out to try and defeat Kano, speeding up the pressure and forcing Kano on to the back foot. The counters were still coming from the youngster but they were fewer than they had been earlier in the fight whilst Takayama was clearly upping the ante. Kano tried to do what he could to slow Takayama, both fighting back and holding, but the veteran wasn't to be denied the round making sure to end it really well.
Takayama's high pressure and output continued in to round 4 as the veteran looked to take a march on the score-cards. The cut, didn't seem like it would be immediately fight ending but it was certainly getting worse and with Takayama's style it seemed like a ticking time bomb, especially given that the bout would need 4 completed rounds to get a result. Despite the cut Takayama was now bullying Kano around the ring and landed a brilliant right hand near the bell putting the youngster fully on the back foot and into the defensive.
Takayama's relentless assault continued to begin round 5 before he got on his toes and showed a spring in his step, almost taunting the youngster. That dancing however didn't last long as a left hand from Kano got through. The left hand should have been a moment of notable success for Kano however Takayama took the shot and quickly cornered Takayama unloading a ferocious assault. Kano saw out the attack and thwarted Takayama's offensive foray. Takayama's offensive foray was followed by another and it was obvious that the veteran was piling up the rounds with his work rate.
Round 6 started much like the others, with Takayama on the front foot. Kano however seemed to have his successes in the opening 30 seconds with Takayama walking on to shots as Kano used clever movement to open up some space. That space was quickly taken away from the youngster with Takayama putting his foot on to the gas. Sadly however the time-bomb on Takayama's face was going off and blood oozed down his face forcing the referee to take him over to the doctor who took a few moments before ending the bout.
With the bout over Takayama was in tears, looking like a man who had lost everything. He seemed to feel that he had been stopped due to the cut, almost as if he didn't realise the stoppage was caused by a clash of heads and not a punch. The tears, which contained a lot of blood, showed what the bout had meant to him and it looked almost like he was ready to walk away from the sport. Although Takayama was confused on the ending the referee wasn't, telling the judges to “score the round”, making it clear that the fight ending cut was from the clash of heads in round 3.
After a few moments wait we finally saw the cards being read with Takayama's arm being raised, giving him the beginning of another title reign, his 5 if you include his reign as the WBC “interim” champion. For Kano however it was heart break, his plan of taking the old man down late had been destroyed by the cut and the way it had inspired the warrior spirit in the veteran.
The loss sees Kano missing out on the Japanese record of the youngest world champion, but we wouldn't be surprised to see him coming again, potentially in a rematch later this year. His goal of breaking the 29 year record of Hiroki Ioka may have failed but this isn't the last we'll see of the Taisei fighter who still has a long and successful future ahead.
For those interested in the particular,s the cards read 59-59, 59-56 and 58-56 all to Takayama.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
There are a lot of fighters that we can't help but lose, despite their limitations. One such fighter is the defensively liable Katsunari Takayama (30-8-0-1, 12) who sadly lost his IBF Minimumweight title earlier today, but showed just why we love him as he put on a blood and guts performance against Mexico's tough Jose Argumedo (16-3, 9).
Coming in to this one Takayama was the big betting favourite, it was supposed to be an easy defense against an inactive Mexican foe who had come up short every time he had faced a fighter of name value. In the end however it turned into an all action war, with back-forth action, high intensity and like many Takayama bouts, more trades the New York Stock Exchange.
The first round set the tone for the action with Takayama looking the more sprightly fighter but Argumedo looking like a big, tough solid
lump, and the bigger puncher. The round was one that could have gone either way, depending on whether quality and power trumps activity. Whilst the first was very competitive there was little damage to either man, despite the numerous shots that were landed. That wasn't the case in round 2 when a head clash left Takayama with a cut, a cut that worsened through out the fight. The action during the second was intense, and there was no wonder some blood was being spilled in what was quickly becoming an all out war.
The first was the start of a war that had serious battle through rounds 3, 4 and 5. During those rounds both men seemed to neglect defense, going all out with shots in what made for compelling viewing with round 5 in particular being something exceptional. Despite the action there was little to pick between them, except in round 4 which was a very clear Takayama round with Argumedo being backed up and bullied by the naturally smaller man.
Sadly for Takayama the warrior mentality was taking it's toll on his face and by the end of the 5th it appeared that both yes and his nose were leaking, a result of the shots from Argumedo and the fact he has had such a long and damaging career. The blood was beginning to look like and issue in rounds 6 and 7 but Takayama seemed to like the taste of it and upped the ante, throwing more than he had early in an attempt to break down a slowing Argumedo. The Mexican continued to look the stronger man but his feet were flat and his energy reserves seemed to be wearing away due to the intense tempo of the contest.
The battling spirit in Takayama again saw him forcing back Argumedo in round 8 but the Mexican could see the damage he was doing to the eye when he landed and seemed to target it with his heavy shots and by the start of round 9 the blood was a serious issue, along with the swelling around Takayama's face. The champion was beginning to look a real mess. The mess was so bad that the doctor had a really long, hard and serious look during the 9th round. It seemed as it the doctor was going to pull Takayama out there and then, though he relented, as if to say "you have until the round is over".
Knowing time was running out Takayama went on the offensive throwing everything he had at Argumedo, including the kitchen sink, but could stop the Mexican who saw out the storm and heard the bell. It was then that the doctor decided enough, was enough and called a halt to the bout.
This forced us to the scorecards for a technical decision, the second technical decision that Takayama has been involved in this year, though sadly for him he was to be denied of victory and his title with Argumedo taking a split decision with scores of 87-84, twice, whilst the dissenting judge had it 86-85 to Takayama.
This loss for Takayama will be a painful one, especially given the state of his face, though we doubt it'll be the end of the exciting "Lightning Kid" who seemed to suggest that he was heading to 108lbs next year.
Yesterday fans in Osaka had the chance to see the all action Katsunari Takayama (30-7-0-1, 12) take a huge step towards unifying his IBF Minimumweight title with the WBO belt held by Japanese youngster Kosei Tanaka.
Takayama, defending the IBF belt for the second time, was facing former Tanaka foe Ryuji Hara (19-2, 11) and managed to score an 8th round TKO over Hara, who started well but came apart when Takayama upped the pace and showed his ability to go through the gears.
Early on it was Hara with success. He landed a number of solid body shots on to the champion and also managed to re-open a cut over Takayama's left eye, an injury that has been a recurring one in the champions illustrious career. The cut however seemed to spur Takayama on and in round the champion began to up the pace, when he did that Hara struggled to stay with him with a left hook late in the round being just one a number of solid signs that the bout was changing.
In round 5 the bout was becoming more dominated by Takayama, who was in complete control by the end of round 7. Then it seemed only a matter of time with Hara eventually being saved by the referee in round 8.
Following the bout Tanaka challenged the champion and it now looks like a New Year's Eve bout between the two men is likely barring the WBO ordering a mandatory for Tanaka before then.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
It's been a busy day for Japanese fans today, especially those in Osaka who managed to have a fantastic show featuring a former world champion, a Japanese title fight and a pair of world title bouts. It really was as good a show as many fans could have hoped for.
The first of those world title bouts came at Minimumweight where IBF champion Katsunari Takayama (29-7-0-1, 11) risked his title against upset minded Thai Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr (27-4-1, 15).
For many Japanese fans Sakkreerin Jr is best remembered for his previous fight in Osaka, when he stopped former WBA Minimumweight champion Ryo Miyazaki in 3 rounds, in what was a late contender for the 2013 upset of the year. He returned to Osaka with the same mindset, believing he could shock the bigger name and win score a major shock.
In the opening round things were really close. Takayama was trying to sneak in and out whilst Sakkreerin was boxing well using his reach and height to catch Takayama as he came in. It was close, competitive and, like many opening rounds, one that could have gone either way with out much debate. It was however the only really close round of the fight of the fight.
In round 2 the Japanese fighter began to make a point as he applied intense pressure, back the Thai up and and began to motor threw the gears through a high volume of shots. Not all of them were getting through but it was clear that Takayama was showing his challenger who the boss was whilst Sakkreerin was doing little more than backing up, covering himself and tried to avoid the onslaught. It looked as if the Thai was hoping to ride out the storm and fight back against a tiring Takayama. The Thai's hopes however were slow to come to fruition and by round 5 it was clear Takayama had bounds of energy and was taking a huge lead due to his intense work rate. To his credit Sakkreerin did begin to fire back with some counters though they often appeared to be thrown more out desperation than anything too educated and they were few and far between.
In round 7 we saw Takayama given his first moments of discomfort as his left eye was cut following a clash of heads, a round later his right eye was cut, again from a clash of heads. The blood seemed to throw Takayama slightly as the champion became slightly more cautious and started to pick his spots. It was obvious that the facial injuries were bother the champion who was inspected twice during round 9 before the bout was stopped after 2:19 of the round.
The stoppage elected massive celebrations from the Thai's team who seemed to feel their man had won the bout with a TKO. Takayama looked resigned as he walked back to his corner though all was not as it seemed and a few moments later the men were brought to the center of the ring with the scorecards being read out. It was clear that the Thai's celebrations had come too soon as the cards were announced as being 86-85,90-81 and 87-84, all in favour of Takayama.
The champion, swollen and bloodied, looked like he had been the one taking a beating as his hand was raised. This keeps alive bouts against Kosei Tanaka, who was ringside, and Hekkie Budler, though neither of those will have seen anything here to worry them too much. For Sakkreerin this loss would have hurt considering how he had celebrated, however it seems clear that the Thai is a tough kid and a move back to 108lbs will almost certainly serve him well. Although Sakkreerin lost he will certainly come again given his age, toughness, and willingness to travel to face big names.
(Image, from a post fight conference, courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
For the second day running we saw a small slice of history being created. Yesterday we saw Naoya Inoue becoming the quickest man to become a 2-weight world champion, setting a world record in his 8th fight when he stopped Omar Andres Narvaez in 2 rounds. Today the history was merely a bit of national history for Japanese fighters as Katsunari Takayama (28-7-0-1, 11) became the first ever Japanese fighter to win a version of all 4 major world titles.
Takayama did that earlier today by stopping light hitting compatriot Go Odaira (11-4-3, 1) in the 7th round of their meeting and claimed the IBF Minimumweight title, for a second time, as well as the elusive WBO Minimumweight crown, the one title he had never had in his illustrious career.
On paper the bout promised excitement. Both men are volume punchers usually, both like to let their hands go and both are as reliant on their speed and movement as any other tool in their arsenal. As well as that there had been only a single stoppage defeat between the two men, and that was a more than 11 years ago when an immature Takayama was caught in the 9th round against Masato Hatakeyama in what was Takayama's first title bout. It seemed to go 12 on paper, but of course fights aren't fought on paper and when history is there for the taking sometimes a fighter can find something else in themselves.
The fight started well with both managing to find their range and timing, neither showed great fear of the other's power but neither felt like taking too many risks. It was busy without being brutal, fast without being rushed and in fact Odaira managed to more than hold his own early on with round 4 being a particularly good one for the relatively unknown fighter. Unfortunately as we hit the middle of the bout things began to change and Takayama's shots began to take their toll with Odaira being forced to take body shots, the like of which he had never tasted.
The body shots began to slow Odaira in round 5 and, as we all know, when a fighter is feeling the effects of body shots they can slow quickly and in round 6 it all seemed to unravel for Odaira who suddenly looked like a tiring man, despite still managing to do enough to fight back. Unfortunately for the Hanagata promoted fighter this was the beginning of the end and in round 7 Takayama got his chance and took it, with the finish coming in the a typical Takayama fashion with the “Lightning Kid” unloading shot after shot after shot in a furious bombardment of leather. The shots themselves had a lack of pop but the sheer volume of them was insane and Odaira's exhaustion was showing as the referee was forced to save Odaira who was being swallowed whole by a whirlwind of punches.
Whilst the win for Takayama was historic it also sees him achieving one of his two public aims. It seems him claiming all 4 titles in a career grandslam, the other aim he has spoken about is to become a multi-weight world champion and a move to 108lbs seems likely. Hopefully however he will look to defend his unified crown, possibly against talented teenage sensation Kosei Tanaka who is himself chasing Japanese boxing history as he chases the quickest rise to a world title.
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)
When we talk about our favourite Japanese fighters we always make sure to mention IBF Minimumweight champion Katsunari Takayama (27-6-0-1, 10) who has repeatedly shown a desire to prove that he is the best in the world. He has never shirked an opponent and instead he has chased them around the planet to try and get the biggest and best fights.
When someone has faced a litany of top class opponents, including Eagle Den Junlaphan, Yutaka Niida, Roman Gonzalez and Nkosinathi Joyi we don't mind him fighting a lesser foe and that's exactly what Takayama did today as he faced fellow Japanese fighter Shin Ono (17-6-2, 2) a former OPBF Light Flyweight champion.
Ono had looked like a fighter devoid of confidence at his public work out last week, his team had tried to buoy up his hopes talking about his notable wins over Yu Kimura and Xiong Zhong Zhao. Unfortunately for Ono his lack of confidence seem to reappear at sections in the actual fight, almost as if he remembered he was fighting in a world title fight and he was fighting arguably the best fighter at 105lbs.
The skill difference in the two men was noticeable almost from the off as Takayama just showed he had too many weapons for the challenger and after spending one or two rounds trying to box with Ono, the champion seemed to have a change of tact and went on the offensive realising that Ono lacked the power needed to hurt him. This front foot, offensive march of Takayama saw him landing numerous hard right hands that got the crowd cheering and although he had to take some decent left hands from the southpaw challenger who countered him wonderfully at times to win the odd round here and there.
As we went in to the second half of the fight it was beginning to look like a lost cause for Ono who was being out landed, out worked and back up repeatedly. It was beginning to look more and more one sided and the moments of success for Ono were becoming less frequent. It was as if Takayama was mentally grinding Ono and the challenger was being forced to do all he could to claim a round whilst also learning he couldn't ever get control of the bout.
In round 8 we saw Takayama rocking Ono for one of the first times in the fight as the two men traded solid blows. The similar trading occurred in round 9 though the bigger shots were from Takayama who seemed to hurt Ono again in the final minute as the challenger was backed up from one side of the ring to the other. It was great work from the champion who, although, cut was proving his class despite the televised highlights focussing on the few moments of success from Ono who did land some good lefts, although he was clearly out landed.
With the challenger fading the champion went on determined attack in round 10 and dropped Ono with a long and aggressive flurry. following the knockdown we got to see the lovely footwork of Takayama who danced around the challenger before rocking him hard moments before the bell. By now the bout was sealed and in round 11 a wilting, tiring Ono did what he could to try and fight back against Takayama. The success of Ono in the penultimate round was limited however and instead it was Takayama who was on the offensive landing some lovely shots on to his game but tiring challenger. Ono, to his credit, saw out the round standing.
Going in to the final there wasn't a question of who would win, instead the only question was whether or not Ono would see out the bell. Midway through the round it looked unlikely as Ono was dropped for the second time and Takayama immediately went on the hunt for the stoppage. It was a race against time as to whether or not the champion could force the referee to challenger who was showing the typical Japanese warrior spirit despite the fight being a lost cause and blood seeping from his nose.
With some early rounds having been close and some of the middle rounds having had moments for both the fight was likely to see a range of scores but the two knockdowns in the championship rounds left us with no doubt who the winner was. This was shown in the scorecards which favoured Takayama with scores of 115-111, 115-111 and 117-109 though we do understand some having it close though the first 10 rounds and we do openly confess to being Takayama fans so perhaps we were favouring him as a result.
(Image courtesy of Watanabe Gym)
One of the saddest things about Asian boxing over the last 3 or 4 years has been the case of Katsunari Takayama (26-6-0-1, 10). The man handed in his JBC license to chase the IBF world title all over the globe and was sadly missed by the Japanese fans who struggled to see him live in action.
Thankfully the JBC welcomed Takayama back earlier this year with the IBF Minimumweight title in tow and he repaid both the JBC and the fans with a performance to remember.
Defending his belt for the first time Takayama took on young Filipino challenger Vergilio Silvano (17-3-1, 10) and made a statement from the off.
The first round saw Takayama rocking Silvano with a hard shot. It didn't put Silvano down, but would have put many lesser men down. This was Takayama saying "don't under-estimate my power" and laying down a marker on power, with many feeling the edge there was with Silvano.
Takayama then slowly started going through the gears, his speed was sensation with both hand and foot and he was nipping in and out at will. Silvano, left to punch at air, must have wondered what he was doing in the ring with Takayama who was like a ghost at times.
Left chasing shadows and being out punched and out landed Silvano appeared a beaten man after just 4 rounds as Takayama moved into third gear. He wasn't hurting Silvano too badly in terms of physical pain but Silvano was clearly struggling and as we all know missing an opponent with shots is draining mentally, physically and emotionally.
By round 5 Takayama's movement had become less "in-out" and more circling in the pocket. It was perpetual movement by a man with an amazing engine and he wasn't just circling the challenger but unload every book in the book. The straight right was like a laser guided shot up stairs, the rights to the midsection were vicious and Silvano simply couldn't cope with the variation or the speed.
The one thing Silvano had in his favour was his toughness. He was being out boxed, out punched and generally beaten by a man who was just far too good. To his credit though Silvano did try coming forward and tried to make a fight out of it. Sadly he was just unable too and when he did come forward Takayama showed off his defensive skills to neutralise the challenger.
Round after round we saw Takayama doing the same thing, though it appeared in round 9 that the champion was deciding to slow down his output and trade it off against landing more meaningful shots. It was as if he thought that he'd like to try and stop Silvano. This saw Silvano given a torrid time in round 10 as Takayama put the hurting on to his body
By round 11 Takayama was ridiculously confident that he was in charge and actually started taunting Silvano who had become a bit of a mini-heavy bag. The Japanese fighter was looking chuffed with his work and with good reason, he had clearly won 10 if not 11 of the preceding rounds whilst Silvano had merely survived them.
With the decision in the bag no one would have blamed Takayama for taking his foot off the gas, instead he fought round 12 just as he had fought many of the previous round. He was busy, active and whilst the stoppage had become highly unlikely he wasn't going to cruise the final round instead taking the fight to Silvano who was probably fortunate it wasn't a 15 round bout. In fact had it been 12, 15 or a fight to the finish we dare say that Takayama would have kept going with the same intensity as he had shown here.
By the time the scorecards were read out there no doubting who had won, though there was some wonderment as to how many rounds the judges could see Silvano taking. These seemed relatively generous to Silvano with 2 of the judges seeing the fight 118-110 whilst the third had a shut out all in favour of Takayama. We had Takayama winning 119-111 giving a pity round to Silvano.
We're really hoping it won't take another 4 years to see Takayama in action in Japan. This guy is too good to keep away from the Japanese audience. Saying that however, we are expecting his next fight to be overseas as he's rumoured to be facing Xiong Zhao Zhong in China next April. On this performance Takayama easily out points the tank like Zhong over 12 entertaining but 1-sided rounds.
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.