One of the often used excuses for fans not watching the lower weights is the lack of power that the fighters have. Those likely haven't seen the terrific WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa (15-0, 15) [比嘉 大吾], who made his second defense earlier today and continued his perfect stoppage run, recording a Japanese record equalling 15th straight stoppage.
The champion, defending his title in a home-coming defense in Okinawa, was up against former WBO Minimumweight champion Moises Fuentes (25-5-1, 14) in what looked like an interesting match up on paper. Fuentes was an experienced challenger, who was world class, and had simply out grown the lower weights. He had significant reach and height advantages over Higa and looked less like a fighter moving up in class than the champion he towered over.
Whilst interesting on paper it really wasn't that competitive in the ring. Fuentes looked to start aggressively, and actually backed Higa up very early on, landing a looping right hand in the opening seconds. It was however one of the very moments of success for Fuentes, who also managed to back Higa on to the ropes though was punished for doing so.
Higa's power was shown in a jab that pushed Fuentes back. Moments after being backed up himself he landed another jab that saw Fuentes's legs betray him and a follow up saw him landing some monstrous bombs on to Fuentes, who's chin some how held up to some massive shots. Higa would then go to the body and Fuentes' ribs felt the punishment, with the Mexican dropping to the canvas in agony. He tried to beat the count but was counted out rising to his feet as Higa cemented his name in Japanese boxing history.
The brilliant youngster not only tied the long standing Japanese KO record of Tsuyoshi Hamada, at 15 KO's, but he also became the first Japanese fighter to successfully defend a world title in Okinawa, and managed to bring world title fights back to the area after more than 30 years away. In fact the last time there was a world title defense in Okinawa it was Higa's very own mentor Yoko Gushiken, who lost the WBA Light Flyweight title to Pedro Flores back in 1981!
Next time out Higa will be looking to set a new Japanese record with 16 straight stoppages, and after today's performance there will be very few Flyweights who will feel comfortable in getting in the ring with him.
When we talk about young Japanese stars the first name is Naoya Inoue, the WBO Super Flyweight champion who become a 2-weight champion in just 8 professional bouts. Today we saw another Japanese youngster match that achievement as 21 year old prodigy Kosei Tanaka (8-0, 5) [田中恒成] dismantled Mexican veteran Moises Fuentes (24-3-1, 13) to claim the WBO Light Flyweight title.
Tanaka, who had previously held the WBO Minimumweight title, set the tone from the opening round as he used his speed to befuddle Fuentes and land hard right hands up top as well as piercing jabs to the body. Fuentes had no real answer other than to stay there and take them whilst offering an occasional wild swing in return. The second round was marginally better for the Mexican as he had a few moments of his own, but it was another round where Tanaka's speed and accuracy was the key with the Mexican's successes, all early in the round, being over-shadowed by Tanaka's more consistent showing.
Sadly for Fuentes round 3 was a horror round as Tanaka began to not just out box and out speed him but also out fight him, forcing him on to the ropes and landing some massive shots to head and body. Although not quite a 10-8 round it was one where some judges might have leaned that way due to just how one sided things were becoming. It was the same again in round 4, when Fuentes looked totally out of his depth and seemed to be needing a miracle. That miracle was never to come and in round 5 Tanaka let his shots go, hurting Fuentes who backed up to the ropes and took a huge right before being taken down by a flurry of lightening quick shots. With Fuentes down,and having been beaten up, the referee quickly waved off the bout.
With the win Tanaka further cements his place as one of the hottest emerging talents in boxing. A 2-weight champion in just 8 fights and at the age of 21 his career has so much potential and he seems to be improving with every contest. As for Fuentes it's hard to see him bouncing back from a beat down like this.
Over the past year we've been really critical of Filipino Donnie Nietes (33-1-4, 19) who we felt was on the slide, showing signs of ageing and didn't look like the fighter who had wowed us all with his skills a few years ago. Today however Nietes look sensational, he looked like a rejuvenated fighter and a man who has years left at the top of the boxing world.
Last year Nietes struggled to a draw with Mexico's Moises Fuentes (19-2-1, 10). Today they fought a rematch with the WBO Light Flyweight title of Nietes on the line. We had expected a fight similar to the first one with Nietes looking slow, lazy and old. Instead we got a sharp, sensational Nietes who fought to a gameplan and show off all the facets that have made him such a long reigning champion.
Early on the fight looked tough. The opening round was close with both men struggling to have much in terms of sustained success. It was a round that likely went to Nietes but could easily have been a Fuentes round without much argument . Thankfully for Nietes it was pretty much the only close round before he started boxing and moving making Fuentes look like a slow, one dimensional fighter who was simply unable to compete. The punches from Nietes were crisp and accurate, his defensive work was impregnable and Fuentes was struggling to do much more than land on the arms or flail away at the air and worst of all for Fuentes was his predictability walking straight in and being tagged as a result.
There were moments where Fuentes did mange to have some success, such as in round 5 where Fuentes managed to connect with some solid body shots, but by then Fuentes's eye was reddening and the shots of Nietes were taking their toll on the challenger. Fuentes wasn't looking like a man being beaten up, but he was clearly being beaten by a fighter who had a point to prove and wanted to show the world, and his critics, that he really was one of the truly elite at Light Flyweight.
In round 6 the success of Fuentes started to become less frequent again. Nietes was landing crisp 1-2's on the counter, tucking up tight when Fuentes was on top of him and generally landing neutralising the challenger. This continued round after round with Fuentes becoming less and less successful whilst Nietes began turning the screw.
By round 8 it seemed to be less about who was going to win and more about whether or not the fight would manage to go the distance. Fuentes, who is genuinely a tough guy, was beginning to take a shellacking.
In round 9 we quickly found out whether or not this would be going the distance as Nietes turned up the heat. He managed to knock down Fuentes with nasty body shots-come-low blows then landed a shot as Fuentes was down, being deducted a point as a result. Fuentes got some time to recover from the foul but the damage had been done and soon afterwards Fuentes was down again...and then again. This time the referee waved it off without even bothering with the count, it was clear Fuentes was finished.
With this victory Nietes claimed the Ring magazine Light Flyweight title as well as retained his WBO belt. He is however unlikely to fight the "best of the rest" in the form of WBC champion Naoya Inoue in what would be a divisional super-fight and the real decider of who is the best fighter at 108lbs.
(Image courtesy of boxrec.com)
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.