Please note - This bout has not yet been shown on TV, there will be spoilers in the first paragraph below, and obviously the result will be given away in the article.
If you do not wish to know the result of the bout between Kenshiro and Saul Juarez, and instead wish to wait for the tape delay broadcast please stop reading.
Today fight fans at the Ota City General Gymnasium had a world title triple header, sadly however for those outside the venue one of the three bouts wasn't televised live anywhere. That bout was the WBC Light Flyweight title bout that pitted unbeaten champion Kenshiro (15-0, 8) [拳四朗] against Mexican challenger Saul Juarez (24-9-2, 13).
The bout saw Kenshiro coming into the contest seeking his 5th defense of the title, and completing an excellent year which had seen him stopping both Ganigan Lopez and Milan Melindo. Juarez on the other hand was looking to claim a world title for the Juarez family, with his brother having fought several times for world titles previously, losing notably in Japan in two of those world title bouts.
Fans in the venue saw the champion take his time in the first round, but he establish himself early in round 2, using his movement, sharp punching and significant size to pick away at Juarez. The skills and speed of Kenshiro saw him establishing the early lead, with scores of 40-36 on two cards and 39-37 on the other when the scores were announced publicly for the first time. The scores, the tempo, the distance was all being dictated by Kenshiro, who controlling everything being his accurate, sharp jab and movement. Not only was Kenshiro dominating but also left Juarez with reddening on the side of his face very early on.
The control over the bout that Kenshiro had extended through the middle rounds, with the champion holding a lead of 79-73, twice, and 80-72, after 8 rounds. He was proving to be too good in every way for the Mexican challenger, who was game but being out landed, out powered, out boxed and out sped. Although it was Kenshiro's jab that was controlling the action he showed enough variation to his shots to try and break through the Mexican's defense and take him out, though Juarez showed enough resolve to make Kenshiro think twice about taking too many risks,
Sadly for those expecting to see Kenshiro get his third stoppage of the year Juarez's toughness stopped it from happening, though Kenshiro continued to completely control the bout, taking the last 4 rounds on all 3 scorecards to wins 120-108 and 119-119, twice. By that point Juarez looked beaten, battered and exhausted, but still tough and game and credit needs to bee given to the Mexican for sticking in there in the final rounds.
Given the bout was "off TV" the performance won't have had his reputation for being in fun fights, because it seems that the fans in the venue were expecting a little bit more from the champion. For Kenshiro's development however 12 rounds here won't have been a bad thing, given he's only done 13 rounds in his last 3 bouts. He would have wanted a stoppage, but such a clear win, and test of his stamina, will do no harm as he looks to unify titles in the new year.
For Juarez it's his second loss in world title bouts, and his family's wait for a world title continues.
The Minimumweight division is without a clear #1 however Thailand's Wanheng Menayothin (43-0, 17) [วันเฮง ไก่ย่างห้าดาวยิม] strengthened his claim to be the best in the division today as he over-came mandatory challenger Saul Juarez (23-5-1, 12) to retain the WBC title.
The bout was Wanheng's 5th defense of the title and was by far the toughest with the Mexican having the skills to ask questions of any one in the division. Those skills were on show particularly in the early rounds with very little to separate the men during the first 4 rounds. The first two were very quiet with a chess match mentality from both but the bout built to an exciting 4th round with the men engaging in a high skilled war that saw both men prove their offensive capabilities.
After 4 rounds the scorecards read 38-38, 38-38 and 39-38, with the WBC open scoring being in effect. The card were spot on with very, very little to split the men and no real argument if a round had been scored 10-10, like one was on one of the cards.
Wanheng managed to establish a lead in the middle sector of the fight as he neutralise much of Juarez's work with his defense and sharp counter skills. Juarez had his jab countered by straight right hands and much of his other work was blocked with Wanheng establishing himself as the boss in the ring. By round 8 there was no doubting the man in the lead, but the question was “how clearly was he winning?”
On the open scoring the judges had it 78-74, 78-75 and 77-75 for the Thai. Giving him the bout by 4, 3 and 2 points going into the final part of the bout.
Knowing he was behind Juarez tried to turn the bout around but Wanheng seemed to do enough in rounds 9 and 10 to move further ahead, putting himself out of reach of Juarez on the cards, barring a knockdown. With that lead stretched the Thai then cruised through the final 2 rounds, doing little more than he had to whilst Juarez looked to turn it on and take the fight to the champion, in what proved to be a futile effort.
With the result all but known going to the final bell Juarez seemed happy that he'd done enough against a genuine top contender, whilst Juarez seemed to know that defeat was heading his way, as was confirmed when the cards were read out loud confirming that Wanheng had indeed retained his title.
On paper the bout will be close, with cards ranging from 115-113 to 116-112, but in reality Wanheng eased off giving the final 2 rounds away and could have really made that wider if he'd wished. That has lead to criticism of the open scoring, which didn't really help this bout, but the right man won and it was a genuinely engaging bout for the most part, with rounds 4, 5 and 8 being particularly good rounds. The fight saw both show off good defense early on, it saw Wanheng show off his offensive capability through the middle and saw Juarez go all out late in the contest.
Sadly with the division lacking in terms of depth right now we're not expecting to see Wanheng in with anyone too tasty next time out, though we wouldn't be shocked to see him in the ring again before the year is over as he continues one of the sports active longest unbeaten runs.
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.