On Saturday the WBC stripped hard hitting Japanese fighter Daigo Higa (15-1, 15) [比嘉 大吾] of their Flyweight title, after he failed to make the 112lb limit. Today he suffered further as he suffered his first loss, and saw his perfect stoppage run come to an end at the hands of talented Nicaraguan Cristofer Rosales (27-3, 18). Not only did Higa lose his first bout, but for the first time he looked like a fighter who was mentally broken, as well as physically exhausted, and left many questioning why and his team even went ahead with this fight.
In the build up Higa had looked horrific. He had looked drained and beaten at the medical checks on on Thursday, looked equally as deflated at the signing ceremony on Friday and had failed to make the limit on Friday. Even this morning, at a special same day weigh in, he looked less than his usual confident self.
From the first round he looked slow, and like he was questioning himself in the ring. His usual intensity wasn't there, his aggression was lacking and his pressure fighting, a trademark of his, was totally absent. Rosales, like a professional, used his advantages from the off and stuck to his game plan. He out boxed Higa early on, moved well and made the most of his jab. It was a gameplan that liked like it was drilled into him before the fight, and was something that had been tailored to make the most of his height and reach advantages.
As the fight went on Higa had some moments, particularly to the body, but even on the inside he seemed to be losing the mini-skirmishes the two fighters were having as Rosales matched him, backed him off and forced Higa to think twice. It was clear that the same day weigh in had taken something from the Japanese fighter, and his usually all out attack was absent.
It wasn't until round 5, with Higa well behind, that the fight really turned into an inside battle. Sadly for Higa he couldn't maintain any real output for long and it was often Rosales landing the better shots, connecting cleanly to his body and snapping his head back with shots up top. It was the style of fight Higa would have dreamed of having, but he looked like he was only half the fighter he usually was. Even then a fully fit Higa would have struggled with Rosales, who had clearly prepared himself to start on the outside before going inside and standing toe-to-toe.
After a few rounds of toe-to-toe action it seemed like Higa was becoming incredibly desperate. His power was lacking, his combinations looked forced and Rosales was taking everything and returning it with serious interest.
After 8 rounds the judges score cards were announced. One judge had given Higa a single round, another judge had given managed to give him 3 whilst the third judge, inexplicably, had the bout even. Despite the close nature, on paper, of those cards Higa's team knew he was a spent force and in round 9 finally pulled their man out mid-round.
Despite stopping the bout before their man had gotten seriously hurt there needs to be serious questions as to why SGS even allowed this bout to go ahead. Higa had defended his title just over 2 months ago, although it was a quick blow out the turn around seemed too quick and given how Higa had previously struggled to make weight they really needed a much longer camp, especially for someone as talented as Rosales. Not only that but they should have really pulled him at the start of this week, he looked mentally broken at the medical and never looked like he had rebuilt his confidence coming into this bout. It's easy to say in hindsight that getting into the ring was the wrong decision, but it wasn't a smart choice. In fact it was a further hit for the SGS gym following Yoshimitsu Kimura's loss in mid week against Richard Pumicpic for a regional title.
Hopefully there will be sense in Higa's team and he will make a move up in weight, he shouldn't have been in the ring today and if he tries to remain at Flyweight his career is going to be a very short one.
For Rosales this is a huge win and a very well deserved one. Higa's issues in camp can't take away from Rosales who did his job, was professional through out and fought to his gameplan. He was, as he usually is, very impressive and well deserving of his win. He'll likely have a target on his back from WBC #1 ranked contender Andrew Selby, who beat him recently, but this title win may well be what he needs to boost his confidence to the next level, and perhaps even avenge the loss to Selby.
(Image courtesy of daily.co.jp)
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.
Earlier this year we saw Ken Shiro (11-0, 5) over-come Ganigan Lopez to become the WBC Light Flyweight champion, taking the title with a razor thin decision. Today the unbeaten Japanese youngster returned to the rign to make his first defense of the title, in a match up against former champion Pedro Guevara (30-3-1, 17).
The bout, which wasn't televised, saw Guevara make a really good start and he was making the most of hs experience early on, to take a lead after 4 rounds, leading 40-36 and 39-37, twice, when the scores were publically announced. Ken Shiro had had moments during those early rounds, but it was clear that Guevara had the much better success.
Knowing he was behind Ken Shiro attempted to change the tempo of the bout, and pressed the action more, attacking the body and cutting the eye of Guevara as he looked to turn the fight around. The cut to Guevara seemed to change the fight and left the Mexican with a bloodied face.
By the time the scores were announced for a secpnd time the judging had changed notably. Rather than the judges allbeing in favour of Guevara they were now split, with one judge having the bout 78-74 to Guevara, one having Ken Shiro in the lead 77-75 and the third having it 76-76, meaning it was all to play for in the final 4 rounds.
The final 4 rounds saw both men really going for it, Ken Shiro to edge them, using a great body attack and making the most of his size and energy, but he got tagged several times by the swollen challenger. The action of Ken Shiro had been cheered loudly and was likely helping the Japanese fighter convince the judges he was doing so much more than the challenger. The cheers for the Japanese warrior seemed to spur him on, and he did enough to claim to claim a majority decision, with scores of 115-113, 116-112 and 114-114.
After the bout it was revealed that Ken Shiro's next defense will see him fight in a rematch against Lopez, giving the former champion an opportunity to reclaim the title that Ken Shiro took from him this past May.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
Japanese sensation Daigo Higa (14-0, 14) made a statement earlier this year when he stopped Juan Hernandez to claim the WBC Flyweight title. Today he managed to establish his reign a little bit more as he recorded his first defense, and stopped French challenger Thomas Masson (17-4-1, 5), who had never previously been stopped.
When the men were in the ring Higa looked really short compared to the challenger, and it was clear that Masson's gameplan was to keep it long and make Higa work especially hard to get inside. Sadly for the challenger the gameplan never really worked and Higa was finding it far too easy to get inside the Frenchman. To his credit Masson did show a tight defense, but shots form Higa, which were through in combinations up close, still sneaked through and did their work on the body and head of Masson.
Round by round Higa pressed more, and got more and more success, with each round taking it's toll on the challenger who showed nice touches in rounds 2 and 3, neither of which he won, butsimply lacked the fire power to get Higa's respect or the movement to avoid Higa's pressure. It didn't matter what Masson did, he still couldn't find much breathing space or avoid the champion for long enough to really regroup.
After 4 rounds the open scoring was 40-36, twice, and 39-37, with one judge some how managing to find a round to give to Masson. Sadly for Masson things only got worse and in round 5 Higa not only continued his pressure but also landed two huge counters, both of which rocked Masson's legs and seemed to be the start of the end for the Frenchman.
In round 6 Masson took an absolute pounding. Hige upped the ante, pressing more than he had earlier in the fight, and it was arguably a10-8 round with Masson being backed up from around the ring and needing to eat flurry after flurry of shots. Where as he was blocking most shots earlier on he was beginning to eat these clean and was paying the price as the power of Higa was taking it's toll. It looked like a stoppage was coming at a number of points during the round,but Masson's toughness kept him in there to the bell.
The assault from Higa continued in round 7 before Masson took a knee, it seemed a bizarre as it had come a while after he had last taken a shot, but it made sense when Masson's face was shown to TV camera's and he had bloody around his eye. A doctor's inspection followed and after a few moments the bout was waved off, with Masson's eye being the cause of the TKO.
Next for Higa is likely to be either Andrew Selby or Muhammad Waseem in the near year, though the reality is that neither man would be given much of a chance as Higa seeks a Japanese record tying 15th successive stoppage. For Masson the bout showed the difference between European class, which he is a 2-time champion at, and world class. He had moments, but they were few and far between and he could never get Higa's respect, something a fighter will need to beat him.
Yesterday we saw the WBC Flyweight title being stripped from around the waist of Mexican veteran Juan Hernandez Navarrete (34-3, 25) after he failed to make weight for his first defense of the title. Sadly for Hernande his weekend went from bad to worse and on Saturday he was punished by the all-action Daigo Higa (13-0, 13) [比嘉 大吾], who took his opportunity to become a world champion, and battered Hernandez into submission.
The Mexican, who won the title just a few weeks ago in Thailand against the then unbeaten Nawaphon Por Chockhai, tried to use his boxing and movement in the early stages. It was as if he was trying to tell Higa that he knew more about the sport than the 21 yuear old Japanese fighter.
The movement of Hernandez was able to blunt Higa's pressure early, but the Mexican couldn't avoid Higa for long and was dropped in round 2 from a hook by Higa. It wasn't a painful knockdown, but it showed just how dangerous Higa could be and how legitimate his power was. Despite dropping his man Higa never rushed into and instead he showed maturity to stalk his man rather than attack a fighter who had his wits.
Hernandez recovered well and seemed to use his movement well in rounds 3 and 4 to avoid a fire fight with Higa, but it was clear that he had found a new respect for the youngster and wasn't wanting to go toe-to-toe with him.
The movement of Hernandez was thwarting Higa's pressure and had done enough to impress one judge, who had the Mexican up 38-37, but the other two had sided with Higa who was clearly pressing the fight.
In round 5 Higa's power told again as he dropped Hernandez for the second time, this time it was more serious with Hernandez being dropped hard from a solid left hook. The Mexican recovered to his feet and looked to fight back whilst Higa for the finish, and the veteran showed his survival instincts to see out the round, holding when he needed to and trying frustrate Higa, despite having blood coming from his nose.
Higa seemed to be fully aware that his man coming undone in front of him, despite Hernandez lasting through round 5. That saw Higa amp up the pressure in round 6 and quickly that pressure told, as he dropped Hernandez with body shots within the first 30 seconds. The Mexican got up and tried to fight back with body shots of his own, but was dropped again as Higa again cracked the body, with Hernandez going down in agony this time. The Mexican some how recovered to his feet but was down again from body shots, and then amazingly got up again, before finally being stopped, in what was the 4th knockdown of the round, with even the referee feeling sympathy for the brave former champion.
Coming into the contest Hernandez had done little to endear himself to the Japanese fans, who are good at accepting foreign fighters if they come to win, show heart and come in in good shape. He had messed them about at the public work out, and really annoyed Yoko Gushiken, he had missed weight and had taken some shine off the bout, but his guts and bravery to get up from 5 knockdowns and keep on fighting did go some way to redeeming his faults with the fans.
As for Higa however this performance really was brilliant, despite the fact he suffered a chipped tooth during the fight, which he pointed out to fans before his post-fight interview. The way he showed maturity early in the bout, but then jumped on Hernandez when he had him really hurt, showed a real understanding of the sport and something that not many 13 fight novices have. At the the age of 21 he's the second youngest active world champion, behind Kosei Tanaka who is a few weeks younger, and having been a professional for just 35 months his rise has been amazing.
Next for Higa could be unification, or it could be a bout against a highly regarded foe, with Andrew Selby potentially lying in wait further down the line for Higa. For now the key will be to celebrate, though it's clear with Yoko Gushiken behind him, and the now the weight of Fuji TV and a booming fan base, he's going to be a fighter who goes from strength to strength and could well be the next Japanese fighter to be a break out star internationally..
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
An incredibly busy day for fight fans kicked off in Asia earlier today with shows in Japan and Thailand. The more notable of those shows was the Thai show which featured a bout for the vacant WBC Flyweight title, which had been vacated by Roman Gonzalez last year.
The bout in question saw the previously unbeaten Thai Nawaphon Por Chokchai (36-1, 28) [นวพล นครหลวงโปรโมชั่น] face off against excellent Mexican Mexican Juan Hernandez Navarrete (34-2, 25).
On paper the bout looked excellent two veterans up against each other to crown a champion. The reality however was that the bout pitted a world class fighter against a regional can crusher, and it was clear that the two fighters were in totally levels from the opening moments. Straight from the off Hernandez looked crisp, sharp and like a man who belonged at world level, something his recent run of results with wins over Jesus Silvestre, Omar Nino Romero and Ramon Garcia Hirales all suggested. Nawaphon on the other hand looked slow, sluggish, like a man walking through treacle in comparison to the Mexican.
The opening round was a clear one for the visitor, who was too accurate, too busy, too quick and too smart and it was clear that Nawaphon had to up the tempo, which he did in round 2. The second was a much better round for the Thai, who closed the distance with more success, and landed some decent blows of his own. It was a good comeback round, but seemed to show that Nawaphon had to work much harder for his moments than the relaxed Mexican, who never looked in any trouble even when the Thai was having his best moments.
In round 3 Nawaphon tried to amp up his pressure further but Hernandez was wise to it, and moved around the ring with real grace, tagging the Thai and getting away, whilst Nawaphon struggled to let his hands go when he managed to close the distance. A hard 1-2 from Hernandez stunned the Thai and a follow up sent him down. Nawaphon, to his credit, got to his feet but had no answer as Hernandez began to unload, looking for a finish. Nawaphon tried to cover up but shots got through and eventually the referee stepped in to save Nawaphon, just as Nawaphon seemed to begin firing back.
Although some may dispute the stoppage it did look like a decent one with Nawahpon having began to fall apart and prior to the stoppage he had looked lost with no answers to Hernandez's movement, speed or skills.
The result was a frustrating one for the Nakornluang stable who had paid big money to host the fight in Thailand and had also seen Pongsaklek Sithdabnij suffering a loss to another Mexican fighter on the under-card.
The new champion is said to be a target for Daigo Higa, with Higa's team expected to make an offer to lure the new champion to Japan later in the year. Although Higa is much less experienced than Nawaphon it's fair to say he's already a much more proven fighter and a much more worth while title contender than the Thai was here.
Boxing's “pound for pound” list may be one of the sports most controversial yet pointless subjects but for us it's hard to view any fighter as being more complete than Roman Gonzalez (44-0, 38) we successfully retained his WBC Flyweight crown in New York with an excellent win against Filipino-America Brian Viloria (36-5-0-2, 22).
The fight started with Viloria setting the early pace and for the first 30 seconds it was Viloria coming forward, forcing Gonzalez backwards and landing several shots, including a notable body shot. It seemed as if Viloria knew his best shot was to jump on Gonzalez before the Nicaraguan got settled. By the end of the round however Gonzalez had taken the center ring and it was looking like he had began to settle.
Viloria's confidence was still fully there in round 2 as he more than held his own in a very competitive and close round. The challenger managed to land a number of solid shots and appeared to be targeting the body of Gonzalez however it did, again, seem that Gonzalez warmed to the task before the round was over and by the end of the round it seemed like Gonzalez was starting to force his fight.
Gonzalez's momentum grew in round 3 as he quickly dropped Viloria with a short right hand. Viloria recovered his feet but had a torrid time in the remainder of the round as Gonzalez reeled off some vicious combinations, landing some spiteful shots to both the head and body and showed the offensive prowess that has made him such a must watch fighter.
Viloria, much to his credit, saw out the third round and managed to have some success of his own but was on the receiving end of real punishment again in round 4 as we saw what high skilled offensive boxing is all about, from both men. Viloria, whilst not embarrassing himself, was being figured out by Gonzalez who was looking in control of the ring, despite big shots being landed from Viloria.
Round 5 was one of the worst rounds for Viloria who looked very much out of his depth for a round though showed his toughness to see out the storm and came back himself in rounds 6 and 7 as the action returned to being competitive, yet easy to score for Gonzalez. It seemed that whilst Viloria was having success, he was being forced to take some really solid combinations that over-shadowed his own success.
The pace was slowing down in round 8 yet both both men stayed in close quarters, landing shots up close. Sadly for Viloria he was being comfortably out landed by Gonzalez who was reeling off combinations as and when he wanted to turn up the pace. Viloria tried to stem the tide but he had little answer to Gonzalez's accuracy, timing and sensational output.
Before the start of round 9 the doctor had a word with Viloria, it wasn't a serious one and it never seemed like the doctor was going to stop the fight but it did delay the start of the round. Despite the delayed start the round started well for Gonzalez though a body shot part way through seemed to hurt the Nicaraguan who took about 20 seconds to recover himself. When he did recover he decided to punish Viloria with another devastating combination that rocked Viloria who was quickly saved by the referee. The stoppage may have been slightly early but it did appear to be a fair one, especially given the way that Viloria was helped to corner.
The win was another excellent one for Gonzalez. It wasn't punch perfect by any stretch of the imagination but it was another high quality win to add to his already impressive resume. For Viloria the bout may be his last at the top level however it was a great from the challenger.
Now attention for Gonzalez may well turn to the proposed super fight with Naoya Inoue, in 2016, or perhaps a bout with another of the champions, at either 112lbs or 115lbs. Bouts between Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada, Amnat Ruenroeng, Kohei Kono or Carlos Cuadras would all have major appeal, especially with HBO backing Gonzalez like they are doing.
We have all heard it time and time again over the last few years, it's said as a fact, it's said with little doubt and it's accepted as the truth. Floyd Mayweather is the #1 pound-for-pound fighter on the planet. We hear it almost every time we watch a boxing broadcast, it's like a mantra coming from the well oiled machine of the western boxing media and it's heard by millions of fans around the world who accept is as gospel and something that simply cannot be questioned.
What everyone seems to be forgetting is that Mayweather's #1 status isn't clear cut, in fact if anything his recent struggles with the somewhat average Marcos Maidana and his failure to secure a fighter with his major rival leave him very prone to be questioned by the boxing fans out there who aren't drones and who are free thinking individuals who refuse to be brainwashed by the hype of the American boxing media.
For those fans another man stands out, a little Nicaraguan who is controlling an empire in the lower weights and smashing opponents up for fun. That is WBC and Linear Flyweight champion Roman Gonzalez (41-0, 35) who again showed off his destructive side with a vicious and controlling destruction of Filipino challenger Rocky Fuentes (35-8-2, 20).
Fuentes had entered the bout having lost just 3 bouts in his previous 25, with all 3 losses being close ones, he had traveled to Japan and Thailand and had been the Oriental champion for almost 3 years and to many he was an uncrowned champion ducked by those at the top due to his high risk-low reward status. Fuentes was the man people didn't want to fight and when they did fight him they generally didn't want to get too close to him as he was tough and heavy handed having developed amazingly well from his early boxing years where fights were based on him gaining experience as opposed to creating a pretty and undefeated record.
Through the first 4 rounds Gonzalez threw caution to the wind some what and like a genuine ruler went to war. He didn't feel the need to back off and show impenetrable defense, instead he set off with the intention of proving he had the better army and the better weapons. He went out to expand his empire by dominating his foe. This did see him catching a few solid shots though, as we've seen through his career, they had little effect on the Nicaraguan who appeared to show genuine contempt of Fuentes's power. It was, as if Fuentes was a peasant trying to fight back over the dictator and, like a real dictator, Gonzalez wasn't bothered by the one brave sole willing to stand up against him.
The open scoring had the bout 39-37 through 4 rounds though by the end of round 4 it appeared that Fuentes was beginning to struggle. His spirited effort was his unwinding and his defenses were breaking down. The Roman Empire was set to expand and it seemed that it was merely a matter of waiting, wondering how long Fuentes could survive.
Unfortunately for Fuentes it seemed Gonzalez could smell blood and began to crank things up, just as he had done when he had claimed this title back in September with a stoppage victory against Akira Yaegashi. As soon as that happened Fuentes began to look lost. Gonzalez continued to attack, attack and attack some more with Fuentes being chipped away at until he was dropped in round 6. The Filipino managed to recover to his feet though a follow up left him needing to be saved by the referee who knew that Fuentes was set to take a pounding.
Gonzalez's win his does see him recording his first win as the Flyweight champion. Unfortunately however very few fans got to actually watch the bout with it only being aired in Nicaragua and in Japan. This is where the Roman Empire struggles in comparison to Floyd Mayweather. Gonzalez is, at just 27, a 3 weight world champion with wins over a who's who including Fuentes, Yaegashi, Juan Francisco Estrada, Francisco Rodriguez Jr, Katsunari Takayama and Yutaka Niida, his form has been incredible and his performances have been destructive to say the least. Yet he unfortunately lacks the big mouth piece of US media that has helped perpetuate the myth that Mayweather is in a league of his own. Gonzalez, like Guillermo Rigondeaux, appears unable to capture the attention of the US and Europen TV outlets who are ignoring the best fighter on the planet. It's a shame though it appears to be a point echoed on twitter with many suggesting that channels now need to give some attention to Gonzalez as he is a very special fighter who brings everything fans want to see.
With or without US TV it seems the Roman Empire is set to expand and after his win over Fuentes he called out the likes of Estrada and Naoya Inoue, bouts that again would enhance the reputation of a man who wants to prove he is the best fighter in the sport. Gonzalez doesn't want to say he's the best, he appears more old school than that, instead he wants to show that he's the best and will continue chasing the best fighters in his division in an attempt to prove how good he really is.
Boxing's lowest weights might be ignored by many fans for whatever reason but time and time again they deliver the best fights, the most action packed contests and some of the most enjoyable rounds that exist in boxing. Today we saw another war in the lower weights as Akira Yaegashi (20-4, 10) attempted to defend his WBC Flyweight title against Nicaraguan sensation Roman Gonzalez (40-0, 36). Unfortunately for Yaegashi he was up against a man who was just a bit too good and too powerful.
The fight started like many, with a relatively quiet round as both men tried to figure the other out. It wasn't as quiet as many opening rounds but was certainly not an action packed round with both men having too much respect to throw caution to the wind too early. From then on however the bout got better and better, heating up from the second round and getting better as it went on.
In round 3 we saw the crazy side of Yaegashi as he tried to take the fight to Gonzalez and seemed to be on course to winning the round before being dropped late. Despite the knock down being a big one Yaegashi got up at 6 and went back to taking the action to Gonzalez who obliged him for the remaining 20 seconds or so. From then on the bout took a pattern that was some what repetitive but thoroughly entertaining. It saw both men standing in front of each other and taking it turns to unload on the other. For Yaegashi it was a case of using his fast hands to land relatively light but sharp combinations up top whilst Gonzalez stood his ground and mixed up heavy shots to the bead and body with the uppercuts punctuating the combinations.
The flurry and action from both was beautiful to watch with neither man backing down and neither man refusing to throw back through rounds 4,5,6 and 7. Even when one man was back up it wasn't long before he turned the tables and fired back in rounds that were close, competitive and action packed. It wasn't a brawl, but it was calculated aggression from both who combined skills with their assault.
Sadly for Yaegashi he began to look exhausted in round 7 and although he refused to back down his assaults were becoming less and less telling. He was beginning to break down and his face, which is always susceptible to swelling, was beginning to show signs of the battle he was in. Gonzalez was slowing himself though was becoming more dominant due to Yaegashi's problems.
Although the Japanese fighter had looked tired in round 7 he ended round 8 looking completely exhausted and Gonzalez seemed to be able to smell blood. The toe-to-toe action was becoming less frequent with Gonzalez gradually beating up Yaegashi who was forced on to the retreat just to stay up right. Gonzalez, like a hunter, knew his pray was wounded though couldn't see off Yaegashi who relied on his toughness and heart to see the bell. Although Gonzalez hadn't managed to take Yaegashi down the referee went down towards the end of the round, just as it seemed that Yaegashi was canvas bound. It was a clear slip from the referee though still mildly amusing.
In round 9 Yaegashi came out like a man possessed and unloaded a long series of shots on Gonzalez. It was as if the Japanese fighter knew it was now or never and that he wasn't going to last much longer. It was his last charge towards victory though he hit a brick wall and Gonzalez fired back. The men exchanged combinations though Yaegashi quickly became ragged and his work coming undone quickly. This time Yaegashi had run out of steam too early in the round and Gonzalez knew it as he turned it on and a vicious combination sent down Yaegashi. The Japanese fighter seemed to think about getting up though the referee knew better and stopped the bout. It was as if both men knew there was only going to be one result if Yaegashi did get up, and that was that he was going to go back down.
Sadly for Yaegashi this brings his reign as WBC Flyweight champion to an end after 3 successful defences. It did however come to an end at one of the sports truly elite fighters and a man who seemed to show all the traits of a great. Not only is Gonzalez a fine fighter, he's also a fine young man, a credit to boxing and the human race and as shown in the post fight celebration, a truly respectful fighter. A fighter who encompasses the lost mentality of being a good sport as well as a great sportsman.
The fight wasn't our favourite bout of the year though it certainly deserves to be put on a short list for FOTY alongside the recent contest between Katsunari Takayama and Francisco Rodriguez Jr, both of whom have been Gonzalez victims in the past, and the OPBF Flyweight war between Koki Eto and Ardin Diale. In fairness however both of those fights did lack the skill level shown in here even if they were slightly more action packed.
(Image courtesy of http://boxingnews.jp)
Earlier today WBC Flyweight champion Akira Yaegashi (20-3, 10) made the 3rd successful defence of his world title as he over-came spirited Mexican challenger Odilon Zaleta (15-4, 8) and set up a Flyweight super fight with Nicaraguan sensation Roman Gonzalez.
It didn't always look like Yaegashi was actually going to get the job done here as the exciting Japanese fighter did seem to start slowly and certainly lost the opening round to Zaleta who looked surprisingly better than expected in the opening round and managed to huse his reach to land some smart straight shots.
Although Yaegashi did look to be in a tough fight in the opening round he did manage to find a home for his over-hand right in the second round. It seemed that he was the first to change tactics and the shot continued to land through round 3. In round 4 however it Zaleta who was making changes to his game trying to line up his powerful straight right hand.
The open scoring of the WBC seemed to struggle to spit the two men after 4 rounds with 2 of the judges having the bout even and the other judge having Zaleta up 39-37. Not just was it close on the ards but worryingly Yaegashi's eyes were beginning to swell up. As anyone who has seen Yaegashi before knows his eyes swell up quickly and badly and it's always a worry that they will cause him to be stopped one of these days.
Yaegashi acted positively to the scorecards and seemed to do what the open scoring expected of him as he put his foot on the gas and went on the offensive, cutting the distance and applying very educated pressure. It was obvious that Yaegashi had so much more in the locker than he had shown in the first 4 stanzas whilst Zaleta seemed to be struggling to hold off the Japanese fighter. Zaleta's struggles to keep Yaegashi away resulted in a fantastic 6th round that saw both men spending time trading shots in eye catching moments of action. It was the sort of action that makes us love watch Yaegashi.
Although the 6th was highlighted by the back and forth trading the key work was really Yaegashi's body shot which Zaleta had absolutely no answer for.
Round 7 again saw the champion bring the pressure and it seemed clear that the pressure of Yaegashi was really taking it's toll on the challenger who was quickly becoming gun shy and trying to avoid a fight. Yaegashi refused to let Zaleta though and kept coming forward, eventually getting a chance to make Zaleta pay for his negativity in the final 20 seconds or so of the round.
After again being forced on the back foot for the first half of round 8 Zaleta seems to regain his confidence. It was as if he clicked and realised he had to fight back or Yaegashi would simply grind him down. The bravery of Zaleta gave us the bouts most fun round to watch though it did appear that Zaleta was beginning to fight out of desperation and this was almost suiting Yaegashi who appeared happy for a tear with the naturally longer Zaleta.
The hard work of Yaegashi's in the middle section of the bout had seen the Japanese fighter rewarded on the open scoring with cards which read 77-75, 77-76 and 76-76. We had felt that Yaegashi, despite his early struggles, had clearly taken over the bout but the judges felt that is had been competitive. In round 9 however the bout was taken out of the hands of the judges as Yaegashi dropped Zaleta hard. The Mexican recovered to his feet but was viewed as being in no fit state to recover by referee Ian John Lewis. It was an easy call for the referee as Zaleta walked aimlessly away from the referee and left little option for the official.
After the fight Yaegashi and Gonzalez shared a little back and forth in the ring to help build up the anticipation of their fight which is expected in the summer. Although the two men are seemingly set to fight each other they amazingly respectful to each other. Hopefully that respect will be put on ice when they fight and, with the style of the two men, they will hopefully put on a thriller when they meet.
(Poster courtesy of Ohashi Gym)
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.