Typically Japanese fighters have not travelled well over the years, and many lost world title bouts on foreign soil. Today however we saw WBO Flyweight champion Junto Nakatani (22-0, 17) [中谷 潤人] take his chance to shine on US soil as he stopped hard hitting mandatory challenger Angel Acosta (22-3, 21) in Tuscon, Arizona. In what was a show case of Nakatani's ability and Acosta's will to win through serious adversity.
The opening round saw Nakatani begin slowly, getting his jab into play early on, before opening up his arsenal, and shaking Acosta several times through the round. Acosta, to his credit, showed no quit, and landed some solid shots through the opening round, but looked under-sized, under-powered and like a man who was really going to struggle with the size and power of Nakatani. Despite this being his US debut, it was the perfect round for Nakatani, and it ended even better with Acosta suffering a suspect broken nose at the very end of it.
That nose would be a major problem for Acosta was was a bloodied mess very early in round 2 as Nakatani continued to land big shots to both head and body. The left hand of Nakatani was a major weapon, landing clean, landing hard and really leaving Acosta in trouble time and time again, but it was the blood that was the major issue and part way through round 2 the doctor took a look at the challenger. After a long deliberation Acosta was allowed to fight on, and he knew he was in trouble, looking to land a hail Mary from when the bout continued. Sadly for him the urge to land something big saw him eating more big shots from Nakatani, who landed numerous big shots, and really didn't seem to feel the power of Acosta, when the Puerto Rican landed his shots.
After Acosta was bloodied, beaten and battered in the first two rounds, it seemed like the bout wasn't going to last much longer. To his credit however Acosta fought like a man willing to give everything, even with a blood pouring from his nose. He looked to land bombs, and did land one or two very clean shots of his own. Shots that, at 108lbs, would have potentially swung the bout his way, or dropped a fighter. Nakatani tasted the power of Acosta and just came forward, looking to break down Acosta. The Puerto Rican managed to get through a second doctor's inspection, but was pouring blood over the ring, taking huge body shots, and not looking like he had what was needed to turn things around. He had the heart and the desire, but not the accuracy, power, skills, or size to get Nakatani's respect.
At the end of round 3 it seemed clear the referee and doctor were both looking to stop the fight. Acosta was desperate for that not to happen and asked for more round. He was allowed out for round 4, but within seconds of the round starting blood was again pouring out of his nose forcing the doctor to say enough was enough, and stopped the bout.
The stoppage was explained as having been due to blood loss, it was a strange decision, though in fairness it seemed like Acosta being stopped was inevitable. He had lost a lot of blood, he had been hurt numerous times and had put a lot into rounds 2 and 3 to no real success, whilst taking brutal body shots. He had the heart of a lion, and that will not be questioned, but he also looked out gunned here by a truly sensational 23 year world champion, who looked a natural in his US debut.
Earlier today we saw WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka (27-2, 16) [井岡一翔] record his third defense as he defeated mandatory challenger Francisco Rodriguez Jr (33-5-1, 24) in a compelling 12 round bout that had a bit of everything, and turned out to be a very well contested, and exciting bout that saw both men needing to take some big shots.
The challenger was incredibly confident in his ring walk and it was clear from the energy and demeanour that he wasn't in Japan to make up the numbers. Ioka on the other hand looked like a man who who was missing the fans that he would have hoped would have been at the venue, though weren't due to the increasing number of Covid19 cases in Japan. He didn't look worried, but he didn't look as confident as we've seen him in the past.
The confidence of Rodriguez wasn't just for show and he raced out to start the bout, putting Ioka under pressure and using a lot of movement to make Ioka feel uncomfortable. It was a close round overall but one where Rodriguez seemed to have the more eye catching moments and the best highlights, including landing a number of big right hands.
Rounds 2 and three were quite similar to the opening round, with Rodriguez holding his own with Ioka, who was taking heavy right hands whilst looking to land left hooks to the body. The two men seemed to have very different tactics, with Ioka looking to take the legs of Rodriguez away, whilst Rodriguez wanted to fight in spurts, catch the eye and apply intelligent pressure. It was a very interesting start to the bout, and one that was genuinely very competitive.
As the rounds went on the action kept picking up, and by the end of round 5 it seemed like Rodriguez had been the man getting the better of things. His aggression, his strength and his eye catching right hands up top were certainly impressing and it seemed like Ioka, who's well known for being an adaptable fighter, had got his gameplan wrong. The lack of fans perhaps leaving him just a touch flatter than we'd seen from him.
In round 6 and 7 however Ioka began to find his range, his tempo, his counters and his space with more freque ncy. Rodriguez was still having moments, but the Mexican was slowing down, he had put a lot in to the early rounds, used a fair bit of energy, and was struggling just a little bit to close the distance for his bursts. The extra space allowed Ioka to show case his counter punching, and he was he who started to land the better shots, making Rodriguez pay for his aggression with more regularity. Round 7 was a real changing point and Ioka went on to take round 8 as well as he began to take slowly take control. The momentum the champion was building seemed likely to see him take the fight away from Rodriguez, however the Mexican bit down hard and had a stellar round 9, as he hurt Ioka, and showed the same energy he had shown earlier in the bout. The round saw Ioka holding quite a bit, something that Rodriguez complained about after the fight when talking about the result, and something that did go completely unpunished, though had seen both men holding at times on the inside earlier in the bout.
Sadly for Rodriguez the round wasn't the start of a major fight back, and instead rounds 11 and 12 were both good ones for Ioka, as he got back to boxing, making Rodriguez miss, and spoiling when he needed to. It was something he needed to do to win, and something that did end up deciding the bout, with Ioka taking the last 2 rounds to secure a 116-112 win on all 3 cards.
Talking about the scorecards, they were certainly interesting. Not a single round in the first half of the fight saw all 3 judges agree. The unanimous round was round 7, for Ioka, who also took rounds 8, 11 and 12 on all 3 cards. Rodriguez on the other hand took round 9 on all 3 cards. Other than that the results of the rounds were split on the cards. Amazingly however it was one of those fights where judging was tricky. Although both men had very good rounds, they also had a lot of competitive close ones, making this a really close fight, and a very hotly contested one.
After the contest Rodriguez stated that he thought he'd won, and that he would have won had the bout been on neutral territory. He complain about Ioka holding and hitting behind the head, though in all honesty it was something both men were guilty of, and neither seemed to be doing it maliciously but more incidental shots up close.
As for Ioka he seemed to accept his performance wasn't great, and that he couldn't fight the fight he wanted, but getting the win was key. He also stated that the bout he's going to try and get next is a unification bout with IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas, something he and his team are going to be trying to negotiate for the big New Year's Eve show that Ioka will be on.
Being in the UK I'm used to staying up for fights to cover here, and being up until 4AM or later is pretty much normal. Thankfully usually fights are worth watch, and are between two men wanting to win a fight. Tonight however we got a fight that really had nothing positive to sya about it, with one fighter looking to play a game of run away, against a fighter who was much slower than himself. What we ended up getting was one of, if not the, worst bout of 2021. And it came on a show that also had 16 second No Contest!
The bout in question saw WBO Bantamweight champion John Riel Casimero (31-4, 21) retain his title with a split decision over Cuban Guillermo Rigondeaux (20-2-0-1, 13). And it was a bout that no one should have have to sit through. In fact the highlight of the bout was the crowd, who let the fighters know that what they were getting was total bull shit. The crowd let both men have it with through out the contest.
The fight actually started in exciting fashion with Casimero being aggressive, trying to take the fight to Rigondeaux. He seemed to hurt the Cuban, who bent at the waist and got clobbered for it, something we don't typically see from Rigondeaux opponents, with the Cuban hitting the canvas and taking several shots when he was down. It seemed like the fight was going to be exciting. That was until round 2, when Rigondeaux began to do what Rigondeaux does, and moved. A lot. He moved to the point where he was killing the fight, and whilst he did land a couple of good left hands in round 2 those became less and less and less frequent as the rounds went on.
Instead countering Rigondeaux just moved, and he moved quicker than Casimero, who chased, but failed to cut off the ring. This lead to round, after round, of boos, frustration from everyone. The punch output from both dropped off complete, and the most in ring drama was a late punch from Rigondeaux at the end of round 6. In fact it was the only time he showed any real fire. After that we got pose off, with Casimero trying to mimic Rigondeaux, we got got running, we got chasing, and we got something really would have made the officials of the Olympic Kumite Karate competition very happy.
By round 7 it was hard to care about who was winning and losing. The reality is that we, as fans, were losing. The only saving grace is that we live in 2021, and world title fights are only 12 round affairs.
After 12 rounds the reality is that scorecards could legitimately have said anything. There was very few clear rounds either way, less than 90 combined connects, according to compubox, and the judges really could pick what they want. Casimero's attempt to make a fight, or Rigondeaux's ring general ship, and ability to avoid a fight. The judges, or at least two of them, preferred the work from Casimero, scoring it 117-111 and 116-112 in his favour, against a score of 115-113 to Rigondeaux from a dissenting judge. In reality it's hard to care about the scores, we're just hoping this is the last time Rigondeaux can stink out a televised card. As for Casimero, he'll need a fight next time out where he can re-establish himself as an exciting fighter, and get the taste of this bout out of fans minds.
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.
In the final meaningful bout of the year we got something spectacular as WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka (26-2, 15) successfully defended his title, for the second time, and stopped 3-weight world champion Kosei Tanaka (15-1, 9) in a late contender for Fight of the Year.
The bout, which had been hugely anticipated by boxing fans world wide, was the first ever time two multi-weight Japanese world champions had ever faced off, and after the 2020 we'd had it was a bout that had, genuinely excitement going in to it.
In one corner we had the experienced champion, the man who had repeatedly told us "this wasn't a special bout" and that this wasn't going to be a problem to him. In the other corner we had a young challenger who had repeatedly told us this was going to be a generational shift, and that he was ready to lead the new generation. Not only that, but Tanaka was looking to secure a place in history, by taking a 4th division world title in just his 16th professional bout.
There was so many substories going into this. Ranging from the worlds of the two men, and the fact both were looking to secure their place in history.
From the opening bell this started quickly, with Ioka firing in a right hand almost immediately. His hand speed, as it always has been, was wickedly impressive, and he boxed well with his his speed offense. Ioka on the other hand looked slower, but smart, picking his shots a lot more intelligently, and landed some solid body shots through the opening round. It was hotly contested through out, and very much a round that set the tone for this to be something thrilling.
The excitement continued in rounds 2 and 3. Tanaka seemed to buzz Ioka at one point, before Ioka fired back with some amazing counter shots. It still seemed like the handspeed difference could prove to be the vital difference in favour of Tanaka, but Ioka, to his credit, was riding shots well, countering smartly, and not taking too many clean, showing his fantastic technical ability to limit the punishment he was taking whilst also getting a read on Tanaka.
By the end of round 3 it seemed like Tanaka was starting to get to Ioka, who was starting to swell around the eyes, and seemed to be on the worse end of things. Ioka however saw out the storm and roared back in round 4, one of his best rounds he began to make the most of what he had learned from the first 3 rounds. He was now making Tanaka miss, countering brilliantly, and getting the last word in the exchanges.
At the end of round 4 both men's faces were looking like they were getting beaten up, yet both were still landing their share making for a truly compelling contest.
In round 5 we saw the fight further swing to Ioka. Tanaka had started well, but body from Ioka continued to land clean, slowing the challenger who looked to land big rights. Mid way through the round we had some real tit for tat stuff, with Tanaka outlanding Ioka, but taking the much heavier blows. The final blow of the round was the heaviest, and was a perfect counter left hook from Ioka that dropped Tanaka hard and left his nose a bloodied mess. Had the shot come 20 seconds earlier we could have seen the end of the bout, but Tanaka rose and the bell saved him, giving him the chance to recover before round 6.
Heading into round 6 we had questions about how Tanaka would look after the knockdown, and he looked surprisingly good, taking the fight to Ioka early in the round. He seemed to catch with a really good right hand at one point, but a flurried response form Ioka hurt him and a counter left hook a few moments later dropped Tanaka for the second time in as many rounds. Amazingly Tanaka not only got back to his feet but took the fight to Ioka immediately afterwards, rocking the champion in the final seconds of the round.
In round 7 Tanaka looked to try and turn things around, know, after being dropped twice, he needed to do something big. Sadly though by the end of the round he began to look desperate, firing his right hand and getting frustrated as it missed time after time, whilst Ioka was regularly landing jabs. Ioka wasn't just countering Tanaka, but was essentially making Tanaka's best weapon look useless at times. Mentally crippling the youngster, who was realising that the hole he was in, was just getting deeper.
The depth of the hole became too much in round 8 as Ioka landed a short left hook-come and a clean right hand, leading to the referee immediately jumping in. It was an excellent stoppage as Tanaka's legs buckled beneath and the referee essentially held him up, letting him steady himself, before letting him congratulate Ioka on the win.
Following the bout Ioka took the microphone and spoke about the fight and, finally, gave a bit of respect to Tanaka. He stated "It wasn't a surprise match for me, but I've been saying that I'll show the difference, so I couldn't just say it as a man. I'm glad I could prove it as a champion. I don't know how long I can continue boxing, but he's the player who will carry the boxing world in the future. It was a good experience with him."
Ioka also revealed that he had been seeing double from his left eye from round 2, and was now hoping to fight against one of the other champions in the division, such as WBA "Super" champion Roman Gonzalez or WBC champion Juan Francisco Estrada.
At the time of the stoppage the scores were all heavily in favour of Ioka, with scores of 69-62 and 68-63, twice.
For Ioka this win was a career defining one, and it will sit up there along with his wins against Oleydong Sithsamerchai, Akira Yaegashi and Juan Carlos Reveco. It is one of those wins that showed how good of a ring technician he was, how smart he was and how he manages to solve problems in the ring, something we saw him do a year ago against Jeyvier Cintron. Ioka is among the most adaptable fighters out there, and with Ismael Salas behind him, it seems like they are coming up with excellent game plans fight after fight.
As for Tanaka the 25 year old will be disappointed here. It wasn't how he wanted to end 2020. At 25 years old however, this isn't the end for him. In fact the stoppage by the referee, the excellent Michiaki Someya, may well have helped prolong his career. This was a less for Tanaka in the end, but it was a less he learned at the age of 25. It is one he come rebuild from. He can come again. It's back to the drawing board for him, and likely time to change how he boxes. He has the tools to be an exceptional boxer, he has incredible speed but mentally he gets too excited. If he can tone down the excitement factor following this loss, he can easily go on to to claim a Super Flyweight title in a year or two.
The one big question mark here, is why did DAZN or ESPN pick this up for the US and use it to advertise a future opponent for Gonzalez, Estrada or Jerwin Ancajas. This should have been shown in the US, and it's a massive shame it wasn't! A real shame American fans had to look online streams for this one.
Just moments ago at Korakuen Hall we saw a new WBO Flyweight champion being crowned, in surprisingly 1-sided fashion. On paper the bout looked like a 50-50 clash, but it ended up being a coming out performance for a Japanese fighter who showed he really was something special. Not just a really good fighter, but a special one.
The man in question was Junto Nakatani (21-0, 16) [中谷 潤人], who had long been seen as one of the brightest hopes in Japanese boxing. He was up against Filipino Giemel Magramo (24-2, 20) in a bout that promised to be a really good one.
On paper it was Nakatani's skills, southpaw stance and size, against Magramo's toughness, power and aggression. Both men had impressed in the past, both men had looked really good in their other notable bouts, including an excellent win in China for Magramo last year.
In the ring however it was a a one sided procession. A beating. A bout between men who didn't look like they belonged in the same ring together.
From the off it was clear Nakatani had the size, reach and speed to make things easy at range. He could have boxed completely off the back foot against the slower, cruder Magramo. He however elected not to do that, at least not entirely. He spent much of the opening round boxing at range, but stepped on the gas late in the round and began to genuinely hurt the Filipino with his solid left hands, and his excellent body shots. It seemed like we were set to get a very early finish.
The fact the opening round was as one sided as it was seemed to make Magramo change his mentality, and in round 2 he began rushing in more and more. That wasn't a good idea as Nakatani was dominating on the inside, especially with his wicked body shots and uppercuts. It was another punishing round from the Japanese fighter who seemed determined to damage Magramo.
To his absolute credit however Magramo kept soaking it up, and as the rounds went on he was taking a real beating. Rounds 4, 5, 6 were punishing ones, with Nakatani bossing the fight at range, and dominating up close. It was supposed to be Magramo having success with the men together, but instead he eating leather, consistently. He was having his insides mashed with body shots, and his jaw cracked with uppercuts. It was decidedly one-way traffic and Magramo seemed to have no plan B. His only plan was to get inside, and that was a plan that was just leading to him being tagged over and over, and over.
In round 7 we finally began to see Magramo's resistance and toughness fall apart, with the Filipino clearly hurt towards the end of the round. It seemed as it he was finally coming to terms with the fact he had no answer.
The following round Magramo's toughness failed him. His heart and determination didn't, but durability did, as Nakatani finally dropped him. It had been coming since the end of round 7 and finally it occurred, with Magramo looking exhausted, broken and beaten. He got to his feet, at the count of 9, but Nobuto Ikehara looked at him and waved off the bout. It was a clear case of a former fighter doing what he should do in the referees position. He was looking at a man who had offered little threat, had lost 7 rounds, had been dropped, and needed saving from any more damage. Magramo had no answers for Nakatani at any point, and the referee knew it.
With the win Nakatani sets himself in a really good position. We suspect that Angel Acosta will be in the hunt for a title fight. Alternatively bouts against the likes of Ryota Yamauchi or Sho Kimura would be easy to make. As for Magramo, it is going to take a long, long time to come back from this. He never looked in the fight and is clearly a level, if not two, below world class. He got his game plan horribly wrong, had no plan B and really just took a beating by someone better in every area.
It's fair to say that 2020 has been a frustrating year for WBO Bantamweight champion John Riel Casimero (30-4, 21), who had been hoping to face Naoya Inoue in April, before that bout was cancelled. That frustration seemed to give him some real hunger to shine when he stepped into the ring earlier today and took on the previously unbeaten Duke Micah (24-1, 19).
From the opening round we saw Casimero set off to make a statement. There was no feeling out round, instead it was bombs away, and the aggression of Casimero forced Micah to respond, giving us an incredible opening round. Both men were throwing bombs, and both were landing bombs in what was a shoot out.
Straight from the bell we saw both landing bit shots to the body, as they both tried to snap the other in half. In regards to head shots Casimero wasn't throwing too many in the opening round, and was actually caught by the best head shot of the round, but it seemed to bounce off him.
The bombs continued to fly in round 2. Quite early in the round however the power of Casimero turned the fight, with a short, compact left hook wobbling Micah, who stumbled and dropped to the canvas. The knockdown wasn't fight ending by it's self, but did seem like the start of the end, with Casimero all over Micah for the rest of the round. Some how Micah survived the onslaught, and fought back valiantly with some solid shots of his own. Although Micah was showing his toughness he was taking a lot of punishment, as Casimero began to have fun, taunting and loading up on uppercuts.
To his credit Micah survived the round though was given a look over by the doctor just seconds into round 3. It was clear the doctor and the referee was aware he had taken a lot of punishment, and the referee made it clear he had to show something.
Sadly for Micah he was in with someone who wasn't wanting to mess around and Casimero continued to press for a stoppage. Micah continued to show his bravery, landing a big body shot himself, but couldn't stop himself being overwhelmed by Casimero. This forced the referee, Steve Willis, to step in and call a halt to the contest.
The win was real a statement from Casimero, who seemed to realise this was his chance to make a name for himself in front of a US TV audience. He realised he had a chance to become a star, and he took that chance with both hands. This was explosive, exciting, and the type of bout that leaves an impression on fans who, perhaps, weren't too aware of Casimero.
As for Micah he was game, he tried to compete with Casimero, but he was very much out of his depth, and that was clear pretty early on. Despite his loss we suspect he will come again and even in defeat he would have made fans for his heart, toughness, and desire.
Just moments ago we saw WBO Super Bantamweight champion Emanuel Navarrete (31-1, 27) record his 5th defense, as he stopped little known Filipino challenger Jeo Santisima (19-3, 16) in what turned out to be a hugely disappointing bout. Not just for the Filipino and his fans, but in general.
The bout was expected to be a fire fight, Navarrete had built himself a reputation for exciting performances and although Santisima had shown little to get too excited about back in the Philippines, he had shown a willingness to have a fight when he needed to. Sadly instead of a war, we got a rather pedestrian fight that only really had a few rounds of note. Instead of a short action bout, we ended up with something that often resembled a public sparring session, which lacked intensity.
The first round really had very little to talk about. Whilst that's not too unusual for an opening round it was followed by another round in the same vein. It wasn't until round 3 that we saw Navarrete put his foot on the gas, and when he did the fight finally came alive, with Navarrete's free flowing offense, and Santisima landing some eye catching counters. It seemed that Santisima's entire gameplan revolved around Navarrete opening himself up, and the Mexican quickly figured out the Filipino. Santisima had no answer to the jab of the Mexican and only really had moments when the Mexican let his shots go.
In round 4 we saw Santisima land his best shot of the fight, rocking back Navarrete, who came roaring back. The Mexican was made to miss a lot, but wasn't made to pay too much, as his offense handcuffed Santisima. The offensive work from the champion continued in round 5, and once again he was made to miss a lot, though easily out worked Santisima, who landed only a small number of counter shots as he was too busy trying to slip, slide and ride shots to come back with anything of his own. Santisima was frustrating the champion, but not making him pay for his reckless and wild shots.
Round 6 through to round 9 saw the pace dropping again. It seemed like the weight cut from Navarrete, and his increased output in rounds 4 and 5, came at a price. This was a chance for Santisima to strike, but he failed. He was either too tired himself, too set on being the counter puncher or too worried about what was going to come back to risk it. That, unfortunately, allowed Navarrete to recover, get his second win and get back to what he does at his best.
In round 10 the Mexican made his first big effort, since round 5, to take out the Filipino, letting his hands go with free flowing aggression. It was the first time we really saw Santisima hurt, and he was unable to counter, or avoid the shots. By the end of the round he looked done, with his only hope being that Navarrete had punched himself out. The minutes rest seemed to let Santisima recover a bit, but Navarrete wasn't going to let his pray off the hook, and finally forced the stoppage at 2:20 of round 11 as he continued to put it on the brave, but ultimately out matched Santisima.
For the Filipino he showed some good touches, at least early on but the pressure and body shots of Navarrete took the fight out of him. By the later rounds he seemed to be running on fumes, and even before the bout it was known he didn't have the greatest of work rates or stamina. As for Navarrete however the performance, despite being a win, left more questions than answers about him. He looked open, wasteful, and lacked his usual energy at times.
It may have been a 5th defense for Navarrete, but it certainly wasn't the type of performance which would have done much to silence the doubters, who have criticised the level of competition he has been facing. Fingers crossed a bet challenger will be next for the talented, and fun to watch, champion. As for Santisima we'd love to see him mixing at OPBF title level, and a bout between himself and someone like Hiroaki Teshigawara would be a lot of fun.
The final world title bout of the 2010's saw Japan's Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14) [井岡一翔] close things out for the year as he has done numerous times during the decade. Taking home a win, and successfully defending his WBO Super Flyweight champion against mandatory challenger Jeyvier Cintron (11-1-0-1, 5) from Puerto Rico.
The bout started well for Cintron, who seemed to use his natural attributes well, making the most of his reach and his speed. He was however consistently under pressure from Ioka, who struggled to get close early on, but began to find his range in round 3. When that happened the bout began to turn from "interesting" to exciting".
With Ioka cutting the distance better from round 3 he forces Cintron to fight his fight, whilst landing some brutal body shots. The game plan from Ioka was simple. Take away the legs of the Cintron, make him hold his ground and go to work. It was a good gameplan, but one that only partially worked. To his credit Cintron's legs never really stopped moving, despite being fed a fairly consistent stream of vicious, hard body shots, especially in the middle rounds.
Cintron's heart and unwillingness to wilt helped him have moments, but his early lead had been destroyed by the body blows and his head shots seemed to do little more than annoy Ioka who continued to walk forward, pressing, looking to sneak more rib buster on to the challenger.
By round 8 it seemed that Cintron would eventually capitulate. He seemed out of energy, out of ideas and out of hope, but instead hit bit down, getting through a some torrid moments in rounds 9 and 10 before actually having some of his best success in the final few rounds. He seemed to refind his ambition, and let his hands go more, doing what had worked for him early on. He was getting his shots off and getting out of dodge, creating space, boxing and moving. It may have been that Ioka felt he had the bout in the bag, or it may have been that Ioka was tired, but Cintron finished the bout well. By then though it really was too little too late.
After 12 rounds the decision seemed an easy one, with only the specific scored in doubt. It seemed impossible to do the mental arithmetic to get to a Cintron win, despite his gutsy and brave performance, and the judges agreed scoring it 116-112, twice, to Ioka and 115-113 to Ioka.
(Photo Credit - A. McGovern)
In the first of two male world title fights on New Year's Eve fight fans had the chance to see WBO Flyweight champion Kosei Tanaka (15-0, 9) [田中恒成] put on one of the best performances of his career, despatching Chinese challenger Wulan Tuolehazi (13-4-1, 6) [乌兰] with ease.
Whilst the bout was never seen as hugely competitive on paper Tanaka had a knack of making easy bouts hard for himself, and this was, on paper, one of the bouts where he was possibly going to end up getting himself into un-necessary trouble. Thankfully however the "KO Dream Boy" did what was he was he supposed to do, from the opening bell.
Straight from the off Tanaka looked razor sharp, and started banging the challenger with his jab. Wulan's response was a wild and crazy looking left hook. It was a shot of desperation, very early on, from Wulan.
It wasn't long until Tanaka was backing up the challenger, and finding a home for his body shots, which were a major part of round 2. He kept banging the drum with hard single shots through the second round, and was clearly taking the legs out of Wulan.
Wulan was staying up right through the first 2 rounds but had no answer at all for anything Tanaka did. Tanaka began beating him around the ring in round 3 a double uppercut, through the guard, from the champion finally dropped Wulan. The Chinese fighter lay on the matt, looking up, as the referee began the count, and made little effort to beat it.
Given how Tanaka looked last time, against Jonathan Gonzalez, this was the type of performance he needed. He looked excellent, sharp, defensively aware, and the finish was clinical. It was his most accomplished performance and his defensively intelligent performance in a long time.
As for Wulan, he looked like a lamb to the slaughter from very early on. He never got into this and it really showed that he wasn't world class. He was totally out of his depth.
(Photo Credit - A. McGovern)
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.