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.
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.
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)
Earlier today we saw a new WBO Super Flyweight world champion champion being crowned, as Japanese star Kazuto Ioka (24-2, 14) [井岡一翔] put together one of his best performances to date, and stopped Filipino foe Aston Palicte (25-3-1, 21) in 10 rounds. The win saw Ioka becoming the first Japanese man to become a 4-weight champion, and only the second Japanese fighter to win world titles over 4 weights following Naoko Fujioka.
The two men had both looked great during their walk ins. Palicte looked calm but confident whilst Ioka, flanked by Japanese hip-hop artist AK69, looked determined and as if he was arriving for his destiny.
From the opening moments there was two things that were clear. One was a purely physical thing, Palicte dwarfed Ioka. They looked a division, if not two, apart. The other was that Ioka was much quicker, sharper and had the speed edge in terms of hand speed, footspeed and overall movement. It seemed like the bout could come down to who could make the most of their advantages.
It quickly became apart that it was Ioka's speed advantage that was the big difference, with Ioka often avoiding the big, booming power shots of Palicte, whilst managing to find a home for his own shots, especially his straight right hand up top and his body shots.
As the rounds went on it seemed more and more like Ioka's speed was the telling factor, with Palicte often being countered, regularly with lovely left hooks that Ioka was finding from round 3 on wards. Palicte's issues were worsened by the effective body work from Ioka, who has quickly become a forgotten man in the conversation of best body puncher in the sport, and in round 4 Ioka really showed off what he could do with shots to head and body.
Other than in round 4 Palicte generally looked like he was in the rounds, but losing them, and falling behind on the score cards but doing enough to be in them with an odd combination and some solid jabs. It seemed like something he and his team knew was happening when they sent him out for round 7, a round that really was something special.
Palicte came out for the seventh with bad intentions, pressing Ioka in a way he hadn't done in the first 6 rounds. He was there looking to take Ioka out, and unlike the earlier rounds where he was typically trying to land the odd combinations, he went full throttle. The increase in output from the Filipino seemed to shock Ioka, who seemed to wobble at one point, but Ioka would later turn the round on it's head and hurt Palicte, with body shots being a key late in the round. In many ways the round was Palicte's last hoorah, and form then on he never really seemed to have any more sustained success with Ioka's technical ability and combinations becoming a clearer focal point.
Going into round 10 it looked like Palicte's toughness, durability and chin might see him to the distance but Ioka had other idea's after he hurt the Filipino with a big right hand. Ioka waded in, looking to close the show, eventually forcing the referee to step in. Palicte, and his team, weren't happy at the stoppage, and you could argue it was a slightly early stoppage, but the Filipino did take 6 or 7 clean head shots and left the referee in the position where he could step in, especially given the damage Palicte had taken in the earlier rounds.
The question as to what is next for Ioka will be an interesting one, though there are big potential bouts with fellow Japanese fighters Akira Yaegashi and Kosei Tanaka, both of whom have mentioned becoming 4 weight champions themselves. Of those two bouts a showdown with Tanaka would appear more likely, given that both are TBS affiliated fighters.
The final world title bout of 2018 saw a new WBO Super Flyweight world champion being crowned as Filipino Donnie Nietes (42-1-5, 23) shocked the gamblers and took a split decision win over Kazuto Ioka (23-2, 13) [井岡一翔] in a brilliant technical match up between two fantastic fighters who fought evenly through out a captivating contest. Not only was it a captivating contest, but it was one fought at such a high skill level that both men showed off technical mastery like so few bouts we've seen this year.
Nietes took the early lead. He was countering well and making the most of the opportunities Ioka was giving him by fighting on the inside. It was brilliant work from Nietes to land the sharper, cleaner, more accurate shots. The early success of Nietes forced Ioka on to the outside.
Boxing at range Ioka had a lot of success in the middle rounds, with Nietes slowing down, showing his age and struggling to catch up with Ioka, who seemed to run through the middle rounds with some ease to take the lead.
Ioka's success saw the bout tighten up, a lot, and going into the final rounds it seemed there was everything to play for. The success wasn't dominant, but was clear and it was obvious that fighting at range Ioka could control things, and if he was able to keep up the out put and the movement he should have been able to win.
In the final rounds however Nietes seemed to dig deep, find that extra bit of energy and close the distance. Ioka on the other hand slowed, began to stand his ground more and slow his movement. That allowed Nietes back into the fight, a fight that had seemed to be Ioka's after his strong middle portion of the fight.
With the final 2 rounds being ultra close, pick em rounds if left possibles score of the bout all over the place, potentially from 116-112 either way.
With the bout going the 12 rounds we went to the score cards and unsurprisingly they were split. Each man taking a 116-112 score card in their favour, though the bout was decided by a bizarre 118-110 card for Nietes, a score that would assume the judge had given Nietes every benefit imaginable.
With the 2 judges having Nietes as the winner he now becomes the third Filipino to become a 4 weight champion, the 3rd man to win world titles in each of the 4 lowest weight classes and a sure fire hall of famer. For Ioka there is strong argument to have a rematch, of if Nietes retires a chance at the title when it becomes vacant again.
For us fans this was the technical back and forth we had all anticipated. It wasn't a dramatic FOTY candidate but was a sensational bout, and the perfect way to close out the new year, even if one of the judges was watching something the rest of us wasn't.
Earlier this year we saw the first All-Filipino world title fight in over 90 years, as Jerwin Ancajas defended the IBF Super Flyweight title against Jonas Sultan. On paper that looked a good bout, but ended up never catching a light and being pretty forgettable. Today we had the second all-Filipino world title fight of the year, as Donnie Nietes (41-1-5, 23) and Aston Palicte (24-2-1, 20) traded blows for the WBO Super Flyweight title.
For Nietes the bout saw him looking to become the third 4 weight world champion from the Philippines, following Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire, and the third man to win world titles in the sport's 4 lowest weight classes. For Palicte it was a chance to emerge from the shadows of Filipino boxing to become a world champion.
The bout was competitive through out. It matched the incredible skills and boxing IQ of Nietes against the imposing physical size of Palicte. From the off both men had moments, and it was a hard one to score either way with Nietes landing the more consistently offensive, but taking the heavier leather, and being pushed on to the back foot through out the fight. It was also the combinations from Palicte, which rarely landed cleanly, that really caught the eye with numerous shots being thrown with so much power that Nietes found his own gloves smashing into his face.
Nietes' ring craft was amazing. At the age of 36 he he was able to set traps on a regular basis, often luring Palicte into clean right hands, and countering brilliantly. He was however unable to get Palicte's respect and the younger man, a natural Super Flyweight, took shots cleanly and seemed to smile, whilst taking them. It was possibly the regular smirk of Palicte that made Nietes' clean shorts seem unthreatening compared to the glancing blows of his own.
There was very few clean cut bouts through the entire fight. It was often a case of picking a winner of a very close round. One of the few clear cut rounds was round 4, a round that Nietes seemed to take off. On the other hand he clearly won round 5, as he picked up the pace and found a home for his right hand, which landed frequently through a brilliant stanza for the veteran. Another clear round was the final one, which saw Nietes landing several of his most eye catching shots. For the most part however there was very, very, little to pick between the two fighters, and a strong case could be made either way.
The close nature of the rounds seemed to give the feeling that no score was really going to be wrong. Despite the commentary playing a strong pro-Nietes narrative through out, cheer leading the skills of Nietes and giving very little credit to Palicte and his work. That close nature of each round showed on the scorecards which were 116-112, in favour of Palicte, 118-110, for Nietes, and 114-114, giving us a split draw.
The HBO team try to play off that the bout was a robbery, quote the always questionable Compubox as part of their narrative. The reality however is that there was very, very little to split them overall. On a round by round basis, neither man did enough to really assert their self. 118-110 and 116-112, either way, were wide, but a strong case could be argued for either of those cards. In the end however the draw seemed the fairest result and the most accurate.
As a result of the draw he WBO title does remain vacant. A rematch between the two is a real possibility, as would be a bout between either man and the returning Kazuto Ioka, who won on the same card against McWilliams Arroyo who had been the WBO #3 ranked fighter behind Nietes ans Palicte.
Just moments ago we saw the final bout at Super Flyweight for Japanese sensation Naoya Inoue (15-0, 13) [井上 尚弥], who recorded his 7th defence of the WBO Super Flyweight title and over-came the naturally bigger French challenger Yoan Boyeaux (41-5, 26) in what was really little more than a show case performance.
The opening round saw Boyeaux, a usually aggressive fighter, take to the outside of the ring whilst Inoue brought the pressure and tried to sneak inside on the taller, longer fighter. It was a mostly quiet round, with only one or two real combinations from Inoue, but what he landed he made count, rocking Boyeaux with a right hand before dropping him with a sweet left hand late in the ring. Had the round gone on much longer that could have been the start of the end but the bell realld saved the challenger.
The second round saw a very cautious Boyeaux fighting on the retreat. Inoue pressed the fight, and landed several solid shots, but Boyeaux was moving too much for the shots to have a lot of effect and by the end of the round it seemed like Inoue was toying with him, looking for a home run shot. What was even worse for Boyeaux is after he landed a huge right hand Inoue didn't even blink, as if telling the challenger that he was happy to take one if he had to.
To begin round 3 Inoue went on the offensive, landing several short right hands before a brutal body shot forced Boyeaux to take a knee. The Frenchman was up almost instantly but gave away just how much pain the shot had caused him. A follow from Inoue saw him attack the compromised torso of the challenger who was down again following 3 solid shots to the mid-section. To his credit Boyeaux got up again, looked ready to fight and the crowd showed their appreciation and respect by applauding Boyeaux's guts but by then the fight was all but over. Inoue continued to hunt his pray, landed one top before going to the body again, sending Boyeaux down and forcing the referee to stop the bout, rather than allow the challenger to take any more punishment.
With the win under his belt the intention from Inoue now is to make a move up to the Bantamweight division and chase a third world title, following issues securing a notable opponent at Super Flyweight. The challenges he faces moving up a division should make for more competitive assignments than this one, with bouts against Zolani Tete, Luis Nery and Ryan Burnett all being mooted for the "Monster".
Earlier this evening fight fans around the globe tuned in for the highly anticipated “Superfly” card, featuring two world title fights. The first of those was a WBO title fight which saw saw Japanese sensation Naoya Inoue (14-0, 12) [井上 尚弥] make his US debut, and shine as he dominated American challenger Antonio Nieves (17-2-2, 9).
The opening round could have been a nervy one from Inoue, given it was his first professional bout outside of Japan. Instead however he looked totally relaxed, and not like a man fighting on a major international stage for the first time. He looked controlled with his jab, imposing with his footwork and pressure and in total control. That control took a step up in round two as Inoue stepped up the pace and hurt Nieves with body shots late in the round.
Although Nieves saw out the second round it looked like it was only going to be a case of “how long?” Inoue upped the ante again in round 3 as he began to really hunt the stoppage and was pressing Nieves back at will. With the challenger looking like he simply couldn't handle the power. Nieves had moments, but they were minor moral victories before he was forced to eat something much more significant.
Nieves heart shone and in round 4 he tried to back up Inoue, who obliged and fought a portion of the round on the back foot before coming forward and pumping his let jab into the face of the American who had clearly ran out of ideas. Sadly for Nieves he may have ran out of ideas but Inoue still had plenty, including the idea that he wanted a stoppage. He went about that with a new found intensity in round 5 and hammered the challenger with body shots until he went down. From then on Nieves was in full blown survival mode and a protective corner would have pulled him out after the round had finished. Instead he was sent out for another round, and it became embarrassing for the challenger. Instead of fighting he ran, literally running away from Inoue, who waved him in, raised his hands, taunted and dropped his hands completely. The result of Inoue's taunted seemed to suggest that Nieves didn't want to be there and mercifully his corner saved him at the end of the round.
With his US debut out of the way, and impressively at that, and another defense under his belt the future looks likely to see Inoue in super fights. He's had a US showcase, next has to be big bouts against big names to continue to build his incredible reputation. For Nieves it's likely he'll be back to domestic or continental level, but he'll never want to step in the ring with Inoue again after this one.
For US fans who may not have seen Inoue before, we suspect many will be looking to see him in the future, and at the end of the day, that was the aim of this bout. It was to get fans world wide interested in him, and potential show downs with the likes of Roman Gonzalez, Kal Yafai, Juan Francisco Estrada and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai.
When it comes to Japanese fighters at the moment there is no one who has excited the boxing world quite like WBO Super Flyweight champion Naoya Inoue (13-0, 11) [井上 尚弥],who was in action earlier today, and successfully recorded his 5th defenses of his world title. And he did so whilst hardly breaking sweat against the #2 ranked WBO challenger, American based Mexican Ricardo Rodriguez (16-4, 5), who had never previously been stopped.
The bout started with both men looking to control the range, but it was Inoeu's razor sharp jab and incredible footwork that controlled the round. The Mexican had his moments, but they were few and far between whilst Inoue's jab looked a consistent threat and he landed a wonderfully flurry late in the round, as well as an incredible left hand, that seemed to make Rodriguez realise that he was in there with an incredible talent.
The second round saw Rodriguez become more adventurous but again it was Inoue's footwork and jab that controlled the action, with Rodriguez falling short with a number of shots, and hitting the guard on the few times he was close enough to connect. The Mexican was showing his fighting spirit but had no answer to Inoue, who landed a huge straight late in the round and a brutal body shot as he began to move through the gears.
Rodriguez knew the task was getting harder and harder with Inoue starting to look increasingly more offensive. That offense was too much in round 3 with a left hook dropping the challenger. Rodriguez, to his credit, got to his feet, but it was the start of the end and another left hook dropped him for the counter, giving Inoue his 5th defense of the title.
With the win under his belt Inoue is now set to make his US debut, with a September date pencilled in, with HBO likely to televise the bout. That will see Inoue build on his reputation as one of the best fighters in the sport. For Rodriguez the loss will damage his career, and it's unlikely he will be getting another title fight any time soon.
The second of 7 world title bouts to end the in Japan was a WBO Super Flyweight title bout that saw defending champion Naoya Inoue (12-0, 10) [井上 尚弥] retain his title in a brilliantly fun fight against the aggressive and tough Kohei Kono (32-10-1, 13) [河野 公平] in a genuine exciting fight.
From the opening seconds it was clear that Kono wasn't in the ring to make up numbers and within a minute he was launching hooks and trying to put Inoue under pressure. Sadly for Kono that wasn't hugely effective in the first round as Inoue's speed and skills saw him land some nasty shots, and he seemed to shake Kono in the final moments of the round. Kono is known as the “Tough Boy” for a reason and proved that in round 2 when he continued to apply the pressure and steamed in again in an offensive manner. Again he was punished with Inoue landing some really brutal body shots that would have taken out most other foes. Kono on the some how saw out the round with going down but he had been badly hurt before the bell.
Kono refused to learn his lesson and continued to apply the same game plan in round 3, and again took some abuse to the body. It was however a better round for Kono who seemed to realise that his offense was causing Inoue to put limit what he was doing and despite taking some monstrous body shots he withstood most of the Inoue assault with no real issue. Kono continued to build on that success with an excellent round 4, a round in which he seemed to genuinely win with sheer determination and work rate, despite a vicious combination at the end from Inoue.
We saw Kono continue to attack in an ultra-aggressive manner through round 5 and once again he seemed to have Inoue hadcuffed at times while unloading flurry after flurry. Not every shot from the challenger got through but there was enough getting through to give him half a hope as Inoue seemed to slow down. Although Kono was having success Inoue didn't look too bothered by things, but was clearly under some pressure.
Sadly for Kono the ultra-aggressive tactic became his undoing in round 6 when he was caught by a frighteningly good counter shot from Inoue. The shot sent Kono down hard and it seemed unlikely Kono would beat the count, so much saw that Inoue rushed the corner and started celebrating. Amazingly Kono regained his feet, and the referee allowed him to go on. It was however a futile effort and a follow up from Inoue sent the challenger down for the second time, this time causing the referee to wave the bout off.
For Kono, who suffered his first stoppage loss here, this is probably the end. He was game and brave through the bout, giving Inoue one of his most interesting tests to date, but it was likely a case of “giving everything and going out on your shield to end your career” rather than anything else.
As for the champion his attention surely turns, once again, to unification bouts and other notable opponents with contests against the likes of Roman Gonzalez, Juan Francisco Estrada, Carlos Cuadras, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Kal Yafai, Johnriel Casimero and Jerwin Ancajas all really attractive propositions in the red hot Super Flyweight division. His stoppage here was a much needed statement after some less than flattering performances recent and it may well have put the division on alert once again, much as he did when he took out Omar Andres Narvaez in 2 rounds at the end of 2014.
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.