When people start talking about fight of the year or round of the year when there is still an Akira Yaegashi (28-7, 16) [八重樫 東] fight on the calendar they are making a mistake. They should always wait for Yaegashi to fight for the final time in the year before making any sort of lists! Today Yaegashi finished his year off as he challenged IBF Flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane (39-2, 26), and unsurprisingly we ended with an exciting action fight.
The bout actually began in a less than thrilling fashion with Yaegashi fighting on his bike, using his footwork and boxing smart. It's something he's always had in his arsenal, but was last seen being used properly years ago, when he beat Edgar Sosa, way back in December 2013. If Akira fought smart we weren't going to get a classic, but there's a good chance he could fiddle himself to a decision victory.
That, of course, isn't Yaegashi's style. There's a reason Yaegashi has such a cult fan base and a reason he is regarded as a warrior. That is because smart boxing isn't him. He can do it, but it's not him. Instead having a fight is Yaegashi's style. By the third round, Mthalane was inviting Yaegashi into fight, and Yaegashi took the invitation, standing his ground more and fighting toe to toe with Mthalane, with the two men taking it in turns to unload flurries of shots.
Through rounds 4, 5 and 6 we had none stop action, each of those rounds could be considered for round of the year, with each of the rounds swinging one way then the other. One man seemed hurt, then they responded with a flurry of their own, hurting the other man. Not only were they hurting each other, but they were fighting an insane pace for two men who are the wrong side of 35. Sooner or later the tempo was going to catch up with one of them.
Sadly in round 7 it was Yaegashi was caught by the pace, and by a body shot from Mthalane. He tried to recover, tried to walk it off, and "old man" Mthalane, but the South African was having none of it, and kept the pressure up, not allowing Yaegashi to recover. To his credit Yaegashi's toughness kept him up right, and kept him fight, but it was clearly a diminished Yaegashi, who was starting to run on fumes, and take huge unanswered shots. Those fumes were however running out themselves and in round 8, with Mthalane landing an ever increasing number of shots, a stoppage began to look inevitable.
With Yaegashi's face swelling up, engine running low and the momentum clearly swinging in favour of Mthalane it seemed as if the Japanese warrior was going to need a miracle. Sadly for him that miracle never came as Mthalane continued to beat him up. It was getting one sided and in round 9 the referee seemed to be looking for a moment to stop the fight. His moment was a weird one, given that Yaegashi had stumbled a few moments earlier but was beginning to return fire, but it's hard to complain too much at the stoppage. Yaegashi, as he has often been, was too tough for his own good and the referee knew it.
Given Yaegashi turns 37 in February and has been in far too many wars for his own good it now seems like a good time to bow out, and retire, following yet another sensational fight. Round 4 in particular will be a hard one to forget. He could have made life easier for himself through much of his career, but the high, and lows, of Yaegashi's career have made him a Japanese legend. Hopefully retirement is next for a man who has given the sport so much during his often dramatic, always thrilling, rollercoaster like career.
As for Mthalane, the timeless South African is still a sensational fighter at the age of 37. He's ancient for a Flyweight but rarely have we seen him look his age, or looking on the verge of being stopped. He's tough, smart, and can change the direction of a fight. Whilst we suspect he's probably only got 1 or 2 more big fights, like this, in him he is a man who is racking up a Japanese-Killer reputation, with 3 successive wins against Japanese fighters, and is stacking his record with notable wins. It's a huge shame his first reign as the IBF champion ended the way it did, but he's making up for it in style now. A bout with Giemel Magramo, the highest ranked IBF contender, would be something that would be very appealing, and may well be next for the exceptional champion.
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.