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.
Talented, yet horribly frustrating seems to be the most perfectly apt description of Kyrgyzstan born Russian based Dmitry Bivol (18-0, 11) and he showed that again tonight with a clear decision win over Englishman Craig Richards (16-2-1, 9). A clear decision that saw a lack of urgency from Bivol, though out, and saw Richards refuse to gamble until far too late, until the bout had already been lost.
The bout, like so many of Bivol's recent bouts, lacked drama, lacked excitement and lacked positive talking points. It resembled more of a friendly spar, than a world title bout. It looked less like Bivol was defending the WBA Light Heavyweight "super" title and more like he was going through the motions, waiting to get an opponent who can drag the best from him. It also, for the most part, looked like Richards had too much respect for Bivol, and wasn't willing to gamble in what was a huge opportunity for him to put himself on the boxing map.
The early rounds sawa lot of back and forth jabs, from both men. The saw Bivol pressing forward, applying very good front foot pressure, but neither man did much. The back key difference between the two seemed to be that Bivol's jab was landing much more consistently, and the pressure was forcing Richards backwards.
In right 3 we saw Richards land a really good right hand, leaving Bivol with a red mark on his head. It was, by far, his best shot up to this point, and yet it proved to be for nought, with Bivol putting his foot on the gas, taking the play away and landing better shots. It was a short lived moment of success for Richards, but one that seemed to come with an almost immediate lesson.
Through the middle rounds we began to see Bivol move up a gear. He looked to be in control, out working Richards, who still seemed timid, but sadly Bivol's best work was in bursts, and with little urgency. He was happy to catch the eye with one or two moments, then control with his jab, taking as few risks as possible. The typical Bivol way. Sadly for Richards every time he did land something good, the play got taken away, Bivol put together something nice, then resumed control the battle of jabs.
By round 10 it seemed clear that Bivol had done more than enough to take home the decision, and he seemed to feel that was the case to as he did very, very, very little in the final 3 rounds. He cruised over the line, and it seemed like his lengthy lay off, of well over a year, was taking it's toll on his gas tank. As a result Richards managed to have good success in the final 2 rounds, as it finally seemed the British fighter realised he was in a world title fight and began to show some urgency of his own. It was, of course, too little too late.
After 12 rounds we went to the score cards, and it seemed a fairy easy one to score. A 8-4 or 9-3 type of fight. That was shown by the first judge, who had it 118-110, but then we saw the other judges turn in cards of 115-113 and 115-114, which make the bout look a lot closer than it was. Despite those two very questionable scores, they all favour Bivol who got the win, shook some ring rust and got the chance to bore the audience once again.
To his credit Bivol had looked sharp early on, but as the bout went on he never managed to move through the gears and he seemed to feel the tempo late on. There was his typical lack of urgency, no real fire power and once again no belief that he had to impress. He just knew he had to win, and didn't care about entertaining fans. Not for the first time he showed he was willing to frustrate fans with a clear win, and without taking risks. Something that will not win over critics, despite the victory.
For Richards he looked less out of his depth than we'd expected, though he never really seemed to be close to winning. He won a few rounds, but they seemed to come more from Bivol easing his foot off the gas, than actually being a threat to the champion.
For Bivol this was a chance to impress. A chance to make a mark. A chance to get fans back onside after some dreary recent performances. Instead he gave us another dull performance and another clear win, at least in the eyes of the vast majority. Sadly it's not the type of performances needed to help make fans clamour for the big bouts.
It's also worth noting that stylistically, this bout wasn't pretty. It was compelling, and interesting, and it lacked clinches. But it wasn't exciting. The styles of the two men, for much of the bout, neutralised each other, they matched up similarly, and sadly in this case, that meant we had two men who simply waited for the other too much, and looked happy to have elongated jab battles, rather than mix it up. A poor match up from a styles point of view, and not one many will go back and rewatch.
As for the judging, the judges who pulled cards of 115-113 and 115-114 from their arses need to go and see an optician straight after the show, and should be made to explain their scorecards.
Just moments ago fight fans in Japan had the chance to see WBC Light Flyweight champion Kenshiro Teraji (18-0, 10) make his 8th successful defense, as he rugged defeated Japanese veteran Tetsuya Hisada (34-11-2, 20) in what was a very, very entertaining contest at the EDION Arena Osaka.
The opening round saw some interesting action, with Hisada being his usual, come forward self and Kenshiro looking to scout what the local favourite had to offer. It wasn't a particularly busy round, but was one that seemed to be very competitive. In round 2 we started to see the difference between the two men, with Hisada being all about will and effort, and Kenshiro being about skill, timing, and ring craft. The jab of Kenshiro's was beginning to slow, and he was starting to control the distance, whilst also hammering some huge right hands up top. One of those rights hands dropped Hisada, sending the challenger down for one of the very few times in his career.
Despite being dropped Hisada's will to win wasn't dented and he recovered well, fighting back hard at the end of the round and having a solid bounce back round in round 3, as he pressed more intently. That pressure did come at a cost, but it was a solid round after beind dropped. Sadly for Hisada he kept finding the same problems. When he had success Kenshiro came back and had more, every good eye catching flurry of Hisada's was followed by some eye catchign moments of Kenshiro's, and the jab of Kenshiro was giving him the ability to control the action as and when he needed.
After 4 rounds the open scoring kicked in for the first time, and the scores were 38-37, twice and 40-35, all in favour of Kenshiro
Through the middle rounds the action really intensified. Hisada was having more moments. He was gritting his teeth and making things tough for Kenshiro. He was winning the rounds, but he making Kenshiro work for them. What was particularly eye catching from Hisada was how often he managed to land right hands, putting Kenshiro on the back foot, albeit temporarily, and it would have been interesting to see how a younger, sharper, fighter would have capitalised on those moments. As for Hisada, he followed Kenshiro when they happened, before the champion regrouped and punished him.
Rounds 5 and 6 were genuinely fantastic with their back and forth action, however they both seemed to be rounds where Kenshiro's extra class and natural ability were the difference maker. His ability to turn the tide with a clean, accurate combination, or a burst of body shots, meant he always seemed in control, even with Hisada was having success. these rounds, along with rounds 7 and 8, were fought at mid range with a very high tempo and they made for some exhilarating action, with their back and forth. The action was exciting, the tempo was high and the quality was also great, particularly with Kenshiro's body shots.
Talking about body shots, they were particularly notable in the second half of the fight, with Kenshiro drilling Hisada's mid section with some massive right hands to the body. Hisada some how took them with out flinching, but they seemed to take the steam out of the challenger in rounds 9 and 10. He was still there, but the incessant pressure we have typically seen from him was only shown in glimpses. He was failing to turn the fight into his fight, he was struggling to land with any consistency, and he was unable to step the tide, which had seen Kenshiro in a very comfortable lead when the open scoring was announced early in round 9. For those curious the scores were 78-73, twice, and 79-72 all in favour of Kenshiro.
Despite looking like his 36 year old body was feeling the intensity through much of the middle portion of the fight Hisada really bit down on his gumshield and found some real reserves of energy in round 11 as he tried to take the fight to Kenshiro once again. Despite the effort he was again coming off second best, and seemed to be hurt late in the round from a body shot. Despite that Kenshiro didn't jump on his man, and Hisada sucked it up before being tagged by some solid right hands again from Kenshiro. It was really impressive stuff from both, with Kenshiro landing some really top level stuff and Hisada showing incredible toughness and will.
That will from Hisada came roaring out in round 12, in what may end up being the final round of Hisada's career. He set the pace, he dictated the tempo and he really refused to back down from a fight. Kenshiro continued to out class him, out skill him, and out box him, but there was no faulting Hisada's desire, as he walked through some massive right hands from the champion. Hisada's toughness saw him begin to force a brilliant sequence of trading in the final moments of the bout, but he couldn't hurt the champion who still remained so energetic right to the bell.
After 12 rounds the final scorecards were 119-108 and 118-109, twice, all in favour of the champion.
After having his arm raised Kenshiro broke into tears whilst being interviewed. It was clear the last 12 months or so have been hard on him mentally and it almost seemed like the win was a step towards redeeming himself. As for Hisada he left the ring to loud cheers and it was clear the fans were hugely supportive of his efforts. He had been the man they had cheered on through out the bout and it was obvious that they had been there to support the local man.
For Kenshiro this was a fine outing. He took a clear decision, over a hungry challenger, got 12 rounds after well over a year out of the ring, and managed to expunge some of the memories of 2020. He did however show some defensive flaws and it's clear he and his team will work on those when he's back in the gym.
As for Hisada, if this is the end he can hold his head up high. He gave a great performance, and whilst he was a very clear loser, the scores don't do his effort any justice, despite being fair scores. He's now 36, time is ticking on his career, but he has managed to achieve a lot more than many may have anticipated for a fighter with double digit losses and is clearly a hugely popular boxing son in Osaka.
Sadly the bout, which was a genuinely good, solid and exciting one, was also a nightmare for fans outside of Japan to watch. Cantere Doga, who streamed the bout, made things awfully difficult for fans to access the service, and it seemed like the bout would have made a lot, lot more sense for Shinsei to have streamed on YouTube. If KTV wanted to back the fight, which is fair to assume given they put it on Cantere Doga, then it would have made more sense to televise it than to stream it behind a paywall. For those who already use the Cantere Doga service this was a nice bonus, but for the other boxing fans out there this was a poor choice from the distributor of the bout.
It just keeps happening! The Super Flyweight division just keeps delivering FOTY contenders and instant classics, and we saw that again tonight with a brilliant bout for the IBF Super Flyweight title.
Going into the bout Filipino fighter Jerwin Ancajas (33-1-2, 22) was expected to make an easy defense as he took on mandatory challenger Jonathan Javier Rodriguez (22-2, 16), an unheralded Mexican who really wasn't well known by fight fans. On paper this looked like an interesting match up but, given recent IBF mandatory title fights, it was also expected to be very easy for Ancajas, who had already run up a title record 8 defenses of the belt.
Whilst fans and the media may have been expecting an easy one for Ancajas, Rodriguez had different plans in mind and from the off he was pressing and coming forward. Unfortunately for Rodriguez he was too slow early on to get close and dictate the pace, but he was having success and he wasn't looking outclassed, just too slow. In round 2 Rodriguez again had success, but was out boxed for much of the round.
In round 3 things really went up a gear as the Mexican closed the distance more and Ancajas looked to try and prove his metal as the two ended up engaging for much of the round, in what was a fantastic 3 minutes of action. The action really was eye catching when they fought up close, with Ancajas landing some fantastic body shots and Rodriguez finding regular success with his uppercuts. This was a sign of what we were to see later on, but was, for now, a bit of an abiration.
Rounds 4 and 5 saw Ancajas begin to use his brain more, dictating the tempo, using his feet and jab and making full advantage of the fact he had the quicker feet and quicker hands. He was letting Rodriguez follow him around the ring, and tagging the Mexican regularly. In all honesty Ancajas was making it look easy in those two rounds. That however, did no last long.
In round 6 we again saw the tempo going through the roof as both men traded from the off, Rodriguez came out like he had a point to prove and he really upped his pace, forcing Ancajas to go with him. The entire 3 minutes was spent with the two men in a phone booth, unloading huge shots back and forth in what was a thrilling, pulsating round of action. It was really none stop as the two men took it in turns to unload on each other. Through the round Ancajas' looked the busier man, landing the higher volume, but Rodriguez seemed to be landing the heavier, more meaningful blows.
After a really good sixth round the pace slowed down a bit through round 7. It was a round that started well for Rodriguez, but as it went on Ancajas got back to his boxing, and he took control of the action again.
Round 8 was, by far and away, the most significant of the bout. It started with Ancajas controlling the action whilst boxing and moving. By the middle portion of the round however Rodriguez was closing the distance and dragging Ancajas into his fight. When that happened the pace increased massively, as the two traded blows. Rodriguez, for the first time, seemed hurt and backed up, and Ancajas went all out, unloading shots with both hands whilst Rodriguez was in the corner. The flurry from Ancajas saw him hurt Rodriguez to the body, then follow up up top, finally sending Rodriguez down. The Mexican took his time to respond, but beat the count and survived the final few seconds of the round
It seemed almost certain that the Mexican would be stopped as we went into round 9. Amazingly however he seemed to recuperate between rounds and came out hungry for the 9th. It was another brilliant round, with Rodriguez pressing and pressuring with pure determination. He was fighting on incredible will power and he showed no quit at all. That was despite being visibly hurt numerous times from body shots. Every time he was hurt he stiffened up, before gritting his teeth and pursuing Ancajas, again and again. It was a gritty, determined and brilliant effort from a man who seemed inhuman. It would have been easy for Rodriguez to have accepted a loss, gone down again from one of the body shots, or even fought to survive. Instead however he came to win and continued to press through the pain.
Despite a brilliant effort through 9 rounds the challenger would have known he was behind going into round 10. He would have known he needed to finish strong. Really strong. And that's exactly what he did. The final 3 rounds saw Rodriguez fighting through exhaustion and pain with amazing hunger, cutting the distance and out working a tired looking Ancajas. The Filipino had moments in all 3 of the final rounds, but was out worked as the will of Rodriguez over-came the skill of Ancajas. Those final 3 rounds saw Rodriguez were incredible. But they weren't enough to grind down the Filipino champion, who survived to the final bell.
After 12 brilliant rounds we went to the judges scorecards, which were read out as 115-112, 116-111 and 117-110, all in favour of Ancajas.
It's hard to argue with the result, though 117-112 felt too wide given the determined effort of Rodriguez, who made this into such a thriller. Ancajas got the decision, and he deserved it. But boy did he have to work for this one, and it was, much, much tougher than anyone would have expected. It was also a surprisingly entertaining fight, something that Ancajas hasn't typically had. He seemingly could have made it easier for himself. He probably should have made easier for himself, but Rodriguez's determination cannot be questioned. He was great.
For Ancajas this was a 9th defense but in reality it was a chance for him to win over fans who have been disappointed by him in the past. It was the fan friendly bout he needed, and hopefully bigger and better things will come shortly for him. He spoke about a unification bout following the win, potentially a showdown with WBO champion Kazuto Ioka, and that would be a huge step up for him, and a great chance for him to prove he is world class.
As for Rodriguez, he made a lot of a new fans here. He lost but his performance was brilliant. He proved he tough, talented, brave and a hugely fan friendly fighter. Fingers crossed he gets more chances to show what he can do on a big platform like Showtime after this. He got a chance on a big stage, after a very long wait, and he made it count. He might not have got the win on the night, but he should be given chances again, and in the long term this loss could prove to be a massive victory for his career.
Just moments ago in the Humo Arena in Tashkent we saw unified Super Bantamweight champion Murodjon Akhmadaliev (9-0, 7) [Муроджон Ахмадалиев] retain his IBF and WBA "Super" Super Bantamweight titles as he stopped former IBF champion Ryosuke Iwasa (27-4, 17) [岩佐 亮佑].
The defending champion started really well and was coming forward almost from the off. He looked sharp and crisp whilst coming forward, whilst Iwasa looked relaxed, and like a man who was looking to see what the champion had to offer. Through out the round the speed and dynamic offense of Akhmadaliev shone, and he took very little in return, with Iwasa having limited success with his jab and a single good body shot.
Round 2 was another good one from Akhmadaliev, who began to really control the bout with his sharp, accurate and spiteful jab. A jab that really was a massive difference maker. Iwasa again had moments, but they were few and far between with Akhmadaliev really controlling the action overall.
The success from Akhmadaliev was building round by round, and even when Iwasa tried to turn it around, he was having very limited success, with only flashes of action going his way. A rare body shot here, a clean jab there, a good flurry in response to a strong Akhmadaliev combination. But nothing sustained.
In round 5 Akhmadaliev seemed to come out with a point to prove, starting fast and wobbling Iwasa, who seemed off balance more than hurt. Iwasa seemed to regroup and Akhmadaliev backed off, at least for a few moments, before another flurry from Akhmadaliev, this time the referee jumped in.
If we're being honest the stoppage seemed early. Iwasa wasn't looking particularly hurt, despite being under pressure, and given the high profile of the bout it seemed like the referee jumped in far too soon for out liking. Especially for a world title bout. He robbed Iwasa of a chance to come back, and also robbed Akhmadaliev of a chance to score a really big KO, something that seemed very possible given the ease with which he was landing.
It's true we prefer stoppages to come too soon, rather than too late, but sadly it feels like the referee did this one far, far too soon. Regardless, it's a fantastic first defense for Akhmadaliev who has made it clear he wants to continue collecting titles. In a division as stacked and talent heavy as the Super Bantamweight division there are som amazing match ups that he could be involved in.
As for Iwasa this is probably the end of his dreams at world level. Though a return to the Oriental scene would certainly be an interesting one, with fights against the likes of Jhunriel Ramonal, Shingo Wake and Hiroaki Teshigawara all being very interesting match ups that could be made later in the year.
Just moments ago we saw WBA "super" and Ring Magazine Light Flyweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi (15-0, 10) [京口 紘人] make his US debut in a spectacular bout against diminutive Mexican challenger Axel Aragon Vega (14-4-1, 8). It was a fight that was thrilling, exciting, and yet sadly anti-climactic.
From the opening minute this was a great fight with the two men willingly engaging in close quarter combat. There was no real feeling out process here as they quickly got to work on the inside and let shots go with their heads against each other. The first round was great with both men having success up close. It seemed both men were happy to fight toe to toe and both tried to instill their will.
In round 2 they continued to fight in the trenches and it seemed like diminutive Vega got the better of things, though it was a hotly contested round with both landing uppercuts and hooks through out the round. The action and intensity that both fought at gave us one of the best rounds of 2021 so far and it seemed to set the stage for something special.
The pace started to slow down in round 3 though, as Kyoguchi began to use his jab more and create more space. It was still a very good round for Vega, but a round that seemed to show there was more to Kyoguchi's arsenal than just the inside fighting, which seemed to be Vega's only option. Sadly by this point the awful DAZN commentary had picked it's side and essentially ignored anything Kyoguchi did, though that was no surprise from a commentary team that have consistently been dire.
In round 4 the jab of Kyoguchi, which had been coming into effect in round 3, became a bigger weapon for him. Vega was still aggressive, but was being kept at range more often, and when he did get inside Kyoguchi was holding his own, landing some lovely clean uppercuts. Vega was very lively through the round, but seemed to be getting figured out, and slowing, and his face was also reddening from the headshots he was taking.
Through 4 rounds it was close. A score of 3-1 either way, or 2-2 was very reasonable, and it felt like they could end up trading blows on the inside at any moment. It seemed like one of those fights where both men were well matched, and where action could pick up at a moments notice. Sadly however in round 5 Vega ended up suffering a nasty injury when he tagged Kyoguchi. The injury instantly left him in pain and whilst he backed off in agony Kyoguchi rushed in looking to close the show, soon afterwards the referee jumped in, waving off the bout and stopping Vega.
It was horrible way for the bout to end, a truly anti-climactic ending to the bout, which had been thrilling. It wasn't the ending either man wanted. But it was a TKO win for Kyoguchi, who becomes one of the very, very few Japanese fighters to retain a world title on US soil.
It's expected that Kyoguchi's next defense will be about against unbeaten Thai puncher Thanongsak Simsri, who he was supposed to fight late last year before needing to cancel the bout due to testing positive for Covid19, before a potential return Stateside later in the year.
A win here was important for Kyoguchi, and the performance will have left fans wanting more from him, though the way he got the win was certainly not the most compelling. Fingers crossed his next bout shown in the West will let fans really see what he's got in the locker.
To close the month of February in the Philippines we got a rare All-Filipino world title bout as the defending IBF Minimumweight champion Pedro Taduran (14-3-1, 11) clashed with the unheralded Rene Mark Cuarto (19-2-2, 11). The bout was an interesting one going in, with Taduran having a reputation for his heavy hands and pressure and Cuarto being a talented boxer, but a man taking a big step up in class.
Early on it was the boxing of Cuarto that was the key, with the challenger boxing really well on the back foot. Cuarto seemed fully aware that having a firefight with Taduran in the middle of the ring wasn't going to be a good idea, and instead moved, boxed, and picked his spots, landing some brilliant uppercuts as Taduran came in. It was the boxing, counter punching and movement of Cuarto that allowed him to control the pressure of Taduran, and the clean, crisp, combinations that Cuarto landed allowed him to catch the eye and rack up the rounds.
From the early part of the fight it was round 3 that really got the blood flowing, with Taduran being tagged hard by a Cuarto counter in a thrilling exchange, Cuarto pressed forward himself at one point during the round, before Taduran tried to finish with a strong rally. It was a brilliant round but it was another that showed the obvious skill level of Cuarto, which was higher than that of Taduran.
After 6 rounds it seemed the challenger was comfortably in the lead, but that was only half the task and Taduran wasn't in the ring to hand over his title, or to change tactics, as he kept coming forward. No matter what Cuarto landed Taduran came on, and came on. And had limited success until round 7, when he shook Cuarto to his knees. The challenger was suddenly in trouble, and was clearly hurt for almost a minute of the round, before regrouping, surviving what was left of the round and seeing his way to his corner. He was hurt again in round 8 as Taduran's pressure began to find more and more cracks in Cuarto's resistance.
To his credit Cuarto didn't panic, he didn't worry and he didn't seem to doubt himself. Instead he began to spoil, create distance and try to kill the momentum that Taduran was building. He knew he had to survive, and that's what he was doing, despite being rocked again at the end of round 9. He knew he was in the lead, he knew he only needed to win one of the late rounds and he knew that this was his bout to lose.
Sadly round 10 saw the stream fall apart, though when we were back in round 11 we saw an exciting round, as Taduran continued to try and march forward, hunting a stoppage and Cuarto turned into a seasoned veteran, trying to old man Taduran. He was walking around the ring, landing single shots and getting on his toes. It wasn't the most appealing style at times from Cuarto, but it was exactly what he needed.
Cuarto's toughness and determination saw him surviving round 12 as well, despite looking tired at times and being rocked, again. It was clear he could be hurt, but he was not going to be stopped. Not today, this was his day.
After 12 rounds we went to the scorecards, and it was clearly a close fight, with Cuarto dominating the early rounds with his clean boxing, good movement, and accurate punching, then Taduran coming on strong in the second half. The scorecards reflected the close nature of the bout, with all 3 judges turning in identical 115-113 scorecards. Unfortunately for Taduran they didn't side with him, instead going with Cuarto who's early success saw him do enough to take the title and become the new IBF Minimumweight champion.
Sadly for Taduran this ends a reign that started with a lot promise, following a sensational win over Samuel Salva, though never really got going, due in part to Covid19. As for Cuarto this is a career defining win, and he looked much, much better than the man who lost to the aforementioned Salva in early 2019.
Earlier today we got the latest "All-Filipino world title" fight as former WBO champion Vic Saludar (21-4, 11) clashed with the countryman Robert Paradero (18-1, 12) in a bout for the WBA "regular" Minimumweight title.
Although the bout was for a "secondary" title, and not for the main WBA belt, it was still a highly anticipated one with the contest being a chance to see what Saludar had left following a couple of disappointing recent performances and seeing what the completely untested Paradero had to offer the sport.
The early going saw an energetic but wild Paradero fighting aggressively but leaving himself open. He showed no fear of his more well established opponent, but also looked a bit like a man who had a lot of nervous energy to burn, and was firing off some very wild and crude shots. He was struggling to land clean, though at times Saludar failing to really punish him. The veteran managed to land some counters, but seemed to leave a lot of opportunities on the table in what was a conservative performance early on.
The main drama in the early rounds wasn't a shot from either man, but a headclash in round 2. It was, however, a minor drama with Paradero suffering a very small cut outside of his right eye. A cut that played absolutely no factor in the rest of the fight.
The conservative but smart approach from Saludar saw him having solid success in round 4 before hurting Paradero in round 5. To his credit Paradero got on his toes and saw out the round, despite being hurt. He then seemed to settle down well and through many of the middle rounds Paradero's crude, wild approach was tempered significantly, though this allowed the more slow, cerebral counter punching of Saludar to catch the eye more often. It was a stark change in tempo through the back end of the fight from Paradero who struggled to really show the same hunger.
Despite slowing down Paradero managed to have some really nice moments, particularly in the second half of round 9 where he boxed smartly, used his feet, and prevented Saludar from countering too much. Whilst he was having success we dare say that the change from Paradero told the judges that he was the one struggling, and needing to adapt, rather than making changes to suit himself. Potentially giving the impression that Saludar was having more success than he really was. It also allowed Saludar to come forward a lot, even if he wasn't really letting his hands go, again making it look like he was the one bossing the fight, even when he seemed to be following Paradero around the ring at times.
Going in to the final round it felt close, ad the commentary were suggesting that it was all to play for in round 12. Paradero started the round as if he knew it was close, landing a huge right hand, but then seemed to let things off the boil, show boating, looking over-confident, and really not doing a lot. He was caught in the round by a counter, that may well have stolen the round for Saludar.
After 12 rounds we went to the score cards and they were read out. 115-113, Saludar, 118-110, Paradero and then 116-112. The pause waiting for the winner saw Paradero yell in celebration, before the "Saludar" was read out, giving the veteran the split decision win.
The commentary had the bout even at 114-114.
If we're being honest we had this narrowly for Paradero. We preferred his energy and speed, though he was caught by a number of solid counter shots from Saludar and the difference in experience showed, a lot. He lacked a jab at times and his straight right hand wasn't accurate enough to get to the veteran.
For us Saludar simply didn't work enough at times, he was too conservative at times and as we said, he followed Paradero too much. In all honesty he looked old at times, and has certainly seen better days. He did however land the better single shots, his counters were good and he often sold the impression that he was the boss by pressing forward.
As for Paradero, there's a good fighter there, but someone who is clearly a work in progress and needs a lot of work if he's going to be a top, top divisional fighter.
For Saludar we suspect the plan is to move towards a bout with WBA "super" champion Knockout CP Freshmart. On this performance he wouldn't beat the undefeated Thai. As for Paradero the OPBF title or the WBO Asia Pacific title should be the focus for him over the next year or two as he looks to build on his experience. His inexperience was an issue and something that can be worked on over the coming years before he gets another bout at this level.
On Friday night Joseph "Jojo" Diaz (31-1-1, 15) became the former IBF Super Featherweight champion , losing the title on the scales ahead of a mandatory defense against unbeaten Russian based Tajik fighterShavkatdzhon Rakhimov (15-0-1, 12). As well as losing the title Diaz lost 20% of his purse for missing, which he did by more than 3lbs.
Despite Diaz missing weight the bout went on, with Rakhimov able to win the IBF title if he won the bout and the bout remaining vacant with any other result.
Regardless of the pre-fight hiccup on the scales, the bout looked like a fantastic one on paper, between two men liked to let their shots fly and had different styles, but busy styles.
In the opening round it was Diaz who seemed to settle quickly, whilst Rakhimov looked really tense, and the tension of Rakhimov showed through the first 2 rounds before he began to relax. When that happened the Tajik began to really find his groove, and from round 3 his activity seemed to catch the eye time and time again. Prior to that happening however he was tagged by some left hands from Diaz who seemed to try and set a high pace and get his nose in front.
What the Tajik was doing was letting 3 and 4 punch combinations go, then getting out of range, resetting, and doing the same. He was mixing up his hooks, uppercuts and straight shot, and although many shots were landing on the gloves of Diaz he was essentially handcuffing the former champion, out working him, and did enough to leave blood trickling from the former champion's nose.
From rounds 3 to 9 it seemed like Rakhimov was racking up the rounds, and he even managed to shake Diaz twice, as his power showed. Sadly though Rakhimov was doing a lot, and not getting as much success as he'd wanted. He was landing to head, and body, but rarely having sustained success and was visibly slowing by round 9, though Diaz wasn't making him pay.
Sadly for Rakhimov his high work rate in the middle portion of the bout did take a major toll as the went into the later stages, and from round 10 Diaz began to surge. He was forcing Rakhimov back and Rakhimov's own combinations were becoming less and less frequent. In fact if anything it was the clean punches of Diaz that were now catching the eye as the pace slowed. That allowed the American back in to the bout and really closed the gap on the scorecards.
Despite both men being wobbled through the bout, and a solid number of shots being landed by both men, the bout went the 12 rounds, and we got the scores.
The first was 115-113 to Diaz, a score that was within the realms of reasonability. That judge was however over-ruled by two scores of 114-114, resulting in a majority draw.
As a result of the draw the title remains vacant, and we can't help but think that Rakhimov will be kicking himself. He seemed well on the way to winning, but his gas tank ran low and he couldn't keep up his success in the later stages. Regardless we expect to see Rakhimov get another world title shot sooner rather than later.
As for Diaz, he'll be gutted he lost his title on the scales, and we do genuinely, wonder what division he'll be competing at going forward, whether he takes his career seriously and moved back to 130lbs or leaves the division to join the ranks at Lightweight.
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.
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.