Asian scene: Higa equals KO streak as Srisaket squeezes past Estrada
Marcus Bellinger rounds up the latest action from across Asia including wins for Jerwin Ancajas, Daigo Higa and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai...
There was little anticipation for the 27 January card from the Forum in LA and unfortunately those low expectations proved to be correct. For seven rounds the main event between Lucas Matthysse and Teerachai Kratingdaenggym for a secondary welterweight bauble was as poor a spectacle as you are likely to see.
Teerachai used his extra size, height and reach to fight at range and play keep away with Matthysse proving completely inept at cutting off the ring. After seven rounds the crowd had had enough and understandably booed profusely at the lack of action being delivered. Matthysse finally made a breakthrough by dropping the Thai in round eight and, although he managed to get up soon afterwards, the Argentinian finished the job leaving Teerachai out for the count.
Jorge Linares made a defence of his lightweight crown against Mercito Gesta on the same show. The Filipino actually made a bright start pressing the action in the opening couple of rounds. The champion then began to find his groove and although there was no lack of effort from the challenger, the Venezuelan always had the extra gear he could call upon. The scores at the final bell were 118-110 twice and 117-111 all to Linares who is now in need of a defining fight.
Also on this card puncher Romero Duno swept aside Yardley Armenta in a round.
Jerwin Ancajas made a solid start on his US debut as he eventually stopped Israel Gonzalez in ten rounds at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas on 3 February. The IBF super flyweight champion made the perfect start, dropping the Mexican challenger with a left hand in the opening round and a short night looked a distinct possibility. Ancajas chipped away round after round with Gonzalez proving to be a tough customer and not coming forward much against the champion.
Ancajas fought at a steady and methodical pace but a second breakthrough came in round ten with Gonzalez being floored twice and as a result the contest was brought to a halt. The Filipino could have targeted the body a bit more as he has done in previous fights but overall it was a good display that should leave a solid impression on the American audience. Next up almost certainly is an all-Filipino clash against mandatory challenger Jonas Sultan in what would be the first all-Pinoy world title bout since 1925.
A few hours later Daigo Higa was welcomed home as he squared off against Moises Fuentes at the Prefectural Budokan in Okinawa. Despite having a notable height and reach advantage the Mexican soon felt the power of the WBC flyweight king and although Fuentes stood up to some big shots to the head, an attack to the midsection saw him crumble to the canvas and it was all over in the opening stanza.
Higa had equalled the consecutive KO streak for a Japanese boxer set by Tsuyoshi Hamada and had brought big time boxing back to Okinawa with the last world title fight taking place in the area coming back in 1981. On the undercard local unbeaten prospects Tatsuro Nakashima, Ryuto Owan and Shawn Oda all picked up wins.
Shuichiro Yoshino made short work of his first defence of the Japanese lightweight crown at the Korakuen Hall on 8 February as Masaki Saito was dispatched inside a round. A right hand floored Saito within the first minute and although he managed to get to his feet Yoshino never let him off the hook and the bout came to an end soon afterwards.
Edward Heno retained his OPBF light flyweight title for the first time, taking a 12-round split decision over former world champion Merlito Sabillo in Bacolod City on 17 February. The scorecards read 119-109 and 118-110 to Heno and 116-112 to Sabillo and it has subsequently been revealed that the Philippines Games and Amusement Board have sent a letter to local judge Romeo Sumalapao, asking for an explanation for his card which had Sabillo winning.
It was then on to the highly anticipated Superfly 2 card from the Forum in LA on 24 February which was headlined by Srisaket Sor Rungvisai’s second defence of the WBC 115lbs title against Juan Francisco Estrada. The first couple of rounds saw Estrada edge proceedings as he countered effectively against the champion. Srisaket picked up the pace in round three, digging some hurtful shots to the body and the Thai began to find his groove.
The success for Srisaket continued during the middle rounds. Estrada had now felt the power of the hard hitting southpaw and was wary of leaving himself open. The challenger had an excellent eighth round though and fought well in a close ninth stanza, landing with beautiful single counters while the pro-Mexican crowd cheered loudly any time he had success. Estrada turned up the heat in rounds 10 and 11 and the pair went to war in a thrilling final three minutes.
There were many close rounds as both at times countered each other and took turns to fight on the front foot which made for an absorbing spectacle. The scorecards read 114-114, 115-113 and 117-111 for Srisaket although the wide card certainly wasn’t a reflection of what had been a quite brilliant exhibition of boxing at the highest level. There are already calls for a rematch and who wouldn’t want to see this terrific fight once again?
On the same bill, Donnie Nietes retained his IBF flyweight crown for the first time as he stopped mandatory challenger Juan Carlos Reveco impressively in seven rounds. The first four rounds were incredibly tough to score with both proving to be a mirror image of each other.
Nietes was using a nice jab to good effect and the Filipino upped his offense in round five and visibly shook the Argentinian right at the end of the sixth. Smelling blood, the champion dropped Reveco early on in round seven and the referee stopped the contest as the challenger was in no position to carry on.
After years of being under the radar of most boxing fans, scoring a win on such a high profile show may finally give Nietes some of the recognition he deserves and the 35-year-old is now talking about moving up to the loaded super-flyweight division.
We also had a new flyweight champion decided as Artem Dalakian proved to be too fresh for Brian Viloria, winning via unanimous decision with all three judges scoring it 118-109. Dalakian used his height and reach advantages to control things from range as Viloria was simply unable to cut off the ring.
After the first half of the contest Viloria was well behind and needed something drastic to turn things around. Despite clocking Dalakian with a cracking right hand in the seventh Viloria was unable to build on that success as Dalakian regained his composure.
Dalakian was deducted a point for pushing down on the head in round nine and an accidental elbow left Viloria bloodied in round 11. The Ukrainian went for the stoppage in the last round but Viloria managed to survive. There was no doubting the victor and there are now numerous intriguing possibilities for the new champion both in Japan and the US. As for Viloria if it is to be the end then it brings down the curtain on what has been an excellent rollercoaster career with many highs and lows and memorable moments.
Also on 24 February there were two OPBF matchups as Masayoshi Nakatani scored a sixth-round KO versus Pharampetch Tor Buamas at lightweight and unbeaten Aussie Andrew Moloney produced an eye-catching display to outpoint Rene Dacquel at super flyweight with scores of 119-109, 118-111 and 117-111.
Contender Masayuki Ito is within touching distance of a world title shot and with Vasyl Lomachenko expected to move up his chance should come very soon given his number 1 WBO ranking. In the meantime the Japanese super featherweight stays busy with a contest against Filipino Vergil Puton on 3 March.
In a bout that was scheduled for late last year strawweight titlist Knockout CP Freshmart defends his belt against Toto Landero in Thailand on 6 March. Knockout looked to be heading towards a clash with Xion Zhao Zhong but the man from China seems to be going in a different direction.
WBO 105lbs champion Ryuya Yamanaka finally makes his first defence in Kobe on 18 March against Moises Calleros. Yamanaka will be aiming to build on his solid win over Tatsuya Fukuhara last August when he became champion. Calleros travels back to Japan where he lost a close point’s verdict to Fukuhara last February and the Mexican will be aiming to go one better against Yamanaka.
Also in this Kobe card Reiya Konishi squares off against Carlos Canizales for a secondary light-flyweight trinket. Konishi steps up a weight and in class after winning the Japanese minimumweight title. Canizales gave unified 108lbs champion Ryoichi Taguchi a tough encounter in their draw on the last day of 2017 and the Venezuelan will be confident going up against an inexperienced opponent at this level. Whilst the meaningless nature of the title at stake in this clash could drive you mad, it’s a solid match-up and will identify another solid contender in a stacked light flyweight division.
Filipino youngster Reymart Gaballo has his first serious test on 23 March when he squares off against Stephon Young at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, Florida with another completely unnecessary interim belt on the line at bantamweight. Gaballo has shown real power so far in his career with 16 KOs in 18 fights but the 21-year-old has yet to be really pushed. Young has far more experience and the American has draws with Antonio Nieves and Nikolai Potapov on his record.
Satoshi Shimizu makes the second defence of his OPBF featherweight strap against Kyung Min Kwon on 26 March at the Korakuen Hall. Given his age and world title aspirations the Korean is a very disappointing choice of opponent and the hard hitting southpaw will need far tougher tests if he is to prove to be ready to compete in a division full of quality fighters.
Also on this bill is the return of popular warrior Akira Yaegashi who faces Indonesia’s Frans Damur Palue at super flyweight. Yaegashi hasn’t fought since his crushing first-round loss to Milan Melindo last May and the bout against Damur Palue will be a chance to guage how much he has left.
A day later former world title challenger Shohei Omori makes his ring return when he moves up to super bantamweight and takes on Coach Hiroto. Omori hasn’t been seen since his second knockout defeat to Marlon Tapales last April and the Kyoto-born southpaw sustained some bad injuries during that bout and needed time to recover. Headlining this card is a Japanese super-bantamweight scrap as champion Yusaku Kuga defends against Ryo Kosaka and a future potential meeting between Omori and Kuga would certainly be one to savour.
Former WBO strawweight and light flyweight belt holder Kosei Tanaka makes his ring return in Nagoya on 31 March in his quest to become a three-weight champion. Tanaka takes on unbeaten Ronnie Baldanado in an interesting looking contest. Tanaka suffered pretty serious facial damage in his clash with Palangpol CP Freshmart last September but stated that weight loss played a part in those injuries. As for the Filipino he should be brimming with confidence after a sixth-round stoppage over Iwan Zoda last September and has nothing to lose when he takes on Tanaka.
OPBF bantamweight champion Mark John Yap makes his third defence against Takafumi Nakajima at the Korakuen Hall on 4 April. With Ryo Akaho having to vacate his Japanese bantamweight title the now vacant belt will be contested on 12 April by Suguru Muranaka and Yusuke Suzuki. Also as part of this card Richard Pumicpic defends his WBO Asia Pacific featherweight bauble against unbeaten Yoshimitsu Kimura and Keita Obara defends his WBO Asian Pacific welterweight belt against an opponent to be determined.
Japanese superstar Ryota Murata defends his secondary middleweight crown in Yokohama on 15 April against Emanuele Blandamura. After being on the wrong end of an appalling decision versus Hassan N’Dam last May, Murata stopped him in an ordered rematch five months later and will want to keep his name in the fray for some big potential fights at his weight. Blandamura is an experienced campaigner and a European champion but the 38-year-old Italian was stopped in both his most significant contests by Michel Soro and Billy Joe Saunders.
Joining Murata on the Yokohama show are Ken Shiro and Daigo Higa who defend their respective WBC 108 and 112lbs straps. Shiro, who rematches Ganigan Lopez who he dethroned last May, will be looking to build on an excellent 2017 which not only saw him become a world champion but make two successful defences. As for Higa it’s a quick turnaround after his homecoming bout in February and surpassing the KO streak of Tsuyoshi Hamada will certainly be a significant talking point.
The 22-year-old faces Nicaraguan Christopher Rosales who gave Andrew Selby a good argument last May, and even dropped the talented Welshman in the opening round. The 23-year-old has since scored victories over former world title challenger Martin Tecuapetla and undefeated Mohammed Obbadi.
Filipino Genesis Servania has signed a promotional deal with Top Rank and will have this first fight for the US outfit revealed in due course. The featherweight contender gave WBO titlist Oscar Valdez all he could handle in their meeting last September and he has chalked up an opening round stoppage win in Japan since the points loss to the Mexican.
Finally, Kazakh Zhanat Zhakiyanov has announced his retirement from the sport. After turning pro back in 2007 the 34-year-old finishes with a record of 27-2 (18 KOs) and was a real globe trotter having fought in the UK, Bellerose, Hong Kong, Thailand and Monte Carlo amongst others. His defining moment came last February after climbing off the floor to take a split decision over Rau’shee Warren in the US to become world champion at bantamweight.