Asian scene: KO win for Inoue while Oguni dethrones Guzman
Marcus Bellinger rounds up the latest news from the vibrant Asian boxing scene including victories for Naoya Inoue, Akira Yaegashi, Ryo Matsumoto...
We begin this month's proceedings at the Ariake Colosseum where pound for pound contender Naoya Inoue knocked out compatriot Kohei Kono in six rounds to retain his WBO super flyweight crown on 30 December.
An intense fight broke out from the outset with Kono winging in hooks and Inoue replying with sharp heavy counters. This pattern continued in round two with Kono attempting to back up Inoue but being met with heavy shots for his trouble. By the end of the third stanza it looked to be a case of when not if the champion would get the job done.
However, teak toughness and bloody mindedness are traits that have long been associated with Kono throughout his career and these qualities were on full display in rounds four and five with Inoue being made to work hard.
However, just as Kono was seemingly beginning to get a foothold in to the contest a sickening counter put him down and, despite somehow clambering off the canvas, there was no way back for the challenger. Thus Inoue had sent a reminder to the rest of the 115lb ranks of his devastating power and all-round elite capabilities.
Next for the 23-year-old is most likely a spring return in Japan while the clamour continues to increase for a showdown with WBC champion and pound for pound king Roman Gonzalez. As for Kono retirement surely beckons now for the 36-year-old who can be proud of himself having been a two-time world champion and got the very most out of his ability.
Click here to watch Inoue vs Kono
The other world title fight on the card saw Akira Yaegashi retain his IBF light flyweight belt for the second time by stopping Samartlek Kokietgym in the final stanza. The first half of the contest was completely devoid of the usual drama that boxing fans expect from a bout involving the Japanese warrior, with the champion instead happy to box and stay out of harm’s way.
A change in tactic came in round seven, with Yaegashi engaging Samartlek who showed real resilience and landed the occasional meaningful shot himself. As the rounds ticked by the Thai was being broken down with Yaegashi knowing he could walk through the challenger’s best artillery.
At the start of the 12th and final round surviving to the final bell would have been a moral victory for Samartlek, but a big attack brought the contest to a halt with around a minute left. Next up for Yaegashi is a tough mandatory defence against Filipino Milan Melindo.
Elsewhere on this bill, middleweight contender Ryota Murata moved a step closer to a world title tilt by dispatching Bruno Sandoval in three rounds and Satoshi Shimizu scored a spectacular third round KO of Carlo Demecillo.
Completing the Ohashi bill, Ryo Matsumoto bounced back brilliantly by stopping Victor Uriel Lopez in six rounds to avenge his sole career defeat from earlier in the year, Koki Inoue took care of Futoshi Usami in three, Andy Hiraoka blew out Naty Yongraksa inside a round and Ryuji Hara won an eight-round decision against Hiroya Yamamoto.
The multitude of New Year’s Eve action in Japan began at the Memorial Center in Gifu where Kosei Tanaka produced a scintillating display to stop Moises Fuentes in five rounds to capture the vacant WBO 108lb strap. It was clear from the get go that the speed differential between the pair was vast and Tanaka used this to great effect in the opening three minutes. Fuentes had some success in round two but this was short lived and by the end of round four Fuentes was looking bamboozled.
The Japanese youngster then went through the gears in the next round, simply overwhelming the Mexican who was unable to cope. Tanaka thus becomes a two-weight world champion in just his eighth fight, equalling the feat set by countrymen Naoya Inoue. At just 21 the world really is Tanaka’s oyster and with more bouts will come more improvements, a scary prospect for everyone in the lower weights.
This contest was streamed for free and by all accounts was received well so big respect to CBC and Hatanaka promotions. Hopefully this gutsy move will entice more Japanese outfits to follow suit as finding live coverage from the land of the rising sun can often be a damn nuisance!
Also in Gifu, Shota Hayashi retained his Japanese featherweight title with a points victory over Akifumi Shimoda.
Meanwhile, we saw a notable upset at the Shimazu Arena in Kyoto as Yukinori Oguni unseated IBF super bantamweight champion Jonathan Guzman. The challenger got off to a very bright start and in round three a pinpoint body shot put the champion on the mat.
Guzman really struggled to get any of his much-vaunted offense going and the Dominican’s problems mounted as he suffered a bleeding nose and a cut to the right eye. By the end of round eight he looked like he needed a knockout to retain his title.
Oguni was denied a second knockdown in round eleven and staved off the attempted surge from Guzman to win a thoroughly deserved decision, with all three scorecards reading 115-112. Next up for the new champion is an all Japanese showdown with friend Ryosuke Iwasa.
The headline act saw Kazuto Ioka retain his WBA flyweight title after eventually overcoming the stubborn resistance of Stamp Kiatniwat. Many fighters of his age and lack of experience would have been overawed by appearing on such a big stage but that certainly wasn’t the case with Stamp who came out all guns blazing and dropped Ioka with a terrific right hook in round two.
The Thai enjoyed more success in round three but Ioka gradually assumed control of the contest, landing with some punishing blows to the body. Stamp was being beaten up in rounds five and six and a crunching left hand to the midsection put the visitor on the floor - despite a brave attempt to continue, proceedings came to a close soon afterwards in round seven.
As expected Shohei Omori was far too big and powerful for Rocky Fuentes who was knocked out in three rounds and there were routine KO wins for Sho Ishida and Masayoshi Hashizume against Thai opponents.
At the Ota-City General Gymnasium, Takashi Uchiyama’s attempts to reverse his crushing loss to Jezreel Corrales were thwarted as the Panamanian took a split decision victory with cards of 117-111, 115-112 and 113-114. In a forgettable bout blighted by interruptions, holding and clinching, Corrales' speed was the difference in the early stages with Uchiyama hesitant to open up and leave countering opportunities.
A flash knockdown at the end of round five gave Uchiyama some optimism but landing clean shots on the champion was still proving to be rather tricky. As Corrales began to slow down in the later stages Uchiyama had some success, even hurting his man on a few occasions, but the man from Japan was nullified by plenty of holding and at 37 this looks to be the end of the road for ‘KO Dynamite’.
As for Corrales, this performance won’t have frightened anyone in the loaded 130lb division and his next defence will most likely be against whoever is willing to offer him the most money to travel.
Ryoichi Taguchi remained a light flyweight titlist by the skin of his teeth, drawing with Carlos Canizales. The challenger came out like a steam train setting a frantic pace and completely outworking Taguchi, who was landing arguably the harder and crisper shots but not with any frequency or regularity.
Unsurprisingly the Venezuelan was unable to sustain the frenetic tempo and Taguchi took over in the second half of the contest but the visitor was never in any serious trouble. The champion looked to have just about done enough to earn the win but the judges' scores read 116-112, 112-116 and 114-114.
The third title bout from the Tokyo bill saw Masayuki Ito add the WBO Asia Pacific super featherweight bauble to his OPBF belt with a dominant decision win over Takuya Watanabe with scores of 117-111 twice and 118-110.
The TV figures for the post-Christmas Japanese shows from the Kanto region were released and unsurprisingly the top ratings came from the 30 December card, with the Inoue vs Kono and Yaegashi vs Samartlek contests being watched by around 3.4 million viewers.
On New Year’s Eve a disappointing 2.3 million tuned in to watch the Ioka vs Stamp title fight broadcast by TBS and 1.8 million watched delayed coverage of Oguni becoming IBF world champion. The 31 December card from Tokyo broadcast by TV Tokyo had a viewing figure of 1.6 million, with both Uchiyama vs Corrales and Taguchi vs Canizales being shown on tape delay.
There was much frustration and annoyance from many Japanese fight fans on Twitter due to the fact the Oguni vs Guzman bout was not shown live. Both TBS and TV Tokyo need to badly reassess their strategy going forward - not only by making sure that their broadcasts do not clash but also by doing away with delayed coverage altogether as it is a complete waste of time in this modern era of social media.
(Note all figures provided are approximate and are the Kanto region only and thanks once again to Asian boxing for providing them).
Turning our attention to this month's upcoming action, WBC 105lb champion Wanheng Menayothin will make the sixth defence of his title against unbeaten Filipino Melvin Jerusalem in Phitsamuloke Province on 25 January. Jerusalem stepped up last year to outpoint Florante Condes but taking on the number one minimumweight (as ranked by Boxing Monthly) in his backyard will present a different challenge altogether.
Jerwin Ancajas will make the first defence of his IBF super flyweight strap at the Studio City Casino on 29 January against Jose Alfredo Rodriguez. The Filipino will be aiming to build on his terrific performance versus McJoe Arroyo which saw him become world champion. With bundles of options in a loaded 115lb weight class any slip-ups will be costly. Rodriguez presents a reasonable test having gone the distance with Milan Melindo and Alberto Rossel but the Mexican was stopped by Kazuto Ioka in six rounds back on the last day of 2013.
John Riel Casimero has vacated his IBF 112lb title to pursue opportunities at super flyweight with Donnie Nietes and Eaktawan Mor Krungthepthonburi ordered to vie for the vacant belt.
Meanwhile, we’re set for another Korakuen classic on 4 February when Yasutaka Ishimoto and Yusaku Kuga meet for a second time for the Japanese super bantamweight crown. Ishimoto was involved in two thrillers in 2016 against Gakuya Furuhashi and Yosuke Fujihara and will be aiming to repeat his December 2015 success over Kuga.
Since the loss to Ishimoto, Kuga has bounced back with an impressive fourth round knockout of Jonathan Baat in October 2016 to earn a second shot at claiming domestic honours. OPBF flyweight king Daigo Higa will also appear on this show in a non-title affair versus Jayar Estremos.
Undoubtedly the most improved fighter from Asia in 2016 was Tatsuya Fukuhara and the southpaw goes for the interim WBO minimumweight title versus Moises Calleros at the Matsushima Athletic Park Gym in Kumamoto on 26 February. Fukuhara took the unbeaten scalps of Takumi Sakae and Genki Hanai in 2016 and a win over the Mexican would set up a tasty encounter with Katsunari Takayama, who is still recovering from cuts sustained in his last outing. Calleros has an eight-round decision win over former world champion Mario Rodriguez and he also went the 12 round distance with Francisco Rodriguez Jr, but fighting outside of Mexico for the first time against a man high on confidence could be challenging.