By Joe Koizumi
No one in the world but Japanese boxing people work on the last day of the year. The new year day is to Japan is what Christmas is to western countries. We truly wish to clean up our homes in the end of the year to welcome the prosperous-to-be 2013, but some television networks show great interests in providing nationwide TV audience with boxing bouts with world titles on the line. It’s like a war with three world title bouts in Tokyo to be broadcast by TV Tokyo, while a couple of world title goes in Osaka to be shown by TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting System). Fortunately enough, our aficionados will be able to watch all bouts with the two in Osaka to finish on television before 9:30 pm and the three in Tokyo to start from 9:30 pm to 11:30 pm.
Let’s put things in order as this reporter’s head is greatly confused with too much information coming from the two cities. In Tokyo, our capital where some 12 million people reside, the headliner of tomorrow’s show is the WBA super-featherweight unification bout between full champ Takashi Uchiyama (18-0-1, 15 KOs), Japan, and interim titlist Bryan Vasquez (29-0, 15 KOs), Costa Rica. Uchiyama, making his sixth defense since his coronation with his final-round demolition of Juan Carlos Salgado in 2010, is a prefight favorite due to his superior experience and more advantageous physique. Vasquez, the very first male world champ from Costa Rica, acquired the interim belt by decisioning Santos Benavides last year and made his initial defense by halting veteran Jorge Lacierva this July.
Vasquez accompanied his wife Hanna Gabriel (13-0-1, 9 KOs), WBO 154-pound champ, four years his senior at 29, who vigorously encourages his husband so that he will bring back the unified WBA belt. It seems very unique that a couple holds world championships.
Uchiyama, ex-national amateur champ, had registered five victories in world title bouts—all by knockout or TKO—including his title-winning contest with Salgado. But he failed to go on because of a technical draw with Filipino southpaw Michael Farenas (who recently fought Yuriorkis Gamboa to lose a unanimous nod) due to his bad laceration last July. The 33-year-old Japanese champ nicknamed “KO Dynamite” says, “This time I wish to display a victory by a knockout.” Vasquez, however, boasts of having never kissed the canvas through his professional career.
Uchiyama tipped the beam at 129.75, a quarter pound lighter than the limit, to 130 for Vasquez.
The referee will be Raul Caiz Jr. (US); judges are Stanley Christodoulou (South Africa), Carlos Sucre (US) and Silvestre Abainza (Philippines) with the supervisor Robert Mack (US).
The semi-final title bout in Tokyo will be the WBC super-flyweight encounter of Japanese compatriots—defending champ Yota Sato (25-2-1, 12 KOs) and former OPBF ruler, unbeaten Ryo Akaho (19-0-2, 12 KOs). Sato is a taller boxer-puncher with his trickiness and skillfulness, while Akaho is a banger on his do-or-die fighting spirit and superior power-punching. Should Akaho, 26, disturb the rhythm of the stylish champ in earlier rounds, he may have a possibility of dethroning the champ. But Sato, good at defensive skills, may or may not avert Akaho’s furious and ferocious assault depending on the challenger’s precision.
Both scaled in at the 115-pound class limit.
The WBC officials are as follows: ref Yuji Fukuchi (Japan); judges Juan Carlos Pelayo (Mexico), Chansoo Kim (Korea) and Suehiro Tsuchiya (Japan); supervisor Frank Quill (Australia).
The first in Tokyo will be the WBA super-fly championship bout between defending titlist Tepparith Kokietgym (21-2, 13 KOs) from Thailand and Japanese veteran Kohei Kono (27-7, 10 KOs). Tepparith is a prohibitive favorite, having defeated Drian Francisco, Daiki Kameda, Tomonobu Shimizu (for WBA unification) and Nobuo Nashiro, all of whom were then or previous world champions. Kono, on his third attempt to win the world throne, previously dropped a decision to Nubuo Nashiro in 2008 and Tomas Rojas in 2010. Kono, however, almost produced an upset as he badly floored Rojas in the final session despite losing the first eleven rounds. We will see Kono’s willpower prevail or not against the younger and fresher champ, eight years his junior at 24.
Kono weighed in at 115, the class limit, while Tepparith 114.25, three quarter pound lighter, despite some rumor that he had difficulty making the weight. The champ looked fine and fresh.
In Osaka, there was a weigh-in ceremony an hour earlier. For a WBA elimination bout, Kazuto Ioka (10-0, 6 KOs) scaled in at 108 pounds. His Mexican counterpart Jose Rodriguez (28-1, 17 KOs) at first failed to make the weight by only 150 gram, but could make the class limit of 108 in seventy-five minutes.
This will be a battle of the 23-year-old youngsters for the vacant throne after Roman Gonzalez elevated to the super champ status. The WBA, however, mandated the Ioka-Rodriguez winner to face Chocolatito within ninety days. Should the Ioka-Gonzalez encounter materialize, it would be a great sensation. But Ioka, ex-WBA/WBC 105-pound champ, at first has to acquire his second world belt in his eleventh pro bout, which will be a new record to prove his genius. Rodriguez was formerly WBA interim 108-pound champ as he gained the belt by a split duke over Nethra Sasiprapa in Mexico but yielded it to Alberto Rossel in Peru. Ioka is a prefight favorite, but Rodriguez should not be underestimated because of his longer professional experience.
The WBA officials are as follows: referee Pinito Prayadsab (Thailand); judges Levi Martinez (US), Sergio Caiz (US) and Wansoo Yuh (Korea); Yangsup Shim (Korea).
Another WBA elimination bout in Osaka takes place due to Ioka’s relinquishment of the WBA 108-pound belt. His stablemate and ex-OPBF champ Ryo Miyazaki (17-0-3, 10 KOs), Japan, will face ex-WBA ruler Pornsawan Porpramook (27-4-1, 17 KOs), a veteran campaigner from Thailand, for the vacant championship.
Pornsawan, ten years his senior at 34, is one of the most durable boxers seen here for years, but it was Akira Yaegashi that dethroned him via furious tenth-round stoppage in October of the previous year. The Thailander won four straight since. Miyazaki, very short at 5’1″, is an energetic puncher throwing punches from all angles, if not so skillful. Can Miyazaki repeat a triumph over the Thai Terminator, following Yaegashi’s footstep? It will be a very competitive battle of aggressive hard-punchers.
The WBA officials are as follows: referee Brad Vocale (Australia); judges Levi Martinez (US), Sergio Caiz (US) and Wansoo Yuh (Korea); Yangsup Shim (Korea).
Another supporting event in Osaka will be fought for the vacant OPBF (Oriental and Pacific Boxing Federation) heavyweight throne by unbeaten WBC#15 Kyotaro Fujimoto (5-0, 3 KOs) of Japan and OPBF#1 Solomon Haumono (19-1-2, 17 KOs) of Australia for twelve rounds. Kyotaro’s fists will be really tested this time although he impressively defeated world-rated Chauncy Welliver of the US by an upset verdict last September. Haumono scaled in at 109 kilogram, while Kyotaro 103.5.
This reporter needs another body to cover both shows on the same day in different cities. My mathematics shows that three is bigger than two, so I will stay in Tokyo to cover the tripleheader, and then report on the twinbill in Osaka by receiving the information from Osaka.
Fight scribes in Japan will have to write and write on the dual shows until late at night on December 31. For whom does the bell toll to start the new year?