By Joe Koizumi
Japanese lefty prospect Takahiro Aoh (17-1-1, 8 KOs), 126, impressively captured the WBC featherweight belt as he aggressively battered defending champ, Mexican warrior Oscar Larios (64-6-1, 40 KOs), 126, all the way and dropped him in the final session to score a unanimous decision (119-107, 118-109 and 116-111) over twelve lopsided rounds on Thursday in Tokyo, Japan.
In Kobe, Japan, WBC bantam ruler Hozumi Hasegawa (26-2, 10 KOs), 117.75, kept his throne as he made short work of official challenger Vusi Malinga (18-3-1, 11 KOs), 115.5, South Africa, flooring him with fast combinations three times en route to a quick TKO win at 2:37 of the opening session in a contest of southpaws. It was the Japanese champ’s eighth defense since he dethroned Veeraphol Nakhornluang-Promotion of Thailand via unanimous verdict in 2005.
WBC FEATHERWEIGHT TITLE BOUT
TAKAHIRO AOH vs. OSCAR LARIOS
The highly anticipated rematch took place at the Korakuen Hall since we had seen a great controversy on the split decision (114-112, 115-111 and 112-114) for the defending champ Larios last October. Then, Larios, the gallant Mexican, badly hit the deck with the previously unbeaten Aoh’s very well-timed countering right hook in the fourth. The Japanese southpaw then looked even more a winner than a loser.
Aoh, eight years his junior at 24 and six-time national amateur high school champ (whose amateur mark was 76-3, 27 stoppages), was unanimously the victor. Even before the official verdict was announced, Larios went to his rival’s corner and raised his hand.
The much faster Aoh dominated almost all rounds, since Larios failed to show his usual zip and aggressiveness only to make the challenger have the upper hand all night. Larios, well-known by his opening attack, cautiously started it probably not to absorb Aoh’s southpaw counters. It might be his mistake. Aoh positively won the first four rounds with ease, as shown by the open scoring system after the fourth: 40-36 by all the judges.
Aoh, originally a shifty footworker, didn’t make good use of his feet this time but continually fought face-to-face to overpower the veteran Mexican. The Japanese youngster’s gain in physical power seemed to pay off, as Larios was apparently overpowered, kept retreating and repeatedly took Aoh’s quick one-two combinations to the face. Only in the sixth, Larios turned loose to win a point (as all the judges rendered it to him). After the eighth, the official tallies were announced: 79-73 twice and 78-74, all for sturdy challenger.
“You must knock him out to win,” cried Jose Reynoso, the champ’s manager. But Larios couldn’t go forward. His nightmare in their first encounter that Aoh’s razor-sharp counter dropped him might prevail in him, so he looked reluctant to be open even in the last four sessions. It was Aoh that went forward and floored the champ with good combinations when Larios temporarily lost his equilibrium midway in the twelfth and final round.
Referee Kenny Bayless, US, officially raised Aoh’s hand after Larios unofficially did so. Aoh cried for joy, breathlessly saying, “Thank you, Father and Mother.” Necessity is the mother of improvement. Aoh had probably realized that he must gain more physical power to cope with the busy-punching and game Mexican, Larios. Last time Larios’ upper body looked bigger, while, this time, Aoh’s seemed bigger enough to overwhelm the fading champ.
For his manager/promoter Akihiko Honda, Aoh is the third current world champ along with the WBA super-feather ruler Jorge Linares and WBC super-bantam kingpin Toshiaki Nishioka. Now he handles no less than eight champs including the OPBF and national titlists.
Promoter: Teiken Promotions.
WBC BANTAMWEIGHT TTILE BOUT
HOZUMI HASEGAWA vs. VUSI MALINGA
The Hasegawa-Malinga WBC mandatory title in Kobe city go started some three rounds later than the Larios-Aoh bout in Tokyo, but the former unexpectedly ended much earlier as it needed just less than three minutes while Larios and Aoh were swapping punches in Tokyo. The television producer might be in hot water, as they planned to show the bantam game after the feather combat.
Malinga, a descendant of Zulu tribe, was regarded as a dangerous challenger with a more advantageous reach by some eight inches. The 29-year-old South African previously stopped ex-champ Veeraphol in four lopsided rounds in a WBC eliminator to decide the official challenger in Thailand last June. Malinga’s sickle-like southpaw uppercut was a haymaker.
In an encounter of southpaws, Malinga started well as he showed stinging rights the still cautious champ. But Hasegawa, 28, making his eighth defense, caught him with a very quick right-left combination to have him sprawling to the canvas. Malinga should have utilized his foot, but mixed it up with the furiously-hitting champ. Down went he again. With some thirty seconds remaining, Hasegawa went all out for a kill and decked him with a beautiful left cross. The referee from Texas, Laurence Cole wisely declared a halt although the three-knockdown rule wasn’t in effect.
Malinga could have shown much more out of his arsenal, should it have lasted more rounds. In such a quick finish, the victor shone, and the loser dimmed out. This reporter previously felt the same impression on watching the Sonny Liston-Floyd Patterson bout. Their first or second fight? On both.
The stunned judges, Marty Denkin (US), Miguel Moran (Mexico) and Jaebong Kim (Korea), didn’t score even a round. It might be better than a controversial decision.
The jubilant victor, who registered latest three defenses all within the distance (Cristian Faccio in two and Alejandro Valdez also in two), apologized for his too quick stoppage (registered as a TKO win) to the spectators. “I wished to show more and feel sorry that I finished it too early.” No one complained of his quick victory, as all appreciated his improvement and sharpness as well.
Promoter: Shinsei Promotions.