By Joe Koizumi
Photos courtesy WBC
Japanese southpaw ex-Olympian Toshiyuki Igarashi (16-1-1, 10 KOs), 112, captured the WBC flyweight belt as he coped with wild-swinging Filipino champ Sonny Boy Jaro (34-11-5, 24 KOs), 112, to earn a split verdict (116-112, 115-113, 112-116) over twelve hard-fought rounds on Monday in Saitama, Japan. It was a typical boxer-puncher confrontation with Igarashi outboxing and Jaro infighting though the tide was busily turning before 5,800 spectators.
David Mendoza (US) and Kyongha Shin (Korea) saw the give-and-take affair 116-112 and 115-113 respectively for the fast-moving Japanese, while Luis Escalona (US) 116-112 for the hard-hitting Filipino. The referee was Gelasio Perez from Mexico.
The very muscular Filipino puncher, four inches shorter, had stunned the world with an upset coronation over formidable Pongsaklek Wongjongkam in six lopsided rounds in Thailand this March. Having already suffered ten defeats in his career, the Cinderella Man wrested the throne by completely flattening the Thai legend to become a hero by a night.
Igarashi, a lanky stylish southpaw, was the sole boxing representative out of Japan in Olympic Games in Athens in 2004, though he failed to win a medal. The 28-year-old Japanese finally reached the goal in the professional ranks through a six-year career. It was such a hard battle that the newly crowned champ reviewed the game, saying, “Jaro could really punch. He was the hardest hitter that I’ve ever met, but I overcame it with my will power.”
Igarashi made a good start as he utilized his advantageous height and reach, but Jaro caught him with solid left and right swings to have the challenger bewildered in the end of the opening session. The round well symbolized the forthcoming processing that Igarashi kept throwing light and quick combinations and Jaro heavily punching at a time.
After the see-saw beginning the open scoring system indicated they fought on deadly even terms: 39-37, 37-39 and 38-38.
On the previous day Jaro, 30, failed to make the contracted flyweight limit at his first trip and took almost 100 minutes to reduce a pound and a quarter to barely save his belt from losing on the scale. His severe reduction of weight, however, might have deprived Jaro of some of his potential energy.
The fifth saw Igarashi effectively double him up with a solid southpaw left to the belly and follow up with a flurry of punches. The durable champ had the taller challenger hit him as much as he liked, as if he boasted of his granite chin like Jake LaMotta. But it’s his trick. As Igarashi stopped punching, Jaro furiously began to throw back very strong roundhouse punches to the challenger. It’s Igarashi’s round, but the sixth was taken by the champ. Jaro, in round seven, appeared to take a rest and save his stamina for his next assault with Igarashi winning a point with ease.
The eighth was furiously fought with Jaro maintaining the pressure with solid body shots and double rights to the face. But it was Igarashi that followed Jaro’s strategy to turn very loose in the last thirty seconds of the round. Two judges gave this session to Igarashi and one to Jaro.
After the eighth, the scores announced were again split: 78-74 and 77-75 for Igarashi, and 77-75 for Jaro.
The southpaw upright stylist was in command in the ninth and tenth rounds, when he outpunched the fading champ with busier combinations to the face and midsection, though Jaro occasionally threw few big rights to the face. The shorter but much more powerful champ showed his very best in round eleven, when he almost toppled the challenger with continual left and right swings to the face. His attack opened a bad gash over the left eyebrow of Igarashi, who continually had the blood streaming on the cheek. His face looked covered with red ink. Igarashi very barely withstood the champ’s desperate attack with rubbery legs.
The tide shifted again in the twelfth and final session. Jaro apparently became exhausted after his all-out attack in the previous session, while Igarashi showed his great recuperation to fight back with his youth and fighting spirit. The younger challenger kept throwing quick combinations to the fading titlist, winning an important point down the stretch.
Now Teiken Promotions, presided by Akihiko Honda, handles no less than four WBC champions: flyweight Igarashi, bantamweight Shinsuke Yamanaka, super-bantam Toshiaki Nishioka and super-feather Takahiro Ao, all of whom are southpaws. Igarashi is the eighth current world champion (male) out of Japan despite our economic recession. We believe excellent fights of our champs must encourage the general public without doubt.
Igarashi wept after losing his first contest in the Olympic Games in Athens, but looked very jubilant tonight as he managed to acquire the professional world throne.
Promoter: Teiken Promotions.
WBC supervisor: Major Lee (Korea).