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Full Report: Lee-Watanabe

By Victor Lee
Photos: Boram Park

In a ten-round non-title main event just over the featherweight limit, current Korean super bantamweight champion and OPBF #1 super bantam Jaesung Lee (16-3-2, 9 KOs) faced off against JBC #8 featherweight Takuya Watanabe (20-4-1, 8 KOs). Lee, having bested three Japanese opponents on their home turf in 2011 and 2012, hoped to add a fourth Japanese victim to his ledger last October in a bid for the vacant WBO Asia super bantamweight title. However, opponent Akihiko Katagiri proved tougher than expected, battling to a draw, and the title remained vacant.

In the meantime, Lee, who long occupied the OPBF #2 spot at super bantam, rose to the number one position upon former top contender Jhunriel Ramonal’s defeat at the hands of champion Shingo Wake in Tokyo last October. Thus, while this day’s bout against former WBC Youth lightweight champion Watanabe was billed as an eliminator for the OPBF super bantamweight title, it was more of a stay-busy fight for Lee, as Watanabe has not made the super bantam limit since 2008.

Watanabe, who lost on points to Hisashi Amagasa for the Japan Featherweight title in 2012, started off well in a crouch, keeping the slightly taller Lee off-balance with a fast, long jab behind his high guard. Lee, whose only losses came while campaigning in the United States against Mikey Garcia, Jorge Diaz, and Jesus Salvador Perez, employed good footwork, sounding out his opponent. Near the halfway mark both fighters exchanged straight rights to the body, and Watanabe drew a gasp from the crowd with powerful lefts to the body and an overhand right to the head, left hook to the body combination. While Watanabe continued to pump his solid jab in round two, Lee gauged the distance and struck back with no-motion lead left hooks to the noggin. After a collision of heads, Watanabe emerged with a horrible cut over the left eye, which bled profusely for the remainder of the bout, turning Lee’s pure white trunks scarlet. Watanabe fought hard through the veil of red, reversing his previous combination to land the left hook to the body followed by a right cross, raising a patch of red under Lee’s right eye.

In round three Lee struck gold, parrying Watanabe’s lead and landing a lighting bolt long counter right, sending Watanabe down and turning him180 degrees (following the bout, this highlight would be shown over and over on national sporting news television throughout Korea). Tough as nails, a bloody Watanabe regrouped in round four, following his corner’s advice to go to the body, and Lee responded with another counter right. After a prolonged doctor’s check in round five, Watanabe—perhaps sensing the fight might be stopped due to his horrendous cut—came on strong, pinning Lee in the neutral corner with multiple left hooks and right swings over the top. Lee, a savvy veteran, fought well with his back to the ropes, rolling his shoulders, landing compact uppercuts and slipping out to one side. But Watanabe applied unrelenting pressure, turning Lee back into the ropes and blue corner and landing a booming overhand right and lefts to the body. Watanabe controlled the first half of round six with a left to the body and two sharp right counters to the head, but Lee struck back later in the round with short shots on the inside and a left uppercut to the head. Round seven followed a similar pattern, with Watanabe setting the pace early on with his jab, and Lee regaining momentum in the latter half with his stinging counter rights. Watanabe upped the pressure in round eight, throwing and landing plenty of double and triple left hooks to the body and head. The referee again stopped the bout for the ringside physician to conduct a lengthy examination of Watanabe’s cut. With his consent the bout resumed, and Lee drew oohs and ahhs from the crown with a thunderous overhand right.

While Watanabe—fighting every round after the first behind a mask of blood—pressed forward to start round nine, Lee found his mark with left and right uppercuts on the inside. Regrouping after a retreat, Watanabe hustled Lee into a corner and landed a big overhand right and well-timed counter left hook. Lee began the final round on his bicycle, jabbing, moving and holding when Watanabe attempted to close the distance. As Lee skilfully staved off Watanabe’s last ditch attempts to mix it up, even in the final round Watanabe’s hard jab was effective. While Watanabe proved a game opponent in this thrilling dustup, Lee’s ring generalship and dramatic knockdown in round three proved the deciding factors, as he was awarded the unanimous decision by tallies of 97-95, 97-93, and 97-95. Lee, reinvigorated by the prospect of his upcoming OPBF title challenge, rises to 17-3-2, 9 KOs. Watanabe, who came up just short in only his second bout outside Korakuen Hall, slips to 20-5-1, 8 KOs. OPBF super bantamweight champion Shingo Wake, a slick-punching southpaw who last month made short work of Japan-based Filipino Jovylito Aligarbes to chalk up his third defense, has until July 14 to defend against Lee.

Undercard:

In the supporting semifinal event, 6’2” Eunchang “The Oak” Lee (7-3, 3 KOs) met Jaehoon Lee (5-4-1, 3 KOs) to contest the vacant Korean super middleweight title previously held by Hyunil Kim and current OPBF super welterweight contender Kyungsuk Kwak. Both Lees came to rumble in pursuit of their first title belt. For The Oak, it was his second try, having lost a majority decision for the Korean middleweight title in April of last year against then-champion Sungdae Lee. On the other hand, for the thirty-something Jaehoon Lee, now a boxing gym owner, it was an ambitious first title shot, his third bout after over eight years of inactivity. Rounds one and two were close fought, action-packed sessions, with both fighters landing punishing leads and counters. In this battle of jabbers, by round three The Oak established his longer, rapier-like lead, thereafter controlling what became a one-sided affair. By the eighth round the come-backing gym owner’s right eye was badly swollen, and The Oak mercifully sank him to the canvas with a blistering left body shot for the KO stoppage at 0:15.

In the lead-in to the main Korea vs. Japan event, local prospect Sungtak Joo (5-0-2, 1 KO) faced Shunsuke Fukushima (2-2-2, 1 KO) of Tokyo in a four round super lightweight bout. Joo, looking a size bigger than his Japanese counterpart, was out of the gate fast, dropping Fukushima in the neutral corner with a sharp left to the liver. The workmanlike Fukushima rebounded in round two, pushing forward indomitably to the urgings of his cornermen and landing multiple right uppercuts to the body. Joo quickly tired under this assault, and both fighters engaged in trench warfare. From distance Fukushima attacked with repeated one-twos, hanging out his jab as a range finder and lashing in straight rights with gusty exhalations, propelling Joo to the ropes several times. Fukushima came out with renewed confidence in round three, maintaining his basic strategy: one-twos from the outside, left and right uppercuts to the body on the inside. Joo retaliated in spurts with decent work inside as well. While Fukushima had his opponent ducking and holding in exhaustion early in the round, Joo finished strong, landing the cleaner hits for a unanimous decision win by scores of 39-38, 39-37, 39-36.

In a mismatch both on paper and in the ring, precision-punching Taeil Kim (5-0, 1 KO) wasted no time dispatching elongated Taeyoung Go (0-5-3) in two rounds of a six round super featherweight bout. After some spirited mix ups at ring center, Kim connected with a well-timed counter straight right, razing Go to the canvas. With his low left hand and head-first rushes, Go was wide open for Kim’s surgical strikes. Kim controlled the distance well in round two, landing at will on the mystified Go, who could not see the punches coming and wisely remained on his stool at the beginning of round three. This was the first stoppage (TKO 2, 3:00) win for Kim, a pugilist to keep an eye on, and the first stoppage loss for Go, who boxes out of the same gym as former world title challenger Jihoon Kim.

In a six round middleweight bout, tough slugger Jooyoung Kim (2-0-1, 1 KO) set the pace from the opening round, pummelling out-boxer Wonyoung Jung (5-7, 3 KO) with combinations from all angles to pitch a near shutout victory by scores of 60-54, 60-54 and 59-55.

In what was named “Best Fight” of the afternoon, slight underdog Wooshin Kim (4-1-1, 2 KOs) spoiled the unblemished record of odds-on-favorite Jaehoon Lee (3-1, 3 KOs) in a clash of up-and-comers just above the super lightweight limit. After a closely contested opening round, Kim nailed Lee with a picture-perfect left hook to the head, blasting him to the ropes and following up with a myriad of punches prompting the referee to step in for the TKO at 1:27.

In a four round super lightweight encounter, Nakyul Park (3-2, 1 KO) sent debuting Kiduk Kim (0-1) to the canvas twice with left hooks to the head for the automatic KO stoppage at 0:52 of round two.

Venue: Gwanak Residents Sports Center
Promoter: YMW Buffalo Promotion




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