By Joe Koizumi
Photos: Boxing Beat
Slick-punching Japanese speedster Tomonobu Shimizu (19-3-1, 9 KOs), 115, captured the WBA super-flyweight belt as he utilized his faster footwork and longer reach to dominate early and late rounds, though losing middle rounds, to eke out a split but popular decision over defending champ Hugo Cazares (35-7-2, 25 KOs), 112, a switch-hitting Mexican, over twelve hard-fought and gory sessions on Wednesday in Tokyo, Japan.
Raul Caiz Jr. (US) and Ricardo Duncan (Panama) both scored it 115-113 for Shimizu, but Carlos Sucre (US) had it 116-114 for Cazares. The referee was Pinit Prayadsab (Thailand).
For Shimizu, a 30-year-old ex-amateur, it was his third attempt to win a world belt, as he was stopped by Pongsaklek Wonjongkam in Thailand in 2007 and suffered a come-from-behind TKO by Daisuke Naito here in 2008—both in a quest for the WBC 112-pound throne. Shimizu, two inches taller, made a fine start, using sharp lefts and left-right combinations to win an initial point, though he sustained a gash at the bridge of nose caused by an accidental butt.
For Cazares, 33, Japan is his familiar place where he wrested the WBA belt from Nobuo Nashiro and kept it by defeating Hiroyuki Hisataka—both in Osaka—in the previous year. He looked rather sluggish and slow in the first three rounds with Shimizu taking the initiative with his stick-and-move tactics.
The fourth saw the Mexican champ turn loose, furiously going forward and work the midsection to stop the taller footworker’s mobility. Cazares became more and more aggressive in the fifth and sixth sessions so that the tide apparently turned in his favor. He forcibly swept the fourth through seventh sessions. But Cazares, a cagey switch-hitter, sustained a laceration at the left eyelid midway in round five, which kept bleeding until the end of the combat.
The eighth was a strange turning point, as Cazares fiercely attacked the retreating Japanese with wild combinations, but abruptly stopped punching and began back-pedaling. Probably he temporarily ran out of gas. Then it was Shimizu that turned positive and pugnacious, stalking the fading champ. The Japanese jabber resumed throwing good lefts and maintained the pressure to win another point in the ninth.
It became a really close affair. But Cazares looked more tired than Shimizu in the last three rounds. Shimizu kept his distance and threw jabs and one-two combinations to the lazy champ. They mixed it up and repeated hit-and-grab tactics each other. But it was the firmly determined Shimizu that was in command in the last two sessions, which carried him to a valuable victory.
The newly crowned Shimizu jubilantly said, “It’s a key of my win that I stood and fought against the champ. In the near future I may have a possibility to move down to my legitimate flyweight class to acquire the second world belt.”
The dejected ex-champ Cazares reviewed the fight, saying, “Shimizu often came on with his head forward, so I suffered some facial cuts that bothered me fighting. I wished to move up to the bantam category because of my weight problem, but may stay in this division to take revenge on Shimizu.”
Shimizu, a handsome boy with many girl fans, once appeared in a movie. Some hardcore fans love his stylish hit-and-run performance despite his failure in winning a world throne twice. Shimizu, a graduate from Tokyo Agricultural University, used to be an excellent amateur boxer whose mark was 68-10, 25 stoppages.
Shimizu belongs to Kaneko Gym that was established by Shigeji Kaneko in 1965. Kaneko was Orient featherweight champ and the most popular fighter at his prime here in Japan. Having been world-rated by The Ring Magazine, Kaneko had an opportunity to exchange gloves with then world feather champ Sandy Saddler in a non-title bout in Tokyo in 1955, when he took a bad beating to taste a bitter sixth-round stoppage. But Kaneko displayed his trademark left hook to win over Flash Elorde, future world junior lightweight champ, on four occasions in as many bouts.
Kaneko Gym once handled OPBF bantam champ Eijiro Murata, who unfortunately couldn’t win the belt from Lupe Pintor and Jeff Chandler though he battled to a draw with each of them in 1970’s.
Shimizu is the very first world champ that Kaneko Gym has produced in forty-seven years. Shigeji, 80, yielded his gym to his son Kentaro who cultivated Shimizu as manager/promoter with his brother Kenji (his trainer in charge). It must be the happiest night for Kaneko family and for Shimizu as well.
WBA supervisor: Alan Kim (Korea).
Promoter: Kameda Promotions.