By Joe Koizumi
Southpaw speedster Akifumi Shimoda (23-2-1, 10 KOs), 121.5, impressively captured the WBA super-bantam belt as he finely floored defending champ Retsuri Lee (AKA Ryol-Li Lee; 17-2-1, 8 KOs), 121.5, on three occasions, though hitting the deck himself once, and pounded out a unanimous decision over twelve hard-fought give-and-take rounds on Monday in Tokyo, Japan.
All judges were of the Japan Boxing Commission (JBC). Takeshi Shimakawa and Biney Martin (ex-Japanese junior middle champ out of Ghana living here) both saw the hot affair 118-109, and Takeo Harada (ex-national junior bantam boss) 115-111, all for the aggressive lefty challenger. The referee was Rafael Ramos (US) who well handled such busy-moving contestants.
It was really an extravaganza as they kept swapping solid shots toe-to-toe all the way. Shimoda, formerly OPBF and national champ, looked much faster than the taller counterpunching champ, taking the initiative from the outset. The third session witnessed Shimoda drop the champ with a beautiful southpaw left but Lee deck him back with a well-timed right in the closing seconds of the round. Shimoda had the champ on the deck in the fifth and eighth to confirm his triumph. Shimoda has thus become the third current world champ out of Teiken Gym, along with WBC 122-pound champ Toshiaki Nishioka and WBC 130-pound ruler Takahiro Aoh.
The third canto must be a candidate of Round of the Year for 2011—though still in January—with each badly hitting the deck, if not so fierce as a George Foreman-Ron Lyle combat. Shimoda, a vastly talented speedster, made a good start with his swift footwork and quick lefts to the stomach. Standing two inches taller at 5’8”, Lee, who dethroned highly regarded Poonsawat Kratindaeng-gym last October, took back a point with a few but accurate combinations in round two. Then, the mouth-watering third happened.
Shimoda, 26, showed his quick recuperation from his visit to the deck just before the bell to end the third, and was in command in the fourth, though he suffered a gash over the right eyebrow, which would become a nuisance for him in following rounds.
Lee, 28, might not be good at fighting a southpaw opponent. He threw a long Hamed-like left uppercut—which wasn’t fast enough—to which Shimoda connected with a countering left shot with precision. The champ Lee again hit the canvas, though saved by the bell, losing two more points.
The sixth was also Shimoda. Lee’s looping right was slow and less accurate only to be countered by the fast-punching challenger. To be worse, Lee sustained a laceration at the right optic.
Lee’s corner wisely corrected his strategy on the right leather from looping to straight, which resulted in a success as Lee seemingly dominated the seventh. The champ connected with good rights and solid left hooks to the bewildered challenger, winning a point.
Shimoda, in round eight, threw a sharp left to make Lee sway back to become temporarily defenseless, and then a southpaw right hook landed the champ’s neck. Down went Lee. It was his third visit to the canvas tonight, but Lee came back hard to show his pride and gameness.
Lee changed his fight plan to mix it up with a peek-a-boo guard, as it was obvious that he wouldn’t win without scoring a knockout. Lee attempted to throw solid rights upstairs and downstairs, while Shimoda made good use of his fast footwork to make himself a moving target so that he wouldn’t absorb a coup-de-grace that might turn the tide.
In short, it was Shimoda that controlled at least three out of the last four sessions to prevent Lee from scoring a come-from-behind knockout. The last session saw Shimoda utilize his fast mobility to have Lee missing his desperate combinations.
The new champ Shimoda said, “It was my destiny that I entered the Teiken Gym to learn how to box and thus became the world champion. I thank for everybody that helped me win the world championship today.”
Whenever a new world champ is born, it is always emotional. The reason why the majority of people had favored Lee to win this game was that Shimoda had a tendency of fluctuating in some bouts. When sharp, he looked a genius. But when dull, he looked like a bum, as he lost to such underdogs as Mikihito Seto and Kazuma Miura and drastically dropped his stock. Lee, on the contrary, defeated world-rated ex-OPBF ruler Hiroyuki Enoki, seized the national feather belt and moved down to the 122-pund category to upset Poonsawat. Lee seemed a better technician and a cleverer strategist, even if Shimoda’s speed was superior on foot and hand.
In this game named boxing, sometimes, speed, only speed may produces an upset a la a Muhammad Ali versus Sonny Liston, if we don’t go back so far to a John L. Sullivan versus Gentleman Jim Corbett. Shimoda tonight displayed his physical assets, speed and reflexes, plus his heart, to win the world belt beyond people’s expectations.
WBA supervisor: Tsuyoshi Yasukochi (JBC).
Promoter: Yokohama Hikari Promotions.