By Joe Koizumi
Fast-punching Thailander Tepparith Kokietgym (21-2, 13 KOs), 115, kept his WBA super-flyweight belt as he earned a majority decision (115-113, 115-114 and 114-114) over ex-champ Nobuo Nashiro (18-5-1, 12 KOs), 115, Japan, over twelve hard-fought rounds on Saturday in Osaka, Japan. Glenn Feldman (US) and Wansoo Yuh (Korea) both saw the close affair 115-113 and 115-114 in favor of the defending champ, and Steven Weisfed (US) had it even 114-114. The referee was Silvestre Abainza (Philippines).
Viewing the official tallies, we see their scores almost identical regardless of the differences on points between the contestants. Feldman scored only the first and the ninth through twelfth to Nashiro, rendering seven straight rounds from the second to Tepparith. Yuh and Weisfeld had quite the same tallies in the first eight sessions, favoring Nashiro only in the first and sixth and giving six sessions to the champ. Weisfeld scored all the last four in Nashiro’s favor, while Yuh had three rounds from the ninth for Nashiro and the last session even. It means that the defending champ had accumulated enough points to retain his belt before Nashiro’s last surge in the last four stanzas.
It was the 30-year-old ex-two-time champ Nashiro’s swan song, which couldn’t successfully sound in the local arena. The shaven skulled Japanese had acquired the world belt in his eighth pro bout to his credit, halting defending champ Martin Castillo because of bad cuts in the tenth in 2006. In six years since Nashiro’s career was going up and down like a roller coaster since he yielded the belt to Venezuelan hard-puncher Alexander Munoz, regained it by squeaking by compatriot Kohei Kono in an elimination bout but lost it to Mexican veteran switch-hitter Hugo Cazares in 2010. Nashiro, ex-amateur and a senior to our latest Olympic gold medalist Ryota Murata in Nara Prefecture, then twice failed to win back the 115-pound belt from WBC ruler Tomas Rojas here and from WBA kingpin Suriyan Sor Rungvisai in Thailand last November.
Tepparith, still 23, is one of the best Thailanders this observer has witnessed for last ten years in terms of speed, skills and strength, surpassing flyweight great Pongsaklek Wongjongkam. The young Thailander floored WBA interim champ Dorian Francisco with a sharp counterpunch to dethrone the Filipino puncher via upset verdict in 2011. All his title defenses were registered in Japan, where he defeated ex-WBA flyweight champ Daiki Kameda on points, stopped the full titlist Tomonobu Shimizu in nine lopsided rounds and thus decisioned Nashiro to prove his superiority.
Nashiro made a good start as he smoothly unleashed left jabs and hooks to the belly in the first round. But it was Tepparith that displayed his excellent hand-speed and combination punching, steadily piling up points from the second round onward. The aggressive champ’s right uppercut bounced Nashiro off the head in the third. The fourth witnessed each swapping jabs with Tepparith’s stinging lefts catching the mark more accurately. Nashiro, in round six, threw good jabs, but Tepparith conncected with solid double rights to the face.
All the judges agreed to the champ’s domination in the seventh and eighth, but Nashiro, from round eight, shifted his target to the champ’s breadbasket, which eventually paid off. Why didn’t he start his body attack much earlier?
Nashiro, in round nine, caught the champ with a vicious left hook followed by a right to have the tide turn from then on. Tepparith slowing down, Nashiro accelerated his retaliation in the tenth and eleventh as he was apparently aware of being behind on points. The champ showed his pride and persistence in tossing arm-weary punches each other in the final session.
It’s no use crying over a twelve-round bout, not a fifteen-round competition. If fifteen, Nashiro could have overcome his early deficits on points and scored more points–from the virtual thirteenth round on.
Tepparith reviewed the hard battle, saying, “Nashiro was strong, but victory is victory. I’ll come back to defend my belt against anybody in Japan.” The young Thailander will be stronger by accumulationg more experience here. He may have a potential to become a second Chartchai Choinoi or Veeraphol Nakhornluang-Promotion, if not a second Khaosai Galaxy (the Hall-of-Famer with a marvelous mark of 49-1, 43 KOs).
Nashiro, before the bout, had said, “Should I lose, this will be my last fight.” Asked about a possibility of a rematch with Tepparith, the crestfallen loser said, “I cannot make up my mind at this moment.” Nashiro may deserve a rematch, but it will be up to his resolution.
For whom does the bell toll? For what does a veteran fighter go on fighting? Even for a slight possibility of winning the world title, he may continue climbing up to the ring. Some fortunately may have the dream come true, but others may unfortunately fight one fight too many. To go on or not to go on, that’s a question for Nashiro.
Promoter: Muto Promotions.
WBA supervisor: Yansup Shim.