By Joe Koizumi / Photo: Sumio Yamada
The first two world title bouts of 2009 took place Saturday at the Pacifico Yokohama in Yokohama, Japan. In the main event, WBC super bantamweight champion Toshikai Nishioka floored Mexican warrior Genaro Garcia twice en route to a twelfth round TKO. Earlier, unbeaten challenger Paulus Moses captured the WBA belt via twelve round unanimous decision over defending champ Yusuke Kobori.
NISHIOKA STOPS GARCIA
WBC SUPER-BANTAMWEIGHT TITLE BOUT
Slick-punching Japanese southpaw Toshikai Nishioka (33-4-3, 20 KOs), 121.5, kept his WBC super-bantam throne as he floored Mexican warrior Genaro Garcia (38-7, 22 KOs), 122, twice and finally chalked up a TKO victory at 0:57 of the twelfth and final round on Saturday in Yokohama, Japan.
If you just see interim scores of 40-35 twice and 39-36 after the fourth, plus 80-72, 79-72 and 78-73 after the eighth, you may imagine it was a very lopsided contest. In fact, it wasn’t so. Nishioka, 32, had a tough time coping with Garcia’s persistent, if not accurate, attack in waves, regardless of precision. The 31-year-old Mexican battler’s stamina and willpower were superb enough to win the praise of the crowd.
The Japanese southpaw started well, countering Garcia who kept rushing recklessly. Nishioka’s southpaw lefts seemed to perfectly catch the onrushing wide-open target soon and make him bring home the bacon. When the champ dropped the bruised challenger with a countering left uppercut only twenty seconds into the fourth, we expected Nishioka to finish the affair in 160 seconds then and there. But it was Garcia that, after suffering the first knockdown, became more vigorous and aggressive than in earlier rounds, stalking the champ with roundhouse hooks in the air.
Extending his right hand to keep Garcia from boring in, Nishioka began to retreat (rather than side-step) and only counter (rather than positively attack). The champ was in command in the fifth, seventh and eighth, while the challenger earned a point in the sixth. But the aggressor was Garcia, who kept stalking Nishioka, no matter how many punches he was missing.
Though lopsidedly winning on points, Nishioka didn’t certainly look a victor in the process, as Garcia became more and more furious as the contest progressed. What produced Garcia’s incredible fighting spirit despite his absorption of punishment? Nishioka, however, decked Garcia with a well-timed southpaw left again midway in the ninth, which apparently decreased the game Mexican’s fighting power.
Nose-bleeding and mentally dejected, Garcia amazingly kept coming forward with slower and less accurate combinations than in previous rounds. Nishioka changed his gear from backward to forward in the tenth, and battered the fading Mexican with solid lefts to the face.
In the final session, Nishioka, crafty but less powerful tonight, could have run to conserve his huge lead on points that would certainly carry him to a victory. As if he repented of his rather negative counterpunching strategy to have disappointed the crowd, Nishioka, an upright lefty, abruptly turned loose and exchanged hot rallies with the now less dangerous Mexican in round twelve. Battering the almost exhausted rival, Nishioka almost floored him for the third time, but the referee Bruce McTavish, a New Zealander living long in the Philippines, didn’t allow him to do so but declared a well-received halt.
Despite his successful defense, Nishioka didn’t look so sharp and strong as expected. Some handler of his corner revealed Nishioka had the right hand hurt in the fifth and was forced to fight on with only the left hand. It might account for his less sharpness, less precision and less effect of his punches. Should he have displayed his usual power, he would have dismantled Garcia much earlier in the game. Probably his mental pressure in his initial defense kept him from fighting smoothly with good rhythm.
All is well that ends well. Nishioka shone only in the fourth, ninth and twelfth, but the crowd whole-heartedly celebrated his dramatic victory. The official tallies after the eleventh were: Gene del Bianco (US) 110-98, Thanawuth Pluemsamran (Thailand) 109-98 and Maximo de Luca (US) 108-99, all in favor of the defending champ.
Promoter: Teiken Promotions.
MOSES DETHRONES KOBORI
WBA LIGHTWEIGHT TITLE BOUT
Unbeaten Namibian Paulus Moses (24-0, 17 KOs), 133.5, impressively captured the WBA lightweight belt as he kept jabbing and throwing busy combinations to game and gutsy defending champ Yusuke Kobori (23-3-1, 12 KOs), 132.5, Japan, and withstood the champ’s retaliation in middle rounds en route to a unanimous decision (115-113 twice and 119-109) over hard-fought twelve rounds on Saturday in Yokohama, Japan.
It was quite a very good fight. Though it was the first world title bout held here in Japan this year, it might be a candidate of Fight of the Year in Japan. Both completely displayed what they had, swapping punches from the start to the end. Moses was only superior in terms of speed, skills and ring generalship, while Kobori showed his undaunted fighting spirit.
But you cannot win only with spiritual strength. Boxing is a pragmatic game. It seemed a little understandable to this reporter that the official tallies were so different as follows: Roberto Ramirez (Puerto Rico) and Pinit Prayadsab (Thailand) both 115-113, while Derek Milham (Australia) 119-109, all for the Namibian hitman. The former two judges might evaluate Kobori’s sporadic but furious aggressiveness, while the third might take Moses’ constant jabs and ring generalship into account.
The physically superior challenger, ex-WBA intercontinental champ, was an inch taller and had a longer reach by five inches. He commenced firework with stinging lefts, left-right combinations and quick combinations from the opening bell. Kobori, who had dethroned Nicaraguan Jose Alfaro last May, covered himself up very well and attempted to counter with his trade-mark left hooks.
To make a long story short, this observer had it 116-112 for Moses, giving Kobori only the second, fourth, fifth and ninth. Moses looked the winner, regardless of a difference on points. Also, the Namibian, a year his senior at 28, swept the last three sessions without question to confirm his coronation. In the second half, Moses seemingly dominated five rounds, while Kobori only one (the ninth).
Strange enough, while Kobori blocked and nullified Moses’ abundant combinations well with the gloves, Moses was sometimes staggered by the champ’s few but desperate left hooks to the temple. So, the two judges might evaluate Kobori’s do-or-die attack, while the other might see Moses’ methodical but busier combos more effective throughout the contest.
It was like the rematch of Sugar Ray Robinson and Carmen Basilio in Chicago in 1958, when Robinson regained his throne by a split decision (71-64, 72-64 and 66-69). As Moses (Robinson) kept outpunching Kobori (Basilio) with his superior skills, Kobori occasionally attacked Moses with a flurry of punches, which seemed very aggressive, but less effective, if we carefully and closely watched his aggression.
It was a smart strategy that Nestor Tobias, Moses’ long-time manager/trainer, saw Kobori dangerous in the close quarter and suggested his man to utilize his footwork and stick to a hit-and-run from the sixth round onward. Since then, Kobori’s best weapon, a countering left hook just after Moses threw punches, became less fruitful.
Then, Kobori turned much more aggressive, throwing plenty of combinations in succession to pin the taller Nambian to the ropes. Moses cleverly shoved them off and moved side-to-side not to make himself a stationary target. Though Kobori displayed desperate and determined attacks in the seventh and eighth, this reporter couldn’t render points to the champ but evaluate Moses’ retaliation in the long range.
Kobori’s attack especially in the eighth was so eye-catching that even the judge (who gave only a round to Kobori) had it for him in this round. But yours truly believes Moses’ right uppercuts were nevertheless more effective than Kobori’s numerous but less accurate combinations.
The ninth saw Moses slip down as Kobori missed a big left hook. It might look a knockdown, if seen from the balcony. But it was just a slip. Kobori suddenly swarmed over Moses who managed to regain his feet and resumed fighting. The champ had the still vigorous challenger retreating from pillar to post. As two judges gave the ninth to Kobori, this reporter also saw it for the champ.
Kobori unfortunately revealed his weakness in limited skills in the last three. Hanging the hands low, Kobori strongly invited Moses to a slugfest, but the cautious and prudent Moses never accepted his offer. He diligently kept on outjabbing, outboxing and outlegging the willing mixer. Moses rather easily piled up important points.
Why was his performance in the last two sessions so important? The two judges had tallied 95-95 after the tenth. Should Kobori have dominated the last two, he could have retained his belt. But it was Moses that displayed his excellent physical power and orthodox technique (even in the last two sessions, he threw sharp and snappy jabs and one-twos in good form).
Now that Moses, reportedly unbeaten through his amateur and professional career, acquired the world belt, it is rumored that his next might be Marco Antonio Barrera, who lately made a comeback in China last December – under Don King Productions. Should Moses face such a name opposition as Barrera, his real power will be tested since Barrera is much more skillful than Kobori (who had been once employed by Barrera in Mexico).
In four days from December 31 through January 3, our world champions decreased to five with the defeats of Sakata and Kobori. But the boxing world doesn’t rotate with the center of Japan. It was fun to watch the strong foreign boxers (Denkaosen and Moses) capture the world belts from our champions in such an excellent fashion. It showed a sort of beauty in our boxing games.
Promoter: Don King Productions/Kadoebi Jewel Promotions in association with Teiken Promotions.