By Joe Koizumi
Unbeaten hard-puncher Takashi Uchiyama (14-0, 11 KOs), 130, impressively captured the WBA super-feather belt when he took the initiative with his good left leads from the start, piled up points and finally caught defending champ Juan Carlos Salgado (22-1-1, 16 KOs), a previously unbeaten Mexican, en route to a fine stoppage at 2:48 of the twelfth and final round on Monday in Tokyo, Japan.
Uchiyama’s explosive combination dropped the fading champ midway in the last session. Referee Raul Caiz Sr. (US) generously allowed him to go on, but the Japanese challenger’s follow-up assault was so furious that he called a halt to save Salgado from further punishment. It was a very remarkable coronation of the best Japanese prospect in the beginning of the new year.
Before the stoppage, all the judges had favored the aggressive challenger, as follows: Tom Miller and Rafael Ramos (both US) both 107-102, and Chalerm Prayadsab (Thailand) 106-103, for Uchiyama.
It looked a nearly lopsided affair. We just wonder why the judges gave so many rounds to the battered and dethroned champ, who couldn’t show any effectiveness in his roundhouse, less accurate and less frequent attacks. Uchiyama always took the initiative and maintained the pressure to the taller but less powerful Mexican.
Uchiyama might pay his considerable respects Salgado’s power-punching with which he previously upset highly regarded Jorge Linares last October. The Japanese challenger was fighting a dual image; a previous one who dispatched Linares and a current one in front of him. Uchiyama was cautious against Salgado’s Mexican-looping left hooks and long uppercuts until he really solved the champ’s strategy and made the images into one, which proved to be not so dangerous this night.
Making good use of jabs and left hooks, Uchiyama cleverly set him up for his strong straight rights that occasionally hurt Salgado. But he refrained from recklessly going forward to avert Salgado’s second “lucky punch” following that against Linares.
Uchiyama really turned loose in round ten, when he decisively battered the fading champ with solid left hooks and strong rights to have him almost lose his equilibrium. Uchiyama accelerated his determined attack in the eleventh as he exploded a vicious right and had him staggering to the ropes.
The twelfth and final stanza started only to see whether Salgado would last the last three minutes or Uchiyama would finish him. The latter prevailed. The Japanese challenger swarmed over the still game but already slow Mexican with a flurry of punches, and sent him to the deck. Salgado, who could be counted out then and there, barely beat the count and resumed fighting. Uchiyama jumped in like a tiger and landed a lethal right to have Salgado badly lean to the ropes. Then, Caiz Sr. didn’t bother to call a halt, which was a good stoppage.
The newly crowned Uchiyama, ex-amateur champ who turned professional so late at 25, thus reached the top of the paid ranks. He jubilantly said from the ring, “Thank you, Dad and Mom.” Then, the 30-year-old tiger was reduced to the parents’ son.
Having stopped tough Australian Hussein Hussein in an OPBF elimination bout in his eighth pro bout in 2007, Uchiyama finely registered five defenses of the OPBF championship including four stoppages to steadily move up in world ratings. However, while such formidable champs as Humberto Soto and Jorge Linares were reigning, he had to withstand a waiting game. Ironically, Linares’ forfeiture of his WBA throne paved the way for him to seize the world crown. Salgado’s lucky punch was also fortunate for Uchiyama.
It wasn’t Salgado’s night, but he showed his heart as the champ. Despite his defeat tonight, Salgado’s upset victory over Linares here three months ago won’t vanish but remain in record books as well as our people’s memory.