By Joe Koizumi
Photos by Naoki Fukuda
Former world challenger Hidenori Otake (28-2-3, 12 KOs), 121.75, managed to acquire the vacant OPBF super-bantamweight belt as he had a tough time coping with fast and ferocious southpaw Jelbird Gomera (13-3, 5 KOs), 120.75, but floored him in the third round and pounded out a unanimous decision over twelve hard-fought rounds on Friday in Tokyo, Japan. The verdict read: Ferdinando Estrella (Philippines), Yuji Fukuchi (Japan) both 115-112, and Pinit Prayadsab (Thailand) 116-111, all for the shaven skulled Japanese veteran. The referee was Kazunobu Asao (Japan). The WBC/WBA welter boss Keith Thurman was in attendance since he reportedly has a good friend in Tokyo and has often visited here privately. Keith, in all red jacket and pants, displayed fast shadow boxing to the crowd.
Having failed to win the WBA throne from Scott Quigg via nearly lopsided decision (118-110, 119-109 twice) in Liverpool, UK, Otake, ex-Japanese national champ with four successful defenses, scored five victories including three stoppages since. But his last performance, a majority decision over Venezuelan Alexander Espinoza, was a tough and shaky one that Otake took a considerable punishment in earlier rounds and barely fought back to win a verdict.
The first two sessions saw IBF#10 Otake apparently not good at handling a southpaw opponent, absorbing almost every left shots from the shorter but shifty Filipino. Gomera, 24, took the leadoff with a Pacquiao-like mobility and quick southpaw lefts to the Japanese stationary target. Otake, however, forcibly caught up with the early starter, pinned him to the ropes and exploded a vicious right hook to the face, dropping him badly on the verge of a knockout then and there. But Gomera was up and went on. After the fourth, the OPBF open scoring system suggested all 38-37 in Otake’s favor.
Otake, a 5’7.5” workman stylist with a peek-a-book guard, completely turned the tide, kept battering the 5’6” Filipino lefty with solid combinations, but occasionally absorbed Gomera’s direct lefts to the face. Having him at bay, Otake almost brought home the bacon in the fifth and sixth, but Gomera’s durability and determination were such that he refused to go down and kept swapping punches even if losing points. The tallies after the eight were announced: 78-73, 77-74, 76-75—all for Otake.
As the contest progressed, Otake’s command looked more obvious to draw the audience’ optimism in his triumph. But anything can happen in the ring. Gomera displayed a do-or-die last surge, which almost stunned Otake with rubbery legs. Otake desperately grabbed the Filipino to survive and not to be a Meldrick Taylor that eventually became a loser to JC Superstar despite a good lead on points with only two seconds remaining in 1990.
Otake could last the unexpected crisis in the final stanza and was awarded a vacant OPBF belt lately renounced by Shun Kubo who will have an ambitious shot at the WBA 122-pound belt against Nehomar Cermeno in Osaka on April 9. Otake showed his tremendous heart and his chemistry against a southpaw foe.
Promoter: Kaneko Promotions.