By Joe Koizumi
Photos: Naoki Fukuda
WBC flyweight titlist and ex-Olympian Toshiyuki Igarashi (17-1-1, 10 KOs), 112, Japan, managed to retain his throne as he eked out a majority decision over previously unbeaten Argentine Nestor Narvaes (19-1-2-1NC, 9 KOs), 111.5, over twelve hard-fought rounds.
After the open scoring system informed us of interim scores of 77-74 by all the judges in favor the champ, who imagined the last four sessions would be so tough for him? With Igarashi apparently slowing down, Narvaes amazingly rebounded to be in command down the stretch.
Duane Ford and Max de Luca (both US) tallied 114-112 in favor of Igarashi, while Junbae Lim (Korea) had it 113-113 by evaluating Narvaes’ last surge. The referee was Lupe Garcia (Mexico), who penalized each a point from the champ in the fourth and from the challenger in the eleventh—both because of an accidental butt that opened a gash on the contestant’s face—due to the WBC eye-cut rule.
It was Igarashi’s first defense since he dethroned hard-hitting Filipino Sonny Boy Jaro by an upset nod in a really see-saw extravaganza this July. The ex-Olympian who represented this country in Athens couldn’t win the gold medal there in 2004, but gained the national title in four years and captured the world belt in eight years since.
The taller southpaw, 28 and two years his senior, positively started fireworks in the opening session and almost swept the first four by mixing it up and almost overwhelming the still defensive challenger. Probably the newly crowned champ might have become overconfident in swapping punches with the unbeaten but still cautious brother of WBO super-fly ruler Omar Narvaes.
The interim tallies announced were: 39-36 and 38-37 twice including a penalization from Igarashi—all for the scrappy champ.
It was Igarashi, an inch taller, that accelerated his attack to the belly of the still cautious Argentine and dominated the next four sessions. It was true that Igarashi, a typical boxer rather than a puncher, stood just in front of the challenger without utilizing his trademark footwork and with much more aggressiveness than usual. His body bombardments looked so effective that Igarashi seemed to wear down the Argentine and stop him within the distance.
The tide, however, turned from the eighth, when Igarashi showed his sign of fatigue and began slowing down, while Narvaes, aware of being behind on points, turned loose to overcome his early deficits on points.
A judge tallied four rounds for the challenger in the last four sessions with the other two scoring three rounds for Narvaes and one for Igarashi. But the third man, in round eleven, mercilessly deducted a point from Narvaes because of a cut of the champ due to an accidental butt.
Strongly encouraged by his elder brother Omar in the corner, Narvaes went on stalking the fading champ in round ten, when he often landed good rights to the retreating and bloodied champ. The eleventh was a 10-9 round for Narvaes again, but it resulted in a 9-9 round due to the eye-cut rule, which helped the visibly fatigued champ. Igarashi, in the twelfth, withstood Narvaes’ last attack that he wished to turn the tables with by enduring the challenger’s desperate rallies.
The verdict wasn’t controversial though there was a judge who tallied a 113-113 score, as we saw Igarashi had accumulated enough points to win this first defense. It was proven by the challenger’s interview, “It was the difference of international experience and exposure. The difference of aggressiveness decided the winner and the loser.”
Looking back our fistic history in previous world “flyweight” title bouts between Japanese and Argentines, Igarashi was the very first that decked a triumph. Argentina previously stood in the ominous direction for Japan—in the 112-pound title bouts. Pascual Perez, in 1954, wrested the world belt from Yoshio Shirai in Tokyo to become his country’s very first world titlist. Perez disposed of him via fifth-round knockout in a rematch three months later. Perez, dubbed “Little Giant”, defeated younger challengers named Kenji Yonekura (W15) and Sadao Yaoita (KO13) four years after Shirai’s forfeiture.
Horacio Acavallo, in 1966, acquired the vacant flyweight throne by badly defeating Katsuyoshi Takayama on points in an elimination bout in Tokyo. The crafty Argentine switch-hitter defeated formidable ex-champ Hiroyuki Ebihara twice on a close verdict in Buenos Aires. This reporter, then a boxing-addict teenager, couldn’t believe Ebihara’s loss in Argentina, and wondered it might be only a misprint on a paper, so bought another sports newspaper. But the result was sadly same in any paper—Ebihara lost to Acavallo at the Luna Park.
In 1983, another little giant named Santos Laciar showed his strength in chalking up a quick stoppage of a taller but lanky challenger Shuichi Hozumi in only two rounds in Shizuoka.
Although it wasn’t Igarashi’s best performance at all, he broke the Japan-Argentina jinx. If it is a result in soccer games, the previous data of 8-0 for Argentina might be acceptable. But, in boxing, the 8-0 credentials were shameful, and it was thus improved to 8-1. It was good enough.
Pascual Perez 4-0
Horacio Acavallo 3-0
Santos Laciar 1-0
Previous total 8-0
Including Igarashi’s win 8-1