By Joe Koizumi
WBC#13 Naoki Matsuda (32-8-4-1NC, 13 KOs), 126, barely acquired the vacant OPBF featherweight belt as he came off the canvas, dropped back top ranked Filipino champ Vinvin Rufino (28-11-3, 13 KOs), a hard-punching southpaw, 124.5, three times to win a hard-fought split decision (114-111, 114-112 and 111-114) over twelve see-saw rounds on Saturday in Tokyo, Japan.
Matsuda, who had entered the WBC ratings thanks to his upset demolition of ex-WBC ruler Rudy Lopez in Mexico in 2007, had a really tough time against the game, hard-hitting but fragile Filipino southpaw. Though making a good start, Matsuda, 33, hit the deck with Rufino’s devastating left in the closing seconds of the third. Temporarily was his body so badly paralyzed that it seemed a matter of time that Rufino would bring home the bacon in the next session.
Matsuda, who sustained a gash over the right eyebrow caused by Rufino’s solid shots, amazingly decked him with a smashing right in round four. He also sent him twice more on the seat of trunks with a same right shot to the southpaw’s button in the fifth. Rufino’s chin seemed to be made of china. Though Matsuda then had him on the verge of a knockout, the tide began to turn busily since then.
Rufino came back furiously to win the sixth, but Matsuda gamely retaliated with determined combinations to be in command in the seventh and eighth. The ninth was dominated by Rufino, and the tenth by Matsuda. Rufino desperately showed his last surge in the last two sessions, but the bloodied Matsuda gallantly fought back with his last energy. It must be a strong candidate for Fight of the Year for this year, though still too early to discuss our December nomination.
Former Olympian Toshiyuki Igarashi (10-1-1, 7 KOs), 113, a fast-punching southpaw prospect, scored an important triumph when he floored WBC#17 ex-Mexican national flyweight champ Abel Ochoa (14-14, 11 KOs), 112.75, with an eye-catching southpaw left in the second, kept pummeling the game warrior and finally halted him at 2:38 of the sixth session in a scheduled eight. Igarashi had failed to win the national 112-pound belt from Tomonobu Shimizu, his Alma Mater’s senior, fourteen months before, but displayed his improvement on speed and skills.
Promoter: Teiken Promotions.