By Joe Koizumi
Japanese welterweight champ Daisuke Nakagawa (15-2-2, 11 KOs), 147, had a really tough time and barely kept his national belt as he fought to a grueling split draw (95-94 for him, 93-95 and 93-93) with hard-punching top contender Yoh Inoue (15-1-2, 10 KOs), 147, over ten hard-fought and sizzling rounds on Saturday in Tokyo, Japan.
Inoue’s opening attacks dropped the elongated champ in the first and second to take the leadoff, stunning the crowd. Nakagawa, making his third defense since dethroning heavy-fisted Koji Numata last year, started to retaliate with solid combinations in the third to make it a total war. The taller champ finally caught the fading challenger with a vicious left hook in round nine to overcome his early deficits on points, but it was the desperate challenger that was in command in the tenth and final session. Inoue will deserve a rematch.
OPBF middleweight champ Koji Sato (16-1, 14 KOs), 160, also had a tough time, but retained his regional belt by demolishing Korean titlist Jaemyung Lee (11-2, 8 KOs), 159, at 2:41 of the fourth round in a supporting 12-rounder. Having failed to win the WBA 160-pound belt from Felix Strum in Germany, Sato regained the OPBF throne from compatriot Tetsuya Suzuki in Osaka. It was his initial defense. Sato looked surprisingly slow and sluggish, occasionally absorbing Lee’s sharp and solid rights. But Sato, an upright stylist, gradually regained his rhythm and finally caught the game Korean to deck him twice with wicked left hooks, causing the referee’s intervention.
Ex-OPBF welter ruler Motoki Sasaki (33-8-1, 21 KOs), 146.75, decked a TKO win over Korean Sunhaeng Lee (10-8-1, 4 KOs), 146, at 2:30 of the sixth round in a scheduled eight. For the short but sturdy Sasaki, it was his comebacking appearance after he couldn’t capture the WBA belt from Vyacheslav Senchenko in Ukraine last October.
Promoter: Teiken Promotions.