By Joe Koizumi
WBA#12 bantam Rolly Matsushita Lunas (27-7-1, 14 KOs), 121.5, a Japan-based Filipino, stunned the crowd as he captured the OPBF 122-pound belt by eking out an upset hairline split verdict (115-114, 115-113 and 114-115) over WBC#3 Wethya Sakmuangklaeng (92-5, 55 KOs), 121.5, Thailand, over twelve sizzling hot and close rounds on Sunday in Kanazawa, Japan.
Wethya, making his sixth defense, had been unbeaten since his last defeat by Manny Pacquiao for Pacman’s WBC 122-pound international belt via sixth round TKO in Manila eight years before. He was one of rare opponents that fought well against Pacquiao at that time before Pacman seized the IBF super-bantam belt by annihilating Lehlo Ledwaba in Las Vegas in 2001. The southpaw Thailander once fought in a quest for the WBC feather belt, losing a hard-fought close decision to Guty Espadas Jr. in Merida, Mexico, in 2001. Lunas was fresh from his ambitious but unsuccessful crack at the WBA bantam throne against Anselmo Moreno via lopsided decision in Panama last October.
The 32-year-old Thailander was a strong southpaw with his tight guard, taking the initiative from the outset, but Rolly, 25, occasionally landed solid rights without left leads to be in command in the third through fifth. Wethya turned loose with vicious combinations to the face and belly, seemingly dominating the sixth through eighth by close margins. After the eighth, the opening scoring system indicated Rolly was leading on points: 77-76 twice for him and 76-76.
The ninth was taken by Rolly who scored with right uppercuts and sharp combinations, though the champ almost averted them with his peek-a-boo guard. Rolly became visibly tired, while Wethya, who realized he was losing after the eighth, desperately went forward to mix it up with busy but inaccurate combos in the close range. Though the veteran champ seemed to have overcome his early deficits on points, the Goddess smiled in favor of the Filipino belonging to Japanese Kashimi Club.
Now Japan has dominated (or monopolized) twelve out of 17 OPBF championships, from the 105-pound class to the 160-pound division except in the 140-pound category the belt of which is held by Korean Joungbong Kim. Previously the lightweight champ Randy Suico and the super-bantam ruler Wethya had been regarded as formidable and unbeatable in Asia, but both yielded their belts by split decisions to Ichitaro Ishii and Rolly Matsushita respectively. Too many may not be so good in the balance of power in the OPBF region, but it may suggest OPBF title bouts will regularly take place here in Japan to activate fistic exchanges among member countries.
Ex-Philippine lightweight titlist JR Sollano (16-10, 12 KOs), 135.5, displayed a beautiful one-punch stoppage of Panamanian 130-pound ruler Joel Cerrud (19-4-2, 15 KOs), 134.75, at 2:43 of the second round in a scheduled eight. Cerrud showed his hard-punching ability through busy switch-hitting in the first, but when he attempted to switch from orthodox to southpaw, Sollano’s left-right combo exploded at this chin. Cerrud was erect, but his legs seemed to be made of jelly and the referee called a halt.
Unbeaten local prospect Hiroyasu Kawabata (13-0, 9 KOs), 134.5, lost the first two rounds as he was too stiff and nervous, but dropped Thailander Petch Sithsaithong (7-6, 2 KOs), 132.25, at 1:03 of the third.
In a Filipino-Filipino encounter, Joel Consulta (7-1-1, 3 KOs in Japan), 123, under Kashimi Gym, was held to a technical draw by Robert Allanic (18-4-2, 9 KOs), 123, because of the latter’s bad gash at 2:41 of the second session in a scheduled eight.
Promoter: Kashimi Promotions.