By Joe Koizumi
Photo: Boxing Beat
Slick-punching and swift-moving Japanese Yota Sato (26-2-1, 12 KOs), 115, kept his WBC super-flyweight belt as he pounded out a unanimous decision (117-112, 117-111 and 118-110) over previously unbeaten ex-OPBF ruler Ryo Akaho (19-1-2, 12 KOs), 115, over twelve hard-fought rounds on Monday in Tokyo, Japan.
Juan Carlos Pelayo (Mexico) scored the nearly lopsided affair 118-110, while Chansoo Kim (Korea) and Suehiro Tsuchiya (Japan) had it 117-112 and 117-111 respectively, all in favor of the defending titlist. The referee was Yuji Fukuchi (Japan), who handled the fast-moving contestants well.
It was fought in the middle of the world title tripleheader at the Ota Ward Gymnasium, where some 4,000 spectators were in attendance. The last day of the year is good for television acquiring higher ratings than usual since the majority of general people stay at home to wait for the New Year to come, but is no good for our promoters distributing tickets. They won’t come and see a boxing show on the last day of the year.
The second world title go was regarded as a similar confrontation of a Ken Buchanan (Sato) and a Roberto Duran (Akaho), which resulted in Buchanan outjabbing Duran nearly all night. The little Japanese version of Manos de Piedra failed to come close to the Fancy Dan and land his trademark left hooks.
Sato, making his second defense, had captured the WBC belt by dropping highly regarded Thailander Suriyan Sor Rungvisai en route to an upset unanimous decision last March, and defeated top contender Sylvester Lopez of the Philippines by a one-sided verdict this July.
The unbeaten hard-puncher Akaho had the jaw bone of Australian Fred Mundraby fractured to score a fifth round TKO in his acquisition of the then vacant OPBF 115-pound belt in May of the previous year. Since then, Akaho kept it three times by defeating all Japanese challengers—Toyoto Shiraishi (TKO9), Yoshihito Shiraishi (W12) and unbeaten Yohei Tobe (TKO8)—to his credit. It was Akaho’s rough aggressiveness and dazzling speed that had some supporters expect his triumph, even though Sato was the prefight favorite due to his better experience against better opposition.
The taller technician Sato swept the first four rounds with his fine display of long and sharp jabs that prevented Akaho from coming close to the champ. Sato, like Edwin Chapo Rosario, frequently walked side-to-side to frustrate the nervous challenger, whose face was reddened by the champ’s incessant lefts.
The open scoring system, after the fourth, indicated 40-36 for the taller and faster jabber.
Sato, a lanky speedster, took command of the lopsided proceedings to win the fifth and sixth with his persistent jabs. It was a disappointment that Akaho was too poor to avert the champ’s long jabs although he had plenty of time to prepare to cope with Sato’s vaunted jabs.
Akaho, however, turned loose in round seven as he became desperate and kept boring in with roundhouse left hooks, pinning him to the ropes. But Sato quickly regained the initiative in the next round, when the champ effectively landed long accurate jabs and overhand rights to the face.
After the eighth, the interim tallies were announced, as follows: 79-74, 79-73 and 80-72 in favor of the taller champ by three inches. The 5’8” Sato also boasted of his advantageous reach of seventy and a half inches, some four inches longer than that of Akaho.
But Sato, a tricky tactician, attempted to make the fight interesting rather than to win on the safety-first strategy. The champ, in the ninth, stopped his feet and stayed with his back to the ropes. He tried his idol Muhammad Ali’s Rope-a-dope tactics against the willing mixer. Akaho desperately attacked the champ with looping lefts and rights, most of which were averted by Sato’s flexible upper-body movement. Sato countered him well and dominated the round.
In the next tenth, the previously frustrated challenger again turned loose, battering the champ’s guard with wild shots—though they were neither accurate nor effective. Akaho took the tenth just with his aggressiveness. The champ’s corner shouted to dissuade him to return to his hit-and-run game plan, and Sato followed the instructions in the eleventh, when he made good use of left jabs that penetrated Akaho’s guard.
The challenger was in command in the final session, as the champ didn’t work positively but kept circling and averting Akaho’s go-for-broke attack.
We didn’t expect it would be a so one-sided affair, as Akaho was a highly expected power-puncher. The loser said, “It went on with the champ’s pace, and the distance was often controlled by him. I was still green as I couldn’t fight him in the close quarter. I may move up to the bantam class, so this is the last fight in the super-fly division.”
The winner and still champ coolly said, “I wished to be more adventurous by exchanging more punches in the close range after I was leading big on points. Though you might think that it was very risky to fight Akaho with my back to the ropes, it was rather safe for me to watch his roundhouse punches coming very well.”
Commenting on the newly crowned WBA champ Kohei Kono (who seized the throne just an hour before), Sato said, “I hope to fight a unification bout with him. I wish to have the belts unified by our confrontation.” But Sato will be forced to defend his belt against some Thailander to be designated by the ex-champ Suriyan’s promoter/manager Surachart Pisitwuttinan who was in attendance. It will be up to his manager Keiichiro Kanehira’s negotiation with him as to where and when Sato’s third defense will take place.
Sato may have a good possibility that he will be a long champ due to his good reflexes, physical flexibility and intellectual smartness. But he had better think over whether the Rope-a-dope will be good for him or not. It’s quite different from whether you like Ali or not.
WBC supervisor: Frank Quill (Australia).
Promoter: Kyoei Promotions.