By Joe Koizumi
Unbeaten WBA super-feather champ Takashi Uchiyama (15-0, 12 KOs), 130, Japan, impressively retained his belt as he positively kept stalking much taller Angel Granados (18-9, 8 KOs), 129.25, from Venezuela, and finally caught him with a vicious looping right to drop the lanky challenger face first to prompt the referee’s intervention at 1:42 of the sixth round on Monday in Saitama (close to our capital Tokyo), Japan.
Uchiyama, making his initial defense, kept his cool and threw stinging lefts with precision despite a five-inch height difference to finally gain his judgment of distance prior to a sudden stoppage.
Have you ever seen Bruce Lee’s last movie “Game of Death”? Tonight’s fight was just like that. The much shorter Asian (5’8” Uchiyama) battered the basketball-player-like rival (6’1” Granados) to the punch. The champ so quickly jumped up and landed a lethal shot to the elongated Venezuelan as Bruce Lee. Though wobblingly standing up, Granados couldn’t respond to Filipino referee Silvestre Abainza’s questioning gesture to judge whether he would be able to fight on. He logically waived it off as Granados apparently wasn’t ready in time.
His manager Rafael Moron was in hot water against the ref’s stoppage, claiming it was premature. Pitifully was he only the minority in terms of the timing to halt the affair. The loser had already lost his equilibrium and reflexes to the third man’s inquiry into his willingness to go on then and there. It’s no use crying over an already halted contest. Granados was the loser. He was saved by the ref without doubt.
Uchiyama said, “It wasn’t a problem to fight such a tall challenger at all, but was rather easy to hit the bigger target as I had been training and preparing by employing tall sparring partners.” The 30-year-old Japanese, whose amateur mark was 91-22 with 59 stoppages, began to maintain the pressure on the Venezuelan version of Thomas Hearns, minus power, in the first round. He attempted to target Granados’ belly and then lifted good shots upstairs. The Venezuelan, 35, who also campaigned as amateur decking a 76-20 mark, just felt out the hard-hitting champ’s aggressiveness and threw few one-two combos, losing the initial session.
Granados previously said, “I can fight at any distance—long, middle and short. It’s not true I can only box in the long range even if I am too tall and my reach is too long for him.” For Uchiyama, it was fortunate Granados wasn’t a jabber. If so, if he had sticked to a long-range strategy, his advantageous reach would’ve become a greater nuisance for Uchiyama, a willing mixer who was in command by controlling a middle-range rallies with ease in round two.;
It was in the third that Uchiyama finished probing the very lanky challenger and began to put the weight behind his punches. Once he connected a long right cross, but the Venezuelan barely withstood with his pride and professionalism. Granados’ corner yelled to the bewildered Venezuelan, “Caminelo (walk away)!”
Moving in-and-out and making him erect with stinging lefts, Uchiyama, in the fourth, landed a very solid right to the cheek of Granados, almost toppling him with good effect. The shorter but game champ kept coming close to the string-bean and whipped him upstairs and downstairs. It seemed to be a matter of time.
Granados, however, displayed his furious retaliation in the next fifth. His attack was so breath-taking that two of the judges gave a point to the Venezuelan, though Uchiyama, temporarily on the defensive, nullified almost all of them with good blocking. The tall challenger threw down long straight rights followed by right uppercuts that were enough to make the champ pay his greater respect to him than previously. Granados can fight.
A trick happened midway in round six, when Uchiyama set him up with some feints, and then exploded a devastating right the face of the fading Venezuelan. Down he went. He was flat on his stomach but barely pulled himself up. His damage was so apparently heavy that the referee who tolled the mandatory eight didn’t allow him to continue fighting. It’s a good decision. Granados had no more left to go on.
Prior to the stoppage, the judges had tallied as follows: Pinit Prayadsab (Thailand) 50-45; judges Derek Milham (Australia) and Raul Caiz Jr. (US) both 49-46, all for the triumphant champ.
It was Uchiyama that halted a fistic avalanche as WBC bantam champ Hozumi Hasegawa and WBA super-fly titlist Nobuo Nashiro had yielded the belt in succession. The least bruised champ Uchiyama said, “I thought I might be able to finish him after the eighth, so it came a little earlier. In this first defense I felt more mental pressure than in my title-winning bout against Salgado. But I’m happy to dedicate this victory to my supporters and fans.”
Asked about his second defense, Uchiyama, the unbeaten champ, mentioned a possibility of facing WBA interim champ Jorge Solis or ex-WBA kingpin Jorge Linares, each of whom seems a tough opposition. Uchiyama is a good champ with speed, power and skills, plus good chin. But either Solis or Linares may be a hard wall for him to cross over.
It was held in his native Saitama prefecture, so we saw the well-packed crowd of some 6,000, all of whom appreciated Uchiyama’s spectacular finish and burst into joy.
After displaying a fine victory, Uchiyama was invited to the TV seat along with his 58-year-old mother Momoyo. It might be the first time in our broadcasting history. His father Yukio, then 58, passed away of cancer four years ago. Tonight Uchiyama, a modest and soft-speaking athlete, became a good son to her mom as well as to our fistic fraternity, which was greatly relieved to see the world-title-losing avalanche cease.
Promoter: Watanabe Promotions in association with Teiken Promotions.