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Underdog Sasaki dethrones Yuba

By Joe Koizumi
Photo: Boxing Beat

35-year-old Tadashi Yuba is our national hero in Japan, though he doesn’t belong to the international level any longer. Yuba, a southpaw six-footer, lately registered a great achievement of acquiring four national belts from the lightweight to the middleweight categories. When Yuba announced to defend his 160-pound belt against a novice named Sanosuke Sasaki months ago, it logically looked a terrible mismatch since the challenger would engage in his very first ten rounder. Why is the goddess of victory so cynical and capricious? The unheralded Sasaki (11-1, 5 KOs), 159.75, a former ping-pong player, produced an unexpected and stunning upset by showing a clean knockout over the prohibitive favorite Yuba (41-8-2, 31 KOs), 158.75, with a single right shot at 2:15 of the fourth session on Monday in Tokyo, Japan.

Yuba, much taller than the 25-year-old winner of the last national novice tournaments, quickly opened a gash with a smashing left to the eyebrow over the right optic. Sasaki looked too stiff, nervous, or intimidated to throw punches smoothly. Many ringsiders said, “Look, it’s a mismatch. They shouldn’t enter in the same ring.” The wounded tiger, however, attempted a go-for-broke attack from the second, when the champ cautiously had him missing roundhouse blows with his composure.

The bloodied and desperate challenger kept on showing rough-and-tumble rallies to the retreating champ to win a point in round three. Even then we never imagined a possibility of an upset to happen. Midway in the fourth, the champ Yuba was forced to the ropes and realized he should respond to the youngster’s wild onslaught and give him a lesson. So did he. Yuba tried to throw a solid counterpunch.

Then, Sasaki’s powerful right exploded at the champ’s chin. Down he went. Yuba showed a surprise on the face and attempted to raise himself quickly to no avail. His damage was such that he couldn’t beat referee Sugiyama’s merciless ten count while still on all fours on the deck. “Only I believed in my victory over the champ,” loudly said Sasaki, the new titlist, who really stunned us without doubt. You can say anything like on the night Cassius Clay upset Sonny Liston in 1964.

In another national title bout, another upset didn’t happen but Japanese super-welter champ Akio Shibata (19-7-1, 8 KOs), 154, kept his belt by earning a unanimous verdict (all 97-94) over Yoshihisa Tonimura (16-7-4, 4 KOs), 154, over ten. It’s a lousy fight with plenty of headbutts and clinches in almost every round. As they frequently lost equilibrium, the champ fell out of the ropes in the seventh, while Tonimura did so in the next frame. If we kept watching all national title goes this year, we would not see such a dirty and disappointing fight as this encounter.

Promoter: Watanabe Promotions.




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