By Joe Koizumi
Photos: Joe Koizumi
Teiken Promotions announced a stellar tripleheader with WBC championships on the line featuring a couple of world titlists and a title aspirant under the wing in Tokyo on April 8 (Monday). WBC bantam champ Shinsuke Yamanaka (17-0-2, 12 KOs) will risk his belt against top-ranked ex-WBC 112-pound ruler Malcolm Tunacao (32-2-3, 20 KOs), a Japan-based Filipino veteran, in the main event. WBC flyweight kingpin Toshiyuki Igarashi (17-1-1, 10 KOs) will put his belt at stake against former WBA 105-pound titlist Akira Yaegashi (16-3, 9 KOs) over twelve rounds. Japanese southpaw hard-puncher Takashi Miura (24-2-2, 18 KOs) will have an ambitious crack at the WBC super-feather diadem against newly crowned Mexican Gamaliel Diaz (37-9-2, 17 KOs) in the first title go. They will take place at Ryogoku Sumo Arena.
In other countries it may be common to stage boxing shows only in the weekend such as on Friday through Sunday. In Japan, however, the boxing schedule is deeply connected with television companies’ programming time table. So, this triple bill will take place on Monday with a nationwide coverage of Nippon TV.
Yamanaka, an unbeaten late bloomer at 30, established a remarkable achievement last year, as he outscored still fearsome Vic Darchinyan in his initial defense and then displayed a breath-taking one-punch demolition of ex-champ Tomas Rojas in his second to his credit.
Tunacao, also a southpaw but already 35, once captured the WBC flyweight belt by dispatching Pacquiao-conqueror Medgoen Singsurat in Thailand in 2000, but yielded the throne to Pongsaklek Wonjongkam via first round stoppage next year. Tunacao, now belonging to Shinsei Gym of Japan, lately chalked up an impressive TKO victory over Mexican Christian Esquivel in an eliminator to decide the official challenger last December. Though regarded as fading and falling, Tunacao that night stunned Yamanaka in attendance with his lightning speed and razor sharpness. He looked like ten years before.
Should Tunacao be so well-conditioned again, he may be a serious threat against the hard-punching upright stylist Yamanaka. The champ said, “I’d fight a unification bout with another champ to prove my strength. Before that I cannot lose to Malcolm. Though he is my good friend, I hope to convincingly defeat him.” The Filipino veteran responded, “He’s my close friend outside the ring, but will be my rival inside the ring in April. I’ll do my best to dethrone him and become a two-time world champ.”
It is a good card as Japanese aficionados well realize Tunacao’s strength and sharpness as well as Yamanaka’s dynamite power-punching. But the champ’s stock was greatly raised by his spectacular knockout of Thomas Rojas, so he is a prohibitive favorite over the skillful counterpuncher Tunacao.
Igarashi was formerly an Olympian representing this country in the Games in Athens in 2004, while Yaegashi was also a national amateur titlist at the same time. When both were amateur, Igarashi beat Yaegashi four times in as many contests. But now Yaegashi is more popular and more known to the general public thanks to his hard fight with Kazuto Ioka despite his decision loss last June, which was shown nationwide and caused a great sensation.
The champ Igarashi said, “By defeating Yaegashi, I wish to be more famous.” Which is the challenger? Yaegashi, a short but fast fighter, always keeps boring in while making good use of his swift footwork. He said, “This time I’ll beat him up to avenge my amateur losses.” Igarashi, who dethroned Sonny Boy Jaro and defended his belt against durable Argentine Nestor Narvaez, will engage in his second defense with a Mighty Atom, who will never be an easy challenger at all.
Takashi Miura, a southpaw puncher, once moved up to the 135-pound category after he failed to win the WBA super-feather belt from compatriot Takashi Uchiyama en route to a TKO defeat at the end of the eighth round in 2011. Since then he scored four wins with two within the distance as a lightweight campaigner. But Gamaliel Diaz wrested the WBC 130-pound belt from Miura’s stablemate Takahiro Ao (what happened to Ao that night?) last October, when Miura polished off ex-OPBF ruler Ryuji Miyagi in just a round to show his strength.
Now Miura moves down to his original super-feather category to have a shot against Diaz, who is elusive and effective in the long range. The Japanese is a shorter but stout-built hard-puncher. Whether Diaz will be able to outbox and counter the Japanese bull or not, that’s a question. If successful, he will retain his belt that he had acquired here. If unsuccessful, Miura may catch the taller Mexican veteran to wrest the crown.
It is funny that there are no less than four southpaws in six participants in the tripleheader except Yaegashi and Diaz. Should there be a hypothetical bet on the winner being southpaw or not, you can bet on “southpaw” winner, and then you may win by 4-2.