By Joe Koizumi
Photos: Naoki Fukuda
Shorter but faster Japanese, Akira Yaegashi (18-3, 9 KOs), 112, kept his WBC flyweight belt with great ease as he floored hard-hitting Mexican Oscar Blanquet (32-6-1, 23 KOs), 112, in the eighth session en route to a unanimous decision over twelve rounds on Monday in Tokyo, Japan.
Don Griffin (US) and Noppharat Sricharoen (Thailand) both tallied 116-110, and Jun-Bae Lim (Korea) saw it 115-111, all in favor of the defending champ making his initial defense. The referee was Len Koivisto (Canada).
Blanquet, whose power punching was greatly vaunted prior to the game, failed to show his power, nor his heart, as he looked to be too slow to catch the fleet-footed and quick-handed champ. Yaegashi’s hit-and-run tactics prevailed to frustrate the taller Mexican all the way.
Yaegashi, two years his senior at 30, captured the WBC 112-pound belt from compatriot Toshiyuki Igarashi this April, following his previous WBA 105-pound throne that he forfeited in a unification bout with the then WBC ruler Kazuto Ioka in June of the last year.
The shorter champ began to fight cautiously as he respected Blanquet’s power with which he had flattened Japan-based Filipino Wars Katsumata in just 33 second of the first session here in March of the previous year. Everybody said, “Blanquet can punch. He is dangerous.” Yaegashi’s followed people’s advice in the beginning of the fight.
After the first four rounds, the open scoring system indicated: 39-37 for Yaegashi, 39-37 for Blanquet and 38-38. But we saw Blanquet less aggressive and much slower than Yaegashi probably had expected.
It was Yaegashi that swept the fifth through eighth sessions with his hit-and-run tactics. The champ occasionally caught the slower challenger with well-timed left hooks that made him lose his equilibrium. Blanquet often claimed that he was butted by Yaegashi who kept jumping in and boring in to attack the taller Mexican.
The eighth witnessed Yaegashi penalized a point because of an alleged low blow by the referee Koivisto. The fast-moving champ, however, landed a fast left-right combination to have Blanquet touch the canvas with the left hand. It was a flash knockdown that showed Yaegashi was apparently taking the initiative with his superior speed on hand and foot.
The interim tallies after the eighth were as follows: 77-73 twice and 76-74, all for the busy-moving and fast-punching champ.
Blanquet was expected to show his final surge in the last four sessions, but he didn’t do so. Then, what did he show in the game? It’s only a great disappointment to the crowd here and probably to great many TV watchers in Mexico. He occasionally threw a sporadic left or right at a time, but they were too slow to catch the elusive target. We wondered Blanquet might have failed to make a good condition for this bout, or did he become too nervous?
Yaegashi was in command in the last four sessions. He still utilized his footwork and quick hands to give his first priority to a victory without taking a risk. He seized a triumph without suffering facial damage as previously, which meant that he, in this game, seldom swap punches toe-to-toe but tried to hit without getting hit.
Yaegashi reviewed the process, saying, “I always respected Blanquet’s punching power, and used my footwork to the full extent. I am happy that I’ll be able to show my belt to a forthcoming baby next month.” That’s his third baby, and his oldest son Keitaro, seven, usually goes to Ohashi gym together to train by himself. Yaegashi Jr. is going to be a champ like his father.
The Mexican loser said, “Yaegashi wasn’t strong but faster. I don’t think the difference on the scores wasn’t so big as the judges saw, though I admit I lost. I hope to fight him again.”
Should Blanquet’s real power be like this, Yaegashi should have been more aggressive and should have accelerated his attack in the last four rounds—after the eighth when he floored the disappointing Mexican. But he eventually selected a safety-first strategy to successfully make his first defense. As a 105-pound champ, he failed to register his first defense due to his loss to Ioka in a unification bout. Yaegashi looked happy and satisfied, though blood-thirsty people wanted him to exchange punches in the close quarter more furiously. Probably they realized that Yaegashi was a smarter and more scientific boxer against their fixed idea on him.
Promoter: Teiken Promotions.
WBC supervisor: Major Lee (Korea).