By Joe Koizumi
Photo: Boxing Beat
Fast-punching Japanese left hooker Akira Yaegashi (15-2, 8 KOs), 105, impressively captured the WBA minimum belt as he gamely exchanged punches, overwhelmed defending champ Pornsawan Porpramook (23-4-1, 16 KOs), 105, Thailand, with crisp counters and finally caught the fading titlist with a fusillade of punches to prompt the referee’s halt at 2:38 of the tenth round on Monday in Tokyo, Japan.
The official tallies after the ninth were as follows: Pier Luigi Poppi (Italy) and Silvestre Abainza (Philippines) both 88-83, and Ruben Garcia (US) 87-84, all in favor of Yaegashi. The referee was Erkki Meronen (Finland) who made a brilliant stoppage of the defending titlist, the timing of which looked so perfect that there’s no complaint even from the ex-champ’s corner.
“I’m happy to win the same belt my manager had once held some twenty years ago,” said the jubilant winner Yaegashi. His manager/promoter Hideyuki Ohashi, former WBA/WBC 105-pound ruler, was so excited to see his pupil acquire the throne that he had lost to Thailander Chana Porpaoin (Pornsawan’s senior at the same Galaxy Promotions).
In his second attempt to win the world title, Yaegashi did it. He, in his seventh pro bout, saw a nightmare as he had the jaw bone broken at two places by WBC defending titlist Eagle Den Junlaphan, a Japan-based Thailander, in 2007. Yaegashi, a tiny speedster, had to wait for his second opportunity to fight for the belt—for no less than four years. It might be his bitter defeat and pain on the jaw that improved the then still less experienced ex-amateur champ since.
The defending champ Pornsawan, five years his senior at 33, appeared very confident of victory due to his superior experience in defending the PABA (Pan Asian Boxing Association) minimum belt on sixteen occasions and acquiring the world belt in his fifth attempt. But it means the veteran Thailander had failed to obtain the world throne four times, which might not be a proof of his strength but only of his perseverance.
Yaegashi made a good start and swept the first four rounds with his fine display of countering left hooks to the onrushing but slower champ. Pornsawan, formerly an excellent Muay-thai battler having fought more than 300 bouts (with some 280 wins), had a flattened nose and cauliflower ears that showed his very long career as a pugilist. The Japanese challenger showed his faster left hooks and quicker right crosses to have the champ bewildered with his hand speed. But Pornsawan kept coming forward to try to catch the speedy challenger.
It appeared that the tide turned in the champ’s favor in the fifth and sixth sessions. They swapped solid punches toe-to-toe in the center of the ring with Pornsawan having the upper hand. Even though he absorbed the challenger’s quick shots, the champ withstood them and kept on showing his retaliation, which gradually paid off. If Yaegashi hit a three-punch combination, Pornsawan threw back five blows in return. The champ was apparently in command for two sessions from the fifth.
The determined Japanese, however, turned loose in rounds seven and eight, when he almost toppled the still energetic champ with solid left hooks and strong overhand rights. The spectators then understood why Pornsawan was called “Terminator” when the champ absorbed much punishment and amazingly survived and came back fighting to stalk the aggressor. The eighth saw Yaegashi’s well-timed right uppercut have the champ reeling to the ropes, where he rained quick and solid combos to the fading titlist. The champ incredibly came back fighting when the challenger ceased punching. Pornsawan’s stamina and durability were beyond description.
After dominating the ninth, Yaegashi went all out for a kill in the tenth. He connected with strong left hooks and right crosses with full power so that Pornsawan looked very groggy and helpless. Carefully watching the exhausted champ, the ref Meronen finally declared a well-timed halt to the proceedings.
His victory had the crowd at the Hall into a frenzy. People then remembered his manager Ohashi’s coronation at the same Hall in 1990, when we watched roaring and crying supporters. The world may rotate with a certain interval. You may call it “déjà vu.” We today saw the emotional scene very reminiscent of Ohashi’s title-winning.
“Yaegashi was fast and strong. But I wish to complain of the slippery canvas and couldn’t throw strong punches in earlier rounds,” said the crestfallen ex-champ. He also repented of his overconfidence in the losing game.
Everything has two faces—the right and the wrong side. In boxing it must be victory and defeat, that is, joy and vexation. The newly crowned champ is joyful, while the dethroned ex-champ sorrowful. A single result has a couple of sides with the strong contrast. The loser quickly left the squared circle, while the winner and new champ stayed long in the ring, being interviewed and being taken many pictures. Then the loser was already in the medical room. Boxing is harsh and hard, as always.
Promoter: Ohashi Promotions.