December 31, 2013
Unbeaten Takashi Uchiyama (21-0-1, 17 KOs), 129.75, impressively kept his WBA super-featherweight throne as he controlled the affair, survived a surprising visit to the deck in round ten, had game compatriot Daiki Kaneko (19-3-3, 12 KOs), 130, at bay down the stretch, winning a unanimous decision (all 117-110) over twelve furious rounds on Tuesday in Tokyo, Japan.
It must be a strong candidate for Japanfs Fight of the Year with the champ and the challenger having fully displayed what they had to greatly entertain the audience and TV watchers on the last day of the year.
Looking at the identical 117-110 tallies, you may suppose it was a lopsided affair, but it isnft right as it was locally competitive almost in every round but eventually unanimous. Kaneko, nine years his junior at 25, fought much better than some cynic experts had predicted by comparing the quality of their previous opposition.
Uchiyama, making his eighth defense since his coronation at the expense of Mexican Juan Carlos Salgado in 2010, paid his respect to the youngsterfs upcoming reputation and kept himself elusive with his shifty footwork and body movements from the outset. The 34-year-old champ, ex-national amateur champ who failed to go to the Olympic Games and worked as company man for years after his graduation of university, was a prefight favorite thanks to his longer fistic career.
Uchiyama took the initiative as he threw more jabs and fast left-right combinations to the still nervous up-right-stylist in the opening session. The second session saw each exchange lead jabs with the champ superior with precision, and Uchiyama connected with looping left hooks (effective throughout the contest) and right crosses over Kanekofs shoulder.
Kaneko, about an inch taller than the 5f8h champ, turned loose in round three, throwing many jabs to stalk the fleet-footed champ who remained a moving target and countered with return jabs and left hooks to the willing mixer. The champfs left hand opened a cut over the right eyebrow of the game challenger who kept coming forward despite his absorption of the champfs good lead lefts.
It was Kaneko that was in command in round four, when he landed a solid right to the champfs chin to bounce him off twice, though Uchiyama kept moving well to stop him from following it up. Kaneko began to streaming blood from the nostrils from this round.
The fifth was a competitive round, when Uchiyama threw plenty of jabs and occasionally landed left hooks to the face with precision. But Kaneko, whose face was reddened and bruised by the champfs frequent shots, landed a solid right to the sidestepping champ, who, however, eventually took another point. Kaneko threw a punch at a time.
Despite Kanekofs retaliation Uchiyama proved smarter as he kept moving around and occasionally connected with looping left hooks and left-right combinations to the youngster, sweeping the sixth through ninth sessions. The taller upright stylist Kaneko, in round seven, landed a strong right to the elusive champ, who responded with good rights to the aggressive challenger.
The tide almost turned in the last thirty seconds of the tenth, when Kaneko, still pugnacious and powerful, pinned the champ with a right-left combo and then unleashed a well-timed right to the champ with his back to the ropes. Down he went. Uchiyama smiled for a while, as if a child simply repented of his careless mistake. He stayed on the canvas, listening to the refereefs count like Gene Tunney after he took a count in the Fight of the Long Count with Jack Dempsey in 1927. Uchiyama clinched and moved away as the Fighting Marine did, and survived the crisis.
In the beginning of the eleventh Kaneko necessarily went all out for a knockout?a come-from-behind KO as he was still behind on points?but Uchiyama cleverly averted his desperate attack and connected with sharp and solid counters to hurt the less experienced youngster. The champ exclusively landed left hooks to the onrushing challenger, almost toppled him and had him in trouble in the closing seconds of the see-saw round.
With his eyes swollen and his face bruised Kaneko gamely fought in the last round, but Uchiyama attempted to drop him with smashing left hooks and solid one-two combinations to the face. It was also Uchiyama.
The judges were all Japanese?Takeshi Shimakawa, Kazunobu Asao and Takeo Harada?who were perfectly identical in scoring just the fourth and the tenth (10-8) for Kaneko and all other rounds to the champ. It might be a unanimous decision, but the audiencefs impression was that Kaneko fought very well?because of their mental impact of the tenth-round knockdown. Kaneko almost seized the belt then and there, but Uchiyama regained the initiative with his composure and cleverness after he resumed fighting.
Uchiyama said, gKaneko was young and fresh, coming to me all the way. He is still young, and will be world champ in a year or two. The knockdown mentally stunned me, but I believed I wouldnft absorb another telling shot again. A unification bout with the WBC champ Miura? He must become stronger than in our first encounter, and I wish to face him again.h
Kaneko repented of his futile attack after flooring the champ in the tenth, saying gUchiyama hurt me, but I tried to do my best to win the belt. I will come back and look forward to acquiring the belt.h
Kaneko was a last pupil of his late manager Mitsunori Seki, ex-Oriental featherweight champ who fought Pone Kingpetch, Ultiminio Sugar Ramos, Vicente Saldivar (twice), Howard Winston with the world belt at stake. Seki predicted the then young boyfs bright future due to his talent. Kaneko said, gI hope to realize Mr. Sekifs dream to make me world champ.h
Boxing is interesting, as we, in Japan, could watch the very best fight in the last world title bout of this year. Hitoshi Watanabe, Uchiyamafs manager/promoter, jubilantly said, gOur dream is to break the Japanese record of Yoko Gushikenfs thirteen defenses. I hope Uchiyama will do so.h Uchiyama will have to register six more defenses to surpass Gushikenfs mark. But if Uchiyama constantly scores three defenses a year for two years, he may be able to be the first Japanese world champ to score the most defenses in two years. To be or not to be, thatfs a question. Uchiyama, still fresh and diligent in training, may be able to do so. Look up at Bernard Hopkins. Time will tell.
Promoter: Watanabe Promotions.
WBA supervisor: Renzo Bagnariol (Nicaragua).
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