MARTINEZ KEEPS IBF 122LB BELT BY STOPPING HASEGAWA IN 7


April 23, 2014

OSAKA, JAPAN

Powerful and pugnacious Spaniard, Kiko Martinez (31-4, 23 KOs), 121.25, impressively retained his IBF junior featherweight belt as he dropped ex-WBC bantam and feather ruler Hozumi Hasegawa (33-5, 15 KOs), 122, three times and blasted him out at 1:20 of the seventh round on Wednesday in Osaka, Japan.

The champ decked the challenger once in the second and twice more in the fatal seventh to show his strength and superiority.

Hasegawa, aiming for his third world belt, made a good start by outpunching the shorter champ with quick jabs and combinations upstairs and downstairs, while Martinez cautiously probed the Japanese challengerfs strategy and started fireworks in the end of the initial session. Having easily taken the first round, Hasegawa might have been careless in round two and mixed it up with his back to the ropes. Kikofs big left hook bounced the face off and his right hand sent him sprawling to the deck. Hasegawa had rubbery legs and Martinez rained furious combinations to the groggy Japanese for the remainder of the crisis.

The third saw Hasegawa come back hard as he fought toe-to-toe with the aggressive champ in the center of the ring. Though the Japanese southpaw was in command, he looked to have thrown too many punches to consume his energy and lose his composure.

Hasegawa, in round four, sustained a bad gash caused by an accidental butt, which was a great nuisance for him though he threw more effective shots to the willing mixer. Hasegawa also dominated the fifth with a fusillade of punches. When Hasegawa returned to his corner, he seemed considerably exhausted and we wondered if he would be able to maintain this pace and soundly go the distance or not.

Abruptly did Hasegawa become slowing down in the sixth, when Martinez turned loose with a flurry of punches, stalking the fading foe from pillar to post. What happened to Hasegawa? But it looked a matter of time that Kiko would bring home the bacon soon. Martinez was penalized a point as he threw a punch after the referee ordered them to stop punching and break away. But he obviously took the initiative then and there.

Martinez, in the fatal seventh, quickly swarmed over the slower Japanese southpaw and caught up with him with a short but strong left hook, flooring him on knees. Hasegawa barely regained his feet and resumed fighting, but fell again with another solid left hook. The referee Robert Byrd declared a well-received halt, when the loserfs corner threw in the towel at the same time. It was a clear victory for the aggressive champ that impressed the Japanese audience with his strength.

Prior to the stoppage, the official tallies were as follows: Hubert Earle (Canada) 57-55 for Hasegawa, Robert Hoyle (US) and Carlos Ortiz Jr. (US) both 56-56.

It must be the Japanese warrior Hasegawafs final appearance without doubt. He accepted his bitter defeat with grace and grief.

(4-23-2014)


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