July 28, 2014
Japanese welterweight champ Suyon Takayama (21-1, 7 KOs), 147, barely kept his national belt as he withstood determined retaliations of top contender Koshinmaru Saito (20-6-1, 11 KOs), 147, and was awarded a hairline majority verdict (96-95 twice and 95-95) over ten hard-fought rounds on Monday in Tokyo, Japan. It was a grudge fight as the champ, 28, acquired the vacant title by winning a close decision over the 35-year-old perennial challenger in 2012, and it became a tough war for him again as expected. Saito, handled by three-time world junior middle champ Koichi Wajima, made a good start and was leading on points after the first half, as announced 48-47 by all judges on the open scoring system. They put on a see-saw performance with Takayama occasionally scoring with left-right combos and Saito connecting with good left hooks to the bloodied champ. Had Saito, making his fourth attempt to win the national belt, won the final session, he would have acquired the long-anticipated belt. Try to win it for the fifth time, Saito!
Another total war was witnessed in a supporting ten, where unbeaten Japanese super-light champ Hiroki Okada (9-0, 7 KOs), 140, also barely managed to retain his title when he struggled to outbox and outpunch a constantly aggressive infighter Shamgar Koichi (18-6-1, 11 KOs; previously fighting as Koichi Aso), 139.75, and earned a close but unanimous nod (all 96-94) over ten. Okada, formerly amateur champ making his first defense, tried to outbox the willing mixer with a peek-a-boo guard and looked successful until he was caught by Koichifs abrupt attack midway in the fifth. Though being ahead on points (48-47 twice for Okada and 48-47 for Koichi) after the fifth, it became a give-and-take affair with the tide busily turning in every round. The challenger had the champ at bay and almost seized the belt then and there, but Okada showed his heart to fight back with his strong determination. The champ was in command in the last two sessions, which carried him to a toughest triumph in his still short career.
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