Although championship contests for the weight class had been ongoing since 14 June 1987, it was only when the top-rated Napa Kiatwanchai defended his WBC title against Hiroki Ioka (11 wins, one draw and one defeat), who was rated at number two according to Boxing News, that my version of the 'world' title fight came about. Having won the WBC title from Ioka on 13 November 1988, further to a draw against the same man, the hard-punching southpaw had successfully defended the belt against John Arief. With nine wins and a draw in ten contests, Kiatwanchai was looking to consolidate.
10 June 1989. Napa Kiatwanchai w rsc 11 Hiroki Ioka
Venue: Municipal Sports Arena, Osaka, Japan. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Marty Denkin.
Fight Summary: Despite making a fast start, Ioka (105) soon faded after feeling the weight of the champion’s southpaw right hooks and was dropped for the first time in his career in the fifth round. Although he recovered somewhat, Ioka again got caught with a barrage of heavy blows, this time in the 11th, which saw him floored twice more by Kiatwanchai (103) before being rescued by the referee on the 1.12 mark.
Kiatwanchai’s next defence would be against Jum-Hwan Choi, a former IBF junior flyweight champion who had won 19 of his 21 contests and beaten men of the calibre of Cho-Woon Park, Tacy Macalos, Toshihiko Matsuda, Azadin Anhar and Rolando Pascua.
12 November 1989. Jum-Hwan Choi w rsc 12 Napa Kiatwanchai
Venue: World Trade Centre, Seoul, Thailand. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Henry Elesperu.
Fight Summary: Having had a hard time making the weight, Kiatwanchai (105) started badly, being knocked down in the first round. Although he recovered to drop Choi (105) in the fifth with a left hook, the latter eventually got on top completely. Decked in the seventh, the weakened champion somehow kept going until he was downed twice more and rescued at 1.18 of the 12th. Choi became a two-weight world champion on winning the WBC title.
Hideyuki Ohashi, who had been twice turned back by Jung-Koo Chang in attempts to win the WBC junior flyweight title, and been outscored by Bong-Jun Kim, would be Choi’s next challenger. A hard puncher, he had eight wins by the short route as well as four on points in 15 contests.
7 February 1990. Hideyuki Ohashi w co 9 Jum-Hwan Choi
Venue: Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Lou Filippo.
Fight Summary: With both men trading blows, it was Ohashi (103) who came through to win when a body attack, comprising hooks and uppercuts, put Choi (103) down twice in the ninth, the second occasion being for the full count that was timed at 2.11.
8 June 1990. Hideyuki Ohashi w pts 12 Napa Kiatwanchai
Venue: Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Mickey Vann.
Scorecards: 116-110, 116-112, 117-112.
Fight Summary: After being floored in the second round Kiatwanchai (104¼) came back well to last the distance against the impressive Ohashi (105), as well as pushing him all the way. Although the champion picked up the pace over the last five sessions with clusters of left hooks and right crosses, he was not without damage, carrying a cut right eye.
Having defeated Jose Luis Zepeda, Jorge Rivera and Francisco Montiel, the unbeaten Ricardo Lopez would be next for Ohashi. A heavy puncher, and nicknamed ‘Finito’, only six of his 26 victims had lasted the distance.
25 October 1990. Ricardo Lopez w rsc 5 Hideyuki Ohashi
Venue: Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Tony Perez.
Fight Summary: Lopez (104) was most impressive when flooring Ohashi (105) three times on his way to a stoppage win at 2.00 of the fifth round, being in total control all of the way. While the champion looked for a one-punch finish, the hard-punching Lopez, who was always working non-stop, could not be contained.
19 May 1991 Ricardo Lopez w rsc 8 Kimio Hirano
Venue: Kusanagi Gym, Shizoka, Japan. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Rudy Ortega.
Fight Summary: Lopez (103½) won after battering Hirano (105) at will in what was a one-sided contest. The challenger had come into the fight aggressively but had no answer to Lopez’s controlled punches, being cut over the right eye in the third and rescued by the referee at 1.42 of the eighth after being floored.
21 December 1991. Ricardo Lopez w pts 12 Kyung-Yung Lee
Venue: Indoor Stadium, Inchon, South Korea. Recognition: WBC
. Referee: Malcolm Bulner.
Scorecards: 118-110, 116-112, 120-107.
Fight Summary: Having controlled the fight throughout, it was only after being cut on the left eye that Lopez (103½) took his foot off the pedal and ultimately saved Lee (105) from an inside-the-distance defeat. Although not one of Lopez’s better showings, he was too fast to be caught napping and punched too accurately for the challenger’s liking.
16 March 1992. Ricardo Lopez w pts 12 Pretty Boy Lucas
Venue: Jai-Alai Fronton Stadium, Mexico City, Mexico. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Joe Cortez.
Scorecards: 120-104, 120-104, 120-106.
Fight Summary: Unable to put his tough opponent down, Lopez (104¼) concentrated on his better boxing to score a shut-out win over Lucas (104), who boxed mainly on the counter. Cut in the second, although the challenger was shaken on several occasions he somehow remained upright.
22 August 1992. Ricardo Lopez w co 5 Singprasert Kittikasem
Venue: The Auditorium, Madero, Mexico. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Marty Denkin.
Fight Summary: Lopez (105) was always one move ahead in this one, picking his punches well against the aggressive Kittikasem (104¾) and punishing him repeatedly with the left hook. The finish came when a crunching right, followed by a left hook, saw the challenger counted out after one minute of the fifth round.
11 October 1992. Ricardo Lopez w rsc 2 Rocky Lin
Venue: Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Marty Denkin.
Fight Summary: In a battle of speedsters, Lopez (104¼) quickly got on top, his heavier punching being decisive. After picking his way with the jab, the champion opened up in the second round with heavy left hooks, prior to unleashing a crunching right to the jaw that left Lin (104¾) spread-eagled on the deck. The referee stopped the fight immediately, the finish being timed at 1.46.
31 January 1993. Ricardo Lopez w rsc 9 Kwang-Soo Oh
Venue: The Gym, Pohang, South Korea. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Chuck Hassett.
Fight Summary: Badly cut in the first round following a head clash, although continuing to come forward, the southpaw Oh (104) was picked off by Lopez (105) with accurate combinations and good straight punches. With the champion well on top, by the ninth round the referee felt that Oh’s cut was too bad for him to continue and called a halt on the 2.40 mark.
3 July 1993. Ricardo Lopez w rsc 2 Saman Sorjaturong
Venue: Baseball Park, Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Vince Delgado.
Fight Summary: Down in the first round and twice in the second, Sorjaturong (105) was rescued by the referee at 2.45 of the second following the third knockdown even though he had got to his feet and wanted to carry on. At no time did Lopez (104) look in any danger of losing his title, having controlled the action with good jabs and heavy left hooks, the latter punch providing the finishing touches.
19 September 1993. Ricardo Lopez w rsc 11 Toto Pongsawang
Venue: Capitol Discotheque, Bangkok, Thailand. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Arthur Mercante.
Fight Summary: Carrying the fight from the opening bell with quicksilver lefts and rights, hooks and combinations, Lopez (103½) battered the unfortunate Pongsawang (102) to defeat at 2.30 of the 11th after the latter had struggled to his feet and was rescued by the third man. By that time, though, the tall southpaw had become a punch-bag, and although he had won a couple of early rounds he was unable to take advantage of his height and reach, finishing with a badly swollen face and both eyes closed.
18 December 1993. Ricardo Lopez w co 11 Manny Melchor
Venue: Caesar’s Palace, Lake Tahoe, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Joe Cortez.
Fight Summary: On top throughout, Lopez (104¾), who produced every punch in the book, cut the challenger’s right eye in the sixth round and generally looked like a man on a mission, the biggest surprise being that Melchor (105) remained upright for so long. However, following some heavy jabs, after a right cross landed plumb on the Filipino’s jaw in round 11 he was counted out with a minute of the session still remaining.
7 May 1994. Ricardo Lopez w pts 12 Kermin Guardia
Venue: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Toby Gibson.
Scorecards: 119-110, 117-110, 117-110.
Fight Summary: After sampling early head butts and low blows, Lopez (105) gave Guardia (104) plenty of space, merely concentrating on picking up points with good left-hand work. The hard-punching challenger was always dangerous at close quarters, but unable to really get going he lost by a wide margin.
17 September 1994. Ricardo Lopez w rsc 1 Surachai Saengmorakot
Venue: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Kenny Bayless.
Fight Summary: With only 13 fights behind him it was difficult to fathom why the WBC allowed Saengmorakot (105) to challenge an exceptional champion in Lopez (105), especially as he had not eaten for two days in order to make the weight. Down from the first punch of the fight, an overarm right, on getting up the Thai took a wide left hook that dropped him again. Although Saengmorakot was up at a count of ‘five’ the referee called the action off with just 1.53 on the clock.
12 November 1994. Ricardo Lopez w rsc 8 Javier Varguez
Venue: City Bullring, Mexico City, Mexico. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Lupe Garcia.
Fight Summary: Dropping down a weight, the plodding Varguez (104¾) was no match for the brilliant Lopez (105) who punished him throughout. Outboxed, outpunched and outthought, the challenger had no answer, it being a miracle he was still standing after taking a barrage of blows that sent him faltering into the ropes in the eighth round. However, having seen enough, the referee called a halt on the 1.33 mark.
10 December 1994. Ricardo Lopez w rsc 1 Yamil Caraballo
Venue: Baseball Stadium, Monterrey, Mexico. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Jose Medina.
Fight Summary: Requiring just 70 seconds to do the job, Lopez (104) put Caraballo (104) down with a perfect right to the jaw, and when the challenger tried to get up he was rescued by the referee.
1 April 1995. Ricardo Lopez w rsc 12 Andy Tabanas
Venue: Buffalo Bill’s, Stateline, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Mitch Halpern.
Fight Summary: Although winning every round, and once again showing championship class, Lopez (104) failed to knock out the game Tabanas (105). Showing plenty of grit and still on his feet, the challenger was eventually rescued in the last round with just 15 seconds remaining, having been overwhelmed by an accumulation of blows.
16 March 1996. Ricardo Lopez w rsc 8 Ala Villamor
Venue: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Joe Cortez.
Fight Summary: Showing his vast repertoire of skills, Lopez (104½) effortlessly picked up points, jabbing and moving, to leave Villamor (105) punching thin air. In the eighth, the champion countered a loose left jab with a heavy left uppercut that left the Filipino stretched out. With the referee not even bothering to pick up the count so that Villamor could be tended to, the finish was timed at 40 seconds of the round.
29 June 1996. Ricardo Lopez w rsc 3 Kitichai Preecha
Venue: Fantasy Springs Casino, Indio, California, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: James Jen-Kin.
Fight Summary: Fighting in 121 degrees was not ideal but probably explained why Lopez (105) looked to get Preecha (104) out of there quickly. Into the third round, and after having a good look at the challenger, Lopez hurt his rival with a body punch before a perfect one-two, followed by a left uppercut, left him on the floor. Not picking up the count, the referee stopped the contest on the 1.46 mark so that Preecha could be tended to by the medics.
9 November 1996. Ricardo Lopez w rsc 6 Morgan Ndumo
Venue: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Jay Nady.
Fight Summary: In outclassing the tough southpaw challenger, Lopez (105) once again proved he was the best man at the weight. Taking a beating every round, by the fourth Ndumo (105) had virtually lost his vision in the left eye due to swelling, and with the champion powering forward he was rescued by the referee 55 seconds into the sixth.
7 December 1996. Ricardo Lopez w rsc 1 Myung-Sup Park
Venue: Fantasy Springs Casino, Indio, California, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Chuck Hassett.
Fight Summary: Lopez (103¾) made a quick start in this one, battering Park (103) with a full range of punches before blasting the South Korean to the floor with a left hook. Although the challenger got up at nine he was in no fit state to continue, and after shipping several heavy blows the referee jumped in to rescue him at 2.22 of the first round.
29 March 1997. Ricardo Lopez w pts 12 Mongkol Charoen
Venue: Hilton Centre, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Jay Nady.
Scorecards: 120-107, 119-108, 120-107.
Fight Summary: Outpunched and outfought, the southpaw Charoen (105) bravely survived the full 12 rounds to bring to an end the champion’s eight straight inside-the-distance defences. Hit with every punch in the manual by Lopez (105), and more, the little Thai was given a standing ovation at the final bell for his bravery.
23 August 1997. Ricardo Lopez w rsc 5 Alex Sanchez
Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: WBC/WBO. Referee: Arthur Mercante Jnr.
Fight Summary: The WBC titleholder, Lopez (104¾), again proved superior among the smallest of men, putting Sanchez (104¾) down in the second following two right crosses, and again in the fifth with a tremendous left hook. On rising, when it was clear that the WBO champion could not continue, the referee called it off on the 1.58 mark. With Lopez seemingly not interested in defending the WBO version of the title, he finally forfeited on 6 March 1998 when it finally became clear that he was not going to make a defence.
7 March 1998. Ricardo Lopez tdraw 7 Rosendo Alvarez
Venue: City Bullring, Mexico City, Mexico. Recognition: WBA/WBC. Referee: Stan Christodoulou.
Scorecards: 64-67, 68-64, 66-66.
Fight Summary: In a battle of champions, having been dumped by a big right hand in the second round, the WBC’s Lopez (104¾) struggled up to get back into the fight. However, he had made an excellent recovery until a clash of heads at the end of the seventh terminated the contest, during the interval, when he was badly cut over the left eye. After docking the WBA’s Alvarez (104¾) a point, under WBC rules the fight was settled by the scorecards. This was Lopez’s 21st consecutive defence of the WBC title.
13 November 1998. Ricardo Lopez w pts 12 Rosendo Alvarez
Venue: Hilton Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBA/WBC. Referee: Richard Steele.
Scorecards: 116-114, 116-112, 113-115.
Fight Summary: Following on from their earlier technical draw, the fight went ahead for the vacant WBA title with only Lopez (103½) able to claim it after Alvarez (108¼) failed to make the weight. As before, it was Alvarez who made the running while Lopez stayed on the back foot with the jab. Cut on the right eye in the fifth did not help Lopez’s cause, but fighting back with rapid-fire combinations and jabs he just about kept his nose in front. Round after round it was the same, with Lopez under pressure but fighting back, and at the final bell, his face covered in nicks, cuts and abrasions, he had done enough to deserve the split decision.
Lopez finally walked away from the WBA and WBC titles on 1 September 1999, having moved up a weight. My version of the 'world' title would next be contested on 3 July 2004 by the top-ranked Noel Arambulet, defending his WBA title against Yutaka Niida, rated at number three. A two-time WBA champion, Arambulet had a record comprising 20 wins, one draw, two losses and one no contest, and last time out had defeated Niida who was returning from a two-year stint away from the ring after retiring as the undefeated WBA champion following his victory over Chana Porpaoin. Coming to the ring with 15 wins (eight inside the distance), three draws and one defeat, to Arambulet, Niida was looking to put the record straight.
3 July 2004. Yutaka Niida w pts 12 Noel Arambulet
Venue: Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Mark Nelson.
Scorecards: 117-111, 117-112, 116-113.
Fight Summary: Although the top-rated Arambulet (105¾) had already forfeited his WBA crown, having failed to make the weight for his title defence against the fifth-ranked Niida (104¾), the fight went ahead for the vacant title with only the latter able to claim it. Despite being somewhat hesitant, Niida was just about in front at the halfway stage before opening up in the seventh round with some solid shots getting home. Regardless of the fact that Arambulet made a better showing in the eighth, Niida came on strong from thereon in to dominate the contest when driving his man to the ropes and delivering solid combinations.
30 October 2004. Yutaka Niida w pts 12 Juan Jose Landaeta
Venue: Ryogoku Sumo Arena, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Rafael Ramos.
Scorecards: 115-113, 113-115, 115-114.
Fight Summary: Starting sluggishly against his tall southpaw challenger, Niida (104¾) was outjabbed at times before coming back with bursts of combinations. Cut over the left eye in the sixth it looked as though this was going to be a difficult one for Niida to get out of, but after crashing in some solid blows in the seventh he began to assume control as Landaeta (104¾) faded. It was still close, but despite Landaeta coming on strong to take the 12th the split decision went against the ‘interim’ champion.
16 April 2005. Yutaka Niida w pts 12 Jae-Won Kim
Venue: Nihon Budokan Martial Arts Hall, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Mark Nelson.
Scorecards: 117-112, 118-110, 119-111.
Fight Summary: Right through to the eighth it was Kim (105) who forced the action, but with the champion countering splendidly with solid rights and left hooks he was the one taking most of the rounds. From the eighth onwards, Niida (105) came on strongly, belting in combinations to head and body, and although Kim stood his ground it took the man from Japan into an unassailable lead that he never let go of.
25 September 2005. Yutaka Niida w tdec 10 Eriberto Gejon
Venue: The Arena, Yokohama, Japan. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Luis Pabon.
Scorecards: 96-95, 96-95, 93-97.
Fight Summary: Getting off to a good start, the challenger was soon into his stride, throwing a steady stream of left jabs before Niida (104¼) began to get home with left and right hooks to head and body in the fourth. Although Gejon (104½) was fighting a cautious battle it was still close coming into the tenth. It was in that round, however, that an accidental clash of heads left Gejon with a deep cut over the right eye and, following the referee’s decision to stop the action in order to go to the cards on the 2.01 mark, Niida got the nod.
4 March 2006. Yutaka Niida w pts 12 Ronald Barrera
Venue: Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Derek Milham.
Scorecards: 117-111, 116-112, 115-113.
Fight Summary: Although boxing well within himself Niida (103¾) was not inclined to take any chances against the aggressive southpaw challenger, being happy to counter when he had to nick the rounds. At least Barrera (105), who came forward through the 12 boring rounds, tried to make a fight of it, but he lacked the experience to make his aggression pay.
7 April 2007. Yutaka Niida w pts 12 Katsunari Takayama
Venue: Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Takeshi Shimakawa.
Scorecards: 115-113, 114-113, 114-115.
Fight Summary: Dropped by a countering left hook in the opening round, and in some difficulty for a fair bit, the champion came back strongly to take two of the last three sessions to deny Takayama (104¾) the win. Despite having a swollen left cheek, Niida (105) eventually got his trademark left uppercuts going before concentrating on solid left jabs to nick it against the tricky 'interim' title holder.
1 September 2007. Yutaka Niida w pts 12 Eriberto Gejon
Venue: Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Derek Milham.
Scorecards: 117-111, 117-112, 117-112.
Fight Summary: Boxing far better than he did in their previous bout, the champion dropped very few rounds as he outboxed the lanky Gejon (105) when using his speed to great advantage. Mixing up aggression and cleverness, Niida (104¾) used long left hooks to unbalance his rival, and although both men were cut in the sixth - Niida on the forehead and Gejon on the left eye - the result was never in doubt.
1 March 2008. Yutaka Niida w co 6 Jose Luis Varela
Venue: Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Raul Caiz.
Fight Summary: Stalking Varela (104¾) from the opening bell, the champion used heavy left-hand blows to both head and body to keep his man under pressure. In the third round it was clear that Varela was susceptible to the power of Niida (105) before a big left hook to the head dropped him. Although beating the count the end was near, and in the fourth and fifth Varela was forced to give ground prior to being counted out in the sixth on the 2.16 mark following a solid left uppercut to the body.
The big punching Roman Gonzalez would be the next challenger for Niida. Only two men in 20 unbeaten contests had lasted the distance, and he had beaten Juan Francisco Centeno (2), Varela, Miguel Tellez and Eriberto Gejon on his way to a title shot.
15 September 2008. Roman Gonzalez w rsc 4 Yutaka Niida
Venue: The Pacifico, Yokohama, Japan. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Mark Nelson.
Fight Summary: Giving an awesome display of hitting power, Gonzalez (104½) ripped away the WBA title from Niida (104¼) when the referee rescued the latter at 1.59 of the fourth. Prior to that Gonzalez had been utterly dominant when smashing in cracking combinations, and when Niida's right eye became badly swollen in the third and then closed in the fourth it was clear to all but the latter that the fight was over.
28 February 2009. Roman Gonzalez w pts 12 Francisco Rosas
Venue: Guelaguetza Auditorium, Oaxaca, Mexico. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Russell Mora.
Scorecards: 115-113, 116-112, 114-114.
Fight Summary: Being forced to travel 12 rounds for the first time in his career was a new experience for the champion, with Rosas (105) battling him all the way. Constantly exchanging blows with his tough opponent, Gonzalez (104½) just about made it by a majority decision.
14 July 2009. Roman Gonzalez w pts 12 Katsunari Takayama
Venue: World Memorial Hall, Kobe, Japan. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Silvestre Abainza.
Scorecards: 118-110, 118-110, 118-110.
Fight Summary: Boxing well for several rounds the elusive Takayama (105) made things difficult for the champion, but once he had been cut over the right eye by a solid right in the sixth he began to open up. Although this tactic favoured Gonzalez (104¼), it made the fight far more exciting despite Takayama lacking the power to put his man under too much pressure.
30 January 2010. Roman Gonzalez w rsc 4 Ivan Meneses
Venue: Siglo XXI Auditorium, Puebla, Mexico. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Robert Hoyle.
Fight Summary: Punching away with both hands, the champion gave Meneses (105) no time or room to put his boxing together. As Gonzalez (105) gathered pace, Meneses was dropped twice in the third round, the bell coming to his rescue following the second knockdown. At the end of the fourth, after the game Meneses had received another heavy battering and had a badly swollen left cheek, the referee called it off.
Gonzalez handed the WBA belt back on 8 October in order to fight in a higher weight division, and at the same time my version of the 'world' title was vacated. It was next contested by Kazuto Ioka, the WBC title holder, and the WBA's Akira Yaegashi in a unification affair on 20 June 2012. Yaegashi, who had won the WBA title in his last contest, had a record showing 15 wins and two defeats, while Ioka was unbeaten after nine contests, having won the WBC crown from Oleydong Sithsamerchai in his seventh fight and defended it against Juan Hernandez Navarrete and Yodgoen Tor Chalermchai. With six inside-the-distance wins to his credit, Ioka had also accounted for Takashi Kunishige prior to this meeting.
20 June 2012. Kazuto Ioka w pts 12 Akira Yaegashi
Venue: Bodymaker Coliseum, Osaka, Japan. Recognition: WBA/WBC. Referee: Yuji Fukuchi.
Scorecards: 115-114, 115-113, 115-113.
Fight Summary: In a unification battle between the WBC champion, Ioka (105), and his WBA counterpart, Yaegashi (104¾), it was the former who took the close decision. From the first to last there was never much between them, and it was probably Ioka's opening attack which left Yaegashi's left eye swollen, something that bothered him throughout, that was the difference. Both men boxed well, using jabs and combinations effectively, but it was the man that won two of the last three rounds who was favoured.
Ioka relinquished the WBC title on 29 June, being unable to defend both belts within the same time frame prior to it being announced on 3 October that he would be moving up to junior flyweight. When the WBO champion, Francisco Rodriguez Jnr, was matched against the IBF’s Katsunari Takayama on 9 August 2014 my version of the 'world' title would once again be up for grabs. Takayama, who had turned pro in October 2000, brought 27 wins, six defeats and a technical draw into the fight, having been a WBC champion back in 2005 before coming back almost eight years later to take the IBF crown from Mario Rodriguez and make successful defences against Virgilio Silvani and Shin Ono. Meanwhile, Rodriguez Jnr had run up 17 wins (12 inside the distance) and lost twice, one of them to the redoubtable Roman Gonzalez, since turning pro in October 2010. In his previous contest, Rodriguez Jnr had stopped Merlito Sabillo inside ten rounds to land the WBO crown.
9 August 2014. Francisco Rodriguez Jnr w pts 12 Katsunari Takayama
Venue: The Arena, Monterrey, Mexico. Recognition: IBF/WBO. Referee: Samuel Viruet.
Scorecards: 116-111, 119-108, 115-112.
Fight Summary: In what was a unification battle, it was the WBO representative, Rodriguez (105), who made the better start when dropping the IBF's Takayama (105) in the third following a left hook. Although Takayama came back well in the next four rounds it was Rodriguez who finished the stronger when capturing the last five sessions, stunning the former several times in the process.
Looking to box in a higher weight division, Rodriguez first relinquished the IBF title on 9 October before handing back his WBO belt on 25 November. Further to that, when Katsunari Takayama was matched against Go Odaira (11 wins, three draws, one of the technical variety, and three defeats) to contest the vacant IBF and WBO titles, my version of the 'world' title would also be involved. This would be Takayama’s first contest since his defeat at the hands of Rodriguez.
31 December 2014. Katsunari Takayama w rsc 7 Go Odaira
Venue: Bodymaker Colosseum, Osaka, Japan. Recognition: IBF/WBO. Referee: Takeshi Shimakawa.
Fight Summary: Contesting the titles that had been vacated after Francisco Rodriguez Jnr had decided to move up a division, it was Takayama (104¾) who came through to win despite losing the opening four rounds as Odaira (104), a southpaw, skipped out of trouble while landing well with right hooks and left crosses. It was only in the fifth that Takayama got the measure of Odaira when marching forward to force him on to the back foot, and in the sixth a series of big hooks almost despatched the latter. Keeping up the offensive, it was all Takayama, and at 2.24 of the seventh the referee called it off after Odaira was on the ropes shipping punches without response.
Takayama relinquished the WBO title on 2 March 2015 in order to concentrate on his IBF crown.
22 April 2015. Katsunari Takayama w tdec 9 Fahlan Sakkreerin Jnr
Venue: Prefectural Gym, Osaka, Japan. Recognition: IBF. Referee: Katsuhiko Nakamura.
Scorecards: 90-81, 86-85, 87-84.
Fight Summary: Despite dictating the pace throughout, the champion's high volume of punches did little damage to Sakkreerin (104½), who was mainly content to rely on his defence and the occasional powerful uppercut. Although Sakkreerin appeared to be getting back into the fight, with Takayama (104¾) carrying cuts over both eyes that were caused by accidental head butts, the ring doctor twice inspected the damage in the ninth before advising the referee to stop the contest at 2.19 of the session. Following that, under IBF rules, a technical decision in Takayama's favour was rendered.
27 September 2015. Katsunari Takayama w rsc 8 Ryuji Hara
Venue: Edion Arena, Osaka, Japan. Recognition: IBF. Referee: Wayne Hedgpeth.
Fight Summary: The champion did not have it all his own way in this one, especially in the second and third sessions when Hara (105) slammed in cracking punches to head and body. Takayama (104¾) was also badly cut under the left eye from an accidental head butt. Taking note of those early warnings Takayama got his boxing together in round four, driving in blows up and down to force the former jockey to the ropes. The contest came to an end at 1.20 of the eighth when the referee jumped in to save Hara from taking further punishment following an incessant two-handed attack from Takayama, who saw his chance and took it.
Takayama’s next defence would be against Jose Argumedo, an improving fighter with four-inside-the distance victories in his last five contests. With a record of 16 wins, one technical draw and three defeats, to Oswaldo Novoa (2) and Carlos Velarde, his win list included Novoa, Martin Tecuapetla and Javier Martinez Resendiz.
31 December 2015. Jose Argumedo w tdec 9 Katsunari Takayama
Venue: Edion Arena, Osaka, Japan. Recognition: IBF. Referee: Takeshi Shimakawa.
Scorecards: 87-84, 87-84, 85-86.
Fight Summary: Argumedo (105) made a flying start in his quest for victory, powering into Takayama (105) with both hands and not giving the champion any respite. To add to Takayama's woes an accidental butt saw him cut over the left eye in the second. Despite coming back hard in the next two sessions Takayama was still getting caught by long overarm punches from the crouching Argumedo, whose long reach continued to confuse him. After suffering a difficult fifth round Takayama dominated the sixth and seventh before Argumedo took over again, especially after another accidental butt cut the former over the right eye in the ninth. With Takayama's eye damage worsening the referee stopped the action at the end of the ninth prior to calling for the cards.
1 July 2016. Jose Argumedo w pts 12 Julio Mendoza
Venue: Fairground Arena, Tepic, Nayarit, Mexico. Recognition: IBF. Referee: Roberto Ramirez Jnr.
Scorecards: 118-110, 118-110, 119-109.
Fight Summary: This was a relatively easy first defence for Argumedo (104½), who took on the limited Mendoza (104¼) and, as expected, won virtually every round as he cruised through the contest without giving his opponent the opportunity to get lucky. There were no knockdowns and none ever likely as Argumedo stuck to his boxing to land the unanimous decision by a wide margin.
12 November 2016. Jose Argumedo w rsc 3 Jose Antonio Jimenez
Venue: Fairground Tent, Valles, San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Recognition: IBF. Referee: Mario Gonzalez.
Fight Summary: Right from the opening bell, Argumedo (104) got down to work, countering his challenger’s wild swings with solid blows through the middle. Keeping up the pressure, Argumedo dropped Jimenez (104) in the third round with a big overarm right to the head and, on the latter getting up, he was soon staggering around on the ropes prior to receiving a standing count. There would be no respite for Jimenez, who took several heavy rights to the head before the referee stopped the contest on the 1.22 mark.
27 May 2017. Jose Argumedo w rsc 8 Gabriel Mendoza
Venue: TV Azteca Arena, Monterrey, Mexico. Recognition: IBF. Referee: Vincent Accoo.
Fight Summary: The fight plan was settled early on with both men deciding to get down to business, Argumedo (105) going with heavy rights to the head and the challenger depending on his trusty left hook. Unfortunately for Mendoza (105) he was outworked by the hard-hitting, brawling Argumedo who went further and further ahead as the bout progressed. By the midway point, Argumedo was having success with uppercuts and left hooks to the body as Mendoza tired, and after 43 seconds of round eight the referee stopped the fight on the advice of the physician after the latter was badly cut over the left eye following a heavy right hand.
Argumedo’s would next defend against Hiroto Kyoguchi, the OPBF champion, who was undefeated in seven contests since turning pro with only Jonathan Refugio lasting the distance.
23 July 2017. Hiroto Kyoguchi w pts 12 Jose Argumedo
Venue: Ota City General Gym, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: IBF. Referee: Malik Waleed.
Scorecards: 116-111, 116-111, 115-112.
Fight Summary: From the opening bell the contest was a fast one as both men looked to take the play away from the other. The champion could never quite control Kyoguchi (105) as he flailed away continuously without doing too much damage, the latter landing the better quality. There was never too much in it, but in the ninth it was Kyoguchi who scored the punch of the fight, a big left hook that downed Argumedo (103¾) and virtually assured him victory. However, it was far from over as far as the game Argumedo was concerned, but Kyoguchi eventually prevailed to become a champion just over a year after turning pro.
31 December 2017. Hiroto Kyoguchi w rsc 8 Carlos Buitrago
Venue: Ota-City General Gym, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: IBF. Referee: Roberto Ramirez Jnr.
Fight Summary: Making his first defence, Kyoguchi (105) controlled the contest from the opening bell to the moment the fight ended at 2.28 of the eighth round. Having piled up the points for round after round, Kyoguchi eventually got to Buitrago (104) in the sixth with a big right to the head before continuing to attack the head and body throughout the next two sessions. Although Buitrago attempted to counter, Kyoguchi would not be denied, and despite there being no knockdowns, with the Nicaraguan being punched from pillar to post in the eighth, the referee had seen enough.
20 May 2018. Hiroto Kyoguchi w pts 12 Vince Paras
Venue: Ota-City General Gym, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: IBF. Referee: Benjy Esteves Jnr.
Scorecards: 117-110, 117-110, 117-110.
Fight Summary: Although the champion made a fair start he was shocked in the third when Paras (105) landed with a cracking left hook to put him down. This was the first time Kyoguchi (105) had ever been floored, but showing his mettle he came straight back in the next session to catch Paras with solid shots. After Paras was cut on the right eye following a clash of heads in the fifth, something went from his game plan, leaving Kyoguchi to dominate with heavy combinations. Apart from the 11th when the tough Paras gave it one almighty effort, it was all Kyoguchi through to the final bell.
On 23 July, Kyoguchi announced that he was moving up a division due to difficulties in making the weight, thus vacating the IBF title. Rated at number two, Knockout CP Freshmart’s next defence of the WBA title would be against Byron Rojas, the third best in the division, and should be seen as also involving my version of the 'world' title as the top-ranked Wanheng Menayothin had not met a top five opponent for over two years. Coming into the fight, Freshmart was unbeaten with 18 straight wins to his credit, having taken the title from Rojas and gone on to make successful defences against Shin Ono, Go Odaira, Rey Loreto, Toto Landero and Chaozhong Xiong, while Rojas’ record read 25 wins, three draws, one technical draw and three defeats.
29 November 2018. Knockout CP Freshmart w pts 12 Byron Rojas
Venue: City Hall Grounds, Chonburi, Thailand. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Rafael Ramos.
Scorecards: 117-111, 116-112, 115-113.
Fight Summary: Defending the WBA title for the seventh time and meeting Rojas (104½) in a return match, Freshmart (104½) took his time to settle as the man from Nicaragua made a fast start. Using his height and reach advantages, Rojas was ahead by the fifth before the counter-punching Freshmart began to get home with body shots in what had become a messy affair with too much fouling that went unpunished. In the seventh Rojas was cut over the right eye from a head butt that bothered him throughout the rest of the contest, and although he came on strong to take the final two sessions it was not enough to secure victory.
2 August 2019. Knockout CP Freshmart w tech dec 8 ArAr Andales
Venue: City Hall Grounds, Nakhon Sawan, Thailand. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Kwan-Ho Jang.
Scorecards: 78-74, 77-75, 79-73.
Fight Summary: Up against the ten-fight unbeaten, aggressive challenger, Andales (105), the champion had to call on all of his experience to survive what became a difficult night as heads clashed time and again. Although Freshmart (105) took time to get going, by the third he was firing in jabs to the body while banging in countering right hands that had the desired effect. He was also showing his strength in the clinches. Early in the seventh both men were warned for use of the head, but almost immediately it could be seen that Freshmart was cut on the right eyelid. Following what was deemed to be another accidental butt, a further cut opened up on Freshmart’s damaged brow in the eighth, which brought the contest to an end on the 1.33 mark after the doctor confirmed that the champion could not continue and that the cards should be called for.
3 March 2020. Knockout CP Freshmart w pts 12 Norihito Tanaka
Venue: Municipality Grounds, Nakhon Sawon, Thailand. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Robert Hoyle.
Scorecards: 120-107, 120-107, 119-108.
Fight Summary: Up against the 35-year-old Tanaka (104¾), the WBA champion made his normal good start with spearing jabs paving the way for solid rights and combinations, and in the third a right-left-right had the challenger over for the mandatory ‘eight’ count. Building on that in the next session, CP Freshmart (105) caught Tanaka with solid body shots, but the latter proved what a tough man he was by standing up to them. Cut under the left eye in the eighth by a clash of heads made no difference to CP Freshmart, who immediately got back to working his man over on his way to a conclusive points win.
5 October 2021 Knockout CP Freshmart w rsc 3 Ponsaklek Sithdabnij
Venue: Chang Arena, Buriram, Thailand. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Pinit Prayadsab.
14 December 2021. Knockout CP Freshmart w rsc 5 Robert Paradero
Venue: Saphan Hin Park, Phuket, Thailand. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Chalerm Prayadsab.
20 July 2022. Knockout CP Freshmart w pts 12 Wanheng Menayothin
Venue: City Hall Grounds, Chonburi, Thailand. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Pinit Prayadsab.
Scorecards: 119-109, 116-112, 117-111.