Japanese Scene: Uchiyama Stops Miura - Shimoda Takes Title From Lee

Sidney Boquiren has the ringside report from this past weekend's big Japanese boxing show in Tokyo.  For more Japanese boxing updates, you can follow Sidney on twitter: RingwalkNippon@Twitter

Uchiyama jabs his way to third defense

Takashi Uchiyama had been preparing for a showdown with fellow top ten 130-pounder Jorge Solis when the Mexican pulled out in December, citing an illness as the cause for his unavailability. A letdown both to the fighter and boxing fans, the announcement of his replacement opponent did not particularly ease the disappointment. However Takashi Miura, then the reigning national champ, succeeded in at least providing the most dramatic moment of Uchiyama’s still brief reign during Monday’s bout. The southpaw launched a scintillating lead left that landed flush on the champ’s chin, sending Uchiyama to the canvas for only the second time in his career.

While the defending strapholder carries the ring moniker "KO Dynamite," it was Miura, also a reputed heavy puncher with 16 stoppages among his 20 wins, who displayed his power first. Until the knockdown, Uchiyama was in complete control of the bout, keeping the challenger at bay behind a quick, sharp jab and lead rights. Slightly more aggressive than expected, the 30-year old champ mixed in hard body blows and uppercuts, and was clearly in the lead through eight minutes of action.

At a disadvantage in both size and speed, Miura was having trouble finding the target as the champ could rather easily evade his punches. However, the challenger may have been confident that he would have an opportunity to pull out an upset as he discovered a crack in the incumbent’s defense. As early as the closing seconds of the first round (and again at the end of the second), Miura found he could reach Uchiyama with a well-timed lead left. The punch in the second stanza, in particular, may have foreshadowed what onlookers would see in the very next frame as the southpaw fiercely rocked the champ’s head back with a left hand.

Though Uchiyama rose from the mat quickly and did his best to conceal any damage from the blow, he was obviously buzzed and would eat the next punch thrown at him. After surviving the round, the champ, a decorated former amateur star, drew upon that experience and thoroughly outboxed the limited challenger. Save for a few moments in the fifth round, Uchiyama snapped jab after jab into Miura’s right eye. Lead rights and one-twos would follow as he regained his rhythm, and by the sixth frame the challenger’s eye appeared to start closing.

Despite Miura’s effort to go on the offensive in the following round, Uchiyama maintained his composure and would pump more left hands into his counterpart’s head. He would double and triple the jab, then take shots with hooks and uppercuts to the body. The champ’s boxing skills and cool demeanor were indeed impressive. The same can be said of the challenger’s brave attempt to hang in while his vision was rapidly becoming impaired. After another three minutes of Uchiyama dominance, however, Miura’s corner wisely called off the fight as their charge’s right eye had fully closed.

With the stoppage, the WBA titleholder chalked up his third defense and protected his undefeated ledger (17-0, 14KO). Miura, who dropped to 20-2-2 (16KO), may have inadvertently made it easier for the champ to attract a big name opponent by showing his vulnerability. Before Monday’s clash, Uchiyama’s camp had expressed interest in finally getting Solis in the ring, but also mentioned Jason Litzau as a possible opponent in the near future. Unfortunately, Ring Magazine’s #3 junior lightweight may be out for an extended break as it was revealed in his dressing room after the contest that he had fought the majority of the fight with a busted right hand. Medical reports today showed that he has dislocated the wrist and metacarpal bone.

Shimoda elusive over 12, sends Lee to canvas three times

The opening gong may very well have been the stroke of midnight for Ryol Li Lee’s Cinderella story, as the WBA super bantamweight champion was completely befuddled by Akifumi Shimoda’s left-handed stance and slashing style. The 28-year old Osaka native looked nothing like the slick technician who pulled off one of 2010’s biggest upsets when he scored a unanimous decision over the man considered either #1 or #2 in the division. After 12 surprisingly action-packed rounds that saw both men hit the canvas, Lee would concede his title when scores read 118-109 (twice) and 115-111, all for Shimoda.

Four months removed from beating Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym, Lee alternated from being apprehensive to downright cumbersome, as he could not find an effective means to attacking the challenger. The champ admitted later that he had planned for Shimoda to stop and trade; what he actually faced would be quite different. Not only did Lee find difficulty with the challenger’s southpaw style, but the Teiken product’s superior footwork and mobility further exasperated the champ’s problems. Shimoda could dart in range, spray left hands up top and to the body, then back out before Lee could retaliate. Even when the beltholder finally got his hands on the challenger, he still looked uncomfortable and could not mount a sustained offensive.

The third stanza is an early entry for round of the year with both men landing on their backsides within the three-minute period. Shimoda struck first, dropping the champ with a left hand as he was trying to move inside. With two-thirds of the frame still left, the challenger attempted to finish off Lee, who was clearly buzzed, landing a few good power punches. However, his hubris would put him in danger as the titleholder returned the favor by sending Shimoda to the canvas with a hard right hand. Had there been more than a few seconds remaining on the clock, Lee may have been able to find a way to pull out the defense as the southpaw looked to be on very uncertain legs. However, as soon as referee Rafael Ramos concluded his count, the bell sounded the end of the round.

Shimoda seemed to have recovered from the late knockdown by the opening of the fourth. Finding the mark with his left hand and attacking the body, the challenger continued to dominate the pace of the fight. Though Lee has been praised in the past for his defensive aptitude, those skills were not apparent on this night as the southpaw landed punches with regularity. Shimoda would further increase his lead in the next round, flooring Lee for a second time, when he timed a left hand to meet the champ perfectly as he came forward.

Round seven was perhaps the defending beltholder’s best, but his success was short-lived as Shimoda would be credited with a third knockdown in the next round. Though Lee was not visibly hurt and replays would show that the blow that actually caused him to hit the mat was a cuffing shot that landed behind his head, the knockdown ended any hopes for the champ to make a late charge. The challenger would finish the fight strong, mixing up his offensive by using both hands while literally running circles around the deflated champion.

The minor upset was clearly Shimoda’s career-best performance, raising his record to 23-2-1 (10KO), and gave Teiken its third world titleholder. The win also made way for the lefty to replace Lee in the #2 spot in the Ring ratings.

Lee falls to 17-2-1 (8KO).

On the undercard...

Seiichi Okada (13-1, 8KO) edged Rikiya Fukuhara (24-5-1, 18KO) to take a split decision and the national super featherweight crown. The fight was a part of this year’s Champion Carnival and was made possible when Miura vacated the title for the shot at Uchiyama. Okada was making his second appearance in the Carnival, as he was on the losing end of a split decision in terrific bout with Miura in last year’s edition. The prospect started the fight very slowly and looked uncharacteristically lost, even when he got inside the taller, longer veteran’s reach. However, he finally put things together from the middle rounds when he targeted Fukuhara’s body. Scores were 96-95 (twice) for Okada against one 96-95 tally for the veteran.

Both of yesterday’s world title fights are available on youtube. Check it out while they are still there…

Uchiyama-Miura

Part 1 & Part 2

Lee-Shimoda

Part 1 & Part 2

Here’s the broadcast info for Rojas-Nashiro:

Saturday, 5 February, 7:45PM (standard Japanese time) TV Osaka

TV Osaka is an affiliate of TV Tokyo, but I have no clue as to where one would be able to watch the fight since I am in Tokyo. I am actually not sure how I will be able to see it.

e-mail Sidney Boquiren

For more coverage of Japanese boxing, follow Sidney on Twitter: RingwalkNippon@Twitter

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