Kazuto Ioka and Akira Yaegashi competed in the first-ever world title unification bout between two Japanese fighters today in Osaka, and it was wunderkind Ioka staying unbeaten against an incredibly determined and very brave Yaegashi, winning on scores of 115-113, 115-113, and 115-114.
With the win, Ioka unifies the WBC 105-pound title he held with the WBA belt that Yaegashi brought to the table. But even though Ioka fought well and there should be no controversy about the decision, it will probably be Yaegashi's performance that leads most of the post-fight talk.
By the fourth round, Yaegashi (15-3, 8 KO) was suffering from swelling around his left eye so bad that it was a constant concern whether or not the fight would be stopped. When referee Yuji Fukuchi checked the eye in the fifth round, he allowed the fight to continue, which gave Yaegashi a sense of urgency, as he barreled forward and looked to do damage.
The eye was checked again about halfway into the sixth round, this time by the ringside physician, and again he was allowed to continue.
The most recent comparison to what Yaegashi fought through would probably be Erik Morales' loss to Marcos Maidana in 2011. Like Morales, Yaegashi fought strong and hard against a favored opponent, pretty much spending the fight seeing out of one eye, to boot. And he probably had a decent argument for the win, as he seemed the harder puncher at various times in the bout, and there were a good handful of possible swing rounds that could have gone either way.
Ioka (10-0, 6 KO) further establishes himself as one of the best young fighters in the world, as the 23-year-old standout adds another good win to his resume. If a fight between Ioka and Nkosinathi Joyi of South Africa, the IBF titleholder, cannot be made, I doubt many would argue with the idea of an Ioka-Yaegashi rematch. This was good, high-level boxing, with exciting exchanges and two guys who came to fight and then did.