Sidney Boquiren recaps Monday's Japanese boxing action featuring the flyweight championship clash between Sonny Boy Jaro and Toshiyuki Igarashi (Uchiyama-Farenas details after the jump). For more Japanese boxing updates, you can follow Sidney on twitter: RingwalkNippon@Twitter
Judging by their appearances after the final gong had sounded, one likely would come to the conclusion that Sonny Boy Jaro had successfully defended his flyweight crown on Monday in Saitama, Japan. The bruising, tank-like Filipino looked fairly untouched while the challenger, Toshiyuki Igarashi, had just gone through his toughest test as a pro and was bleeding severely from a gash over his left eye. The scores that were announced, however, revealed that two of the judges felt the local product had done enough to lift the WBC title from Jaro, tabbing Igarashi the winner by split decision.
What could have been an intriguing battle of contrasting styles, ended up a rather grinding affair that was determined by each combatant’s faults.
Igarashi, a former Olympian with a decorated amateur background, is technically capable and can use angles well in a slashing attack. Smother him, or force him to fight out of his comfort zone, and he becomes a different fighter.
On Monday, it seemed he was out of his element simply because he carried the label "challenger." Much like the idea that challengers have to take away a title from a champ, Igarashi seemed to abandon his normal style to perform more "challenger-like," as they say in Japanese. The questionable strategy resulted in fighting much of the bout at a distance that would allow Jaro to pummel him with right hands – wild, winging blows he likely could have avoided. The 28-year old very well could have played hit-and-run to win by points, simply jabbing the immobile veteran for 36 minutes.
The Filipino champ, for his part, started things off poorly even before the bout started, coming in more than a pound over the limit at the official weigh-in. Igarashi’s decision to bring the fight up close was likely in hopes that pounding the body would gradually wear down Jaro so that he could ease in to victory during the late rounds. Jaro, however, appeared to be in cruise control the whole time – which worked both to his benefit and disadvantage. Though his lack of movement forced Igarashi to bring the fight to the champ, his lack of activity must have also left a strong impression among the judges.
The second round was a good indication of how the fight would be played out.
Igarashi started off the period at a distance that left him vulnerable to the Pinoy’s awkward right hand, only to rediscover mid-round that he actually has a functional jab and could be successful by moving that much further away from his opponent. A couple of jabs followed by a straight left and another southpaw right found the mark as Jaro did little more than attempt to cover up a bit more than usual. The challenger appeared to be mounting an effective assault and began to spread his attack to both the body and the head. Just as it seemed that Jaro had become a human sandbag, he burst out of his shell and retorted with hard rights to Igarashi’s midsection and more upstairs. The force of the blows not only sent the challenger flying back, but also disposed of any suspicion that Igarashi’s punches had been effective at all.
While it was plain that the challenger could score at a higher rate than the visiting champ, he clearly could not hurt Jaro. On the other hand, though the titleholder only fought in brief, limited spurts, the brutal effectiveness of the punches he did throw was equally obvious.
The graceless tango continued over the next few rounds, with Igarashi acting the aggressor and Jaro the slumbering lion in wait. The challenger would pay for his decision to try and absorb the Filipino’s power punches with his guard would begin to take its toll, and Jaro rocked Igarashi in the fifth with a big right hand. Despite the opportunities the champ had to inflict more damage upon the lefty, Jaro’s disposition – or perhaps his need – to conserve energy resulted in the same pattern of action repeating itself for the rest of the bout.
The eleventh frame in particular saw Jaro blasting Igarashi with right after right in one of the fight’s rare stints of sustained action. Among the salvo of punches, one served to worsen a cut that had opened earlier above Igarashi’s left eye. Though the challenger would wear a bloody mask for the final three minutes, Jaro still did not push the issue and attempt to finish off the southpaw. Had he done so, or done enough to clearly win the round, the Pinoy would have protected his title as the scores of the final round determined if the fight would end in a draw or with Igarashi as the new champion.
With the final tallies showing 116-112, 115-113, and 112-116, Igarashi claimed the WBC and Ring titles, improving to 16-1 (10KO). Jaro, who had just won his belt in March with a huge upset over Pongsaklek Wongjongkam, falls to 34-11-5 (24KO).
Uchiyama-Farenas ends in three due to accidental headbutt
In the night’s main event, WBA super featherweight beltholder Takashi Uchiyama (18-0-1, 15KO) was able to retain his strap but would have a short night as a clash of heads left him with a big gash over his right eye. An accidental butt early in the second started a cut that would explode open in the next frame. Uchiyama and challenger Michael Farenas would knock heads shortly after a minute of action had passed in the third as Uchiyama dipped down to throw an uppercut just as the Filipino stepped into the pocket.
The outcome was unfortunate as this bout, which also matched southpaw challenger and orthodox incumbent, had the makings of some good action. Farenas (34-3-4, 26KO) showed he was game early and had some skills as he slashed in and out, looking for opportunities to land a strong left hand. While Uchiyama was the picture of control and composure, throwing and landing some nice uppercuts to the challenger’s midsection in the second, he also showed some technical flaws that Farenas had picked up on quickly.
According to Jijicom, the cut will keep Uchiyama out of the ring for a few months and his next appearance will be 4-5 months from now.
It is noteworthy that WBC beltholder Takahiro Aoh worked the commentator’s table and addressed Uchiyama after the bout. The Teiken lefty will likely fight at the end of the year, and the earliest possible showdown between the two Japanese 130-pound champs would be next spring.
For more coverage of Japanese boxing, follow Sidney on Twitter: RingwalkNippon@Twitter