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Japanese Scene: Igarashi Edges Tough Battle, Kamegai Scores Early Stoppage

Sidney Boquiren recaps Saturday's boxing action from Japan.  For more Japanese boxing updates, you can follow Sidney on twitter: RingwalkNippon@Twitter

Igarashi survives rough session with Yoshida

Bleeding from his right eye and forced into a slugfest he did not want, Toshiyuki Igarashi put in a tough night of work on Saturday. The southpaw stylist, making the first defense of his national flyweight title, had but a few moments in which he could create space to fight on his terms as he was caught in a literal head-to-head battle with Kenji Yoshida. Though the wily veteran may have been at a deficit in terms of pure boxing talent compared to Igarashi, Yoshida executed what may have been the most effective strategy to counter the slick champion – smother him and make him very uncomfortable. The plan almost worked as the Teiken prospect just managed to secure enough points on the scorecards for a majority decision when the bout was called in the middle of the eighth due to a clash of heads.

Unlike his previous outing, when he was able to showcase speed, accuracy and flair with free-flowing improvision, Igarashi was forced to hold his ground and duke it out as the relentless challenger left him with little room to operate. While the cleaner, flashier punches were scored by the beltholder, Yoshida was unconcerned as to where his gloves – or his head – landed as long as they kept the champ preoccupied and discouraged. The veteran, who owned the same flyweight title a few years back, went to the body frequently and knew when and how to punch when tied up in a clinch. His counterpart eventually resigned to fighting inside, but Yoshida claimed a few of the rounds simply by making Igarashi fight his fight.

The contrast of styles and stances would result in frequent butting of heads. A clash of skulls in the second stanza opened a cut on Igarashi’s right eyelid. Another would result in blood trickling from underneath Yoshida’s left eye. Yet another collision ended the fight altogether as a spout of blood from the challenger’s forehead poured right into his eye. Much to the displeasure of Igarashi’s supporters, the champ barely edged the veteran when scores were announced, winning with two 78-77 cards against a split 76-76 tally.

The 27-year old former Olympian, current owner of the no. 3 spot in both the WBC and WBA ratings, advanced to 14-1-1 (10KO). Teiken boss Akihiko Honda stated that it could be possible his charge participates in a title eliminator to see who gets a shot at Pongsaklek Wonjongkam should the Thai legend make it past Edgar Sosa (if that fight ever gets finalized). That would set Igarashi up with Mexico’s Wilbert Uicab (32-5-1, 18KO).

Kamegai scores 2R KO in return to ring

Highly-regarded prospect Yoshihiro Kamegai made his return after illness forced him to cancel his Champion Carnival defense earlier this year, resulting in eight months away from the ring. The talented former national junior welterweight champ did not have much of a chance to shake off any ring rust as he disposed of Joel Dela Cruz in a little over five minutes. Though he looked a bit flat at the outset and uncharacteristically wild in moments when he would chase his opponent, it was clear that Kamegai was superior to the journeyman in every aspect. The 28-year old finally resembled his old form in the second minute of round two. Opening up with a left-right, and following that with a right to the body, Kamegai unloaded a nasty, well-placed left hook that knocked the Filipino visitor clear out of the ropes. Barely sitting on the edge of the mat, Dela Cruz was counted out at the 2:05 mark.

Kamegai (18-0, 16KO) would be a part of the Teiken team that heads to the US in the autumn should all the contracts fall in to place. Surprisingly, Honda revealed that his client would be fighting at 147 as opposed to the junior welterweight division at which he has campaigned throughout his career. Though Saturday’s appearance and his bout with Jose Alfaro last October took place a few pounds above 140, this is somewhat unexpected. Junior welter may be congested with young talent, but this writer believed that should Kamegai move, it would be south to lightweight. I suppose with stablemates Jorge Linares and Motoki Sasaki already looking for title shots at 135, it could have been difficult to come down. Moving up to welterweight, however, seems like a much bigger venture.

e-mail Sidney Boquiren

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

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