One-punch knockouts are a rarity in the lower divisions, but Japan’s Shinsuke Yamanaka is carving out a niche as one of the biggest punchers below featherweight. The WBC bantamweight titleholder bolstered his reputation as one of the fiercest sluggers in the eastern hemisphere by blasting Puerto Rico’s Jose Nieves out with a single left cross in the first round at Ota-City General Gymnasium in Tokyo on Monday.
After absorbing the blow flush, Nieves bounced off the ropes before going down to his seat, clutching his face. He rose just shy of the ten count, but referee Bruce McTavish recognized the distress in Nieves and halted the bout at the 2:40 mark.
For the 32-year-old Yamanaka (19-0-2, 14 knockouts) of Konan, Japan, it was the fourth successful defense of the title he won with a knockout of Christian Esquivel in 2011. In his last 13 bouts, only former two-division champion Vic Darchinyan has survived to the final bell. Nieves (22-3-3, 11 KOs) loses for the first time since being knocked out in four rounds by Chris Avalos in 2010.
Yamanaka, who is rated No. 2 by THE RING at 118 pounds, is one of three Japanese boxers rated in the top ten, followed by the ultra-popular Koki Kameda at No. 3 and his younger brother Tomoki Kameda, the WBO claimant, at No. 9.
Meanwhile, THE RING’s flyweight champion, Akira Yaegashi, made his first successful defense of his title earlier in the night when he outslugged Mexico’s Oscar Blanquet over twelve rounds to a unanimous decision win. The scores were 116-110, 116-110 and 115-111.
Yaegashi (18-3, 9 KOs), who won the title in April when he decisioned countryman Toshiyuki Igarashi, had issues early on with Blanquet’s superior height and left jab. Fortunes began to shift in Yaegashi’s favor beginning in Round 3, after a series of accidental headbutts left Blanquet protective of his right eye. Yaegashi, who holds his hands low and punches from the waist in the style of Yuriorkis Gamboa, began to break Blanquet down with body shots, hurting his opponent near the end of Round 5 with a left hook downstairs after slipping a Blanquet right.
The Yokohama resident continued to invest in body work in Round 6, but lost a point when referee Len Koivisto ruled a left hand to be low. Sensing that his opponent was wilting under the pressure, Yaegashi began to target big overhand rights near the end of Round 8 after Blanquet complained of another head clash. As Blanquet stepped in to throw a left uppercut, Yaegashi beat him to the mark with a left hook, followed by a glancing right that pushed Blanquet to the canvas for the fight’s only knockdown.
Yaegashi, 30, has won world titles in two divisons, having won the WBA’s 108-pound title before dropping it last year to Kazuto Ioka in a Fight of the Year candidate unification bout. Blanquet (32-6-1, 23 KOs) has lost two straight after dropping a majority decision to Wilbert Uicab in December.
While Yamanaka and Yaegashi had the most significant bouts of the night, it was former bantamweight and featherweight champion Hozumi Hasegawa who had the show’s most explosive performance, knocking out Mexican journeyman Genaro Camargo stiff at 2:32 of the first round. Hasegawa (33-4-15, KOs) of Kobe, Japan, dropped Camargo (42-16, 34 KOs) two minutes into the fight with a counter overhand left that sent him to one knee.
Camargo rose, but Hasegawa continued to attack with straight left crosses down the middle. As Camargo stepped inside, Hasegawa slapped him with three straight lefts before cranking up and starching him with one final overhand left as Camargo set up to throw his own left hook. The referee stopped the fight without a count, as Camargo landed on his right side with his face in the canvas.
Hasegawa, 32, has now won four straight since suffering a pair of fourth-round knockouts to Fernando Montiel (at 118) and Jhonny Gonzalez (at 126) within a 12-month period from 2010-2011.
Photos by Naoki Fukuda
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and contributes to The Ring magazine and GMA News. He can be reached at [email protected] An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.