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Guillermo Rigondeaux survives two knockdowns, stops Hisashi Amagasa

Fighters Network
Photo by Ken Ishii/Getty Images.

Photo by Ken Ishii/Getty Images.

Guillermo Rigondeaux had little to gain and everything to lose when he stepped into the ring to meet Hisashi Amagasa at the Bodymaker Colosseum in Osaka, Japan, on New Year’s Eve of 2014.

Despite being dropped twice in the seventh round, the Miami-based Cuban composed himself to score a knockdown of his own in the ninth before halting the Japanese slugger in the 11th round to retain his RING, WBA and WBO junior featherweight titles.

Rigondeaux (15-0, 9 knockouts) boxed and moved per his usual game plan, targeting the straight left to the head and body of Amagasa (28-5-2, 19 KOs), who was content to be the aggressor despite holding a six-inch height advantage at 5-foot-10.

Rigondeaux flirted with disaster near the end of Round 7 when Amagasa found him with a right hand to the chin as he tried to spin to the center of the ring, scoring the first knockdown. Amagasa, 29, made a rookie mistake of running to the wrong corner, buying Rigondeaux a few precious seconds to recover.

Rigondeaux still wasn’t composed by the time referee Mike Ortega allowed the action to continue, and caught a few more shots as he tried to clinch before being thrown to the floor for a second knockdown.

With his 34-year-old legs slow to recover, Rigondeaux decided to slug his way out of trouble in Round 8. The plan could’ve been a disaster, but the experience and courage of Rigondeaux came through just when he needed them to as his left crosses pounded Amagasa’s right eye closed.

The action took a terrible toll on the face of Amagasa as the left side of his jaw began to swell in a dangerous manner. Amagasa had very little to offer by the 11th, fumbling around the ring taking punches before his corner stopped the fight.

The win capped off a transition year for Rigondeaux, who split with Top Rank after knocking out Sod Kokietgym in Macau this past July, while Amagasa loses for the first time in 13 fights. Rigondeaux now hopes to coax WBC 122-pound titleholder Leo Santa Cruz (28-0-1, 16 KOs) into the ring for a unification bout in 2015.

While one of the most under-appreciated fighters in the world survived a tough test, Osaka’s favorite son closed out the year with a stunning knockout win. Kazuto Ioka (16-1, 10 KOs), who previously held the unified strawweight and WBA junior flyweight titles, knocked out Venezuelan Jean Piero Perez (20-8-1, 14 KOs) with a right hand at 2:09 of the fifth round to register his second straight win since losing to Amnat Ruenroeng earlier this year.

Also on the card, Katsunari Takayama (28-7, 11 KOs) won the vacant IBF and WBO strawweight titles with a seventh-round technical knockout of Go Odaira (11-4-3, 1 KO) at the 2:24 mark. Takayama, who lost his IBF 105-pound title in a unification match with Francisco Rodriguez Jr. that may have been the best fight of 2014, was sanctioned to fight for both titles after Rodriguez vacated them to chase a bout with WBO junior flyweight titleholder Donnie Nietes.