Monday, March 27, 2023  |



Yaegashi stops Kokietgym in 12 to set up Melindo clash

Photo by Naoki Fukuda

Akira Yaegashi shrugged off concerns about his shoulder with a 12th round technical knockout of Samartlek Kokietgym (also known as Wittawas Basapean) Friday at Ariake Colosseum in Tokyo, Japan to retain his IBF junior flyweight title.

Yaegashi (25-5, 13 knockouts) made the second defense of his title less stressful than his first, a split decision over Mexico’s Martin Tecuapetla in May. The Tecuapetla fight was made more difficult by a torn rotator cuff he suffered in the bout, which forced him out of a fall mandatory fight with Milan Melindo of the Philippines.

Ahead 109-100, 109-98 and 110-99 on the three scorecards going into the 12th, the 33-year-old Yaegashi decided to cap the win off in style, pounding the defenseless Thai against the ropes for a stoppage win at the 2:13 mark.

The loss ended a 14-fight winning streak for Kokietgym (31-6, 12 KOs) over the past two years – built against a who’s who of dubious opposition in Southeast Asia – which followed an 11th round stoppage loss to Naoya Inoue in a vie for the WBC version of the 108-pound title in 2014. Yaegashi, a three-division champion, has now won five straight since suffering back-to-back losses to Roman Gonzalez and Pedro Guevara in 2014.

Also that night, Inoue (12-0, 10 KOs) retained his WBO junior bantamweight title with a sixth round stoppage of compatriot Kohei Kono, finishing the two-time former WBA junior bantamweight titleholder at the 1:01 mark and sending him to his first ever stoppage defeat.

The New Year will likely bring a showdown between Yaegashi and Melindo (35-2, 12 KOs), who won the interim IBF junior flyweight title with a decision win over Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr. in November. The IBF told that Yaegashi would have a “medical exception” until March 29, by which he’d have to face Melindo.

Yaegashi-Melindo is a big fight in the 108-pound division, which has a void at the top since THE RING champion Donnie Nietes vacated his titles to move up to 112 pounds, where he’ll likely face Eaktawan Krungthepthonburi for the IBF title recently vacated by Johnriel Casimero.

Yaegashi is rated No. 4 at junior flyweight by THE RING while Melindo is rated at No. 5.

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