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Elwin Soto stops Katsunari Takayama in 9 to retain junior fly belt on Canelo-Saunders card

Elwin Soto (left) lands a left on Katsunari Takayama (Photo by Ed Mulholland/Matchroom)
Fighters Network

ARLINGTON, Texas – Elwin Soto retained the WBO junior flyweight title for the third time with an old fashioned beat down of former four-time strawweight titlist Katsunari Takayama, whom he stopped in the ninth round on Saturday night in the co-feature of the Canelo Alvarez-Billy Joe Saunders card at AT&T Stadium.

Soto was making his debut under a new co-promotional deal he signed on April 9 to bring on Matchroom Boxing’s Eddie Hearn to work with Zanfer Promotions, and he was impressive, albeit against an old warrior, whose best days were past.

Soto (19-1 13 KOs) dominated from the outset, rocking Takayama with a fierce right hand early in the opening round and he never let up. He sent Takayama reeling in the final seconds of the round with a flurry of punchers, but he also nailed Takayama (32-9 12 KOs) with a left hook after the bell ended the round, which prompted referee Laurence Cole to dock him one point.

They spent long stretches of the fight trading punches at close quarters but Soto was clearly landing the heavier shots while Takayama was throwing more but had far less steam on his landed blows. But that did not stop him from motioning to Soto to bring it on time and again.

Soto, 24, of Mexico, continued to rain shots on a clearly weakening Takayama in the ninth round and when he was staggered by a right hand and took a few more shots, Cole stepped in and waved it off at 2 minute, 44, seconds.

Takayama, 37, of Japan, is best known for a decision loss to Francisco Rodriguez Jr. in an action-packed strawweight unification fight that was the 2014 fight of the year but he did not fight between August 2016 and December 2020, leaving professional boxing in 2017 in an effort to make the 2020 Japanese Olympic team. But when the Olympics were postponed he returned to professional boxing seeking one more title opportunity.

Cissokho edges Conway

Junior middleweight Souleymane Cissokho (13-0 8 KOs) rode his better skills and long jab to a split decision win over Kieron Conway (16-2-1, 3 KOs) in a fight that lacked any semblance of action until the final two rounds.

Kieron Conway takes a right hand from Souleymane Cissokho. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.

Two judges had the fight, which was originally scheduled for December on the Anthony Joshua-Kubrat Pulev undercard but postponed, it for Cissokho, 96-93 and 95-94, and one judge surprisingly had it 97-92 for Conway.

They fought the first eight rounds at a very measured pace and it had very little action. Conway, 24, of England, who had promised to pressure the more technical Cissokho, did not live up to that promise and Cissokho, who is trained by Virgil Hunter, appeared to pick him apart from the outside with his jab.

Conway’s big moment came in the ninth round when clipped Cissokho with a left uppercut to knock him down in the opening seconds. Conway tried to unload and get him out of there but Cissokho, 29, a 2016 French Olympian, who was wobbly, made it through the round and had shaken it off by the 10th.

Sanchez dominates Aguilera

Heavyweight Frank Sanchez (18-0, 13 KOs), who shares trainer Eddy Reynoso with Alvarez, scored a sixth-round technical decision win over Dominican journeyman Nagy Aguilera (21-11, 14 KOs), 34, of Newburgh, New York, when the fight was stopped after Aguilera complained he could not continue following being grazed with a right hand behind the head.

Sanchez won 60-54 on all three scorecards when referee Rueben Perez ruled that Aguilera could not continue due to the accidental foul, although the punch could not seen landing on replays.

In the third round, Sanchez, 28, a Cuba native fighting out of Las Vegas, nailed Aguilera with a right hand while he was complaining to the referee about a borderline punch behind the head.

Aguilera continued the antics in the sixth round. Sanchez threw a right hand and Aguilera bent over to try to avoid it. The punch grazed him across the back of the head; it barely looked like it made contact on video replays but Aguilera walked to the ropes, put one hand behind his head and dropped to his knees before falling to the mat in exaggerated fashion.

He was examined by the doctor and as the crowd was booed loudly the fight was eventually called off at 1 minute, 42 seconds and sent to the scorecards. Aguilera had pulled the same stunt in a fight in Poland against Sergiej Werwejko, who was awarded a fourth-round knockout win.

Castro bloodies, stop Castillo

Junior lightweight Marc Castro (3-0, 3 KOs), 21, of Fresno, California, fighting on his third Alvarez undercard in a row, pummeled Irving Macias Castillo (9-2, 6 KOs), 20, of Mexico, in a fourth-round knockout victory.

Castro, who was 177-7 in a decorated amateur career that included two youth world championships and 17 national champions, including the U.S. Nationals and Golden Gloves, thrashed Castillo throughout the first round. He nailed him repeatedly with clean right hands to the head and bloodied his nose. Castro continued to pound away for the rest of the fight.

By the fourth round, Castillo’s face was showing heavy damage as Castro continued to land punches almost at will until he put together another heavy flurry that forced referee Rueben Perez to step in and wave of the fight off at 2 minutes, 4 seconds.

Also on the undercard:

May 7, 2021; Arlington, TX; Keyshawn Davis and Jose Antonio Meza during their May 8th Matchroom boxing bout at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.

-Junior welterweight Keyshawn Davis (3-0, 2 KOs), 22, a speedy southpaw from Norfolk, Virginia, rolled to a shutout decision over Jose Antonio Meza (6-5-1, 1 KO). Davis won 60-54 on all three scorecards. He was appearing on his second Alvarez undercard, having turned pro on his Feb. 27 show against Avni Yildirim in Miami.

Davis, a 2017 National Golden Gloves champion and 2019 amateur world championships silver medalist, rocked Meza at the end of the first round with a right hand and things never got any easier for Meza. Late in the fifth round, Davis trapped him in a corner and teed off on him with a two-handed attack that may have resulted in a knockout had the bell not sounded.

–Welterweight Christian Alan Gomez Duran (20-2-1 17 KOs), 27, of Mexico, drilled Xavier Wilson (11-3-1, 1 KO), 29, of San Antonio, in the second round of their scheduled eight-round bout. After a fairly even opening round, Duran took care of Wilson with a clean left hook on the chin in the second round. Wilson’s legs were a mess as he struggled badly to get up but he beat the count. However, referee Rosario Solis elected to wave off the fight at 2 minutes, 19 seconds, eliciting a strong protest from Wilson.

–Junior welterweight Kelvin Davis (2-0, 1 KO), 24, the older brother of fellow prospect Keyshawn Davis, who was also on the card, survived a hard knockdown with 30 seconds left in the fight to win a unanimous four-round decision over Jan Marsalek (8-3, 7 KOs), 33, of Czech Republic.

Davis won 38-37 on all three scorecards but Marsalek gave him a very tough fight culminated when by a clean right hand on the chin that knocked him under the bottom ring rope. Davis beat the count and was unsteady but survived the final moments of the bout.