2016 ended with a busy weekend in major fistic action, especially on the other side of the globe. Let’s get to it.
First up though, on Thursday night boxing returned to Calgary, Alberta when Lee Baxter Promotions and Teofista Boxing staged a solid night of both pro and amateur fight action at Deerfoot Casino. In the main event, Ontario super lightweight Logan ‘Cotton’ McGuinness, who is looking to have a big 2017, moved to 25-0-1 with a sixth round TKO of Cristian Arrazola. In the co-main, Canadian heavyweight champion Dillon ‘Big Country’ Carman (12-2) thrilled the crowd with a second round KO of Vicente Sandez. And Alberta-based Polish slickster Lukasz Wierzbicki (11-0) picked up a fourth round TKO win over Cesar Figueroa.
On Friday, fearsome puncher Naoya Inoue (12-0) kept his super flyweight belt with an impressive sixth round stoppage of former world titlist Kohei Kono (32-10-1) in Tokyo, Japan. The highly respected Kono fought well but Inoue showed he is on another level with his truly fearsome punching power, not to mention some effective defense when Kono attempted to take the play from his much younger adversary. A left hook floored Kono in round six. He bravely rose but Inoue did not let his quarry off the hook, battering him back to the canvas and prompting the referee to halt the match.
On the same card, three-time world champion Akira Yaegashi (25-5) retained his IBF junior flyweight belt when he finally caught up to Thai challenger Samartlek Kokietgym (31-6) in the final round. Yaegashi won almost every round as he battered his tough challenger with both fists and finally compelled the referee to rescue Kokietgym from unnecessary punishment.
It was an action-packed New Year’s Eve with several major fights happening in Japan. Panamanian southpaw Jezreel Corrales (21-1) made it 2-0 over the man he upset last April as he took a split decision over former champion Takashi Uchiyama to retain his WBA super featherweight title. The judges handed in cards of 117-110 and 115-112 for Corrales, and a 114-113 score for Uchiyama.
Suffice to say, it was an extremely competitive fight this time, with Corrales taking the early rounds before the challenger came back to score a questionable knockdown in round five and start to apply effective pressure thereafter. The final few rounds saw an exhausted Corrales hanging on for dear life and slipping to the canvas multiple times, but Uchiyama failed to find the finisher.
There was another very close affair on the same card as Japanese champ Ryoichi Taguchi (25-2-2) retained his WBA light-flyweight belt by a split draw over Venezuelan challenger Carlos Canizales (16-0-1). Taguchi was the aggressor throughout but Canizales, who initiated numerous clinches to avoid punishment, proved a most elusive target. The judges offered up four point wins for either man with the deciding score an even 114-114.
Unbeaten Japanese speedster Kosei Tanaka acquired his second world title in just his eighth professional bout when he stopped Mexican veteran Moises Fuentes in the fifth round in Gifu, Japan. On the same card, Shota Hayashi (29-5) retained his national belt when he upset former WBA world 122-pound champ Akifumi Shimoda (31-6-2) by a very close but unanimous decision. Shimoda was leading on points after five rounds, but Hayashi came back to win the later rounds and score a knockdown in round nine to seal the win.
Finally, in Kyoto, unheralded challenger Yukinori Oguni (19-1-1) scored a major upset when he captured the IBF junior featherweight belt from Jonathan Guzman (22-1) by unanimous decision over 12 fast-paced rounds. That’s a wrap! — Robert Portis