By Jake Donovan
Edgar Sosa traveled to Japan in hopes of claiming the World lineal flyweight championship as well as causing a major stir in the Fighter of the Year debate.
Neither of those events occurred, nor did the likelihood of Akira Yaegashi landing in a Fight of the Year-worthy contest in a third straight year. What Yaegashi did manage, however, was a successful defense of his flyweight crown, defeating Sosa by unanimous decision Friday evening in Tokyo, Japan.
Yaegashi has been a part of two of the best fights in the lower weight classes in recent years. His epic 10th round knockout of Pornsawan Porpramook two years ago was an instant YouTube classic, creating enough of a groundswell to force the industry to take notice. The cult campaign led to the bout rightfully being named as 2011’s Fight of the Year.
A similar level of savagery was offered in his narrow points loss to countryman Kazuto Ioka. Their June ’12 strawweight unification bout marked the first time in boxing history two reigning titlists from Japan ever faced each other. The action didn’t disappoint at all, garnering Honorable Mention consideration for 2012 Fighter of the Year among most respected outlets.
Friday’s showdown versus Mexico’s Sosa was expected to fall along those same lines. In that sense, the bout was a bit of a letdown, though still not without its shortage of entertainment.
There were no knockdowns scored over the course of the 12-round main event, nor was there any suggestion of sustained punishment on the part of either fighter. Both can be attributed to Yaegashi’s decision to punch and move rather than stand and trade.
The strategy worked to a tee for much of the night. Open scoring had the defending champion well ahead through four rounds (39-37 twice and 40-36) and again through eight (80-72, 79-73 and 77-75). Physically, Sosa offered a respectable account of himself, but mathematically had no chance of winning a decision as the bout headed into the championship rounds.
Yaegashi grew braver as the fight wore on, creating thrilling exchanges down the stretch. Sosa dug deep during the 12th and final round. The challenger was clearly in desperation mode by that point, but never stopped trying as he enjoyed his best punch output of the fight.
It was enough to dent Yaegashi’s left eye, but not the scorecards. Tallies of 117-111 (twice) and 116-112 gives Yaegashi his fourth win on the year as his record moves to 19-3 (9KO).
The win also marked the second successful defense of the flyweight crown Yaegashi earned earlier this year, when outpointing countryman Toshiyuki Igarashi this past April.
Sosa sees a terrific 2013 campaign end in a letdown, but by no means a disappointment. The former 108 lb. titlist falls to 49-8 (29KO), ending a six-fight win streak. A win on Friday would have not only garnered Sosa consideration for Fighter of the Year, but also prompt conversation of whether or not he'd one day make his way to a Hall of Fame ballot.
A 13-year career includes 10 wins over past, current or future world champions, including a pair of terrific entries in 2013. Sosa came into the flyweight title bid on the heels of a decision win over Giovani Segura and a 2nd round knockout of Ulises 'Archie' Solis. The latter avenged two previous losses Sosa suffered earlier in his career.
Just like that, it's back to the drawing board for the 34-year old. However, a solid 2013 campaign serves as motivation to prompt perhaps one more run in the not-too-distant future.
Meanwhile, Yaegashi ponders his next move in his life as lord of the flyweights. Hotly rumored is a rematch with Ioka, who plans to vacate the 108 lb. title he won just one year ago in his first fight following the unification win over Yaegashi. The undefeated two-division title claimant returns to the ring on New Year's Eve - a tradition three years running - after which a defection to the flyweight division is in store for 2014.
Should that rematch not materialize (next or otherwise), there exists the possibility of Yaegashi, who turns 31 in February, facing streaking knockout artist Luis Concepcion. From an alphabet sense, the Panamian flyweight is the next highest-rated contender, and has won seven straight since a pair of losses to Hernan 'Tyson' Marquez in 2011.
Either scenario would easily land Yaegashi back in the center of any Fight of the Year discussion. Every once in a while, though, just winning is enough to get through the day, which on Friday evening was the case for the defending flyweight champion of the world.
The bout aired via one-hour tape delay on Fuji TV in Japan.
In supporting action:
- 2012 Olympic Gold medalist Ryota Murata (2-0, 2KO) scored an eighth round stoppage of American challenger David Peterson (13-2, 8KO)
- Naoya and Takuma Inoue both impressed on the undercard. 20-year old Naoya Inoue (5-0, 4KO) scored a 5th round knockout of Filipino prospect Jerson Mancio (18-4-3, 9KO), while younger brother Takuma enjoyed a successful pro debut with a six-round decision over Tatsuyu Fukuhara. Scores were 59-55 (twice) and 59-56 in favor of Inoue, who turns 18 later this month.
A full recap of the undercard can be found HERE.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as the Records Keeper for the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a member of Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox