Akira Yaegashi scored a well-earned unanimous decision over Oscar Blanquet for the first successful defense of his World flyweight championship Monday evening in Tokyo, Japan.
The fan-friendly slugfest served as a fitting primer to Shinsuke Yamanaka’s 1st round knockout over Puerto Rico’s Jose Nieves, which headlined the show .
Yaegashi began in his usual manner, confident that he would take over at some point, which meant giving away early rounds. The tactic proved effective, allowing Blanquet just enough confidence to believe he was in the fight, but also providing a false sense of hope that he had any chance of bringing the championship back home to Mexico.
It at least earned the fringe contender a split draw on the official scorecards through four rounds. Blanquet was up 39-37 on one card to that point, down by the same score on another and even at 38-38 on the third card. The variance was strangely accurate – Yaegashi’s ring generalship apparently rewarded on at least one card, while Blanquet’s ability to score right hands rightly reflected on the scorecard on which he lead.
The realization of his challenger hovering around kicked in for Yaegashi by round five, at which point he took over for good. It meant bad news for Blanquet, and even worse news for referee Len Koivisto. The visiting challenger increased his clinching and wrestling tactics with each incoming combination, but was met with an inadvertent low blow towards rounds end.
More fouling ensued in round six; Blanquet was once again on the canvas as a result of a sequence not including a legal punch thrown. The favor was returned later in the round, when an attempt by Yaegashi to move in and throw in combination was met with a lift and near-takedown by the challenger. Time was finally called by Koivisto, a club show-level referee from Canada who was far too pedestrian prior to finally seizing control at that point.
The lone knockdown in the bout came in round eight. Yaegashi connected with a counter right cross that forced Blanquet to stumble backwards, touching his glove to the canvas in order to steady himself, and thus correctly ruled a knockdown. The sequence put an exclamation point on his takeover to that point. The defending champion led 76-74 and 77-73 (twice) through eight rounds.
Blanquet would never punch his way back into the fight, but managed to survive the final four rounds. That he would last the distance was his consolation prize, but not even close to pulling off the upset as he heads home with his record now at 32-6-1 (23KO).
Yaegashi improves to 18-3 (9KO), picking up his third straight win. The bout marked the first defense of Yaegashi’s second championship tour.
A strawweight title reign was short-lived, winning the belt in violent fashion from Poonsawan Porpramook in 2011’s Fight of the Year, only to lose the belt in his next fight – a 12-round war with countryman Kazuto Ioka. The sensational brawl – won by Ioka via split decision - marked the first time in the history of Japan that two of its champions fought in a unification bout.
Back-to-back Fight of the Year-worthy wars was enough of a legacy for Yaegashi to leave behind at strawweight, taking off the remainder of 2012 before resurfacing at flyweight earlier this year.
The move has proven successful, having now won three in a row with Monday’s title defense. The same vulnerabilities still exist, which means a fun time at the office whenever he fights. Such was the case in his flyweight championship winning effort over Toshiyuki Igarashi earlier this year and again on Monday evening in Japan versus the visiting Blanquet.
One more fight is likely for Yaegashi before year’s end. It most likely won’t be the one he covets – a rematch with Ioka, even if his ring rival chooses to move up in weight.
Whomever it’s against, fans are guaranteed to get their money’s worth.
The bout aired live on Nihon-TV in Japan (and via other means in the rest of the world).
Appearing off television on the undercard, former two-division champ Hozumi Hasegawa (33-4, 15KO) scored a 1st round knockout over Genaro Camargo.
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