By Jake Donovan
Kiko Martinez made the second successful defense of his super bantamweight title with a 7th round stoppage over former two division champ Hozumi Hasegawa in a spirited battle Wednesday evening in Osaka, Japan.
The bout served as the co-feature to the bantamweight title fight between Shinsuke Yamanaka and Stephane Jamoye.
Both fighters went deep to the well over the course of the contest, but with the defending titlist ultimately prevailing. Hasegawa jumped out to a quick start, wisely boxing and doing his part to avoid an inside fight while keeping the squat Martinez at bay.
It worked well for the most part in the early rounds, save for a disastrous round two that saw Hasegawa forced to the canvas. A body shot followed by a series of overhand rights provided the knockdown, but Hasegawa - fighting as if it's his last title shot, which at 33 years of age could very well be the case - dusted himself off and fought on. Martinez went on the offensive for the remainder of the round, trapping his challenger along the ropes and scoring with heavy shots.
Momentum trickled over into the third, but not for very long. Martinez opened the round with a strong body attack, and scored with a left hook that had Hasegawa briefly shook. The southpaw challenger took the shot surprisingly well and returned fire, scoring with uppercuts and straight left hands as Martinez noticeably slowed down.
Hasegawa was once again met with adversity in round four, as a headbutt left him with a cut over his eye. It was hardly a factor, as Martinez invested heavily in a body attack, attempting to wear down his challenger while digging deep for his own second wind.
The action intensified in the middle rounds, leaving both fighters vulnerable. Martinez was docked a point in round six for hitting on the break, although the scorecards ultimately wouldn't matter. Hasegawa went back to boxing but no longer possessed the pop to keep the pitbull-minded champion at bay.
Martinez closed the show strong in round seven, a sequence that has quickly defined his title reign. Hasegawa went on the defensive, but left himself open for an overhand right that left him with a bloodied and broken nose. The shot forced him to the canvas for an eight-count, wisely remaining on a knee to clear his head.
It only prolonged the inevitable, as Martinez had knockout on his mind. A series of hooks to the body and then upstairs put Hasegawa down and ultimately out to end the fight.
The official time was 1:20 of round seven.
Martinez improves to 31-4 (23KO) with the win, his fourth straight - all by knockout. The 28-year old entered the title fray with a shockingly one-sided drubbing of Jhonatan Romero last summer to win a vacant title. Two successful defenses have followed, including a 9th round stoppage of former 122 lb. titlist Jeffrey Mathebula in a homecoming bout in Spain last December.
Hasegawa watches his own four-fight win streak come to an end. The former bantamweight and featherweight titlsit falls to 33-5 (15KO). His last loss ended his featherweight title reign, suffering a 4th round knockout at the lethal hands of Jhonny Gonzalez in April '11.
The bout aired via same-day 20-minute tape delay on Nippon TV in Japan.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox