By Kaz Nagatsuka
Takashi Uchiyama didn’t get his wish.
Champion Jezreel Corrales handed the Japanese boxing great another loss, recording a a split-decision victory (117-110, 115-112, 113-114) and retaining his WBA super featherweight title at Tokyo’s Ota City General Gymnasium on New Year’s Eve.
Uchiyama (24-2-1) knocked Corrales down late in the fifth round on Saturday night, though it didn’t seem to do a lot of damage to the champion. But overall, “Knockout Dynamite” had a hard time landing blows against the athletic, unorthodox fighter Corrales (21-1-0).
“I’m disappointed, but Corrales accepted this return match and it’s all on me for coming up short,” said the 37-year-old Uchiyama, who defended his WBA super featherweight title 11 times in a row before a stunning second-round technical knockout loss to Corrales on April 27, which was arguably dubbed “the upset of the year” in the sport, at the same venue. “He was competitive today.”
Uchiyama seemed to adjust to the Panamanian’s speed and began landing some punches in the later rounds, but wasn’t able to hit “El Invisible” with critical blows before the bell in the final round.
“I felt like I had a chance later in the fight,” Uchiyama said. “But he used his legs moving around and I couldn’t land my punches. That’s what I have regret (about).”
Asked what his next move would be after the bout, Uchiyama wouldn’t rush to make a decision.
“I have not decided yet,” he said. “I was just going to win and didn’t think of any other things but winning.
“I’ll think of it later.”
After the fight, Corrales said he felt that his dedication in training for the fight paid off.
“I was able to win because of all the training I did,” Corrales said through an interpreter. “I wasn’t sure I’d definitely win before the judgment paper was read. But I felt I did enough to win.
“Uchiyama practiced well, but I think I practiced even more than he did.”
Earlier, in the fight before the Corrales-Uchiyama showdown, Ryoichi Taguchi was saddled with a draw against undefeated hard puncher Carlos Canizales and defended his WBA light flyweight belt for the fifth time.
Despite the result, Taguchi, 30, looked to dominate in the ring as he kept chasing Canizales, not providing the Venezuelan challenger space to swing his powerful blows, for much of the bout.
“I never felt comfortable fighting against him and it bothered me,” said Taguchi, who fought for the sixth straight time at the Ota City gym, reflecting on the match. “The way (Canizales) came at me was different from how we thought he would, so I was perplexed a little.”
The majority of the fans were surprised when it was announced that Derek Milham of Australia, one of the three judges, favored Canizales 116-112 (Octavio Rodriguez favored Taguchi 116-112 and Philippe Verbeke gave the two boxer a 114-114 draw).
But Taguchi did not whine about the scores by saying, “I felt like I gave up some rounds and I’ve got to reflect on it.”
Of course, he was able to say so because he retained his belt.
“I defended my title, which is positive,” he said.