Hiroto Kyoguchi couldn’t wait to follow the lead of Naoya Inoue.
Just three days after watching his close friend and pound-for-pound king score an empathic second-round knockout of Nonito Donaire in Saitama, Japan, Kyoguchi hit the road for a statement-making performance of his own. It came in the form of an eighth-round knockout of Mexico’s Esteban Bermudez in a WBA junior flyweight title unification bout. Kyoguchi overcame two point deductions to brutalize Bermudez before initiating a stoppage at 0:28 of round eight in their DAZN-aired main event Friday evening at Domo Alcalde in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Kyoguchi defended his WBA 'Super' junior flyweight title in turning away Bermudez, who held the secondary WBA 'World' title entering the night.
Kyoguchi established his weapon of choice early in the fight, throwing and landing his uppercut at will. Bermudez was determined to work his jab and often enjoyed success with the stick, but to the point of leaving himself open for brutal combinations by Kyoguchi who drew blood early in the fight.
Bermudez was unable to defend against the uppercut of Kyoguchi in round two. The unbeaten champ from Tokyo was also working his left hook while trading body shots with Bermudez, though the head shots caused a bloodied nose and a cut over the Mexican’s left eyelid.
The corner of Bermudez—which now includes Hall of Fame legendary former three-division champ Marco Antonio Barrera—had its work cut out for them. Bermudez was prompted to visit the ringside physician with 0:13 to go in round three, now with a cut atop his left forehead in addition to his eyelid and busted nose. Kyoguchi turned the Mexican’s face into a crimson mess after landing at will to the point of threatening a 10-8 round despite the absence of a knockdown.
A brief momentum shift came right on time for Bermudez, who was on the verge of being stopped before landing a left hook near the end of the fourth round. Kyoguchi was briefly buzzed, remaining upright while Bermudez was able to breathe new signs of life into a fight that was rapidly slipping out of his control.
Both boxers were warned prior to the start of round six to avoid further headbutts. Less than a minute later, Kyoguchi was deducted one point for the infraction although it was Bermudez who was initiating forehead-to-forehead exchanges at close quarters. Kyoguchi did his part to at least leave with an even round, rocking Bermudez with a pair of right hands behind a pair of jabs inside the final minute.
Kyoguchi was deducted another point near the end of round seven. Bermudez was once again examined by the ringside doctor near the end of the round, permitted to continue but immediately battered by the unbeaten champ. A swarm of punches prompted Bermudez to tip over and touch both gloves to the canvas. Referee Roberto Ramirez Jr. was slow to the draw, with Kyoguchi landing one more punch behind the back of Bermudez’s head, negating the knockdown and losing a point.
It only angered the visiting boxer.
Kyoguchi flew out of his corner at the start of round eight, clearly intent on not allowing the fight to last any longer. Bermudez was left defenseless as Kyoguchi landed a series of unanswered shots along the ropes until the fight was mercifully halted.
The approach was well justified, as a decision was very much on the table had the fight miraculously gone to the scorecards. Judges Ignacio Robles (66-65) and Jeremy Hayes (66-65) had Kyoguchi barely ahead, while judge Mike Fitzgerald (66-65 Bermudez) had the unbeaten champ trailing by one point at the time of the stoppage.
Bermudez’s Cinderella story comes to a gory close, falling to 14-4-2 (10KOs) with the knockout defeat. The bout came 54 weeks after a massive upset win in a sixth-round knockout of Venezuela’s Carlos Canizales last May 28 in Mexico City, though unable to upgrade the secondary belt he obtained that evening.
Kyoguchi advances to 16-0 (11KOs) with his second straight win in North America following a career spent entirely in Asia. The win is also his second since signing with Guadalajara’s own Eddy Reynoso’s No Boxing, No Life management team at the same time he joined Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing stable.
The win marked the fourth successful title defense for Kyoguchi, a two-division titlist who won the WBA junior flyweight belt in a tenth-round knockout of Hekkie Budler on New Year's Eve 2018 in Macao, China.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox