By Jake Donovan
It turned out to be a Happy New Year indeed for Pedro Guevara, who traveled halfway around the globe to capture his first major title. The dream was realized courtesy of a one-punch body shot knockout of former two-division champ Akira Yaegashi in their vacant 108 lb. title fight Tuesday evening in Japan.
The early action suggested a difficult task at hand for the three judges, as the rounds were that close. Yaegashi was naturally the aggressor - really the only way he knows how to fight - and caused drama for his visiting challenger when a right hand left Guevara with a cut over his eye in round two. The wound never proved to be a factor, but enough to motivate the former flyweight king into believing there was hope of becoming a three-division champ.
Alas, the moment was not to come.
Guevara wisely picked his moments to trade while spending most of the night landing from a desired distance. The 25-year old from Mexico never took flight at any point, but rather the necessary precautions to avoid excess punishment.
Open scoring revealed Guevara ahead on two scorecards - 39-37 on both - after four rounds, while a third judge had the action even. Neither fighter seemed to be concerned about the card, as two-way action was on display in round five. Fittingly, the best moment came when simultaneous right hands crashed on each other's jaw, though Guevara got the best of it, or so his flurry at round's end suggested.
The wheels slowly came off the car for Yaegashi, who slowed down dramatically in round six. Perhaps the years of punishment plus moving down in weight at age 31 proved to take a toll on his suddenly shopworn body. Guevara being a stud junior flyweight in the prime of his career also had plenty to do with it, picking up the intensity and impact in his punches as he began to break down the local favorite.
A perfectly placed left hook to the body was enough to put Yaegashi out of his misery, forcing him to all fours as he remained down for the full ten count. Referee Vic Drakulich stood over the fallen fighter, who never threatened to beat the count despite his best efforts to raise off the canvas.
The official time was 2:45 of round seven.
Guevara improves - in every sense of the word - 24-1-1 (16KOs) with the win. The first road trip of his career proved far more successful than his previous attempt at a title, coming up just short in a 12-round loss to John Riel Casimero - his lone defeat to date - in their Aug. '12 title fight.
As for Yaegashi, the pre-New Year's Eve clash could prove to be his last, at least at the top level. The free-swinging warrior suffers his second straight loss, this one coming just three months after conceding his flyweight crown to Roman Gonzalez in September.
Moving down in weight in efforts to become a three-division champ miserably backfired as he falls to 20-5 (10KOs).
Yaegashi also briefly reigned as a strawweight titlist, with both bouts providing some of the best moments in the history of the division. His 10th round knockout of Pornsawan Porpramook to claim the strawweight belt was universally hailed as 2011's Fight of the Year. The reign only lasted until his next ring appearance, though proving his warrior spirit in a June '12 split decision loss to countryman Kazuto Ioka in the first-ever clash between defending titlists from Japan.
The punishment sustained was enough to prompt an extended break, sitting out the remainder of 2012 before resurfacing at flyweight. The rest proved wise, winning a tune-up before racing to a showdown with then-World flyweight king Toshiyuki Igarashi in April '13. Yaegashi won a 12-round decision become lord of the flyweights, reigning for 17 months before running into Gonzalez earlier this year.
The 108 lb. belt at stake was made available by Naoya Inoue, who vacated the title to move up two divisions to challenge 115 lb. titlist Omar Narvaez in the evening's main event.
Earlier in the evening (full recap can be found HERE ):
Jorge Linares (38-3, 25KOs) picked up a third title in as many weight classes with a 4th round stoppage of Javier Preito (24-9-2, 18KOs). A counter right hand landed on Prieto's eardrum to put him down and out.
Ryota Murata (6-0, 4KOs) scored a 12-round shutout over Maryland's Jessie Nicklow (24-5-3, 8KOs). Scores were 100-90 (twice) and 100-91 for Murata, who captured Olympic Gold for Japan in the 2012 London Olympics.
Ryo Matsumoto (13-0, 11KOs) stopped Rusalee Samor in the 12th and round of their regional super flyweight bout. It was a labor of love for the 20-year old Matsumoto, who had to dig much deeper than was required in his two-round drilling of Denkaosan Kaovichit in September.
Opening up the night of the Inoue vs. Narvaez family feud was a matchup between the main player's younger siblings. 19-year young Takuma Inoue (4-0, 1KOs) already looks to be a player following an eight-round shutout over former title challenger Nestor Narvaez (20-3-2, 9KOs) in their super flyweight bout. Scores were 80-72 (twice) and 80-73.
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