Masayuki Ito traveled halfway around the world, and he will return home a world champion. Ito, from Tokyo, defeated Christopher “Pitufo” Diaz via unanimous decision (116-111, 117-110, 118-109) Saturday evening at the Kissimmee Civic Center in a pitched affair to win the vacant WBO junior lightweight world championship. (photos by Top Rank).
Ito (24-1-1, 12 KOs) knocked down Diaz (23-1, 15 KOs) in the fourth round and controlled the tempo of the fight, becoming the sixth current male world champion from Japan. Ito, who was fighting for the first time outside of Japan, was not fazed by the pro-Diaz crowd.
In the co-feature, Gabriel “Tito” Bracero (25-3-1, 6 KOs), who was a late replacement for the injured Carlos Adames, scored the upset and knocked out Artemio Reyes with a body shot in the fifth round of a scheduled 10-round welterweight bout.
Bracero broke a two-bout winless streak with a masterful performance, outboxing the taller Reyes before a left hand to the liver sent Reyes to the canvas for the count.
Reyes (25-3, 20 KOs) saw his 10-bout unbeaten streak come to an end against Bracero, a 37-year-old former amateur star who seized this unexpected opportunity.
Vladimir Nikitin, a 2016 Olympic bronze medalist from Russia, had a successful professional debut, knocking down Edward Kakembo twice en route to a six-round unanimous decision in a featherweight bout. The judges scored the contest 60-52, 60-52, and 60-51 for Nikitin, who is best known for his controversial Olympic quarterfinal win over Michael Conlan.