By Jake Donovan
Until he can get Takashi Uchiyama back in the ring for a long-desired rematch, Takashi Miura will have to settle for being the second-best junior lightweight in the world.
It doesn't mean he has to fight like it.
Miura made the fourth defense of his 130 lb. title in perhaps his most impressive performance to date, tearing through Australia's Billy Dib en route to a third round knockout Friday evening in Japan.
The concern for Dib going in was over how much he has left to offer the sport after outgrowing the featherweight division, where he previously enjoyed a title reign. The 29-year old looked erratic in a trio of stay-busy fights following losses to Evgeny Gradovich in 2013, the first loss ending his title reign and the knockout defeat in the rematch all but running him out of the division.
Dib threatened to be competitive in the opening round of action, clearly here for a fight as Miura used the first three minutes of the night to size up his opponent. The defending titlist was warned by referee Hector Afu for plowing in with his head, and also given a tongue-lashing for low blows.
Absent of the referee actually fighting for Dib, the title fight soon became a rout. Miura was the fighting equivalent of a runaway freight train rolling downhill once he settled into an offensive groove. Dib was hurt in round two, and ill-prepared for what was to come in the deciding third round.
Miura all but ended the fight after crashing a left hand on Dib's grill midway through round three. An ensuing volley suggested Dib was already out on his feet and ready to fall, as a flurry of punches eventually deposited him onto the canvas. He did his best to beat the count, but Afu did not like the challenger's reaction upon rising and elected to halt the contest.
The official time was 1:29 of round three. Dib (39-4, 23KOs) is now 4-3 in his last seven starts, and seemingly finished at the world class level.
With the win, Miura rolls to 29-2-1 (22KOs). The bout was his first among his current title reign to have not come against a fighter from Mexico, from where his previous four opponents hailed, including a 9th round knockout win over Gamaliel Diaz in Apr. '13 to begin his reign.
Overall, Miura has now won nine straight. His last defeat came versus Uchiyama in his first attempt at claiming a belt in Jan. '11. While Uchiyama remains the de facto leader in the 130 lb. division, he has shown signs in recent fights of perhaps creeping past his prime. Conversely, Miura at age 30 shows no signs of slowing down.
With both fighters serving as the top two titlists in the division, an eventual head-on collission only seems natural. Such a fight would mark just the second time in history that two fighters from Japan met in a unification bout.
The other occasion included Akira Yaegashi (in a June '12 strawweight title unification loss to Kazuto Ioka), who appeared in the evening's co-feature. The fallen former strawweight titlist and World flyweight king picked up his first win in more than a year with a two-round blitzing of Thailand's Songsaenglek Phosuwangym.
Both bouts aired via same-day delay on Fuji TV in Japan.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox