In a grueling affair, WBO featherweight supremo Orlando Salido kept his title last night at Centro des Usos Multiples in Ciudad Obregon, Mexico against challenger Kenichi Yamaguchi.
Utilizing his distinct blend of distraction, acrobatics and frustrating behavior, Yamaguchi proved difficult for Salido to deal with in the early rounds.
The Japanese visitor used his awkwardness and unexpected punching angles to keep the champion off balance and guessing until Salido began to get the challenger's rhythm down, canvassing Yamaguchi in the third frame.
From that point on, Yamaguchi was less and less effective, especially after suffering a cut above his left eye from a head clash in the fifth.
Salido continued to pressure the challenger, effectively targeting the body in the middle rounds while slowly but surely whittling down Yamaguchi's ambitions.
Yamaguchi was still landing on occasion but as the rounds wore on, Salido clearly didn't respect the challenger's punching power and threw defense to the wind, dropping his hands to focus only on punishing the Osaka man.
By the tenth stanza, Yamaguchi was hanging on by sheer will as Salido slammed in a torrent of leather, battering the challenger from one side of the ring to the other.
Yamaguchi recovered in the 11th, managing to slow Salido down with a resurgence of offense but near round's end was getting hammered again, prompting referee Roberto Ramirez, Jr to call off the bout at 2:50 of the frame.
Salido retains the WBO belt for the first time, improving to 36-11-1 (24), while Yamaguchi loses his first world title shot, dropping to 17-2-2 (4).
There was an upset on the undercard as ex-WBC bantam title challenger Alejandro Valdez, 25-6-2 (19), was KO'd in the closing seconds of the fourth round by unheralded super bantamweight Enrique Bernache, 18-2 (9).
Despite having had far less big fight experience, Bernache had little difficulty with the seasoned Valdez, nearly stopping the veteran several times before producing the knockout at 2:59 of the fourth.