2015 went out with a bang in a far flung corner of the globe, Japan to be exact, as a flurry of world title bouts took place in the Land of the Rising Sun.
It all started on Tuesday at Tokyo’s Ariake Colosseum where the planet’s top super flyweight, Naoya Inoue, was in full destructive glory mode despite being out of the ring a full year.
The 22 year old Yokahama resident, Inoue, 9-0 (8), made the jump from Japanese to OPBF to WBC light flyweight champion in just eight months and after a successful WBC defense, bypassed flyweight to challenge reigning WBO super fly king Omar Andres Narvaez in December, 2014.
Inoue lived up to his nickname “Monster” by shredding the durable southpaw Argentine champion, who was made to finally look 39 years of age as his masterful defensive tactics were of no use against the rampaging Japanese, who KO’d the champion in just two rounds.
Stepping up to the challenge of facing Inoue on Tuesday was seasoned 32 year old Filipino Warlito Parrenas, 24-7-1 (21), who holds the WBO Oriental belt and was coming off a draw for the Interim WBO super fly title five months ago in Mexico against David Carmona.
Judging by his 21 stoppages during 24 victories, Parrenas can punch a fair bit but he didn’t get a chance to use that power as Inoue battered the visitor to the canvas in the first frame and then again halfway through the second round when the contest was stopped by the referee.
The displays against Narvaez and Parrenas suggest that perhaps Inoue will have to jump up to bantamweight in order to find a real challenge but there are some interesting matchups at super fly that “Monster” could take part in.
Perhaps the most interesting contest would be a massive domestic showdown with 35 year old Tokyo scrapper Kohei Kono, 31-8-1 (13), who overcame two failed title bids to won the WBA super fly crown in 2012, only to be deposed in his first defense.
However, Kono regained the belt in 2014, retained the title via a draw later that year before finally winning a title defense in October against fellow countryman Koki Kameda in America of all places.
The persistent Kono, who has never been stopped, could prove to be a handful for Inoue in what would be a massive draw in Tokyo should they face off in a unification clash.
Also on the bill at Ariake Colosseum was an IBF light fly title defense by Mexico’s Javier Mendoza, 24-3-1 (19), who was putting his belt at risk for the second time as he met former two weight world champion Akira Yaegashi, 23-5 (12).
At 24 years of age and riding an 11 fight won streak in which only one opponent lasted the distance, Mendoza could have been expected to overcome the 32 year old Yaegashi, who had only faced novice level competition since getting KO’d a year ago by WBC light fly king Pedro Guevara.
But the Yokohama veteran turned back the clock to the days of his four WBC flyweight title victories, halted only by one of the world’s top pound for pound fighters, Roman Gonzalez, and simply outfought his Mexican rival in a thrilling contest.
Yaegashi added the IBF light flyweight belt to his trophy cabinet by winning the scorecards by margins of 120-107, 119-109 and 117-111.
Thursday was the big day of the week however, with three world title fight cards taking place – in Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka.
The premier show was at the 4,000 seat Ota-City Gymnasium in Tokyo where two championship belts were placed on offer.
Longtime WBA super feather king Takashi Uchiyama, 24-0-1 (20), gunned down yet another victim to add to his impressive resume as the 36 year old local man snuffed out the ambition of Nicaraguan southpaw Oliver Flores, 27-2-2 (17), at 1:47 of the third round.
Flores stayed on the outside as he tried to figure out the champion, who won the first two rounds with a higher activity rate before stopping the 24 year old challenger with a spearing left to the ribs at 1:47 of the third frame.
The lethal Uchiyama has held the title for six years now, making successful 11 defenses with the only blemish a three round technical draw against Michael Farenas in 2012.
There are some good contests out there for Uchiyama, unification bouts against Rocky Martinez, Javier Fortuna or Francisco Vargas, but “KO Dynamite” would probably have to fight outside of Japan to take part in those.
There is also the possibility that Uchiyama could land in the US to defend against ex-WBA feather champion Nicholas Walters, who lost his title on the scales six months ago, and that pairing would pit two very dangerous punchers together in a genuine 50-50 fight.
Also at Ota-City, towering light flyweight Ryoichi Taguchi, 23-2-1 (10), retained his WBA crown for the second occasion when Colombian visitor Luis de la Rosa, 24-6-1 (14), didn’t answer the bell for the tenth frame.
The challenger started strong, putting a full effort into trying to take matters out of the hands of the judges as de la Rosa swept the first three rounds by putting the champion on the back foot, landing some good body shots.
But the South American began to fade from the effort and by the fourth, the much taller Taguchi had wrested control of the contest, landing good punches.
De la Rosa got his second wind on the seventh, getting the better of exchanges, but Taguchi shut the doors in the eighth and particularly, the ninth round, battering the challenger, who quit on his stool.
At Edion Arena in Osaka, there were also two world title belts argued over, the WBA flyweight crown and the IBF minimumweight strap.
WBA fly boss Kazuto Ioka, 19-1 (11), prevailed in an intense firefight, halting Juan Carlos Reveco, 36-3 (19), at 1:57 of the 11th round in a rematch.
The two had tangled in April of last year with former WBC light fly and minimumweight champion Ioka ending the five defense reign of WBA flyweight champ Reveco by close majority decision.
On Thursday, Reveco tried to change the previous outcome with a big effort early on but failed to hurt the champion, who turned up the pressure in the later rounds before strafing the Argentine with a riveting body combination that floored Reveco for good in the 11th.
IBF minimumweight boss Katsunari Takayama, 30-8 (12), was dethroned in Osaka, after cuts suffered by the champion put a halt to the contest after eight rounds with Mexican challenger Jose Argumendo, 16-3-1 (9), winning a technical decision on the cards, 87-84, 87-84, 85-86.
Given the nature of the outcome, a rematch can probably be expected later this year.
The busy week closed out in Japan at Aichi Prefectural Gym in Nagoya, where both champ and challenger were on the canvas during WBO minimumweight champ Kosei Tanaka’s sixth round KO of Vic Saludar, 11-2 (9).
Saludar outboxed the champ handily in the early rounds until Tanaka mounted a comeback in the fourth, only to get heavily floored in the fifth round.
Tanaka changed tactics in the sixth, crowding the challenger on the ropes where he struck paydirt with a sharp body shot that dropped Saludar, who was counted out at 2:15.