By Joe Koizumi
Nicaraguan Felix Alvarado (35-2, 30 KOs), 107.25, impressively retained his newly acquired IBF 108-poung belt when he kept whipping game and durable Japanese challenger Reiya Konishi (17-2, 7 KOs), 107.75, and pounded out a unanimous decision over twelve hard-fought rounds on Sunday in Kobe, Japan.
Adam Height (Australia) and Gil Co (Philippines) scored the grueling game 117-111 and 116-112 respectively for the champ, but it was Japanese judge Masahiro Noda that tallied 118-110, the severest score against Konishi. The referee was Michiaki Someya (Japan), who moved side-to-side as well as the pugnacious contestants.
Alvarado wasn’t what he used to be in losing a unanimous nod in his ambitious crack at Kazuo Ioka’s WBA light-fly belt in 2013. He stunned the crowd by demonstrating his great stamina in continually whipping Konishi from all angles—all the way. Konishi, a gallant infighter, usually showed his energy in later rounds, but the defending champ Felix, 30, incessantly kept punching Reiya upstairs and downstairs so effectively that the Japanese couldn’t show his trademark late-surge down the stretch.
Alvarado, on his second visit here, once failed to win the WBA 108-pound belt from Kazuto Ioka, losing a unanimous nod (119-109 twice, 115-113) in Osaka (half an hour from Kobe by train) in 2013. The third judge might have evaluated the then unbeaten Alvarado’s aggressiveness without accuracy. Felix this night showed his vast improvement in non-stop punching with tremendous power (proven by his high KO ratio of 30 knockouts out of 34 victories).
From the outset Alvarado, five years his senior at 30, swarmed over the still nervous and cautious Japanese with strong bombardments, though Konishi occasionally retaliated with a solid counter at a time. The Nicaraguan hard-puncher apparently took at least three points in the first four sessions since he kept punching the Japanese on the shoulder, midsection and face—regardless of precision.
Konishi, who had tasted his career-first defeat by a hairline but unanimous nod (115-113, 115-112, 116-111) to Carlos Canizales, from Venezuela, in quest of the vacant WBA light-fly belt in March of the previous year. Unlike such current world champs as Naoya Inoue, Ken Shiro, Masayuki Ito, Konishi isn’t technically sophisticated but boasts of his abundant stamina with which he often wore down his opponents in his career. He is a Gene Fullmer stylist. His persistent infighting won a point in round five.
The tide, however, returned in the champ’s favor in the sixth session, and Alvarado never yielded his initiative back to the game Japanese challenger from the eighth on. They mixed it up toe-to-toe in the center of the ring, but it was Alvarado that returned to his corner winning another point that he earned after a fierce competition. Konishi suffered a gash over the right optic caused by Alvarado’s continual combinations in round eight.
The tenth saw Felix have him at bay as he had Konishi staggering with a flurry of punches. It was surprising that the Japanese challenger withstood the champ’s heavy and effective combos and so gamely responded to his furious attacks despite much punishment. People, especially Konishi adherents, expected the champ had consumed most of his energy left in his desperate attempt to finish the challenger with his non-stop combinations in the tenth. No way. Alvarado kept battering the fading but still pugnacious Konishi in the last two rounds.
“Why is he so energetic? Why does he have such untiring power? Is he a fighting machine?” Boxing fans (even including Konishi adherents) in Kobe were all impressed by Alvarado’s strength, and accepted the official verdict in his favor.
The victor said, “I tried to finish Konishi with my full power, but he was such a “samurai”, a brave warrior with great fighting spirit, that he endured my attacks in every round. My punches were more effective, I believe, but Konishi retaliated well against my solid punching.”
Konishi, whose face showed his punishment, gloomily said, “Alvarado was obviously the winner, but I went on responding to his attacks, which were stronger and more powerful that I had expected.”
Alvarado said, “I am very much willing to fight Japanese 108-pound champions—WBC titlist Ken Shiro and WBA super champ Hiroto Kyoguchi—in a unification bout.” Should Shiro, in attendance, be strongly interested in such an encounter with both belts on the line, Alvarado may come back to this country. It will be a fun to watch the Nicaraguan crowd-pleaser once again, hopefully, against Shiro or Kyoguchi.
Promoter: Shinsei Promotions.