Full Report: Higa-Fuentes

By Joe Koizumi
Photos: Naoki Fukuda

Unbeaten Japanese hard-puncher Daigo Higa, 112, extended his unblemished mark to 15-0, 15 KOs when he successfully retained his WBC flyweight belt by a quick demolition of Mexican Moises Fuentes (25-5-1, 14 KOs), 111.75, at 2:32 of the opening session on Sunday in Naha, Okinawa, Japan. Higa, making his second defense, swarmed over the taller Mexican, formerly two-division champ, and exploded a very vicious right to the midsection, dropping him on all fours in agony. Referee Len Koivisto, Canada, tolled a fatal ten against the crestfallen loser.

Novelist Norman Mailer wrote a report titled “Ten Thousand Words A Minute” on the first round knockout of Sonny Liston over Floyd Patterson in 1962, Without having such an eloquent pen of Norman it might be hard to write up ten thousand words a minute for the 152-second blitzkrieg in Okinawa.

On his homecoming Higa, a native of Okinawa like his promoter/manager and national hero Yoko Gushiken, displayed his awesome power in dispatching the Mexican challenger so brutally and so quickly. He tied the Japanese record of a knockout streak by ex-WBC 140-pound ruler in 1986, Tsuyoshi Hamada, also from Okinawa. It’s like an Okinawan day.

In the beginning of the opening session Fuentes, four inches taller, caught the champ with an overhand right, which unfortunately produced a fire out of the ferocious tiger. The 5’3” Daigo, 22, kept circling around the aggressive challenger, and came close to mix it up with him. Fuentes, 30, was also willing to swap punches with the much shorter champ. Higa then connected with a countering right to the face of the handsome Mexican, whose legs were apparently buckled with his back to the ropes at 1:50 of the round.

Higa kept on throwing a flurry of punches to the face and the belly, and hurt him with incessant solid punches, pinning him to the ropes. Fuentes’ legs were gone, and couldn’t move from there only to be forced to exchange punches with the aggressor. It’s Higa that landed a left hook to the side of the body and followed with a wicked right to the solar plexus. Down him went.

The Mexican barely raised himself to resume fighting, but the third man mercilessly counted him out to the joy and disappointment of the audience. Obviously they wished to see the fight more and longer. The loser said in the dressing room, “I was ready to fight on. That’s not professional to stop so soon in the first round. I sat down to wait and stand up to fight on. I was on at the count of eight. I’ll appeal for a rematch.”

This is never to criticize the referee’s having counted him out as we saw him do a right thing—for safety—as he stood up and looked half unready and half ready to go on. There should be a “one-second generosity” of the third man before he declares a knockout by tolling a ten count. A ringsider had paid $300 a seat, eventually costing two dollars a second. Some experienced referee might cleverly utilize the “one-second generosity” to have the fight go on rather than terminate it then and there.

If so, Higa would have gone for a kill to drop the fading Fuentes again, and people would have been more satisfied with the new Okinawan hero. The jubilant champ said, “I didn’t expect such a quick knockout victory, but am very happy to be able to win under heavy mental pressure at my hometown.”

His manager Gushiken joyfully said, “Higa may be able to break all previous Japanese records. He’s hungry and ambitious, and will improve more and more since he’s still young. He’s motivated to learn more.”

Historically speaking, there previously happened three world title bouts in Okinawa, all of which resulted in Okinawans’ defeats, as follows:

(1) Takenobu Shimabukuro failed to win the WBC 108-pound belt from Luis Lumumba Estaba by a tenth round knockout on December 17, 1975.

(2) Flipper Uehara couldn’t wrest the WBA featherweight title from Rafael Ortega by a fifteen round decision on May 29, 1977.

(3) WBA junior flyweight champ Yoko Gushiken failed to register his fourteenth defense as he suffered a twelfth knockout at the hand of Mexican Pedro Flores on March 8, 1981. It was thirty-seven years ago.

What’s more for me to write? The affair was too short with Higa being too strong and Fuentes being too fragile. This reporter isn’t Norman Mailer, and this might be very enough to describe such a short affair in the very first world title bout here in Japan this year.

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