By Joe Koizumi
Photos by Naoki Fukuda
WBO junior lightweight champ Masayuki Ito (25-1-1, 13 KOs), 130, successfully made his initial defense when he battered #1 ranked Russian Evgeny Chuprakov (20-1, 10 Kos), 129.25, so furiously that his cornerman tossed in the towel for surrender at 2:11 of the seventh round on Sunday in Tokyo, Japan. Ito took r the initiative from the outset, had Chuprakov hurt with fast combinations and finally caught up with him in the fatal session. Laurence Cole (US) was the referee.
There is a funny story. Masayuki brilliantly acquired the vacant WBO belt by upsetting previously unbeaten Puerto Rican Christopher Diaz in Kissimmee, Florida, last July. The newly crowned Japanese highly and logically expected he would be welcomed by a great many people at the airport upon his return to Tokyo, where, however, there were none but few boxing journalists awaiting him. Then, Ito realized that a single victory wasn’t enough to be famous and he must score more and more wins in his future title defenses. Time has come for Masayuki, a Japanese version of Cinderella Man, to prove his worth in his first defense of the main event featuring a tripleheader telecast nationwide.
Even only a fight scribe, a writer must be creative to try to write what other reporters cannot/wouldn’t write. This observer hereby lists the ten most handsome champions out of all the previous world titleholders here in Japan. A fistic data book describes Takuma Inoue as the 92nd world champ ever produced out of the country of rising sun, including four foreign champs belonging to Japanese gyms—Russians Orzubek Nazarov and Yuri Arabachakov, Thailander Eagle Kyowa (105, 2004) and Venezuelan Jorge Linares. Out of 88 truly Japanese world champs, the following are most good-looking boxers in accordance with my personal selection: Yoshio Shirai (112, who acquired the world belt in 1952), Shozo Saijo (126, 1968), Masao Ohba (112, 1970), Shinji Takehara (160, 1995), Satoshi Iida (115, 1997), Osamu Sato (122, 2002), Toshiaki Nishioka (122, 2008), Naoya Inoue (108, 2014), Ryota Murata (160, 2017) and Masayuki Ito (130, 2018). Ito, whose smiling face is so attractive to female fans, might be one of the very best out of them. Some people here call him a Japanese De La Hoya.
Let’s review the fight. As a mandatory challenger, Chuprakov, despite his unbeaten credentials and his excellent amateur marks of some 150 contests, was simply a disappointment. He couldn’t win even a round in an abbreviated contest with the towel fluttering in from his corner. Pat Russell, Daniel Sandoval (both US) and Phil Austin (Australia) all tallied an identical score of 60-54 as Ito had swept all rounds with no objection, but not with ease.
Masayuki, a year his junior at 27, was some four inches taller than the Russian peek-a-boo stylist who kept coming in and too often grabbed the champ. Ito apparently wished to mix up in a proper distance, but it became a clinching game that really frustrated Ito so much that he seemingly lost his composure and swung roundhouse blows without jabbing despite the instructions of his cornermen Rudy Hernandez and Daisuke Okabe from California.
The third and fourth witnessed the Russian keep boring in with the Japanese responding to his attack with left and right hooks in the close quarter unlike his usual outboxing style. After mixing up, they grabbed each other time and again. It was going to be a lousy fight.
Ito sustained a gash around the left optic, while Chuprakov a cut at the left eyebrow to make it a mutually gory affair. Evgeny, in round five, trickily hung hands down to agitate the champ to come on, and Masayuki turned aggressive with good combinations to the face and the body in the middle distance. Accelerating his attack in round six, the still bleeding champ apparently had him hurt with effective combinations.
The seventh saw Ito turn loose with furious combinations upstairs and downstairs to bring him to the standstill with the towel thrown into the squared circle from the Russian corner, but the third man couldn’t realize the towel thrown in the dead angle with both still exchanging blows for some tens of seconds. Finally, the ref realized the surrender of the Russian and declared a delayed halt with to the joy of the audience.
It wasn’t Ito’s best performance, but he successfully decked his first defense and had his name better known to the Japanese public. Masayuki, whose handsome face was inflicted by the gash, jubilantly said, “Next year I wish to fight a strong opposition including other organizations’ champions.” From the viewpoint of power, speed, skills and experience, Ito might be still less mature to cope with Miguel Berchelt, Gervonta Davis, Alberto Machado and Tevin Farmer. But Masayuki still has a room for improvement and he will be a better and stronger champion, hopefully.
Promoter: Teiken Promotions.
Supervisor: Tsuyoshi Yasukochi (Japan).