By Joe Koizumi
Photos by Boxing Beat
Perennial contender, Vito Antuofermo stylist JBC#2 Yuta Saito (11-9-3, 8 KOs), 118, finally acquired the “cursed” Japanese bantamweight belt when he launched a fierce opening attack and battered #3 Eita Kikuchi (20-6-4, 8 KOs), 118, to the punch, prompting the ref Fukuchi’s intervention at 2:33 of the second round in a scheduled ten on Saturday in Tokyo, Japan.
Why is the national 118-pound championship called “cursed” by aficionados and scribes? It’s because the title bout had been cancelled three times in succession. (1) In January, defending titlist Ryo Akaho, probably because of his unsuccessful reduction of weight as previously, failed to appear the weigh-in and fight mandatory challenger Yusuke Suzuki. (2) Instead, a title go between Suzuki and former world challenger Suguru Muranaka was planned, but Suzuki suffered an injury to be unable to participate therein. (3) In June, a title bout for the vacant belt between Muranaka and Saito was pitifully cancelled again as the former couldn’t make weight. Some cynic people said, “The bantam belt would be vacant forever.”
Saito, a year ago, had an ambitious crack at the belt only to be halted by the then champ Ryo Akaho in nine rounds after a deadly even proceedings (75-75 twice and 76-74 for Akaho), while Kikuchi lost to Suzuki via seventh round TKO in an eliminator to decide the mandatory challenger to the title last October. Such frequent losers disputed the vacant championship with their high motivation to win the national belt. Saito, more powerful and more determined, pinned the elongated rival with a fusillade of punches to the ropes and kept punching him despite Kikuchi’s occasional retaliation. Their furious mix-up went on for minutes, and the third man declared a well-received halt to save the loser. It took Saito eight years to win the belt through his turbulent up-and-down career.
On the undercard, formerly world rated Charles Bellamy (28-3-2, 18 KOs), 151, US, barely emerged victorious on a split duke (77-76 twice for him, 76-77 against him) over taller jabber Yuto Shimizu (12-4-2, 5 KOs), 150.5, over a hard-fought eight. Bellamy (previously fighting as Charlie Ota) once fought Jarmell Charlo in an eliminator for #1, dropping a unanimous nod in Montreal in 2014. Bellamy, 37, looked still powerful, and seemingly logically deserved a victory even by a slight margin since he was in command almost completely in the second half.
IBF#5 feather, puzzling southpaw Reiya Abe (18-2, 9 KOs), 128.75, scored ten victories straight when he decked Masashi Noguchi (12-11-1, 6 KOs), 128.75, in rounds five and six, and finally halted him with a barrage of punches at 2:25 of the sixth round in a scheduled eight. Abe zoomed up quickly after his upset triumph over then world rated and ex-world challenger (three times) Satoshi Hosono (now retired) by a ninth round technical decision last October. Abe, a shifty southpaw with good footwork, registered three wins since his unexpected victory over Hosono.
Having lost to Sergey Lipinets in quest of the vacant IBF 140-pound belt at Barclays Center, Brooklyn last November, IBF#4 Akihiro Kondo (31-7-1, 18 KOs), 140, scored a second win since as he easily demolished game but fragile Tatsuya Miyazaki (9-12-1, 9 KOs), 140, at 0;55 of the fifth session in a scheduled eight. Kondo often connected with right crosses, decking Miyazaki (who thus suffered three KO defeats straight) on three occasions.