By Jeff Zimmerman at ringside
In the co-main event in Arlington, TX and live on DAZN as part of the Canelo-Saunders extravaganza, WBO light flyweight champ Elwin Soto (19-1, 12 KOs) out of Baja California, Mexico, retained his belt by ninth round TKO in a hard-fought battle against former multi-time minimumweight champ Katsunari Takayama (32-9,12 KOs hailing from Osaka Japan.
Soto came out like a bull from the opening round and almost dropped Takayama at the beginning of the round and again as the round ended. Takayama however displayed his savvy ring experience and escaped trouble often. In round two, Soto landed another big right early and more power shots at the end. Takayama didn’t have the power to hurt or slow Soto down.
Soto only 24, while the former champ Takayama is 37, and the age difference and power was evident throughout. Soto continuously landed hard power shots, mostly off the right hand. Soto pressured and staggered Takayama as he found a home for the right hand all night, but the game Takayama showed his toughness and even went toe-to-toe with the Soto in round six.
Soto either tired or took off the gas in round seven and eight, but picked it back up in round nine. And after another barrage of solid shots by Soto, referee Laurence Cole waved it off with Takayama still standing. Takayama and his manager Sean Gibbons protested to no avail. Takayama tried to make his point by shadow boxing for several seconds in the middle of the ring.
Soto came in as the heavy 7-1 favorite, as he captured his first world title in June 2019 against Puerto Rican’s Angel Acosta with a twelfth-round knockout with Acosta still on his feet much like Takayama tonight. Takayama had hoped to make another run at a title before he fulfilled his lifelong dream of becoming a teacher.
But instead, the young Mexican, Soto, retained his WBO light flyweight belt with the TKO at 2:44 of round nine of the scheduled twelve. Takayama had only been stopped one other time in his storied career and if this is his last fight, he could walk away proud as he showed his future students what it takes to be a champion in and out of the ring.