By Joe Koizumi
Photos by Naoki Fukuda
For Hall of Famer, former WBA 108-pound champ in 1970’s, Yoko Gushiken (23-1, 15 KOs), this will be a grudge fight with his pupil, WBC flyweight titlist Daigo Higa (14-0, 14 KOs) fighting on his behalf. Gushiken, in the last world title bout in Okinawa 37 years ago, forfeited his belt to Mexican Pedro Flores on an upset twelfth-round knockout defeat in 1981. Gushiken and Higa both come from Okinawa, a southern island with the US military camp, from which many great world champions were produced to the credit of the local residents.
Higa, an unblemished KO artist with two guns, will put his belt on the line against two-division world champ Moises Fuentes (25-4-1, 14 KOs), a Mexican puncher like Pedro Flores, at the Okinawa Prefectural Budokan (Martial Arts Hall) in the capital Naha city, on Sunday. Daigo, aiming to extend his mark to 15-0 with all knockouts, will make his second defense of the WBC belt since he dethroned Juan Hernandez by a sixth-round stoppage in May of the previous year.
“Without finishing him (Fuentes) I’ll be only a champ. I’ll demonstrate a spectacular defense by a knockout,” said Higa confidently. Press people may dish it out on the blemished credentials of the Mexican who suffered a annihilation by Kosei Tanaka in the WBO 108-pound title bout on New Year’s Eve of 2016. Moises dropped an upset majority nod to compatriot Ulises Lara in July, but polished off Lara in the first round of their rematch last October.
“Last time, against Tanaka, I wasn’t in tip-top shape under cold weather in Nagoya. But this time I’ve had a much better condition and will show an excellent performance so that I’ll win the WBC belt and bring it back to Mexico.” In the medical examination in Okinawa on Friday, Fuentes proved he’s some four inches taller than the 5’3” muscular champ. The taller Mexican also has an advantageous reach by two inches to the shorter Japanese.
Fuentes, in 2013, battled to a majority draw and failed to win the WBO 108-pound belt from Donnie Nietes in Cebu, Philippines. Moises, however, tasted a bad shellacking via ninth-round stoppage in their rematch in May of the next year.
The promoter Gushiken, 62, also confidently said, “I believe Higa will reproduce boxing boom in Okinawa. He’s highly motivated to showcase his power punching to satisfy his hometown supporters.”
We have seen such Okinawan world champs as Gushiken (108), Yasutsune Uehara (130), Katsuo Tokashiki (108), Tadashi Tomori (108), Satoshi Shingaki (118), Tsuyoshi Hamada (140), Akinobu Hiranaka (140), Koki Eto (112, interim) and Higa (112). Higa might be the hardest hitting puncher of them all. Aggressive and ferocious, Daigo always swarms over his opponent with his engine fully open from the outset, battering him from all angles and wearing him down with vicious body shots and incessant combinations.
People in Okinawa as well as fight fans in Japan are looking forward to watching Higa explode his vaunted two-fisted attacks against the more experienced Mexican Fuentes on Sunday. Higa shouldn’t underestimate Moises due to his previous defeat by Tanaka here. Fuentes’ silver lining may be warmer weather in Okinawa than that in Nagoya thirteen months ago.