By Joe Koizumi
Photos by Naoki Fukuda
Fast-punching southpaw IBF#8 Shingo Wake (25-5-2, 17 KOs), 121.75, impressively wrested the Japanese super-bantam belt when he decked WBC#7/WBA#7 defending champ Yusaku Kuga (16-3-1, 11 KOs), 121.75, in the second and finally halted him at 0:36 of the tenth and final session in a very sensational sell-out contest on Friday in Tokyo, Japan.
Wake, a taller stylish lefty footworker, made good use of hand speed and sent the prefight favorite Kuga to the canvas with a smashing southpaw left midway in round two. Taking the initiative in the first half, Wake, however, sustained a gash at the forehead caused by an accidental butt in the fifth, after which the open scoring system indicated he was ahead on points: 49-45 twice, 48-45.
Wake was continually in command in the second half, as Kuga, regarded as a harder puncher, was too anxious to properly mix it up, and the lefty challenger outsmarted and outspeeded him with sharp counters to the willing mixer. The last session watched Wake’s left explode so effectively that Kuga’s legs became badly buckled and his corner wisely tossed in the towel to save the ex-champ from further punishment. After the ninth, the official tallies were as follows: 88-82 twice, 87-82, all for Shingo.
Wake, four years his senior at 31, once failed to win the IBF 122-pound belt from Jonathan Guzman via eleventh round stoppage in 2016, but thus registered five victories straight—all within the distance. The victor Wake jubilantly said, “I’m eager to fight for a world championship once again.” The dejected loser Kuga reviewed his fight, saying, “The second round visit to the canvas decided this fight. Wake was superior tonight.” It eventually became a lopsided affair against our expectations, but greatly entertained the jam-packed audience.