By Joe Koizumi
Photos by Naoki Fukuda
Awkward but powerful southpaw Akinori Watanabe (37-7, 31 KOs), 154, seized the vacant Japanese interim 154-pound belt when he withstood the opening attack of JBC#2 Ryosuke Maruki (15-6-1, 10 KOs), 154, pinned him to the corner, floored him with a flurry of punches and finally halted him at 2:51 of the first round in a scheduled ten on Friday in Tokyo, Japan.
Having been demolished by unbeaten Russian Magomed Kurbanov in Ekaterinburg, Russia, last December, Watanabe, a muscular southpaw puncher, scored a decision win over Thailander Niwat Kongkan this April. Due to regular champ Hiroyuki Shindo’s injury, the JBC sanctioned an interim title bout during his recess between the top two contenders of the super-welter category.
Ex- OPBF welter boss Akinori, who had once registered fifteen consecutive KO victories, absorbed Maruki’s quick combinations at his face, but promptly came back hard to hurt the less muscular son of former world 130-pound challenger Takao Maruki against Samuel Serrano in 1978. Ryosuke, 27, showed his retaliation after the resumption of the contest, but Akinori, 33, overpowered him with fierce attacks upstairs and downstairs. The ref Michiaki Someya didn’t hesitate to call a well-accepted halt.