By Joe Koizumi
Photos by Naoki Fukuda
Free-swinging Japanese windmill, WBO#8 Ryo Akaho (31-2-2, 20 KOs), 117.5, retained his national belt as he kept throwing roundhouse blows, carelessly hit the deck but finally caught up with determined and durable #1 challenger Yuta Saito (10-8-3, 7 KOs), 117.75, to halt him at 1:13 of the ninth round on Saturday in Tokyo, Japan.
Having failed to win the WBC 115-pound title from Yota Sato (L12) here in 2012 and to acquire the vacant WBO bantam belt in the bout with Phuengluan Sor Singyu (KO by 2) in Thailand in 2015, Akaho went on the comeback trail and seized the vacant Japanese 118-pound belt by scoring a very unanimous decision over ex-WBC youth titlist Yushi Tanaka this March.
Ryo, in his initial defense, took the initiative with his trademark wild rallies and had the game but bloodied challenger at bay in the fourth and fifth. In the closing seconds of the fifth, however, Akaho—already penalized a point for his repeated low blows in this session—pinned him to the ropes with a barrage of punches on the verge of a knockdown, but surprisingly took a knee with Saito’s well-timed counterpunch.
But Akaho came back to dominate the contest from the sixth on, and finally kept battering him to the punch with the referee Katsuragi’s intervention due to his corner’s towel-tossing.
Formerly four-time world champ Nonito Donaire, training here in Japan and having sparred with his friend Akaho, was in attendance to celebrate his partner’s fine victory. Akaho may be one of the strongest bantams here, but his too wild-swinging style might not have him win the world belt without correcting his defensive defect. That’s the problem as Nonito probably knows.