Gonzalez knocks out Yaegashi in ninth round for WBC flyweight title


Staff Writer

It was what some boxing fanatics would call a “barnburner.”

Nicaragua’s undefeated fighter Roman Gonzalez earned a third world title belt with a ninth-round victory over WBC flyweight champion Akira Yaegashi at Yoyogi National Gymnasium No. 2 on Friday night.

Gonzalez, a former champion in the WBA minimumweight division and as a WBA light flyweight, won his third world title belt, maintaining his perfect record at 40-0 (34 KOs) as a professional boxer.

Though Gonzalez was clearly a better fighter both offensively and defensively, Yaegashi, who tried to defend his belt for the fourth time, gave the 27-year-old a gutsy battle.

Gonzalez kept raining his punches from Round 1, but Yaegashi refused to go down. He displayed toughness in the ring.

Yaegashi gave it his best shot by exchanging hooks with Gonzalez, and it captured the attention of his fans in the arena.

Yet Gonzalez seemed to never lose his composure and finished the Japanese fighter late in Round 9.

“I’m so excited to have won right now,” Gonzalez said through an interpreter following the fight. “Yaegashi was very powerful, (a) great boxer.”

Yaegashi, 31, said, “(Gonzalez) was indeed tough as I’d expected.

“I was going to rally back when I’d get hit. It was as simple as that.”

With the green WBC champion belt having slipped out of his hands, Yaegashi has a 20-4 (10 KOs) in his pro career.

In another world championship bout, Naoya Inoue, who obtained the WBC light flyweight title in his sixth pro bout in April, successfully defended it for the first time by defeating Samartlek Kokietgym of Thailand in Round 11.

Inoue overwhelmed Samartlek from early on, landing punches after punches, though the opponent was tough enough to stay standing until late in the fight.

After the match, Inoue indicated his intention to move up to flyweight because he’d had a hard time losing weight.

The undercard also featured Ryota Murata in a non-title fight.

Despite the fact that he improved his professional record to 5-0, however, the contest was a bitter pill to swallow for Murata.

Murata, the 2012 London Olympic middleweight gold medalist, got off to a fine start as he dominated Luna in the opening round and could have sent the Mexican middleweight champion onto the canvas in the fourth round.

But Murata lacked attacking power to finish off his opponent, and was unable to post another knockout victory. He ran out of gas in the end.

Murata mustered up his energy in the ninth and 10th rounds, the final two periods, yet he came up short to knock Luna down before the final bell.

“I put on a rush in the fourth round and then I consumed my stamina,” said Murata, who defeated Luna by unanimous decision (98-92, 99-91, 100-90 on the three judges’ scorecards). “And after the fifth and sixth rounds, I was like, I still had four more rounds to go. I felt tired that much for the first time.”

Murata admitted that he was fine with his heart and lungs, but his muscles were over-strained.

The fight also exposed that Murata still has a long way to go to become a world champion. It revealed that he lacked offensive weapons in particular.

He seemed to stick to his straight right and right hook. It was in the final couple of rounds that he finally began using some combinations.

“I’ve only fought in five fights,” Murata, 28, said. “And I got exposed how much I was lacking experience as a professional fighter.”

Luna, ranked No. 21 in the WBC middleweight division (Murata is No. 12), said, “I didn’t think I was completely overwhelmed by (Murata).”

But Murata tried to channel everything into positive elements to be a better boxer.

“This is where I am right now,” Murata said. “But in myself, I take it positively. I don’t consider this a failure. If you think this is a failure, you can’t go up in the tougher competitions.”

Inoue’s younger brother, Takuma, 18, posted a second-round TKO win over Chanachai Sor Siamchai of Thailand to improve to 3-0 as a pro.