Most of the fans at the arena seemed to notice the fight was over before the referee.

Referee Laurence Cole was concentrating on a corner, where champion Masayuki Ito was raining punches after punches against Evgeny Chuprakov.

A few seconds later, the ref noticed a towel thrown from Chuprakov’s corner and finally stopped the fight.

Ito officially defeated the Russian with 49 seconds remaining via a technical knockout in his first title defense match of the WBC super featherweight championship during the main event at Tokyo’s Ota City General Gymnasium on Sunday night.

Both Ito and Chuprakov were aggressive from the opening bell. Ito seemed to struggle as Chuprakov repeatedly attempted to come inside. But from the fifth round on, Ito used his jabs more often to give himself room to compete at his own pace.

In the early seventh, Ito (25-1-1, 13 knockouts) was able to damage his opponent and push him back to a corner. Cole once stopped the clock to have Chuprakov’s head checked by the doctor. But after the match resumed, Ito unhesitatingly surged over him and kept throwing blows.

Chuprakov (20-1, 10 KOs) could only attempt to guard himself against Ito’s assault and his corner gave up on the fight by tossing the towel into the ring.

“Frankly speaking, I’m happy,” said Ito, who in July became the first Japanese boxer in 37 years to win a world title overseas when he defeated Puerto Rico’s Christopher Diaz for the vacant title in Florida. “I’m excited to see so many people came to cheer on me at the end of the year. I’m happy that I fought in Japan.”

The 27-year-old Ito said that he expects bigger fights against stronger boxers next year.

“I don’t have a signature blow and I am not a special presence yet,” the Banryu gym fighter admitted humbly, “But I have a heart, so I want to keep competing with it.”

In the undercard WBC light flyweight title match, champion Ken Shiro extended his title defense streak to five with a lopsided unanimous-decision victory (119-109, 119-109, 120-108) over Mexico’s Saul Juarez.

The Japanese, whose real name is Kenshiro Teraji, dominated the ring from the fourth round on. He attempted to knock Juarez down in the 12th and final round with a rain of punches, but his opponent managed to stay on his feet.

Shiro, who remained unbeaten with a 15-0 record (eight KOs), displayed stellar defensive techniques using his footwork while effectively landing a variety of blows, including hooks, body shots and straight punches.

“Juarez was moving his head and I had a tough time knocking him down,” said the 26-year-old Shiro. “There were a lot of issues that I will have to reflect on. But it still felt great to win and hopefully I can keep this up next year.”

Juarez, who failed to obtain a belt in his second world title shot, fell to 24-9-2 (13 KOs).

Meanwhile, Takuma Inoue, the younger brother of star boxer Naoya Inoue, also scored a unanimous decision with three 117-111 scores over Thailand’s Tasana Salapat (48-1, 33 KOs) for the vacant interim WBC bantamweight title.

Despite the final scores, Inoue (13-0, three KOs) needed patience against the taller and longer Salapat, who fights under the ring name “Petch CP Freshmart.” But the Japanese pugilist skillfully avoided taking big blows from his opponent and landed counter punches to prevail on the score sheets.

“I feel excited,” Inoue said. “(Salapat) was mentally tougher and it wound up being a difficult fight for me. I am not the official champion yet, so I need to keep working hard going forward.”

Inoue has naturally been compared to his brother Naoya, who is considered one of Japan’s best pound-for-pound fighters. The Zama, Kanagawa Prefecture native knows he didn’t satisfy fans with his victory on Sunday night.

“There’s no way that I can say I’ve gotten as good as Nao,” the 23-year-old said. “In order to be at the same level as my brother, I want to keep improving.”

Naoya half-jokingly gave his younger brother a score of “three” out of 100, but added that he is still very young and has time to develop down the road.

“He still has a long way to go,” said Naoya, who is currently participating in the World Boxing Super Series bantamweight tournament. “Even if he did not perform well this time, he has a chance to redeem himself.”

Inoue had been set to have his first world title shot in the end of 2016, but it was cancelled after he suffered a fractured bone in his fist.

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