By Joe Koizumi
Photos: Sumio Yamada –

Japanese veteran speedster Katsunari Takayama (31-8-1NC, 12 KOs), 105, acquired the vacant WBO 105-pound belt as he was awarded a unanimous technical decision over 18-year-old prospect Riku Kano (10-2-1, 5 KOs), 105, due to Takayama’s deteriorated laceration at 0:58 of the sixth round on Saturday in Sanda, Japan. Salven Lagumbay (Philippines) scored the competitive fight 58-56, Waleska Roldan (US) and Lynne Carter (US) had it 59-56 and 59-55 respectively, all for the 33-yer-old ex-titlist. As expected, the notorious bleeder Takayama bled from a gash over the left eyebrow due to an accidental butt from the third on, but not as expected, the victor wasn’t his opponent but Takayama. When the referee Danrex Tapdasan of the Philippines halted the affair midway in round six, some 3,000 spectators, most of whom were Kano adherents, believed Kano was a winner by a TKO. But the fact was a technical decision, which resulted in a victory for Takayama against Sanda citizens’ earnest expectations.

People wanted to see the fight until the end, because they realized Takayama’s tendency of slowing down in later rounds and the much younger Kano would display his superior stamina therein. But the technical decision shuttered Kano’s ambition as well as Sanda people’s expectations.

Kano, a southpaw youngster, made a good start by connecting with southpaw right hooks to the onrushing veteran Takayama in the opening session. The second saw Takayama start to show his trademark quick combinations upstairs and downstairs regardless of precision. Since then, Kano occasionally caught the veteran with southpaw lefts followed by right hooks, but Takayama proved busier in mixing up by pinning Kano to the ropes. Kano, in round four, was so aggressive that he kept stalking the older foe, but Takayama landed a solid right to shake him up in the middle of the session.

People realized Kano could punch harder, but he punched at a time, while Takayama threw punches in combination to the face and the body. The audience was stunned to see the bout abruptly stopped midway in the sixth, when the ringside physician advised the third man to halt the affair against people’s expectations.

Takayama thus acquired the world belt on five occasions to his credit, while Kano tasted a bitter setback despite a warm support by his manager/promoter/trainer Taisei Marumoto, ex-OPBF welter champ. But it may be true that Kano needs more experience and this defeat might be a good lesson for his future surge.

Takayama said, “I wished to fight until the end to win the world belt. I feel sorry to the ambitious Kano, who is talented and will zoom up in the near future. We may have to fight again.”

The upcoming promoter Marumoto was crestfallen, but said, “People here might feel indigestion at such a termination, but I’ll promote a rematch at our earliest convenience to show them the unseen second half of the bout.”

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