Naoya Inoue stops Kohei Kono in six
Naoya “The Monster” Inoue successfully defended his WBO super flyweight title for a fourth time on Friday after dispatching Kohei Kono in the sixth round. The fight was the main event of an Ohashi Promotions card held at the Ariake Colosseum in Tokyo, Japan.
“I felt good on that one,” said the 23-year-old from Yokohama after the win. “We stuck to our game plan to let (Kono) attack me and it worked that way tonight. I thought I was able to watch my opponent well, instead of keep swinging my punches.”
Inoue’s strategy produced an abrupt ending to the fight in the sixth round, just after Kono produced perhaps his best effort in the three minutes preceding it. Kono, who held the WBA version of the super flyweight title, until last summer, was looking to corner Inoue and bombard him with punches to start the sixth. The 36-year-old veteran even managed to land a few solid right hands but, once they started to exchange shots, Inoue’s counters drastically separated the two.
The counter left hook of Inoue quickly turned the tide and two of them in a row laid Kono out, sprawling onto the canvas 30 seconds into the round. It didn’t seem like Kono was going to get up, judging by how he fell to the mat, and even Inoue thought the same has he climbed the turnbuckle in celebration. Kono just beat referee Robert Byrd’s 10-count and that forced Inoue to step down from the ropes but all that effort produced was more pain.
Inoue didn’t give his hurt opponent any chance to recover, once time resumed, but that didn’t keep Kono from trying to land a desperate power shot. The two exchanged again but a left to the body momentarily stunned Kono and gave Inoue the opportunity to seal the deal with a final right upstairs. Kono crashed to the canvas a second time and the fight was waved off immediately at the 1:01 mark.
Kono, 32-10-1 (13), contemplated retirement after losing his belt to Luis Concepcion via unanimous decision last August. Now after being stopped for the first time in his career, this defeat may sway his decision.
“I’ll take some rest and think of what I’ll do,” he said. Kono became a world titleholder in the 115-pound class twice and successfully defended his second title against rival Koki Kameda in Chicago, Illinois, back in 2015.
Inoue, 12-0 (10), continues to impress in the early stages of his career and after his third victory of 2016, The Monster is lurking toward a potential fight with WBC titleholder Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez. Inoue even traveled to Los Angeles for Gonzalez’s most recent fight, in which he won his belt from Carlos Cuadras. However, he admitted afterward that the match-up would be served better sooner rather than later if they want to unify.
“It’ll be a matter of my weight and the timing (of the fight),” admitted Inoue. He has already won world titles in two weight classes and Inoue’s body is rapidly filling out as he skipped the flyweight class completely after winning the WBC title in the 108-pound division in just his sixth pro fight. Gonzalez, 46-0 (38), currently has no fight scheduled and, after making his name known in Japan earlier in his career, Chocolatito has been a success since bringing his act to the United States.
In the co-featured bout, Akira Yaegashi successfully defended his IBF junior flyweight title after stopping Samartlek Kokietgym in the 12th round.
“I could’ve finished it earlier but I had hard times fighting against (Smartlek),” said the 33-year-old from Yokohama.
It was a much tamer bout than expected early on with Yaegashi trying to outbox an aggressive Thai fighter. Then a war broke out in the seventh round, once Yaegashi was willing to engage, but Kokietgym didn’t waver and sometimes forced the Japanese champion to rethink his mid-round motives.
Yaegashi, 25-5 (13), continued his aggression, however, and had his opponent in dire straits against the ropes in the eighth round while unloading power shots. By then, it was clear that Kokietgym didn’t have enough to seriously stem Yaegashi’s performance but the 32-year-old showed guts in his first shot at a world title.
Kokietgym, 31-6 (12), whose given name is Wittawas Basapean, seemed destined to finish out the fight for a moral victory’s sake but Yaegashi pressed the gas pedal in the final round. With about a minute remaining, Yaegashi stunned Kokietgym and referee Gerard White put an end to the match as Akira followed up with a flurry.
In another fight of note, Ryota Murata knocked Bruno Sandoval out in the third round to achieve his fourth win of 2016 by stoppage. The middleweight contest was scheduled for 10 rounds.
Murata, 12-0 (9), landed a perfect overhand right in the final minute of the third. It caught Sandoval off guard and the Mexican took a step back before Murata followed up with a grazing right. In that same instance, Sandoval, 19-2-1 (15), tried to clinch Murata as he was hurt but instead wound up flailing to the canvas.
Referee Yuji Fukuchi didn’t even realize Sandoval was hurt and didn’t rule this a knockdown at first. He even tried to help the Mexican up from the canvas but Sandoval didn’t seem like he wanted to get up and Murata could be seen motioning his glove, as he knew Sandoval was finished. It was Sandoval’s first professional stoppage loss.
Murata, a 2012 Olympic gold medalist at middleweight, is currently ranked in the Top 5 of all four major sanctioning bodies.