Results: Kal Yafai decisions Suguru Muranaka after 12 tough rounds
Khalid Yafai successfully defended his WBA super flyweight title for the first time on Saturday in Birmingham, England, but not without a tough fight from Suguru Muranaka.
“Boy…his head,” wondered Yafai in the post-fight interview. “I just thought, you have got one tough head. You are one tough mother.”
Held at the Barclaycard Arena in his hometown, Yafai marveled at the toughness from the Japanese contender – whose commendable effort didn’t reflect in the scorecards of 118-108 and 119-107 twice. Alas, along with Muranaka, the 27-year-old of Yemeni dissent provided a good fight in the main event of card billed as “The Homecoming.”
Yafai, 22-0 (14), gave an early indication of his superiority after scoring a second round knockdown and being unable to miss with his left hand. However, fighting for the first time outside of Tokyo, Japan, Muranaka did not come to roll over. Yafai’s lead left hook was the catalyst to his success as it touched Muranaka’s head and body often in the fight but Muranaka wasn’t afraid to get into the fray, starting in the third round.
There, tremendous exchanges erupted and Muranaka, 31, was willing to eat a shot in order to deliver a power right hand of his own. Muranaka seemed to be getting the better of the exchanges and, as the rounds let on, Yafai found himself backing up, at times. He couldn’t establish a jab that would thwart the pressure Muranaka was enforcing and, as the contest approached the middle rounds, the fight seemed to be a far cry from the betting odds established.
A 13-1 underdog fighting in his first world title bout, Muranaka, 25-3-1 (8), was your typical Japanese tough guy and his effort made the fight stray from being the one-sided beatdown it was once considered. The gripping exchanges caused some drama before the crowd but Yafai left the audience at ease in the sixth as his lead left continued to be the strongest punch in the fight. A right hand in the seventh by Yafai momentarily wobbled Muranaka but, by round’s end, Suguru was pressing for more action in the waning seconds.
In the eighth, Yafai was deducted a point by referee Steve Gray for low blows – something he was warned about often, as the body attack was clearly concerted. Slowly, Muranaka showed signs of weathering but he willed himself to go back-and-forth in the ninth, conjuring a smirk from Yafai that probably eluded to his post-fight thoughts. As the fight crawled through the championship rounds, Muranaka’s warrior mentality was endearing and Yafai’s ability to withstand the pressure for 12 rounds was impressive in and of itself.
“My hands were in a bad way after about two rounds,” Yafai admitted afterward. With his homecoming defense now out of the way, he now seeks a unification bout within the super flyweight class. Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (WBC), Jerwin Ancajas (IBF) and Naoya Inoue (WBO) are the 115-pound division’s current titlists but the name mentioned by Yafai’s promoter – Matchroom Boxing’s Eddie Hearn – was Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez.