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Nashiro retains WBA Super Flyweight title

WBA super flyweight champion Nobuo Nashiro (13-1, 8 KOs), 115, came off the canvas twice in the first and sixth and finally retaliated to score a come-from-behind TKO win over compatriot Konosuke Tomiyama (18-2, 6 KOs), a taller boxer-puncher from Tokyo, at 1:22 of the eighth round to retain his WBA belt and have the spectators in frenzy on Saturday in Osaka, Japan.

We found it no good that you predict a quick KO victory beforehand even if you are heavily favored to win. Nashiro, the prohibitive favorite, looked too nervous and tense to fulfill his prediction in the first round, when he hit the canvas as he exchanged a roundhouse left hook with Tomiyama, an unheralded challenger, whose left caught the champ more quickly with precision. It wasn’t a heavy knockdown, but was enough to deprive Nashiro of his composure. Had Tomiyama made an all-out attack to hurt the champ more then and there, we might have seen a different result.

Nashiro, even in the second, appeared still shaky and unsteady and Tomiyama threw light but sharper combinations to win another point. The shorter shaven-skulled champ, who looked like a monk, gradually regained his rhythm, distance and timing as the contest progressed. Nashiro was in command in the third through fifth sessions as he connected with solid left-right combinations to the taller beetle-haired challenger.

Tomiyama, a flamboyant big mouth, seemed much sharper and swifter than usual, and floored the champ again with a same left hook to the face midway in the sixth. What happened to the champ? He looked too vulnerable and fragile as if his chin was made of china. Nashiro, too eager to finish him as predicted, forgot to weave, head-slip and duck only to rush to him and absorb good counters.

Although Nashiro, in round seven, went close to the taller rival and landed left-right-left hook combinations to win back a point, the judges later proved to have agreed with a same tally of 66-65 in the challenger’s favor after that round.

The dramatic eighth witnessed Nashiro explode a trademark right that obviously hurt the youngster. The champ went all out for a kill and rained a fusillade of punches, dropping him back onto the deck. The give-and-take process had the crowd on its feet. As the referee Mark Nelson, from Minneapolis, allowed Tomiyama to go on, Nashiro swarmed over him, pinning him to the corner with a barrage of punches. Nelson made a wise halt as the helpless Tomiyama had no more energy to respond to the champ’s onslaught.

It is ironic that Reyes gloves that Nashiro always preferred gave more advantage to Tomiyama, a sharpshooter from Tokyo, whose light but accurate shots decked the champ no less than twice and almost won the throne.

Nashiro, after the unexpectedly tough defense, apologized for his unsatisfactory performance to his adherents from the ring afterward, but need not do so since it was a part of the game. “I’m sorry not to be able to show a better fight, and Tomiyama was stronger than I expected.”

Hitoshi Watanabe, the loser’s manager, repented of his boy’s failure to attack the champ more in the opening session. “Should Tomiyama had landed more good shots in the first, Nashiro would have been hurt and damaged. Then, we might have seen another result.” It’s no use crying over his boy’s less effort in the initial session, as Tomiyama might become temporarily cautious and calculated his distribution of stamina in later rounds.

It was only his heart, not his technical excellence, that Nashiro displayed this afternoon. He is not an Archie Moore who rebounded from four visits to the deck after Yvon Durelle floored him in Montreal in 1958. He just fortunately could save his belt, but may lose it without improving his defensive skills in the future.

People deeply enjoyed the see-saw affair, but the champ’s manager Edagawa gloomily said, “Such a fight doesn’t do good to my heart. During the fight, my heart was almost broken.” This reporter advised him not to scold the champ but to praise his fighting spirit after the losing process and suggest some of his technical flaws later. Nashiro kept his belt, but his pride was obviously hurt until his next display of a good performance.