Uchiyama survives knockdown to beat Kaneko
Champion Takashi Uchiyama (L) of Japan connects with a right to the jaw of Japanese challenger Daiki Kaneko during the 11th round of their WBA super featherweight title bout in Tokyo on December 31, 2013
Uchiyama, taken the distance for the first time since winning the title four years ago, improved to 20-0 (17 KOs) with one draw. The No. 4-ranked Kaneko dropped to 19-3 (17 KOs) with three draws.
Earler in the evening, in the opening bout of a title doubleheader at the Ota City Gym, Uchiyama's compatriot Takashi Miura successfully defended his WBC super flyweight belt for the second time, stopping Mexico's Dante Jardon by TKO in the ninth round.
Uchiyama, fighting on New Year's Eve for the third straight year, gave more than he got against Kaneko in a wide-open bout between two hard hitters, opening a cut near the challenger's right eye and leaving his left eye nearly swollen shut.
The three Japanese judges -- Takeo Harada, Takashi Shimakawa and Kazunobuo Asao -- all scored the fight 117-110 in Uchiyama's favor.
"Kaneko was strong," Uchiyama told the crowd in a post-fight interview in the ring. "He's the man. I'm the world champion, but he provided me with a good experience."
The 34-year-old, nicknamed "Knockout Dynamite," wrested the title with a 12th-round TKO of Mexico's Juan Carlos Salgado in January 2010, then won all seven of his previous title defenses inside the distance.
His lone draw came in July 2012, when his fight against the Philippines' Michael Farenas was stopped after Uchiyama was head-butted in the third round.
The outcome of the two title fights has inevitably led to calls for a unification fight between the two Japanese champions.
The pair met in January 2011 for Uchiyama's WBA belt, with Uchiyama winning when the fight was stopped in the eighth round due to a severe cut near Miura's eye -- and after Uchiyama had been knocked down.
"The last time, I barely won and in these three years, he's really made progress," Uchiyama said of a rematch with Miura. "If it happens, I'll look forward to it."
Kaneko, who had not lost since December 2007, caused the crowd to roar late in the 10th round when he led with a left jab that forced Uchiyama into the ropes, then tagged him with a right hook that knocked him to the canvas.
"I was surprised," Uchiyama said. "But I knew what the count was. I didn't panic and stood up. It was OK."
Kaneko tried to keep the momentum going in the 11th round, but Uchiyama fended off the attack, landing a number of effective counterpunches himself. Both fighters pounded away right to the end.
Earlier, the southpaw Miura dominated throughout his bout with Jardon, knocking the Mexican down in the fifth, then again before referee Len Koivisto stepped in and halted the match 55 seconds into the ninth round.
With the win, Miura improved to 27-2 (20 KOs) with two draws, while the No. 2-ranked Jardon fell to 24-3 (20 KOs).
"I had a chance to end it earlier," Miura said. "That's my inexperience, which I will have to work on."
Miura has now won seven straight fights since losing to Uchiyama, including a ninth-round TKO of Mexico's Gamaliel Diaz in Tokyo last April for the WBC belt.
He defeated another Mexican, Sergio Thompson, with an unanimous decision in his first title defense in August in Cancun, Mexico.
Miura took the initiative with body blows in the early rounds, while absorbing the occasional punch from Jardon that found its target.
In the fifth round, Miura connected with a left hook, then unleashed a flurry of punches as Jardon cowered in the corner before going to the mat. Miura stayed on the attack, but Jardon survived the round.
Over the next few rounds, it was apparent it was just a matter of time as Jardon forged ahead on wobbly legs. Each time the challenger launched an attack, it opened the door for more punishment from Miura.
Late in the eighth round, Miura pummeled away on the ropes and Jardon went down to his knees with a bloody nose, but the referee let the fight continue.
Going into the ninth round, Miura had won every previous round on all three judges cards.