Photos by Sumio Yamada
EAGLE KYOWA vs RODEL MAYOL
While the weekends mega fight is Oscar De La Hoya versus Ricardo Mayorga the little men of the ring are creating a buzz in the Far East with the formidable Eagle Kyowa defending his 105-pound title against the unbeaten and hard-hitting Filipino, Rodel Mayol, in Tokyo.
Kyowa (real name Den Janlaphan) moved from Thailand to Japan to become of the powerhouses of Oriental boxing. He has had assorted names: Eagle Okuda, Eagle Akakura and now Eagle Kyowa.
The names have changed, but Eagles boxing ability has remained constant.
Eagle, whom I have seen on tape several times, is one of those solid technicians who does not seem to have a flaw. He is strong and steady, an accurate if not devastating puncher.
There is a remarkable calmness about Eagles style of fighting. In the heat of battle he will sometimes give a little, knowing smile, almost in a good-natured way, as if he knows that he will win, no matter how hard his opponent is fighting.
In only his 12th fight he outclassed the far more experienced Jose Antonio Aguirre to win the WBC minimumweight belt. How good was that performance? Well, in February Aguirre gave Brian Viloria a tough 12-rounder for the flyweight title in Las Vegas.
Eagles only loss was one of the unluckiest defeats any boxer has suffered in a big fight in years: he was dominating Mexicos Isaac Bustos only to suffer a dislocated shoulder, and the fight had to be stopped in the fourth round. Bustos then lost the title to Katsunari Takayama, who was well beaten by Eagle when the Thai fighters shoulder had mended.
In his last fight, Eagle destroyed the game but outgunned Ken Nakajima in seven rounds in one of those man-versus-boy fights.
Eagle has such great talent and professional soundness that you would think he has had far more than 16 bouts.
It is only right and proper that Eagle is the favourite over Mayol, but I think that the 24-year-old, Japanese-managed Filipino has an excellent chance of upsetting the odds.
Mayol has beaten a string of little-known, even obscure, opponents in his 22 consecutive wins (17 KOs) but he looked tremendous in his last fight, when he knocked out the veteran Mexican Lorenzo Trejo in four rounds in a championship eliminator in Cancun.
Trejos won-lost statistics are misleading. He had lost only to the gifted, undefeated Ivan Calderon in his last 14 bouts, but Mayol destroyed him, knocking down the Mexican in the first round, hurting him in the second and third, then flattening him with a huge left uppercut in the fourth.
Now, it is one thing to blast out a wide-punching, hittable fighter such as Trejo and quite another to land big punches against a fighter who can box as well as Eagle, but I was impressed by Mayols supreme confidence and the authority of his boxing that night in Cancun. He seemed totally unconcerned by the crowds support for his opponent. Quite simply, he had the look of a winner.
Eagle could simply be too strong and too good for Mayol, but the Filipino looked fast and sharp against Trejo and impressed me as a hard hitter with either hand although the left hook and uppercut were his most dangerous-looking shots. If he can get into the fight from the start, catch Eagle with some hooks and make the champion respect him, then this becomes a winnable fight for Mayol.
While Eagle looks the better all-around technician I think that Mayol has the speed and the power advantages. Mayol has boxed in Japan twice before and I doubt that he will be awed: in fact I think he will go out and try to hurt Eagle early and let the champion know he is in a fight.
Eagle should, on paper, come out the winner, but I have a sneaking feeling that Mayol just might be Oriental boxings best-kept secret.