Photos by Sumio Yamada
HOZUMI HASEGAWA vs JUAN CARLOS BURGOS
Japan is the scene for an attractive double world championship show on Friday with Hozumi Hasegawa meeting Juan Carlos Burgos for the vacant WBC featherweight title while Vitali Tajbert defends his WBC super featherweight belt against Takahiro Ao.
Hasegawa, 29, is moving up two weight divisions for the fight with Burgos. The Japanese fighter lost shockingly in four rounds to Fernando Montiel seven months ago, losing his bantamweight title in his 11th defence. It seems that Hasegawa’s struggles making weight were taking more out if him than anyone realised. Hasegawa might be skipping the 122-pound weight class because his very popular compatriot Toshiaki Nishioka holds the title in that division, but it is an ambitious move to step up from 118 to 126 pounds to meet a big, strong, young, undefeated Mexican fighter.
Burgos, who turns 23 next month, has been boxing as a 126-pounder his whole career. In his last fight, Burgos dominated the veteran Ricardo Castillo, a former world title challenger. Castillo gave it a good try and had some success in the early rounds with spirited attacking, but by the later rounds the older man had been worn down and was getting caught by hard, clean punches. Burgos was far in front when Castillo retired after 10 rounds.
Burgos, from Tijuana, has been astutely handled by Thompson Boxing Promotions, with the quality of his opposition gradually stepped up. He appeared on Friday Night Fights in January, stopping the durable veteran Juan Carlos Martinez in the last round. The fight with Castillo was a WBC elimination match and I think it was seen as likely to be Burgos’s most difficult fight. However, he was dominating Castillo for the last six rounds of the bout, which I think indicates that Burgos is a fighter who has learned and improved.
Hasegawa is not only moving up two weight classes and coming back from a stoppage defeat, he is also boxing for the first time after the passing of his mother, who had a long struggle with cancer.
Even though Hasegawa is boxing at home and has much greater experience than Burgos at world-class level, this looks like being a long, tough fight for him. Hasegawa has never met anyone as big and strong as Burgos, who is the taller man by three inches. Burgos is a capable boxer who is effective either at long range with the jab and right hand or up close with hooks and uppercuts. He has a winner’s mentality. When Castillo tried to bully him, Burgos banged his gloves together in the “Bring it on!” manner. I don’t think that Burgos is in the least awed by the occasion and I see him being highly competitive.
Hasegawa has skill and speed, and he hits sharply from his southpaw stance — well, he did as a bantamweight. How well he will move as a 126-pounder and how much effect his punches will have at the heavier weight can only be a matter for conjecture: we just don’t know. Nor do we know what effect losing to Montiel will have on him. Hasegawa was comfortably in control of that bout, in front on all three judges’ cards, but it seemed he got a bit too confident, taking the fight to the dangerous Mexican boxer a little carelessly, and he got nailed. Although Hasegawa didn’t go down he was out on his feet after taking full-impact left-hand bombs. I would have been happier about Hasegawa’s chances had he taken part in a 10-round tune-up type of bout before boxing for a championship.
Thompson Boxing chief Ken Thompson and matchmaker Alex Camponovo have travelled to Nagoya to support Burgos, which speaks of belief in their boxer.
Burgos, to me, is a very live underdog but I’ll tentatively pick Hasegawa to win on points. The jump in weight, the last-fight stoppage defeat and his mother’s death all concern me when assessing Hasegawa’s chances, but, on balance, I think he will be seasoned and smart enough to box his way through 12 rounds with a successful outcome against a fighter who is not known to be an especially hard puncher.