Photos by Sumio Yamada
NOBUO NASHIRO vs ALEXANDER MUNOZ
Tough and tenacious Nobuo Nashiro was one of last years most surprising success stories when, after just seven fights, he battled his way to an upset win over the much more experienced Martin Castillo to win the WBAs 115-pound title.
Nashiro, 25, has made one successful defence, pounding out a unanimous decision over Mexicos Eduardo Bambino Garcia. On Thursday, as part of an excellent show in Tokyo that features three world title bouts, Nashiro defends his belt against the former champion, Alexander Munoz, the hard-hitting Venezuelan who has won four championship bouts in Japan.
I must admit I thought that Castillo would be too ringwise and classy for Nashiro, although I did think the challenger would be competitive.
Prior to meeting Castillo, Nashiros last three fights were all against world-rated Japanese boxers, including a unanimous decision over the two-time world title challenger, Hidenobu Honda, who was the first opponent of Munozs to go the distance with the then-unbeaten power puncher.
Nashiro apparently contemplated retirement after the death of an opponent, Seiji Tanaka, who suffered a brain injury and died in hospital 12 days after being stopped in the last round.
It seems that Nashiro was consoled by Tanakas father, who told him not to feel any sense of guilt and to carry on boxing. He returned to the ring after seven months to win a unanimous decision over the WBAs No. 2-rated contender, Prosper Matsuura, which earned him the title bout with Castillo.
Nashiros victory in that fight set the new Japanese record for winning a world title with the least amount of bouts: the very popular Joichiro Tatsuyoshi won the bantamweight title in only his eighth fight in 1991.
Nashiro brings pressure, physical strength and durability. He is a solid type of fighter, nothing flashy, who keeps his hands up and attacks in spurts when he throws quite heavy-handed, although sometimes rather looping, punches to body and head.
I watched Nashiros fights with Castillo and Garcia and he seemed the sort of fighter who gets the absolute best out of what he has. I noticed that when the other man seems to be getting on top he comes right back, meaning that his opponent has to fight for every inch of ground gained in the fight.
In the fight with Castillo he caught the more skilled Mexican more often than I would have expected, but of course the fight was stopped due to a cut over Castillos eye. By the later rounds the Mexican was wiping away blood. Without the cut I think that Castillo might have pulled out the win but Nashiro was staying right with him, round after round, and two judges had the Japanese fighter in front. Eduardo Garcia just did not have the strength or the punching power to keep Nashiro off him and was well beaten. I did think that Garcia hurt Nashiro in the 10th round, though, when the baby-faced Mexican launched his biggest attack of the fight.
On Thursday Nashiro faces the biggest hitter he has ever met in the 28-year-old Munoz, who is the WBAs mandatory challenger in the super flyweight division.
Munoz has the height and reach advantages, he is the more experienced, is well-accustomed to boxing in Japan and he might be the better fighter. Although he was beaten convincingly by Martin Castillo in his first defeat, suffering two knockdowns, in the rematch an improved Munoz had Castillo down in the opening round and ended up losing only by a split decision.
The Venezuelan has not been active, though, with just one fight in the past 15 months although he clearly needed a good rest after the punishing rematch with Castillo.
I am not sure that Munoz is quite what he used to be. He took a lot of punches in the last couple of rounds against Castillo in their gruelling return bout and even looked like being stopped. Nashiro will be doing his best to put pressure on him and hurt him to the body.
Munoz is going to be particularly dangerous in the early rounds, but if Nashiro can block and dodge most of the big shots, and weather the ones he cant avoid. I think he should be able to wear down Munoz and outwork him. I think that this is probably what will happen, with Nashiro surviving a rocky moment or two to win a tough fight on points.