Saturday, 27 July 2013

Omar Figueroa v Nihito Arakawa

In a genuine fight of the year contender Omar Figueroa (22-0-1, 17) successfully claimed the WBC "interim" Lightweight title with a very hard fought 12 round decision over Japanese challenger Nihito Arakawa (24-3-1, 16).

The fight started at a hectic pace with Figueroa unloading hard shots in flurries whilst Arakawa tried to hold on and see out the first round. It was well known going in that Figueroa was incredibly dangerous in the opening round and it was obvious that Arakawa was trying to weather out the early storm.

Despite seeing out the opening round Arakawa was hurt in the second round and the referee controversially scored a knockdown from what appeared to be a push during a clinch. Sure Arakawa had been hurt prior to the knockdown but the call was certainly a questionable one from Lawrence Cole.

Despite the knockdown against him in the second round Arakawa had actually had some success being able to push Figueroa against the ropes. Unfortunately for the Japanese fighter he failed to really have any success with Figueroa on the ropes.

Arakawa would continue to push Figueroa on to the ropes in many of the following rounds as he tried to out-muscle the youngster. Despite being pushed around Figueroa kept exploding away from the ropes with amazing flurries of fast hurtful shots that landed time and time again. It was these flurries that were clearly the eye catching and classy work which allowed the American to rack up the rounds and hurt Arakawa.

In round 5 the bout saw another moment of note as a clash of heads lead to a cut on the nose of Figueroa. The cut, whilst correctly ruled to be from a head clash seemed to bleed profusely through out the bout leading to a line of blood that almost continually covered the centre of Figueroa's face and later on the shoulder or Arakawa who had out-done most predictions by even surviving to round 5. In fact actually you could have made a case for the round to have belong to Arakawa who had had genuine sustained success for the first time in the bout.

We saw controversy again in round 6 as the referee again gave a count against Arakawa despite the Japanese fighter again remaining on his feet. Yes once again he as hurt, but the count seemed to come whilst he was taking several rabbit shots. Oddly the count probably saved Arakawa from being stopped, as it arguably had done in round 2.

Although Figueroa had looked to have slowed in rounds 4 and 5 the knockdown call in his favour in round 6 seemed to rejuvenate him and he came out all guns blazing in round 7 trying to finish off the job. Although he could do it in round 7 Figueroa did have Arakawa stumbling around the ring in round 8 as it appeared the referee was going to give yet another standing count until Arakawa held on and cleared his head.

Having been in serious trouble in round 8 it was a surprise to see Arakawa having one of his best rounds in round 9 as both men traded shots. By now though Figueroa was clearly a slowing fighter and he seemed unable to sustain any attack for more than 20 seconds. Fighting in these short bursts made the rounds close though Arakawa seemed unable to ever hurt Figueroa despite him slowing in terms of work rate.

Despite being unhurt Figueroa did look very unhappy in his corner at the end of round 9. It was obvious that he was really tiring though so too was was Arakawa who, whilst still applying pressure and pushing Figueroa to the ropes, was unable to really land much of significance allowed the odd burst of punches from Figueroa to take the round.

Figueroa's tiredness continued to effect him in the final two rounds as Arakawa went searching for a stoppage and seemed to rattle the youngster a time or two with Figueroa managing to see out the storm. Although Figueroa had dominated most of the first 10 rounds it seemed as if Arakawa did have a slim chance of stealing the fight with a remarkable stoppage of a tired opponent.

Impressively Figueroa showed not only the heart to see out the hard times late in the bout but also the experience and boxing intelligence to do as Arakawa did in the opening round and hold on to see out round. For a man known for his explosive power it was probably as impressive that he knew how to see out the clock and survive.

With the WBC "interim" Lightweight title around this waist it seems like a waiting game for Figueroa who I expect will be upgraded to full champion when Adrien Broner decides on his next fight. This fight, whilst a clear decision win for the youngster will have done him more good than his previous 20-odd bouts as he was tested in ways almost nobody expected. He showed off his heart, his relatively impressive stamina and also his faults, he squares up a lot and doesn't have the greatest of technique, allowing him to correct things in the gym.

For Arakawa this was a painful night though a night in which he'll have made a lot of new friends stateside. He showed himself to be a tough as nails warrior who is high in action and will refuse to quit. Hopefully some other top Lightweights give him a chance even if he is a nightmare to fight due to his heart and toughness

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