Kal Yafai unanimously retains world title with well-earned win over Sho Ishida

Kal Yafai unanimously retains world title with well-earned win over Sho Ishida

Birmingham’s Kal Yafai (23-0, 14KO) retained his WBA world super-flywight title with a well-earned Unanimous Decision of Japan’s previously unbeaten Sho Ishida (24-1, 13KO) at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.

The three judges scored the 12 rounder with 118-110, 116-112 and 116-112 scorecards in favour of the reigning champion. It was the first world title contest of three on Matchroom Boxing’s show, headlined by IBF and WBA world heavyweight ruler Anthony Joshua who later faces Carlos Takam.

Ishida owned a considerable height advantage over Yafai, who was determined to turn the negative in to a positive. Yafai spent much of the opener ducking and darting, closing the distance before working Ishida’s torso. The former British and Commonwealth champion has scored a number of body shot knockouts and he was seemingly targeting another.

28-year-old Yafai, who is trained by Max McCracken in the Midlands, returned to the front foot in the following rounds. Ishida attempted to increase the range with single jabs and Yafai successfully timed straight rights over them.

Ishida enjoyed his first major foothold in the fight during the fifth round when he was able to enjoy spells on the front foot, which were only disrupted when referee Howard Foster warned Yafai not to be careless with his head.

There were even and entertaining exchanges in the middle rounds. Both super-flyweights punched with each other, meaning each other’s targets were open at the same time. Yafai was slightly busier and would’ve been banking the rounds for that reason, though he was kept on his toes by Ishida, who was surprisingly suited to fighting on the inside, despite his lengthy leavers.

Yafai briefly stumbled Ishida in the eighth session and followed it up with meaty power shots-  one left hook that missed was thrown with such force that it almost turned Yafai’s body 180 degrees. He was in charge and building sustained momentum, only interrupted when Ishida was warned for a low blow and when the wrapping on the visitor’s gloves slightly unravelled.

The championship rounds saw Yafai pick his moments to rush Ishida with short spurts and although the unbeaten Japanese fighter was game, he was unable to muster a response to match it.

In preparation for Yafai’s second world title defence, he sparred Barry Town’s Andrew Selby (10-0, 5KO), who operates in the weight category below. The former Olympians pair were gym-mates during their days at Team GB and fought in a barnburner in 2012, which Selby won.

IMAGE BY LAWRENCE LUSTIG / MATCHROOM BOXING.

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