Kal Yafai (22-0) overcame Suguru Muranaka (25-3-1) to claim a unanimous decision in the first defence of his WBA Super Flyweight title, at the Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham.
Straight out of the gates Yafai set an electric pace, unlike in his previous fight with the highly rated Luis Concepcion, where Yafai took his time to get into a rhythm.
While Kal was switching up shots from the body to the head with tremendous speed and accuracy, particularly the left hook – one of his primary assets. Yafai showed a great punch variety from the start, effectively working Muranaka’s body.
Round one proved a harsh welcome to Birmingham for Muranaka, and it certainly seemed like the Japanese super flyweight was going to be in for a long night.
In round two, Muranaka tasted the canvas, although it did look like he slipped just before Yafai caught him. As the second round progressed, Muranaka faced a barrage of shots from Yafai whose combinations continued to dominate the fight. In the final sixty seconds of the round, Muranaka stamped his first sign of authority onto the fight, but his punches didn’t seem to hurt Yafai too much.
The fight got more competitive as the rounds passed, Muranaka, however, continued to walk onto some heavy shots, but his solid chin and determination prevented him from hitting the canvas.
In rounds four to six, the Japanese boxer moved into his stride, pressing the fight, and wearing down the WBA champion with a high volume of body shots – even if they did lack real power.
In the seventh, Yafai regained control, with the Japanese challenger looking less balanced after taking some punishing blows from Yafai. Muranaka was also much less accurate with his work when returning fire.
In the eighth, Muranaka showed a real lack of ring generalship, continuously walking onto high impact shots.
Yafai’s work was having more of an effect on his Muranaka by this point, but he had a point docked after landing a low blow when he had previously been warned earlier in the fight.
The 11th round was one of the best, where somehow both men still had it in them to land some terrific combinations, the challenger still didn’t produce enough to take the round though.
The twelfth and final round saw a drained Muranaka, somehow managing to stay up and he deserved no less after going to war with Yafai on foreign soil.
The work rate produced by the pair during the fight was second to none, with the home fighter dominating the early and late stages of the fight, and the challenger having success in the middle stage.
It was great to see both men hurling leather at each other throughout the duration of the fight, but the fundamental difference proved to be that Yafai’s counter punches carried more substance and impact.
Marunaka thoroughly impressed though, showing an incredible chin after taking an accumulation of tough head shots in the later rounds. He was relentless in his work all night, and put on an unyielding title challenge away from home, with many at ringside in disbelief at how tough he was.
Considering the amount of punishment Marunaka took, it was incredible that he made it to the final bell. He certainly had a rise in stock last night, proving to be an excellent test and learning fight for Yafai.
While it might not have been the performance Yafai was after, he still got a comfortable victory against a very durable and resilient opponent, while still young and learning on the job.