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Straight Left

By Ron Galarpe

Eagle Kyowa is a formidable foe for Mayol
Sat, 06 May 2006

For most Filipino boxing fans who are familiar with Rodel Mayol, it will always be natural to think that they are already assured of another Filipino world champion in the offing. There is no doubt from Filipino boxing aficionados and even from this writer, that Rodel Mayol is the second best Filipino boxer nowadays after Manny Pacquiao. However, the sailing could be rougher than we thought for the Mandaue City native.

It is a welcome news that our Rodel Mayol has finally been getting his chance for a belt that had long been denied on him deliberately. The bad news is that he is facing an equally formidable foe who probably has more quality experience in Eagle Kyowa and who is regarded by a few well-knowledgeable and discriminating boxing experts as one of the best little men in boxing these days.

Eagle Kyowa’s real name is Den Janlaphan, born on December 4, 1978 in the historic town of Pichit, lower northern part of Thailand some 345 kilometres from Bangkok. Den Janlaphan or Eagle Kyowa had a fearsome amateur record of 30 wins, 4 losses with 25 knockouts.

After spending a brief professional boxing career in his native Thailand with a record of of 5-0, Japanese boxing manager Kikuji Okuda saw the promise on the little Thai and brought him to Japan. Okuda christened the Thai boxer after his name, and so the name Eagle Okuda surfaced.

However, the managerial ties with Okuda did not go well which prompted the Japanese-adapted Thai fighter to transfer to a new manager named Kadoebi Jewel. While under Jewel, Eagle fought as Eagle Akakura then later changed it to Eagle Kyowa, which is after the name of his sponsor. The managerial rigodon caused the constant change of Eagle’s fighting name. He was known as Okuda when he beat Noel Tu?acao but against Aguirre, he was known as Akakura.

It is worthy to note that a few Filipino world-ranked fighters were part of Eagle Kyowa’s stepping stone to respectability in the strawweight division.

Eagle Kyowa, now 28, barged into the scene by defeating the more experienced and then WBC #4 ranked contender Noel Tu?acao of the Philippines by a lopsided unanimous decision. In the match against Tu?acao, Kyowa made sure that he is the aggressor throughout the fight which made the tough and experienced Filipino in trouble most of the fight. Kyowa floored Tu?acao in the 6th round and went on to win a lopsided unanimous decision.

The victory over Tu?acao automatically entered Kyowa’s name in the top ten rankings of the WBC. After his conquest of the highly ranked Filipino, Kyowa further strengthened his presence in the rankings by defeating two more Filipino top OPBF contenders Elmer Gejon and Fabio Marfa.

Then came the highlight of Kyowa’s current career: he got a chance to fight the then perennial WBC strawweight champion, Jose Antonio Aguirre of Mexico, which happened in January 2004.

The Mexican Aguirre was on his 8th title defense in facing Kyowa and the Japanese boxing fans were keeping their fingers’ crossed for Kyowa was facing a seemingly invincible Aguirre who included former Filipino titlist Manny Melchor in his list of victims. Lo and behold! Nobody expected the hearty Kyowa to dominate Aguirre in such a splendid and overpowering fashion, the scores were 107-120, 108-119 and 110-117 all for Kyowa that had respected judges Chuck Hassett and Lou Filippo as witnesses to Kyowa’s domination of Aguirre.

In the Aguirre fight, Kyowa started like a house on fire and was constantly applying pressure on the Mexican. The all-out assault by Kyowa made Aguirre back-pedalling most of the time and was in trouble in the 4th and 5th rounds. As the fight wore on, Aguirre was obviously getting weaker and at one point in the 9th round, out of frustration, delivered a head butt to Kyowa, prompting the referee to deduct a point on him.

There were no knockdowns in the fight but it was clear Aguirre had no answer to the pressure applied to him by Kyowa. The domination of Kyowa on Aguirre was sweet revenge for both the Thais and Japanese boxing aficionados as Aguirre got the belt from Kyowa compatriot Sawandee Singwancha via majority decision which happened right in front of the fanatic Thai audience in year 2000. The Japanese on the other hand got their revenge on Aguirre after two unsuccessful attempts by boxers Wolf Tokimitsu and Keitaro Hoshino that all happened on Japanese soil.

Kyowa’s reign as champion suffered an abrupt halt, when on his second defense in December 2004, he surrendered a fluke loss via a 4th round technical knockout to Aguirre's compatriot Isaac Bustos. Kyowa was leading in all of the judges’ scorecards until the fight was stopped due to an injury on his left shoulder which made him unable to continue and automatically giving Bustos the WBC belt.

In the said contest, Kyowa was obviously dictating the fight until he hurt his shoulder in round three. The champion's corner tried to pop his dislocated shoulder back into place but was unsuccessful. Kyowa went off his stool in the fourth round but the pain from his injury and the relentless pressure by Bustos proved too much and the fight was stopped after 20 seconds of the round.

The WBC enlisted Kyowa as the mandatory challenger for Bustos’ defense against Katsunari Takayama, which the Japanese won. The fight with Takayama was highly competitive, but it proved that Eagle’s boxing skills and power was too much for the more mobile Japanese champion. Eagle made a good start by overpowering and out-speeding the newly crowned speedster Takayama to win the first two rounds with ease.

The young Japanese champ displayed his trademark hit-and-run tactic to be in command in the third. As the contest progressed, Eagle showed the difference of physical power in overwhelming the busy-moving but less powerful Takayama. The Japanese champ was seen connecting more punches with less impact while Eagle would always caught his foe with fewer but more solid shots to the face and the midsection. The ex-champ cleverly shifted his target to Takayama’s belly midway in the contest, which paid off well as the champ visibly slowed down and became much less powerful.

Takayama sustained a slight gash in the eleventh, but showed his last surge in the 12th round by engaging Kyowa with heated exchanges, toe-to-toe, in the center of the ring. Two judges gave the twelfth session to Takayama, while another official tallied 10-10. Press people as well as ringsiders called the final session a good candidate for Round of the Year. It was a very good and hot competition despite such a unanimous score all for Kyowa. It really entertained the jam-packed house at the Hall.

Well-known Japanese boxing expert Joe Koizumi described Kyowa as an excellent boxer-puncher. He said that the little Thai hits with accuracy and precision in his punches and maybe now a complete fighter due to his decent defense and superior speed. Others in the Japanese boxing media admire Kyowa’s powerful fists combined with speed and where hailing Kyowa for his work rate even if the fight goes the distance.

However, Koizumi believed that the Filipino Mayol has an advantage in power.

Mayol and Kyowa both started their careers in year 2000 and while Mayol had more fights with 22 than Kyowa's 16, the Thai lodged more rounds in the ring than Mayol. This figure can be translated by saying that Kyowa has more experience than Mayol and has been tested more to his limits, not to mention having more experience with tougher oppositions.

However, the figure could also mean that Mayol is really more powerful than Kyowa and more skillful, regardless if the opposition were weaker.

The hunger factor is also what everybody is talking about in this match. It would be easy to say that Mayol has the hunger to win the match than Kyowa, after so many deliberate attempts to delay his time for a belt.

However, many Filipino fans does not know that there is a big clamor in the Japanese boxing circle to pit Kyowa against current WBA strawweight champion Yutaka Niida, also of Japan. Before the mandatory order for Mayol came, both camps of Niida and Kyowa have already expressed their desire to pit the two best strawweight in Japan. The fight with Niida is more prestigious and more lucrative for Kyowa. However, he needs to get pass with Mayol to reach that dream. It could be that the big fight for Niida is what will be the hunger factor for Kyowa in his fight with Mayol.

Kyowa’s shoulder is also an issue in this match and in fact, we were hearing that attacking the shoulder of Kyowa could be one big strategy for Mayol. However, after losing to Bustos due to a dislocated shoulder, Kyowa went on to win against Takayama in 12 full rounds and went 7 rounds with Ken Nakajima. If Kyowa is still nursing that injury, why had he managed to last to win those fights?

Incidentally, Eagle Kyowa is the 6th Japanese world champion that is not Japanese by blood and paper. The other five were Hawaii native Paul Takeshi Fuji, Russians Yuri Arbachakov and Orzubek Nazarov, Filipino Luisito Espinosa Koizumi and North Korean-born Masamori Tokuyama, the man that denied Gerry Pe?alosa the WBC super flyweight belt in 2002. Since Rodel Mayol is being handled by Japanese Yasuo Matsuoka, they may also decide to adapt Mayol and make him their 7th world champion that has no Japanese blood.

The Kyowa-Mayol fight is very interesting because I truly believe they are the best two strawweights in the world right now after Ivan Calderon. And yes, I believe they are better than Muhammad Rachman and Yutaka Niida.

Eagle Kyowa may have the higher work rate, battle-tested heart and enough skills to topple Rodel Mayol, but the Filipino’s superior skills and power should make this match highly competitive. It is all a question of who has the right answer to both men’s strengths.

I am leaning towards a Mayol victory but I am sure Kyowa would not easily allow Mayol to get away with it.

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