There wasn't a lot of excitement in the air prior to the card tonight as Las Vegas is still decompressing from the Ortiz-Mayweather fight. Unlike the higher publicized events which take place at MGM Grand Garden Arena, this card took place at the much smaller Marquee Ballroom which seats 3,000 spectators.
Free tickets were being bantered about beforehand and as the Japanese fighters are very humble and didn't appear to go out of their way to hype their bouts to generate increased ticket sales. Furthermore, the Japanese spectators were so reserved even the usually stoic Miquel Diaz found himself towel-waving to get a rise out of the polite and respectful Japanese fans as their heroes were introduced in the ring.
And once again, the crafty Bob Arum had something 'up his sleeve.' Assuming the fighters would perform admirably, he wisely brought them in on a small, inexpensive card and introduced them to the world. After their performances tonight, one can safely say there's another player in the game.
As Americans, we've heard all too much about boxing's growing popularity in Germany, England and the former Eastern Bloc. American fighters are venturing to Europe where big money and packed arenas shift the spotlight eastward. But have we been ignoring Japan? Tonight, Toshiaki Nishioka and the other two 'rising sons' on the card made many Americans do an about face.
WBC super bantamweight champion Toshiaki Nishioka (39-4-3, 24 KOs) is considered Japan's top boxer and is the face of Japanese boxing to the rest of the world. He had successfully defended his title six times prior to taking on tough former champion Rafael Marquez of Mexico. Nishioka, a 16-year veteran, had won his last fifteen matches dating back to 2004, including a highly-publicized manfdatory defense win over Jhnonny Gonzalez in 2009 before a hostile crowd of 14,000 in Gonzalez's native Mexico. Nishioka, knocked down just 30 seconds into the fight, weathered the storm and landed a vicious left hand that rocked Gonzalez and sent him to the canvas. Nishioka won via a third round TKO and showed that night in Mexico that he belonged among the world's elite fighters.
Nishioka, previously 9-0 against Mexican fighters, went into last night's bout facing a fighter who was arguably the fiercest of the group - Rafael Marquez (then 40-6, 36 KOs). Not only did Nishioka hold his own against the two-time former champ, he dominated him. If Floyd Mayweather has the accurate, stinging right hand, Nishioka certainly had the left. Marquez ate the straight lefts repeatedly and couldn't answer the assault that pitted his will against Nishioka's skill.
The twelfth round was somewhat reminiscent of the Barrera - Morales battles as both fighters took the last minutes to let it all fly till the final bell sounded. The crowd roared, giving the warriors a standing ovation.
Nishioka was granted a well-deserved unanimous decision with scores of 117-111, 116-112 and 115-113.
Not only did the fans get a great show but many also left with a new-found desire to see more of the talented Japanese pugilists. The casinos reported that many Japanese businessmen and celebrities participated in heavy wagering so expect more invitations for these Japanese fighters to return to the 'Boxing Capital of the World' to expand their fan base even further.