By: Sean Crose
Christopher Diaz, 23-0, battled Masayuki Ito, 23-1-1 for the vacant WBO World Super Featherweight title in Kissimmee, Florida on Saturday evening. The first round saw Ito employing an effective jab while Diaz worked to establish himself. By the end of the second, Ito was landing against Puerto Rico’s Diaz effectively. By the end of the third, it was becoming clear that if Ito had more power, he might be able to truly damage his opponent. As it was, the Tokyo based fighter continued to land effectively.
Diaz landed effectively himself early in the fourth. Yet a blistering Ito combination brought Diaz to the mat seconds later. Diaz got up, but Ito continued to pummel his opponent with menacing straight punches.
Much to his credit, Diaz was able to come back and fight effectively in the fifth. Perhaps Ito was merely conserving energy, but there was no questioning Diaz’ heart. Diaz continued to fight gamely in the sixth. The seventh saw Diaz landing at points, but the accuracy of Ito’s shots – which were punctuated by by telling uppercuts, were telling the tale. By the eighth, the pattern was familiar – Diaz showed an ability to hook effectively while Ito jabbed and fired at will. Yet, as impressive as Ito was, Diaz’ heart, along with some very solid hooks, started to make a mark. By the later rounds, it was clear this was an exciting affair.
His face a mess, particularly after a head butt, Diaz slugged his way through the eleventh, making the end of the bout appear in question. The twelfth was a slugfest. Diaz landed very well. Ito landed even better. After the final bell, the two combatants, banged up and bruised, embraced in mutual respect. Ito ended up with a unanimous decision win…and a title belt. It might not have been fight of the year, but it was certainly one of the better brawls of 2018. The WBO strap had belonged to Vasyl Lomachenko, but the Ukrainian star had moved up earlier in the year to capture a lightweight title off of Jorge Linares, thus leaving the super featherweight title vacant.
Earlier in the night, Gabriel Bracero, 24-3-1, wiped out Artemio Reyes, 25-2-0, via fifth round TKO in a welterweight bout. Bracero had reportedly taken the fight on just over a week’s notice. The card was aired live on ESPNs streaming service, ESPN+, and was promoted by Bob Arum’s Top Rank Promotions.