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Boxing | International

Khalid Yafai © Gallo Images

Yafai makes first defence of WBA belt

Khalid Yafai from Birmingham, England, makes the first defence of his WBA junior-bantamweight belt when he meets Suguru Muranaka of Japan at the Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham, England, on Saturday night.

The 27-year-old Yafai (21-0; 14) won the vacant belt on December 10 in Manchester last year when he completely out-boxed Luis Concepcion over 12 rounds. Concepcion, who had a record of 35-4 before the fight, failed to make the weight, so the title was declared vacant.

Yafai made his pro debut in July 2012 and won the vacant British Commonwealth junior-bantamweight title in May 2014 with a second-round knockout win over Yajub Kareem, and 17 months later he captured the British junior-bantamweight crown with a points win over Jason Cunningham in a clash for the vacant title.

Muranaka, 31, who has a record of 25-2; 8, will be fighting out of Japan for the first time, with all his fights having taken place at Tokyo’s Korakuen Hall. He will also be going into his first 12-rounder.

The only two losses on his record have come against Shigeo Saito (sd 4) in his fourth fight and his ninth fight against Tomoya Fukanaga (md 6). Since then he has remained unbeaten in 19 fights, which includes a two-round technical draw against Katsumi Makiyama (14-5) in July 2008.

Muranaka, who is ranked at No 10 by the WBA, has held the Japanese flyweight title and possibly his best win to date was in his last fight against Hiroyuki Hisataka, in December last year, winning on an eight-round majority points decision.

Yafai was an outstanding amateur, having represented Britain at the 2008 Olympics and winning a European silver medal in 2010.

He fights from behind a tight guard and is a fair puncher with a 67 percent knockout ratio.

Muranaka is not a big puncher, with only eight wins inside the distance, and has to rely on his fitness, but is known for good work close in.

The stronger Yafai is the betting favourite to win inside the distance in one of the later rounds.

The other major organisation champions are Jerwin Ancajas, Japan, (IBF), Srisaket Sor Rung Visai, Thailand (WBC) and Naoya Inoue, Japan (WBO).

On the undercard, the 23-year-old Sam Eggington (20-3; 12) from England challenges Spain’s Ceferino Rodriguez, 28, who has a record of 24-1; 12, for the European welterweight title.

Also on the card is a scheduled ten-rounder between Gamal Yafai (11-0; 4) against Sean Davis (12-0) in a junior-featherweight contest.


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