Junto Nakatani TKO's Alexandro Santiago for WBC bantamweight title

February 24, 2024, 9:49 AM

Junto Nakatani scored a sixth-round TKO victory over Alexandro Santiago on Saturday in Tokyo to become the WBC bantamweight champion and claim his third division title.

Japan's Nakatani (27-0, 20 KOs) floored Santiago with a straight left in Round 6. Moments later, a crisp right hook sent Santiago to the canvas again as his corner quickly halted the one-sided action at 1 minute, 12 seconds.

Nakatani, 26, won every round on all three scorecards.

"Looking forward to everyone watching me fight at bantamweight from now on," said Nakatani, who trains in Los Angeles.

He entered the bout rated No. 4 at 115 pounds by ESPN; this was Nakatani's first fight at 118 pounds. Even in another weight class, Nakatani still possessed considerable advantages in height and reach.

At 5-foot-8 with a 67-inch reach, Nakatani was able to box from the outside, using his active southpaw jab to control the action. He peppered Santiago with clean left hands from range and busted up the champion around both eyes.

Santiago (28-4-5, 14 KOs) entered the ring on the heels of a career-best performance, a unanimous-decision victory over future Hall of Famer Nonito Donaire in July. That win lifted Santiago to his first world title and a No. 4 ESPN ranking at bantamweight.

But against Nakatani, Santiago was no match. Every time the 28-year-old fighter from Mexico attempted to close distance, Nakatani met him with jabs and uppercuts that stymied the champion's attack. Santiago, at 5-foot-3, conceded 5 inches in height.

He had won four bouts since a November 2021 majority-decision loss to Gary Antonio Russell.

Nakatani is one of the fastest-rising boxers. His 12th-round knockout victory over Andrew Moloney in May was named ESPN's KO of the Year. That win captured Nakatani the WBO title at 115 pounds, a belt he successfully defended in September via decision vs. Argi Cortes.

Nakatani also won a title at 112 pounds.

Takuma Inoue retains title

Takuma Inoue, the younger brother of Japanese star Naoya Inoue, retained his WBA bantamweight title with a ninth-round KO victory over Jerwin Ancajas in the main event.

Inoue (19-1, 5 KOs) sunk a right uppercut to Ancajas' body that dropped the challenger for the 10 count at 44 seconds of Round 9.

Inoue, 28, was making the first defense of the 118-pound title he won in April with a decision victory over Liborio Solis. Inoue is ESPN's No. 2 bantamweight. His brother, Naoya, is ESPN's No. 2 pound-for-pound boxer and the undisputed junior featherweight champion.

Ancajas (34-4-2, 23 KOs) is a former 115-pound champion who has now lost three of his past four bouts. The other two defeats came against Fernando Martinez in junior bantamweight title fights in 2022.

The 32-year-old Filipino entered the bout rated No. 8 by ESPN at bantamweight.