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Masayuki Ito Wins Hard-Fought Battle Over Christopher Diaz to Win Vacant WBO 130-Pound Crown

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (July 28, 2018) – Masayuki Ito traveled halfway around the world, and he will return home a world champion. Ito, from Tokyo, defeated Christopher “Pitufo” Diaz via unanimous decision (116-111, 117-110, 118-109) Saturday evening at the Kissimmee Civic Center in a pitched affair to win the vacant WBO junior lightweight world championship.

Ito (24-1-1, 12 KOs) knocked down Diaz (23-1, 15 KOs) in the fourth round and controlled the tempo of the fight, becoming the sixth current male world champion from Japan. Ito, who was fighting for the first time outside of Japan, was not fazed by the pro-Diaz crowd.

“I believe in myself. I knew I was going to become a world champion, and that is exactly what happened,” Ito said. “Since the beginning of the fight, I knew I had more power and I dropped him. In my mind, I kept saying that it was a close fight and that is why I kept going for the knockout.

“I knew that this was going to be a good fight, and I respect Diaz for coming ready to fight. He is a warrior. This is a dream come true for me. Now, I want bigger fights.”

Said Diaz: “This does not end here. I am going to return with more strength and with more hunger. I have a promise to fulfill. I am going to be a world champion. I promise you that.”

In the co-feature, Gabriel “Tito” Bracero (25-3-1, 6 KOs), who was a late replacement for the injured Carlos Adames, scored the upset and knocked out Artemio Reyes with a body shot in the fifth round of a scheduled 10-round welterweight bout. Bracero broke a two-bout winless streak with a masterful performance, outboxing the taller Reyes before a left hand to the liver sent Reyes to the canvas for the count. Reyes (25-3, 20 KOs) saw his 10-bout unbeaten streak come to an end against Bracero, a 37-year-old former amateur star who seized this unexpected opportunity.

“Even though I came in as a last-minute replacement, I told you guys I was ready,” Bracero said. “I was in camp working hard and helping Robert Easter Jr. for his fight {against Mikey Garcia}. This felt like a sparring session to me. I feel great! I’m hungry! I want to get back in the ring as soon as possible. Thanks to Top Rank for the opportunity.”

Vladimir Nikitin, a 2016 Olympic bronze medalist from Russia, had a successful professional debut, knocking down Edward Kakembo twice en route to a six-round unanimous decision in a featherweight bout. The judges scored the contest 60-52, 60-52, and 60-51 for Nikitin, who is best known for his controversial Olympic quarterfinal win over Michael Conlan.

“This was my first professional fight, but it was also my first fight in a year,” Nikitin said. “I took a long break from boxing. I was just relaxing for a whole year, and that is why this was a great experience for me. I was in control and dropped my opponent a couple of times, but we went the distance. I needed to get in good rounds of work.

“I want Conlan. That is the plan, and he is the main reason why I signed with Top Rank. I want to fight him as a pro. The judges won’t be necessary this time around.”

Bantamweight prospect Antonio Vargas (7-0, 3 KOs) cruised to a six-round unanimous decision over Aaron Echeveste, with all three judges scoring the contest 60-54.

Super featherweight prospect Henry “Moncho” Lebron (5-0, 4 KOs) scored a TKO over the game Luis Diaz (2-6, 1 KO) at 2:43 of the sixth and final round. A flurry of punches caused referee Frank Santore to wave the fight off.

“This fight really helped me a lot,” Lebron said. “I needed a fight like this where I could display all my boxing skills. On this fight, I worked on my striking, power punching, footwork, lateral movement, and at the end, I got the knockout.”

Middleweight contender Esquiva Falcao (21-0, 15 KOs) knocked out Jonathan Tavira at 1:38 of the first round.

In a back-and-forth slugfest, Yomar Alamo (15-0, 12 KOs) knocked out Wilfrido Buelvas (18-10, 12 KOs) at :28 of the fourth round. Alamo knocked Buelvas down for the 10-count with a stiff jab, extending his knockout streak to five.

Luis “El Chucho” Melendez enjoyed a seamless professional debut, knocking Vicente Loredo out of the ring in the opening round of a scheduled four-round featherweight bout. The official time of the stoppage was 1:19.

Jose “Chino” Lopez improved to 11-0 with a second-round knockout over Jorge Rodriguez. A left hook to the body put Rodriguez (10-3, 10 KOs) down for the count.

 

All photos by Mikey Williams/Top Rank

 

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