The WBC junior featherweight titleholder from Japan started slowly but took charge after the third round to defeat two-division titleholder Rafael Marquez by a unanimous decision in a battle of 30-somethings Saturday in Las Vegas on Fox Deportes.
The 35-year-old southpaw, slick and hard punching, looked like a sharpshooter after he found his groove. He landed an increasing number of crushing lefts as the fight progressed, which might’ve ended the night early had his opponent not been as tough as Marquez.
Marquez, 36, was as game as ever but didn’t (couldn’t?) let his hands go enough and found it difficult to land cleanly when he did against one of the better defensive fighters in the world.
Nishioka (39-4-3, 24 knockouts) won by scores of 117-111, 116-112 and 115-113, the last tally – by C.J. Ross – being a head-scratcher. RingTV.com had it 117-111 for Nishioka.
The titleholder, who was making his seventh defense, might’ve have set himself up for a high-profile matchup against Nonito Donaire. The Filipino-born bantamweight titleholder plans to move up to junior featherweight after he fights Omar Narvaez on Oct. 22.
Bob Arum, Donaire’s promoter, had said that the winner on Saturday could face Donaire early next year but he told philboxing.com immediately after the fight that Nishioka-Donaire would more likely take place in May or June. Apparently, Nishioka doesn’t want to fight again that soon.
That means Donaire probably will have a fight between Narvarez and Nishioka, assuming he beats Narvaez. Arum told the Web site that WBO junior featherweight titleholder Jorge Arce might be that interim opponent. Arce has expressed an interest in facing Donaire.
Marquez (40-7, 36 KOs) isn’t likely to retire even though he lost badly (regardless of Ross’ score) on Saturday and is 3-4 in his last seven fights.
He proved on Saturday that he still has fire even if his skills have faded.
Photo by Chris Farina / Top Rank