Azinga Fuzile failed to capture the reputable IBF junior-lightweight world title at Madison Square Garden in New York City in the early hours of Sunday morning.
The 25-year-old South African was down three times in the fight – twice in the final round – before succumbing to a unanimous points decision against the hard-hitting Kenichi Ogawa of Japan.
Two of the ringside judges scored the bout 115-110 and the third 114-111 in favour of the IBF’s No 3 contender Ogawa.
Ogawa was the aggressor in the early rounds but Fuzile managed to keep him at bay with his well-documented counter-punching ability and movement around the ring, even landing some telling blows of his own.
The two fighters were playing what a boxing analyst aptly chose to call “power chess” until a booming right hand buckled Fuzile’s legs midway through the fifth round and he took to a knee.
Fuzile did compose himself in the second part of the fight but came to the realisation it would be futile to try and mix it with his in-your-face, busy Japanese opponent, though he managed to slow down Ogawa’s incessant work rate with a good counter-attacking game plan.
Ogawa opened up a bothersome cut just below Fuzile’s right eye in the ninth and the East London fighter’s corner men also had to work fast to stem the blood flow from their charge’s nose.
Realising by the 10th round he was probably behind on the scorecards, Fuzile turned aggressor and started landing some telling blows, but he found it difficult to sustain the pressure or consistently string together combinations.
Ogawa’s fearsome right got to work again in the 12th and he dropped a bloodied Fuzile twice, leaving little doubt what the final outcome of the fight was to be.
Fuzile’s record dropped to 15-2, with nine knockouts, and the new champion Ogawa’s now reads 26-1-1, with 18 kos.