WHILE all eyes were on the overwhelmingly successful debut of ‘Last Man Standing’ – make no mistake – Lenny Zappavigna and Shuhei Tsuchiya stole the show in ten pulsating rounds.
Zappavigna, 26, put on a brutal albeit spectacular performance against arguably the most durable and courageous opponent he’s ever faced in Tsuchiya, 27, overnight at The Melbourne Pavilion.
Despite the remarkable showing by Tsuchiya, there was no doubt that Zappavigna trumped that effort, overcoming a bloody mask before unleashing a ferocious body onslaught, and finally, flooring the Japanese visitor for the second and final time in the tenth round of a scheduled twelve.
The Sydney-based slugger stood his ground against Tsuchiya, challenging the equally tough visitor to stand in the pocket, as they took turns trading shots in a tremendous show of character. They delivered blow after blow until one of them eventually folded. Luckily enough for the sold-to-capacity crowd in Melbourne, it was Tsuchiya that gave way after a spirited performance.
When Zappavigna stuck to his game plan, stayed on his toes and countered effectively, he was able to keep a firm grasp of any momentum changes in the fight as Tsuchiya’s only real opportunity to change the fight lied in his inability to land any real shots of significance.
In the end, Zappavigna proved that he will indeed live to fight another day, while the little-known but hard-punching Tsuchiya proved more resistant that many expected, as the vacant WBO Oriental light welterweight title found a new home.
“I knew he was a puncher, I knew he was going to be very tough. I came prepared, it was a tough fight in there,” said Zappavigna in an exclusive interview post-fight. “It was good to get those ten rounds under my belt. I’m now ready to step it up into the big league.”
“It (the fight) tested my courage, it tested my heart. I definitely know where I’m at, now I know what I’ve got to work on. In the end I got a good win and I’m just wrapped,” he continued. “Now I will just sit down with my manager and work out what’s next. Maybe I’ll fight for an eliminator, or maybe a defence of this title.”
Coming into this fight, it appeared as if Zappavigna was fighting for respect – rather than box and move – he chose to stand in the line of fire.
Judging by the standing ovation he was greeted with when crowned the winner, he appeared to get it.
Photos: Louie Abigail/Photography by Rockfingrz