Newly crowned IBF bantamweight champion Ryosuke Nishida won his title in the trenches, with a hard-fought decision over Puerto Rican star Emmanuel Rodriguez, and Nishida’s matchmaker Mike Altamura admitted he had not expected that kind of “warfare.”

Nishida is now 9-0 (1 KO), and Rodriguez is 22-3 (13 KO), and the fight was part of a busy weekend for Altamura, who was in the corner with Nishida in Osaka, Japan, on Saturday night and with TJ Doheny in Tokyo on Monday night.

Rodriguez came in as the titleholder, but plenty felt the less-experienced Nishida was capable of winning.

“Absolutely,” admitted Altamura. “Sometimes in boxing, people are just unfamiliar. I think the insiders are on the Nishida freight train, but outside of the insiders, when a more casual fan sees a guy, 8-0, one knockout, they don’t know a lot about him, and then there’s Rodriguez, 22-2, solid, solid guy, and his only losses were to [Naoya] Inoue and a close split to [Reymart] Gaballo that could have gone his way, and he’s been in very good form.

“He was terrific against Gary Russell, looked good in the bounceback to win the belt against Melving Lopez. I think people go on what’s familiar, and the familiar pattern was Rodriguez will be a little bit strong for Nishida. But from our perspective, Nishida was a very well-credentialled amateur, and it shows what’s achieved by Japan in the amateurs and in the university systems flies under the radar internationally.

“But he’s been considered a hot prospect for a long time. In his third fight, he beat Shohei Omori, who’s a two-time world challenger, and that was at 122. He came back in his fourth fight and beat the former WBC flyweight champion Daigo Higa over 12 rounds.”

The temptation after defeating the 17-1-1 Higa might have been to push for a title fight, but the Nishida’s team decided to get its fighter more seasoning, and three 12-rounders and a 10-rounders followed, each one going the distance.

“When you see people achieving things of that ilk, you realize they have the ability to be very, very precocious and very special, and I feel the smart thing in the team was after that fourth fight there could have been that push for a world title in the fifth or sixth fight,” Altamura said. “But I felt the four fights that followed gave Nishida a lot more hardening and time to build as a fighter, and I think you saw the fruits of the labor.”

But it came in an exciting manner, and Nishida finished with the right side of his face lumpy and dramatically swollen.

“I expected the victory,” said Altamura. “I didn’t expect 12 rounds [of] trench warfare.

“When I spoke to Takashi Edagawa, who is the head of the Muto boxing gym, he did say to me they had multiple plans of attack and that Nishida would be comfortable if he had to go inside. And they felt there were vulnerabilities to the body, and [suggested] to hold and stand and counterpunch and to target Rodriguez downstairs and then to work upstairs.

“The fight was fought at a pretty frenetic pace, and I thought at some point it would be more settled, popping with the jab, potshot, move, move, move, move, go for a bit of a walk and potshot down the center, because Nishida was landing the one-two down the center. But Nishida felt more comfortable on the inside and it paid dividends in Round 4, when he dropped Rodriguez with that lovely short left hand to the liver. And I think after that, he thought, ‘You know, I’m Japanese, I’m Samurai, I’m going to stand here and earn my right to be world champion,’ and he did.”