Following the recent news of Iwao Hakamada's release from prison the WBC, who have been part of the "Free Hakamada Now" campaign, have issues a statement saying they will give Hakamada an honorary WBC world title.
This move comes after a similar case in the US of a fighter called Rubin "Hurricane" Carter. Carter, like Hakamada, had his freedom taken away from him for a heinous crime that he likely didn't commit. Carter's case is, at least in the west, a notable one with a movie, a book and a number of songs written about it.
Whilst Hakamada's case may not be as well known as Carters by many in the west it's an equally upsetting story, if not more so. Hakamada was beaten for his confession, spent almost 50 years on death row and spent much of that time with little to know contact with others.
Although the green and gold belt of the WBC will do nothing to bring back the more than 40 years of wasted time Hakamada has suffered in prison it is great to see the boxing community supporting on of it's own.
The title is expected to be handed to Hakamada on the April 6th at the upcoming Ohashi show dubbed "Ring of Diamonds".
(Courtesy of the Free Hakamada Now! campaign)
A story coming out of Japan suggests that if Kazuto Ioka (14-0, 9) is successful in his up coming IBF Flyweight title challenge over Amnat Ruenroeng (12-0, 5) he may not be sticking around long to saviour his victory and instead of defend belt he will immediately vacate.
The former 2-weight world champion has stated in the past that he wants to become Japan's first ever 5 weight world champion. Although still very young and with plenty of fighting years ahead of him it does seem like Ioka is in a rush to achieve that feat and by giving up the IBF Flyweight title he would be signifying an immediate move up to the Super Flyweight division.
Whilst a fighter giving up a belt immediately isn't that rare it tends to be done by a fighter going back down the weights not straight up again. What would be particularly interesting if Ioka was to move up would be that he would then be fighting in the same division as Japan's only other 3 weight world champion Koki Kameda.
Kameda is himself campaigning at Super Flyweight in an attempt to become Japan's first ever 4 weight world champion with a bout against Kohei Kono being very much expected later this year. If Ioka however can win the IBF tite and vacate it he may well be able to lure Kono into fighting him and not Kameda, a move that would really elevate Ioka to Japanese boxing legend.
Although Ioka will be viewing himself as a possible 4 weight world champion by the end of 2014 many fans will rightfully be asking about the fights he could have had with the likes of Roman Gonzalez, a rematch with Akira Yaegashi or even a bout with someone like Juan Carlos Reveco or Juan Francisco Estrada. Whilst we can't pretend that we'd not be disappointing by those fights not happening we would forgive Ioka if he settled at 115 and fought some fop fighters such as Kono, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Omar Andres Narvaez, Koki or Felipe Orucuta.
The future could see Ioka's plans changing but if things go as speculated then it could be an interesting development in not only his career but also the development of the 115lb weight class and the move towards Japanese fighters going through the weights on the global scene. We've seen Japanese fighters typically stay at their weight whilst the American fighters have gone through the divisions, if the Japanese follow the American mentality then we imagine they will start to get more recognition state side rather than often being ignored by the American boxing media.
(Image thanks to http://www.ioka-boxing.com)
A story we've come across from Japan earlier today suggests that Ryosuke Iwasa's (17-1, 10) recent struggle with Filipino Richard Pumicpic (14-6-2, 4) wasn't all the doing of Pumicpic.
The story suggests that Iwasa, who has fought all 18 of his professional bouts at or around the Bantamweight division, was seriously struggling to make the 118lb limit. Although the excuse has come after the fight it does make some sense with Iwasa now being a 24 year old man and not the 18 year old kid he was when he first turn professional.
In the fight Iwasa looked slow, sluggish and struggled to really find his range or timing. Those issues do arise when a fighter is struggling to make weight and do give some credence to the comments made in the press.
The real proof will be seen next time Iwasa fights. If the reports are true then we'd not be surprised at all if the former Japanese and current OPBF champion vacates his title to move up to Super Bantamweight. He may need to wait longer than expected for a world title fight but the move could well do him the world of good rather than draining down those extra 4lbs and letting the draining take it's toll on his body.
(Photo due to http://www.celes-gym.com/)
Earlier today, on a show in IMP Hall in Osaka, fans were treat to an OPBF female title bout.
This bout saw OPBF female Super Flyweight champion Tomoko Kawanishi (9-1, 4) successfully defend her title for the second time as she out pointed Thai challenger Jubjang Lookmakarmwan (3-7) over 8 rounds.
Kawanishi, who won the title last year by stopping Noriko Tsunoda, was defending her belt for the second and was looking for her 3rd successive stoppage. Unfortunately the Thai challenger was too tough to be taken out early and instead she survived the 8 round distance though was the clear loser.
After the fight the champion apologised to the fans for not scoring the stoppage though few rally complained such was her domination of the bout and it now seems likely that she will be looking for a world title bout later this year. Whilst we'd give Kawanishi absolutely no chance against Naoko Fujioka, the WBA champion, she may be capable of picking up one of the other titles if matched carefully.
(Photo courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
Earlier today at the Aioi Hall fans got to see some interesting action.
The highlight, in terms of competitive action, saw the Japanese ranked Featherweight Shinji Takayama (21-3, 11) record his 14th straight victory as he out pointed the limited and light hitting Kohei Maruoka (7-6-1, 1) over 8 one sided rounds. The scorecards, which read 80-72,79-74,79-75 summed up the 1-sidedness of the contest though we're not sure if Takayama is as good as his record suggests.
Although Shinji Takayama was the highest fighter on the show the real highlight, for many, was the retirement ceremony of former Japanese title challenger Yuki Sano (17-3-5, 12). Sano, who was stopped 2 fights back by Naoya Inoue, got to end his career by sharing the ring with IBF Minimumweight champion Katsunari Takayama (26-6-0-1, 10). Sano has unfortunately been forced into retirement from an injury to his eye.
Whilst this was likely the last time any of us will see Sano in the ring as a professional show it was nice to see him receive 10 rings of the bell and an IBF t-shirt, given as a present from "The Lightning Kid".
(Photo courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
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