Yesterday we saw all of the Champions Carnival being officially announced, with all but one of those bouts now having a date and venue set, with that one in particular likely to be announced in the coming days.
The Minimumweight bout will take place on March 26th at the Korakuen Hall and will see Go Odaira (11-4-3, 1) defending his belt against Yutaka Sowano (9-5-1, 6). For Odaira this will be his 3rd defense of the title he won in January 2014 whilst Sowano will be taking part in his first title fight. This will be one of two title bouts on this show though does, unfortunately, look like one of the weakest over-all bouts.
At Light Flyweight we will see Yu Kimura (15-2-1, 2) defending his belt, for the 3rd time, against former world title challenger Shin Ono (18-6-2, 2). This bout pits world ranked fighters against each other and the winner will almost certainly be getting a world title fight later in the year. This bout is set for April 4th and will also take place at the Korakuen Hall.
In the Flyweight division we get a genuinely mouth watering encounter as the all action Suguru Muranaka (21-2-1, 7) attempts to record the 3rd defence of his title as he goes up against Tetsuma Hayashi (25-2-2, 9). Muranaka is universally world ranked and has looked in great form recently with wins over Takuya Kogawa and Masayuki Kuroda in 2 of his last 3 bouts. Hayashi himself comes into this bout unbeaten in 8 bouts dating back to April 2012. This bout is set for April 8th and will also take place at the Korakuen Hall.
The Super Flyweight bout will see the unbeaten Sho Ishida (18-0, 10) defending his belt against Taiki Eto (14-3, 10). For Ishida this will be his second defense as the 23 year old attempts to work towards a world title later in the year. As for Eto this is a second chance to claim the national title that he failed to win when he fought Yohei Tobe last year. Notable this bout has no venue or date set though the suspicion is that it will be in Osaka, likely at the Bodymaker Colosseum, on the undercard of the much anticipated WBA Flyweight title bout between Juan Carlos Reveco and Kazuto Ioka. Notably this lends credence to the fact the Ioka Vs Reveco bout will be in April.
The Bantamweight title bout is possibly the pick of the bunch as Kentaro Masuda (21-6, 11), a late bloomer, hunts the 3rd defence of his title. Masuda, who looked sensational when he blasted out Konosuke Tomiyama in his first defense, will be up against the fast rising Shohei Omori (13-0, 8). To say Omori had a great 2014 is stating the obvious withhis win over Christian Esquivel being a fantastic victory however Masuda has really bloomed himself and this looks like it's going to be something very special. The date for this one has been set for April 13th and will be yet another bout at the Korakuen Hall.
Yukinori Oguni (14-1, 4) will be making the first defense of his Super Bantamweight title as he takes on Gakuya Furuhashi (17-5, 7). This bout is a notable on for both men with Oguni trying to defend the title and move towards a world title bout whilst Furuhashi gets a long awaited title bout. For those who don't recall Furuhashi was originally set to fight then champion Hidenori Otake back on July 18th of last year, of course Otake suffered a rib injury and then went on to vacate the titleto battle Scott Quigg for the WBA world title. Otake's injury may have cost Furuhashi a title shot last year but it did leave an opportunity for Oguni who took it by defeating Yasutaka Ishimoto and we now find the Oguni colliding with Furuhashi who finally gets his chance on April 30th at the Korakuen Hall in what is 1 of 3 titles bouts on the same show, more about that later.
Another very interesting, and potentially explosive, encounter comes at Featherweight where Satoshi Hosono (26-2-1, 20) looks to defend his title against Rikiya Fukuhara (30-7-1, 22). This is a rematch of a non-title bout the two men had back in 2012 and is also a rescheduled bout that was supposed to take place last year, before Fukuhara suffered an injury. We suspect this could be very exciting as long as it lasts though we do feel that Hosono has to be favoured when the two come to blows on March 5th at the Korakuen Hall.
Yet another really good bout, and in fact the first of the Champion Carnival bouts, takes place on February 9th and sees unbeaten Super Featherweight champion Rikki Naito (11-0, 5) attempt to record his 3rd defence as he battles fellow unbeaten Masayuki Ito (16-0-1, 7) in what looks like a genuinely brilliant bout that is set to be a high speed chess match. This "unbeaten showdown" is the perfect way to kick off the Champion Carnival match ups.
As mentioned earlier there will be 3 title fights on April 30th, one of those is the Super Bantamweight title bout, another is the Lightweight title bout that will see Kota Tokunaga (14-2, 9) fighting against Yuya Sugizaki (20-9-1, 6) for the vacant belt. Both men will be fighting in their first title bouts and it's probably fair to say this is the weakest of the bouts however it's he sort of bout that could be surprisingly good with both fighters going all out to make a name for themselves and win the title.
At 140lbs we will see the unbeaten Hiroki Okada (9-0, 7) attempt to record his second defense of the title as he battles against former title challenger Hayato Hokazono (18-4-1, 11). Okada's predecessor, Keita Obara, took 4 rounds to deny Hokazono the title in April 2013 however Obara looks to be significantly better than Okada. For Okada this is a good, solid test whilst Hokazono gets a second bite at the proverbial apple in what looks like a competitive match up but not a headline stealing one. This will be one of two bouts on March 7th at the Korakuen Hall.
The other title bout on March 7th takes place at Welterweight as Suyon Takayama (21-1, 7) attempts to record his 5th defence of the title. Takayama, who won the title back in December 2012, will be up against former foe Nobuyuki Shindo (16-2, 6) in a rematch of a 2008 encounter, won by Shindo via split decision. We'll be honest Takayama is one of the weakest champions in Japan and we'd not be shocked to see him dethroned by Shindo, however Shindo himself is no world beater and this could be another close contest between the two men.
On April 19th at the Sumiyoshi Ward Center in Osaka we see Japanese Light Middleweight champion Yuki Nonaka (27-8-2, 9) defending his belt for the second time as he takes on former champion Takayuki Hosokawa (26-10-3, 9). This bout is a fight with possible world title implications as both men are ranked by the IBF and is a fight we actually expected to see last year, before Hosokawa vacated the belt due to illness. Nonaka comes into this bout on the back ofa very good, albeit razor thin, win over Charlie Ota and a win here would really put Nonaka onto the verges of a world title eliminator.
The Middleweight bout, which takes place on the same show as the Odaira/Sowano contest, will see Akio Shibata (24-8-1, 10) defending his Japanese title for the 3rd time as he takes on Yasuyuki Akiyama (10-4-1, 8) in what looks to be a mismatch. Shibata, the unified OPBF and Japanese champion, has to be heavily favoured here though Akiyama has nothing to lose and will be coming into the contest full of confidence courtesy of his longest career winning streak, 4 bouts.
Possibly the most interesting bout for Western fans comes at Heavyweight where Kyotaro Fuimoto (11-1, 6) attempts to record his 3rd defence of the title and over-come nemesis Nobuhiro Ishida (27-10-2, 11) in a much anticipated rematch that takes place exactly a year after their first, very competitive, meeting. A year ago Fujimoto took home the win over Ishida in an 8 round bout that began Ishida's Heavyweight run, since then both men have picked up a couple of wins and Ishida has literally done all he can to force this rematch which could be one of the true highlights of the Champions Carnival. For those wondering this is the 3rd bout on the April 30th card at the Korakuen Hall.
The table below lists all the bouts in date order:
Note-All bouts except for the Lightweight bout sees “Fighter 1” entering as the champion.
Earlier today saw the Japanese boxing awards ceremony at the Korakuen Hall in Tokyo. The ceremony saw a number of fighters given the awards that they won at the start of the year for their achievements in 2014 and also saw a number of fighters talk about their future.
The big winner was WBO Super Flyweight champion Naoya Inoue (8-0, 7) who won the MVP award alongside the KO of the Year and the Fight of the year for his win over Omar Andres Narvaez. The "Monster" was the first triple award winner in long time and was also awarded his own WBO world title belt at the ceremony.
Another man to win multiple awards was Kosei Tanaka (4-0, 2) who was awarded the "State of the Art" award, effectively as the most promising prospect, as well as the domestic fight of the year for his excellent win over Ryuji Hara for the OPBF Minimumweight title.
Whilst Inoue and Tanaka were the only professional men to win multiple awards they weren't the only honourees.
The "Skills Award" went to WBC Bantamweight champion Shinsuke Yamanaka (22-0-2, 16), who won the award for the second time. Notable Yamanaka was also awarded the "Best Dressed Athlete" at a separate awards ceremony on Thursday. The "Distinguished Service" award was won by the always fun to Katsunari Takayama (28-7-0-1, 11), who ended the year as the first ever Japanese "Grandslam" champion.
Amazingly all the other male professional awards were shared. These included the "Effort Award" which was shared by Ryota Murata (6-0, 4) and Ryoichi Taguchi (21-2-1, 8) and the "Fighting Spirit" award which was shared 3-ways with Akira Yaegashi (20-5, 10) picking up the award for the 3rd time alongside Takashi Uchiyama (22-0-1, 18) and Hisashi Amagasa (28-5-2, 19).
As well as the men there was also female who were honoured. The female MVP was, unsurprisingly, Momo Koseki (19-2-1, 6) whilst the female fight of the year was the brilliant contest between Naoko Fujioka and Tomoko Kawanishi.
As well as then awards there a number of other awards. These included several "Special award" winners, included Nobuo Nashiro, Ryol Li Lee, Yoko Gushiken and the late Masao Oba who were all being honoured. The other two awards were decided by the members of the JBC, with the JBC Commission honour going to Jorge Linares (38-3, 25) whilst the JBC Support Club award was won by Kohei Kono (20-8-1, 13), after Takashi Miura declined the award.
Alongside the professional fighters were also amateurs fighters who were also awarded various honours.
The "Excellent player" award in the amateurs was shared between Masatsugu Kawachi and female fighter Madoka Wada. The skills award was won by the excellent Daisuke Narimatsu, Shota Hayashida won the Distinguished Service Medal and the Fighting Spirit award was won by Yasuhiro Suzuki.
Sadly we've been unable to recognise the remaining amateur winners.
(Image courtesy of Boxingnews.jp)
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