This past Friday we saw Hironobu Matsunaga (14-1, 8) [松永 宏信] secure his place in the 2019 Champion Carnival as the mandatory challenger for the Japanese Light Middleweight title. He booked his place there by stopping veteran Koshinmaru Saito (24-10-2, 13) [斉藤伸介] in 4 rounds.
What's unclear is who Matsunaga will be fighting at the Champion Carnival as the Japanese Light Middleweight title is currently split. The regular champion is Nobuyuki Shindo (20-4-1, 8) [新藤寛之], who has been injured since his title win back in May when he damaged his hand. The injury to Shindo has lead to Akinori Watanabe (37-7, 31) [渡部あきのり] becoming the interim champion, thanks to a very impressive performance in August.
We now know that Shindo and Watanabe will duke it out on December 20th to unify the title and book their place as the champion leading into the new year, and to secure themselves a fight against Matsunaga.
The bout will be Shindo's first since his injury, which was a serious hand injury, whilst Watanabe will be fighting for not only the first time since his interim title victory but also the first time since revealing that his daughter is suffering with leukemia, thought he has stated that treatment is going well.
We suspect that the December Dangan card will see at least 1 more big domestic being announced for it, though at the moment details are very scarce.
Next week we'll see unbeaten Japanese fighter Hiroki Okada (18-0, 13) [岡田 博喜] make his US debut as he shares the ring against Cristian Rafael Coria (27-6-2, 11). Today Okada left Japan, travelling for the US and his possibly career defining bout with Coria in California.
The Kadoebi Houseki gym fighter, who is now promoted Top Rank, set off from the Tokyo International Airport, aka Haneda airport, earlier today.
Before leaving for the US Okada stated that he wanted to have a fight that would make people remember his name, but his minimum requirement was to win. It's clear that he knows this is a huge opportunity and that if he can come out on top he can essentially open the doors to major fights very quickly.
The press were also informed that Okada didn't manage to see too much footage of Coria so instead of focusing his training on his opponent he focused on his own stamina, sparring over 100 rounds in preparation for the bout and doing so with a reduced rest period.
The travel over to the US has seen Okada take a pretty sizable team, including former world champion Yukinori Oguni, current Japanese "interim" Light Middleweight champion Akinori Watanabe and Japanese Light Welterweight champion Valentine Hosokawa, who maybe a very busy man as he seems to be the designated translator for the visit, given he speaks both English and Japanese.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
Earlier today at the Korakuen Hall Akinori Watanabe (37-7, 31) [渡部あきのり] put in one of the best performances of his long career, demolishing Ryosuke Maruki (15-6-1, 10) [丸木 凌介] in a thoroughly one-sided drubbing for the Japanese Interim Light Middleweight title.
At the weigh in both men appeared confident that their power would be the key and it seemed like both wanted to prove it. Maruki tried to lure Watanabe in, backing off and trying to set traps for the counters. In the open moments that worked, with Maruki landing a solid counter in opening moments. It seemed like it hurt Watanabe, but it didn't discourage the veteran who came forward again not long afterwards.
Maruki's plan to counter would have been fine had it not been for the fact that he was forced to cover up on the ropes and given no chance to work. He was essentially handcuffed by the aggression of Watanabe who quickly left Maruki with a cut. Maruki seemed to be broken after the cut and was dropped as Watanabe broke him up with hard shots to head and body.
To his credit Maruki got back to his feet, though looked shaken and hurt as Watanabe jumped straight back on to him, unloading once again on the shell shocked Maruki, who was tagged over and over by heavy leather until the referee mercifully jumped on and saved him.
Although only the "interim" champion Watanabe has made it clear that he's wanting to move into a world title fight and today's performance showed what he can do when everything clicks. He'll know that another loss is probably the end of his career and given the way he fought today he will be entering every bout with the intention of winning, and winning quickly. Sadly for Maruki this was a hurtful loss, and the usually tough fighter from Aichi really had no answers. This will be a very hard loss for Maruki to bounce back from.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
Tomorrow fight fans who subscribe to Boxingraise and those at the Korakuen Hall, will get the chance to see a Japanese interim Light Middleweight title bout, as heavy handed fighters collide. In one corner will be Ryosuke Maruki (15-5-1, 10) [丸木 凌介] whilst the other corner will have veteran slugger Akinori Watanabe (36-7, 30) [渡部あきのり].
Today the two men took part in their weigh in for the contest, and both men made weight.
At the weigh in a flesh looking Maruki was 154lbs dead on. Despite looking fleshy he seemed confident and relaxed. He stated that he wanted to make use of the luck he has had in getting this fight, which has only come about due to Nobuyuki Shindo having broken his right hand in a win over Maruki back in May. He also went on to say that Watanabe was a big puncher, but that the stamina will be the difference and that Mrauki would use that to his advantage.
The more ripped looking Watanabe, also 154lbs on the scales, said that he is a man still chasing dreams. Despite being a veteran of the sport he's not having this fight to fulfil any dream of becoming a Japanese champion, he's been one of them before, but is still hoping to win a world title. For him this bout is a stepping stone towards a world title contest. He made it very clear that whilst he had respect for Maruki, he was going to come out on top and would continue to chase a world title.
Related - Maruki and Watanabe face off for interim title!
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
On August 24th Dangan will be putting on Dangan 215, a show that really is a great one on paper for fans able to attend at the Korakuen Hall. Thankfully you won't need to be in Tokyo to watch the card live with Dangan's online service "Boxingraise" confirming they would be streaming the entire show live as part of their monthly subscription service.
The card's big selling point is the double title aspect of the card, with two Japanese title fights.
One of those will see youngster Riku Kano (13-3-1, 7) [加納 陸] challenge Japanese Minimumweight champion Shin Ono (22-9-3, 5) [小野 心]. For Ono the bout will service as his first defense, following his title winning effort against Ryoki Hirai earlier in the year whilst Kano will be getting his first Japanese title shot, though has previously won an interim OPBF title and a WBA Asia title. The winner of this will be seen as a potential world title challenger towards the end of the year, whilst the loser really will have a long way to climb back if they are to be considered a contender.
The other title bout will be for the Japanese interim Light Middleweight title, as Ryosuke Maruki (15-5-1, 10) [丸木 凌介] and Akinori Watanabe (36-7, 30) [渡部あきのり] meet in what could be an explosive and action packed contest. For Maruki the bout will be his third shot at the title, after having come up short against Yuki Nonaka and Nobuyuki Shindo, both in close contests, whilst Watanabe will be looking to add to his collection of career titles which saw him claim a number of belts at Welterweight.
Other bouts of note on this card will see Kenshin Oshima (3-1-1, 3) [大嶋剣心] taking on Joe Tanooka (15-4-4, 1) [田之岡条], in what is a fantastic match up, and a bout featuring the in form Kyosuke Sawada (11-2-1, 6) [澤田京介] taking on former Japanese title challenger Yosuke Fujihara (17-5, 4) [藤原陽介].
Although fight fans will need access to boxingraise it is a fantastic show for subscribers, and well worth the attention for those tempted to try the service.
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