The curse of the Japanese Bantamweight title has been on going saga this year, with 3 fights for the bout cancelled before Yuta Saito (11-9-3, 8) [齊藤裕太] defeated Eita Kikuchi [菊地永太] for the belt back in September.
Saito was pencilled in to defend the belt in a mandatory title fight before the year was over, with Yusuke Suzuki (9-3, 6) [鈴木悠介] his supposed opponent. Sadly that bout has been cancelled before it was even officially announced. Sadly the reason for the cancellation is a pretty serious one.
Saito, who's bout with Suzuki was expected to take place on December 20th, has been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, a serious chronic condition that could keep him out of the ring for a prolonged time, and prevent him really building on the win over Kikuchi.
As a result of Saito's illness we will instead see Hayato Kimura (27-10, 18) [木村隼人] facing off with Seizo Kono (19-10-1, 12) [高野誠三] for the interim title on December. This bout was originally ordered as a Japanese title decider, but due to the health issues of Saito the JBC have taken the decision to put the interim title on the line.
Suzuki doesn't totally miss out. Instead the long term plan is for him to fight the eventual unified champion. Saito will need to face the interim champion within 4 months of the Kimura Vs Kono bout, to unify the titles, and the winner of the unification bout will need to face Suzuki within 3 months.
Whilst it does lead to an exciting year ahead for the Japanese Bantamweight title we do need to wonder quite why so many health issues have effected people, including Suzuki, linked to the belt since the start of this year. And we also need to wish Saito the best with his medical problem, which can have a significant effect on day to day life for sufferers.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Good things come to those who wait, and we've had to wait to wait over a year for a Japanese title fight, due to injuries and weigh in issues. As fans we deserved something good for the long wait, and we got something better than good as Yuta Saito (11-9-3, 8) [齊藤裕太] and Eita Kikuchi (21-6-4, 8) [菊地永太] put on a 2 round shoot out for the title, in one of the best bouts on Japanese soil this year.
There was no feeling out stage at all. Kikuchi set off at a high pace behind his busy jab, it took Saito a minute or so to adapt but when he did he instantly found success with his right hands, slamming them into the face of the taller, faster Kikuchi.
Kikuchi tried to respond by upping his work rate, letting shots go in the trenches but reverted back to trying to create space and pop out his jab. It was a tactic that seemed wise but couldn't halt the marauding Saito who continued to press forward to the end of the opening round.
In the second round Saito immediately went on the offensive, quickly forcing Kikuchi to give ground, and even wobbled the taller man with the heavy shots up top. It wasn't long until Kikuchi found his back against the rounds and Saito throwing heavy leather in his direction. Knowing he had to fight back to survive Kikuchi began to throw heavy artillery Saito's way but was shut down by Saito's relentlessness and accuracy who refused to back off. The pressure told and with head shots landing clean the referee finally stepped in and saved Kikuchi, who simply couldn't handle the power of Saito.
With the win the title finally has a new owner, almost 8 months after it was vacated by Ryo Akaho due to weight loss related health issues. After 3 cancelled title bouts bouts the belt has a new owner, and Yuta Saito has some gold around his waist.
Sadly for Saito his impressive performance today will leave him with a target on his back for fighters like Keita Kurihara (12-5, 11) [栗原 慶太], Yusuke Suzuki (9-3, 6) [鈴木悠介] and Kyosuke Sawada (12-2-1, 6) [澤田京介], who will all be chasing for a Japanese title fight. Saito against Kurihara or Suzuki has Japanese FOTY potential, whilst Sawada's style would be an interesting match up for Saito.
For Kikuchi this is probably the end of his career. He gave his all today but it sadly wasn't enough against the hard hitting Saito.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
In 2018 we've not seen a single bout for the Japanese Bantamweight title. Instead we've seen a string of cancellations, bouts falling apart at really late notice. We've had two contests pulled due to a fighter being unable to safely make weight and another cancelled due to an injury. It's a shame that the domestic crown has been left on ice almost all year, but thankfully that will change tomorrow.
It will change as fans get the chance to see Yuta Saito (10-9-3, 7) [齊藤裕太] face off with Eita Kikuchi (21-5-4, 8) [菊地永太] to crown a new champion. This bout comes more than a year after Ryo Akaho successfully defended the belt against Saito, in the last bout for the title.
Today Saito and Kikuchi took part in their weigh in, and to the relief of the everyone, both men made weight!
On the scales both men came in on the limit and both in pretty good shape. Of the two Saito probably looked the stronger man, having a more filled out frame, but Kikuchi certainly has the edge in height and reach and will potentially be the heavier man when they meet in the ring tomorrow.
The vacancy of the title, which has been vacant since January, is longest the title has ever gone without a champion and it's clear that both men have been given a huge opportunity to claim gold tomorrow when they face off.
Sadly neither man is a standout. Coming in to this Saito has lost his last 2 bouts and is without a win in almost 29 months whilst Kikuchi lost in a Japanese eliminator in his last bout, last October. But the title does need a champion and the winner will have a host of people wanting to challenge for the title, such as Keita Kurihara (12-5, 11) [栗原 慶太], Yusuke Suzuki (9-3, 6) [鈴木悠介], who actually beat Kikuchi last year in an eliminator before suffering an injury this year, and Kyosuke Sawada (12-2-1, 6) [澤田京介] who will all be chasing the belt in 2019.
For fans wanting to watch this bout but can't make their way to the brilliant Korakuen Hall it will be televised live on G+.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
At the end of June we were informed that Yuta Saito (10-9-3, 7) [齊藤裕太] would face off with Eita Kikuchi (21-5-4, 8) [菊地永太] to fill the vacancy of the Japanese Bantamweight champion, with that bout taking place on September 1st. At the time there was no details on the under-card, though with it being the headline bout of an A-sign Bee card we did expect something of quality on the show.
This morning A-Sign took to twitter to confirm some of the details of the card.
The chief support bout was confirmed as being a contest between Reiya Abe (17-2, 8) [阿部 麗也] and Masashi Noguchi (12-10-1, 6) [野口 将志]. Originally the hope had been for Abe to fight in a Japanese challenger decision bout, a Japanese title eliminator, sadly however none of the ranked challengers wanted to face Abe so instead the Noguchi bout will take place above the divisional limit. From what we understand Abe however will not miss out on a Japanese title fight, and will instead got a shot at the Japanese Featherweight title next year at the Champion Carnival.
Another bout on this card will feature popular American born Japanese based fighter Charles Bellamy (27-3-2, 18) facing off with Yuto Shimizu (12-3-2, 5) [清水優人]. The 36 year old Bellamy has been out of the ring since January, when he took out a Thai visitor in 2 rounds, and will be looking to get his career back on track after some recent bouts of inactivity. Interestingly Shimizu has been out of the ring a little long, after having last fought in December 2017. This bout is a must win for both and should prove pretty entertaining given the styles of both fighters.
The card will also feature Ryohei Takahashi (15-3-1, 6) [高橋竜平], though his opponent is yet to be announced and will be confirmed closer to the date of the card.
Earlier this month we were expecting to see Yuta Saito (10-9-3, 7) [齊藤裕太] battle against Suguru Muranaka (26-3-1, 8) [村中 優] in a bout to crown a new Japanese Bantamweight champion. Sadly that bout was cancelled the day before the bout was set to take place due to Muranaka being unable to make weight, and being deemed medically unfit to fight. That was the third time this year that a bout for the Japanese Bantamweight title was cancelled, after illness and injuries forced Ryo Akaho (31-2-2, 20) [赤穂 亮] and Yusuke Suzuki (9-3, 6) [鈴木悠介] out of scheduled bouts for the title.
Earlier this week saw a new bout being announced for the title, with Saito now set to face Eita Kikuchi (21-5-4, 8) [菊地永太] on September 1st, with the winner filling in the title vacancy.
Saito had looked in great shape at the weigh in for the cancelled Muranaka bout and will clearly be hungry for this opportunity, given the disappointment of the Muranaka bout being cancelled. He will however feel pretty confident of coming out on top given that Kikuchi hasn't fought since last October, when he was stopped by the aforementioned Suzuki in a title eliminator bout. Kikuchi will be more than a year removed from his last win, and at the age of 32 will know that this will be his last chance. Despite the inactivity it is worth noting that Kikuchi has fought at title level in the past, and in 2013 he challenged Shingo Wake for the OPBF Super Bantamweight title, though was stopped in 9 rounds.
This bout will be held at the Korakuen Hall and will be held on a Dynamic Glove show, with other notable bouts expected to be announced closer to the date of the show.
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