Earlier today fight fans at Korakuen Hall, and subscribers to the Boxing Raise service, had the chance to see the Japanese Bantamweight title becoming unified once again, as regular champion Yuta Saito (12-9-3, 9) [齊藤裕太] faced off with interim champion Hayato Kimura (28-11, 19) [木村隼人].
On paper the bout didn't look amazing, however the bout delivered in what was a thrilling, back and forth war of attrition.
Before we look at the bout, and break down the result, lets just quickly explain how we ended up here, as it's worth reminding ourselves just how much of a mess the Japanese Bantamweight scene has been over the last 16 months or so.
In January 2018 Ryo Akaho [赤穂 亮] was supposed to defend the title against Yusuke Suzuki [鈴木悠介]. Akaho had to vacate, due to health issues and weight problems, and a planned bout between Suzuki and Suguru Muranaka [村中 優] was then scheduled. Suzuki would suffer an injury with Muranaka then being scheduled to face Saito, before failing to make weight.
The title was vacant from when Akaho vacated all the way up to September 1st, when Saito would stop Eita Kikuchi [菊地永太] for the vacant title. He would then fall foul to illness and Kimura would battle for the interim title, stopping Seizo Kono [高野誠三]. That brought us to today, with Saito and Kimura battling to tidy up some of the mess of the division.
The bout it's self was hotly contested. Kimura was looking to use his legs to get in and out, making the most of his edge in speed. Kimura's speed looked good but Saito seemed to take his blows well whilst trying to bring his pressure into play, and make the most of his heavier hands. By the end of round 3 the bout was becoming a gradual war on the inside, with Kimura's speed going head to head with Saito's power, the two men taking it in turns to turns to strike.
In round 4 the intensity picked up again, giving us one of the most action packed rounds in a Japanese ring this year. Sadly for Kimura the heavy hands of Saito was starting to take it's toll on his face, and his eye was swelling. With the swelling getting worse Kimura knew he had to go out and try to turn things around in round 5, though unfortunately that lead him to fighting with more risk and that cost him.
With the two men trading it was Kimura who was stunned and Saito went to work, forcing Kimura's team to throw in the towel and save their man.
Following the bout Saito stated that he would want to be involved in the recently announced Shinsuke Yamanaka Bantamweight tournament, and go on to fight in the world level. That might be a bit too far, but it was great to see Saito back in action after his health issues at the end of last year.
Interestingly Yusuke Suzuki (10-3, 7) [鈴木悠介], who lost out on a title fight in 2019 due to Akaho's weight issues and then his own injury, stopped Indonesian Kichang Kim (9-8-1, 2) on the under-card today and is now set to face Saito for the Japanese title later in 2019.
Tomorrow fight fans in Tokyo, a well as subscribers to the Boxing Raise service, will get the chance to see a Japanese Bantamweight title unification bout, as regular champion Yuta Saito (11-9-3, 8) [齊藤裕太] takes on interim king Hayato Kimura (28-10, 19) [木村隼人].
Today the two men took part in their weigh in, and both both men made weight this morning, and looked good doing so.
At the weigh in Saito revealed that he came close to quitting boxing, last year.
Despite scoring his career best win in 2018 Saito would later be diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, which caused him to cancel a defense scheduled for December. That lead to Kimura getting a chance to fight for the interim title, with the two men ordered to fight in early 2019. He seemed really glad that his career could continue despite his medical issues, and it's clear he is driven to win, and to remain the champion here.
Kimura came across as really relaxed at the weigh in, and seemed confident of picking up the win, and finally fulfilling his dream of becoming the Japanese champion.
Related-Saito and Kimura battle to unify Japanese throne!
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
Earlier today Boxing Raise updated the schedule of shows they will have for this month. Sadly there is only a single live card, though there is 4 different shows to be added on Video on Demand (VOD).
The first show which is set to be added is Gouken 15, which took place earlier today in Sakai city, the card features Daiki Tomita [冨田大樹], former world title challengers Jeffrey Galero and Hiroshige Osawa [大沢宏晋] and the hard matched Daisuke Watanabe [渡部大介].
The second show to be added will be the April 14th card from Mie, headlined by Japanese Youth Super Flyweight champion Yuto Nakamura (9-5, 7) [中村祐斗] defending his title against Toma Kondo (7-4, 1) [近藤冬真] and also featuring former OPBF Super Bantamweight champion Roli Gasca (24-8-1, 8) battling against once beaten Shuma Sugawara (6-1, 4) [菅原秀馬].
The live show comes on April 14th, when we get the long awaited Japanese Bantamweight title unification bout between Yuta Saito (11-9-3, 8) [齊藤裕太] and Hayato Kimura (28-10, 19) [木村隼人]. Although this is live, it will later become available on demand for those unable to watch the show live next Sunday.
On the 20th of April we'll see the Harada promoted card on demand. This card is headlined by an excellent match up between Kosuke Saka (18-4, 15) [坂晃典] and Japanese-Filipino Joe Noynay (16-2-1, 5) who will battle for the WBO Asia Pacific Super Featherweight title. Also on this card will be Tetsuya Hisada (33-9-2, 19) [久田 哲也].
The final card to be added to the service this month will be the April 28th card from Okayama, Japan. This card will be headlined by Seigo Yuri Akui (12-2-1, 8) [阿久井政悟] and Yoshiki Minato (8-1, 3) [湊義生] with a mouth watering support bout between Tetsu Araki (13-1-1, 2) [荒木哲] Atsushi Takada (6-0-3, 3) [高田篤志], who battle for the Japanese Youth Bantamweight title.
Earlier this week Dangan announced that the Japanese Bantamweight title unification bout between Yuta Saito (11-9-3, 8) [齊藤裕太] and Hayato Kimura (28-10, 19) [木村隼人] will take place on April 18th at the Korakuen Hall.
The bout will be Saito's first defense of the regular title, which he won on September 1st when he stopped Eita Kikuchi. Sadly since winning the title he has been ill and been kept out of the ring on health grounds, which forced him to cancel a scheduled December defense. Likewise it will be Kimura's first defense of the Interim title, which he won in December when he stopped Seizo Kono.
This is a Champion Carnival Bout, and was the only bout not to be given a date at the start of the year. Originally it was assumed that that may have been due to it landing on a big show, though it now seems like it was being held off until Saito was healthy enough to fight.
At the moment there are no other details of this show available, though it wouldn't be a huge surprise if it was made available live through the Boxingraise service.
After being rumoured for months, we have finally had confirmation this morning that Vic Saludar (18-3, 10) will be defending the WBO Minimumweight title against Japan's Masataka Taniguchi (11-2, 7) [谷口 将隆].
We were informed earlier today that the bout is now a done deal for February 26th at the Korakuen Hall in Tokyo.
The contest, which was first mentioned late last year, and originally targeted for New Year's Eve, slipped back and was rumoured for February 25th before today's information on the bout now being done.
For Saludar the bout will be his first defense, following his excellent title win last year, when he defeated Ryuya Yamanaka [山中 竜也] by unanimous decision, whilst Taniguchi will be getting his first world title fight.
The hard hitting champion, who also famously challenged the then champion Kosei Tanaka in 2015, will be fighting in Japan for the third times and has started to become popular with the local fans due to his style, aggression and power. He has proven his qualities in both of his prior Japanese bouts and we're really looking forward to seeing how he performs here.
The challenger on the other hand has lost in a Japanese title bout to Reiya Konishi and an OPBF title bout to Tsubasa Koura, though won the WBO Asia Pacific title bout last year when he defeated Joel Lino, to claim a professional title at the third attempt. It's worth noting that both of his losses were razor close and that with just a tiny bit of luck he would be 13-0.
At the moment the under-card is unconfirmed, though the date does match up for several other Watanabe gym fighters. These include a Japanese Bantamweight title bout between Yuta Saito (11-9-3, 8) [齊藤裕太] and Hayato Kimura (28-10, 19) [木村隼人] as well as the next bout of Ginjiro Shigeoka (1-0, 1) [重岡銀次朗] and potentially also the return of Seiya Tsutsumi (4-0, 3) [堤聖也], so we would expect at least 1 other bout of noting being added to this show when the full card is confirmed.
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