Last year we saw Takenori Ohashi (15-5-2, 10) [大橋健典] claim the Japanese Featherweight title with a surprising win over Kosuke Saka. The bout had a rather peculiar ending, with Saka being stopped when he mistook the clacker for the bell, but it had looked like Ohashi was getting the better of it well before the stoppage. Today Ohashi retuned to the ring to defend that title, but instead of scoring his first defense he was given a real beating by mandatory challenger Taiki Minamoto (15-5, 12) [源大輝].
At the weigh in for the bout Minamoto boasted that his speed would be the difference, and it immediately seemed to b the case. The challenger was bouncing in and out of range, skipping around Ohashi and landing shots at will, with out Ohashi managing to respond. Ohashi looked lost and confused by the speed and movement of Minamoto who ended the round with some huge shots to the body and a massive left hand up top. Things went from bad to worse for Ohashi, who was hurt and wobbled at the end of round 2. It looked it looked like Minamoto was there to make a statement.
Ohashi managed to have moments in round 3, but those moments were over shadowed by the challenger who not only continued to dominate but came close to scoring a knockdown at the end of the round from a nasty 1-2 that left Ohashi wobbling before the bell. The champion was given the benefit of the doubt and managed to get some success in round 4, though every time he did he was forced to take return fire, with interest. The success of Minamoto was mentally damaging to Ohashi, who was forced backwards when they traded, and was unable to ever hurt the challenger, who looked to be having a lot of fun in there.
Things went from bad to worse for Ohashi, who was cut early in round 5 and seemed to become immediately desperate, throwing wild shots. Those shots almost all missed as Minamoto pressed forward and landed a number of big shots, rocking the champion again as we went to the bell.
After 5 rounds the scores were announced. Some how two of the judges had given a round to Ohashi, to have the scores at 49-46 to Minamoto, the third however had it 50-44, giving a 10-8 round for Minamoto's domination. Despite the judges being at ring side, they didn't really seem like they would be needed. Minamoto continued to dominate through round 6, shaking Ohashi in the final 20 seconds of the round. The referee looked ready to step in, but wait,and waited,before the bell run, and not for the first time Ohashi's beating was prolonged by the bell.
Given how badly stunned Ohashi looked to end round 6 a wise corner would have pulled their man out. Instead they sent him back out and he took yet further punishment as Minamoto continued to hammer him until the referee, after what felt like an eternity, jumped in and saved Ohashi, who was a beaten, bloodied, battered man.
With the win Minamoto scores a career defining victory and with the performance he put on he looks like a potential domestic star. For Ohashi his reign comes to a short conclusion, and it's hard to imagine him bouncing back from this defeat in a hurry.
Earlier today Japanese fight fans at the Korakuen Hall saw Kenta Nakagawa (13-2-1, 9) [中川 健太] become the new Japanese Super Flyweight champion, with the heavy handed southpaw claiming a split decision win over Hayato Kimura (25-9, 16) [木村 隼人所属].
The fight started off with a tense feeling and it seemed that both men were trying to feel out the other without committing too much. It was clear that each man knew their opponents strengths, something that had been documented going into the bout, and wanted to neutralise them whilst fighting to their own strong points. For Kimura that was a case of using his superior speed whilst Nakagawa looked to land his powerful left hand.
After a tame opening round the action began to pick up and the two were happier at a closer distance in the second round, with Nakagawa applying intelligent pressure with his footwork, and trying to open up Kimura. The tactic helped Nakagawa get a foothold in the bout but it was another round that lacked drama for the most part, and could have been scored either way, with Kimura being busier but Nakagawa getting through with most of the better shots.
By round 3 it seemed like both men were beginning to feel confident and the action did pick up notably with both having more success. Although the action was picking up, and the crowd was coming alive, the clean shots were still lacking with many being glancing blows, or missing the target altogether.
Thankfully the pace continued to build and the big shorts started to be thrown more freely with the crowd, and the atmosphere, raising the fighters who seemed more willing to exchange in round 4 as we had some great moments. The action still lacked in quality but was becoming more intriguing with every passing minute and this continued through round 5 with the styles beginning to gel, though the stances were leading to the occasional head clash and Nakagawa did seem to show some frustration at times in the final stages of the 5th round as he suffered a cut around he left eye.
After 5 rounds the open scoring was announce, giving Kimura a narrow lead, with cards of 48-47, twice to Kimura, and 48-48.
Knowing he was behind Nakagawa rallied, up the pressure and went about breaking down his faster opponent with intense pressure and was more willing to take a shot to land one. This forced some negativity from Kimura, who seemed happier to try and move, avoid a fight and stay away from the left hand of Nakagawa. The pressure had almost immediate impact and Kimura was hurt late in round 6 with Nakagawa's power and willingness to force the fight paying dividends.
The aggressive pressure of Nakagawa continued in round 7, forcing a loud “Kneta” chant and he again seemed to stagger Kimura with his power as Kimura began to be dragged into a dog fight. It seemed as if nothing Kimura could do could stop Nakagawa who was eating counters and not blinking whilst landing his own combinations and taking over the fight. The take over continued in round 8, with Kimura again unable to escape the pressure and the strength of Nakagawa who had done any to over-turn the deficit he had found himself in at the half way mark.
Kimura seemed to know he was behind at the start of round 9 and began to fight fire with fire as we got a sensational start to the round and saw both guys letting their hands go. It was much better from Kimura than the previous few rounds, and although he was forced to eat some bombs he proved he could stand and fight with Nakagawa, giving us a really thrilling 3 minutes.
Given the thrilling nature of round 9 it was clear both would be feeling the pace in the final round and it showed, with a round that lacked the intensity of the previous round. It wasn't full but it lacked the long trading sequences and instead merely gave us a few moments here and there.
By the end it seemed clear that Nakagawa had done enough to win. When he had to turn it around he did, and his domination of the second half of the fight was genuinely impressive. He didn't show the sweetest of science, or look the most defensively astute but he out landed his man with the bigger shots and was a well worthy winner.
Although the fight was hard to score early on questions do need to be asked of the judge who scored the bout to Kimura, and gave him rounds 6 and 8 to give him a 96-95 lead. Thankfully his peculiar scorecard was over ruled by scores of 97-93 and 97-95 for Nakagawa.
For Kimura this was a second loss in a Japanese title fight, though it seems likely he'll bounce back and fight again for the title down the line. For Nakagawa however this win is something that puts him on the proverbial map and shows he has more than just power going for him. He's unlikely to ever make a mark above the domestic scene, but he might be a very hard guy to dethrone at this level.
The new year may have been very slow to provide in ring action but it appears that things are warming up and today we saw the first Japanese title fight of the year as the Champion Carnival kicked off with a bout in the Super Featherweight division. More excitingly it kicked off with young and unbeaten fighters colliding in a bout that looked brilliant on paper.
The bout in question saw second generation fighter, and Japanese Super Featherweight kingpin, Rikki Naito (12-0, 5) get taken all the way by the now once defeated Masayuki Ito (16-1-1, 7) in a bout that really could have gone either way and in a bout that really did kick off the Champion Carnival in the perfect way.
From the opening round this was a highly skilled and highly sped fight with both men showing off what they had in the locker. Naito's timing did seem slightly better but Ito was well deserving of the credit he got for landing accurate counters and preventing Naito from building on any notable success.
Through the first 5 rounds the fight was impossible to call and it showed on the scorecards which had a split draw when they were announced. It was every bit as competitive as the records suggested and every big as exciting as we had all hoped.
In the second half of the fight the action picked up with Naito beginning to become more aggressive and this showed in rounds 7 and 8 as tried to force the judges into giving him rounds whilst Ito tried to answer back. It was still nip and tuck action.
Going into the final round both men seemed to think they had to up it and that left us with a thrilling finale that saw both unloading shots in the best round of the fight. Sadly however for Ito it wasn't enough and he lost his unbeaten records via a razor thin majority decision with the judges favouring Naito by scores of 96-95 and 97-94 whilst the third judge had the bout even at 95-95.
Coming into the fight we had suggest a draw was likely and considering he action in the ring a draw was perhaps the fairest result. Saying that neither man comes out badly here and given the two men are both only in their early 20's we'd not be shocked to see them both fighting at a much higher level down the line, in fact a rematch for the OPBF or even a world title wouldn't be out of the question.
Whilst Naito has retained the gold, and racked up his 3rd defense of the title we have no worries that Ito will come again and comeback stronger. For Naito the intention is clear, to move onwards and upwards as he attempts to replicate the success of his father, Cassius Naito, who was an OPBF and a Japanese champion back in the 1970's.
For those interested in seeing this bout it will be aired, in a tape delay format, on Fuji TV in a few hours time.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
Earlier today (September 1st) the JBC issues their latest domestic rankings which were compiled at the end of August. The rankings haven't seen massive changes from the previous month but they have seen some very notable changes a major name entering the rankings and even a few changes in champions.
At Minimumweight we see one of the most notable changes as former world champion Katsunari Takayama ends up back in the rankings following his loss to Francisco Rodriguez Jr. Takayama has moved instantly to #2 in the rankings behind future OPBF title challenger Kosei Tanaka. Falling out of the rankings at 105lbs is recent contender Masashi Tada who hasn't fought since January when he was clearly beaten by current champion Go Odaira in a bout for the vacant belt. We need to admit we were a little bit surprised not to see Ken Shiro take a ranking here following his great debut win over Heri Amol at the start of the month.
At Flyweight we've seen a few changes though the most notable of those was the swapping of places for former world title challenger Hirofumi Mukai and former champion Toshiyuki Igarashi with Mukai now at #8 and Igarashi falling to #9. Lower down the rankings we've seen Hideyuki Watanabe climb into the rankings at #15 following his draw with top contender Tetsuma Hayashi.
The first new champion we see in the rankings is Sho Ishida who took the Super Flyweight title with an excellent win over Yohei Tobe. Going into the bout Ishida was the top contender and his win has allowed Malcolm Tunacao to being the #1 challenger just above former champion Teiru Kinoshita and former national title challenger Taiki Eto, who now sits just above Tobe, who has fallen to #4. Lower down the rankings we've seen a little bit of a reshuffle with Yusuke Suzuki swapping with Shinichiro Morikawa in the 9 and 10 spots and Takayuki Okumoto has claimed the #14 place following his win over Shota Kawaguchi, who has in turn dropped out of the rankings.
At Bantamweight we saw Kentaro Masuda retain his title with an excellent win over mandatory challenger Konosuke Tomiyama, the loss for Tomiyama saw him dropping all the way down to #5. With Tomiyama dropping down the rankings we've seen small boosts for Ryo Akaho, the new #1, Shohei Omori, Masahiro Ishida and Kohei Oba who all moved up 1 place. Much lower down the rankings was lost Kiron Omura, previously #12, allowing Tatsuya Takahashi to move up a place and Naoto Uebayashi to fill the void at #13.
At Super Bantamweight we've seen Kojiro Takada drop from #4 to #14 allowing for a notable reshuffle near the top. One of the beneficiaries is Yusaku Kuga who jumped from #9 to #6 as he nears a title opportunity, though of course he is behind Takafumi Nakajima, #4, who we expect to fight Hidenori Otake later this year, and Yukinori Oguni who is currently the #1 contender.
At Featherweight we've seen former world champion Akifumi Shimoda drop notably from #2 to #5 allowing Daisuke Yokoyama, Takuya Watanabe and Noriyuki Ueno to each move up a place. The only other changes come at the bottom of the top 15 where Ryo Takenaka has swapped with Hiroshige Osawa for #14 and #15.
At Super Featherweight we have an obvious chance as Masayuki Ito climbed to #4 following his win over Masao Nakamura who has dropped to #7. The only other change has seen Ryota Kajiki swap with Kazuma Sanpei for places #13 and #14.
At Light Welterweight we've seen some very interesting changes at the top. The new #1 contender is Hayato Hokazono who climbs up the rankings following the loss of Shinya Iwabuchi to OPBF champion Keita Obara. The fall of Iwabuchi has seen Shamgal Koichi move up a place to #2 despite his recent loss to champion Hiroki Okada. Another man to come out of this in an advantageous position is the #3 ranked Masanobu Nakazawa who may feel that he has a chance at getting a title fight early next year.
Welterweight has seen a small shuffle with Toshio Arikawa moving above above Yuji Wauke and Shusaku Fujinaka to claim the #9 place.
Light Middleweight has seen a new champion crowned courtesy of Yuki Nonaka's great performance against Kengo Nagashima. Former champion Takayuki Hosokawa is now the #1 contender after Koji Numata claimed the OPBF belt whilst another former champion, Charlie Ota, sits at #2 in the rankings.
There have been no changes at Light Flyweight, Lightweight, Middleweight, Super Middleweight, Light Heavyweight, Cruiserweight or Heavyweight.
For those interested in the updated rankings they can be found here courtesy of the JBC.
On May 19th Japanese boxing will celebrate it's 5th annual "Boxing Day" event with a special ceremony to thank fans.
The event celebrates boxing and coincides with the anniversary of Yoshi Shirai becoming the first ever Japanese world champion back in 1952.
The special event has had some of the biggest names in Japan sign up for various activities including public sparring, public training, talks from top fighters about the future and various other interactive events.
From the details we've received the following have been confirmed:
Naoya Inoue Vs Akira Yaegashi (Public sparring)
Hidenori Otake Vs Satoshi Hosono (Public Sparring)
Ryosuke Iwasa Vs Shingo Wake (Pubic sparring)
Kohei Kono and Takashi Miura (Mitt sessions from both)
Yoshihiro Kamegai, Kyotaro Fujimoro, Keita Obara and Tomomi Takano will all speak about their future and what they wish to achieve in the boxing world whilst Shinsuke Yamanaka, Takashi Uchiyama, Naoko Fujioka and Takuma Inoue will also be at the event, though we're unsure what they will be doing, with all of them being linked to a talk of some kind.
The event will also feature an auction and a special ceremony for Iwao Hakamada.
With all the big names involved we'd have to describe the tickets, which are priced at 2,000yen and 5,000yen, as a bargain. To put the prices in to £ they are between £11.60 and £29.93, in $ they work out at being between $19.51 and $48.80.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp and it features Naoya Inoue, Naoko Fujioka, Akira Yaegashi, Shinsuke Yamanaka and Takashi Uchiyama)
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