Earlier this month the Mutoh Gym confirmed their December 24th show, headlined by an OPBF Bantamweight title fight between Yuki Strong Kobayashi (14-7, 8) [小林佑樹] and Keita Kurihara (12-5, 11) [栗原 慶太] .
Today we had another bout for that card revealed, with 4-time world title challenger, and former Japanese national champion Hiroyuki Kudaka (26-18-2, 11) [久高寛之] being added to the card in the show's chief support bout.
The veteran, from the Nakazato gym, was last seen losing the Japanese Super Flyweight title to Takayuki Okumoto in August. It was assumed he would retire after that loss, but instead he'll be out in action on Christmas Eve to take on Filipino journeyman Jayar Estremos (11-14, 4), who will be fighting for the first time as a Mutoh Gym fighter.
On paper this should be an easy win for Kudaka, but the Japanese fighter had had a reputation for making life much harder for himself than he really needs to. We suspect he'll win, but will make this a lot harder than it needs to be.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Earlier this month we reported that Keita Kurihara (12-5, 11) [栗原 慶太] would be returning to the ring on December 24th to face off with Yuki Strong Kobayashi (14-7, 8) [小林佑樹] in a bout for the vacant OPBF Bantamweight title at the EDION Arena Osaka.
Today that bout was officially confirmed, with the Mutoh Boxing gym not just announcing the bout but also the rest of their show for Christmas Eve, a show that will feature bouts involving two hotly tipped prospects as well as the OPBF title bout.
The OPBF title became vacant recently when Mark John Yap (29-13, 14) decided to retire, following a close loss to Takuma Inoue (12-0, 3) [井上 拓真] in a WBC Bantamweight world title eliminator.
According to Takashi Edagawa, the head of the Mutoh gym, Yap retired after the loss and went back to the Philippines, hence vacating the title, in what a really surprising move from the Filipino given that he had seemingly secured his status as a top contender. We suspect that Yap will return from retirement down the line, but if not it's a shame his career ended so abruptly after such a close loss and it appears that even Mr Edagawa was surprised by the decision.
Update - On Social Media Yap himself has stated that he's not retired but that his contract with Mutoh gym has expired and that he has returned to the Philippines for the next chapter of his career. His parents are ill and he will be in Cagayan de oro City. It would seem like there is some miscommunication between the two, as the Japanese promoter doesn't seem to be aware that the contract has expired and stated that Yap had complained about neck pain, told he he was returning to the Philippines and retiring.
At the press conference along with Kobayashi and Mr Edagawa was Rio Kuwabata (1-0, 1) [桑畑凜生], who has sent a request to change his ring name to a rather unique one. Kuwabata, who debuted in China back in September, will be up against 34 year old Yosuke Taniguchi (7-5-1, 2) [谷口陽祐] in an interesting 6 round contest.
One other highly regarded prospect on this card is Middleweight hopeful Riku Kunimoto (2-0) [国本陸], who is stepping up to 8 round bouts to face off with Toshihiro Kai (6-10-2, 2) [甲斐斗志広].
The card, dubbed "You will be the Champion 9", seems almost certain to be the final Japanese card before Christmas.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
in 2016 to Ye Joon Kim. Despite losing 4 out of 6 bouts at one point we've seen Kobayashi get his career back on track with 4 wins, including a notable one in Malaysia against Vincent Astrolabio.
At the moment it's unclear what other bouts are taking place on this show, but it's another big bout confirmed for an already stacked pre-Christmas period.
Earlier today saw the announcement of the next A-Sign Bee show, which we now know will take place on November 19th.
The specific details of the card are scarce, but we have seen the first 3 fighters on the card being confirmed, though sadly none of them are yet to have their opponents named.
The highest profile fighter announced for the card will be former OPBF and JBC champion Ryo Akaho (32-2-2, 21) [赤穂亮]. The 2-time world title challenger is expected to have a step up from his last bout, against Robert Udtohan, but it's unclear whether he will be up against a domestic foe or a visitor.
Akaho will be joined by the always fun to watch Keita Kurihara (12-5, 11) [栗原 慶太], who will be looking to extend his current 3 fight winning run. We do believe that Kurihara is chasing titles, but would be surprised if he got a title shot here, however a shot for a belt will not be far off following notable recent wins over Ryan Lumacad, Tetsuya Watanabe and Kazuki Tanaka.
The third fighter confirmed for this card is Niboshi Yujiro (2-0, 1) [大曽根悠二郎], with his bout expected to be either a 4 or 6 rounder.
More details of this card are expected to be released in the weeks to come, though it's good to already see the promoters piecing the card together 2 months out.
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)
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