Back in October we saw Koji Itagaki (18-13-3, 7) [板垣幸司] come up short in a Japanese title eliminator, suffering a 7th round TKO loss to fellow veteran Kenichi Horikawa (38-15-1, 12) [堀川 謙一]. It seemed like that would be the end for the 35 year old Itagaki. Given his age, the loss and the fact he was stopped.
Today however he Itagaki announced that he would be back in the ring early next year, challenging unbeaten OPBF Light Flyweight champion Edward Heno (13-0-5, 5), who will be making his third defense.
The bout will take place February 11th at the NTT Cred Hall in Hiroshima, and even Itagaki seemed to suggest that it's going to be his final chance at a title, after having previously com up short in bouts for the WBO Asia Pacific and Japanese titles.
Heno notably won the title in Japan last year, stopping Seita Ogido in what was their second bout, following a very controversial draw. Since then he defended the title against Merlito Sabillo and Jesse Espinas. He's now edging towards a world title fight, and may well see a win over Itagaki as a chance to secure a shot at a champion, potentially Japanese fighter, and WBC champion, Kenshiro (14-0, 8) [拳四朗].
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Earlier today there was a number of Japanese title eliminators. One of those took place at 108lbs and saw veterans colliding as Kenichi Horikawa (38-15-1, 12) [堀川 謙一] battled Koji Itagaki (18-13-3, 7) [板垣幸司].
On paper this was a very attractive match up, with both men looking for a chance to secure another match with Japanese champion Tetsuya Hisada. It was also a rematch of a previous contest that Horikawa had won over Itagaki, back in 2017 for the WBO Asia Pacific title.
At 38 years old Horikawa surprised us all by coming out and setting the pace form the opening moments, pressing the action hard and making Itagaki fight off the back foot almost immediately. To his credit Itagaki did get some success with his counter shots, but took a number of clean, hurt shots himself as Horikawa pressured him. Late in round 4 Itagaki seemed to be rocked, but gritted his teeth and got through to the bell.
Although Itagaki was showing his toughness Horikawa seemed like a man possessed and continued pressing the fighter and forced a stoppage in round 7 to secure a big win and set up one more Japanese title fight for the former champion.
Sadly for Itagaki this will likely end his career, with the 35 year old not really having the time to bounce back and earn another big fight.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
Tomorrow fight fans at the Korakuen Hall, and those with Boxingraise, will be able to see a number of Japanese title eliminator bouts.
One of those takes place at Light Flyweight and will see Kenichi Horikawa (37-15-1, 11) [堀川 謙一] face off with Koji Itagaki (18-12-3, 7) [板垣幸司] in a mouth match up between two under-rated veterans. Both have come up short in recent Japanese title bouts against Tetsuya Hisada, but both are hungry for one final at the national crown, and a potential rematch with Hisada.
Today the two men took part in their weigh in and both fighters made weight.
On the scales Horikawa was bang on the 108lbs limit whilst Itagaki was slightly lighter, at around 107.7lbs. Both looked in good shape and both seemed determined to continue their career at title level, with one more significant career win.,
Related - Horikawa and Itagaki rematch with a title fight on the line!
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Earlier today Japanese Light Flyweight champion Tetsuya Hisada (32-9-2, 19) [久田 哲也] took to social media to revealed some details about his next bout.
Sadly for those wanting to see the veteran getting a world title fight before the end of 2018 it appears that that won't be happening. Instead he will be making his 5th defense of the Japanese title, though his opponent for that bout hasn't been named. There are, of course, fighters we can rule out, such as Kenichi Horikawa (37-15-1, 11) [堀川 謙一] and Koji Itagaki (18-12-3, 7) [板垣幸司], who will be fighting in a Japanese title eliminator in October, but that doesn't really let us known who Harada gym have lined up for their man to face.
What we do know is that the defense is scheduled for November 16th, with the bout likely acting as Hisada's final defense before a world title fight in 2019. Interestingly that could mean that the winner of the Horikawa Vs Itagaki bout will not get a rematch with Hisada, as anticipated, but will instead get a shot at the vacant title in the new year.
We expect to see more details of Hisada's upcoming bout announced shortly, but it will almost certainly take place in Osaka and is likely to be a bout where Hisada will be strongly favoured to retain his title.
An important part of the Japanese boxing calendar is the Champion Carnival, which takes place in the first half of the year. The fighters who compete in the Champion Carnival are the national champions and the leading domestic contenders.
In August we a number of bouts to decide the top contenders being announced, with 6 such bouts being set for October 12, on a stacked card at the Korakuen Hall.
For those missed that report those bouts on October 12th will be:
Light Flyweight - Kenichi Horikawa (37-15-1, 11) [堀川 謙一] Vs Koji Itagaki (18-12-3, 7) [板垣幸司]
The Super Flyweight - Yuta Matsuo (14-3-1, 7) [松尾雄太] Vs Rey Orais (20-17-2, 5)
Super Bantamweight - Mugicha Nakagawa (23-5-1, 14) [武田勇太] Vs Naoya Okamoto (13-6-1, 6) [岡本直也].
Super Featherweight - Ken Osato (14-2-1, 4) [大里拳] Vs Satoru Sugita (14-5-1, 9) [杉田聖]
Light Welterweight - Koki Inoue (11-0, 10) [浩樹井上] Vs Marcus Smith (6-0-1, 6)
Light Middleweight Koshinmaru Saito (24-9-2, 13) [斉藤伸介] vs Hironobu Matsunaga (13-1, 7) [松永 宏信]
As well as the October 12th card we also, recently, saw the confirmation that the Flyweight bout would see Junto Nakatani (16-0, 12) [中谷 潤人] battle against Shun Kosaka (15-4, 4) [小坂駿], which that bout now set for October 6th as part of notable Japanese domestic card which is set to be televised on G+.
Today saw the rest of the bouts being announced.
On October 21st we'll have two of them take place in Fukuoka. One of those is the Minimumweight bout, which will see Takumi Sakae (19-2-1, 13) [榮拓海] take on Norihito Tanaka (16-7, 9) [田中教仁], in what could end up being one of the surprise contests from these eliminator style contests. On the same card will be the Welterweight clash between Yuki Beppu (18-0-1, 18) [別府優樹] and Yuki Nagano (14-2, 11) [永野祐樹], in what we are expecting to be a very explosive and exciting encounter between two fighters with very solid power at this level.
A week later, October 28th, we'll get the Lightweight bout, which will see Accel Sumiyoshi (11-4-2, 3) [アクセル住吉] face off with Tatsuya Yanagi (15-5-1, 6) [柳達也]. This bout will take place in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi prefecture, which should favour Sumiyoshi but given the styles of the two men this has the potential to be very exciting.
On November 7th we'll get the Middleweight bout as former champion Hikaru Nishida (17-9-1, 8) [西田光] takes on Shuji Kato (9-1-1, 6) [加藤収二], with this bout taking place at the Korakuen Hall.
The only bout with out a set date so far is the Bantamweight bout. Despite no set date we do know that Hayato Kimura (27-10, 18) [木村隼人] facing off with Seizo Kono (19-10-1, 12) [高野誠三], in what is a bit of an under-whelming contest given some of the Japanese domestic talent in the division. This bout is expected to have it's date and venue announced in the coming weeks.
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