Earlier today Japanese fight fans in NTT Cred Hall in Hiroshima saw a Japanese Light Flyweight title eliminator, with Koki Ono (12-4, 5) [小野晃輝] battling against veteran Koji Itagaki (18-11-3, 7) [板垣幸司] for a shot at the national title next year.
The bout pitted the #2 and #3 ranked contenders and proved to be a brilliantly competitive contest.
Itagaki started well, setting the tempo to begin with and used movement well to control the distance. Ono however refused to give up and showed his desire by continually pressing, and in the middle rounds he began to really break through and have his moments, especially in rounds 5 and 6 when he caught Itagaki with some really solid shots.
In the final round both men let it all go, and it was a thrilling finish that left the fans on the edge of their seat, and left both fighters wondering if they had done enough.
In the end the judges scored the bout 77-75, 75-77 and 76-77, giving Itagaki a razor thin split decision win and securing him a shot at the title in next years' Champion Carnival.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Earlier today the JBC announced their replacement of the "Strongest Korakuen" and in all honesty we really like their decision, even if we were fans of the Strongest Korakuen.
For those unaware, the Strongest Korakuen, was a short tournament to decide the mandatory challenger for the Japanese titles the following year, at the Champion Carnival. At one point the tournament was pretty significant, with fighters genuinely vying for a place, but in recent years fighters have been less eager and what was once a tournament format has since dropped to being a straight final between two highly ranked JBC contenders in only a few divisions. A far cry from what the Strongest Korakuen once was.
The solution from the JBC was to have a "Japanese Champion Challenger Decision Battle", not a catchy name we'll admit, between two contenders to decide the mandatory challengers across a number of weight classes. And unlike the past these bouts aren't cramped on a single show but instead allowed to take place over a number of cards and dates. This has allowed the fighters more flexibility, and arguably set up a more interesting end to 2017 for Japanese fight fans, who have a number of big domestic clashes to look forward to on the national stage.
The first of the bouts will take place on August 20th and will come at Minimumweight as WBO world ranked fighter Ryoki Hirai (9-4-1, 4) [平井亮輝] take on Kenta Matsui (8-6, 1) [松井謙太]. On paper this doesn't look an amazing bout but the reality is that it's well matched on paper and give both men a rea reason to fight hard and go for the win, and could potentially see Hirai continue his remarkable career turn around which has seen him rebuild from a 3-3-1 (1) record to a potential title fight.
The second bout will take place on October 8th and will be the Light Flyweight bout, which will pit Koki Ono (12-3, 5) [小野晃輝] against veteran Koji Itagaki (17-11-3, 7) [板垣幸司] in what looks like another of those under-rated match ups that has made the Japanese scene as interesting as it is. On paper Ono will be strongly favoured, however Itagaki ios no joke and his record really doesn't tell the story of his good he is,
Interestingly we'll have 5 of the bouts take place on October 21st.
One of those will be at Flyweight as the always fun to watch Katsunori Nagamine (14-1, 10) [長嶺克則] takes on Akinori Hoshino (13-7-1, 9) [星野晃規]. Whilst this looks likely to be another predictable win, for Nagamine, it's hard to argue with him getting a title shot after the run he's been on since losing to Ken Shiro. Another bout on the same day Eita Kikuchi (21-4-4, 8) [菊地永太] will face off with Yusuke Suzuki (8-3, 5) [鈴木悠介] in a really good looking Bantamweight bout, which pits a veteran against a relative novice in what could be a real thriller.
On the same day we'll also get Featherweight bout which will pit Dai Iwai (21-4-1, 7) [岩井大] against Taiki Minimoto (13-5, 11) [源大輝], in a bout where we see former title challengers face off. We also get the Lightweight bout, which will pit fast rising prospect Shuichiro Yoshino (4-0, 2) [吉野修一郎] against Spicy Matsushita (17-9-1, 2) [スパイシー松下] in a another bout that pits a veteran against a novice, though it's fair to say the novice will be very strongly favoured here. The other bout taking place the same day is a Welterweight bout which will see former title challenger Moon Hyun Yun (18-4-3, 3) [尹文鉉] take on the heavy handed Ryota Yada (13-4, 11) [矢田良太] in a potentially explosive bout.
On November 4th we'll again get a number of bouts. One of those is a juicy looking Super Bantamweight bout between Yuta Nakagawa (21-4-1, 12) [中川勇太] and Yasutaka Ishimoto (30-9, 9) [石本康隆], in what could well be the pick of the bouts given the styles of the two men. Another bout on the same day will see Masaru Sueyoshi (15-1, 10) [末吉大] take on Ribo Takahata (13-7-1, 5) [高畑里望] in a Super Featherweight bout, with Sueyoshi looking ready to move on to title level. A third bout on the same day, and another real cracker on paper, will see Shoma Fukumoto (11-1, 9) [福本祥馬] trade blows with Kazuto Takesako (6-0, 6) [竹迫司登] for the chance to fight for a Middleweight title next year, and we suspect that one will be very explosive.
The Super Flyweight bout will take place on November 11th as Ohashi gym fighter Go Onaga (27-3-3, 18) [翁長吾央] battles against 4-time world title challenger Hiroyuki Hisataka (25-16-1, 11) [久高寛之] in what will almost certainly be a gruelling battle between two veterans of the ring.
At some point in November, though yet to be confirmed, we'll see the Welterweight bout between Nobuyuki Shindo (18-4-1, 7) [新藤寛之] and Cobra Suwa (19-12-2, 11) [コブラ諏訪], in what is a real must for both, who are both struggling at the moment and cannot afford another loss.
The final bout, scheduled for December 8th, will be at 140lbs and see Dominican born Japanese based Vladimir Baez (22-3-21, 20), aka "Destino Japan, take on Kazuyasu Okamoto (14-4, 4) [岡本和泰] in what should be another explsoive match up.
The winners of all the bouts will earn themselves a shot at their respective divisional champion in 2018, meaning the bouts really do matter, not just to the men involved, but also to the Japanese champions and the top domestic contenders.
Earlier today fight fans in Hiroshima got a real war, as bloodied and bruised local Koji Itagaki (17-11-3, 7) [板垣幸司] gritted his teeth to earn a controversial draw with Filipino youngster Rolly Sumalpong (10-2-2, 4).
On paper the bout didn't look likely to be anything great, but the paper doesn't fight and fans who knew about the actual fighters would have expected something exciting, and that's exactly what they got.
The fight started well for Itagaki, who uses his experience and speed early on, but things went down hill quickly for him with a cut around his left eye being opened in round 3 and then a second cut being opened around the same eye the following round. This lead to Itagaki fighting much of the bout with blood running down his left cheek.
Although drawing blood Sumalpong was unable to finish off Itagaki who finished the fight swinging and managed to do enough to get a split decision draw. Though one that hard cards all over the place. One judge had it even at 77-77, on judge had Sumalpong dominated at 79-74 whilst the other judge had it 78-75 to Itagaki.
Although Sumalpong clearly felt he deserved the win he seemed to feel happy about having a good performance in Japan, and it's likely he will be invited back in the near future, for what would be his third bout there following a previous loss to the recently crowned WBC Light Flyweight world champion Ken Shiro.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Earlier today Japanese fans in Hiroshima saw a WBO Asia Pacific Light Flyweight title fight that saw Kenichi Horikawa (32-14-1, 7) [堀川 謙一] over-come veteran Koji Itagaki (17-11-2, 7) [板垣 幸司] to become a champion for the second time.
Horikawa, a former Japanese Light Flyweight champion, started slowly and it seemed like his 36 year old legs were showing their age. He was competitive but seemed to be half a step behind Itagaki in the first half of the fight. Although starting slowly he did manage to stay competitive through the first 6 rounds, ending up level on one card at the mid-way point, and narrowly behind 58-56 down on the other two cards.
Despite the slow start Horikawa managed to put it all together from the mid round and swept the final 6 rounds as he upped his pressure, and let his hands go, as if he knew he couldn't afford to let the bout continue to sliw away from him. That intense pressure from Horikawa saw him do enough to claim the decision, with scores of 117-111, and 116-112, twice.
Following the win Horikawa stated that his intention was to make a swift return to the ring and begin hunting a second reign as the Japanese champion. Itagaki on he other hand seemed very unsure of his future, though stated a rest was his immediate plan.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Tomorrow fight fans in Hiroshima will get the chance to see a WBO Asia Pacific Light Flyweight title figth as former Japanese Flyweight champion Kenichi Horikawa (31-14-1, 7) [堀川 謙一] faces fellow veteran Koji Itagaki (17-10-2, 7) [板垣 幸司].
Today those two men took part in their wiegh in for the bout and both men made weight for the contest.
On the scales both men came in at just under 108lbs, the limit, for the contest.
At the weigh in both men looked in good shape and both showed their veteran experience with neither man showing signs of really drining themselves at the weight. Horikawa looked ever so slightly the more gaunt of the two fighters but neither had taken too much out of their body.
The bout seems to be one that both men are viewing as a must win with both fighters looking at the title as a potential way into the world rankings. Despite that aim neither man looked like they were under too much pressure and both looked calm and relaxed ahead of the bout.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
News! We try and give you the most interesting news stories from the Asian boxing world!