Earlier today Japanese fight fans got a Japanese title eliminator at 154lbs. The bout saw veteran Koshinmaru Saito (24-10-2, 13) [斉藤伸介] likely ending his career, as he was stopped by Hironobu Matsunaga (14-1, 8) [松永 宏信] in what was a surprisingly 1-sided affair.
Matsunaga looked the sharper fighter from the off and backed up Saito with smart foot work. Saito began to circle a lot around the ring, something his 39 year old legs probably shouldn't have been doing so early in the fight. Matsunaga didn't let his hands go a lot, but always looked to be trying to line up a powerful left hand whilst backing the veteran up.
In round 3 Matsunaga began to really pick up his output and put Saito on to his backside towards the end of the round. Saito wasn't hurt but was beginning to look his age.
The exhaustion and age of Saito showed again in round 4, as he tried to come forward but lacked any sense of sharpness, and everything he did looked slow and clumsy. An big onslaught from Matsunaga dropped Saito and this time he would be hurt, getting stopped as he rose.
This will almost certainly be the final bout of Saito's career whilst Matsunaga has secured himself a Japanese title fight at the 2019 Champion Carnival.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Tomorrow we'll see the next mandatory title challenger for the Japanese Light Middleweight title being decided. The bout to decide on the challenger will see veteran Koshinmaru Saito (24-9-2, 13) [斉藤伸介] battle against Hironobu Matsunaga (13-1, 7) [松永 宏信].
Today the two men took part in their weigh in and both fighters looked in great shape for what could be one of the most important bouts either man takes part in, with the winner being assured of a shot during the 2019 Champion Carnival.
On the scales Saito was around 153.8lbs whilst Matsunaga was just slightly heavier, though still under the 154lbs allowed.
Saito will turn 40 in February and will know that anything but a win here will likely end his career, after having come up short in a number of title bouts already. Matsunaga on the other hand is in his early 30's and will be hoping to get his first shot at a Japanese title, after having previously won a WBO Asia Pacific title in Korea.
Related-Veteran Saito takes on Matsunaga for Japanese title shot!
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
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.
The Champion Carnival is one of the many long traditions in Japanese boxing, and sees the Japanese champions defending their belts against the top contenders to begin the new year. The challengers are often decided by winning a challenger decision bout, or an eliminator for our Western fans, and we now have 6 such bouts set for an October 12th show at the Korakuen Hall, with those bouts taking place from Light Flyweight to Light Middleweight.
The Light Flyweight bout will see former champion Kenichi Horikawa (37-15-1, 11) [堀川 謙一] battle against former foe Koji Itagaki (18-12-3, 7) [板垣幸司]. Horikawa is 2-1 against current Japanese champion Tetsuya Hisada [久田 哲也] and will be looking to get one more bout with Hisada in 2019, unless Hisada finally lands a world title fight. Horikawa holds a notable win over Itagaki from a WBO Asia Pacific title bout back in 2017, but that will only serve as for Itagaki who himself lost in a competitive bout with Hisada earlier this year. With Horikawa now 38 and Itagaki 35 both men are coming to the end of their careers so this really is a must win for both men.
The Super Flyweight bout will see Yuta Matsuo (14-3-1, 7) [松尾雄太] battle against Japanese based Filipino veteran Rey Orais (20-17-2, 5). Coming into this Matsuo is on a good run, following a 2017 loss to Masayuki Kuroda, with recent wins over Kazuto Nakane and Ryoji Fukunaga, and certainly has moment on his side coming into this bout. Orais on the other hand has fought just once in the last 10 years, beating Ken Achiwa this past May, those has mixed with good company including Denkaosan Kaovichit and Oleydong Sithsamerchai. Orais has next to no momentum but has got significantly more experience than the Japanese local.
At Super Bantamweight we'll see Mugicha Nakagawa (23-5-1, 14) [武田勇太] face off with Naoya Okamoto (13-6-1, 6) [岡本直也]. The 29 year old Nakagawa fought in the Champion Carnival challenger decision bout last year, losing a very competitive bout to the popular Yasutaka Ishimoto, and since then has stopped Markquil Slvana and Ricky Manufoe to rebuild some momentum. Nakagawa is a real talent and although he's not in among the very elite in Japan, like Ryosuke Iwasa and Shingo Wake, he's a very good domestic fighter. Okamoto Okamoto on the other hand is currently on a nice run, with recent wins over Gaku Aikawa, Daisuke Watanabe and Yuta Saito, who fights for the Japanese Bantamweight title in September. The winner of this will a have a bout with Wake lined up, but the reality seems to be that Wake will vacate, to chase a world title fight, and the winner of this bout will get a shot at a vacant title.
The Super Featherweight bout will be a rematch between Ken Osato (14-2-1, 4) [大里拳] and Satoru Sugita (14-5-1, 9) [杉田聖], who fight in a similar challenger bout last year, with Osato narrowly defeating Sugita. Osato's win lead to a fight with Masaru Sueyoshi earlier this year, which he lost, and he is clearly hunting a rematch with Sueyoshi. Sugita on the other hand has twice challenged for the Japanese title, losing to Kenichi Ogawa twice, and will be looking to make it third time lucky. Given the Japanese talent at 130lbs, it's a bit of a shame that we're getting a rematch here, but it's hard to argue with the quality of the men in the bout, and given how competitive their first bout was this could be very interesting.
Arguably the pick of the bouts, at least on paper, comes at 140lbs as Koki Inoue (11-0, 10) [浩樹井上], the cousin of Naoya Inoue [井上 尚弥] and Takuma Inoue (11-0, 3) [井上 拓真], takes on Rookie of the Year winner Marcus Smith (5-0-1, 5). Inoue has genuinely destructive since making his debut and has looked more than ready for a title fight, though doesn't seem to have found a champion willing to fight him, a win here however will force their hand and guarantee him a shot at the belt next year. Smith, a Japanese based American fighter, will be stepping up massively for this bout, but a win will give his career a huge shot in the arm and not only get him the title shot, but also the biggest win of his career, by far.
The final bout confirmed for this show will be at 154lbs and see 39 year old veteran Koshinmaru Saito (24-9-2, 13) [斉藤伸介] battle against the in form Hironobu Matsunaga (13-1, 7) [松永 宏信]. Saito, who has come up short regularly in title fights will likely know that a win here will open up one more shot, almost certainly a final shot, following losses in title bouts against the likes of Takeshi Inoue, Yuki Nonaka, Suyon Takayama and Akinori Watanabe. A win however is not assured for Saito and Matsunaga has proven his quality in recent wins against the likes of Hisao Narita, Sanosuke Sasaki, Je Ni Ma and Patomsuk Pathompothong.
In April 2017 we saw Koshinmaru Saito (24-9-2, 13) [斉藤 幸伸丸] come up short in a Japanese Light Middleweight title bout against the touted Takeshi Inoue [井上 岳志], in bout for the then vacant title. The veteran then took more than a year away from the ring before returning today and scored his first win in almost 2 years as he out pointed former OPBF Light Middleweight champion Ratchasi Sithsaithong (10-6, 7).
The Thai, who last fought just a few weeks ago when he lost to Akinori Watanabe, looked dangerous through out the bout but struggled to connect against the Japanese fighter. Saito, to his credit, fought smartly to begin with before gradually letting his shots go with more regularity.
By the middle rounds of the fight the Thai was beginning to look weary with Saito pressing more and landing more eye catching combinations. Ratchasi showed his toughness and looked for some bombs, but really looked out classed and it seemed that in the final round Saito was looking for a stoppage, though was unable to even land the shot to drop the Thai.
At the end of the 8 round contest there was no doubting the winner, with taking the decision with scores of 80-73, 79-75 and 78-74 and promising the fans he would go on to win a title, after having falled short in 7 previous title bouts.
Sadly for Ratchasi this is his third loss in 4 bouts, and it's hard to see where he goes following this performance.
(Image courteys of boxingnews.jp)
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