Earlier today we were informed that former Japanese Lightweight champion Kota Tokunaga (17-3, 11) [徳永 幸大] had officially retired, ending several months of rumour.
The likeable Hyogo fighter had suggested retirement immediately after losing his title, back in April to Nihito Arakawa, though hadn't gone as far as to officially call it quits until yesterday when he confirmed that that was him done as an active fighter. Despite being retired he was, and will, continue to support good friend and former gym mate Shohei Omori, who he was cheering on yesterday against Edgar Jimenez.
At the moment it's unclear what Tokunaga, who was known as the "Hitman of Kyoto", will do though it did seem like his love of training and fighting had been on the wane going into the bout with Arakawa earlier this year.
Earlier today Japanese fans in Kyoto saw the national title change hands as Nihito Arakawa (27-6-1, 16) [荒川 仁人] reclaimed the title that he held back in 2010/2011, with a decision victory over Kyoto local Kota Tokunaga (17-2, 11) [徳永 幸大] .
The bout was Tokunaga's third defense and although he had been unbeaten in 9 bouts coming in to this one it was viewed as a step up in class. It was a step up that his team would have felt confident in, but one that saw him face a man who refuses to back down and always comes to fight.
The desire of the challenger was seen very early on as he dropped Tokunaga in the early stages, and again in round 5. Those knockdowns assured Arakawa the lead on the cards after 5 rounds, with the judges scoring the contest 47-46, 48-46 and 48-45 at the mid way point.
Tokunaga, to his credit, refused to just be beaten and tried fighting back in the second half, having a very good round 8 in particular, but it seemed that no matter what he did he couldn't hurt Arakawa or turn the fight around.
Despite the good round 8 Tokunaga was the clear loser, with the cards all judging Arakawa the winner with scores of 96-94,95-93 and 96-92.
The win for Arakawa completes a remarkable comeback to form for a man who's career looked essentially over just 10 months ago, after he suffered a 4th loss in 5 bouts. The move to Watanabe that he made last year has really revitalised his career. Notably this is the first "big" win for a Watanabe gym fighter in recent months following a run of high profile losses on the domestic or regional scene, including losses for Hikaru Nishida, Yusaku Kuga, Rikiya Fukuhara and Shin Ono. For Tokunaga however the loss is a major set back for the exciting Woz gym fighter.
(Image courtesy of daily.co.jp)
The past few weeks has seen fans in Tokyo enjoying a lot of boxing, with numerous notable fighters taking place at the ever active Korakuen Hall. Tomorrow however the attention shifts from Tokyo to Kyoto where fans will get the chance to see an intriguing Japanese Lightweight title clash and the return of a promising youngster, looking to bounce back from his first defeat.
The Lightweight title clash will see reigning champion Kota Tokunaga (17-2, 11) [徳永 幸大] battle against former champion Nihito Arakawa (26-6-1, 16) [荒川 仁人] in a match up that looks genuinely brilliant, and is one of the 2016 Champion Carnival bouts.
Today the two men made weight for the bout at a very respectful weigh in, that saw both men showing genuine respect to each other.
On the scales both men were around 134.5lbs, well under the limit.
For Tokunaga the bout will be the 3rd defense of the title, whilst Arakawa will be trying to become a 2-time champion following a reign several years ago. Given the styles of the two men they really could be something very fun for the Kyoto fans.
On the undercard Japanese youngster Shohei Omori (15-1, 10) [大森 将平] will face Indosian Espinos Sabu (15-8-2, 8), in what will be Omori's first bout since his loss last year to Marlon Tapales in a WBO world title eliminator. Coming in to this bout he seems to be more aware that he needs to use his defense to win, rather than just his offensive fire power.
On the scales Omori was under the Bantamweight limit, weigh in at 117.5lbs whilst Sabu was bang on the limit at 118lbs.
Nihito Arakawa faces Tokunaga in attempt to reclaim Japanese crown
(Image courtesy of Kota Tokunaga's facebook)
The Lightweight division has been a peculiar division in recent years. It's a competitive one, especially now that Terrence Crawford has left it, but it's one that lacks star value and there are very few “known” names in it, with the vulnerable Jorge Linares being perhaps the division's most well established fighter.
Despite the lack of “names” the division does throw up some interesting bouts and one of those is the 2016 Champion Carnival bout between reigning Japanese champion Kota Tokunaga (17-2, 11) [徳永 幸大] and former champion Nihito Arakawa (26-6-1, 16) [荒川 仁人], which is set for April 16th at the Shimazu Arena in Kyoto.
For the 26 year old Tokunaga the bout will be his third defense of the title he won at last year's Champion Carnival, when he stopped Yuya Sugizaki in 8 rounds. Following that win Tokunaga has beaten Yuhei Suzuki, pulling a victory from the jaws of defeat with a 10th round TKO win, and Kazuhiro Nishitani, claiming a narrow decision win over Nishitani. Those wins have been his best though he also holds wins over Yuki Miyoshi, avenging his first loss, and Ryo Nakajima and his only unavenged loss cam, more than 3 years ago against Ronald Pontillas.
Although viewed as chinny, given that he has twice been stopped inside a round, Tokunaga has improved since his stoppage losses and looks like he has learned to fight in a manner that protects his chin. He's more defensively aware than he was earlier in his career and, given his huge frame for a Lightweight, he's managed to develop an excellent jab that allows him to fight from range relatively risk free.
Whilst we could describe Tokunaga as “chinny” that description could never be applied to 34 year old challenge Arakawa, who is regarded as one of the toughest fighters on the sport today. The southpaw from Tokyo showed that toughness on the international stage back in 2013, when he took a 12 round shellacking from Omar Figueroa, and refused to back down. That bout, a clear contender for the 2013 FOTY, saw Arakawa endearing himself to American fans who were won over by his insane will to win.
Although Arakawa did endear himself to American fans back in 2013 he only returned there once, suffering a wide decision loss to Jorge Linares in 2013. Since then he has gone 2-2, scoring wins over Akihiro Kondo and Yuya Sugizaki, and suffering losses to Yoshitaka Kato and Rikki Naito, both in competitive bouts. What makes it so difficult to beat Arakawa is his will to win and his toughness, he has an incredible amount of energy and always comes to fight, making him a real night mare.
At the moment the under-card for this bout hasn't been decided but this should prove to be an excellent main event and will see a determined challenger face a talented and improving champion. This really could be the stand out bout from the coming Champion Carnival bouts.
For those who haven't seen, or in the case of Arakawa those who have forgotten him, we have included of both below.
Earlier today we saw the boxing world turn it's attention to Kyoto where WOZ boxing put on a intriguing double header. One of those "headers" was a WBO Bantamweight world title eliminator between Shohei Omori and Marlon Tapales, which we won't spoil here, whilst the other was a Japanese Lightweight title bout between defending champion Kota Tokunaga (17-2, 11) and first time title challenger Kazuhiro Nishitani (15-4-1, 7).
Tokunaga won the title earlier this year, when he stopped Yuya Sugizaki in 8 rounds, back in April, following that he scored a last round TKI over Yuhei Suzuki to claim a come from behind victory in his first defense.
Today Tokunaga was again taken close to the bring, as Nishitani put in a brilliant effort.
Tokunaga, the taller and longer man, got off to a good start using his boxing and physical advantages well. His jab found a home almost immediately and his right hand was also on target. Nishitani howver began to time the champion, slipping shots and landing hard counters as Tokunaga's page began to drop. After 5 rounds the bout was all but even with the cards reading 48-48, twice, and 48-47 to Nishitani.
Knowing his reign was being threatened Tokunaga found a new gear, landing his jabs and straights again. Nishitani answered in kind with a solid shot that seemed to have Tokunaga worried for a few moments. Tokunaga was again worried in the final round as Nishitani threw bomb after bomb looking to connect on the questionable chin of Nishitani, who saw off the storm and remained upright.
The work of the champion in the second half of the fight had been enough to net him the victory, with scores of 96-95 and 97-94, twice, however he seemed unsure of his own performance. Notably Tokunaga suggested he wanted to fight for the OPBF title in 2016, that would mean a bout with Masayoshi Nakatani in what would be a very interesting bout, but one where Tokunaga would be viewed as a clear under-dog.
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