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)
In 2018 we've not seen a single bout for the Japanese Bantamweight title. Instead we've seen a string of cancellations, bouts falling apart at really late notice. We've had two contests pulled due to a fighter being unable to safely make weight and another cancelled due to an injury. It's a shame that the domestic crown has been left on ice almost all year, but thankfully that will change tomorrow.
It will change as fans get the chance to see Yuta Saito (10-9-3, 7) [齊藤裕太] face off with Eita Kikuchi (21-5-4, 8) [菊地永太] to crown a new champion. This bout comes more than a year after Ryo Akaho successfully defended the belt against Saito, in the last bout for the title.
Today Saito and Kikuchi took part in their weigh in, and to the relief of the everyone, both men made weight!
On the scales both men came in on the limit and both in pretty good shape. Of the two Saito probably looked the stronger man, having a more filled out frame, but Kikuchi certainly has the edge in height and reach and will potentially be the heavier man when they meet in the ring tomorrow.
The vacancy of the title, which has been vacant since January, is longest the title has ever gone without a champion and it's clear that both men have been given a huge opportunity to claim gold tomorrow when they face off.
Sadly neither man is a standout. Coming in to this Saito has lost his last 2 bouts and is without a win in almost 29 months whilst Kikuchi lost in a Japanese eliminator in his last bout, last October. But the title does need a champion and the winner will have a host of people wanting to challenge for the title, such as Keita Kurihara (12-5, 11) [栗原 慶太], Yusuke Suzuki (9-3, 6) [鈴木悠介], who actually beat Kikuchi last year in an eliminator before suffering an injury this year, and Kyosuke Sawada (12-2-1, 6) [澤田京介] who will all be chasing the belt in 2019.
For fans wanting to watch this bout but can't make their way to the brilliant Korakuen Hall it will be televised live on G+.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
On August 24th Dangan will be putting on Dangan 215, a show that really is a great one on paper for fans able to attend at the Korakuen Hall. Thankfully you won't need to be in Tokyo to watch the card live with Dangan's online service "Boxingraise" confirming they would be streaming the entire show live as part of their monthly subscription service.
The card's big selling point is the double title aspect of the card, with two Japanese title fights.
One of those will see youngster Riku Kano (13-3-1, 7) [加納 陸] challenge Japanese Minimumweight champion Shin Ono (22-9-3, 5) [小野 心]. For Ono the bout will service as his first defense, following his title winning effort against Ryoki Hirai earlier in the year whilst Kano will be getting his first Japanese title shot, though has previously won an interim OPBF title and a WBA Asia title. The winner of this will be seen as a potential world title challenger towards the end of the year, whilst the loser really will have a long way to climb back if they are to be considered a contender.
The other title bout will be for the Japanese interim Light Middleweight title, as Ryosuke Maruki (15-5-1, 10) [丸木 凌介] and Akinori Watanabe (36-7, 30) [渡部あきのり] meet in what could be an explosive and action packed contest. For Maruki the bout will be his third shot at the title, after having come up short against Yuki Nonaka and Nobuyuki Shindo, both in close contests, whilst Watanabe will be looking to add to his collection of career titles which saw him claim a number of belts at Welterweight.
Other bouts of note on this card will see Kenshin Oshima (3-1-1, 3) [大嶋剣心] taking on Joe Tanooka (15-4-4, 1) [田之岡条], in what is a fantastic match up, and a bout featuring the in form Kyosuke Sawada (11-2-1, 6) [澤田京介] taking on former Japanese title challenger Yosuke Fujihara (17-5, 4) [藤原陽介].
Although fight fans will need access to boxingraise it is a fantastic show for subscribers, and well worth the attention for those tempted to try the service.
Back in 2013 Japanese fighter Kyosuke Sawada (10-2-1, 5) [澤田京介] turned professional, with some big hopes. He was a B license fighter in his debut and and put in against former amateur standout Yusuke Suzuki, though was out pointed. He was then thrown in against Hiroaki Teshigawara and was quickly 0-2 as a professional.
Since that nightmare start Sawada has rebuilt, and earlier today he returned for his first bout of 2018, as he took on Hironori Miyake (8-6-1, 1) [三宅寛典] in Hiroshima, in what was the first Japanese show to take place in West Japan this year.
The talented Sawada found his timing early on, going in and out whilst landing right hands to the body and jabs up top. It wasn'tuntil the middled rounds that Miyake managed to have some success, landing his left hook, but his lack of accuracy was telling with Sawada sticking to his gameplan and continuing to box at range.
Although Miyake was the home fighter, and had some moments of success, there was little disagreement with who had won the fight, and Sawada took the decision with scores of 80-74, 78-75 and 77-75 all in his favour.
Coming into this bout Sawada was ranked #13 by the JBC at Bantamweight though may see his ranking improve when the JBC next release their rankings.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
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