Earlier today at Korakuen Hall Japanese fans saw domestic Minimumweight champion Norihito Tanaka (19-7, 10) [田中教仁] record his first defense, as he clearly over-came Naoya Haruguchi (15-11, 6) [春口直也], and avenged one of his defeats.
The two had fought a couple of years ago, with Haruguchi taking a very controversial win over Tanaka. Since that loss Tanaka has rebuilt brilliantly and earlier this year we saw him win the Japanese title with a stoppage win against Shin Ono, in what was a career best win.
Today's performance saw Tanaka again show what he could do, Tanaka settled quickly, using his skills to get in and attack the body of Haruguchi. Haruguchi showed no fear, and seemed to have Tanaka cornered at one point in round 2, but the skills and experience of the champion showed as he escaped, neutralising the threat at the time. Not only did Tanaka's experience help him neutralise the challenger but he would counter him with ease, landing clean hurtful shots and he dropped his man in round 4, securing a big 10-8 round.
Although Haruguchi went down he would get back to his, though struggle to make any inroads into the fight. After 5 rounds he was a long way behind, 49-45, twice and 50-44. Tanaka knew there was still a threat so continued to tag the challenger, landing more body shots and counters, breaking the spirit of Haruguchi.
Going into the final few rounds the bout was a foregone conclusion and Tanaka began to cool the jets, letting Haruguchi take a few consolation rounds and close the scorecards up, though their no threat to the actual result.
After 10 rounds the scores were 96-93 and 97-92, twice.
Rumours have been circulating from Thailand that Tanaka may be next in line for WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin (53-0, 18) [วันเฮง ไก่ย่างห้าดาวยิม], with that bout being rumoured as a potential October fight, though their was no clear indication after the fight that that was next.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Tomorrow fight fans at Korakuen Hall will see Japanese Minimumweight champion Norihito Tanaka (18-7, 10) [田中教仁] make his first, and battle against Naoya Haruguchi (15-10, 6) [春口直也]. This bout will not only see Tanaka looking to only defend his belt but also avenge one of his more recent losses, a very controversial loss to Haruguchi in Kagoshima
Today, ahead of their bout, the two men took part in their weigh in and both fighters made the 105lbs weight limit for the contest.
Tanaka came in on the limit, weighing 105lbs for the bout, and sounded confident of picking up the win thanks to good sparring. He won the title earlier this year, stopping Shin Ono, and looked really good in that career defining win.
Haruguchi on the other hand was comfortably under the limit, weighing in at 104.3lbs, despite being the much taller and bigger looking man. He spoke about about the sparring he's had and seems driven to become the first Japanese champion from the Hashiguchi Boxing Gym.
Related - Tanaka to make first defense, battles Haruguchi
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Over the weekend it was revealed that WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin (53-0, 18) [วันเฮง ไก่ย่างห้าดาวยิม] may look to delay his mandatory defense against South African challenger Simpiwe Konkco (19-5-0-1, 7), pushing it back to the end of the year.
The reason for that was that Watanabe Gym were wanting to get Wanheng to fight in Japan, though at the time none of the Watanabe gym fighters looked like real options for the unbeaten Thai champion.
Sources are now reporting that it wouldn't actually be a Watanabe gym fighter challenging Wanheng but instead current Japanese champion Norihito Tanaka (18-7, 10) [田中教仁], with the bout being dependent on Tanaka successfully defending his title on June 13th against Naoya Haruguchi (15-10, 6) [春口直也].
The bout would be expected to take place in Tokyo, and according to sources Tanaka has stated he's scouted Wanheng and has seen flaws he feels he can take advantage of.
If a deal is going to be made it's likely to be made later this month, with Konkco being offered a sizable step aside payment, and could be Watanabe's way of clearing an opening for their young super stud Ginjiro Shigeoka (3-0, 2) [重岡銀次朗] to get a shot at the Japanese national title.
Last week we saw WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin (53-0, 18) [วันเฮง ไก่ย่างห้าดาวยิม] score his 11th defense, as he took a technical decision win over former WBO king Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-7-6, 7) [福原 辰弥].
That bout was supposed to be Wanheng's final defense before making a mandatory defense against South African challenger Simpiwe Konkco (19-5-0-1, 7), though Thai sources are now reporting that a deal may be in the works for the mandatory defense to be pushed back.
The sources, including SiamSport, have reported that a member of the Watanabe Gym was at ringside for the Menayothin Vs Fukuhara bout last week, and looking at getting Wanheng to fight in Japan in October in a voluntary defense, pushing back the mandatory. It also appears that Konkco's team are likely to allow the bout, for a step aside fee.
Whilst Wanehng fighting outside of Thailand would be big, it does leave to two different lines of thought. Firstly who would he be fighting? And secondly haven't we heard this before?
The Watanabe gym does have a number of Minimumweights, including world title challenger Masataka Taniguchi (11-3, 7) [谷口 将隆], former multi-time world title challenger Shin Ono (23-11-3, 6) [小野 心] and fast rising youngster Ginjiro Shigeoka (3-0, 2) [重岡銀次朗], none of whom would be suitable for an October bout with Wanheng. In theory the gym could be looking to work on behalf of another promoter, and perhaps looking to secure a shot for someone like Norihito Tanaka (18-7, 10) [田中教仁] or Tsubasa Koura (14-1, 9) [小浦 翼], but it would be a rather strange plan from the gym.
What needs to be remembered is that Wanheng was repeatedly linked to a fight in Japan last year, and nothing ever came of it. This could be the same as that, where plans don't come to fruition, or it could be a sign that Watanabe gym have some huge plans between now and October, and we may hear more about the in the coming weeks.
It should also be noted that Watanabe gym's Hiroto Kyoguchi (12-0, 9) [京口 紘人], the current WBA "super" Light Flyweight champion, will be defending his title against unbeaten Thai fighter Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart (11-0, 5), aka Tanawat Nakoon, on June 19th and we may hear more about these plans around there.
A week ago we reported that Japanese puncher Keita Obara (20-4-1, 18) [小原 佳太] had been added to the June 13th card at the Korakuen Hall, as part of a Diamond Glove card. At the time we were unsure on his opponent though we've now seen the other man in the ring being named.
Sadly the opponent is worse than we would have expected for the 32 year old Obara, who will be in the ring with Indonesian visitor Yosmar Kefi (9-10, 8), who has been stopped in his past 4 visits to Japan including a loss earlier this year to Koki Koshikawa.
Although Obara is best known for coming up short in his biggest bouts to date, including a loss in March to Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (16-0, 6) [Қудратилло Абдуқаҳҳоровдан], he is a good fighter and we suspect a bout against Kefi will do little to push him in the right direction.
Thankfully the card is far from a bout and will also feature Norihito Tanaka (18-7, 10) [田中教仁] making his first defense of the Japanese Minimumweight title, as he takes on Naoya Haruguchi (15-10, 6) [春口直也]. This doesn't look awesome on paper but it is a bout which will see Tanaka looking to avenge a 2017 loss and secure his first defense following a big January win over Shin Ono.
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