The first of those bouts was a non-title affair between the heavy handed "KO King" Masao Nakamura (18-3, 18) and tough Filipino Rey Labao (27-6, 17). Nakamura, a former OPBF Super Featherweight champion, came into this bout following a decision loss to Masayuki Ito and it seemed that that loss played on his mind slightly before he was dropped hard by Labao in the opening round. The Japanese fighter showed his heart by getting up but also showed his immaturity as a fighter as he tried to fight back despite being hurt. This resulted in a second knockdown and the only thing that stopped him from suffering an opening stoppage was the bell which came at just the right time. Sadly for Nakamura however it was little more than a temporary respite and Labao needed just 78 seconds of round 2 to finish off the Japanese fighter.
Following the win for Labao fans then got the main event of the evening, a Japanese Light Middleweight title fight between defending champion, and local hero, Yuki Nonaka (27-8-2, 9) and former Light Middleweight unified champion Charlie Ota (24-3-1, 16). The bout was, on paper, a really interesting one though one that we suspect Ota would win based on his aggressive style and his ability to rush fighters, something we thought would work against the smooth boxing of Nonaka. In the ring it proved to be just as interesting.
After 5 rounds there was little to separate the men who had traded shots in a compelling start to the fight. The competitiveness had seen the judges unable to really split the men with the open scoring reading 49-46 to Nonaka, 48-47 to Ota and 48-48, a draw. Had the bout ended there it would have been a split decision draw and few would have complained.
Going into second half of the fight both men knew all was to play for and it showed as the continued to trade shots in short exchanges and battle for ring position with Ota continually trying to cut the distance whilst Nonaka tried to make the most of his notable height and reach advantages. Unfortunately for the challenger weren't as impressed by his offensive charge as they were by Nonaka's accurate shots which essentially won him the bout with scores of 97-93 and 96-95, whilst the third judge had it to Ota by a score of 96-95.
After the bout Nonaka said he would like to move towards a world title bout in 2015 and seemed to indicate that he wanted to fight former national champion Takayuki Hosokawa (26-10-3, 9), who recently won the IBF Asia Light Middleweight title. At the moment Hosokawa is ranked in the top 10 by the IBF and it's clear that Nonaka views that as his best chance of being moved towards a world title fight. For Ota this is a second successive setback though the performance was a solid one and he can take a lot of heart from the bout, despite losing what was a razor thin decision to a very talented opponent.
(Image, of Nonaka celebrating his win, courtesy of the blog of Takashi Edagawa)