Earlier this month we reported that the Japanese Featherweight title had become vacant, with Taiki Minamoto (16-5-1, 13) [源大輝] giving up the title to move up in weight following his draw with Reiya Abe (19-2-1, 9) [阿部 麗也]. That left us wondering who would be fighting who to fill the vacancy.
Today we were informed that Abe would be taking on the in form Ryo Sagawa (7-1, 4) [佐川遼] for the vacant title, and better than just who we now know the where and when of this excellent match up, with the bout taking place at Korakuen Hall on September 13th.
Sharp shooting Abe is unbeaten in his last 12 bouts, dating back more than 4 years, with notable wins over the likes of Tsuyoshi Tameda, Joe Noynay, Satoshi Hosono, Ryo Hino and Daisuke Sugita and the draw with Minamoto from back in May. He's excellent southpaw, who moves around the round well, fires off sharp and hurtful southpaw left hands and controls the ring and tempo excellently, often counter punching and sucking the life out of opponents with accurate shots. Although not a pure puncher he does hit much harder than his record suggests, and is a very smart fighter.
Although less experience Sagawa has gone on excellent run of his own. He lost his second professional bout, being stopped in 2 rounds by Retsu Kosaka, but has since scored 6 wins in a row including wins over Junki Sasaki, Ryo Matsumoto, Shingo Kawamura and Al Toyogon. Like Abe he has proven to be a very skilled fighter, though has also shown he can brawl when he needs to, as he did against Toyogon, and can really press the fight when he's behind.
At the moment no other details of the September card are available, but this is an excellent match up and a fantastic national title fight.
Interestingly Watanabe may find himself moving into a Japanese title eliminator himself, with the former Featherweight champion now being ranked #3 by the JBC at Super Featherweight, with Kazuhiro Nishitani (20-4-1, 12) [西谷和宏] being ranked #1. That is a bout seems to be very possible for later in the year. The reason this bout is being spoken about is that the #2 ranked fighter Shuya Masaki (12-1, 5) [正木脩也] is from the same gym as the current champion Masaru Sueyoshi (19-1-1, 11) [末吉 大]
Back on May 1st we saw a thrilling Japanese Featherweight title bout, as defending champion Taiki Minamoto (16-5-1, 13) [源大輝] just retained his title, fighting to a draw with Reiya Abe (19-2-1, 9) [阿部 麗也]. After the bout their was talk about a rematch, and talk about Minamoto potentially moving up. We'll be honest and admit we wanted to see a rematch, the first really was that good, though today the hope of a rematch was ended.
The decision has been made by Minamoto to abandon the division and begin campaigning at Super Featherweight, due to issues making the 126lb weight limit. Whilst that does ruin hope of a rematch it's not a bad thing for fans who are now set to get another hard hitting in the already stacked Japanese Super Featherweight picture and a number of potentially interesting bouts to fill the title void at Featherweight.
For the vacant title we would expect to see Abe fighting for the belt again next, with likely opponent being highly ranked by the JBC. The #2 ranked fighter, behind Abe, is former world title challenger Genesis Servania (32-2, 15) and we would certainly expect that to be an amazing match up. Others ranked highly by the JBC include Ryo Hino (13-1-2, 8) [日野僚], who would look to avenge a 2015 loss to Abe, the in form Ryo Sagawa (7-1, 4) [佐川遼], former world title challenger Hiroshige Osawa (35-5-4, 21) [大沢宏晋] and super talented youngster Hinata Maruta (9-1-1, 7) [丸田陽七太]. Any of those 5 possible foes against Abe would be great.
With Minamoto moving up he will find himself linked to fights against the likes of Japanese champion Masaru Sueyoshi (19-1-1, 11) [末吉 大] and former world champion Masayuki Ito (25-2-1, 13) [伊藤 雅雪], among others. Though, for now,m he'd be unable to challenge for the OPBF title held by Watanabe gym stablemate Hironori Mishiro (7-0-1, 2) [三代大訓], who defends that title in July.
Whilst it's obviously a shame we won't see Abe and Minamoto run it back with a rematch, the move up in weight for Minamoto is better for his health, and really changes the dynamic on the Japanese scene at both Featherweight and Super Featherweight.
Later today we see two huge names clash in the US, with Saul "Canelo" Alvarez battles Danny Jacobs in a monster Middleweight clash. For many fans that is the bout they have marked as being the fight of the weekend, the must watch fight if you will. For us however attention turned to the Philippines as local fighter Al Toyogon (10-3-1, 6) looked to defend his WBC Asian Boxing Council silver Super Featherweight title against Japanese challenger Ryo Sagawa (7-1, 4) [佐川遼].
The bout won't have got much attention outside of hardcore Asian fight fans, but those who follow the Asian scene knew this bout would be something worth watching, and as it was available for free on ESPN5's youtube channel, it was something that everyone should have tried to catch live.
We thought it would be good a good bout, but it really exceeded our expectations, giving us a brilliant 12 rounds of action and over delivered on our hopes.
Toyogon started well, winning the opening round with power shots and making the most of his jab, before Sagawa began to find his range in round 2, a landing solid power shots on a regular basis. Toyogon realised he had to up the ante the following round and won round 3, as he put Sagawa under pressure and landed combinations on the Japanese fighter. It seemed as if Sagawa was going to come undone, much like he had Retsu Kosaka 2 years ago, but he gritted it out, despite some huge hooks from Toyogon. Toyogon would continue to build his momentum in round 4, as he again put Sagawa under pressure with his wide, slingy shots, though Sagawa did have some moments in the round and ended it in the ascendancy.
After 4 rounds the scores were announced due to the WBC open scoring. Toyogon was leading 40-36 on card, from a judge who seemingly had his score-card marked before the fight began, another had it 39-37 to the local, which was understandable and the third judge had it even 36-36.
Knowing he was behind Sagawa really upped the ante in the middle rounds, sweeping rounds 5 through 8 with his clean accurate punching and intense aggression. He was landing right hand at will, switching between head and body, and really mixing up his shots well. He was predictable in a way, with almost everything coming from his right hand, but he varied his majorly 1-handed attacked really well, looping shots around the guard, nailing them straight, whipping them into the body. When he did use his jab Sagawa did manage to back up Toyogon, but it really was a punch that was thrown in limited number compared to his overhand right.
Sagawa's domination of the middle 4 rounds saw him really turning things over on the score cards. The judge who had had the bout a shut out after 4 rounds had it even at 76-76, with the other two judges now favouring Sagawa, 77-75 and 78-74.
With Toyogon down he could sense his title was slipping away, and he came out with more aggression in round 9, trying to push Sagawa backwards. It was a great effort, but he was being tagged, and lacked the intensity to fight for any prolonged period of time, letting Sagawa continue his control. The intensity from Sagawa was finally found in round 10, his best round since the 4th, as he took the fight to Sagawa, finally forcing his pace on the bout. It was a great effort and a gutsy round from the Filipino, but he didn't really make a clear case to take the round, despite a huge effort. The effort from Toyogon was repeated again in round 11, but by the end of the round he had ran out of steam and didn't have the chance to recover it before the final round, which was a huge one for Sagawa. The Japanese fighter, likely expecting funny business on the scorecards, went all out looking for a stoppage, hurting Toyogon numerous times, unloading on the Filipino, who had to rely on his resilience and toughness to see out the final moments.
Although Sagawa seemed to have done more than enough to win there was always a worry of something strange happening with the scorecards, especially after one judge failed to give him round 2. Thankfully however the scores all made sense, with Sagawa getting the unanimous decision, courtesy of scorecards reading 116-112, 115-113 and 117-111.
Tomorrow we'll see Ryo Sagawa (6-1, 4) [佐川遼] challenge Filipino youngster Al Toyogon (10-2-1, 6) in a bout for Toyogon's WBC Asian Boxing Council silver Super Featherweight title, which he will be defending for the second time, following his title victory last September.
Today the two men took part in their weigh in and both men looked great on the scales with both making weight, with real ease. In fact the limit wasn't even threatened by either man who was comfortably made the limit.
Sagawa came in at 129lbs on the scales, the heaviest of his career, whilst Toyogon was 128lbs.
It's interesting how Sagawa looked the much, much bigger man at the weigh in, given that he has made his name at Featherweight and was moving up for this bout, whilst Toyogon has fought as high as Lightweight, where he took a win over Naotoshi Nakatani in February 2018.
For fans wanting to watch this bout it will be aired on ESPN5 and should be available to watch legally worldwide.
Related - Toyogon and Sagawa battle for regional title!
In early May Japanese Super Featherweight champion Masaru Sueyoshi (18-1-1, 11) [末吉 大] will defend his title against mandatory challenger Ken Osato (15-2-1, 4) [大里拳], in the second meeting between the two men as part of the Champion Carnival.
Sadly the show won't be televised live, with broadcaster G+ recently revealing the show will not be televised until the Wednesday after the show takes place.
The first airing of the card will take place on at 21:30 on Wednesday May 8th, with a rebroadcast on May 29th, at 20:00, not on Saturday, when the bouts take place.
Whilst this is disappointing it is worth nothing that ESPN5 in the Philippines will be showing a card on Saturday whilst this show actually takes place, and it's good to see they won't be clashing for those who will be wanting to stream the cards.
That ESPN5 card, for those interested, will be headlined by Ryo Sagawa (6-1, 4) [佐川遼] challenging Filipino youngster Al Toyogon (10-2-1, 6) in a bout for the WBC Asian Boxing Council silver Super Featherweight title, and may turn out to actually be a better bout than the Sueyoshi Vs Osato match up.
Sueyoshi looks to over-come Osato again! (Preview)
Toyogon and Sagawa battle for regional title! (Preview)
News! We try and give you the most interesting news stories from the Asian boxing world!