Earlier this year we saw Ryoki Hirai (10-6-1, 4) [平井亮輝] come up short in a Japanese Minimumweight title fight, suffering a decision loss to Shin Ono [小野 心]. Today Hirai returned to the ring for the first time since that loss, and unfortunately for him it wouldn't be a triumph return.
The former national title challenger, who carried a Japanese and WBO Asia Pacific ranking into today's bout, was up against fellow Japanese fighter Yuto Takahashi (9-4, 4) [高橋悠斗] and it seemed like the hunger and desire of Takahashi was too much for Hirai.
Takahashi fought well behind his jab early on, though Hirai kept with him well with some good body shots. In the middle rounds however Takahashi began to press forward, and landed his own body shots. Those took a toll on Hirai who seemed to slow down and was unable to trade blows with Takahashi who did enough to convince all 3 judges that he deserved the win, with scores of 77-76, twice, and 78-75.
The loss for Hirai sees him going 0-2 so far this year, following a good 5 fight winning run that had included notable victories over Takuma Sakae and Ryoya Ikema. As for Takahashi the win sees him rebounding from a loss to former world champion Tatsuya Fukuhara.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
At the turn of the year Reiya Konishi [小西伶弥] vacated the Japanese Minimumweight title leaving it vacant for the 2018 Champion carnival. The top two ranked fighters, Ryoki Hirai (10-5-1, 4) [平井亮輝] and Shin Ono (22-9-3, 5) [小野 心], fought to fill that vacancy.
The man coming out on top was the more experienced Ono who showed his experience through out the fight to finally claim a Japanese title, in what was his 4th shout at the title.
The Watanabe gym fighter controlled the bout for the most part by using his technical skills, boxing well behind his southopaw straight and his body shots and moving smartly. Hiraim the younger man, was looking to box his way in behind his jab, but struggled to ever control the distance. Hirai had moments in those early stages, enough to arguably be even, but looked like he was working much harder for less success than Ono.
After 5 rounds one judge had managed to have Hirai in the lead whilst the other two had Ono in the lead as the scores were made public. That was as close as it ever really got for the local fighter, with Ono essentially controlling the second half as he stepped uo the pace and swept all the rounds on 2 of the judges score cards, losing just a single round on the other card. The only thing that didn't go for Ono was a point deduction in round 8 for headclashes.
At the end of the bout there was no doubting the winner, with Ono getting the decision thanks to scores of 97-94, 97-92 and an awfully close 96-95. The win sees him winning a Japanese title 5 years after he won the OPBF Light Flyweight title and it's clear that he was a man who knew this would be his last chance. He pulled out one of the best performances of his career and at 35 years old will maybe have 1 more shot at a world title. For Hirai the loss will be a hard pill to take. He was very complimentary of Ono, admitting that Ono was better in every area, but the loss does end his 5 fight winning streak, and will be a major set back for the man from Hyogo.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
A few months ago Reiya Konishi [小西伶弥] vacated the Japanese Minimumweight title, to pursue a dream of becoming a world champion. That vacancy will be filled later tomorrow when Ryoki Hirai (10-4-1, 4) [平井亮輝] and Shin Ono (21-9-3, 5) [小野 心] battle for the title in a Champion Carnival bout.
Today the two men took part in their weigh in for the bout, and both looked in great shape whilst making weight for the contest.
On the scales both men came in at 104.5lbs, well under the limited.
The 27 year old Hirai was the lightest he's been in year, having been 104.75 or highter in every fight since the start of 2013. Despite this he's not much lighter than he has been, and he's regularly been 105lbs. Saying that however he has dipped his toes as high as Super Flyweight and has clearly not been suited to the higher weights. Coming in to this bout he's riding a good 5 fight winning run including notabe wins over Takumi Sakae and Ryoya Ikema
Ono is a 2-time world title challenger, having fought the likes of Katsunari Takayama and Knockout CP Freshmart. At the age 35 this is likely to be his last big fight and he's got himself into great shape following set backs at domestic level against Kenichi Horikawa, Tatsuya Fukuhara and the aforementioned Konishi. As with Hirai he's lighter than he's been in years and has clearly done all he can to get into the shape of his life for this bout.
Related-Hirai and Ono face off to crown new champion!
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
One of the key parts of the Japanese boxing calendar is the Champion Carnival, which takes place over the first 6 months of the year and sees the national champions defending their titles against their mandatory challengers.
Today we saw the bouts being announced for the 2018 Champion Carnival at a huge press confeence, and as with every year, there were some brilliant bouts being announced.
At Minimumweight we'll see Ryoki Hirai (10-4-1, 4) [平井亮輝] and Shin Ono (21-9-3, 5) [小野 心] battle for the vacant title, which was given up by Reiya Konishi (15-0, 5) [小西伶弥] a few days ago. The bout will be Hirai's first title bout, whilst the experienced Ono will be getting his 4th shot at a Japanese title, having previously won an OPBF title and having several world title bouts. This bout will take place in Kobe on April 22nd and should be a very, very good match up.
The Light Flyweight bout will see defending champion Tetsuya Hisada (30-9-2, 19) [久田 哲也] make his 3rd defense of the title, as he takes on Koji Itagaki (18-11-3, 7) [板垣幸司]. This looks like a mismatch on paper, but it will be Itagaki's first, and likely last, shot at a domestic title and he sounded determined and confident at today's event. This contest has been pencilled in for April 19th and will take place in Osaka.
Although a number of bouts were announced today, some were already known about. One such bout was the Flyweight contest, which will see Masayuki Kuroda (28-7-3, 16) [黒田 雅之] defending his title against the exciting Katsunori Nagamine (14-1-1, 10) [長嶺克則. This will be Kuroda's third defense of the title, whilst Nagamine will be having his first challenge, and the bout really does have the potential to be a real thriller. As mentioned this bout was already known about, and will take place on March 3rd, as previously reported.
At Super Flyweight we'll be getting a rematch between Hiroyuki Kudaka (25-17-2, 11) [久高寛之] and Go Onaga (28-3-4, 19) [翁長 吾央], who face off following a technical draw in December. The two men will be fighting for the currently vacant title, which was given up by Ryuichi Funai (29-7, 20) [船井 龍一] earlier this week. Sadly at the time of writing this bout has no venue, or set date, but seems likely to be fought in Tokyo on either a Dangan show or an Ohashi one, potentially in April or May.
Interestingly the first Champion Carnival bout comes in just over a week's time, as Ryo Akaho (31-2-2, 20) [赤穂 亮] defends his Bantamweight title against Yusuke Suzuki (9-3, 6) [鈴木悠介] at the Korakuen Hall on January 20th, in a bout set to be televised on G+. For Akaho the bout willbe his second defense, whilst Suzuki gets his first title fight, in what looks like a really exciting way to kick off the 2018 Champion Carnival, and should be a very brutal bout.
At Super Bantamweight we'll see Ryo Kosaka (15-3-1, 7) [小坂遼] challenging champion Yusaka Kuga (15-2-1, 10) [久我勇作], with Kosaka essentially filling in for the injured Yasutaka Ishimoto (31-9, 9) [石本康隆]. The bout is a decent looking one, but it's hard to not expect a win for the champion, who has looked fantastic in a number of recent contests, and could well find himself in the world title mix later this year. This bout is scheduled for March 27th at the Korakuen Hall.
Featherweight champion Takenori Ohashi (15-4-2, 10) [大橋健典] will look to build from his dramatic 2017 win over Kosuke Saka (16-4, 13) [坂晃典] as he defends his title against fellow puncher Taiki Minamoto (14-5, 11) [源大輝]. This bout promises to be explosive, even if both are a bit crude, and Ohashi will be hoping to avoid a similar finish to his title win, where Saka turned away thinking he had heard the bell, and got iced by Ohashi in the final seconds of the round. These two will meet on April 7th at the Korakuen Hall.
In early February we'll see Ken Osato (13-1-1, 4) [大里拳] challenge Super Featherweight champion Masaru Sueyoshi (16-1, 10) [末吉 大]. For Sueyoshi this will be his first defense whilst Osato looks to build on his big 2017 win over Satoru Sugita (13-5-1, 8) [杉田聖]. The talented Sueyoshi has frustrated at times, but does look class when he gets going and should be favoured here for the February 3rd bout, but Osato is in good form and could easily spring the upset, if Sueyoshi is anything less than his best.
At Lightweight we'll see the very talented Shuichiro Yoshino (6-0, 4) [吉野修一郎] defending his title, for the first time, against Masaki Saito (14-12-6, 5) [斉藤正樹]. Yoshino has really shined so far in his short career and looks to be a star of the future for Japanese boxing, though will obviously need to get his first defense under his belt before becoming a star. Saito looks like a limited challenger, though is a very experienced fighter and should be able to give Yoshino some questions. This bout will be taking place on February 8th at the Korakuen Hall.
The Light Welterweight contests looks set to be one of the most exciting, as Valentine Hosokawa (22-6-3, 9) [細川バレンタイン] makes his first defense, and takes on the heavy handed Vladimir Baez (24-3-2-22). This bout looks likely to be a war, and whilst Baez will be the favourite, despite being the challenger, we can't rule out the champion, who hs long been under-rated. Like many this contest will take place at the Korakuen Hall and is set for May 7th.
One of the most explosive bouts on paper will see Welterweight champion Toshio Arikawa (15-4, 13) [有川 稔男] taking on fellow puncher Ryota Yada (14-4, 11) [矢田良太]. The contest might not have a future world champion or potential star in it, but given the power of both men this should be a shoot out, and could be something fvery, very special for the fans, who will be in the Korakuen Hall on April 16th.
At Light Middleweight we'll see triple crown winner Takeshi Inoue (12-0-1, 7) [井上 岳志] take on former Welterweight champion Nobuyuki Shindo (19-4-1, 8) [新藤寛之] in what should be a really good test for Inoue, who will be lookibg at bigger and better things in 2018. Shindo's reign at Welterweight was a short one, and whilst he will be hoping to become a 2-weight champion he is really up against it here against the fantastic Inoue. This bout is set to take place on April 26th at the Korakuen Hall.
The heaviest weight being contested at this year's Champion Carnival is Middleweight, and it may well end up being the best of the bouts, as March 3rd plays host to a contest between defending champion Hikaru Nishida (17-8-1, 8) [西田 光] and the heavy handed Kazuto Takesako (7-0, 7) [竹迫司登]. Nishida is a freakishly strong fighter who brings a lot of pressure, and whilst he can be out boxed he is a tough and aggressive nightmare,. Takesako on the other hand is a really brutish puncher and this will be something very special.
The winners of the bouts will of course be the defending champion, and will also be in the running for a number of prizes, including a notable award for being crowned the MVP of the Champion Carnival, or winning either the Skill or Battle awards.
(Photographs courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Last December fight fans saw Ryuichi Funai (29-7, 20) [船井 龍一] record his second defense of the Japanese Super Flyweight title, with a quick win over the over-matched Shota Kawaguchi (21-9-1, 9) [川口勝太]. Today, only a few weeks later, we saw the announcement that Funai had now vacated the title, rather than take part in the 2018 Champion Carnival. Becoming the second fighter to vacate a Japanese belt already this year, following former Minimumweight champion Reiya Konishi (15-0, 5) [小西伶弥] vacating just a couple of days ago.
Ranked in the top 15 by both the WBA and the IBF it would seem likely that Funai would be targetting a world title fight later in the year, and has likely vacated his national title to focus on getting a world titlle fight, potentially against WBA champion Kal Yafai.
Due to the decision by both Funai and Konishi it does seem like the 2018 Champion Carnival is likely to be hit by some changes, though in some ways that could make things a bit more interesting than they probably would have been. Though those Champion carnival bouts are yet to be confirmed.
From what we understand there is a push for Konishi's vacancy to be filled by a show down between Ryoki Hirai (10-4-1, 4) [平井亮輝] and Shin Ono (21-9-3, 5) [小野 心]. This bout is likely to be confirmed shortly for the title. At Super Flyweight Hiroyuki Kudaka (25-17-2, 11) [久高寛之] will rematch Go Onaga (28-3-4, 19) [翁長 吾央], and it's so far unclear whether this will be for the vacant title or not, which Kudaka did earn the rights fo fight for at the end of 2017 courtesy of a technical draw with Onaga in a Japanese title eliminator.
(Image courtesy of Watanabe Gym)
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