Japanese fighter Ryuji Hara (23-2, 14) [原隆二] was supposed to be set for a WBO Light Flyweight title fight against champion Angel Acosta (19-1, 19) in February, though according to Puerto Rican website "The Gondol" that bout is now off.
The once highly touted Hara had struggled with injuries over the last few years, injuries that had kept him out of the ring through 2018 and had forced other bouts of inactivity. The Gondol have reported that those injuries have forced his planned February bout to be cancelled, and made Hara to walk away from the sport and into retirement.
Hara had planned to face Acosta last year before injuries forced the bout to be cancelled. He recovered from those injuries but has apparently been injured again in training, just days after beginning his preparation to face Acosta.
Due to the cancellation of the bout Acosta is expected to have voluntary defense in early 2019, before a potential mandatory, with Filipino puncher Jonathan Taconing (28-3-1, 22) expected to be elevated to the #2 ranking in the new year.
The article from The Gondol can be read here, in Spanish.
(Image courtesy of the Ohashi Gym)
Reliable Puerto Rican source thegondol has reported that a deal is in place for WBO Light Flyweight champion Angel Acosta (19-1, 19) and to defend his title against mandatory challenger Ryuji Hara (23-2, 14) [原隆二] in February.
The date hasn't been confirmed yet though the bout will take place at the Puerto Rico Convention Center, according to Héctor Soto, the promoter of the Miguel Cotto Promotions.
The bout has been in the works for some time, having originally been set for April this year before Hara suffered an injury forcing the bout to be cancelled and allowing Acosta to make defenses against Carlos Buitrago and Abraham Rodriguez.
Soto is quoted in Thegondol as saying that contracts were signed and that a visa had been sorted for Hara, suggesting that the bout is totally sorted and ready to be formerly announced in the coming weeks. It also feels like they are wanting to set everything up with a lot of time to spare just to make sure that if Hara pulls out they have time to get a replacement opponent.
It's worth noting that Hara hasn't been in the ring since October 2017, due in part to injuries, and he is over 3 years removed from facing of name value, having fought Katsunari Takayama in an IBF world title fight back in September 2015. Since Hara last fought we've seen Acosta go 3-0 (3), claiming and defending the WBO title twice and backing back brilliantly from his sole defeat to Kosei Tanaka in May 2017.
The article in thegondol mentioning this bout can be read here.
Last year we saw Japan's Hiroto Kyoguchi (9-0, 7) [京口 紘人] claimn the IBF Minimumweight title with a hard fought win over Mexican fighter Jose Argumedo (20-4-1, 12). We have since seen Kyoguchi take care of, the then mandatory, Carlos Buitrago (30-3-1-1, 17) in his first defense.
It's fair to say that 2018 promises a lot from the champion, but it's not all about him, and the IBF recently sent a letter to the teams of two of their highest ranked fighters to negotiate an eliminator for the #1 place, and put themselves in the mandatory position to face Kyoguchi later in the year.
The two fighters that this relates to are former chamoion Argumedo and rising Filipino youngster Mark Anthony Barriga (8-0, 1), who are both referred to as the "2 highest ranked available contenders" in the division.
At the time of writing Barriga is ranked #4 by the IBF and Argumedo #7. With places #1 and #2 both being vacant, #3 is Ryuji Hara (23-2, 14) [原隆二] who is set to get a WBO world title fight at Light Flyweight, #5 is former Japanese Minimumweight champion Reiya Konishi (15-0, 5) [小西伶弥] who has stated his intent is to move up in weight and #6 is OPBF champion Tsubasa Koura (11-0, 8) [小浦 翼]. Interestingly whilst plans for Hara and Konishi have been spoken about it's interesting that Koura is regarded as "unavailable", suggesting that he has something in the pipe line, a potential world title fight of his own maybe?
For Barriga the bout is a huge step up. The 24 year old was a former amateur stand out for the Philippines before turning professional in summer 2016. Since then he has been active, fighting 5 times last year alone, and has scored a notable win over Samartlek Kokietgym. Although a talented boxer he has had questions over his power, with only a single stoppage so far, but he has looked like a genuine talent and has the potential to go far, if he can use his skills to the best.
As for Argumedo he's more of a punching rock. He's a huge fighter at the weight who usually comes forward, applies pressure and although quite basic is frighteningly strong, tough and physically imposing, as he showed against the likes of Katsunari Takayama [高山 勝成] who he beat for the IBF title back in 2015.
At the moment no news has broke about how negotiations are going, but the two teams have got until January 19th to agree to terms If either fighter refuses they will be dropped to outside of the top 10, per IBF rules, and likely miss out on a potential bout with the Japanese champion.
According to a report from "http://thegondol.com" there is currently work going on for WBO Light Flyweight champion Angel Acosta (17-1, 17) to make his first defense in early April, and the opponent they are looking at facing is WBO mandatory challenger Ryuji Hara (23-2, 14) [原隆二].
It seems the original plan was to face a voluntary, with Hara stepping aside though Hara has shown a willingness to travel to Puerto Rico for the fight, and it sounds like that decision has opened the door to the contest taking place in early 2018.
For Acosta, who is known in Japan for his 2017 loss to Kosei Tanaka, a return to the Land of the Rising Sun was certainly not something that seemed like a problem. He had proven popular and his style was something that seemed to connect with Japanese fans, despite being clearly in the end by the exceptioanlly skilled Tanaka. It could however be a case that Hara is sick of waiting for a shot, having last fought in a bout of real note back in September 2015, when he lost in a Minimumweight title bout to Katsunari Takayama.
Both men have suffered losses to Tanaka, with the "KO Dream Boy" taking a decision over Acosta and stopping Hara, but since both have bounced back well. Acosta scored his biggest win, and claimed the WBO title, whilst Hara has gone 5-1 (4) and stayed on the verges of a world title fight, whilst also moving up in weight.
The bout would be promoted by Miguel Cotto Promotions and is likely to take place on April 6th or 7th. Hara hasn't yet put pen to paper, but is said to have shown genuine interest in travelling for the fight. If he doesn't it's likely he will have to wait until the late summer, at the earliest, to get the Puerto Rican to travel to Japan.
Original report - Http://thegondol.com/2017/12/seria-aqui-la-primera-defensa-de-tito/
(Image courtesy Ohashi Boxing Gym)
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