Earlier today saw the announcement of the next Splendid Boxing card, set for April 14th in Kumamoto. The card is a really interesting one, and may be one of the most notable cards for Kumamoto this year.
The main event of the show will see Japanese youngster Musashi Mori (8-0, 5) [森 武蔵] making his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight title, as he takes on the man he beat for the belt, Richard Pumicpic (21-9-2, 6). These two fought last November, with Mori taking a split technical decision over Pumicpic to claim the title. The untimely ending seemed to please neither man, though Mori was obviously happy to have won the title, and the contest very much feels like they have unfinished business.
Whilst the main event is very attractive the under-card is also a rather interesting one, with 3 notable fighters announced for it.
One of those announced for the card is Ginjiro Shigeoka (1-0, 1) [重岡銀次朗], who is set for his first 8 round bout on the card. His opponent hasn't been announced, though he had revealed he wanted to fight a ranked foe on this show, and it's likely dependent on him getting through his February bout with no issues. The Watanabe teenage sensation is known to be chasing title fights in the near future and we wouldn't be surprised by him putting on a showcase here. This is a notable show for Shigeoka as he was actually born in Kumamoto.
Another promising fighter announced for the card is Shigeoka's stablemate Seiya Tsutsumi (4-0, 3) [堤聖也]. His opponent also hasn't been named who will be fighting for the time since October, after suffering an injury that forced him out of a December bout. Tsutsumi, injury aside, had a great 2018. He won a B Class tournament, gained international experience and created a fair bit of buzz, though that buzz has quietened down a little bit in the wake of his injury.
Also on this card Sora Takeda (4-1) [竹田宙], the 2018 Minimumweight Rookie of the Year, who will be fighting for the first time since since his Rookie of the Year win. As with Shigeoka and Tsutsumi his opponent also hasn't been announced.
Also confirmed for this card is Kanako Taniyama (1-0, 1) [谷山佳菜子] who will compete in a 2 round exhibition with Kana Fukuda (3-3-1, 1)[福田香奈].
Interestingly this card will get local TV coverage in Kumamoto, with TVU seemingly to be the channel airing it, though sadly this won't be widely available for fans outside of the local area.
The first bout from the 2018 All Japan Rookie of the Year final saw an all-southpaw match up as 32 year old Tomoki Shibanuma (8-4, 2) [柴沼智樹] battled against 18 year old Sora Takeda (4-1) [竹田宙].
The first started with Shibanuma coming forward and Takeda using his youthful energy and speed to try and box on the move. It was a tactic that worked at times for the youngster, who looked very crisp with his movement and very light on his feet, but Shibanuma looked strong and kept getting close, spoiling and wrestling when he could, to sap the energy of the youngster and try to take away his feet.
In round 2 the referee seemed to realise that Shibanuma was wrestling more than he should and got on his case about it. That allowed Takeda a chance to work more, and even saw him begin to freely work in the clinch, something that proved incredibly effective for him as Shibanuma began to look like an old man.
Shibanuma came out with an extra zip in his work for round 3, as if he was sent out knowing he needed a big round. Sadly for the older man this allowed Takeda more opportunities to counter him, and saw the referee tell Shibanuma off for pushing down on the head. It did however also lead to him rocking Takeda with a hard hard straight left. That left seemed to really hurt Takeda who took some time to recover, spoiling and wrestling as he looked to clear his head. In round 4 Takeda looked the fresher man, with Shibanuma resorting to the wrestling tactics. Despite both being tired, and a lot of work being spoiled, it was Takeda who landed the cleaner blows, bit down harder and let his hands go more freely, whilst Shibanuma bored in, head first, looking for the hard blows.
At the end of 4 rounds the fight hadn't been tidy, hadn't been clean and hadn't been the most technical, but it had been an exciting little battle to kick off one of the most important Japanese cards of the year. The competitiveness of the bout took us to a nervous wait for the scorecards to be read, with a split decision being rendered. The scores were read out as 39-37 to Shibanuma, 39-37 to Takeda and the final card, 39-38 to Takeda, who takes the biggest win of his young career.
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