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.
Earlier today Japanese boxing service Boxing Raise released their line up for the month of May and unsurprisingly it's a packed month with an impressive 3 live cards, though one of them was earlier today along with 4 more shows available on demand.
As mentioned one of the three live shows was today. The was the Dangan card from Korakuen Hall, headlined by a brilliant Japanese Featherweight title bout between Taiki Minamoto [源大輝] and Reiya Abe [阿部 麗也]. If you missed this one live it is now available on demand, in fact the entire card is now available.
The next live card will be the next Dangan card, which takes place on May 18th, and will be headlined by a Japanese Super Bantamweight title bout, pitting champion Ryoichi Tamura (12-3-1, 6) [田村 亮一] against former champion Yusaku Kuga (17-3-1, 11) [久我勇作]. This will then be followed a day later by live coverage of Desafio vol 8, which isn't a big card but does feature notable fighters like Satoru Sugita (14-6-1, 9) [杉田聖], Gakuya Furuhashi (24-8-1, 12) [古橋大輔] and Tsubasa Murachi (3-0, 3) [村地翼].
As well as the live cards the service will pick up the next Hiroki Ioka show on May 3rd, the Kadoebi show on May 8th, as well as the WBO Asia Pacific double title show on May 26th from Mutoh gym. Sadly whilst these will be added on tape delay it's unclear when these shows will be added. Sometimes it's the same day, and other times it can be a week after a show takes place.
May 1st 2019 is the start of the Reiwa era of Japanese history. For boxing fans in Japan the first day of the new era was an exciting one, and saw a thrilling Japanese Featherweight title bout between Taiki Minamoto (16-5-1, 13) [源大輝] and Reiya Abe (19-2-1, 9) [阿部 麗也].
On paper the bout was excellent. You had heavy handed champion against skilled challenger. Both men were young enough to know a clean win here would boost their hopes of getting into the world title mix, and both were coming to give all they had.
Amazingly the bout over-came the high expectations many had of it, with great shifts in moment, amazing courage being shown by both and some thrilling action, that saw both needing to dig deep.
It was Minamoto who struck first, landing a right hand really late in the opening round to drop Abe. The challenger wasn't hurt, but the knockdown secured a big round for Minamoto, who dropped Abe again in round 2 with another right hand.
After just 6 minutes of action Abe was in a hole , down 20-16 on all 3 cards. Whilst he was certainly down he was still confident and went on to wins rounds 3 and 4 to get a foot hold in the bout. He was beginning to move around the ring, avoiding the power of Minamoto and controlling the bout. Minamoto, sensing the tide was turning, managed to have a great 5th round, to slow the momentum of the challenger.
When the scores were announced after rounds it was no surprise to see Minamoto in the lead, 48-45 on all 3 cards. Abe was down, but not out, and came back by winning rounds 6 and 7, and actually giving Minamoto a bit of a beating in round 7 as he landed left hands at will. Minamoto came back himself in the 8th round, staggering Abe in one of the few really competitive rounds of the fight, which is an odd thing to say about a bout that really was competitive overall.
Despite being hurt Abe knew he had to continue being the man on the front foot and won rounds 9 and 10 to earn a remarkable draw, with scores of 94-94, twice, and actually took a 95-94 on the third judges card, with that judge scoring round 8 as a 10-10.
After the bout neither man seemed happy at the result. Minamoto, who's left eye was swollen really badly, told reporters "The opponent got stronger in the second half and was frustrated with punches. The draw was a champion's privilege but I was not satisfied," he also hinted at potentially moving up in weight. An equally unhappy Abe was clearly annoyed about the knockdowns, know that if he hadn't been down he'd have won the bout, and he seemed the more eager for a rematch.
For fans wanting to watch this it will be uploaded to Boxing Raise in the coming hours.
If this is how the Reiwa era kicks off we're looking forward to what else the new period in Japan will give us! This was a great fight, and something all fans should make an effort to watch.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Tomorrow fight fans will kick off a new era in Japanese history, with the Heisei era ending and the Reiwa era set to begin. This is huge news, and although it's not directly boxing related it is a significantly day for Japan and of course for Japanese fans.
The change in period is due to the emperor stepping down and being replaced by his son.
Despite the huge significance of the day boxing continues, and their will be a huge card at Korakuen Hall.
The headline bout of tomorrows show will be a Japanese Featherweight title bout, as hard hitting champion Taiki Minamoto (16-5, 13) [源大輝] takes on mandatory challenger Reiya Abe (19-2, 9) [阿部 麗也], in a very highly anticipated match up.
Today those two men took part in their weigh in and both fighters made the Japanese Featherweight limit on their first attempt.
The champion, who has been out of the ring since August when he stopped Tatsuya Otsubo in his first defense, came in pretty much on the limit of 126lbs whilst Abe was 125.6lbs, making the weight with ease. Both men looked in great condition at the weigh in. Minamoto looked more ripped but Abe looked in good shape himself.
It was originally planned for this bout to take place in January, though had to be delayed due to a really bad ankle injury that Minamoto suffered. The champion slipped in November, whilst doing dashes on some steps, and reportedly broke his ankle, though is now 100% recovered. Abe did fight in January, defeating Daisuke Sugita, and certainly made it clear that he wanted to tick over rather than just sit and wait.
For fans wanting to watch this it will be made available on Boxing Raise. Originally it had been planned to be aired live, though as we write this we have heard that the plan may have changed, though either way it will be added to their video on demand section in the coming days.
Related - Minamoto and Abe clash in mouth watering Featherweight title bout!
(Image courtesy of www.sanspo.com/)
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