Earlier today in Japan fight fans saw former 2-weight world champion Takahiro Ao (28-3-1-1, 12) [粟生 隆寛] fight for the first time in well almost 3 years, as he took on former foe Gamaliel Diaz (40-19-3, 19).
The two men had met in 2012, when Diaz had out pointed Ao to dethrone the Japanese fighter of the WBC Super Featherweight title. Since then both fighters had failed to have much success, with Diaz losing the title in his first defense to Takashi Miura whilst Ao went on to have so low key wins before being knocked out by Raymundo Beltran, who failed to make weight failed a drugs test, in a Lightweight title fight.
Today both men looked like faded fighters. Ao struggled to get going, and looked unsure of himself in the first round, whilst Diaz looked slow and was dropped from a 1-2 in round 3. The slowly fought bout was mostly forgettable with Ao doing enough to take the decision 79-74, 77-74 and 77-76.
An emotional Ao spoke to the crowd after the bout, and it seems uinclear whether he will continue his career. He has been battling with injuries since his loss to Beltran and looked a shadow of the fighter he once was.
Diaz on the other told the press that he's now retired, and will be spending more time with his famile. He also said he was happy to have finished his long career in Japan, where he has now fought 5 times and gone 3-2.
Given how he looked today, retirement for Diaz was certainly the right decision.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Back in May 2015 we saw 2-weight world champion Takahiro Ao (27-3-1-1, 12) [粟生 隆寛] suffer a brutal stoppage loss at the hands of Raymundo Beltran, who had failed to make weight and would later fail a drugs test.
For over 2 years it seemed like that would be the last we would see of Ao as a professional. That was however until earlier today when reports emerged that Ao would be returning to the ring for the first time since that bout, and would be doing so against a former foe very soon.
The announcement was that Ao would face fellow veteran Gamaliel Diaz (40-18-3, 19) on March 1st, as part of the under-card to Shinsuke Yamanaka's (27-1-2, 19) [山中慎介] rematch with WBC Bantamweight champion Luis Nery (25-0, 19) and the IBF Super Bantamweight title bout between champion Ryosuke Iwasa (24-2, 16) [岩佐 亮佑] and Ernesto Saulong (21-2-1, 8).
The two men fought way back in October 2012, with Diaz taking a unanimous decision win over Ao to claim the WBC Super Featherweight title. Sadly for Diaz he was dethroned less than 6 months later by Takashi Miura and has struggled to pick up a win since, going 2-9-1 since the win over Ao. In the same amount of time Ao has gone 4-0-0-1, but has been out of the ring since the Beltran bout.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Over the past few days Ryota Murata (13-1, 10) [村田 諒太] has been part of a training camp, along with Teiken stablemates Kenichi Ogawa (23-1, 17) [尾川 堅一] and Takahiro Ao (27-3-1-1, 12) [粟生 隆寛]. During that camp he has shook some rust and spoke to the media revealing several things about his future.
Firstly we now know that he's aiming to make his return in April, and will defending the WBA Middleweight title for the first time. That show may end up also featuring Ogawa, making his first defense of the IBF Super Featherweight title and even WBC Light Flyweight champion Ken Shiro (12-0, 6) [拳 四朗] in a potential triple header.
Secondly Murata admitted that he would also like to fight at the at the 55,000 seater Tokyo Dome, and is hoping to do that sooner rather than later.
Whilst fights being held in big stadiums might not be anything new to European the Tokyo Dome has only ever been used for two boxing shows. both headline by Mike Tyson. The first of those was his 2nd round TKO win against Tony Tubbs in 1988 with the second beind his shocking loss to Buster Douglas in 1990. There has never been a Japanese fighter fight in a world title fight in the venue and Murata wants to change that.
The hope seems to be that the venue, along with the sponsorship, gate and TV money would be enough to secure Murata a major name for a fight later this year, with Bob Arum said to be interested in promoting a show at the biggest venue in Tokyo, and third biggest in Japan
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
It's fair to say that 2017 was a mixed bag for Teiken, with notable losses for Shinsuke Yamanaka (27-1-2, 19) [山中慎介], Yoshihiro Kamegai (27-4-2, 24) [亀海喜寛] and Toshiyuki Igarashi (23-3-3 12) [五十嵐 俊幸] at world level, and big wins for the likes of Kenichi Ogawa (23-1, 17) [尾川 堅一] and Ryota Murata (13-1, 10) [村田 諒太], who claimed the IBF Super Bantamweight and WBA Middleweight titles respectively.
Today we saw Murata and Ogawa head off to Okinawa to begin a special training camp, along with former 2-weight world champion Takahiro Ao (27-3-1-1, 12) [粟生 隆寛].
Ahead of the camp Murata spoke to the media and stated that the camp is to help prepare for his first defense, and it seems like the plan is for the 2012 Olympic gold medal winner to defend his title in April.
The comments didn't come with too much information about the actual contest, but that this camp was laying the foundations for that bout, following a busy end of 2017.
Murata, who turns 32 on January 12th, will be away for his birthday but aknowledged that he is getting old and at 32 he doesn't have time in his career to waste. Instead training needs to come first due to how little is left of his time as a boxer.
As for Ogawa he stated that he hasn't done a lot of gym work since winning the IBF title last December. He stated he was looking to fight 3 times this year, but would have to get in to top condition for a schedule like that.
Interestingly Murata has, today, been linked to a fight with 38 year old Italian Emanuele Felice Blandamura (27-2, 5). On paper it doesn't look like a great defense, given other Middleweight options, but it could be a straight forward first defense before Murata looks for bigger and better fights in the summer. Currently Italian media are reporting that this bout is in negotiations,and could be confirmed after Murata returns from this training camp, which ends on January 18th.
(Image courtesy of daily.co.jp)
Just over a week ago we saw the announcement of the rematch between Ryota Murata (12-1, 9) [村田 諒太] and WBA Middleweight champion Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam (36-2, 21). To prepare for that bout Murata has been going through a rigorous training camp in Narita, at a golf course, along with Teiken Stablemate Takahiro Ao (27-3-1-1, 12) [粟生 隆寛].
The camp, run under the guidance of Masahiko Nakamura, has been a seriously physical one with a 10KM run early in the morning, followed by shadow boxing and more running, clearly focusing on the stamina of the 2012 Olympic gold medal winner. Following the punishing morning sessions the fighter, trainer and training buddy, have been punshed in mostly cario based exercises, trying to get Murata in to top fitness before he returns to the gym for more boxing based training and beginning sparring for Murata.
The camp began on August 7th and will run until August 14th, with the media being invited in today, and although the golf course is a relatively relaxing environment it's clear that the two fighters aren't being given time to enjoy the scenery with Mr Nakamura really pushing them hard.
Interestingly the camp does leave questions as to Ao's future, with the former 2-time world champion having been out of the ring for more than 2 years. Although not announced there is a rumour that he may be on the under-card in some capacity.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
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