Earlier this morning in Tokyo we got the 66th All Japan Rookie of the Year final, held at the Korakuen Hall and shown live on G+.
The show began with Ohashi promoted teenager Katsuki Mori (6-0, 1) [森且貴] taking a wide decision over the very game Takumi Chono (5-1, 3) [丁野拓海] at Minimumweight. Chono came out with real ambition and hunger in the first 2 rounds but was unable to keep it up, whilst Mori moved through the gears and tagged Chono at will in the final 3 rounds. Huge credit goes to Chono for lasting the distance, but he was clearly the second best, and even his best rounds were not great ones for him. After 5 rounds Mori took the decision 50-45, and 49-46, twice.
After a cracking bout to open the show the pace dropped off when we moved on to the Light Flyweight bout between Kosuke Ando (7-2, 3) [安藤教祐] and Sho Omote (8-1, 3) [表祥]. Although the pace slowed drastically the bout was one that was expected to be very competitive, and managed to live up to the expectations, though not quite how we had imaged. The first 3 rounds seemed to be won by Ando, who used movement to keep the bout at distance and rack up the rounds. That early lead was wiped out in round 4 when Omote began to dictate the tempo with his pressure, and twice dropped Ando to secure a 10-7 round. That left the bout finely poised for the final round, which ended up being a slow one that Emote did enough to take, winning the bout with a majority decision, 47-46, twice, and 47-47.
We had an entertaining Flyweight bout as unbeaten men clashed. In the end West Japan champion Atsuki Nakamura (5-0-1, 3) [中村淳希] took a clear decision, out pointing Haruki Usui (5-1-2, 1) [臼井春樹] in a bout that came close to delivering something special. Both men fought with bad intent, and Nakamura managed to drop Usui with a brilliant 3 punch combination in round 2. Both men were hurt at various points and it seemed like both could take the other out, but neither managed to land with the consistency needed. It always seemed like the bigger bombs just missed. After 5 rounds Nakamura certainly deserved the win, and got it with scores of 50-44 49-45 and 49-46.
At Super Flyweight we had entertainment again, with Seiya Meguro (6-0, 3) [目黒聖也] taking a split decision over Keisuke Iwasaki (4-2, 1) [岩﨑圭祐]. Through out the bout Meguro looked the bigger puncher, though Iwasaki was the one who landed more shots, and seemed to be the more rounded boxer, it was a bit of a case judges preferring one thing to another in the closer rounds. From this bout it's clear Meguro has a lot to work with, but also a lot to work on, whilst Iwasaki looked like he could end up in some very exciting bouts with his current skill set. A rematch down the line, when both have more experience, seems a must given how close and competitive this was.
Talented teenager Kantaro Nakanishi (3-0-1) [中西寛多朗] out worked and out fought Shota Ogasawara (5-3, 3) [小笠原梢太] to claim the Bantamweight crown in a 4 rounder. The unbeaten Nakanishi was aggressive throughout and a worthy winner, though we do hope he can add some power into his work going forward or he's going to have a very tough career going forward.
The first of two former Kyoei fighters to fight here was Takeshi Takehara (5-1, 1) [竹原毅], who managed to secure a short 1 fight deal with the Hanagata gym for his Super Bantamweight final against 19 year old Ryuya Tsugawa (7-1, 3) [津川龍也]. Sadly for Takehara he was unable to deal with Tsugawa's aggression and the youngster took home the well earned decision here. We do wonder whether the political issue with Kyoei was on Takehara's mind, though in reality thinking too much about that would only devalue the win for Tsugawa who deserves more credit than that for a career best win.
One of the most highly anticipated bouts on the show was the Featherweight clash, which saw Kyonosuke Kameda (5-2-1, 4) [亀田京之介], fighting in his 1-fight deal with Hanagata after Kyoei's closure, taking on Jinki Maeda (4-0, 2) [前田稔輝]. The early stages of the bout saw the confident Kameda do a lot of show boating and taunting but not a lot of actual fighting, and he really didn't use his 6' frame very smartly. He got going with offense a bit more in round 2, but was caught by some big shots in rounds 3 and 4 as Maeda did enough to edge a split decision in a genuine thriller. Both men had a score of 39-37 in their favour, with Yuji Fukuchi's 39-38 to Maeda being the deciding card. Given Kameda's show boating and taunting it's hard to have much sympathy for him here, and Maeda fought like a man who genuinely valued what the bout meant.
Ina really competitive clash fans saw Hyoga Taniguchi (3-2-2, 1) [谷口彪賀] and Atsushi Iwasaki (5-3-4, 1) [岩崎淳史] fight to a draw in their 4 rounder at Super Featherweight. There was little to separate the men in what was really hotly contested, with Taniguchi getting the Rookie triumph on the majority point rule. The scorecards turned in were 38-38, 38-38 and 39-37 to Taniguchi, who was very emotional in his post-fight speech.
At Lightweight we got another close one as Shinnosuke Saito (6-3, 2) [齋藤眞之助] took a razor thin unanimous decision over Kensuke Fujita (4-4-3) [藤田健介]. All 3 judges turned in cards of 48-47 to Saito, though it was hard to be too impressed by either of these men, who both looked very limited and it's hard to imagine either either pushing on to title level any time soon.
We ended up getting a very late contender for Japanese fight of the year in 140lbs bout between Yasutaka Fujita (5-1, 5) [藤田裕崇] and Kodai Honda (5-1, 4) [本多航大]. The bout began at an insane pace and Fujita dropped Honda twice in the opening round, but seemed to pretty much punch himself out, and unable to have similar success afterwards. Honda regrouped, and began to break down Fujita who was dropped late in round 3 then again in round 4, to earn Honda an incredible win. This is the bout from the show, and the one that every fan should make sure they watch.
We had another great fight at Welterweight as Yuta Ashina (4-2) [足名優太] and Homare Yasui (5-1-2, 4) [安井誉] battled in an thriller. Ashina looked like the man on top in the first 2 rounds, taking the bout to Yasui, but taking punish due to his aggressive pressure. In round 3 Ashina landed a number of big uppercuts but was rocked and wobbling around the ring before the bell came. Round 4 was more evenly fought whilst the 5th and final round, was just a wild, entertaining, hard hitting brawl. Sadly that was always going to favour the man with power, but god damn what a round. After 5 rounds Yasui took the split decision, before making a very emotional speech after the win. One thing about this bout is both men would have won over new fans in what was a genuinely brilliant war, even if it didn't have the drama of the Fujita Vs Honda bout.
The final bout on the show saw Takumi Yuzawa (4-0-1, 1) [湯澤卓巳] defeat Yasuyuki Kunimoto (3-1, 1) [国本泰幸] at Middleweight. Yuzawa was the better fighter through out. Kunimoto looked out of his depth and was deducted a point for hitting and holding. After 4 rounds the scores were 40-34, twice, and 39-35.
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