Earlier today sources in Japan revealed that former WBO Minimumweight champion Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-7-6, 7) [福原 辰弥] had announced his retirement, ending a rather interesting, if often over-looked career.
The 30 year old from Kumamoto made his debut all the way back in 2008, and reached the All Japan Rookie of the Year final in 2009, losing to Takuya Mitamoro at Korakuen Hall. Despite reaching the final he spent a number of years in the proverbial boxing wilderness, fighting on the local Kumamoto scene.
It wasn't until 2013 that Fukuhara really got any attention again, losing to both Yu Kimura and a then debuting Takuma Inoue. Those losses saw Fukuhara's record slip to 12-4-3 (3) though he gritted his teeth and battled on, building on the experiences of those losses.
In 2015 Fukuhara got his first title fight, and beat Hiroya Yamamoto for the Japanese Minimumweigjht title. He would go on to record 3 defenses of the belt, taking the unbeaten records of Takumi Sakae and Genki Hanai along the way. Those wins helped him climb up the WBO world rankings and in 2017 he fought Moises Calleros for the interim WBO Minimumweight title. The Japanese local narrowly over-came Calleros, in an often forgotten classic. That interim title would be upgraded to the main title a few months later but he would lose the belt in his first defense, coming up short against Ryuya Yamanaka.
Following the loss to Yamanaka in August 2017 we saw Fukuhara have two shots at WBC champion Wanheng Menayothin, losing both bouts by decision, with the second of those coming this past May.
The reasons for Fukuhara's retirement are limited physical strength and a lack of motivation, though he will be back in the ring for one more appearance. That will be an exhibition on August 11th, in what will essentially be his retirement ceremony.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Last week we saw WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin (53-0, 18) [วันเฮง ไก่ย่างห้าดาวยิม] score his 11th defense, as he took a technical decision win over former WBO king Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-7-6, 7) [福原 辰弥].
That bout was supposed to be Wanheng's final defense before making a mandatory defense against South African challenger Simpiwe Konkco (19-5-0-1, 7), though Thai sources are now reporting that a deal may be in the works for the mandatory defense to be pushed back.
The sources, including SiamSport, have reported that a member of the Watanabe Gym was at ringside for the Menayothin Vs Fukuhara bout last week, and looking at getting Wanheng to fight in Japan in October in a voluntary defense, pushing back the mandatory. It also appears that Konkco's team are likely to allow the bout, for a step aside fee.
Whilst Wanehng fighting outside of Thailand would be big, it does leave to two different lines of thought. Firstly who would he be fighting? And secondly haven't we heard this before?
The Watanabe gym does have a number of Minimumweights, including world title challenger Masataka Taniguchi (11-3, 7) [谷口 将隆], former multi-time world title challenger Shin Ono (23-11-3, 6) [小野 心] and fast rising youngster Ginjiro Shigeoka (3-0, 2) [重岡銀次朗], none of whom would be suitable for an October bout with Wanheng. In theory the gym could be looking to work on behalf of another promoter, and perhaps looking to secure a shot for someone like Norihito Tanaka (18-7, 10) [田中教仁] or Tsubasa Koura (14-1, 9) [小浦 翼], but it would be a rather strange plan from the gym.
What needs to be remembered is that Wanheng was repeatedly linked to a fight in Japan last year, and nothing ever came of it. This could be the same as that, where plans don't come to fruition, or it could be a sign that Watanabe gym have some huge plans between now and October, and we may hear more about the in the coming weeks.
It should also be noted that Watanabe gym's Hiroto Kyoguchi (12-0, 9) [京口 紘人], the current WBA "super" Light Flyweight champion, will be defending his title against unbeaten Thai fighter Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart (11-0, 5), aka Tanawat Nakoon, on June 19th and we may hear more about these plans around there.
Tomorrow we'll see Wanheng Menayothin (52-0, 18) [วันเฮง ไก่ย่างห้าดาวยิม] attempt to make his 11th defense of the WBC Minimumweight title, as he takes on former WBO king Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-6-6, 7) [福原 辰弥], in what will be the second bout between the two men.
Today, ahead of their bout, the two men took part in their weigh in, and both men made the 105lb limit at their first attempt.
The unbeaten champion was just under the limit, at 104.7lbs for the contest, whilst the challenger was bang on the 105lb limit for the bout.
As well as making weight, both fighters also passed their physicals and seemed in great condition for the bout.
When the two men first met, back in 2017, Wanheng took a clear decision, with scores of 118-110, 117-113 and 116-112, though we had the bout much, much closer. Wanheng will again enter the bout as the favourite, though it's clear that Fukuhara won't have travelled to just lose to the unbeaten Thai champion, and we're expecting a very hotly contested bout here.
Wanheng and Fukuhara battle again for WBC crown
(Image courtesy of Petchyindee Gym)
Earlier today Thai sources revealed that the upcoming WBC Minimumweight title bout, between unbeaten champion Wanheng Menayothin (52-0, 18) [วันเฮง ไก่ย่างห้าดาวยิม] and former WBO king Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-6-6, 7) [福原 辰弥], has already had controversy thanks to the selection of the officials from the WBC.
The judges that have been selected for the bout and include an American, a Korean and most notably a Japanese, in the positions of judges.
The team of Wanheng's have no issue with the two neutral judges, but have shown some anger at the use of a Japanese judge given that Fukuhara is also from Japan. They seem to suggest that he could be biased in favour of Fukuhara, especially given that the judge in question, Yoshikazu Furuta, is from Fukuoka, the same place as Fukuhara. He has judged some Fukuhara fights in the past, was also a judge for Wanheng's 2018 bout with Leroy Estrada.
Interestingly the first bout between Wanheng and Fukuhara, which took place in 2017, also featured a Japanese judge, Hisatoshi Miyazaki, who actually had the bout wider in favour of Wanheng than either of the other judges.
The other judges here will be Jang-Sung Kim and Stephen Blea.
Wanheng and Fukuhara battle again for WBC crown
At the end of this month we'll see WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin (52-0, 18) [วันเฮง ไก่ย่างห้าดาวยิม] defending his title against former WBO king Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-6-6, 7) [福原 辰弥], in the second meeting between the two men.
Today, ahead of that bout, Wanheng took part in a press conference with his team and the event's sponsor, Charoen Pokphand Foods Public Company Limited (CPF), who essentially held the event as an advert.
The cynically side of things really did did CPF pushing themselves as a key part of the show, though it is worth noting that they will turn this into something positive, selling cheap products in the days leading up to the fight.
As for boxing Wangheng's team revealed that they are happy to travel for future defenses, though it should be noted that we heard that claim through out 2018 and nothing actually came of it. They seemed to suggest that they were wanting to travel to Japan to face Tsubasa Koura (14-1, 9) [小浦 翼], a bout that had been mooted for some time, though that now looks like it's in tatters following Koura's upset loss to Lito Dante (16-10-4, 8).
We'll be honest and admit the press conference saw little new information being provided about Wanheng's future, though it is interesting how involved CPF were during the event an it's clear they have a lot of sway on the boxing scene in the country, and not just due to the fact that Charoen Pokphand sponsor fighters through the CP Freshmart banner.
(Image courtesy of Phet Yindee Boxing Promotion. / Thairec
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