Earlier today at Korakuen Hall Japanese fans saw domestic Minimumweight champion Norihito Tanaka (19-7, 10) [田中教仁] record his first defense, as he clearly over-came Naoya Haruguchi (15-11, 6) [春口直也], and avenged one of his defeats.
The two had fought a couple of years ago, with Haruguchi taking a very controversial win over Tanaka. Since that loss Tanaka has rebuilt brilliantly and earlier this year we saw him win the Japanese title with a stoppage win against Shin Ono, in what was a career best win.
Today's performance saw Tanaka again show what he could do, Tanaka settled quickly, using his skills to get in and attack the body of Haruguchi. Haruguchi showed no fear, and seemed to have Tanaka cornered at one point in round 2, but the skills and experience of the champion showed as he escaped, neutralising the threat at the time. Not only did Tanaka's experience help him neutralise the challenger but he would counter him with ease, landing clean hurtful shots and he dropped his man in round 4, securing a big 10-8 round.
Although Haruguchi went down he would get back to his, though struggle to make any inroads into the fight. After 5 rounds he was a long way behind, 49-45, twice and 50-44. Tanaka knew there was still a threat so continued to tag the challenger, landing more body shots and counters, breaking the spirit of Haruguchi.
Going into the final few rounds the bout was a foregone conclusion and Tanaka began to cool the jets, letting Haruguchi take a few consolation rounds and close the scorecards up, though their no threat to the actual result.
After 10 rounds the scores were 96-93 and 97-92, twice.
Rumours have been circulating from Thailand that Tanaka may be next in line for WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin (53-0, 18) [วันเฮง ไก่ย่างห้าดาวยิม], with that bout being rumoured as a potential October fight, though their was no clear indication after the fight that that was next.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Over the weekend it was revealed that WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin (53-0, 18) [วันเฮง ไก่ย่างห้าดาวยิม] may look to delay his mandatory defense against South African challenger Simpiwe Konkco (19-5-0-1, 7), pushing it back to the end of the year.
The reason for that was that Watanabe Gym were wanting to get Wanheng to fight in Japan, though at the time none of the Watanabe gym fighters looked like real options for the unbeaten Thai champion.
Sources are now reporting that it wouldn't actually be a Watanabe gym fighter challenging Wanheng but instead current Japanese champion Norihito Tanaka (18-7, 10) [田中教仁], with the bout being dependent on Tanaka successfully defending his title on June 13th against Naoya Haruguchi (15-10, 6) [春口直也].
The bout would be expected to take place in Tokyo, and according to sources Tanaka has stated he's scouted Wanheng and has seen flaws he feels he can take advantage of.
If a deal is going to be made it's likely to be made later this month, with Konkco being offered a sizable step aside payment, and could be Watanabe's way of clearing an opening for their young super stud Ginjiro Shigeoka (3-0, 2) [重岡銀次朗] to get a shot at the Japanese national title.
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
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