Over the last 12 months or so things have really began to change in Chinese boxing. The Major League Boxing cards have become less a fixture and instead we've been having more and more good, solid, all round cards with tough match ups between locals and visitors.
Today we got one such card with a China Vs Japan theme, that ended with two amazing bouts to close the show.
The first of those saw world ranked local Wulan Tuolehazi (11-3-1, 5) record a narrow win over highly regarded Japanese prospect Ryota Yamauchi (4-1, 4) [山内涼太] in what may end up being one of the best bouts on Chinese soil in the entire of 2019. The bout was thrilling from the off, and got even more explosive when Tuolehazi dropped Yamauchi in round 3 with a huge right hand. The power of Tuolehazi seemed to shake Yamauchi again later in the round as the Chinese fighter, who had started well, needed to show a lot more respect to the Chinese fighter.
Yamauchi would himself score a knockdown, from a gorgeous left hook to the body, later in the right and it seemed like he had done enough to just edge a razor thin decision after 12 rounds. The judges however gave it to the local, in what appeared to have been a split decision, given the crowd reactions to the scores as they were read out. Despite the loss Yamauchi showed a lot here to like, whilst Tuolehazi scored his 6th straight win, and extended his current unbeaten run to 10, including other notable wins over Kwanpichit OnesongchaiGym and Jayr Rquinel. The win nets Tuolehazi a WBA regional title at Flyweight.
The second bout went Japan's way, as the often over-looked Yusuke Konno (15-4, 8) [今野裕介] surprisingly stopped Chinese fighter Baishanbo Nasiyiwula (15-3-1, 6) [拜山波] in the 11th round. Konno managed to make his power pay early on, dropping Baishanbo in the opening round, but the Chinese fighter fought back well, and was likely in the lead as we entered the championship rounds. The good effort from Baishanbo always came with a risk and in round 11 he was dropped, hard, by a Konno right hand. The Chinese fight would get up, but do so just after the 10 count, to give Konno a huge win.
For Baishanbo this is his first stoppage loss, but his third loss in 6 bouts. For Konno it sees him extending his current winning run to 4 fights and claim the WBA Asia Light Welterweight title.
Earlier today the Kadoebi Gym took to twitter to announce 2 international bouts that their fighters would be involved in on March 30th in Shanghai, China. And if we're being honest both bouts like like they could be very interesting.
The "lesser" of the bouts will see Yusuke Konno (14-4, 7) [今野裕介] take on Chinese fighter Baishanbo Nasiyiwula (15-2-1, 6) [拜山波] in a 12 round bout at Light Welterweight.
Coming in to that one Konno, the Kaoebi promoted fighter and the under-dog, is riding a 3 fight winning run including upset wins over Kazuya Maruki and Vladimir Baez. Baishanbo on the other hand is entering the contest on the back of his technical decision win against Venezuelan Ernesto Espana. The bout will see Baishanbo risking his WBA International title, and his #14 WBA world ranking, a single place ahead of Uzbek Shakhram Giyasov at the time of writing.
Despite that bout being an interesting one it's the other bout that interests us more, and that will see the very highly regarded Ryota Yamauchi (4-0, 4) [山内涼太] take on Wulan Tuolehazi (10-3-1, 5), who will be risking his WBC and WBO world rankings. This Flyweight bout will also be over 12 rounds, and according to the tweet will also be for a WBA International title which hasn't been fought for since Artem Dalakian defended it in August 2013.
For those unaware Yamauchi is one of the best prospects in Japan and is a 24 year old with insane talent, who already holds wins over Lester Abutan and Yota Hori. This is however a huge step up in class for the fantastic boxer-puncher. Tuolehazi on the other hand is a world ranked Chinese fighter with wins over Kwanthai Sithmorseng and OPBF champion Jayr Raquinel. He's a cruder fighter, but more proven at this point than the Japanese prospect.
It should be noted that there is at least one other notable bout expected to be announced for this card in the coming days, and could be bigger than both of these contests.
Below- The tweet from Kadoebi confirming these two bouts.
In the chief support bout of a card at the Korakuen Hall today, Japanese fight fans had the chance to see Yusuke Konno (14-4, 7) [今野裕介] battle Vladimir Baez (24-5-2, 22), aka Destino Japan, in what looked like a must win contest for both men, who had both come up short in recent Japanese title fights.
The fight started at an deliberate and controlled tempo, with both men feeling like their power was going to be the key to victory, and in round 2 it seemed like both men were, momentarily, hurt. The action slowly picked up in round 3, as Konno began to dictate the action behind his heavy and accurate jab. The power of Konno wasn't being all put into the shot, but it was keeping Baez at range and taking it's toll on the Japanese based Dominican.
In round 4 Baez finally found a home for his power shots and rocked Konno, who immediately responded by trading with Baez, as a war broke out. It was thrilling stuff before both men seemed to realise that it wasn't the best idea. It was however something that showed Konno could stand up to the power of Baez who was beginning to look tired.
In round 5 Konno continued to press behind his jab but started to mix more variation into his work, landing a number of solid body shots, including one late on the belt that lead to a knockdown only moments later. Baez about the knockdown, but was looking like a tired fighter who's 34 year old legs weren't quite as strong as they had been earlier in the fight. Baez's exhaustion continued to worsen, as did his frustration, and in round 6 he was deducted a point for leading with the head, something he had been warned about twice in round 5.
Things went from bad to worse for Baez who was dropped only seconds after the point deduction, suffering a 10-7 round. The knockdown was a flash one from a counter shot, but still counted in a round that was already bad for him
Konno came out looking to close the show in round 7, and unloaded some huge shots in the first 30 seconds of the round. Baez saw off the heavy shots from Konno and tried to come back as the round went on, having some late success of his own. Sadly for Baez however his shots never really did the damage that he would have wanted.
The final round saw Baez needing a KO, but he looked too tired to really go for it, shaking his arms out and trying to get the blood slowing. The tired recklessness of Baez saw him take a shot very low whilst leaping in, giving him a few moments to catch his breath. Sadly for Baez it wasn't long enough, and he came out throwing wild shots on the restart, that missed in hilarious fashion. The final 30 seconds saw Baez being rocked before he put it all on the line and the two began to trade. By then it was far too little, far too late.
All 3 judges scored the bout to Konno, with scores of 77-74, 78-72 ans 77-72.
Sadly for Baez this is a second straight loss, following a defeat in a Japanese title bout to Valentine Hosokawa, Konno on the other hand has now reeled off good domestic wins against Kazuya Maruki, Takashi Inagaki and now Baez to put himself on the verge of a second title shot.
Earlier today former Japanese "interim" Welterweight champion Daisuke Sakamoto (14-9-3, 8) [坂本大輔] took to his blog to announce his next bout. In his blog post Sakamoto revealed that he would be returning on July 9th as part of a Kadoebi promoted "Sugfest 5" card.
The 36 year old Sakamoto, who turned professional back in 2007, announced that his opponent for the bout would be Koki Koshikawa (6-1, 4) [越川孝紀], who turned professional with high expectations but has so far failed to deliver.
Sakamoto stated the bout would be the final one of his career, and comes after a notable break from action, with the Kadoebi man last fighting in November 2017. That bout saw him lose in a bout to unify the Japanese and Japanese "interim" Welterweight titles, with Toshio Arikawa stopping him in 5 rounds.
Whilst not well known outside of Japan Sakamoto has had a pretty interesting career at hime, fighting a domestic who's who of the Light Welterweight and Welterweight diviison. He has shared the ring with Yasuhiro Okawa, Moon Hyon Yun, Cobra Suwa, Nobuyuki Shindo, Toshio Arikawa and Makoto Kawasaki.
As an amateur Koshikawa shined before signing with the Celes gym. Sadly his professional career which began back in 2014, has been a frustrating one. He looked to be on the fast track before losing in 2015 to Koshinmaru Saito. Following that loss he would be away from the ring for over 2 years before returning in August, and beating 2 over-matched Thai foes.
Also set to be on this card are Japanese ranked fighters Yusuke Konno (12-4, 6) [今野裕介], Cristiano Aoqui (12-7-2, 8) and Tsuyoshi Sato (6-1-1, 2) [佐藤剛], though none of them have had confirmed opponents announce for the card as of yet.
(Image courtesy of Sakamoto's blog)
Whilst top level fighters are best known for their brilliance in the ring, and it's a real joy to watch the likes of Vasyl Lomachneko, Naoya Inoue, and Roman Gonalez in action, we also enjoy the flawed but exciting fighters. Perhaps the most entertaining fighter, in the "flawed but exciting" category is Jamie Conlan, but he's given a good run for his money by Japanese Light Welterweight champion Koichi Aso (22-7-1, 15) [麻生興] who made his first earlier today in a thriller against Yusuke Konno (11-4, 5) [今野裕介].
On paper the bout won't have enthused those who don't follow Japanese boxing, but those who do follow the Japanese domestic scene will know what to expect when Aso gets in the ring. He's an aggressive pressure fighter, who lets his hands go, and looks to have a tear up. Today he found Konno was willing to fight fire with fire in a bout that is a front runner for the Japanese fight of the year, and a bout that could well have shortened the career of both fighters.
From the opening moments Aso's pressure begn to dictate the bout and Konno, who tried boxing, was forced to return fire in a round that really didn't feel like the opening round of a title bout. It felt, instead, like a championship round, where both men would have put it all on the line to take the title. The risk of blowing it early seemed to be something both were willing to take in hunt of an early victory, and the crowd loved every second of it as we quickly got a war.
The war built round after round, after round with the two men just standing and unloading on each other in exciting and intense bursts of punches up close. It was none-stop action and after 5 rounds there was little to seperate them, with all three judges scoring it 48-47, two in favour of Konno and one in favour of Aso.
Konno started the second half of the fight really well and actually forced Aso back, though to his credit Aso didn't worry and look concerned and instead looked for opportunities to counter, and in round 8 he clearly hurt Konno. To his credit Konno gritted his teeth and fought back, but was clear that he was Aso could hurt the challenger.
Going in to the final rounds it was clear that both men knew it was close, in Amazingly after 8 rounds the men were 76-76, 76-76 and 75-77, with Konno leading on the third card, although neither man actually knew the scores going into those final two rounds.
In the final round both looked tired, but both knew the round be pivotal. It was Aso who's experience shone as he turned it up and finally, broke through stopping an exhausted Konno with the referee saving the tired and beaten challenger. Amazingly, there was only 42 seconds of the bout left.
Had the bout not been stopped, but Aso had taken the final round, he would have retained his title with a split decision, 96-94, 95-95, 94-96. He wouldn't have known that however and will feel relieved he saw off Konno in what was one of the best bouts in a Japanese ring in a very, very long time.
(Images courtesy of boxmob.jp)
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