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)
Tomorrow Japanese fight fans at the Korakuen Hall will get the chance to see a Japanese Light Welterweight title fight, as defending champion Koichi Aso (21-7-1, 14) [麻生興] makes his first defense of the title and faces Yusuke Konno (11-3, 5) [今野裕介]. Today, ahead of their bout, the two men took part in their weigh in for the contest.
On the scales both men came in at the divisional limit of 140lbs, though they did look very different with Konno towering over the champion by several inches. Konno also stated that he had had to lose significant weight for the bout, and it seems clear to say that he is the much bigger man naturally. Despite that being obvious he is also the less proven fighter and this will be his first fight at title level, and his first over the 10 round distance.
For Aso the bout is his first defense, but he's not focusing on defending his title, but instead on just winning, showing a burning hunger for victory, rather than caring too much about retaining his title, which would merely be a bonus.
Aso and Konno face off for Japanese crown
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
In March we reported that Korean fighter Sa Myung Noh (10-3, 3) [노사명] was set to challenge OPBF Featherweight champion Ryo Takenaka (16-3-1, 9) [竹中 良] on June 8th at the Korakuen Hall. Today we saw confirmation that that bout was indeed set to take place, along with a Japanese title bout on a Misako promoted double header at the Korakuen Hall. And better yet the card will be featured on Fuji TV as part of their Diamond Glove series of shows.
For Noh the bout will see him stepping up massively in class, though he does hold wins over Teiru Atsumi, Jaymart Toyco and Bong Joon Suk, whilst also winning the KBF Featherweight title whilst Takenaka will be hunting a 4th defense of the title, and will be looking to move towards a world title fight in the near future following a number of strong performances recently.
Along with the previously mentioned OPBF title fight the show will also feature Japanese Light Welterweight champion Koichi Aso (21-7-1, 14) [麻生興] making his first defense of the title, as he takes on Yusuke Konno (11-3, 5) [今野裕介], who will be getting his first shot at a title.
Aso won the title earlier this year, as part of the Champion's Carnival, in what was his 3rd title shot. Aso won the title by stopping Kazuki Matsuyama in the 8th round of their bout back in February, having previously come up short agaonst Hiroki Okada twice. As for Konno the bout is a huge leap up in class, though he has won his last 3 since a March 2015 loss to Hisao Narita.
The show hasn't yet been officially announced by Misako, but we're expecting at least one other bout of note to be added to the card when the officially announcement is made, however the sorces in Japan have confirmed the show is going ahead as a title double header.
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