Fight fans at the Korakuen Hall, and subscribers to Boxingraise, were able to watch a new Japanese "interim" Bantamweight champion being crowned as multi-time title challenger Hayato Kimura (28-10, 19) [木村隼人] and Seizo Kono (19-11-1, 12) [高野誠三] battled for the belt. On paper this looked interesting, with both being flawed, but decent, fighters chasing a potentially career defining win and opening up a bout for the full version of the title in early 2019 against the beatable Yuta Saito (11-9-3, 8) [齊藤裕太], who is currently battling illness.
Sadly for a bout that promised quite a bit, it massively under-delivered with the styles and mentality of both men not really lending it's self to a good fight. Instead it was a rather dull watch, with Kono being far more skilled, but far less aggressive, and Kimura being aggressive but lacking the skills needed to land.
The first round saw Kimura start fast, possibly looking to jump on Kono before he could settle. It wasn't long however until Kono started to control the distance and timing, countering and avoiding the shots of Kimura, who at times looked like a rank novice, flailing at the air. Sadly Kono refused to really let his hands go, even when the openings were there.
Despite landing the better shots, including sharp straight right hands, and clean jabs, Kono seemed to be too focused on his defense which seemed to be responsible for him being down when the open scoring was announced after round 5. Kimura, due to missing so often, dropped his work rate and began to target the body, a smart game plan, and likely part of why he was in the lead.
In round 6 the pace did pick up a bit, and it seemed like Kimura was the man again forcing the action, as the Hall picked up it's volume. The following round saw Kono being dragged into a war, as his defense began to fall apart under the pressure of Kimura, pressure that was becoming significantly more intense. Despite the early successes of Kono's counters he was completely falling apart, unable to back up, or get the respect of, Kimura who was wading in and raining down punches, and having real success with his right hand around the guard.
With Kono having had a nightmare round 7 it seemed like he would have to come out fast for round 8. Sadly though he was tired and being worn down by the aggression of Kimura, which just never relented, forcing the referee to eventually step in and save Kono.
It was clear that Kono was skilled, through the first 5 rounds he looked very talented, and he managed to give Kimura some slight swelling under his right eye. The problem for Kono however was that Kimura's body attack in rounds 4 and 5 began to take slow the reflexes of Kono and the with the increase in pressure in round 6, and particularly round 7, really took everything he had out of the tank and it seemed like a matter of time until the Kono was going to be stopped.
A bout between Kimura and Saito will take place in the new year, with the winner of that mandated to defend against Yusuke Suzuki (9-3, 6) [鈴木悠介]. They should both be fan friendly bouts, but sadly this wasn't, at least not until round 6 when Kimura began to pick up the pace.
The curse of the Japanese Bantamweight title has been on going saga this year, with 3 fights for the bout cancelled before Yuta Saito (11-9-3, 8) [齊藤裕太] defeated Eita Kikuchi [菊地永太] for the belt back in September.
Saito was pencilled in to defend the belt in a mandatory title fight before the year was over, with Yusuke Suzuki (9-3, 6) [鈴木悠介] his supposed opponent. Sadly that bout has been cancelled before it was even officially announced. Sadly the reason for the cancellation is a pretty serious one.
Saito, who's bout with Suzuki was expected to take place on December 20th, has been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, a serious chronic condition that could keep him out of the ring for a prolonged time, and prevent him really building on the win over Kikuchi.
As a result of Saito's illness we will instead see Hayato Kimura (27-10, 18) [木村隼人] facing off with Seizo Kono (19-10-1, 12) [高野誠三] for the interim title on December. This bout was originally ordered as a Japanese title decider, but due to the health issues of Saito the JBC have taken the decision to put the interim title on the line.
Suzuki doesn't totally miss out. Instead the long term plan is for him to fight the eventual unified champion. Saito will need to face the interim champion within 4 months of the Kimura Vs Kono bout, to unify the titles, and the winner of the unification bout will need to face Suzuki within 3 months.
Whilst it does lead to an exciting year ahead for the Japanese Bantamweight title we do need to wonder quite why so many health issues have effected people, including Suzuki, linked to the belt since the start of this year. And we also need to wish Saito the best with his medical problem, which can have a significant effect on day to day life for sufferers.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Good things come to those who wait, and we've had to wait to wait over a year for a Japanese title fight, due to injuries and weigh in issues. As fans we deserved something good for the long wait, and we got something better than good as Yuta Saito (11-9-3, 8) [齊藤裕太] and Eita Kikuchi (21-6-4, 8) [菊地永太] put on a 2 round shoot out for the title, in one of the best bouts on Japanese soil this year.
There was no feeling out stage at all. Kikuchi set off at a high pace behind his busy jab, it took Saito a minute or so to adapt but when he did he instantly found success with his right hands, slamming them into the face of the taller, faster Kikuchi.
Kikuchi tried to respond by upping his work rate, letting shots go in the trenches but reverted back to trying to create space and pop out his jab. It was a tactic that seemed wise but couldn't halt the marauding Saito who continued to press forward to the end of the opening round.
In the second round Saito immediately went on the offensive, quickly forcing Kikuchi to give ground, and even wobbled the taller man with the heavy shots up top. It wasn't long until Kikuchi found his back against the rounds and Saito throwing heavy leather in his direction. Knowing he had to fight back to survive Kikuchi began to throw heavy artillery Saito's way but was shut down by Saito's relentlessness and accuracy who refused to back off. The pressure told and with head shots landing clean the referee finally stepped in and saved Kikuchi, who simply couldn't handle the power of Saito.
With the win the title finally has a new owner, almost 8 months after it was vacated by Ryo Akaho due to weight loss related health issues. After 3 cancelled title bouts bouts the belt has a new owner, and Yuta Saito has some gold around his waist.
Sadly for Saito his impressive performance today will leave him with a target on his back for fighters like Keita Kurihara (12-5, 11) [栗原 慶太], Yusuke Suzuki (9-3, 6) [鈴木悠介] and Kyosuke Sawada (12-2-1, 6) [澤田京介], who will all be chasing for a Japanese title fight. Saito against Kurihara or Suzuki has Japanese FOTY potential, whilst Sawada's style would be an interesting match up for Saito.
For Kikuchi this is probably the end of his career. He gave his all today but it sadly wasn't enough against the hard hitting Saito.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
In 2018 we've not seen a single bout for the Japanese Bantamweight title. Instead we've seen a string of cancellations, bouts falling apart at really late notice. We've had two contests pulled due to a fighter being unable to safely make weight and another cancelled due to an injury. It's a shame that the domestic crown has been left on ice almost all year, but thankfully that will change tomorrow.
It will change as fans get the chance to see Yuta Saito (10-9-3, 7) [齊藤裕太] face off with Eita Kikuchi (21-5-4, 8) [菊地永太] to crown a new champion. This bout comes more than a year after Ryo Akaho successfully defended the belt against Saito, in the last bout for the title.
Today Saito and Kikuchi took part in their weigh in, and to the relief of the everyone, both men made weight!
On the scales both men came in on the limit and both in pretty good shape. Of the two Saito probably looked the stronger man, having a more filled out frame, but Kikuchi certainly has the edge in height and reach and will potentially be the heavier man when they meet in the ring tomorrow.
The vacancy of the title, which has been vacant since January, is longest the title has ever gone without a champion and it's clear that both men have been given a huge opportunity to claim gold tomorrow when they face off.
Sadly neither man is a standout. Coming in to this Saito has lost his last 2 bouts and is without a win in almost 29 months whilst Kikuchi lost in a Japanese eliminator in his last bout, last October. But the title does need a champion and the winner will have a host of people wanting to challenge for the title, such as Keita Kurihara (12-5, 11) [栗原 慶太], Yusuke Suzuki (9-3, 6) [鈴木悠介], who actually beat Kikuchi last year in an eliminator before suffering an injury this year, and Kyosuke Sawada (12-2-1, 6) [澤田京介] who will all be chasing the belt in 2019.
For fans wanting to watch this bout but can't make their way to the brilliant Korakuen Hall it will be televised live on G+.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
The Japanese Bantamweight title has been held by some national boxing icons, though this year it has been dragged through the mud and has seemingly been cursed with 3 title bouts now being cancelled this year! With the most recent, which was set to take place tomorrow, being cancelled due to Suguru Muranaka (26-3-1, 8) [村中 優] being taken to hospital, before he was supposed to weigh in to face Yuta Saito (10-9-3, 7) [齊藤裕太].
The title had been vacated back in January when Ryo Akaho (31-2-2, 20) [赤穂 亮] was forced to pull out of a bout against Yusuke Suzuki (9-3, 6) [鈴木悠介], in a similar though not identical circumstances. Suzuki was himself injured before a scheduled fight with Muranaka in April.
Now logically, though when does boxing use logic, a match up between Suzuki and Saito would make sense though it's unclear if that's now the option the JBC have in mind.
Sadly for Muranaka this could essentially end his career. He has had weight issues in the past, failing to make weight several times including failing to make the Flyweight limit for a defense of the Japanese Flyweight title. Failing to make weight for that bout really was the start of Muranaka's problems and since then he has suffered two suspensions. It's now hard to see the JBC giving him any more chances, especially given their crack down on fighters failing to make weight this year.
(Image of Saito courtesy of boxmob.jp)
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