Fans in Japan today got a number of treats, one of which was the Japanese Super Bantamweight title eliminator between Super Bantamweight bout between the in form Yuta Nakagawa (21-5-1, 12) [中川勇太] and former champion Yasutaka Ishimoto (31-9, 9) [石本康隆]. The 8 round boutm, to decide the next challenger for the domestic title, looked like an interesting one on paper, especially for fans who had seen either man in action previously, and it proved to be a bout that lived up to expectations, if not exceeding them sligthly.
The bout saw Nakagawa use his speed and youth early on, and for the first two rounds he really made Ishimoto look like the 36 year old veteran that he is. It seemed like Ishimotohad slipped a lot from his best years, and that he was showing signs of not only being old but also a damaged fighter, unable to keep the pace of Nakagawa and being troubled by by the shots of the younger man, including a rather peculiar looking uppercut.
It wasn't until round 3 that Ishimoto finally found a foot hold in the bout, upping his energy, countering well and landing some solid right hands to the jaw of the younger man, who had put so much into the first two rounds that it looked like he was starting to feel the pace. There were moments where Nakagawa got the best of it, but it was certainly a turning point in the fight, which saw Ishimoto prove he could out work Nakagawa.
Rounds 4 and 5 again saw Ishimoto being the busier and more aggressive fighter as he seemed to turn the bout in his favour, despite bleeding from the nose. It was a great effort and on that took it's toll on Nakagawa, who was now looking like a man throwing mostly arm punches and losing his snap. Despite being younger Nakagawa had never faced someone as determined and hungry as Ishimoto and it showed as the desire of the veteran kept him firing, and arguably taking round 6 through sheer bloody work rate.
Nakagawa again found his success in round 7, as Ishimoto began to slow and tired himself. It was as if the previous few rounds of him surging had taken more out of him, though he gritted his teeth once more in the final round and gave it everything he had, and left the bout on a knife edge with both men feelign they could have done enough to deserve the win.
At the end of the bout the judges were split, with Ishimoto getting a 77-76 nod from the first judge, the second favouring Nakagawa by the same score whilst the deciding judge went in favour of Ishimoto.
With the win Ishimoto secures a third bout with current Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Yusaku Kuga (15-2-1, 10) [久我 勇作], who actually stopped Ishimoto for the crown earlier this year. A loss there would likely spell the end for the Teiken man, who has been one of the best value fighters on the Japanese scene in recent years, and is well deserving of one more big fight.
This year we've seen Kyotaro Fujimoto (17-1, 9) [藤本 京太郎] cclaim the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific Heavyweight titles, adding them to his Japanese title to become a rare triple crown winner. Today we heard the news that he will be returning to the ring to defend his two regional crowns on November 4th, as part of a bumper show set to be shown on G+.
Fujimoto's opponent for the bout will be Australian Randall Rayment (8-3, 3), who has won his last 6 bouts including a decision over former Kyotaro foe Herman Ene Purcell. For Rayment the bout will be his first title contest, and in fact his first bout scheduled for more than 8 rounds. It's a huge step up for the challenger, but it's also a massive opportunity.
As mentioned the card will be a deep one and the chief support bout is the Japanese Super Bantamweight title eliminator between Yuta Nakagawa (21-4-1, 12) [中川勇太] and former champion Yasutaka Ishimoto (30-9, 9) [石本康隆], which should be a very special fight in it's own right. Another Japanese title eliminator, this time at Middleweight, will see Shoma Fukumoto (11-1, 9) [福本祥馬] trade blows with Kazuto Takesako (6-0, 6) [竹迫司登], in what looks almost certain to be a fire fight between two heavy handed bangers.
The winners of those eliminators will get a shot at their respective titles in 2018, as part of the Champion Carnival, and should lead to some very interesting match ups.
Another supporting bout will see Akinori Watanabe (34-6, 29) [渡部あきのり] taking on Filipino visitor Dennis Padua (11-12-2, 6) whilst the touted Kazuki Saito (3-0, 3) [斎藤 一貴] will be taking on Filipino puncher Alvin Lagumbay (8-1, 7), who has won his last 8 bouts following a loss on debut back in June 2015.
Earlier today the JBC announced their replacement of the "Strongest Korakuen" and in all honesty we really like their decision, even if we were fans of the Strongest Korakuen.
For those unaware, the Strongest Korakuen, was a short tournament to decide the mandatory challenger for the Japanese titles the following year, at the Champion Carnival. At one point the tournament was pretty significant, with fighters genuinely vying for a place, but in recent years fighters have been less eager and what was once a tournament format has since dropped to being a straight final between two highly ranked JBC contenders in only a few divisions. A far cry from what the Strongest Korakuen once was.
The solution from the JBC was to have a "Japanese Champion Challenger Decision Battle", not a catchy name we'll admit, between two contenders to decide the mandatory challengers across a number of weight classes. And unlike the past these bouts aren't cramped on a single show but instead allowed to take place over a number of cards and dates. This has allowed the fighters more flexibility, and arguably set up a more interesting end to 2017 for Japanese fight fans, who have a number of big domestic clashes to look forward to on the national stage.
The first of the bouts will take place on August 20th and will come at Minimumweight as WBO world ranked fighter Ryoki Hirai (9-4-1, 4) [平井亮輝] take on Kenta Matsui (8-6, 1) [松井謙太]. On paper this doesn't look an amazing bout but the reality is that it's well matched on paper and give both men a rea reason to fight hard and go for the win, and could potentially see Hirai continue his remarkable career turn around which has seen him rebuild from a 3-3-1 (1) record to a potential title fight.
The second bout will take place on October 8th and will be the Light Flyweight bout, which will pit Koki Ono (12-3, 5) [小野晃輝] against veteran Koji Itagaki (17-11-3, 7) [板垣幸司] in what looks like another of those under-rated match ups that has made the Japanese scene as interesting as it is. On paper Ono will be strongly favoured, however Itagaki ios no joke and his record really doesn't tell the story of his good he is,
Interestingly we'll have 5 of the bouts take place on October 21st.
One of those will be at Flyweight as the always fun to watch Katsunori Nagamine (14-1, 10) [長嶺克則] takes on Akinori Hoshino (13-7-1, 9) [星野晃規]. Whilst this looks likely to be another predictable win, for Nagamine, it's hard to argue with him getting a title shot after the run he's been on since losing to Ken Shiro. Another bout on the same day Eita Kikuchi (21-4-4, 8) [菊地永太] will face off with Yusuke Suzuki (8-3, 5) [鈴木悠介] in a really good looking Bantamweight bout, which pits a veteran against a relative novice in what could be a real thriller.
On the same day we'll also get Featherweight bout which will pit Dai Iwai (21-4-1, 7) [岩井大] against Taiki Minimoto (13-5, 11) [源大輝], in a bout where we see former title challengers face off. We also get the Lightweight bout, which will pit fast rising prospect Shuichiro Yoshino (4-0, 2) [吉野修一郎] against Spicy Matsushita (17-9-1, 2) [スパイシー松下] in a another bout that pits a veteran against a novice, though it's fair to say the novice will be very strongly favoured here. The other bout taking place the same day is a Welterweight bout which will see former title challenger Moon Hyun Yun (18-4-3, 3) [尹文鉉] take on the heavy handed Ryota Yada (13-4, 11) [矢田良太] in a potentially explosive bout.
On November 4th we'll again get a number of bouts. One of those is a juicy looking Super Bantamweight bout between Yuta Nakagawa (21-4-1, 12) [中川勇太] and Yasutaka Ishimoto (30-9, 9) [石本康隆], in what could well be the pick of the bouts given the styles of the two men. Another bout on the same day will see Masaru Sueyoshi (15-1, 10) [末吉大] take on Ribo Takahata (13-7-1, 5) [高畑里望] in a Super Featherweight bout, with Sueyoshi looking ready to move on to title level. A third bout on the same day, and another real cracker on paper, will see Shoma Fukumoto (11-1, 9) [福本祥馬] trade blows with Kazuto Takesako (6-0, 6) [竹迫司登] for the chance to fight for a Middleweight title next year, and we suspect that one will be very explosive.
The Super Flyweight bout will take place on November 11th as Ohashi gym fighter Go Onaga (27-3-3, 18) [翁長吾央] battles against 4-time world title challenger Hiroyuki Hisataka (25-16-1, 11) [久高寛之] in what will almost certainly be a gruelling battle between two veterans of the ring.
At some point in November, though yet to be confirmed, we'll see the Welterweight bout between Nobuyuki Shindo (18-4-1, 7) [新藤寛之] and Cobra Suwa (19-12-2, 11) [コブラ諏訪], in what is a real must for both, who are both struggling at the moment and cannot afford another loss.
The final bout, scheduled for December 8th, will be at 140lbs and see Dominican born Japanese based Vladimir Baez (22-3-21, 20), aka "Destino Japan, take on Kazuyasu Okamoto (14-4, 4) [岡本和泰] in what should be another explsoive match up.
The winners of all the bouts will earn themselves a shot at their respective divisional champion in 2018, meaning the bouts really do matter, not just to the men involved, but also to the Japanese champions and the top domestic contenders.
Japanese Light Welterweight champion Hiroki Okada (13-0, 10) [岡田 博喜] will return to the ring on November 1st to defend his title against veteran Valentine Hosokawa (20-5-3, 9) [細川バレンタイン].
For Okada the bout will complete an active year that has seen him fight 3 times already, scoring wins over Masanobu Nakazawa, Koichi Aso and Cristiano Aoqui. With a 4th fight this year it'll be the busiest of Okada's career and we suspect his final bout as the Japanese champion with the fighter having already mentioning giving up the title to chance the OPBF title.
For Hosokawa this will be a third title shot, following stoppage losses to Shinya Iwabuchi, in a Japanese title fight, and Min Wook Kim, in an OPBF title fight. He will however be coming in to this one on the back of a decision loss to Noriaki Sato, who is competing in the Strongest Korakuen this year.
In a supporting bout Yuta Nakagawa (18-4-1, 9) [中川 勇太] will be facing Keigo Soma (8-11-2, 5) [相馬 圭吾] in what should be a stay busy bout for Nakagawa ahead of a possible Japanese title fight in 2017
The card will also feature promising novice Kazuki Saito (1-0, 1) [斎藤 一貴], who will be fighting in his first 8 rounder. His opponent hasn't yet been announced.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Earlier today saw the announcement of the Japanese boxing awards for the month of March. The awards, handed out for Most Valuable Player (MVP), Fighting Spirit and "State of the Art" were given to mostly deserving winners.
For the MVP the decision to name Akio Shibata (22-8-1, 9), pictured, the award winner was an easy decision. Shibata had, on March 1st, unified the Japanese and OPBF Middleweight titles with an excellent decision win over Daisuke Nakagawa (22-4-2, 17) and helped to reignite his career after his loss last year to a then debuting Ryota Murata.
The Fighting Spirit award went to the newly crowned Japanese Light Welterweight champion Hiroki Okada (8-0, 7) who claimed his title with a decision victory over Masayoshi Kotake (9-8-1, 5) on March 4th. It was Okada's first decision victory and saw him prove himself as a very promising fighter who some are viewing as a man going to go a very long way.
Oddly the "State of the Art" award, generally an award for young emerging prospects was given to Yuta Nakagawa (12-4-1, 8) for his victory over Kaname Tabei (10-8-2, 7) on March 17th. We're at a loss as to how Kosei Tanaka (2-0) didn't deserve the award for his victory the previous day over Ronelle Ferreras (13-7-2, 5).
(Photo courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
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