The bout pitted old high school friends against each other, with Kenta Nakagawa (13-3-1, 9) [中川 健太] looking to defend his title against Watanabe's Ryuichi Funai (27-7, 19) [船井 龍一]. For Nakagawa it was the first time he had entered the ring as a champion, following a thrilling win over Hayato Kimura last year. Sadly for Nakagawa he was unable to retain the title as Funai had a career defining performance.
Funai impressed from the off and took the first 2 rounds on all three cards, before Nakagawa managed to find a foot hold in the bout, winning round 3. The success of Nakagawa was short lived though with Funai taking round 4 and 5 to be in comfortable lead at the mid-way point of the contest.
After 5 rounds the scores were 49-46, twice in favour of Funai, and 47-47 in favour of Nakagawa.
Nakagawa fought like a man who knew he had to change his tactics and in round 6 brought the fight to Funai in a more aggressive manner, taking more risks and looking to turn things around. Funai was equal to it though and in round 7 the defending champion found out that Funai was heavier handed than his record suggested. Although Nakagawa had a good start to the round Funai ended up hurting him, bullying him and then eventually took down a tired looking Nakagawa in the final seconds of the round. As the referee counted it was clear that Nakagawa was gone and his corner threw in the towel as the referee closed in on the 10 count.
After having put on a thrilling and exciting contest the two men showed their friendship and respect once again, congratulating each other on their performane.
For Nakagawa the future is unclear, for Funai however a defense later this year does look to be the most likely think. Interestingly he has followed in the footsteps of Nihito Arakawa, Hiroto Kyoguchi and Yusaku Kuga, who have all claimed new titles this year for a really on fire Watanabe gym. They say success breeds success and that looks to be clear here.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)