The bout, which was put together for the Champion Carnival due to the injury to Takuya Kogawa, was arguably the best fight on Japanese soil so far this year and was a thriller form the opening round to the final bell.
The bout started hot with both men landing some heavy leather to both the head and body. The great start didn't feel like an opening round, but it ended up serving as a warm up for a war that seemed to just get better and better.
Kuroda's extra class, and higher level experience, seemed to be the difference maker at times but Matsuo refused to back down and found a home for some devastating body shots and brutal right hands up top. The work of Matsuo to keep him in the bout in the first half of the contest, with the open scoring after round 5 showing the competitive nature of the fight, with the judges having the contest 48-48、49-46 and 48-47.
From the first half of the fight the high point was round 4 when the two men engaged in a round of phone booth action which seemed to show just how much the contest meant to both fighters. It seemed to be one of Matsuo's best rounds but essentially saw him being unable to hurt Kuroda no matter what he seemed to land.
We had a few more toe-to-toe rounds, though it seemed like Kuroda's control of the bout picked up between round 6 and 8 as Matsuo began to slow and his experience over the 10 rounds started to show. It wasn't ever like Matsuo looked close to being stopped, but Kuroda did began to man handle him a bit more frequently than he had in the earlier stages. Despite having fallen well behind Matsuo seemed to get a second wind in round 9 as he continued to keep the war going, whilst Kuroda tried to box a bit more, and keep something in the tank for the final round.
That final round ended up being something very special, as the two men put it all on the line and spent almost the entire 3 minutes trading blows around the ring up close. The shots they landed seemed to be constant and although neither man looked particularly hurt you could hear the shots above the chanting crowd in what will likely be one of the best rounds in a Japanese ring during 2017.
Sadly for Matuso his great effort was in vain as Kuroda took a decision with scores of 97-94, twice, and 96-94. He was a worthy winner and will now likely move on to a rematch with regular champion Takuya Kogawa, who beat him last year, later in the year. For Matsuo the loss was such a valiant one that he comes out with an enhanced reputation, and we'll admit we'd love to see him again, potentially in a second meeting with Kuroda given just how exaciting and action packed this bout was.
(Image courtesy of daily.co.jp)