On paper that main event looked like a bit of a nothing bout, as defending champion Flyweight champion Takuya Kogawa (27-4, 13) [粉川 拓也] took on 37 year old challenger Masafumi Otake (15-15-3, 7) [大嶽 正史], who if we're being honest has a journyman's record. On paper this looked like a mismatch, an easy defense for Kogawa who could potentially use boxingraise to increase his profile on route to a possible world title fight. What transpired in the ring however was very different to the expectations that we, and many others, had. Instead of a mismatch we had a FOTY contender, instead of a blow out we had a war.
The fight started hot, with Otake applying pressure. He put his head down, his hands up and attempted to walk Kogawa down, launching huge right hands and looping left hooks when up close and giving Kogawa real fits with his energy, desire and work rate straight away. Kogawa deal with much of that pressure by using his movement and footwork but was tagged often enough to know that he had to respect his challenger.
The second round was much the same, with Otake applying pressure, Kogawa needing to respond and a high output from both men, with neither really wanting to give the early rounds away. The action was pulsating, competitive and truly exciting with Kogawa's open defense forcing him to take some solid shots despite the fact he seemed to be landing the better quality blows. For the first 5 rounds it really was something special with Otake defying everyone's belief and being in Kogawa's face with a relentless and fiery attitude. In fact round 5 would have been a FOTY contender had it been seen by a bigger audience on a major TV network in the US and would have been compared to some of the best rounds in recent history.
The open scoring after 5 rounds heavily favoured Kogawa, preferring his boxing and clean punching rather than the pressure of Otake. That seemed to spur on the challenger who came out for round 6 hot and he really seemed to step it up for most of the round, before slowing in the later stages, giving Kogawa a chance to land some eye catching blows. Sadly for Otake the effort of round 6 seemed to take it's toll in round 7 as Kogawa resumed control of the action and had Otake reeling, rocking the challenger in the early stages, buckling his knees late and unloading several massive flurry's. The 7th was a nightmare for Otake. The following round seemed to see the tempo slow a little, though Otake did begin the round looking a rejuvenated fighter. Although a slower round both were forced to take heavy leather, with Otake getting the worst of it thanks to a number of spiteful right hands from the champion.
If the 7th was bad for the challenger than the 9th was terrible with Kogawa really taking the fight to a tiring challenger. Kogawa let rip with a huge flurry in the opening stages, a nasty uppercut mid way through the round was followed by a series of big right hands and a furry in the later stages left many wondering how Otake was still stood. Although a nightmare round for the challenger he did manage to have some success when the two men traded, albeit a trade that he came off worse in.
Seeing that Otake was tiring Kogawa seemed to go into round 10 with the intent of scoring a KO in the final round. Within moments of the round starting Otake was rocked with Kogawa unloading a barrage of punches, Otake tried to fight the champion off but another flurry put him in his place before an uppercut forced Otake to hold. Just moments later another uppercut landed, with this one being a disgustingly clean one that looked like it would have felled a horse, Otake took it, like he had been taking shots all day, and raised his hands in defiance. The taunt from Otake seemed to be a mistake as Kogawa roared in looking for the finish again but failing to secure it before Otake could hold. Moments later another big uppercut from Kogawa and then an assault seemed ready to have Otake going but the challenger bit down on his gum shield and let fly with shots of his own, his legs buckled but he refused to go down and somehow, some way stayed up to hear the final bell.
Kogawa had clearly done enough to retain his title, the bout was really competitive for 6 rounds before becoming less competitive, and in the end one sided, but even as it's most one sided of moments it was still utterly enthralling and the sort of action that fight fans wish we'd get more of. Sadly scorecards, which read 99-91, 100-90, 100-90 don't reflect the competitiveness, nor the compelling action, but fans who were lucky enough to see the bout will know they got the chance to see something special.
Aged 37 this is likely Otake's last fight. Although he missed out on the fairytale, Rocky-esque finish he did prove he himself as a genuine warrior, and must have left Kogawa wondering how Otake had been stopped 5 times prior to today. For Kogawa the bout was another war and another thrilling contest.
Following the contest Kogawa threw his hat into the mix for a New Year's Eve world title bout, with both him and Daigo Higa now apparently hunting a contest with WBA champion Kazuto Ioka. On this performance Ioka would beat Kogawa but would have to work incredibly hard to over-come the Miyata man