On December 21st 2015 we saw Yasutaka Ishimoto (29-9, 8) [石本 康隆] claim the Japanese Super Bantamweight title with a razor thin win against Yusaku Kuga (14-2-1, 10) [久我 勇作]. As the champion Ishimoto made 2 defenses last year but today his reign came to an end, with Kuga gaining revenge over Ishimoto and making a genuine statement at the same time.
The bout, the first of the 2017 Champion Carnival bouts, was a highly anticipated contest with the first fight between the two men having been such a hotly contested bout. Despite the anticipation this wasn't as hotly contest as their first. Instead it was a savage beating.
Kuga set the tone within the few seconds of the bout stating, landing a huge right hand that put Ishimoto on the back foot instantly. The champion never seemed to recover and Kuga continued to fire off right hands with alarming frequency. It was a predictable shot but he was getting through time and time again and it was clear that the usually durable Ishimoto was simply unable to take the power. Within 70 seconds Ishimoto had been dropped, and it was clear that he was going to be in for a torrid time for as long as he could survive. In fact it seemed Ishimoto's best chance was going to be on Kuga blowing himself out.
Ishimoto managed to see out the first round, showing both his bravery, experience and toughness, but it was for naught as Kuga continued to be rampant, taking the fight to the champion. Ishimoto had moments, and landed some right hands of his own, but they just bounced off Kuga who landed more monstrous shots, shaking up Ishimoto. A nasty combination, put Ishimoto in his shell, and although he did begin to fight back the bout was stopped, with his team throwing in the towel.
For Kuga the win sees him becoming a Japanese champion at the second time of asking, and continues a good 2017 for theWatanabe gym, who also had Nihito Arakawa crowned as the WBO Asia Pacific Lightweight champion last week. After a disappointing 2016 it seems like the gym is back into the swing of things and are chasing a new era of titles, with several other Watanabe fighters scheduled to fight in title contests in the coming weeks and months.
For Ishimoto the losswas his second stoppage defeat, and sadly it likely ends his long and exciting career. The Teiken man has been in a number of wars and they certainly contributed to his performance here, however take nothing away from Kuga who was sensational. Aged 35 and with almost 240 rounds under his belt it probably is time he hung up his gloves. He has been a great servant to Japanese boxing, but he's unlikely to ever reach the heights of being a national champion again.
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