This past week has been an interesting one in many ways. The quantity of shows has dropped off, noticeably, but the quality was high through out with two major Japanese cards from the Korakuen Hall as well as several other noteworthy cards.
Fighter of the Week
Ryo Sagawa (8-1, 4)
On Friday we had a hugely anticipated show at the Korakuen Hall, featuring a number of notable Japanese fighters, with many of them being in ultra competitive contests. The man who won the most significant of those was Ryo Sagawa, who defeated Reiya Abe for the Japanese Featherweight title. The bout was an ultra competitive contest over 10 excellent rounds, and for Sagawa it completes a remarkable run of results, which also includes a win over Ryo Matsumoto and Al Toyogon. Given how close it was it keeps Abe in the title mix, but Sagawa is well deserving of the Fight of the Week award, and we expect to see him in some much bigger bouts in the coming years.
Performance of the Week
Masanori Rikiishi (7-1, 4)
Japanese fighter Masanori Rikiisi isn't someone Western fans will be too aware of, though they may see his name breaking into the world rankings sooner rather than later, especially his match makings, and this weeks performance. The unheralded 25 year old stepped up massively to take on his first non-Asian opponent, and completely schooled Nicaraguan Freddy Fonseca. Fonseca is best known by American fans for losing earlier in the year to the Jo Jo Diaz, and whilst Rikiishi couldn't stop Fonseca he did drop him twice and totally dominate him over 8 rounds to secure his best win to date.
Saemi Hanagata 915-7-4, 7) Vs Nao Ikeyama (18-6-4, 5) III
After 2 thrilling bouts, both of which ended in draws, we got exactly what expected when Saemi Hanagata and Nao Ikeyama took to the ring to end their trilogy. From the first round to the last this was an engaging, competitive bout, that never seemed easy to score and always looked like both fighters felt they had what it took to take home the win. We love competitive back and forth and this was just that, even if neither fighter had the power to hurt the other. The momentum shifts, action and gelling of styles between these two is great, and it's a shame their rivalry now seems to be over after 30 extremely competitive rounds.
Note - Unfortunately the A-Sign card hasn't been made available, had been out there there's a good chance that 3 bouts from that card would have been in the mix for this award.
Ayaka Miyao vs Monserrat Alarcon (Rd 10)
Fans of female boxing were treat this past week. Not only did they have the big Amanda Serrano Vs Heather Hardy bout in the US but there was also a Japanese card that completely focused on female boxing. The card didn't get a lot of attention, but it should have given the quality of action on the show. The highlight for us was the final round of the WBA Atomweight title bout between Ayaka Miyao and Monserrat Alarcon. This was a sensational round of action, with so much leather thrown as both fighters tried to secure victory in an incredibly close bout. If you like female boxing this is well worth hunting down.
Note-As with the fight of the week some of the best rounds haven't yet been made available to watch due to one of the cards being put on a tape delay to much later in the month.
Muhammad Waseem KO1 Conrado Tanamor
Pakistani fighter Muhammad Waseem had been out of the ring for over a year until returning in a cameo on Friday in Dubai. The cameo was very short, lasting just over a minute with Waseem taking out Filipino fighter Conrado Tanamor with a brutal body shot. The bout was a mismatch, but the shot was still a beauty and it's clear that if Waseem can shake some ring rust, against a decent opponent, he could well find himself back in the world title mix before the end of the end of 2020.
Iskander Kharsan (7-0, 6)
Unbeaten US based Kazakh prospect Iskander Kharsan has some how remained under the radar despite showing the potential to be someone very special. That ability, power punching and confidence was on show this weekend when he stopped Isidro Ochoa in the 5th round. The Kazakh youngster applied intelligent pressure and sharp punching to take control, dropping Ochoa in round 5 with an excellent straight right hand. Ochoi, to his credit, saw out the round but retired in the corner as Kharsan picked up best win to date.
Taku Kuwahara (5-0, 4) vs Jonathan Refugio (21-6-5, 7)
There are a number of solid bouts coming up over the next week or so, but the one that really stands out is a match up between fast rising Japanese hopeful Taku Kuwahara and experienced Filipino Jonathan Refugio. On paper this is a massive step up for Kuwahara, but the body punching phenom from the Ohashi gym is tipped for big things and will be expected take home the win here. Refugio is no world beater, but the Filipino is a durable, skilled and tough fighter, who can do enough to test rising hopefuls. This should be a great chance to see just how good Kuwahara is, and how quickly the Ohashi team can move him.
The end of July is upon us and we see another surge in action, especially in Japan, with tournaments, titles, prospects and a touted debutant!
On July 23rd we get something a little bit different as Dangan put on the quarter final bouts for their God's Left Bantamweight tournament:
Gaku Aikawa (9-7-1, 3) Vs Kenya Yamashita (13-5, 10) - Tokyo, Japan
Kazuki Nakajima (6-0, 5) Vs Kenichi Watanabe (8-4-1, 4) - Tokyo, Japan
Jin Minamide (3-0, 3) Vs Tetsu Araki (14-1-1, 2) - Tokyo, Japan
The three matches above are all part of the God's Left tournament and on paper the stand out match up is the Minamide Vs Araki bout, pitting one of the most touted prospects against the man with the most success at title level, with Araki having been a Japanese Youth champion. It's hard to imagine anything but a win for Kazuki Nakajima in his bout with Kenichi Watanabe, with Aikawa Vs Yamashita has the potential to be an all out thriller.
Japanese fighter Masamichi Yabuki has been quietly creating a buzz in the lower weights thanks to his power. Win or lose Yabuki has always been someone worth following and has created a pretty solid following among those that follow the Japanese scene. What many perhaps aren't aware of is that Yabuki has a boxing brother, the talented and fast rising Masanori Rikiishi (5-1, 3), who is in the mix for a potential title fight in the near future. With that in mind we want to cover Rikiishi in this weeks "Introducing..." segment.
Interestingly Masamichi's birth name was Honma Sato whilst Rikiishi's was Masayoshi Sato, though of course both fighters are now better known by their current fighting names than their birth names.
Rikiishi was born in Suzuka city, Mie prefecture and prior to turning professional in 2017 he had managed to make a mark on the amateur scene, going 25-5 (15). His natural talent, and power, were obvious and when he turned professional he did so with a little of hype and expectancy on his shoulders, even without a hugely impressive record.
On debut Rikiishi took on Korean for Sa Ya Lee in a 6 round bout, and took a clear 6 round decision, whilst fighting out of the Yakushiji Gym. It wasn't a high profile debut, such as those enjoyed by someone like Naoya Inoue or Ryota Murata, but it was still an impressive debut against a live opponent over 6 rounds.
Rikiishi's second bout was also a 6 rounder against a live opponent coming to win, as he took on the then 4-1 Ryo Tanimoto, just 4 months after making his professional debut. Rikiishi would stop Tanimoto early in round 3, after scoring his second knockdown of the fight. This win saw Rikiiishi, who debuted under a B Class license, advance to becoming an A Class fighter and his ambition really was huge.
After his second bout Rikiishi left the Yakushiji gym and joined up with the Midori Gym, or the Green gym if you want to translate the term Midori. Sadly his first bout for the Midori gym showed too much ambition with the then 2-0 Rikiishi battling against former Japanese Featherweight champion Kosuke Saka. Saka would prove too good, at the time, and stop Rikiishi in round 2. Rikiishi looked worried by Saka's aggression from the off, and despite having some success he was almost always fighting on the back foot and taking more than he was giving. Eventually Saka's power and aggression got to Rikiishi, dropping him twice and forcing the referee to save him.
Having lost in such 1-sided fashion to Saka it made sence to give Rikiishi an easy confidence building bout on his return. That easy bout, 4 months after his loss, saw him take out Indonesian journeyman Egy Rotzen in 2 rounds.
With the win over Rotzen being used to rebuild Rikiishi's confidence it wasn't long until he was back in a real fight, taking on former Japanese Lightweight title challenger Genki Maeda. In the opening round Rikiishi dropped Maeda, with a sweeping left hand and he'd score another knockdown in round 3, from a clubbing left hand. He would drop Maeda twice in round 5, with the referee waving the bout off after the second one.
Most recently Rikiishi took a wide 8 round decision win over Kei Iwahara, going 8 rounds for the first time. The bout was a dominant win for Rikiiishi, who dropped his man and left him with some huge swelling around the right eye, in an excellent showing.
Rikiishi will return to the ring on July 23rd, fighting as part of a stacked Dangan card at Korakuen Hall. He will be up against Shogo Yamaguchi and a win should push Rikiiishi one step closer to his first title fight.
The talented Rikiishi is a boxer first and a puncher second. Although he can fight in a war when dragged into it, he's at his best at mid range, can switch hit and has real venom in his left hand. He's not a KO puncher, by any means, but he's a guy where every clean shot seems to hurt, and that includes his under utilised jab. The biggest issue he has is that he still has a reckless edge. He's quick enough to get away with it, usually, but when he steps up to title level that will need taming, and will need sorting. Saying that however Rikiishi is a very fun, very exciting and very talented young Lightweight who can go a very long way.
This is just an opinion, maaaan! It's easy to share our opinions, and that's what you'll find here, some random opinion pieces