The 2019 Rookie of the Year tournament was genuinely brilliant with a number of great fights, both on the way to the All Japan final and in the All Japan final, back on December 22nd. Among the very best of the bouts was a Light Welterweight between Kodai Honda and Yasutaka Fujita, a round so good it deserves to be watched in isolation.
The two men had reached the final in impressive fashion. Honda had lost on his debut but has stopped his previous 3 opponents in a combined 6 rounds, including stopping the then 5-0 Masaki Kobayashi in the East Japan final in November. Fujita on the other hand had had stopped all 5 of his opponents in a combined 10 rounds, and had only been taken beyond 2 rounds once.
Whilst we didn't expect this one to go the distance, and it didn't was it was stopped in round 4, what we hadn't expected was that neither man wanted to go more than 3 minutes. From the opening moments we were seeing the two men in each others face and it was only 10 seconds in that we were seeing them trading bombs in some absolutely breath taking excuses. Fujita would then take the upper hand, and try to take out Honda who refuses to be taken out, and tried to pressure the free swinging Fujita. It wasn't the best game plan, but it made for some amazing action as Fujita threw punches like a newbie on a Fight Night game. Then Honda came back in the dying seconds of the round as it swung back towards him
In just the space of 3 minutes we had seen so much leather thrown that it was clear one man, or the other, wasn't going to remain standing after 5 rounds. We had seen Fujita throw everything, we had seen Honda eat everything then come back. This was a round to remember, and a brilliant way to start a Rookie of the Year final bout.
One of the fighters who truly won us over this year was Aso Ishiwaki, who bounced back from a loss in the 2018 All Japan Rookie of the Year final to go 3-0-1 in 2019. His first bout of the year saw him go up against the touted former amateur stand out Yoji Saito. On paper this was supposed to be a win for Saito, who had been a very solid amateur whilst Ishiwaki was just a 19 year old novice, but Ishiwaki had no intent in taking a second straight loss. Instead he was there for a win.
What we ended up with was a genuinely fantastic 6 round bout between two men who wanted to throw short, crisp, sharp bombs through out. The referee was barely needed in the 6 rounds, that saw both men show a real willingness to try and hurt the other. The bout was a bit of under-ground hit with a very solid level of back and forth action, and although it was slower than a true fight of the year contender, it's deliberate pace meant the bout was always highly engaging and let both men let big shots do up close.
For us the pick of the rounds here was round 2, with both men really going for it, with some fantastic back and forth action, right in the middle of the round. From the off both men proved they were willing to dig their toes into the canvas and let their punches flow, but it was really the middle minute of the round that shone, as Ishiwaki got close and Saito unloaded on him, forcing and immediate response giving us a brilliant bit of 2-way action, and made Saito realise he was in with a genuinely talented young fighter.
Sadly after this round the pace did drop a little, with Saito seeming to tire, though every round remained was a well fought 3 minutes of hard shots and 2-way action.
When we think of the best rounds in world title fights this year there are lots that have been forgotten, lost in the haze of a year of amazing fights. One or two might stand out, but many have just faded into a blur of great action we've had in 2019.
Today we bring you one of the rounds that stood out to us, and one that swung one way, then the other. It was a round from a very highly anticipated all-Japanese world title clash. A clash that perhaps came a year later than it should have, but still delivered some top level action through out.
The bout we're talking about is Kosei Tanaka's March clash with Ryoichi Taguchi, in a bout that Tanaka clearly won, by a landslide, but was tested in early the early going by a determined Taguchi. That determination was most clearly seen in this brilliant round, round 3, where Taguchi came forward and rocked Tanaka in the opening seconds.
With his man hurt Taguchi smelled his opportunity and went all out, before the momentum began to shift back. This led to a 3 minute back and forth fought at an incredibly high skill level, almost entirely in range. The referee was featured once or twice, splitting them, but that didn't take away from what was a pulsating round of action. A real forgotten round and something deserves a rewatch by those who saw the card live...and a first watch for those who missed it!
Since this bout Taguchi has announced his retirement whilst Tanaka has had a more interesting year. The youngster from Chukyo has beaten Jonathan "Bomba" Gonzalez, in a come from behind stoppage win, and is now days away from facing off with Wulan Tuolehazi, on New Year's Eve.
Disclaimer - If you're in Japan this round is sadly not available
The name "Tatsuyoshi" is synonymous with exciting fights thanks to the iconic Joichiro Tatsuyoshi, who had some absolute thrillers in his heyday including his timeless classic with Sirimongkol Singwancha. Now his son, Juiki Tatsuyoshi, is making his mark on the sport. Although not the natural showman of his father, though very few are, the younger Tatsuyoshi was recently in a bout with an amazing first round.
That bout saw Tatsuyoshi take on Japanese ranked fighter Masayasu Nakamura. We expected a decent fight, but nothing too exciting. Instead we expected that it was going to be another straight forward win for Tatsuyoshi, who has been matched smartly since his debut. We were, however, pleasantly surprised as Nakamura had not read the script at all, and instead of making Juiki look good, he tried to take him out.
From the opening seconds Nakamura was pressing the action, forcing the fight and pushing Tatsuyoshi onto the back foot. Sooner or later however the Tatsuyoshi blood was going to kick in, and the two were going to trade big shots. That took around 90 seconds to happen, and then we saw violence in the ring as both men set their feet and began a sensational battle to prove their machismo.
This bout, sadly, never reached the exciting heights we saw in this round again but for 3 minutes we had something very exciting and special.
Give the bout only took place on December 17th it's pretty clear that neither man has fought since, but we are expecting a big step forward from Tatsuyoshi in 2020, with his father seeming to suggest he needs to be facing better opponents going forward.
One of the great things about this series, even if it is only planned to be a short lived one that's going to run to the end of 2019, is the fact we get the chance to rewatch some amazing and totally obscure action. Action that wouldn't get a mention elsewhere, and we get to shine a light on rounds that left us with our jaws on the floor. Today's round sees us head back to Korea and we again see an obscure Korean domestic fight turn into an all out war between two novices who were both looking to advance their careers. The punishment they took in the bout may limit how far they go, but damnit we enjoyed them beating the living snot out of each other!
The bout we focus on this time around came in October and saw Seung Hee Lee and Jin Soo Kim really go to war in a way that Koreans really do specialise in. More specifically the round we look at here, is round 3, and man what a violent round this was.
It was clear that defense wasn't in the mind of either fighter, as both believed they had the power and toughness needed to take the other man out, before they went down themselves. The round, amazingly sees both men eating clean heads shots repeatedly and staying up right, some how. At the lower weights it wouldn't be a huge surprise to see fighters take so many clean shots, but these two guys are fighting at 154lbs, and really putting it all on some of the shots.
As with many of these obscure Korean rounds that we feature in this series the quality of the fighters isn't great, but it's the action, the desire and the heart that has us captivated for the full 3 minutes. Neither of these men are going far in the sport, they know it, the handful of people watching at WJ Boxing Club in Yangju know it, we know it, but for 3 minutes these two have every bit of our attention and they aren't going to let that go until the bell ends.
Unsurprisingly neither man has managed to return to the ring since the October rumble, and we wouldn't be surprised if both were still hurt in some way after this incredibly punishing bout.
Over the years the Japanese Middleweight title has given us some truly amazing fights, with sensational action, great back-and-forth exchanges and hellacious battles. The title might not be held in the same high regard as some other Japanese domestic titles but we don't really think we'd be stretching it to say that the title really over-delivers in terms of the quality of fights. This year we had two thrillers between the huge punching Kazuto Takesako and the skilled Shuji Kato.
The two men battled to a draw in their first bout, a real thriller, and a few months later they went again in another fantastic bout that pitted Takesako's power and pressure against Sato's counter punching and southpaw jab, which had been incredibly effective in their first bout.
Here we bring you round 5 of their rematch, a round which saw both men landing some huge shots and both being hurt. It was the most dramatic round of the fight, which was brutally entertaining through out, and saw each man needing to bite down hard on their gumshield to fight through some real sticky moments.
Up to this point Takesako had been bossing the fight, pressing and pressuring with great success and not taking too much back, but this round he was in genuine trouble as Kato's counter's landed clean and swung the bout his way, forcing Takesako to clear his head before getting back onto the front foot. This was just a brilliant, brutal 3 minutes and really is worth everyone's time to watch.
In 2020 we'll see Takesako take on OPBF champion Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa, in what looks likely to be another punishing bout, for both fighters, whilst Kato's next bout hasn't been announced at the time of writing.
We absolutely love the Japanese Youth title scene, and whilst not every bout delivers amazing action the title is building a reputation as a platform for some sensational back and forth bouts. Typically they are very well matched bouts and give fantastic 2-way action, with several legitimate Japanese Fight of the Year contenders in 2019. In December we got an absolute treat of a of a fight, as Toshiya Ishii and Haruki Ishikawa gave us a thrilling shoot out for the Japanese Youth Bantamweight title.
The first round had seen Ishii drop his man, and in all honesty he looked the much more skilled boxer, whilst Ishikawa looked a strong brawler. In round 2 however the fight became an all out action brawl as Ishii began to fight Ishikawa's fight. Within seconds there was a knockdown, soon followed by an incredible exchange that saw both fighters being staggered simultaneously, and both men continued firing off bombs as the round progressed.
Whilst the round did have some sloppiness to it, the drama and danger that both men put themselves through more than made up for the few brief instances where things got messy. This was young two men fighting not only for their pride, but for their chance to claim their first title, and neither man wanted to be the one seen to be backing off from the challenge.
Sadly the bout didn't remain such an exciting war, with round 3 seeing the action subdue before a fantastic finish in round 4, but this 3 minutes is up there with 3 of the very best from the year.
For those wondering about what the two men have done since, the truth is that this fight took place only a few weeks ago and neither has fought since. And we wouldn't expect to see either man until Spring, at the earliest.
We turn to Japanese action for the latest Round Review, and what a great round it was as two men dug deep in their desire to be the Japanese champion.
With the Japanese Light Flyweight title slipping from his hands Kenichi Horikawa dug into his years of experience was he took the fight to youngster Yuto Takahashi in the 10th and final round of their October clash. The action through the bout had been competitive, though for the most part it felt like the younger, fresh Takahashi was in the lead, having used his speed and youth to great effect through out. Whilst Takahashi was in the lead it was still a close bout, and Horikawa would have known that a big round could see him pull victory from the jaws of defeat.
In round 10 we saw the champion attempt turn things around in a big way as things stepped up, and the challenger impressively went with the veteran, with the two trading some heavy leather through the round at close range. It wasn't hugely pretty but was exciting, fast paced bursts of gruelling action.
The round wasn't all action, but in the moments we didn't see punches being thrown we saw men taking a few seconds to catch their breath before going back to work with incredible intensity and desire, with neither man willing to accept their fate without giving the round everything they had.
Many of the rounds we've given you in this series have been obscure ones, where rookies and novices have given us dramatic action and intense exchanges. Here we bring you something a little bit less obscure, but just as good!
We travel back to the summer as OPBF Super Bantamweight champion Hiroaki Teshigawara faced off with former world title challenger Shohei Omori. This was a bout that promised a lot, and whilst it wasn't as competitive overall as we expected that doesn't take away from the fact the bout was fantastic, and the highlight of it was the 6th round. It was the round where we saw both men putting their foot on the gas and both being hurt, with momentum shots through the round. It was a round where both fighters took risks and both men had to prove their chins.
After this round we started to see the fight become more and more 1-sided, as seemed to be the case in the final moments of this round, but as a stand alone round this is a great 3 minutes of action and shows how competitive the OPBF title scene is, and just how much the belt means to fights in Japan.
Since this bout we've not seen Omori fight, but he is pencilled in for a contest early in the new year against Leshan Li from China. Teshigawara recently fought, stopping Shohei Kawashima, and looks set to have a huge 2020 under the guidance of the legendary Koichi Wajima.
Our latest "Round Review" comes from Korean in a bout that could go down as one of the most over-looked fights of the decade.
It's rare for us to say we could include any round from a fight, but the reality is that the KBM Super Bantamweight title fight between Han Bin Suh and Jong Won Jung really could have had almost any round selected for this series. The two men took about a minute to introduce themselves before engaging in what was legitimately one of the most intense, action packed fights of the year. For the most part they stood in close range and took it in turns to tee off with combinations in the middle of the ring. It would go one way, then the other, then back again.
This was a bout that reminded us how amazing the Korean fighting spirit is, how the Korean mentality makes for amazing fights and amazing rounds.
For this series we've picked round 3, but really this is one of those bouts that fans deserve to make time to watch the whole thing from. View this as less of a "Round Review", as a trailer for a sensational fight with so much leather thrown, like two little dynamo's.
One thing to note about this bout, is this incredible war took place on the same week as Manny Pacquiao fought Keith Thurman...and we legitimately think this fight was better!
A huge thanks goes out to KBM for sharing this fight in full, and if you've even as much as a passing interest in Korean boxing we advise you keep an eye on the great work they do.
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