The annual "Rookie of the East" is coming to a close in Japan and we had the first of the semi-finals today with 11 bouts at the Korakuen Hall.
The action kicked off in the Minimumweight division as we got an excellent, on paper, match up between unbeaten fighters. Unfortunately for Naoyuki Tsukada (3-1-1, 2) it was his 0 that had to go as he was out pointed by Kenichi Miyazaki (5-0-1, 1)
The second contest on the show, at Light Flyweight, proved to be a complete mismatch as Tomoyuki Kaneko (6-1, 3) took just 87 seconds to dispatch Yuta Sakai (2-5). This result interestingly mirrors Sakai's debut in which he was stopped in 61 seconds, the only other stoppage defeat on his record.
After the blast out in fight #2 it was nice to see competitive action resuming in the shows third bout as Yuji Okinori (6-0, 1) took a narrow victory over Kenta Yamada (5-3). Although the bout goes down on paper as a majority decision it was incredibly close and a rematch would not go amiss somewhere down the line.
If Okinori/Yamada was close then the fourth bout on the show was even closer, at least on the cards, as Jo Tanooka (6-0-3) took a majority decision over Takahiro Kinoshita (3-3-1, 2). With one judge scoring it a shut out, another scoring it 39-36 and the third judge having a 38-38 draw we're not sure just how close this "actually" was, and come folks we all judges make mistakes.
The competitve nature of the action continued through the middle section of the card with Kazuki Yokoyama (5-1, 3) taking a hard fought unanimous decision over Bantamweight rival Yuki Arai (3-2, 1). This was Yokoyama's fourth straight victory.
In the sixth bout on the show Naoto Fujimoto (5-2-1, 2) managed to overcome a clear power disadvantage as he defeated the hard hitting Ryuta Nakajima (5-2-1, 4) in a nip and tuck split decision. With 4 decisions now on his record Nakajima will know that a KO is a way to go having fallen to 1-2-1 in bouts that go to the final bell.
Whilst there had been several close bouts none really came close to matching the bout between Yudai Tamagawa (5-3-1, 2) and Shinya Nemoto (3-3-1, 1) a bout that was scored a split decision draw. None of the three judges could make a case for either man really winning with a 39-37 card for Tamagawa being over-ruled by a 39-38 card for Nemoto and a 38-38 card to result in a draw.
Although much of the card had been close, the competitive action seemed to end after the draw with the unbeaten Kazuma Sanpei (7-0, 2) taking a clear victory over Takahiro Araki (3-2, 2) in the show's Super Featherweight contest. Sanpei's 7 fight unbeaten will instill a lot of confidence in to him going in to the final though we expect he will face a tough opponent there than he did here.
Sanpei/Araki was followed by the show's second blow out as Reo Komiyama (6-1-2, 6) stopped Yuzo Mitani (5-2, 2) in just 61 seconds. Komiyama likely knew Mitani was there to be taken early as he had been stopped in a round against Kenta Endo just 2 fights back. With serious power Komiyama has the potential to be a must watch fighter though will need to add a bit more to his game if he intends to be more than just "The Rookie of the East".
On paper the least interesting bout was the Light Welterweight clash between Shingo Yabu (3-2-1) and Motoyoshi Honma (1-2-1). Fortunately for both men they are in a weak division, unfortunately for Honma however he was out pointed by Yabu who will be looking for the Rookie Crown in his next bout.
It's fair to say their hadn't been too many upsets on the show, though the final bout did give us a little one as Wataru Seino (3-1, 3) stopped the more experienced Kenyu Ojima (5-2, 3). Although Ojima had been stopped previously in his career he was expected to get past Seino who managed to pull out the stops for a 4th round stoppage.
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