It's fair to say the recent WBO Flyweight title fight between Sho Kimura and Kosei Tanaka created a lot of buzz with fans who perhaps haven't followed the Japanese scene too well. Thankfully this has been a brilliant year for Japanese fights, even if it's been a rather disappointing one for Japanese fighters on the global scene.
For those new fans, and for those who perhaps missed some of what has gone on this year, we've decided to look at some of the very best fights in Japan these year. For the sake of this particular piece we've only included fights that were either on Japanese TV or have been made freely available via online sources. This unfortunately means that anything on boxingraise won't be included, though I do suggest that fight fans do give Boxingraise a look, as it is a fantastic service well worthy of a subscription.
This is part one of a multi-part article and will look at 5 bouts that took place from February 8th to May 7th. More parts to this will be posted in the coming weeks, so please keep your eye on for those!
February 8th - Korakuen Hall
Hiroaki Teshigawara (15-2-2, 9) vs Jason Canoy (27-7-2, 19)
Back in February Japanese brawler Hiroaki Teshigawara looked to make his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight title, as he took on tough Filipino Jason Canoy. The bout has all the ingredients of being some fun and thrilling but what we got was a bout that greatly exceeded expectations and turned out to be something exciting and very evenly matched. It wasn't the most skilled bout of the year, but it was certainly one of the most exciting, hard hitting and intense. Although both guys are very flawed they combined for an all action war that will sadly be forgetten by many when it comes to talking about the best Japanese bout of 2018.
March 18th – Portopia Hotel
Reiya Konishi (15-0, 5) vs Carlos Canizales (19-0-1, 16)
The first world title bout on this list is March's WBA Light Flyweight war between Japan's Reiya Konishi and Venezuelan Carlos Canizales. This bout was a higher level of skill than the Teshigawara Vs Canoy bout, but also combined Canizales's frightening power with Konishi's insane heart and work rate. Both men had unbeaten records going into the bout, the winner would remain unbeaten and take a world title, albeit the “regular” version. The loser would have to rebuild and it was obvious both men had a lot riding on it. This is another bout that we think could end up being forgotten by some, but with Canizales later picking up a big win over Lu Bin in China we hope fans give this a shot.
April 4th – Korakuen Hall
Mark John Yap (28-12, 14) vs Takafumi Nakajima (29-9-1, 13)
Not every great bout needs to be an all out war, and that was proven in the OPBF Bantamweight title bout between Mark John Yap, the defending champion, and Takafumi Nakajima. Although not a war it was a high skilled and intensely fought contest. This bout wasn't actually televised though A-sign boxing made it available and we're glad they did as it was a really good solid bout between two men who didn't have outstanding records but had a point to prove, and knew how valuable the OPBF title was.
April 12th – Korakuen Hall
Keita Obara (19-2-1, 17) Vs Alvin Lagumbay (9-2, 8) I
Punchers collided on April 12th to give us a shoot out. Going in Keita Obara was heavily favoured, he had previously fought for a world title and was expected to go on to another world title fight down the line. Lagumbay on the other hand had been defeated by a Japanese Lightweight just 2 fights earlier and was stepping up to Welterweight to challenge Obara for the WBO Asia Pacific title, which he had already defended once. What we got was a shot, but thrilling fight that ended in a bizarre yet eye catching fashion, that will likely end up being replayed for years to come.
May 7th – Korakuen Hall
Valentine Hosokawa (22-6-3, 9) vs Vladimir Baez (24-3-2, 22)
Another war on Asign saw Japanese Light Welterweight champion Valentine Hosokawa battle mandatory challenger Vladimir Baez, also known as Destino Japan. This bout looked even on paper though maybe was a little bit over-looked given that Hosokawa was in his mid 30's and Baez was a Japanese Dominican without much of a following in his homeland. What they delivered however was something special with both men being dropped and fans being given something to remember in what might end up being the best Japanese title fight of 2018.
Takahiro Onaga is a regular contributor to Asian Boxing and will now be a featured writer in his own column where his takes his shot at various things in the boxing world.