It's fair to say that 2020 has been a rather unique year in the world of professional boxing, and even by typical standards we have seen more bouts being delayed, posted and cancelled than ever before. Obviously we all under-stand why but it does need stating that a lot of bouts that had been announced are currently in a state of flux. They haven't officially been cancelled or rescheduled yet. Instead they seem to be sitting in a state of weird boxing purgatory.
Today we saw one of those bouts removed from purgatory and being given a date.
The bout in question is the Champion Carnival bout between Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Yusaku Kuga (19-4-1, 13) [久我勇作] and his mandatory challenger Gakuya Furuhashi (26-8-1, 14) [古橋大輔].
Originally the bout was set for April 28th at Korakuen Hall. That was before boxing was paused in Japan to deal with the on going global situation, and try to prevent infections ripping through the Japanese boxing scene.
Today that bout got given a new date, January 22nd 2021, and will be held as part of Dangan 238. Sadly that is almost 9 months after it was originally supposed to be held.
For Kuga the bout will be Kuga's second defense since reclaiming the title in May 2019, winning an all out war with Ryoichi Tamura at the Sumida City Gymnasium, and will be his bout since being blasted in 84 seconds by Jhunriel Ramonal at the end of 2019.
As for Furuhashi the bout will be his first since a September 2019 win over Ryoichi Tamura, with that win securing him a title fight as part of the Champion Carnival.
If all goes ahead as planned the bout will make for an excellent double header along with a Japanese Super Featherweight title bout between defending champion Kosuke Saka (20-5, 17) [坂晃典] and teak tough challenger Takuya Watanabe (37-9-1, 21) [渡邉卓也].
Although yet to be confirmed we're hoping this show will get the live stream treatment from Boxing Raise as it already looks like a sensational show, even with no under-card announced.
Earlier today news broke from Japan that the scheduled November 7th bout between Japanese Middleweight champion Kazuto Takesako (11-0-1, 11) [竹迫司登] and mandatory challenger Riku Kunimoto (4-0, 2) [国本陸] has had to be cancelled.
The bout has been cancelled due to Takesako suffering an issue with his left shoulder after sparring this past week. Originally the issue arose on October 27th, he then iced it, went to a medical facility on the 28th and advised to rest for 2 months.
The injury, which has occurred to his left subscapularis, is one that would essentially left him a one handed fighter had the bout gone ahead so it's hard to complain about his decision. Sadly though it does push this bout back to 2021, if it takes place at all.
This is the third time the bout has been scheduled and then cancelled. It was originally set as part of the Champion Carnival and pencilled in for May 2nd, was rescheduled due to the on going global situation. It was then pushed back back to July 27th, before Kunimoto pulled out, citing training issues, and now we've had this cancellation.
At the time of writing the plan is for the show to still take place, with former world title challenger Takeshi Inoue (16-1-1, 10) [井上 岳志] battling unbeaten fighter Nath Nwachukwu (6-0-2, 3) [ワチュク・ナァツ] in the show's main event.
Earlier today at the Amakusa Park Gymnasium in Okayama fans had the chance to see local star Seigo Yuri Akui (15-2-1, 10) [阿久井政悟] make his first defense of the Japanese Flyweight title, as he defeated mandatory challenger Seiya Fujikita (13-5, 6) [藤北誠也].
The bout, which was staged as part of this year's Champion Carnival, had originally been scheduled for March though was delaye for obvious reasons. Despite the delay fans in Okayama got a treat as the bout had some good back and forth at times, but resulted in a win for the star that fans had waited months to see.
Despite Akui's well known fast starts and danger in the opening round, where he has secured 9 stoppages, we actually got Fujikita coming forward early on and looking to crush the distance, preventing Akui from getting full extension on his shots. Despite some success from the challenger it was a round that went to champion.
Akui then found his real groove and seemed to make a strong claim to winning round 2 and again in round 3. He was proving to be up for this and willing to walk into the fire to get to Akui. By then it was clear Akui was going to have to go rounds, something we've not become accustomed to seeing from him. He seemed to realise it was well and began boxing more, using his heavy shots to dictate the range and tempo.
After 5 rounds the scorecards were all over the place. One judge had it a shut out for Akui, 50-45, another had it a little closer, at 49-46 whilst the third had Fujikita leading, 48-47.
Sadly for Fujikita he was unable to keep it up. He continued his toughness and tenacity, but was unable to match the power, boxing, movement and output of Akui, who began to really turn the screw behind his jab, and bust out a few combinations in round 8 as he looked to break down the desire of the challenger, who continued to bustle forward. To his credit Fujiikita wasn't going to fold, but couldn't do enough to turn things around, often landing on the arms of Akui with his shots, and taking counter shots pretty clean. Then fans got an explosive end as round 10 saw both men landing plenty of leather, looking to leave their mark, though both men took the other had to offer.
After the 10th round there was no real debating the decision, with scores of 98-92, 97-93 and 99-91, which was really harsh but had the right winner.
Fujikita admitted that Akui was better, though did mention his gameplan was the right one or pressing but he did expect Akui to be dragged into a war easier than he did, with that not happening until it was too late. Despite the loss he seemed to take positive from the loss and said that he hadn't trained enough yet.
As for Akui he spoke about wanting to progress to a world title fight one day, and it seems clear he has his hopes on becoming Okayama's first world champion.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
Tomorrow at the Amakusa Park Gymnasium in Okayama fans will be able to see Japanese Flyweight champion Seigo Yuri Akui (14-2-1, 10) [阿久井政悟] defending his title against mandatory challenger Seiya Fujikita (13-4, 6) [藤北誠也], as part of the prolonged Champion Carnival.
Today, ahead of their clash, the two men took part in their weigh in and both men made the 112lb limit for the bout.
On the scales the heavy handed champion was bang on the 112lb limit and looked in great shape for what will be his first defense the title that he won last year. He explained that his weight loss was easy, thanks to his wife weight loss diet, and that he was determined to win for his family, including his recently born daughter.
The challenger on the other hand came in well under the limit, at around 111.25lbs, though also looked in great condition. He spoke about how long he's been waiting for a title fight after having missed out in the past due to an injury a few years ago, and seemed confident that he could take Akui's vicious power, which has seen the champion score 9 opening round stoppages,
Originally this bout was scheduled to take place in March but was one of the many bouts that had it's schedule changed due to the on going global situation. Despite the delay both men seemed really up for the contest and it should be a real thriller.
For fans who can't make their way to the venue the bout will be made available on demand on Boxing Raise in the days following the bout.
Related - Akui clashes with Fujikita in Champion Carnival bout!
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Earlier today we had the first live televised card in Japan since the sport restarted, and it was a genuine mixed bag with some low level action, some fighters that didn't click, a sensational bout in the middle of the show, an intriguing Japanese title bout in the main event.
In the opening bout of the show the debuting Kodai Kobayashi (1-0) [小林 航大], from the E&J Cassius Gym, took a clear decision win over the win-less Shunsuke Miyauchi (0-2) [宮内 俊亮]. This was a real low level bout from both men, with Miyauchi pressing forward in the early rounds but showing very limited skills and Kobayashi needing time to shake the nervous energy. Thankfully for Kobayashi he seemed to land the better shots and did the cleaner work. After 4 rounds this was scored 40-36, twice, and 39-38 in favour of Kobayashi.
The second bout saw the touted Shigetoshi Kotari (2-0, 1) [神足 茂利] take on southpaw Motosuke Kimura (3-5-2, 1) [木村 元祐]. On paper this was supposed to be an easy second win for Kotari but in reality this didn't go as expected, at all. Kotari was dropped in the opening round from a round house left hand from Kimura, who seemed to land a shot that should never have caught a former amateur standout lime Kimura. The punch wasn't just looping, but was thrown with the back hand and looper around half the ring.
Sadly the knockdown made Kotari super cautious in rounds 2 and 3 and they were rounds that really lacked anything worthy of talking about. Kotari did seem to do enough to take them, but certainly didn't shine. He was caught with a number of clean counters in round 4, the round where be decided he needed to put his foot on the gas, and the counters seemed to take the wind out of his aggression. That lead to a rather dreary ending to the fight, with rounds 5 and 6 both being dull and tiresome.
After 6 rounds Kotari took the decision, but in reality he looked exposed. He wasn't just dropped but he also looked confused, never managed to figure Kimura out, and looked terrified of Kimura's counter's. He tried to draw leads and failed to land his own counter shots and failed to show the confidence needed to let his own hands go. The officials cards were 57-56 and 58-55, twice, but that can't cover over the fact Kotari did not look good.
After some pretty poor action, if we're being honest, to begin the show we got something spectacular in bout #3 as Toshiki Kawamitsu (5-0, 2) [川満 俊輝] and Kenshi Noda (2-1, 2) [野田 賢史] waged war in a sensational back and forth thriller. The fight didn't need a feeling out round, they just got to it, and let their shots go. From the off it looked like both men had a point to prove and they were putting on a high skilled, inside, action war. On paper that was expected to favour Noda, the bigger puncher, but it was Kawamitsu who seemed to be landing the cleaner, better blows.
The intensity continued in round 2 as both men tried to break the other down with great inside action and good work at range, when they were at range. Sadly for Noda however round 3 was a torrid one for him as his stamina, heart and durability were seriously questioned. He started the round well, but his inability to hurt Kawamitsu whilst Kawamitsu fought like a buzzsaw, seemed to drain the legs and belief from Noda, who slipped to the canvas numerous times. He was finally, officially, given a count late in the round, but by then he was looking very, very spent. He went out for round 4,looking to turn things around, but once again Kawamitsu simply showed that he wasn't going to be denied and forced the referee to finally jump in and save an exhausted looking Noda late on.
This was brilliant. The final round and a half might have been a bit too one sided, but the action, the intensity, the and the excitement was relentless. Absolute exhilarating contest between two young men desperate for victory. This was what we needed, this was what Japanese boxing needed back on TV. This was special!
In the co-feature we saw former world title challenger Ryohei Takahashi (19-4-1, 8) [高橋 竜平] taking a very debatable decision win over the Kiyohei Endo (3-4, 3) [遠藤 清平], in a bout that we felt Endo deserved. And we don't think we were the only ones. Endo started aggressively and was unfortunate to have a knockdown scored against him after he was caught on the back of the head.
Endo would continue to press, and pressure and seemed to easily out land Takahashi, but it was Takahashi with the cleaner, more telling single connects. Whilst we under-stand the quality Vs quantity argument we didn't feel the quality of Takahashi's single shots made up for how clearly out landed he was. There was also confusion after Endo seemed to score a knockdown of his own, though we're not totally sure if the referee told the judges to ignore it, as there was some instruction to the judges from the referee in round 6. Whether it was counted or not Endo certainly seemed to have taken the round.
Going into the final round it seemed like Endo was well and truly in it, if not in a slight lead. That wasn't something that Takahashi seemed to believe, with the former world title challenger doing little offensively for the first 2 minutes of the round before landing the two best shots of the round late on, in an attempt to steal it.
We went to the scorecards believing this one was razor thin, but the judges thought other wise, scoring it 78-73 and 77-74, twice, in favour of Takahashi. Those scores however do not reflect the nature of a very, very close bout that could easily have gone the other way.
In the main event we saw Japanese Light Middleweight champion Hironobu Matsunaga (17-1, 11) [松永 宏信] successfully defend his title, for the second time, as he over-came mandatory challenger Yuto Shimizu (14-5-2, 5) [清水優人]. The styles of these two men made for an interesting dynamic on paper, with Matsunaga being a bull like aggressive fighter, who's short in stature but aggressive, busy and strong, and Shimizu being a tall, rangy technical counter puncher. Early on however it took time for either man to find their groove.
The slow going saw Matsunaga taking the early rounds on work rate, whilst Shimizu looked to figure out what the champion brought. This lead to Matsunaga building momentum and in rounds 4 and 5 the champion began to turn the screw, landing clean left hands with alarming regularity. The aggression of the champion gave the challenger chances, and the accurate straight shots of Shimizu left the champion with a cut on the bridge of his nose.
After 5 rounds we had the open scoring and the scores were 50-45, 49-46 and 48-47, all in favour of Matsunaga. That should have made Shimizu feel like he was in with a chance, but instead it seemed to fire up Matsunaga, who had a point to prove and put his foot on the gas again. Shimizu finished round 6 with a nice flash of what he could do, in what seemed like an attempt to steal the round, but it was too little too late.
In round 7 the pressure of Matsunaga finally told. Early in the round he left the challenger with a huge cut over his left eye. Later in the round Matsunaga rocked Shimizu, before pinning him on the ropes and going into over drive, letting shots fly whilst Shimizu tried to clear his head. The shots kept coming and the referee took a close look several times. Finally enough was enough and the referee stepped in, saving the challenger.
For Matsunaga the win is a huge one, and sees him get through his Champion Carnival bout as the champion as he we head towards 2021. As for Shimizu this maybe his one and only chance given he turns 33 in January and he will have a long road back to a second title shot.
News! We try and give you the most interesting news stories from the Asian boxing world!