Earlier today the Japan Boxing Commission updated their boxer change information page, and whilst there wasn't many changes there was two notable changes, both related to the same individual.
The changes in question were that Akinori Watanabe (39-7-1, 33) [渡部あきのり] had vacated the OPBF Light Middleweight title, which he won in August 2019 in South Korea, and that he had also retired.
The 35 year old veteran, who debuted way back in 2004, hadn't fought since defending the OPBF title last December, stopping the limited Sitthident Banti in 2 rounds at Korakuen Hall. He was scheduled to defend his title back in March but his bout was cancelled due to the cancelled due to the on going global situation.
During his 47 fight career Watanabe had been one of the most fun to watch and explosive fighters on the Japanese and Oriental scene. He had managed to unify the Japanese and OPBF titles at Welterweight, where he also claimed the now defunct PABA title, before moving up in weight to become the JBC "interim" Light Middleweight champion and then the OPBF champion at 154lbs.
Although never a world class fighter Watanabe was regularly involved in thrilling shootouts, and his December 2018 bout with Nobuyuki Shindo, which can be seen below, was one of the absolute best.
Although never a big name outside of Japan Watanabe was always a key figure on the Japanese scene and it's a shame that his career has come to a close in the way it has, though we do wish Watanabe all the best in his post in ring career.
Back in January we reported that former Japanese Light Welterweight champion Hiroki Okada (19-2, 13) [岡田 博喜] would be returning to the ring on March 26th at Korakuen Hall, in an 8 round bout against Korean fighter Hwang Kil Kim (11-2, 5) [김황길]. Today that bout was confirmed, with Kadoebi going further than just confirming the bout, but giving the full line up of the show, which will be SLUGFEST 14.
The card, which will feature only 8 round bouts, is a really interesting one, not just due to it being Okada's first bout in Japan in almost 2 years, but because several of the bouts are very well matched, or feature notable names.
The chief support bout will see former world title challenger Takuya Kogawa (30-6-1, 13) [粉川拓也] look to bounce back from a heavy KO defeat to Jay-R Raquinel last year. Kogawa will be up against Japanese ranked Light Flyweight Hayato Yamaguchi (15-8-1, 2) [山口隼人], in what should be a relatively safe fight for Kogawa's health, but not a gimme at all, given that Yamaguchi is a talented fighter but a light hitting one. Whilst this isn't a gimme, it is a must win for Kogawa, who turns 35 in April.
Another notable fighter on this show is OPBF Light Middleweight champion Akinori Watanabe (39-7-1, 33) [渡部あきのり], who fights in a non-title bout against Panturak Namtong (13-5-1, 9), in what looks like a stay busy bout for the Oriental champion.
In terms of more interesting fights we'll see Japanese-Brazilian Cristiano Aoqui (14-9-2, 10) [アオキ クリスチャーノ] face off with Fumisuke Kimura (9-5-1, 6) [木村文祐], in what should be a very explosive 140lb bout, between two men who are limited, but can punch. An equally interesting match up will see Yoji Saito (1-1-2, 1) [齊藤陽ニ] take on Takahiro Araki (12-9, 2) [荒木貴裕], in what should be a very brutal match up, given the styles of the two men involved.
Arguable the most interesting of the bouts will see the highly regarded Ayato Hiromoto (2-0, 1) [廣本彩刀] fight in his first 8 rounder as he takes on 2018 Rookie of the Year winner Yoshiki Minato (8-3, 3) [湊義生], in a very good looking step up for Hiromoto.
Related - Hiroki Okada to face Hwang Kil Kim
Today saw the shortlists being released from the Japanese Boxing Commission and the Tokyo Sports Press Club for the annual Japanese boxing awards, celebrating the best of Japanese boxing in 2019.
Unsurprisingly Ryota Murata, Kazuto Ioka, Kosei Tanaka, Kenshiro Teraji and Naoya Inoue were in multiple categories following a solid for all 5 men.
Below are the short lists for this years awards, ahead of the annual ceremony, which will take place on February 7th in Tokyo.
Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16) [井上 尚弥]
Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14) [井岡一翔]
Ryota Murata (16-2, 13) [村田 諒太]
Kosei Tanaka (15-0, 9) [田中恒成]
Kenshiro Teraji (17-0, 10) [寺地 拳四朗]
Ryosuke Iwasa (27-3, 17) [岩佐 亮佑]
Keita Kurihara (15-5, 13) [栗原 慶太]
Shuichiro Yoshino (11-0, 9) [吉野 修一郎]
Hiroaki Teshigawara (21-2-2, 14) [勅使河原 弘晶]
Ginjiro Shigeoka (5-0, 4) [重岡銀次朗]
Koki Inoue (15-0, 12) [浩樹井上]
Junto Nakatani (20-0, 15) [中谷 潤人]
Yuki Nonaka (33-11-3, 10) [野中 悠樹]
Akinori Watanabe (39-7-1, 33) [渡部あきのり]
Yuki Nagano (17-2, 13) [永野祐樹]
Norihito Tanaka (19-7, 10) [田中教仁]
Best Fight of the Year (World title Bout)
Naoya Inoue Vs Nonito Donaire
Naoya Inoue Vs Emanuel Rodriguez
Kazuto Ioka Vs Aston Palicte
Ryota Murata Vs Rob Brant II
Best Fight of the Year (Non-world title)
Kazuto Takesako Vs Shuji Kato 加藤収二]
Yuki Beppu [別府優樹] Vs Ryota Yada [矢田良太]
Toshiya Ishii [石井渡士也] Vs Haruki Ishikawa [石川春樹]
Tenkai Tsunami (27-12-1, 16) [天海 ツナミ]
Kasumi Saeki (4-0, 3) [佐伯霞]
Miyo Yoshida (14-1) [吉田 実代]
Female Fight of the Year
Naoko Fujioka [藤岡 奈穂子] Vs Tenkai Tsunami
Kasumi Saeki Vs Elizabeth Lopez
Monseratt Alcaron Vs Ayaka Miyao [宮尾 綾香]
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
Earlier today at Korakuen Hall fans got the chance to see OPBF Light Middleweight champion Akinori Watanabe (39-7-1, 33) [渡部あきのり] successfully defending his title as he stopped Thai challenger Sitthidet Banti (12-6, 6).
The bout started with the two men looking to battle for position behind their jabs. The Thai looked like he had some ambition in the early moments but it was a brief and he was typically on the back foot with Watanabe marching him down.
The following round the pace picked up, and midway through it Watanabe landed a big right hand to the body that sent Sitthidet down in agony. Whilst down he spat out his gum shield before taking the 10 count.
After the bout Watanabe said he is aiming for the world, though given he is now 34 it does seem very unlikely that he will manage to get a world title fight.
For fans wanting to watch this bout, it is now available for subscribers on Boxing Raise.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
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