Tomrrow in Tokyo fight fans will get the chance to see Japanese star Naoya Inoue (21-0, 18) [井上 尚弥] return to a Japanese ring for the first time in over 2 years, as he looks to defend his WBA "Super" and IBF Bantamweight world titles, as he takes on Thai challenger Aran Dipaen (12-2, 11) [แก่นนคร ศักดิ์กรีรินทร์].
Today, ahead of their bout, the two men took part in the weigh in for their contest, and both men, unsurprisingly, made the 118lb weight limit with no issues at all. And both also looked in tremendous shape.
On the scales Inoue was bang on the the 118lb weigh limit, and he looked great, as he always does.
After making weight Inoue stated "Tomorrow is looking forward to the match in Japan for the first time in two years. Everyone is looking forward to it, so I would like to show you a wonderful match." It was also made clear that he will have a big bought in Spring next year, and he again made it clear that he wants to face either WBC champion Nonito Donaire or WBO champion John Riel Casimero.
Dipaen, a huge under-dog for this bout, was well under the limit, coming in at 117.5lbs, but he looked in outstanding shape for the bout himself. In fact he looked just as good as the Monster. He goes into this bout with no one expecting him to win, in fact most are expecting him to be blown out early, and will know that he has nothing to lose here.
Sadly for bouts wanting to watch this bout, it will only be on PPV, with Abema and Hikari both carrying the bout online.
Related - The monster returns to Japan to defend against Dipaen!
Earlier this week we reported that a number of major bouts set for later this year in Japan were in doubt due to the rise of the Omicron variant of Covid19, and Japan's reaction to it, which included essentially closing the boards. At the time there was 3 world title bouts, including two massive unification bouts, all at threat of being cancelled or postponed due to the new restrictions.
Sadly today we saw announcements being made to confirm what none of us wanted to hear, and that the shows for December 28th and 31st were both off, at least for now.
The official lines from Japan regarding the show are a little bit different, even though neither will go ahead as planned.
The first major bout was the planned Middleweight unification bout between IBF Middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin (41-1-1, 36) [Геннадий Геннадьевич Головкин] and WBA "Super" Middleweight champion Ryota Murata (16-2, 13) [村田 諒太]. That bout, which was set to be shown on DAZN around the globe and Amazon Prime in Japan, has officially been postponed. Not cancelled, as some have reported, but postponed.
Teiken released a statement about the contest, and the show as a whole, on their website, explaining:
"We apologize for the inconvenience caused to customers who have already applied for the spectator ticket lottery and those who have been looking forward to the event. We apologize for any inconvenience this time. We will cancel it and will contact you as soon as the postponement schedule is decided. Thank you for your patience."
The plan for the bout is to re-arrange it for the Spring time, after the current restrictions are lifted. The current restrictions are to run until late December, would could mean a February or March date for the bout.
With the Middleweight being postponed, it also means that the WBO Flyweight title bout, between unbeaten champion Junto Nakatani (22-0, 17) [中谷 潤人] and Mexican challenger Cristian Gonzalez (14-1, 4), is also postponed, and Teiken are looking to again put on the show as a double header.
The othe rmajor bout is less clear in what is to happen to it.
That was the planned New Year's Eve Super Flyweight world title unification bout between WBO champion Kazuto Ioka (27-2, 15) [井岡一翔] and IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas (33-1-2, 22). This bout is currently in an unclear situation, with the only thing known is that it will not take place at the end of 2021 as planned.
Shisei Boxing Gym have announced that the bout is currently cancelled, and that the teams may sit down and re-arrange it for the new year, however it's less clear than the Murata Vs Golovkin bout, and reports in Japan are that no decision has been made as to whether to cancel it all together, postpone it, or postpone it and change the location of it, potentially taking it to the US for 2022. A decision regarding what will come of this bout will be made in the future.
For those curious, the December 14th card, headlined by Naoya Inoue (21-0, 18) [井上 尚弥] defending his Bantamweight world title against Thai challenger Aran Dipaen (12-2, 11) [แก่นนคร ศักดิ์กรีรินทร์] and also featuring WBO Minimumweight champion Wilfredo Mendez (16-1, 6) defending against Masataka Taniguchi (14-3, 9) [谷口将隆], will go ahead as planned.
Sadly there is one other bout that has fallen through due to the new restrictions, and that was a scheduled December 16th bout between Masanori Rikiishi (9-1, 5) [力石 政法] and Filipino Roldan Aldea (16-8-1, 9). Aldea has been unable to travel, and as a result the promoter of the event has issues what is essentially an open challenger to fighters in Japan. The promoter, Koki Kameda, has offered 1 million yen (around £7,000 or $9,000) to a fighter willing to take on Rikiishi at short notice, in an attempt to keep the show on.
As we're sure everyone reading this will be aware, last week saw a discovery of a new mutation of Covid19, with the mutation now being called Omicron. After that news Japan has changed it's policy in regards to international travel, now essentially heading towards closing it's borders once again.
With big international fights pencilled in to take place in Japan in December this could be a major problem, and force several bouts to be cancelled. At the moment it's not completely clear which bouts may be off, though announcements are expected in the coming week or so.
Despite the full impact of Japanese changes not being known there are some things we do know regarding upcoming bouts.
Firstly the December 14th card, headlined by WBA "Super" and IBF Bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue (21-0, 18) [井上 尚弥] defending his titles against Thai challenger Aran Dipaen (12-2, 11) [แก่นนคร ศักดิ์กรีรินทร์] will go ahead as previously planned. That card not only features Dipaen as an international visitor but also WBO Minimumweight champion Wilfredo Mendez (16-1, 6), who will defend against mandatory challenger Masataka Taniguchi (14-3, 9) [谷口将隆].
At the time of writing it's known that both Dipean and Mendez, from Puerto Rico, are in Japan, with both men arriving in Japan on November 28th, before the rule changes were announced.
Now on to what we don't know.
The first bout to be in doubt at the time of writing is the December 16th contest between Masanori Rikiishi (9-1, 5) [力石 政法] and Filipino Roldan Aldea (16-8-1, 9), which was planned to be the first non-world title bout with an international fighter in Japan since they first closed the borders in 2020. This bout is still listed on one of the Japanese schedules, but others list Rikiishi as now being set to face an opponent "to be decided".
Of course the Rikiishi Vs Aldea bout isn't a massive one, and there are three much bigger bouts set to take place later in the year.
The most notable of those is set for December 28th and will see IBF Middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin (41-1-1, 36) [Геннадий Геннадьевич Головкин] battle WBA "Super" Middleweight champion Ryota Murata (16-2, 13) [村田 諒太]. This bout is the one of most concern, due to how big of a bout it is. Sadly it's very unclear on whether it will take place or not, though Akihiuro Honda has told Japanese press that they are seeking to get Golovkin's entrance into Japan any way they can, including requesting permission with Golovkin as a special case. On the same card WBO Flyweight champion Junto Nakatani (22-0, 17) [中谷 潤人] has his second defense scheduled against 22 year old Mexican challenger Cristian Gonzalez (14-1, 4). It would seem a lot less likely for Gonzalez to special permission than Golovkin, and we wouldn't be surprised to see that bout as being called off, if any of the scheduled world title bouts were to be cancelled.
The other major bout planned is the December 31st clash between WBO Super Flyweight champion, Kazuto Ioka (27-2, 15) [井岡一翔] and IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas (33-1-2, 22). At the moment no comments to the media have been released about this contest, which was only announced last week. Like the Golovkin bout this is a huge bout for Japan, and the promoters are likely to seek special considerations for the contest to go ahead. We suspect news will break about this contest later in the week, which could include it being moved to 2022, being move from Japan, or taking place as planned, with special permission.
Back on October 29th Hideyuki Ohashi officially announced that WBA and IBF Bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue (21-0, 18) [井上 尚弥] would face Thai challenger Aran Dipaen (12-2, 11) [แก่นนคร ศักดิ์กรีรินทร์] on December 14th at the Ryogoku Kokugikan, in what seemed like a bit of fan service for Japanese fans, who hadn't see their star fight in Japan since November 2019, when he beat Nonito Donaire.
Sadly however the bouts seems like a bit of fan service, and instead a move away from what we've become accustomed to in Japanese boxing. Instead of working with Inoue's usual broadcaster, Fuji TV, the bout will instead be streamed on PPV via PBX world, on the ABEMA streaming service. Potentially ending the long, and successful, relationship between Inoue and Fuji TV, who's future in the sport is starting to look worrying uncertain.
Fuji had, at one point, the best TV roster of any channel in Japan, working with Inoue, Ryota Murata [村田 諒太], Kenshiro Teraji [寺地 拳四朗], Daigo Higa [比 嘉 大吾], Masayuki Ito [伊藤 雅雪] and Akira Yaegashi [八重樫 東], all being shown on free TV. Sadly though those days seem to be long gone, with Yaegashi now retired, Ito having not featured on the channel since losing the WBO Super Featherweight title, Higa now being shown on rival network TBS, Kenshiro having his last two bouts streamed online and Murata now seemingly linking up with Amazon Prime, and Inoue going to PPV on a streaming service. It now seems as if Fuji TV have cut live boxing out of their schedule, a worrying sign of what may be to come.
At the press conference to announce the broadcaster for the bout the price of the event was revealed to be 3,960 Japanese Yen (around £26 or $35), and the full card will be shown.
Whilst PPV has taken off in boxing in the US and UK, among other countries, one of the best things about boxing in Japan was the wide access to the sport, with big bouts typically being on free TV. This move, sadly, appears to signal that the biggest stars in Japanese boxing are now no longer going to be as accessible as they've been in the past, which is a huge shame, but unfortunately a sign of the times.
Earlier today Hideyuki Ohashi helped a press conference and announced his next big show, which we now know will be a world title double header and December 14th at the Ryogoku Kokugikan. He confirmed one bout which had been widely reported over the last couple and gave us a bonus, with a second world title bout being confirmed.
The bout we knew about was the clash between WBA and IBF Bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue (21-0, 18) [井上 尚弥] and Thai fighter Aran Dipaen (12-2, 11) [แก่นนคร ศักดิ์กรีรินทร์], which was first reported by Komthai 2 weeks ago. The bout is certainly not a special bout, and should be a contest that Inoue wins without any real problems, but it's nice to see him being active, being back in the ring for a second fight this year and ticking over. It's also good to see him back in a Japanese ring for the first time since November 2019, when he beat Nonito Donaire in the WBSS Bantamweight final.
At the press conference Ohashi stated that he had hoped to get Inoue a unification bout with either John Riel Casimero or Nonito Donaire for this December bout, but was thwarted by their mandatory obligations. He also suggested that that they had tried to secure bouts with Rau'shee Warren, Gary Antonio Russell and Nikolai Potapov, but those had failed to materialise, and had essentially taken Dipaen as the best ranked contender who was available and willing to face Inoue. Whilst this will be Inoue's first bout in Japan for more than two years, it will also see him returning to the Ryogoku Kokugikan for the first time in around 8 years, with the venue being the one where he claimed the OPBF Light Flyweight title in 2013 with a win over Jerson Mancio.
It should be noted that Inoue and Ohashi have both previously suggested he will be getting a "big bout" in April 2022 in Japan.
The other world title bout will be a WBO Minimumweight title bout between defending champion Wilfredo Mendez (16-1, 6) and his mandatory challenger Masataka Taniguchi (14-3, 9) [谷口将隆]. The two men were meant to have purse bids on October 27th, but they were cancelled at the 11th hour as the teams had agreed a deal, a deal that will see them being on this card.
For Mendez the bout will be his third defense, and his first bout of any kind since beating Gabruel Mendoza back in February 2020. As for Taniguchi he's been in form and will be hoping to make the most of his second world title shot. Of the two men Mendez is probably the better pure boxer, and is quick, slippery fighter, but fighting in Japan for the first time, with the crowd against him and a long lay off, he will really be up against it here.
Also set for this card Yoshiki Takei (2-0, 2) [武居由樹], Keisuke Matsumoto (3-0, 3) [松本圭佑] and Toshiya Ishii (4-1, 3) [石井渡士也].
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