Earlier today A-Sign Boxing announced the next defense for Japanese Light Middleweight champion Hironobu Matsunaga (17-1, 11) [松永 宏信], who will be seeking his third defense. In the opposite corner to the aggressive and exciting champion will be unbeaten prospect Rei Nakajima (4-0) [中島玲], making for a really interesting stylistic match up between men with very, very different styles.
The 33 year old Matsunaga, for those who haven't seen him, is an aggressive pressure fighter, who physically imposes himself in bouts, presses forward and looks to break opponents, mentally and physically. He's strong, comes forward and is fairly relentless when he has his man hurt. Although not a big fighter at 154lbs he is a strong one, and has stopped his last 6 opponents, including veterans Koshinmaru Saito, Nobuyuki Shindo and Yuto Shimizu with some very impressive performances.
Nakajima on the other hand is a 22 year old prospect who is tiny at the weight, standing at around 5'5", though makes his diminutive stature work well for him. He's very much a speedy, smart fighter who draws mistakes, counters, gets in and out and uses criminally under-rated footwork to neutralise bigger, stronger men. He turned professional in 2019 and in 2020, in just his 4th bout, he easily out boxed Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa, though some how one judge gave the bout to Hosokawa resulting in a split decision.
The bout promises to be a case of Matsunaga's pressure against the skills and speed of Nakajima, which should make for a thrilling back and forth bout and a great chance to see if Nakajima really is as good as he's looked, or whether the champion will be too good at this stage in their respective careers.
For those wanting to attend the event it will be on April 21st at Korakuen Hall. Given "Dynamic Glove" is mentioned on the promotional image released it seems likely the event will be shown on G+, though at the moment it seems likely to be a tape delay broadcast.
In Europe and many former British colonies the day after Christmas is called "Boxing Day". Whilst certainly not a global thing it is certainly something of note and a term that a good portion of the world will be aware of. We don't that would include Japan, but for whatever reason, today been a day where Japan has provided with boxing day action, thanks to a stream from the brilliant team at A-Sign Boxing.
The event kicked off with a competitive affair as Kojiro Nishikawa (5-2-1, 2) [西川 宏次郎] battled to a draw with Daiju Kogo (4-2-1, 3) [向後 大寿] over 6 rounds.
The opening round was a good one for Nishikawa, who seemed in control though out the round. In round 2 Kogo managed to rock Nishikawa, and really went for a finish in the final 40 seconds, though sadly seemed to punch himself out. From there the pace never really recovered, and was instead white a low paced bout with Nishikawa pressing forward and Kogo moving well and countering.
After 6 rounds the judges couldn't split the men, with one judge scoring the bout a narrow win to Kogo, another having it as a win for Nishikawa, whilst the third hard it level at 57-57, to result in a draw. It wasn't the best way to kick off the show, but it was a solid 6 rounder.
In the second bout on the card we saw Takuya Yamaguchi (4-12-3, 2) [山口 拓也] and Masashi Noguchi (13-12-1, 6) [野口 将志] clash for the second time in just over 13 months.
From the off Yamaguchi was firing off wild, wide, looping hooks, and power shots. He was certainly putting in a huge effort, but was being made to miss, a lot. Noguchi, who looked the much more polished, was landing cleaner shots but wasn't letting his hands go much, and was often made to back up, despite landing some very nice, clean jabs.
The bout was a hard one to score as we went into round 6, the final round. That round ended up being sensational back and forth stanza of action, that saw both men looking about spent. Both men looked ready to go at multiple points but gritted it out, recovered and fought back, showing their will to win. After 6 rounds the judges turned in scores of 58-56, each way and 58-57 to Noguchi, giving him the split decision win, and levelling the series between the two men, who are now 1-1.
In the third bout on the show we saw bombs being traded as Kai Chiba (13-1, 8) [千葉開] over-came youngster Haruki Ishikawa (8-3, 6) [石川春樹] in a pretty one-sided, but entertaining, 8 round contest.
Through the bout it seemed Chiba did everything better than Ishikawa. He was quicker, sharper, stronger, and more accurate than Ishikawa, who struggled to get the respect of his hard hitting foe. To his credit however Ishikawa changed tactics in round 6, and tried to turn counter puncher, boxing off the ropes rather than taking center ring. The new tactics had mixed success. The change saw Ishikawa landing more often than he had earlier, but he was still being out landed every round.
The only real change was round 8, where the two men stood and traded bombs through the entire round. It was, sadly for Ishikawa, not enough and after 8 rounds it was hard to give him anything, with Chiba the clear winner. The scores here were 80-72, twice, and 79-73, all for Chiba, the worthy winner.
This was a solid win for Chiba, who looked as good as he ever has and showed good timing and understanding of the ring. He now seems ready for a title fight of some kind at 118lbs, and he really looked crisp, sharp and powerful through out. As for Ishikawa, this was a second straight loss, and he probably does need an easier fight or two to rebuild his confidence.
We saw the "reimported boxer" Shoki Sakai (25-11-2, 12) [坂井 祥記] battle against Takeru Kobata (8-5-1, 3) [小畑 武尊] in the fourth bout on the show and this was another entertaining little war, even if it was another rather one sided bout.
Sakai, fighting in Japan for just the second time, forced the action through much of the contest, pressing forward and trying to out work and out hustle Koabata. Impressively the youngster showed real maturity and composure under the pressure from Sakai, and tried to pick his spots to fight back. Sakai seemed the much stronger, more powerful and more aggressive fighter though out the bout, but credit to Kobata for holding his own in there, and not wilting under Sakai's attacks. In fact Kobata did enough to earn a round or two here and though and proved to be much better than his record suggests.
After 8 rounds Sakai took the decision with scores of 79-73, twice, and 77-75. He deserved the win, but Kobata deserves his share of plaudits, and we suspect he will learn from this loss and, one day down the line, find himself in the domestic title mxx.
The most impressive performance on the card came from the hard hitting Jin Sasaki (10-0, 9) [佐々木尽], who claimed the JBC Youth Light Welterweight title with a destructive TKO3 win over the usually tough Aso Ishiwaki (8-3-1, 6) [石脇麻生].
This was the bout we expected to be something special and it was. From the opening moments. Sasaki set off with the intention of stopping Ishiwaki, and threw bombs almost immediately. Ishiwaki, to his credit fought back, and the two men traded some heavy leather until Ishiwaki was rocked by a right hand, and then dropped by a follow up hook. Ishiwaki got back to his feet but was dropped again towards the end of the opening round as Sasaki looked for a 4th straight opening round win.
Ishiwaki managed to recover brilliantly and cleared his head as we went into round 2, which was a much quieter round until the final minute when Sasaki put his foot on the gas. Ishiwaki responded well, but it was clear that Sasaki was the much stronger, more powerful and more talented fighter. That power and strength showed it's self again in round 3, as Sasaki let Ishiwaki fight up close before decking him for a third time with a brutal flurry of big head shots. With blood coming out of his nose, and 3 knockdowns against him the referee saved Ishiwaki from further punishment, waving off the bout immediately.
This was a real statement from Sasaki. We expected this to be a real test for him, and saw this as a near 50/50 fight. Instead he made it look easy, dropping a tough guy like Ishiwaki 3 times in 3 rounds, was incredibly impressive. This sort of win, at the age of 19, surely marks Sasaki as one of the most exciting prospects in Japan, and one to keep an eye on long term. As for Ishiwaki, this is going to be a hard one to bounce back from, but he's still young and can certainly come again.
In the penultimate bout of the show we saw former 2-time world title challenger Ryo Akaho (36-2-2, 24) [赤穂亮] take on youngster Yuto Nakamura (11-6-1, 8) [中村 祐斗] in what turned out to be a massive mismatch.
After a somewhat competitive opening round we saw the two men go in to a shoot out in round 2 and that was only ever going to favour Akaho. The veteran now only had the edge in experience but also power, toughness and natural size, being a Super Bantamweight taking on a Super Flyweight. Midway through the round Nakamura was rocked by to hooks before Akaho landed a massive right uppercut that dropped Nakamura hard, forcing the bout to be stopped.
For the 34 year old Akaho this was his 40th bout and sadly we're not sure he will ever get a third shot a world title. On this performance however can still make for very fan friendly bouts and could still act as a great draw on these A-Sign cards. As for Nakamura, we really need to wonder who thought it was a good idea for him to move up to Super Bantamweight for this bout.
In the main event of the show we saw a really interesting match up at Lightweight as former WBO Super Featherweight champion Masayuki Ito (26-3-1, 14) [伊藤 雅雪]battled reigning OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro (10-0-1, 3) [三代大訓] in a 10 round Lightweight bout.
From the very opening moments it was clear this was going to be a high level, high skill, high speed technical battle. The opening round saw Mishiro making the most of his excellent jab, landing it repeatedly, whilst Ito looked to land the heavier leather, from his right hand. That laid down the pattern for much of the fight, with Mishiro easily winning at range, with his jab a constant and effective weapon when he was on the move, but Ito was landing the power shots when the two exchanged, and when Mishiro held his feet.
After a few very close rounds early on, it seemed that Ito found his groove and was starting to outland Mishiro on a fairly regular basis, racking up the points through out the middle rounds. It seemed those rounds had seen him establish control on the scorecards, though the rounds were still hotly competitive, before Ito seemed to begin to tighten his grip on the bout in the second half of the fight. In round 10 the pace picked up from both, and in the final stages Ito seemed to be temporarily hurt, but shook it off quickly as we went to the final bell.
After 10 rounds it felt like Ito had done enough to take a close, competitive, but clear decision. The judges however saw it differently, with one judge scoring it 95-95, a draw, and the other two over ruling them going 96-94 in favour of Mishiro, who got the majority decision, and the notable upset victory.
For us the most interesting bout in Japan today is not the main event, between Masayuki Ito (26-2-1, 14) [伊藤 雅雪] and Hironori Mishiro (9-0-1, 3) [三代大訓], but instead the Japanese youth title bout between Jin Sasaki (9-0, 8) [佐々木尽] and Aso Ishiwaki (8-2-1, 6) [石脇麻生].
The two youngsters, who clash for the JBC Youth title at 140lb, are regarded as two of the brighter hopes on the Japanese scene at Light Welterweight and together they should make for a very, very special fighter.
For our readers in most parts of the world there are, sadly, no odds available here, but for fans in Poland there is an exception, as STS.pl are carrying odds for the contest. In fact they carrying not just the "To win" market, but also some other prop markets too.
The slight favourite going in is the unbeaten Sasaki, who is priced at 1.7, or 7/10 for our British readers, whilst Ishiwaki is priced at 2.0, or evens. They are about what we would expect for a bout we see as pretty much a 50/50 type bout.
Interestingly the method of victory market, or rather a variation of it, is available here. Strangely the favoured results are a stoppage for Ishiawaki and a decision for Sasaki, both priced at 3.0, or 2/1 for those who prefer fractional odds. A stoppage for Sasaki is 4.0, or 3/1, whilst a decision for Ishiwaki is 4.5, or 7/2.
Despite the odds on either man to score a stoppage, it is worth noting this is next expected to go the distance, in fact the total rounds market has been set at 6.5 rounds. The under is 1.6, or 3/5, and the over is 2.2, the same as 6/5 in fractional odds.
For those interested in the predictions put forward by users on Japanese website Boxmob, Sasaki got 61% of the vote whilst Ishiwaki got 39%.
Sasaki's vote was broken up into 56% of fans expecting him to win by stoppage and 5% expecting him to take the decision. For Ishiwaki 33% expected him to get a stoppage, whilst only 6% expected him to take the decision.
For fans wanting to watch this bout, it will be included on the A-Sign Boxing YouTube channel, who's show begins at 2PM local time
Related - Sasaki and Ishiwaki clash for Youth Honours in potential Christmas Cracker!
One of the many bouts set to take place in Tokyo today will see former 2-time world title challenger Ryo Akaho (35-2-2, 23) [赤穂亮] take on youngster Yuto Nakamura (11-5-1, 8) [中村 祐斗], in what is a massive step up in class for Nakamura.
The bout, which will see Nakamura moving up in weight as well as levels, is available to bet on with STSbet who see the bout as a massive mismatch, one of the biggest mismatches in Japan for the day.
They have got Akaho priced at 1/14 to take home the victory, and score his 36th win in his 40th bout. As for Nakamura he is priced as a long shot at 11/2. Sure a win for Nakamura wouldn't be regarded as the upset of the year, but he is certainly not expected to pick up the win here.
Of course it's not just the bookies who see this as an expected win for Akaho but also fans with 74% of those who have predicted the outcome on Boxmob favouring the veteran. On the other hand 25% have gone with Nakamura, with 22% overall favouring a Nakamura stoppage, which would be a massive surprise in our eyes. given Akaho's only stoppage loss came on Pungluang Sor Singyu in a WBO Bantamweight world title fight.
For those wanting to watch this it will be aired as on the A-Sign Boxing Channel, with the show set to be streamed from 14:00 local time, in Japan.
Later today in Tokyo we'll get the chance to see a potential barn burner as Kai Chiba (12-1, 8) [千葉開] and Haruki Ishikawa (8-2, 6) [石川春樹] clash in a bout that has been very, very over-looked by fans and media alike. The two men, who can both make for explosive action, are set to clash in an 8 rounder on a show which will be streamed on the A-Sign Boxing Channel later today.
Interestingly whilst many have over-looked the bout it has been picked up by betting company STSbet as one to bet on, and is one of the most interesting bouts for the day, based on both the styles of the men and the betting odds.
The once beaten Chiba, who was once regarded as a very bright prospect in Japan, is the clear favourite, with odds of 7/20 to take home the victory here whilst the upset minded Ishikawa is a tempting 19/10 to score the upset and bounce back from his 2019 loss to Toshiya Ishii.
Interestingly those polled on Boxmob have this much, much closer than the bookies, with Chiba favoured by 55% of the votes and Ishikawa backed by 45% making this a genuinely competitive match up in the eyes of the fans. Although the "Method of Victory" market isn't available to bet on, Chiba is given a 45% chance of scoring a stoppage and Ishikawa given a 38% of stopping his man, in that very same poll. That means 83% of those polled do not expect this one will go the scheduled 8 rounds.
News! We try and give you the most interesting news stories from the Asian boxing world!