Earlier today the East Japan Boxing Association announced the award winners for the month of March, naming 3 award winners for the month, though strangely one of the regular awards didn't actually have a winner.
The Fighting Spirit award winner was Katsuya Fukui (3-0, 2) [福井勝也], who earned the award for his impressive performance on March 25th, when he defeated Hiroki Hanabusa (8-2-3, 3) [英洸貴] in a very good 8 rounder. Although not a fight of the year contender, it was a really good bout, and Fukui really did show very good tools for a man fighting in just his third professional bout.
Interestingly there were two winners of the Newcomer award for the month.
One of those was former K-1 champion Yoshiki Takei (1-0, 1) [武居由樹], who kicked off his professional career back on March 11th with an eye catching performance against Kazunori Takai (6-8-3, 3) [高井一憲]. Takei showed off what he could do in stopping his man inside 2 minutes, and making a real statement of intent about his future in the sport. Fingers crossed his next opponent will be more testing, but this was still a very good performance.
The other winner was former amateur standout Kenji Fujita (1-0, 1) [藤田健児], who scored a 6th round TKO win on March 25th against Motosuke Kimura (3-6-2, 1) [木村元祐]. Hw showed composure and poise here and it's clear he has a lot to give the sport, though will clearly need to face bigger and better tests than Kimura in the near future. He has so much potential, and looked so good as an amateur, that there really is no need to hold him on a leash. Instead Teiken should be looking to move him very quickly.
Strangely there was no MVP for the month, which is a bit strange, though in fairness there was very, very little action in Japan last month, likely explaining why no fighter was picked here.
Earlier today saw the announcements of the East Japan Professional Boxing Association monthly award winners for February 2021 being named. Notably there was only 2 winners announced this month, though in part that was due to a lack of action in Japan during February, where there was very, very few shows.
As a result of the lack of action there was actually no MVP announced for the month. As a result we only saw winners named for the Newcomer Award and the Fighting Spirit Award.
The Fighting Spirit Award was won by Japanese Youth Light Flyweight champion Yudai Shigeoka (3-0, 2) [重岡優大], who won the title and the award for his stoppage win over talented youngster Ryu Horikawa (3-1-1, 1) [堀川 龍]. The bout, held on February 11th, was a barn burning bout and saw the exciting Shigeoka break down the gutsy Horikawa for the title in an exciting bout.
The Newcomer Award was won by the hard hitting Tsubasa Narai (7-0, 6) [奈良井 翼] for his victory over Seika Fukuda (5-1, 1) [福田 星河], in the All Japan Rookie of the Year Super Featherweight final. The heavy handed Narai came out like a fighter with a point to prove, stopping Fukuda inside the opening round. This was as eye catching of a performance as we had at the Rookie finals, and saw Narai really impressing.
The two men will be honoured at a later date via a remote ceremony.
Earlier today the East Japan Boxing Association announced their monthly award winners for the month of January, with 3 winners being announced.
The MVP for the month was the newly crowned OPBF Bantamweight champion Takuma Inoue (14-1, 3) [井上拓真] who earned the award for his technical decision win against Keita Kurihara (15-6, 13) [栗原慶太] back on January 14th. During the bout Inoue looked in control through out, and showed his speed, movement and boxing IQ in one of, if not the, best performance of his career.
The Fighting Spirit award was also won by a new champion, with Gakuya Furuhashi (27-8-1, 15) [古橋大輔] picking up the award for his amazing win over Yusaku Kuga (19-5-1, 13) [久我勇作], which saw him claim the Japanese Super Bantamweight title. The bout was Furuhashi's third for the title and he really did show incredible fighting spirit to take a 9th round TKO win over Kuga back on January 22nd.
The Newcomer award was won by the hard hitting Seigo Hanamori (7-3, 5) [花森 成吾], who recorded an impressive win over #7 JBC ranked Super Bantamweight Naoto Mizutani (7-7-2, 2) [水谷 直人], in what was the most meaningful win of his career, by far.
As we've seen in recent months there will not be a physical award ceremony, due to the ongoing pandemic, but the fighters will be able to take part in a online ceremony.
Earlier this month the list of nominees for the Japanese annual boxing awards were announced, with the Japanese Boxing Commission working alongside the JBC and Tokyo Athletic Press Club Boxing Subcommittee, to decide the shortlists for the various awards. Today the winners of those awards were all announced.
The MVP for the year was unified WBA "super" and IBF Bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue (20-0, 17) [井上 尚弥], who now taken the award 5 times during his career, in fact he's taken the award 4 years in a row now showing just how much he has dominated Japanese boxing in recent years.
The Skill Award was won by WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14) [井岡一翔], who won the award for the second year running. Inoue also won the KO award.
The Special Merit award went to WBO Flyweight champion Junto Nakatani (21-0, 16) [中谷 潤人]
The Effort/Fighting award was a share award, won by Ryoji Fukunaga (13-4, 13) [福永亮次] and Kenichi Horikawa (41-16-1, 14) [堀川 謙一]. Fukunaga had a great year, unifying the JBC, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight titles, whilst Horikawa claimed the OPBF Light Flyweight title in an excellent performance in July.
The Newcomer Award was won by OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro (10-0-1, 3) [三代大訓]
The best world title bout bout of the year was the brilliant WBO Super Flyweight title bout between Kazuto Ioka and Kosei Tanaka (15-1, 9) [田中恒成], which took place on New Year's Eve and delivered a truly brilliant battle.
The best non-world title bout was the dramatic clash between Masayoshi Nakatani (19-1, 13) [中谷正義] and Felix Verdejo, who fought for the WBO Intercontinental Lightweight title.
The female MVP for the year was WBO female Minimumweight champion Etsuko Tada (20-3-3, 7) [多田悦子], who actually had a clean sweep as her bout with Ayaka Miyao [宮尾 綾香] also won the female fight of the year.
There was also Special awards for former world champions Takahiro Ao [粟生 隆寛] and Akira Yaegashi [八重樫 東].
Sadly there wasn't a ceremony like usual for the awards, given the on going pandemic.
It’s fair to say that 2020 was like no year we’ve lived through and it was a year that really did decimate the boxing calendar. Fighters that would typically fight 2, if not 3, times in a year were limited to just a single fight and on the whole almost no fighter of name value managed to fight more than once.
Whilst we did have some exceptions, most of whom were prospects or contenders, such as Israil Madrimov, Bektemir Melikuziev, Shohjahon Ergashev, Jin Sasaki, Jinki Maeda, Tursynbay Kulakhmet, Kamshybek Kunkabayev and Phoobadin Yoohanngoh, we saw very few fighters in the ring more than once.
With that in mind “Fighter of the Year” is an incredible weird award to hand out for the year.
We had two contrasting arguments as to why a fighter should win this award.
We had one argument suggesting that the “Fighter who moved their career forward the most” should win. We also had counter argument that that really isn’t a fair argument, and would lead to a prospect who wasn’t on the radar at the start of the year winning the award, favouring someone like Kulakhmet and Kunkabayev who went from the amateurs to being noteworthy prospects in just two professional bouts.
The other argument is that the ward should be kept to those who won at world level, after all they are winning at the highest level. Sadly this left very, very few Asian fighters in the running, and of course blurred things further with things like interim titles and secondary belts.
Despite having things blurred by the various world titles the idea that the Fighter of the Year, in 2020 at least, had to have fought at world level cut the list down to around 10. Of which 4 men stood out, allowing us to work from a short list.
and Murodjon Akhmadaliev
Thailand’s Pradabsri’s inclusion was based his huge upset win over Wanheng Menayothin in November, to claim theWBC Minimumweight title. It was a win that took him from relatively unknown Thai contender to a world champion with a career defining win over Wanheng, preventing his countryman from going 55-0. This was a massive win, and a huge upset. It was however a result that many disagreed with and felt was a gift to the younger man. It was a huge win, but one that was tainted somewhat.
Japan’s Nakatani was included based on his huge win over Giemel Magramo for the WBO Flyweight title. The talented youngster had promised so much through the early part of his carer and his win over Magramo was an exceptional one that helped him move from contender to champion in fantastic form. He out boxed, out fought, out punched and pretty much bullied Magramo at any distance in a performance that will give him huge confidence coming into 2021. A big win, but the opponent was perhaps not the best.
Fellow Japanese fighter Kazuto Ioka left his claim to the award super later, in one of the very last bouts of the year, as he stopped Kosei Tanaka at the Ota-City General Gymnasium in Tokyo on the last day of the year. The win was a massive one, and one that saw Ioka enter as the under-dog, but walk away with his second defense of the WBO Super Flyweight title. Despite some controversy afterwards, relating to his visible tattoos and quotes attributed to him, it’s hard to deny just how big his single win of 2020 was.
For us however we had to go with the 4th and final option, Murodjon Akhmadaliev. The Uzbek southpaw had entered 2020 without a world title and with just 7 bouts to his name, the most notable of which were wins over Isaac Zarate and Carlos Carlson. Yet he ended the year the unified WBA “super” and IBF Super Bantamweight champion following a win way back on January 30th over Daniel Roman. The bout saw Akhmadaliev step up massively to take on a man on the fringes of the pound of round discussion, a unified champion who had had a brilliant 2019. It was a chance to prove that the rising Uzbek fighters were the real deal and it was Akhmadaliev’s big chance to make a statement. As for the bout it was a hotly contested win, it was a fantastic fight, with brilliant 2 way action, but it was one that Akhmadaliev deserved and with it he wholeheartedly deserves to be named The 2020 Asian Boxing Awards - Fighter of the Year.
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