Earlier this week it was announced that the hard hitting Kazuto Takesako (12-0-1, 12) [竹迫司登] had vacated the Japanese Middleweight title, having made 4 defenses of the title. The heavy handed Takesako won the title in March 2018, and defended it against Sanosuke Sasaki, Shuji Kato, twice, and Riku Kunimoto, whilst also unifying it with the OPBF title.
For now Takesako will remain the OPBF champion, and it seems like that belt will be his focus, though the option is out there for him to chase a WBO Asia Pacific title unification fight against veteran Yuki Nonaka (34-11-3, 10) [野中 悠樹].
Had he kept the title, Takesako would have been expected to defend the belt against Riku Kunimoto (4-1, 2) [国本陸], for a second time, in the new year as part of the 2022 version of the Champion Carnival. A bout that would feel rather pointless for Takesako given he stopped Kunimoto inside a round this past May.
Kunimoto will still be getting a shot at the title in this upcoming Champion Carnival, but his oppponent for that title bout has yet to be confirmed.
Earlier today the Award winners for the latest Champion Carnival event was named, with 4 winners for the Champion Carnival that spanned from early 2020 to mid 2021, due to the issues of Covid19 that really prolonged the usual 6 month event.
For those unaware the Champion Carnival is the series of fights that see Japanese champion face their mandatory challengers, which is historically done in the first half of the year. Over the last 2 years however things have been muddied some what by the delays, cancellations and other issues caused by the on going pandemic. Despite that not too many of the planned bouts did get scrapped, and we got a lot of really good fights during the Champion Carnival.
The MVP for the Champion Carnival was named as Hinata Maruta (11-1-1, 9) [丸田陽七太], who stopped Ryo Sagawa in 7 rounds to become the Japanese Featherweight champion back in February. The 24 year old Maruta has long been regarded as a sensational talent, but hasn't always shown what he's capable of. Against Sagawa he really shone, stopping Sagawa in a brilliant performance well deserving of this award, a lot of praise. It's just a shame that 6 months on he's not built on his title win with a defense of the belt...yet!
The Skill Award was won by Japanese Flyweight champion Seigo Yuri Akui (16-2-1, 11) [阿久井政悟], who won the award for retaining his title and recording his first defense with a decision win over the tough Seiya Fujikita, in what was Akui's first 10 round decision win over his career. Since that win he has built on his reign with a tremendous win against Taku Kuwahara a few months ago, and he's now charging up the ranks towards a potential world title fight, with talk being that he will actively pursue one in 2022.
The Fighting Spirit Award was, unsurprisingly, won by Gakuya Furuhashi (28-8-1, 16) [古橋大輔] for his win over Yusaku Kuga (19-5-1, 13) [久我勇作], to claim the Japanese Super Bantamweight title. For those who haven't seen this bout it is one of the bouts that needs to be hunted down, and was an all out war on the inside that saw Furuhashi break down the tough Kuga in 9 rounds at Korakuen Hall. The performance from Furuhashi was the definition of Fighting Spirit, and it's amazing that he only got 5 of a maximum 8 votes here. He simply deserved all 8 here for one of the most bloody minded performance in recent years.
The Special Award was a unanimous decision, with all 8 votes going to Daishi Nagata (15-3-2, 6) [永田大士] for his massive upset win against Koki Inoue (15-1, 12) [浩樹井上] in 2020. Sadly for Nagata, who won the Japanese title at 140lbs with that win, his reign has now come to an end, and it seems his title winning performance is probably going to be the highlight of his career. Also sadly following that win Inoue retired, citing he was wanting to get involved in Anime, which is a huge love of his.
The award for Maruta nets him a 300,000 yen, whilst the other award winners take home 100,000 yen each.
Earlier this year the reigning Japanese Bantamweight champion Yusuke Suzuki (11-3, 7) [鈴木悠介] announced his retirement, citing issues with his eyes. This saw him vacating the title that he had, in theory, been supposed to defend against mandatory challenger Kyosuke Sawada (14-2-1, 6) [澤田京介] as part of the Champion Carnival, in fact the men were supposed to fight last year before the Covid19 pandemic.
With Suzuki out of the sport, there was questions over who Sawada would be facing for the vacant title, and those questions were answered earlier today when it was announced that he would be facing off with youngster Ikuro Sadatsune (11-4-3, 4) [定常 育郎], who is ranked #2 by the JBC, for the title.
Not only was the question of "who" Sawada will face next answered, but so to were the questions of "when" and "where", as the bout was announced to take place at Sumida City Gymnasium, on May 23rd as part of Dangan 241.
Sawada has been a professional since 2013 and suffered two early career losses, losing to Suzuki on his debut then losing to Hiroaki Teshigwara in his second professional bout. Since those two losses he has gone 14-0-1 (6) and notched notable wins against the likes of Yuta Horiike, Kinshiro Usui, Yosuke Fujihara and Kazuki Tanaka, with the win over Tanaka making him the mandatory challenger for this title. Prior to turning professional he had been a solid amateur and there was a lot of expectation on him to make a mark on the professional scene, though this will be his first title bout.
Sadatsune on the other hand is a 23 year old who turned professional with no real expectations on his shoulders. He had a debut on debut but rebuild well and reached the East Japan Rookie of the Year final in 2016. He went through a bad run in 2016/2017, going 1-2-2, but since then has rebuilt well going 5-2, with both of those losses being razor thin ones to Kenshin Oshima and Sho Ishida. Since those losses he has beaten Filipino fighter Robin Langres and Naoto Fujimoto, wins that have helped him climb to #2 in the JBC rankings.
At the moment no others bouts have been confirmed for this show, though announcements are expected to be made in the coming weeks.
Back in November we reported that the delayed 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] had been scheduled for January 22nd as part of a Dangan card next year.
The bout might not be a major one, but it is one that promises to be a fun one to watch, with the styles of the two men expected to gel well, with Kuga's power going up against the pressure and output of Furuhashi.
Today, ahead of that bout, Furuhashi took part in a press conference, along with "Fron-Ta", the mascot of the Kawasaki Frontale football team, and spoke about his preparation for the bout and his eagerness to take on Kuga.
At the event Fron-ta wrote a message of support to Furuhashi, asking for fans to cheer Furuhashi, who was born in Kawasaki. Interestingly being born in the region was part of Furuhashi's desire to claim a title, and become the first fighter born, raised and at a gym in Kawasaki to become a national champion.
Whilst it might seem like a bit of a gimmick it is worth noting that the Kawasaki Nitta Gym, which Furuhashi fights out of, has long had a friendly relationship with the local soccer team, and the two have regularly worked together on events, event getting Front-ta in to the ring a few times. Furuhashi was actually at a recent Frontale match, in November, as they went on to win the league for the first time in 2 years.
In regards to the bout Furuhashi sounded incredibly respectful, explaining that Kuga was "A fighter who has a high KO rate and plays an interesting fight." But he also sounded like he had plenty of self belief, explaining "I am confident that I will play an interesting game. I hope. KO will be settled in a match where the strengths of each other collide. "
For those who want a giggle we've included one of Fron-ta's fights
(Image credit - Kawasaki Nitta Gym)
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.
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