Yesterday the board of directors of the East Japan Boxing Association held a meeting and announced a number of things.
One of those announcements was that the Ambition GYM, which promotes WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka (26-2, 15) [井岡一翔] and former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa (17-2-1, 17) [比 嘉 大吾]. The Gym will now be known as the Shisei Boxing Gym, with the name change coming in to effect from July 15th. The gym will also relocate to Shimomeguro, Meguro-ku.
A second announcement was that the Noda Star Boxing Gym has withdrawn from the East Japan Boxing Association.
A more notable announcement was that a ¥20,000 subsidy would be paid to the promoter for each fighter, and that charges shouldn't be made to the Gym or Fighter for the PCR tests and the hotel for isolation. This is clearly to help promoters and gyms during the on going situation, which has still seen reduced crowds attended Japanese events.
Over the weekend fight fans in Okinawa saw Ryosuke Nishida (4-0, 1) [西田凌佑] score a notable upset win, as he took a decision over former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa (17-2-1, 17) [比 嘉 大吾], claiming the WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight title with the victory. Earlier today, following that win, Nishida took part in a press in Osaka at the Mutoh gym and spoke about what he wants to do going forward and how the bout went.
Early in the event it was revealed that both Nishida and his chief trainer, Kosuke Takeichi, had been given a reward from the management of the gym, accounting for 1 million yen, a tasty reward alongside the expected payment both men were going to get for the fight anyway.
With the win Nishida tied a Japanese record of fewest fights to win a regional title, winning one in his 4th bout just like Kosei Tanaka [田中恒成] and Ginjiro Shigeoka [重岡銀次朗]
Speaking out how he feels Nishida explained "I'm really happy to win. I received a congratulatory email and gradually realized that I won." It seemed he knew he was too big for Higa, and admitted that he didn't really Higa's punching power, something he put down to the fact that he had been fighting at Super Bantamweight before moving down in weight for this bout.
Whilst Nishida's performance was excellent it also needs to be said that Takeichi's gameplan was fantastic, and Nishida fought it fantastically well, keeping the range that Takeichi has been wanting from his star student, and controlling the bout at both range and up close.
It was Mr Takeichi that spoke about the future plans. He explained that not too much can be said, given Nishida has just won the title, but "I think he proved his ability because he beat Omori (Shohei Omori) and Higa, but he still only has 4 bouts, and I think there are some parts that aren't recognized by the people around him, so I'd like to take steps one by one. However, if we have a chance, we'd like to actively aim for the top." It should be noted that Nishida himself suggested that he wanted to face WBO Bantamweight champion Johnriel Casimero if he could get the chance. It should also be noted that Mutoh gym are quoted in the Japanese press that "there is a possibility of world challenge overseas", adding further to the idea he and his team will begin to target Casimero. Given that Higa was ranked #6 by the WBO going into this bout, Nishida is expected to take a top 10 WBO ranking on the back of the result.
Mr Takeichi also went into detail about Nishida's biggest strengths and explained "Even on the big stage, there are few emotional ups and downs. No matter who the other party is, he has a good sense of normality." That was something Nishida himself spoke about, explaining he's never been a nervous guy, even since he was an amateur, and that level of composure has shown it's self since he turned professional. He's always looked incredibly relaxed in the ring, event when under pressure.
As for how the two men intent to spend their new bonus. Nishida will be spending some on home appliances, and saving the rest, whilst his trainer explained he has to consult his wife. It is worth noting that this is the second time Takeichi has received such an award from the gym, previously winning it when he guided Yuki Strong Kobayashi [ストロング小林佑樹] to winning the WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight title, and he has his eyes on another one when Riku Kunimoto (4-0, 2) [国本陸] challenges Japanese Middleweight champion Kazuto Takesako (11-0-1, 11) [竹迫司登] in May.
Earlier today fight fans in Okinawa got a rare show of note, headlined by a former world champion taking on a rising star of Japanese boxing. The show wasn't a big one, but the main was certainly a huge bout worthy of attention, and the under-card had several fighters of interest on it.
The show opened up with a 4 rounder between 22 year hold Kanta Yamauchi (3-2-1, 2) [山内 寛太] and 19 year old Nagi Sudo (2-2-1) [須藤 凪]. This was all action from the off and although Yamauchi was the better fighter through out there was no questioning Sudo's effort, with the youngster playing his part in a 4 round fire cracker. After 4 rounds the judges turned in cards of 40-36 and 39-37, twice, all for Yamauchi. He was a deserved winner, but he really had to earn the win in a fantastic curtain raiser.
The second bout saw touted 24 year old prospect Yusuke Mine (4-0, 1) [峯 佑輔] take a wide and clear decision over the durable Taiga Higashi (6-5, 2) [東 大河], with Mine controlling the 6 rounder without too many problems. Higashi tried to bring the action and apply pressure but the boxing IQ, footwork and movement of Mine were too much and Mine calmly controlled the action behind his jab, mixing up the action when he needed to. Higashi was never really discouraged but was also never able to really get a foothold on the bout, which was controlled by the skills of Mine.
In a solid performance Okinawa local Ryuto Owan (7-1, 5) [大湾 硫斗] dominated the tough, but limited, Takafumi Iwaya (4-5) [岩屋 卓史] who ended up being saved by his corner. Iwaya looked to start fast but Owan settled quickly, began to box his fight, using his movement and clean punching and began to control the bout from midway through the opening round. From there on Owan was in control, and he went through the gears, battering Iwaya, who was saved by his corner in round 4, whilst on the wrong end of a beating.
Sadly for Iwaya this is the second time in as many bouts that his toughness has been his worst enemy as he also took a pounding last September against Rentaro Kimura and it's hard to see his career continuing for much longer.
In the main event fans saw local favourite Daigo Higa (17-2-1, 17) [比 嘉 大吾] suffer a notable upset loss to the unbeaten Ryosuke Nishida (4-0, 1) [西田凌佑], with Nishida dethroning Higa of the WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight title.
From the off the size and stance of Nishida seemed to be a problem for Higa, who had real issues getting inside and working up close. Nishida seemed smooth, calm and soaked up the pressure well, whilst also landing plenty of leather himself. He was making Higa miss, and making Higa look like a Big Flyweight fighting against a Bantamweight. What didn't help Higa was when he did get inside Nishida clinched, using his natural size and strength advantages to stop Higa from getting shots off. Amazingly we also saw Nishida willing letting shots go up close, especially to the body.
The crowd, which were expected to be getting behind Higa, were nearly silent as their man struggled for any kind of sustained success. He had moments, but they were few and far between with Nishida having sustained success through all of the early rounds, dictating the action and the tempo without too many problems.
Higa began to find something of a groove in round 4, as he upped his pressure and work rate and began to fight with much more urgency. It was clear he felt he was in a hole and had to try and turn things around. He continued to be more aggressive in round 5 as well, landing some of his best shots, but it seemed like even his best shots didn't hurt Nishida who was standing his ground and landing his own leather whilst also trying to bully Higa physically when he had to.
After a few solid rounds from Higa he really did begin to look tired in the later stages, whilst Nishida seemed to have energy to burn and in the second half of the fight Nishida really started to beat up Higa who had to hold and spoil and do what he could to slow the offense of the challenger. Sadly for Higa he looked out of his depth at times, as well as out of his weight class. To his credit Higa was tough, rugged and hungry, but that was about it in stages as Nishida took total control of the action.
After 12 rounds the scores were read out, and they all favoured the challenger, widely. They were 117-111, twice, and 118-110, all in favour of Nishida who has now scored two big wins in back to back bouts, having beaten Shohei Omori last year.
For Higa this is a painful loss. He took a beating. At home. In front of the fans in Okinawa. He was dominated and shown, very clearly, that he is not a Bantamweight. Sadly however the JBC don't seem to be willing to risk seeing Higa miss weight again, as he did against Cristofer Rosales when he was the WBC Flyweight champion. He will need to go back to the drawing board, and learn to adapt to fighting as a Bantamweight, which we suspect will be incredibly tough for him.
As for Nishida, he's now beaten a former world title challenger and a former world champion. It's hard to imagine that he's not now looking for a world title fight sooner rather than later. This win was a stellar performance. It was a performance that showed how good he was, how composed he is, and how, even after just 4 bouts, he is already ready for major contests against top level fighters.
Earlier today the media in Okinawa had the chance to see the weigh for the very interesting match up between Daigo Higa (17-1-1, 17) [比 嘉 大吾] and Ryosuke Nishida (3-0, 1) [西田凌佑], who clash for the WBO Asia Pacific title tomorrow.
At the weigh in both men made the 118lb limit bang on and both looked in fantastic shape, with their bodies looking ripped to shreds.
Following the weigh in both men spoke to the media via remote interviews.
Higa, a former WBC Flyweight champion, seemed really happy to be fighting in Okinawa, his hometown, and it's clear he'll be getting a lot of fan support tomorrow for their most successful current boxing son. He seemed confident that he was going to be too good for Nishida. He explained that he's not set any specific gameplan for for the bout, but will fight his style, and bring the aggression, no matter what Nishida decides to do. He also wanted to give local fans a bout that ended with a KO, making it clear that he still doesn't want to pick up a decision win.
Nishida, who has typically been fighting at Super Bantamweight, had no issues at all in making weight here, explaining "I lost weight little by little using the usual weight loss method and finished well." He also explained that he has spoke to former stablemate Yuki Strong Kobayashi and was told to be careful of Higa's feints.
Nishida also mentioned that he had been working on stamina, something he might need here given he has never been beyond 8 rounds before.
For fans in Okinawa this will be televised locally, however for the rest of us the bout won't be televised for a few days, with TBS airing it on tape delay in a few days time.
Related - Higa returns to Okinawa to take on unheralded Nishida!
Earlier today several Japanese news outlets spoke to WBO Flyweight champion Junto Nakatani (21-0, 16) [中谷 潤人], and saw him comment on what's going on with his career.
The talented Flyweight, from the MT Gym, won the WBO world title last November, when he stopped Giemel Magramo in a brilliant performance. Since then there has been a looking mandatory defense, but due to the ongoing Covid19 pandemic, and the various issues with international travel involving Japan, that defense has yet to be sorted out. When it is, it's expected to see Nakatani defending his title against Puerto Rican puncher Angel Acosta (22-2, 21).
Today Nakatani stated "We are still preparing so that the match can be decided at any time," with the media suggesting that the bout will be held around late Mayor early June, though the specifics are yet to be decided.
The preparing has already seen him sparring with former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa (17-1-1, 17) [比嘉 大吾], with the two men recently sparring 8 rounds together.
Nakatani, who has previously held two other titles, spoke about the upcoming defense, explaining "I haven't experienced the first defense match when I was the Japanese youth champion or the Japanese champion. I'm not very conscious of it,"
Interestingly the fighter himself has started to watch footage of Acosta, and spoke about some of the Puerto Rican's strengths. He did, however, explain that he will fully analyse Acosta when a date for the bout it sorted.
Rather interestingly the plan in regards to sparring is for Nakatani to spar with much bigger men to begin with, with talk of him sparring Featherweights and Lightweights, before switching to smaller fighters closer to fight time. Whilst not unusual for fighters to spar with bigger man, it's interesting that they are looking at Lightweights for Nakatani to spar with here, likely to help him get accustomed to heavy punches, something Acosta has in his arsenal.
Although it's been a shame that Nakatani hasn't been able to quickly build on the win over Magramo we are glad to learn that his return might not be all that far off!
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