Earlier today saw Japanese fans enjoy their first show of 2021 as Korakuen Hall hosted an Ohashi promoted event featuring a number of excellent prospects, as well as a highly anticipated OPBF Bantamweight title fight.
Sadly the event wasn't televised, and won't be aired until the weekend. With that in mind please only read ahead if you want spoilers as all 4 bouts on the card will be covered in the coming paragraphs, including the result of the OPBF title bout between Keita Kurihara [栗原慶太] and Takuma Inoue [井上拓真].
In the first bout of the show former amateur standout Ryutaro Nakagaki (2-0, 2) [中垣龍汰朗] claimed his second professional victory as he defeated Yuji Okinori (10-6-2, 3) [興法祐二] in 4 rounds. From the off both Nakagaki was looking to line up southpaw left hands, whilst trying to use his right jab to line up his man. Okinori on the other hand looked to try land right hooks, though he often threw them whilst out of range and rarely landed. It was relatively quiet in the first 2 rounds. In round 3 Okinori managed to have some success, with a good overhand left but was punished soon afterwards with a good left uppercut.
In round 4 Nakagaki moved up a gear and began to press the action. He found found a home for his body shots and dropped his man following a sustained body attack. Okinori was in agony when he went down and was unable to beat the 10 count. The official time of the ending here was 2:26 in round 4.
The second bout of the show featured another former amateur standout as Keisuke Matsumoto (2-0, 2) [松本圭佑] took on Bejita Ishikawa (3-13-2, 1) [石川一彦]. This was a short bout, but one with some early drama. Ishikawa landed the first big punch of the bout, catching Matsumoto with a big left hand. That however was about his only success with Matsumoto finding his groove soon afterwards, then dropping Ishikawa with a solid right hand. Ishikawa got back to his feet, but was then under pressure as the Matsumoto went to work.
This one was over at 1:26 of round 1.
After two relatively short bouts we then got a bout that went the distance, as many had anticipated. That was the bout between former Rookie of the Year winners Katsuki Mori (8-0, 1) [森且貴] and Sora Takeda (6-2, 1) [竹田宙], who clashed in a scheduled 8 rounder at Minimumweight.
Mori made a good start, taking the opening round, before Takeda began to find his rhythm in round 2. From there on the action became hotly competitive with neither man managing to clear distance themselves from the other, with tit for tat action. Takeda was looking to land his hook up top, whilst Mori was repeatedly looking to crack his man to body. Despite the great back and forth neither man seemed to hurt the other through the first 5 rounds.
In round 6 Mori seemed to have a break through, as he landed a solid straight right hand that buzzed. That seemed to be the turning point with Mori going on to out work Takeda in the following round. The final round was something special, as both men gave their all right through the round, in a thrilling 3 minutes of action, but in the end it was Mori's work in rounds 6 and 7 that helped him secure a decision win, with scores of 77-75 from all 3 judges.
Fans in the venue pretty much universally praised both of these talented 20 years for what was a thrilling, high tempo contest, and despite the loss few had any negatives about Takeda who really did perform excellently. In the end however it was the speed, movement, and limitless energy of Mori that secured him the victory. Given that both men are so young it'd be great to see them face off again in the future, potentially in a title bout in a few year's time.
In the fourth, and final, bout we saw the highly anticipated OPBF Bantamweight title bout, pitting hard hitting champion Keita Kurihara (15-6, 13) [栗原慶太] against former WBC "interim" Bantamweight champion Takuma Inoue (14-1, 3) [井上拓真].
In the ring Kurihara looked notably bigger than Inoue though that didn’t help him early on and it was Inoue who had early success.
The fight started with early drama as Kurihara suffered a cut from a clash of heads in round 1, a round that was a good one for Inoue, who looked quicker, sharp and much more technically sound. In round 2 Kurihara’s cut worsened as he struggled to get his own offense going. The cut worsened to the point where Kurihara was inspected by the ringside doctor in round 3, who allowed the bout to continue, but it was clear that the cut was a massive problem, and did run a serious risk of leaving us with an early, and inconclusive result.
Thankfully the fighters managed to get through round 4, guaranteeing a result to the bout. Sadly for Kurihara he was not only badly cut but also down on all 4 cards with the open scoring announcing that Inoue was leading 40-36, twice, and 39-37. By then it was clear that Kurihara wasn’t even thinking about winning a decision, but was aiming only for a KO win.
With a KO in his mind Kurihara was struggling to set up his shows, whilst Inoue worked the champions body well, and made the most of his sharp footwork, preventing Kurihara from having any sort of sustained success. In round 6 the cut seemed to leave Kurihara unable to see some of Inoue’s shots, with the blood becoming a bigger issue, especially with Inoue tagging the cut with short, clean, compact shots, worsening the damage and further extending his lead whilst Kurihara was getting more and more desperate to land something big.
After 8 rounds the open scoring was announced again, with the scores again heavily in favour of Inoue, with one judge having it 80-72 and the other two judges scoring it 79-73, all in favour of the challenger.
In round 9 there was a second check on the cut and this time the bout was stopped, after 2 minutes 25 seconds of the round, with Inoue taking the very, very wide technical decision win and becoming the new OPBF Bantamweight champion.
The win for Inoue was an important one, especially given his 2019 loss to Nordine Oubaali in a WBC title fight and this was a great comeback performance following that defeat. Sadly for Kurihara this is a major setback, and given how he was cut pretty much the entire fight he will certainly feel like he was hindered from the early going.
The speed, accuracy and clean punching of Inoue was his key to victory here, and he fought his fight, something he said he was going to do. With Kurihara’s cut being as bad as it was, it made life easier for Inoue to control the bout the way he did. At times he was making things look too easy, and given that Kurihara was essentially fighting through an eye full of blood he often failed to see shots coming.
For Inoue this will push him to the verge of a second world title fight, potentially a WBO or a WBC title bout. As for Kurihara it’s back to the drawing board and time for him to work on having a back up gameplan for when his power shots don’t land, and really work on his jab.
For those wanting to see the main event, it will be aired on Tape Delay on Saturday night/Sunday morning from 27:35 to 28:40 local time on Saturday, which is 3:35 to 4:40 on Fuji TV. The broadcast is also expected to show some of the highlights from the under-card.
Tomorrow at Korakuen Hall fight fans will be able to see OPBF champion Keita Kurihara (15-5, 13) [栗原慶太] defending his title, for the second time, as he takes on former WBC "interim" Bantamweight champion Takuma Inoue (13-1, 3) [井上拓真].
Today the two men took part in their weigh in, and both men made the 118lb Bantamweight limit with no issues at all.
On the scales Kurihara was around 117.75lbs, making the limit with room to spare. It was revealed recently that he had been working with a strength and conditioning coach for the last 3 and a half months and appears that has really helped him with the weight here.
Regarding the bout Kurihara stated that "I'm the number one bantamweight player in Japan. I respect him by defeating such a strong opponent," that he didn't look at this as a defense, but instead as him being the challenger. Interestingly a win tomorrow would move him to within touching distance of an IBF world title bout, which would see him potentially face off with Takuma's older brother Naoya Inoue.
As for Inoue he came in bang on the 118lbs Bantamweight limit, and looked in great shape. He stated that he was excited to finally have a bout, after having been out of the ring since November 2019, when he lost to Nordine Oubaali in a WBC world title bout, on the same show as Naoya Inoue's sensational bout with Nonito Donaire.
To prepare for this Inoue has taken advance from his older brother and sparred with 3-weight world champion Kosei Tanaka. Interestingly the focus for him coming into the bout wasn't based around taking counter measure for Kurihara but instead improving himself.
For fans wanting to watch this one it will be aired on Tape Delay on Saturday night/Sunday morning from 27:35 to 28:40 local time on Saturday, which is 3:35 to 4:40 on Sunday morning for those unfamiliar with Japanese TV schedules. With Fuji TV showing the bout.
Related - Keita Kurihara Vs Takuma Inoue - The first big Japanese fight of 2021!
(Image credit - Ohashi Gym)
On Thursday fight fans at Korakuen Hall will get the chance to see OPBF champion Keita Kurihara (15-5, 13) [栗原慶太] defending his title against former WBC "interim" Bantamweight champion Takuma Inoue (13-1, 3) [井上拓真], in a bout which will then be aired on Fuji TV on Saturday.
Over the last few days we have reported betting websites in Poland, among others, taking bets on the fight and it new appears that British bookmakers have also joined in an are taking bets on the bout.
Like the international and Polish bookies the UK betting websites also strongly favour an Inoue win, with the best price available on Inoue being 2/7. Whilst he's not the fighter his older brother, Naoya Inoue, is he's still a very proven fighter at the upper regional title level and is rightfully the favourite.
Despite being the current OPBF champion Kurihara is widely expected to lack the tools needed to deal with Inoue's skills and boxing IQ. With that in mind he is the the under-dog, though is priced attractively with the best price available being 3/1.
For those fancying the draw that's best priced at 22/1.
The UK bookies have also got a lot of other markets available, including the Method of Victory market, which is the most interesting market for this particular bout.
The favoured result in the UK is an Inoue decision, at 8/13, whilst an Inoue win by KO/TKO or DQ is 3/1. As for Kurihara backers, a KO/TKO or DQ win for your man is 6/1. The outlier, unsurprisingly, is a decision for Kurihara, who has scored just a single decision win in the last 6 years, and even in that bout he dropped his man 4 times and came close to forcing a stoppage several times. The price for a Kurihara decision is a hefty 8/1.
Although the odds on a Kurihara decision are big it is surprising to see an Inoue stoppage priced like it is given his stoppage so far have all come at a very, very low level and all 3 have come against very limited imported opposition.
Another market available is the "Will the Fight The Distance?" Market. Here we see odds of 2/5 on the bout going the scheduled 12 rounds and 21/10 for the bout to end early. Given those odds it'll be little surprise to learn that the "Length of Bout" market has been set at 10.5 rounds, with the over priced at 4/11 and the under at 2/1.
Preview - Keita Kurihara Vs Takuma Inoue - The first big Japanese fight of 2021!
Over the last few weeks we’ve been asked about the TV and broadcast details for the upcoming OPBF Bantamweight bout, between defending champion Keita Kurihara (15-5, 13) [栗原慶太] and former WBC “interim” world champion Takuma Inoue (13-1, 3) [井上拓真]. Thankfully we now have confirmation regarding the broadcast of the bout and can confirm it will be aired.
Sadly however, albeit not surprisingly, it will not be aired live.
The bout, which takes place this coming Thursday at Korakuen Hall, will be shown tape delay. Never a great thing, though thankfully it’s not going to be a lengthy delay like we’ve seen with some events. Instead the bout will be shown on Saturday night/Sunday morning, on Fuji TV as part of their semi-regular Fuji Boxing - Phoenix Battle content.
The bout will be aired from 27:35 to 28:40 local time on Saturday, which is 3:35 to 4:40 on Sunday morning for those unfamiliar with Japanese TV schedules.
At the moment it’s unclear if time will be set aside for any of the under-card bouts, though we suspect highlights from bouts featuring Keisuke Matsumoto (1-0, 1) [松本圭佑], Ryutaro Nakagaki (1-0, 1) [中垣龍汰朗] and Katsuki Mori (7-0, 1) [森且貴] will be aired, though potentially very brief highlights if the main event goes the scheduled 12 rounds.
Whilst we’re not a huge fan of tape delay boxing, a few days delay is somewhat acceptable, and beats the multi-week delay that TBS had last year for the bout between former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa and Seiya Tsutsumi.
Strangely this tape delay may also work out well for those wanting to dip their toe into iSakura for a weekend, with G+ airing a live card earlier on Saturday, with that broadcast starting at 16:00 local time. That broadcast will feature a number of talented debutants as well as a mouth watering OPBF Welterweight title bout between defending champion Riku Nagahama (12-2-1, 4) [長濱 陸] and hard hitting challenger Ryota Toyoshima (12-2-1, 8) [豊嶋亮太].
Related - Keita Kurihara Vs Takuma Inoue - The first big Japanese fight of 2021!
Potential thriller as OPBF champion Nagahama takes on Toyoshima!
Tomorrow at Korakuen Hall fight fans in Japan will be able to see Daishi Nagata (15-2-1, 6) [永田大士] make his first defense of the Japanese Light Welterweight title, as he takes on veteran Akihiro Kondo (32-9-1, 18) [近藤 明広], who is looking to add the title to his collection of titles.
Today the two men took part in their weigh in for the bout and both men made the 140lb limit with no issues, with both men hitting the scales at 139.8lb and looking in fantastic condition.
At the weigh in Nagata, who is coming in to this fight on the back of a career best win over Koki Inoue, looked in incredible shape. He spoke like a man who had a point to prove, and the same determination that he had when he was challenging for the belt. He spoke about wanting to make a meaningful bout for the fans and it seems very much like he's coming into the bout with a lot of excitement and the confidence of the Misako Gym, which has been on a great in recent years.
Kondo on the other hand spoke about how he'd prepared for the contest by losing weight earlier than usual, and as a result was in perfect shape. He seemed to suggest he had improved his strength and stamina from recent contests and had a lot of respect for Nagata. Interesting he also spoke about his experienced, citing that this his 43rd professional bout and that he had had 43 amateur bouts, with that being more than 80 bouts of experience to rely on here.
For fans wanting to watch the bout and can't make it to Korakuen Hall, it will be shown on tape delay on Fuji TV this coming weekend.
Related - Nagata seeks first defense as he goes up against tough guy Kondo
(Image credit - Misako Gym)
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