Tomorrow at Korakuen Hall former Japanese amateur standout Kenji Fujita (0-0) [藤田健児] will make his long awaited debut, as he takes on Motosuke Kimura (3-5-2, 1) [木村元祐] in a 6 round bout at Featherweight. Today, ahead of their bout, the two men took part in their weight in.
On the scales Fujita was 125.6lbs, comfortably under the 126lb Featherweight limit. Kimura was even lighter on the scales, weighing in at 125.2lbs. Notably both men looked in fantastic shape and condition.
As an amateur Fujita went a spectacular 153-21 and won numerous amateur titles. He signed for Teiken and got his professional license last year, sadly though due to Covid19 his debut couldn't take place until this year.
Given his amateur pedigree, and Teiken's backing, the expectation is for Fujita to develop quickly and become an absolute star. He might have been out of the ring for a while since his last amateur bout, but he has been working in the gym and developing a more professional style.
Kimura, a huge under-dog for this fight, has had a bad run of form, losing his last 4 and 5 of his last 6. Despite that he has proven to been tough, and gave Shigetoshi Kotari a very tough test last October. In fact it's likely that performance that ended up helping secure him this bout.
Given his amateur pedigree we're expecting a real show case of skills of skills from Fujita, who is expected to be one of the faces of the future for Teiken.
For fans wanting to watch the bout will be aired live on G+ tomorrow as part of their Dynamic Glove show.
(Image credit - Teiken)
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.
Earlier today the East Japan Boxing Association took part in their latest regular board meeting, doing so online, and there was various news stories broken from the meeting.
Firstly the Cheyenne Oshima Jim has been adjourned, due to an inability to secure a venue.
The Imaoka Gym had withdrawn from the association, essentially taking it from a professional boxing gym to just a general gym. This was put down to "operational problems", and the 5 professionals at Gym have now all been transferred to other gyms to continue their careers.
One final bit of gym news being mentioned at the meeting was that of the Punchout Gym, which will now have Takaki Someya as the new chairman.
Although the talk about the gyms was important the real focus of today's meeting was actually the upcoming Rookie of the Year events.
As previously reported the final of the 2020 Rookie of the Year will take place on February 21st without fans, thankfully however G+ will be showing the event live.
Going forward we also know that the 2021 Rookie of the Year will also be delayed, though the full timings and details for the tournament are unclear. It appears likely decisions will be made on that after the 2020 final.
One other thing to note is that the East Japan Boxing Association will be doing away with the subsidies put aside for shows cancelled due to the pandemic. Reportedly these were used 3 times in total, but were a safety net for promoters if they needed them.
Earlier today we got the first televised Japanese sow of the year, thanks to promotional outfit Kadoebi and satellite TV channel G+. The show was earlier than we usually get for G+ cards due to the ongoing state of emergency through parts of Kanto, but still felt somewhat special, and something to look forward to in a year where boxing really has stuttered, and struggled to get going globally.
The show kicked off with an all debutant bout over 4 rounds with Yudai Murakami (1-0) [村上 雄大] facing off with Naoki Shimizu (0-1) [清水 直樹] in front of a very sparse crowd at the iconic Korakuen Hall.
On paper this looked good but sadly, for the first televised bout of the year in Japan, the contest struggled to get going. Part of that was due to the fact Murakami was a southpaw and Shimizu wasn't, causing the two men to tangle up and clash heads several times in the opening round, with inexperience exacerbating the problems. Despite that the bout did begin to tidy up in round 2, with Murakami having success at range and countering Shimizu well. Shimizu managed to get a toe hold in the bout in round 3, but Murakami managed to turn the screw in round 4 and out worked his man in a very messy round that left him cut around the right eye. After 4 rounds we went to the judges, who all scored the bout 39-37 to Murakami.
The second bout on the show saw Yugo Kon (0-1) [今 優吾] kick off his professional career with a tough loss as he was stopped by Koji Tsurumi (5-3-1, 2) [鶴海 高士] in a 6 round bout at a contracted 54.5KG's, which is just over 120lbs.
Unlike the first bout this was really engaging with Kon boxing well behind his jab early on before Tsurumi's pressure began to build and we ended up getting a really solid fight, with Kon's boxing skills going up against Tsurumi's fighting will. By round 5 the action was starting to get genuinely intense, with Kon trying to take his man out with some huge right hands and Tsurumi trying to break his foe with pressure, forcing him on to the ropes several times. To his credit Tsurumi proved to be tough, and kept coming, even when it was clear he was tiring and it was that toughness that proved vital in round 6. It was in round 6 that a tired Kon began to trade with Tsurumi. A combination up top from Tsurumi wobbled Kon and with Kon's defenses falling apart the referee jumped in to save the debutant with just 50 seconds left.
We'll admit on first viewing the stoppage seemed a bit hasty, but on replay it was certainly not among the worst stoppages we've seen. Perhaps a touch early, but no real complaints from us, though we suspect Kon will feel somewhat aggrieved he wasn't given a few more seconds to try and ride out the storm. On the other hand this was a great example of a fighter not giving up until the final bell and the tenacity of Tsurmi was a key to his victory.
The third bout on the show was the event’s only 8 rounder and saw Chikato Sumida (9-3-1, 1) [住田 愛斗] and Ken Achiwa (12-15-6, 4) [阿知和 賢] clash in a battle of top 20 ranked Japanese Super Flyweights. On paper this looked like a bit of a mismatch, but in reality Achiwa is far better than his record indicates, and is a grizzled veteran as he showed again here.
The fight wasn’t the best to watch but was an engaging one, as Sumida looked to come out of the blocks quickly, and had success in round 2 with body shots. As the rounds went on however Achiwa did well to take the sting out of a lot of Sumida’s work, and by round 4 the experience and ring craft of Achiwa was showing itself as he landed counters, and boxed smartly against Sumida. Head clashes, in rounds 5 and 6, left Sumida in agony and by round 7 Sumida looked like a desperate and exhausted fighter whilst Achiwa was landing clean shots and still had snap in his punches. That exhaustion showed again in round 8, but Sumida did his best to hold and spoil through the round.
After 8 rounds the bout seemed a nightmare to score, with both men having some clear rounds, and others being a complete toss up. That was shown on the scorecards with scores of 77-75 to Sumida, 77-75 to Achiwa and 76-76, giving us a draw.
Following the draw we saw the anticipated debut of Jun Ikegawa (1-0) [池側 純], who turned professional after going 51-15 in the amateur ranks. He was up against Kakeru Yoshikawa (4-2-2) [吉川 翔].
Sadly whilst it was clear Ikegawa was a very talented fighter, this bout was not one that will live in the memory. Ikegawa looked like an excellent counter puncher, but someone who needs to learn to adapt a more offensive style in the professional ranks. Unfortunately Yoshikawa gave very, very few countering opportunities to Ikegawa, in one of the tamest efforts we’ve ever seen from a Japanese fighter. Much of this bout was spent with the two men fencing with their lead hands, and very, very little drama. Ikegawa won pretty much by default, as Yoshikawa did so little. In fact it seemed like Yoshikawa’s only gameplan for 5 rounds was to box with a much, much better boxer.
Thankfully Yoshikawa did show some ambition, but it wasn’t until round 6, and that ambition seemed to be focused on not being shut out on the scorecards, rather than actively trying to win. Sadly for Yoshikawa the judges didn’t make much of his late effort and still scored this a shut out for Ikegawa.
In the penultimate bout of the show we saw Jukiya Iimura (1-0, 1) [飯村 樹輝弥], who went 68-13 in the amateurs, make his debut against the 35 year old Daisuke Yamada (6-6, 1) [山田大輔].
Yamada looked to begin with a high energy style which was a stark difference to what we had seen from Yoshikawa just moments earlier. Iimura on the other hand looked like a solid professional, with a pressure style, a tight guard and very nice composure. Around the mid-way point of the round Iimura landed a gorgeous right hand that put his man down, the first knockdown of the show. Yamada beat the count, but was down again soon afterwards from another short right hand counter. He tried to beat the count, and got to his feet, but had no idea where he was and the referee quickly waved off the contest before Yamada was back on the canvas, and later stretchered out of the ring.
Compared to all the other debutants on this show Iimura stood out like a sore thumb. He looked like a special talent. Not just a good boxer, but a genuine special talent.
The main event of the card saw Riku Nagahama (12-3-1, 4) [長濱 陸] lose a decision as he attempted to make his first defense of the OPBF Welterweight title, taking on the hard hitting Ryota Toyoshima (13-2-1, 8) [豊嶋亮太].
From the off Toyoshima looked to set the tempo and make a statement, landing heavy shots early on, and establishing his tempo, range and style on the fight. Nagahama seemed to start very slowly and struggled to get Toyoshima’s respect through the first few rounds, despite having some flurries of success, particularly with his right hand. The solid jab of Nagahama’s, one of his best weapons, regularly went under-utilised and by the time he started using it regularly it seemed that he was already in a hole, especially given the body shots he was being forced to take.
Somehow though the judges were less harsh than we were and after 4 rounds the scores were 39-37, 38-38 and 37-39, leading to a draw at that point on the cards. We sided with the judge who had it 39-37 to Toyoshima.
It seemed like those cards offended Toyoshima who really upped the tempo in rounds 6 and 7 as he began to give Nagahama a battering, dropping the defending champion in round 7 with a monstrous right hand, and pinning him against the ropes for large portions of the round. It seemed, going into round 8, that Toyoshima was on the verge of a stoppage, but Nagahama gritted it out through the round, showing his toughness and will to win.
After 8 rounds the open scoring now all favoured Toyoshima, with scores of 77-74 and two scores of 78-73, the same as how we had it, having given Nagahama rounds 3 and 5.
In round 9 Nagahama was taking punishment before landing his most telling shot of the fight, a nasty low blow. The shot saw Nagahama getting a breather and Toyoshima losing some of his momentum and composure, and he seemed too eager to continue fighting. When the fight resumed Toyoshima had Nagahama in trouble, before taking some solid blows himself as Nagahama tried to fight fire with fire, giving us a brilliant final 20 seconds or so to the round.
By round 10 both men began to look tired, and the tempo began to ease off. That favoured Nagahama who began to land plenty of body shots on Toyoshima, who responded with shots up top. Round 11 saw the pace further slow down, though Toyoshima’s power and work rate was continuing to carry the fight his way. Given the slowdown in the previous two rounds we expected round 12 to be a rather tired round from both mne, but instead Toyoshima fought like a man who didn’t just want to win, but wanted to stop his man, and fought at a frightening pace, as Nagahama took a beating once again. In the final minute it seemed certain that Nagahama was going to hit the canvas again, if not be stopped standing, but he somehow did enough to see out the round, and hear the final bell.
As we went to the scorecards it was clear there was only one man who could have won, and that was Toyoshima, who was declared the winner with scores of 117-110, 116-111 and 115-112.
On this performance Toyoshima is perhaps not going to have a particularly long reign, but it will be a fun one. As for Nagahama we can’t help but feel he got his tactics very wrong and allowed Toyoshima to control the tempo far too easily. Despite that the former champion did show incredible heart and determination late, and it was a testament to his will for him to see out the 12 rounds.
tomorrow at Korakuen Hall we'll see OPBF Welterweight champion Riku Nagahama (12-2-1, 4) [長濱 陸] defending his belt against the hard hitting challenger Ryota Toyoshima (12-2-1, 8) [豊嶋亮太]. For fans not able to make it to the venue, the bout will also be available on CS channel G+ as part of their long running Dynamic Glove series.
Today, ahead of their bout, the two men took part in their weigh in and both fighters came in well under the limit.
The champion came in around 145.7lbs, more than 1lb under the divisional limit. He explained that he did lose a little more than usual, just in case. In regards to his preparation he explained that this was the first time he had done 12 rounds of sparring in a day, and it seems the focus was on his stamina and work rate.
For the champion the bout will be his first defense following his title win in February 2020 against Kudura Kaneko, in what was regarded as a small upset.
Toyoshima, sporting pink hair, on the other hand was around 146.2lbs, close to 1lb under the limit.
The challenger went on to explain that this was the best condition he had been in, despite taking 16 months out of the ring, in part due to a dislocation he suffered in his hand in his last fight. To prepare he was training with Jorge Linares, and it seems the focus was on using Linares' experience to help develop Toyoshima's understanding of the ring and variety of attacks.
For those wanting to tune in to the event on TV, or attending in person, please be aware the event will begin earlier than usual due to the new state of emergency declared in Tokyo Metropolitan region and 3 surrounding Prefectures. With this in mind, fans watching via iSakura will need to order earlier than usual, especially given that typical iSakura orders are taking around 12 hours to process at the moment.
Preview - Potential thriller as OPBF champion Nagahama takes on Toyoshima!
(Image courtesy of Kadoebi)
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