Way back in January we saw Gakuya Furuhashi (27-8-1, 15) [古橋大輔] put in a career defining performance to stop Yusaku Kuga (19-5-1, 13) [久我勇作], and win the Japanese Super Bantamweight title. It was one of the best fights of the year and was a genuine all out war, with Furuhashi simply grinding down and breaking Kuga up.
Since then Furuhashi has been out of the ring, getting the long rest he deserved after such a brutal war.
Today however news finally broke of the champion's first defense, which will come on August 2nd as he takes on Seigo Hanamori (7-3, 5) [花森 成吾], who is ranked #5 by the JBC, at Korakuen Hall in the main event of "Hoepful Fight Vol 35".
Today, to announce the bout, the two men and their teams took part in a online press conference.
At the press conference Furuhashi stated "I started boxing after reading the manga "Hajime no Ippo", but it is an honor to be able to compete in a title match with Chairman Morikawa's gym player in the next round." And he added that he wanted to double hius gratitude with this bout.
Although complimentary of Mr Morikawa, who runs the JB Sports Gym, Furuhashi didn't seem like he was in generous mood to Hanamori, "It is said that we will play an interesting match, but this time we will not let the opponent show good points and end it with a crisp. I want to betray the expectations of others in a good way" and he seemed to suggest that Hanamori wasn't yet ready to over-take stablemate Ryoichi Tamura [田村 亮一]
As for Hanamori, who recorded an impressive win over Naoto Mizutani [水谷 直人] last time out to earn a high JBCranking, he came across as being confident, though feeling no pressure. He seems to know he's being over-looked, massively, and is there as easy first defense, but is hungry to prove that wrong. That was a sentiment echoed by his trainer, who stated "Even if you look at the super bantamweight ranking, I think our Hanamori is the weakest. I think he was chosen for the role of a biting dog, but I'm thinking of doing a good bite. Mr. Morikawa said, "I want you to show your courage." " For those unaware a "biting dog" is a term used for a fighter who's there to test someone, without being a major threat, like a dog there to help train a fighting dog.
Interestingly Hanamori also suggested that the wars and tough battles of Furuhashi may have caught up with him, and that this might be the right time to face the all action champion.
The latest issue of Japanese boxing magazine "Boxing Beat" will be released tomorrow and it promising to be an interesting issue with a lot to talk about.
One of the key features will see WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka (26-2, 15) [井岡一翔] talk about his 8th round TKO win over fellow Japanese fighter Kosei Tanaka (15-1, 9) [田中恒成] at the end of 2020, in what was one of Ioka's best performances.
Other features also include something looking at the domestic divisions across Japan, going from Minimumweight to Heavyweight.
There is also a lengthy preview of the up coming WBA Light Flyweight "Super" title fight between Hiroto Kyoguchi (14-0, 9) [京口 紘人] and Axel Aragon Vega (14-3-1, 8), who meet in March in Kyoguchi's US debut.
Among the fight reports in the magazine are write ups about some of the biggest domestic fights from January, including Takuma Inoue's (14-1, 3) [井上拓真] win over Keita Kurihara (15-6, 13) [栗原慶太], for the OPBF Bantamweight title, and Gakuya Furuhashi's (27-8-1, 15) [古橋大輔] sensational win over win over Yusaku Kuga (19-5-1, 13) [久我勇作], for the Japanese Super Bantamweight title.
The magazine will be available in stores across Japan or digitally on Amazon.jp.
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.
Back in January we saw Gakuya Furuhashi (27-8-1, 15) [古橋大輔] claim the biggest win of his career, ripping the Japanese Super Bantamweight title from the hard hitting Yusaku Kuga (19-5-1, 13) [久我勇作] in a thrilling bout. Today Furuhashi was able to show off his belt as he took part in the Setsubun ceremony, or bean throwing ceremony, at Wakamiya Kindergarten in Kawasaki City.
The ceremony was a bit different to usual for several reasons. Firstly masks were worn by Furuhashi, and others due to the ongoing pandemic, but also sweets were handed out instead of bean being thrown around, due to the fact there was kindergarten kids around.
Given how long it took Furuhashi to win the title we expect to see him take every opportunity to show it off over the coming months, and his involvement in events like this are certainly no surprise. He has always been very much about a Kawasaki City man, and it's great he now has a title to help to inspire the local youngsters to show what people from the area can do if they keep trying and don't give up.
(Photo credit - Kawasaki Gym)
Earlier today we got the latest “Dangan” show, live on the excellent Boxing Raise service. It was a card that promised a lot and despite not quite delivering what was expected of it, it was still a very, very enjoyable show, thanks to a sensational main event. But more about that a little bit later.
The show kicked off with a B-Class tournament final between youngsters Koki Mioya (8-2-2, 2) [三尾谷 昂希] and Tentaro Kimura (6-0-2) [木村 天汰郎], the cousin of the touted Rentaro Kimura. This one started off with both men struggling to find their range a little bit, and despite both letting shots go neither managed to land too frequently. What was landed in the opening round however did seem to favour Mioya, who seemed to be a touch crisper out of the blocks.
Mioya also seemed to take the advantage early in round 2, though it was a better round for Kimura who managed to land several clean right hands. Despite the success for Kimura he struggled to build on his success and due to the speed, reach and southpaw stance of Mioya, who looked just that bit sharper throughout. Kimura however refused to come second and kept landing solid counters, luring Mioya in and landing clean right hands as Mioya came forward, through the middle portion of the fight. It wasn’t a counter punching masterclass, but it was a great example of what timing, and accuracy can do. In round 6 Mioya looked to put his foot on the gas, but failed to turn the tide.
After 6 rounds Kimura did just enough to edge a split decision, with scores of 58-56, twice, in his favour, against a score of 58-57 to Mioya.
Although both men were clearly talented youngsters, it did feel, at times, like they were almost too similar. Things were also not helped by the stances, with Mioya being a southpaw and Kimura being orthodox, which resulted in some messy coming togethers. Despite that it’s clear that both men have a lot of untapped potential, and hopefully we will see that being developed over the next few years.
The second bout was an A-Class tournament final at Lightweight, as Shu Utsuki (8-0, 7) [宇津木 秀] took on Masashi Wakita (10-11-2, 5) [脇田 将士]. On paper this was a total mismatch, though those who had seen a bit of Wakita before were expecting him to at least ask some questions of the talented and touted Utsuki.
From the off Utsuki came forward, applying intelligent pressure, but struggled to get around the long southpaw jab of Wakita, who used his height, reach and stance well to avoid Utsuki from getting too close. Utsuki became more aggressive in round 2, as he put his foot on the gas and began to land some more telling leather. Credit however to Wakita who took the shots well and tried to cope with the increasing pressure of the unbeaten man, who landed a big body shot and a big headshot just before the bell. In round 3 we saw Wakita trying to fight fire with fire, and letting his hands go more often, landing the occasional solid shot of his own in the most competitive round of the fight. The same ambition was shown from Wakita early in round 4 as well, before he got dumped on the seat of his pants part way through the round. From there on Utsuki went into seek and destroy mode. With Wakita hurt and not really doing much in terms of firing back, the referee stepped in and saved Wakita from further punishment.
On paper this is “another stoppage loss for Wakita” but we really need to give him credit here. He gave Utsuki a decent test, he asked plenty of the unbeaten puncher, and really exceeded expectations whilst also showing he is genuinely a decent boxer, who is being matched too tough at times. As for Utsuki bigger and better fights will come, and this 4 rounds he had here will do him no harm at all and we are expecting to see him fight in a title bout either later this year or at some point in 2022.
Talking about title bouts, this show had two of them. The first of was was a Japanese Super Featherweight title bout, pitting champion Kosuke Saka (21-5, 18) [坂晃典] against his mandatory challenger Takuya Watanabe (37-10-1, 21) [渡邉卓也].
From the off Saka looked the bigger, stronger and more powerful fighter, pressing forward and landing the more telling blows through much of rounds 1 and 2, with Watanabe struggling to get much going other than his jab. Despite being limited in what he was landing Watanabe’s jab was landing very clean and in rounds 3 and 4 he did well in getting Saka’s respect and cutting Saka around the left eye as it seemed he was perhaps on the verge of getting a toe hold in the bout.
Sadly for Watanabe a doctor’s inspection, in round 5, on the cut seemed to make Saka put his foot on the gas and soon after the doctor allowed the bout to continue Saka began to unload his heavier artillery. Watanabe managed to connect with one or two counters, getting Saka’s respect, but not doing anything close to hurt Saka who was beginning to chip away at the challenger.
After 5 rounds we got the open scoring, as is normal for Japanese title fights, and all 3 judges favoured Saka with scores of 49-46 from all 3 judges.
Knowing he was behind was perhaps not an advantage for Watanabe who looked to try and turn the tables in round 6 as he began to come forward. Saka remained composed and landed a monstrous right hand that shook Watanabe and then unloaded on the challenger who finally hit the canvas. The referee instantly waved this off with Watanabe on his hands and knees.
With this loss Watanabe suffers his first stoppage in 48 bouts, and given his hard career the end may be nigh for the 31 year old warhorse. As for Saka this was a statement finish, and a great way to record his first defense in a talent heavy Japanese Super Featherweight division. There are a lot of interesting bouts out there for him at 130lbs and fingers crossed we see him in some of those match ups, against the likes of Kenichi Ogawa, Yoshimitsu Kimura and Kanehiro Nakegawa.
We then moved on to the second title bout and the show's main event. This was a Japanese Super Bantamweight title bout pitting hard hitting champion Yusaku Kuga (19-5-1, 13) [久我勇作] against his mandatory challenger Gakuya Furuhashi (27-8-1, 15) [古橋大輔] in what turned out to be a sensational war.
From the off this was fought at an exceptional pace with both men looking happy to go to war, and both showing just how much the Japanese title meant to them. It seemed clear that Furuhashi had the quicker feet but the first round really was more about Kuga’s power and aggression, with the champion landing the bigger shots and dictating the action. Kuga continued to control the fight in round, despite a very spirited effort from Furuhashi who began to find his range more often, but took shots to get inside. When he was inside Furuhashi looked to make it a war, but even then he seemed to take more punishment than he was dealing out. By round 4 however Furuhashi was starting to build his momentum, forcing exchanges at his range and backing Kuga up. Kuga still had some eye-catching moments of his own, but was starting to feel the tempo more and wasn’t having the same level of success as he had had earlier on. Furuhashi’s momentum continued to grow in round 5 and for the first time in the fight it seemed like he hurt Kuga with a combination up top. He was however taking some massive shots himself, and continuing to go to war seemed a very risky strategy against someone as heavy handed as Kuga.
After 5 rounds we got the open scoring, and all 3 judges had Kuga leading, with 2 scoring it 48-47, the same as us, and one having it 49-46.
Furuhashi’s stubbornness and determination continued to shine in rounds 6 and 7, despite Kuga having a bit of a second wind. Part way through round 7 Furuhashi almost had his head spun around from a huge bomb up top from Kuga. Somehow Furuhashi didn’t just stay up right but also returned fire almost immediately as he took the fight on the inside and continued trying to grind down Kuga’s resistance.
In round 8 Furuhashi started fast, somehow finding the energy to continue to press inside and forcing a toe to toe fight with Kuga. Kuga responded to the challenge with huge bombs up close, though the volume from Furuhashi was intensem forcing Kuga to back off. Kuga was looking to catch his breath but Furuhashi refused to let him, and right on the bell Kuga was staggered as Furuhashi continued to push and landed a nasty uppercut. Had the round been 20 seconds longer Kuga would have been down, at the very least.
Thankfully for Furuhashi the minute break between rounds 8 and 9 wasn’t enough for Kuga to clear his head and Furuhashi jumped on his man right at the start of the round, eventually dropping Kuga. Kuga got back to his feet, but had no idea where he was as he stumbled around the ring, forcing the referee to wave this off, crowning a new champion.
For Furuhashi this was a defining moment in his career, which had seen him fail in two previous Japanese title fights. He really gave his all, dug incredibly deep and, at 33, finally conquered the title that he had chased for years. He took a lot of punishment himself, and there’s a chance he will never quite be the same fighter after this, but he showed just how desperate he was for the belt.
As for the 30 year old Kuga this was a 3rd stoppage loss in 6 bouts. His wars and battles are clearly catching up with him. He was leading early on, but the determination of Furuhashi did eventually break him down and we wouldn’t be surprised if this perhaps was the start of the end for Kuga, who was knocked clean out in his previous bout against Jhunriel Ramonal. This was a punishing battle, a tough one, and one that will be hard to bounce back from.
For fans the show was perhaps a bit slow to get going. The first bout never really clicked, the second seemed like a formality, and the third under-delivered, though expectations were admittedly incredibly high and the bout was a solid one. The main event however over-delivered and gave us some of the best action we’ve had so far in 2021. The styles gelled perfectly and the mentalities of the two men delivered an all action war. This was brilliant from round 1 to the eventual stoppage, and made up for the somewhat pedestrian start to the event.
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