Earlier today the Japan Professional Boxing Association announced the Strongest Korakuen bouts, which will take place later this year to decide the mandatory challengers for the Japanese titles in the new year, with 10 bouts being announced.
The Minimumweight bout will see WBO Asia Pacific champion Yudai Shigeoka (5-0, 3) [重岡優大] take on Tatsuro Nakashima (11-3-1, 7) [仲島辰郎], with the winner getting a show at the Japanese title, currently held by Yudai's younger brother Ginjiro Shigeoka (8-0, 6) [重岡銀次朗], who actually beat Nakashima for the title. This bout is set to take place at Korakuen Hall on November 17th.
The Light Flyweight eliminator will see Daiki Tomita (18-2, 6) [冨田大樹] battle Rikito Shiba (6-2, 3) [芝力人], though no date or venue has been announced for this bout.
At Super Flyweight we also have no date or venue set, but a mouth watering bout as Ryusei Kawaura (9-1, 6) [川浦龍生] battles Suzumi Takayama (5-0, 4) [高山涼深], in what is potentially the best looking of the bouts announced.
The Bantamweight bout bout will see Jin Minamide (6-2, 5) [南出仁] battle against Yuki Yonaha (11-3-1, 8) [与那覇勇気], in what could prove to be a very explosive bout between two flawed but hard hitting.
On the subject of interesting bouts we'll have a potentially thrilling war at Super Bantamweight as former champions Ryoichi Tamura (14-6-1, 7) [田村亮一] takes on Gakuya Furuhashi (28-9-2, 16) [古橋大輔]. Interestingly these two men also met in a Japanese title eliminator back in 2019, with Furuhashi taking a razor win over Tamura, before winning the title with a sensational battle just 4 months later.
At Featherweight former champion Ryo Sagawa (12-2, 7) [佐川遼] faces off with Daisuke Watanabe (12-5-2, 7) [渡部大介].
At Super Featherweight the hard hitting Yamato Hata (12-1, 11) [波田大和] will face Yuna Hara (11-2-1, 6) [原優奈], with this bout set to take place on October 1st at Korakuen Hall.
On paper one of the more underwhelming bouts is set to take place at Lightweight, as Shuma Nakazato (11-2-3, 7) [仲里周磨] takes on the hard hitting Ken Koibuchi (8-4-1, 7) [鯉淵健], in what might be an bout that's easy to over-look but is very likely to be an explosive encounter.
At Welterweight we're in for a treat as we get a rematch between Hironori Shigeta (8-2-1, 5) [重田裕紀] and Shoki Sakai (26-13-2, 14) [坂井祥紀], who gave us a very fan friendly bout back in 2020 with Sakai taking a clear but hard fought decision win. This bout is set to take place on October 22nd at Korakuen Hall.
At 154lbs Rei Nakajima (5-1) [中島玲] will face Koki Koshikawa (9-6, 6) [越川孝紀]. For Koshikawa he's looking to land his third shot at the Japanese 154lb title whilst Nakajima will be looking to secure his second shot at the title.
Notably there is no bout set for Flyweight, Light Welterweight or Middleweight. At the time of writing it's been reported that former world title challenger Ryota Yamauchi (8-2, 7) [山内涼太] will be getting a shot at Flyweight Cristiano Aoqui (16-9-2, 11), will get a shot at 140lbs and unfortunately there won't be a mandatory challenger for the Champion Carnival at Middleweight.
Earlier today the Saitama Super Arena played host to the latest win from Japanese sensation Naoya Inoue (23-0, 20) [井上 尚弥], who stopped Nonito Donaire (41-7, 27) in 2 rounds to unify his WBA "super", IBF and Ring Magazine titles with the WBC belt that Donaire won in 2021.
That however wasn't the only notable fight on the show.
The first of the notable bouts saw hard hitting youngster Kanamu Sakama (6-0, 5) [坂間 叶夢] scored his second win of the year, as he took out Fuki Ishigaki (4-5, 2) [石垣 芙季] in the second round of their scheduled 6 rounder. The hard hitting Sakama had won the 2021 All Japan Rookie of the Year at Light Flyweight and came in to this bout as the #14 ranked Light Flyweight in Japan. Whilst this win won't boost his ranking, it was a huge opportunity for him to get some experience of fighting on a major card, and he is certainly one to watch.
The second notable bout featured another talented young hopeful in action, as 21 year old hopeful Toshiya Ishii (6-1, 4) [石井 渡士也] scored a 6th round TKO win over Hikaru Fukunaga (9-3, 6) [福永 輝], in what is a really good result for Ishii. The talented Ishii, who is ranked by the JBC at Super Bantamweight, seemed incredibly strong here from the off, with a stiff and nasty jab. Fukunaga looked to fight back, and had some success in round 3, but Ishii began to have growing success, and in round 6 he landed some huge right hands that forced the referee in to save Fukunaga.
The first of the bouts shown to fans on ESPN and YouTube saw Naoya's younger brother Takuma Inoue (16-1, 3) [井上拓真] unify the WBO Asia Pacific and Japanese Super Bantamweight titles, with an impressive performance against the all action Gakuya Furuhashi (28-9-2, 16) [古橋大輔]. Through out the bout there was never any doubting Furuhashi's hunger, bravery, toughness and energy but unfortunately he was often on the wrong end of crisp, clean, accurate shots from Inoue who landed at will. The most eye catching blows from Inoue were uppercuts, which were regularly landed cleanly in combination, though he really did land everything he wanted, when he wanted. After 12 rounds it was hard to give Furuhashi a round, despite his incredibly brave effort, and the judges seemed to agree with that scoring the bout 120-108, 120-108 and 119-109.
The second title bout on the card, in the shows chief support bout, saw Japanese and WBO Asian Pacific Light Welterweight champion Andy Hiraoka (20-0, 15) [平岡アンディ] score a decisive defense of his Japanese title against the hard hitting Shun Akaiwa (7-4-1, 5) [赤岩俊]. Early on Akaiwa seemed to be frozen by the occasion a little bit, and was put down by an uppercut in round 1 by a relaxed and confident Hiraoka. After the knockdown Akaiwa began to have moments in the fight whilst Hiraoka seemed willing to take his time and enjoy his time on the huge stage set by the Inoue Vs Donaire II main event. In round 6 however it seemed Hiraoka had tired of playing with his food and began look at hurting Akaiwa, which he did mid way through the round. A follow up assault left the referee with no real option but to step in and save Akaiwa at the 1:24 mark of the round.
Tomorrow Japan plays host to a monstrous card at the Saitama Super Arena. One of the three title bouts on the card will see WBO Asia Pacific Super Bantamweight champion Takuma Inoue (15-1, 3) [井上拓真] take on Japanese champion Gakuya Furuhashi (28-8-2, 16) [古橋大輔] in a wonderfully matched unification bout.
Today, ahead of their bout the two men took part in their weigh in for the bout.
On the scales Inoue had no issues at all, coming in bang on the Super Bantamweight limit. As for Fururhashi, the 34 year old veteran, struggled to boil down and actually came in a little over 123lbs on his first attempt to make weight. He then had 2 hours to lose the excess, and came back bang on the limit, with 45 minutes to spare.
After making weight Inoue, who fights on the same card as his brother Naoya for the first time since November 2019, seemed determined to win this bout here by relying on, and showcasing his technical ability.
As for Furuhashi, he revealed that he apologised to Hideyuki Ohashi, the lead promoter for the event, and the staff and media. He explained that he had had too much water weight and he couldn't sweat it out in time for the original weigh in, though of course the extra time allowed him to do just that. He also explained that if he wins the bout it would be an upset, though seemed determined to prove his doubters wrong.
For those interested in betting on this bout it's worth noting Takuma is a 1/7 favourite, whilst Furuhashi is available at 6/1 with the draw priced at 20/1.
Related - WBO Asia Pacific and Japanese titles to be unified as Inoue faces Furuhashi
Earlier today Ohashi gym announced the chief support bout for the much anticipated rematch between Japanese star Naoya Inoue (22-0, 19) [井上 尚弥] and Filipino legend Nonito Donaire (41-6, 27).
That bout, which is set to unify the WBA "Super", IBF and WBC Bantamweight titles on June 7th at the Saitama Super Arena is expected to be a great fight, but the chief support could, somehow, be even more action packed as WBO Asia Pacific Super Bantamweight champion Takuma Inoue (15-1, 3) [井上拓真] takes on Japanese champion Gakuya Furuhashi (28-8-2, 16) [古橋大輔] in an excellent unification bout of regional and national titles.
Of the two men Takuma is the more well known, after all he is Naoya's younger brother and a 3-weight OPBF champion who now looks to be making a name for himself at 122lbs thanks to an excellent win in November against Shingo Wake (27-7-2, 19) [和氣 慎吾]. He's not got the power of the "Monster" but Takuam is a good technical boxer, who has genuine guts, determination and is now starting to fill out his frame, growing into his man strength at the age of 26. He will know a win here will help boost his chances of getting a second world title fighter and with world rankings from the IBF, WBC and WBO he isn't far off another crack at a world title already.
Whilst Takuma is known internationally the same can't be said of Furuhashi, and that's a shame. Furuhashi is a true warrior, a blood and guts fighter, who is one of the most fan friendly fighters on the planet. The 34 year old comes to fight, putting it all on the line every time he's in the ring, with a high pressure, high intensity style that makes him a genuine must watch fighter. He won the Japanese title last year, in his third shot, stopping Yusaku Kuga in a legitimate contender for the 2021 Japanese Fight of the Year, and has defended the title twice since then. He will be looking for his third defense, and the biggest win of his career.
Given the styles of the two men this could be under-whelming if Takuma can keep it at range and play it safe for 12 rounds, but that's a massive ask against someone like Furuhashi, who is full of energy and fire. Furuhashi will look to get inside, take the fight to Inoue and make it into a war, which should make this really exciting, with Inoue looking to respond to Furuhashi's pressure with a higher than typical output.
Fans in Japan wanting to watch this bout, will be able to see it live on Amazon Prime Video
Earlier today the East Japan Boxing Association announced the award winners for the month of January, and announced 3 winners for the month, with an MVP, the Fighting Spirit Award Winner and the Newcomer award.
The MVP for the month was, somewhat unsurprisingly, Kai Ishizawa (10-1, 9) [石澤開] for his Japanese title win on January 11th against Katsuki Mori (9-1, 2) [森 且貴], stopping the previously unbeaten Mori to claim the previously vacant title. This is, by far, the biggest win of Ishizawa's career so far, and helps move him towards a world title fight later in the year.
The Fighting Spirit Award was won by Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Gakuya Furuhashi (28-8-2, 16) [古橋大輔] who won the award, and retained his title, following a draw with former champion Yusaku Kuga (20-5-2, 13) [久我勇作] on January 25th. The bout between the two men, much like their first bout in 2021, was a thrilling action brawl and one that deserved a bigger audience than it got, as it was sadly hidden behind a Japan only service rather than made available on something like G+ or Boxing Raise which would have made it available for international fans.
The final award, which was also won for a bout that took place on January 25th, was the Newcomer award. That was won by Taison Mukaiyama (7-2, 4) [向山太尊] who recorded a shock scored win over the well regarded Toru Kiyota (11-5, 8) [清田亨], with Mukaiyama taking out Kiyota in 2 rounds. The win will likely see Mukaiyama being included in rankings from the OPBF, WBO Asia Pacific and JBC in the coming days.
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