It feels like it's been a very, very, very long time since we last had live televised Japanese boxing. We've had a few tape delay shows from Japan but it's been around a month since the All Japan Rookie of the Year final. Thankfully today we saw boxing return to Japanese TV thanks to latest Dynamic Glove show, and it was a really, really good show, with an exciting debutant, along with 3 solid, entertaining bouts. It's been too long, but it was, in the end, worth the wait!
The show began with a 4 rounder between Takumi Hashimoto (1-1) [橋本拓海] and Shogo Namiki (2-0-1, 1) [並木翔牙]. This was a really fun and exciting bout to open the show, though both men were clearly very limited fighters. Namika seemed the aggressor through much of the first round, but Hashimoto had good success in round 2 which he tried to replicate in round 3, though his accuracy let him down. In round 4 we ended up with 3 minutes of brutal violence as both men gave their all in an attempt to secure victory. After 4 rounds the judges gave the win to Namiki by majority decision.
The second bout on the show saw the long awaited debut of Kenji Fujita (1-0, 1) [藤田健児] as he scored a 6th round TKO win against the tough and very credible Motosuke Kimura (3-6-2, 1) [木村元祐].
From the off it was clear Fujita respected Kimura and his ability to counter. As a result the early going saw Fujita box patiently, used his amateur skills to keep the action at range and to win the rounds without taking too many risks. As the bout went on however he began to let heavier shots go, targetting the body of Kimura, and hurting him in round 3 before dropping him in round 4, as he systematically broke down his man. Kimura showed incredible toughness however and continued to try and fight back. In round 6 however Kimura was hurt again and Fujita didn't let off the gas, forcing the referee to step in wave this off. This was a really impressive performance by Fujita who is clearly another fantastic addition to the already packed Japanese Featherweight scene. One to keep an eye on, though that's little surprise given his incredibly amateur pedigree.
The third bout saw action pick up with a competitive, technical and exciting bout between Katsuya Fukui (3-0, 2) [福井勝也] and Hiroki Hanabusa (8-2-3, 3) [英洸貴]. This started very technical from both, as both used their jabs a lot, and despite being technical it was fought at a high pace, and very exciting. We thought Hanabusa more than held his own and his jab was again a fantastic weapon in round 2. From there on however Fukui began to find his grove, unloading sharp combinations, sneaking in and out with great success. Hanabusa continued to hold his own, and was landing a similar amount to Fukuo, but the cleaner more eye catching shots were coming from Fukui.
Through the middle rounds Hanabusa's work rate slowed as Fukui's shots took their toll on him, though to his credit Hanabusa refused to back down and go away. Instead Hanabusa dug deep and in rounds 7 and 8 the two men began to trade more regularly giving the fans a show. Sadly for Hanabusa however his shots lacked the power that Fukui's did and he could never get the respect of the unbeaten Fukui.
After 8 rounds the judges had this much, much wider than we did, scorign it 80-72, twice, and 79-73.We can't help but feel that Hanabusa deserved a bit more credit, though was certainly second best. Despite the loss we feel Hanabusa enhanced his reputation here, whilst Fukui showed he had the potential to go very far in this sport.
In the chief support bout we saw blood, and a lot of it, as Tatsuya Takahashi (32-10-6, 21) [高橋 竜也] and Ryotaro Kawabata (13-4-2, 6) [川端遼太郎] gave us something special. Really special.
The fight started with the much taller, longer and experienced Takahashi trying to box at range and control the bout with his footwork and jab whilst Kawabata looked to get inside and make this a fight. For the first round and a half Takahashi did all he could to avoid a war. Despite his effort we all knew, sooner or later, this was going to get violent and by the mid way point of round 2 Kawabata was dragging Takahashi into a firefight.
For the next few rounds Takahashi tried to give the appearance of someone who wanted to box, and not fight. Yet every round he was dragged into a slugfest up close. By the end of round 4 blood was smearing over his face from his nose, albeit from what appeared to be a headclash. From here on Takahashi gave up the pretence and turned things into an all out war, with the two men going to war on the inside, as blood began to flow. In fact was flowing so freely that both men ended up getting a doctor's inspection in rounds 5 and 7. The cuts, caused by accidental headclashes, were a result of the two men essentially standing toe to toe, head to head, and firing off shots with alarming success. Defense was a dirty word as the fighters seemed to be living by the idea that they had to stop the other
Sadly for both men's long term health a stoppage never seemed on. Both were rocked at times, and both took a lot of punishment, but neither man came close to being taken out. Instead they continued to let shots fly, with Takahashi fighting almost the entire final round with his back against the ropes. This was a sensational final round to what had been a brutal fight. Both men will be feeling this one in the morning. Thankfully for Kawabata he can at least feel good, as he picked up the victory, thanks to his relentless desire and his intense pressure. The scores cards here were 77-75, twice and 78-74, all to Kawabata.
The main event was another compelling bout as former amateur standout Gonte Lee (3-0-1, 1) [李 健太], who has previously been referred to as "Kuntae Lee" and was today shown on screen as "Gonte Ri", took on fan favourite Aso Ishiwaki (8-4-1, 6) [石脇麻生]. On paper this probably didn't grab too much attention internationally, especially given Ishiwaki's 2020 loss to Jin Sasaki and the technical draw that Lee suffered last time out. Despite that fans of the Japanese scene would have known that the styles here were going to mesh really well, with Lee's technical boxing being matched with the hunger and desire of Ishiwaki.
From the off the styles played out as expected, with Lee boxing, moving, and showing the brilliance that took him to a 62 fight winning streak in the amateurs. He looked fantastic. Whilst Ishiwaki fought like a bull in a china shop. He refused to back down, he refused to let Lee have time and space to think, and kept coming forward, putting his head down and chasing Lee around the ring.
At times Lee looked far, far too good for his man, particularly in the opening round and round 3 where he was almost scored a knock down with a body shot, but Ishiwaki proved himself to be dangerous having success in round 2 and holding his own in many rounds. As the bout went on however Ishiwaki's pressure generated more and more success, with round 6 being one of his best rounds. He even managed to drag Lee into a firefight in round 7, as Lee got his first chin check in the professional ranks.
With Ishiwaki creating some momentum we saw Lee put his foot on the gas in round 8, as he landed some fantastic counters early in the round before a vicious combination later one, that Ishiwaki somehow took without dropping. Ishiwaki knew he needed a knockout in the final round, he pushed for it, but he could never have the sustained success he needed.
For Lee this was a big step up in class and he passed it, winning with scores of 79-73, and 78-74, twice. He was forced to work every round and this was exactly what he needed. As for Ishiwaki this is a second successive loss for the youngster, but another performance that would have won fans over. Do not write him off for his record as he is one of the most fan friendly fighters out there and someone always worth watching.
Tomorrow fight fans at Korakuen Hall, along with views of G+, will get the chance to see a mouth watering Japanese Light Welterweight bout headlining the latest "Dynamic Glove" show.
That main event will see former amateur standout Gonte Lee (2-0-1, 1) [李 健太] take on the always fun to watch Aso Ishiwaki (8-3-1, 6) [石脇麻生] in what is, genuinely, a must win for both men, even at this early stage in their careers.
Today, ahead of tomorrow's bout, the two men took part in their weigh in and both fighters made the 140lb limit, in fact both weighed in right on the limit.
The talented Lee turned professional in 2018, when he took part in his pro-test bout and got his professional license, before debuting in 2019. Prior to turning professional he really had been a stand out amateur, scoring 102 amateur wins and setting a Japanese record for longest winning streak, at 62.
Sadly since turning professional his career hasn't really caught fire. He looked good in his first two bouts before a headclash resulted in a technical draw in his third contest in late 2019. Sadly he has been out of the ring ever since that technical draw, due in part to the effects of Covid19 on Japanese boxing.
Ishiwaki on the other hand turned professional with no hype and expectation but quickly became a fan favourite with his exciting style and aggression. He quickly won over the hearts of fight fans whilst being involved in some thrilling contests, notable his 2019 draw with Yoji Saito. Sadly however his career was also curtailed in 2020 due to the effects of Covid19 on boxing. He managed just one fight later year and, sadly for him, it came against Jin Sasaki who battered him in 3 rounds for the Japanese Youth Light Welterweight title.
Given the styles and mentalities of the two men here this should be something very exciting and very special.
For fans wanting to watch the bout will be aired live on G+ tomorrow as part of their Dynamic Glove show.
(Image credit - Teiken)
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