The political unease between Korea and Japan aren't great right now, but thankfully that didn't prevent today's OPBF Light Welterweight bout between defending champion Rikki Naito (24-2, 7) [内藤 律樹] and Korean challenger Gyu Beon Jeon (9-4-1, 4) [전규범] from going off with out any political funny business.
From the opening round it was clear the two men were on totally different levels to each other. Jeon looked like he had no idea how to deal with a southpaw, which made life very easy for the champion in the early stages. Naito made Jeon pay with clean and effective left hands to the head and body in the first few rounds. It wasn't a high drama or exciting from the champion, but it was a totally controlled start from Naito. Jeon seemed to be fighting to the wrong gameplan, boxing with Naito who was a far better boxer.
Jeon managed to have some success in round 4 when he upped his pace, and turned up the heat. He was taking shots for his bravery, but it was the only way he managed to get any sort of success at all. It was a high risk strategy and one that saw him take more than he gave.
In round 5 we saw Naito go through gears and show how talented he was as he began to beat the fight out of Jeon, punishing the Korean for giving it a go. Unfortunately Naito didn't sustain his work, and by the end of the round was happy to land single shots again and out box the Korean.
The boxing lesson continued through rounds 6 and 7, before Naito got a big break through in round 8, dropping Jeon with a sweeping left hand. Jeon got to his feet and Naito again put his foot on the gas, but couldn't finish off the Korean. Jeon's toughness and bravery showed in round 9 and 10 as he pressed forward with little success. Naito's smart and controlled boxing was too much for the Korean, who was game but out matched.
Finally, in round 11, Jeon's pressure managed to have some success, landing a big right hand that hurt Naito. For the first time in the fight there was some panic for the champion and Jeon stepped on the gas, looking to make the most of his opportunity. Naito saw out the storm, but it gave Jeon some belief going into the final round. With that belief Jeon went for it, looking to turn the fight around and pull it out the bag.
Jeon went all out in the final round, and was thwarted by regular clinches from Naito, until the dying seconds of the round when Naito decided to fight fire with fire and give us an exciting close to the fight as the two traded blows.
After 12 rounds the bout seemed an easy one to score with Naito dominating until the later stages. At best Jeon had taken 4 rounds, though in reality it was hard to give him more than 2, rounds 11 and 12.
Although the scores were read out in Korean it was clearly a win for Naito, who had his arm raised.
For Naito this was a third defense of the title, and a great moment for the Naito family. Rikki's father Cassius had travelled to Korea 4 times during his career and lost all 4 bouts, so seeing his son pick up the win here would have been at least slightly relieving. Sadly though it's still clear Rikki isn't a particularly great fighter at 140lbs. He lacks power and his stamina has again proven to be an issue late. Technically he's fantastic, but we do wonder whether or not he can made Lightweight, where he would be more effective.
As for Jeon this was a brave performance. A clear loss, but a gutsy effort, and we can't criticise him too much for that. He was out matched, but always tried and deserves credit for his continued effort in the face of so much adversity.
Tomorrow in Korea OPBF Light Welterweight champion Rikki Naito (23-2, 7) [内藤 律樹] will face Korean challenger Gyu Beon Jeon (9-3-1, 4) [전규범], in what will be Naito's third defense of the regional title.
Today the two men weighed in for the bout, and despite similar there was a notable difference in weight.
On the scales the champion was 139.5lbs, and looked in good shape, as he always does. Jeon on the other hand was barely over the Lightweight limit, coming in at 136.75lb, though looked in great shape himself.
Notably Naito is looking to not only his title but get a little big of revenge for his father, who lost in his 4 visitors to Korea.
The bout, for those interested, will be aired live in Korea on IB Sports, and is expected to be available on delay on the Boxing Raise service, though it's unclear on when it will be made available over the Japanese video on demand service.
Related - Rikki Naito heads to Korea for third OPBF title defense
(Image courtesy of the OPBF)
At the moment tensions between Japan and South Korea are certainly mounting with diplomatic issues between both countries certainly increasing. Sadly boxing is caught in the cross fight with OPBF Light Welterweight champion Rikki Naito (23-2, 7) [内藤 律樹] set to face Korean challenger Gyu Beon Jeon (9-3-1, 4) [전규범] on October 9th.
We won't get into the the politics of Japan and South Korea, and how issues have escalated in the last few weeks, what we will however say is that the Cassius gym, and Rikki Naito, have released a video ahead of the fight, combining a bit of hype for the contest, with comment from Naito talking about the fight.
For those unaware the Naito family have got links back to Korea, with Rikki's father Cassius Naito having fought a number of times in Korea, coming up short every time.
The message from Naito is a simple one, with English and Japanese subtitles and is worth watching, as it's a rare glimpse into something we wouldn't often get the chance to see.
The video, which is embedded below, was originally shared by on twitter Naito's stablemate Caliente Koyasu, who is well worth a follow, especially for his genuinely charming English language lessons that began with "What's up Boys?"
Over the last few weeks we had been hearing a lot of solid sources reporting that OPBF Light Welterweight title bout between Rikki Naito (23-2, 7) [内藤 律樹] and Korean challenger Gyu Beon Jeon (9-3-1, 4) [전규범] has been postponed from a September date. That has now been confirmed by the KBF who were sanctioning the bout.
The contest, which was pencilled in for early September, is now set to take place on October 9th, with the bout still set for a Korean venue.
Sadly the interesting looking co-feature bout between WBA Asia Super Bantamweight champion Ye Joon Kim (18-1-2, 10) [김예준] and Japanese challenger Shohei Kawashima (17-3-2, 4) [川島翔平] has been cancelled due to Kim suffering an injury to his elbow.
As a result of Kim's injury, and the rescheduling of the show, there will now be a Korean Welterweight title bout, a KBF Bantamweight bout and a Korea Vs China supporting bout.
Unfortunately with this now being something like the 4th date for this bout, and growing tensions between Japan and Korea there is a good chance this may slip to a later date, or be cancelled all together, unless things change.
In June the Dangan team confirmed the long rumoured OPBF Light Welterweight title bout, between champion Rikki Naito (23-2, 7) [内藤 律樹] and Korean challenger Gyu Beon Jeon (9-3-1, 4) [전규범]. Although they announced it for August 15th, it has slipped back to September 5th to be part of a double header card, "Warriors Invitational 005".
We now know the other part of that double header will be another Korea Vs Japan bout, with enigmatic Korean hopeful Ye Joon Kim (18-1-2, 10) [김예준] defending his WBA Asia Super Bantamweight title against Japanese challenger Shohei Kawashima (17-3-2, 4) [川島翔平], who will be looking to bounce back from a March loss in the Philippines to Juan Miguel Elorde.
A poster to promote the bout has been put together by those responsible and the Korean team at the KBF are pushing the bout by sharing the poster image.
For Kim this bout will be his first defense of the title, which he won in May when he stopped Ryo Kosaka in Yesan. The talented Korean, known as Pacquiweather, has now gone 18-0-2 since his sole loss way back in 2012, and will know that another win here takes him one step closer to getting a really big fight. Out of all the male Korean fighters he seems the most likely to be able to pick up wins against world ranked opponents, though that is yet to be seen.
Kawahsima on the other hand will not a new face to Korean fight fans. He made his Korean debut 2016, beating Jin Wook Kim, though has gone 4-3 since then, including the competitive loss to Elorde and a narrow decision loss to Cristian Mijares in Mexico. He's not the natural talent of Kim, but he is still a very well school fighter and could well be a banana skin for Kim.
Sadly the rest of details of this card, other than the double main event, have yet to be announced
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