In Europe and many former British colonies the day after Christmas is called "Boxing Day". Whilst certainly not a global thing it is certainly something of note and a term that a good portion of the world will be aware of. We don't that would include Japan, but for whatever reason, today been a day where Japan has provided with boxing day action, thanks to a stream from the brilliant team at A-Sign Boxing.
The event kicked off with a competitive affair as Kojiro Nishikawa (5-2-1, 2) [西川 宏次郎] battled to a draw with Daiju Kogo (4-2-1, 3) [向後 大寿] over 6 rounds.
The opening round was a good one for Nishikawa, who seemed in control though out the round. In round 2 Kogo managed to rock Nishikawa, and really went for a finish in the final 40 seconds, though sadly seemed to punch himself out. From there the pace never really recovered, and was instead white a low paced bout with Nishikawa pressing forward and Kogo moving well and countering.
After 6 rounds the judges couldn't split the men, with one judge scoring the bout a narrow win to Kogo, another having it as a win for Nishikawa, whilst the third hard it level at 57-57, to result in a draw. It wasn't the best way to kick off the show, but it was a solid 6 rounder.
In the second bout on the card we saw Takuya Yamaguchi (4-12-3, 2) [山口 拓也] and Masashi Noguchi (13-12-1, 6) [野口 将志] clash for the second time in just over 13 months.
From the off Yamaguchi was firing off wild, wide, looping hooks, and power shots. He was certainly putting in a huge effort, but was being made to miss, a lot. Noguchi, who looked the much more polished, was landing cleaner shots but wasn't letting his hands go much, and was often made to back up, despite landing some very nice, clean jabs.
The bout was a hard one to score as we went into round 6, the final round. That round ended up being sensational back and forth stanza of action, that saw both men looking about spent. Both men looked ready to go at multiple points but gritted it out, recovered and fought back, showing their will to win. After 6 rounds the judges turned in scores of 58-56, each way and 58-57 to Noguchi, giving him the split decision win, and levelling the series between the two men, who are now 1-1.
In the third bout on the show we saw bombs being traded as Kai Chiba (13-1, 8) [千葉開] over-came youngster Haruki Ishikawa (8-3, 6) [石川春樹] in a pretty one-sided, but entertaining, 8 round contest.
Through the bout it seemed Chiba did everything better than Ishikawa. He was quicker, sharper, stronger, and more accurate than Ishikawa, who struggled to get the respect of his hard hitting foe. To his credit however Ishikawa changed tactics in round 6, and tried to turn counter puncher, boxing off the ropes rather than taking center ring. The new tactics had mixed success. The change saw Ishikawa landing more often than he had earlier, but he was still being out landed every round.
The only real change was round 8, where the two men stood and traded bombs through the entire round. It was, sadly for Ishikawa, not enough and after 8 rounds it was hard to give him anything, with Chiba the clear winner. The scores here were 80-72, twice, and 79-73, all for Chiba, the worthy winner.
This was a solid win for Chiba, who looked as good as he ever has and showed good timing and understanding of the ring. He now seems ready for a title fight of some kind at 118lbs, and he really looked crisp, sharp and powerful through out. As for Ishikawa, this was a second straight loss, and he probably does need an easier fight or two to rebuild his confidence.
We saw the "reimported boxer" Shoki Sakai (25-11-2, 12) [坂井 祥記] battle against Takeru Kobata (8-5-1, 3) [小畑 武尊] in the fourth bout on the show and this was another entertaining little war, even if it was another rather one sided bout.
Sakai, fighting in Japan for just the second time, forced the action through much of the contest, pressing forward and trying to out work and out hustle Koabata. Impressively the youngster showed real maturity and composure under the pressure from Sakai, and tried to pick his spots to fight back. Sakai seemed the much stronger, more powerful and more aggressive fighter though out the bout, but credit to Kobata for holding his own in there, and not wilting under Sakai's attacks. In fact Kobata did enough to earn a round or two here and though and proved to be much better than his record suggests.
After 8 rounds Sakai took the decision with scores of 79-73, twice, and 77-75. He deserved the win, but Kobata deserves his share of plaudits, and we suspect he will learn from this loss and, one day down the line, find himself in the domestic title mxx.
The most impressive performance on the card came from the hard hitting Jin Sasaki (10-0, 9) [佐々木尽], who claimed the JBC Youth Light Welterweight title with a destructive TKO3 win over the usually tough Aso Ishiwaki (8-3-1, 6) [石脇麻生].
This was the bout we expected to be something special and it was. From the opening moments. Sasaki set off with the intention of stopping Ishiwaki, and threw bombs almost immediately. Ishiwaki, to his credit fought back, and the two men traded some heavy leather until Ishiwaki was rocked by a right hand, and then dropped by a follow up hook. Ishiwaki got back to his feet but was dropped again towards the end of the opening round as Sasaki looked for a 4th straight opening round win.
Ishiwaki managed to recover brilliantly and cleared his head as we went into round 2, which was a much quieter round until the final minute when Sasaki put his foot on the gas. Ishiwaki responded well, but it was clear that Sasaki was the much stronger, more powerful and more talented fighter. That power and strength showed it's self again in round 3, as Sasaki let Ishiwaki fight up close before decking him for a third time with a brutal flurry of big head shots. With blood coming out of his nose, and 3 knockdowns against him the referee saved Ishiwaki from further punishment, waving off the bout immediately.
This was a real statement from Sasaki. We expected this to be a real test for him, and saw this as a near 50/50 fight. Instead he made it look easy, dropping a tough guy like Ishiwaki 3 times in 3 rounds, was incredibly impressive. This sort of win, at the age of 19, surely marks Sasaki as one of the most exciting prospects in Japan, and one to keep an eye on long term. As for Ishiwaki, this is going to be a hard one to bounce back from, but he's still young and can certainly come again.
In the penultimate bout of the show we saw former 2-time world title challenger Ryo Akaho (36-2-2, 24) [赤穂亮] take on youngster Yuto Nakamura (11-6-1, 8) [中村 祐斗] in what turned out to be a massive mismatch.
After a somewhat competitive opening round we saw the two men go in to a shoot out in round 2 and that was only ever going to favour Akaho. The veteran now only had the edge in experience but also power, toughness and natural size, being a Super Bantamweight taking on a Super Flyweight. Midway through the round Nakamura was rocked by to hooks before Akaho landed a massive right uppercut that dropped Nakamura hard, forcing the bout to be stopped.
For the 34 year old Akaho this was his 40th bout and sadly we're not sure he will ever get a third shot a world title. On this performance however can still make for very fan friendly bouts and could still act as a great draw on these A-Sign cards. As for Nakamura, we really need to wonder who thought it was a good idea for him to move up to Super Bantamweight for this bout.
In the main event of the show we saw a really interesting match up at Lightweight as former WBO Super Featherweight champion Masayuki Ito (26-3-1, 14) [伊藤 雅雪]battled reigning OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro (10-0-1, 3) [三代大訓] in a 10 round Lightweight bout.
From the very opening moments it was clear this was going to be a high level, high skill, high speed technical battle. The opening round saw Mishiro making the most of his excellent jab, landing it repeatedly, whilst Ito looked to land the heavier leather, from his right hand. That laid down the pattern for much of the fight, with Mishiro easily winning at range, with his jab a constant and effective weapon when he was on the move, but Ito was landing the power shots when the two exchanged, and when Mishiro held his feet.
After a few very close rounds early on, it seemed that Ito found his groove and was starting to outland Mishiro on a fairly regular basis, racking up the points through out the middle rounds. It seemed those rounds had seen him establish control on the scorecards, though the rounds were still hotly competitive, before Ito seemed to begin to tighten his grip on the bout in the second half of the fight. In round 10 the pace picked up from both, and in the final stages Ito seemed to be temporarily hurt, but shook it off quickly as we went to the final bell.
After 10 rounds it felt like Ito had done enough to take a close, competitive, but clear decision. The judges however saw it differently, with one judge scoring it 95-95, a draw, and the other two over ruling them going 96-94 in favour of Mishiro, who got the majority decision, and the notable upset victory.
Later today in Tokyo we'll get the chance to see a potential barn burner as Kai Chiba (12-1, 8) [千葉開] and Haruki Ishikawa (8-2, 6) [石川春樹] clash in a bout that has been very, very over-looked by fans and media alike. The two men, who can both make for explosive action, are set to clash in an 8 rounder on a show which will be streamed on the A-Sign Boxing Channel later today.
Interestingly whilst many have over-looked the bout it has been picked up by betting company STSbet as one to bet on, and is one of the most interesting bouts for the day, based on both the styles of the men and the betting odds.
The once beaten Chiba, who was once regarded as a very bright prospect in Japan, is the clear favourite, with odds of 7/20 to take home the victory here whilst the upset minded Ishikawa is a tempting 19/10 to score the upset and bounce back from his 2019 loss to Toshiya Ishii.
Interestingly those polled on Boxmob have this much, much closer than the bookies, with Chiba favoured by 55% of the votes and Ishikawa backed by 45% making this a genuinely competitive match up in the eyes of the fans. Although the "Method of Victory" market isn't available to bet on, Chiba is given a 45% chance of scoring a stoppage and Ishikawa given a 38% of stopping his man, in that very same poll. That means 83% of those polled do not expect this one will go the scheduled 8 rounds.
On December 26th we'll see former WBO Super Featherweight champion Masayuki Ito (26-2-1, 14) [伊藤 雅雪] battling current OPBF champion Hironori Mishiro (9-0-1, 3) [三代大訓], in a bout at Lightweight. The contest is one of the most interesting on the Japanese schedule at the moment, and today we learned a lot more about the event as a whole.
The big story for those in Japan is that former Japanese baseball player and current actor and commentator Kazushige Nagashima will feature as a special guest at the event, along with former WBC Bantamweight champion Shinsuke Yamanaka [山中慎介]. Although we're not 100% it would make sense for the two to do guest commentary given that both have done commentary in recent years.
For our readers however we suspect the more important thing isn't the commentary and guests but the under-card and it turns out that it's going to be a decent one, with out being a spectacular one.
In a low level under-card bout will see Kojiro Nishikawa (5-2, 2) [西川宏次郎] battle Daiju Kogo (4-2, 3) [向後大寿] in the curtain raising 6 rounder. Neither of these men are really too notable, but they should be evenly matched and should make for an interesting contest to kick the event off.
In another of the lower level under-card bouts we'll see cult hero Takuya Yamaguchi (4-12-2, 2) [山口拓也] take on former Japanese Lightweight title contender Masashi Noguchi (12-12-1, 6) [野口将志]. On paper this is maybe not a great fight, but sometimes paper, and records aren't worth anything. Yamaguchi is a 35 year old, naturally charismatic fighter who made a star of himself earlier year when a documentary filmed by the A-Sign team showed the conditions he lived him, and saw him raise a huge amount of money through crowd funding set up by the promoter. Noguchi on the other hand is a struggling fighter who has lost his last 7, and this is a real chance for him to turn around his fortune. It's also a chance for Yamaguchi to get a feel good win to end the year.
The show will also feature the rescheduled bout between Kai Chiba (12-1, 8) [千葉開] and Haruki Ishikawa (8-2, 6) [石川春樹], who were supposed to fight in October before Ishikawa was forced to cancel the bout due to a Covid19 infection. Given how excited we were about the bout in October this is a brilliant addition to the card, and one we are still really looking forward to. Expect fireworks!
"Reimported boxer" Shoki Sakai (24-11-2, 12) [坂井 祥記], who had previously been confirmed for the card, had his opponent named as 22 year old Takeru Kobata (8-4-1, 3) [小畑 武尊], who is looking to build on wins over Wellem Reyk and Change Hamashima. Coming in to this Sakai will be the huge favourite, but given how he looked on his Japanese debut earlier this year we can't wait to see him in the ring. His style, aggression and tenacity are great to watch and should make this a fan friendly bout, even if it is a mismatch.
Also previously confirmed for this show was Ryo Akaho (35-2-2, 23) [赤穂亮] who has had his opponent for the show named as Japanese ranked Super Flyweight Yuto Nakamura (11-5-1, 8) [中村 祐斗]. Akaho, a former 2-time world title challenger and world ranked Super Bantamweight will be expected to take an easy win here, though it will be his first bout in 14 months and the 34 year old veteran really is in need of activity if he's to land a third shot at a world title. As for Nakamura he's a former Japanese Youth Champion, and we don't see him having the size, or power to compete with Akaho at 122lbs, which is where this bout will be taking place.
Since boxing returned to Japan back in July the country has, for the most part, had success in keeping boxers away from the issues affecting the world right now. There have been cases, here and there, but for the most part Japan has done well in keeping boxers and infections apart.
The protocol in Japan has been for fighters to be tested weeks before a fight, and again the day before a fight. For around 3 months that worked, and whilst there was some fights cancelled, or postponed it generally worked quite well.
Sadly this week there was a major issue when Haruki Ishikawa (8-2, 6) [石川春樹] tested positive in the test he did a day before he was scheduled to fight. That forced his bout to be cancelled on the morning of the event.
Now it appears that scare has made the Japan Boxing Commission take a step to change their protocol.
The tests so far have been taking place at the same venue as the weigh in. Now the plan is to have tests at a local medical facility. It will cost more, but the idea is that it will keep the venue, and other areas clean, and potentially speed up the process of testing, and getting results. It seems likely that if done at a medical facility, as planned, the results won't be the following day, as they are now, but will be on the same day.
In regards to Ishikawa's situation it's now been confirmed that it wasn't just the fighter and his chief second who has tested positive but also one other fighter at the gym and two managers, meaning there are 5 people involved in this cluster at the moment. Thankfully all 5 are said to be asymptomatic.
Earlier today the A-Sign Boxing YouTube channel streamed the latest show live from Korakuen Hall. Whilst not the most event of the year it was an entertaining one, despite the fact the card actually lost the bout match up on earlier in the day due to a positive PCR test ruling one of the fighters off the event.
The bout that was cancelled from the show was the much anticipated match up between and Kai Chiba (12-1, 8) [千葉開] and Haruki Ishikawa (8-2, 6) [石川春樹], with Ishikawa not being allowed to fight after his PCR test, which took place yesterday, came back positive, along with that of his chief second.
As a result of Ishikawa needing to be pulled from the show we only got 5 bouts on the card. The first of those was a 4 round bout between debutants, as Joker Ryo (1-0) [ジョーカー リョウ] took a technical decision over Wataru Ogata (0-1) [尾形 航]. This was a messy bout at times, with the styles not really gelling too well. Ogata tried to box and move, and Ryo kept rushing in bull-rushes, that netted him an odd amount of success. In round 1 Oagata was cut from a clash of heads from one of Ryo's rushes. Ryo was deducted a point for another headclash in round 2 but then began to break down Oagata in rounds 3 and 4. Those shots saw Ogata's cut worsening and the referee called an early halt in round 4 taking us to the scorecards, which all favoured Ryo, 39-36, twice, and 38-37.
The second bout was a 6 rounder that saw Kosuke Ando (8-2, 3) [安藤 教祐] easily out box, out land and out skill Hidetoshi Takane (4-3, 1) [高根 秀寿], who proved to be tough and determined but out-matched. Ando, who won the East Japan Rookie of the Year in 2019, landed at will, kept the bout long and racked up the rounds without much fuss until round 6, when Takane finally had some success. By then it was too little too late and Ando took a clear decision. The judges had this one a shut, we personally felt Takane deserved round 6.
The third bout on the show saw the had hitting Kai Ishizawa (7-1, 7) [石澤開] over-come a spirited Masashi Tada (13-8-3, 8) [多打 魔炸獅]. Ishizawa started well, but seemed to go off the boil in round 3 as Tada began to show what he could do, and out landed Ishizawa, who seemed to be handcuffed at times. Thankfully for Ishizawa he put his foot back on the gas in round 6, dropping Tada. The bout continued, after Tada took the mandatory 8 count, but was saved soon afterwards as Ishizawa's power proved to be too much for him.
The biggest surprise of the show came in a surprisingly exciting bout between Katsunori Endo (7-3, 4) [遠藤勝則] and Ryuto Araya (13-9-1, 4) [荒谷龍人]. The bout saw Araya set a high pace to begin with, and he seemed to be enjoying the majority of the success through the first 3 rounds. £ndo had moments, through out but he was coming off second best. That was until he landed a monstrous combination in round 4, that sent Araya down face first. It was a brutal series of shots, and given how Araya hit the canvas there was no option but for the referee to wave this one, giving Endo the 4th round TKO.
Sadly the main event of the show was somewhat under-whelming, as the world ranked Reiya Abe (20-3-1, 9) [阿部麗也] out boxed the unbeaten Ren Sasaki (10-1, 6) [佐々木蓮] in a bout that lacked real drama. The bout started competitively, and was high level boxing chess early on, between two men who seemed very well matched. As the bout went on on however it began to get more and more one-sided with Abe being too good, too sharp, too strong and too smart. Sasaki had a big moment in round 3, when he seemed to rock Abe, but by the end of the bout that was easily forgotten and it seemed like Sasaki was beaten, both mentally and physically, by Abe.
After 8 rounds we went to the scores which had Abe leading 78-74, twice, and 77-75. Despite being a good match up on paper Abe did what he tends to do, and sucked the ambition out of Sasaki whilst racking up the rounds, and then played with his food late on. Sadly Abe again showed a lack of killer instinct, which is a shame as Sasaki did seem like he was there for the taking late on.
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