With so few major international bouts taking place this year it's hard to think of too many robberies taking place in Asia this year. There have been some, but they are few and far between, thankfully.
There was however one that stood out, and still does. In fact it's one that left a genuinely sour taste in our mouths, and that taste got worse as the year ended, as the lucky recipient of the gift win ended up landing an undeserved world title fight. In fact they ended up landing a place in one of the highest profile Asian bouts of the year, making it feel even worse.
The bout in question was the October clash between the then triple crown Super Flyweight champion Ryoji Fukunaga and the then unbeaten Hayate Kaji. The bout looked like a really good one on paper, but ended up being a very, very one sided one, with Kaji out classing, out boxing, out fighting, out speeding, out punching, out skilling and generally dominating Fukunaga. Round after round Kaji landed at will, landed combinations and hurt his man, who looked second rate through out the bout.
Sadly however not one of the judges found a way to give the bout to the 24 year old Kaji, who really couldn't have done much more to win a decision. The closest we got was one judge having the bout even, in it's self a travesty given the performance of Kaji who put on a showing of a career only to be denied against someone who he used as a human punch bag.
This bout should have resulted in Kaji becoming a triple crown champion, and an emerging face of the Super Flyweight division. Sadly however Fukunaga got the decision and subsequently landed a career defining bout at the end of the year against Kazuto Ioka.
It's rare to see Japanese fans call out their judging and say that a decision was poor but that's what we saw here, and we know what we saw, with Kaji being robbed. This was a genuine black eye for Japanese boxing, and one of the worst decisions we saw all year.
Thankfully still in his mid 20's Kaji has time on his side, and he can easily bounce back from this disappointment, but it's a still a decision that has set his career back, taken his unbeaten record and denied him a chance of being a triple crown winner.
Earlier today at Korakuen Hall we had the latest show under the Dynamic Glove banner. The event was a notable onewith two exciting looking bouts at the top of the card, after 4 rather low key 4 rounders.
The first of the two notable bouts was the third bout between former Japanese Super Bantamweight champions Yusaku Kuga (20-5-1, 13) [久我勇作] and Ryoichi Tamura (14-6-1, 7) [田村亮一]. Their first two bouts had been brutal battles of heart, toughess and determination, and we were expecting something similar here, especially given that the winner was going to secure a chance to reclaim the Japanese title and land a Japanese title fight in 2022.
Sadly this didn't quite have the level of violence and brutality we had anticipated. Instead it seemed like two men who had lost a couple of steps since their second bout. Both showed moments of the vicious, hard hitting fighters they once were, but neither had quite the same intensity or self belief we'd seen in their first two bouts.
Instead of going to war Kuga boxed well on the back foot, made the most of his jab and won rounds boxing, with Tamura looking to land big, single shots, but often falling wild. Saldy had Tamura managed to show the intensity he had in either of the other two bouts between these two there is a good chance he'd have taken home the decision here. Instead however Kuga took the win by majority decision.
Aged 34 Tamura's career is probably over. He looked only a shadow of the fighter he had once been. He still had an incredible engine, and was moving up and down bouncing on his toes, but his output just wasn't there. As for Kuga he looked gun shy at times, worried after suffering back to back stoppages coming in to this fight. Whilst the win does secure Kuga another Japanese title fight, we don't see him being far off retirement on this showing.
Sadly the main event ended up leaving a nasty taste in the mouth as Super Flyweight triple crown champion Ryoji Fukunaga (15-4, 14) [福永亮次] controversially retained his OPBF, WBO Asia Pacific and Japanese titles against the very unlucky Hayate Kaji (15-1, 9) [梶颯], who should have left the ring unbeaten and with 3 titles.
The challenge started confidently, and was pressing the champion, who seemed to be taking a round to scout the youngster. In round 2 Fukunaga showed more life, firing off some brutal body shots, and landing one or two big left hands up top. Those were shots that got respect of other opponents, but for Kaji they were shots that gave him openings, and after taking a look at Fukunaga in round 2 he began to really let loose in round 3, as he began to hurt and rock the champion for the first time. In round 5 he started to not just rock Fukunaga, but really seemed like he wanted to stop him, leaving Fukunaga reeling a number of times, and having the referee almost come between them on a couple of occasions.
To his credit we have seen Fukunaga in trouble before, and we've seen him gut it out. He did exactly that in round 5, and easily won round 6 as Kaji seemed to run flat for a round. It was however just a round for Kaji to catch his breath before having Fukunaga in all sorts of trouble again in round 7, with Kaji completely unable to cope with the combinations and handspeed of Kaji, who seemed to hurt Fukunaga at will, and then unload on him. Some how Fukunaga stayed upright, but looked ready to go round after round.
Heading into the final 3 rounds it seemed like Fukunaga would need a KO, but he didn't come close to getting it. He took punishment through most of round 10, before throwing some desperation shots late on and did next to nothing in round 11, until landing a few body shots late on being caught with a big flurry as a result.
From our point of view he needed a KO in round 12, and it seemed like he knew it too, as he started the round with more energy than we had seen from him for most of the fight. In the end however Kaji seemed to do more than enough to take the final round and take the decision. We were thinking it was a stellar performance from Kaji, who had looked poor in some recent bouts after showing so much potential as a teenager.
Sadly the judges obviously didn't see the same fight we saw. We saw a clear, comfortable, win for Kaji. A win that he deserved. He earned. Sadly the judges turned in scores of 114-114 and two 115-113, to Fukunaga, to give the win to Fukunaga, who retains his titles in one of the worst decisions we've ever seen in a Japanese ring.
It's hard not to feel sorry for Kaji here. He deserved the win and the three judges appear to be the only people feeling Fukunaga did enough. Japanese fans on social media also voiced their unhappiness and confusion at the decision, as did western fans watching. It really was a poor decision, and perhaps they do need to review this one and try to understand what the judges saw from Fukunaga to give him the win.
Tomorrow at Korakuen Hall we'll see Super Flyweight triple crown champion Ryoji Fukunaga (14-4, 14) [福永亮次] defending his titles against Hayate Kaji (15-0, 9) [梶颯] in the main event of this month's Dynamic Glove.
Today, ahead of their bout, the two men took part in their weigh in, and spoke to Boxmob after making weight.
At the weigh in Fukunaga came in bang on the 115lb limit, and looked in great shape. After making weight he told Boxmob he was more aware of getting a world title fight than every before, and he suggest that if he wins tomorrow he can actively begin talking about landing a world title fight. In a division as stacked and deep as the current Super Flyweight one, it's hard to see him beating any of the champions, but he does have several world rankings, and a champion looking for a voluntary defense in early 2022 may look at him as a potential opponent.
Kaji on the other hand was comfortably under the limit, at 114.75lbs, and looked in good shape himself. He explained that he was surprised when he was informed he had landed a title fight with Fulunaga, but that he was happy to have such an opportunity. He also explained that he was excited to finally be main eventing a Dynamic Glove show, in his 16th bout.
For fans wanting to watch this one, it will be aired live on G+ tomorrow.
Fukunaga looks to defend triple crown against unbeaten Kaji!
Earlier today it was announced that Super Flyweight triple crown champion Ryoji Fukunaga (14-4, 14) [福永亮次] would be returning to the ring on October 2nd to defend his OPBF, WBO Asia Pacific and Japanese titles against unbeaten Teiken prospect Hayate Kaji (15-0, 9) [梶颯], who will be getting his first title bout.
The bout, which will headline the October edition of Dynamic Glove, is expected to be a genuine barn burner between two fighters who both like to fight, and both believe in their power.
Fukunaga, known as the "Little Pacquiao" in Japan, will be making his third defense of the WBO Asia Pacific title, second defense of the Japanese title and the first defense of the OPBF title, which he won in a sensational war with Kenta Nakagawa last year, his third. A win here would see him continue to move up the rankings, towards a potential world title fight, however a loss likely ends his dream of ever competing at the highest level, given he's already in his mid 30's. He isn't the most technically skilled fighter, but he really is a heavy handed guy with all 14 wins coming inside the distance, and he has been in some thrillers against the likes of Nakagawa and Froilan Saludar, showing grit, determination and will to win in both of those bouts.
Kaji on the other hand was once tipped as a future star of the Teiken gym, but has been underwhelming in recent years. He looked like a special talent as a real young fighter, winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year as a teenager, and was going to war in sparring with Bantamweight legend Shinsuke Yamanaka, but there has been rumours that he's lacking maturity and that his motivation for lesser fights has been questioned. This, however, is a huge opportunity for him and a great chance for him to show what he can do when matched against a very, very dangerous opponent.
Notably the chief support bout to this triple title bout will be a mouth watering third bout between Ryoichi Tamura (14-5-1, 7) [田村亮一] and Yusaku Kuga (19-5-1, 13) [久我勇作], in what is a Japanese title eliminator at 122lbs, and one to mark down on the calendar as a potential FOTY contender, like their first two bouts.
Due to the fact some fans will not be wanting to know the result of today's from Korakuen Hall, as the bouts will be shown on Tape Delay on Monday on G+ we will begin this with a paragraph of text to act as a spoiler warning. Please be aware this is a 1-off paragraph designed to not ruin the bout for those who have accidentally stumbled on this page ahead of the TV broadcast of the bout on Monday. This is something we are only going to be doing when we know that a bout will be televised on delay and will only ever be a 1 paragraph thing, with the idea of allowing fans to watch events as live.
Please be wary spoilers will begin in the next few paragraphs as we go through the results of today's show starting at the opening and going through, bout by bout, to the main event, featuring Super Featherweights Kenichi Ogawa [尾川 堅一] and Kazuhiro Nishitani [西谷和宏].
Earlier today at Korakuen Hall Teiken put on their latest show, which was originally supposed to take place back in September, though was pushed back after Jorge Linares had a positive result in a PCR test. As a result the show was pushed back by around a month, and was removed from Live TV, getting a Tape Delay place on Japanese premium TV channel G+.
The show began with a 6 round Super Bantamweight bout as Satoru Hoshiba (7-4, 2) [干場 悟] scored a minor upset win over Takayoshi Suzuki (5-2-1, 1) [鈴木 敬祥]. The bout began with Suzuki looking to use his reach, but Hishiba cut the distance relatively early on and in round 4 a body shot from Hoshiba hurt his man, and he kept coming, out working Suzuki to earn a unanimous decision. The scores for this were 58-56 from all 3 judges.
In another minor upset Ryuya Tsugawa (8-1, 4) [津川 龍也] over-came Hikari Mineta (8-2, 5) [峯田 光], with Tsugawa scoring a 6th round TKO win over Mineta. To begin with both men struggled to connect anything cleanly but the pace began to get going in round 3 and then increased again in round 4, with Tsugawa getting the advantage. At least that was how it seemed until a counter from Mineta at the end of the round dropped Tsugawa. It was too late in the round for Mineta to jump on his man and by the start of round 5Tsugawa had recovered and started land clean shots, worsening facial damage on Mineta, who was stopped in round 6 by the ringside doctor.
One man who picked up an expected win was touted Light Flyweight prospect Shokichi Iwata (5-0, 4) [岩田翔吉], who stopped Ryo Narizuka (9-10-1) [成塚亮] in the 7th round of their scheduled 8 rounder. Early on Narizuka used his reach to pose some questions to Iwata but the talented Iwata managed to neutralise the advantage with his speed and skills. By round 2 it was starting to seem like Iwata was, soon or later, going to break down his man as he began to landing solid shots. Credit however went to Narizuka who regrouped well and gritted out some tough moments. That was until round 7 when Iwata began to get inside and land big hooks, with both hands, and forced the referee to jump in and save Narizuka.
In a very notable domestic win fans saw Japanese Youth Super Featherweight champion Yamato Hata (11-1, 10) [波田 大和] take a decision win over former amateur standout Koshin Takeshima (4-1-1, 3) [竹嶋宏心]. This one started at a high tempo from the off, and was a thrilling contest with both men looking to establish themselves before the other. The tempo slowed down slightly in the middle rounds, but the action didn't really relent and in round 6 Hata dropped Takeshima. The knockdown seemed to force Takeshima to change tactics somewhat and began to press forward looking for a mistake to counter, sadly for Takeshima he was unable to land a decisive blow, and found himself forced to cover up under the pressure of Hata's offensive output. In the end it seemed, perhaps, that the natural size and power advantage of Hata played a part in the result, and all 3 judges had the bout scored 78-73 in favour of the hard hitting Hata. Incidentally this is Hata's first bout to go the distance and only his second to go beyond 5 rounds.
The co-feature proved to be a mismatch as Hayate Kaji (15-0, 9) [梶颯] easily over-came Hiroki Yajima (9-9-3, 4) [矢島大樹]. Credit however goes to Yajima, who survived 8 torrid rounds despite being down twice. Yajima was down in the opening round, from a short right hand and Yajima was down again in round 7 and deducted a point for holding. Those knockdowns and the deduction helped Kaji take a very, very comfortable win, with scores of 78-70, twice, and 79-69. Sadly aside from the knockdowns the bout did lack clean action. Despite the win it's still hard to know whether or not Kaji has what it takes to progress onto a Japanese title, or higher, and it will take a much stiff test than this to see where Kaji is at, and where he can go.
The main event saw world ranked Super Featherweights facing off with Kenichi Ogawa (25-1-1-1, 18) [尾川 堅一] taking on Kazuhiro Nishitani (21-5-1, 12) [西谷和宏] in what was a legitimately great match up. The bout began cautiously from both men, with Nishitani trying to get his shots off at range and Ogawa not giving his foe many opportunities to counter. By round 3 there was a feeling of tension and the pace began to increase, with the most notable moment being a left from Nishitani that dropped Ogawa for the bouts first knockdown.
With Ogawa being down he needed revenge and in round 4 he got that revenge, dropping Nishitani with a straight right hand. That neutralised the early 10-8 and left the bout very finely balanced. In round 5 Nsihitani seemed to swing the balance in his favour, with some good 1-2's from range, from there on however Ogawa took control, boxing well and landing his right hands at will to take the rounds and secure the win.
After 10 rounds the judges all had the bout 97-91 in favour of Ogawa, who takes a huge step towards a second world title fight.
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