Champions retain at Korakuen Hall
Yesterday at Korakuen Hall fight fans got the latest show from Misako Gym, and it was an interesting one, that looked great on paper and had a nice mix of action in the ring.
The first bout of note on the show saw Akira Hoshuyama (8-0, 4) [宝珠山晃] continue his rise through the ranks, as he defeated former amateur standout Tomoki Kawasaki (2-3) [川崎智輝] in an 8 rounder. From the off Hoshuyama looked to start fast and get his nose into the lead, Kawasaki tried prevent that from happening but was dropped in the opening round. From there on Hoshuyama seemed to be the busier man, whilst Kawsaki seemed to land the cleaner blows. Unfortunately for Kawasaki it was Hoshuyama was managing to catch the eyes of the judges, with the judges turning in scores of 79-72, twice, and 77-74. The wide seemed too wide here, but it did feel like the right guy won.
The second bout of note was much more dramatic, with Homura Fujita (9-1, 7) [藤田裕崇] stopping Kaiki Yuba (8-2-2, 5) [湯場海樹] in what was an action packed shoot out. Fujita was down twice in the opening round, once from a straight left and once from a right hook, and seemed to barely make it through the round, as he needed to clinch to get to the bell. Fujita was then deducted a point in round 3, before dropping Yuba twice in round 4 to secure his win, in what was a sensational comeback. After the bout Fujita stated that he was now interested in landing a title fight, and if that can't be done he wants to face strong opponents.
The first of two title bouts saw Japanese female Minimumweight champion Nanako Suzuki (7-2, 1) [鈴木なな子] retain her title and secure her first defense as she out-pointed Sarasa Ichimura (4-11-1) [一村更紗] in a surprisingly competitive bout. This was competitive from the off, with Ichimura setting a good tempo early on and dropping Suzuki in the opening round. Suzuki battled back hard, rebounding well, but was caught by counters in the final stages of the bout. Ichimura also ended the bout well, taking the final round, but it wasn't enough, with the champion retaining with scores of 57-56, twice, and 58-55.
The main event saw Japanese Super Flyweight champion Kenta Nakagawa (22-4-1, 12) [中川健太]retain his title with a surprisingly easy win over Hayate Kaji (15-2, 9) [梶颯]. On paper this was an excellent match up, between a talented but fading veteran and a youngster with a point to prove. Sadly however Kaji essentially no showed in the ring as Nakagawa neutralised him with technical skills and good movement, racking up the rounds without Kaji getting any success until it was too late. The judges really found it hard to give Kaji anything, as he fought a timid fight, pressing but never showing the desire needed to turn things around. After 5 rounds Nakagawa was leading 50-45 and 49-46, twice, and by the later stages he had slowed down, going into something of a cruise to the bell, allowing the scores to look more respectable. After 10 rounds the scores were 97-93, twice, and 96-94, all in favour of the champion. For Kaji this is a second loss at title level, and this one will be much harder to bounce back from than his controversial loss to Ryoji Fukunaga late last year.
Tomorrow fight fans in Japan will be able to see Japanese Super Flyweight champion Kenta Nakagawa (21-4-1, 12) [中川健太] defending his title against Hayate Kaji (15-1, 9) [梶颯] at Korakuen Hall.
Today the two men took part in their weigh in for the contest, with both men making the 115lb limit with no issues.
On the scales the champion, defending the title for the first time since capturing it in April to begin his third reign, was114.75lbs and looked in great shape. He explained that the sparring for the bout had been great and that his weight loss was the best of his career, explaining that he had put more physical training into his preparation than before.
As for Kaji he was bang on the limit and explained that he was really happy about getting a title shot so soon after his controversial 2021 loss to Ryoji Fukunaga, a bout that many viewers felt Kaji had done enough to win. Despite losing to Fukunaga it seems the result has instilled new belief in Kaji, who explained that he was stronger after that loss. He was also encouraged by the recent win by stablemate Ryota Toyoshima (16-2-1, 10) [豊嶋亮太].
The Nakagawa Vs Kaji bout isn't the only title bout on the show, with Japanese female Minimumweight champion Nanako Suzuki (6-2, 1) [鈴木なな子] defending her title, for the first time, as she takes on Sarasa Ichimura (4-10-1) [一村更紗]. On the scales Suzuki was 104.6lbs, and explained that she was able to concentrate more on boxing for this bout than usual, as she graduated from college back in Spring. As for Ichimura she was under the limit, at 104lbs, for what is the most important bout of her career, by far.
Related - Kaji gets second shot at title as he takes on Japanese champion Nakagawa
Japanese champion Suzuki defends against Ichimura
Back in April we saw Kenta Nakagawa (21-4-1, 12) [中川健太] become a 3-time Japanese Super Flyweight champion, as he beat veteran Hiroyuki Kudaka (28-19-4, 11) [久髙寛之], who retired after the bout ending his long career. Today we learned what was next for Nakagawa, with the news being that he will return to the ring on August 9th to defend his title against Hayate Kaji (15-1, 9) [梶颯], who gets his second shot at a title.
The 36 year old Nakagawa has been a professional since 2004 and early on his career was a bit stop start, with a big break between his 3rd and 4th bouts. Since then however he has had notable success. He first won the Japanese Super Flyweight title in 2016, when he narrowly defeat Hayato Kimura, but his reign lasted just 5 months as he lost the title to Ryuichi Funai in his first defense. He recaptured the title in 2019 when he defeated Takayuki Okumoto and made one successful defense, beating Yuta Matsuo, before losing in 10 rounds to Ryoji Fukunaga in a triple title unification bout. Since that loss he has notched up two wins, including the one over Kudaka.
Aged 24 Kaji is one of the most unlucky fighters in Japan. He was long tipped for success but has struggled to make the mark many expected of him. He debuted in 2015, winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year as a teenager. That seemed to set him up for big things, but it took until 2021 for him to land a big fight, as he got a shot at the 3 titles held by Ryoji Fukunaga in October 2021, losing a very controversial majority decision. Had he won that bout there's a very good chance he would have been offered a world title bout with Kazuto Ioka at the end of 2021, a shot that went to Fukunaga. Sadly he's been inactive since that bout.
The fight between the two men will take place on August 9th at Korakuen Hall as the main event of a Diamond Glove show. The show will be a pretty notable one, with a Japanese female Minimumweight title bout between Nanako Suzuki (6-2, 1) [鈴木なな子] and Sarasa Ichimura (4-10-1) [一村更紗], a mouth watering clash between Homura Fujita (8-1, 6) [藤田裕崇] and Kaiki Yuba (8-1-2, 5) [湯場海樹] and a bout between Akira Hoshuyama (7-0, 4) [宝珠山晃] and Tomoki Kawasaki (2-2) [川崎智輝].
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.
News! We try and give you the most interesting news stories from the Asian boxing world!