Earlier today at a gym in Akune City, Kagoshima prefecture, we had the All Japan Championship finals. The competition, shown between two NHK channels, had 8 finals and was the next step towards Olympic qualification for the fighters who are looking to book a place at their home games in Tokyo next year.
The first final took place at 49KG's and saw Tsuyoshi Kawatani [川谷剛史] out point Tsubasa Ogawa [小川 翼] in a hotly contested contest between two very promising youngsters. Though out the bout it felt like Kawatani was a touch too sharp for Ogawa, though it was certainly a competitive contest and both youngsters appear to be fighters with very good careers ahead of them.
At 52KG's Ryomei Tanaka [田中亮明] took a razor thin split decision win over Tomoya Tsuboi [坪井智也]. This was so close and competitive that Tsuboi's team appealed the decision, though failed to get it over-turned. This was an ugly fight with both men giving their all to win and their styles really clashing at times. Tsuboi was cut but had a lot of success with his overhand right and his teams appeal was certainly a worth while one. This was messy, it was fun and it was exciting, even if wasn't all clean action. With the win Tanaka, who's brother Kosei Tanaka is a professional world champion, takes a step towards an Olympic place, but the real question is whether or not Tsuboi decides to turn professional or not. If he does he will be a very welcome addition to the pros.
Notably the decision to the above bout was met with mixed reaction by the crowd who seemed unsure who deserved the decision and had it been reversed on appear no one would have been surprised.
At 57 KG's we super talented youngster Hayato Tsutsumi [堤駿斗] take a clear decision over veteran Kenji Fujita [藤田健児], who announced his retirement from amateur boxing after the bout. Tsutsumi is the rising star of Japanese amateur boxing and his win here was a passing of the torch type of event, and it seems clear he will be one of Japan's best hopes for an Olympic medal next year. As for Fujita's future, it's unclear what he will do, but we wouldn't be surprised if he was getting calls this coming week to turn professional after a very long and successful amateur career.
In the the 60KG's bout Shion Nishiyama [西山 潮音] took a clear decision over Taketo Yamahara [山原武人]. Last year at the Japanese National Sports Festival Nishiyama lost in the semi-final at 56KG's and the move up in weight seems to have suited him here, though it will be a hard road to Olympic qualification given the regional talent he'll have to get through in the Asian qualifiers.
At 63KG's it was the all action Daisuke Narimatsu [成松大介] who again shined, as he beat Taiga Imanaga [今永虎雅] in a shut out win, to claim his third successive All Japan Championship. The talented Narimatsu is a name we suspect followers of the amateur scene are familiar with, and he competed at the 2016 Olympics in Rio with a style that looked made to go professional with. With his 30th birthday coming in December we suspect he'll have left it too late to have a successful professional career, no matter what happens at Tokyo 2020, but he will be a genuine "what if" given how pro-ready his style has been over the years.
The 69KG's final saw Seon Okazawa [岡澤セオン] take a 5-0 win over Yasuhiro Suzuki [鈴木康弘], to become a 2-time champion. The now 31 year old Suzuki had gone to the London Olympics in 2012, and is getting on in years, so we wonder whether he'll decides it's time for a short at professional boxing, or maybe just hangs them up. Either way he has been a credit to Japanese amateur boxing and Okazawa's win is a very meaningful one here.
The penultimate bout took place at 75KG's and saw Yuito Moriwaki [森脇唯人] takes a shut out win over Kyohei Hosono [細野恭兵], just as he did last year. This win saw Moriwaki become a triple champion, having won in 2017 and 2018. He'll be another hopeful for a medal at Tokyo 2020, but he's not going to have an easy route to the games.
The heaviest weight competed at was 81KG's, which saw Ren Umemura [梅村錬] take a decision over Ryudai Onikura [鬼倉龍大]. Uemura was the more aggressive fight in what was a well contested bout between two well schooled fighters. In the end the judges went with Uemura, 4:1, and there no objection from Onikura's team who seemed to agree their man was second best in a close fight.
At the moment it's very unclear what Fujita will do now he's retired, but we would be shocked if professional promoters weren't putting out feelers to the talented and experienced fighter, who may have missed out on his Olympic dream but still has so much left to give the sport. If one of them can ink his signature and get him to turn professional he could be put on an incredible fast track and end up winning title before the end of 2020, if the ambition to continue boxing is still there.
Of course from his statement it seems unlikely that Fujita is thinking about turning professional, at least at the moment, but there surely have to be interest from promoters who know what a special talent he is.
Earlier today the Nikkan Sports reported that Naoya Inoue (17-0, 15) [井上 尚弥], the WBA "regular" Bantamweight champion, had been sparring earlier in the day with amateur standout Hayato Tsutsumi [堤駿斗], a 19 year old wunderkind.
The sparring was the help Inoue prepare for his May bout with IBF champion Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-0, 12), in what will be a WBSS semi-final bout.
The Nikkan reports that the two men sparred for 4 rounds with Tsutsumi playing as a virtual Rodriguez due to his speed and sharp counter right hand. For Tsutsumi the sparring was of course a chance to share the ring and polish his skills as he prepares for a huge year in the amateur ranks, and begins his preparation for the 2020 Olympics.
Interestingly this was one of two Inoue stories to break today, with the other being being a potential showdown with WBA Super Bantamweight champion Danny Roman (26-2-1, 10), who has, according to one Japanese paper, shown an interest in moving down to Bantamweight in the future to take on Inoue. That bout likely won't be this year, but would be a very interesting test if Roman is able to make 118lbs safely.
(Image courtesy of the Nikkan Sports)
Tomorrow fight fans at the Korakuen Hall will see see world ranked Heavyweight Kyotaro Fujimoto (19-1, 11) [藤本京太郎] defending his WBO Asia Pacific and OPBF Heavyweight titles against Thai visitor Suthat Kalalek (12-9, 11), who has previously fought for the OPBF Super Middleweight title.
Today the two men took part in their weigh in, and unsurprisingly, Kyotaro was the heavier man and the fighter with significant natural size advantages over the Thai. In fact it very much looked like Kyotaro was several divisions bigger than Suthat, also known as Kajornsak Sithsaithong. Not something we often say about Kyotaro.
On the scales Kyotaro was 233.25lbs, the heaviest he's been since his first bout with Nobuhiro Ishida back in April 2014. The Thai on the other hand 203.7lbs, which is actually a career heaviest, and a huge increase from his December 2012 weight against Phonphisan Sor Saithong when he came in at 159lbs.
Related - Kyotaro defends unified Heavyweight crowns against Thai foe!
(Image courtesy of Hochi.jp)
Earlier today the Japanese Boxing Federation (JBF) who look after Japanese amateur boxing, announced their award winners for last year, ahead o the award ceremony later this month.
Unsurprisingly the MVP for the year was the fantastic Hayato Tsutsumi [堤駿斗], who impressed for a second year running. The teenager looks like a nailed on star of the future, and had a 2017 to remember as he shone on both the international and domestic scenes. Although still some time off turning professional he will have every major promoter in Japan interested in snapping him up as soon as they can.
The Outstanding fighter award was shared 3 ways, with Arashi Morisaka [森坂嵐], Issei Aramoto [荒本一成] and Taiga Imanaga [今永虎雅] all being awarded the honour.
Another shared honour was the Skill Award, with Ryomei Tanaka [田中亮明], the older brother of Kosei Tanaka, and Ryusei Baba [馬場龍成] both winning here. The Fighting Spirit Award was won by the pairing of Daisuke Narimatsu [成松大介] and Ryutaro Nakagaki [中垣龍汰朗], the Effort award by Tomoya Tsuboi [坪井智也 whilst the new-come award was shared between 4 young fighters, including another fighter from the Tanaka clan.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
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