Earlier today the Saitama Super Arena played host to the latest win from Japanese sensation Naoya Inoue (23-0, 20) [井上 尚弥], who stopped Nonito Donaire (41-7, 27) in 2 rounds to unify his WBA "super", IBF and Ring Magazine titles with the WBC belt that Donaire won in 2021.
That however wasn't the only notable fight on the show.
The first of the notable bouts saw hard hitting youngster Kanamu Sakama (6-0, 5) [坂間 叶夢] scored his second win of the year, as he took out Fuki Ishigaki (4-5, 2) [石垣 芙季] in the second round of their scheduled 6 rounder. The hard hitting Sakama had won the 2021 All Japan Rookie of the Year at Light Flyweight and came in to this bout as the #14 ranked Light Flyweight in Japan. Whilst this win won't boost his ranking, it was a huge opportunity for him to get some experience of fighting on a major card, and he is certainly one to watch.
The second notable bout featured another talented young hopeful in action, as 21 year old hopeful Toshiya Ishii (6-1, 4) [石井 渡士也] scored a 6th round TKO win over Hikaru Fukunaga (9-3, 6) [福永 輝], in what is a really good result for Ishii. The talented Ishii, who is ranked by the JBC at Super Bantamweight, seemed incredibly strong here from the off, with a stiff and nasty jab. Fukunaga looked to fight back, and had some success in round 3, but Ishii began to have growing success, and in round 6 he landed some huge right hands that forced the referee in to save Fukunaga.
The first of the bouts shown to fans on ESPN and YouTube saw Naoya's younger brother Takuma Inoue (16-1, 3) [井上拓真] unify the WBO Asia Pacific and Japanese Super Bantamweight titles, with an impressive performance against the all action Gakuya Furuhashi (28-9-2, 16) [古橋大輔]. Through out the bout there was never any doubting Furuhashi's hunger, bravery, toughness and energy but unfortunately he was often on the wrong end of crisp, clean, accurate shots from Inoue who landed at will. The most eye catching blows from Inoue were uppercuts, which were regularly landed cleanly in combination, though he really did land everything he wanted, when he wanted. After 12 rounds it was hard to give Furuhashi a round, despite his incredibly brave effort, and the judges seemed to agree with that scoring the bout 120-108, 120-108 and 119-109.
The second title bout on the card, in the shows chief support bout, saw Japanese and WBO Asian Pacific Light Welterweight champion Andy Hiraoka (20-0, 15) [平岡アンディ] score a decisive defense of his Japanese title against the hard hitting Shun Akaiwa (7-4-1, 5) [赤岩俊]. Early on Akaiwa seemed to be frozen by the occasion a little bit, and was put down by an uppercut in round 1 by a relaxed and confident Hiraoka. After the knockdown Akaiwa began to have moments in the fight whilst Hiraoka seemed willing to take his time and enjoy his time on the huge stage set by the Inoue Vs Donaire II main event. In round 6 however it seemed Hiraoka had tired of playing with his food and began look at hurting Akaiwa, which he did mid way through the round. A follow up assault left the referee with no real option but to step in and save Akaiwa at the 1:24 mark of the round.
Fukunaga vacates titles
Later this week we'll see WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka (27-2, 15) [井岡一翔] defending his title against fellow Japanese fighter Ryoji Fukunaga (15-4, 14) [福永亮次]. Ahead of that bout it has now been confirmed that Fukunaga has vacated the WBO Asia Pacific and Japanese Super Flyweight titles, doing so on December 28th.
As a result of Fukunaga vacating the titles we're expecting something of a dash for belts in 2022.
The first of 3 vacancies caused by Fukunaga will be filled on February 28th, when Masayoshi Hashizume (18-0-2, 11) [橋詰 将義] takes on Akio Furutani (9-4, 3) [古谷昭男] for the OPBF Super Flyweight title, which Fukunaga vacated earlier this year. As for the other two vacancies, no decision on who will be looking to fill them and when, have been announced, though it's expected that there will be a Chanmpion Carnival bout, featuring Hiroyuki Kudaka (28-18-4, 11) [久高 寛之] for the Japanese title, likely in Osaka in the early part of the year.
For those still unsure about how to watch Ioka Vs Fukunaga on New Year's Eve the bout will be shown live on TBS, from 18:30 local time. The channel is available outside of Japan for free via a number of streaming apps.
Related - Ioka faces Fukunaga to end 2021
Earlier today fight fans at Korakuen Hall had the latest show in the Phoenix Battle series of shows, which will be aired this coming weekend on Fuji TV. The card featured a Japanese title bout at 140lbs, between Daishi Nagata and Masahiro Suzuki, as well as under-card bouts featurignt he likes of Rentaro Kimura, Akira Hoshuyama, Shisui Kawabata and Ryota Karimata.
For those wanting to watch this, as live, when it's finally aired, we have included this spoiler warning introduction. Please note that spoilers will begin in the paragraph after the next one. We will include the full undercard results for this show as well as the main bout.
The show opened up with a 6 rounder at Super Bantamweight between Shota Ogasawara (6-3-1, 3) [小笠原 梢太] and Naito Oikawa (3-1-1, 1) [笈川 夏愛]. This one was a really well contested bout from the off, with the two men trading shots at mid range through the opening round. Oikawa went to the body of his man, whilst Ogasawara let shots go up top. Through the bout it was fantastic 2-way action, with neither man ever managing to distinguish themselves ahead of their opponent.
After 6 rounds of great action, we went to the judges and they ruled this one a split decision draw, with scors of 58-56, 56-58 and 57-57.
The second bout saw All Japan Rookie of the Year winner Akira Hoshuyama (6-0, 3) [宝珠山 晃] score a 2nd round TKO win over the once touted Shisui Kawabata (2-3, 2) [川畑 嗣穂]. This was exciting from the off, with Hoshuyama dropping his man with a left uppercut in the first round. Kawabata responded to the knockdown by taking the fight to Hoshuyama before being forced to clinch. Kawabata managed to see out the first round, but was swiftly put under pressure in round 2 and the referee was forced to jump in and save after 57 seconds of the round.
The third match on the show saw another all Japan Rookie of the Year champion in action as Ryota Karimata (7-0, 3) [狩俣 綾汰] clashed with Hayato Aoki (4-1, 3) [青木 勇人]. Originally these two were supposed to fight last December, before Aoki was forced to pull out of a scheduled bout, and it meant this one had a touch of backstory to it. Sadly for Aoki he really struggled to get his wayt into the bout, as Karimata out worked him in round 1 and moved through the gears in round 2, finding holes in Aoki's defense. Aoki really did seem like he was focusing on not getting tagged too much, but as a result wasn't letting his own hands go much. As a result Karimata was able to build his confidence and momentum ot the point where he was in a comfortable lead by the time Aoki finally began to fire back.
After 6 rounds the judges really didn't have a tough task here, two had the bout 60-54 to Karimata whilst the third judge had it 59-55, finding a sympathy round for Aoki.
The chief support bout saw the highly regarded Rentaro Kimura (4-0, 3) [木村蓮太朗] score his most notable win to date as he defeated Hikaru Fukunaga (8-2, 5) [福永輝] via a clear 6 round decision. Kimura boxed well at range in the opening round, using his straight left hand to control the tempo and range of the contest through the openoing round. Fukunaga tried to make it into a fight, but he struggled to apply his pressure against the taller, smarter, sharper, smoother Kimura who was simply too good. Through much of the bout it was all about Fukunaga's pressure and Kimura's movement, however in round 6 we saw Kimura try to hunt a finish, with Fukunaga doing well to survive the late assault from Kimura. After 6 rounds this was a shut out, and a very impressive win for Kimura, who is now heading towards his first title fight, which could come before the year is over.
The final bout on the card was a title bout, which saw a minor upset as Daishi Nagata (15-3-2, 6) [永田大士] was dethroned of the Japanese Light Welterweight title by the unbeaten Masahiro Suzuki (6-0, 4) [鈴木 雅弘], who put in a stellar performance in a massive step up bout.
Nagata started the bout fighting behind a tight guard and coming forward, with Suzuki meeting him head first and attacking his body well, and left solid left uppercuts. It was a positive start from the challenger who really did find his groove very quickly and was hammering body shotshome in round 2, before letting combinations go in round 3. By then it was starting to look tough for Nagata who was left with a swollen left eye in round 4. Nagata knew he was needing to turn things around and tried to do then in the fourth, but Suzuki responded to it well, and landed some very well timed head shots as Nagata attempted to close the distance. After 5 rounds Suzuki was up on all 3 cards, 50-45, twice, and 49-46.
Suzuki continued to find his shots landing time and time again, and the gulf in skill between the men was becoming really apparent, despite the hunger and desire from Nagata, who continued to trudge forward, trying to turn things around and break down Suzuki.
Amazingly it was Suzuki who moved up a gear in round 9, and left Nagata cut from an uppercut. He kept the shots landing in round 10, with Nagata's team eventually waving the towel and stopping the bout with just over 50 seconds of the contest remaining.
This is a genuinely massive setback for Nagata, who won the title last year, with a shock win over Koki Inoue, but looked poor in his first defense and completely out classed here. As for Suzuki this was a defining performance and he showed the class he that saw us getting excited after his debut. He has had some weaker performances in recent contests, but here he put it all together and it was a champion making outing from him. With just 6 bouts to his name he's already a Japanese champion and now opens the door to some very, very good domestic bouts. That includes a potential clash with Andy Hiraoka later in the year,
Earlier today we reported that highly touted prospect Rentaro Kimura (3-0, 3) [木村蓮太朗] would be back in the ring on June 10th, for a bout against Hikaru Fukunaga (8-1, 5) [福永輝] as part of a Diamond Glove show at Korakuen Hall. Whilst a great match up that bout isn't going to be the main event of the card, but instead one of the main support bouts. The main event will instead be a Japanese title fight, and a really good on as well!
That title bout will see Japanese Light Welterweight champion Daishi Nagata (15-2-2, 6) [永田大士] making his second defense of the title, which he won last year against Koki Inoue, as he takes on unbeaten 25 year old challenger Masahiro Suzuki (5-0, 3) [鈴木 雅弘].
On paper this looks like a mismatch, but in reality we suspect this could be a very, very compelling bout between two men with a point to prove.
Nagata won his title, as mentioned, in a massive upset win against Koki Inoue, the cousin of Naoya and Takuma Inoue. That win was a massive shock for Nagata who had shown plenty of promise but wasn't expected to be a real test for the then unbeaten Inoue. He was however very under-whelming in his first defense, as head clashes marred a bout with veteran Akihiro Kondo, resulting in a 7th round technical draw last December.
Although a talented fighter Nagata is the sort of fighter who can blow hot and cold. As his best he's a fantastic fighter, as we saw against Inoue and previously against Rikki Naito. At other times it can seem like he's trying too hard to impress and looks poor as a result, such as the draw against Kondo and his 2019 win over Min Ho Jung, which saw him being what fortunate to escape with the victory. If he boxes to his strengths, and avoids letting his heart over rule his brain, he could make this look easy, but with the wrong game plan he could end up slipping on a major banana skin.
Suzuki turned professional in 2018 and immediately impressed ups with an excellent performance against Antonio Siesmundo. It was a performance that instantly seemed to ear mark him as a special talent, capable of racing through the ranks. Sadly his performances after that bout were under-whelming. He was hurt against Kosuke Arioka in his third bout, and narrowly took a victory in his 4th bout, against Hokuto Matsumoto. Those performances saw doubt creep into his potential, though it's fair to say that a step up like this might get the best from him.
For fans wanting to watch this, it will be aired on tape delay by Fuji TV as part of their Diamond Glove series.
Related - Rentaro Kimura to return to the ring on June 10th!
Earlier today Danji Suruga announced the next bout for his star prospect Rentaro Kimura (3-0, 3) [木村蓮太朗], who we now know will return to the ring on June 10th, as he takes on 2020 West Japan Rookie of the Year winner Hikaru Fukunaga (8-1, 5) [福永輝] in a mouth watering 6 rounder at Korakuen Hall.
The talented Kimura made his debut last year, following an excellent amateur career, and he has been hugely impressive since beginning his professional career. In just 3 bouts he has climbed into the WBO Asia Pacific rankings at Featherweight, holding a #15 ranking, and has made it clear that he is chasing title fights as soon as possible. During his first 3 bouts he has shown a lot to be excited about, with his debut KO over Yuya Azuma being one of the most knockouts of 2020., but is still clearly a work in progress and a bout like this will help him develop as he takes on a hungry young fighter with a point to prove.
At 22 years old Fukunaga is genuinely a young fighter, and one who has shown a lot of potential. He made his debut in 2018 and shone in the 2019 Rookie of the Year, until losing a decision to eventual All Japan champion Jinki Maeda. He returned to the Rookie of the Year tournament in 2020 and managed to reach the final, but had to pull out of his bout due to a positive PCR test ahead of a scheduled bout with Kazunori Hirano (4-0, 4) [平野和憲].
On paper this is a genuine step up for both men. Fukunaga is easily the most ambitious opponent that Kimura will have faced so far as a professional, and Kimura is leagues above anyone Fukunaga has faced so far.
If Kimura wins, something he'll be favoured to do, the expectation is that he'll look to secure his first title fight later in the year. Interestingly the bouts comes just 2 days before his 24th birthday and it's clear he, and his team, will not want to waste time with too many bouts like this one. As for Fukunaga he'll want to make a splash after missing out on the Rookie of the Year finals.
Interestingly Mr Suruga explained why it's been so long since Kimura fought, explaining on his blog that "Originally, the plan was to participate in Diamond Globe at Korakuen Hall on April 8th, but we couldn't find an opponent", suggesting that fighters aren't in a rush to face the fast rising Kimura.
The bout will be part of the June edition of "Diamond Glove", and is expected to be shown, in some form, on Fuji TV as the channel continues to back the talented Kimura, having shown two of his first 3 bouts.
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