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.
After an incredibly busy Saturday of action globally for fight fans, the action continued into Sunday as we turned our attention to Japan and the Korakuen Hall for the 2020 All Japan Rookie of the Year.
The tournament, now in it's 67th edition, was delayed due to Covid19 and was, sadly, held without an audience at Korakuen Hall, though was thankfully aired live on G+ and provided a lot of fantastic, thrilling, 2-way action as fighters battled to be crowned the All Japan Rookie of the Year.
In the show opener we saw teenager Ren Kojima (6-1-2) [小島 蓮] etch his name into the history books as he took the Minimumweight crown, out pointing Ryo Sasaki (5-3, 2) [佐々木 凌] over 5 rounds. Through out the bout Kojima simply out worked, out boxed, out sped and out manoeuvred Sasaki, who was often chasing but rarely cutting off the ring. Real credit needs to go to Kojima for his energy, and his movement, which were impressive through out. After 5 rounds the judges had this one 50-45, twice, and 49-47 all to Kojima who becomes the first fighter from the Emi Gym to win Rookie of the Year.
The second bout was something truly special as we saw Ryota Karimata (6-0, 3) [狩俣 綾汰] narrowly outpoint Hyogo Kimura (6-2-1, 1) [木村 彪吾] to be crowned the Light Flyweight Rookie of the Year. This was just an amazing bout, fought at a high pace from the off, with neither man letting the other get their nose in front. It was toe to toe action from the first round to the final bell and really hard to split the two men, who gave everything they had. After 5 rounds the judges had this 48-47, twice, and 48-48 to give Karimata a razor thin decision. This is one that fans need to go back and give a watch to as soon as they can as it was tremendous action and the perfectly balanced, 50/50 type bout that we always hope to see in Rookie of Year finals.
In the Flyweight bout Akira Hoshuyama (5-0, 2) [宝珠山 晃] narrowly over-came Yasuhiro Kanzaki (6-2, 2) [神崎 靖浩] . The early going saw Hoshuyama look to box at range, fighting off his southpaw jab though Kanzaki managed to counter him, and shook him with about 2 minutes of the opening round gone. Hoshuyama managed to regroup well and found his range in round 2 before being dropped by a left hook late in the round. Rather interestingly Hoshuyama got to his feet quickly, whilst the ref was out of range, and ate a huge uppercut straight afterwards, and was sent back down. It was only 1 knockdown, officially, but it was still an interesting moment and not something we see often. Sadly for Kanzaki it did result in him being deducted a point, which ended up being vital on the cards. Hoshuyama recovered well from the knockdown and hurt Kanzaki in round 3, as he began to land some huge straight left hands. The success of Hoshuyama's from round 3 continued into round 4 as he began to break down Kanzaki who ended up with a bloodied nose in round 5.
We went to the scorecards at the end of this one, and the scores were 47-46 from all 3 judges, sadly for Kanzaki two of those judges went with Hoshuyama. The point deduction essentially costing Kanzaki the draw.
At Super Flyweight we got the hugely anticipated clash between Shunpei Kubo (7-1-1, 5) [久保 春平], who had upset Kosuke Tomioka in the East Japan final, and the unbeaten Taichi Sugimoto (6-1-1, 1) [杉本 太一]. The opening round saw Sugimoto rocked to his core late in the round, though to his credit he gutted it out and fought back well in round 2 as regrouped and cleared his head. Sadly however Sugimoto was hurt again in round 3, and was rocked repeatedly in round 4 as Kubo began to use his head head for target practice, finally forcing a stoppage with just over 30 seconds of the round remaining. With the win Kubo scored the first stoppage of the day, and took the Super Flyweight crown, with a very impressive performance.
The fifth bout on the show was the Bantamweight bout and saw Ryuki Sudo (2-1, 1) [須藤 龍揮] take a beating at the hands of southpaw Fuya Tomita (6-2, 2) [冨田 風弥]. This was explosive from the off with both men landing some big shots in the first 90 seconds, and both showcased some solid whiskers through out the first round. Sadly for Sudo he seemed to be on the receiving end a lot of the time and he was tagged early in round 2, before being dropped about a minute into the round. Sudo beat the count but took a beating through what was left of the round, and narrowly made it into round 3. Tomita was genuinely looking for a finish through the third, though Sudo did just enough to avoid the referee jumping in. Tomita's hunt for a finish continued through the final round, though to his credit Sudo managed to do enough to see out the round and hear the final bell.
After 4 rounds the judges had this 40-35 and 38-37, twice, with Tomita taking the unanimous decision. We really do wonder how the judges found 2 rounds to give to Sudo, though credit where it's due, he showed surprising durability.
At Super Bantamweight we saw Yuki Yazan (7-3, 4) [矢斬 佑季] suffer a clear decision loss to the unbeaten Sora Fukunaga (9-0, 4) [福永 宇宙]. This was an interesting match up, with Yazan looking the much bigger man, but the clean, hurtful, accurate shots were pretty much all from Fukunaga, who had Yazan in all sorts of trouble in round 5. Credit goes to Yazan for always trying to win here, but round after round he seemed to be on the wrong end of things. After 5 rounds the judges had this one 50-45 and 49-46, twice, all in favour of Fukunaga.
The first bout that was scheduled for the show but didn't take place was the Featherweight bout, which was scheduled to be between Kazunori Hirano (4-0, 4) [平野和憲] and Hikaru Fukunaga (8-1, 5) [福永輝]. Sadly this was cancelled when Fukunaga had a positive PCR test, giving Hirano the Rookie crown by default. Fukunaga was suffering from fever and was said to be genuinely quite unwell.
We returned to in ring action at Super Featherweight, as the hard hitting Tsubasa Narai (7-0, 6) [奈良井 翼] took on Seika Fukuda (5-1, 1) [福田 星河]. On paper this one looked really interesting, but Narai took all the interest away rather quickly. Within the first minute Marai made it clear he didn't want to drag it out, and landed some solid bombs. Fukuda showed some heart and desire but was dropped mid-way through the round. Narai, knowing his man was hurt, went on the hunt and dropped Fukuda for a second time with the referee quickly waving off the contest.
At Lightweight Hiromasa Urakawa (7-1, 4) [浦川 大将] managed to over-come the gutsy Eiji Togawa (6-4, 3) [戸川 叡二]. This one started slowly, with both men showing respect to the other, though the power of Urakawa showed and he left Togawa with a bloodied nose at the end of round 2. The bleeding was worsened in round 3, as Urakawa began to land with some lovely combinations up top. Knowing he was down Togawa looked to turn the bout around in the 4th round, as he increased the tempo of the fight. Sadly for Togawa it seemed like Urakawa had an answer for everything he did, and Togawa was rocked late in the round. Togawa managed to have his best round in round 5, and he managed to bloody Urakawa's nose, but it was too little too late to turn the bout around. After 5 rounds Urakawa took a clear, and well deserved, decision over the brave Togawa.
The planned Light Welterweight bout was the second bout to be cancelled, as Reiji Kodama (2-0, 1) [兒玉麗司] was forced out of his bout with Aito Takabatake (6-0-1, 1) [高畠愛大]. Kodama, like Hikaru Fukunaga, also had a positive result in his PCR test, though he was said to be asymptomatic. Sadly the positive test meant Kodama had to be pulled from the show, and as a result Takabatake won the Rookie title by default.
At Welterweight Kaichi Yamazaki (2-3, 2) [山﨑 海知] came up short against Hiroya Nojima (6-1, 2) [能嶋 宏弥]. Within a minute of the fight starting we had drama as Yamazaki was dropped from a short right hand. He popped up and got clobbered again by Nojima, who was then deducted a point for hitting a downed opponent. Sadly the early drama was about as good as it got, with Nojima happy to box and move for much of the rest of the bout as he walked his way to a clear decision win. Yamazaki came to fight, but he was second best for pretty every minute, of every round, as he lost a wide 4 round decision here. All 3 judges turned in identical cards of 39-35 to Nojima.
The final bout on the show was the Middleweight bout, between teenager Eiki Kani (3-1-2, 1) [可兒 栄樹] and the hard hitting Katsuhiro Nakata (6-0, 4) [中田 勝浩]. From the off it was hard to ignore the clear size difference between the two men, with Nakata towering over Kani. Despite being the much, much taller man Nakata rarely used his size and instead allowed Kani to fight on the inside, giving us a brilliant action war pretty much from the off. With Nakata willing to standing his ground, and Kani marching forward, we ended up with a bout packed uppercuts, which left both men bloody messes by the mid-way point of round 3, though there was no quit with either man. Despite both men wearing claret across their faces as we entered round 4, neither man showed any intention to change their tactics and the round was another brutal one with both taking a lot of leather, and at various points both men seemed to be hurt during a sensational 3 minutes of violence. That was then followed by an equally punishing fifth round as we ended up getting a genuine treat to close the show.
After 5 rounds this was an incredibly tough one to score and that showed on the scorecards with the first judge giving it 48-47 to Kani. He was over-ruled however by the other two judges who both had it 48-47 to Nakata. It was hard to argue either way, and hopefully, one day down the line, we see these two re-run the bout over a longer distance. It was brutal, it was exciting, competitive and a fantastic way to end the show.
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