A few days ago we reported that Takuma Inoue (14-1, 3) [井上拓真] had vacated the OPBF Bantamweight title that he had won in January against Keita Kurihara (15-6, 13) [栗原慶太]. Interesting he is one of three Japanese men to vacate titles recently.
One of those other men to vacate was Suzumi Takayama (3-0, 3) [高山涼深], who officially vacated the Japanese Youth Super Flyweight title a few days ago. Sadly for Takayama he never actually defended the belt, which he won in October 2019,. He was scheduled to defend it last November, but opponent Hiroto Yashiro (2-0, 2) [矢代博斗] was forced to pull out of the bout, forcing it to be cancelled at short notice.
It should be noted that Takayama is 24 years old and that the limit for a Japanese Youth champion, so him vacating isn't much of a surprise.
The other man to vacate was a bit of a surprise and that was OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro (10-0-1, 3) [三代大訓], who has given up the title after 4 defenses. He won the belt in 2018, when he defeated Carlo Magali, and defended it against solid competition in the form of Masaru Sueyoshi, Takuya Watanabe, Ryo Takenaka and Yoshimitsu Kimura.
Notably Mishiro's last bout came at Lightweight, when he defeated Masayuki Ito in December 2020, and we suspect he's vacating the title to campaign full time at Lightweight. If that's the case then we could potentially be seeing a brilliant match up between Mishiro and triple crown champion Shuichiro Yoshino (13-0, 10) [吉野 修一郎], who currently holds the JBC, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles. Fingers crossed that is next for Mishiro!
Earlier this month the list of nominees for the Japanese annual boxing awards were announced, with the Japanese Boxing Commission working alongside the JBC and Tokyo Athletic Press Club Boxing Subcommittee, to decide the shortlists for the various awards. Today the winners of those awards were all announced.
The MVP for the year was unified WBA "super" and IBF Bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue (20-0, 17) [井上 尚弥], who now taken the award 5 times during his career, in fact he's taken the award 4 years in a row now showing just how much he has dominated Japanese boxing in recent years.
The Skill Award was won by WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14) [井岡一翔], who won the award for the second year running. Inoue also won the KO award.
The Special Merit award went to WBO Flyweight champion Junto Nakatani (21-0, 16) [中谷 潤人]
The Effort/Fighting award was a share award, won by Ryoji Fukunaga (13-4, 13) [福永亮次] and Kenichi Horikawa (41-16-1, 14) [堀川 謙一]. Fukunaga had a great year, unifying the JBC, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight titles, whilst Horikawa claimed the OPBF Light Flyweight title in an excellent performance in July.
The Newcomer Award was won by OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro (10-0-1, 3) [三代大訓]
The best world title bout bout of the year was the brilliant WBO Super Flyweight title bout between Kazuto Ioka and Kosei Tanaka (15-1, 9) [田中恒成], which took place on New Year's Eve and delivered a truly brilliant battle.
The best non-world title bout was the dramatic clash between Masayoshi Nakatani (19-1, 13) [中谷正義] and Felix Verdejo, who fought for the WBO Intercontinental Lightweight title.
The female MVP for the year was WBO female Minimumweight champion Etsuko Tada (20-3-3, 7) [多田悦子], who actually had a clean sweep as her bout with Ayaka Miyao [宮尾 綾香] also won the female fight of the year.
There was also Special awards for former world champions Takahiro Ao [粟生 隆寛] and Akira Yaegashi [八重樫 東].
Sadly there wasn't a ceremony like usual for the awards, given the on going pandemic.
Earlier today the nominations for the JBC and Tokyo Athletic Press Club Boxing Subcommittee annual awards were announced, with the media being able to vote on the winners, who will be announced later this month. Unlike usual there will not be a big event ceremony, due to the ongoing Covid19 situation.
Sadly Covid19 really did destroy the boxing calendar in Japan and only a handful of top Japanese fighters managed to squeeze a fight into the year. In fact only 3 of the 7 current male world champions managed to fight, and that include a man who won his world title late year.
The fighters nominated for the "Best Fighter" award were those 3 champions that manage to fight last year:
They were WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14) [井岡一翔]
WBO Flyweight champion Junto Nakatani (21-0, 16) [中谷 潤人]
And unified WBA "super" and IBF Bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue (20-0, 17) [井上 尚弥]
Those 3 champions are also up in the running for the "Skill Award".
The "Special Merit" award sees Junto Nakatani in the running alongside:
Masayoshi Nakatani (19-1, 13) [中谷正義]
and Hironori Mishiro (10-0-1, 3) [三代大訓]
The Effort/Fighting Award short list is
Ryoji Fukunaga (13-4, 13) [福永亮次]
and Kenichi Horikawa (41-16-1, 14) [堀川 謙一]
The KO award has 4 nominees, with Inoue, Ioka, and both Junto and Masayoshi Nakatani.
The newcomer award sees Mishiro up against:
Daishi Nagata (15-2-2, 6) [永田大士]
and Masamichi Yabuki (12-3, 11) [佐藤政道]
The best bout of the year has been split into two categories, as it has been for a while.
The world title bouts up for the award are:
Kazuto Ioka Vs Kosei Tanaka (15-1, 9) [田中恒成]
Naoya Inoue Vs Jason Moloney
Junto Nakatani Vs Giemel Magramo
As for the none world title bouts, the fights nominated here are:
Riku Nagahama [長濱 陸] Vs Kudura Kaneko [クドゥラ 金子]- For the OPBF Welterweight title
Kenichi Ogawa [尾川 堅一] Vs Kazuhiro Nishitani [西谷和宏] - Non title bout
Masayoshi Nakatani Vs Felix Verdejo - WBO Intercontinental Lightweight title
Ryoji Fukunaga Vs Kenta Nakagawa [中川 健太] - WBO Asia Pacific, JBC and OPBF triple title bout
and Hironori Mishiro Vs Masayuki Ito [伊藤 雅雪] - Non title bout
As for the female awards, the MVP nominess are:
WBO Atomweight champion Mika Iwakawa (10-5-1, 3) [岩川 美花]
WBO female Minimumweight champion Etsuko Tada (20-3-3, 7) [多田悦子]
and WBO female Super Flyweight champion Tomoko Okuda (7-2-2, 1) [奥田朋子]
The best bouts for female boxing are:
Mika Iwakawa Vs Nanae Suzuki [鈴木菜々江]
Etsuko Tada Vs Ayaka Miyao [宮尾 綾香]
and Tomoko Okuda Vs Miyo Yoshida [吉田 実代]
In Europe and many former British colonies the day after Christmas is called "Boxing Day". Whilst certainly not a global thing it is certainly something of note and a term that a good portion of the world will be aware of. We don't that would include Japan, but for whatever reason, today been a day where Japan has provided with boxing day action, thanks to a stream from the brilliant team at A-Sign Boxing.
The event kicked off with a competitive affair as Kojiro Nishikawa (5-2-1, 2) [西川 宏次郎] battled to a draw with Daiju Kogo (4-2-1, 3) [向後 大寿] over 6 rounds.
The opening round was a good one for Nishikawa, who seemed in control though out the round. In round 2 Kogo managed to rock Nishikawa, and really went for a finish in the final 40 seconds, though sadly seemed to punch himself out. From there the pace never really recovered, and was instead white a low paced bout with Nishikawa pressing forward and Kogo moving well and countering.
After 6 rounds the judges couldn't split the men, with one judge scoring the bout a narrow win to Kogo, another having it as a win for Nishikawa, whilst the third hard it level at 57-57, to result in a draw. It wasn't the best way to kick off the show, but it was a solid 6 rounder.
In the second bout on the card we saw Takuya Yamaguchi (4-12-3, 2) [山口 拓也] and Masashi Noguchi (13-12-1, 6) [野口 将志] clash for the second time in just over 13 months.
From the off Yamaguchi was firing off wild, wide, looping hooks, and power shots. He was certainly putting in a huge effort, but was being made to miss, a lot. Noguchi, who looked the much more polished, was landing cleaner shots but wasn't letting his hands go much, and was often made to back up, despite landing some very nice, clean jabs.
The bout was a hard one to score as we went into round 6, the final round. That round ended up being sensational back and forth stanza of action, that saw both men looking about spent. Both men looked ready to go at multiple points but gritted it out, recovered and fought back, showing their will to win. After 6 rounds the judges turned in scores of 58-56, each way and 58-57 to Noguchi, giving him the split decision win, and levelling the series between the two men, who are now 1-1.
In the third bout on the show we saw bombs being traded as Kai Chiba (13-1, 8) [千葉開] over-came youngster Haruki Ishikawa (8-3, 6) [石川春樹] in a pretty one-sided, but entertaining, 8 round contest.
Through the bout it seemed Chiba did everything better than Ishikawa. He was quicker, sharper, stronger, and more accurate than Ishikawa, who struggled to get the respect of his hard hitting foe. To his credit however Ishikawa changed tactics in round 6, and tried to turn counter puncher, boxing off the ropes rather than taking center ring. The new tactics had mixed success. The change saw Ishikawa landing more often than he had earlier, but he was still being out landed every round.
The only real change was round 8, where the two men stood and traded bombs through the entire round. It was, sadly for Ishikawa, not enough and after 8 rounds it was hard to give him anything, with Chiba the clear winner. The scores here were 80-72, twice, and 79-73, all for Chiba, the worthy winner.
This was a solid win for Chiba, who looked as good as he ever has and showed good timing and understanding of the ring. He now seems ready for a title fight of some kind at 118lbs, and he really looked crisp, sharp and powerful through out. As for Ishikawa, this was a second straight loss, and he probably does need an easier fight or two to rebuild his confidence.
We saw the "reimported boxer" Shoki Sakai (25-11-2, 12) [坂井 祥記] battle against Takeru Kobata (8-5-1, 3) [小畑 武尊] in the fourth bout on the show and this was another entertaining little war, even if it was another rather one sided bout.
Sakai, fighting in Japan for just the second time, forced the action through much of the contest, pressing forward and trying to out work and out hustle Koabata. Impressively the youngster showed real maturity and composure under the pressure from Sakai, and tried to pick his spots to fight back. Sakai seemed the much stronger, more powerful and more aggressive fighter though out the bout, but credit to Kobata for holding his own in there, and not wilting under Sakai's attacks. In fact Kobata did enough to earn a round or two here and though and proved to be much better than his record suggests.
After 8 rounds Sakai took the decision with scores of 79-73, twice, and 77-75. He deserved the win, but Kobata deserves his share of plaudits, and we suspect he will learn from this loss and, one day down the line, find himself in the domestic title mxx.
The most impressive performance on the card came from the hard hitting Jin Sasaki (10-0, 9) [佐々木尽], who claimed the JBC Youth Light Welterweight title with a destructive TKO3 win over the usually tough Aso Ishiwaki (8-3-1, 6) [石脇麻生].
This was the bout we expected to be something special and it was. From the opening moments. Sasaki set off with the intention of stopping Ishiwaki, and threw bombs almost immediately. Ishiwaki, to his credit fought back, and the two men traded some heavy leather until Ishiwaki was rocked by a right hand, and then dropped by a follow up hook. Ishiwaki got back to his feet but was dropped again towards the end of the opening round as Sasaki looked for a 4th straight opening round win.
Ishiwaki managed to recover brilliantly and cleared his head as we went into round 2, which was a much quieter round until the final minute when Sasaki put his foot on the gas. Ishiwaki responded well, but it was clear that Sasaki was the much stronger, more powerful and more talented fighter. That power and strength showed it's self again in round 3, as Sasaki let Ishiwaki fight up close before decking him for a third time with a brutal flurry of big head shots. With blood coming out of his nose, and 3 knockdowns against him the referee saved Ishiwaki from further punishment, waving off the bout immediately.
This was a real statement from Sasaki. We expected this to be a real test for him, and saw this as a near 50/50 fight. Instead he made it look easy, dropping a tough guy like Ishiwaki 3 times in 3 rounds, was incredibly impressive. This sort of win, at the age of 19, surely marks Sasaki as one of the most exciting prospects in Japan, and one to keep an eye on long term. As for Ishiwaki, this is going to be a hard one to bounce back from, but he's still young and can certainly come again.
In the penultimate bout of the show we saw former 2-time world title challenger Ryo Akaho (36-2-2, 24) [赤穂亮] take on youngster Yuto Nakamura (11-6-1, 8) [中村 祐斗] in what turned out to be a massive mismatch.
After a somewhat competitive opening round we saw the two men go in to a shoot out in round 2 and that was only ever going to favour Akaho. The veteran now only had the edge in experience but also power, toughness and natural size, being a Super Bantamweight taking on a Super Flyweight. Midway through the round Nakamura was rocked by to hooks before Akaho landed a massive right uppercut that dropped Nakamura hard, forcing the bout to be stopped.
For the 34 year old Akaho this was his 40th bout and sadly we're not sure he will ever get a third shot a world title. On this performance however can still make for very fan friendly bouts and could still act as a great draw on these A-Sign cards. As for Nakamura, we really need to wonder who thought it was a good idea for him to move up to Super Bantamweight for this bout.
In the main event of the show we saw a really interesting match up at Lightweight as former WBO Super Featherweight champion Masayuki Ito (26-3-1, 14) [伊藤 雅雪]battled reigning OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro (10-0-1, 3) [三代大訓] in a 10 round Lightweight bout.
From the very opening moments it was clear this was going to be a high level, high skill, high speed technical battle. The opening round saw Mishiro making the most of his excellent jab, landing it repeatedly, whilst Ito looked to land the heavier leather, from his right hand. That laid down the pattern for much of the fight, with Mishiro easily winning at range, with his jab a constant and effective weapon when he was on the move, but Ito was landing the power shots when the two exchanged, and when Mishiro held his feet.
After a few very close rounds early on, it seemed that Ito found his groove and was starting to outland Mishiro on a fairly regular basis, racking up the points through out the middle rounds. It seemed those rounds had seen him establish control on the scorecards, though the rounds were still hotly competitive, before Ito seemed to begin to tighten his grip on the bout in the second half of the fight. In round 10 the pace picked up from both, and in the final stages Ito seemed to be temporarily hurt, but shook it off quickly as we went to the final bell.
After 10 rounds it felt like Ito had done enough to take a close, competitive, but clear decision. The judges however saw it differently, with one judge scoring it 95-95, a draw, and the other two over ruling them going 96-94 in favour of Mishiro, who got the majority decision, and the notable upset victory.
In just a few hours time we'll see a brilliant Lightweight match up between OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro (9-0-1, 3) [三代大訓] and former WBO Super Featherweight champion Masayuki Ito (26-2-1, 14) [伊藤 雅雪].
For the last week or two bookies have been carrying the bout, though for the most part it was the "To Win" market only. Over the last day or two bookies have opened more markets on this really good looking all-Japanese bout. With that in mind take a look at the odds for this one.
Ito, the more established fighter and the bigger international name, is the clear favourite. He is best priced at 2/5 to take home the victory and advance his career forward, potentially moving towards a second world title fight. The unheralded Mishiro is best priced at 9/4 to spring the upset, continue his unbeaten run and end the year flying high.
The draw, for those interested, is best priced at 18/1.
Arguably the most interesting market for the fight is the "Method of Victory" market, which sees an Ito decision as the most likely outcome, priced at 5/6. A decision for Mishiro is regarded as the next most likely outcome at 11/4. A stoppage for Ito is 4/1 whilst a stoppage for Mishiro is a massive 14/1, a price that we have to admit is tempting given Ito's recent surgery.
Given the odds on a stoppage for either man it will come as little surprise to learn that roads are expected here and the bookies have set the over/under on the length of the bout at 8.5 rounds. The over is 2/11, regarded as the expected outcome, whilst the under is 7/2.
Likewise the bout is expected to go he distance, with odds of 1/4 being offered on the bout completing the 10 round scheduled finish and 3/1 being offered on the bout being stopped before the final bell.
For fans wanting to watch bout it will be streamed, along with the entire show, live on the A-Sign Boxing Channel, with the show set to begin at 14:00 local time, in Japan.
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