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.
Earlier today at the EDION Arena Osaka we had the penultimate set of fights from this year Rookie of the Year, with the show deciding the West Japan representatives for the All Japan final. In total there were 12 bouts, with bouts taking place at every where from Minimumweight to Middleweight, except for 154lbs.
The show kicked off with the Minimumweight bout, which saw teenager Ren Kojima (5-1-2) [小島 蓮] take a 4 round shut out win over Yosshah Matsumoto (1-2-1) [ヨッシャー松本]. Kojima was just the better man through out, he was busier, more accurate, used the ring better and even when Matsumoto had some success the play was taken away from him rather quickly.
The action was much more competitive at 108lbs, as Hyogo Kimura (6-1-1, 1) [木村 彪吾] fought to a majority draw with Nozomu Wakiyama (2-1-1) [脇山 望]. This was close through out, with the two men matching up very well. In round 2 it seemed like Kimura was getting the upper hand, but Wakiyama turned on the gas himself in round 3 before the two went to war in round 4. After the final bell two judges turned in cards of 38-38, whilst the third judge has it 40-36, giving Kimura the nod. Due to the tie breaker rules of Rookie of the Year this mean Kimura progressed to the All Japan final.
At Flyweight we had competitive action, with Yasuhiro Kanzaki (6-1, 2) [神崎 靖浩] taking a narrow unanimous decision over Takatora Suzuki (2-1-1) [鈴木 尊虎]. Suzuki seemed the more aggressive in the opening round, but Kanzaki used his jab well and began to control the ring, particularly in round 2. After that Suzuki always looked in the bout, and pressed well, but it was the clean punching and movement of Kanzaki that proved to be the difference.
In the Super Flyweight bout it was Taichi Sugimoto (6-0-1, 1) [杉本 太一] who came out on top in a battle of unbeaten men, out pointing Sora Sunohara (2-1-2) [春原 青空]. To begin with Sunohara looked to keep the bout cautions, but Sugimoto looked to press the action in rounds 2. This meant Sunohara was chasing the bout in the second half, which allowed Sugimoto the chance to land some solid shots and put his foot on the gas to put the decision beyond doubt at the end of 4 rounds.
We had the second shut out of the day at Bantamweight, as Fuya Tomita (5-2, 2) [冨田 風弥] popped the cherry of Ren Kobayashi (3-1, 1) [小林 廉]. Tomita used his height and reach well to begin the bout, and although Kobayashi had some success with counters it really wasn't enough to make the round seem competitive. From there on Tomita always seemed to have the last word in exchanges, mixing up his attacks well and was worthy of the decision after 4 rounds.
We got the first stoppage of the day at Super Bantamweight, as Sora Fukunaga (8-0, 4) [福永 宇宙] stopped Ren Anzai (4-4-1, 2) [安西 蓮] in round 3. This was an exciting one for 2 rounds, but in round 3 Fukunaga dropped his man. Anzai recovered to his feet but a follow up forced the referee to intervene, giving Fukunaga the stoppage victory.
We had another stoppage at Featherweight, as Hikaru Fukunaga (8-1, 5) [福永 輝] defeated Kakeru Mio (5-3, 3) [三尾 翔], thanks to a 5th round TKO win. Fukunaga dropped Mio in round 1, but was deducted a point as the shot came in the break, and Mio was giving a break to recover. From there on Mio was a trier, but Fukunaga looked too big and too strong, and in round 5 he dropped hi man for the second time. Mio beat the count but the referee waved the bout off with Mio standing.
The unbeaten Seika Fukuda (5-0, 1)[福田 星河] succeeded at Super Featherweight, as he defeated Kazuki Higuchi (5-2, 2) [樋口 和輝] in a competitive 5 rounder. This was competitive through out, with a nice mix of styles, though Fukuda got off to some notable success early, dropping Higuchi in round 2. Higuchi battled back well, but Fukuda just did enough to keep his nose in front, taking the decision with scores of 48-46 from all 3 judges.
The second stoppage of the show came at Lightweight, where Eiji Togawa (6-3, 3) [戸川 叡二] stopped Hayato Fukagawa (2-3, 1) [深川 隼人], in round 3. Togawa was aggressive early on and scored a knockdown in the opening round. Fukugawa recovered well but was hurt again in round 3 and the referee needed to save him from further punishment.
At 140lbs Aito Takabatake (5-1-1, 1) [高畠 愛大] took a razor thin majority decision over Yoshiki Takahashi (3-5, 3) [高橋 良季]. This was hotly competitive, though maybe not the most exciting of fights, with the styles not really meshing in rounds 2 and 3. After 4 rounds 1 of the judges had the two men level, but the other two gave Takabatake the win with scores of 39-37.
At Welterweight Hiroya Nojima (5-1, 2) [能嶋 宏弥] took a clear decision over Bigbaby Okamoto (2-1, 1) [ビッグベイビー岡本], thanks in part to a knockdown at the end of round 3. Okamoto tried to turn it all around in round 4, but was unable to take out Nojima, who had done enough to earn the decision.
The final bout came at Middleweight and saw Katsuhiro Nakata (5-0, 4) [中田 勝浩] score a 3rd round TKO win over Norifumi Hayakawa (2-1, 2) [早川 教文]. Hayakwawa came out offensively and seemed to been in control early on, but in round 3 a body shot from Nakata hurt Hayakawa and form there on Nakata let shots go until the referee stepped in and saved the previously unbeaten Hayakawa.
After the event the there was 3 awards given out. The MVP when to Sora Fukunaga, for his victory over Ren Anzai at Super Bantamweight. The skill award was given to Middleweight Katsuhiro Nakata, for his victory over Norifumi Hayakawa and the fighting spirit award went to Fuya Tomita, for his win over Ren Kobayashi.
The winner will back in action in the All Japan finals on February 21st, where they will clash with the East Japan winners, who were decided a week ago, with that event expected to be shown live on G+.
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