Earlier today at Korakuen Hall we got the Hajime No Ippo 30th anniversary tournament semi finals. Surprisingly the bouts both ended with Japanese winners, setting up an all-Japanese final. We say it was surprising as, in all fairness, the two locals seemed to be the under-dogs.
The first of the men to secure their place in the final was Shingo Kusano (13-8-1, 5) [草野慎悟], who managed to out point Korean dangerman Jae Woo Lee (7-3, 6) [이재우].
Kusano, who had been dropped several times in his quarter final bout, wasn't expected to be able to cope with the power and aggression of Lee. Impressively however the local fighter boxed excellently, using his legs and experience to out box, out move and out think Lee. The Korean was never out of the bout, and continuously pressed, but struggled to impress the local judges.
After 8 rounds Kusano had done enough to take a narrow majority decision, with scores of 77-75, twice, and 76-76.
Kusano was joined in the final by Daisuke Watanabe (10-4-2, 6) [渡部大介], who took an upset win over Filipino veteran Richard Pumicpic (21-11-2, 6).
The Filipino came out fast, and looked to make action exciting from the other, but a head clash left him bloodied, and Watanabe began to time him well. The local never looked comfortable with the aggression and toughness of Pumicpic, but did enough to take the rounds on the eyes of the judges, who had him the winner in a hotly contested bout.
After 8 rounds the scores were 77-75, twice, and 78-74, all in favour of Watanabe.
At the start of the tournament this is certainly not the final we would have expected, but we're looking forward to it. The bout is pencilled in for May 17th, at the Sumida Ward General Gymnasium, but of course does depend on the Coronavirus and it's long term impact on boxing in Japan, with the virus already forcing a suspension of the sport in Japan in March.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Tomorrow we'll see both of the Hajime No Ippo 30th anniversary tournament semi finals.
On paper the more exciting of the two bouts is set to see Korean visitor Jae Woo Lee (7-2, 6) [이재우] taking on Shingo Kusano (12-8-1, 5) [草野慎悟], with both men being in action packed quarter final bouts to set up this clash.
At the weigh in today both men hit the scales at the 126lb Featherweight limit, and both looked in good shape.
At the weigh in Kusano spoke about his confidence growing, following his quarter final win over Qiang Ma. Lee on the other hand stated that he would definitely beat Kusano.
For fans who failed to secure tickets ahead of the event, the bout will be aired live on Boxing Raise.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Earlier today online subscription service Boxing Raise revealed their schedule for February and sadly it's rather lacking with only 3 shows in total, and only 1 live one. That is however a sign of a quiet February in Japan more than anything, with only 7 shows scheduled for the entire month, including the February 1st card which was shown on G+.
The first of the Boxing Raise cards is actually available already and took place today at Korakuen Hall. The card was a rather small and low key one, featuring only 4 round bouts. Whilst the show didn't get much attention it is good to see the service uploading the bouts on the same day which hasn't always been the case.
The next show to be including on the service this month is the February 14th Kadoebi card. This will be headlined by Froilan Saludar (31-3-1, 22) defending the WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight title against Ryoji Fukunaga (11-4, 11) [福永亮次] in what looks likely to be an explosive match up. Other bouts of note on this card will include Ryota Yamauchi (5-1, 4) [山内涼太] facing off with Filipino MJ Bo (8-3-2, 4) and a brilliant match up between Yuki Nakajima (3-1, 3) [中嶋憂輝] and Shisui Kawabata (2-1, 2) [川畑嗣穂].
The only live card for the month will take place on February 27th and is an excellent looking card, headlined by an OPBF Welterweight title bout between Riku Nagahama (11-2-1, 4) [長濱 陸] and Kudura Kaneko (11-0, 8) [クドゥラ 金子] and also featuring the Hajime No Ippo 30th anniversary tournament semi finals. Those semi-finals will see Jae Woo Lee (7-2, 6) [이재우] taking on Shingo Kusano (12-8-1, 5) [草野慎悟] and Richard Pumicpic (21-10-2, 6) clashing with Daisuke Watanabe (9-4-2, 6) [渡部大介].
Whilst it's a shame there's so little content this month, it is impressive that Boxing Raise do have 3 of the 7 Japanese cards from the entire month.
We've known for a week or saw that both Shuhei Tsuchiya (23-5, 18) [土屋 修平] and Tsubasa Koura (14-1, 9) [小浦 翼] would be on the February 27th show at Korakuen Hall. The was made public when the poster was revealed a few days ago. What wasn't originally known was the opponents for the two men, which was only revealed recently.
Koura, a former OPBF Minimumweight champion who lost the title last year to Lito Dante last March, will be fighting for the first time in 11 months. Koura was supposed to fight in January, but issues with his opponent, Indonesian fighter Silem Serang, saw it falling through at short notice. He'll be up against Chinese fighter Yujie Zeng (14-10-1, 6) [曾玉洁], in what looks like an easy bout on paper, but will see Koura taking on a naturally bigger man, who has only been stopped once in his 25 fight career.
Tsuchiya, who's a former Japanese Lightweight champion, was also supposed to fight in January before his opponent, Yangyang Li (8-1-2), was unable to get a visa. That was going to be his first bout since June 2017. His opponent for February won't struggle to get a visa this time around as he takes on fellow Japanese fighter Shogo Yamaguchi (11-5-3, 6) [山口祥吾]. Given Tsuchiya's long break from the ring we didn't expect him to face someone too testing, and in Yamaguchi we see Tsuchiya in with an opponent who has failed to win his last 3 and is without a win since 2018.
These bouts will take place on the same card as the Hajime No Ippo 30th anniversary tournament semi finals, which will see Jae Woo Lee (7-2, 6) [이재우] against Shingo Kusano (12-8-1, 5) [草野慎悟] and Richard Pumicpic (21-10-2, 6) against Daisuke Watanabe (9-4-2, 6) [渡部大介]. The card will also feature an OPBF Welterweight title bout between Riku Nagahama (11-2-1, 4) [長濱 陸] and Kudura Kaneko (11-0, 8) [クドゥラ 金子].
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