After weeks of speculation and rumours we finally saw the Ohashi team host a press conference today to announce the long awaited Bantamweight unification bout between Naoya Inoue (23-0, 20) [井上 尚弥] and Paul Butler (34-2, 15), with the Japanese kingpin defending his WBA "Super", IBF, WBC and Ring Magazine Bantamweight titles against he WBO title of Butler. The bout, the first 4 title unification bout in Japanese boxing history, had been on the cards for much of the year, but was dependent on the bout actually getting over the line, something that is always a worry in this sport.
The official confirmation of the bout occurred at a press conference held in Yokohama today, announcing what is a strong card with not just a major undisputed title bout in the main event but also a notable under-card containing some of the top fighters at the Ohashi Gym. The announcement confirmed most of the details we already knew. The bout will be on December 13th in Japan, though the venue was announced as the Ariake Arena, a 15,000 seat venue that was used in the Olympics and Paralympics.
The main event, the Inoue Vs Butler bout, was the focus of the press conference and saw Inoue discuss the bout, his opponent, and his future plans. Talking about Butler he stated “Butler is a solid player with no holes. We will weaken him little by little, overwhelm him, and unify all four groups." In regards to the bout and his future, he stated "This is my final chapter in the bantamweight division. This is not the finish line, but the passage point” and that after the bout he was "going to be a challenge from super bantamweight onwards."
He later explained that Butler is "a fighter who uses his jab to score points and makes sure he's not in a dangerous position." However he did go on to predict "I don't have an image of this going to a decision I think he will inevitably fall down".
In regards to how the show will be broadcast, the event will be shown on Hikari TV and dTV in Japan, and will be shown to subscribers as part of their subscription, and not PPV. This is a small surprise as Amazon Prime Video did show Inoue's last bout and was expected to be the front runner for this one as well.
As for the under-card it really is a major one.
The chief support but will see WBO Asian Pacific Light Welterweight champion Andy Hiraoka (21-0, 16) [平岡アンディ] defending his title against Korean challenger Jung Min Ho (13-3-2, 3) [정민호], with Hiraoka looking to take another small step towards a major fight. For unbeaten Japanese fighter the bout serves as his third defense of the title, whilst Ho will be fighting out of Korea for the second time, following a 2019 loss to Daishi Nagata.
Another regional title bout will see hard hitting OPBF Super Bantamweight champion Yoshiki Takei (5-0, 5) [武居由樹] seek his first defense, as he takes on Australian based Tanzanian fighter Bruno Tarimo (26-3-2, 5). On paper this looks to be a very interesting match up, and at the very least should serve as a good test of Takei's stamina given that Tarimo has never been stopped, and went 12 rounds with Zelfa Barret in 2021. Although no world beater Tarimo is very much an upset mined fighter who has beaten the likes of Billel Dib, Nathaniel May, Kye MacKenzie and Joel Brunker.
Another hard hitting regional champion on this card is Satoshi Shimizu (10-1, 9) [清水 聡], though no opponent has been named for his upcoming OPBF title defense.
In a non-title bout Takuma Inoue (16-1, 3) [井上拓真] is set to face Jade Bornea (18-0, 12) in a 10 rounder. This is a perplexing bout as it's scheduled to be around 122lbs, and Bornea is a Super Flyweight, whilst Inoue is a natural Bantamweight. This should prove to be a technical bout, if it goes ahead as suggested, but is a bit of a risk for Bornea, who seemed destined to get an IBF Super Flyweight world title fight in the new year. (Note - It has been speculated that it will be Jake Bornea, but at the moment all sources form Japan state it is indeed Jade)
One other none title bout will see Hironori Miyake (9-12-2, 1) [三宅寛典] compete in an 8 rounder against talented Englishman, and former amateur standout, Peter McGrail (4-0, 3) who returns to the country where he competed at the Olympics last year.
Before the pandemic hit it seemed like South Korean boxing was heading in the right direction, with prospects being unearthed, some interesting match ups on the radar and a lot of promising developments. And then it all crashed down, with bouts being cancelled, tournaments being postponed and then taken off the calendar all together and the momentum the country was building came to an almost instant stop.
Thankfully we have seen Korean organisations begin to get the ball rolling again in 2021, but it's been a slow process. An almost tediously slow process.
Thankfully as we head towards the middle of the year it does seem like things will be picking up, and today Boxing Management Korea (KBM) announced that they would be involved in a WBC Asia Silver Welterweight bout on July 3rd, as they continue to try and rebuild the damaged Korean boxing scene.
The match up for the belt will see Min Ho Jung (10-3-2, 1) take on Hwang Kook Je (6-2-2, 2), in what should be a pretty solid match up in Gyeonggi Province.
Of the two men the 27 year old Jung is the younger fight, slightly, but the more experienced man. He is a former Korean champion at 140lbs and has tested himself against some tough opponents, the most notable of which was Daishi Nagata, who he ran very close in 2019.
Je is slightly older, at 28, and much less proven. He is, however, a natural Welterweight and will be looking to make that count when the men get in the ring in July. He also managed to fight twice last year, whilst Jung was unable to secure a fight at all during 2020.
For those wanting to watch, the bout will be streamed over YouTube, on the KBM's very own channel.
To kick off a Korean show earlier today fight fans saw a BoxingM Light Welterweight title fight, as Jung Min Ho (8-1-1, 1) [정민호] and Kim Jin Soo (3-2, 1) [김진수] battled for the vacant title.
The bout was a competitive contest from the off, with Soo looking to make the most of his southpaw stance and longer reach whilst Kim looked to use his experience and get inside. It gave us some great action, though it always seemed to lacka touch of drama due to the fact both men lacked fight changing power.
With neither man able to really hurt the other it was clear we were heading to the score cards, and it was by decision that Ho would take the victory, and claim his first professional title!
Although Kim came up short we do expect to see more of him in the future, and a rematch in a year or two could well go his way, when he has just a touch more experience.
(Image courtesy of boxingM)
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