Earlier today saw Japanese fans enjoy their first show of 2021 as Korakuen Hall hosted an Ohashi promoted event featuring a number of excellent prospects, as well as a highly anticipated OPBF Bantamweight title fight.
Sadly the event wasn't televised, and won't be aired until the weekend. With that in mind please only read ahead if you want spoilers as all 4 bouts on the card will be covered in the coming paragraphs, including the result of the OPBF title bout between Keita Kurihara [栗原慶太] and Takuma Inoue [井上拓真].
In the first bout of the show former amateur standout Ryutaro Nakagaki (2-0, 2) [中垣龍汰朗] claimed his second professional victory as he defeated Yuji Okinori (10-6-2, 3) [興法祐二] in 4 rounds. From the off both Nakagaki was looking to line up southpaw left hands, whilst trying to use his right jab to line up his man. Okinori on the other hand looked to try land right hooks, though he often threw them whilst out of range and rarely landed. It was relatively quiet in the first 2 rounds. In round 3 Okinori managed to have some success, with a good overhand left but was punished soon afterwards with a good left uppercut.
In round 4 Nakagaki moved up a gear and began to press the action. He found found a home for his body shots and dropped his man following a sustained body attack. Okinori was in agony when he went down and was unable to beat the 10 count. The official time of the ending here was 2:26 in round 4.
The second bout of the show featured another former amateur standout as Keisuke Matsumoto (2-0, 2) [松本圭佑] took on Bejita Ishikawa (3-13-2, 1) [石川一彦]. This was a short bout, but one with some early drama. Ishikawa landed the first big punch of the bout, catching Matsumoto with a big left hand. That however was about his only success with Matsumoto finding his groove soon afterwards, then dropping Ishikawa with a solid right hand. Ishikawa got back to his feet, but was then under pressure as the Matsumoto went to work.
This one was over at 1:26 of round 1.
After two relatively short bouts we then got a bout that went the distance, as many had anticipated. That was the bout between former Rookie of the Year winners Katsuki Mori (8-0, 1) [森且貴] and Sora Takeda (6-2, 1) [竹田宙], who clashed in a scheduled 8 rounder at Minimumweight.
Mori made a good start, taking the opening round, before Takeda began to find his rhythm in round 2. From there on the action became hotly competitive with neither man managing to clear distance themselves from the other, with tit for tat action. Takeda was looking to land his hook up top, whilst Mori was repeatedly looking to crack his man to body. Despite the great back and forth neither man seemed to hurt the other through the first 5 rounds.
In round 6 Mori seemed to have a break through, as he landed a solid straight right hand that buzzed. That seemed to be the turning point with Mori going on to out work Takeda in the following round. The final round was something special, as both men gave their all right through the round, in a thrilling 3 minutes of action, but in the end it was Mori's work in rounds 6 and 7 that helped him secure a decision win, with scores of 77-75 from all 3 judges.
Fans in the venue pretty much universally praised both of these talented 20 years for what was a thrilling, high tempo contest, and despite the loss few had any negatives about Takeda who really did perform excellently. In the end however it was the speed, movement, and limitless energy of Mori that secured him the victory. Given that both men are so young it'd be great to see them face off again in the future, potentially in a title bout in a few year's time.
In the fourth, and final, bout we saw the highly anticipated OPBF Bantamweight title bout, pitting hard hitting champion Keita Kurihara (15-6, 13) [栗原慶太] against former WBC "interim" Bantamweight champion Takuma Inoue (14-1, 3) [井上拓真].
In the ring Kurihara looked notably bigger than Inoue though that didn’t help him early on and it was Inoue who had early success.
The fight started with early drama as Kurihara suffered a cut from a clash of heads in round 1, a round that was a good one for Inoue, who looked quicker, sharp and much more technically sound. In round 2 Kurihara’s cut worsened as he struggled to get his own offense going. The cut worsened to the point where Kurihara was inspected by the ringside doctor in round 3, who allowed the bout to continue, but it was clear that the cut was a massive problem, and did run a serious risk of leaving us with an early, and inconclusive result.
Thankfully the fighters managed to get through round 4, guaranteeing a result to the bout. Sadly for Kurihara he was not only badly cut but also down on all 4 cards with the open scoring announcing that Inoue was leading 40-36, twice, and 39-37. By then it was clear that Kurihara wasn’t even thinking about winning a decision, but was aiming only for a KO win.
With a KO in his mind Kurihara was struggling to set up his shows, whilst Inoue worked the champions body well, and made the most of his sharp footwork, preventing Kurihara from having any sort of sustained success. In round 6 the cut seemed to leave Kurihara unable to see some of Inoue’s shots, with the blood becoming a bigger issue, especially with Inoue tagging the cut with short, clean, compact shots, worsening the damage and further extending his lead whilst Kurihara was getting more and more desperate to land something big.
After 8 rounds the open scoring was announced again, with the scores again heavily in favour of Inoue, with one judge having it 80-72 and the other two judges scoring it 79-73, all in favour of the challenger.
In round 9 there was a second check on the cut and this time the bout was stopped, after 2 minutes 25 seconds of the round, with Inoue taking the very, very wide technical decision win and becoming the new OPBF Bantamweight champion.
The win for Inoue was an important one, especially given his 2019 loss to Nordine Oubaali in a WBC title fight and this was a great comeback performance following that defeat. Sadly for Kurihara this is a major setback, and given how he was cut pretty much the entire fight he will certainly feel like he was hindered from the early going.
The speed, accuracy and clean punching of Inoue was his key to victory here, and he fought his fight, something he said he was going to do. With Kurihara’s cut being as bad as it was, it made life easier for Inoue to control the bout the way he did. At times he was making things look too easy, and given that Kurihara was essentially fighting through an eye full of blood he often failed to see shots coming.
For Inoue this will push him to the verge of a second world title fight, potentially a WBO or a WBC title bout. As for Kurihara it’s back to the drawing board and time for him to work on having a back up gameplan for when his power shots don’t land, and really work on his jab.
For those wanting to see the main event, it will be aired on Tape Delay on Saturday night/Sunday morning from 27:35 to 28:40 local time on Saturday, which is 3:35 to 4:40 on Fuji TV. The broadcast is also expected to show some of the highlights from the under-card.
Tomorrow at Korakuen we'll see a clash between two Rookie of the Year winners as Katsuki Mori (7-0, 1) [森且貴] and Sora Takeda (6-1, 1) [竹田宙] clash in an excellent looking 8 round Minimumweight match up between a couple of 20 year Japanese ranked fighters each looking to take strides towards their first title fight.
Today the two fighters took part in their weigh in and both men made the Minimumweight limit with no major issues.
On the scales Mori, the 2019 All Japan Rookie of the Year winner, was bang on the 105lb Minimumweight limit. Despite being so light he looked in great shape and is looking to build not only on his Rookie of the Year win but also on an impressive 6 round decision win last September against Yuki Uchida, in what was a very fan friendly bout.
Takeda came in a little bit lighter, at around 104.8lbs, and like Mori he looked in fantastic shape. Interestingly he won Rookie of the Year in 2018, and since then has scored two more wins, though was out of the ring for the entirety of 2020, slowing his momentum. For those curious his loss came in his debut, back in 2017, and came by stoppage in a bout at Flyweight. Since then he has established himself as a promising Minimumweight hopeful and won 6 in a row.
The bout will be held as part of the Ohashi show headlined by OPBF Bantamweight champion Keita Kurihara (15-5, 13) [栗原慶太] defending his title against Takuma Inoue (13-1, 3) [井上拓真].
(Image credit - Ohashi Gym)
Over the last few weeks we’ve been asked about the TV and broadcast details for the upcoming OPBF Bantamweight bout, between defending champion Keita Kurihara (15-5, 13) [栗原慶太] and former WBC “interim” world champion Takuma Inoue (13-1, 3) [井上拓真]. Thankfully we now have confirmation regarding the broadcast of the bout and can confirm it will be aired.
Sadly however, albeit not surprisingly, it will not be aired live.
The bout, which takes place this coming Thursday at Korakuen Hall, will be shown tape delay. Never a great thing, though thankfully it’s not going to be a lengthy delay like we’ve seen with some events. Instead the bout will be shown on Saturday night/Sunday morning, on Fuji TV as part of their semi-regular Fuji Boxing - Phoenix Battle content.
The bout will be aired from 27:35 to 28:40 local time on Saturday, which is 3:35 to 4:40 on Sunday morning for those unfamiliar with Japanese TV schedules.
At the moment it’s unclear if time will be set aside for any of the under-card bouts, though we suspect highlights from bouts featuring Keisuke Matsumoto (1-0, 1) [松本圭佑], Ryutaro Nakagaki (1-0, 1) [中垣龍汰朗] and Katsuki Mori (7-0, 1) [森且貴] will be aired, though potentially very brief highlights if the main event goes the scheduled 12 rounds.
Whilst we’re not a huge fan of tape delay boxing, a few days delay is somewhat acceptable, and beats the multi-week delay that TBS had last year for the bout between former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa and Seiya Tsutsumi.
Strangely this tape delay may also work out well for those wanting to dip their toe into iSakura for a weekend, with G+ airing a live card earlier on Saturday, with that broadcast starting at 16:00 local time. That broadcast will feature a number of talented debutants as well as a mouth watering OPBF Welterweight title bout between defending champion Riku Nagahama (12-2-1, 4) [長濱 陸] and hard hitting challenger Ryota Toyoshima (12-2-1, 8) [豊嶋亮太].
Related - Keita Kurihara Vs Takuma Inoue - The first big Japanese fight of 2021!
Potential thriller as OPBF champion Nagahama takes on Toyoshima!
Earlier today Japanese promoter Hideyuki Ohashi took to social media to announce a show he'll be putting on in January.
The card, set to take place on January 14th 2021 at Korakuen Hall, seems like a long way away but the show is certainly stacking up to be one worth waiting for, with a sensational main event and an under-card stacked with excellent Ohashi hopefuls.
The main event will see OPBF Bantamweight champion Keita Kurihara (15-5, 13) [栗原慶太] make his second defense of the Oriental title as he takes on former WBC "interim" champion Takuma Inoue (13-1, 3) [井上拓真]. On paper this is a heavy handed and dangerous champion against a skilled, tough and gutsy challenger, and we're looking forward to the styles clash of Kurihara's aggression against Inoue's skills. This is also a must win for both men, if they are looking to get a world title bout later in 2021, or 2022.
Kurihara won the belt on Christmas eve in 2018, when he won a tremendous, controversial and memorable bout with Yuki Strong Kobayashi. That bout saw Kurihara dropping Kobayashi 4 times on route to a decision that was marred by several time keeper errors. Since then he has defended the belt once, stopping former world title challenger Warlito Parrenas inside a round, and notched a non-title win over Sukkasem Kietyongyuth.
As for Inoue we've not seen him in the ring since he lost to Nordine Oubaali in November 2019, on the under-card of Naoya Inoue's amazing bout with Nonito Donaire. Sadly whilst touted as a future world champion Inoue's career has been hampered by injuries and lengthy stretches of inactivity. This is the third notable break from the ring that he's had since September 2016. Although not the puncher that his brother is the 24 year old shouldn't be written off, and gave Oubaali a competitive bout, despite the scorecard Alejandro Rochin.
In a supporting bout Ryutaro Nakagaki (1-0, 1) [中垣龍汰朗] will be facing off with Yuji Okinori (10-5-2, 3) [興法祐二] in a very credible step up.
We were impressed by Nakagaki on debut, where he shone and looked like a star in the making. That was against a very limited opponent and to see him stepping up like this is rather exciting at this early point in his career. Although Okinori is no world beater he's a very credible fighter with experience and should give the young upstart some questions to answer. If Nakagaki gets through this one easily we suspect that Ohashi will begin to race him through the ranks.
Another supporting bout that's been announced for this show will see 2019 All Japan Rookie of the Year winner Katsuki Mori (7-0, 1) [森且貴] take on 2018 All Japan Rookie of the Year winner Sora Takeda (6-1, 1) [竹田宙] in a mouth watering match up.
Both of these young men are talented youngsters, with speed and skills, but a lack of fight changing power. Together they should make for an exciting, high speed, high level chess match. Despite neither being big punchers they do seem to enjoy fighting on the inside, and that should help make this a very fan friendly contest.
Others announced for this card, though yet to have opponents names, are Taku Kuwahara (7-0, 4) [桑原拓] and Keisuke Matsumoto (1-0, 1) [松本圭佑], who should round out a very, very strong Japanese domestic card.
Earlier today Ohashi put on their latest show under the Phoenix Battle banner. The card was their third in the space of about 8 weeks and was very much a developmental card, featuring 3 of their promising and unbeaten prospects. Although not a huge event it was a notable one, and it will have the fights aired this coming weekend on Fuji TV.
With that out of the way we will get on to the result, so if you wish to watch the broadcast on Saturday night/Sunday morning, local time, without having the bouts ruined please stop reading now. Otherwise we'll get on to the results.
The first of the notable prospects in action was 20 year old Katsuki Mori (7-0, 1) [森且貴], who successfully stepped up to the 6 round limit with a comfortable win over the much more experienced Yuki Uchida (7-8, 1) [内田 勇気]. The bout was Mori's first since winning the Rookie of the Year last year and he looked the boss through out, but was forced to work and cedit goes to Uchida for being the type of test Mori needed.
Although wonderfully talented Mori certainly needs time to mature and grow into his man strength. He's skilled but his lack of power may be an issue when he steps up, but he has looked incredibly good since he turned professional and took another good step forward here.
The second bout saw Lightweight hopeful Katsuya Yasuda (7-0, 4) [保田 克也] extend his unbeaten record with a clear 8 round decision win over Japanese based Venezuelan Omrri Bolivar (8-4, 3). Yasuda managed to control the distance well here, despite Bolivar trying to get inside, and was mostly fighting to a defensive gameplan based around counters. It was a gameplan that worked well for Yasuda who looked in control through out.
After the first two prospects went the distance it was the turn of the big punching Kazuki Nakajima (9-0-1, 8) [中嶋一輝], who managed to make a statement in blowing away Kenta Nomura (7-4, 3) [野村健太] in the third round. Nakajima looked like he had a point to make, and found his rhythm quickly before going through the gears. In round 3 he dropped Nomura twice, forcing the referee to stop the bout after the second knockdown, which was a brutal one.
After the bout it was suggested that Nakajima would challenge for either the JBC or OPBF Bantamweight title in 2021, which would be a good step up. It's unclear if that title fight will be at Bantamweight, where he has fought in the past, or Super Bantamweight, where he fought today.
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