Earlier today the East Japan Boxing Association announced the award winners for the month of March, naming 3 award winners for the month, though strangely one of the regular awards didn't actually have a winner.
The Fighting Spirit award winner was Katsuya Fukui (3-0, 2) [福井勝也], who earned the award for his impressive performance on March 25th, when he defeated Hiroki Hanabusa (8-2-3, 3) [英洸貴] in a very good 8 rounder. Although not a fight of the year contender, it was a really good bout, and Fukui really did show very good tools for a man fighting in just his third professional bout.
Interestingly there were two winners of the Newcomer award for the month.
One of those was former K-1 champion Yoshiki Takei (1-0, 1) [武居由樹], who kicked off his professional career back on March 11th with an eye catching performance against Kazunori Takai (6-8-3, 3) [高井一憲]. Takei showed off what he could do in stopping his man inside 2 minutes, and making a real statement of intent about his future in the sport. Fingers crossed his next opponent will be more testing, but this was still a very good performance.
The other winner was former amateur standout Kenji Fujita (1-0, 1) [藤田健児], who scored a 6th round TKO win on March 25th against Motosuke Kimura (3-6-2, 1) [木村元祐]. Hw showed composure and poise here and it's clear he has a lot to give the sport, though will clearly need to face bigger and better tests than Kimura in the near future. He has so much potential, and looked so good as an amateur, that there really is no need to hold him on a leash. Instead Teiken should be looking to move him very quickly.
Strangely there was no MVP for the month, which is a bit strange, though in fairness there was very, very little action in Japan last month, likely explaining why no fighter was picked here.
It feels like it's been a very, very, very long time since we last had live televised Japanese boxing. We've had a few tape delay shows from Japan but it's been around a month since the All Japan Rookie of the Year final. Thankfully today we saw boxing return to Japanese TV thanks to latest Dynamic Glove show, and it was a really, really good show, with an exciting debutant, along with 3 solid, entertaining bouts. It's been too long, but it was, in the end, worth the wait!
The show began with a 4 rounder between Takumi Hashimoto (1-1) [橋本拓海] and Shogo Namiki (2-0-1, 1) [並木翔牙]. This was a really fun and exciting bout to open the show, though both men were clearly very limited fighters. Namika seemed the aggressor through much of the first round, but Hashimoto had good success in round 2 which he tried to replicate in round 3, though his accuracy let him down. In round 4 we ended up with 3 minutes of brutal violence as both men gave their all in an attempt to secure victory. After 4 rounds the judges gave the win to Namiki by majority decision.
The second bout on the show saw the long awaited debut of Kenji Fujita (1-0, 1) [藤田健児] as he scored a 6th round TKO win against the tough and very credible Motosuke Kimura (3-6-2, 1) [木村元祐].
From the off it was clear Fujita respected Kimura and his ability to counter. As a result the early going saw Fujita box patiently, used his amateur skills to keep the action at range and to win the rounds without taking too many risks. As the bout went on however he began to let heavier shots go, targetting the body of Kimura, and hurting him in round 3 before dropping him in round 4, as he systematically broke down his man. Kimura showed incredible toughness however and continued to try and fight back. In round 6 however Kimura was hurt again and Fujita didn't let off the gas, forcing the referee to step in wave this off. This was a really impressive performance by Fujita who is clearly another fantastic addition to the already packed Japanese Featherweight scene. One to keep an eye on, though that's little surprise given his incredibly amateur pedigree.
The third bout saw action pick up with a competitive, technical and exciting bout between Katsuya Fukui (3-0, 2) [福井勝也] and Hiroki Hanabusa (8-2-3, 3) [英洸貴]. This started very technical from both, as both used their jabs a lot, and despite being technical it was fought at a high pace, and very exciting. We thought Hanabusa more than held his own and his jab was again a fantastic weapon in round 2. From there on however Fukui began to find his grove, unloading sharp combinations, sneaking in and out with great success. Hanabusa continued to hold his own, and was landing a similar amount to Fukuo, but the cleaner more eye catching shots were coming from Fukui.
Through the middle rounds Hanabusa's work rate slowed as Fukui's shots took their toll on him, though to his credit Hanabusa refused to back down and go away. Instead Hanabusa dug deep and in rounds 7 and 8 the two men began to trade more regularly giving the fans a show. Sadly for Hanabusa however his shots lacked the power that Fukui's did and he could never get the respect of the unbeaten Fukui.
After 8 rounds the judges had this much, much wider than we did, scorign it 80-72, twice, and 79-73.We can't help but feel that Hanabusa deserved a bit more credit, though was certainly second best. Despite the loss we feel Hanabusa enhanced his reputation here, whilst Fukui showed he had the potential to go very far in this sport.
In the chief support bout we saw blood, and a lot of it, as Tatsuya Takahashi (32-10-6, 21) [高橋 竜也] and Ryotaro Kawabata (13-4-2, 6) [川端遼太郎] gave us something special. Really special.
The fight started with the much taller, longer and experienced Takahashi trying to box at range and control the bout with his footwork and jab whilst Kawabata looked to get inside and make this a fight. For the first round and a half Takahashi did all he could to avoid a war. Despite his effort we all knew, sooner or later, this was going to get violent and by the mid way point of round 2 Kawabata was dragging Takahashi into a firefight.
For the next few rounds Takahashi tried to give the appearance of someone who wanted to box, and not fight. Yet every round he was dragged into a slugfest up close. By the end of round 4 blood was smearing over his face from his nose, albeit from what appeared to be a headclash. From here on Takahashi gave up the pretence and turned things into an all out war, with the two men going to war on the inside, as blood began to flow. In fact was flowing so freely that both men ended up getting a doctor's inspection in rounds 5 and 7. The cuts, caused by accidental headclashes, were a result of the two men essentially standing toe to toe, head to head, and firing off shots with alarming success. Defense was a dirty word as the fighters seemed to be living by the idea that they had to stop the other
Sadly for both men's long term health a stoppage never seemed on. Both were rocked at times, and both took a lot of punishment, but neither man came close to being taken out. Instead they continued to let shots fly, with Takahashi fighting almost the entire final round with his back against the ropes. This was a sensational final round to what had been a brutal fight. Both men will be feeling this one in the morning. Thankfully for Kawabata he can at least feel good, as he picked up the victory, thanks to his relentless desire and his intense pressure. The scores cards here were 77-75, twice and 78-74, all to Kawabata.
The main event was another compelling bout as former amateur standout Gonte Lee (3-0-1, 1) [李 健太], who has previously been referred to as "Kuntae Lee" and was today shown on screen as "Gonte Ri", took on fan favourite Aso Ishiwaki (8-4-1, 6) [石脇麻生]. On paper this probably didn't grab too much attention internationally, especially given Ishiwaki's 2020 loss to Jin Sasaki and the technical draw that Lee suffered last time out. Despite that fans of the Japanese scene would have known that the styles here were going to mesh really well, with Lee's technical boxing being matched with the hunger and desire of Ishiwaki.
From the off the styles played out as expected, with Lee boxing, moving, and showing the brilliance that took him to a 62 fight winning streak in the amateurs. He looked fantastic. Whilst Ishiwaki fought like a bull in a china shop. He refused to back down, he refused to let Lee have time and space to think, and kept coming forward, putting his head down and chasing Lee around the ring.
At times Lee looked far, far too good for his man, particularly in the opening round and round 3 where he was almost scored a knock down with a body shot, but Ishiwaki proved himself to be dangerous having success in round 2 and holding his own in many rounds. As the bout went on however Ishiwaki's pressure generated more and more success, with round 6 being one of his best rounds. He even managed to drag Lee into a firefight in round 7, as Lee got his first chin check in the professional ranks.
With Ishiwaki creating some momentum we saw Lee put his foot on the gas in round 8, as he landed some fantastic counters early in the round before a vicious combination later one, that Ishiwaki somehow took without dropping. Ishiwaki knew he needed a knockout in the final round, he pushed for it, but he could never have the sustained success he needed.
For Lee this was a big step up in class and he passed it, winning with scores of 79-73, and 78-74, twice. He was forced to work every round and this was exactly what he needed. As for Ishiwaki this is a second successive loss for the youngster, but another performance that would have won fans over. Do not write him off for his record as he is one of the most fan friendly fighters out there and someone always worth watching.
Earlier today at the Saitama Super Arena fans had the chance to see a couple of touted Japanese prospects in action, as part of the supporting card for the WBSS Bantamweight final.
The first of those prospects was Katsuya Fukui (2-0, 2) [福井勝也], who scored his second early win as he defeated Chakkit Ratchakhot (2-4, 2) in 2 rounds. The talented Fukui, who went 59-16 in the unpaid ranks, became the 4th man to stop the Thai, as he continued to put together the building blocks for his promising career.
The Thai was dropped twice during the bout, and was totally out of his depth here as Fukui showcased what he could do. Hopefully next time out Fukui will go up against someone a little bit more testing than another limited Thai import.
The other other prospect in action was the very highly regarded Shokichi Iwata (4-0, 3) [岩田翔吉], who stopped Mexican fighter Alejandro Cruz Valladares (5-2), in the 5th round. Valladares gave a good effort early on but rounds 4 and 5 saw Iwata stepping on the gas and forcing the referee in to save Valladares.
As an amateur was a bit of a star and holds amateur wins over both Takuma Inoue and Kosei Tanaka, so he is certainly one to keep an eye on and he looked very talented here, even if there are still areas for the JBC #15 ranked Light Flyweight to work on.
We've known for a while now that the WBSS Bantamweight final will take place on November 7th, with the highly anticipated clash between Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16) [井上 尚弥] and Nonito Donaire (40-5, 26) headlining the show.
Whilst we've long known about the main event and one of the support bouts, the WBC Bantamweight title bout between Takuma Inoue (13-0, 3) [井上 拓真] and current WBC Bantamweight champion Nordine Oubaali (16-0, 12), there was no other details of the match ups on the card. That was until today.
We now know that the under-card will feature two talented Teiken prospects.
One of those is 23 year old Bantamweight hopeful Katsuya Fukui (1-0, 1) [福井勝也], who will be in a 6 round contest against Chakkit Ratchakhot (2-3, 2), who has scored a couple of wins after beginning his career with 3 straight stoppage losses.
Although not a big name Fukui was a talented amateur, and went 59-16 in the unpaid ranks, and looked good on debut, back in September. His bout is unlikely to be televised but he is certainly one to make a mental note of.
The other Teiken fighter on this card is Shokichi Iwata (3-0, 2) [岩田翔吉], who will take on Mexico fighter Alejandro Cruz Valladares (5-1), in a 6 round Light Flyweight bout.
Iwata is tipped as a future star for Japan, he made his professional debut in the US last year and this will be his third bout this year. On the other hand Valladares will be fighting in his second bout of the year, as he looks to build on a July win over Carlos Brian Vado. Again this is unlikely to be aired on the live broadcast but Iwata is very highly regarded and is certainly deserving of some real attention going forward.
After months of having Dynamic Glove shows on tape delay today we got a live one and it was packed with hopefuls looking to make the most of being on a card featuring Jorge Linares' Japanese return.
The show began with the debuting Katsuya Fukui (1-, 1) [福井勝也] shining as he dismantled Korean visitor Sang Hoon Kim (4-2-2, 3) in 2 rounds. Fukui looked genuinely class against his Korean foe, and his amateur background was on show through out as he applied smart pressure, landed accurate clean shots with both hands and eventually wore down Kim. Kim was dropped from a body shot and was counted out whilst rising to his feet, with no complaints at all.
We've question Teiken and their lack of prospects in the past, but over the last 12 months or so they have snapped up bright hopefuls and Fukui should be regarded up there with Mikito Nakano, Lee Kuntae and Shokichi Iwata as a vert special young hopeful.
The second bout again saw Japan get a win over Korea as the hard hitting Kenta Endo (5-0-1, 4) [遠藤健太] showed off his destructive power with an opening round KO win over Gi Won Shin (3-3-3). Shin was in trouble from a combination and Endo kept the pressure on before closing the show with a brutal 1-2 that left Shin on his back and his team rushing around him. At 35 years old Endo's potential is limited by time, but he is certainly someone worth watching and could us give some very exciting fight in the future.
The third bout on the card as another early finish as 2018 Rookie of the Year runner up Hikari Mineta (7-1, 4) [峯田光] made light work of the hard hitting but chinny Yuji Oba (6-5, 4) [大場 雄二]. The fight had been relatively competitive through the first round, until Mineta landed a dynamite right hand that sent Oba down, flat on his back, for the 10 count.
A second all Japanese bout saw Ryota Toyoshima (12-2-1, 8) [豊嶋亮太] take on Masafumi Ando (6-9-2, 3) [安藤暢文]. On paper this had the markings of a mismatch though in reality it was always going to be much more competitive than it looked. The 23 year old Toyoshima was the clear favourite but Ando was coming in to this on the back of a huge win in May against former Japanese champion Toshio Arikawa and his confidence showed as tried to lure Toyoshima in to traps.
Toyoshima was the aggressor but Ando often responded, looking to land big single counters. Towards the end of round 4 however Toyoshima had began to figure out Ando and in round 5 he came close to stopping Ando, who's face had began to mark up.
Although Ando got through round 6 with no issues Toyoshima turned it on again in round 7. This time the aggression of Toyoshima had success and dropped Ando, twice, who fought much of the round in survival mode. Toyoshima had really tuned in his body attack in the round, switching from the headwork earlier on, and it paid off big time. Surprisingly however Ando's toughness kept him fighting on and how some how made it through a torrid 8th round as he lost a wide decision. The all favoured Toyoshima, with scores of 80-70, twice, and 80-69. Ando's toughness proved to be a test but a test that Toyoshima passed in style.
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