Boxing is full of what if's and one of those questions among the hardcore in Japan will be "What if Kazuki Saito (7-3, 6) [斎藤一貴] had a better chin?"
Sadly we'll never know the answer, though we suspect with a better chin Saito would have managed to fight for, if not win, the Japanese Lightweight title. He was talented fighter with excellent movement, great technique, solid power and a fun style. Sadly though his chin let him down, and he stopped in 2 of his 3 losses.
Today it's been reported that Saito has his announced his retirement and sent a retirement notice to the JBC, ending his 13 year boxing career, between the amateurs and the professional ranks. Saito himself is quoted as saying he always had it in his mind to retire if he suffered back to back defeats, which he when Tatsuya Yanagi stopped him in 6 rounds in October, almost a year to the date of his previous bout, a loss to Izuki Tomioka.
As an amateur Saito was really solid winning 83 of 97 amateur bouts and winning the All Japan Championships, among other amateur achievements. When he turned professional the expectation was on him being a star on the Japanese scene. Sadly however alarm bells were ringing relatively early on as he was dropped by Jimmy Borbon in his third professional bout. He bounced back from the knockdown but was stopped just a few fights later by Amphol Suriyo. Lessons from that loss weren't taken and he was rocked hard by Rey Ramos in his return, that would be his penultimate win, adding Monico Laurente to his ledger before his back to back losses.
Although clearly a very talented fighter we dare say this is probably a wise move for his health.
According to boxmob Saito will be working for a company run by a friend and will be involved in restaurants going forward. We'd like to wish him all the best in his boxing life and thank him for his dramatic, and exciting bouts. Win or lose you knew drama was never far away when Saito was in the ring.
Earlier today fight fans at Korakuen Hall got the latest show from Kadoebi. Although it wasn't a huge show, and had been a show cut apart by injuries that saw two bouts being cancelled in the build up to it.
Despite bouts falling through there was 3 bouts of note that were still on the show.
Th first of those saw former world title challenger Takuya Kogawa (31-6-1, 14) [粉川拓也] prove there was still life in his career, not something we expected. The veteran took on domestic foe Hayato Yamaguchi (15-9-1, 2) [山口隼人] and managed to secure a 6th round TKO. The bout was competitive and exciting early on, with both men fighting well on the inside in round 2, as the pace picked up but by round 4 the physical strength and power of Kogawa started to break down the naturally smaller Yamaguchi. Despite being on the wrong end of things Yamaguchi dug his toes in, but it was for nought and he was stopped in round 6 when Kogawa landed a series of unanswered shots.
With the win Kogawa essentially saves his career, which looked done when he was knocked out by Jayr Raquinel last year. As for Yamaguchi it's unclear where he goes form this loss.
The second bout of note saw the hard hitting Yoji Saito (2-1-2, 2) [齊藤陽ニ] pick up his second win as a professional as he stopped Masashi Wakita (10-10-2, 5) [脇田将士] inside a round. From the off Saito pressed and pressured, using his physical strength to bully Wakita on to the ropes and around the ring. From there on Saito just unloaded, whilst Wakita tried to fight back. Part way through the round Saito's pressure forced Wakita to the canvas. To his credit Wakita got to his feet but the referee waved off the bout.
For those wondering why we're excited about a guy who started the day 1-1-2, Saito is a really, really exciting guy to watch, and we saw that here. He was a good amateur, and although he's not shone as a professional he is so much fun to watch and well worth following.
The main event saw Japanese ranked Lightweights clash as Kazuki Saito (7-3, 6) [斎藤一貴] faced off with Tatsuya Yanagi (17-6-2, 7) [柳達也].
Yanagi got the first break through of the fight in the second round, dropping Saito with a left hook. The shot landed solidly, but it didn't seem like a huge shot, and was sadly a case of what we've seen before, Saito not having a great chin. To his credit Saito fought back well, making a fight of things in the following rounds. That was until round 6, when Saito found himself pinned on the ropes and Yanagi unloaded until the referee stepped in to save him from further punishment.
For Yanagi this moves him a step closer to a Japanese title fight, whilst Saito's career really is hanging by a thread now, following a third loss in 5 bouts for the talented, though fragile Kadoebi promoted Lightweight.
For fans wanting to watch these bouts they have already been uploaded to the brilliant Boxing Raise service.
Tomorrow at Korakuen Hall Kadoebi will be putting on a show under their "Slugfest" banner. Although not a huge show, and a show that was actually cut down by two bouts needing to be cancelled due to injuries, it is still an interesting one which will provide action for fans in attendance and be available on demand via Boxing Raise.
The main event of the card will see Japanese ranked Lightweights clash, with Kazuki Saito (7-2, 6) [斎藤一貴] taking on Tatsuya Yanagi (16-6-2, 6) [柳達也] in a very interesting, if somewhat easy to over-look, bout.
Today the two men took part in their weigh in for the contest and both men made the Lightweight limit, with room to spare.
On the scales Saito was the heavier man, coming in around 134.7lbs for the bout whilst Yanagi was slightly lighter, weighing in at 134.5lb. Both men looked in good shape and like they had trained hard for the bout.
Notably the two men have sparred before, around 2 years ago, with Saito seemingly still aware of Yanagi's style, and suggesting that the styles would gel well. Saito was also seemingly surprised to be the main event here, making it the first team he has headlined a card.
As for Yanagi his he spoke about giving his career a boost with a win here after a loss last year to Akihiro Kondo, and it seems like a win here could get him a title fight in the near future.
For both men a win really is needed if they are to land a big fight in 2021, and loss would really harm their hopes of getting something big any time soon.
Earlier today Boxing Raise updated their website to show their line up for the rest of October, with the plan now being to have 6 shows on their service this month. Sadly none will be live, but 6 shows in a month is solid regardless.
The first show will be the Kaneko Boxing card, which will take place on October 9th. This will be headlined by a brilliant match up between Rei Nakajima (3-0) [中島玲] and former OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific Middleweight champion Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa (12-5-1, 11) [細川チャーリー忍]. The next show to be added will be the Kadoebi show from October 14th, which will feature the likes of Kazuki Saito (7-2, 5) [斎藤一貴] and Takuya Kogawa (30-6-1, 13) [粉川拓也].
The next show will be from October 18th and will be headlined by Japanese Flyweight champion Seigo Yuri Akui (14-2-1, 10) [阿久井政悟] will be facing mandatory challenger Seiya Fujikita (13-4, 6) [藤北誠也] as part of the Champion Carnival.
After those 3 shows we then get a pair of DANGAN cards, including a 4 round show from October 22nd and the October 30th A and B class tournament show, featuring the likes of Shu Utsuki (6-0, 5) [宇津木秀].
The final show from October that Boxing Raise will get is the East Japan Rookie of the Year show from October 31st.
Although not a great month in terms of quality for Boxing Raise the depth of the shows, ranging from Japanese title level to Rookie of the Year, is solid and the cards are full of good looking bouts and hopefuls. It's not an amazing month, but it's certainly not a bad one.
The third of today's Japanese title eliminators took place at Lightweight and, on paper at least, it looked like a genuinely compelling match up. The fight put the the talented but chinny Kazuki Saito (7-2, 5) [斎藤一貴] up against the skilled but light punching Izuki Tomioka (7-2-1, 2) [富岡樹] in what really did look like it could be a very, very interesting contest.
What we ended up getting was a let less interesting that we expected. We expected back and forth boxing, an ultra competitive bout and rounds that were hard to split. What fans ended up getting however was a bit of a masterclass.
From the opening rounds Tomioka, the much taller man, used his jab, and his reach. He peppered Saito at range, and whilst nothing he threw had much power on it, he was consistent with his shots. Saito on the other hand was forced to either remain at range or be handcuffed whilst coming forward.
The light punches of Tomioka took a toll on Saito, who was left with a swelling under his right eye as early as round 3. That forced Saito into taking more risks, gambling a bit more to try and get some success. The effort was great from Saito, but he really struggled with the smart footwork and movement of Tomioka, which took the sting out of out of Saito's offense.
Saito's will to win never faded, but he simply couldn't keep up with Tomioka's movement, and accuracy. Every time Saito landed he seemed to take one or two in return, and was chasing the bout the bout through out, never looking in control even when he was on the front foot. Instead the bout was just a show case of movement and accuracy from Tomioka.
After 8 rounds the score cards read 79-73, twice, and 78-74, all in favour of Tomioka.
With the win Tomioka secures himself a Japanese title fight, and will likely face Shuichiro Yoshino for the Japanese title in the 2020 Champion Carnival next year. As for Saito it's back to the drawing board as he looks to rebuild from his second professional defeat.
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