Earlier today Japanese management group TLA Rock Entertainment Co Ltd revealed that they had signed a professional contract with former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa (16-1, 16) [比嘉 大吾], to help support him in his domestic and overseas activities. That's despite the fact Higa is, currently, with out a boxing gym.
A few weeks ago rumours in Japan circulated that Higa would be joining the gym that WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14) [井岡一翔] will be running. This week Ioka has been confirmed as transferring to the gym, now known as the AMBITION Gym having been renamed from the Ozaki Boxing Gym.
At the moment Higa's transfer to the gym hasn't been confirmed, but this deal to TLA Rock seems to strength the rumour of Higa joining Ioka at the AMBITION Gym. That's because TLA also work with Ioka, and former WBC Flyweight champion Daisuke Naito.
Higa is now expected to announce his future plans on June 30th, with many expecting him to confirm his move to the AMBITION Gym and to potentially announce a date for his next bout, which is rumoured to be in September and on TBS.
We've known since early in the year that WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14) [井岡一翔] was set to run his own gym, leaving the DANGAN set up to take more control over his career and put together a stable of his own. Today Ioka's transfer to gym was made official and with the fighter himself announce the change.
Ioka, through his team, announced that he had transferred to what will now be known as the Ambition Gym.
The gym was previously known as the Ozaki Boxing Gym, and had Takuya Kiya as the Chairman. Kiya will continue to chair the gym going forward with Ioka as it's biggest star.
According to a number of Japanese reports the gym is also set to announce the signing of former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa (16-1, 16) [比嘉 大吾] in the coming days with both men expected to be training their and linking the gym with Japanese broadcaster TBS.
Reportedly Higa will make his return with the Gym at some point in September, against a yet to be named opponents, whilst Ioka is expected to return in a mandatory title defense against Kosei Tanaka (15-0, 9) [田中恒成], though it's not totally clear when that bout will be held with September and December both being seen as possibilities.
According to Chunichi Sports the future of former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa (16-1, 16) [比嘉 大吾] has been decided and surprisingly he will not be signing with the Ohashi Gym, as many had expected!
Instead Chunichi Sports have reported that Higa will be heading to the gym that Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14) [井岡一翔] will be opening later this year.
The gym, which will taking over the license of the Ozaki Boxing Gym, will have Takuya Kiya acting as the chairman and is expected to open in the near future. The gym was announced earlier in the year with reports explaining that Ioka wanted more control over his career than he was getting with Dangan, now Dangan Aoki.
Higa, who left the Shirai Gushiken Sports Gym earlier this year, had been expected to sign with Ohashi and continue his strong relationship with broadcaster Fuji TV though this association with Ioka will likely see him joining forces with rival TV channel TBS. TBS not only work with Ioka but also the Watanabe Gym fighters, including WBA Light Flyweight "Super" champion Hiroto Kyoguchi (14-0, 9) [京口 紘人], and work in close association with CBC, who are the TV channel linked to Kosei Tanaka (15-0, 9) [田中恒成].
Although the gym that Ioka, and now Higa, will be part of is currently the Ozaki gym it is expected to receive a name change when it opens. What is known is that it will be in Tokyo.
So far both men have been training independently of the gym, in question though it's expected that both men will be continue to have members in their team that they've worked with in the past. For example Joji Nogi is expected to continue working with Higa.
The report also states that Higa's next bout is likely to be in September, whilst Ioka is still planning to defend his WBO Super Flyweight title against Kosei Tanaka.
Earlier today Japanese news websites reported that a deal is close to be signed and sealed for a WBO Super Flyweight title bout between current champion Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14) [井岡一翔] and fellow Japanese fighter Kosei Tanaka (15-0, 9) [田中恒成].
Originally the hope from Tanaka's team had been to have a single bout at Super Flyweight to accommodate the move up from Flyweight. That is something we have seen from him in the past when he's moved up in weight. Today however it was revealed that the plan had changed, with Tanaka's promoter Kiyoshi Hatanaka explaining that it was now going to be impossible for Tanaka to fight twice this year. That scuppered their plans to fight in a tune up as well as the world title bout.
The focus, of course, is the world title contest, so as a result that has taken priority and Hatanaka revealed that the plan is now to challenge for the belt when Tanaka returns.
Originally they actually had a date set for Tanaka's tune up. That was going to be May 17th in Nagoya, a date that has now passed.
A deal is close to be reached between Tanaka's team and that of Ioka, with the only thing yet to be agreed being the when and where. However the "When" is likely to be the very end of the year, with both men having a track record of fighting on December 31st. That would mean both men would be away from the ring for a year, a massive disappointment but something that would give their bout an even bigger "big fight feel".
Tanaka himself has been quoted in the Japanese press as wanting to have an audience for the bout, "Boxing must be seen by fans. I want people to get excited. I'm an audience. I can't do my best by myself,""Boxing must be seen by fans. I want people to get excited. I'm an audience. I can't do my best by myself," and it seems likely that that will be a factor in the when and where for this highly anticipated clash.
Earlier today the annual Japanese boxing awards took place at the Tokyo Dome Hotel.
As previously reported unified Bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16) [井上 尚弥] won the Best fighter award and the Best Fight at event, but was unable to attend due to illness. That however leaves the question "who else won awards?"
The Best Skill award was won by WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14) [井岡一翔], who became the first Japanese male 4-weight champion in the summer, stopping Aston Palicte. He then defended the title at the end of the year against Jeyvier Cintron, putting in a very different type of performance against Puerto Rican challenger.
Like Inoue, Ioka also didn't attend the event.
The special award saw Ryota Murata (16-2, 13) [村田 諒太] pick up the honours, after reclaiming the WBA Middleweight title and then defending it just before Christmas. He explained his next bout isn't yet decided, though reports are suggesting a May or June date is likely. Murata also picked up the KO award for the year.
The Effort award was won by Yuki Nagano (17-3, 13) [永野祐樹], who won the award for what he did in 2019 despite recently losing the Japanese Welterweight title.
The Newcomer award was win by Junto Nakatani (20-0, 15) [中谷 潤人], who is now reportedly set to fight for the WBO Flyweight title in Spring.
As previously mentioned Naoya Inoue won the best fight in a world title fight, for his sensational bout with Nonito Donaire in the WBSS final. As for none-world title bout, that award, unsurprisingly, went to the brilliant war between Yuki Beppu [別府優樹] and Ryota Yada [矢田良太] for the WBO Asia Pacific Welterweight title. For fans who haven't seen that one, we genuinely implore you to give a watch!
There was a double award for female fighter Tenkai Tsunami (27-12-1, 16) [天海 ツナミ] who not only took the women's MVP award, for the second year running, but also the women's fight of the year for her bout with Naoko Fujioka [藤岡 奈穂子].
The excellent player award, which is given to every Japanese fighter who holds a world title at some point during the year, saw Inoue, Ioka and Murata receive the honour along with:
Kosei Tanaka (15-0, 9) [田中恒成]
Kenshiro Teraji (17-0, 10) [寺地 拳四朗]
Ryosuke Iwasa (27-3, 17) [岩佐 亮佑]
Hiroto Kyoguchi (14-0, 9) [京口 紘人].
The trainer award was given to Mr Kato from the Misako gym, who has been responsible for training Kenjiro Teraji.
There was also a number of special awards given out. These went to:
Kohei Kono (33-12-1, 14) [河野 公平]
Ryoichi Taguchi (27-4-2, 12) [田口良一]
Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-7-6, 7) [福原 辰弥]
And Hitoshi Misako
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
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