Earlier today Hideyuki Ohashi held a press conference to announce the April edition of Phoenix Battle, and it's a brilliant one, with an all Japanese world title fight headlining the show, and several notable Japanese prospects taking steps up in class on the under-card.
The main event will see WBO Minimumweight champion Masataka Taniguchi (15-3, 10) [谷口将隆] make his first defense, following his title win late last year. The talented champion will be taking on former foe Kai Ishizawa (10-1, 9) [石澤開] in a much anticipated rematch between the two men.
These two first fought back in September 2019, when Taniguchi recovered from a knockdown to defeat Ishizawa, becoming the mandatory challenger for the Japanese title as a result. Since then Tanuguchi has gone 3-0 (3), winning the Japanese title in 2020 and the WBO title in 2021, living up to the potential many in Japan knew he had. Ishizawa himself bounced back from the loss to Taniguchi, the only loss of his career, by defending the Japanese Youth title, before claiming the Japanese senior title in January. It was clear when Ishizawa won the title title that he would be targeting Taniguchi, and this bout was seemingly an obvious one to make.
At the press conference today the two men involved in the world title fight both spoke confidently, with Ishizawa stating he wanted to "humiliate" Taniguchi here, and that seemed to be more of his focus than actually becoming a world champion.
The chief support bout for the show will see the unbeaten Yoshiki Takei (3-0, 3) [武居由樹] take on JBC ranked Shingo Kawamura (15-8-4, 8) [河村真吾], in a real step up for Takei. Despite this being a step up Takei and his team are confident of not just winning, but doing so in spectacular fashion, with Mr Ohashi giving Takei a target of an opening round win. Despite the hope for a blow out victory, it should be noted this is scheduled as a 10 rounder.
In another support bout we'll see the hard hitting the Jin Sasaki (11-1, 10) [佐々木尽] officially begin his campaign as a Welterweight, as he takes on Japanese based American Marcus Smith (7-1-1, 7) [マーカス・スミス], in what will be Sasaki's first bout since losing to Andy Hiraoka (18-0, 13) [平岡アンディ] last year.
Another supporting bout will see youngster Keisuke Matsumoto (3-0, 3) [松本圭佑] step up to take on Morihisa Iju (11-5, 9) [伊集盛尚], in a scheduled 8 rounder. Notably this bout was schediled for February 28th, but has now been rescheduled to April 22nd.
Earlier today Hideyuki Ohashi helped a press conference and announced his next big show, which we now know will be a world title double header and December 14th at the Ryogoku Kokugikan. He confirmed one bout which had been widely reported over the last couple and gave us a bonus, with a second world title bout being confirmed.
The bout we knew about was the clash between WBA and IBF Bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue (21-0, 18) [井上 尚弥] and Thai fighter Aran Dipaen (12-2, 11) [แก่นนคร ศักดิ์กรีรินทร์], which was first reported by Komthai 2 weeks ago. The bout is certainly not a special bout, and should be a contest that Inoue wins without any real problems, but it's nice to see him being active, being back in the ring for a second fight this year and ticking over. It's also good to see him back in a Japanese ring for the first time since November 2019, when he beat Nonito Donaire in the WBSS Bantamweight final.
At the press conference Ohashi stated that he had hoped to get Inoue a unification bout with either John Riel Casimero or Nonito Donaire for this December bout, but was thwarted by their mandatory obligations. He also suggested that that they had tried to secure bouts with Rau'shee Warren, Gary Antonio Russell and Nikolai Potapov, but those had failed to materialise, and had essentially taken Dipaen as the best ranked contender who was available and willing to face Inoue. Whilst this will be Inoue's first bout in Japan for more than two years, it will also see him returning to the Ryogoku Kokugikan for the first time in around 8 years, with the venue being the one where he claimed the OPBF Light Flyweight title in 2013 with a win over Jerson Mancio.
It should be noted that Inoue and Ohashi have both previously suggested he will be getting a "big bout" in April 2022 in Japan.
The other world title bout will be a WBO Minimumweight title bout between defending champion Wilfredo Mendez (16-1, 6) and his mandatory challenger Masataka Taniguchi (14-3, 9) [谷口将隆]. The two men were meant to have purse bids on October 27th, but they were cancelled at the 11th hour as the teams had agreed a deal, a deal that will see them being on this card.
For Mendez the bout will be his third defense, and his first bout of any kind since beating Gabruel Mendoza back in February 2020. As for Taniguchi he's been in form and will be hoping to make the most of his second world title shot. Of the two men Mendez is probably the better pure boxer, and is quick, slippery fighter, but fighting in Japan for the first time, with the crowd against him and a long lay off, he will really be up against it here.
Also set for this card Yoshiki Takei (2-0, 2) [武居由樹], Keisuke Matsumoto (3-0, 3) [松本圭佑] and Toshiya Ishii (4-1, 3) [石井渡士也].
Earlier today the East Japan Boxing Association announced their monthly award winners for May, wiith 3 winners being confirmed.
The MVP award, the most notable of the three awards, was won by the now unified OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight champion Satoshi Shimizu (10-1, 9) [清水 聡] following his victory over Musashi Mori (12-1, 7) [森 武蔵] on May 21st. The win was, by far, the biggest of his professional career and gave the 2012 Olympic Bronze medal winner a real step in the right direction, towards a world title fight. Although he would be the under-dog against any of the current champions at 126lbs he is a genuine threat due to his freakish dimensions at the weight and the brutal power he has in his left hand.
In regards to the MVP award Shimizu was the clear front runner and a very worthy winner.
The Fight Spirit award was also won by a now unified OPBFand WBO Asia Pacific champion, with Welterweight Ryota Toyoshima (14-2-1, 9) [豊嶋亮太] taking the honours, after his excellent win over Yuki Beppu (21-2-1, 20) [別府優樹] on May 20th. That bout had the potential to be somethign a little bit special, but ended up being fairly one sided, with Toyoshima in control for much of the bout before breaking down Beppu and forcing the "Tyson of Kyushu" to be stopped by the referee in round 10.
The Newcomer award was won by Keisuke Matsumoto (3-0, 3) [松本 圭佑], following his destructive performance against Hiromu Murota (6-5-2, 4) [室田 拡夢], on the same card as Shimizu's botu with Mori. On paper this was a step up for Matsumoto, but he looked better than he had in his first two bouts and actually seemed to be looking like a more confident, accomplished and polished professional. The youngster, who had had questions following his first two bouts, really did look tremendous here and is certainly a new comer to keep an eye on long term.
(Image credit - Boxingnews.jp)
Earlier today fight fans at Korakuen Hall had the latest show in the Phoenix Battle series of shows, which will be aired this coming weekend on Fuji TV. The card featured an OPBF Bantamweight title bout, between Kai Chiba and Kazuki Nakajima as well as a regional unification bout at Featherweight between Musashi Mori and Satoshi Shimizu.
For those wanting to watch this, as live, when it's finally aired, we have included this spoiler warning introduction. Please note that spoilers will begin in the paragraph after the next one. We will include the full undercard results for this show as well as the two main bouts.
The show kicked off with a 6 round bout in the Super Featherweight division which saw the unbeaten Shun Sekine (5-0-1, 3) [関根 駿] battle against Atsuyuki Sato (5-3-2, 3) [佐藤 諄幸] in what was a very hotly contested match up, though that was to be expected given they fought to a draw last November. From the opening round this was a hard one to call, with fantastic back and forth, and every time one man got the advantage the other came back strongly, and turned the tidein what was a genuinely brilliant way to open the show. After 6 rounds the judges were required and they narrowly gave the bout to Sekine, with the unbeaten Sekine taking a majority decision over his foe, with scores of 57-57, 58-57 and 58-56.
The second bout on the show saw JBC ranked Lightweights clash, as the unbeaten Katsuya Yasuda (8-0, 5) [保田 克也] faced off with Tomoki Takada (8-6-2, 5) [高田 朋城]. On paper this looked liek a mismatch, but interestingly Takada had come into the bout higher ranked by the JBC amd Yasuda was regarded as the man stepping up in class, and getting his first real chance to prove himself. And boy did he ever prove what he could do. From the opening round Yasuda looked relaxed, took his time to get a read on Takada and then went to work from round 2, out landing his foe. Takada was put on the back foot, and looked like he was getting the worse of things, though he did land a good counter in round 4. Despite Takada having some success with counters he was left cut later in that round with a straight left hand. That cut caused the bout to be stopped just a round later, following a doctor's inspection. Due to the cut Yasuda got the 5th round TKO at an official time of 2:12.
The third bout on the show saw talented youngster Keisuke Matsumoto (3-0, 3) [松本 圭佑] put in a career best showing, as he destroyed Hiromu Murota (6-5-2, 4) [室田 拡夢] in just 128 seconds. The highly promising Matsumoto had looked shaky in his first two bouts, but looked in control here from the off with sharp 1-2's and some cracking body work. Murota fought back but a 1-2 from Matsumoto dropped his man. To his credit Murota got back to his feet but was dropped again from a hard counter right hand. After the bout he spoke about being happy with his performance, after a bad aftertaste from his first two bouts.
The first of two title bouts on the show saw a new OPBF Bantamweight champion being crowned as Kazuki Nakajima (10-0-1, 8) [中嶋一輝] out pointed Kai Chiba (13-2, 8) [千葉開] over 12 rounds, in a surprisingly dull fight.
Nakajima settled quicker, getting his powerful left hand into play early on. Chiba on the other hand used his footwork, to try and create some space, but struggled to get his own offense off, and looked negative whilst Nakajiam seemed to be the one force the action. What little there was. After 4 rounds the open scoring was announced, with two judges having Nakajima up 40-36 and the third having the bout 39-37.
Knowing he was behind Chiba began to let his hands go more in the middle rounds, in an attempt to swing things his way. Sadly though Nakajima's work increased as Chiba threw more and Chiba's attempt to turn the bout around was essentially sniffed out by the taller, heavier handed Nakajima, who's 1-2 and right hook were telling punches. The attempted fight back from Chiba didn't really close the scores down when they were announced after 8 rounds, with scores of 79-73, twice, and 77-75 all in favour of Nakajima.
Knowing the bout was pretty much in the bag Nakajima began to play safe in the finals stages, whilst Chiba became more aggressive, giving his all in rounds 9, 10 and 11, before Nakajima regained his composure and and took the final round. After 12 rounds the bout was a clear Nakajima win, with scores of 1119-109, 117-111 and 116-112.
The second title bout saw the heavy handed Satoshi Shimizu (10-1, 9) [清水 聡] unify his OPBF Featherweight title with the WBO Asia Pacific title, as he defeated Musashi Mori (12-1, 7) [森 武蔵] and took his first decision victory since turning professional.
Morie started well, getting his jab going, but Shimizu was equal to it, and and as the early stages got going the men regularly exchanged punches up close, in some thrilling moments of action. right through the first third of the fight this was high tempo, and high tension, with Shimizu's power always giving a sense that anything could happen. After 4 rounds the judges were all over the place, with scores of 39-37, each way, and 38-38.
Mori started to go inside and attack the tall body of Shimizu in round 5 but Shimizu was equal to it, responding with his own body shot, as the phone booth war continued. By round 7 however it seemed Shimizu's power was starting to take a toll on Mori and in round 8 Mori was starting to bleed from the nose. After 8 rounds Shimizu was starting to establish himself on the scorecards, leading 78-74, twice, and 77-75, giving him the edge as we went into the final rounds.
It was then that the pace started to slow, as Shimizu started to use his jab, yes he does actually have one!, and conttrolled the range. He was keeping Mori at range, and kept the bout long, which really did neeutralise Mori and his inside work. As a result of this control Shimizu ended up taking a clear decision, with scores of 118-110, twice, and 116-112 to unify the regional titles and move towards a potential world title fight. As for Mori this is a major set back, but at just 21 years old he really does have time on his side to rebuild and come again.
On May 13th we'll see a brilliant unification bout at Featherweight, as WBO Asia Pacific champion Musashi Mori (12-0, 7) [森 武蔵] takes on OPBF champion Satoshi Shimizu (9-1, 9) [清水 聡]. The bout is one of the best all-Japanese bouts we could get this year, and it's fair to say that Japanese national champion Hinata Maruta (11-1-1, 9) [丸田陽七太] will be waiting in the wings for the winner, in a potential triple title unification bout.
Whilst that is a great match up there wasn't really any details regarding the under-card. That was until today, when the under-card was officially announced, with 3 bouts being confirmed for the show, along with the main event.
The opening bout for the show will see the unbeaten Shun Sekine (4-0-1, 3) [関根 駿] clash with Atsuyuki Sato (5-2-2, 3) [佐藤諄幸], in what will be the second meeting between the two men. These two fought to a 6 round draw last November, and will be hoping to avoid the same result here, in another scheduled 6 rounders.
The second bout on the show is a very interesting one between Katsuya Yasuda (7-0, 4) [保田 克也] and Tomoki Takada (8-5-2, 5) [高田朋城], who are scheduled for 8 rounds. These wo men both enter the bout with JBC rankings, with Takadda being ranked #8 and Yasuda #18, and the winner will take huge strides towards getting a Japanese title fight. Of the two men Yasuda is the more classically skilled, with smart defense and a good amateur pedigree, however Takada bring a lot of pressure, has solid power and enters on the back of some good form and 2 opening round blow outs.
The chief support bout will see Keisuke Matsumoto (2-0, 2) [松本圭佑] compete in his first 8 round bout as he battles Hiromu Murota (6-4-3, 4) [室田拡夢]. On paper this looks like a straight forward win for the unbeaten prospect but Murota is no push over, he's unbeaten in his last 5 and fought to a draw recently with former Japanese national champion Seiichi Okada. He'll be in the ring looking to upset the youngster, and should serve as a genuine test for the talented, though still somewhat raw, Matsumoto.
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