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 Hall fight fans will get the chance to see Keisuke Matsumoto (1-0, 1) [松本圭佑] compete in his second professional bout, as he takes on 34 year old domestic foe Bejita Ishikawa (3-12-2, 1) [石川一彦].
The bout, fought at a contracted 58KG, which is 127.8lbs, saw the two men weigh in earlier today and both men made the weight limit with no issues at all.
On the scales the dark haired Matsumoto made the contracted limit by weighing bang on the 58KG contract. Ishikawa however was well under the allowed weight, coming in at 127lbs.
Matsumoto, a highly touted prospect, is a third generation fighter who has been creating a buzz since he was a teenager fighting in the under 15's in Japan. On debut he was dropped, but stormed back to stop Hironori Miyake back in August. A win here could end up seeing him move to 8 rounders very soon.
Ishikawa on the other hand is a popular and unique fighter who is well known for dressing in cosplay of Vegeta from Dragonball Z in his ring entrances/ Sadly for him he has been piling up losses in recent years, though has often been fighting at Lightweight or Light Welterweight.
The bout, a 6 rounder, will be held on the under-card of the OPBF Bantamweight bout, between defending champion Keita Kurihara (15-5, 13) [栗原慶太] and once beaten challenger Takuma Inoue (13-1, 3) [井上拓真].
(Photo 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 hopeful Keisuke Matsumoto (1-0, 1) [松本圭佑] announced the details of his second professional bout.
The talented, third generation fighter, confirmed his next fight would be taking place on January 14th at Korakuen Hall. That was pretty much the only thing we already knew, as Hideyuki Ohashi had previously confirmed the date and venue of the show. But Matsumoto then went on to add more details.
The bout will be at a contracted 58KG, which is 127.8lbs, and he will be up against 34 year old domestic foe Bejita Ishikawa (3-12-2, 1) [石川一彦]. That's a man best known as being a cosplayer boxer, who often comes to the ring dressed as a character from Dragon Ball Z.
On paper Ishikawa isn't likely to pose much of a threat to Matsumoto, especially given his recent form which has included 4 straight losses by stoppage and 6 losses in 7 bouts, but we suspect the hope is that Matsumoto gets some rounds, get to show some of the things he's been working on in the gym and gets to show that he's polished his skills a little bit since his debut.
Given he's only 21 it's hard to criticise Matsumoto for having a few easy bouts, and a fight like this, designed to keep him busy and help him develop, is certainly not a bad thing at this early stage in his career.
Interestingly the bout is scheduled for the under-card of the OPBF Bantamweight title bout, between defending champion Keita Kurihara (15-5, 13) [栗原慶太] and former WBC "interim" champion Takuma Inoue (13-1, 3) [井上拓真], which is a bout are very much looking forward to.
At the end of the month WBA "Super" and IBF Bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16) [井上 尚弥] will be stood in a ring, in Nevada defending his titles against Australian challenger Jason Moloney (21-1, 18). What few are perhaps aware of is that he's still, currently, in Japan.
Earlier today Inoue took part in his last sparring session at the Ohashi Gym, as he sparred with youngster Keisuke Matsumoto (1-0, 1) [松本圭佑].
Following the session Inoue sent a message to the media through promoter Hideyuki Ohashi explaining:
"I was able to finish the final sparring with convincing results. This time it is an unknown world with no spectators in Las Vegas, but I am very excited" [Translated]
Inoue's father, and trainer, Shingo Inoue also commented to the media stating:
""I've been practicing the best. The content is perfect with attack power, defense, speed of entry and exit. Just enter Las Vegas to adjust weight and relieve fatigue. The sparring was also good," [Translated]
Inoue and team will leave Japan tomorrow, and will head straight to quarantine in the US ahead of the Moloney bout. He will be accompanied by his brother, Takuma Inoue (13-1, 3) [井上拓真], who will be there for last minute in Las Vegas, and by cousin Koki Inoue [浩樹井上], who will reportedly be in the US for companionship.
For those wondering, Inoue has had a PCR test, and it has come back negative.
(Image below courtesy of Ohashi Gym)
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