Earlier today the East Japan Professional Boxing Assocation announced the monthly award winners for the month of April, announcing winners of the 3 usual awards, the MVP, the Fighting Spirit and the New Comer.
The MVP for the month is Japanese Welterweight champion Keita Obara (24-4-1, 21) [小原 佳太], who retained his title with a narrow decision win over Shoki Sakai (25-12-2, 12) [坂井 祥記] back on April 8th. The bout was a hotly competitive one, with Sakai pressing Obara through out, but the champion showed his class to take home the win and record his first defense of the title, which he won in 2020.
The Fighting Spirit award was won by another Japanese champion, this time Light Middleweight champion Hironobu Matsunaga (18-1, 11) [松永 宏信], who recorded his third defense on April 21st when he over-came Rei Nakajima (4-1) [中島玲]. The aggressive and exciting Matsunaga had to work hard for this win, but was the deserving victor and it's clear.
The Newcomer award was won by rising Super Flyweight Ryusei Kawaura (9-0, 6) [川浦 龍生], who stopped Joe Tanooka (15-8-5, 1) [田之岡 条] on April 14th in a big step up in class. The win seems to put Kawaura right in the mix for a title fight, and it's obvious he and his team are eying up a potential bout with Ryuji Fukunaga, the triple crown champion.
Earlier today fight fans at Korakuen Hall had the latest show in the Misako promoted series of Diamond Glove shows, which will be aired this coming weekend on Fuji TV. The card featured several bouts of note, including a Japanese Welterweight title bout, between Keita Obara and Shoki Sakai as well as the Japanese debut of Go Hosaka.
For those wanting to watch this, as live, over the weekend we please note that spoilers will begin in the next paragraph, starting with the the first under-card bout, which is unlikely to be televised at all, and then moving on through the other bouts on the show. If you wish to avoid those spoilers, please stop reading now.
The show began with a 4 rounder between Koki Nakagawa (1-1-1, 1) [中川 光輝] and Seitaro Suzuki (0-1) [鈴木 誠太郎], which Nakagawa won by TKO in the 4th round. As with many 4 rounders in Japan this was well matched, fought at a great pace and was brutal, with both men taking some solid shots as they beat the fight out of each other. With just over a minute of the bout left the referee jumped in saving a damaged Suzuki from any more punishment. Whilst Western shows often kick off the events with a squash match for the local star, Japan has a knack of throwing us a fun, fan friendly war to kick things off, and this was certainly the case here.
The second bout saw something of a surprise as Yasutaka Fujita (7-1, 6) [藤田 裕崇] went the distance for the first time in his career, albeit in a winning effort as he out pointed Shun Akaiwa (5-3-1, 3) [赤岩 俊]. The exciting and explosive Fujita had made his name in 2019, reaching the All Japan Rookie of the Year final, before moving over to the Misako gym in 2020. This was just his second bout since moving gyms and he showed some genuine improvement, he picked his shots well, certainly calmed down from being the hyper aggressive fighter he once was, and even switched stances later in the bout. After 6 rounds Fujita won a clear 6 round decision and this is exactly the performance he and his team would have wanted to prove he could pace a high action bout, and could his brain as well as his brawn.
In the main support bout was saw unbeaten 24 year old Go Hosaka (5-0, 3) make his Japanese debut, having previously been fighting in the Philippines. He was given a genuine test here by Kanta Fukui (7-4-1, 5), who came into the ring as a big under-dog but came to win. From the off these two boxed at a nice range, and fought a pretty technical bout to begin with. As the bout went on Fukui made it clear he wasn't here to roll over to the talented former amateur stand out. From round 4 Fukui began to press the action more intently, using his jab really well to probe, and keep Hosaka on his toes. He then stepped up his game in rounds 5 and 6 as he really gave Hosaka problems.
Thankfully for Hosaka he still had something in the tank and pressured with more vigour in the final 2 rounds, doing just enough to secure a split decision. Judges scored this 78-74 and 77-75, in Hosaka's favour, and 77-75 to Fukui, who really gave a very good effort.
Despite the win Hosaka wasn't a happy chappy, and stated "Honestly, it was a terrible match. I regret it. There are many challenges. My goal is to remake boxing from scratch so that I can win the Japanese title."
In the main event Japanese Welterweight champion Keita Obara (24-4-1, 21) [小原 佳太] narrowly retained his title with a close win over Shoki Sakai (25-12-2, 12) [坂井 祥記]. Coming in there was a feelign this could be something a bit special, and proved to be just that.
Early on Obara tried to make an impression behind his solid jab, but Sakai used a tight guard to try and neutralise the jab whilst walking forward, pressuring Obara and trying to get up close, where he could work the body of the champion. Obara tried to turn up the tempo in round 2 but Sakai went with him, increasing his own tempo in round 3, landing some of his best shots. It really was a back and forth fight through the first 5 rounds as the two men tried to force their style on the bout, and tried to dictate the distance of the bout, with Obara wanting it at mid to long range and Sakai desperate to get inside.
After 5 rounds the judges all had this 48-47, with two favouring Obara and the other having Sakai in the lead.
Sakai's style seemed likely to have more success the longer the bout went, with his pressure expected to grind down Obara and his gas tank. It seemed that was the case in round 6 as he had some real success, however Obara wasn't there to hand over his title and he showed his class in round 8, whilst also avoiding Sakai's taunts to come and have a fight. The class of Obara continued to be the difference maker in the final rounds, as he used his reach and range to land body shots and not get involved in the wrong type of fight.
After 10 rounds we went to the judges and all 3 judges had this to Obara 96-94.
After the bout Obara stated "I'm relieved to win. I have a lot of KOs to win, so I tried to do that, but Sakai got along well and got the pace. Unfortunately, I have no choice but to expect the next KO. I've been in the best condition these days. My power and Sakai's power were in competition."
Tomorrow at Korakuen Hall we'll see Japanese Welterweight champion Keita Obara (23-4-1, 21) [小原 佳太] defending his title against Shoki Sakai (25-11-2, 12) [坂井 祥記], in what promises to be an exciting and explosive clash.
Today the two men took part in their weigh in for that bout, and both men made weight with no issues at all.
On the scales the defending champion was well under the limit, weighing in at 146.2lbs, comfortable under the divisional limit. He explained "I usually start losing weight a month and a half before a bout, but since it was my first match in over a year, I started to restrain myself from two months ago. The pace was faster than usual (weight loss). I was able to adjust while eating a little (during the period). It's worth noting that, as he said, this is his first bout in over a year, with his last bout coming in February 2020, when he beat Yuki Nagano for the title. Notably this isn't just his first bout in over a year, but also his first defense of the title. Aged 34 a loss for him would be very, very hard to come back from here, though he will clearly enter as the favourite.
Sakai also weighed in around 146.2lbs for the bout, and seemed full of confidence, explaining that he had gotten a shot at the Japanese title quicker than he had expected, whilst also facing the best in Japan. In terms of his game plan it seems to focus is on dragging Obara into a fire fight and trying to make Obara fight his fight. If he can do that then we could be in for a genuine treat.
For fans not able to get to Korakuen Hall for this match up, it will be aired on TV over the weekend, with Fuji TV airing the bout on tape delay.
Relate - Obara faces Sakai in first Japanese title defense!
(Image credit - Misako Gym)
Earlier today Misako announced the details of a show set for April 8th under the Diamond Glove banner, and although 3 bouts have been announced all 3 of those bouts are very interesting ones worthy attention.
The main event of the show will see Japanese Welterweight champion Keita Obara (23-4-1, 21) [小原 佳太] making his first defense of the title, which he won last year when he stopped Yuki Nagano. In the opposite corner to the former world title challenger will be "reimported boxer" Shoki Sakai (25-11-2, 12) [坂井 祥記], who will be fighting in Japan for the third time.
Of the two men Obara is the more well known. He's a former Japanese and OPBF champion at 140lbs, where he also challenged for the IBF world title, who also made his name on the regional scene at Welterweight, where he has won the WBO Asia Pacific and Japanese titles. At the age of 34 however there is a feeling his best years are behind him, and he was easily out-pointed in 2019 by Uzbek fighter Kudratillo Abdukakhorov in an IBF world title eliminator. Despite that loss he has bounced back with 3 wins, all by stoppage, including his TKO win over Nagano for the title in February 2020.
Sakai on the other hand has fought much of his career in Mexico and the US, before making his Japanese debut last August, with a win over Hironori Shigeta, and ended the year with a win over Takeru Kobata, in December. For him this will be his first bout for a Japanese national title, though he has previously fought for a variety of titles, and even won the WBC Youth title at 140lbs. Despite his record having double figure losses on it he has never been stopped and has shared the ring with some very names, including Gor Yeritsyan, Alexis Rocha and Eddie Gomez. His toughness should see him testing Obara, in what could be a very interesting match up.
In the chief support bout we'll see the Japanese debut of Go Hosaka (4-0, 3) [保坂 剛], who has fought his entire professional career in the Philippines. The talented 24 year old Hosaka will be up against Kanta Fukui (7-3-1, 5) [福井 貫太] in an 8 round bout.
Hosaka is one of those fighters who hasn't had the attention he deserves. He was with ALA Gym until it closed, and sadly was one of the fighters who ALA let down in some ways, despite the clear potential and talent he had. Before turning professional he had amassed a 50-13 amateur record and was viewed as someone to keep an eye on, but was out of the ring for the entire of 2020. Since ALA closed he has signed with the well established Misako Gym in Japan and this will be his first bout as a Misako Gym fighter. As for Fukui this will be his first bout since beating Mikado Konishi last August, and Fukui should serve as a solid test for Hosaka here.
The third bout announced for this show will see 2019 All Japan Rookie of the Year runner up Yasutaka Fujita (6-1, 6) [藤田裕崇] take on Shun Akaiwa (5-2-1, 3) [赤岩 俊] in what should be an explosive encounter. Although Fujita isn't the most polished fighter he is a destructive and exciting force, and a must watch fighter, who throws bomb after bomb after bomb. Akaiwa on the other hand will be looking to bounce back from a 45 second blow out to Jin Sasaki. With that loss for Akaiwa in mind and the exciting style of Fujita this might be a "blink and you miss it" bout.
Earlier today the East Japan Boxing Association announced their award winners for the month of February, and there was 3 award winners this month.
The MVP for the month was Keita Obara (23-4-1, 21) [小原 佳太], who claimed the Japanese Welterweight title early in the month when he stopped Yuki Nagano (17-3, 13) [永野祐樹] to become a 2-weight champion, and to kick off the 2020 Champion Carnival.
The Fighting Spirit award was won by Riku Nagahama (12-2-1, 4) [長濱 陸], the newly crowned OPBF Welterweight champion. Nagahama, who incidentally fought the last bout to be staged in Japan, won the title by out pointing the previously unbeaten Kudura Kaneko (11-1, 8) [クドゥラ 金子] towards the end of the month.
The Newcomer award was won by Nath Nwachukwu (6-0-2, 3) [ワチュク・ナァツ], who took an impressive victory over Junpei Tsujimoto (6-2-3, 4) [辻本 純兵] on the same show as Obara's win.
The three men will get the chance to take part in an award ceremony that has yet to have a confirmed date, due to the coronavirus.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
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