Earlier today we got the first televised Japanese sow of the year, thanks to promotional outfit Kadoebi and satellite TV channel G+. The show was earlier than we usually get for G+ cards due to the ongoing state of emergency through parts of Kanto, but still felt somewhat special, and something to look forward to in a year where boxing really has stuttered, and struggled to get going globally.
The show kicked off with an all debutant bout over 4 rounds with Yudai Murakami (1-0) [村上 雄大] facing off with Naoki Shimizu (0-1) [清水 直樹] in front of a very sparse crowd at the iconic Korakuen Hall.
On paper this looked good but sadly, for the first televised bout of the year in Japan, the contest struggled to get going. Part of that was due to the fact Murakami was a southpaw and Shimizu wasn't, causing the two men to tangle up and clash heads several times in the opening round, with inexperience exacerbating the problems. Despite that the bout did begin to tidy up in round 2, with Murakami having success at range and countering Shimizu well. Shimizu managed to get a toe hold in the bout in round 3, but Murakami managed to turn the screw in round 4 and out worked his man in a very messy round that left him cut around the right eye. After 4 rounds we went to the judges, who all scored the bout 39-37 to Murakami.
The second bout on the show saw Yugo Kon (0-1) [今 優吾] kick off his professional career with a tough loss as he was stopped by Koji Tsurumi (5-3-1, 2) [鶴海 高士] in a 6 round bout at a contracted 54.5KG's, which is just over 120lbs.
Unlike the first bout this was really engaging with Kon boxing well behind his jab early on before Tsurumi's pressure began to build and we ended up getting a really solid fight, with Kon's boxing skills going up against Tsurumi's fighting will. By round 5 the action was starting to get genuinely intense, with Kon trying to take his man out with some huge right hands and Tsurumi trying to break his foe with pressure, forcing him on to the ropes several times. To his credit Tsurumi proved to be tough, and kept coming, even when it was clear he was tiring and it was that toughness that proved vital in round 6. It was in round 6 that a tired Kon began to trade with Tsurumi. A combination up top from Tsurumi wobbled Kon and with Kon's defenses falling apart the referee jumped in to save the debutant with just 50 seconds left.
We'll admit on first viewing the stoppage seemed a bit hasty, but on replay it was certainly not among the worst stoppages we've seen. Perhaps a touch early, but no real complaints from us, though we suspect Kon will feel somewhat aggrieved he wasn't given a few more seconds to try and ride out the storm. On the other hand this was a great example of a fighter not giving up until the final bell and the tenacity of Tsurmi was a key to his victory.
The third bout on the show was the event’s only 8 rounder and saw Chikato Sumida (9-3-1, 1) [住田 愛斗] and Ken Achiwa (12-15-6, 4) [阿知和 賢] clash in a battle of top 20 ranked Japanese Super Flyweights. On paper this looked like a bit of a mismatch, but in reality Achiwa is far better than his record indicates, and is a grizzled veteran as he showed again here.
The fight wasn’t the best to watch but was an engaging one, as Sumida looked to come out of the blocks quickly, and had success in round 2 with body shots. As the rounds went on however Achiwa did well to take the sting out of a lot of Sumida’s work, and by round 4 the experience and ring craft of Achiwa was showing itself as he landed counters, and boxed smartly against Sumida. Head clashes, in rounds 5 and 6, left Sumida in agony and by round 7 Sumida looked like a desperate and exhausted fighter whilst Achiwa was landing clean shots and still had snap in his punches. That exhaustion showed again in round 8, but Sumida did his best to hold and spoil through the round.
After 8 rounds the bout seemed a nightmare to score, with both men having some clear rounds, and others being a complete toss up. That was shown on the scorecards with scores of 77-75 to Sumida, 77-75 to Achiwa and 76-76, giving us a draw.
Following the draw we saw the anticipated debut of Jun Ikegawa (1-0) [池側 純], who turned professional after going 51-15 in the amateur ranks. He was up against Kakeru Yoshikawa (4-2-2) [吉川 翔].
Sadly whilst it was clear Ikegawa was a very talented fighter, this bout was not one that will live in the memory. Ikegawa looked like an excellent counter puncher, but someone who needs to learn to adapt a more offensive style in the professional ranks. Unfortunately Yoshikawa gave very, very few countering opportunities to Ikegawa, in one of the tamest efforts we’ve ever seen from a Japanese fighter. Much of this bout was spent with the two men fencing with their lead hands, and very, very little drama. Ikegawa won pretty much by default, as Yoshikawa did so little. In fact it seemed like Yoshikawa’s only gameplan for 5 rounds was to box with a much, much better boxer.
Thankfully Yoshikawa did show some ambition, but it wasn’t until round 6, and that ambition seemed to be focused on not being shut out on the scorecards, rather than actively trying to win. Sadly for Yoshikawa the judges didn’t make much of his late effort and still scored this a shut out for Ikegawa.
In the penultimate bout of the show we saw Jukiya Iimura (1-0, 1) [飯村 樹輝弥], who went 68-13 in the amateurs, make his debut against the 35 year old Daisuke Yamada (6-6, 1) [山田大輔].
Yamada looked to begin with a high energy style which was a stark difference to what we had seen from Yoshikawa just moments earlier. Iimura on the other hand looked like a solid professional, with a pressure style, a tight guard and very nice composure. Around the mid-way point of the round Iimura landed a gorgeous right hand that put his man down, the first knockdown of the show. Yamada beat the count, but was down again soon afterwards from another short right hand counter. He tried to beat the count, and got to his feet, but had no idea where he was and the referee quickly waved off the contest before Yamada was back on the canvas, and later stretchered out of the ring.
Compared to all the other debutants on this show Iimura stood out like a sore thumb. He looked like a special talent. Not just a good boxer, but a genuine special talent.
The main event of the card saw Riku Nagahama (12-3-1, 4) [長濱 陸] lose a decision as he attempted to make his first defense of the OPBF Welterweight title, taking on the hard hitting Ryota Toyoshima (13-2-1, 8) [豊嶋亮太].
From the off Toyoshima looked to set the tempo and make a statement, landing heavy shots early on, and establishing his tempo, range and style on the fight. Nagahama seemed to start very slowly and struggled to get Toyoshima’s respect through the first few rounds, despite having some flurries of success, particularly with his right hand. The solid jab of Nagahama’s, one of his best weapons, regularly went under-utilised and by the time he started using it regularly it seemed that he was already in a hole, especially given the body shots he was being forced to take.
Somehow though the judges were less harsh than we were and after 4 rounds the scores were 39-37, 38-38 and 37-39, leading to a draw at that point on the cards. We sided with the judge who had it 39-37 to Toyoshima.
It seemed like those cards offended Toyoshima who really upped the tempo in rounds 6 and 7 as he began to give Nagahama a battering, dropping the defending champion in round 7 with a monstrous right hand, and pinning him against the ropes for large portions of the round. It seemed, going into round 8, that Toyoshima was on the verge of a stoppage, but Nagahama gritted it out through the round, showing his toughness and will to win.
After 8 rounds the open scoring now all favoured Toyoshima, with scores of 77-74 and two scores of 78-73, the same as how we had it, having given Nagahama rounds 3 and 5.
In round 9 Nagahama was taking punishment before landing his most telling shot of the fight, a nasty low blow. The shot saw Nagahama getting a breather and Toyoshima losing some of his momentum and composure, and he seemed too eager to continue fighting. When the fight resumed Toyoshima had Nagahama in trouble, before taking some solid blows himself as Nagahama tried to fight fire with fire, giving us a brilliant final 20 seconds or so to the round.
By round 10 both men began to look tired, and the tempo began to ease off. That favoured Nagahama who began to land plenty of body shots on Toyoshima, who responded with shots up top. Round 11 saw the pace further slow down, though Toyoshima’s power and work rate was continuing to carry the fight his way. Given the slowdown in the previous two rounds we expected round 12 to be a rather tired round from both mne, but instead Toyoshima fought like a man who didn’t just want to win, but wanted to stop his man, and fought at a frightening pace, as Nagahama took a beating once again. In the final minute it seemed certain that Nagahama was going to hit the canvas again, if not be stopped standing, but he somehow did enough to see out the round, and hear the final bell.
As we went to the scorecards it was clear there was only one man who could have won, and that was Toyoshima, who was declared the winner with scores of 117-110, 116-111 and 115-112.
On this performance Toyoshima is perhaps not going to have a particularly long reign, but it will be a fun one. As for Nagahama we can’t help but feel he got his tactics very wrong and allowed Toyoshima to control the tempo far too easily. Despite that the former champion did show incredible heart and determination late, and it was a testament to his will for him to see out the 12 rounds.
Back in May we saw Suguru Muranaka (26-3-1, 8) [村中 優] challenge WBA Super Flyweight champion Khalid Yafai, and despiute losing to the Englishman Muranaka impressed, with his toughness, energy and will to win seeing him earn the praises of many in the UK.
Today Muranaka returned to the ring for the first time sinc ethat loss, and took on former foe Ken Achiwa (11-13-5, 4) [阿知和賢] in what was a thrilling, hard hitting and thoroughly competitive bout.
Achiwa got off to a good start, but was dropped late in the opening round. From then however there was very little between the two men, who seemed to pretty much trade rounds in a thrilling contest that had brilliant back and forth action. The action saw Muranaka suffer a nasty cut over his left eye but refuse to back off and the fight really went down to the wire.
In the end the deciding factor was only the knockdown, with Muranaka taking the bout 76-75 on all 3 card, with all 3 giving him the opening stanza 10-8. With no knockdown the bout would likly have been a draw.
In some ways the bout leaves some questions about how good Muranaka really is, but the reality is that Achiwa is better than huis record suggests, and it showed here, as he really gritted his teeth and had an all out war with the always entertaining Muranaka,
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
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