It feels like it's been weeks since we had stuff to be legitimately excited about, but today Teiken have out done themselves, announce the signing of 4 top Japanese amateurs who have announced they will be turning professional will the very well established Tokyo outfit.
The four men are Kenji Fujita [藤田健児], Subaru Murata [村田昴], Junya Shimada [嶋田淳也] and Kota Kaneko [金子虎旦]. Whilst some of those names will be familiar to fans of international amateur boxing others might not be, so in a minute we'll take a quick look at all 4 men, though what is clear by the signings is that Teiken are strengthening their ranks once again. The gym has taken the cream of the crop from those who failed to make it to the Olympic qualifying events, and with Tokyo 2020 now being delayed a year there's a real chance that these men may find themselves racing through the ranks quickly.
Fujita is probably the more well known of the 4 men. He is currently 26 years old and ran up a frankly stunning amateur record of 153-21 (40), winning 3 All Japan Championships, an Asian Championships bronze medal, in 2013, and competed at the World Championships. Back in November he announced he was retiring from amateur boxing, after 10 years in the sport, but left it unclear on what he would be doing. His decision to turn professional however wasn't much of a surprise and it was clear promoters would be very interested in luring him over to the paid ranks.
Of course Fujita isn't the only notable name from the new signings and Subaru Murata was also a very highly sought after fighter. Murata, who is now 23, ran up a 68-12 amateur record, took a bronze medal in the 2014 Youth Olympics, won an All Japan title and a National Sports Festival. In a comment on Teiken's website he spoke about wanting to unify the 4 Bantamweights titles and seemed to be intent on making a buzz on his debut. He's not quite the established talent of Fujita, but is going to be someone to keep a very close eye on.
The 22 year old Shimada went 58-23 in the amateurs, coming third in successive National Athletic events as a Lightweight. He appears to be turning professional at Featherweight and is probably the least well known of the 4 men. Despite that he does have international experience, and from what we under-stand he participated at the 2018 World University Championships in Russia. We see him as the dark horse of the group but given his age and extensive amateur experience we wouldn't be surprised by him being moved aggressively over the next few years.
Kaneko, who is also 22, is also turning professional at Featherweight after compiling an excellent 56-13 amateur record. His credentials aren't as impressive as the rest of the group. His results are a bit harder to find though interestingly he dd battle Murata as an amateur in 2018, losing to his new stablemate in the Japanese National Championships and that could lead to a rather fun but friendly rivalry between the two new gym mates.
At the moment it's unclear when the pro-tests for the 4 will take place, but it's obvious that all 4 men should be getting B licenses without any issue. With that said it's also unclear when any of the 4 men will debut but the expectation is that both Fujita and Murata will be fast tracked.
Earlier today at a gym in Akune City, Kagoshima prefecture, we had the All Japan Championship finals. The competition, shown between two NHK channels, had 8 finals and was the next step towards Olympic qualification for the fighters who are looking to book a place at their home games in Tokyo next year.
The first final took place at 49KG's and saw Tsuyoshi Kawatani [川谷剛史] out point Tsubasa Ogawa [小川 翼] in a hotly contested contest between two very promising youngsters. Though out the bout it felt like Kawatani was a touch too sharp for Ogawa, though it was certainly a competitive contest and both youngsters appear to be fighters with very good careers ahead of them.
At 52KG's Ryomei Tanaka [田中亮明] took a razor thin split decision win over Tomoya Tsuboi [坪井智也]. This was so close and competitive that Tsuboi's team appealed the decision, though failed to get it over-turned. This was an ugly fight with both men giving their all to win and their styles really clashing at times. Tsuboi was cut but had a lot of success with his overhand right and his teams appeal was certainly a worth while one. This was messy, it was fun and it was exciting, even if wasn't all clean action. With the win Tanaka, who's brother Kosei Tanaka is a professional world champion, takes a step towards an Olympic place, but the real question is whether or not Tsuboi decides to turn professional or not. If he does he will be a very welcome addition to the pros.
Notably the decision to the above bout was met with mixed reaction by the crowd who seemed unsure who deserved the decision and had it been reversed on appear no one would have been surprised.
At 57 KG's we super talented youngster Hayato Tsutsumi [堤駿斗] take a clear decision over veteran Kenji Fujita [藤田健児], who announced his retirement from amateur boxing after the bout. Tsutsumi is the rising star of Japanese amateur boxing and his win here was a passing of the torch type of event, and it seems clear he will be one of Japan's best hopes for an Olympic medal next year. As for Fujita's future, it's unclear what he will do, but we wouldn't be surprised if he was getting calls this coming week to turn professional after a very long and successful amateur career.
In the the 60KG's bout Shion Nishiyama [西山 潮音] took a clear decision over Taketo Yamahara [山原武人]. Last year at the Japanese National Sports Festival Nishiyama lost in the semi-final at 56KG's and the move up in weight seems to have suited him here, though it will be a hard road to Olympic qualification given the regional talent he'll have to get through in the Asian qualifiers.
At 63KG's it was the all action Daisuke Narimatsu [成松大介] who again shined, as he beat Taiga Imanaga [今永虎雅] in a shut out win, to claim his third successive All Japan Championship. The talented Narimatsu is a name we suspect followers of the amateur scene are familiar with, and he competed at the 2016 Olympics in Rio with a style that looked made to go professional with. With his 30th birthday coming in December we suspect he'll have left it too late to have a successful professional career, no matter what happens at Tokyo 2020, but he will be a genuine "what if" given how pro-ready his style has been over the years.
The 69KG's final saw Seon Okazawa [岡澤セオン] take a 5-0 win over Yasuhiro Suzuki [鈴木康弘], to become a 2-time champion. The now 31 year old Suzuki had gone to the London Olympics in 2012, and is getting on in years, so we wonder whether he'll decides it's time for a short at professional boxing, or maybe just hangs them up. Either way he has been a credit to Japanese amateur boxing and Okazawa's win is a very meaningful one here.
The penultimate bout took place at 75KG's and saw Yuito Moriwaki [森脇唯人] takes a shut out win over Kyohei Hosono [細野恭兵], just as he did last year. This win saw Moriwaki become a triple champion, having won in 2017 and 2018. He'll be another hopeful for a medal at Tokyo 2020, but he's not going to have an easy route to the games.
The heaviest weight competed at was 81KG's, which saw Ren Umemura [梅村錬] take a decision over Ryudai Onikura [鬼倉龍大]. Uemura was the more aggressive fight in what was a well contested bout between two well schooled fighters. In the end the judges went with Uemura, 4:1, and there no objection from Onikura's team who seemed to agree their man was second best in a close fight.
At the moment it's very unclear what Fujita will do now he's retired, but we would be shocked if professional promoters weren't putting out feelers to the talented and experienced fighter, who may have missed out on his Olympic dream but still has so much left to give the sport. If one of them can ink his signature and get him to turn professional he could be put on an incredible fast track and end up winning title before the end of 2020, if the ambition to continue boxing is still there.
Of course from his statement it seems unlikely that Fujita is thinking about turning professional, at least at the moment, but there surely have to be interest from promoters who know what a special talent he is.
Earlier today fans were able to see the 88th All Japan National Championships, with 8 national champions being crowned in what was an incredible show of high level amateur boxing. For fans at the venue the show was brilliant, whilst those watching on TV, courtesy of NHKBS1 got guest analyst work from WBA "Regular" Bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue.
The lowest weight on the show was the Light Flyweight division, which saw Yudai Shigeoka [重岡優大], the older brother of touted professional prospect Ginjiro Shigeoka, take a 5-0 decisions over Daichi Hasebe [長谷部大地]. The bout was a high skilled, fast paced contest that really kicked the show off in an amazing fashion.
The Flyweight bout was another amazing contest, which saw Tosho Kashiwazaki [柏崎刀翔] taking a 4-1 decision over Ryomei Tanaka [田中亮明], the older brother of 3-weight world champion Kosei Tanaka. This was was tightly fought, but Kashiwazaki always looked like the aggressor, and it seems like that extra offensive mentality was the difference between the two men.
At Bantamweight 2014 Youth Olympics bronze medal winner Subaru Murata [村田昴] over-come Keisuke Matsumoto [松本圭佑], the son of former world title challenger Koji Matsumoto. Murata was cut around both eyes but took the decision win, thanks in part to an amazing effort in the final round, where he really put Matsumoto on the back foot to claim a 3-0 win.
The Lightweight bout saw 2016 Olympian Arashi Morisaka [森坂嵐] narrowly over-come Kenji Fujita [藤田健児] in a 3-2 decision. This was a messy bout at time, with the styles not quite gelling as the earlier bouts, but was very competitive and hard to take your eyes off as both men did all they could to try and take the win.
In the Light Welterweight final we saw the highly established Daisuke Narimatsu [成松大介] claim his latest title as he defeated Yuta Akiyama [秋山佑汰]. This was Narimatsu's 8th All Japanese title, and it seems like his intention is to go to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. If boxing is however removed from the Olympics we could imagine promoters scrambling over each other to become his professional promoter.
The Welterweight crown was won by Sewon Okazawa [岡澤セオン], who took a 5-0 decision over Kanjo Taiyo [金城大明], in what was an another entertaining contest with Okazawa making his claim to be pushed towards some notable international competitions, potentially including the Olympics.
At Middleweight Yuito Moriwaki [森脇唯人] continued his great run on the domestic scene, as he defeated Kyohei Hosono [細野恭兵] 5-0. This win saw Moriwaki retain the title he won last year, and claim the MVP award for the show, as he continues to thrive and really make his mark.
The heaviest weight class on the show as the Light Heavyweight division, which saw Takuro Kurita [栗田琢郎] take a 3-2 win over Takahito Nitta [新田隆人] to take the crown.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
Back in July a number of top Japanese amateurs spent a day training with the professionals at the Ioka Gym. That was regarded as a great day of training and sparring for both the amateurs and the professionals and it was hoped that it would lead to similar sessions happening on a regular basis.
Less than a month after the Ioka Gym pro-am session we've managed to see another pro-am training session. This time it wasn't a particular gym training with the amateur but instead it involved WBC Super Featherweight world champion Takashi Miura and OPBF Bantamweight champion Ryosuke Iwasa, both of whom are preparing for bouts later this year.
From the amateur side of things the session involved Olympic bronze medal winner Satoshi Shimizu and promising youngster Kenji Fujita.
The sessions saw Fujita sparring with Iwasa. The two men, pictured above, sparred for 3 rounds with Fujita showing a busy and fast handed attack whilst Iwasa resorted, on the whole, to counters in what was said to have been a very mutually successful spar.
In the other session Shimizu and Miura, pictured right, tried to make the most of their skills. From Miura that involved heavy and intense pressure whilst Shimizu made the most of the notable size advantage peppering Miura with shots from range. The session another that will have helped both men though it did seem to suggest that Miura may struggle with a rangy and fast boxer. Sparring however doesn't really tell us the whole story and it would seem clear in a real fight that Miura would over-come the height issues and close the distance on the naturally lighter Shimizu.
(Images courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
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