Back in late June we saw former 3 weight world champion Kosei Tanaka (17-1, 10) [田中恒成] claim the WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight title, with a stoppage win over Masayoshi Hashizume (19-1-2, 11) [橋詰 将義] at Korakuen Hall. At the time it was expected that Tanaka wouldn't hold the title long, instead using it to focus on pursuing a 4th world title.
Today it was confirmed that Tanaka was indeed not looking to have a long reign with the regional title, vacating it earlier today, to focus on getting a world title fight. At the time of writing he is ranked in the top 10 by 3 of the 4 world title bodies, and will be sniffing around a shot at either the WBO, WBC or IBF titles, with the WBA inexplicably not ranking Tanaka at the time of writing.
Whilst Tanaka's intention of getting a world title fight at 115lbs is obvious, what is less clear is who will be looking to fill the vacancy. At the time of writing Japanese champion Kenta Nakagawa (22-4-1, 12) [中川健太] is the top ranked challenger, with Andrew Moloney (24-2, 16) being ranked #2 and Donnie Nietes (43-2-6, 23) being ranked #3, opening the doors to some very interesting potential bouts to fill the void left by Tanaka's decision.
Champions retain at Korakuen Hall
Yesterday at Korakuen Hall fight fans got the latest show from Misako Gym, and it was an interesting one, that looked great on paper and had a nice mix of action in the ring.
The first bout of note on the show saw Akira Hoshuyama (8-0, 4) [宝珠山晃] continue his rise through the ranks, as he defeated former amateur standout Tomoki Kawasaki (2-3) [川崎智輝] in an 8 rounder. From the off Hoshuyama looked to start fast and get his nose into the lead, Kawasaki tried prevent that from happening but was dropped in the opening round. From there on Hoshuyama seemed to be the busier man, whilst Kawsaki seemed to land the cleaner blows. Unfortunately for Kawasaki it was Hoshuyama was managing to catch the eyes of the judges, with the judges turning in scores of 79-72, twice, and 77-74. The wide seemed too wide here, but it did feel like the right guy won.
The second bout of note was much more dramatic, with Homura Fujita (9-1, 7) [藤田裕崇] stopping Kaiki Yuba (8-2-2, 5) [湯場海樹] in what was an action packed shoot out. Fujita was down twice in the opening round, once from a straight left and once from a right hook, and seemed to barely make it through the round, as he needed to clinch to get to the bell. Fujita was then deducted a point in round 3, before dropping Yuba twice in round 4 to secure his win, in what was a sensational comeback. After the bout Fujita stated that he was now interested in landing a title fight, and if that can't be done he wants to face strong opponents.
The first of two title bouts saw Japanese female Minimumweight champion Nanako Suzuki (7-2, 1) [鈴木なな子] retain her title and secure her first defense as she out-pointed Sarasa Ichimura (4-11-1) [一村更紗] in a surprisingly competitive bout. This was competitive from the off, with Ichimura setting a good tempo early on and dropping Suzuki in the opening round. Suzuki battled back hard, rebounding well, but was caught by counters in the final stages of the bout. Ichimura also ended the bout well, taking the final round, but it wasn't enough, with the champion retaining with scores of 57-56, twice, and 58-55.
The main event saw Japanese Super Flyweight champion Kenta Nakagawa (22-4-1, 12) [中川健太]retain his title with a surprisingly easy win over Hayate Kaji (15-2, 9) [梶颯]. On paper this was an excellent match up, between a talented but fading veteran and a youngster with a point to prove. Sadly however Kaji essentially no showed in the ring as Nakagawa neutralised him with technical skills and good movement, racking up the rounds without Kaji getting any success until it was too late. The judges really found it hard to give Kaji anything, as he fought a timid fight, pressing but never showing the desire needed to turn things around. After 5 rounds Nakagawa was leading 50-45 and 49-46, twice, and by the later stages he had slowed down, going into something of a cruise to the bell, allowing the scores to look more respectable. After 10 rounds the scores were 97-93, twice, and 96-94, all in favour of the champion. For Kaji this is a second loss at title level, and this one will be much harder to bounce back from than his controversial loss to Ryoji Fukunaga late last year.
Back in April we saw Kenta Nakagawa (21-4-1, 12) [中川健太] become a 3-time Japanese Super Flyweight champion, as he beat veteran Hiroyuki Kudaka (28-19-4, 11) [久髙寛之], who retired after the bout ending his long career. Today we learned what was next for Nakagawa, with the news being that he will return to the ring on August 9th to defend his title against Hayate Kaji (15-1, 9) [梶颯], who gets his second shot at a title.
The 36 year old Nakagawa has been a professional since 2004 and early on his career was a bit stop start, with a big break between his 3rd and 4th bouts. Since then however he has had notable success. He first won the Japanese Super Flyweight title in 2016, when he narrowly defeat Hayato Kimura, but his reign lasted just 5 months as he lost the title to Ryuichi Funai in his first defense. He recaptured the title in 2019 when he defeated Takayuki Okumoto and made one successful defense, beating Yuta Matsuo, before losing in 10 rounds to Ryoji Fukunaga in a triple title unification bout. Since that loss he has notched up two wins, including the one over Kudaka.
Aged 24 Kaji is one of the most unlucky fighters in Japan. He was long tipped for success but has struggled to make the mark many expected of him. He debuted in 2015, winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year as a teenager. That seemed to set him up for big things, but it took until 2021 for him to land a big fight, as he got a shot at the 3 titles held by Ryoji Fukunaga in October 2021, losing a very controversial majority decision. Had he won that bout there's a very good chance he would have been offered a world title bout with Kazuto Ioka at the end of 2021, a shot that went to Fukunaga. Sadly he's been inactive since that bout.
The fight between the two men will take place on August 9th at Korakuen Hall as the main event of a Diamond Glove show. The show will be a pretty notable one, with a Japanese female Minimumweight title bout between Nanako Suzuki (6-2, 1) [鈴木なな子] and Sarasa Ichimura (4-10-1) [一村更紗], a mouth watering clash between Homura Fujita (8-1, 6) [藤田裕崇] and Kaiki Yuba (8-1-2, 5) [湯場海樹] and a bout between Akira Hoshuyama (7-0, 4) [宝珠山晃] and Tomoki Kawasaki (2-2) [川崎智輝].
Earlier today fight fans at the EDION Arena Osaka saw a new Japanese Super Flyweight title reign begin as Kenta Nakagawa (21-4-1, 12) [中川健太] became a 3-time champion, with a wide decision win over fellow former champion Hiroyuki Kudaka (28-19-4, 11) [久髙寛之].
From the off Nakagawa showed his ring control by using his straight left to the body to create space, and his right hook when Kudaka got up close. Nakagawa then began to use more of his arsenal in round 2, landing big overhand left hands, and mixing his body attack and head attack well as he settled into his rhythm. Kudaka tried to close the distance, and did have success in round 3, but took shots in return as he struggled with the movement and distance control of Nakagawa, who looked so much more comfortable and busy.
After 5 rounds we had the open scoring, with one judge having Nakagawa with a shut out, and the other two judges finding a round each to give to Kudaka.
Being well down on the scorecards Kudaka knew he had to take more risks in the second half of the fight, sadly for him a right uppercut from Nakagawa in round 6 saw Kudaka hit the canvas for the bouts only knockdown. Nakagawa looked for a finish after Kudaka got back to his feet but couldn't see off his man, who showed his toughness and began to come back strong, having a decent round 8 and 9 as he began to press more and have more success, but was still being out boxed. In round 10 however he pressure finally had sustained success as Nakagawa was put under the most intense pressure of the fight. The effort from Kudaka in the final round was enough for him to take the round, but that was all.
After 10 rounds the judges had the bout scored 98-91, twice, and 99-90 all to Nakagawa.
After the bout Kudaka stated "I had decided to retire if I lost. This will be my last match", announcing his retirement in the process. He admitted he couldn't use his legs like he wanted, and he couldn't close the distance the way he had hoped, with Nakagawa's right uppercut being a particularly good weapon for Nakagawa.
As for the new champion, he stated that "I don't feel that my age is causing me any signs of declining. I'm able to update my best performance because I'm practicing in this environment. I want to keep working hard without forgetting my gratitude,", thanking the team at the Misako Gym, and also added "I'm not in a situation where I can fight for a world title right now, but if I have a belt, I may have a chance. I want to do a world war before my career ends,".
Tomorrow fight fans in Osaka will be able to see a very interesting looking Japanese Super Flyweight title bout as veterans, and former champions, Hiroyuki Kudaka (28-18-4, 11) [久髙寛之] and Kenta Nakagawa (20-4-1, 12) [中川健太] battle for the title that was vacated by Ryoji Fukunaga [福永亮次].
On the scales both men were bang on the 115lb weight limit and both looked in fantastic shape for the bout, and very much up for the contest, which both will know could be their last major bout.
After making weight Nakagawa, a 2-time champion, stated "The weight loss was tough, but it went down smoothly. The condition is perfect,". He also spoke about his much-vaunted left hand stating "I've put out (Thunder Left), but I haven't hit it in recent games. Only God knows if it will hit tomorrow. I'm looking forward to it. Please keep it". Notably he's the away fighter for this bout, travelling from Tokyo to Osaka for the contest.
As for Kudaka, himself a 1-time former champion, explained that he was "I'm standing firmly and calm", and he showed the aura of a veteran, which he is as this will be his 51st professional bout. He also spoke about the bout, explaining, "I can't imagine what it will be like tomorrow, but in the end Take it to your own pace. Don't think about the future. Focus only on winning tomorrow's game. "
Sadly a planned Japanese Super Featherweight bout, between hard hitting champion Kosuke Saka (21-6, 18) [坂晃典] and #1 ranked challenger Kanehiro Nakagawa (11-6, 5) [中川兼玄], which was also supposed to be on this card, has been cancelled after Nakagawa suffered an injury.
Related - Kudaka and Nakagawa clash for Japanese title!
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