Earlier today the East Japan Boxing Association announced their award winners for the Month of December, which was a surprisingly busy month for Japanese boxing given the increasing number of Covid19 cases in the country.
The MVP for the month was named as Ryoji Fukunaga (13-4, 13) [福永亮次], who unified the WBO Asia Pacific, Japanese and OPBF Super Flyweight titles with an excellent 10th round TKO win over Kenta Nakagawa (19-4-1, 12) [中川 健太] on December 14th. The bout, an hellacious war, was one of the best fights in Japan during the year and Fukunaga's performance and victory really did leaving deserving of this award,
The Fighting Spirit award was won by new crowned Japanese Minimumweight champion Masataka Taniguchi (13-3, 8) [谷口将隆], who claimed the title on December 3rd when he stopped Hizuki Saso (12-7-2, 4) [佐宗 緋月]. The plan now seems to be for Taniguchi to defend his title during 2021 and move towards a second world title fight in the future.
The Newcomer award was won by Kento Yabusaki (8-4-1, 5) [薮﨑賢人] for his shock upset win over 2-time Minimumweight world title challenger Shin Ono (24-11-3, 6) [小野心] on December 8th. This win was a real surprise and help put Yabusaki on the map, though likely was just as much a case of Ono being very much past his prime.
Earlier today at Korakuen Hall fight fans were able to see the latest event under the rather misleading "The Greatest Boxing" series of shows. The event wasn't a big one, by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a somewhat notable one with a very interesting main event between a former 2-time world title challenger and a 23 year old in real need of a notable win.
Surprisingly it was the 23 year old who picked up the victory with a shock unanimous decision.
The bout in question saw former 2-time Minimumweight world title challenger Shin Ono (24-11-3, 6) [小野心] come up short in an 8 round bout against Kento Yabusaki (8-4-1, 5) [薮﨑賢人], who had lost his last two and didn't appear to have any momentum coming in to this one.
The 37 year old Ono used the ring well early on, moving around a lot, and trying to control the distance. Despite the movement and experience of Ono it was the power of Yabusaki which told early on and he dropped Ono with a straight left hand. Ono recovered well, but was under pressure in round 3, and pretty much lost every exchange afterwards with Yabusaki being too big, too strong and too power for him. Ono tried, as a veteran would, to try and control the tempo and distance of the bout but Yabusaki kept coming forward, kept landing the heavier blows and refused to left Ono settle.
After 8 rounds the judges all had the bout to Yabusaki, with scores of 77-74, twice, and 78-73, who takes a huge win over Ono, a former OPBF and Japanese champion.
Right now it's really hard to see where Ono goes next. He's 38 later this month and unless he come more back down in weight, to Light Flyweight at the very least, he will struggle with these younger, hungrier, bigger fighters. It may well be that rather than continue he hangs them up, ending his lengthy career.
As for Yabusaki this win is a huge one for his career, and will certainly help him rebuild his career after back to back losses to Michael Mendoza and Mirai Imagawa in 2019.
Tomorrow fight fans at Korakuen Hall will get the chance to see former 2-time world title challenger Shin Ono (24-10-3, 6) [小野心] return to the ring for his first bout in over a year, as he takes on youngster Kento Yabusaki (7-4-1, 5) [薮﨑賢人].
The fight, which will headline Hideki Todaka's "The Greatest Boxing Vol 36", is an 8 round Flyweight bout and today, ahead of their bout, the two men took part in their weigh in.
On the scales the 37 year old Ono was the slightly heavier man, comin in at around 111.8lbs for the bout, comfortably under the limit. Notably this is one of the heaviest weights of his career, and he has really made his name at Minimumweight, where he has challenged Katsunari Takayama and Knockout CP Freshmart in world title bouts. Notably he turned 38 later this month and it's hard to see where he goes if he can't get past Yabusaki here. Despite his age he looked in fantastic shape at the weigh in and it's clear he doesn't want to end his career here.
Yabusaki, who is just 23 years old, came in at 111.6lbs, which is among the lighter weights of his career, and around 2lbs lighter than he was last time out, when he lost a close decision to Mirai Imagawa. Notably he has lost his last 2, but will know that a win here against Ono would help resurrect his faltering career.
Sadly we didn't get to see how Yabusaki looked on the scales.
Rather disappointingly it doesn't appear that there will be any way to watch this outside of the venue, and sites like Boxing Raise don't have it listed as being part of their service.
Last year we saw youngster Retsu Akabane [赤羽根 烈] (4-2, 2) reach the All Japan Rookie of the Year final at Minimumweight losing to the talented Yuga Inoue. We also saw Kento Yabusaki (6-2-1, 4) [薮﨑 賢人] on the same Rookie of the Year card, and he came up short in the Flyweight final to Joe Shiraishi. Today they faced off, with Akabane moving up to Flyweight to take on Yabusaki in a brilliant all-southpaw match up.
The fight started at a great tempo, and it seemed like Akabane was the bigger puncher, finding a home for stiff straight left hands, though Yabusaki did have moments, including a brilliant uppercut in the opening round. The second round saw Yabusaki look to pick up the pace, and he seemed to out land Akabane but it was against a round that Akabane seemed to land the better shots.
In round 3 Akabane came out with bad intentions and tried to back up Yabusaki and up the pace. It came at a cost however and the two began to trade as Yabusaki tried to avoid being trapped on the ropes, his shots landed cleanly and seemed to daze Akabane who couldn't avoid a clean and hurtful straight left hand that dropped him. Akabane got back to his feet but was hurt again moments later as his team through in the towel.
For Akabane this will be a set back, but at the age of 19 he has time to rebuild, for Yabusaki however this is a great win and we expect to see a lot more of the 21 year old, as he continues to build on his successes since the Rookie of the Year set back.
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