Earlier today we had the first live televised card in Japan since the sport restarted, and it was a genuine mixed bag with some low level action, some fighters that didn't click, a sensational bout in the middle of the show, an intriguing Japanese title bout in the main event.
In the opening bout of the show the debuting Kodai Kobayashi (1-0) [小林 航大], from the E&J Cassius Gym, took a clear decision win over the win-less Shunsuke Miyauchi (0-2) [宮内 俊亮]. This was a real low level bout from both men, with Miyauchi pressing forward in the early rounds but showing very limited skills and Kobayashi needing time to shake the nervous energy. Thankfully for Kobayashi he seemed to land the better shots and did the cleaner work. After 4 rounds this was scored 40-36, twice, and 39-38 in favour of Kobayashi.
The second bout saw the touted Shigetoshi Kotari (2-0, 1) [神足 茂利] take on southpaw Motosuke Kimura (3-5-2, 1) [木村 元祐]. On paper this was supposed to be an easy second win for Kotari but in reality this didn't go as expected, at all. Kotari was dropped in the opening round from a round house left hand from Kimura, who seemed to land a shot that should never have caught a former amateur standout lime Kimura. The punch wasn't just looping, but was thrown with the back hand and looper around half the ring.
Sadly the knockdown made Kotari super cautious in rounds 2 and 3 and they were rounds that really lacked anything worthy of talking about. Kotari did seem to do enough to take them, but certainly didn't shine. He was caught with a number of clean counters in round 4, the round where be decided he needed to put his foot on the gas, and the counters seemed to take the wind out of his aggression. That lead to a rather dreary ending to the fight, with rounds 5 and 6 both being dull and tiresome.
After 6 rounds Kotari took the decision, but in reality he looked exposed. He wasn't just dropped but he also looked confused, never managed to figure Kimura out, and looked terrified of Kimura's counter's. He tried to draw leads and failed to land his own counter shots and failed to show the confidence needed to let his own hands go. The officials cards were 57-56 and 58-55, twice, but that can't cover over the fact Kotari did not look good.
After some pretty poor action, if we're being honest, to begin the show we got something spectacular in bout #3 as Toshiki Kawamitsu (5-0, 2) [川満 俊輝] and Kenshi Noda (2-1, 2) [野田 賢史] waged war in a sensational back and forth thriller. The fight didn't need a feeling out round, they just got to it, and let their shots go. From the off it looked like both men had a point to prove and they were putting on a high skilled, inside, action war. On paper that was expected to favour Noda, the bigger puncher, but it was Kawamitsu who seemed to be landing the cleaner, better blows.
The intensity continued in round 2 as both men tried to break the other down with great inside action and good work at range, when they were at range. Sadly for Noda however round 3 was a torrid one for him as his stamina, heart and durability were seriously questioned. He started the round well, but his inability to hurt Kawamitsu whilst Kawamitsu fought like a buzzsaw, seemed to drain the legs and belief from Noda, who slipped to the canvas numerous times. He was finally, officially, given a count late in the round, but by then he was looking very, very spent. He went out for round 4,looking to turn things around, but once again Kawamitsu simply showed that he wasn't going to be denied and forced the referee to finally jump in and save an exhausted looking Noda late on.
This was brilliant. The final round and a half might have been a bit too one sided, but the action, the intensity, the and the excitement was relentless. Absolute exhilarating contest between two young men desperate for victory. This was what we needed, this was what Japanese boxing needed back on TV. This was special!
In the co-feature we saw former world title challenger Ryohei Takahashi (19-4-1, 8) [高橋 竜平] taking a very debatable decision win over the Kiyohei Endo (3-4, 3) [遠藤 清平], in a bout that we felt Endo deserved. And we don't think we were the only ones. Endo started aggressively and was unfortunate to have a knockdown scored against him after he was caught on the back of the head.
Endo would continue to press, and pressure and seemed to easily out land Takahashi, but it was Takahashi with the cleaner, more telling single connects. Whilst we under-stand the quality Vs quantity argument we didn't feel the quality of Takahashi's single shots made up for how clearly out landed he was. There was also confusion after Endo seemed to score a knockdown of his own, though we're not totally sure if the referee told the judges to ignore it, as there was some instruction to the judges from the referee in round 6. Whether it was counted or not Endo certainly seemed to have taken the round.
Going into the final round it seemed like Endo was well and truly in it, if not in a slight lead. That wasn't something that Takahashi seemed to believe, with the former world title challenger doing little offensively for the first 2 minutes of the round before landing the two best shots of the round late on, in an attempt to steal it.
We went to the scorecards believing this one was razor thin, but the judges thought other wise, scoring it 78-73 and 77-74, twice, in favour of Takahashi. Those scores however do not reflect the nature of a very, very close bout that could easily have gone the other way.
In the main event we saw Japanese Light Middleweight champion Hironobu Matsunaga (17-1, 11) [松永 宏信] successfully defend his title, for the second time, as he over-came mandatory challenger Yuto Shimizu (14-5-2, 5) [清水優人]. The styles of these two men made for an interesting dynamic on paper, with Matsunaga being a bull like aggressive fighter, who's short in stature but aggressive, busy and strong, and Shimizu being a tall, rangy technical counter puncher. Early on however it took time for either man to find their groove.
The slow going saw Matsunaga taking the early rounds on work rate, whilst Shimizu looked to figure out what the champion brought. This lead to Matsunaga building momentum and in rounds 4 and 5 the champion began to turn the screw, landing clean left hands with alarming regularity. The aggression of the champion gave the challenger chances, and the accurate straight shots of Shimizu left the champion with a cut on the bridge of his nose.
After 5 rounds we had the open scoring and the scores were 50-45, 49-46 and 48-47, all in favour of Matsunaga. That should have made Shimizu feel like he was in with a chance, but instead it seemed to fire up Matsunaga, who had a point to prove and put his foot on the gas again. Shimizu finished round 6 with a nice flash of what he could do, in what seemed like an attempt to steal the round, but it was too little too late.
In round 7 the pressure of Matsunaga finally told. Early in the round he left the challenger with a huge cut over his left eye. Later in the round Matsunaga rocked Shimizu, before pinning him on the ropes and going into over drive, letting shots fly whilst Shimizu tried to clear his head. The shots kept coming and the referee took a close look several times. Finally enough was enough and the referee stepped in, saving the challenger.
For Matsunaga the win is a huge one, and sees him get through his Champion Carnival bout as the champion as he we head towards 2021. As for Shimizu this maybe his one and only chance given he turns 33 in January and he will have a long road back to a second title shot.
Earlier today fight fans in Sapporo saw a Dangan card, as Dangan took their show on the road for a show at the Susukino Mars.
The main event of the show was a really interesting one on paper, as the battle tested Daisuke Watanabe (6-3, 3) took on Naoya Okamoto (12-6-1, 6) in a contest that looked really well matched.
Despite looking well matched the bout was certainly not the 8 round back and forth we had expected. Instead it was a blink and you miss it contest. Watanabe looked to force the pace early, but a counter right hook from Okamoto dropped Watanabe face first to the canvas and forced an immediate stoppage.
The card also saw talented former amateur star Kiyohei Endo (1-1, 1) score his first win, as he stopped Ninmongkol Phetphumgym (0-2) in 2 rounds. The win for the 22 year old Endo sees him putting a shock loss to Serichai Nonpitayakom behind him, and we'll admit we're excited to see where he goes.
For fans interested in watching these two bouts, and the rest of the card, the show will be made available via Boxingraise in the next day or so.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
We often say that in boxing there is no such thing as a lucky punch, but for former amateur stand out Kiyohei Endo (0-1) [遠藤 清平] there is certainly a case of an unlucky punch.
Endo made his debut earlier today at Dangan 184 and took on Thai facing off with Serichai Nonpitayakom (12-6-2, 5)*. The Thai was down in the opening few seconds and he fought much of the round looking terrified of Endo, who bossed around 2 minutes 55 seconds of the round.
In the final seconds of the opening round Serichai landed a perfect right hand, a shot that really could be described as a lucky punch, and dropped Endo. The debutant tried to get to his feet but was out of it and the refereewaved it off.
As an amateur Endo had gone 42-18 and was tipped for big things. This loss however is the nightmare star for the 22 year old who will have to hope to have better luck next time out.
For Serichai, who was listed as 0-2 by boxrec.com, the win will have been a huge surprise and it's unlikely he will ever land a punch as good as he did today.
(Image courtesy of https://ameblo.jp/rkboxingfamily)
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