Earlier today in Hiroshima fight fans saw OPBF Light Flyweight champion Edward Heno (14-0-5, 5) successfully defending his title, and seeming send Japanese veteran Koji Itagaki (18-14-3, 7) [板垣幸司] into retirement.
The talented Heno, who won the title in Japan back in September 2017, dictated the distance from early on. He made the most of his southpaw jab in the opening stages and avoided Itagaki's left hooks. The speed, accuracy and timing of Heno was far too good for Itagaki to cope with, with the challenger not really having any success until round 4.
When the scores were first announced publicly Heno was leading 40-36 and 39-37, twice.
When Itagaki did put his foot on the gas he had success, but nothing sustained with Heno always doing more than enough to be competitive, even in rounds where Itagaki gave everything. What didn't help Itagakoi was the fact he was dropped in round 7, killing any momentum he started to build. By the end of the 8th round Heno was up 80-71 and 78-73, twice. With such a huge lead after 8 rounds Heno could have relaxed, lost all 4 of the final rounds and still been a comfortable winner. Instead he would actually score two knockdowns in the final round, against a tiring Itagaki to secure a 10-7 round.
After 12 rounds Heno got the decision with scores of 119-106, an 117-108, twice.
After the bout Itagaki hinted that this would be the end. Heno praised the challenger's toughness, but the reality is that Itagaki's toughness was the only thing keeping him in the contest, which was incredibly one-sided.
Back in October we saw Koji Itagaki (18-13-3, 7) [板垣幸司] come up short in a Japanese title eliminator, suffering a 7th round TKO loss to fellow veteran Kenichi Horikawa (38-15-1, 12) [堀川 謙一]. It seemed like that would be the end for the 35 year old Itagaki. Given his age, the loss and the fact he was stopped.
Today however he Itagaki announced that he would be back in the ring early next year, challenging unbeaten OPBF Light Flyweight champion Edward Heno (13-0-5, 5), who will be making his third defense.
The bout will take place February 11th at the NTT Cred Hall in Hiroshima, and even Itagaki seemed to suggest that it's going to be his final chance at a title, after having previously com up short in bouts for the WBO Asia Pacific and Japanese titles.
Heno notably won the title in Japan last year, stopping Seita Ogido in what was their second bout, following a very controversial draw. Since then he defended the title against Merlito Sabillo and Jesse Espinas. He's now edging towards a world title fight, and may well see a win over Itagaki as a chance to secure a shot at a champion, potentially Japanese fighter, and WBC champion, Kenshiro (14-0, 8) [拳四朗].
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Earlier today there was a number of Japanese title eliminators. One of those took place at 108lbs and saw veterans colliding as Kenichi Horikawa (38-15-1, 12) [堀川 謙一] battled Koji Itagaki (18-13-3, 7) [板垣幸司].
On paper this was a very attractive match up, with both men looking for a chance to secure another match with Japanese champion Tetsuya Hisada. It was also a rematch of a previous contest that Horikawa had won over Itagaki, back in 2017 for the WBO Asia Pacific title.
At 38 years old Horikawa surprised us all by coming out and setting the pace form the opening moments, pressing the action hard and making Itagaki fight off the back foot almost immediately. To his credit Itagaki did get some success with his counter shots, but took a number of clean, hurt shots himself as Horikawa pressured him. Late in round 4 Itagaki seemed to be rocked, but gritted his teeth and got through to the bell.
Although Itagaki was showing his toughness Horikawa seemed like a man possessed and continued pressing the fighter and forced a stoppage in round 7 to secure a big win and set up one more Japanese title fight for the former champion.
Sadly for Itagaki this will likely end his career, with the 35 year old not really having the time to bounce back and earn another big fight.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
Tomorrow fight fans at the Korakuen Hall, and those with Boxingraise, will be able to see a number of Japanese title eliminator bouts.
One of those takes place at Light Flyweight and will see Kenichi Horikawa (37-15-1, 11) [堀川 謙一] face off with Koji Itagaki (18-12-3, 7) [板垣幸司] in a mouth match up between two under-rated veterans. Both have come up short in recent Japanese title bouts against Tetsuya Hisada, but both are hungry for one final at the national crown, and a potential rematch with Hisada.
Today the two men took part in their weigh in and both fighters made weight.
On the scales Horikawa was bang on the 108lbs limit whilst Itagaki was slightly lighter, at around 107.7lbs. Both looked in good shape and both seemed determined to continue their career at title level, with one more significant career win.,
Related - Horikawa and Itagaki rematch with a title fight on the line!
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Earlier today Japanese Light Flyweight champion Tetsuya Hisada (32-9-2, 19) [久田 哲也] took to social media to revealed some details about his next bout.
Sadly for those wanting to see the veteran getting a world title fight before the end of 2018 it appears that that won't be happening. Instead he will be making his 5th defense of the Japanese title, though his opponent for that bout hasn't been named. There are, of course, fighters we can rule out, such as Kenichi Horikawa (37-15-1, 11) [堀川 謙一] and Koji Itagaki (18-12-3, 7) [板垣幸司], who will be fighting in a Japanese title eliminator in October, but that doesn't really let us known who Harada gym have lined up for their man to face.
What we do know is that the defense is scheduled for November 16th, with the bout likely acting as Hisada's final defense before a world title fight in 2019. Interestingly that could mean that the winner of the Horikawa Vs Itagaki bout will not get a rematch with Hisada, as anticipated, but will instead get a shot at the vacant title in the new year.
We expect to see more details of Hisada's upcoming bout announced shortly, but it will almost certainly take place in Osaka and is likely to be a bout where Hisada will be strongly favoured to retain his title.
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