At midnight on Monday, local time in Japan, news broke that former WBA Flyweight champion Koki Eto (24-5-1-1, 19) [江藤光喜] had officially hung up the gloves and will be retiring from professional boxing.
The news broke on the Shirai Gushiken Gym website, with the gym also announcing that they would closing their doors this month.
Whilst Eto has closed the door on his professional career it's been reported that he will remain in the sport. In the short term he will be an instructor with the hope, down the line, of opening his own gym, following in the footsteps of his mentor Yoko Gushiken.
The lessons Eto will be giving through his "Box Fit K" service, which will be using Zoom.
Although not the most talented, or most skilled, Eto's bouts provided action, thrills, spills and drama. His WBA "interim" title over Kompayak Porpramook was incredible as was his OPBF title bout with Ardin Diale. For those bouts along Eto will always have a place in the hearts of hardcore fans who followed his career.
Back in December former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa (15-1, 15) [比嘉 大吾] had the date of his long awaited return to the ring announced, on February 13th, and on Christmas his opponent was confirmed to be Jason Buenaobra (7-4-3, 3), of the Philippines.
Today Higa continued to moved towards his first bout, following a lengthy suspension by the JBC, as he took part in a media work out.
Higa was joined by promoter Yoko Gushiken and trainer Tadashi Tomori, both of whom are former world champions themselves, as a press conference and work out took place.
Prior to the work out a relaxed and happy looking Higa spoke to the media. He stated "I will do my best for the fans who have been waiting for a long time." [Translated] before Gushiken added "There are various things, but I will be in good shape with the relaunch in February. I want to get him to a world title again." [Translated]
Gushiken went on to reveal that there is a plan to get Higa to the top of the sport again in a very quick way. The hope is for Higa to get his come back out of the way in February before another fight to get back in to the swing of things, then a world title bout in December. Whether that plan comes to fruition is yet to be seen, but it is good that Gushiken and Higa have got a plan in mind.
Higa later went on to explain that after receiving his ban he didn't enter the gym for several months before slowly returning to train, once a week, then three times a week. But still had no desire to return until fans and family encouraged him to continue his career.
As for the actual work out Higa took part in a 2-round spar with Koki Eto (24-5-1-1, 19) [江藤光喜], and looked crisp through out, though looked a touch slow when he started working the mitts with Tomori, before increasing his speed and power as things went on.
The one thing that did seem to be missing through out the session today was stamina, though Higa's team seemed confident that would be improved by the time he steps in the ring with Buenaobra.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
Japanese star Kazuto Ioka (24-2, 14) [井岡一翔] fighting on New Year's Eve is a boxing tradition, like Mexican's fighting in early May and this year is likely to be no different with the WBO Super Flyweight champion set to announce that he will be facing mandatory challenger Jeyvier Cintron (10-1-0-1, 5) at the end of the year.
The bout hasn't been formally announced, yet, though an announcement is expected in the coming weeks, but has been in the works for several weeks and is said to be signed, with just formalities to complete.
The contest has been in the works since Cintron defeated Koki Eto (24-5-1-1, 19) [江藤光喜] back in August, in what was the second bout between the two men.
Ioka, Japan's first male 4-weight world champion, won the WBO Super Flyweight title earlier this year, when he stopped Aston Palicte in an sensational performance back in June. He's been out of the ring since then, but always knew a mandatory would loom, ahead of the Cintron Vs Eto rematch.
The Japanese star is, of course, signed to fight on TBS in Japan. The same channel that also has links to WBO Flyweight champion Kosei Tanaka (14-0, 8) [田中恒成] and WBA Light Flyweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi (13-0, 9) [京口 紘人].
TBS do try and send the year off with a big show, and it's expected that one of those other world champions will be in a supporting role to the Ioka Vs Cintron bout, with both men having spoke about unification bouts. Of course Kyoguchi will be making his own mandatory defense on October 1st, against Tetsuya Hisada (34-9-2, 20) [久田 哲也], but he, and Tanaka, would likely both fancy their place on the end of year card.
As well as the other world champions signed to TBS there are a number of other fighters who work closely with the channel, and it's likely there will be at least 1 solid non-world title bout on the card.
Unlike last year's New Year's Eve card, which took place in Macau due to licensing issues on Ioka's behalf, this one is set to take place in Tokyo. It's also expected to follow Fuji's card, which will take place a day or two before hand. That Fuji card has yet to have any solid rumours emerge, though it's likely to be a bumper card with at least 2 world title bouts on it.
Sadly last night wasn't to be for the exciting but crude Koki Eto (24-5-1-1, 19) [江藤光喜] who failed to pin down talented, yet frustrating, Puerto Rican Jeyvier Cintron (10-1-1, 5) in their rematch.
The two men, who had fought in May with that bout ending in the first round following a brutal headclash, had been expected to have a pretty fun fight. Sadly this rematch failed to live up to expectations.
The early going saw a fleet foot footed Cintron simply out boxing a wild, and clumsy Eto. The Japanese fighter spent much of the early going being hit and flailing at the air. It was as if Eto though his only chance to win was landing a bomb and catching Cintron clean, whilst Cintron knew how to box, move and, for the most part, avoid Eto's shots whilst landing counters in return. One of those counters sent Eto to the seat of his pants in round 2, though didn't really hurt, more dropping him from the lack of general balance and self control of Eto.
Eto managed to have success in round 3, as he finally began to use his pressure effectively, though that was turned on it's head in round 4 when Cintron got on his bike. A bike he pretty much stayed on to the end of the fight. There were moments where Eto caught up with the Puerto Rican but struggled to land anything significant, whilst Cintron landed the flashier shots before getting away and trying to avoid risks.
After 10 rounds there was no doubting the winner, with Cintron taking the decision 99-90 on all 3 cards, though the crowd were unhappy about Cintron's tactics, which were incredibly negative after a really good start to the fight.
With this win Cintron becomes the mandatory challenger for the WBO Super Flyweight title, and will get a shot at the belt, currently held by Kazuto Ioka (24-2, 14) [井岡一翔]. The suspicion that he will have to wait for that shot though, with Ioka expected to get permission to fight in a big bout in December, on a Japanese New Year's Eve card, before making the mandatory in the new year.
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