It's fair to say that 2020 has been a rather unique year in the world of professional boxing, and even by typical standards we have seen more bouts being delayed, posted and cancelled than ever before. Obviously we all under-stand why but it does need stating that a lot of bouts that had been announced are currently in a state of flux. They haven't officially been cancelled or rescheduled yet. Instead they seem to be sitting in a state of weird boxing purgatory.
Today we saw one of those bouts removed from purgatory and being given a date.
The bout in question is the Champion Carnival bout between Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Yusaku Kuga (19-4-1, 13) [久我勇作] and his mandatory challenger Gakuya Furuhashi (26-8-1, 14) [古橋大輔].
Originally the bout was set for April 28th at Korakuen Hall. That was before boxing was paused in Japan to deal with the on going global situation, and try to prevent infections ripping through the Japanese boxing scene.
Today that bout got given a new date, January 22nd 2021, and will be held as part of Dangan 238. Sadly that is almost 9 months after it was originally supposed to be held.
For Kuga the bout will be Kuga's second defense since reclaiming the title in May 2019, winning an all out war with Ryoichi Tamura at the Sumida City Gymnasium, and will be his bout since being blasted in 84 seconds by Jhunriel Ramonal at the end of 2019.
As for Furuhashi the bout will be his first since a September 2019 win over Ryoichi Tamura, with that win securing him a title fight as part of the Champion Carnival.
If all goes ahead as planned the bout will make for an excellent double header along with a Japanese Super Featherweight title bout between defending champion Kosuke Saka (20-5, 17) [坂晃典] and teak tough challenger Takuya Watanabe (37-9-1, 21) [渡邉卓也].
Although yet to be confirmed we're hoping this show will get the live stream treatment from Boxing Raise as it already looks like a sensational show, even with no under-card announced.
It's fair to say that 2020 has been a write off for a number of fighters, who have been unable to fight due to the on going global situation, and issues related to it.
Among those fighters who were unable to fight this year are Japanese Super Featherweight champion Kosuke Saka (20-5, 17) [坂晃典] and teak tough mandatory challenger challenger Takuya Watanabe (37-9-1, 21) [渡邉卓也], who were supposed to fight in a Champion Carnival bout earlier this year.
Originally the bout had had been scheduled to take place in Osaka in April, though no specific date was ever set down for the bout. Sadly though that plan was scuppered when boxing was essentially stopped in Japan in February and March, meaning the two men never got to fight their mandated bout.
Today it was announced that the now, very, delayed bout between Saka and Watanabe has got a date at last. Sadly however it won't be in 2020. Instead it will be January 22nd 2021, at Korakuen Hall as part of DANGAN 238.
For Saka this will be his first defense of the title that he won last year, when he beat Masaru Sueyoshi into submission in December, to become a 2-weight Japanese national champion. It's a real shame the hard hitting 28 year old has been out of the ring since then but he has still time on his side, and a win in January will allow him to kick on.
As for Watanabe this will be his third shot at a national title, after losing decision to Hisashi Amagasa, back in 2012, and Satoshi Hosono, in 2015. He's earned this shot following a win in 2019 over Taiki Minamoto, in what was a genuinely thrilling action bout. A loss here and it's unlikely the teak tough 31 year old will be getting another shot at a national title.
At the moment no other bouts have been announced for the show, but in reality this is good enough to be a solid headliner. It will have the aggression and power of Saka against the toughness and determination of Watanabe, who is well known for his bloody 2014 bout with Jae Sung Lee. That combination should give us something genuinely spectacular and it's a great one to excited about for the new year.
Over the last few days we've seen a lot of Japanese title bouts being revealed as part of the Champion Carnival. Earlier today those bouts were set in stone as the Champion Carnival presentation took place, confirming the contests we'd reported and getting all the champions and challengers in one event.
The first of the bouts will take place on February 1st at the Dynamic Glove show, and will see Japanese Welterweight champion Yuki Nagano (17-2, 13) [永野祐樹] defending his title against mandatory challenger Keita Obara (22-4-1, 20) [小原 佳太]. This bout has been known about for weeks and is an exciting, and potentially very explosive, way to kick off the Champion Vs Challenger series. This bout will be at Korakuen Hall, where most of the title bouts will actually take place.
The second bout will take on February 13th, when Lightweight champion Shuichiro Yoshino (11-0, 9) [吉野 修一郎] defends his belt against Izuki Tomioka (7-2-1, 2) [富岡樹]. This is expected to bee a match up showing a lot of skills, from both men, though the power and physical edges with the champion does make him the favourite. This is another bout at Korakuen Hall.
It's then almost a month later until we get the next bout in the series. That'll be on March 7th, on the March Dynamic Glove, when Light Middleweight champion Hironobu Matsunaga (16-1, 10) [松永 宏信] defends his belt against Yuto Shimizu (14-4-2, 5) [清水優人] in a potentially enthralling bout. The champion will be seeking his second defense whilst Shimizu will be getting his first title fight. This will be the third successive bout at Tokyo's Korakuen Hall.
Just one day later, March 8th, we get the Flyweight bout with the heavy handed Seigo Yuri Akui (14-2-1, 10) [阿久井政悟] defending his title against Seiya Fujikita (13-4, 6) [藤北誠也]. Given Akui's style this should be an explosive bout, and one to look forward to. This was announced way back at the start of the year and will take place at the Aeon Mall mall in Okayama City, the first of the bouts outside of Tokyo.
Just a week later, March 15th, action turns to the Aioi Hall in Kariya as Light Flyweight champion Yuto Takahashi (11-4, 5) [高橋悠斗] defends against hard hitting challenger Masamichi Yabuki (10-3, 10) [佐藤政道]. This will be the first title defnense for Takahashi, and will see him entering enemy territory.
The following day, March 16th, Light Welterweight champion Koki Inoue (15-0, 12) [浩樹井上] will take on Daishi Nagata (14-2-1, 5) [永田大士] in the main event of a card at Korakuen Hall from Ohashi. This is one of the few shows where under-card details have been revealed, and it makes for a very decent looking card overall.
After a slew of fights in March we then have a bit of a break before returning on April 9th for a double header at Korakuen Hall. One of the bouts here will see Bantamweight champion Yusuke Suzuki (11-3, 7) [鈴木悠介] make his first defense, as he goes up against Kyosuke Sawada (14-2-1, 6) [澤田京介] in a rematch of a bout both men had back in 2013. The other bout on this card will see Featherweight champion Ryo Sagawa (9-1, 4) [佐川遼] make his second defense as he takes on Hinata Maruta (10-1-1, 8) [丸田陽七太], in what we feel is the standout bout from this year's Carnival.
On April 28th Super Bantamweight champion Yusaku Kuga (19-4-1, 13) [久我勇作] will defend his title against Gakuya Furuhashi (26-8-1, 14) [古橋大輔]. This bout will be Kuga's first defense since reclaiming the title last year and will be Furuhashi's third shot, at a third different champion. This bout is also set to be at Korakuen Hall.
Interestingly the Super Featherweight bout between hard hitting champion Kosuke Saka (20-5, 17) [坂晃典] and teak tough challenger Takuya Watanabe (37-9-1, 21) [渡邉卓也] is pencilled in for April in Osaka, though no date or specific venue was confirmed at today's event.
On May 16th we'll see the Super Flyweight title bout as defending champion Kenta Nakagawa (18-3-1, 12) [中川 健太] takes on Yuta Matsuo (15-4-2, 8) [松尾雄太] at the Sumida City Gymnasium in Tokyo.
No those who are eagle eyed will be aware there were some division's missing.
Firstly the Minimumweight bout hasn't yet been decided. The title is currently vacant, after Norihito Tanaka (19-7, 10) [田中教仁] returned the belt earlier this year. What we do know is that Masataka Taniguchi (12-3, 7) [谷口 将隆] will be involved in the title bout, though there is currently no opponent, date or venue for the bout.
The Middleweight title bout will see the hard hitting Kazuto Takesako (11-0-1, 11) [竹迫司登] defending his belt against Riku Kunimoto (4-0, 2) [国本陸] but this bout has no date or location set. This bout is likely to be scheduled following Takesako's bout this coming weekend against OPBF champion Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa (12-4-1, 11) [細川チャーリー忍].
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
It's easy to talk about the fighters who have flown high in 2019, and those who have had year's to forget, but the fighters who have hit careers highs and been hit with some lows inside a year are arguably the most interesting fighters. They've had year of ups and downs like some kind of human roller-coaster ride. For this award we have two men who are joint winners!
Joint winner 1 - Kosuke Saka
Former Japanese Featherweight champion Kosuke Saka began the year by being blitzed in 2 rounds by Joe Noynay, in what was a genuine shock at the time. Whilst this loss looks less bad, given that Noynay would later stop Satoshi Shimizu and fight to a technical draw with Kenichi Ogawa in a bloody head clash marred bout. A win over Isack Junior 5 months later in a nothing bout was more of a palette cleanser for Saka rather than a win of any actual value.
It was how Saka ended the year that saw him hit a high, as he battered Masaru Sueyoshi to claim the Japanese Super Featherweight title, becoming a 2-weight national champion in impressive fashion. He broke down, beat up, battered and stopped Sueyoshi in a career defining performance, and one that was a million miles away from the loss to Nonynay at the start of the year. In many ways Saka's year was the reverse roller-coaster, starting low, and ending high....it'll be interesting to see how he begins the new year.
Joint winner 2 - Ryoichi Tamura
Whilst Saka's year started low and ended high Tamura's year completed a full roller-coaster, starting high, going low, then lower, then ending on a high. It must have been a real ride to be a Ryoichi Tamura fan in 2019, but it was also an enjoyable ride for the tough guy from the JB Sports gym. He didn't just have results that went up and down, but even in defeat he was involved in some sensational fights.
So, to begin the year Tamura out fought, out worked, and out battled Mugicha Nakagawa to win the Japanese Super Bantamweight title, which Shingo Wake had vacated. This was certainly the highest of high points for Tamura, who sadly lost in his first defense to Yusakiu Kuga, in what was a legitimately thrilling bout that deserves so much more attention than it will ever get. Although Tamura lost to Kuga it could be argued that the damage he did in that fight will leave Kuga a lesser fighter than he was going in. By that same token the punishment Tamura took was insane as well.
Tamura failed to bounce back from the Kuga loss immediately and lost in a Japanese title eliminator, to Gakuya Furuhashi, sending him further down. Though did bounce back in November when he made his international debut and stopped Moensaku Yor in 2 rounds to claim the OPBF Silver Super Bantamweight title.
Up and down and round round! Ryoichi Tamura has had a bizarre yet wonderfully fun year to follow!
Back in September news broke that the historic Aoki gym, was going to be closed before the start of 2020. That actually happened yesterday, December 26th, with Aoki announcing on social media that their doors were closing.
Of course this is boxing, and nothing is as straight forward as it seems and the gym is less "closing down" and more "transferring", if you will.
Rather than permanently closing it doors, like the legendary Yonekura gym, the Aoki gym will instead re-open in the new year as DANGAN Aoki on January 6th, keeping not only the Aoki fighters but also the Dangan ones.
From what we understand it seems like the current reason Taiki gym could be closed, and everyone could end up under the new DANGAN Aoki banner, with the gym regarded as a better gym overall for things like training. However this wasn't confirmed at the time.
This leads us to believe that the now rumoured bout between former WBO Flyweight champion Sho Kimura (18-3-2, 11) [木村翔] and former WBO Minimumweight champion Merlito Sabillo (27-7-1, 13) would be taking place with Kimura fighting out of the new DANGAN Aoki gym. It would also likely continue to promote Takuya Watanabe (37-9-1, 21) [渡邉卓也], ahead of his Japanese Super Featherweight title fight with Kosuke Saka (20-5, 17) [坂晃典] at the 2020 Champion Carnival.
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