Earlier today at Korakuen Hall we had the East Japan Rookie of the Year finals, which decide not just the East Japan Rookie of the Year winner but also the East Japan participant in the All Japan final, which will take place next year. In total there was supposed to be 12 bouts, though in the end two of the ended up cancelled giving us a total of 10 bouts in total.
Sadly the bouts haven't yet been televised, with G+ set to air them on December 27th, so for fans wanting to watch them, you want to look away now. Incidentally we will also have the West Japanese representatives decided on December 27th at a show in Osaka.
Before we talk about the bouts we got we'll quickly talk about the two we didn't get.
One of those was at Light Flyweight, where 35 year old Hayato Aoki (4-0, 3) [青木 勇人] abstained, giving 25 year old Ryota Karimata (5-0, 3) [狩俣 綾汰] a bye to the All Japan final. This bout was cancelled weeks ago, and had been listed as off since early January. The second was the Lightweight bout, which seemed to be cancelled this week and saw Ryan Joshua Yamamoto (4-3, 1) [山本ライアン ジュシュア] pull out of a bout against Hiromasa Urakawa (6-1, 4) [浦川 大将], with Urakawa getting a bye to the All Japan final.
The first bout of the show came at Minimumweight and saw Ryo Sasaki (5-2, 2) [佐々木 凌] score a 4th round TKO win over Yuji Hirai (4-1-1, 2) [平井 雄士]. The tall, rangy Sasaki towered over Hirai who struggled to get close and was dropped in round 2. A gutsy Hirai tried to fight back but was stopped on the bell to end round 4. Interestingly this was the third time Sasaki had entered Rookie of the Year, losing in qualifying bouts in 2018 and 2019, and will feel like a real relief for him after the last 2 years.
At Flyweight we saw a minor upset as Akira Hoshuyama (4-0, 2) [宝珠山 晃] defeated the hard hitting Shugo Namura (4-1, 4) [苗村 修悟]. The hard hitting Namura, who is managed by Hiroyuki Sakamoto, had endeared himself to fight fans with his story, which was very similar to that of his boxing mentor, but sadly it wasn't to be for him as Hoshuyama dropped him in the first round and went on to win the following 3, en route to a clear decision. After 4 rounds all 3 judges had this 40-35 to Hoshuyama.
We got a big surprised at Super Flyweight as the much fancied Kosuke Tomioka (4-1, 3) [富岡 浩介] came up short against Shunpei Kubo (6-1-1, 4) [久保 春平]. Tomioka got off to a good start, and dropped Kubo with a hard straight left hand, and looked to be on the verge of a win in round 2. Kubo however gritted it out and landed a huge right hand in round 3, sending Tomioka down. Tomioka beat the count but was unsteady on his legs, and the referee waved the bout off. This is a big set back for Tomioka, but at just 18 years old we suspect he will bounce back, as for Kubo this was a great win and he will be buoyed big time going into the All-Japan final.
We got another upset of sorts at Bantamweight, as Ryuki Sudo (2-0, 1) [須藤 龍揮], fighting for just the second time, stopped Norichika Kozu (6-2, 1) [神津 徳臣] in the opening round. The fight started with Kozu pressing forward and he seemed to have Sudo under plenty of pressure before Sudo landed a peach of a left hook, dropping Kozu hard. As with Tomioka we saw Sudo get to his feet but he was gone and the referee wisely stopped this from continuing.
At Super Bantamweight we saw Yuki Yazan (7-2, 4) [矢斬 佑季] take a 5 round decision win over Ryuya Nihei (5-1-1, 1) [二瓶 竜弥]. Yazan looked too set the pace early, and boxed well at range with his straight shots. Nihei, to his credit, looked to slowly build some momentum with his pressure and had moments, particularly in rounds 2 and 3, before Yazan used his speed and impressed in the final 2 rounds. This was never a result in doubt and Yazan won with scores of 49-46 from all 3 judges.
We got another short bout at Featherweight as Kazunori Hirano (4-0, 4) [平野 和憲] simply hit too hard for Ryo Yoshida (3-1, 1) [吉田 諒]. Yoshida was down early, left with a bloodied nose and repeatedly hurt until the referee stepped in and saved him from further punishment at just over 2 minutes into the opening round. This was basic stuff from Hirano, but his rock hands really were just too much for Yoshida.
Unbeaten 21 year old puncher Tsubasa Narai (6-0, 5) [奈良井 翼] extended his excellent start as he stopped American born Japanese based fighter Dominique Kenshin (5-2, 2) [ドミニク謙心] at Super Featherweight. Narai pressed this from the off and looked like a man with a point to prove as he dropped Keshin in the first round. Kenshin managed to be saved by the bell in the opening round but was still looking hurt as we entered round 2, and Narai wasn't going to let him off the hook again, dropping him after about a minute of the round. This time the referee waved off the bout, giving the impressive Narai his third straight early win.
At 140lbs 21 year old novice Reiji Kodama (2-0, 1) [兒玉 麗司] impressed, stopping Takuro Narumi (3-2, 2) [鳴海 拓郎] in 4 rounds. Just seconds into the bout Kodama dropped Narumi with a 1-2. Although Narumi beat the count he didn't look comfortable through the round. To his credit in round 2 Narumi did start to find some success of his own, but in round 4 Kodama began to hammer his body and forced the referee to save Narumi, who was pinned on the ropes and being broken up by body shots.
At Welterweight Kaichi Yamazaki (2-2, 2) [山﨑 海知] scored a 3rd round TKO win against Yudai Saito (0-2) [齊藤 裕大]. Saito started well, using his jab, but it wasn't long until Yamazaki got into the pocket and began working up close, scoring a knockdown with a right hand. The second round was a battle up close before Yamazaki scored a second knockdown right at the end of round 3, forcing the referee to stop the bout. After the bout images of Saito sat on his stool showed him with a badly swollen right eye, and potential fracture as a result of Yamazaki's power.
The final bout on the show was at Middleweight and saw Kenji Yoshino (1-2-1, 2) [吉野 健二] and Eiki Kani (2-1-2) [可兒 栄樹] face off for the second time in their career. In 2019 the two men clashed, with Yoshino stopping Kani, this time however we saw the two men going the distance in a very, close, competitive and punishing 4 round war that saw neither man get much of an upperhand over the other. This was a thrilling action bout and saw the two men match each other all the way, resulting in a 4 round majority draw. Due to the tie breaker rules however it was Kani who progressed to the All-Japan final, in a result which will go some way to avenge his 2019 loss.
After the even there was 3 award winners named. Kubo was the MVP, following his win over Tomioka at Super Flyweight, Sudo won the Skill award following his win over Kozu at Bantamweight and Hirano won the Fighting Spirit Award following his win over Yoshida at Featherweight.
Earlier today at Korakuen Hall we had the latest round of East Japan Rookie of the Year bouts, with the show hosting the first set of semi-finals. The bouts, which will be made available on Boxing Raise, have all finished and we now know a good number of the fighters set to compete in the East Japan final.
The first fighter to go through to the final was Minimumweight Ryo Sasaki (4-2, 1) [佐々木 凌] who qualified after 20 year old Tatsuki Fujioka (0-1-1) [藤岡 立樹] abstained from the contest.
The first actual fight on the show saw 35 year old Hayato Aoki (4-0, 3) [青木 勇人] score a 4th round TKO win over 27 year old Yota Mihara (3-1, 3) [三原 陽太] at Light Flyweight. Mihara started this one one well, but Aoki found his groove and then forced a stoppage in mid-way into round 4 to secure his place in the East Japan final.
A second bout between unbeaten men came at Flyweight, and this was a blink and you miss it affair. The bout saw the hard hitting Shugo Namura (4-0, 4) [苗村 修悟] defeat 20 year old Teppei Saito (3-1, 2) [齋藤 哲平] in just 53 seconds! Saito was down within seconds. He got back to his feet but was down again soon afterwards and the referee waved this one off. This was a statement from Namura who looks like he will be a genuine handful.
Another man who looks a genuine handful is Super Flyweight sensation Kosuke Tomioka (4-0, 3) [富岡 浩介] who needed just 43 seconds to defeat Yota Sato (2-1, 2) [佐藤 陽太]. The 18 year old Tomioka landed a sensational left hook that forced the referee to wave this one off very early on. Tomioka, regarded as one of the favourites for the All Japan Rookie of the Year, really couldn't have asked for a better outcome today and we're looking forward to seeing him back in the ring in the East Japan final.
After a string of stoppages the crowd saw a bout go the distance at Bantamweight, as the light punching Norichika Kozu (6-1, 1) [神津 徳臣] took a 4 round majority decision win over Asato Mori (4-3, 3) [森 朝登]. This bout was scored rather oddly, with one judge having it a shut out and another having it even. Kozu used his reach well to control the action at times, but Mori came to win and gave a genuine account, even if he was on the wrong end of Kozu's long, straight shots on a regular basis.
At Super Bantamweight we also had a decision with Ryuya Nihei (5-0-1, 1) [二瓶 竜弥] narrowly defeating Arata Yoshioka (2-3-1, 2) [吉岡 新]. The unbeaten Nihei found himself in a real tough one here as Yoshioka came to win and gave him hell. Yoshioka was persistent, and stubborn, but in the end the judges, narrowly, favoured Nihei to give him the split decision victory. This was a very close bout.
In the penultimate bout of the show Kazunori Hirano (3-0, 3) [平野 和憲] extended his unbeaten record with a 4th round TKO win over Ren Kakimoto (3-2) [柿元 蓮] in a Featherweight bout. This was a war, with bombs being thrown by both, particularly in round 3. Sadly for Kakimoto his great effort early on came for nought when the referee was forced to save him mid-way through round 4.
The final bout came at Super Featherweight and saw Dominique Kenshin (5-1, 2) [ドミニク謙心] take a clear decision win over Nobuo Maruoka (4-3, 2) [丸岡 宣男]. This wasn't the best of bouts. The younger, fresher, faster Kenshin tried to keep this at range, whilst Maruoka tried to get the fight on the inside. As a result there was a lot of clinching and a lot of messiness. Despite that it ended up being a rather clear and straight forward win for Kenshin.
The winners are all expected to return to the ring on December 20th in the East Japan Rookie of the Year Final, and a win there will take them to the All Japan in the new year.
Earlier today A-Sign boxing presented their latest show, live on YouTube, with the show featuring 6 bouts in total. The event wasn't a massive one, but was a notable one, and one that delivered good action, for the most part. It had Rookie of the Year action, some notable prospects and the Japanese debut of a man who's career, so far, had fought entirely away from the country of his birth.
With that said lets look at how the bouts went.
Sadly the show began with a rare stinker as a Rookie of the Year bout between the talented Kosuke Tomioka (3-0, 2) [富岡浩介] and the timid Shota Hara (2-3-1) [原翔太] never got going. Tomioka controlled the bout from the opening round with his speed and jab and Hara did little to try and win. This really was an underwhelming way to start the show, and it seemed it even annoyed Tomioka who tried to wave in Hara, who declined. After 4 rounds there was no doubting the result.
The second bout on the show saw significantly better action as Ryugo Ushijima (4-1-2, 2) [牛島 龍吾] over-came Ryukyu Oho (6-4, 3) [大保 龍球] in a bout that saw more action in the opening round than the entire first fight. The round saw Oho come out fast, so fast in fact that he ended up slipping in one of his first offensive charges. Later in the round Oho did drop Ushijima, but was down himself towards the end of the round. Ushijima also scored a second knockdown in round 2.
After Ushijima scored his second knockdown he did seem to become a little too safety conscious, and held too much for our liking, but when forced to dig in he did respond as we got some brilliant little exchanges. Ono continually pressed forward, but failing to have any sustained success, and simply didn't let his hands go enough to bother Ushijima.
After 6 rounds the scores we went to the scorecards, which were 58-56, twice and 59-54 all in favour of Ushijima.
Sadly Ken Koibuchi (6-4, 5) [鯉渕 健] didn't feel in the need to help cult hero Takuya Yamaguchi (4-12-2, 2) [山口拓也] build on his growing profile. Yamaguchi came out ultra aggressive early on, but ran out of steam quickly and in round 2 Koibuchi dropped him twice to force the finish. Sadly for the 35 year old Yamaguchi this is probably the end, but it is a great story he's had in recent months, and his success in terms of crowd funding, and telling his story with the team from A-Sign has been amazing. We really hope that he remain in the sport, even if it's just as a mentor, or a commentator.
As for Koibuchi, the big bully, this is a much needed win after losses in 3 of his last 4.
In the fourth bout of the show we saw Hyoga Taniguchi (4-2-2, 1) [谷口 彪賀] face off with Yoshiki Tatsukami (4-7-1) [山本佳輝], in what was Taniguchi's first bout since winning the 2019 Rookie of the Year. To begin with Taniguchi looked very timid, but as the rounds went on he settled, found his range and began to land his left hand with growing frequency. Sadly whilst Taniguchi did take the clear win it was clear there the bout lacked drama and excitement, but was a good learning experience for Taniguchi.
After 6 rounds we went to the scorecards and there no real doubting the result, with scores of 58-56, twice, and 59-55 for Taniguchi.
We do like Taniguchi, but do feel he's years away from being the complete product, and we suspect he will need a lot more bouts like this before being in the title mix.
In the most impressive performance of the show the touted Jin Sasaki (8-0, 7) [佐々木 尽] wasted no time in blowing out Japanese ranked foe Shun Akaiwa (5-2-1, 3) inside a minute. Akaiwa was dropped from a left hook, and despite beating the count the referee knew he was in no fit state to continue. This was a real statement from Sasaki, who will find himself in the Japanese rankings at 140lbs when the rankings are update. A sensational result.
The final bout of the show saw "reimported boxer" Shoki Sakai (24-11-2, 12) [坂井 祥記] make his Japanese debut in what was a genuine cracking bout against 2017 All Japan Rookie of the Year winner Hironori Shigeta (6-2-1, 3) [重田裕紀]. This started with Shigeta boxing well, but as the rounds went on Sakai made the fight an inside battle, and stopped Shigeta using the ring. When that happened, there was only going to be one winner.
Shigeta always tried, he always had moments, and repeatedly landed some massive single shots, but Sakai had consistency, used his experience well, blocked plenty that came his way and landed some brutal shots through the 8 round contest.
This one was real fun, and saw both men landing monstrous shots, but it was clear that Sakai was doing the better work. This was shown not just in the ring, but also on the faces of the two men, with Shigeta being bruised early on, and the score-cards, which all turned in identical scored of 78-74 to Sakai.
Although the show was a low profile one it was a solid one and had a nice mix of things, from the skills of Tomioka and Taniguchi, the explosive power of Sasaki and the vicious war to end the show. The pacing of the event was good through out and the only real break came between the co-feature and main event. Even that wasn't a waste of time however as it was used to announce the next bout of former WBO Super Featherweight champion Masayuki Ito (26-2-1, 14) [伊藤 雅雪], who we now know will return on November 5th to face off with OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro (9-0-1, 3) [三代大訓].
One again A-Sign, and Ichitaro Ishii especially, have delivered a brilliant show and it's great to see them having solid bouts across multiple levels of the sport. Fingers crossed they continue to provide live streams like this, as this was fantastic.
Tomorrow in Tokyo we'll see the next show promoted by Hachioji Nakaya, who will be promoting the event under the "First Raight Presents A-Sign Boxing" banner, following the new sponsorship deal between A-Sign and First Raight. The event, at the Shinjuku FACE in Tokyo, will be streamed for free over YouTube with all the bouts being aired by A-Sign Boxing.
Today, ahead of the event, the fighters took part in their weigh ins with all 12 men on the show making weight with no issues at all.
The card will begin with an East Japan Rookie of the Year bout at Super Flyweight between touted teenager Kosuke Tomioka (2-0, 2) [富岡浩介] and Shota Hara (2-2-1) [原翔太]. Both of these men came in comfortably under the limit, at around 114lbs. Notably Hara towered over Tomioka, and looked the naturally bigger fighter.
The second bout on the show will see Ryugo Ushijima (3-1-2, 2) [牛島 龍吾] clash with Ryukyu Oho (6-3, 3) [大保 龍球], in what should be a very entertaining contest. On the scales Ushijima was 125.6lbs whilst Oho was notably lighter, coming in at 124.3lbs. Notably both men were easily under the Featherweight limit for this one, which was the contracted weight for the bout.
The third bout on the show will see Ken Koibuchi (5-4, 4) [鯉渕 健] take on cult hero Takuya Yamaguchi (4-11-2, 2) [山口拓也], who's become the real star of show in the build up to the event. Before we get on to the weights we need to quickly explain that in the build up to the event A-Sign have done some mini-documentaries and crowd funding, and Yamaguchi has been the big success story of this campaign, drawing in a huge amount of money from crowd funding, which he has pledged to use towards repairing toilets at a gym. On the scales Yamaguchi was 136.2lbs and Koibuchi was far heavier at 138.7lbs. Notable this bout was agreed at 63KG, which is around 138.9lbs, so despite the clear weight difference both men were under the limit.
The 2019 Rookie of the Year winner Hyoga Taniguchi (3-2-2, 1) [谷口 彪賀] will take on Yoshiki Tatsukami (4-6-1) [山本佳輝] in the 4th bout of the show. This bout was agreed at 60KG's, with both men making the weight with no issues, coming in at 131.8lbs, around .5lbs under the agreed limit. This will be Taniguchi's first since winning Rookie of the Year, and he will be the favourite here, though this isn't a gimme for the 21 year old.
The chief support bout is potentially the pick of the bunch as teenage hopeful Jin Sasaki (7-0, 6) [佐々木 尽]. takes on Shun Akaiwa (5-1-1, 3) [赤岩俊]. The talented Sasaki is regarded as one of the brightest hopefuls for the Japanese scene at 140lbs whilst Akaiwa is coming into this with a JBC ranking and 4 straight wins, including an upset last time out against Kenta Endo. On the scales Sasaki was the heavier man, coming in at 139.6lbs, whilst Akaiwa was 139.1lbs, with the bout being fought at Light Welterweight the two men again made weight with no issues at all.
The main event will see the "reimported boxer" Shoki Sakai (23-11-2, 12) [坂井 祥記] make his Japanese debut, after fighting his entire career in the West. Sakai, who has mostly fought out of Mexico, will be up against 2017 All Japan Rookie of the Year winner Hironori Shigeta (6-1-1, 3) [重田裕紀] in a Welterweight contest. On the scales Sakai was 146.4lbs whilst Shigeta was 146.2lbs.
Following his weigh in Sakai spoke about fighting in Mexico, and some of the shenanigans he went through, such as weights being changed at short notices. He spoke about wanting to fight in Mexico in the future, but also wanted to win the Japanese or OPBF titles.
For fans wanting to watch this event there will be a live stream available here.
*Note - All weights were recorded in KG's and converted into lbs, and rounded to the nearest .1lb.
The A-Sign brand has come a very, very long way since it first began. Originally it was set up to allowed fans a chance to see cards that lacked TV exposure via what was essentially a pay per view basis. Today it stands as one of the key resources for those who follow Japanese boxing.
Gone are the days of regularly paying to watch the bouts, with events now put on to youtube, and instead we now get a community with things like blogs, a crowd funding scheme, interviews, and genuine build up to events.
Although still small scale compared to some of the more well known promotional outfits A-Sign have been one of the ones who have looked to get ahead of the curve and use social media and technology so show that there is more the sport can do to promote events.
Today they made their next announcements in their journey to grow and become a more well established brand, and continued building towards their August 31st show from Korakuen Hall.
Firstly they have announce a new sponsorship deal with real estate company "First Raight", who will be recognised on A-sign shows by having the events named on their behalf. The events will now be known as "First Raight Presents A-Sign Boxing".
Secondly, and we dare say more interestingly for fans, is their announcement that they will show a special sparring event from the Hachioji Nakaya Gym on Friday from 19:00 local time. The event will be streamed on the A-Sign youtube channel for those wanting to watch.
The sparring bouts will be
Kosuke Tomioka (2-0, 2) [富岡浩介] against Ryugo Ushijima (3-1-2, 2) [牛島龍吾],
Ken Koibuchi (5-4, 4) [鯉 渕 健] against Ryuku Oho (6-3, 3) [大保能球],
Toshiya Ishii (3-0, 2) [石井渡士也] against Hyoga Taniguchi (3-2-2, 1) [谷口彪賀]
and Shoki Sakai (23-11-2, 13) [坂井祥紀] against Jin Sasaki (7-0, 6) [佐々木尽]
Of the 8 men involved in these spars 7 will be in action on the first "First Raight Presents A-Sign Boxing" show, on August 31st.
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