Earlier today the Ohashi Gym put on a big show at Korakuen Hall, with the showing have several notable stories from it. Here's we're going to take a look a few of those.
First before the main show there was two very notable youngster who took part in the pro-test bouts. They were Toramasa Imanaga (0-0) [今永虎雅] and Yuya Tanaka (0-0) [田中湧也] , who both passed, and both are set to make their debuts in the near future.
After passing their tests the two men spoke to the media, with Imanaga stating "From now on, I will do my best to become a world champion. I am planning to make my debut on June 29th, so I will win firmly there."
Tanaka on the other hand told reporters "I am very happy to be a long-sought professional. My goal is to continue to do my best to win the debut match."
Another notable story from the show was the ring return of hard hitting Japanese youngster Jin Sasaki (12-1, 11) [佐々木尽] who began his campaign as a Welterweight with a 5th round TKO against Japanese based American Marcus Smith (7-2-1, 7) [マーカス・スミス]. Sasaki, who hadn't fought since being stopped by Andy Hiraoka last year, struggled with his timing and range in the early going, but began to settling in round 3, with some big hooks. Round 4 was competitive but it was becoming clear that Sasaki was the fresher and better fighter and that was shown when he seemed to hurt Smith late in the round. In the following round Sasaki landed a huge left hook that hurt Smith and the referee quickly jumped in as Sasaki began to unload.
Another notable bout on this card saw former K-1 World Grand Prix Super Bantamweight Champion Yoshiki Takei (4-0, 4) [武居由樹] make a statement as he layed out Shingo Kawamura (15-9-4, 8) [河村真吾] in 2 rounds. Takei was the big favourite here, despite taking a huge step up from his first 3 bouts, and he showed his class, strength and skills through the first round, despite Kawamura trying to close the distance behind a high guard. It was clear Takei wasn't looking for rounds, and early in round 2 he landed some good body shots before detonating with a right hook that dropped Kawamura hard. The referee immediately waved the action off, with Kawamura being taken from the ring on a stretcher.
Earlier today Hideyuki Ohashi held a press conference to announce the April edition of Phoenix Battle, and it's a brilliant one, with an all Japanese world title fight headlining the show, and several notable Japanese prospects taking steps up in class on the under-card.
The main event will see WBO Minimumweight champion Masataka Taniguchi (15-3, 10) [谷口将隆] make his first defense, following his title win late last year. The talented champion will be taking on former foe Kai Ishizawa (10-1, 9) [石澤開] in a much anticipated rematch between the two men.
These two first fought back in September 2019, when Taniguchi recovered from a knockdown to defeat Ishizawa, becoming the mandatory challenger for the Japanese title as a result. Since then Tanuguchi has gone 3-0 (3), winning the Japanese title in 2020 and the WBO title in 2021, living up to the potential many in Japan knew he had. Ishizawa himself bounced back from the loss to Taniguchi, the only loss of his career, by defending the Japanese Youth title, before claiming the Japanese senior title in January. It was clear when Ishizawa won the title title that he would be targeting Taniguchi, and this bout was seemingly an obvious one to make.
At the press conference today the two men involved in the world title fight both spoke confidently, with Ishizawa stating he wanted to "humiliate" Taniguchi here, and that seemed to be more of his focus than actually becoming a world champion.
The chief support bout for the show will see the unbeaten Yoshiki Takei (3-0, 3) [武居由樹] take on JBC ranked Shingo Kawamura (15-8-4, 8) [河村真吾], in a real step up for Takei. Despite this being a step up Takei and his team are confident of not just winning, but doing so in spectacular fashion, with Mr Ohashi giving Takei a target of an opening round win. Despite the hope for a blow out victory, it should be noted this is scheduled as a 10 rounder.
In another support bout we'll see the hard hitting the Jin Sasaki (11-1, 10) [佐々木尽] officially begin his campaign as a Welterweight, as he takes on Japanese based American Marcus Smith (7-1-1, 7) [マーカス・スミス], in what will be Sasaki's first bout since losing to Andy Hiraoka (18-0, 13) [平岡アンディ] last year.
Another supporting bout will see youngster Keisuke Matsumoto (3-0, 3) [松本圭佑] step up to take on Morihisa Iju (11-5, 9) [伊集盛尚], in a scheduled 8 rounder. Notably this bout was schediled for February 28th, but has now been rescheduled to April 22nd.
Earlier this week the JBC announced that they had handed out a 1 year suspension to Japanese based American fighter Marcus Smith (6-1-1, 6), following his inability to make weight for a bout in early December.
Smith was scheduled to fight on December 9th but, according to the JBC's statement, he came in 3.4KG or 7.5lbs overweight.
The JBC described Smith's missing of weight as "This is an act of remarkably deteriorating the authority of boxing as a competition" (Translated).
As is normal in Japan his promoter has also been punished, with a warning put to the gym that Smith fights out of.
The JBC changed their rules in 2018 to seriously punish fighters who missed weight, after a spate of fighters missed weight for bouts resulting in numerous cancellations. As shown with their punishment of Smith they are not taking things lightly. Hopefully more boxing commissions will follow their lead and really punish fighters who miss weight in such an unprofessional manner. This past weekend both Jhack Tepora and Carlos Buitrago did something similar, and it would be good to see both men given similar punishments to the one given to Smith.
In Okinawa today fight fans saw a small card, but a notable one due to how rare boxing is in Okinawa. Sadly however the announced main event for the card a bout between Marcus Smith (6-1-1, 6) and Nelson Tinampay (13-7-1, 6) was cancelled on Friday, when Smith failed to make weight for the contest.
As a result of Smith being off the card the main event became a female bout between former OPBF female Bantamweight champion Yuko Henzan (7-7-4, 2) [平安山裕子] and a Thai opponent, who's name sadly isn't available.
Henzan made the most of her opportunity to headline the card, and put on an exciting performance to score a decision win over the Thai. The bout ended with both really letting their hands go, though by then Henzan had the bout in the bag.
The card also saw Tatsuro Nakashima (8-1-1, 6) [仲島辰郎] take a 5th round TKO win over Thai foe Sanchai Yotboon (4-2, 4). The bout was Nakashima's first since being stopped by Kai Ishizawa in April and he looked pretty good following that loss, though this result is more interesting for the fact that Yotboon had been taken out in 3 rounds by Ginjiro Shigeoka on his debut, and yet managed to survive in to round 5 with Nakashima. It is however a good win for Nakashima, and we look forward to seeing what he does in the new year.
The only downer is Smith's weight fail, and it's going to be very interesting to see how the JBC punish him, given the punishments given to other fighters in 2018.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
This past weekend we saw Naoya Inoue [井上 尚弥] score a sensational stoppage win over Juan Carlos Payano to retain the WBA "interim" Bantamweight title. Today we saw his cousin, Koki Inoue (12-0, 10) [浩樹井上] secure his first title bout, as he defeated Marcus Smith (6-1-1, 6) in a Japanese title eliminator.
The bout promised a lot on paper, with two unbeaten punchers facing off with a big reward. Sadly however the bout rarely came alive and ended up being rather underwhelming.
Through much of the bout it seemed like Inoue wanted to get rounds in, and fought almost solely off the back foot, making Smith miss but never really going out to punish him. It seemed like Inoue was happier to experiment and show off his movement. Despite not being exciting Inoue did look sharp, defensively intelligent and managed to land the cleaner, sharper punches.
In round 4 Smith had some better success and claimed his first round as he managed to get through the guard of Inoue and cut the distance well. Smith also had success in round 5, as Inoue began to come forward with little real success. In round 6 however Inoue landed a dynamite left hand that dropped Smith hard, sadly for Inoue the shot came so close to the bell he couldn't jump on the clearly hurt Smith.
Sadly for Inoue the opportunity to see off Smith was killed by the bell to end round 6, and the final two rounds saw some back and forth, but little real intensity from Inoue, who seemed happier to test his defense and stamina, rather than go for the finish. By then however the win was in the bag, and the judges all scored the bout to Inoue with scores of 78-73, 77-74 and 77-75.
After the bout Inoue explained that the less than thrilling performance had been a result of several injuries he had taken into the bout, including an injury to his right elbow and his left foot. Given those issues his performance makes sense, but certainly wasn't exciting. He admitted that he was relieved to have gotten the chance to fight for a Japanese title, which this win assures him of, but admitted that his focus was now on healing.
Smith seemed to suggest there was no real power on Inoue's shots, but that his sharpness and technical ability was simply too good.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
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