Earlier today fight fans at Korakuen Hall had the chance to see a new Japanese Lightweight champion being crowned as the heavy handed Shu Utsuki (10-0, 8) [宇津木 秀] faced off with former Japanese Light Welterweight champion Masahiro Suzuki (7-1, 4) [鈴木 雅弘] for the vacant title. On paper the match up looked like a brilliant one, and had all the makings of something special. It featured two fighters who entered the bout with unbeaten records, fighting to get themselves in the mix in the talent laden Japanese Lightweight scene, it also featured two men with some history, with the two having fought 3 times in the amateurs, and it featured two men with very different styles, pitching a boxer-mover against a boxer-puncher.
Sadly for Suzuki the move down in weight, from 140lbs to 135lbs, turned out not to be a great one. On the scales he admitted he had struggled to make weight, but even if he had made weight easily it's hard to imagine what he could have done here against a man who simply seemed to have his number.
In the opening round Suzuki had success with his jab setting up his straights and hooks, whilst Utsuki tried to close the distance and came forward behind a tight guard, looking to see what Suzuki had to offer whilst looking to land to the body. Utsuki then began to come forward with more intent, and began to let his hands go in round 2, landing some heavier artillery, which he continued to have success with in round 3, as he started to really find his groove. In round 4 things went from bad to worse for Suzuki, who was cut over the right eye from an uppercut and then dropped from a left hook later in the round. Suzuki recovered from the knockdown but was on the back foot, and took some big shots on the ropes as Suzuki sought an early finish. To his credit Suzuki survived the round, but seemed to be running out of ideas as Utsuki began to break him down in round 5, landing good uppercuts and heavy body shots.
After 5 rounds the scorecards were announced, as part of an open scoring system used in Japan, with Utsuki leading 50-44, 49-45 and 48-44. Not only washe in the lead however, but he was also looking incredibly strong, comfortable, and like the man in total control. To his credit however Suzuki put in an excellent effort in round 6, using his jab well to try and mount something of a fight back. It was however a short lived fight back, and Utsuki would quickly resume control on the action, and make the most of his body at the same time, taking the fight out of Suzuki, and taking away Suzuki's legs in the process. In the 9th round Utsuki would hurt Suzuki and follow up, forcing the referee to step in and save Suzuki after 44 seconds of the round.
The show didn't just have a huge main event but also an excellent co-feature, as the very highly regarded Rentaro Kimura (5-1, 3) [木村蓮太朗] faced off with former Rookie of the Year winner Jinki Maeda (9-0, 4) [前田 稔輝]. On paper this looked like an excellent match up, and it delivered everything, including a genuine upset as the highly fancied Kimura suffered his first loss, in a very hard fought bout.
From the off Maeda showed no real concern of Kimura's reputation, or of fighting in front of Kimura's fans at Korakuen Hall. Instead he stuck to his boxing, his and fought his style of fight, showing great patience, and looking to counter on the mistakes of Kimura. Whilst Maeda was showing patience, Kimura was looking to fight behind his sharp, crisp jab and make the most of his very well polished boxing skills. In round 2 the patience of Maeda paid off as he landed a counter left hand, and dropped Kimura for the bouts first knockdown. This lead to a change in tempo, with rounds 3 and 4 being very exciting and much higher tempo than the first one. Sadly for Kimura it seemed like Maeda's tempo, speed and accuracy was catching the eye in round 5, before Kimura began his fight back, having some of his best success in round 6 and 7, despite Maeda giving a really gutsy account and landing some classy shots of his own, even when he was under pressure. The final round saw both men looking exhausted, and it was a round that saw little action, a lot of clinching as both looked to bully the other physically, and not take much out of themselves. It was a tough, and rough, round but one that lacked in terms of quality. After 8 rounds we went to the score cards, which reflected the wonderfully competitive, back and forth nature of the fight. After 8 rounds the scores were 76-75, 75-76 and 76-75 to give Maeda the upset split decision win, and a massive boost to his career.
Tomorrow fight fans in Tokyo will get the chance to see a new Japanese Lightweight champion being crowned as Masahiro Suzuki (7-0, 4) [鈴木 雅弘] clashes with Shu Utsuki (9-0, 7) [宇津木 秀] for the vacant title. Today, ahead of their bout, the two men took part in their weigh in, and both made the 135lb weight limit with no issues at all.
Before we talk about the actual weigh in we want to quickly discuss some history. Notably this will be the fourth time these two men have fought, with the two men clashing 3 times in the amateurs, where Utsuki claimed a 2-1 lead. Notably however as a professional Suzuki has got the better achievements, having won the Japanese title at 140lbs last year, before dropping down a weight for this bout.
At the weigh in Suzuki was bang on the decision limit, but admitted that that he had struggled to lose the weight, but trained well and seemed determined to become a 2-weight champion by dropping down in weight, rather than moving up in weight like many others. He explained that he was fully aware of Utsuki's strengths and seemed very wary of his former amateur rival, but also seemed confident he had the tools needed to win.
Utsuki on the other hand came in comfortably under the limit, weighing in at 134.75lbs and looked rocked solid at the weight. He explained this was the best shape he had been in and seemed to feel he was the challenger for the bout, going up against Suzuki, the more proven professional fighter.
For fans wanting to watch this one, but can't get to Korakuen Hall, the bout will be aired on Fuji TV on tape delay as part of their Diamond Glove coverage.
Related - Suzuki and Utsuki face off for Japanese title
Earlier this month we reported that Shuichiro Yoshino (13-0, 10) [吉野 修一郎] had vacated the Japanese Lightweight title, rather than keep the title and make a mandatory defense in early 2022 against Masahiro Suzuki (7-0, 4) [鈴木 雅弘], who earned his show by winning an eliminator back in October.
At the time it seemed like Suzuki may have ended up facing former OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro (11-0-1, 4) [三代大訓] for the vacant, but Mishiro obviously has his eye on bigger fights than a Japanese title and he hasn't been interested in a show down against the unheralded Suzuki.
Instead we now know that Suzuki will face fellow unbeaten fighter Shu Utsuki (9-0, 7) [宇津木 秀] for the vacant title, with their bout now scheduled February 8th at Korakeun Hall as part of a Diamond Glove show.
For Suzuki, a former Japanese champion at 140lbs, this is a great chance for him to become a 2-weight national champion, and join the relatively small list of fighters who have moved down in weight to win titles. He's a very talented technical boxer, but there are question marks about his punching power and physicality, despite his success at 140lbs.
As for Utsuki this will be his first title fight, and the heavy handed fighter from the Watanabe Gym has been impressive, with good wins against Yoji Saito, Takayuki Sakai, Masashi Wakita and Ryo Nakai. He is less polished than Suzuki, but he has very heavy hands and he is genuinely destructive at domestic.
Yoshino vacates Japanese title
Earlier today we were informed that Japanese Lightweight Shuichiro Yoshino (13-0, 10) [吉野 修一郎] had vacated one of the three titles he held.
The unbeaten Yoshino, who had unified the WBO Asia Pacific, OPBF and Japanese Lightweight titles, has now vacated the Japanese national title, though will continue to hold his two regional titles.
Yoshino was supposed to be in action on December 29th, with a scheduled bout against former WBO Super Featherweight champion Masayuki Ito (27-3-1, 15) [伊藤 雅雪], though that bout has been postponed. The plan, it seems, is to have that bout next year and vacating the Japanese title means there is one less stumbling black, as Yoshino would have had a mandatory against Masahiro Suzuki (7-0, 4) [鈴木 雅弘] in early 2022.
At the moment it's unclear on what date Yoshino Vs Ito will now be made for, though a Spring date is expected. As for Suzuki, it seems likely that he could be facing former OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro (11-0-1, 4) [三代大訓] next year for the Japanese Lightweight title.
Results from Korakuen Hall!
Yesterday A-Sign Boxing and Dangan Boxing put together a brilliant 4 card at Korakuen Hall, that was sadly hidden behind a paywall and only available on PPV. Despite the PPV, and the worrying movement in recent years to Japan having more and more boxing on PPV, the show was a major one, with prospects and a Japanese title eliminator all taking place on the event.
The show began with a bout between the heavy handed Yasutaka Fujita (8-1, 6) [藤田 裕崇] and the awkward Izuki Tomioka (7-5-1, 2) [富岡 樹]. From the off this was hotly competitive and a fight that really was a compelling stylistic match up, with Tomioka fighting behind his excellent jab and moving, whilst Fujita looked to pressure and use his physicality. This made for a really interesting bout, where both men had success in every round. In the later rounds however it was Fujita who seemed more consistent with his game plan, whilst Tomioka was under a lot of pressure.
After 8 rounds the judges scored this a split decision, in favour of Fujita. He was favoured 77-75 and 77-76 from two of the judges, whilst the third had Tomioka winning 77-75. With this win we expect to see Fujita earning a Japanese ranking, and Tomioka will certainly come again in the future.
The second bout In the second bout on the show we saw Takuya Watanabe (38-10-1, 22) [渡邉 卓也] bounce back from his vicious beating to Kosuke Saka to easily see off Kazuma Sanpei (20-7, 9) [三瓶 数馬] in just 2 rounds. The bout started with both men feeling each other out, but in round 2 a huge straight hand from Watanabe dropped his man. A follow up attack after Sanpei regained his feet forced the referee to jump in and save him from further punishment.
The third bout on the show saw youngster Suzumi Takayama (5-0, 4) [高山 涼深] get through the toughest test of his career, as he took a decision win against Kai Chiba (13-3, 8) [千葉 開]. This started with the two men battling for position early on, using their straight shots at mid range through the first round. In round 3 Takayama got a major break through, dropping Chiba, but to his credit Chiba got back to his feet, and rocked Takayama later in the round. Chiba was dropped again in round 5, as Takayama landed a gorgeous straight left counter. Chiba again got to his feet, and gave his all in the final rounds, but it wasn't enough to over-come the two knockdowns. After 8 rounds the judges had this one 77-73, 77-74 and 76-75.
The main event saw former Japanese 140lb champion Masahiro Suzuki (7-0, 4) [鈴木 雅弘] take a split decision over Seiryu Toshikawa (14-6, 8) [利川 聖隆] to become the mandatory challenger for the Japanese Lightweight title.
Toshikawa started well, using his height and reach to control the distance and made the most of his long range jab. Suzuki tried to get inside but struggled until round 2, when he managed to drop Toshikawa with a solid left hook. Following the knockdown Suzuki began to amp up his out put, though to his credit Toshikawa wasn't there to make up the numbers, and fought back hard.
We ended up with more drama in round 6 as Suzuki was dropped, and hurt. The final two rounds were great with a lot of leather thrown, it was a real back and forth as Suzuki looked to clear his hear, and Toshikawa looked to close the show.
With both men having been downed, and both having given a stellar account of themselves, this one was tough to score, though Suzuki got the nod with scores of 76-74 in his favour, twice, whilst Toshikawa was favoured by the same score by the third judge.
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