Earlier today fight fans in Osaka saw a new Japanese Middleweight champion being crowned as Riku Kunimoto (6-1, 2) [国本陸] won the vacant title with a 10 round decision against Mikio Sakai (4-1) [酒井 幹生].
The bout started with Kunimoto boxing comfortably behind his jab, setting the tempo of the bout, and keeping Sakai relatively handcuffed with a tight guard and clean jabs. Sakai tried to respond, but was on the wrong end of some good body shots in return as the bigger, strong Kunimoto snuffed out pretty much every attempt that Sakai had of at turning the action around. Sakai, much to his detriment, tried to box on the back foot, but simply wasn't doing enough, and was really struggling to get through with much at all, and when he did he was taking eye catching blows back.
After 5 rounds the judges had the bout 50-45, as we got the open scoring, with all 3 judges having Kunimoto in a comfortable lead, and leaving Sakai with everything to do. Sadly for Sakai he really couldn't do anything to turn things around as Kunimoto began to get more forceful with his output, looking to break down Sakai.
Impressively Sakai saw out some torrid pressure to begin firing back himself in the later stages, having his best moments in the final rounds, but it was far too little far too late. In fact all his late rally accomplished was something amounting to making it look like a fight on the score-cards, albeit not a close one.
After 10 rounds the judges had this 98-92, twice, and 97-93, all for Kunimoto.
Following the bout there was no complaints from Sakai, who seemed to appreciate that he had no answer to Kunimoto's jab, and went on to say it was like trying to see an invisible punch.
As for Kunimoto he praised the gameplan of trainer Kosuke Takeichi, who seemed to have nailed into to his charge, just how important the jab was, and how he had to be more careful with his defense, something that we saw here. Kunimoto also revealed that he was wanting to chase a bout with regional champions Yuki Nonaka (34-11-3, 10) [野中 悠樹], who holds the WBO Asia Pacific title, and OPBF champion Kazuto Takesako (12-0-1, 12) [竹迫司登], who is the man who gave Kunimoto his sole defeat.
Tomorrow the Sumiyoshi Ward Center in Osaka will play host the a Japanese Middleweight title fight, as the once beaten Riku Kunimoto (5-1, 2) [国本陸] takes on the light punching Mikio Sakai (4-0) [酒井 幹生] in an interesting match up to crown a new champion, following Kazuto Takesako (12-0-1, 12) [竹迫司登] giving up the title late last year.
Today the two men took part in their weigh in for tomorrow's bout, and both men made the 160lb limit with no issues at all.
On the scales Kunimoto was bang on the 160lb divisional limit, and looked in good shape. He wasn't ultra cut or anything, but did look in good shape and seemed really determined. He stated that following his 2021 loss to Takesako he has "fixed the issues firmly. The opponent is strong, but I feel like he's losing no matter what he does. I'm not going to do so." Notably he also spoke about the recent Middleweight title unification bout between Gennady Golovkin (42-1-1, 37) [Геннадий Геннадьевич Головкин] and Ryota Murata (16-3, 13) [村田 諒太], and explained that he's now watched that bout 8 times.
As for Sakai he came in comfortably under the limit, at around 159.75lb, whilst explaining this is the best condition he's been in. He stated that he was motivated by the aforementioned Golovkin Vs Murata bout, and it seems he's now determined to put in a performance that shines. He explained that "Tomorrow I will show my strength. I will do boxing that wins, not boxing that does not lose."
The winner of this will enjoy the 62nd reign as the Japanese Middleweight title, and for those that haven't followed the title is has, regularly, given us some amazing bouts. This too could be something very exciting, even though neither man is known for their power.
Related - Kunimoto and Sakai battle for Japanese title!
Earlier today we were informed a date has been set to fill the Japanese Middleweight title vacant.
The title, which became vacant when the unbeaten Kazuto Takesako (12-0-1, 12) [竹迫司登] vacated it in December, will be fought for on April 17th on a show at the Sumiyoshi Ward Center in Osaka, as former Takesako victim Riku Kunimoto (5-1, 2) [国本陸] takes on the light punching Mikio Sakai (4-0) [酒井 幹生].
For Kunimoto this will be a second title shot, following an opening round TKO loss to Takesako in May 2021, when he entered as the mandatory challenger. Whilst he lost to Takesako he has shown himself very capable on the domestic scene, and wins over Shoma Fukumoto and Kazuki Kyohara show he should be in the mix for a title fight. Sadly Takesako is a long way ahead of the domestic level, even if he himself is a long way behind Japan's top Middleweight Ryota Murata (16-2, 13) [村田 諒太].
Saki on the other hand will be getting his first title fight and a chance to claim a Japanese title in just his 5th professional bout. Since turning professional Sakai has been impressive, and has scored decent wins over Ran Tomomatsu and Koshinmaru Saito, whilst relying on his speed, movement and technical skills. This is however a notable step up, and he didn't look comfortable against Saito.
At the time of writing no other bouts for the card have been anounced for the show, though Kunimoto's promoter, Takashi Edagawa of Muto Promotions, will be in charge of the event, and Sakai will be fighting outside of Korakuen Hall for the first time.
Earlier today at Korakuen Hall fight fans got the latest Dangan card and it was one that was mostly easy to over-look, though did have 2 bouts worthy of attention on it, including a Japanese title bout.
Befoore we talk about that title fight we'll talk about the chief support bout, which was a pretty notable an interesting contest, and a step up in class for an unbeaten prospect.
That chief support contest saw Mikio Sakai (4-0) [酒井 幹生] over-come a game effort by veteran Koshinmaru Saito (24-11-2, 13) [斉藤伸介]. The talented, but very light punching Sakai was made to work for this win. Early on he was bust up around the nose and forced to take the power of Saito, who left him with blood across his face and in a bit of a hole. To his credit however Sakai gritted his teeth and took the fight to Saito, applying constant, intelligent pressure and running up the rounds using his clean sharp shots and youthful movement and speed to pick Saito apart.
Later in the bout Saito began to dig deep, trying to rough up Sakai whilst the bout was seemingly slipping away from the veteran. He tried, and to his credit he really did put in a real shift in the final rounds, but it was too little too late to steal the play away, and over-turn Sakai's momentum.
After 8 rounds the early troubles of Sakai were easily forgotten as a tired Saito just about made it to the final bell, despite being blooded himself as a result of Sakai's consistent clean head shots.
With the bout going the distance we went to the scorecards which all favoured Sakai 77-75 giving him the win, but one he genuinely had to earn.
We then moved on to the main event, and it turned out to be a really unfortunate and disappiinting one as Kyosuke Sawada (14-2-2, 6) [澤田京介] and Ikuro Sadatsune (11-4-4, 4) [定常 育郎] fought for the "cursed", and vacant, Japanese Bantamweight title.
The first round was a messy one at times as both men tried to figure the other out. Both had moments, but the Righty Vs Lefty dynamic made for some ugly moments. The little bit of real quality however came from Sawada who managed to drop Sadatsune with a perfectly timed straight left right hook combination may way through the round. Following the knockdown Sadatsune did seem to remain buzzed for quite some time, but Sawada couldn't see him off before the bell rung to end the round.
Sadly just seconds into round 2 a huge clash of heads left both men a bloodied mess. Both fighters ended up getting inspected by the doctor, and the doctor quickly decided that the bout shouldn't continue.
To begin with it looked like Sadatsune, who went down in the corner, had got the worse of it, but in reality both men were looking like they had done a Ric Flair blade job as claret flowed freely from both fighters.
Due to the cuts the bout was ruled a 2nd round technical draw, leaving the title vacant and both men disappointed.
Earlier today the Korakuen Hall played host to a joint promoted Watanabe and Dangan card that was short in terms of bouts, with just 5, though did have a number of very interesting match ups on it including the debut of a promising youngster, a very interesting looking regional title bout, a compelling 8 round chief support between unbeaten hopefuls, and a bout between two Hamaguchi's.
The show began with a 6 rounder at Bantamweight, with 24 year old debutant Kyotaro Yoshida (1-0) [吉田 京太郎] taking a unanimous decision win against the hard hitting, but limited, Hiroki Kinjo (5-2, 4) [金城 寛季]. Yoshida started well but got better as the bout went on, taking the power of Kinjo and firing back with better shots of his own, forcing Kinjo to respect him, and later give ground before being dropped in round 6. Credit to Kinjo for always trying to fight back, but he really was second best through out much of this bout. After 6 rounds the judges turned in scores of 59-54, and 58-55, twice, to give Yoshida the unanimous decision win.
In the second bout on the show we saw the battle of Hamaguchi's with Daiju Hamaguchi (5-5, 3) [濱口 大樹] coming out on top against Ryosei Hamaguchi (6-8, 2) [濱口 稜生]. Daiju started well, pressing the action and managed to drop his man with a big right hand. Ryosei beat the 10 count, but was left cut later in the round and his corner withdrew him before the start of second round, giving Daiju an opening round TKO win.
The third bout on the show was a very interesting match up between talented southpaws, as Fumiya Fuse (10-1, 1) [富施 郁哉] took a decision over JBC ranked foe Fuya Tomita (6-3, 2) [冨田 風弥]. On paper this was a really interesting match up as the men were 2017 and 2020 All Japan Rookie of the Year winners, and both were regarded as genuinely bright prospects heading into the bout. In the end however Fuse's ring IQ and higher level experience played a decisive role, as he out boxed, out pointed and out landed the less polished Tomita. After 6 rounds Fuse was a clear winner, taking a wide decision, though we suspect Tomita will actually improve on the back of this defeat.
The scorecards, for those interested, were 58-56, 59-57 and 60-54, all for Fuse.
The chief support bout was a fantastic match up between Shu Utsuki (9-0, 7) [宇津木 秀] and Ryo Nakai (2-1-1, 1) [中井 龍], and this one lived up to all expectations. From the off these two showed some nice boxing skills, before a Nakai dropped Utsuki in the opening round. Utsuki managed to recover, though was in a hole, and had to take risks, pressing more in round 2 and 3, with some fantastic body shots, trying to take the legs from Nakai. Nakai however wasn't there to be outdone and and fought back, picking up his own pace in rounds 4 and 5 as he looked to sniff out the Utsuki comeback.
Just as Nakai seemed to be getting on top of things Utsuki then changed things up, pressing more, getting inside and working the left side of Nakai's body, whilst also thudding home some great 1-2's. Nakai wasn't to be out done and got boxing on the move in round 7 before both men unloaded bombs on each other in the final round, sending the crowd into an eruption of applause.
Despite scoring the knockdown it wasn't enough for Nakai to get the decision, instead Utsuki took the win with scores of 76-75, twice, and 77-74. For Utsuki the future seems to be for him to move onto title bouts, though we dare say that this isn't a major set back for Nakai, who can certainly come again.
Then we got to much anticipated main event between WBO Asia Pacific Minimumweight champion Ginjiro Shigeoka (6-0, 5) [重岡銀次朗] and the hungry challenger Toshiki Kawamitsu (6-1, 3) [川満俊輝. On paper this looked like a brilliant match up, made even more compelling by the fact Shigeoka had been out of the ring for well over a year, and Kawamitsu had looked really good in his most recent bouts. Sadly however this was not the compelling test for Shigeoka we had expected.
From the opening moments Shigeoka closed the distance and began to hammer Kawamitsu, who tried to stand his ground and fire back. The entire first round was exhilarating toe to toe action, but it was not the style of fight that was going to favour Kawamitsu. In round 2 Shigeoka's power broke through, as he dropped Kawamitsu with a right hook. Kawamitsu beat the count but he was a wounded animal and Shigeoka smelled blood, going after him, claming picking his spots and then forcing the referee to save Kawamitsu after a straight left and a rook hook left Kawamitsu in no fit state to continue.
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