Earlier today we were informed by sources in Japan that hard hitting Japanese Featherweight Satoshi Shimizu (10-1, 9) [清水 聡] was no longer the unified OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight champion, with "Diamond Fist" having now vacated his WBO regional title.
At the moment there hasn't been any word as to why Shimizu has made this decision. It is a notable move however as he only unified the regional titles earlier this year, when he beat Musashi Mori (12-1, 7) [森 武蔵] in a hotly contested bout back in May. One thing that is known is that Shimizu has long been wanting a world title fight and that's likely what he and his team are going to be looking at in 2022. At the time of writing he is ranked by both the WBO and the WBC.
The 35 year old Shimizu, who won a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics in London, is still holding the OPBF title, and it's likely that if he can't land a world title fight, or world title eliminator next, he'll defend his Oriental title.
Interestingly Japanese Featherweight champion Hinata Maruta (11-1-1, 9) [丸田陽七太] is the #1 ranked contender for the now vacant title, whilst Reiya Abe (21-3-1, 9) [阿部麗也] is ranked #3. Both of these men fight tomorrow at Korakuen Hall, and if they both win they would likely be meeting early next year, now potentially in a double title bout.
Earlier today Japanese star, and current WBO Super Flyweight champion, Kazuto Ioka (27-2, 15) [井岡一翔] held a press conference to announce his next bout. To no ones surprise he confirmed what we all already knew, and that he had reached a deal for the unification bout between himself and IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas (33-1-2, 22), which was confirmed for December 31st and will take place at the Ota-City General Gymnasium in Tokyo, with TBS broadcasting the bout in Japan.
The bout had been one both men had spoken about wanting for most of the year, and is a perfect bout to end 2021 with, and it's little surprise to see the bout getting done after both men had been so open about wanting to unify this year year. Especially given the whole situation with the WBC and WBA titles, both held by Juan Francisco Estrada who will face Roman Gonzalez in the new year.
At the press conference today Ioka stated that he wanted to fight the best opponents, and that unification bouts were something special to him.
Whilst Ioka attended the press conference in person Ancajas sent a video stating, "I'm glad that the unification of the throne will be realized. Ioka is one of the best boxers in this class." That was followed by Ioka complimenting Ancajas, and explaining that Ancajas was a top notch and that there was no holes in the way he fights.
Ioka also added that he is wanting to unify all the titles next year. For that to happen he would have to face the winner of the planned third bout between Estrada and Gonzalez.
For Ioka, a 4-weight world champion and the first man from Japan to achieve that feat, the bout will be his second unification bout, having previously unified the WBA and WBC Minimumweight titles way back in 2012. It will also serve as his 4th defense of the WBO Super Flyweight title, and his first of those not to be against a mandatory challenger, and will mark the 10th time he has fought on New Year's Eve.
As for Ancajas the bout will be his first bout in Japan, his first unification bout and his 10th defense of the IBF title, which he has held since September 2016.
At the moment no under-card bouts for this show have been announced, though suspicion is that the show will feature at least one other notable name on it, potentially featuring either a world title bout, or Ioka's Shisei Boxing Gym stablemates Musashi Mori (12-1, 7) [森 武蔵] and Daigo Higa (17-2-1, 17) [比 嘉 大吾].
Back in May we saw talented youngster Musashi Mori (12-1, 7) [森 武蔵] lose the WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight title, losing in a unification bout with OPBF champion Satoshi Shimizu (10-1, 9) [清水 聡]. Following that loss, news went quiet on what was next for Mori, though it now appears he is set to shake things up going forward and it's now been confirmed that he has changed gyms.
Mori, who was with former WBC Bantamweight champion Yasuei Yakushiji and his gym since starting his professional career, has officially transferred to the Shisei Gym, which is the same gym as WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka (26-2, 15) [井岡一翔] and former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa (17-2-1, 17) [比 嘉 大吾].
Although the Shisei Gym isn't a big name one at the moment, the quality there is really impressive and adding Mori to the stable will further strengthen it's standing, whilst allowing the gym to focus on not just it's current stars but also the future, something Mori is certainly going to be part of given he's only 21 at the moment.
Talking about the transfer Mori stated that he respects Ioka, who is the key figure head of the gym, that he will become a world a champion one day and and will resurrect his career at the Shisei Boxing gym.
At the time of writing it's unclear when Mori will return to the ring, though we suspect it will be sooner rather than later, and could happen on the under-card of Kazuto Ioka's next title defense.
Earlier today fight fans at Korakuen Hall had the latest show in the Phoenix Battle series of shows, which will be aired this coming weekend on Fuji TV. The card featured an OPBF Bantamweight title bout, between Kai Chiba and Kazuki Nakajima as well as a regional unification bout at Featherweight between Musashi Mori and Satoshi Shimizu.
For those wanting to watch this, as live, when it's finally aired, we have included this spoiler warning introduction. Please note that spoilers will begin in the paragraph after the next one. We will include the full undercard results for this show as well as the two main bouts.
The show kicked off with a 6 round bout in the Super Featherweight division which saw the unbeaten Shun Sekine (5-0-1, 3) [関根 駿] battle against Atsuyuki Sato (5-3-2, 3) [佐藤 諄幸] in what was a very hotly contested match up, though that was to be expected given they fought to a draw last November. From the opening round this was a hard one to call, with fantastic back and forth, and every time one man got the advantage the other came back strongly, and turned the tidein what was a genuinely brilliant way to open the show. After 6 rounds the judges were required and they narrowly gave the bout to Sekine, with the unbeaten Sekine taking a majority decision over his foe, with scores of 57-57, 58-57 and 58-56.
The second bout on the show saw JBC ranked Lightweights clash, as the unbeaten Katsuya Yasuda (8-0, 5) [保田 克也] faced off with Tomoki Takada (8-6-2, 5) [高田 朋城]. On paper this looked liek a mismatch, but interestingly Takada had come into the bout higher ranked by the JBC amd Yasuda was regarded as the man stepping up in class, and getting his first real chance to prove himself. And boy did he ever prove what he could do. From the opening round Yasuda looked relaxed, took his time to get a read on Takada and then went to work from round 2, out landing his foe. Takada was put on the back foot, and looked like he was getting the worse of things, though he did land a good counter in round 4. Despite Takada having some success with counters he was left cut later in that round with a straight left hand. That cut caused the bout to be stopped just a round later, following a doctor's inspection. Due to the cut Yasuda got the 5th round TKO at an official time of 2:12.
The third bout on the show saw talented youngster Keisuke Matsumoto (3-0, 3) [松本 圭佑] put in a career best showing, as he destroyed Hiromu Murota (6-5-2, 4) [室田 拡夢] in just 128 seconds. The highly promising Matsumoto had looked shaky in his first two bouts, but looked in control here from the off with sharp 1-2's and some cracking body work. Murota fought back but a 1-2 from Matsumoto dropped his man. To his credit Murota got back to his feet but was dropped again from a hard counter right hand. After the bout he spoke about being happy with his performance, after a bad aftertaste from his first two bouts.
The first of two title bouts on the show saw a new OPBF Bantamweight champion being crowned as Kazuki Nakajima (10-0-1, 8) [中嶋一輝] out pointed Kai Chiba (13-2, 8) [千葉開] over 12 rounds, in a surprisingly dull fight.
Nakajima settled quicker, getting his powerful left hand into play early on. Chiba on the other hand used his footwork, to try and create some space, but struggled to get his own offense off, and looked negative whilst Nakajiam seemed to be the one force the action. What little there was. After 4 rounds the open scoring was announced, with two judges having Nakajima up 40-36 and the third having the bout 39-37.
Knowing he was behind Chiba began to let his hands go more in the middle rounds, in an attempt to swing things his way. Sadly though Nakajima's work increased as Chiba threw more and Chiba's attempt to turn the bout around was essentially sniffed out by the taller, heavier handed Nakajima, who's 1-2 and right hook were telling punches. The attempted fight back from Chiba didn't really close the scores down when they were announced after 8 rounds, with scores of 79-73, twice, and 77-75 all in favour of Nakajima.
Knowing the bout was pretty much in the bag Nakajima began to play safe in the finals stages, whilst Chiba became more aggressive, giving his all in rounds 9, 10 and 11, before Nakajima regained his composure and and took the final round. After 12 rounds the bout was a clear Nakajima win, with scores of 1119-109, 117-111 and 116-112.
The second title bout saw the heavy handed Satoshi Shimizu (10-1, 9) [清水 聡] unify his OPBF Featherweight title with the WBO Asia Pacific title, as he defeated Musashi Mori (12-1, 7) [森 武蔵] and took his first decision victory since turning professional.
Morie started well, getting his jab going, but Shimizu was equal to it, and and as the early stages got going the men regularly exchanged punches up close, in some thrilling moments of action. right through the first third of the fight this was high tempo, and high tension, with Shimizu's power always giving a sense that anything could happen. After 4 rounds the judges were all over the place, with scores of 39-37, each way, and 38-38.
Mori started to go inside and attack the tall body of Shimizu in round 5 but Shimizu was equal to it, responding with his own body shot, as the phone booth war continued. By round 7 however it seemed Shimizu's power was starting to take a toll on Mori and in round 8 Mori was starting to bleed from the nose. After 8 rounds Shimizu was starting to establish himself on the scorecards, leading 78-74, twice, and 77-75, giving him the edge as we went into the final rounds.
It was then that the pace started to slow, as Shimizu started to use his jab, yes he does actually have one!, and conttrolled the range. He was keeping Mori at range, and kept the bout long, which really did neeutralise Mori and his inside work. As a result of this control Shimizu ended up taking a clear decision, with scores of 118-110, twice, and 116-112 to unify the regional titles and move towards a potential world title fight. As for Mori this is a major set back, but at just 21 years old he really does have time on his side to rebuild and come again.
Tomorrow at Korakuen Hall fight fans are set to get something a little bit special as WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight champion Musashi Mori (12-0, 7) [森 武蔵] takes on OPBF champion Satoshi Shimizu (9-1, 9) [清水 聡] in a mouth watering clash of regional champions.
The bout mixes not just regional champions, but also men with very, very different in ring styles, and men who are at very different points in their careers. This isn't just a regional unification bout, but it's also a legitimate must win fight for one of the fighters, and chance for both to take strides towards a potential world title fight.
Today the two men took part in their weigh in for the bout and both men came in comfortably under the 126lb limit.
On the scales the 35 year old Shimizu, the much taller and older man, was around 125.5lbs. He is a man who cannot afford a loss, and will know that if he loses here his career is essentially over. Despite know his career is on the line, he seemed really confident here, explaining he was in very good condition, had spared between 80 and 90 rounds and was able to prepare perfectly, despite the bout being delayed 8 days due to a recent state of emergency in Tokyo.
Interestingly Shimizu spoke about how this was the most important bout of his career and gives him a chance to move on to world title bouts.
Despite being the shorter man Mori was actually the heavier man, weighing in at around 125.75lbs, and he looked in really good shape and condition. He seemed fully aware of Shimizu's strengths, admitting that one mistake could be the end of his unbeaten record, and that he had to be be very careful of Shimizu's height and reach. Despute that he has been advised by trainer Ismael Salas to use a busy jab, and fight to a gameplan.
If he wins the 21 year old Mori would be knocking on the door of a world title fight, and is already ranked #4 by the WBO.
For fans wanting to watch this one, it won't be aired live, but will be shown on tape delay this coming weekend, on Fuji TV.
Related - Shimizu and Mori battle for Asian dominance in regional unification!
(Image courtesy of Ohashi Gym)
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