Earlier today at the L-Theatre in Osaka fight fans had a small yet notable card.
The originally announced main event was an attractive looking match up between the in form Dynamic Kenji (10-3, 7 [木久健次] and talented youngster Naoto Iwai (5-2, 3) [岩井尚斗]. Sadly that bout was cancelled late on due to Kenji suffering an eye infection.
As a result of Kenji's medical issues the main event became a match up between Hibiki Jogo (8-2, 4) [城後響] and Tricky Kumagai (9-9, 6) [熊谷直昭].
On paper this looked a mismatch, but as we know records don't tell us the whole story, and Kumgai lived up to his name, by being tricky.
Jogo looked the quicker fighter, and was sharp with his jab early on. Kumagai seemed to be fully aware he was the less skilled boxer, but looked to land the bigger shots, launching huge overhand rights early on. As the bout went on and Jogo slowed we saw Kumagai have more success, that success really came out very late in the bout, as a right hand dropped Jogo, just before the bell. It was too little too late for Kumgai, but the 10-8 round did make things very interesting on the score cards, which were 77-75, 76-75 and 76-76, giving Jogo the very thin majority decision win.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
We've known since mid-February that Hinata Maruta (6-1, 5) [丸田 陽七太] would be making his Japanese ring return on April 22nd, having his first bout in Japan since his November loss to Hidenori Otake.
Sadly until the last few days there was no opponent named for Maruta, and when an opponent isn't named until close to the bout we tend to not expect anyone too testing. That has proven to be the case again here with Maruta's opponent being named as Indonesian foe Arega Yunian (6-9, 1).
Yunian will be best known to Japanese fight fans for his 2013 loss to a then 8-0 Ryo Matsumoto, a 2nd round KO, and his 4th round loss to Takashi Igarashi in 2015. He has also suffered stoppage losses on the road to Panomroonglek Kaiyanghadaogym, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Mike Tawatchai and most recently Singsayan CP Freshmart. Given those losses it's hard to imagine Maruta having any issues with Yunian, in what will hopefully be nothing more than a stay busy bout for the Moriaka gym prospect, who is too good to waste much time fighting at this level.
Sadly it seems like Warlito Parrenas (25-7-1, 22) and Naoto Iwai (4-2, 2) [岩井尚斗] will also be in rather straight forward bouts, as both men take on Thai visitors who look like they won't be much of a test for either of the Morioka pairing. It's a shame that the 3 main bouts will all be mismatches, though it does seem like both Maruta and Parrenas will be stepping up in class later in the year.
The Morioka boxing gym might not be one of the biggest names in the sport but the gym is certainly brimming with talent, and has real potentional to grow into a notable gym in the near future. It's culture is an exciting one that seems to be based on young talent, whilst they have enough experienced heads among their ranks to keep the young fighters grounded.
On April 22nd we'll see a number of their youngsters, and one of their most notable veterans, in action as we get the next in the "Art of Boxing" series of shows. Sadly no opponents for the Morioka fighters have been officially announced, but we do know some of the fighters involved after the poster for the show and some basic details were released.
The headline bout will feature talented youngster Hinata Maruta (6-1, 5) [丸田 陽七太], who returns to a Japanese ring for the first time since he 2017 loss to OPBF Super Bantamweight champion Hidenori Otake. We expect to see Maruta fighting for a regional title again later in the year, though from what we under-stand his bout on this card isn't expected to be a major test.
In one of the main support bouts will be former world title challenger Warlito Parrenas (25-7-1, 22), who fights for the second time as a Morioka fighter. The 34 year old is a trainer at the gym, but also remains an active fighter, and will be fighting for the second time since his 2015 loss to Naoya Inoue. From what we understand Parrenas is looking to move himself back into the title mix later in the year, but will himself be in a low key bout on this show.
Back to the younger fighters there will also be an appearance from 20 year old Naoto Iwai (4-2, 2) [岩井尚斗], who looks to put a poor 2017 behind him, following a 1-2 record for the year, and will be hoping to get his career back on the right tracks. Also the card will feature 18 year old Homare Yasui (2-0-1, 2).
We're expecting opponents for the show to be confirmed shortly, but we'r not expecting anyone too testing, with bigger bouts to come later in 2018.
Back in October we saw veteran Hidenori Otake (30-2-3, 13) [大竹 秀典] defend the OPBF Suoer Bantwamweight title with a victory over the highly touted Japanese youngster Hinata Maruta (5-1, 4) [丸田 陽七太]. The loss was the first one for Maruta and has, clearly,slowed his rapid climb up the world boxing scene. Thankfully though it's done little to harm his reputation or desire and yesterday it was revelaed that he would be back in action on December 21st.
The short notice fight will see Maruta fighting in Thailand, against a local foe, with a reported record of 5-1 (4). The bout isn't expected to test Maruta but should get him a win and more importantly it'll be experience of fighting on foreign soil and perhaps opens doors for Maruta to fight some bigger names on the road.
Maruta won't be the only fighter with some name value on the show as former Japanese title challenger Takumi Sakae (17-2-1, 12) [栄 拓海] and talented youngster Naoto Iwai (3-2, 1) [岩井尚斗] will also be involved on the show, both facing local fighters, ahead of bigger and better bouts in 2018.
This past Tuesday Japanese fans at the Korakuen Hall got the chance to see the first ever bouts from the Japanese Youth Tournament, which had it's first semi final bouts on a recent Dangan card. The bouts were interesting contests on paper, and have opened up some really intriguing match ups for the finals, later this year.
The most interesting of the finals will be at Flyweight, where Seigo Yuri Akui (11-0-1, 7) [ユーリ阿久井 政悟] will face Junto Nakatani (12-0, 9) [中谷 潤人]. In their semi finals the two men had very different levels of success, with Akui brushing aside Ryuto Oho (9-4-1, 2) [大保 龍斗] in 93 seconds, whilst Nakatani claimed a razor thin majority decision over Yuma Kudo (6-3-2, 1) [工藤優雅], in a real gutcheck.
At Super Flyweight Kenya Yamashita (10-3, 7) [山下賢哉] shines, as he scored a 4th round TKO over Naoto Iwai (3-2, 1) [岩井尚斗] to secure a final place against Joe Tanooka (14-3-4, 1) [田之岡条]. Iwai, who had been 3-0 when the bout with Yamashita was first announced, was over-awed by Yamashita's aggression and suffered his second successive loss. Yamashita will be looking to impose himself against Tanooka in a real boxer Vs brawler bout, which could be one of the most interesting match ups from a style point taking place in the finals.
At Featherweight it was again experience being king as Retsu Kosaka (8-2, 3) [小坂烈] stopped Ryo Sagawa (1-1, 1) [佐川遼] in 2 rounds to book a bout with Tsuyoshi Tameda (13-3-2, 11) [溜田 剛士]. The bout between Kosaka and Tameda will be an interesting one, whilst Sagawa, who had fought more than 80 bouts as an amateur, will look to bounce back, after being thrown in very deep here.
In the sole Super Featherweight semi-final Sho Nagata (8-2, 2) [永田 翔] dominated Ryusei Ishii (6-4, 4) [石井龍誠], scoring a shut out to book a place in the final against the talented Kazuma Sanpei (12-4, 4) [三瓶 数馬].
The finals, for the entire tournament not just the divisions with semi-finals, will take place on August 23rd at the Korakuen Hall.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
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