Earlier today we got the first televised Japanese sow of the year, thanks to promotional outfit Kadoebi and satellite TV channel G+. The show was earlier than we usually get for G+ cards due to the ongoing state of emergency through parts of Kanto, but still felt somewhat special, and something to look forward to in a year where boxing really has stuttered, and struggled to get going globally.
The show kicked off with an all debutant bout over 4 rounds with Yudai Murakami (1-0) [村上 雄大] facing off with Naoki Shimizu (0-1) [清水 直樹] in front of a very sparse crowd at the iconic Korakuen Hall.
On paper this looked good but sadly, for the first televised bout of the year in Japan, the contest struggled to get going. Part of that was due to the fact Murakami was a southpaw and Shimizu wasn't, causing the two men to tangle up and clash heads several times in the opening round, with inexperience exacerbating the problems. Despite that the bout did begin to tidy up in round 2, with Murakami having success at range and countering Shimizu well. Shimizu managed to get a toe hold in the bout in round 3, but Murakami managed to turn the screw in round 4 and out worked his man in a very messy round that left him cut around the right eye. After 4 rounds we went to the judges, who all scored the bout 39-37 to Murakami.
The second bout on the show saw Yugo Kon (0-1) [今 優吾] kick off his professional career with a tough loss as he was stopped by Koji Tsurumi (5-3-1, 2) [鶴海 高士] in a 6 round bout at a contracted 54.5KG's, which is just over 120lbs.
Unlike the first bout this was really engaging with Kon boxing well behind his jab early on before Tsurumi's pressure began to build and we ended up getting a really solid fight, with Kon's boxing skills going up against Tsurumi's fighting will. By round 5 the action was starting to get genuinely intense, with Kon trying to take his man out with some huge right hands and Tsurumi trying to break his foe with pressure, forcing him on to the ropes several times. To his credit Tsurumi proved to be tough, and kept coming, even when it was clear he was tiring and it was that toughness that proved vital in round 6. It was in round 6 that a tired Kon began to trade with Tsurumi. A combination up top from Tsurumi wobbled Kon and with Kon's defenses falling apart the referee jumped in to save the debutant with just 50 seconds left.
We'll admit on first viewing the stoppage seemed a bit hasty, but on replay it was certainly not among the worst stoppages we've seen. Perhaps a touch early, but no real complaints from us, though we suspect Kon will feel somewhat aggrieved he wasn't given a few more seconds to try and ride out the storm. On the other hand this was a great example of a fighter not giving up until the final bell and the tenacity of Tsurmi was a key to his victory.
The third bout on the show was the event’s only 8 rounder and saw Chikato Sumida (9-3-1, 1) [住田 愛斗] and Ken Achiwa (12-15-6, 4) [阿知和 賢] clash in a battle of top 20 ranked Japanese Super Flyweights. On paper this looked like a bit of a mismatch, but in reality Achiwa is far better than his record indicates, and is a grizzled veteran as he showed again here.
The fight wasn’t the best to watch but was an engaging one, as Sumida looked to come out of the blocks quickly, and had success in round 2 with body shots. As the rounds went on however Achiwa did well to take the sting out of a lot of Sumida’s work, and by round 4 the experience and ring craft of Achiwa was showing itself as he landed counters, and boxed smartly against Sumida. Head clashes, in rounds 5 and 6, left Sumida in agony and by round 7 Sumida looked like a desperate and exhausted fighter whilst Achiwa was landing clean shots and still had snap in his punches. That exhaustion showed again in round 8, but Sumida did his best to hold and spoil through the round.
After 8 rounds the bout seemed a nightmare to score, with both men having some clear rounds, and others being a complete toss up. That was shown on the scorecards with scores of 77-75 to Sumida, 77-75 to Achiwa and 76-76, giving us a draw.
Following the draw we saw the anticipated debut of Jun Ikegawa (1-0) [池側 純], who turned professional after going 51-15 in the amateur ranks. He was up against Kakeru Yoshikawa (4-2-2) [吉川 翔].
Sadly whilst it was clear Ikegawa was a very talented fighter, this bout was not one that will live in the memory. Ikegawa looked like an excellent counter puncher, but someone who needs to learn to adapt a more offensive style in the professional ranks. Unfortunately Yoshikawa gave very, very few countering opportunities to Ikegawa, in one of the tamest efforts we’ve ever seen from a Japanese fighter. Much of this bout was spent with the two men fencing with their lead hands, and very, very little drama. Ikegawa won pretty much by default, as Yoshikawa did so little. In fact it seemed like Yoshikawa’s only gameplan for 5 rounds was to box with a much, much better boxer.
Thankfully Yoshikawa did show some ambition, but it wasn’t until round 6, and that ambition seemed to be focused on not being shut out on the scorecards, rather than actively trying to win. Sadly for Yoshikawa the judges didn’t make much of his late effort and still scored this a shut out for Ikegawa.
In the penultimate bout of the show we saw Jukiya Iimura (1-0, 1) [飯村 樹輝弥], who went 68-13 in the amateurs, make his debut against the 35 year old Daisuke Yamada (6-6, 1) [山田大輔].
Yamada looked to begin with a high energy style which was a stark difference to what we had seen from Yoshikawa just moments earlier. Iimura on the other hand looked like a solid professional, with a pressure style, a tight guard and very nice composure. Around the mid-way point of the round Iimura landed a gorgeous right hand that put his man down, the first knockdown of the show. Yamada beat the count, but was down again soon afterwards from another short right hand counter. He tried to beat the count, and got to his feet, but had no idea where he was and the referee quickly waved off the contest before Yamada was back on the canvas, and later stretchered out of the ring.
Compared to all the other debutants on this show Iimura stood out like a sore thumb. He looked like a special talent. Not just a good boxer, but a genuine special talent.
The main event of the card saw Riku Nagahama (12-3-1, 4) [長濱 陸] lose a decision as he attempted to make his first defense of the OPBF Welterweight title, taking on the hard hitting Ryota Toyoshima (13-2-1, 8) [豊嶋亮太].
From the off Toyoshima looked to set the tempo and make a statement, landing heavy shots early on, and establishing his tempo, range and style on the fight. Nagahama seemed to start very slowly and struggled to get Toyoshima’s respect through the first few rounds, despite having some flurries of success, particularly with his right hand. The solid jab of Nagahama’s, one of his best weapons, regularly went under-utilised and by the time he started using it regularly it seemed that he was already in a hole, especially given the body shots he was being forced to take.
Somehow though the judges were less harsh than we were and after 4 rounds the scores were 39-37, 38-38 and 37-39, leading to a draw at that point on the cards. We sided with the judge who had it 39-37 to Toyoshima.
It seemed like those cards offended Toyoshima who really upped the tempo in rounds 6 and 7 as he began to give Nagahama a battering, dropping the defending champion in round 7 with a monstrous right hand, and pinning him against the ropes for large portions of the round. It seemed, going into round 8, that Toyoshima was on the verge of a stoppage, but Nagahama gritted it out through the round, showing his toughness and will to win.
After 8 rounds the open scoring now all favoured Toyoshima, with scores of 77-74 and two scores of 78-73, the same as how we had it, having given Nagahama rounds 3 and 5.
In round 9 Nagahama was taking punishment before landing his most telling shot of the fight, a nasty low blow. The shot saw Nagahama getting a breather and Toyoshima losing some of his momentum and composure, and he seemed too eager to continue fighting. When the fight resumed Toyoshima had Nagahama in trouble, before taking some solid blows himself as Nagahama tried to fight fire with fire, giving us a brilliant final 20 seconds or so to the round.
By round 10 both men began to look tired, and the tempo began to ease off. That favoured Nagahama who began to land plenty of body shots on Toyoshima, who responded with shots up top. Round 11 saw the pace further slow down, though Toyoshima’s power and work rate was continuing to carry the fight his way. Given the slowdown in the previous two rounds we expected round 12 to be a rather tired round from both mne, but instead Toyoshima fought like a man who didn’t just want to win, but wanted to stop his man, and fought at a frightening pace, as Nagahama took a beating once again. In the final minute it seemed certain that Nagahama was going to hit the canvas again, if not be stopped standing, but he somehow did enough to see out the round, and hear the final bell.
As we went to the scorecards it was clear there was only one man who could have won, and that was Toyoshima, who was declared the winner with scores of 117-110, 116-111 and 115-112.
On this performance Toyoshima is perhaps not going to have a particularly long reign, but it will be a fun one. As for Nagahama we can’t help but feel he got his tactics very wrong and allowed Toyoshima to control the tempo far too easily. Despite that the former champion did show incredible heart and determination late, and it was a testament to his will for him to see out the 12 rounds.
Earlier today saw Japanese fans enjoy their first show of 2021 as Korakuen Hall hosted an Ohashi promoted event featuring a number of excellent prospects, as well as a highly anticipated OPBF Bantamweight title fight.
Sadly the event wasn't televised, and won't be aired until the weekend. With that in mind please only read ahead if you want spoilers as all 4 bouts on the card will be covered in the coming paragraphs, including the result of the OPBF title bout between Keita Kurihara [栗原慶太] and Takuma Inoue [井上拓真].
In the first bout of the show former amateur standout Ryutaro Nakagaki (2-0, 2) [中垣龍汰朗] claimed his second professional victory as he defeated Yuji Okinori (10-6-2, 3) [興法祐二] in 4 rounds. From the off both Nakagaki was looking to line up southpaw left hands, whilst trying to use his right jab to line up his man. Okinori on the other hand looked to try land right hooks, though he often threw them whilst out of range and rarely landed. It was relatively quiet in the first 2 rounds. In round 3 Okinori managed to have some success, with a good overhand left but was punished soon afterwards with a good left uppercut.
In round 4 Nakagaki moved up a gear and began to press the action. He found found a home for his body shots and dropped his man following a sustained body attack. Okinori was in agony when he went down and was unable to beat the 10 count. The official time of the ending here was 2:26 in round 4.
The second bout of the show featured another former amateur standout as Keisuke Matsumoto (2-0, 2) [松本圭佑] took on Bejita Ishikawa (3-13-2, 1) [石川一彦]. This was a short bout, but one with some early drama. Ishikawa landed the first big punch of the bout, catching Matsumoto with a big left hand. That however was about his only success with Matsumoto finding his groove soon afterwards, then dropping Ishikawa with a solid right hand. Ishikawa got back to his feet, but was then under pressure as the Matsumoto went to work.
This one was over at 1:26 of round 1.
After two relatively short bouts we then got a bout that went the distance, as many had anticipated. That was the bout between former Rookie of the Year winners Katsuki Mori (8-0, 1) [森且貴] and Sora Takeda (6-2, 1) [竹田宙], who clashed in a scheduled 8 rounder at Minimumweight.
Mori made a good start, taking the opening round, before Takeda began to find his rhythm in round 2. From there on the action became hotly competitive with neither man managing to clear distance themselves from the other, with tit for tat action. Takeda was looking to land his hook up top, whilst Mori was repeatedly looking to crack his man to body. Despite the great back and forth neither man seemed to hurt the other through the first 5 rounds.
In round 6 Mori seemed to have a break through, as he landed a solid straight right hand that buzzed. That seemed to be the turning point with Mori going on to out work Takeda in the following round. The final round was something special, as both men gave their all right through the round, in a thrilling 3 minutes of action, but in the end it was Mori's work in rounds 6 and 7 that helped him secure a decision win, with scores of 77-75 from all 3 judges.
Fans in the venue pretty much universally praised both of these talented 20 years for what was a thrilling, high tempo contest, and despite the loss few had any negatives about Takeda who really did perform excellently. In the end however it was the speed, movement, and limitless energy of Mori that secured him the victory. Given that both men are so young it'd be great to see them face off again in the future, potentially in a title bout in a few year's time.
In the fourth, and final, bout we saw the highly anticipated OPBF Bantamweight title bout, pitting hard hitting champion Keita Kurihara (15-6, 13) [栗原慶太] against former WBC "interim" Bantamweight champion Takuma Inoue (14-1, 3) [井上拓真].
In the ring Kurihara looked notably bigger than Inoue though that didn’t help him early on and it was Inoue who had early success.
The fight started with early drama as Kurihara suffered a cut from a clash of heads in round 1, a round that was a good one for Inoue, who looked quicker, sharp and much more technically sound. In round 2 Kurihara’s cut worsened as he struggled to get his own offense going. The cut worsened to the point where Kurihara was inspected by the ringside doctor in round 3, who allowed the bout to continue, but it was clear that the cut was a massive problem, and did run a serious risk of leaving us with an early, and inconclusive result.
Thankfully the fighters managed to get through round 4, guaranteeing a result to the bout. Sadly for Kurihara he was not only badly cut but also down on all 4 cards with the open scoring announcing that Inoue was leading 40-36, twice, and 39-37. By then it was clear that Kurihara wasn’t even thinking about winning a decision, but was aiming only for a KO win.
With a KO in his mind Kurihara was struggling to set up his shows, whilst Inoue worked the champions body well, and made the most of his sharp footwork, preventing Kurihara from having any sort of sustained success. In round 6 the cut seemed to leave Kurihara unable to see some of Inoue’s shots, with the blood becoming a bigger issue, especially with Inoue tagging the cut with short, clean, compact shots, worsening the damage and further extending his lead whilst Kurihara was getting more and more desperate to land something big.
After 8 rounds the open scoring was announced again, with the scores again heavily in favour of Inoue, with one judge having it 80-72 and the other two judges scoring it 79-73, all in favour of the challenger.
In round 9 there was a second check on the cut and this time the bout was stopped, after 2 minutes 25 seconds of the round, with Inoue taking the very, very wide technical decision win and becoming the new OPBF Bantamweight champion.
The win for Inoue was an important one, especially given his 2019 loss to Nordine Oubaali in a WBC title fight and this was a great comeback performance following that defeat. Sadly for Kurihara this is a major setback, and given how he was cut pretty much the entire fight he will certainly feel like he was hindered from the early going.
The speed, accuracy and clean punching of Inoue was his key to victory here, and he fought his fight, something he said he was going to do. With Kurihara’s cut being as bad as it was, it made life easier for Inoue to control the bout the way he did. At times he was making things look too easy, and given that Kurihara was essentially fighting through an eye full of blood he often failed to see shots coming.
For Inoue this will push him to the verge of a second world title fight, potentially a WBO or a WBC title bout. As for Kurihara it’s back to the drawing board and time for him to work on having a back up gameplan for when his power shots don’t land, and really work on his jab.
For those wanting to see the main event, it will be aired on Tape Delay on Saturday night/Sunday morning from 27:35 to 28:40 local time on Saturday, which is 3:35 to 4:40 on Fuji TV. The broadcast is also expected to show some of the highlights from the under-card.
Tomorrow we'll see OPBF Bantamweight champion Keita Kurihara (15-5, 13) [栗原慶太] seek his second defense of the regional title, as he takes on former WBC "interim" Bantamweight champion Takuma Inoue (13-1, 3) [井上拓真] at Korakuen Hall.
Earlier this week we reported the various odds on the bout, which all had Inoue as the favourite. Since then money has gone on the challenger, seeing his odds shorten in various markets, such as the UK where Inoue started at 2/7 and is now best priced at 1/4.
With money going on Inoue it's worth noting that odds on Kurihara have drifted, with the champion opening at 3/1 and he's now best priced at 62/17.
The draw is still available at 22/1.
It's not just been the "To win" market which has seen money go on Inoue but also the method of victory market.
When the "Method of Victory" market opened an Inoue decision was the clear favoured result, priced at 8/13. It's still the favoured result, but the odds on it have drifted to 5/6, almost evens! The money has been dumped on an Inoue stoppage, which was 3/1 and is now 15/8, being shortened drastically.
Interestingly a Kurihara stoppage is still 6/1, as it was earlier in the week, whilst a decision for Kurihara has drifted all the way out to 10/1, having previously been 8/1
Given the money going on an Inoue stoppage it'll be little surprise to learn money has also gone on markets relating to how long the bout will go.
The "Length of Bout" remains set at 10.5 rounds, but money has piled on the "Under", with several bookies cutting the price. Despite that there are still some bookies carrying the 2/1 price that was up a few days ago. The "Over" has drifted from 4/11 up to 1/2.
Likewise the "Will the Fight The Distance?" market has also seen a shift. The bout is now 8/11 to go the scheduled 12 rounds, much shorted than the 2/5 quoted earlier in the week. The bout not to go the distance is now 7/4, having previously been 21/10.
Given Inoue's lack of power it's interesting to note how the odds have changed in the last few days, and there doesn't appear to have been anything out of Kurihara's camp to suggest he's unwell or anything like that.
Preview - Keita Kurihara Vs Takuma Inoue - The first big Japanese fight of 2021!
Tomorrow at Korakuen Hall fight fans will be able to see OPBF champion Keita Kurihara (15-5, 13) [栗原慶太] defending his title, for the second time, as he takes on former WBC "interim" Bantamweight champion Takuma Inoue (13-1, 3) [井上拓真].
Today the two men took part in their weigh in, and both men made the 118lb Bantamweight limit with no issues at all.
On the scales Kurihara was around 117.75lbs, making the limit with room to spare. It was revealed recently that he had been working with a strength and conditioning coach for the last 3 and a half months and appears that has really helped him with the weight here.
Regarding the bout Kurihara stated that "I'm the number one bantamweight player in Japan. I respect him by defeating such a strong opponent," that he didn't look at this as a defense, but instead as him being the challenger. Interestingly a win tomorrow would move him to within touching distance of an IBF world title bout, which would see him potentially face off with Takuma's older brother Naoya Inoue.
As for Inoue he came in bang on the 118lbs Bantamweight limit, and looked in great shape. He stated that he was excited to finally have a bout, after having been out of the ring since November 2019, when he lost to Nordine Oubaali in a WBC world title bout, on the same show as Naoya Inoue's sensational bout with Nonito Donaire.
To prepare for this Inoue has taken advance from his older brother and sparred with 3-weight world champion Kosei Tanaka. Interestingly the focus for him coming into the bout wasn't based around taking counter measure for Kurihara but instead improving himself.
For fans wanting to watch this one it will be aired on Tape Delay on Saturday night/Sunday morning from 27:35 to 28:40 local time on Saturday, which is 3:35 to 4:40 on Sunday morning for those unfamiliar with Japanese TV schedules. With Fuji TV showing the bout.
Related - Keita Kurihara Vs Takuma Inoue - The first big Japanese fight of 2021!
(Image credit - Ohashi Gym)
On Thursday fight fans at Korakuen Hall will get the chance to see OPBF champion Keita Kurihara (15-5, 13) [栗原慶太] defending his title against former WBC "interim" Bantamweight champion Takuma Inoue (13-1, 3) [井上拓真], in a bout which will then be aired on Fuji TV on Saturday.
Over the last few days we have reported betting websites in Poland, among others, taking bets on the fight and it new appears that British bookmakers have also joined in an are taking bets on the bout.
Like the international and Polish bookies the UK betting websites also strongly favour an Inoue win, with the best price available on Inoue being 2/7. Whilst he's not the fighter his older brother, Naoya Inoue, is he's still a very proven fighter at the upper regional title level and is rightfully the favourite.
Despite being the current OPBF champion Kurihara is widely expected to lack the tools needed to deal with Inoue's skills and boxing IQ. With that in mind he is the the under-dog, though is priced attractively with the best price available being 3/1.
For those fancying the draw that's best priced at 22/1.
The UK bookies have also got a lot of other markets available, including the Method of Victory market, which is the most interesting market for this particular bout.
The favoured result in the UK is an Inoue decision, at 8/13, whilst an Inoue win by KO/TKO or DQ is 3/1. As for Kurihara backers, a KO/TKO or DQ win for your man is 6/1. The outlier, unsurprisingly, is a decision for Kurihara, who has scored just a single decision win in the last 6 years, and even in that bout he dropped his man 4 times and came close to forcing a stoppage several times. The price for a Kurihara decision is a hefty 8/1.
Although the odds on a Kurihara decision are big it is surprising to see an Inoue stoppage priced like it is given his stoppage so far have all come at a very, very low level and all 3 have come against very limited imported opposition.
Another market available is the "Will the Fight The Distance?" Market. Here we see odds of 2/5 on the bout going the scheduled 12 rounds and 21/10 for the bout to end early. Given those odds it'll be little surprise to learn that the "Length of Bout" market has been set at 10.5 rounds, with the over priced at 4/11 and the under at 2/1.
Preview - Keita Kurihara Vs Takuma Inoue - The first big Japanese fight of 2021!
News! We try and give you the most interesting news stories from the Asian boxing world!