On New Year's eve we saw Yuki Strong Kobayashi (16-9, 9) [ストロング小林佑樹] lose the WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight title, as he was stopped in brutal fashion by former world champion Daigo Higa (17-1-1, 17) [比嘉 大吾]. The bout, which was held on the same card that also hosted the brilliant WBO Super Flyweight title between Kazuto Ioka [井岡一翔] and Kosei Tanaka [田中恒成], was shown around the globe and saw many see Kobayashi in action for the first time.
Sadly it’s likely to also be the final time.
Yesterday, more than 2 weeks after that loss, Kobayashi announced, via his own blog that he is retiring from the sport.
In the post, on his personal Ameblo, Kobayashi explained that he was injured a lot as a fighter, due to his defense and his aggressive come forward style. That style saw him begin his career 9-5 with losses to the likes of Kiron Omura in 2013 and Takahiro Yamamoto in 2015.
He did make improvements however and in later years turned his career around, winning the WBO Asia Pacific title and scoring notable wins against the likes of Vincent Astrolabio and Ben Mananquil.
In his blog post he revealed that his happiest bout was his 2018 win over Astrolabio, which came in Malaysia, in what was Kobayashi’s third bout on foreign soil.
Despite that win he did suffer a loss soon afterwards, in his amazing bout against Keita Kurihara, a bout that all fans should watch on Boxing Raise as it is tremendous, and following that loss he began to train more seriously. That extra training led him to his huge win over Mananquil for the WBO Asia Pacific title, which he successfully defended once before coming up against Higa in December.
In his announcement he thanked Mutoh Gym who managed to secure him 4 title challenge bouts, as well as fights overseas and made him what he was, despite the fact he had no amateur experience. He also saved special thanks for his trainer Kosuke Takeichi.
Following his announcement we would like to thank Kobayashi for his involvement in the sport, the ups and downs of following him and the enjoyment we’ve had watching his fights. He may never have been a world beater but he was certainly a fun fighter to follow and was involved in some great moments and thrilling fights throughout his career. We also want to wish him all the best in his post boxing life.
Boxing is full of what if's and one of those questions among the hardcore in Japan will be "What if Kazuki Saito (7-3, 6) [斎藤一貴] had a better chin?"
Sadly we'll never know the answer, though we suspect with a better chin Saito would have managed to fight for, if not win, the Japanese Lightweight title. He was talented fighter with excellent movement, great technique, solid power and a fun style. Sadly though his chin let him down, and he stopped in 2 of his 3 losses.
Today it's been reported that Saito has his announced his retirement and sent a retirement notice to the JBC, ending his 13 year boxing career, between the amateurs and the professional ranks. Saito himself is quoted as saying he always had it in his mind to retire if he suffered back to back defeats, which he when Tatsuya Yanagi stopped him in 6 rounds in October, almost a year to the date of his previous bout, a loss to Izuki Tomioka.
As an amateur Saito was really solid winning 83 of 97 amateur bouts and winning the All Japan Championships, among other amateur achievements. When he turned professional the expectation was on him being a star on the Japanese scene. Sadly however alarm bells were ringing relatively early on as he was dropped by Jimmy Borbon in his third professional bout. He bounced back from the knockdown but was stopped just a few fights later by Amphol Suriyo. Lessons from that loss weren't taken and he was rocked hard by Rey Ramos in his return, that would be his penultimate win, adding Monico Laurente to his ledger before his back to back losses.
Although clearly a very talented fighter we dare say this is probably a wise move for his health.
According to boxmob Saito will be working for a company run by a friend and will be involved in restaurants going forward. We'd like to wish him all the best in his boxing life and thank him for his dramatic, and exciting bouts. Win or lose you knew drama was never far away when Saito was in the ring.
Last week it was reported that Sarawut Thawornkham (21-3, 16) [เด่นนภา ตราใบห่อ] had pulled out of a bout set to take place in December, against Phongsaphon Panyakum (10-1, 5), due to an injury suffered in training. What was unclear at the time was just how serious that injury was.
On Friday Sarawut, also known as Dennapa, took to social media to essentially announce his retirement from the sport at the age of just 29.
The fighter, best known for his 2019 bout with Artem Dalakian, reported that he had been having headaches on November 11th, which lasted until November 13th. He tried to train after the head ache but suffered muscle spasms on November 14th and was dizzy the following two days.
He also stated (translated from Thai)
"Overall symptom is starting to come back normal, but I need to rest for a long time.
I need to stop being a boxer life.
Thank you to the adults who always support me.
Thank you boxing fans for always supporting me.
Thank you everyone with my heart."
With that said it seems clear that this is almost certainly the end for the once highly touted Thai contender.
We want to wish Sarawut the best, both in retirement and with his health in general. We also need to say it's better he hangs them up than continue on with the health issue's he's explaining here, as it sounds like any more punches to the head would be too many punches to the head.
Just moments ago the JBC website listed one new change to their retired fighters page, listing former Japanese Featherweight champion Takenori Ohashi (17-6-2, 11) [大橋健典] as having retired on November 22nd*.
Ohashi fought as a professional since since 2009 and had some mixed success, including scoring an amazing KO to claim the Japanese Featherweight title in 2017 and truly breath taking KO in 2019 against Shun Wakabayashi.
It's fair to say that Ohashi's heavy hands were clear from the early stages of his career and he stopped his first 4 opponents as he kicked off his career with 5 straights wins. A loss in 2010 to Coach Hiroto saw his winning run come to an end but he rebuilt well in 2011, with 3 more wins, before suffering back to back losses in 2012. His career then struggled to get going again, not helped by a sensational TKO loss to the then rising Tsuyoshi Tameda in 2015.
As we saw several times through his career Ohashi would bounce back, rebuild and get a shot at Japanese Featherweight champion Kosuke Saka in 2017. Few gave Ohashi a chance against the rampant Saka however Ohashi would score a brutal KO at the end of the 5th round when Saka mistook the 10-second clacker for the bell and got knocked out. Sadly Ohashi's reign lasted just a few months, losing the belt in his first defense, to Taiki Watanabe.
Following the loss to Watanabe he never quite the same and needed a KO of the year style finish to bail him out of a poor performance against Shun Wakabayashi in May 2019. He couldn't land another hail Mary 5 months later when he took on Hinata Maruta in a Japanese eliminator, with Maruta dominating Ohashi until he closed the show in 3 rounds. It now seems likely that that will be it for Ohashi.
We've included Ohashi's memorable title win below, which is well worth watching even if it's just for the staggering finish to the bout.
*Note it is now November 22nd in Japan at the time of publication.
Unbeaten Filipino hopeful Dodie Boy Penalosa Jr (19-0, 14) took to social media recently and announced that his boxing career was over.
The fighter explained "I will hang up my gloves and move on to my new life", which is reportedly in the US with his wife. This sees him finally announcing that he was done with the sport, years after his last fight.
Blessed with an exciting style, a good look, a legendary surname, Penalosa was expected to be a star when he turned professional in 2010. He was young, talented and seemed like he was going to be guided, slowly but surely, to a successful career.
After starting his career in the Philippines Penalosa fought in the US in 2013, Macau in 2013 and then began carving out his career, full time, in the US, with his last 6 bouts coming Stateside.
By April 2016 Penalosa had racked up a 19-0 (14) record and seemed to be ready for a break out fight. Sadly however that never came and instead he vanished from boxing. Got on with life, and lived a life out of the ring with fans expecting him to return one day. That has now been ruled out with Penalosa's announcement that he was hanging them up.
It's a shame that someone tipped so highly has left the sport having achieved so little. Even with the numerous titles out there Penalosa never won one and and he also never got a major fight. Unfortunately he will go down as a "what if" of Asian boxing, and the question will remain about how good he could have been had he been matched properly and been guided in the way many had expected.
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