Earlier today there was two shows in Japan and whilst a lot of attention was focused on one of those cards, the other went somewhat over-looked despite having two OPBF title bouts on it, and both of those ended in genuine surprises, with two very genuine upsets.
The first of the bouts saw Rikki Naito (25-3, 8) [内藤 律樹] being dethroned of the OPBF Light Welterweight title, whilst looking to record his 5th defense. The talented champion had was expected to be too young, too fresh and too fast for 35 year old veteran Koichi Aso (25-9-1, 16) [麻生 興一], who has looked like a man on the verge of retirement for a few years now. Shockingly however Aso was too determined, too hungry and too ferocious for Naito, who ended up suffering a hugely shocking loss.
From the off it was obvious Aso was determined to make his chance here count, and to use the gameplan that he, and trainer Hiroki Shiino, had concocted to pressure Naito. From the opening moments he was on the front foot, crushing the distance that Naito had to work with, and trying to take the wheels from the champion. Not only was Aso applying constant, heavy, pressure but he was also putting money in the bank with body shots, especially with Naito on the ropes. To his credit however Naito fought back bravely in the first 4 rounds and and was up 39-37 on one judges scorecard, whilst the others had it 38-38 and 39-37 to Aso.
In round 5 Aso was cut from an accidental headclash, but fought as if the blood was driving him on, and was pressing even harder on Naito, who was taking more and more left hands to the body, and getting forced on to the ropes regularly. Naito simply couldn't back him up, or get his respect, and this was like the Aso of old, rather than an old Aso. In round 6 things began get worse for Naito, who was himself cut from a clash of heads, and then in round 7 he was given a standing count as the pressure began to get to much for him to handle. The count was an odd one, and both Aso and Shiino thought the bout was over before realisation of what was happening struck. After 8 rounds we again had open scoring, with Aso leading on all 3 cards.
In round 9 Aso's pressure broke Naito who was taking a pounding on the ropes, and forced the referee to jump in to save Naito.
It should be noted that whilst Aso's performance was brilliant, the bout was supposed to take place earlier in the year, before Naito pulled out due to Covid19, and he becomes yet another fighter who has contracted the virus and then looked a shadow of himself in his first fight after recovering.
The other title bout saw Yoshimitsu Kimura (13-2-1, 8) [木村吉光] score a career best win, as he stopped Kosuke Saka (21-6, 18) [坂晃典] to become the OPBF Super Featherweight champion, and did so in 3 rounds.
This one was expected to be a barn burner, and it lived up to expectations with Saka pressing the action early on. Sadly for him however his usual pressure style didn't have the success it's been having in recent bouts, and instead it was the power of Kimura that proved to be the difference. In round 2 Kimura dropped his man with a left hook and the dropped him with a straight right hand early in round 3, to force the referee to wave the bout off and give Kimura the bigger win of his career so far, by far.
Tomorrow at Korakuen Hall we'll get an OPBF title double header, with a new champion being crowned at 130lbs, and the 140lb champion looking to continue his reign that dated back to 2018.
Before tomorrow's show however the 4 men involved in those title bouts took part in their weigh in.
One of those title bouts will see OPBF Light Welterweight champion Rikki Naito (25-2, 8) [内藤 律樹] look to make his 5th defense of the title as he takes on Japanese veteran Koichi Aso (24-9-1, 15) [麻生 興一] in an interesting looking match up. At his best Aso was a handful at domestic level, though he is, clearly, the under-dog here again against a talented, young, hungry and fast champion.
At the weigh in Naito, who looked in the best shape of his career, was bang on the 140lb weight limit. He seemed confident, and really self assured, and it seems clear that he is looking to extend his reign and move towards bigger and better fights next year. He also explained that he wanted to replicate some of the things Vasyl Lomachneko did against Richard Commey.
Aso on the other hand was 139.5lbs for the bout. He also seemed confident, and seemed to feel he could fight his fight, pressing, pushing the action and making it an inside battle. If he can do that he has a genuine chance, though at 35, and with this being his first title bout in 4 years, we do wonder just how much energy he has in his legs, and whether he has the gas in the tank to be the intense fighter he was back in his prime.
The other title fight on this show will see Kosuke Saka (21-5, 18) [坂晃典] battle against Yoshimitsu Kimura (12-2-1, 7) [木村吉光] for the vacant OPBF Super Featherweight title.
On the scales Saka came in bang on the limit, and looked incredible. For him this is a chance to unify the Japanese and OPBF titles, and he seemed to be fully aware that this was a massive opportunity for his career. Interestingly, given he's from Osaka, this will be his third straight bout at Korakuen Hall, in his opponents backyard.
Kimura on the other hand hit the scales well under the limit, coming in at 129.5lbs, like Saka he looked in amazing shape and and he explained that he would be looking to straight hard from the off, whilst seeming confident in his stamina. The winner of this will enter 2022 with a lot of momentum, and would likely move towards some major bouts in the new year.
Related - OPBF champion Naito takes on Aso at Korakuen Hall
Saka and Kimura battle for OPBF Super Featherweight title!
A week ago we reported that a scheduled OPBF Light Welterweight title bout between reigning champion Rikki Naito (25-2, 8) [内藤 律樹] and veteran Koichi Aso (24-9-1, 15) [麻生 興一] had been cancelled due to Naito contracting Covid19. The plan was for the show to go ahead, despite the main event being cancelled, on September 18th, headlined by what was previously planned to be the chief support bout, a Japanese title eliminator between Ryoichi Tamura (14-5-1, 7) [田村亮一] and Yusaku Kuga (19-5-1, 13) [久我勇作].
Today however it was confirmed that the September 18th show is being cancelled all together being pushed back to October 2nd, and will feature on a Dynamic Glove card. The other bouts on the show have also been re-arranged for later dates. At the time of writing it is worth noting that there is no date set for the Naito Vs Aso bout, which is still dependent on Naito recovering from his battle with Covid19.
Earlier today it was announced that the scheduled OPBF Light Welterweight title bout between reigning champion Rikki Naito (25-2, 8) [内藤 律樹] and veteran Koichi Aso (24-9-1, 15) [麻生 興一], set for September 18th at Korakuen Hall, has been cancelled.
The bout was called off today, a month before it was supposed to take place, due to Naito being infected with Covid19. Due to his illness he has been getting treated at a hotel, whilst being under quarantine, and has obviously been unable to train for the contest.
At the moment the show it's self is still set to go ahead, though has lost it's main event bout, with the plan being for the bout to be re-arranged when Naito has recovered from his illness and is able to prepare for a bout with Aso.
This is a huge shame for both fighters, though it is worth noting that very, very few bouts in Japan have been officially cancelled due to a fighter testing positive, and hopefully this cancellation will serve as a wake up call to Japanese fighters, making them aware that the Pandemic is still going on and fighters still need to be wary of what they are doing.
Back in July we saw Jin Sasaki (11-0, 10) [佐々木尽] defeat Kaiki Yuba (7-1-2, 5) [湯場海樹] to become the Japanese Youth champion at 140lbs, and book himself a bout with fellow unbeaten fighter Andy Hiraoka (17-0, 12) [平岡アンディ] for the Japanese national title, with that bout later being confirmed for October 19th at Korakuen Hall.
Yesterday news broke to announce that that bout was now getting even more important, with the bout being confirmed as a double title bout.
Not only will the vacant Japanese Light Welterweight title be on the line, but so to will the WBO Asia Pacific title, which has been vacant for around a year with Koki Inoue being the most recent champion. That means the winner of this would not only hold the Japanese title but one of the two major regional titles, and it's clear they would be looking at winning the other major regional title, the OPBF title. That title is set to be fought for on September 18th, with current champion Rikki Naito (25-2, 8) [内藤 律樹] defending the title against Koichi Aso (24-9-1, 15) [麻生 興一].
It's worth noting that the October 19th show is now set to feature 3 titles, the two belts that Sasaki and Hiaraoka are fighting for as well as the OPBF Bantamweight title bout between defending champion Kazuki Nakajima (10-0-1, 8) [中嶋一輝] and former champion Keita Kurihara (15-6, 13) [栗原慶太], in what could be even better than the double title fight.
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