Earlier today fight fans in Osaka saw a new Japanese Middleweight champion being crowned as Riku Kunimoto (6-1, 2) [国本陸] won the vacant title with a 10 round decision against Mikio Sakai (4-1) [酒井 幹生].
The bout started with Kunimoto boxing comfortably behind his jab, setting the tempo of the bout, and keeping Sakai relatively handcuffed with a tight guard and clean jabs. Sakai tried to respond, but was on the wrong end of some good body shots in return as the bigger, strong Kunimoto snuffed out pretty much every attempt that Sakai had of at turning the action around. Sakai, much to his detriment, tried to box on the back foot, but simply wasn't doing enough, and was really struggling to get through with much at all, and when he did he was taking eye catching blows back.
After 5 rounds the judges had the bout 50-45, as we got the open scoring, with all 3 judges having Kunimoto in a comfortable lead, and leaving Sakai with everything to do. Sadly for Sakai he really couldn't do anything to turn things around as Kunimoto began to get more forceful with his output, looking to break down Sakai.
Impressively Sakai saw out some torrid pressure to begin firing back himself in the later stages, having his best moments in the final rounds, but it was far too little far too late. In fact all his late rally accomplished was something amounting to making it look like a fight on the score-cards, albeit not a close one.
After 10 rounds the judges had this 98-92, twice, and 97-93, all for Kunimoto.
Following the bout there was no complaints from Sakai, who seemed to appreciate that he had no answer to Kunimoto's jab, and went on to say it was like trying to see an invisible punch.
As for Kunimoto he praised the gameplan of trainer Kosuke Takeichi, who seemed to have nailed into to his charge, just how important the jab was, and how he had to be more careful with his defense, something that we saw here. Kunimoto also revealed that he was wanting to chase a bout with regional champions Yuki Nonaka (34-11-3, 10) [野中 悠樹], who holds the WBO Asia Pacific title, and OPBF champion Kazuto Takesako (12-0-1, 12) [竹迫司登], who is the man who gave Kunimoto his sole defeat.
Tomorrow the Sumiyoshi Ward Center in Osaka will play host the a Japanese Middleweight title fight, as the once beaten Riku Kunimoto (5-1, 2) [国本陸] takes on the light punching Mikio Sakai (4-0) [酒井 幹生] in an interesting match up to crown a new champion, following Kazuto Takesako (12-0-1, 12) [竹迫司登] giving up the title late last year.
Today the two men took part in their weigh in for tomorrow's bout, and both men made the 160lb limit with no issues at all.
On the scales Kunimoto was bang on the 160lb divisional limit, and looked in good shape. He wasn't ultra cut or anything, but did look in good shape and seemed really determined. He stated that following his 2021 loss to Takesako he has "fixed the issues firmly. The opponent is strong, but I feel like he's losing no matter what he does. I'm not going to do so." Notably he also spoke about the recent Middleweight title unification bout between Gennady Golovkin (42-1-1, 37) [Геннадий Геннадьевич Головкин] and Ryota Murata (16-3, 13) [村田 諒太], and explained that he's now watched that bout 8 times.
As for Sakai he came in comfortably under the limit, at around 159.75lb, whilst explaining this is the best condition he's been in. He stated that he was motivated by the aforementioned Golovkin Vs Murata bout, and it seems he's now determined to put in a performance that shines. He explained that "Tomorrow I will show my strength. I will do boxing that wins, not boxing that does not lose."
The winner of this will enjoy the 62nd reign as the Japanese Middleweight title, and for those that haven't followed the title is has, regularly, given us some amazing bouts. This too could be something very exciting, even though neither man is known for their power.
Related - Kunimoto and Sakai battle for Japanese title!
Earlier today we were informed a date has been set to fill the Japanese Middleweight title vacant.
The title, which became vacant when the unbeaten Kazuto Takesako (12-0-1, 12) [竹迫司登] vacated it in December, will be fought for on April 17th on a show at the Sumiyoshi Ward Center in Osaka, as former Takesako victim Riku Kunimoto (5-1, 2) [国本陸] takes on the light punching Mikio Sakai (4-0) [酒井 幹生].
For Kunimoto this will be a second title shot, following an opening round TKO loss to Takesako in May 2021, when he entered as the mandatory challenger. Whilst he lost to Takesako he has shown himself very capable on the domestic scene, and wins over Shoma Fukumoto and Kazuki Kyohara show he should be in the mix for a title fight. Sadly Takesako is a long way ahead of the domestic level, even if he himself is a long way behind Japan's top Middleweight Ryota Murata (16-2, 13) [村田 諒太].
Saki on the other hand will be getting his first title fight and a chance to claim a Japanese title in just his 5th professional bout. Since turning professional Sakai has been impressive, and has scored decent wins over Ran Tomomatsu and Koshinmaru Saito, whilst relying on his speed, movement and technical skills. This is however a notable step up, and he didn't look comfortable against Saito.
At the time of writing no other bouts for the card have been anounced for the show, though Kunimoto's promoter, Takashi Edagawa of Muto Promotions, will be in charge of the event, and Sakai will be fighting outside of Korakuen Hall for the first time.
Back in April we saw Ryosuke Nishida (4-0, 1) [西田凌佑] announce himself as one to watch as he score a notable upset as he dominated former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa (17-2-1, 17) [比 嘉 大吾], and claimed the WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight title in the process. Sadly since that huge win he has been quiet, and things regarding his future plans have been eerily quiet. That was until today when h was part of a press conference by the Mutoh Gym who announced his first defense and their next big show.
The unbeaten 25 year old will return to the ring on December 19th, at the Sumiyoshi Kumin Center in Osaka, to headline "You Will Be The Champion 11", where he will face off with Japanese ranked Super Flyweight Tetsuro Ohashi (8-2-1, 2) [大橋哲朗].
On paper this is a weak defense for Nishida, though given his last two bouts have been against former world title challenger Shohei Omori (21-5, 16) [大森 将平] and former world champion Daigo Higa it's hard to complain about him having an easier one now.
At the press conference Nishida stated that Ohashi has has good speed and technical ability, but that he had been training, and feels that he is better than he was in his last bout. Adding that he will definite win this one.
Also announced for this show is the return of Riku Kunimoto (4-1, 2) [国本陸], following his loss earlier this year to Kazuto Takesako (12-0-1, 12) [竹迫司登]. The former Japanese title challenger will be up against the unbeaten Kazuki Kyohara (5-0-2, 3) [京原和輝]. The hope for Kunimoto is to get a second title fight next year, and use a win here to boost his confidence and momentum coming in to that.
One other man announced for this show is former amateur standout Kaito Yamasaki (1-0) [山崎海斗], who is expected to fight in an 8 rounder against a yet to be named opponent.
Earlier today fight fans at Korakuen Hall had the latest show in the Dynamic Glove series of shows, with this show set to be aired later in May on G+. The card featured a Japanese Middleweight title bout, between Kazuto Takesako and Riku Kunimoto as it's main event.
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. Due to the overall low profile of the under-card we will not be covering all the results here so the spoiler for the main event will be next. If you wish to avoid those spoilers, please stop reading now.
At Korakuen Hall today fight fans got to enjoy the first card in Tokyo for the month following a State of Emergency that ended up delaying numerous shows, in fact this one it's self was expected at the very start of the month before being pushed back. The main event it's self had already ben pushed back multiple times from a May 2020 date that was originally set for it. Sadly however the delay meant that one of the fighters had been out of the ring for around 16 months and the other for over two years. This was expected to play into the outcome of the bout, at least some what.
The bout in question saw hard hitting Japanese Middleweight champion Kazuto Takesako (12-0-1, 12) [竹迫司登] defending his title against mandatory challenger Riku Kunimoto (4-1, 2) [国本陸]. The heavy handed Takesako had fought in early 2020, adding the WBO Asia Pacific title to his collection, but had been inactive for over a year, and had suffered an injury during that time. Kunimoto on the other hand had been out of the ring since April 2019, more than 2 years. He was, as mentioned, supposed to face Takesako in May 2020, then July 2020 then November 2020. Before the bout was rescheduled to earlier this month, which was it's self delayed until today.
Sadly for Kunimoto the delay was not good for him.
He showed some ambition, in fact the the opening moments were really exciting with both men letting their hands go, but it wasn't long until a left hook from Takesako dropped Kunimoto. The challenger got to his feet quickly, and seemed to be more surprised than hurt. His response to going down was to get back on the front foot and attack the body of the champion, but ended up taking a huge body and then uppercut before coming undone by a follow up barrage of bombs from Takesako. Within moments he had gone down for the second time.
Kunimoto's heart showed, as he got to his feet again, but the referee complete the 10 count, judging him unfit to continue, and waved off the bout.
With the win Takesako recorded his 4th defense of the Japanese title.
After the bout Takesako spoke took the microphone, as is typical in Japan and explained that his father had passed away in May due to Covid19, and that he also recently become a father, with his own child being born in September, and stated that he wanted to be a father like his own father. Clearly an emotional moment for the destructive champion so soon after his father's passing.
For fans wanting to watch this will be aired on Monday from 5:30 local time.
(Image courtesy of Boxingnews.jp)
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