Earlier today it was announced that Japanese Middleweight champion Riku Kunimoto (6-1, 2) [国本陸] would return to the ring on December 18th, at "You Will Be the Champion 15", to defend his title against Nath Nwachukwu (7-3-2, 3) [ワチュク・ナァツ] at the Sumiyoshi Ward Center, in Osaka.
The bout will be the first defense for Kunimoto, who won the title back in April, when he defeated Mikio Sakai, and he will be looking to build on that victory here. As for Nwachukwu this will be his second shot at a title, having previously come up short in a bout for the IBO International Light Middleweight title against Wade Ryan.
As well as the title fight the card will also feature a really solid 8 rounder, between Tulio Dekanarudo (5-1-1, 2) [桑畑凜生] and Hiroki Hanabusa (10-2-3, 3) [英洸貴] as well as the second bout of Takeru Inoue (0-0) [井上彪], whose debut is scheduled to take place on October.
Kunimoto claims Japanese title!
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.
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