The final Rookie of the Year bout for 2018 saw Nath Nwachukwu (3-0-2, 1) [ワチュク・ナァツ] and Kazuki Kyohara (3-0-1, 2) [京原 和輝] battle to be crowned the All Japan Middleweight Rookie of the year
On paper this was a very competitive match up, with both men being unbeaten and both having a similar number of fights. It looked like the most even match up on the card with no clear favourite and in the end there was next to nothing to split the two men, who fought to a draw after 4, very hotly contested, rounds. In fact none of the judges could even split the two fighters, with all 3 judges scoring the bout 38-38.
The bout was one of those rare one where the two men really matched each other, for the most part, with Kyohara perhaps just holding the edge in the first two rounds, before having his nose burst open in round 3 and being the loser of the 4th round. Though in fairness all 4 rounds were close, and could have gone either way.
Despite the scores being level their had to be a Rookie of the Year, and that went to Nwachukwu, who claims the title and keeps his unbeaten record.
The Welterweight Rookie of the Year final saw the gigantic Junpei Tsujimoto (4-1-3, 2) [辻本純兵] , who stands at over 6'1", take on the much shorter Atsushi Matsui (4-1, 4) [松井敦史], a feared puncher.
Tsujimoto looked sharp and crisp from the opening seconds, and used his size brilliantly, keeping Matsui at range, and digging his man with both head and body shots. Those shots took a toll and at the end of the opening round Matsui had suffered a knockdown.
Having been dropped, but not badly hurt, Matsui came out for the second round looking to chance things, but struggled to get around the reach of Tsujimoto, who landed a number of big right hands, and got away with stiff arming the much smaller Matsui, keeping him at range.
Through 3 rounds there was really no worried at all for Tsujimoto, who was totally bossing things. That all changed however in round 4, when Matsui managed to, finally, get inside and land his own power shots. It was the first time Tsujimoto had looked under and pressure and cracks were beginning to show, cracks that Matsui looked to deepen in round 5.
Sadly for Matsui he was unable to break the will of Tsujimoto, who actually had success towards the end of the bout as he showed his toughness and took a clear decision win over the previously unbeaten Matsui.
The Light Welterweight Rookie of the Year for 2018 is Kenta Endo (3-0-2, 1) [遠藤健太] who claimed the crown just moments ago thanks to a second round TKO win over the previously undefeated Shoma Okada (4-1, 2) [岡田翔真].
Endo made a good start, boxing on the back foot and out landing Okada and out manoeuvring him through the first round. The only real success Okada got was at the end of the opening round, as the two men bombs, despite having some success Okada took more than he gave.
The trading that ended the opening round basically kick started the second round, and it was Okada landed the first blow of what would become the final sequence. Okada got over-excited after landing and ran straight into a shot coming back his way from Endo who followed up and sent Okada down, with the referee waving the bout off after seeing Okada struggle to get up.
The win is a huge one for Endo, and his development and likely shows where Okada needs to improve, if he's to have a successful career.
The 2018 All Japan Rookie of the Year final at Lightweight saw the popular George Tachibana (7-3, 2) [橘ジョージ] take on 19 year old Aso Ishiwaki (5-2, 3) [石脇麻生], in what proved to be a highly entertaining 5 round brawl.
Early on it looked like Tachibana was going to have things mostly his own way. He seemed to start fast and was landing clean shots through much of the first round, with the stubborn Ishiwaki firing back being typically coming off second best. Tachibana would again seem to be in charge in round 2, thanks especially to his body shots, which he landed time and time again.
From round 3 the momentum began to change, with Ishiwaki being more than just stubborn, but actually being hungry and taking the fight to Tachibana. Ishiwaki's charge struggled through round 4, as Tachibana did all he could to try and slow the younger man down but he couldn't discourage the tough youngster. In fact it seemed like Tachibana took as much out of himself as he took out of Ishiwaki, who had a huge final round, likely feeling he needed to score at least a knockdown to win.
After 5 rounds we went to the scorecards, with the judges scoring it 48-47 Tachibana, 48-47 Ishiwaki and....48-47 to Tachibana who took the win by a narrow margin.
Despite losing we were really impressed by Ishiwaki who seems to have a big future ahead of him, given his age, toughness, energy and desire we are really excited to see where his career goes from this loss.
Moments ago we saw Yusaku Sekishima (8-1, 4) [関島優作] being crowned as the the 2018 All Japan Rookie of the Year at Super Featherweight following a decision win over the rugged Takuya Ota (6-2-1, 4) [太田卓矢].
The bout was a pretty technical one, with both fighters showing the other a lot of respect, and looking to land their right hands early on. It was a fight style that seemed to suit Ota better, but Sekishima seemed to be the smart fighter, with more to his game and he managed to land the more eye catching shots. Sekishima began to mix things up in round 2, slipping shots and countering more, though he failed to ever really back up Ota who took the shots well, trudging forward through out.
In round 3 we saw the pattern change again, with both men gritting their their teeth and biting down on their gum shields that little bit more. This led to both being tagged hard, and both looking hurt at various points. Ota, when tagged, regularly tried to goad Sekishima in, but the taunting did little to make Sakishima take excess risks.
Ota was instead the man who was taking more risks, and in round 4 he really went for Sekishima, who turned the tables and rocked him. Had Ota not been as tough as he is there is a chance he could have gone down under the onslaught from his foe. Ota wasn't even discouraged by the success of Sekishima and soon afterwards backed Sekishima up on to the ropes, and tried to take him out, before being countered.
The final round again saw Ota coming forward, using his jab to back up Sekishima and then trying to land right hands. Around a minute into the round Ota finally hurt his man, and went off on the offensive, looking for a decisive blow. Sekishima went into survival mode, back tracking around the ring, looking to a moment to recover, a moment that Ota was unwilling to give him. Realising that Ota wouldn't leave him alone Sekishima was forced to fire back, as he stumbled to the final bell.
Having landed eye catching counters through out Ota had been the one impressing the judges, all of whom scored the bout 49-46 in his favour.
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