Earlier today the winners of the East Japan Boxing Awards, for November, were announced with 3 winners being named for the month.
The MVP for the month was Takuma Inoue (15-1, 3) [井上拓真], who won the award after becoming a 3-weight OPBF champion in the following his win over Shingo Wake (27-7-2, 19) [和氣 慎吾] on November 11th. Inoue, who won the OPBF Super Bantamweight title with the win, was a clear front runner for the award and his win over Wake is one of the best of his career so far. And that's ignoring how food the actual performance was, as he neutralised the talented Wake and dominated him over 12 rounds.
The Fighting Spirit Award was won by the newly crowned Japanese Light Flyweight champion Shokichi Iwata (7-0, 5) [岩田 翔吉], who won the award, and the Japanese title, thanks to an excellent 9th round TKO win over Rikito Shiba (5-3, 2) [芝 力人]. The bout was a very clear step up in class for Iwata, but it was a step up that he made with relative ease as he took the best Shiba had to offer, and went on to break him down.
The third winner was the Newcomer of the Month, Hyuma Fujioka (12-10-1, 1) [藤岡飛雄馬], who earned the award for his massive upset win over former world title challenger Ryohei Takahashi (19-5-1, 8) [高橋竜平]. Takahashi, best known for his IBF world title bout with TJ Doheny back in 2019, was dropped by Fujiuoka, who took a career best win with an 8 round decision victory here on November 26th.
Earlier today we had the first live televised card in Japan since the sport restarted, and it was a genuine mixed bag with some low level action, some fighters that didn't click, a sensational bout in the middle of the show, an intriguing Japanese title bout in the main event.
In the opening bout of the show the debuting Kodai Kobayashi (1-0) [小林 航大], from the E&J Cassius Gym, took a clear decision win over the win-less Shunsuke Miyauchi (0-2) [宮内 俊亮]. This was a real low level bout from both men, with Miyauchi pressing forward in the early rounds but showing very limited skills and Kobayashi needing time to shake the nervous energy. Thankfully for Kobayashi he seemed to land the better shots and did the cleaner work. After 4 rounds this was scored 40-36, twice, and 39-38 in favour of Kobayashi.
The second bout saw the touted Shigetoshi Kotari (2-0, 1) [神足 茂利] take on southpaw Motosuke Kimura (3-5-2, 1) [木村 元祐]. On paper this was supposed to be an easy second win for Kotari but in reality this didn't go as expected, at all. Kotari was dropped in the opening round from a round house left hand from Kimura, who seemed to land a shot that should never have caught a former amateur standout lime Kimura. The punch wasn't just looping, but was thrown with the back hand and looper around half the ring.
Sadly the knockdown made Kotari super cautious in rounds 2 and 3 and they were rounds that really lacked anything worthy of talking about. Kotari did seem to do enough to take them, but certainly didn't shine. He was caught with a number of clean counters in round 4, the round where be decided he needed to put his foot on the gas, and the counters seemed to take the wind out of his aggression. That lead to a rather dreary ending to the fight, with rounds 5 and 6 both being dull and tiresome.
After 6 rounds Kotari took the decision, but in reality he looked exposed. He wasn't just dropped but he also looked confused, never managed to figure Kimura out, and looked terrified of Kimura's counter's. He tried to draw leads and failed to land his own counter shots and failed to show the confidence needed to let his own hands go. The officials cards were 57-56 and 58-55, twice, but that can't cover over the fact Kotari did not look good.
After some pretty poor action, if we're being honest, to begin the show we got something spectacular in bout #3 as Toshiki Kawamitsu (5-0, 2) [川満 俊輝] and Kenshi Noda (2-1, 2) [野田 賢史] waged war in a sensational back and forth thriller. The fight didn't need a feeling out round, they just got to it, and let their shots go. From the off it looked like both men had a point to prove and they were putting on a high skilled, inside, action war. On paper that was expected to favour Noda, the bigger puncher, but it was Kawamitsu who seemed to be landing the cleaner, better blows.
The intensity continued in round 2 as both men tried to break the other down with great inside action and good work at range, when they were at range. Sadly for Noda however round 3 was a torrid one for him as his stamina, heart and durability were seriously questioned. He started the round well, but his inability to hurt Kawamitsu whilst Kawamitsu fought like a buzzsaw, seemed to drain the legs and belief from Noda, who slipped to the canvas numerous times. He was finally, officially, given a count late in the round, but by then he was looking very, very spent. He went out for round 4,looking to turn things around, but once again Kawamitsu simply showed that he wasn't going to be denied and forced the referee to finally jump in and save an exhausted looking Noda late on.
This was brilliant. The final round and a half might have been a bit too one sided, but the action, the intensity, the and the excitement was relentless. Absolute exhilarating contest between two young men desperate for victory. This was what we needed, this was what Japanese boxing needed back on TV. This was special!
In the co-feature we saw former world title challenger Ryohei Takahashi (19-4-1, 8) [高橋 竜平] taking a very debatable decision win over the Kiyohei Endo (3-4, 3) [遠藤 清平], in a bout that we felt Endo deserved. And we don't think we were the only ones. Endo started aggressively and was unfortunate to have a knockdown scored against him after he was caught on the back of the head.
Endo would continue to press, and pressure and seemed to easily out land Takahashi, but it was Takahashi with the cleaner, more telling single connects. Whilst we under-stand the quality Vs quantity argument we didn't feel the quality of Takahashi's single shots made up for how clearly out landed he was. There was also confusion after Endo seemed to score a knockdown of his own, though we're not totally sure if the referee told the judges to ignore it, as there was some instruction to the judges from the referee in round 6. Whether it was counted or not Endo certainly seemed to have taken the round.
Going into the final round it seemed like Endo was well and truly in it, if not in a slight lead. That wasn't something that Takahashi seemed to believe, with the former world title challenger doing little offensively for the first 2 minutes of the round before landing the two best shots of the round late on, in an attempt to steal it.
We went to the scorecards believing this one was razor thin, but the judges thought other wise, scoring it 78-73 and 77-74, twice, in favour of Takahashi. Those scores however do not reflect the nature of a very, very close bout that could easily have gone the other way.
In the main event we saw Japanese Light Middleweight champion Hironobu Matsunaga (17-1, 11) [松永 宏信] successfully defend his title, for the second time, as he over-came mandatory challenger Yuto Shimizu (14-5-2, 5) [清水優人]. The styles of these two men made for an interesting dynamic on paper, with Matsunaga being a bull like aggressive fighter, who's short in stature but aggressive, busy and strong, and Shimizu being a tall, rangy technical counter puncher. Early on however it took time for either man to find their groove.
The slow going saw Matsunaga taking the early rounds on work rate, whilst Shimizu looked to figure out what the champion brought. This lead to Matsunaga building momentum and in rounds 4 and 5 the champion began to turn the screw, landing clean left hands with alarming regularity. The aggression of the champion gave the challenger chances, and the accurate straight shots of Shimizu left the champion with a cut on the bridge of his nose.
After 5 rounds we had the open scoring and the scores were 50-45, 49-46 and 48-47, all in favour of Matsunaga. That should have made Shimizu feel like he was in with a chance, but instead it seemed to fire up Matsunaga, who had a point to prove and put his foot on the gas again. Shimizu finished round 6 with a nice flash of what he could do, in what seemed like an attempt to steal the round, but it was too little too late.
In round 7 the pressure of Matsunaga finally told. Early in the round he left the challenger with a huge cut over his left eye. Later in the round Matsunaga rocked Shimizu, before pinning him on the ropes and going into over drive, letting shots fly whilst Shimizu tried to clear his head. The shots kept coming and the referee took a close look several times. Finally enough was enough and the referee stepped in, saving the challenger.
For Matsunaga the win is a huge one, and sees him get through his Champion Carnival bout as the champion as he we head towards 2021. As for Shimizu this maybe his one and only chance given he turns 33 in January and he will have a long road back to a second title shot.
This years Champion Carnival has been a truncated affair with some bouts set for much, much earlier in the year now being rescheduled for what remains of the year, whilst others have fallen by the way side all together.
Today we were informed of a newly rescheduled Champion Carnival bout which will see Japanese Light Middleweight champion Hironobu Matsunaga (16-1, 10) [松永 宏信] defending his belt, for the second time, on October 3rd as he takes on mandatory challenger Yuto Shimizu (14-4-2, 5) [清水優人].
For Matsunaga, who turns 33 in later September, the bout will see him looking to extend his current 10 bout winning record. That streak has seen him bounce back from a 2014 loss to Yuki Beppu to beat the likes of Sanosuke Sasaki, Je Ni Ma, Koshinmaru Saito, Nobuyuki Shindo and Koki Koshikawa.
As for Shimizu, who is 32, the bout will see him looking to build on big 2019 wins over Charles Bellamy and Nobuyuki Shindo. This bout will also be his second Japanese title shot, following a 2016 bout with Yuki Nonaka.
This bout was originally scheduled for March 7th at Korakuen Hall as part of a solid looking showing, but was cancelled in February when boxing went on an hiatus in Japan to deal with the on going global situation. Despite being pushed back, from March to October, it will still be held at Korakuen Hall and still appears to be getting a decent under-card.
Among the fighters said to be on the under-card are Ryo Akaho (35-2-2, 23) [赤穂亮] and Ryohei Takahashi (18-4-1, 8) [高橋竜平], who donated 3,000 masks back in May. Sadly though neither man has had their opponents announced for this event.
For those interested in watching the event ticked are likely to be made available, though this is yet to be confirmed, however the bout will be shown on G+ as part of the Dynamic Glove series of shows.
On Tuesday it was reported in the Japanese press that former world title challenger Ryohei Takahashi (18-4-1, 8) [高橋竜平] was donating 3,000 medical masks to his hometown of Kamo City, in Niigata.
The fighter explained that he was wanting to provide some bright news to the local community due to all the dark news, and had been told by family and friends that there was an insufficient number of masks. He then bought the masks with money he had earned from boxing and donated them.
Takahashi had been scheduled to fight in March but that contest was the cancelled due to the on going global situation. Whilst he hasn't been able to return to the gym, which is still closed, he has managed to continue to stay in some kind of shape with general road work and training, and is looking to remain in shape for when the gym he's affiliated to does re-open later in the year.
For those wonder why Takahashi's name rings a bell, he actually fought in the US in 2019, when he challenged the then IBF Super Bantamweight champion TJ Doheny. Whilst he lost against the Irish-Australian he has rebounded and scored 2 wins since then as he's looked to rebuild his career. Despite those wins he's a long way from another world title bout and it could some time until we see him in another meaningful bout.
Earlier today at the Korakuen Hall fans saw former world title challenger Ryohei Takahashi (17-4-1, 7) [高橋竜平] bounce back from his loss to TJ Doheny earlier in the year.
The Japanese fighter was up against Korean visitor Jin Wook Lim (10-7-5, 3) [임진욱] and the difference in class showed early on.
Takahashi's foot work and aggression was key in the early going, pressing the fight and forcing Lim to fight at a harder pace. Although Lim had some moment he taking more than he was giving and he was hurt in round 4 as Takahashi body shots began to take a toll. Those body shots continued in round 5 with Lim returning in his corner between rounds 5 and 6.
Also on this card was a win for Naoki Mochizuki (16-4, 8) [望月直樹], who took an 8 round decision win over former world title challenger Samartlek Kokietgym (34-10-1, 12). The Thai visitor, who has previously fought Akira Yaegashi and Naoya Inoue for world titles, was unable to really get into the fight against the bigger, stronger, more powerful Mochizuki, who won a very clear decision over the Thai veteran.
(Image courtesy of boxmnob.jp)
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