Earlier today the Japan Professional Boxing Association announced the Strongest Korakuen bouts, which will take place later this year to decide the mandatory challengers for the Japanese titles in the new year, with 10 bouts being announced.
The Minimumweight bout will see WBO Asia Pacific champion Yudai Shigeoka (5-0, 3) [重岡優大] take on Tatsuro Nakashima (11-3-1, 7) [仲島辰郎], with the winner getting a show at the Japanese title, currently held by Yudai's younger brother Ginjiro Shigeoka (8-0, 6) [重岡銀次朗], who actually beat Nakashima for the title. This bout is set to take place at Korakuen Hall on November 17th.
The Light Flyweight eliminator will see Daiki Tomita (18-2, 6) [冨田大樹] battle Rikito Shiba (6-2, 3) [芝力人], though no date or venue has been announced for this bout.
At Super Flyweight we also have no date or venue set, but a mouth watering bout as Ryusei Kawaura (9-1, 6) [川浦龍生] battles Suzumi Takayama (5-0, 4) [高山涼深], in what is potentially the best looking of the bouts announced.
The Bantamweight bout bout will see Jin Minamide (6-2, 5) [南出仁] battle against Yuki Yonaha (11-3-1, 8) [与那覇勇気], in what could prove to be a very explosive bout between two flawed but hard hitting.
On the subject of interesting bouts we'll have a potentially thrilling war at Super Bantamweight as former champions Ryoichi Tamura (14-6-1, 7) [田村亮一] takes on Gakuya Furuhashi (28-9-2, 16) [古橋大輔]. Interestingly these two men also met in a Japanese title eliminator back in 2019, with Furuhashi taking a razor win over Tamura, before winning the title with a sensational battle just 4 months later.
At Featherweight former champion Ryo Sagawa (12-2, 7) [佐川遼] faces off with Daisuke Watanabe (12-5-2, 7) [渡部大介].
At Super Featherweight the hard hitting Yamato Hata (12-1, 11) [波田大和] will face Yuna Hara (11-2-1, 6) [原優奈], with this bout set to take place on October 1st at Korakuen Hall.
On paper one of the more underwhelming bouts is set to take place at Lightweight, as Shuma Nakazato (11-2-3, 7) [仲里周磨] takes on the hard hitting Ken Koibuchi (8-4-1, 7) [鯉淵健], in what might be an bout that's easy to over-look but is very likely to be an explosive encounter.
At Welterweight we're in for a treat as we get a rematch between Hironori Shigeta (8-2-1, 5) [重田裕紀] and Shoki Sakai (26-13-2, 14) [坂井祥紀], who gave us a very fan friendly bout back in 2020 with Sakai taking a clear but hard fought decision win. This bout is set to take place on October 22nd at Korakuen Hall.
At 154lbs Rei Nakajima (5-1) [中島玲] will face Koki Koshikawa (9-6, 6) [越川孝紀]. For Koshikawa he's looking to land his third shot at the Japanese 154lb title whilst Nakajima will be looking to secure his second shot at the title.
Notably there is no bout set for Flyweight, Light Welterweight or Middleweight. At the time of writing it's been reported that former world title challenger Ryota Yamauchi (8-2, 7) [山内涼太] will be getting a shot at Flyweight Cristiano Aoqui (16-9-2, 11), will get a shot at 140lbs and unfortunately there won't be a mandatory challenger for the Champion Carnival at Middleweight.
Earlier today it was reported that former WBO Flyweight champion Sho Kimura (19-3-2, 12) [木村翔] would be returning to the ring on May 9th, has the main event of DANGAN 249, where he will be facing talented youngster Ryu Horikawa (3-1-1, 1) [堀川龍], in a scheduled 8 round Flyweight bout.
The bout will be Kimura's first professional boxing contest since he stopped Merlito Sabillo in 2 rounds back in February 2020. Since then he has taken part in some exhibitions, including one in China where he was dropped on his head in a weird display that really went all against the ideas of what an exhibition is.
As for Horikawa it will be his first bout since February 2021, when he was stopped in a Japanese Youth Light Flyweight title bout against Yudai Shigeoka. The talented former amateur standout is only 21, and this is a huge step up in class, but a win here would potentially see him secure a regional ranking. He will feel he has the speed, youth and sharpness to take the fight to the 33 year old Kimua, but he will, clearly, be the under-dog.
Also set for this card are bouts featuring former Japanese title challenger Ryoichi Tamura (14-6-1, 7) [田村亮一], talented prospect Ayato Hiromoto (4-2, 1) [廣本彩刀] and the incredibly fun to watch Seigo Hanamori (7-4, 5) [花森成吾]
Earlier today at Korakuen Hall we had the latest show under the Dynamic Glove banner. The event was a notable onewith two exciting looking bouts at the top of the card, after 4 rather low key 4 rounders.
The first of the two notable bouts was the third bout between former Japanese Super Bantamweight champions Yusaku Kuga (20-5-1, 13) [久我勇作] and Ryoichi Tamura (14-6-1, 7) [田村亮一]. Their first two bouts had been brutal battles of heart, toughess and determination, and we were expecting something similar here, especially given that the winner was going to secure a chance to reclaim the Japanese title and land a Japanese title fight in 2022.
Sadly this didn't quite have the level of violence and brutality we had anticipated. Instead it seemed like two men who had lost a couple of steps since their second bout. Both showed moments of the vicious, hard hitting fighters they once were, but neither had quite the same intensity or self belief we'd seen in their first two bouts.
Instead of going to war Kuga boxed well on the back foot, made the most of his jab and won rounds boxing, with Tamura looking to land big, single shots, but often falling wild. Saldy had Tamura managed to show the intensity he had in either of the other two bouts between these two there is a good chance he'd have taken home the decision here. Instead however Kuga took the win by majority decision.
Aged 34 Tamura's career is probably over. He looked only a shadow of the fighter he had once been. He still had an incredible engine, and was moving up and down bouncing on his toes, but his output just wasn't there. As for Kuga he looked gun shy at times, worried after suffering back to back stoppages coming in to this fight. Whilst the win does secure Kuga another Japanese title fight, we don't see him being far off retirement on this showing.
Sadly the main event ended up leaving a nasty taste in the mouth as Super Flyweight triple crown champion Ryoji Fukunaga (15-4, 14) [福永亮次] controversially retained his OPBF, WBO Asia Pacific and Japanese titles against the very unlucky Hayate Kaji (15-1, 9) [梶颯], who should have left the ring unbeaten and with 3 titles.
The challenge started confidently, and was pressing the champion, who seemed to be taking a round to scout the youngster. In round 2 Fukunaga showed more life, firing off some brutal body shots, and landing one or two big left hands up top. Those were shots that got respect of other opponents, but for Kaji they were shots that gave him openings, and after taking a look at Fukunaga in round 2 he began to really let loose in round 3, as he began to hurt and rock the champion for the first time. In round 5 he started to not just rock Fukunaga, but really seemed like he wanted to stop him, leaving Fukunaga reeling a number of times, and having the referee almost come between them on a couple of occasions.
To his credit we have seen Fukunaga in trouble before, and we've seen him gut it out. He did exactly that in round 5, and easily won round 6 as Kaji seemed to run flat for a round. It was however just a round for Kaji to catch his breath before having Fukunaga in all sorts of trouble again in round 7, with Kaji completely unable to cope with the combinations and handspeed of Kaji, who seemed to hurt Fukunaga at will, and then unload on him. Some how Fukunaga stayed upright, but looked ready to go round after round.
Heading into the final 3 rounds it seemed like Fukunaga would need a KO, but he didn't come close to getting it. He took punishment through most of round 10, before throwing some desperation shots late on and did next to nothing in round 11, until landing a few body shots late on being caught with a big flurry as a result.
From our point of view he needed a KO in round 12, and it seemed like he knew it too, as he started the round with more energy than we had seen from him for most of the fight. In the end however Kaji seemed to do more than enough to take the final round and take the decision. We were thinking it was a stellar performance from Kaji, who had looked poor in some recent bouts after showing so much potential as a teenager.
Sadly the judges obviously didn't see the same fight we saw. We saw a clear, comfortable, win for Kaji. A win that he deserved. He earned. Sadly the judges turned in scores of 114-114 and two 115-113, to Fukunaga, to give the win to Fukunaga, who retains his titles in one of the worst decisions we've ever seen in a Japanese ring.
It's hard not to feel sorry for Kaji here. He deserved the win and the three judges appear to be the only people feeling Fukunaga did enough. Japanese fans on social media also voiced their unhappiness and confusion at the decision, as did western fans watching. It really was a poor decision, and perhaps they do need to review this one and try to understand what the judges saw from Fukunaga to give him the win.
Tomorrow at Korakuen Hall we'll see the third meeting between Ryoichi Tamura (14-5-1, 7) [田村亮一] and Yusaku Kuga (19-5-1, 13) [久我勇作], who clash in a Japanese Super Bantamweight title eliminator. Today, ahead of their bout, the two men took part in their weigh in.
On the scales both made weight with no issues at all, and both seemed confident of picking up the win, and looked in great shape.
Tamura, who has lost the two previous bouts between these two, made weight bang on at 122lbs and he spoke confidently. He stated that people around him has said he's in good condition, and look at him that's not a surprise as he looked fantastic shape. He also spoke about why he lost the first two bouts, starting too slowly and needing to do too much in the second half of the bout. It seems with that in mind he will look to start faster this time around, and if he does that he could end up grinding down Kuga, who was stopped last time out by Gakuya Furuhashi.
Kuga, who was also bang on the divisional limit of 122lbs, seemed excited to get a chance to rematch Furuhashi, something he'll get if he wins here. About this particular bout he spoke about not seeing Tamura as an easy opponent, despite having two wins over him, and it seemed very much like he's determined to secure a rematch with Furuhashi next year, which he'd get at the Champion Carnival if he wins here.
For fans wanting to watch the bout it will be aired live on G+ tomorrow.
Earlier today it was announced that Super Flyweight triple crown champion Ryoji Fukunaga (14-4, 14) [福永亮次] would be returning to the ring on October 2nd to defend his OPBF, WBO Asia Pacific and Japanese titles against unbeaten Teiken prospect Hayate Kaji (15-0, 9) [梶颯], who will be getting his first title bout.
The bout, which will headline the October edition of Dynamic Glove, is expected to be a genuine barn burner between two fighters who both like to fight, and both believe in their power.
Fukunaga, known as the "Little Pacquiao" in Japan, will be making his third defense of the WBO Asia Pacific title, second defense of the Japanese title and the first defense of the OPBF title, which he won in a sensational war with Kenta Nakagawa last year, his third. A win here would see him continue to move up the rankings, towards a potential world title fight, however a loss likely ends his dream of ever competing at the highest level, given he's already in his mid 30's. He isn't the most technically skilled fighter, but he really is a heavy handed guy with all 14 wins coming inside the distance, and he has been in some thrillers against the likes of Nakagawa and Froilan Saludar, showing grit, determination and will to win in both of those bouts.
Kaji on the other hand was once tipped as a future star of the Teiken gym, but has been underwhelming in recent years. He looked like a special talent as a real young fighter, winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year as a teenager, and was going to war in sparring with Bantamweight legend Shinsuke Yamanaka, but there has been rumours that he's lacking maturity and that his motivation for lesser fights has been questioned. This, however, is a huge opportunity for him and a great chance for him to show what he can do when matched against a very, very dangerous opponent.
Notably the chief support bout to this triple title bout will be a mouth watering third bout between Ryoichi Tamura (14-5-1, 7) [田村亮一] and Yusaku Kuga (19-5-1, 13) [久我勇作], in what is a Japanese title eliminator at 122lbs, and one to mark down on the calendar as a potential FOTY contender, like their first two bouts.
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