It's easy to talk about the fighters who have flown high in 2019, and those who have had year's to forget, but the fighters who have hit careers highs and been hit with some lows inside a year are arguably the most interesting fighters. They've had year of ups and downs like some kind of human roller-coaster ride. For this award we have two men who are joint winners!
Joint winner 1 - Kosuke Saka
Former Japanese Featherweight champion Kosuke Saka began the year by being blitzed in 2 rounds by Joe Noynay, in what was a genuine shock at the time. Whilst this loss looks less bad, given that Noynay would later stop Satoshi Shimizu and fight to a technical draw with Kenichi Ogawa in a bloody head clash marred bout. A win over Isack Junior 5 months later in a nothing bout was more of a palette cleanser for Saka rather than a win of any actual value.
It was how Saka ended the year that saw him hit a high, as he battered Masaru Sueyoshi to claim the Japanese Super Featherweight title, becoming a 2-weight national champion in impressive fashion. He broke down, beat up, battered and stopped Sueyoshi in a career defining performance, and one that was a million miles away from the loss to Nonynay at the start of the year. In many ways Saka's year was the reverse roller-coaster, starting low, and ending high....it'll be interesting to see how he begins the new year.
Joint winner 2 - Ryoichi Tamura
Whilst Saka's year started low and ended high Tamura's year completed a full roller-coaster, starting high, going low, then lower, then ending on a high. It must have been a real ride to be a Ryoichi Tamura fan in 2019, but it was also an enjoyable ride for the tough guy from the JB Sports gym. He didn't just have results that went up and down, but even in defeat he was involved in some sensational fights.
So, to begin the year Tamura out fought, out worked, and out battled Mugicha Nakagawa to win the Japanese Super Bantamweight title, which Shingo Wake had vacated. This was certainly the highest of high points for Tamura, who sadly lost in his first defense to Yusakiu Kuga, in what was a legitimately thrilling bout that deserves so much more attention than it will ever get. Although Tamura lost to Kuga it could be argued that the damage he did in that fight will leave Kuga a lesser fighter than he was going in. By that same token the punishment Tamura took was insane as well.
Tamura failed to bounce back from the Kuga loss immediately and lost in a Japanese title eliminator, to Gakuya Furuhashi, sending him further down. Though did bounce back in November when he made his international debut and stopped Moensaku Yor in 2 rounds to claim the OPBF Silver Super Bantamweight title.
Up and down and round round! Ryoichi Tamura has had a bizarre yet wonderfully fun year to follow!
In Taiwan today we had an interesting, though small, card that featured a couple of title bouts, a few novices and some pretty interesting low key action.
In the opening bout of the card we saw Hiroto Watabe (2-1-1, 2) [渡部浩人] bounce back from his loss in May to Dominique Kenshin by stopping Thai teen Nanthipat Kesa (2-5, 1) in the second round. This was Watabe, who press from the opening bell and left the referee with little option than to stop the bout. Kesa was out of his depth throughout and could have been stopped earlier.
The second bout was again between novices, as ChianHuei Chin (0-1-1) faced the debuting Kai Ting Chuang (1-0) in a 4 round female bout. It seemed clear from early on that Chuang was the more well schooled fighter and she scored a knockdown in round 2 and mostly controlled the action. After 4 rounds all 3 judges agreed that Chuang was the winner, as she took a clear unanimous decision.
The third bout on the card saw young hopeful Yi Hung Chiang (4-0, 3) take on 37 year old Indonesian journeyman Said Fahdafi (3-8, 2) and score a very easy win. The Indonesian was dropped part way through round 2 and Chaing smelled blood. He would follow up by dropping Fahdafi twice more and taking a win that was very popular with the local fans.
Another Japanese fighter picking up a win on the under-card here was Seigo Hanamori (6-3, 4) [花森成吾], who was far too good for Thai foe Kittipong Jareonroy (3-5, 1). The Thai had come to fight but was out skilled, out boxed and outsped through out. The punch picking and accuracy of Hanamori saw Jareonroy being dropped from a body show mid way through round 2. Although the Thai got up from the knockdown he was dropped again soon afterwards and the referee waved the action off almost immediately. This was a third straight stoppage win for Hanamori who is never going to reach the top of the sport, but is going to be a fun man to follow.
The first of two title bouts saw WBA Asia Super Bantamweight champion Daisuke Sugita (6-1, 3) [杉田大祐] went up against tough Filipino journeyman Edison Berwela (18-43-8, 6).
On paper this looked like a mismatch, but those who had followed Berwela's career over the year's knew he could be a banana skin for Sugita and the Japanese "Police Boxer". Sugita seemed aware of Berwela's reputation as tough guy and showed respect early on, despite being aggressive. As the fight went on we saw more ambition from Berwela who landed a number of solid left hands in round 3 and by the end of round 4 Sugita seemed to have a graze around his left eye, and a cut did open up around his right eye later in the bout.
Despite the ambition of Berwela was saw Sugita continue to get the best of it and Berwela only managed success in spurts, with counters. Sugita on the other hand controlled the tempo, but had to remain cautious and on point throughout, knowing that Berwela was a danger. In the final round Berwela, who knew he was a long way behind, went all out for the KO, throwing hayemakers, but was unable to catch Sugita clean with them, as the champion saw out the storm before firing back in a very fun final minute.
The second title bout saw the always fun to watch Ryoichi Tamura (13-5-1, 7) [田村亮一] take on Indonesian foe Moensaku Yor (6-6-1, 4) for the OPBF "silver" Super Bantamweight title. This turned out to be every bit the mismatch we'd have expected.
Tamura dominated the opening round but couldn't hate Yor in the first 3 minutes. In the second round however he scored a knockdown early in the round, and then dropped Yor three more before the round was over. After getting up from the knockdown the crowd applauded Yor, and his bravery. Thankfully the referee finally stepped in when it Yor was going to be dropped the 5th time in the round.
Tomorrow in Taiwan former Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Ryoichi Tamura (12-5-1, 6) [田村亮一] will battle Indonesian Moensaku Yor (6-5-1, 4) in a bout for the OPBF Silver Super Bantamweight.
Today, ahead of their bout, the two men took part in their weigh in, and neither man had any issues with the 122lbs limit.
On the scales Tamura was bang on the divisional limit, and looked strong, powerful and like a fighter looking to make a statement after back to back losses.
Whilst Tamura was bang on the limit the naturally smaller Yor was well under it, weighing in at 120.8lb. Although a very clear under-dog the Indonesian was talking confidently, telling the press "I think Tamura is a good fight, but I'm stronger."
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
sEarlier today we were informed that Daisuke Sugita (5-1, 3) [杉田大祐] would be back in the ring at the end of November to make his first defense of the lightly regarded WBA Asia Super Bantamweight title.
The well regarded policeman-boxer will be defending the belt in Taiwan on November 30th, when he goes up against Filipino journeyman Edison Berwela (18-42-8, 6). On paper this is a total mismatch, but it's a good chance to Sugita to get some more international experience before bigger bouts down the line in 2020.
Also on this card will be former Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Ryoichi Tamura (12-5-1, 6) [田村亮一], who battles Indonesian Moensaku Yor (6-5-1, 4) in a bout for the OPBF Silver Super Bantamweight title. The winner of this will, in theory, be the mandatory challenger for either OPBF Super Bantamweight champion Hiroaki Teshigawara (20-2-2, 13) [勅使河原 弘晶]or Shohei Kawashima (18-3-2, 4) [川島翔平], with those two set to fight for the main title on December 12th at Korakuen Hall.
At the moment it's expected that this card, like previous shows in Taiwan, will be made freely available to stream, and although the bouts are mismatches it's always fun to see Sugita and Tamura in action.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Every so often we get a bout that we just know will be something special, due to the men involved, their styles and their mentality.
Today we had one such bout, as former Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Ryoichi Tamura (12-5-1, 6) [田村 亮一] battled against experienced veteran Gakuya Furuhashi (26-8-1, 14) [古橋大輔] in a Japanese title eliminator.
On paper the bout wasn't anything special, but hardcore fans of the Japanese scene knew this would be something sensational, and that's exactly what we got, over 8 incredible rounds.
From the opening round this was just a violent war with both men standing their ground and letting their shots fly up close. Both men essentially ignored their jabs as they traded hooks and uppercuts up close. This was the style that suited Tamura.
Despite being the more physically imposing fighter Tamura seemed to falter in terms of variations, whilst Furuhashi managed to land some booming straight right hands on his way in, and as the fight went on Furuhashi started to move a little more, using his feet smartly to neutralise some of the pressure of Tamura and lure him onto shots.
Furuhashi would end up being dragged back into a toe-to-toe war again in the later stages as Tamura's pressure began to have the desired effect. By then however it was too little too late for Tamura in the eyes of the judges.
After 8 rounds the scorecards from all 3 judges favoured Furuhashi, with scores of 78-75, twice, and 77-76, as he secured his third Japanese title shot.
After the bout Furuhashi seemed incredibly excited about getting a third shot at the title. He will be the under-dog when he fights for the title, but he'll be a live under-dog. Tamura, on the other hand, stated that he thought he deserved the win and it's clear that despite the loss he will continue on and keep chasing his dreams of regaining the title that he lost to Yusaku Kuga earlier this year.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
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