With so few major international bouts taking place this year it's hard to think of too many robberies taking place in Asia this year. There have been some, but they are few and far between, thankfully.
There was however one that stood out, and still does. In fact it's one that left a genuinely sour taste in our mouths, and that taste got worse as the year ended, as the lucky recipient of the gift win ended up landing an undeserved world title fight. In fact they ended up landing a place in one of the highest profile Asian bouts of the year, making it feel even worse.
The bout in question was the October clash between the then triple crown Super Flyweight champion Ryoji Fukunaga and the then unbeaten Hayate Kaji. The bout looked like a really good one on paper, but ended up being a very, very one sided one, with Kaji out classing, out boxing, out fighting, out speeding, out punching, out skilling and generally dominating Fukunaga. Round after round Kaji landed at will, landed combinations and hurt his man, who looked second rate through out the bout.
Sadly however not one of the judges found a way to give the bout to the 24 year old Kaji, who really couldn't have done much more to win a decision. The closest we got was one judge having the bout even, in it's self a travesty given the performance of Kaji who put on a showing of a career only to be denied against someone who he used as a human punch bag.
This bout should have resulted in Kaji becoming a triple crown champion, and an emerging face of the Super Flyweight division. Sadly however Fukunaga got the decision and subsequently landed a career defining bout at the end of the year against Kazuto Ioka.
It's rare to see Japanese fans call out their judging and say that a decision was poor but that's what we saw here, and we know what we saw, with Kaji being robbed. This was a genuine black eye for Japanese boxing, and one of the worst decisions we saw all year.
Thankfully still in his mid 20's Kaji has time on his side, and he can easily bounce back from this disappointment, but it's a still a decision that has set his career back, taken his unbeaten record and denied him a chance of being a triple crown winner.
Tomorrow we'll see WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka (27-2, 15) [井岡一翔] defending his title against fellow Japanese fighter Ryoji Fukunaga (15-4, 14) [福永亮次] in the final major bout of 2021. Today, ahead of their bout, the two men took part in a number of formalities.
One of the most notable of those formalities was the weigh in, which saw both men make weight with no issues at all.
Ioka was bang on the limit, at 115lbs whilst Fukunaga was under the limit, with a little bit of room to spare, coming in at 114.8lbs. Interestingly both men looked in good shape, but not sensational shape. Ioka looked like he was carrying just a touch of extra weight whilst Fukunaga looked like he may have drained down a little bit more than he needed to. Neither looked bad, but we've certainly seen both men look better.
There was also a press conference that saw both men talk about the bout, with Ioka explaining that he wanted to deliver an exciting match and that he was nervous, though he seemed alarmingly calm through out the entire event. As for Fukunaga he seemed amazed to be getting a shot at Ioka, who explained that it was "amazing" to fight such a person.
We also saw the two fighters pick their gloves. Both men will be wearing black, with Ioka wearing Everlast and Fukunaga wearing Reyes.
One other thing they both did was go through a number of medical checks. Interestingly these shows Fukunaga having all the physical advantages.
According to the numbers from the physical, the challenger is 5.2cm taller, has a 0.2cm reach advantage, a thicker chest and a thicker neck. Oddly Ioka's pulse rate was 120 BPM which was twice as quick as Fukunaga's, at 57BPM, both had similar body temperatures, though Ioka's was slightly highly higher.
For fans wanting to watch the bout, it will be aired from 18:30 local time on TBS.
Related - Ioka faces Fukunaga to end 2021
On New Year's Eve we'll see WBO champion Kazuto Ioka (27-2, 15) [井岡一翔] defending his title against former triple crown champion, Ryoji Fukunaga (15-4, 14) [福永亮次], who has taken the bout at short notice to save the TBS year ending event after Japan changed it's rules on international travel.
Yesterday, ahead of their bout, Fukunaga took part in a public work out and press conference to talk about the contest.
At the event Fukunaga revealed that he is both excited and nervous about about the bout, and that there was official events for the bout almost daily due to how short notice the bout was put together. Despite that he seemed confident, and explained that he would impress and that at the end of the bout his hand would be raised.
In regards to his shape he still has about 3KG (6.6lbs) but that shouldn't be an issue to lose by the December 30th, when the weigh will take place, and that everything was top notch with trainer Kenta Okumura working on counter measures for Ioka.
The work out it's self was quite a short one with Fukunaga hitting the mitts and shadow boxing. Through the session he looked heavy handed and determined, but this is a huge step up in class for him.
Earlier this month we reported the unfortunate news that the New Year's Eve Super Flyweight world title unification bout between WBO champion Kazuto Ioka (27-2, 15) [井岡一翔] and IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas (33-1-2, 22) was off, due to the Japanese response to the Omicron variant of Covid19, which lead to the country essentially closing it's borders.
Whilst it was disappointing to see that bout cancelled, it has now been confirmed that Ioka will still be in action at the end of the year, as he defends his title against fellow Japanese fighter, and former triple crown champion, Ryoji Fukunaga (15-4, 14) [福永亮次], who is stepping up in class, in a huge way.
For Ioka the bout seems to be a case of staying busy, giving fans something to enjoy before the year is over, and not letting inactivity set in, especially given the Ancajas could still place in the first half of 2022. It's in, many ways, a case of fighting against Fukunaga is better than not fighting at all, even if the bout is a massive, and we mean massive, downgrade from what had been planned for him. It also saves us something to look forward to at the end of the year, something that didn't seem likely just 2 weeks ago.
As for Fukunaga the bout is his biggest, by far. He has managed to do a lot in his career, winning the Rookie of the Year in 2016, and unifying the JBC, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles. Along the way he head beaten Froilan Saludar, Kenta Nakagawa and Hayate Kaji, with the bout against Kaji being his most recent and his most controversial with many feeling he got a gift. In the ring he's heavy handed, tough, and aggressive, but can be out boxed, as we saw against Kaji. At the age of 35 this is likely to be his only world title fight, but it's fair to say he will put everything into it, knowing he has nothing to lose.
The bout is set to be televised on TBS from 6:30PM local time, and is one of just 4 bouts set for the show in general, with the others being fought off TV.
For those who haven't seen Fukunaga before, his bout with Froilan Saludar can be seen below.
Back in October Super Flyweight triple crown champion Ryoji Fukunaga (15-4, 14) [福永亮次] successfully retained his OPBF, WBO Asia Pacific and Japanese titles, in a very questionable decision win against the very unlucky Hayate Kaji (15-1, 9) [梶颯]. Today we saw his next bout being announced, and sadly it's not a rematch with Kaji, who really should have got the win in October.
Instead the hard hitting champion will return on January 15th and take on former Japanese Youth champion Yuto Nakamura (11-6-2, 8) [中村 祐斗], in what will be his first bout for a senior title.
Notably Fukunaga will not be defending all 3 of his titles, and instead will only be defending his two regional titles, the Japanese title and the WBO Asia Pacific title. It will be his third defense of the Japanese title his fourth of the WBO Asia Pacific belt.
Fukunaga is a hard hitting boxer-puncher with an exciting style, heavy hands but at the age of 35 he's potentially coming to the end of his career, and he didn't look good at all against Kaji. In fact he looked like a man who was feeling his age and the effects of having been in some really punishing wars. Nakamura on the other hand is a fighter with a warrior mentality, who comes to fight and go to war, as we saw in his recent draw with JBC ranked Super Flyweight Tsubasa Murachi (7-1-1, 3) [村地 翼]. Given their last performances we are expecting a genuine thriller here.
The bout will headline January's Dynamic Glove show, and will be viewable within Japan, with G+ expected to broadcast the event.
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