Earlier today the annual Japanese boxing awards took place at the Tokyo Dome Hotel.
As previously reported unified Bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16) [井上 尚弥] won the Best fighter award and the Best Fight at event, but was unable to attend due to illness. That however leaves the question "who else won awards?"
The Best Skill award was won by WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14) [井岡一翔], who became the first Japanese male 4-weight champion in the summer, stopping Aston Palicte. He then defended the title at the end of the year against Jeyvier Cintron, putting in a very different type of performance against Puerto Rican challenger.
Like Inoue, Ioka also didn't attend the event.
The special award saw Ryota Murata (16-2, 13) [村田 諒太] pick up the honours, after reclaiming the WBA Middleweight title and then defending it just before Christmas. He explained his next bout isn't yet decided, though reports are suggesting a May or June date is likely. Murata also picked up the KO award for the year.
The Effort award was won by Yuki Nagano (17-3, 13) [永野祐樹], who won the award for what he did in 2019 despite recently losing the Japanese Welterweight title.
The Newcomer award was win by Junto Nakatani (20-0, 15) [中谷 潤人], who is now reportedly set to fight for the WBO Flyweight title in Spring.
As previously mentioned Naoya Inoue won the best fight in a world title fight, for his sensational bout with Nonito Donaire in the WBSS final. As for none-world title bout, that award, unsurprisingly, went to the brilliant war between Yuki Beppu [別府優樹] and Ryota Yada [矢田良太] for the WBO Asia Pacific Welterweight title. For fans who haven't seen that one, we genuinely implore you to give a watch!
There was a double award for female fighter Tenkai Tsunami (27-12-1, 16) [天海 ツナミ] who not only took the women's MVP award, for the second year running, but also the women's fight of the year for her bout with Naoko Fujioka [藤岡 奈穂子].
The excellent player award, which is given to every Japanese fighter who holds a world title at some point during the year, saw Inoue, Ioka and Murata receive the honour along with:
Kosei Tanaka (15-0, 9) [田中恒成]
Kenshiro Teraji (17-0, 10) [寺地 拳四朗]
Ryosuke Iwasa (27-3, 17) [岩佐 亮佑]
Hiroto Kyoguchi (14-0, 9) [京口 紘人].
The trainer award was given to Mr Kato from the Misako gym, who has been responsible for training Kenjiro Teraji.
There was also a number of special awards given out. These went to:
Kohei Kono (33-12-1, 14) [河野 公平]
Ryoichi Taguchi (27-4-2, 12) [田口良一]
Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-7-6, 7) [福原 辰弥]
And Hitoshi Misako
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
According to the Daily Shincho, in an article released earlier today, "sources" in Japan have revealed that an agreement has finally been struck for much talked about contest between Japanese Middleweight star Ryota Murata (16-2, 13) [村田 諒太] and Mexican boxing megastar Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (53-1-2, 36), with a date and venue settled on.
Shincho cite their sources as revealing that the bout will not take place on May 2nd or 3rd, as previously rumoured, but instead May 24th, a Sunday in Japan. It will take place early in the day time in Japan to be shown live at prime time in the US, on Saturday night.
Whilst the hope had been that the bout would take place at the Tokyo Dome that venue wasn't available for any weekend day in May, as previously reported. As a result they had to settle on different venue,but have picked another great one, choosing the Saitama Super Arena. That's the same venue hosted the WBSS Bantamweight final between Naoya Inoue [井上 尚弥] and Nonito Donaire back in November.
The Daily Shincho's article state that their sources said that the original plan had been to get Gennady Golovkin (40-1-1, 35) over to Japan for a May date, with Canelo originally viewed as being the trickier opponent to get over to Japan. As things progressed however talks with Canelo's team went well, leading to that being the bout that was targeted, and then secured and signed.
Interestingly the Saitama Super Arena, which wasn't set up for a fully capacity for the WBSS final, is expected to be set for around 37,000 seats with the belief being this will be the largest audience for an event headlined by a Japanese fighter.
The Daily Shincho has also revealed that the bout is expected to be officially announced in the very near future. It is worth noting though that not all details had been disclosed, such as the agreed weight for the bout, though Murata has stated he's happy to fight at 160lbs or 168lbs. They also didn't have any details on the under-card, though suggested that they were hearing at least one other big bout would be on the show.
It's worth noting that the Daily Shincho is affiliated with the Weekly Shincho, the second highest selling weekly newspaper in Japan.
Just a week ago we were talking about how Japanese Middleweight star Ryota Murata (16-2, 13) [村田 諒太] was the new front runner to face Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (53-1-2, 36) in May. Today Murata was back in the news for a very, very different type of story.
Unlike the talk about the Canelo fight Murata was involved in an event for a Korakuen shop product, advertising "Chocolate Ramen".
Although the idea of chocolate Ramen sounds like it wouldn't work Murata actually seemed to be a fan and explained "Soy sauce and chocolate aren't fighting. Ginger is neutralizing. I thought it was a mismatch, but it was delicious." [Translated]
The event was pretty much just to advertise the product, but of course the media had question regarding Murata's upcoming bout.
Murata himself explained that "I don't hear directly about offers, I feel like I know through media and SNS. It's only talk at this stage" [Translated]. Though he did state that "Of course, I want to do it if I have the chance to do it," [Translated]. When asked a move up in weight he to Super Middleweight, he was OK with it and explained "I've been in the same class all the time, so I think new challenges are good."[Translated]
A deal on the fight is expected to take steps towards being made this week, or falling through completely and seeing the two men take different routes.
(Image courtesy of daily.co.jp)
One thing boxing rarely does is make sense. We see bouts happen without any sort of natural narrative far too often, usually to fill a time slot and a date. Every so often however boxing does make sense and it's great when that happens.
In November Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16) [井上 尚弥] unified the IBF and WBA Bantamweight titles, before announcing that he had signed with Bob Arum's Top Rank.
At the end of November, just weeks after Inoue's win John Riel Casimero (29-4, 20) defeated Zolani Tete foe the WBO title, the challenged Inoue directly to a unification bout. It was a fight that instantly made sense. It was a fight that would see the winner walk away as the head of the division and it was a fight that got fans excited. It also got Inoue excited as got his mentor Hideyuki Ohashi to push for the bout when Ohashi was in the US with Andy Hiraoka (15-0, 10) [平岡アンディ] [Naoya Inoue reaffirms desire to face Casimero next], who made his US debut at the end of November.
In December Bob Arum, who was in Japan promoting his other Japanese mega star Ryota Murata (16-2, 13) [村田 諒太], stated the plan was for Inoue to fight on April 25th in Las Vegas [Naoya Inoue's Top Rank debut set for April 25th in Las Vegas!], in what would be Inoue's Top Rank debut, and his second US bout. As long as Inoue's eye injury, suffered in his November unification bout, wasn't too severe.
With Casimero's call out put along with the date and venue things fell into place very nice, and since then the bout has been in the works.
Although now pretty much an open secret, the bout has hit the news again overnight with multiple sites now reporting that negotiations are about done, and the bout is heading towards it's announcement. With that in mind it appears all the boxes are ticked, all the t's are crossed and i's dotted.
With this now being such an open secret it now seems that we're all just expecting the announcement for this huge unification bout, and for Inoue's Top Rank debut, which is expected to be made official in the coming days.
It's expected the bout will be announced with a lot of notice time as Arum is said to be expecting 2,000 Japanese fans to be in the venue, and plans for those fans will need to be given time to plan their journeys.
Back on January 13th Sponichi Annex reported that Bob Arum was in talks for his Japanese Middleweight star Ryota Murata (16-2, 13) [村田 諒太] was in talks to face off with Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (53-1-2, 36) in May for a bout at the Tokyo dome.
The report suggested that Arum has stated "If it does take place, it will take place on Sunday afternoon in Japan time and will be broadcast during prime time in the United States."
At the time the story seemed to fall apart when looking at the schedule for the Tokyo Dome, which is packed every Sunday through May. The first 2 weekends in May are booked with baseball games featuring Yomiuri Giants, on both Saturdays and Sundays. To put it into some context the Yomiuri Giants are Japan's version of the New York Yankees.
The following weekends are then booked up with concerts from RADWIMPS and GLAY, with concerts on both Saturday and Sunday.
This seemed to completely rule out the Sponichi article about the fight taking place in Japan in May...that was until today when Chris Mannix reported that a Canelo Vs Murata fight in Japan, in the Spring was in serious talks.
But the Tokyo dome is booked right?
Looking through the Tokyo Dome schedule the venue is busy most weekends, though it would be available the first weekend in March or either of the first 2 weekends in June. It's unlikely these dates would work for the fight but they are there.
Of course the Tokyo Dome isn't the only venue that would be suitable. An alternative dome would be the 36,000 seating Kyocera Dome in Osaka, that also appears to be booked every Sunday in May.
Outside of the two domes there are, obviously, other massive venues that could, potentially, host the fight, such as the Shin kokuritsu kyōgijō, which held the 2019 Emperor's Cup final earlier this month. This venue will be used for the Olympics, and is much bigger than the two domes, The Nissan Stadium would also be potentially suitable as would the Saitama Stadium 2002. Those 3 are however soccer stadiums, and none of that trio have ever held boxing before.
Interesting there is a potential dome date available for May 3rd, albeit in the Nagoya Dome, which is booked for the Saturday but RADWIMP and on the Monday, for baseball, is available on the Sunday. In fact the Nagoya dome is available on May 3rd, 10th and 17th and is similar in size to both the Kyocera Dome and the Tokyo dome and is only 2 hours from Tokyo.
Broadcasting could be tricky right?
Broadcasting could get very complicated here, but they wouldn't need to be.
Firstly, as mentioned above, the plan would be for "Sunday afternoon in Japan time and will be broadcast during prime time in the United States." This would suit a solid viewing figure in Japan, though not a prime time one, however it would be suitable for the US and Mexico, making it suitable for Canelo's fans.
Fuji TV have backed Murata and have a contract with him, to broadcast his fights in Japan. Fuji TV are backed by the extremely powerful Fuji News Network, and in theory give a nationwide audience base for any fight in Japan, if they broadcast it across their entire network. In Tokyo alone the they have a a regular audience in the multi-million figure for Murata fights. It is however, worth noting that the last Murata fight wasn't exclusive to Fuji in Japan, with it being shown on NHK-8BS, in glorious 8K. In fact that was only the second time, in history, a bout had ever been broadcast in 8K anywhere in the world.
NHK have made it known they are looking to get back into the boxing after years away and their 8K coverage gives them a USP no one else can match, and allows them to work along with Fuji to bring fights out in 8K, something they also did for the Naoya Inoue Vs Nonito Donaire bout.
Of course Canelo has a contract with DAZN, which has heavily bankrolled his fights in the US in recent years. The DAZN rights are thought to be global and would, in theory, extend to this bout being aired to the 2,000,000 or so Japanese subscribers to DAZN. A decent number if they could get them all, though the reality is that boxing on DAZN in Japan is pretty niche, and most big bouts are on terrestrial TV where viewing numbers are much bigger.
DAZN have yet to actually broadcast a Japanese boxing show of any kind, and their boxing content, so far, has been entirely imported. For them to have a fight of this magnitude might help them boost their numbers, but would be unlikely to get anywhere near the figures of a Fuji broadcast. Also DAZN JP will likely have their two biggest sports on during the proposed dates for these, with NPB (Japanese Baseball) and J League (Japanese soccer) series both running through May. If You're a DAZN subscriber odds are these are what you have the service for and adding boxing wouldn't actually help their viewership, especially not by taking it off free TV to do so.
In principle there is actually NO REASON why these contracts can't actually run in agreement with each other. There are other events in Japan which are shown on both terrestrial TV, such as Fuji TV, and another service. For example RIZIN is broadcast on both Fuji TV and GYAO, whilst fights on TBS are also occasionally shown on Paravi.
In theory DAZN would be able to keep the global streaming rights, Fuji the terrestrial TV rights and BS8 would be able to have their slice of the pie with an 8K broadcast. It would, incidentally, be the same 3 companies that worked on the Inoue Vs Donaire bout, and each would have their own selling point.
For DAZN they would be able to showcase the full under-card, something Fuji won't do, for Fuji the terrestrial coverage would be huge, whilst BS8 will only show to a small number of people who have already adopted 8K technology.
One other thing to note is that in Japanese reports the suggestion was that Fuji TV would potentially be getting the rights to essentially cover DAZN financially. Several reports from Japan stated that both Canelo, and Gennady Golovkin (40-1-1, 35), were costing too much. Hence the service showing a willingness to send fighters off abroad, with both men being linked to Murata, where purses could essentially be funded in part by Fuji TV.
So could this really take place in Japan in Spring?
This has long been in the works as a possibility, with Bob Arum talking about the bout way back on December 23rd, the day that Murata beat Steven Butler. (Murata targets Canelo and Golovkin at the Tokyo Dome in 2020!) With GGG now looking set to make a mandatory defense of his title it leaves Canelo as the only target for Arum and Co that is worth paying the big money for.
Finding the right venue in time would be a key issue that needs solving, but as we've seen there are dates available for the Domes, but maybe not the dates they want.
Something you'd like to add?
Well, yes! Whilst Bob Arum did suggest a Sunday it is worth noting that the the first week of May falls in what is termed the "Golden Week" in Japan, where there's a bundle of holidays that all take place together. These include April 29th, May 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th. The big day for Mexican fans in May 5th.
A wild card suggesting is that the bout actually takes place in Japan on Wednesday May 6th in the early afternoon, or Tuesday May 5th, in the early afternoon. This would make the most of the Japanese holidays and potentially work for a Mexican viewing fan base, with public schools in Mexico closed on May 5th.
May 5th is also celebrated, as Cinco de Mayo, in Japan.
Another possibility is that it takes place on a Monday afternoon in Japan. This is notable as May 4th is a Japanese holiday, and it would work for a large American audience on a Sunday night, especially given that there appears to be no major US sporting event on May 4th with NBA taking a break, no WWE and no NFL. This would be an interesting work around but brings the Tokyo Dome into the fold once again.
Of course this isn't the first name we've seen linked to Canelo for a May 2020 date, and there's a chance we'll see another name linked to him soon as well. It is however interesting to see how long this has been in the works for, if we're to trust Bob Arum, and why the Tokyo Dome is maybe not the most likely venue....unless the bout comes on a weekday.
(Images courtesy of Boxmob, Fuji TV, Tokyo-Dome.co.jp, Boxingnews.jp)
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