It feels like it's been a very, very, very long time since we last had live televised Japanese boxing. We've had a few tape delay shows from Japan but it's been around a month since the All Japan Rookie of the Year final. Thankfully today we saw boxing return to Japanese TV thanks to latest Dynamic Glove show, and it was a really, really good show, with an exciting debutant, along with 3 solid, entertaining bouts. It's been too long, but it was, in the end, worth the wait!
The show began with a 4 rounder between Takumi Hashimoto (1-1) [橋本拓海] and Shogo Namiki (2-0-1, 1) [並木翔牙]. This was a really fun and exciting bout to open the show, though both men were clearly very limited fighters. Namika seemed the aggressor through much of the first round, but Hashimoto had good success in round 2 which he tried to replicate in round 3, though his accuracy let him down. In round 4 we ended up with 3 minutes of brutal violence as both men gave their all in an attempt to secure victory. After 4 rounds the judges gave the win to Namiki by majority decision.
The second bout on the show saw the long awaited debut of Kenji Fujita (1-0, 1) [藤田健児] as he scored a 6th round TKO win against the tough and very credible Motosuke Kimura (3-6-2, 1) [木村元祐].
From the off it was clear Fujita respected Kimura and his ability to counter. As a result the early going saw Fujita box patiently, used his amateur skills to keep the action at range and to win the rounds without taking too many risks. As the bout went on however he began to let heavier shots go, targetting the body of Kimura, and hurting him in round 3 before dropping him in round 4, as he systematically broke down his man. Kimura showed incredible toughness however and continued to try and fight back. In round 6 however Kimura was hurt again and Fujita didn't let off the gas, forcing the referee to step in wave this off. This was a really impressive performance by Fujita who is clearly another fantastic addition to the already packed Japanese Featherweight scene. One to keep an eye on, though that's little surprise given his incredibly amateur pedigree.
The third bout saw action pick up with a competitive, technical and exciting bout between Katsuya Fukui (3-0, 2) [福井勝也] and Hiroki Hanabusa (8-2-3, 3) [英洸貴]. This started very technical from both, as both used their jabs a lot, and despite being technical it was fought at a high pace, and very exciting. We thought Hanabusa more than held his own and his jab was again a fantastic weapon in round 2. From there on however Fukui began to find his grove, unloading sharp combinations, sneaking in and out with great success. Hanabusa continued to hold his own, and was landing a similar amount to Fukuo, but the cleaner more eye catching shots were coming from Fukui.
Through the middle rounds Hanabusa's work rate slowed as Fukui's shots took their toll on him, though to his credit Hanabusa refused to back down and go away. Instead Hanabusa dug deep and in rounds 7 and 8 the two men began to trade more regularly giving the fans a show. Sadly for Hanabusa however his shots lacked the power that Fukui's did and he could never get the respect of the unbeaten Fukui.
After 8 rounds the judges had this much, much wider than we did, scorign it 80-72, twice, and 79-73.We can't help but feel that Hanabusa deserved a bit more credit, though was certainly second best. Despite the loss we feel Hanabusa enhanced his reputation here, whilst Fukui showed he had the potential to go very far in this sport.
In the chief support bout we saw blood, and a lot of it, as Tatsuya Takahashi (32-10-6, 21) [高橋 竜也] and Ryotaro Kawabata (13-4-2, 6) [川端遼太郎] gave us something special. Really special.
The fight started with the much taller, longer and experienced Takahashi trying to box at range and control the bout with his footwork and jab whilst Kawabata looked to get inside and make this a fight. For the first round and a half Takahashi did all he could to avoid a war. Despite his effort we all knew, sooner or later, this was going to get violent and by the mid way point of round 2 Kawabata was dragging Takahashi into a firefight.
For the next few rounds Takahashi tried to give the appearance of someone who wanted to box, and not fight. Yet every round he was dragged into a slugfest up close. By the end of round 4 blood was smearing over his face from his nose, albeit from what appeared to be a headclash. From here on Takahashi gave up the pretence and turned things into an all out war, with the two men going to war on the inside, as blood began to flow. In fact was flowing so freely that both men ended up getting a doctor's inspection in rounds 5 and 7. The cuts, caused by accidental headclashes, were a result of the two men essentially standing toe to toe, head to head, and firing off shots with alarming success. Defense was a dirty word as the fighters seemed to be living by the idea that they had to stop the other
Sadly for both men's long term health a stoppage never seemed on. Both were rocked at times, and both took a lot of punishment, but neither man came close to being taken out. Instead they continued to let shots fly, with Takahashi fighting almost the entire final round with his back against the ropes. This was a sensational final round to what had been a brutal fight. Both men will be feeling this one in the morning. Thankfully for Kawabata he can at least feel good, as he picked up the victory, thanks to his relentless desire and his intense pressure. The scores cards here were 77-75, twice and 78-74, all to Kawabata.
The main event was another compelling bout as former amateur standout Gonte Lee (3-0-1, 1) [李 健太], who has previously been referred to as "Kuntae Lee" and was today shown on screen as "Gonte Ri", took on fan favourite Aso Ishiwaki (8-4-1, 6) [石脇麻生]. On paper this probably didn't grab too much attention internationally, especially given Ishiwaki's 2020 loss to Jin Sasaki and the technical draw that Lee suffered last time out. Despite that fans of the Japanese scene would have known that the styles here were going to mesh really well, with Lee's technical boxing being matched with the hunger and desire of Ishiwaki.
From the off the styles played out as expected, with Lee boxing, moving, and showing the brilliance that took him to a 62 fight winning streak in the amateurs. He looked fantastic. Whilst Ishiwaki fought like a bull in a china shop. He refused to back down, he refused to let Lee have time and space to think, and kept coming forward, putting his head down and chasing Lee around the ring.
At times Lee looked far, far too good for his man, particularly in the opening round and round 3 where he was almost scored a knock down with a body shot, but Ishiwaki proved himself to be dangerous having success in round 2 and holding his own in many rounds. As the bout went on however Ishiwaki's pressure generated more and more success, with round 6 being one of his best rounds. He even managed to drag Lee into a firefight in round 7, as Lee got his first chin check in the professional ranks.
With Ishiwaki creating some momentum we saw Lee put his foot on the gas in round 8, as he landed some fantastic counters early in the round before a vicious combination later one, that Ishiwaki somehow took without dropping. Ishiwaki knew he needed a knockout in the final round, he pushed for it, but he could never have the sustained success he needed.
For Lee this was a big step up in class and he passed it, winning with scores of 79-73, and 78-74, twice. He was forced to work every round and this was exactly what he needed. As for Ishiwaki this is a second successive loss for the youngster, but another performance that would have won fans over. Do not write him off for his record as he is one of the most fan friendly fighters out there and someone always worth watching.
Rentaro Kimura shines in Shizuoka!
Earlier today we got the chance to enjoy a live stream from the Suruga Boys show in Shizuoka. Whilst not a big card it was an interesting one. Among the bouts on the card were a former Japanese national champion, an unbeaten prospect and a former WBO Asia Pacific title challenger.
The show kicked off with a really crude bout between novices, as Prince Fujiwara (2-0-1, 2) [プリンス 藤原] and the debuting Masaya Aizu (0-1) [会津 聖哉] clashed in a Super Bantamweight bout. The fight was certainly not a high level one, but was an entertaining way to kick the show off with both men having their flaws on show and both being tagged as a result. Aizu looked to use his long arms to establish range, but Fujiwara seemed like he believed in his power, even when he was being tagged. In round 3 that power proved to be the difference maker, with Fujiwara rocking his man late in the round before dropping him only moments later. Aizu got to his feet but was rightfully stopped by the referee who put Aizu's health first.
The second bout on the show went the distance as Tentaro Kimura (5-0-2) [木村 天汰郎] out pointed Wataru Yokoyama (4-9-1, 3) [横山 渉] in a rather forgettable encounter. Kimura fought almost all the fight as a back foot counter puncher, which wouldn't have been a problem, but for the fact he couldn't draw many leads from Yokoyama, who cautiously pressed forward. Kimura did land solid shots every round, but they were few and far between whilst Yokoyama rarely landed anything of note. The drama was lacking here, and the most notable moment was Kimura making Yokoyama stumble, though he failed to follow up on the moment with any sort of sustained attack.
In the third bout we saw former Japanese 140lb champion Koichi Aso (24-9-1, 15) [麻生 興一] and Shogo Yamaguchi (12-6-3, 7) [山口 祥吾] put on a war, as many had expected. From the opening round it was clear that both men had the same mentality, winning a fight. This wasn't boxing, this wasn't point pinching. This was a fight. Aso's trademark pressure, behind a high guard, forced the action to be close and personal. Yamaguchi tried to avoid a war in the opening round, but was quickly forced to rethink things, and from round 2 to round 8 we got some great action up close as both men unleashed uppercuts and hooks.
Not only was the action exciting but it was wonderfully captivating, with each man giving as good as they got, and each man needing to deep incredibly deep. By round 5 it seemed like Aso was tiring, wearing out and showing his age, before he gritted his teeth and fought back, then it seemed like Yamaguchi was tiring, before he turned it around.
After 8 rounds it was almost impossible to call, with the judges turning in scores of 77-75, twice, and 76-76, to give Aso the majority decision victory. Sadly it does look like retirement is looming for Aso, with the 34 year old looking very much like an old fighter who has lost several steps since his prime years. Saying that however he still knows how to put on a show.
In the chief support bout we saw a master at work as Rentaro Kimura (2-0, 2) [木村蓮太朗] put on a virtuoso performance against the insanely tough Takafumi Iwaya (4-4) [岩屋卓史]. Kimura used Iwaya as a human punch bag in the first 2 rounds, landing pretty much every punch in the book. He showed a double handed attack to the body and head of Iwaya who some how stayed up right, despite being hammered. Time and time against Kimura would land shots that looked like they should put Iwaya down, but he stayed up.
Sadly for Iwaya he wasn't just being beaten up, but at times he was being toyed with as Kimura ducked, dodged, slipped and seemed to avoid almost everything Iwaya threw at him. It was a showcase of a young talent who appears to have it all.
After seeing their man take a shellacking for 4 rounds it seemed Iwaya's team were keeping a closer eye on things in round 5, and when Kimura began to put the jets on they wisely threw in the towel, realising their man was too tough for his own good. For those who haven't seen Rentaro Kimura we seriously suggesting making a big effort to see him as soon as you can. He is a very, very special talent, and he showed it here. Yes, Iwaya is nothing special, except in terms of toughness, but Kimura was showing things that were incredibly to see in such a novice professional. In many ways he appears to be Japan's Vasyl Lomachenko, with some very similar footwork, angles and movement. He's a sensational talent, and should be watched very carefully over the coming years.
In the main event we saw the talented Tsubasa Murachi (5-1, 3) [村地翼] bounce back from his 2019 loss to Froilan Saludar as he easily beat the tough Ryotaro Kawabata (12-4-2, 6) [川端遼太郎].From the opening round it was clear Murachi was out to make a statement, and he was hammering Kawabata with some huge right hands within seconds of the bout beginning. Somehow Kawabata was taking the shots, and kept marching forward.
Round after round Murachi would land some solid headshots, picking up the pace when he wanted. The shots he was connecting with included some truly massive right hands up top that really did test the chin of Kawabata, who managed to take them and continue to come forward.
As the rounds went on it seemed like the only question would be how long would Kawabata survive? Amazingly however Kawabata did more than just survive, as he began to come forward, despite his face swelling up badly, and in the final two rounds he forced Murachi to back up, though he did eat a lot of hard leather whilst pressing forward.
After 8 rounds, which was a surprise in it's self, we went to the scorecards which all had the bout a wide and clear win for Murachi, with scored of 80-72, twice, and 79-73.
For Murachi the performance was perfect, given the fact we saw him being knockout last time we saw him in the ring, though he would likely be frustrated that he couldn't force a stoppage. For Kawabata however it was a painful loss, and the clearest defeat of his career.
Murachi and Kawabata make weight!
Tomorrow Suruga Boys will be putting on a live stream of their show from the FujisanMesse in Shizuoka. The main event of that show will see the once beaten Tsubasa Murachi (4-1, 3) [村地翼] look to bounce back from a KO loss to Froilan Saludar as he takes on domestic foe Ryotaro Kawabata (12-3-2, 6) [川端遼太郎] in a Bantamweight bout.
Today Murachi and Kawabata took part in their weigh in and both men came in bang on the Bantamweight limit, and both looked in real good shape.
For Murachi, as mentioned, the bout is his return following a loss to Saludar which occurred just over a year ago. That loss was in a WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight title bout, which he seemed ill prepared for, and he's dipping his toes into the Bantamweight division here for his return. At the moment it's unclear which division will be his focus, though given he's a growing youngster it does seem likely that he will remain as a Bantamweight following this bout.
At the weigh in Murachi seemed proud of being the main event of this show, and sounded confident of bouncing back from last year's loss with a win here.
As for Kawabata this will only be his second bout since 2017. After a December 2016 loss to Hideo Sakamoto he seemed to vanish off the boxing map for almost 3 years, before returning last October with a blow out win over the limited Marihot Hutajulu. Despite the long break he's still only 29 and should prove to be a very real test for Murachi. He has never been stopped, and has given Shohei Omori, Mark John Yap and Hideo Sakamoto real tests.
For fans wanting to watch this it will be streamed live by the promoter on their YouTube channel and it should be a very decent bout between a man who needs a win following a brutal KO loss and a man who needs a win to get his career back on track ofter a lengthy break from the ring.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Back in July Suruga Boy announced that they would be putting on a show in Shizuoka on September 27th. The event wasn't set to be a huge one, but it was set to be an interesting one, whilst trying to keep boxing in Shizuoka alive in these tricky times.
The card had a number of interesting bouts confirmed for it, including an 8 round contest between Koichi Aso (23-9-1, 15) [麻生興一] and Shogo Yamaguchi (12-5-3, 7) [山口祥吾], in what we expect will be a war. As well the second pro bout of the hotly tipped Rentaro Kimura (1-0, 1) [木村蓮太朗], who will be facing off with Takafumi Iwaya (4-3) [岩屋卓史] . And the ring return of Tsubasa Murachi (4-1, 3) [村地翼], following his loss to Froilan Saludar, with Murachi battling Ryotaro Kawabata (12-3-2, 6) [川端遼太郎].
The original hope was that it would be part of the annual Suruga Boy Desafio event, which is essentially a boxing festival in Shizuoka, with the live boxing playing just a part of a much bigger event. Sadly though the plans were cancelled with just the boxing continuing.
One of the many worries for the event was that no one would be able to see it. There was real worries that it would be staged behind closed doors, and no wider access. In the end the event will have fans, but less than 100, and clearly deserves a much bigger audience than that.
Thankfully at the end of August the promoters announced that the event would be given a live stream, for free, on their YouTube channel, which can be accessed here.
At the moment the channel doesn't meet the conditions to allow tipping, so they have also set up some crowdfunding through Camp-fire.jp for those in Japan who want to financially help the promotion. For those who want to donate the link is https://camp-fire.jp/projects/view/312565. The target for the funding is ¥3,000,000, with ¥175,500 having been raised.
The money from the crowd funding will be used to pay for things like the venue, purses, sound and production and likely offset losses that the promoters were going to be making on the event given the lack of fans.
Earlier today the Suruga Boys announced their next event, revealing that it will take place at the Fujisan Messe in Shizuoka, behind closed doors on September 27th. Whilst the promotional outfit isn't a big one, this card is very much one worthy of interest with several notable fighters being featured on it.
Among the bouts confirmed for this show are an interesting 8 round contest between Koichi Aso (23-9-1, 15) [麻生興一] and Shogo Yamaguchi (12-5-3, 7) [山口祥吾]. Coming in to this bout Aso is looking to bounce back from a loss in May 2019 to Tatsuya Yanagi whilst Yamaguchi is looking to build on a February win over former Japanese Lightweight champion Shuhei Tsuchiya.
Another 8 rounder will be the main event, which will have Tsubasa Murachi (4-1, 3) [村地翼] looking to bounce back from last year's KO loss Froilan Saludar. The talented youngster, who was stopped by Saludar in a WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight title bout will be up against 29 year old Ryotaro Kawabata (12-3-2, 6) [川端遼太郎].
On paper the main event looks really good, though it should be noted that Kawabata has only fought once since the start of 2017, and that was an easy comeback win over Marihot Hutajulu last October. He looks good on paper but it could well be a bout where his recent inactivity will be an issue. Saying that that however we're really interested to see how Murachi looks after the devastating loss to Saludar.
To us the chief support bout for the event is the most interesting bout on the card. That will see the very exciting Rentaro Kimura (1-0, 1) [木村蓮太朗] facing off with Takuya Ota (8-3-1, 6) [太田卓矢].
The reason we're so excited about this one is the way Kimura looked in his recent debut. He blitzed Yuya Azuma last week in a sensational debut performance that was finished off with a truly brutal KO. That was a debut that left us wanting more of the young Super Featherweight and a return to the ring in September is fantastic news.
As for Ota he is no push over. He reached the All Japan Rookie of the Year final in 2018, losing a decision in the final to Yusaku Sekishima, but was stopped last time out by the talented Xiang Li in China. It's hard to imagine him pushing Kimura but it's a decent step up for the youngster.
Originally the hope had been for Murachi and Kimura to be in action in May, but issues surrounding the "on going situation" meant that wasn't possible. Despite that we're glad Kimura made his debut earlier this month, and very happy to see him scheduled to fight again so soon.
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