Earlier today fight fans in Okinawa got a rare show of note, headlined by a former world champion taking on a rising star of Japanese boxing. The show wasn't a big one, but the main was certainly a huge bout worthy of attention, and the under-card had several fighters of interest on it.
The show opened up with a 4 rounder between 22 year hold Kanta Yamauchi (3-2-1, 2) [山内 寛太] and 19 year old Nagi Sudo (2-2-1) [須藤 凪]. This was all action from the off and although Yamauchi was the better fighter through out there was no questioning Sudo's effort, with the youngster playing his part in a 4 round fire cracker. After 4 rounds the judges turned in cards of 40-36 and 39-37, twice, all for Yamauchi. He was a deserved winner, but he really had to earn the win in a fantastic curtain raiser.
The second bout saw touted 24 year old prospect Yusuke Mine (4-0, 1) [峯 佑輔] take a wide and clear decision over the durable Taiga Higashi (6-5, 2) [東 大河], with Mine controlling the 6 rounder without too many problems. Higashi tried to bring the action and apply pressure but the boxing IQ, footwork and movement of Mine were too much and Mine calmly controlled the action behind his jab, mixing up the action when he needed to. Higashi was never really discouraged but was also never able to really get a foothold on the bout, which was controlled by the skills of Mine.
In a solid performance Okinawa local Ryuto Owan (7-1, 5) [大湾 硫斗] dominated the tough, but limited, Takafumi Iwaya (4-5) [岩屋 卓史] who ended up being saved by his corner. Iwaya looked to start fast but Owan settled quickly, began to box his fight, using his movement and clean punching and began to control the bout from midway through the opening round. From there on Owan was in control, and he went through the gears, battering Iwaya, who was saved by his corner in round 4, whilst on the wrong end of a beating.
Sadly for Iwaya this is the second time in as many bouts that his toughness has been his worst enemy as he also took a pounding last September against Rentaro Kimura and it's hard to see his career continuing for much longer.
In the main event fans saw local favourite Daigo Higa (17-2-1, 17) [比 嘉 大吾] suffer a notable upset loss to the unbeaten Ryosuke Nishida (4-0, 1) [西田凌佑], with Nishida dethroning Higa of the WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight title.
From the off the size and stance of Nishida seemed to be a problem for Higa, who had real issues getting inside and working up close. Nishida seemed smooth, calm and soaked up the pressure well, whilst also landing plenty of leather himself. He was making Higa miss, and making Higa look like a Big Flyweight fighting against a Bantamweight. What didn't help Higa was when he did get inside Nishida clinched, using his natural size and strength advantages to stop Higa from getting shots off. Amazingly we also saw Nishida willing letting shots go up close, especially to the body.
The crowd, which were expected to be getting behind Higa, were nearly silent as their man struggled for any kind of sustained success. He had moments, but they were few and far between with Nishida having sustained success through all of the early rounds, dictating the action and the tempo without too many problems.
Higa began to find something of a groove in round 4, as he upped his pressure and work rate and began to fight with much more urgency. It was clear he felt he was in a hole and had to try and turn things around. He continued to be more aggressive in round 5 as well, landing some of his best shots, but it seemed like even his best shots didn't hurt Nishida who was standing his ground and landing his own leather whilst also trying to bully Higa physically when he had to.
After a few solid rounds from Higa he really did begin to look tired in the later stages, whilst Nishida seemed to have energy to burn and in the second half of the fight Nishida really started to beat up Higa who had to hold and spoil and do what he could to slow the offense of the challenger. Sadly for Higa he looked out of his depth at times, as well as out of his weight class. To his credit Higa was tough, rugged and hungry, but that was about it in stages as Nishida took total control of the action.
After 12 rounds the scores were read out, and they all favoured the challenger, widely. They were 117-111, twice, and 118-110, all in favour of Nishida who has now scored two big wins in back to back bouts, having beaten Shohei Omori last year.
For Higa this is a painful loss. He took a beating. At home. In front of the fans in Okinawa. He was dominated and shown, very clearly, that he is not a Bantamweight. Sadly however the JBC don't seem to be willing to risk seeing Higa miss weight again, as he did against Cristofer Rosales when he was the WBC Flyweight champion. He will need to go back to the drawing board, and learn to adapt to fighting as a Bantamweight, which we suspect will be incredibly tough for him.
As for Nishida, he's now beaten a former world title challenger and a former world champion. It's hard to imagine that he's not now looking for a world title fight sooner rather than later. This win was a stellar performance. It was a performance that showed how good he was, how composed he is, and how, even after just 4 bouts, he is already ready for major contests against top level fighters.
Earlier today in Japan we saw news announced regarding former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa (17-1-1, 17) [比嘉 大吾] and his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight title.
The heavy handed Higa will be taking on fast rising prospect Ryosuke Nishida (3-0, 1) [西田凌佑], with their bout set to take place on April 24th at the Okinawa Convention center.
We last saw Higa in action in February, when he took part in "LEGEND" and shared the ring with Bantamweight king Naoya Inoue (20-0, 17) [井上 尚弥] in an exhibition. Prior to that the last actual bout for Higa came on New Year's Eve, when he stopped Yuki Strong Kobayashi for the title.
Notably this isn't just Higa's first bout since that win over Kobayashi, which took place on the undercard of Kazuto Ioka's [井岡一翔] bout with Kosei Tanaka [田中恒成], but will also be his first bout in Okinawa in more than 3 years!
Today at an online press conference to announce the bout Higa stated "I'm happy to be able to play a match locally. Since my opponent is a southpaw, I will take proper measures and defeat it."
"I'm happy to be able to play the title in Okinawa. If I defeat it and win, I think the customers will be happy,"
Higa also stated his target for the future, explaining, "the current bantamweight situation, it's quite difficult to get into this. It's a defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Championship, so the ranking will inevitably rise. I think I want to aim for the WBO champion Casimero"
As for Nishida this is a massive step up in class. A leap up in class in fact. The unbeaten prospect from the Mutoh gym made his debut in October 2019, in Thailand, and returned to Japan for his second bout just months later, both against limited fighters. He generated a lot of buzz last year however with a break out performance against former world title challenger Shohei Omori, where he out boxed Omori over 8 rounds in a fantastic performance.
Despite that showing this is still a gigantic step up for Nishida, who is fighting at Bantamweight for the first time.
The venue for the bout is expected to be set up to accommodate around 2,000 fans and tickets will go on sale from April 6th. For fans unable to attend the contest will be aired live on RBC (Ryukyu Broadcasting Corporation), for those in Okinawa. For those not in Okinawa the bout will later be televised on TBS as part of their "Guts Fighting" series. Though a date hasn't been set for the airing of the bout.
For those upset about not being able to watch live, it is worth noting that the live event will over-lap with the WBC Light Flyweight title bout between Kenshiro Teraji (17-0, 10) [寺地 拳四朗] and Tetsuya Hisada (34-10-2, 20) [久田 哲也], which is expected to be streamed live on Youtube.
At the time of writing there has only been one under-card bout confirmed for the show, and that is a 6 round match up between Ryuto Owan (6-1, 4) [大湾 硫斗] and Takafumi Iwaya (4-4) [岩屋 卓史].
Earlier today at Korakuen Hall Japanese fight fans for the chance to see a relatively interesting card with two notable bouts on it.
The first of those bouts saw talented youngster Ryuto Owan (6-1, 4) [大湾硫斗] end a 2 year break from the ring, and pick up a very important win as he stopped Tomoya Kishine (6-4-1, 2) [岸根知也]. The talented Owan looked like the boss through out the contest, before forcing a stoppage in the 5th round.
For Owan this was an ideal result, very much what he needed after such a lengthy break. He got rounds, he got a win and he got the stoppage.
The main event was a much, much more interesting match up and saw former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa (16-1-1, 16) [比嘉 大吾] battle the unbeaten Seiya Tsutsumi (5-0-2, 4) [堤聖也].
On paper this looked like a bout where Higa would be strongly favoured. Though paper doesn't tell us the entire story, and Tsutsumi had twice beaten Higa in the amateurs and was the naturally bigger man, the natural Bantamweight. Given those two things we had expected something very special here, and boy do they seem to have delivered!
From the off Tsutsumi was busy, looking to set the pace, though Higa's tight guard and stiff jab were playing their part. In round 2 headclashes left Tsutsumi cut, and in round 3 Higa was cut. From there on it seemed unlikely the bout would last long, with both men bleeding and headclashes marring the action up close.
Both men seemed to recover well from the headclashes, but Higa struggled to impose his will as Tsutsumi battled hard, using his foot work and aggression to force Higa to think twice about charging in. This lead Higa to needing to turn things around, which he did in round 8, but his momentum was short lived as Tsutsumi backed him up in round 9.
By the final round it was clear that it was a close one, and men tried to do enough in the final 3 minutes to secure victory. Sadly however neither man could drop the other, and in the end we ended up with a majority decision draw, with scores of 95-95, twice, and 96-94 to Higa.
It had been a war, a real testament to both men's desire, toughness and work rate. Sadly however it had been a war without a winner, and was a clear set back for Higa, who perhaps doesn't have what it takes to make a mark on the world stage at Bantamweight. On the other hand it was a great sign that Tsutsumi really is as good as some suggested, and there's a chance that both men may well move forward with this draw, and potentially give us chapter 2 one day in future.
For fans wanting to watch this it will be televised in mid November on TBS, on what has been regarded a stupidly long tape delay. A really disappointing delay in the broadcast for what had been a very, very good fight.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
Earlier today news broke from Japan that former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa (16-1, 16) [比嘉 大吾] has now had his next bout set, with opponent, date and venue all officially announced.
The former champion, who transferred to the AMBITION gym earlier this year, will be returning to action on October 26th at Korakuen Hall where he will face the unbeaten Seiya Tsutsumi (5-0-1, 4) [堤聖也] in a scheduled 10 round bout at Bantamweight.
For Higa the bout will be his second since returning to the ring in February and stopping Jason Buenaobra in 6 rounds. That bout followed a lengthy suspension by the JBC for missing weight in his 2018 world title defense against Cristofer Rosales, and saw him being forced to move up in weight to avoid a similar issue in the future.
It's assumed that if Higa wins, without too many problems, he could be back in the ring in December in a high profile bout as part of a big card. The assumption is that that card will be headlined by WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14) [井岡一翔] defending his title against Kosei Tanaka (15-0, 9) [田中恒成].
For Tsutsumi the bout is his first since a very controversial, and unfortunate, draw against Kazuki Nakajima (8-0-1, 7) [中嶋一輝] in the God's Left Bantamweight tournament in January. He will clearly be the under-dog, but he's a very talented fighter himself and this is a huge opportunity for him to make a mark on the sport and give his career the big boost it needs. Coming in to this he is ranked by the JBC and is a step up from Higa's last opponent.
In regards to TV it's yet to be confirmed what will be happening with this bout, though the assumption is that TBS will be airing on tape delay it as they begin their relationship with the AMBITION Gym, and with Higa. It's expected that the announcement regarding TV will be made in the coming weeks.
As for the under-card, the most interesting bout that has been confirmed so far is a match up between Ryuto Owan (5-1, 3) [大湾硫斗] and Tomoya Kishine (6-3-1, 2) [岸根知也]. This will be Owan's first bout since losing in a Japanese Youth title fight against taking on Tetsu Araki in 2018 whilst Kishine will be looking to build on a 2019 win against Masato Morisaki.
Earlier today at the Korakuen Hall fight fans saw a title triple header. One of those bouts was for the Japanese Youth Bantamweight title, with former amateur standout Ryuto Owan (5-1, 3) [大湾硫斗] taking on Tetsu Araki (12-1-1, 2) [荒木哲].
The bout looked really interesting on paper and proved to be just as good in the ring. To start with Araki attempted to set the pace early by using his jab but Owan landed the more eye catching shots and took early lead.
In round 4 Araki upped the pace and worked brilliantly in the pocket to out work and battle Owan, who was unable to match the tempo of his foe, who really dug in hard to the body further slowing Owan as he tried to respond.
The change in tempo from Araki and his high work rate proved to be the difference with Araki taking the unanimous decision with scores of 77-75, 78-75 and 78-74 to claim his first title. Sadly this is Owan's first loss, though we suspect he'll bounce back well and we wouldn't be surprised to see these two fighting again down the line.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
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