After weeks of speculation and rumours we finally saw the Ohashi team host a press conference today to announce the long awaited Bantamweight unification bout between Naoya Inoue (23-0, 20) [井上 尚弥] and Paul Butler (34-2, 15), with the Japanese kingpin defending his WBA "Super", IBF, WBC and Ring Magazine Bantamweight titles against he WBO title of Butler. The bout, the first 4 title unification bout in Japanese boxing history, had been on the cards for much of the year, but was dependent on the bout actually getting over the line, something that is always a worry in this sport.
The official confirmation of the bout occurred at a press conference held in Yokohama today, announcing what is a strong card with not just a major undisputed title bout in the main event but also a notable under-card containing some of the top fighters at the Ohashi Gym. The announcement confirmed most of the details we already knew. The bout will be on December 13th in Japan, though the venue was announced as the Ariake Arena, a 15,000 seat venue that was used in the Olympics and Paralympics.
The main event, the Inoue Vs Butler bout, was the focus of the press conference and saw Inoue discuss the bout, his opponent, and his future plans. Talking about Butler he stated “Butler is a solid player with no holes. We will weaken him little by little, overwhelm him, and unify all four groups." In regards to the bout and his future, he stated "This is my final chapter in the bantamweight division. This is not the finish line, but the passage point” and that after the bout he was "going to be a challenge from super bantamweight onwards."
He later explained that Butler is "a fighter who uses his jab to score points and makes sure he's not in a dangerous position." However he did go on to predict "I don't have an image of this going to a decision I think he will inevitably fall down".
In regards to how the show will be broadcast, the event will be shown on Hikari TV and dTV in Japan, and will be shown to subscribers as part of their subscription, and not PPV. This is a small surprise as Amazon Prime Video did show Inoue's last bout and was expected to be the front runner for this one as well.
As for the under-card it really is a major one.
The chief support but will see WBO Asian Pacific Light Welterweight champion Andy Hiraoka (21-0, 16) [平岡アンディ] defending his title against Korean challenger Jung Min Ho (13-3-2, 3) [정민호], with Hiraoka looking to take another small step towards a major fight. For unbeaten Japanese fighter the bout serves as his third defense of the title, whilst Ho will be fighting out of Korea for the second time, following a 2019 loss to Daishi Nagata.
Another regional title bout will see hard hitting OPBF Super Bantamweight champion Yoshiki Takei (5-0, 5) [武居由樹] seek his first defense, as he takes on Australian based Tanzanian fighter Bruno Tarimo (26-3-2, 5). On paper this looks to be a very interesting match up, and at the very least should serve as a good test of Takei's stamina given that Tarimo has never been stopped, and went 12 rounds with Zelfa Barret in 2021. Although no world beater Tarimo is very much an upset mined fighter who has beaten the likes of Billel Dib, Nathaniel May, Kye MacKenzie and Joel Brunker.
Another hard hitting regional champion on this card is Satoshi Shimizu (10-1, 9) [清水 聡], though no opponent has been named for his upcoming OPBF title defense.
In a non-title bout Takuma Inoue (16-1, 3) [井上拓真] is set to face Jade Bornea (18-0, 12) in a 10 rounder. This is a perplexing bout as it's scheduled to be around 122lbs, and Bornea is a Super Flyweight, whilst Inoue is a natural Bantamweight. This should prove to be a technical bout, if it goes ahead as suggested, but is a bit of a risk for Bornea, who seemed destined to get an IBF Super Flyweight world title fight in the new year. (Note - It has been speculated that it will be Jake Bornea, but at the moment all sources form Japan state it is indeed Jade)
One other none title bout will see Hironori Miyake (9-12-2, 1) [三宅寛典] compete in an 8 rounder against talented Englishman, and former amateur standout, Peter McGrail (4-0, 3) who returns to the country where he competed at the Olympics last year.
Satoshi Shimizu vacates regional title
Earlier today we were informed by sources in Japan that hard hitting Japanese Featherweight Satoshi Shimizu (10-1, 9) [清水 聡] was no longer the unified OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight champion, with "Diamond Fist" having now vacated his WBO regional title.
At the moment there hasn't been any word as to why Shimizu has made this decision. It is a notable move however as he only unified the regional titles earlier this year, when he beat Musashi Mori (12-1, 7) [森 武蔵] in a hotly contested bout back in May. One thing that is known is that Shimizu has long been wanting a world title fight and that's likely what he and his team are going to be looking at in 2022. At the time of writing he is ranked by both the WBO and the WBC.
The 35 year old Shimizu, who won a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics in London, is still holding the OPBF title, and it's likely that if he can't land a world title fight, or world title eliminator next, he'll defend his Oriental title.
Interestingly Japanese Featherweight champion Hinata Maruta (11-1-1, 9) [丸田陽七太] is the #1 ranked contender for the now vacant title, whilst Reiya Abe (21-3-1, 9) [阿部麗也] is ranked #3. Both of these men fight tomorrow at Korakuen Hall, and if they both win they would likely be meeting early next year, now potentially in a double title bout.
Earlier today the East Japan Boxing Association announced their monthly award winners for May, wiith 3 winners being confirmed.
The MVP award, the most notable of the three awards, was won by the now unified OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight champion Satoshi Shimizu (10-1, 9) [清水 聡] following his victory over Musashi Mori (12-1, 7) [森 武蔵] on May 21st. The win was, by far, the biggest of his professional career and gave the 2012 Olympic Bronze medal winner a real step in the right direction, towards a world title fight. Although he would be the under-dog against any of the current champions at 126lbs he is a genuine threat due to his freakish dimensions at the weight and the brutal power he has in his left hand.
In regards to the MVP award Shimizu was the clear front runner and a very worthy winner.
The Fight Spirit award was also won by a now unified OPBFand WBO Asia Pacific champion, with Welterweight Ryota Toyoshima (14-2-1, 9) [豊嶋亮太] taking the honours, after his excellent win over Yuki Beppu (21-2-1, 20) [別府優樹] on May 20th. That bout had the potential to be somethign a little bit special, but ended up being fairly one sided, with Toyoshima in control for much of the bout before breaking down Beppu and forcing the "Tyson of Kyushu" to be stopped by the referee in round 10.
The Newcomer award was won by Keisuke Matsumoto (3-0, 3) [松本 圭佑], following his destructive performance against Hiromu Murota (6-5-2, 4) [室田 拡夢], on the same card as Shimizu's botu with Mori. On paper this was a step up for Matsumoto, but he looked better than he had in his first two bouts and actually seemed to be looking like a more confident, accomplished and polished professional. The youngster, who had had questions following his first two bouts, really did look tremendous here and is certainly a new comer to keep an eye on long term.
(Image credit - Boxingnews.jp)
Earlier today fight fans at Korakuen Hall had the latest show in the Phoenix Battle series of shows, which will be aired this coming weekend on Fuji TV. The card featured an OPBF Bantamweight title bout, between Kai Chiba and Kazuki Nakajima as well as a regional unification bout at Featherweight between Musashi Mori and Satoshi Shimizu.
For those wanting to watch this, as live, when it's finally aired, we have included this spoiler warning introduction. Please note that spoilers will begin in the paragraph after the next one. We will include the full undercard results for this show as well as the two main bouts.
The show kicked off with a 6 round bout in the Super Featherweight division which saw the unbeaten Shun Sekine (5-0-1, 3) [関根 駿] battle against Atsuyuki Sato (5-3-2, 3) [佐藤 諄幸] in what was a very hotly contested match up, though that was to be expected given they fought to a draw last November. From the opening round this was a hard one to call, with fantastic back and forth, and every time one man got the advantage the other came back strongly, and turned the tidein what was a genuinely brilliant way to open the show. After 6 rounds the judges were required and they narrowly gave the bout to Sekine, with the unbeaten Sekine taking a majority decision over his foe, with scores of 57-57, 58-57 and 58-56.
The second bout on the show saw JBC ranked Lightweights clash, as the unbeaten Katsuya Yasuda (8-0, 5) [保田 克也] faced off with Tomoki Takada (8-6-2, 5) [高田 朋城]. On paper this looked liek a mismatch, but interestingly Takada had come into the bout higher ranked by the JBC amd Yasuda was regarded as the man stepping up in class, and getting his first real chance to prove himself. And boy did he ever prove what he could do. From the opening round Yasuda looked relaxed, took his time to get a read on Takada and then went to work from round 2, out landing his foe. Takada was put on the back foot, and looked like he was getting the worse of things, though he did land a good counter in round 4. Despite Takada having some success with counters he was left cut later in that round with a straight left hand. That cut caused the bout to be stopped just a round later, following a doctor's inspection. Due to the cut Yasuda got the 5th round TKO at an official time of 2:12.
The third bout on the show saw talented youngster Keisuke Matsumoto (3-0, 3) [松本 圭佑] put in a career best showing, as he destroyed Hiromu Murota (6-5-2, 4) [室田 拡夢] in just 128 seconds. The highly promising Matsumoto had looked shaky in his first two bouts, but looked in control here from the off with sharp 1-2's and some cracking body work. Murota fought back but a 1-2 from Matsumoto dropped his man. To his credit Murota got back to his feet but was dropped again from a hard counter right hand. After the bout he spoke about being happy with his performance, after a bad aftertaste from his first two bouts.
The first of two title bouts on the show saw a new OPBF Bantamweight champion being crowned as Kazuki Nakajima (10-0-1, 8) [中嶋一輝] out pointed Kai Chiba (13-2, 8) [千葉開] over 12 rounds, in a surprisingly dull fight.
Nakajima settled quicker, getting his powerful left hand into play early on. Chiba on the other hand used his footwork, to try and create some space, but struggled to get his own offense off, and looked negative whilst Nakajiam seemed to be the one force the action. What little there was. After 4 rounds the open scoring was announced, with two judges having Nakajima up 40-36 and the third having the bout 39-37.
Knowing he was behind Chiba began to let his hands go more in the middle rounds, in an attempt to swing things his way. Sadly though Nakajima's work increased as Chiba threw more and Chiba's attempt to turn the bout around was essentially sniffed out by the taller, heavier handed Nakajima, who's 1-2 and right hook were telling punches. The attempted fight back from Chiba didn't really close the scores down when they were announced after 8 rounds, with scores of 79-73, twice, and 77-75 all in favour of Nakajima.
Knowing the bout was pretty much in the bag Nakajima began to play safe in the finals stages, whilst Chiba became more aggressive, giving his all in rounds 9, 10 and 11, before Nakajima regained his composure and and took the final round. After 12 rounds the bout was a clear Nakajima win, with scores of 1119-109, 117-111 and 116-112.
The second title bout saw the heavy handed Satoshi Shimizu (10-1, 9) [清水 聡] unify his OPBF Featherweight title with the WBO Asia Pacific title, as he defeated Musashi Mori (12-1, 7) [森 武蔵] and took his first decision victory since turning professional.
Morie started well, getting his jab going, but Shimizu was equal to it, and and as the early stages got going the men regularly exchanged punches up close, in some thrilling moments of action. right through the first third of the fight this was high tempo, and high tension, with Shimizu's power always giving a sense that anything could happen. After 4 rounds the judges were all over the place, with scores of 39-37, each way, and 38-38.
Mori started to go inside and attack the tall body of Shimizu in round 5 but Shimizu was equal to it, responding with his own body shot, as the phone booth war continued. By round 7 however it seemed Shimizu's power was starting to take a toll on Mori and in round 8 Mori was starting to bleed from the nose. After 8 rounds Shimizu was starting to establish himself on the scorecards, leading 78-74, twice, and 77-75, giving him the edge as we went into the final rounds.
It was then that the pace started to slow, as Shimizu started to use his jab, yes he does actually have one!, and conttrolled the range. He was keeping Mori at range, and kept the bout long, which really did neeutralise Mori and his inside work. As a result of this control Shimizu ended up taking a clear decision, with scores of 118-110, twice, and 116-112 to unify the regional titles and move towards a potential world title fight. As for Mori this is a major set back, but at just 21 years old he really does have time on his side to rebuild and come again.
Tomorrow at Korakuen Hall fight fans are set to get something a little bit special as WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight champion Musashi Mori (12-0, 7) [森 武蔵] takes on OPBF champion Satoshi Shimizu (9-1, 9) [清水 聡] in a mouth watering clash of regional champions.
The bout mixes not just regional champions, but also men with very, very different in ring styles, and men who are at very different points in their careers. This isn't just a regional unification bout, but it's also a legitimate must win fight for one of the fighters, and chance for both to take strides towards a potential world title fight.
Today the two men took part in their weigh in for the bout and both men came in comfortably under the 126lb limit.
On the scales the 35 year old Shimizu, the much taller and older man, was around 125.5lbs. He is a man who cannot afford a loss, and will know that if he loses here his career is essentially over. Despite know his career is on the line, he seemed really confident here, explaining he was in very good condition, had spared between 80 and 90 rounds and was able to prepare perfectly, despite the bout being delayed 8 days due to a recent state of emergency in Tokyo.
Interestingly Shimizu spoke about how this was the most important bout of his career and gives him a chance to move on to world title bouts.
Despite being the shorter man Mori was actually the heavier man, weighing in at around 125.75lbs, and he looked in really good shape and condition. He seemed fully aware of Shimizu's strengths, admitting that one mistake could be the end of his unbeaten record, and that he had to be be very careful of Shimizu's height and reach. Despute that he has been advised by trainer Ismael Salas to use a busy jab, and fight to a gameplan.
If he wins the 21 year old Mori would be knocking on the door of a world title fight, and is already ranked #4 by the WBO.
For fans wanting to watch this one, it won't be aired live, but will be shown on tape delay this coming weekend, on Fuji TV.
Related - Shimizu and Mori battle for Asian dominance in regional unification!
(Image courtesy of Ohashi Gym)
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