Earlier today fight fans at Korakuen Hall had the latest show in the Misako promoted series of Diamond Glove shows, which will be aired this coming weekend on Fuji TV. The card featured several bouts of note, including a Japanese Welterweight title bout, between Keita Obara and Shoki Sakai as well as the Japanese debut of Go Hosaka.
For those wanting to watch this, as live, over the weekend we please note that spoilers will begin in the next paragraph, starting with the the first under-card bout, which is unlikely to be televised at all, and then moving on through the other bouts on the show. If you wish to avoid those spoilers, please stop reading now.
The show began with a 4 rounder between Koki Nakagawa (1-1-1, 1) [中川 光輝] and Seitaro Suzuki (0-1) [鈴木 誠太郎], which Nakagawa won by TKO in the 4th round. As with many 4 rounders in Japan this was well matched, fought at a great pace and was brutal, with both men taking some solid shots as they beat the fight out of each other. With just over a minute of the bout left the referee jumped in saving a damaged Suzuki from any more punishment. Whilst Western shows often kick off the events with a squash match for the local star, Japan has a knack of throwing us a fun, fan friendly war to kick things off, and this was certainly the case here.
The second bout saw something of a surprise as Yasutaka Fujita (7-1, 6) [藤田 裕崇] went the distance for the first time in his career, albeit in a winning effort as he out pointed Shun Akaiwa (5-3-1, 3) [赤岩 俊]. The exciting and explosive Fujita had made his name in 2019, reaching the All Japan Rookie of the Year final, before moving over to the Misako gym in 2020. This was just his second bout since moving gyms and he showed some genuine improvement, he picked his shots well, certainly calmed down from being the hyper aggressive fighter he once was, and even switched stances later in the bout. After 6 rounds Fujita won a clear 6 round decision and this is exactly the performance he and his team would have wanted to prove he could pace a high action bout, and could his brain as well as his brawn.
In the main support bout was saw unbeaten 24 year old Go Hosaka (5-0, 3) make his Japanese debut, having previously been fighting in the Philippines. He was given a genuine test here by Kanta Fukui (7-4-1, 5), who came into the ring as a big under-dog but came to win. From the off these two boxed at a nice range, and fought a pretty technical bout to begin with. As the bout went on Fukui made it clear he wasn't here to roll over to the talented former amateur stand out. From round 4 Fukui began to press the action more intently, using his jab really well to probe, and keep Hosaka on his toes. He then stepped up his game in rounds 5 and 6 as he really gave Hosaka problems.
Thankfully for Hosaka he still had something in the tank and pressured with more vigour in the final 2 rounds, doing just enough to secure a split decision. Judges scored this 78-74 and 77-75, in Hosaka's favour, and 77-75 to Fukui, who really gave a very good effort.
Despite the win Hosaka wasn't a happy chappy, and stated "Honestly, it was a terrible match. I regret it. There are many challenges. My goal is to remake boxing from scratch so that I can win the Japanese title."
In the main event Japanese Welterweight champion Keita Obara (24-4-1, 21) [小原 佳太] narrowly retained his title with a close win over Shoki Sakai (25-12-2, 12) [坂井 祥記]. Coming in there was a feelign this could be something a bit special, and proved to be just that.
Early on Obara tried to make an impression behind his solid jab, but Sakai used a tight guard to try and neutralise the jab whilst walking forward, pressuring Obara and trying to get up close, where he could work the body of the champion. Obara tried to turn up the tempo in round 2 but Sakai went with him, increasing his own tempo in round 3, landing some of his best shots. It really was a back and forth fight through the first 5 rounds as the two men tried to force their style on the bout, and tried to dictate the distance of the bout, with Obara wanting it at mid to long range and Sakai desperate to get inside.
After 5 rounds the judges all had this 48-47, with two favouring Obara and the other having Sakai in the lead.
Sakai's style seemed likely to have more success the longer the bout went, with his pressure expected to grind down Obara and his gas tank. It seemed that was the case in round 6 as he had some real success, however Obara wasn't there to hand over his title and he showed his class in round 8, whilst also avoiding Sakai's taunts to come and have a fight. The class of Obara continued to be the difference maker in the final rounds, as he used his reach and range to land body shots and not get involved in the wrong type of fight.
After 10 rounds we went to the judges and all 3 judges had this to Obara 96-94.
After the bout Obara stated "I'm relieved to win. I have a lot of KOs to win, so I tried to do that, but Sakai got along well and got the pace. Unfortunately, I have no choice but to expect the next KO. I've been in the best condition these days. My power and Sakai's power were in competition."
Tomorrow at Korakuen Hall we'll see Japanese Welterweight champion Keita Obara (23-4-1, 21) [小原 佳太] defending his title against Shoki Sakai (25-11-2, 12) [坂井 祥記], in what promises to be an exciting and explosive clash.
Today the two men took part in their weigh in for that bout, and both men made weight with no issues at all.
On the scales the defending champion was well under the limit, weighing in at 146.2lbs, comfortable under the divisional limit. He explained "I usually start losing weight a month and a half before a bout, but since it was my first match in over a year, I started to restrain myself from two months ago. The pace was faster than usual (weight loss). I was able to adjust while eating a little (during the period). It's worth noting that, as he said, this is his first bout in over a year, with his last bout coming in February 2020, when he beat Yuki Nagano for the title. Notably this isn't just his first bout in over a year, but also his first defense of the title. Aged 34 a loss for him would be very, very hard to come back from here, though he will clearly enter as the favourite.
Sakai also weighed in around 146.2lbs for the bout, and seemed full of confidence, explaining that he had gotten a shot at the Japanese title quicker than he had expected, whilst also facing the best in Japan. In terms of his game plan it seems to focus is on dragging Obara into a fire fight and trying to make Obara fight his fight. If he can do that then we could be in for a genuine treat.
For fans not able to get to Korakuen Hall for this match up, it will be aired on TV over the weekend, with Fuji TV airing the bout on tape delay.
Relate - Obara faces Sakai in first Japanese title defense!
(Image credit - Misako Gym)
Earlier today Misako announced the details of a show set for April 8th under the Diamond Glove banner, and although 3 bouts have been announced all 3 of those bouts are very interesting ones worthy attention.
The main event of the show will see Japanese Welterweight champion Keita Obara (23-4-1, 21) [小原 佳太] making his first defense of the title, which he won last year when he stopped Yuki Nagano. In the opposite corner to the former world title challenger will be "reimported boxer" Shoki Sakai (25-11-2, 12) [坂井 祥記], who will be fighting in Japan for the third time.
Of the two men Obara is the more well known. He's a former Japanese and OPBF champion at 140lbs, where he also challenged for the IBF world title, who also made his name on the regional scene at Welterweight, where he has won the WBO Asia Pacific and Japanese titles. At the age of 34 however there is a feeling his best years are behind him, and he was easily out-pointed in 2019 by Uzbek fighter Kudratillo Abdukakhorov in an IBF world title eliminator. Despite that loss he has bounced back with 3 wins, all by stoppage, including his TKO win over Nagano for the title in February 2020.
Sakai on the other hand has fought much of his career in Mexico and the US, before making his Japanese debut last August, with a win over Hironori Shigeta, and ended the year with a win over Takeru Kobata, in December. For him this will be his first bout for a Japanese national title, though he has previously fought for a variety of titles, and even won the WBC Youth title at 140lbs. Despite his record having double figure losses on it he has never been stopped and has shared the ring with some very names, including Gor Yeritsyan, Alexis Rocha and Eddie Gomez. His toughness should see him testing Obara, in what could be a very interesting match up.
In the chief support bout we'll see the Japanese debut of Go Hosaka (4-0, 3) [保坂 剛], who has fought his entire professional career in the Philippines. The talented 24 year old Hosaka will be up against Kanta Fukui (7-3-1, 5) [福井 貫太] in an 8 round bout.
Hosaka is one of those fighters who hasn't had the attention he deserves. He was with ALA Gym until it closed, and sadly was one of the fighters who ALA let down in some ways, despite the clear potential and talent he had. Before turning professional he had amassed a 50-13 amateur record and was viewed as someone to keep an eye on, but was out of the ring for the entire of 2020. Since ALA closed he has signed with the well established Misako Gym in Japan and this will be his first bout as a Misako Gym fighter. As for Fukui this will be his first bout since beating Mikado Konishi last August, and Fukui should serve as a solid test for Hosaka here.
The third bout announced for this show will see 2019 All Japan Rookie of the Year runner up Yasutaka Fujita (6-1, 6) [藤田裕崇] take on Shun Akaiwa (5-2-1, 3) [赤岩 俊] in what should be an explosive encounter. Although Fujita isn't the most polished fighter he is a destructive and exciting force, and a must watch fighter, who throws bomb after bomb after bomb. Akaiwa on the other hand will be looking to bounce back from a 45 second blow out to Jin Sasaki. With that loss for Akaiwa in mind and the exciting style of Fujita this might be a "blink and you miss it" bout.
In Europe and many former British colonies the day after Christmas is called "Boxing Day". Whilst certainly not a global thing it is certainly something of note and a term that a good portion of the world will be aware of. We don't that would include Japan, but for whatever reason, today been a day where Japan has provided with boxing day action, thanks to a stream from the brilliant team at A-Sign Boxing.
The event kicked off with a competitive affair as Kojiro Nishikawa (5-2-1, 2) [西川 宏次郎] battled to a draw with Daiju Kogo (4-2-1, 3) [向後 大寿] over 6 rounds.
The opening round was a good one for Nishikawa, who seemed in control though out the round. In round 2 Kogo managed to rock Nishikawa, and really went for a finish in the final 40 seconds, though sadly seemed to punch himself out. From there the pace never really recovered, and was instead white a low paced bout with Nishikawa pressing forward and Kogo moving well and countering.
After 6 rounds the judges couldn't split the men, with one judge scoring the bout a narrow win to Kogo, another having it as a win for Nishikawa, whilst the third hard it level at 57-57, to result in a draw. It wasn't the best way to kick off the show, but it was a solid 6 rounder.
In the second bout on the card we saw Takuya Yamaguchi (4-12-3, 2) [山口 拓也] and Masashi Noguchi (13-12-1, 6) [野口 将志] clash for the second time in just over 13 months.
From the off Yamaguchi was firing off wild, wide, looping hooks, and power shots. He was certainly putting in a huge effort, but was being made to miss, a lot. Noguchi, who looked the much more polished, was landing cleaner shots but wasn't letting his hands go much, and was often made to back up, despite landing some very nice, clean jabs.
The bout was a hard one to score as we went into round 6, the final round. That round ended up being sensational back and forth stanza of action, that saw both men looking about spent. Both men looked ready to go at multiple points but gritted it out, recovered and fought back, showing their will to win. After 6 rounds the judges turned in scores of 58-56, each way and 58-57 to Noguchi, giving him the split decision win, and levelling the series between the two men, who are now 1-1.
In the third bout on the show we saw bombs being traded as Kai Chiba (13-1, 8) [千葉開] over-came youngster Haruki Ishikawa (8-3, 6) [石川春樹] in a pretty one-sided, but entertaining, 8 round contest.
Through the bout it seemed Chiba did everything better than Ishikawa. He was quicker, sharper, stronger, and more accurate than Ishikawa, who struggled to get the respect of his hard hitting foe. To his credit however Ishikawa changed tactics in round 6, and tried to turn counter puncher, boxing off the ropes rather than taking center ring. The new tactics had mixed success. The change saw Ishikawa landing more often than he had earlier, but he was still being out landed every round.
The only real change was round 8, where the two men stood and traded bombs through the entire round. It was, sadly for Ishikawa, not enough and after 8 rounds it was hard to give him anything, with Chiba the clear winner. The scores here were 80-72, twice, and 79-73, all for Chiba, the worthy winner.
This was a solid win for Chiba, who looked as good as he ever has and showed good timing and understanding of the ring. He now seems ready for a title fight of some kind at 118lbs, and he really looked crisp, sharp and powerful through out. As for Ishikawa, this was a second straight loss, and he probably does need an easier fight or two to rebuild his confidence.
We saw the "reimported boxer" Shoki Sakai (25-11-2, 12) [坂井 祥記] battle against Takeru Kobata (8-5-1, 3) [小畑 武尊] in the fourth bout on the show and this was another entertaining little war, even if it was another rather one sided bout.
Sakai, fighting in Japan for just the second time, forced the action through much of the contest, pressing forward and trying to out work and out hustle Koabata. Impressively the youngster showed real maturity and composure under the pressure from Sakai, and tried to pick his spots to fight back. Sakai seemed the much stronger, more powerful and more aggressive fighter though out the bout, but credit to Kobata for holding his own in there, and not wilting under Sakai's attacks. In fact Kobata did enough to earn a round or two here and though and proved to be much better than his record suggests.
After 8 rounds Sakai took the decision with scores of 79-73, twice, and 77-75. He deserved the win, but Kobata deserves his share of plaudits, and we suspect he will learn from this loss and, one day down the line, find himself in the domestic title mxx.
The most impressive performance on the card came from the hard hitting Jin Sasaki (10-0, 9) [佐々木尽], who claimed the JBC Youth Light Welterweight title with a destructive TKO3 win over the usually tough Aso Ishiwaki (8-3-1, 6) [石脇麻生].
This was the bout we expected to be something special and it was. From the opening moments. Sasaki set off with the intention of stopping Ishiwaki, and threw bombs almost immediately. Ishiwaki, to his credit fought back, and the two men traded some heavy leather until Ishiwaki was rocked by a right hand, and then dropped by a follow up hook. Ishiwaki got back to his feet but was dropped again towards the end of the opening round as Sasaki looked for a 4th straight opening round win.
Ishiwaki managed to recover brilliantly and cleared his head as we went into round 2, which was a much quieter round until the final minute when Sasaki put his foot on the gas. Ishiwaki responded well, but it was clear that Sasaki was the much stronger, more powerful and more talented fighter. That power and strength showed it's self again in round 3, as Sasaki let Ishiwaki fight up close before decking him for a third time with a brutal flurry of big head shots. With blood coming out of his nose, and 3 knockdowns against him the referee saved Ishiwaki from further punishment, waving off the bout immediately.
This was a real statement from Sasaki. We expected this to be a real test for him, and saw this as a near 50/50 fight. Instead he made it look easy, dropping a tough guy like Ishiwaki 3 times in 3 rounds, was incredibly impressive. This sort of win, at the age of 19, surely marks Sasaki as one of the most exciting prospects in Japan, and one to keep an eye on long term. As for Ishiwaki, this is going to be a hard one to bounce back from, but he's still young and can certainly come again.
In the penultimate bout of the show we saw former 2-time world title challenger Ryo Akaho (36-2-2, 24) [赤穂亮] take on youngster Yuto Nakamura (11-6-1, 8) [中村 祐斗] in what turned out to be a massive mismatch.
After a somewhat competitive opening round we saw the two men go in to a shoot out in round 2 and that was only ever going to favour Akaho. The veteran now only had the edge in experience but also power, toughness and natural size, being a Super Bantamweight taking on a Super Flyweight. Midway through the round Nakamura was rocked by to hooks before Akaho landed a massive right uppercut that dropped Nakamura hard, forcing the bout to be stopped.
For the 34 year old Akaho this was his 40th bout and sadly we're not sure he will ever get a third shot a world title. On this performance however can still make for very fan friendly bouts and could still act as a great draw on these A-Sign cards. As for Nakamura, we really need to wonder who thought it was a good idea for him to move up to Super Bantamweight for this bout.
In the main event of the show we saw a really interesting match up at Lightweight as former WBO Super Featherweight champion Masayuki Ito (26-3-1, 14) [伊藤 雅雪]battled reigning OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro (10-0-1, 3) [三代大訓] in a 10 round Lightweight bout.
From the very opening moments it was clear this was going to be a high level, high skill, high speed technical battle. The opening round saw Mishiro making the most of his excellent jab, landing it repeatedly, whilst Ito looked to land the heavier leather, from his right hand. That laid down the pattern for much of the fight, with Mishiro easily winning at range, with his jab a constant and effective weapon when he was on the move, but Ito was landing the power shots when the two exchanged, and when Mishiro held his feet.
After a few very close rounds early on, it seemed that Ito found his groove and was starting to outland Mishiro on a fairly regular basis, racking up the points through out the middle rounds. It seemed those rounds had seen him establish control on the scorecards, though the rounds were still hotly competitive, before Ito seemed to begin to tighten his grip on the bout in the second half of the fight. In round 10 the pace picked up from both, and in the final stages Ito seemed to be temporarily hurt, but shook it off quickly as we went to the final bell.
After 10 rounds it felt like Ito had done enough to take a close, competitive, but clear decision. The judges however saw it differently, with one judge scoring it 95-95, a draw, and the other two over ruling them going 96-94 in favour of Mishiro, who got the majority decision, and the notable upset victory.
Later today on the A-Sign Boxing YouTube channel we'll see "reimported boxer" Shoki Sakai (24-11-2, 12) [坂井 祥記] for his second bout in Japan.
The fun to watch Sakai, who first made his name in Mexico and the US, will take on 22 year old Takeru Kobata (8-4-1, 3) [小畑 武尊] as part of the exciting looking A-Sign show. Sadly however this bout is not expected to be a particularly competitive one, at least not by our friends over at STSbet who see the bout as a compete and utter foregone conclusion.
The bookies have got Sakai priced at 1/50 to win the bout and Kobata at 9/1 to take home a victory. The two men, who both came in 1lb under the Welterweight limit at yesterday's weigh in, are expected to put on a fan friendly bout, but given the odds and the wider expectation they are also expected to be having a very 1-sided affair.
Here it's not just the bookies who see the bout as a mismatch but also the people polled by Japanese site Boxmob. Of those polled 93% have gone with a Sakai victory, whilst only 7% are going with the highly unexpected upset.
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