Earlier today we got a card from Korakuen Hall live streamed on subscription service Boxing Raise. The event was a Dangan card that only featured 4 bouts but was brilliant from start to end, with 7 knockdowns from those 4 bouts, and some amazing action.
The event, which was headlined by the Hajime No Ippo 30th Anniversary tournament final was staged in a rather unique environment. Although the event was at Korakuen Hall it was a venue that mixed fans and cardboard cut outs of Hajime No Ippo Characters, in an attempt to fill out the venue and force social distancing. It gave the show a weird look, but one we liked, and one that we want to see replicated in the future, given how this actually did get social distancing to work, something that has failed in some recent shows at Korakuen Hall.
With that said lets go through the action.
In the opening bout we saw knockdowns being traded as Hiro Ichimichi (4-0-1, 3) [一道 宏] battled against Hajime Matsushita (3-4, 2) [松下 一]. The fight wasn't a technically sound fight, but was an entertaining one, with Ichimichi showing real belief in his aggression. The first round was crude and messy but there was a sense of tension with both men having solid fire power. That fire power was seen in round 2 when Matsushita dropped Ichimichi with a clear right hand.
Sadly for Matsushita the knockdown only seemed to fire up Ichimichi, who came out firing in round 3 and pretty much beat the fight out of him. In round 4 Ichimichi dropped Matsushita, who spent much of the round in survival mode.
Despite his moment of success in round 2 this wasn't Matsushita's fight, and he did little other than score the knockdown, making the scoring easy for the judges, who all had it 38-36 to Ichimichi.
The second bout saw former Japanese Lightweight champion Shuhei Tsuchiya (23-7, 18) [土屋 修平] lose a 5 round decision to 2018 All Japan Rookie of the Year winner George Tachibana (9-4, 2) [橘ジョージ] in what was an entertaining little war.
The first round saw Tscuhiya boxing well behind his jab before Tachibana began to come on strong in round 2, with some hammering body shots. From there on there was always questions of whether Tsuchiya had enough left in the tank at the age of 33 to deal with the 25 year old Tachibana.
Rounds 3 to 5 were all really competitive, with each man having their moments and what were hard to score rounds. It seemed like both men had some very eye catching moments, but both struggled to get sustained success. In the end however the judges felt that Tachibana was doing enough in those close rounds to take the decision 49-46, twice, and 48-47.
Sadly for Tsuchiya, this is likely to be the end of his career and is a second loss this year for the well liked slugger. As for Tachibana it gets him back to winning ways after a loss in December to Tomoki Takada.
The third bout saw former world title challenger Shingo Wake (27-6-2, 19) [和氣 慎吾] put his 2019 upset loss to Jhunriel Ramonal behind him as he stopped Shohei Kawashima (18-5-2, 4) [川島翔平]. This was a bit of an odd one, with neither man being the most aggressive and both fighters wanting to draw leads to counter. As a result it wasn't very exciting as a spectacle, but was still an interesting bout to watch.
From the off Wake looked sharp and crisp and it in round 2 he scored the first of 4 knockdowns in Kawashinma, who was dropped again in rounds 3,4 and 6. The referee stopped the bout after Kawashima got to his feet in round, and by then was a long way down on the cards. Without the knockdowns however there was very little to talk about. It was one of those rare fights where the action was minimal, despite the knockdowns. The real talking point, maybe, was the lack of output and intensity from both men and it certainly felt like Wake could have closed the show much earlier than he did. The official time here, for those curios, was 2:44 of round 6. At the time of the stoppage we hadn't given Kawashima a single round.
The main event of the show was the Hajime No Ippo 30th Anniversary Tournament final which ended up being something truly amazing.
The bout saw Daisuke Watanabe (11-4-2, 6) [渡部大介] take a decision over Shingo Kusano (13-9-1, 5) [草野慎悟], but that really doesn't come close to summing up how great the fight was.
The opening round saw Kusano come out aggressive, but he was punished for that aggression as Watanabe countered with some solid right hands. In round 2 we saw Kusano revert to type, boxing off the back foot and being smart with his counter punching, though he was still taking more than he was giving. In rounds 3 and 4 Kusano began to build his success and after 4 rounds we had it even.
Heading into round 5 it seemed like Kusano was in the ascendancy, landing with more success and really looking like the bigger, stronger, tougher man. That was until he was dropped by a huge right hand late in the round. He got up, but the knockdown killed the momentum he had and forced him to change his tactics. That change in gameplan from Kusano saw him going punch for punch in the final 3 rounds with Watanabe on the inside.
With that gameplan change rounds 6, 7 and 8 were none-stop action with both men unloading some serious leather on one an other in 3 of the best rounds we've seen this year. It was high intensity, high drama, high action stuff, and both men seemed to be rocked at times as we got some incredible back and forth action.
Sadly for Kusano the change in tactics and the inside war wasn't his style and wasn't enough to convince the judges he deserved the win, with the judges scoring the bout 76-75, 77-74 and 78-73 all in favour of Watanabe. With the win Watanabe wins the tournament, a large financial prize and will be immortalised as a character in Hajime No Ippo.
Earlier today Boxing Raise revealed that they would be having their next live stream on August 22nd as they broadcast the "Hajime No Ippo 30th Anniversary tournament" final. Notably they will also have Jyoji Morikawa, the creator of Hajime No Ippo, doing commentary.
The event will be headlined by the tournament final, which will see Shingo Kusano (13-8-1, 5) [草野慎悟] and Daisuke Watanabe (10-4-2, 6) [渡部大介] clash over 8 rounds. To reach the final Kusano has over-come Chinese fighter Qiang Ma and Korean warrior Jae Woo Lee whilst Watanabe has advanced thanks to a technical draw against Koshin Takeshima and a win over Richard Pumicpic.
Although neither of the finalists are too well know in the West they should make for a good stylistic match up, with Watanabe being an aggressive come forward fighter and Kusano being a smart counter puncher who draws pressure and tries to make opponents pay for coming forward.
As well as the main event we'll also see former world title challenger Shingo Wake (26-6-2, 18) [和氣 慎吾] take on Shohei Kawashima (18-4-2, 4) [川島翔平]. This is a must win for Wake, given his massive upset loss last year to Jhunriel Ramonal last year, at the age of 33 Wake cannot afford any more set backs if he's to get a second world title fight before his career comes to an end. It is also a bout that Kawashima can ill afford to lose given his recent losses to Hiroaki Teshigawara, Juan Miguel Elorde and Gaku Aikawa.
Another man who can't afford another loss but will be on this card is former Japanese Lightweight champion Shuhei Tsuchiya (23-6, 18) [土屋 修平]. Tscuhiya lost in a big upset last time out, when he was stopped by Shogo Yamaguchi in February, and has been stopped in 2 of his last 3 bouts, with the other defeat coming to Kazuhiro Nishitani in 2017. He'll be looking to bounce back as he takes on 2018 All Japan Rookie of the Year winner George Tachibana (8-4, 2) [橘ジョージ].
For those without Boxing Raise this is a great chance to give the service a try. The service is still only ¥980, which is $9.20 or £7.08, and give not only access to this live show but also a back catalogue of over 2000 fighters.
We are slowly seeing the boxing calendar for July and August filling up and the latest news from Japan regarding August 22nd's Hajime No Ippo 30th Anniversary tournament final.
The final will see Shingo Kusano (13-8-1, 5) [草野慎悟] and Daisuke Watanabe (10-4-2, 6) [渡部大介] battle for the tournament prize, ending the 7 man knockout competition that began last year. Originally the plan had been for the tournament to end in mid-May but due to the on going global situation the final has been pushed back and will be the headline bout of Dangan's show on August 22nd.
The under-card has now been confirmed and will feature an excellent match up between former world title challenger Shingo Wake (26-6-2, 18) [和氣 慎吾] and the talented but light punching Shohei Kawashima (18-4-2, 4) [川島翔平]. This will be Wake's first bout since being upset by Jhunriel Ramonal last year, in a massive set back.
Another of the under-card bouts will see former Japanese Lightweight champion Shuhei Tsuchiya (23-6, 18) [土屋 修平] look to salvage his career as he battles 2018 All Japan Rookie of the Year winner George Tachibana (8-4, 2) [橘ジョージ]. Coming in to this the 33 year old Tsuchiya has won just one of his last 3 fights and was shockingly upset in February against Shogo Yamaguchi.
Whilst it's great to see under-cards with notable fighters on them the best bit of news regarding the card is that the event will be able to have fans attending it! Tickets will be limited, but fans will be allowed in attendance with the show likely to be the first Dangan promoted card to have fans upon the boxing's restart in Japan.
Earlier today at Korakuen Hall Japanese fight fans had their last show before the JBC suspension of all Japanese boxing comes into play, on March 1st. The show had a number of notable bouts on it, including bouts for a former OPBF Minimumweight champion and a former Japanese Lightweight champion, who had some very mixed fortunes today.
The first of the two in action was former Japanese Lightweight champion Shuhei Tsuchiya (23-6, 18) [土屋 修平] who faced off against fellow Japanese fighter Shogo Yamaguchi (12-5-3, 7) [山口祥吾] in a 5 round Prize Match. This was Tsuchiya's first bout since a June 2017 win over Shota Suito, and sadly it didn't go the way many had expected.
Tsuchiya had some real moments early on, dropping Yamaguchi in the early part of the fight, but sadly he didn't look like the fighter he once was and he once was. Instead he looked tired, sluggish and slow. His footwork was sloppy and in round 5 Yamaguchi, who had really come on strong following the knockdown, managed to force the referee in to stop the action. With the referee forced to save Tsuchiya his future really doesn't look good. As for Yamaguchi he collects a hefty bonus for scoring the stoppage win, as per the rules of the Prize Matches Dangan are running this year.
There was an even bigger bonus taken by former OPBF Minimumweight champion Tsubasa Koura (15-1, 10) [小浦 翼], who needed 3 rounds to see off Ariston Aton (9-3, 5). Koura, who was fighting for the first time since losing the OPBF title to Lito Dante last March showed some discomfort by the tactics of Aton early on, but began to find his timing and his distance, landing big shots on Aton, who was deducted a point for leading with the head. In round 3 Koura rocked his man, and forced the referee to step in. Aton was unhappy at the stoppage, but it did seem like Koura had adapted to the billy goat style of the Filipino,
We've known for a week or saw that both Shuhei Tsuchiya (23-5, 18) [土屋 修平] and Tsubasa Koura (14-1, 9) [小浦 翼] would be on the February 27th show at Korakuen Hall. The was made public when the poster was revealed a few days ago. What wasn't originally known was the opponents for the two men, which was only revealed recently.
Koura, a former OPBF Minimumweight champion who lost the title last year to Lito Dante last March, will be fighting for the first time in 11 months. Koura was supposed to fight in January, but issues with his opponent, Indonesian fighter Silem Serang, saw it falling through at short notice. He'll be up against Chinese fighter Yujie Zeng (14-10-1, 6) [曾玉洁], in what looks like an easy bout on paper, but will see Koura taking on a naturally bigger man, who has only been stopped once in his 25 fight career.
Tsuchiya, who's a former Japanese Lightweight champion, was also supposed to fight in January before his opponent, Yangyang Li (8-1-2), was unable to get a visa. That was going to be his first bout since June 2017. His opponent for February won't struggle to get a visa this time around as he takes on fellow Japanese fighter Shogo Yamaguchi (11-5-3, 6) [山口祥吾]. Given Tsuchiya's long break from the ring we didn't expect him to face someone too testing, and in Yamaguchi we see Tsuchiya in with an opponent who has failed to win his last 3 and is without a win since 2018.
These bouts will take place on the same card as the Hajime No Ippo 30th anniversary tournament semi finals, which will see Jae Woo Lee (7-2, 6) [이재우] against Shingo Kusano (12-8-1, 5) [草野慎悟] and Richard Pumicpic (21-10-2, 6) against Daisuke Watanabe (9-4-2, 6) [渡部大介]. The card will also feature an OPBF Welterweight title bout between Riku Nagahama (11-2-1, 4) [長濱 陸] and Kudura Kaneko (11-0, 8) [クドゥラ 金子].
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