Earlier today the Saitama Super Arena played host to the latest win from Japanese sensation Naoya Inoue (23-0, 20) [井上 尚弥], who stopped Nonito Donaire (41-7, 27) in 2 rounds to unify his WBA "super", IBF and Ring Magazine titles with the WBC belt that Donaire won in 2021.
That however wasn't the only notable fight on the show.
The first of the notable bouts saw hard hitting youngster Kanamu Sakama (6-0, 5) [坂間 叶夢] scored his second win of the year, as he took out Fuki Ishigaki (4-5, 2) [石垣 芙季] in the second round of their scheduled 6 rounder. The hard hitting Sakama had won the 2021 All Japan Rookie of the Year at Light Flyweight and came in to this bout as the #14 ranked Light Flyweight in Japan. Whilst this win won't boost his ranking, it was a huge opportunity for him to get some experience of fighting on a major card, and he is certainly one to watch.
The second notable bout featured another talented young hopeful in action, as 21 year old hopeful Toshiya Ishii (6-1, 4) [石井 渡士也] scored a 6th round TKO win over Hikaru Fukunaga (9-3, 6) [福永 輝], in what is a really good result for Ishii. The talented Ishii, who is ranked by the JBC at Super Bantamweight, seemed incredibly strong here from the off, with a stiff and nasty jab. Fukunaga looked to fight back, and had some success in round 3, but Ishii began to have growing success, and in round 6 he landed some huge right hands that forced the referee in to save Fukunaga.
The first of the bouts shown to fans on ESPN and YouTube saw Naoya's younger brother Takuma Inoue (16-1, 3) [井上拓真] unify the WBO Asia Pacific and Japanese Super Bantamweight titles, with an impressive performance against the all action Gakuya Furuhashi (28-9-2, 16) [古橋大輔]. Through out the bout there was never any doubting Furuhashi's hunger, bravery, toughness and energy but unfortunately he was often on the wrong end of crisp, clean, accurate shots from Inoue who landed at will. The most eye catching blows from Inoue were uppercuts, which were regularly landed cleanly in combination, though he really did land everything he wanted, when he wanted. After 12 rounds it was hard to give Furuhashi a round, despite his incredibly brave effort, and the judges seemed to agree with that scoring the bout 120-108, 120-108 and 119-109.
The second title bout on the card, in the shows chief support bout, saw Japanese and WBO Asian Pacific Light Welterweight champion Andy Hiraoka (20-0, 15) [平岡アンディ] score a decisive defense of his Japanese title against the hard hitting Shun Akaiwa (7-4-1, 5) [赤岩俊]. Early on Akaiwa seemed to be frozen by the occasion a little bit, and was put down by an uppercut in round 1 by a relaxed and confident Hiraoka. After the knockdown Akaiwa began to have moments in the fight whilst Hiraoka seemed willing to take his time and enjoy his time on the huge stage set by the Inoue Vs Donaire II main event. In round 6 however it seemed Hiraoka had tired of playing with his food and began look at hurting Akaiwa, which he did mid way through the round. A follow up assault left the referee with no real option but to step in and save Akaiwa at the 1:24 mark of the round.
Tomorrow we'll see Japanese and WBO Asian Pacific Light Welterweight champion Andy Hiraoka (19-0, 14) [平岡アンディ] defending his Japanese title against the hard hitting Shun Akaiwa (7-3-1, 5) [赤岩俊] in one of 3 title bouts at Shun Akaiwa.
Today the two men took part in their weigh in for the bout and both men came in bang on the 140lb weight limit.
Hiraoka, who looked in incredibly shape, stated that his focus was on exciting the fans with this bout. It seems clear that he sees this as a chance to shine in front of a global audience and will know that a good performance here will help him push forward a chance of getting a major international bout towards the end of the year, and begin to move towards a world title.
As for Akaiwa, who is very much the under-dog here, he spoke as if he was determined to over-come Hiraoka, though likely realises he's the massive underdog coming into the bout. Despite that he stated he was going out there for the KO so that he could give the title to his gym chairman Yutaka Manabe, who turns 54 today.
For those interested in gambling on this bout, Hiraoka is priced at 1/41, making him almost unbackable, whilst Akaiwa is priced at a huge 18/1.
Related - Hiraoka defends Japanese title against Akaiwa
At the end of March Ohashi gym announced that we finally had a date for the rematch between Japanese star Naoya Inoue (22-0, 19) [井上 尚弥] and Filipino legend Nonito Donaire (41-6, 27), with the two men battling to unify the WBA "Super", IBF and WBC Bantamweight titles on June 7th at the Saitama Super Arena. At the time however there was no under-card bouts announced. Today we finally saw some information on the under-card bouts for the show.
One of the bouts now confirmed for that show will see Japanese and WBO Asian Pacific Light Welterweight champion Andy Hiraoka (19-0, 14) [平岡アンディ], a man somewhat known to US audiences after appearing on some Top Rank cards in recent years, defending his Japanese title against the hard hitting Shun Akaiwa (7-3-1, 5) [赤岩俊].
The bout will serve as Hiraoka's second defense of the Japanese title, which he won last year when he stopped Jun Sasaki, though will not see him risking his WBO regional title. Notably coming in to this bout Akaiwa is only by the JBC and not the WBO's regional body, leaving him only eligible for the Japanese title.
Currently ranked by the IBF Hiraoka is slowly moving towards a world title eliminator, and whilst he's certainly not read for the top dogs in the division, the 25 year old is moving his career forward well, and the last year or so have been excellent for him, with notable wins over Rickey Edwards, in the US, along with stoppages of Jin Sasaki and Cristiano Aoqui, whilst getting rounds, experience and clearly developing his skill set.
As for Akaiwa he's getting this bout on the back of a big domestic win in March against Hokuto Matsumoto. Despite that win he will be a massive under-dog, especially given his 2020 loss to Jin Sasaki, who stopped him in just 45 seconds, but being the under-dog is normal for Akaiwa, who has upset Matsumoto and Kenta Endo in the past.
For fans in Japan wanting to watch this bout, it's expected to be shown as part of the Amazon Prime Video broadcast of the show, though as of yet no Western broadcaster(s) has been confirmed.
Earlier today the East Japan Boxing Association announced the monthly award winners for the month of March, with 3 winners being announced.
The MVP for the month was Japanese Light Flyweight champion Shokichi Iwata (8-0, 6) [岩田 翔吉], who shone on March 5th when he blitzed tough veteran Toshimasa Ouchi (22-12-3, 8) [大内 淳雅], to record his first title defense. The bout lasted just 72 seconds, but it really helped announce Iwata as a legitimate force in the division, and it now seems likely he'll be finding himself hunting a world title fight, or world title eliminator, later in the year.
The Fighting Spirit award was won by the popular and heavy handed Jirolian Riku (14-3, 13) [高橋陸], for his TKO win over Yuichiro Kasuya (14-5-2, 4) [粕谷雄一郎] on March 28th. Now ranked highly by the JBC at Lightweight, there is a genuine chance we'll see Riku getting a Japanese title fight later in the year, and with his power and style he could well be a nightmare for many in the division.
The Newcomer award was won by Shun Akaiwa (7-3-1, 5) [赤岩俊] for his surprising 6th round TKO win on March 10th against Hokuto Matsumoto (7-5-1, 1) [松本北斗], a win that saw him shoot into the Japanese rankings at 140lbs.
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."
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