Earlier today saw Japanese fans enjoy their first show of 2021 as Korakuen Hall hosted an Ohashi promoted event featuring a number of excellent prospects, as well as a highly anticipated OPBF Bantamweight title fight.
Sadly the event wasn't televised, and won't be aired until the weekend. With that in mind please only read ahead if you want spoilers as all 4 bouts on the card will be covered in the coming paragraphs, including the result of the OPBF title bout between Keita Kurihara [栗原慶太] and Takuma Inoue [井上拓真].
In the first bout of the show former amateur standout Ryutaro Nakagaki (2-0, 2) [中垣龍汰朗] claimed his second professional victory as he defeated Yuji Okinori (10-6-2, 3) [興法祐二] in 4 rounds. From the off both Nakagaki was looking to line up southpaw left hands, whilst trying to use his right jab to line up his man. Okinori on the other hand looked to try land right hooks, though he often threw them whilst out of range and rarely landed. It was relatively quiet in the first 2 rounds. In round 3 Okinori managed to have some success, with a good overhand left but was punished soon afterwards with a good left uppercut.
In round 4 Nakagaki moved up a gear and began to press the action. He found found a home for his body shots and dropped his man following a sustained body attack. Okinori was in agony when he went down and was unable to beat the 10 count. The official time of the ending here was 2:26 in round 4.
The second bout of the show featured another former amateur standout as Keisuke Matsumoto (2-0, 2) [松本圭佑] took on Bejita Ishikawa (3-13-2, 1) [石川一彦]. This was a short bout, but one with some early drama. Ishikawa landed the first big punch of the bout, catching Matsumoto with a big left hand. That however was about his only success with Matsumoto finding his groove soon afterwards, then dropping Ishikawa with a solid right hand. Ishikawa got back to his feet, but was then under pressure as the Matsumoto went to work.
This one was over at 1:26 of round 1.
After two relatively short bouts we then got a bout that went the distance, as many had anticipated. That was the bout between former Rookie of the Year winners Katsuki Mori (8-0, 1) [森且貴] and Sora Takeda (6-2, 1) [竹田宙], who clashed in a scheduled 8 rounder at Minimumweight.
Mori made a good start, taking the opening round, before Takeda began to find his rhythm in round 2. From there on the action became hotly competitive with neither man managing to clear distance themselves from the other, with tit for tat action. Takeda was looking to land his hook up top, whilst Mori was repeatedly looking to crack his man to body. Despite the great back and forth neither man seemed to hurt the other through the first 5 rounds.
In round 6 Mori seemed to have a break through, as he landed a solid straight right hand that buzzed. That seemed to be the turning point with Mori going on to out work Takeda in the following round. The final round was something special, as both men gave their all right through the round, in a thrilling 3 minutes of action, but in the end it was Mori's work in rounds 6 and 7 that helped him secure a decision win, with scores of 77-75 from all 3 judges.
Fans in the venue pretty much universally praised both of these talented 20 years for what was a thrilling, high tempo contest, and despite the loss few had any negatives about Takeda who really did perform excellently. In the end however it was the speed, movement, and limitless energy of Mori that secured him the victory. Given that both men are so young it'd be great to see them face off again in the future, potentially in a title bout in a few year's time.
In the fourth, and final, bout we saw the highly anticipated OPBF Bantamweight title bout, pitting hard hitting champion Keita Kurihara (15-6, 13) [栗原慶太] against former WBC "interim" Bantamweight champion Takuma Inoue (14-1, 3) [井上拓真].
In the ring Kurihara looked notably bigger than Inoue though that didn’t help him early on and it was Inoue who had early success.
The fight started with early drama as Kurihara suffered a cut from a clash of heads in round 1, a round that was a good one for Inoue, who looked quicker, sharp and much more technically sound. In round 2 Kurihara’s cut worsened as he struggled to get his own offense going. The cut worsened to the point where Kurihara was inspected by the ringside doctor in round 3, who allowed the bout to continue, but it was clear that the cut was a massive problem, and did run a serious risk of leaving us with an early, and inconclusive result.
Thankfully the fighters managed to get through round 4, guaranteeing a result to the bout. Sadly for Kurihara he was not only badly cut but also down on all 4 cards with the open scoring announcing that Inoue was leading 40-36, twice, and 39-37. By then it was clear that Kurihara wasn’t even thinking about winning a decision, but was aiming only for a KO win.
With a KO in his mind Kurihara was struggling to set up his shows, whilst Inoue worked the champions body well, and made the most of his sharp footwork, preventing Kurihara from having any sort of sustained success. In round 6 the cut seemed to leave Kurihara unable to see some of Inoue’s shots, with the blood becoming a bigger issue, especially with Inoue tagging the cut with short, clean, compact shots, worsening the damage and further extending his lead whilst Kurihara was getting more and more desperate to land something big.
After 8 rounds the open scoring was announced again, with the scores again heavily in favour of Inoue, with one judge having it 80-72 and the other two judges scoring it 79-73, all in favour of the challenger.
In round 9 there was a second check on the cut and this time the bout was stopped, after 2 minutes 25 seconds of the round, with Inoue taking the very, very wide technical decision win and becoming the new OPBF Bantamweight champion.
The win for Inoue was an important one, especially given his 2019 loss to Nordine Oubaali in a WBC title fight and this was a great comeback performance following that defeat. Sadly for Kurihara this is a major setback, and given how he was cut pretty much the entire fight he will certainly feel like he was hindered from the early going.
The speed, accuracy and clean punching of Inoue was his key to victory here, and he fought his fight, something he said he was going to do. With Kurihara’s cut being as bad as it was, it made life easier for Inoue to control the bout the way he did. At times he was making things look too easy, and given that Kurihara was essentially fighting through an eye full of blood he often failed to see shots coming.
For Inoue this will push him to the verge of a second world title fight, potentially a WBO or a WBC title bout. As for Kurihara it’s back to the drawing board and time for him to work on having a back up gameplan for when his power shots don’t land, and really work on his jab.
For those wanting to see the main event, it will be aired on Tape Delay on Saturday night/Sunday morning from 27:35 to 28:40 local time on Saturday, which is 3:35 to 4:40 on Fuji TV. The broadcast is also expected to show some of the highlights from the under-card.
Tomorrow at Korakuen we'll see a clash between two Rookie of the Year winners as Katsuki Mori (7-0, 1) [森且貴] and Sora Takeda (6-1, 1) [竹田宙] clash in an excellent looking 8 round Minimumweight match up between a couple of 20 year Japanese ranked fighters each looking to take strides towards their first title fight.
Today the two fighters took part in their weigh in and both men made the Minimumweight limit with no major issues.
On the scales Mori, the 2019 All Japan Rookie of the Year winner, was bang on the 105lb Minimumweight limit. Despite being so light he looked in great shape and is looking to build not only on his Rookie of the Year win but also on an impressive 6 round decision win last September against Yuki Uchida, in what was a very fan friendly bout.
Takeda came in a little bit lighter, at around 104.8lbs, and like Mori he looked in fantastic shape. Interestingly he won Rookie of the Year in 2018, and since then has scored two more wins, though was out of the ring for the entirety of 2020, slowing his momentum. For those curious his loss came in his debut, back in 2017, and came by stoppage in a bout at Flyweight. Since then he has established himself as a promising Minimumweight hopeful and won 6 in a row.
The bout will be held as part of the Ohashi show headlined by OPBF Bantamweight champion Keita Kurihara (15-5, 13) [栗原慶太] defending his title against Takuma Inoue (13-1, 3) [井上拓真].
(Image credit - Ohashi Gym)
Earlier today Japanese promoter Hideyuki Ohashi took to social media to announce a show he'll be putting on in January.
The card, set to take place on January 14th 2021 at Korakuen Hall, seems like a long way away but the show is certainly stacking up to be one worth waiting for, with a sensational main event and an under-card stacked with excellent Ohashi hopefuls.
The main event will see OPBF Bantamweight champion Keita Kurihara (15-5, 13) [栗原慶太] make his second defense of the Oriental title as he takes on former WBC "interim" champion Takuma Inoue (13-1, 3) [井上拓真]. On paper this is a heavy handed and dangerous champion against a skilled, tough and gutsy challenger, and we're looking forward to the styles clash of Kurihara's aggression against Inoue's skills. This is also a must win for both men, if they are looking to get a world title bout later in 2021, or 2022.
Kurihara won the belt on Christmas eve in 2018, when he won a tremendous, controversial and memorable bout with Yuki Strong Kobayashi. That bout saw Kurihara dropping Kobayashi 4 times on route to a decision that was marred by several time keeper errors. Since then he has defended the belt once, stopping former world title challenger Warlito Parrenas inside a round, and notched a non-title win over Sukkasem Kietyongyuth.
As for Inoue we've not seen him in the ring since he lost to Nordine Oubaali in November 2019, on the under-card of Naoya Inoue's amazing bout with Nonito Donaire. Sadly whilst touted as a future world champion Inoue's career has been hampered by injuries and lengthy stretches of inactivity. This is the third notable break from the ring that he's had since September 2016. Although not the puncher that his brother is the 24 year old shouldn't be written off, and gave Oubaali a competitive bout, despite the scorecard Alejandro Rochin.
In a supporting bout Ryutaro Nakagaki (1-0, 1) [中垣龍汰朗] will be facing off with Yuji Okinori (10-5-2, 3) [興法祐二] in a very credible step up.
We were impressed by Nakagaki on debut, where he shone and looked like a star in the making. That was against a very limited opponent and to see him stepping up like this is rather exciting at this early point in his career. Although Okinori is no world beater he's a very credible fighter with experience and should give the young upstart some questions to answer. If Nakagaki gets through this one easily we suspect that Ohashi will begin to race him through the ranks.
Another supporting bout that's been announced for this show will see 2019 All Japan Rookie of the Year winner Katsuki Mori (7-0, 1) [森且貴] take on 2018 All Japan Rookie of the Year winner Sora Takeda (6-1, 1) [竹田宙] in a mouth watering match up.
Both of these young men are talented youngsters, with speed and skills, but a lack of fight changing power. Together they should make for an exciting, high speed, high level chess match. Despite neither being big punchers they do seem to enjoy fighting on the inside, and that should help make this a very fan friendly contest.
Others announced for this card, though yet to have opponents names, are Taku Kuwahara (7-0, 4) [桑原拓] and Keisuke Matsumoto (1-0, 1) [松本圭佑], who should round out a very, very strong Japanese domestic card.
Earlier this month we reported that WBO female Light Flyweight champion Tenkai Tsunami (26-12-1, 15) [天海 ツナミ] would be defending her title in December against a then un-named opponent. At the time we had the when, December 14th, and the where, Kagoshima, but not the who.
Today that changed with sources informing us that Tsunami's opponent for the bout would be 2-time world title challenger Jessebelle Pagaduan (12-1-1, 5) from the Philippines.
The 35 year old Pagaduan has twice failed in world title challenges in Japan, losing widely to the then WBO Atomweight champion Nao Ikeyama in 2014 and suffering a technical draw against Kumiko Seeser Ikehara in a WBO female Minimumweight title bout in 2015. Those two set backs aside she's 12-0 though has been picking up wins against mostly abject opposition.
Although her competition hasn't been great Pagaduan does enter this bout unbeaten in 7, and riding a 5 fight winning run, which has included wins over domestic foes Aisah Alico and Charimae Salvador.
For Tsunami this will be her second defense of the title, as she looks to build on a July 2018 win over Gretchen Abaniel. The Japanese veteran was last seen in the ring fighting to a split decision draw in a 10 round thriller against Naoko Fujioka this past July in a bout for Fujioka's WBA female Flyweight title, though will be moving back down in weight for this bout at 108lbs.
As well as the world title fight the show will also see 30 year old Japanese stalwart Naoya Haruguchi (15-11, 6) [春口直也] take on Thai foe Sanchai Yotboon (6-3, 6) and 2018 Rookie of the Year Sora Takeda (5-1, 1) [竹田宙] will be up against unbeaten Thai teenager Phanuwit Siriwong (7-0, 6)
We've known for a while that the April 14th card in Kumamoto, headlined by Musashi Mori (8-0, 5) [森 武蔵] defending his WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight title against Richard Pumicpic (21-9-2, 6), would feature a host of exciting prospects. Those prospects now appear to have had their opponents named.
One of our most reliable and trusted sources have reported the opponents for Ginjiro Shigeoka (2-0, 2) [重岡銀次朗], Seiya Tsutsumi (4-0, 3) [堤聖也] and Sora Takeda (4-1,1) [竹田宙].
Shigeoka, who is regarded by many hardcore followers of the Japanese scene as one of the best prospects in the country, is listed as being up against Filipino Joel Lino (10-1-1, 3), in what is a brilliant match up.
Shigeoka, who turned professional last year, has looked sensational so far, but this is a worthwhile step up and sees him up against a man who took Masataka Taniguchi 12 rounds last year in a WBO Asia Pacific title bout. This is a real test, and a really tough bout for Shigeoka, who may be able to open eyes in a big way if he forces another stoppage. For Lino this is a chance to make his mark, but it is a very tough match up against one of the best young fighters on the planet.
Tsutsumi is listed as being up against experienced Filipino tough guy Ryan Rey Ponteras (22-13-3, 11), who has never been stopped in his 38 fight career. Given Tsutsumi's aggressive style and Ponteras's toughness this could be an amazingly exciting bout. Ponteras is no world beater, but is much better than his record suggest, whilst Tsutsumi has been out of the ring for a while, due to an injury that saw him cancel a bout in December.
As for Takeda his bout will see him going up against Thai Sanchai Yotboon (4-2, 4), who was stopped in September by a then debuting Shigeoka. The talented Takeda won the 2018 Rookie of the Year at Minimumweight and he should be far too skilled for the Thai visitor here.
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