Earlier this month the list of nominees for the Japanese annual boxing awards were announced, with the Japanese Boxing Commission working alongside the JBC and Tokyo Athletic Press Club Boxing Subcommittee, to decide the shortlists for the various awards. Today the winners of those awards were all announced.
The MVP for the year was unified WBA "super" and IBF Bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue (20-0, 17) [井上 尚弥], who now taken the award 5 times during his career, in fact he's taken the award 4 years in a row now showing just how much he has dominated Japanese boxing in recent years.
The Skill Award was won by WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14) [井岡一翔], who won the award for the second year running. Inoue also won the KO award.
The Special Merit award went to WBO Flyweight champion Junto Nakatani (21-0, 16) [中谷 潤人]
The Effort/Fighting award was a share award, won by Ryoji Fukunaga (13-4, 13) [福永亮次] and Kenichi Horikawa (41-16-1, 14) [堀川 謙一]. Fukunaga had a great year, unifying the JBC, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight titles, whilst Horikawa claimed the OPBF Light Flyweight title in an excellent performance in July.
The Newcomer Award was won by OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro (10-0-1, 3) [三代大訓]
The best world title bout bout of the year was the brilliant WBO Super Flyweight title bout between Kazuto Ioka and Kosei Tanaka (15-1, 9) [田中恒成], which took place on New Year's Eve and delivered a truly brilliant battle.
The best non-world title bout was the dramatic clash between Masayoshi Nakatani (19-1, 13) [中谷正義] and Felix Verdejo, who fought for the WBO Intercontinental Lightweight title.
The female MVP for the year was WBO female Minimumweight champion Etsuko Tada (20-3-3, 7) [多田悦子], who actually had a clean sweep as her bout with Ayaka Miyao [宮尾 綾香] also won the female fight of the year.
There was also Special awards for former world champions Takahiro Ao [粟生 隆寛] and Akira Yaegashi [八重樫 東].
Sadly there wasn't a ceremony like usual for the awards, given the on going pandemic.
Earlier today it was revealed that former 2-weight world champion Takahiro Ao [粟生 隆寛] would be making his debuted as a second on October 2nd.
The talented and popular former Teiken fighter will be working the corner for Shokichi Iwata (4-0, 3) [岩田翔吉] for his bout against Ryo Narizuka (9-9-1) [成塚亮] at the Korakuen Hall.
The former champion spoke to Nikkan Sports and stated "I'm more nervous than my debut"
It seems like the role isn't set to be a permanent one for Ao, though he did seem to show some interest in having the role every so often, and it certainly doesn't sound like something he's ruling out all together. He did however admit that the role "holds the fate of people" and it did seem like that wasn't a stress he wanted all the time, instead focusing on training understanding boxing theory and passing on his experiences.
Although he was dubbed a genius Ao failed to reach the heights expected of him, despite winning world titles at Featherweight and Super Featherweight. Despite that he was, and is still is, regarded as a brilliant boxing mind and his work in Iwata's corner this coming weekend will be interesting to see.
It should be noted that rules are in place at the moment to limit seconds from working back to back days. There's a chance that this has played a part in Ao's situation with Teiken having fighters in action on Friday and Saturday this week, though that's is a guess on our behalf.
Yesterday former 2-weight world champion Takahiro Ao (28-3-1-1, 12) [粟生 隆寛] took to social media to announce that he was retiring from boxing, ending his career on his 36th birthday
Ao had turned professional following an excellent amateur career, going a reported 76-3 (37) in the unpaid ranks. He had high expectations on his shoulders and it was expected he was going to go on to have massive success in he professional ranks. He debuted in 2003, stopping Hiroshi Kashihara, and won the Japanese Featherweight title in 2007. His perfect winning run ended in 2008, when he fought to a draw against Hiroyuki Enoki in a bout that doubled as a Japanese and OPBF title unification and a WBA world title eliminator. Despite the draw Ao would move onto his first world title fight, fighting for the WBC Featherweight title.
Following the draw with Enoki we saw Ao fight to a split decision loss to Oscar Larios, the then WBC Featherweight champion, but then win a rematch 5 months later. His reign was a short one, losing in his first defense to Elio Rojas.
When Ao returned to the ring he moved up in weight, fighting at Super Featherweight where he would become a 2-weight champion thanks to a win over Vitali Tajbert for the WBC Super Featherweight title. This reign was a more significant one for Ao, who made 3 defenses before suffering a loss to Gamaliel Diaz in late 2012.
Following the loss to Diaz we then saw Ao move up in weight, fighting at Lightweight. He reeled off 4 straight wins, including one in the US against Hardy Paredes and one against former world champion Juan Carlos Salgado, before fighting for the WBO Lightweight title in 2015. That world title bout would be marred with issues regarding his opponent. His opponent was Raymundo Beltran, who had missed weight, and would later fail a drugs test. Sadly for Ao he would end up knocked out in round 2 before the result was turned into a No Decision, on the basis of the drug test.
It was almost 3 years until we saw Ao in the ring again, beating former foe Gamaliel Diaz in a genuinely terrible bout, that showed how shot both men were. Diaz announced his retirement soon afterwards, whilst Ao would never fight again. That bout was over 2 years ago, meaning many had already assumed Ao had hung up the gloves, and given the performance many hoped he had.
We would like to wish Ao all the best in whatever he chooses to do.
Earlier today in Japan fight fans saw former 2-weight world champion Takahiro Ao (28-3-1-1, 12) [粟生 隆寛] fight for the first time in well almost 3 years, as he took on former foe Gamaliel Diaz (40-19-3, 19).
The two men had met in 2012, when Diaz had out pointed Ao to dethrone the Japanese fighter of the WBC Super Featherweight title. Since then both fighters had failed to have much success, with Diaz losing the title in his first defense to Takashi Miura whilst Ao went on to have so low key wins before being knocked out by Raymundo Beltran, who failed to make weight failed a drugs test, in a Lightweight title fight.
Today both men looked like faded fighters. Ao struggled to get going, and looked unsure of himself in the first round, whilst Diaz looked slow and was dropped from a 1-2 in round 3. The slowly fought bout was mostly forgettable with Ao doing enough to take the decision 79-74, 77-74 and 77-76.
An emotional Ao spoke to the crowd after the bout, and it seems uinclear whether he will continue his career. He has been battling with injuries since his loss to Beltran and looked a shadow of the fighter he once was.
Diaz on the other told the press that he's now retired, and will be spending more time with his famile. He also said he was happy to have finished his long career in Japan, where he has now fought 5 times and gone 3-2.
Given how he looked today, retirement for Diaz was certainly the right decision.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Back in May 2015 we saw 2-weight world champion Takahiro Ao (27-3-1-1, 12) [粟生 隆寛] suffer a brutal stoppage loss at the hands of Raymundo Beltran, who had failed to make weight and would later fail a drugs test.
For over 2 years it seemed like that would be the last we would see of Ao as a professional. That was however until earlier today when reports emerged that Ao would be returning to the ring for the first time since that bout, and would be doing so against a former foe very soon.
The announcement was that Ao would face fellow veteran Gamaliel Diaz (40-18-3, 19) on March 1st, as part of the under-card to Shinsuke Yamanaka's (27-1-2, 19) [山中慎介] rematch with WBC Bantamweight champion Luis Nery (25-0, 19) and the IBF Super Bantamweight title bout between champion Ryosuke Iwasa (24-2, 16) [岩佐 亮佑] and Ernesto Saulong (21-2-1, 8).
The two men fought way back in October 2012, with Diaz taking a unanimous decision win over Ao to claim the WBC Super Featherweight title. Sadly for Diaz he was dethroned less than 6 months later by Takashi Miura and has struggled to pick up a win since, going 2-9-1 since the win over Ao. In the same amount of time Ao has gone 4-0-0-1, but has been out of the ring since the Beltran bout.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
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