Earlier this morning in Tokyo we got the 66th All Japan Rookie of the Year final, held at the Korakuen Hall and shown live on G+.
The show began with Ohashi promoted teenager Katsuki Mori (6-0, 1) [森且貴] taking a wide decision over the very game Takumi Chono (5-1, 3) [丁野拓海] at Minimumweight. Chono came out with real ambition and hunger in the first 2 rounds but was unable to keep it up, whilst Mori moved through the gears and tagged Chono at will in the final 3 rounds. Huge credit goes to Chono for lasting the distance, but he was clearly the second best, and even his best rounds were not great ones for him. After 5 rounds Mori took the decision 50-45, and 49-46, twice.
After a cracking bout to open the show the pace dropped off when we moved on to the Light Flyweight bout between Kosuke Ando (7-2, 3) [安藤教祐] and Sho Omote (8-1, 3) [表祥]. Although the pace slowed drastically the bout was one that was expected to be very competitive, and managed to live up to the expectations, though not quite how we had imaged. The first 3 rounds seemed to be won by Ando, who used movement to keep the bout at distance and rack up the rounds. That early lead was wiped out in round 4 when Omote began to dictate the tempo with his pressure, and twice dropped Ando to secure a 10-7 round. That left the bout finely poised for the final round, which ended up being a slow one that Emote did enough to take, winning the bout with a majority decision, 47-46, twice, and 47-47.
We had an entertaining Flyweight bout as unbeaten men clashed. In the end West Japan champion Atsuki Nakamura (5-0-1, 3) [中村淳希] took a clear decision, out pointing Haruki Usui (5-1-2, 1) [臼井春樹] in a bout that came close to delivering something special. Both men fought with bad intent, and Nakamura managed to drop Usui with a brilliant 3 punch combination in round 2. Both men were hurt at various points and it seemed like both could take the other out, but neither managed to land with the consistency needed. It always seemed like the bigger bombs just missed. After 5 rounds Nakamura certainly deserved the win, and got it with scores of 50-44 49-45 and 49-46.
At Super Flyweight we had entertainment again, with Seiya Meguro (6-0, 3) [目黒聖也] taking a split decision over Keisuke Iwasaki (4-2, 1) [岩﨑圭祐]. Through out the bout Meguro looked the bigger puncher, though Iwasaki was the one who landed more shots, and seemed to be the more rounded boxer, it was a bit of a case judges preferring one thing to another in the closer rounds. From this bout it's clear Meguro has a lot to work with, but also a lot to work on, whilst Iwasaki looked like he could end up in some very exciting bouts with his current skill set. A rematch down the line, when both have more experience, seems a must given how close and competitive this was.
Talented teenager Kantaro Nakanishi (3-0-1) [中西寛多朗] out worked and out fought Shota Ogasawara (5-3, 3) [小笠原梢太] to claim the Bantamweight crown in a 4 rounder. The unbeaten Nakanishi was aggressive throughout and a worthy winner, though we do hope he can add some power into his work going forward or he's going to have a very tough career going forward.
The first of two former Kyoei fighters to fight here was Takeshi Takehara (5-1, 1) [竹原毅], who managed to secure a short 1 fight deal with the Hanagata gym for his Super Bantamweight final against 19 year old Ryuya Tsugawa (7-1, 3) [津川龍也]. Sadly for Takehara he was unable to deal with Tsugawa's aggression and the youngster took home the well earned decision here. We do wonder whether the political issue with Kyoei was on Takehara's mind, though in reality thinking too much about that would only devalue the win for Tsugawa who deserves more credit than that for a career best win.
One of the most highly anticipated bouts on the show was the Featherweight clash, which saw Kyonosuke Kameda (5-2-1, 4) [亀田京之介], fighting in his 1-fight deal with Hanagata after Kyoei's closure, taking on Jinki Maeda (4-0, 2) [前田稔輝]. The early stages of the bout saw the confident Kameda do a lot of show boating and taunting but not a lot of actual fighting, and he really didn't use his 6' frame very smartly. He got going with offense a bit more in round 2, but was caught by some big shots in rounds 3 and 4 as Maeda did enough to edge a split decision in a genuine thriller. Both men had a score of 39-37 in their favour, with Yuji Fukuchi's 39-38 to Maeda being the deciding card. Given Kameda's show boating and taunting it's hard to have much sympathy for him here, and Maeda fought like a man who genuinely valued what the bout meant.
Ina really competitive clash fans saw Hyoga Taniguchi (3-2-2, 1) [谷口彪賀] and Atsushi Iwasaki (5-3-4, 1) [岩崎淳史] fight to a draw in their 4 rounder at Super Featherweight. There was little to separate the men in what was really hotly contested, with Taniguchi getting the Rookie triumph on the majority point rule. The scorecards turned in were 38-38, 38-38 and 39-37 to Taniguchi, who was very emotional in his post-fight speech.
At Lightweight we got another close one as Shinnosuke Saito (6-3, 2) [齋藤眞之助] took a razor thin unanimous decision over Kensuke Fujita (4-4-3) [藤田健介]. All 3 judges turned in cards of 48-47 to Saito, though it was hard to be too impressed by either of these men, who both looked very limited and it's hard to imagine either either pushing on to title level any time soon.
We ended up getting a very late contender for Japanese fight of the year in 140lbs bout between Yasutaka Fujita (5-1, 5) [藤田裕崇] and Kodai Honda (5-1, 4) [本多航大]. The bout began at an insane pace and Fujita dropped Honda twice in the opening round, but seemed to pretty much punch himself out, and unable to have similar success afterwards. Honda regrouped, and began to break down Fujita who was dropped late in round 3 then again in round 4, to earn Honda an incredible win. This is the bout from the show, and the one that every fan should make sure they watch.
We had another great fight at Welterweight as Yuta Ashina (4-2) [足名優太] and Homare Yasui (5-1-2, 4) [安井誉] battled in an thriller. Ashina looked like the man on top in the first 2 rounds, taking the bout to Yasui, but taking punish due to his aggressive pressure. In round 3 Ashina landed a number of big uppercuts but was rocked and wobbling around the ring before the bell came. Round 4 was more evenly fought whilst the 5th and final round, was just a wild, entertaining, hard hitting brawl. Sadly that was always going to favour the man with power, but god damn what a round. After 5 rounds Yasui took the split decision, before making a very emotional speech after the win. One thing about this bout is both men would have won over new fans in what was a genuinely brilliant war, even if it didn't have the drama of the Fujita Vs Honda bout.
The final bout on the show saw Takumi Yuzawa (4-0-1, 1) [湯澤卓巳] defeat Yasuyuki Kunimoto (3-1, 1) [国本泰幸] at Middleweight. Yuzawa was the better fighter through out. Kunimoto looked out of his depth and was deducted a point for hitting and holding. After 4 rounds the scores were 40-34, twice, and 39-35.
On Monday the Kyoei gym's former chairman Keiichiro Kanehira handed in the paperwork needed to suspend the gym's professional boxing activity. That decision saw all the gym's active and licensed fighters being left gym-less and, and essentially through in to doubt the All Japan Rookie of the Year final bouts for Kyonosuke Kameda (5-1-1, 4) [亀田京之介], the cousin of Koki Kameda, and Takeshi Takehara (5-0, 1) [竹原毅].
With the Rookie of the Year finals taking place in less than 2 weeks the fighters were clearly going to either have to find a gym quickly, allowing them to remain licensed fighters, or miss out on a huge opportunity to make a name for themselves, and claim the All Japan Rookie of the Year crown.
Today, thankfully, Kameda and Takehara were given solace of sorts as both men jointed the Hanagata Gym on a temporary basis.
The deal for both men will be a 1-fight deal, with discussions to be had after the Rookie of the Year finals as to where their future lies. It seems as if the Hanagata gym are open to extending the deal, but will only offer that olive branch after the Rookie of the Year is completed.
As well as the two fighters 3 trainers have also transferred to the Hanagata gym.
At the moment the status of the gym's other fighters, including former world champion Tomoki Kameda (36-3, 20) [亀田和毅], have yet to be decided.
In regards to Tomoki Kameda it is worth noting that he is free to fight overseas until his Japanese license situation is sorted out, so he is less likely to be directly affected than the smaller names that were at Kyoei and wouldn't be likely to fight overseas.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
Over the weekend there was real confusion over the future of the legendary Kyoei gym. A press conference was held on Saturday with Keiichiro Kanehira announcing that he was stepping down as the gym's chairman due to issues with the gym's owners, and that the gym's activities in professional boxing would be suspended. Soon after that announcement the website stated that the media had got it wrong and the gym wasn't set to close.
Today we saw some clarity, and it wasn't great news for the gym.
Mr Kanehira visited the East Japan Boxing Association offices in Tokyo where he submitted the notice to suspend pro boxing at the gym. The association accepted the notice and with Mr Kanehira stepping down as chairman the gym is essentially without a license.
Reports from Japan suggest that on November 27th tensions escalated to breaking point, and that was when a decision was essentially made for Kanehira's contract with the gym to end. Mr Kanehira stated there had been monetary troubles, though specific details were unclear at the time.
Whilst the gym is expected to restart professional boxing activity in the future, this very much seems like a real issue of trust and finances. The once powerful Kyoei has fallen behind Teiken in recent years, and the gym that Mr Kanehira's father had established is now a shadow of what it once was.
Although personal issues between Mr Kanehira and the gym owners seem to be central to the gym suspending it's activities it is worth noting that two of the gym's fighters, Kyonosuke Kameda (5-1-1, 4) [亀田京之介] and Takeshi Takehara (5-0, 1) [竹原毅], are pencilled in for the 2019 All Japan Rookie of the Year Finals on December 22nd. They look very much like innocent victims of the situation, and the hope is the JBC will allow them to transfer to a new gym sooner rather than later.
Interestingly the Kameda Gym, who have long had Mr Kanehira as strong ally, may well look at this as a chance to petition the JBC for a new license under Mr Kanehira. Though that is speculation on our behalf, as a potential work around more than anything that has gotten mentioned in the Japanese press.
(image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Earlier today the Korakuen Hall played host the the East Japan Rookie of the Year finals, with 11 bouts taking place between Minimumweight and Middleweight. Whilst the show it's self won't be televised until next weekend, when G+ broadcast the event on a tape delay basis, the results and award winners are now well known.
For those wanting to watch the event "as live" next weekend this is your chance to stop reading, as results will begin in the next paragraph, starting with the Minimumweight division.
The first bout on the show was a rematch between Ohashi teenager Katsuki Mori (5-0, 1) [森且貴] and the aggressive Shu Nawai (3-2, 2) [縄井愁], from the Watanabe gym. These two faces over a year ago, with Mori taking a very well earned decision over Nawai, and did the same here, shutting out the bigger punching Nawai in an excellent performance of accurate and crisp punching. The performance saw Mori take the Skills Award, an award he is well deserving off.
At Light Flyweight Kosuke Ando (7-1, 3) [安藤教祐] took a 5 round decision win over Hidetoshi Takane (4-1, 1) [高根秀寿], scoring a knockdown on route to the win in round 2. Takane, to his credit, was in there to win, but lacked the tools needed to over-come Ando, who looked rather good, despite being on the back foot for large portions of the bout.
In the Flyweight bout Haruki Usui (5-0-2, 1) [臼井春樹] did what was needed to neutralise the power of the flawed, but heavy handed, Kodai Gushiken (4-6, 3) [具志堅広大]. The 20 year old Usui used his reach and size advantages well, to keep Gushiken at range, and left Gushiken with swelling under his left eye. To his credit Gushiken never gave up, but as shut out over the 5 rounds.
One of the most competitive bouts took place at Super Flyweight, where Seiya Meguro (5-0, 3) [目黒聖也] narrowly over-come Satoshi Iriinafuku (5-5, 4) [入稲福敬]. On paper this looked a mismatch, but Iriinafuku's power made this very interesting. The two men engaged in a bit of a war, though the skills of Meguro were the difference in the end, with the unbeaten man taking a very narrow unanimous decision win.
One bout that wasn't competitive was the Bantamweight bout, which saw Shota Ogasawara (5-2, 3) [小笠原梢太] score a 4 round shut out win over Kanji Nagatomi (1-1-1) [永冨寛治]. Whilst Ogasawara is best known for his 2 round thriller back in February, with Ryugo Ushijima up at Featherweight, Ogasawara is a good Bantamweight and that showed as he easily out boxed Nagatomi to secure his second win of the year.
We had the first stoppage of the show at Super Bantamweight where Takeshi Takehara (5-0, 1) [竹原毅] extended his unbeaten record with a 3rd round TKO win against Kotaka Umemoto (5-3, 1) [梅本耕孝]. The bout saw Takehara looking too smart and too technically sound for Umemoto, who was hurt in round 3 and Takehara stepped on the gas, forcing the referee to move in and stop the contest. Although not a puncher the 24 year old unbeaten southpaw did show more than enough to get excited about here, and he looks like a genuine talent.
We had another stoppage at Featherweight, as Kyonosuke Kameda (5-1-1, 4) [亀田京之介] stopped the previously unbeaten Daiki Imanari (5-1, 3) [今成太希]. The 21 year old Kameda, the cousin of the Kameda brothers, over-came a cut right eye brow to stop Imanari in brutal fashion with a huge right hook. Imanari hit the canvas hard, with the referee quickly stopping the contest. Given how Kameda was stopped on his debut at the start of 2018 this is a remarkable achievement and saw him take home not only the East Japan Rookie of the Year medal but also the MVP award.
In an upset the 20 year old Hyoga Taniguchi (3-2-1, 1) [谷口彪賀] defeated Atsuyuki Sato (5-2-1, 3) [佐藤諄幸] with a hard fought majority decision at Super Featherweight. This was a really exciting, action packed back and forth, with Taniguchi's stamina playing a factor in the final round to secure him the win. This wasn't the most technically pleasant bout, but was thrilling and high intensity action.
At Lightweight Shinnosuke Saito (5-3, 2) [齋藤眞之助] took home the Rookie medal after unbeaten teenager Jin Sasaki (7-0, 6) [佐々木尽] was unable to fight.
We had another stoppage win at 140lbs where Kodai Honda (4-1, 3) [本多航大] stopped the previously unbeaten Masaki Kobayashi (5-1, 3) [小林柾貴] in 3 rounds. This was one of the fights of the show, with both unloading bombs from the off, in a clash of 20 years. Both let their bombs fly through out, with Kobayashi being dropped in round 2. Honda tried to avenge the knockdown the following round, but was dropped again, with the referee then interjecting and stopping the contest. This win saw Honda take the Fighting Spirit Award.
At Welterweight Yuta Ashina (4-1) [足名優太] took a clear 4 round decision win over Shodai Nagata (4-6) [永田勝大]. The talented Ashina was too quick, too sharp and too skilled for Nagata, who was game but second best through out the contest.
At Middleweight, the highest weight category competed at in the Japanese Rookie of the Year tournaments, Takumi Yuzawa (3-0-1, 1) [湯澤卓巳] took a majority decision over Jun Funatsu (5-4-2, 3) [舟津純]. On paper this looked like a mismatch, pitting the unbeaten fighter against a man with 3 losses, but Funatsu had momentum with a 4-0-2 record in his previous 6 bouts. That run of Funatsu's failed to help here as Yuzawa proved to be too accurate and too consistent, as he earned to attention of the judges.
The winners of the East Japan Rookie of the Year will return to the ring on December 22nd, where they will clash with the West Japan Rookie of the Year winners, in the All-Japan final. The West finals take place next Sunday, and will be televised the following weekend.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
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