After weeks of speculation and rumours we finally saw the Ohashi team host a press conference today to announce the long awaited Bantamweight unification bout between Naoya Inoue (23-0, 20) [井上 尚弥] and Paul Butler (34-2, 15), with the Japanese kingpin defending his WBA "Super", IBF, WBC and Ring Magazine Bantamweight titles against he WBO title of Butler. The bout, the first 4 title unification bout in Japanese boxing history, had been on the cards for much of the year, but was dependent on the bout actually getting over the line, something that is always a worry in this sport.
The official confirmation of the bout occurred at a press conference held in Yokohama today, announcing what is a strong card with not just a major undisputed title bout in the main event but also a notable under-card containing some of the top fighters at the Ohashi Gym. The announcement confirmed most of the details we already knew. The bout will be on December 13th in Japan, though the venue was announced as the Ariake Arena, a 15,000 seat venue that was used in the Olympics and Paralympics.
The main event, the Inoue Vs Butler bout, was the focus of the press conference and saw Inoue discuss the bout, his opponent, and his future plans. Talking about Butler he stated “Butler is a solid player with no holes. We will weaken him little by little, overwhelm him, and unify all four groups." In regards to the bout and his future, he stated "This is my final chapter in the bantamweight division. This is not the finish line, but the passage point” and that after the bout he was "going to be a challenge from super bantamweight onwards."
He later explained that Butler is "a fighter who uses his jab to score points and makes sure he's not in a dangerous position." However he did go on to predict "I don't have an image of this going to a decision I think he will inevitably fall down".
In regards to how the show will be broadcast, the event will be shown on Hikari TV and dTV in Japan, and will be shown to subscribers as part of their subscription, and not PPV. This is a small surprise as Amazon Prime Video did show Inoue's last bout and was expected to be the front runner for this one as well.
As for the under-card it really is a major one.
The chief support but will see WBO Asian Pacific Light Welterweight champion Andy Hiraoka (21-0, 16) [平岡アンディ] defending his title against Korean challenger Jung Min Ho (13-3-2, 3) [정민호], with Hiraoka looking to take another small step towards a major fight. For unbeaten Japanese fighter the bout serves as his third defense of the title, whilst Ho will be fighting out of Korea for the second time, following a 2019 loss to Daishi Nagata.
Another regional title bout will see hard hitting OPBF Super Bantamweight champion Yoshiki Takei (5-0, 5) [武居由樹] seek his first defense, as he takes on Australian based Tanzanian fighter Bruno Tarimo (26-3-2, 5). On paper this looks to be a very interesting match up, and at the very least should serve as a good test of Takei's stamina given that Tarimo has never been stopped, and went 12 rounds with Zelfa Barret in 2021. Although no world beater Tarimo is very much an upset mined fighter who has beaten the likes of Billel Dib, Nathaniel May, Kye MacKenzie and Joel Brunker.
Another hard hitting regional champion on this card is Satoshi Shimizu (10-1, 9) [清水 聡], though no opponent has been named for his upcoming OPBF title defense.
In a non-title bout Takuma Inoue (16-1, 3) [井上拓真] is set to face Jade Bornea (18-0, 12) in a 10 rounder. This is a perplexing bout as it's scheduled to be around 122lbs, and Bornea is a Super Flyweight, whilst Inoue is a natural Bantamweight. This should prove to be a technical bout, if it goes ahead as suggested, but is a bit of a risk for Bornea, who seemed destined to get an IBF Super Flyweight world title fight in the new year. (Note - It has been speculated that it will be Jake Bornea, but at the moment all sources form Japan state it is indeed Jade)
One other none title bout will see Hironori Miyake (9-12-2, 1) [三宅寛典] compete in an 8 rounder against talented Englishman, and former amateur standout, Peter McGrail (4-0, 3) who returns to the country where he competed at the Olympics last year.
Earlier today in Tokyo we had a show at Korakuen Hall. The wasn't a big one but did have two notable bouts on it.
The first of the two notable bouts saw OPBF Middleweight champion Kazuto Takesako (14-0-1, 13) [竹迫司登] score a 3rd round KO win over Thai visitor Niwat Kongkan (11-9, 8). Takesako, who had been out of the ring for around 16 months, controlled the bout from the off, with his powerful jab and straight right hand. The power of Takesako was too much for the visitor who was dropped numerous times before a straight right hand closed the show. After the bout Takesako stated that he wanted to unify regional titles, suggesting he's now hunting for the WBO Asia Pacific title, before moving towards a world title in the future.
In the main event we saw former 2-time world title challenger Ryo Akaho (39-2-2, 26) [赤穂亮] destroy Edrin Dapudong (35-8-1, 21) in just 167 seconds. Akaho managed to hurt Dapudong several times, before landing a brutal left hook that sent the Filipino to the canvas, where he remained for the 10 count whilst on his knees. This was only the second time Dapudong had been stopped in 44 bouts, but was a statement from Akaho who revealed that his team are in touch with two former world champions for his next bout. The Japanese slugger revealed that he is expecting to face either Mexican bad boy Luis Nery (31-1, 24) or multi-weight Filipino John Riel Casmero (31-4, 21) next time out, and that promoter Ichitaro Ishii is waiting or contracts to be signed to announce who Akaho will be up against.
Interestingly, on the subject of Casimero, he has also been linked to a potential show down in December with Takuma Inoue (16-1, 3) [井上拓真].
Earlier today fight fans in Japan had the chance to see the latest Dangan card from Korakuen Hall, with the event also being available live on BoxingRaise.
The main event of the show was a Japanese Bantamweight title bout as defending champion Kyosuke Sawada (15-3-2, 6) [澤田京介] sought his first defense of the title, taking on the unbeaten Seiya Tsutsumi (6-0-2, 5) [堤聖也] in what looked like an excellent match up between high skilled boxer and destructive boxer-puncher.
The opening round saw both men looking to see what the other man had, with some busy jabs and cautious action. It seemed that Sawada might have been a tough faster, but there was very little in it, with Tsutsumi looking the more imposing fighter, whilst Sawada used a lot of movement as he looked to keep a safe distance for his straight punches. Sadly for Sawada his suspect chin got checked in round as Tsutusmi set off for the round with bad intentions. Although Sawada saw out the first wave of Tsutsumi's attack it was clear that Tsutsumi had gone up a gear and was finding his groove very quickly. Midway through the round a short left hook from Tsutusumi dropped Sawada, who didn't seem hurt but was under intense pressure the rest of the round. To his credit Sawada survived the round, but he took a beating for much of the rest of the round.
Sawada's best hope was that Tsutsumi would punch himself out and in round 3 we did see Tsutsumi slow down compared to the previous round. Despite slowing down it was another round that the challenger won, as he landed the more telling blows and fought smartly in bursts, notably towards the end of the round. It was however a much, much closer round than the second and in round 4 we saw Sawada have arguably his best round as Tsutusmi seemed to slow further and Sawada really took the fight to the challenger, as he looked to turn the tide. It was a huge effort from the champion who fought as if he knew he was down and knew he had to change the flow of the action. Sadly for Sawada we saw Tsutsumi landing gorgeous shots through round 5 as he re-established control of the action. After 5 rounds we got the open scoring and Tsutusmi was up on all 3 cards with scores of 48-46, 49-45 and 50-44.
In round 6 we saw the two men trading a lot in center ring and getting a loud reaction from the fans. It was clear that the heavier shots were all from Tsutsumi but Sawada landing plenty of the cleaner blows, using his quicker hands to have success at mid range. Sadly for Sawada the heavy shots of Tsutsumi were punishing ones, especially his body shots which were a regular thing up close. Towards the end of the round it seemed obvious that Sawada was doing everything he could, but was also being broken down. That was even more clear in round 7 as Tsutumi, like he had in round 2, set out on a seek and destroy mission and had Sawada in survival mode for much of the round. The champion was under intense pressure early in the round, though gritted it out, doing all he could to keep his title despite taking increasing punishment through the round. The back and forth action of early in the bout was less, and less frequent with Tsutusmi dominating large portions of the round. Early in round 8 the two men began trading but the power of Tsutusmi rocked Sawada, who was forced onto the ropes where he took a pounding as he covered up, until the referee saved him, giving Tsutusmi the 8th round TKO win.
After the bout Tsutusmi revealed he wants to face Takuma Inoue (16-1, 3) [井上拓真] later in the year.
Also on this card fans saw former world title challenger Shingo Wake (28-7-2, 20) [和氣 慎吾] score his latest win, as he stopped Naoto Mizutani (9-8-2, 3) [水谷直人] in the 7th round of a scheduled 8 rounder.
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 Japan plays host to a monstrous card at the Saitama Super Arena. One of the three title bouts on the card will see WBO Asia Pacific Super Bantamweight champion Takuma Inoue (15-1, 3) [井上拓真] take on Japanese champion Gakuya Furuhashi (28-8-2, 16) [古橋大輔] in a wonderfully matched unification bout.
Today, ahead of their bout the two men took part in their weigh in for the bout.
On the scales Inoue had no issues at all, coming in bang on the Super Bantamweight limit. As for Fururhashi, the 34 year old veteran, struggled to boil down and actually came in a little over 123lbs on his first attempt to make weight. He then had 2 hours to lose the excess, and came back bang on the limit, with 45 minutes to spare.
After making weight Inoue, who fights on the same card as his brother Naoya for the first time since November 2019, seemed determined to win this bout here by relying on, and showcasing his technical ability.
As for Furuhashi, he revealed that he apologised to Hideyuki Ohashi, the lead promoter for the event, and the staff and media. He explained that he had had too much water weight and he couldn't sweat it out in time for the original weigh in, though of course the extra time allowed him to do just that. He also explained that if he wins the bout it would be an upset, though seemed determined to prove his doubters wrong.
For those interested in betting on this bout it's worth noting Takuma is a 1/7 favourite, whilst Furuhashi is available at 6/1 with the draw priced at 20/1.
Related - WBO Asia Pacific and Japanese titles to be unified as Inoue faces Furuhashi
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