Earlier today the Sumida City Gymnasium in Tokyo played host to the latest Dangan card, which featured a trio of interesting looking title bouts.
The first of the title bouts saw unbeaten OPBF female Minimumweight champion Mizuki Chimoto (4-0, 1) [千本瑞規] score her first defense as she out pointed Kaori Nagai (6-3-3, 2) [長井香織] over 8 rounds. The challenger started well,m and looked to attack the body early on. Chimoto however got going in round 2, using her jab well to control the action and range of the bout, and after 4 rounds she was leading on all 3 cards, 40-36 and 39-37, twice. In the second half Nagai tried to turn it around, continuing to attack the body of Chimoto, but she couldn't slow Chimoto down, with Chimoto responding to everything thrown her way.
After 8 rounds the scores here were 78-74, twice, and 77-75. After the bout Nagai seemed to suggest that her work in the early rounds had been ignored by the judges, whilst Chimoto spoke well off her challenger, and how she used her own jab to control the action.
The second title bout on the show saw the talented Masanori Rikiishi (11-1, 6) [力石 政法] claim his first title, as he out boxed veteran Takuya Watanabe (38-11-1, 22) [渡邉 卓也] and became the new OPBF Super Featherweight champion, with a career best performance. From the opening round this was the Rikiishi show, as he took control at mid-range and never let the highly experience Watanabe get into the bout. From the off Rikiiishi was too quick, too sharp, too accurate and too busy for Watanabe. To his credit Watanabe always tried to make his way into the bout, but he struggled in every minute of the fight to build any momentum. The few moments of success the veteran had were fleeting with Rikiishi re-establishing control soon afterwards. After 12 rounds Rikiishi had won everything, taking a 120-108 shut out over Watanabe, with the only disappointment for the new champion being that he couldn't drop his man.
After the bout Rikiishi spoke about the success of his body shots and uppercuts, and explained that he was going to make a mandatory defense of his title next. As for Watanabe, he seemed really dejected by the outcome, adding that he tried his best, but that's his ability. Almost accepting he wasn't even close to good enough. Given his long career we do wonder if this is the end for Watanabe.
The third title bout on the card saw something of an upset as the defending Japanese Featherweight champion Hinata Maruta (12-2-1, 9) [丸田陽七太] was dethroned by mandatory challenger Reiya Abe (23-3-1, 10) [阿部麗也], in what was Abe's third shot at the belt. Not only did Abe capture the Japanese title, but also the WBO Asia Pacific title with the win.
This started in a really interesting manner with both men battling to dictate the range of the bout. For Maruta the key was to keep it long whilst Abe wanted to close the distance more and land his powerful single left hands. Through the first 3 rounds it seemed Abe's experience and boxing brain were key as he landed straight land hands, however he took punishment himself and ended up with a swollen right eye as Maruta's hard right hands took their toll on the challenger. After 5 rounds Abe was up on all 3 cards, 48-47, twice, and 49-46.
It was really in the middle of the bout that Abe took complete control of the action, as he seemed to respond with interest to every bit of success Maruta had, and the most notable part of the bout was a hard left hand up top that dropped Maruta in round 7, and left Maruta unable to see out of his left eye. It took Maruta a while to get any success after that as Abe continued to control the action, with his good footwork and boxing brain, though Maruta did show his heart and gave a huge effort in the final 3 rounds.
After 12 rounds the judges had this 118-109, 116-111 and 115-112, a particular close score. After the bout Abe seemed really proud of his performance, and his development over the last few years. He also stated that he was wanting to aim for more titles, likely a suggestion that he wants to fight for a world title. As for Maruta he apologised to his team for the loss, and explained that he would come back stronger from the bout.
Tomorrow fight fans in Japan will get the chance to see a new OPBF Super Featherweight champion being crowned as Masanori Rikiishi (10-1, 6) [力石 政法], in his first title bout, takes on Takuya Watanabe (38-10-1, 22) [渡邉 卓也] for the vacant title.
Today the two men took part in their weigh in for the bout, and both men made the 130lb limit without any issues, and both men looked absolutely incredible on the scales.
The 27 year old Rikiishi was comfortably under the limit, at 129.6lbs, and looked genuinely in the best shape of his career. Despite that he actually explained this was the hardest weight cut of his career and that he's getting bigger, and had to come down in weight more than normal. Amazingly he was coming down from 154lbs for the bout, and had to lose 11lbs in water weight. Something that will likely force him to move back to Lightweight in the not so distant future.
Amazingly Rikiishi didn't seemed bothered about the title at all, and was more bothered about beating Watanabe, stating "Because it's a decisive battle, the title isn't worth it. There's nothing special about it, but it's more valuable to beat Watanabe, who has a proven track record." And he added that he wanted to face other notable fighters if he wins, such as Yoshimitsu Kimura and Kosuke Saka.
As for Watanabe he was 129.6lbs on the scales and, much like Rikiishi, he looked in great shape for the bout. He explained that he thought Rikiishi would be bigger than he was, but that the two men are about the same size. He also explained that he had been focusing on training for southpaws, like Rikiishi.
For fans wanting to watch this bout the contest will be aired on the ABEMA Fighting Channel.
Related - Watanabe and Rikiishi battle for OPBF honours!
Yesterday A-Sign Boxing and Dangan Boxing put together a brilliant 4 card at Korakuen Hall, that was sadly hidden behind a paywall and only available on PPV. Despite the PPV, and the worrying movement in recent years to Japan having more and more boxing on PPV, the show was a major one, with prospects and a Japanese title eliminator all taking place on the event.
The show began with a bout between the heavy handed Yasutaka Fujita (8-1, 6) [藤田 裕崇] and the awkward Izuki Tomioka (7-5-1, 2) [富岡 樹]. From the off this was hotly competitive and a fight that really was a compelling stylistic match up, with Tomioka fighting behind his excellent jab and moving, whilst Fujita looked to pressure and use his physicality. This made for a really interesting bout, where both men had success in every round. In the later rounds however it was Fujita who seemed more consistent with his game plan, whilst Tomioka was under a lot of pressure.
After 8 rounds the judges scored this a split decision, in favour of Fujita. He was favoured 77-75 and 77-76 from two of the judges, whilst the third had Tomioka winning 77-75. With this win we expect to see Fujita earning a Japanese ranking, and Tomioka will certainly come again in the future.
The second bout In the second bout on the show we saw Takuya Watanabe (38-10-1, 22) [渡邉 卓也] bounce back from his vicious beating to Kosuke Saka to easily see off Kazuma Sanpei (20-7, 9) [三瓶 数馬] in just 2 rounds. The bout started with both men feeling each other out, but in round 2 a huge straight hand from Watanabe dropped his man. A follow up attack after Sanpei regained his feet forced the referee to jump in and save him from further punishment.
The third bout on the show saw youngster Suzumi Takayama (5-0, 4) [高山 涼深] get through the toughest test of his career, as he took a decision win against Kai Chiba (13-3, 8) [千葉 開]. This started with the two men battling for position early on, using their straight shots at mid range through the first round. In round 3 Takayama got a major break through, dropping Chiba, but to his credit Chiba got back to his feet, and rocked Takayama later in the round. Chiba was dropped again in round 5, as Takayama landed a gorgeous straight left counter. Chiba again got to his feet, and gave his all in the final rounds, but it wasn't enough to over-come the two knockdowns. After 8 rounds the judges had this one 77-73, 77-74 and 76-75.
The main event saw former Japanese 140lb champion Masahiro Suzuki (7-0, 4) [鈴木 雅弘] take a split decision over Seiryu Toshikawa (14-6, 8) [利川 聖隆] to become the mandatory challenger for the Japanese Lightweight title.
Toshikawa started well, using his height and reach to control the distance and made the most of his long range jab. Suzuki tried to get inside but struggled until round 2, when he managed to drop Toshikawa with a solid left hook. Following the knockdown Suzuki began to amp up his out put, though to his credit Toshikawa wasn't there to make up the numbers, and fought back hard.
We ended up with more drama in round 6 as Suzuki was dropped, and hurt. The final two rounds were great with a lot of leather thrown, it was a real back and forth as Suzuki looked to clear his hear, and Toshikawa looked to close the show.
With both men having been downed, and both having given a stellar account of themselves, this one was tough to score, though Suzuki got the nod with scores of 76-74 in his favour, twice, whilst Toshikawa was favoured by the same score by the third judge.
Earlier today we got the latest “Dangan” show, live on the excellent Boxing Raise service. It was a card that promised a lot and despite not quite delivering what was expected of it, it was still a very, very enjoyable show, thanks to a sensational main event. But more about that a little bit later.
The show kicked off with a B-Class tournament final between youngsters Koki Mioya (8-2-2, 2) [三尾谷 昂希] and Tentaro Kimura (6-0-2) [木村 天汰郎], the cousin of the touted Rentaro Kimura. This one started off with both men struggling to find their range a little bit, and despite both letting shots go neither managed to land too frequently. What was landed in the opening round however did seem to favour Mioya, who seemed to be a touch crisper out of the blocks.
Mioya also seemed to take the advantage early in round 2, though it was a better round for Kimura who managed to land several clean right hands. Despite the success for Kimura he struggled to build on his success and due to the speed, reach and southpaw stance of Mioya, who looked just that bit sharper throughout. Kimura however refused to come second and kept landing solid counters, luring Mioya in and landing clean right hands as Mioya came forward, through the middle portion of the fight. It wasn’t a counter punching masterclass, but it was a great example of what timing, and accuracy can do. In round 6 Mioya looked to put his foot on the gas, but failed to turn the tide.
After 6 rounds Kimura did just enough to edge a split decision, with scores of 58-56, twice, in his favour, against a score of 58-57 to Mioya.
Although both men were clearly talented youngsters, it did feel, at times, like they were almost too similar. Things were also not helped by the stances, with Mioya being a southpaw and Kimura being orthodox, which resulted in some messy coming togethers. Despite that it’s clear that both men have a lot of untapped potential, and hopefully we will see that being developed over the next few years.
The second bout was an A-Class tournament final at Lightweight, as Shu Utsuki (8-0, 7) [宇津木 秀] took on Masashi Wakita (10-11-2, 5) [脇田 将士]. On paper this was a total mismatch, though those who had seen a bit of Wakita before were expecting him to at least ask some questions of the talented and touted Utsuki.
From the off Utsuki came forward, applying intelligent pressure, but struggled to get around the long southpaw jab of Wakita, who used his height, reach and stance well to avoid Utsuki from getting too close. Utsuki became more aggressive in round 2, as he put his foot on the gas and began to land some more telling leather. Credit however to Wakita who took the shots well and tried to cope with the increasing pressure of the unbeaten man, who landed a big body shot and a big headshot just before the bell. In round 3 we saw Wakita trying to fight fire with fire, and letting his hands go more often, landing the occasional solid shot of his own in the most competitive round of the fight. The same ambition was shown from Wakita early in round 4 as well, before he got dumped on the seat of his pants part way through the round. From there on Utsuki went into seek and destroy mode. With Wakita hurt and not really doing much in terms of firing back, the referee stepped in and saved Wakita from further punishment.
On paper this is “another stoppage loss for Wakita” but we really need to give him credit here. He gave Utsuki a decent test, he asked plenty of the unbeaten puncher, and really exceeded expectations whilst also showing he is genuinely a decent boxer, who is being matched too tough at times. As for Utsuki bigger and better fights will come, and this 4 rounds he had here will do him no harm at all and we are expecting to see him fight in a title bout either later this year or at some point in 2022.
Talking about title bouts, this show had two of them. The first of was was a Japanese Super Featherweight title bout, pitting champion Kosuke Saka (21-5, 18) [坂晃典] against his mandatory challenger Takuya Watanabe (37-10-1, 21) [渡邉卓也].
From the off Saka looked the bigger, stronger and more powerful fighter, pressing forward and landing the more telling blows through much of rounds 1 and 2, with Watanabe struggling to get much going other than his jab. Despite being limited in what he was landing Watanabe’s jab was landing very clean and in rounds 3 and 4 he did well in getting Saka’s respect and cutting Saka around the left eye as it seemed he was perhaps on the verge of getting a toe hold in the bout.
Sadly for Watanabe a doctor’s inspection, in round 5, on the cut seemed to make Saka put his foot on the gas and soon after the doctor allowed the bout to continue Saka began to unload his heavier artillery. Watanabe managed to connect with one or two counters, getting Saka’s respect, but not doing anything close to hurt Saka who was beginning to chip away at the challenger.
After 5 rounds we got the open scoring, as is normal for Japanese title fights, and all 3 judges favoured Saka with scores of 49-46 from all 3 judges.
Knowing he was behind was perhaps not an advantage for Watanabe who looked to try and turn the tables in round 6 as he began to come forward. Saka remained composed and landed a monstrous right hand that shook Watanabe and then unloaded on the challenger who finally hit the canvas. The referee instantly waved this off with Watanabe on his hands and knees.
With this loss Watanabe suffers his first stoppage in 48 bouts, and given his hard career the end may be nigh for the 31 year old warhorse. As for Saka this was a statement finish, and a great way to record his first defense in a talent heavy Japanese Super Featherweight division. There are a lot of interesting bouts out there for him at 130lbs and fingers crossed we see him in some of those match ups, against the likes of Kenichi Ogawa, Yoshimitsu Kimura and Kanehiro Nakegawa.
We then moved on to the second title bout and the show's main event. This was a Japanese Super Bantamweight title bout pitting hard hitting champion Yusaku Kuga (19-5-1, 13) [久我勇作] against his mandatory challenger Gakuya Furuhashi (27-8-1, 15) [古橋大輔] in what turned out to be a sensational war.
From the off this was fought at an exceptional pace with both men looking happy to go to war, and both showing just how much the Japanese title meant to them. It seemed clear that Furuhashi had the quicker feet but the first round really was more about Kuga’s power and aggression, with the champion landing the bigger shots and dictating the action. Kuga continued to control the fight in round, despite a very spirited effort from Furuhashi who began to find his range more often, but took shots to get inside. When he was inside Furuhashi looked to make it a war, but even then he seemed to take more punishment than he was dealing out. By round 4 however Furuhashi was starting to build his momentum, forcing exchanges at his range and backing Kuga up. Kuga still had some eye-catching moments of his own, but was starting to feel the tempo more and wasn’t having the same level of success as he had had earlier on. Furuhashi’s momentum continued to grow in round 5 and for the first time in the fight it seemed like he hurt Kuga with a combination up top. He was however taking some massive shots himself, and continuing to go to war seemed a very risky strategy against someone as heavy handed as Kuga.
After 5 rounds we got the open scoring, and all 3 judges had Kuga leading, with 2 scoring it 48-47, the same as us, and one having it 49-46.
Furuhashi’s stubbornness and determination continued to shine in rounds 6 and 7, despite Kuga having a bit of a second wind. Part way through round 7 Furuhashi almost had his head spun around from a huge bomb up top from Kuga. Somehow Furuhashi didn’t just stay up right but also returned fire almost immediately as he took the fight on the inside and continued trying to grind down Kuga’s resistance.
In round 8 Furuhashi started fast, somehow finding the energy to continue to press inside and forcing a toe to toe fight with Kuga. Kuga responded to the challenge with huge bombs up close, though the volume from Furuhashi was intensem forcing Kuga to back off. Kuga was looking to catch his breath but Furuhashi refused to let him, and right on the bell Kuga was staggered as Furuhashi continued to push and landed a nasty uppercut. Had the round been 20 seconds longer Kuga would have been down, at the very least.
Thankfully for Furuhashi the minute break between rounds 8 and 9 wasn’t enough for Kuga to clear his head and Furuhashi jumped on his man right at the start of the round, eventually dropping Kuga. Kuga got back to his feet, but had no idea where he was as he stumbled around the ring, forcing the referee to wave this off, crowning a new champion.
For Furuhashi this was a defining moment in his career, which had seen him fail in two previous Japanese title fights. He really gave his all, dug incredibly deep and, at 33, finally conquered the title that he had chased for years. He took a lot of punishment himself, and there’s a chance he will never quite be the same fighter after this, but he showed just how desperate he was for the belt.
As for the 30 year old Kuga this was a 3rd stoppage loss in 6 bouts. His wars and battles are clearly catching up with him. He was leading early on, but the determination of Furuhashi did eventually break him down and we wouldn’t be surprised if this perhaps was the start of the end for Kuga, who was knocked clean out in his previous bout against Jhunriel Ramonal. This was a punishing battle, a tough one, and one that will be hard to bounce back from.
For fans the show was perhaps a bit slow to get going. The first bout never really clicked, the second seemed like a formality, and the third under-delivered, though expectations were admittedly incredibly high and the bout was a solid one. The main event however over-delivered and gave us some of the best action we’ve had so far in 2021. The styles gelled perfectly and the mentalities of the two men delivered an all action war. This was brilliant from round 1 to the eventual stoppage, and made up for the somewhat pedestrian start to the event.
Tomorrow at Korakuen Hall we'll be getting a potentially sensation Japanese title bout at Super Featherweight defending champion Kosuke Saka (20-5, 17) [坂晃典] takes on mandatory challenger Takuya Watanabe (37-9-1, 21) [渡邉卓也].
The bout, a genuinely anticipated one, was supposed to take place in Osaka last April before Covid19 delayed it, forcing it to be pushed back by around 9 months. Despite the delay both men looked in great shape today as they took part in their weigh in.
On the scales both men weighed in bang on the 130lb weight limit and looked in fantastic condition. The one notably take away from the actual weigh in was that both men were very similar in stature, though Watanabe did look like the slightly taller and longer fighter.
Around the weigh in both men spoke to the media.
Saka mentioned how he has now been out of the ring for over a year, with his title win coming in December 2019 against Masaru Sueyoshi, though it seemed like he was taking positives from his inactivity. He spoke about how the lengthy break has allowed him a chance to recover from damage mentally and physically.
As for how he's going to fight, the champion spoke about how he had developed his boxing, and was now going to be focusing more on hitting without being hit. Not something he's had a reputation for so far, where his typical gameplan has been about beating the fight out of the opponent, rather than focusing on slippery defensive moves.
As for Watanabe he revealed that he feels Japanese titles have a special value, despite holding various other titles during his career. This will be his third shot at a national title, following losses to Hisashi Amagasa and Satoshi Hosono, and he seemed very driven by making the most of this shot, which could, potentially be his last Japanese title fight.
For fans who haven't seen these two in action before the expectation is high. Saka is a brutal puncher, and even with a tweak in his style we still expect brutal action. As for Watanabe he is a man well known for his incredible toughness and determination, as well as his under-rated skills. Together they are expected to put on a thrilling, action packed, war.
For fans wanting to watch this live it will be aired live on Boxing Raise as part of Dangan 238, which begins at 17:35 Japan time.
Related - Brutality awaits Saka and Watanabe in overdue Japanese title fight!
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