Over the last few days we've seen a lot of Japanese title bouts being revealed as part of the Champion Carnival. Earlier today those bouts were set in stone as the Champion Carnival presentation took place, confirming the contests we'd reported and getting all the champions and challengers in one event.
The first of the bouts will take place on February 1st at the Dynamic Glove show, and will see Japanese Welterweight champion Yuki Nagano (17-2, 13) [永野祐樹] defending his title against mandatory challenger Keita Obara (22-4-1, 20) [小原 佳太]. This bout has been known about for weeks and is an exciting, and potentially very explosive, way to kick off the Champion Vs Challenger series. This bout will be at Korakuen Hall, where most of the title bouts will actually take place.
The second bout will take on February 13th, when Lightweight champion Shuichiro Yoshino (11-0, 9) [吉野 修一郎] defends his belt against Izuki Tomioka (7-2-1, 2) [富岡樹]. This is expected to bee a match up showing a lot of skills, from both men, though the power and physical edges with the champion does make him the favourite. This is another bout at Korakuen Hall.
It's then almost a month later until we get the next bout in the series. That'll be on March 7th, on the March Dynamic Glove, when Light Middleweight champion Hironobu Matsunaga (16-1, 10) [松永 宏信] defends his belt against Yuto Shimizu (14-4-2, 5) [清水優人] in a potentially enthralling bout. The champion will be seeking his second defense whilst Shimizu will be getting his first title fight. This will be the third successive bout at Tokyo's Korakuen Hall.
Just one day later, March 8th, we get the Flyweight bout with the heavy handed Seigo Yuri Akui (14-2-1, 10) [阿久井政悟] defending his title against Seiya Fujikita (13-4, 6) [藤北誠也]. Given Akui's style this should be an explosive bout, and one to look forward to. This was announced way back at the start of the year and will take place at the Aeon Mall mall in Okayama City, the first of the bouts outside of Tokyo.
Just a week later, March 15th, action turns to the Aioi Hall in Kariya as Light Flyweight champion Yuto Takahashi (11-4, 5) [高橋悠斗] defends against hard hitting challenger Masamichi Yabuki (10-3, 10) [佐藤政道]. This will be the first title defnense for Takahashi, and will see him entering enemy territory.
The following day, March 16th, Light Welterweight champion Koki Inoue (15-0, 12) [浩樹井上] will take on Daishi Nagata (14-2-1, 5) [永田大士] in the main event of a card at Korakuen Hall from Ohashi. This is one of the few shows where under-card details have been revealed, and it makes for a very decent looking card overall.
After a slew of fights in March we then have a bit of a break before returning on April 9th for a double header at Korakuen Hall. One of the bouts here will see Bantamweight champion Yusuke Suzuki (11-3, 7) [鈴木悠介] make his first defense, as he goes up against Kyosuke Sawada (14-2-1, 6) [澤田京介] in a rematch of a bout both men had back in 2013. The other bout on this card will see Featherweight champion Ryo Sagawa (9-1, 4) [佐川遼] make his second defense as he takes on Hinata Maruta (10-1-1, 8) [丸田陽七太], in what we feel is the standout bout from this year's Carnival.
On April 28th Super Bantamweight champion Yusaku Kuga (19-4-1, 13) [久我勇作] will defend his title against Gakuya Furuhashi (26-8-1, 14) [古橋大輔]. This bout will be Kuga's first defense since reclaiming the title last year and will be Furuhashi's third shot, at a third different champion. This bout is also set to be at Korakuen Hall.
Interestingly the Super Featherweight bout between hard hitting champion Kosuke Saka (20-5, 17) [坂晃典] and teak tough challenger Takuya Watanabe (37-9-1, 21) [渡邉卓也] is pencilled in for April in Osaka, though no date or specific venue was confirmed at today's event.
On May 16th we'll see the Super Flyweight title bout as defending champion Kenta Nakagawa (18-3-1, 12) [中川 健太] takes on Yuta Matsuo (15-4-2, 8) [松尾雄太] at the Sumida City Gymnasium in Tokyo.
No those who are eagle eyed will be aware there were some division's missing.
Firstly the Minimumweight bout hasn't yet been decided. The title is currently vacant, after Norihito Tanaka (19-7, 10) [田中教仁] returned the belt earlier this year. What we do know is that Masataka Taniguchi (12-3, 7) [谷口 将隆] will be involved in the title bout, though there is currently no opponent, date or venue for the bout.
The Middleweight title bout will see the hard hitting Kazuto Takesako (11-0-1, 11) [竹迫司登] defending his belt against Riku Kunimoto (4-0, 2) [国本陸] but this bout has no date or location set. This bout is likely to be scheduled following Takesako's bout this coming weekend against OPBF champion Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa (12-4-1, 11) [細川チャーリー忍].
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
Back in September news broke that the historic Aoki gym, was going to be closed before the start of 2020. That actually happened yesterday, December 26th, with Aoki announcing on social media that their doors were closing.
Of course this is boxing, and nothing is as straight forward as it seems and the gym is less "closing down" and more "transferring", if you will.
Rather than permanently closing it doors, like the legendary Yonekura gym, the Aoki gym will instead re-open in the new year as DANGAN Aoki on January 6th, keeping not only the Aoki fighters but also the Dangan ones.
From what we understand it seems like the current reason Taiki gym could be closed, and everyone could end up under the new DANGAN Aoki banner, with the gym regarded as a better gym overall for things like training. However this wasn't confirmed at the time.
This leads us to believe that the now rumoured bout between former WBO Flyweight champion Sho Kimura (18-3-2, 11) [木村翔] and former WBO Minimumweight champion Merlito Sabillo (27-7-1, 13) would be taking place with Kimura fighting out of the new DANGAN Aoki gym. It would also likely continue to promote Takuya Watanabe (37-9-1, 21) [渡邉卓也], ahead of his Japanese Super Featherweight title fight with Kosuke Saka (20-5, 17) [坂晃典] at the 2020 Champion Carnival.
Today's Dynamic Glove might be the final one of 2019 but it certainly wasn't a dull old show with nothing happening. In fact the first of two title fights on the show saw a genuine surprise as defending Japanese Super Featherweight champion Masaru Sueyoshi (19-2-1, 11) [末吉 大] was battered by former Japanese Featherweight champion Kosuke Saka (20-5, 17) [坂晃典], who became a 2-weight Japanese champion.
Saka, who was less than 8 months removed from a stoppage loss to Joe Noynay in a WBO Asia Pacific title bout, was expected to be the next fighter tortured by Sueyoshi's frustrating, yet effective style. He was supposed to be the man that Sueyoshi made his 5th defense against. Instead Saka turned out to have the Kryptonite to Sueyoshi's back foot style.
From the opening moments Saka applied intense pressure, cramping Sueyoshi for space, landing his jab to get inside and prevented Sueyoshi from ever getting comfortable. The pressure continued to come, and Sueyoshi looked like a man who was lost by the end of round 2, as Saka refused to slow down.
It wasn't until round 4 that Sueyoshi managed to create any workable space of note, and even then he didn't do enough to win the round. It was a better round for him, but not a round that he won. Similarly the 5th round, had competitive moments, with Sueyoshi ending the round well, but taking a lot before hand.
After 5 rounds the open scoring kicked in, with Saka leading 50-45, twice, and 49-46. The big question was whether he was going to be able to keep it up.
Whether Saka could do it for 10 rounds or not hardly mattered. In round 6 he managed to shake up Sueyoshi, who never got chance to recover, being knockdown hard mid way through the round. Referee Biney Martin, had taken a close look at Sueyoshi earlier on, knew it was pointless in administering a count, and waved off the bout.
For Saka this is arguably the biggest win of his career, at worth it's on par with his win over Shota Hayashi for the Japanese Featherweight title. As for Sueyoshi this was a painful defeat, and one that could be very hard to bounce back from. He was bullied, he was battered and he was exposed as someone who cannot handle intense pressure. Few at Japanese level could do what Saka did, but the issue is that many above Japanese level can.
With this result we now know that Saka will defend the belt in the 2020 Champion Carnival against Takuya Watanabe, in what looks like an amazing fight on paper.
The main event of today's Dangan card at Korakuen Hall was a Japanese Super Featherweight title eliminator between former Japanese Featherweight champion Taiki Minamoto (16-6-1, 13) [源大輝] and the teak tough Takuya Watanabe (37-9-1, 21) [渡邉卓也]. The two men looked well matched on paper and it seemed almost a given that we would be getting a special bout as the styles looked almost certain to gel. We assumed it would be Minamoto's power against Watanabe's toughness, and that we would get a thriller.
We assumed right!
In the opening round it looked like Minamoto's power was not actually his key to victory, instead it was his speed, and he looked much quicker than Watanabe. Watanabe however was pressuring, landing the effective shots and forcing Minamoto to give ground.
From then touch paper was lit and rounds 2,3 and 4 were incredibly wars, each progressively more exciting than the previous. Two them men seemed to try out man each other on the inside, firing off bombs, and mixing shots between head and body at close range. For 3 straight rounds we saw Minamoto fight Watanabe's fight, and although he held his own, he did lose all 3 rounds, and was left with a bloodied nose and the need to reassess his tactics.
Having fought the wrong fight for 3 rounds Minamoto changed up what he did in rounds 5 and 6 as he looked to get some control in the bout. Rather than warring on the inside he boxed on the outside, using his speed and movement to jab and move against the slower Watanabe. The tactic worked really well, and he seemed to actually hurt Watanabe a couple of times in round 5.
The movement was a good change from Minamoto, but not something he could keep up and by round 7 we were back on the inside, and back to trading back and forth. Sadly for Minamoto this round killed any momentum he had, and he was rocked hard late in the round as Watanabe began to land clean shots that stiffened the legs the legs of Minamoto.
Going into the final round it seemed like Watanabe had done enough to avoid defeat, but a win wasn't in the bag for him. Regardless he came out swinging, and gave Minamoto a real beating in the final 3 minutes. It seemed like Watanabe was determined to stop his man, though some how Minamoto remained on his feet, despite being legitimately battered through the round.
At the end of 8 rounds we though Watanabe had done enough, and so did the judges, scoring the bout 77-75, 78-76 and 79-73 in favour of Watanabe. The 79-73 card seemed unfair but the other two were a pretty accurate reflection on what had been an 8 round war.
With the win Watanabe secures a title shut during the 2020 Champion Carnival, and will face either Masaru Sueyoshi (19-1-1, 11) [末吉 大] or Kosuke Saka (19-5, 16) [坂晃典], who face off in early December.
For those who don't subscribe to Boxing Raise this is the quality of bout you're missing out on, for those who do subscriber this was another instant classic on the service which is quickly becoming a must have for fight fans.
Tomorrow in Tokyo, and live on Boxing Raise, fight fans will get a really interesting card as part of the God's Left Bantamweight tournament. Despite the focus being the two tournament semi-finals the show's main event will actually be a Japanese title eliminator Japanese title eliminator between Taiki Minamoto (16-5-1, 13) [源大輝] and Takuya Watanabe (36-9-1, 21) [渡邉卓也], who battle for a shot at the Japanese Super Featherweight title in the 2020 Champion Carnival.
Today, ahead of that bout, they took part in their weight in and both men made the 130lb limit with no issues.
On the scales Watanabe, a former WBO Asia Pacific champion at Super Featherweight, was bang on the 130lb limit and looked in great shape, as he always does. He stated he was in the best condition, and had been able to make weight whilst also taking on water, suggesting he's not had to dehydrate to make the weight. He sounded incredibly confident and despite being the under-dog he sounded like a man with real fire in his belly for this.
Minamoto on the other hand was 129.6lbs, making the weight with some wiggle room. It wasn't much of a surprise to see him make weight with ease, given he was moving up after simply out growing the Featherweight division, where he had been the Japanese champion. He seemed to suggest that the weight was much better on his body than cutting the extra 4lbs and he looked strong, powerful and sounded incredibly confident.
The winner of this is expected to face either Masaru Sueyoshi (19-1-1, 11) [末吉 大] or Kosuke Saka (19-5, 16) [坂晃典], who battle on December 7th, in next year's Champion Carnival.
Related - Hard hitting Minamoto takes on teak tough Watanabe
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
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