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!
This coming Friday fight fans around the globe will get the chance to see brutality ensure at Korakuen Hall as Japanese Super Featherweight champion Kosuke Saka (20-5, 17) [坂晃典] takes on mandatory challenger Takuya Watanabe (37-9-1, 21) [渡邉卓也]. For fans wanting to watch this, who can't make their way to the venue the bout will be shown live on Boxing Raise, alongside a brilliant bout between Yusaku Kuga (19-4-1, 13) [久我勇作] and Gakuya Furuhashi (26-8-1, 14) [古橋大輔].
Interestingly the bout has now got odds available in the UK, with Betfair/Paddy Power offering the bout as one to bet on. Though at the time of writing it is only the "To Win" market that's available.
The favourite, surprisingly, is the challenger, Takuya Watanabe.
The 31 year old Watanabe is priced at 8/11 to take home the victory and claim a Japanese title in his third shot at the title, after previously coming up short against Hisashi Amagasa and Satoshi Hosono. Coming in to this he has won two in a row, including a brutal 8 round thriller with Taiki Minamoto in 2019.
The hard hitting champion, who claimed the title in destructive fashion in 2019 when he beat Masaru Sueyoshi, will be defending the title for the first time. Despite entering as the champion he is the underdog, and is priced at 11/10 to over-come his mandatory challenger.
For those tempted by the draw, that can be backed at 16/1.
Interestingly the odds do not match up with the predictions made on Japanese fan site Boxmob.jp. On Boxmob 61% of the vote has backed Saka to win, and retain, whilst 39% of the vote has gone with Watanabe to win, and become the new champion.
Related - Brutality awaits Saka and Watanabe in overdue Japanese title fight!
It's fair to say that 2020 has been a rather unique year in the world of professional boxing, and even by typical standards we have seen more bouts being delayed, posted and cancelled than ever before. Obviously we all under-stand why but it does need stating that a lot of bouts that had been announced are currently in a state of flux. They haven't officially been cancelled or rescheduled yet. Instead they seem to be sitting in a state of weird boxing purgatory.
Today we saw one of those bouts removed from purgatory and being given a date.
The bout in question is the Champion Carnival bout between Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Yusaku Kuga (19-4-1, 13) [久我勇作] and his mandatory challenger Gakuya Furuhashi (26-8-1, 14) [古橋大輔].
Originally the bout was set for April 28th at Korakuen Hall. That was before boxing was paused in Japan to deal with the on going global situation, and try to prevent infections ripping through the Japanese boxing scene.
Today that bout got given a new date, January 22nd 2021, and will be held as part of Dangan 238. Sadly that is almost 9 months after it was originally supposed to be held.
For Kuga the bout will be Kuga's second defense since reclaiming the title in May 2019, winning an all out war with Ryoichi Tamura at the Sumida City Gymnasium, and will be his bout since being blasted in 84 seconds by Jhunriel Ramonal at the end of 2019.
As for Furuhashi the bout will be his first since a September 2019 win over Ryoichi Tamura, with that win securing him a title fight as part of the Champion Carnival.
If all goes ahead as planned the bout will make for an excellent double header along with a Japanese Super Featherweight title bout between defending champion Kosuke Saka (20-5, 17) [坂晃典] and teak tough challenger Takuya Watanabe (37-9-1, 21) [渡邉卓也].
Although yet to be confirmed we're hoping this show will get the live stream treatment from Boxing Raise as it already looks like a sensational show, even with no under-card announced.
It's fair to say that 2020 has been a write off for a number of fighters, who have been unable to fight due to the on going global situation, and issues related to it.
Among those fighters who were unable to fight this year are Japanese Super Featherweight champion Kosuke Saka (20-5, 17) [坂晃典] and teak tough mandatory challenger challenger Takuya Watanabe (37-9-1, 21) [渡邉卓也], who were supposed to fight in a Champion Carnival bout earlier this year.
Originally the bout had had been scheduled to take place in Osaka in April, though no specific date was ever set down for the bout. Sadly though that plan was scuppered when boxing was essentially stopped in Japan in February and March, meaning the two men never got to fight their mandated bout.
Today it was announced that the now, very, delayed bout between Saka and Watanabe has got a date at last. Sadly however it won't be in 2020. Instead it will be January 22nd 2021, at Korakuen Hall as part of DANGAN 238.
For Saka this will be his first defense of the title that he won last year, when he beat Masaru Sueyoshi into submission in December, to become a 2-weight Japanese national champion. It's a real shame the hard hitting 28 year old has been out of the ring since then but he has still time on his side, and a win in January will allow him to kick on.
As for Watanabe this will be his third shot at a national title, after losing decision to Hisashi Amagasa, back in 2012, and Satoshi Hosono, in 2015. He's earned this shot following a win in 2019 over Taiki Minamoto, in what was a genuinely thrilling action bout. A loss here and it's unlikely the teak tough 31 year old will be getting another shot at a national title.
At the moment no other bouts have been announced for the show, but in reality this is good enough to be a solid headliner. It will have the aggression and power of Saka against the toughness and determination of Watanabe, who is well known for his bloody 2014 bout with Jae Sung Lee. That combination should give us something genuinely spectacular and it's a great one to excited about for the new year.
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