We've known for a while that the Ohashi Gym would be holding an event at Korakuen Hall on March 11th but until today many of the bouts on that card were unknown.
There were 3 bouts that were known. One of those was a clash between Taku Kuwahara (7-0, 4) [桑原拓] and Yoshiki Minato (9-3, 4) [湊義生], which was originally planned for January before needing to be postponed due to Kuwahara being injured. Another was a Japanese Youth Bantamweight title bout between champion Toshiya Ishii (3-1, 2) [石井渡士也] and Kaito Takeshima (6-3-1, 1) [竹嶋海刀]. The third was a bout between former world title challenger Ryo Matsumoto (24-3, 21) [松本亮] and Takashi Igarashi (13-5, 5) [五十嵐嵩視], in what is expected to be an easy win for Matsumoto, who is looking to rebuild his confidence.
Other fighters named for the card were the world ranked 140lb hopeful Andy Hiraoka (16-0, 11) [平岡アンディ], the promising Rikuto Adachi (14-2, 11) [安達陸仁] and former K-1 champion Yoshiki Takei (0-0) [武居由樹], none of whom had had their opponents named until today.
Now we know that that the 24 year old Hiraoka, who is ranked #12 by the IBF, will take on Fumisuke Kimura (9-6-1, 6) [木村 文祐] in an 8 round bout. On paper this shouldn't be a test for Hiraoka, but the reality is that it keeps him busy and sees him fight in Japan for the first time since July 2019. It seems likely that when he returns to the US, for another bout on a Top Rank show, he'll take on a more notable opponent.
We also now know that Adachi will battle against Takeru Kobata (8-5-1, 3) [小畑武尊] in an 8 rounder for the vacant Japanese Youth Welterweight title, making this show a double Youth title event. Adachi will be favoured here, though it is worth noting that he's fought since December 2019 and this will be his Ohashi Gym. Kobata on the other hand fought last December, losing a decision to Shoki Sakai on December 26th.
As for the debuting Takei, he will be up against Kazunori Takai (6-7-3, 3) [高井一憲]. On paper this looks to be somewhat underwhelming for Takei, who has looked very good in K-1 and looked very impressive in a recent spar with Tsuyoshi Tameda (21-6-2, 19) [溜田剛士]. Takai, who's a 34 year old southpaw is 0-5-1 in his last 6 dating back more than 3 years, including 2 stoppage losses.
One other bout on this card will see 18 year old Yushin Uchida (1-1, 1) [内田勇心] battle the debuting Shunsei Sawada (0-0) [澤田春聖] in a 4 rounder.
Earlier this month we reported that Taku Kuwahara (7-0, 4) [桑原拓] and Yoshiki Minato (9-3, 4) [湊義生] would clash on March 11th. Originally they were supposed to face off in January but an injury to Kuwahara saw the bout being pushed back.
Yesterday we saw another bout being added to that card, with Japanese Youth Bantamweight champion Toshiya Ishii (3-1, 2) [石井渡士也] confirmed to be defending his title against Kaito Takeshima (6-3-1, 1) [竹嶋海刀] on the same show.
Now we've seen several more additions to the event as the show has began to fill out.
One of the big announcements for the show is that Japanese Light Welterweight hopeful Andy Hiraoka (16-0, 11) [平岡アンディ] will be on the show. This will be his first bout in Japan in well over a year and see him looking to build on wins in the US. Sadly however his opponent for the show is yet to be announced. In fact there is no details at all about his bout, other than that he will be on the show.
Another fighter without an opponent is Rikuto Adachi (14-2, 11) [安達陸仁], who is scheduled for a 8 round bout, in what will actually be his Ohashi debut.
The show is also expected to feature the debut of former K-1 champion Yoshiki Takei (0-0) [武居由樹], who recently signed with the Ohashi gym and announced that he was heading to professional boxing.
One other bout that was announced was a show down between former world title challenger Ryo Matsumoto (24-3, 21) [松本亮] and Japanese domestic fighter Takashi Igarashi (13-5, 5) [五十嵐嵩視], with the two men clashing in an 8 rounder. The touted Matsumoto hasn't looked good recently, and does appear to be in with an easier opponent that he's faced in a while, though we do wonder where his head is at mentally when it comes to the sport.
Earlier this month we saw a mouth watering bout between Taku Kuwahara (7-0, 4) [桑原拓] and Yoshiki Minato (9-3, 4) [湊義生] being delayed from a scheduled January date to March 11th. At the time of that announcement the bout was the only one scheduled for the Phoenix Battle 76, the Ohashi scheduled show.
Today we saw news break that that show has now had a second bout confirmed for it, and it's a really interesting one as we see the Japanese Bantamweight Youth Champion defending his title for the first time, and takes on a credible challenger.
The champion in question is Toshiya Ishii (3-1, 2) [石井渡士也], who will look to bounce back from his recent loss to Sho Ishida in a non title fight. His challenger will be 22 year old Osakan fighter Kaito Takeshima (6-3-1, 1) [竹嶋海刀].
For Ishii this will be his first defense following an excellent title win in 2019 against Haruki Ishikawa, which we've included below, as for Takeshima this is very much a step up in class for him, despite the fact he has more experience than the talented Ishii.
Interestingly we expect to see highlights of this bout shown on Fuji TV in March, continuing the relationship between the TV channel and the Ohashi Gym, which has really strengthened this year despite the fact Fuji haven't had a live boxing broadcast all year.
Earlier today we had live action from Hyogo courtesy of Taisei Gym and TV Osaka who managed to give us a rather fun morning of action thanks to a 2-part show that had everything, despite massive amounts of disappointment before the event had event started.
First thing this morning news broke that the anticipated Light Flyweight bout between Katsunari Takayama (31-8-0-1, 12) [高山 勝成] and Reiya Konishi (17-2, 7) [小西伶弥] had been cancelled. The bout was called off today due to Konishi testing positive for Covid19.
Thankfully that bad news was blessed with some good news and that is that the JBC will extend Takayama's license for another year due to force majeure regarding the delays to his ring return. The JBC do have a rule where they won't allow someone over the age of 37 to fight unless they meet other criteria, including fighting in the last 3 years. It's now more than 4 years since Takayama last fought, but common sense has seen them extend his license. Sadly this is the second time a bout of his has been scheduled this year, and then been cancelled with Takayama originally scheduled to fight just before his 37th birthday before Covid19 forced boxing in Japan to be put on hiatus.
The event kicked off with a female bout between Kanako Tabuchi (2-0, 1) [田淵 加奈子] and Aoi Watanabe (2-4, 1) [渡邊 葵]. This was a really fun and exciting way to start the show, with Tabuchi looking to have a fight and Watanabe responding with some big counters. In the end it was Tabuchi who got her hand raised, though she seem to be very fortunate to get a majority decision victory over 36 year old Watanabe. This was, sadly, a sign of things to come with the judging, but the action it's self was fantastic and the perfect start to the event.
The second bout on the show saw Takuya Takahashi (0-3-1) [高橋 拓也] and Takahiro Hamazaki (2-6-2, 1) [浜崎 隆広] fight to a 4 round split decision draw. The fight started slowly, and first 2 rounds seemed to be better for Takahashi than they did for Hamazaki, with Takahashi showing some very nice boxing skills. Sadly for him however Hamazaki turned the bout into a high intensity street fight in the final 2 rounds, giving us 6 minutes of absolute chaos, as he pulled a draw from the jaws of defeat. This was the real highlight of the first part of the show and a joy to watch. Blistering tempo, huge shots from both and 2 rounds of brilliantly brutal violence.
The third bout, and final, bout from the first part saw Arata Matsuoka (10-6, 4) [松岡 新] take a clear 8 round decision over Hideyuki Watanabe (8-13-3, 6) [渡邉 秀行]. Despite the scorecards being rather wide, one of which was 79-73, this was a really competitive bout with Watanabe holding his own for large swathes of the contest in a really enjoyable technical bout. In may ways this was the palette cleanser after two crazy action bouts and despite Watanabe's unappealing record he showed that he is a very, very capable fighter.
After Matsuoka's win we then saw Katsunari Takayama come to the ring, where he spoke to the fans. With a microphone in his hand Takayama stated "I was looking forward to the return fight for the first time in 4 years and 3 months, but I'm sorry to say that I want to push forward. Please wait for a while. I have been practicing in a very good environment since then. I will continue to devote myself. I will devote the energy of two bouts to the next fight"
The show then went to an intermission for around 2 hours before we returned for 3 more bouts.
The first of those bouts in the second part of the show saw us return back to in ring wars as Wataru Ikegami (8-5-1, 5) [池上 渉] and Shion Tamada (6-4, 3) [玉田 汐響] put on a sensational battle. The first 2 rounds seemed to be good ones for Tamada, who seemed too quick, big and youthful for Ikegami. And then bout turned on it's head in round 3 with Ikegami putting his foot on the gas and battering Tamada through out round 3. Tamada then tried to turn the fight around and we ended up having a war through the middle rounds. Sadly for Tamada he couldn't slow down Ikegami, who's jab was a fantastic weapon, and in round 7 the pressure from Ikegami became too much, sending Tamada to the canvas. Tamada did well to beat the count but the referee made the correct decision to save him from further punishment.
The second bout on this portion of the event was, on paper, the most interesting bout and saw former world title challenger Sho Ishida (29-2, 15) [石田 匠] take a decision win over Toshiya Ishii (3-1, 2) [石井渡士也]. This was an intriguing match through out, with Ishii pressing the action and Ishida looking to box off his long and sharp jab. We thought Ishii had done enough to take the decision, with his pressure, uppercuts and body shots catching the eye, though he ate plenty of straight shots through out and was left with a nasty cut above his eye brow, very obvious facial swelling and a bloodied nose. This was a great mix of styles, though in the end it was maybe the experience of Ishida, who stole a few rounds with late activity, that proved to be the difference. Despite the loss we wouldn't write Ishii, in fact he'll have learned a lot here. Sadly for Ishida it's another win where he showed a lot of limitations, and despite having a brilliant jab and straight right hand he simply cruises too much, and that has bit him in the past.
The main event of the 2-part show saw former world title challenger Riku Kano (17-4-1, 8) [加納 陸] over-come Ryoki Hirai (13-7-1, 4) [平井亮輝] to claim the WBO Asia Pacific Light Flyweight title. This one promises a lot but never really delivered. It started very, very slowly, as both men took a long time to figure the other out, boxing at range and being very cautious. In round 3 we got the first flash point of the right, with Hirai dumping Kano down with a right hand, but he failed to build on it. From round 5 the bout did pick up, becoming more of an inside war, but it was often messy action, with a lot of holding, heads coming together, and limited clean action. Both men had moments in these messy rounds, but neither could land a fight changing blow. In the end the judges were called on, again, and favoured Kano with a split decision. Given how little there was to split the two men it was hard to argue with the call here, and despite it being a close bout it's certainly not one we want to see re-run.
In a week where British fans are discussing the PPV price of upcoming shows, and promoters are defending those prices, it was great to see TV Osaka give us this show for free. It had several great action bouts on it and even with the disappointment of Takayama Vs Konishi the shows over-delivered. Well done to those involved in putting this together!
For those getting up early in Europe this morning to watch the bouts from Hyogo we have the news we didn't want to have. The anticipated bout between former multi-time world champion Katsunari Takayama (31-8-0-1, 12) [高山 勝成] and former 2-time world title challenger Reiya Konishi (17-2, 7) [小西伶弥] has been cancelled at the last minute.
The bout, which was supposed to take place in about 3 hours time, has been called off due to Konishi testing positive for Covid19 in the PCR test he took at the weigh in, yesterday, with the results coming back today.
This situation mimics the issue that forced the cancellation of the WBA Light Flyweight "Super" title fight between Hiroto Kyoguchi (14-0, 9) [京口 紘人] and Thanongsak Simsri (14-0, 12) earlier this month and shows that the protocol used in Japan does need changing, before more events are cancelled due to this type of late-positive test. In Kyoguchi's case it was the day before that the bout was cancelled whilst this is on the day of the event
Thankfully however Konishi's positive test will not force a cancellation of the card, but instead just the single bout he was set to be on.
Konishi tested negative a week ago and it's been stated there will be discussion at an upcoming meeting regarding testing and the shows. The JBC's general secretary Tsuyoshi Yasukochi has told the media "Konishi had undergone a PCR test once a week ago (negative), and it was confirmed that both the individual players and Jim had taken considerable infection prevention measures. I have to think that it is already in a situation where anything can happen. Not only the inspection system but also the shows themselves will be discussed at the Corona Countermeasures Subcommittee on the 26th."
As is the case with all bouts in Japan Konishi did go into isolation after the weigh in, where he is awaiting instructions from the local health center.
Takayama has stated, reportedly through his lawyer, "I'm sorry to cancel the match on the day of the event, but I can't help it. I pray for Konishi and those infected with the new coronavirus. I will switch my focus towards my next bout" [Translated]. That was something was echoed by his long term trained Hiroake Nakade "I'm sorry that it was a perfect preparation, but I will change my mind and prepare for the next game." [Translated]. It is worth noting this was supposed to be his return to the professional ranks after more than 4 years away, and it's hard to see what is now planned for the 37 year old veteran
Konishi has posted on social media "The result of the weighing and PCR test of the game the other day , Since it turned out to be positive, the match was canceled. I'm really sorry. I've been told earlier, so I'll contact you again for future support. I'm really sorry." [Translated]
Those who are tuning into the event will still get the chance to see former world title challenger Sho Ishida (28-2, 15) [石田 匠] battle Japanese Youth Bantamweight champion Toshiya Ishii (3-0, 2) [石井渡士也] and the WBO Asia Pacific title bout between Riku Kano (16-4-1, 8) [加納 陸] and Ryoki Hirai (13-6-1, 4) [平井亮輝], with both bouts being live on the TV Osak live stream on YouTube and their website.
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