Earlier today news broke from Japan that the Shirai Gushiken boxing gym would close at the end of July, with a statement, quoted below, being released from Yoko Gushiken regarding the closure, which will happen on July 31st.
The gym was set up in 1995 by former world champions Yoshio Shirai, who was essentially an honorary partner, and Yoko Gushiken, who has essentially been the face of the gym. After Shirai's passing Gushiken has lead the gym through some of it's biggest successes.
They have included Naoko Yamaguchi's reign as the WBA female Super Flyweight champion, Koki Eto's reign as the WBA "interim" Flyweight champion and the brilliant rise of Daigo Higa, the former WBC Flyweight champion.
Although it's a bit of a shock to see the gym closing, it shouldn't be seen as a major surprise as rumours have circulated for a while that the gym had problems. They included the morale of Daigo Higa, the gym's most recent star, who had been unhappy there before leaving the gym earlier this year, when he chose not to renew his contract.
The statement makes it clear that the gym will be helping fighters transfer to new gym's and we expect to see an announcement on where those fighters. It also seems like Gushiken will remain involved in the sport himself, perhaps as a mentor or working in the media side of the sport.
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Back in December former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa (15-1, 15) [比嘉 大吾] had the date of his long awaited return to the ring announced, on February 13th, and on Christmas his opponent was confirmed to be Jason Buenaobra (7-4-3, 3), of the Philippines.
Today Higa continued to moved towards his first bout, following a lengthy suspension by the JBC, as he took part in a media work out.
Higa was joined by promoter Yoko Gushiken and trainer Tadashi Tomori, both of whom are former world champions themselves, as a press conference and work out took place.
Prior to the work out a relaxed and happy looking Higa spoke to the media. He stated "I will do my best for the fans who have been waiting for a long time." [Translated] before Gushiken added "There are various things, but I will be in good shape with the relaunch in February. I want to get him to a world title again." [Translated]
Gushiken went on to reveal that there is a plan to get Higa to the top of the sport again in a very quick way. The hope is for Higa to get his come back out of the way in February before another fight to get back in to the swing of things, then a world title bout in December. Whether that plan comes to fruition is yet to be seen, but it is good that Gushiken and Higa have got a plan in mind.
Higa later went on to explain that after receiving his ban he didn't enter the gym for several months before slowly returning to train, once a week, then three times a week. But still had no desire to return until fans and family encouraged him to continue his career.
As for the actual work out Higa took part in a 2-round spar with Koki Eto (24-5-1-1, 19) [江藤光喜], and looked crisp through out, though looked a touch slow when he started working the mitts with Tomori, before increasing his speed and power as things went on.
The one thing that did seem to be missing through out the session today was stamina, though Higa's team seemed confident that would be improved by the time he steps in the ring with Buenaobra.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
On September 15th we'll see one of the biggest fights of 2018, as Gennady Golovkin (38-0-1, 38) takes on Mexican star Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (49-1-2, 24) in a highly anticipated rematch for the WBA "Super" and WBC Middleweight titles. The bout comes on the back of a very controversial 2017 split decision draw and has seen both men throwing barbs at each other, with growing regularity and a serious amount of animosity.
For fans in the US and the UK the bout will be on PPV, with HBO PPV carrying the bout Stateside and BT Sports hosting the bout on their PPV service in the UK. For Japanese fans however things will be cheaper with the bout being carried live on subscription service WOWOW, with WOWOW Prime airing the broadcast as part of their "Excite Match" series of shows.
The broadcast for the fight will begin at 11AM local time with a delay broadcast planned for the following Monday.
WOWOW have also revealed their broadcast team for the bout, which includes former world champions Toshiaki Nishioka and Tsuyoshi Hamada along with current WBA "regular" champion Ryota Murata, who has made it clear he would like to face the winner at the Tokyo Dome later this year.
In the build up to the fight there will be two more special broadcasts, the first taking place at 11am on Monday 10th September with a second being shown an hour before the live broadcast. Both of these will be on WOWOW Live. Both of those shows will feature the legendary Yoko Gushiken talking about the bout, with fellow former world champion Kiyoshi Hatanaka also being advertised as a guest on the Monday show.
This past week has been a living nightmare for former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa (15-1, 15) [比嘉 大吾]. On Saturday he was stripped of the world title and today he was stopped by Nicaraguan Cristofer Rosales (27-3, 18). The loss not only saw Higa suffer his first defeat, but also come up short in his attempt to set a new Japanese domestic record for the longest run of stoppage wins.
The fighter had looked out of sorts all week. He had looked mentally broken at the physical checks on Thursday, and had looked miserable, drained and fed up ever since. Although to many Higa's inability to make the limit at the weigh in was the biggest mark against him, it really seemed to just sum the last few days before the fight. He had genuinely looked like a man who wanted to be some where else.
In the ring today he looked a shadow of the man who had bult a reputation as a destroyed. His intensity was gone, he looked full of self doubt, lacked energy and really wasn't mentally checked in for the fight. He looked beaten mentally and physically from the first round.
After the bout many questioned why Higa was even allowed to fight. Why his team allowed him in the ring and why they didn't cancel the bout when it was clear that he wouldn't be 100% for the bout. Sadly there doesn't appear to be a clear answer, but there is a bit of an answer now being reported in the Japanese press.
After the loss Higa's mentor Yoko Gushiken spoke to the media whilst Higa headed to hospital.
Gushiken admitted it was his fault. He admitted that the time period between this fight and Higa's last one, against Moises Fuentes in February, was too short. The team around Higa assumed that by keeping busy his weight wouldn't increase, so he wouldn't need time to lose weight and make Flyweight. Instead they were wrong, horribly wrong, and he had been weak in the lead up to the fight. Gushiken stated that he was "responsible for making the bout" and that he "did something wrong with Daigo".
The JBC are likely to further punish the fighter and his team for his inability to make weight, with some suggesting a 1 year suspension, and he's now listed as the first Japanese fighter to have been stripped of a world title due to inability to make weight.
It should be noted that some sources are reporting that Higa requested to move up in weight following his win over Fuentes, something that now seems like it would have been a much, much better move that taking having today's bout. The loss is likely to send him to Super Flyweight, but with the loss on hios record, the black mark of being stripped of a title and his stoppage run coming to an end, a lot of the aura around him has been destroyed due to this loss.
We, like all fans, will look forward to Higa's ring return, but it does feel like this was an avoidable defeat, and something that his team need to be quizzed one. Why did they accept the bout? Why didn't they pull him when it was clear he wouldn't be 100%? Why didn't they move their fighter up in weight when he had been struggled to make the Flyweight limit for almost a year?
Sadly for the SGS gym, which manages Higa, this week has been a hard one for them, with Higa's loss coming just days after stablemate Yoshimitsu Kimura (9-1, 6) [木村吉光] lost his unbeaten record, coming up short against Richard Pumicpic (21-8-2, 6) and it could be time for the gym to look at it's self, and whether they made mistakes in the losses for both of their youngsters.
Whilst Higa was favoured over Rosales, there is a chance he wouldn't have ever beaten the Nicaraguan, however putting a less than 100% Higa in there with him is just not fair on the fighter or the fans.
(Image courtesy of daily.co.jp)
Yesterday we saw WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa (15-0, 15) [比嘉 大吾] score an opening round win over Moises Fuentes (25-5-1, 14) to record his second defense of the title. Today he took part in a press conference and mapped out some of his plans for the future.
The young sttaed he wanted to try and fight 3 more times this year. The next of those fights has been pencilled in for May and it seems like Higa and promoter Yoko Gushiken have arranged that bout to be against WBC #1 ranked challenger Pakistani Muhammad Waseem (8-0, 6) and will be a mandatory defense for the champion.
Higa is also hoping to have a unified title bout later this year, talking about frustrations at Kazuto Ioka's retirement and the fact that Higa had been wanting to fight the Osakan last year, to unify the WBC and WBA titles. As part of that aim he will be attending "Superfly 2" later this month, and appears to have eyes on the IBF title, which will be defended by Donnie Nietes (40-1-4, 22) as he takes on Argentinina's Juan Carlos Revecco (39-3, 19).
There was also talk about a contest with former WBO Minimumweight and Light Flyweight Kosei Tanaka (10-0, 6) [田中恒成] being a potential foe as Higa looks to get a big bout after his mandatory title fight.
Longer term the plan is try and make a defense in Okinawa a regular thing, and the Okinawa Cellular Stadium seemslikely to hold those bouts in the future, as well as a bout on foreign soil, with the US looking likely to host a fight of his in the the future. Interestingly he's also looking to score 20 consecutive KO's and become a "special champion".
Although there had been rumours of Higa vacating it seems those plans are hold. Higa did suggest his days at 112lbs are limited, but for now he's got plans to stay there and to stay busy, with a move up to Super Flyweight likely to now take place in 2019.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
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