Earlier today Hideyuki Ohashi helped a press conference and announced his next big show, which we now know will be a world title double header and December 14th at the Ryogoku Kokugikan. He confirmed one bout which had been widely reported over the last couple and gave us a bonus, with a second world title bout being confirmed.
The bout we knew about was the clash between WBA and IBF Bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue (21-0, 18) [井上 尚弥] and Thai fighter Aran Dipaen (12-2, 11) [แก่นนคร ศักดิ์กรีรินทร์], which was first reported by Komthai 2 weeks ago. The bout is certainly not a special bout, and should be a contest that Inoue wins without any real problems, but it's nice to see him being active, being back in the ring for a second fight this year and ticking over. It's also good to see him back in a Japanese ring for the first time since November 2019, when he beat Nonito Donaire in the WBSS Bantamweight final.
At the press conference Ohashi stated that he had hoped to get Inoue a unification bout with either John Riel Casimero or Nonito Donaire for this December bout, but was thwarted by their mandatory obligations. He also suggested that that they had tried to secure bouts with Rau'shee Warren, Gary Antonio Russell and Nikolai Potapov, but those had failed to materialise, and had essentially taken Dipaen as the best ranked contender who was available and willing to face Inoue. Whilst this will be Inoue's first bout in Japan for more than two years, it will also see him returning to the Ryogoku Kokugikan for the first time in around 8 years, with the venue being the one where he claimed the OPBF Light Flyweight title in 2013 with a win over Jerson Mancio.
It should be noted that Inoue and Ohashi have both previously suggested he will be getting a "big bout" in April 2022 in Japan.
The other world title bout will be a WBO Minimumweight title bout between defending champion Wilfredo Mendez (16-1, 6) and his mandatory challenger Masataka Taniguchi (14-3, 9) [谷口将隆]. The two men were meant to have purse bids on October 27th, but they were cancelled at the 11th hour as the teams had agreed a deal, a deal that will see them being on this card.
For Mendez the bout will be his third defense, and his first bout of any kind since beating Gabruel Mendoza back in February 2020. As for Taniguchi he's been in form and will be hoping to make the most of his second world title shot. Of the two men Mendez is probably the better pure boxer, and is quick, slippery fighter, but fighting in Japan for the first time, with the crowd against him and a long lay off, he will really be up against it here.
Also set for this card Yoshiki Takei (2-0, 2) [武居由樹], Keisuke Matsumoto (3-0, 3) [松本圭佑] and Toshiya Ishii (4-1, 3) [石井渡士也].
Earlier today at Korakuen Hall fight fans got the latest show from the Ohashi Gym. Sadly this was a weak card overall, one of the weakest from Ohashi in recent memory, but there was certainly a couple of bouts worthy of some attention.
One of those was the chief support bouts, which saw Rikuto Adachi (15-3, 11) [安達 陸虎] take a razor thin win against Tetsuya Kondo (6-4, 4) [近藤 哲哉] in an 8 rounder fought between Welterweight and Light Middleweight.
From the off Adachi looked to use his reach and size to fight at range, but Kondo didn't really let him get away with that, and instead looked to press behind his 1-2, getting close to Adachi and neutralising the height and reach difference. To his credit Adachi kept trying to create space, having success in rounds 3, but as the rounds went on Kondo had more and more success, making Adachi fight his fight at times.
After 8 rounds this was incredibly close, though two of the judges did side with Adachi, who took the split decision with scores of 78-74, 77-75 and 76-76.
The other major bout on this card was the second professional boxing bout of former K-1 champion Yoshiki Takei (2-0, 2) [武居由樹] who headlined the show as he took on the hard hitting Azusa Takeda (5-1, 5) [竹田梓]. Sadly this one did not last long.
Takei started the bout looking to measure the distance and landed a good southpaw left hand. Takeda tried to get close, tightening up his guard to close the distance, and the two men were then involved in a short back and forth. The excitement was tense, but short lived with a huge right hook from Takei being followed by a left hand to the body which dropped Takeda. To his credit Takeda got to his feet but was ruled as not being in a fit condition to continue, as his legs looked like they were still betraying him.
After the bout Takei revealed the combination he finished the bout with was something he had been taught by trainer Akira Yaegashi, and explained that he wanted to be fighting for his first title before the end of 2022.
Earlier today we say Ohashi Gym release some details of the September edition of "Phoenix Battle", a show that will be the 80th event under that banner. Whilst not all details for the event were announced we did see some information annouced, inclduing the date, venue, one promising 140lb prospect fighter and one bout being confirmed a little bit lower down the weights.
The show will take at Korakuen Hall on September 9th and is expected to be headlined by unbeaten prospect Andy Hiraoka (17-0, 12) [平岡アンディ]. His opponent for the show hasn't yet been decided, but he's expected to compete in an 8 round bout as he continues to move towards his first professional title. Fingers crossed a title bout will come either at the very end of 2021 or very early in 2022.
Although Hiraoka hasn't had his opponent announced here, we do know that former K-1 champion Yoshiki Takei (1-0, 1) [武居由樹] will be in action against hard hitting Azusa Takeda (5-0, 5) [竹田梓], who is returning to the ring for the first time since July 2019.
The talented Takei impressed in his professional boxing debut, following notable success in K-1, and seems likely to be groomed as a major star for the Ohashi gym, where he's training under the eye of Akira Yaegashi. Takeda on the other hand reached the East Japan Rookie of the Year semi final in 2019 before injury forced him to pull out of the tournament. With his injury now healed up he'll be looking to make a statement, but is in deep against a genuinely talented fighter.
The show will be aired on Fuji TV and several other promising Ohashi Gym fighters are expected to be confirmed for the show over the coming weeks.
Earlier today the East Japan Boxing Association announced the award winners for the month of March, naming 3 award winners for the month, though strangely one of the regular awards didn't actually have a winner.
The Fighting Spirit award winner was Katsuya Fukui (3-0, 2) [福井勝也], who earned the award for his impressive performance on March 25th, when he defeated Hiroki Hanabusa (8-2-3, 3) [英洸貴] in a very good 8 rounder. Although not a fight of the year contender, it was a really good bout, and Fukui really did show very good tools for a man fighting in just his third professional bout.
Interestingly there were two winners of the Newcomer award for the month.
One of those was former K-1 champion Yoshiki Takei (1-0, 1) [武居由樹], who kicked off his professional career back on March 11th with an eye catching performance against Kazunori Takai (6-8-3, 3) [高井一憲]. Takei showed off what he could do in stopping his man inside 2 minutes, and making a real statement of intent about his future in the sport. Fingers crossed his next opponent will be more testing, but this was still a very good performance.
The other winner was former amateur standout Kenji Fujita (1-0, 1) [藤田健児], who scored a 6th round TKO win on March 25th against Motosuke Kimura (3-6-2, 1) [木村元祐]. Hw showed composure and poise here and it's clear he has a lot to give the sport, though will clearly need to face bigger and better tests than Kimura in the near future. He has so much potential, and looked so good as an amateur, that there really is no need to hold him on a leash. Instead Teiken should be looking to move him very quickly.
Strangely there was no MVP for the month, which is a bit strange, though in fairness there was very, very little action in Japan last month, likely explaining why no fighter was picked here.
Earlier today fight fans at Korakuen Hall had the latest show in the Ohashi promoted Phoenix Battle series of shows, which will be aired this coming weekend on Fuji TV. The card featured 5 bouts in total, a Japanese Youth Welterweight title bout between Rikuto Adachi and Takeru Kobata, a the professional boxing debut of Yoshiki Takei and an interesting match up between Taku Kuwahara and Yoshiki Minato.
For those wanting to watch this, as live, over the weekend we please note that spoilers will begin in the next paragraph, starting with the the first under-card bout, which is unlikely to be televised at all, and then moving on through the other bouts on the show. If you wish to avoid those spoilers, please stop reading now.
The opening bout on the show saw teenage hopeful Yushin Uchida (2-1, 2) [内田 勇心] score an opening round win over Shunsei Sawada (0-1) [澤田 春聖]. This bout, which lasted 161 seconds, saw Uchida drop his man twice to secure the victory.
Amazing the Japanese Youth Welterweight title bout lasted even less time than the opening bout on the show, and this ended with an upset! The much unfancied Takeru Kobata (9-5-1, 4) [小畑武尊] managed to destroy the once touted Rikuto Adachi (14-3, 11) [安達陸仁] in just 123 seconds! Adachi landed the first shot of note, a good body shot, but that seemed to kick start Kobata who pressured afterwards and landed a huge straight left. The shot dropped Adachi an the referee quickly waved off the bout.
For Kobata this is a massive win, a huge upset, and a career defining result up to this point in his career. As for Adachi, it's a second stoppage loss in 4 bouts, and not the return to the ring he would have wanted after more than a year out of the ring.
The third bout on the card ended up being the most competitive, though that wasn't saying a lot. That saw unbeaten hopeful Taku Kuwahara (8-0, 4) [桑原拓] take a wide 8 round decision over Yoshiki Minato (9-4, 4) [湊義生]. From the off Kuwahara was too quick, too sharp, too accurate and too good for Minato who gave a solid effort, but was second best in every facet of his game.
After 8 rounds the scores here were 80-72, twice, and 79-73 to Kuwahara. To his credit the winner did give Minato props, stating that he was strong and good at closing the distance, though the bout was still a clear win for the talented Ohashi gym prospect.
The chief support bout saw former K-1 champion Yoshiki Takei (1-0, 1) [武居由樹] begin his professional career, and do so in impressive fashion as he took out Kazunori Takai (6-8-3, 3) [高井一憲] in the shortest bout on the show. In fact this one lasted just 103 seconds! Takei pressed from the off and backed Takai on to the ropes, where he landed a good right hook and then brilliant combination to drop his man. Takai got back to his feet but was dropped again from a straight left hand just moments later. After the win Takei stated that he wanted to "become a fighter who can carry Japan on my back" an on the back of this performance he may well be able to do just that.
As a K-1 kickboxer Takei was a star and it seems like he has the tools to be a big star in boxing, having been responsible for a huge number of ticket sales on this event. That crossover appeal, added to his clear talent, makes him one of the most interesting prospects in Japan right now, and someone we suspect will be fast tracked.
In the main event fans saw unbeaten hopeful Andy Hiraoka (17-0, 12) [平岡アンディ] take a 3rd round TKO win over Fumisuke Kimura (9-7-1, 6) [木村 文祐], in what was a second bout between the two men. Hiraoka, who hadn't fought in Japan for well over a year, was in charge from the off, pressing the action and backing up Kimura. To his credit Kimura showed his toughness in the first 2 rounds, but in round 3 the referee had seen enough and stepped in, saving Kimura from further punishment.
Interestingly these two men fought back in 2018, and Kimura managed to last 8 rounds with Hiraoka, so this result was an improvement from the youngster. It was also his first main event, and the first time a show has been sold around him. It is however a clear sign that Hiraoka needs to step up now, and title bouts should be sooner rather than later. There's no reason for his team to hold him back, and Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific title fights should be on his radar for later in the year.
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