Yesterday the East Japan Boxing Association announced their monthly award winners for the Month of December 2021.
The MVP for the month was Yoshimitsu Kimura (13-2-1, 8) [木村吉光], who scored a career best win, as he stopped Kosuke Saka (21-6, 18) [坂晃典] and claimed the OPBF Super Featherweight title. The performance from from Kimura was incredible, and really put him on the map, moving him from a promising domestic youngster into a regional champion, scoring a legitimately huge regional level win.
The Fighting Spirit award was won by veteran Koichi Aso (25-9-1, 16) [麻生 興一], who scored a huge upset win over Rikki Naito (25-3, 8) [内藤 律樹], to claim the OPBF Light Welterweight title. The win for Aso, at the age of 35, wad genuinely a shocker, but the type of victory which will keep the veteran relevant, where a loss would likely have sent him into retirement. Not only was the result amazing for Aso, but the performance was scintillating, as he pressured and pressed Naito, before forcing a late stoppage.
The New Comer award was won by Ryuto Owan (8-1, 6) [大湾 硫斗], for his brilliant win over Daisuke Sugita (6-3, 3) [杉田大祐], with Owan stopping Sugita in 2 rounds.
Interestingly all 3 of those bouts took place on the December 14th show at Korakuen Hall.
Earlier today there was two shows in Japan and whilst a lot of attention was focused on one of those cards, the other went somewhat over-looked despite having two OPBF title bouts on it, and both of those ended in genuine surprises, with two very genuine upsets.
The first of the bouts saw Rikki Naito (25-3, 8) [内藤 律樹] being dethroned of the OPBF Light Welterweight title, whilst looking to record his 5th defense. The talented champion had was expected to be too young, too fresh and too fast for 35 year old veteran Koichi Aso (25-9-1, 16) [麻生 興一], who has looked like a man on the verge of retirement for a few years now. Shockingly however Aso was too determined, too hungry and too ferocious for Naito, who ended up suffering a hugely shocking loss.
From the off it was obvious Aso was determined to make his chance here count, and to use the gameplan that he, and trainer Hiroki Shiino, had concocted to pressure Naito. From the opening moments he was on the front foot, crushing the distance that Naito had to work with, and trying to take the wheels from the champion. Not only was Aso applying constant, heavy, pressure but he was also putting money in the bank with body shots, especially with Naito on the ropes. To his credit however Naito fought back bravely in the first 4 rounds and and was up 39-37 on one judges scorecard, whilst the others had it 38-38 and 39-37 to Aso.
In round 5 Aso was cut from an accidental headclash, but fought as if the blood was driving him on, and was pressing even harder on Naito, who was taking more and more left hands to the body, and getting forced on to the ropes regularly. Naito simply couldn't back him up, or get his respect, and this was like the Aso of old, rather than an old Aso. In round 6 things began get worse for Naito, who was himself cut from a clash of heads, and then in round 7 he was given a standing count as the pressure began to get to much for him to handle. The count was an odd one, and both Aso and Shiino thought the bout was over before realisation of what was happening struck. After 8 rounds we again had open scoring, with Aso leading on all 3 cards.
In round 9 Aso's pressure broke Naito who was taking a pounding on the ropes, and forced the referee to jump in to save Naito.
It should be noted that whilst Aso's performance was brilliant, the bout was supposed to take place earlier in the year, before Naito pulled out due to Covid19, and he becomes yet another fighter who has contracted the virus and then looked a shadow of himself in his first fight after recovering.
The other title bout saw Yoshimitsu Kimura (13-2-1, 8) [木村吉光] score a career best win, as he stopped Kosuke Saka (21-6, 18) [坂晃典] to become the OPBF Super Featherweight champion, and did so in 3 rounds.
This one was expected to be a barn burner, and it lived up to expectations with Saka pressing the action early on. Sadly for him however his usual pressure style didn't have the success it's been having in recent bouts, and instead it was the power of Kimura that proved to be the difference. In round 2 Kimura dropped his man with a left hook and the dropped him with a straight right hand early in round 3, to force the referee to wave the bout off and give Kimura the bigger win of his career so far, by far.
Tomorrow at Korakuen Hall we'll get an OPBF title double header, with a new champion being crowned at 130lbs, and the 140lb champion looking to continue his reign that dated back to 2018.
Before tomorrow's show however the 4 men involved in those title bouts took part in their weigh in.
One of those title bouts will see OPBF Light Welterweight champion Rikki Naito (25-2, 8) [内藤 律樹] look to make his 5th defense of the title as he takes on Japanese veteran Koichi Aso (24-9-1, 15) [麻生 興一] in an interesting looking match up. At his best Aso was a handful at domestic level, though he is, clearly, the under-dog here again against a talented, young, hungry and fast champion.
At the weigh in Naito, who looked in the best shape of his career, was bang on the 140lb weight limit. He seemed confident, and really self assured, and it seems clear that he is looking to extend his reign and move towards bigger and better fights next year. He also explained that he wanted to replicate some of the things Vasyl Lomachneko did against Richard Commey.
Aso on the other hand was 139.5lbs for the bout. He also seemed confident, and seemed to feel he could fight his fight, pressing, pushing the action and making it an inside battle. If he can do that he has a genuine chance, though at 35, and with this being his first title bout in 4 years, we do wonder just how much energy he has in his legs, and whether he has the gas in the tank to be the intense fighter he was back in his prime.
The other title fight on this show will see Kosuke Saka (21-5, 18) [坂晃典] battle against Yoshimitsu Kimura (12-2-1, 7) [木村吉光] for the vacant OPBF Super Featherweight title.
On the scales Saka came in bang on the limit, and looked incredible. For him this is a chance to unify the Japanese and OPBF titles, and he seemed to be fully aware that this was a massive opportunity for his career. Interestingly, given he's from Osaka, this will be his third straight bout at Korakuen Hall, in his opponents backyard.
Kimura on the other hand hit the scales well under the limit, coming in at 129.5lbs, like Saka he looked in amazing shape and and he explained that he would be looking to straight hard from the off, whilst seeming confident in his stamina. The winner of this will enter 2022 with a lot of momentum, and would likely move towards some major bouts in the new year.
Related - OPBF champion Naito takes on Aso at Korakuen Hall
Saka and Kimura battle for OPBF Super Featherweight title!
Earlier today the East Japan Boxing Association announced their award winners for November. Unlike most months, where they have 3 winners, November will only have two awards as there no one deemed suitable for the New Comer award, as result there is only MVP and the Fighting Sprit award winner.
The MVP for the month was OPBF Light Welterweight champion Rikki Naito (25-2, 8) [内藤 律樹], who retained his title with an anti-climactic win over Yusuke Konno (16-5, 9) [今野裕介], who had to pull out after 9 rounds due to an arm injury. The win was Naito's 4th defense of the title, and fingers crossed we'll see him in a high profile bout next year, potentially even a regional unification bout.
The Fighting Sprit award was won by Yoshimitsu Kimura (12-2-1, 7) [木村吉光], who earned the award thanks to a very valiant effort against Shuma Nakazato (10-1-3, 7) [仲里周磨], earning a draw in the contest. The bout, one of the best contests we've seen this year, was a back and forth war between the two youngsters, with Kimura looking close to being stopped early on before battling back, dropping Nakazato and earning the draw.
Both of the bouts took place on November 21st as part of Dangan 236, and both are available to watch on Boxing Raise.
Earlier today at Korakuen Hall we had the latest Dangan card, which was streamed live on Boxing Raise. The event was the biggest show of the year, but it was one that had a lot of promise, with several interesting match ups. Sadly one of those match ups was cancelled, with Hiroto Yashiro (2-0, 2) [矢代博斗] pulling out of his bout with Japanese Youth Super Flyweight champion Suzumi Takayama (3-0, 3) [高山涼深], but we still had a decent line up.
The show kicked off with a very fan friendly 4 round bout between the debuting pair of Shinya Kai (1-0) [甲斐 進也] and Kazumasa Fujiwara (0-1) [藤原 一将]. This was fun, exciting and the perfect way to kick off the show, with the action getting better as it went on. In the end Kai did just enough to earn the win, and get a W on his debut.
In the second bout Ryoichi Tamura (14-5-1, 7) [田村 亮一] took a narrow 5 round decision over Ryu Oba (5-5, 3) [大場 竜]. The bout, a 5 round "Prize Fight", saw Tamura race out and try to take Oba out early on. Oba, to his credit, saw out the storm in the first 2 rounds, and then Tamura began to tire, getting sloppy, and losing his form. This allowed Oba to box, move and make things much more competitive, though it seemed like Tamura was worth the win after the final bell. A close, but earned win in our eyes for the former Japanese Super Bantamweight champion.
Sadly after a really entertaining bout between Tamura and Oba we then saw Satoshi Kimura (4-4-2, 2) [木村 哲史] take a decision win against Takashi Hisano (5-5-2, 1) [久野 喬] in a slow burner. It took a few rounds for either man to really do anything of note, though the bout did finally get going late, with Kimura dropping Hisano in round 5. To be fair Hisano fought hard in round 6 but by then it was too little too late. The knockdown proved vital on the scorecards with two of the cards reading 57-56 in his favour, whilst the third judge had a peculiar 59-54 card to Kimura.
In the show's penultimate bout we got a legitimate treat as Yoshimitsu Kimura (12-2-1, 7) [木村吉光] and Shuma Nakazato (10-1-3, 7) [仲里周磨] fought to an 8 round draw. This was a bout that had everything, and more. It started slowly, with both men jabbing, trying to control the tempo behind their shots at mid-range. It then warmed up at the end of round 2 before going into a lull in round 3. It was the calm before the storm and at the end of round 4 a left hook, seconds before the bell, dropped Kimura hard. He got to his feet but was very lucky the bell came to his aid. Nakazato tried to jump on his man early in round 5, but failed to replicate his success as Kimura recovered his senses and then scored a knockdown of his own in round 7. It seemed nip and tuck as we entered round 8. Kimura tried to give himself the best chance of a win as he put it all on the line in the final 3 minutes, but it was just enough to earn a draw. This was the standout bout of the card and was a very, very good one for fan wanting to see the highlight of the show.
We then moved on to the main event, which promised a lot. It had OPBF Light Welterweight champion Rikki Naito (25-2, 8) [内藤 律樹] looking to defend his title for the 4th time as he took on Yusuke Konno (16-5, 9) [今野裕介]. On paper this had the ingredients to be a very interesting match up between men with very different styles. Naito being a speedy boxer and Konno being a tough and strong pressure fighter.
The bout started well enough, and saw Naito's speed being a key factor in the opening round. Then we saw Konno having success in round 2, as his pressure began to force Naito to fight his fight. Then Naito turned the bout on it's head with a string of solid rounds, using his speed, his movement and his energy to out box Konno, who's pressure was neutralised fairly easily. After 4 rounds two judges had it 40-36 with the third being 39-37, all Naito. It was easy to score, with Konno have intermittent success with right hands and Naito having regular success with his jab, hook and straights.
Naito also took round 5, and it seemed like he was going to cruise to an easy win, until round 6 when Konno forced his fight on to the champion. The entire round saw Konno being the boss, getting inside and battering the champion with hooks, uppercuts, straights. It seemed, almost in an instant, as if the bout had turned on it's head and that Naito was beginning to fall apart. And then we saw Konno fall apart, with the challenger fighting though round 7 looking tired, and exhausted, as if his effort in round 6 had taken a lot from him. Then it became apparent that it wasn't exhaustion affecting Konno, but an injury that left him unable to use his left hand, making him a one-handed fighter.
To his credit Konno did try fighting through the injury, with some mixed success in rounds 8 and 9, but was pulled out after the 9th when it was clear that he was completely unable to use his left hand. It was the right decision, and it's just a huge shame that he suffered an injury just as it seemed like he was beginning to find some success.
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