Earlier today at Korakuen Hall we had the East Japan Rookie of the Year finals, which decide not just the East Japan Rookie of the Year winner but also the East Japan participant in the All Japan final, which will take place next year. In total there was supposed to be 12 bouts, though in the end two of the ended up cancelled giving us a total of 10 bouts in total.
Sadly the bouts haven't yet been televised, with G+ set to air them on December 27th, so for fans wanting to watch them, you want to look away now. Incidentally we will also have the West Japanese representatives decided on December 27th at a show in Osaka.
Before we talk about the bouts we got we'll quickly talk about the two we didn't get.
One of those was at Light Flyweight, where 35 year old Hayato Aoki (4-0, 3) [青木 勇人] abstained, giving 25 year old Ryota Karimata (5-0, 3) [狩俣 綾汰] a bye to the All Japan final. This bout was cancelled weeks ago, and had been listed as off since early January. The second was the Lightweight bout, which seemed to be cancelled this week and saw Ryan Joshua Yamamoto (4-3, 1) [山本ライアン ジュシュア] pull out of a bout against Hiromasa Urakawa (6-1, 4) [浦川 大将], with Urakawa getting a bye to the All Japan final.
The first bout of the show came at Minimumweight and saw Ryo Sasaki (5-2, 2) [佐々木 凌] score a 4th round TKO win over Yuji Hirai (4-1-1, 2) [平井 雄士]. The tall, rangy Sasaki towered over Hirai who struggled to get close and was dropped in round 2. A gutsy Hirai tried to fight back but was stopped on the bell to end round 4. Interestingly this was the third time Sasaki had entered Rookie of the Year, losing in qualifying bouts in 2018 and 2019, and will feel like a real relief for him after the last 2 years.
At Flyweight we saw a minor upset as Akira Hoshuyama (4-0, 2) [宝珠山 晃] defeated the hard hitting Shugo Namura (4-1, 4) [苗村 修悟]. The hard hitting Namura, who is managed by Hiroyuki Sakamoto, had endeared himself to fight fans with his story, which was very similar to that of his boxing mentor, but sadly it wasn't to be for him as Hoshuyama dropped him in the first round and went on to win the following 3, en route to a clear decision. After 4 rounds all 3 judges had this 40-35 to Hoshuyama.
We got a big surprised at Super Flyweight as the much fancied Kosuke Tomioka (4-1, 3) [富岡 浩介] came up short against Shunpei Kubo (6-1-1, 4) [久保 春平]. Tomioka got off to a good start, and dropped Kubo with a hard straight left hand, and looked to be on the verge of a win in round 2. Kubo however gritted it out and landed a huge right hand in round 3, sending Tomioka down. Tomioka beat the count but was unsteady on his legs, and the referee waved the bout off. This is a big set back for Tomioka, but at just 18 years old we suspect he will bounce back, as for Kubo this was a great win and he will be buoyed big time going into the All-Japan final.
We got another upset of sorts at Bantamweight, as Ryuki Sudo (2-0, 1) [須藤 龍揮], fighting for just the second time, stopped Norichika Kozu (6-2, 1) [神津 徳臣] in the opening round. The fight started with Kozu pressing forward and he seemed to have Sudo under plenty of pressure before Sudo landed a peach of a left hook, dropping Kozu hard. As with Tomioka we saw Sudo get to his feet but he was gone and the referee wisely stopped this from continuing.
At Super Bantamweight we saw Yuki Yazan (7-2, 4) [矢斬 佑季] take a 5 round decision win over Ryuya Nihei (5-1-1, 1) [二瓶 竜弥]. Yazan looked too set the pace early, and boxed well at range with his straight shots. Nihei, to his credit, looked to slowly build some momentum with his pressure and had moments, particularly in rounds 2 and 3, before Yazan used his speed and impressed in the final 2 rounds. This was never a result in doubt and Yazan won with scores of 49-46 from all 3 judges.
We got another short bout at Featherweight as Kazunori Hirano (4-0, 4) [平野 和憲] simply hit too hard for Ryo Yoshida (3-1, 1) [吉田 諒]. Yoshida was down early, left with a bloodied nose and repeatedly hurt until the referee stepped in and saved him from further punishment at just over 2 minutes into the opening round. This was basic stuff from Hirano, but his rock hands really were just too much for Yoshida.
Unbeaten 21 year old puncher Tsubasa Narai (6-0, 5) [奈良井 翼] extended his excellent start as he stopped American born Japanese based fighter Dominique Kenshin (5-2, 2) [ドミニク謙心] at Super Featherweight. Narai pressed this from the off and looked like a man with a point to prove as he dropped Keshin in the first round. Kenshin managed to be saved by the bell in the opening round but was still looking hurt as we entered round 2, and Narai wasn't going to let him off the hook again, dropping him after about a minute of the round. This time the referee waved off the bout, giving the impressive Narai his third straight early win.
At 140lbs 21 year old novice Reiji Kodama (2-0, 1) [兒玉 麗司] impressed, stopping Takuro Narumi (3-2, 2) [鳴海 拓郎] in 4 rounds. Just seconds into the bout Kodama dropped Narumi with a 1-2. Although Narumi beat the count he didn't look comfortable through the round. To his credit in round 2 Narumi did start to find some success of his own, but in round 4 Kodama began to hammer his body and forced the referee to save Narumi, who was pinned on the ropes and being broken up by body shots.
At Welterweight Kaichi Yamazaki (2-2, 2) [山﨑 海知] scored a 3rd round TKO win against Yudai Saito (0-2) [齊藤 裕大]. Saito started well, using his jab, but it wasn't long until Yamazaki got into the pocket and began working up close, scoring a knockdown with a right hand. The second round was a battle up close before Yamazaki scored a second knockdown right at the end of round 3, forcing the referee to stop the bout. After the bout images of Saito sat on his stool showed him with a badly swollen right eye, and potential fracture as a result of Yamazaki's power.
The final bout on the show was at Middleweight and saw Kenji Yoshino (1-2-1, 2) [吉野 健二] and Eiki Kani (2-1-2) [可兒 栄樹] face off for the second time in their career. In 2019 the two men clashed, with Yoshino stopping Kani, this time however we saw the two men going the distance in a very, close, competitive and punishing 4 round war that saw neither man get much of an upperhand over the other. This was a thrilling action bout and saw the two men match each other all the way, resulting in a 4 round majority draw. Due to the tie breaker rules however it was Kani who progressed to the All-Japan final, in a result which will go some way to avenge his 2019 loss.
After the even there was 3 award winners named. Kubo was the MVP, following his win over Tomioka at Super Flyweight, Sudo won the Skill award following his win over Kozu at Bantamweight and Hirano won the Fighting Spirit Award following his win over Yoshida at Featherweight.
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