Over the weekend it was announced that former 2-time Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Yusaku Kuga (20-5-2, 13) [久我勇作] had ended his career, hanging up the gloves after 27 fights.
The warrior from the Watanabe Gym announced his retirement on social media, ending a career that began in 2010, and saw him compete in numerous thrilling wars, notable against Takuya Furuhashi, Yasutaka Ishimoto and Ryoichi Tamura.
Kuga was last seen in the ring in January, fighting to a draw in a thrilling 10 rounder with Furuhashi. That bout was his second with Furuhashi, following their 2021 thriller. Kuga decided to retiring following January's bout with Furuhashi due to a conversation with his son in March, and he revealed that he wanted to hang them up to his team at the Watanabe gym in May.
In the ring Kuga was hugely popular due to his aggressive all action style and brutal power that saw him score numerous eye catching KO's. Sadly for Kuga his style took a toll on him and in recent years punishment has added up, with stoppage losses to Shingo Wake, Furuhashi and Jhunriel Ramonal all coming in the last few years.
In retirement Kuga will work for a company who sponsored him during his in ring career.
Results from Korakuen Hall
Earlier today fight fans at Koraskuen Hall got a treat as they got a thrilling card headlined by a Japanese Super Bantamweight title bout, and also featuring several other bouts of note. The card wasn't a massive one, not by any stretch, but was a very good domestic level show.
The first bout of note saw former 2-time world title challenger Masayuki Kuroda (30-9-3, 16) [黒田雅之] return to the ring for the first time since May 2019, when he lost to Moruti Mthalane. Sadly for him however it wasn't a happy return as he was out boxed by unbeaten youngster Kantaro Juri (4-0, 2) [重里侃太朗] in an 8 rounder at Super Flyweight. Throughout the fight Juri proved to be too big, too quick, too sharp and too accurate, especially with his jab. Kuroda had moments, here and there, but they were few and far between and after 8 rounds there no questioning the decision. The judges all sided with Juri, with scores of 79-73, 78-74 and 77-75.
The second bout of note on this card ended with a genuine upset as the unheralded Taison Mukaiyama (7-2, 4) [向山太尊] scored a stoppage win over the ranked Toru Kiyota (11-5, 8) [清田亨], who entered with top 10 rankings with the JBC, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific. Mukaiyama looked crude at times, being made to miss and losing balance early on, but in round 2 a left straight left hand stopped Kiyota. Kiyota recovered to his feet but was instantly under pressure and the referee was forced to save him just moments later. Notably Kiyota was ranked #4 in the WBO Asia Pacific rankings and this win will put Mukaiyama on the verge of a title fight of some kind.
On the subject of title fights the main event of the show as a Japanese Super Bantamweight title bout, as defending champion Gakuya Furuhashi (28-8-2, 16) [古橋大輔] faced off with Yusaku Kuga (20-5-2, 13) [久我勇作], the man he beat for the title last year. From the off this was a great fight, living up to the high expectations fans had of it. Kuga got the better of the early going, jabbing well and moving well, but Furuhashi, like he did in their first bout, kept coming forward and showed little respect to Kuga's much touted power. This lead to Furuhashi forcing Kuga to fight at a high pace, somethign that was expected to take the gas out of Kuga's tank.
In round 4 Furuhashi was left with a cut eye, from an uppercut, and after 5 rounds Kuga was leading on all 3 cards, 48-47, twice, and 49-46.
It was there that Furuhashi began to make the most of his aggression, his pressure and his work rate, as he started to get up close and get to the body of Kuga. He forced Luga to clinch, spoil and try to slow the tempo of the bout, but Furuhashi was incredibly determined to turn the bout his way, and he really got his way back in to the bout in the middle rounds, taking the lead on two of the scorecards as we went into round round 10. It was there that Kuga dug incredibly deeply and managed to narrowly out work and out battle Furuhashi. Sadly for him however it wasn't enough to take home the win.
The scores, after 10 rounds, were 95-95, twice, and 96-94 to Kuga, resulting in a majority draw, and leaving the door open to a third bout between two two men, who have know given us two amazing bouts around a year apart.
Tomorrow fight fans at Korakuen Hall will get the chance to see Japanese Super Bantamweight Gakuya Furuhashi (28-8-1, 16) [古橋大輔] face off with the man he beat for the title last year, Yusaku Kuga (20-5-1, 13) [久我勇作]. Today, ahead of their much anticipated rematch, the two men took part in their weigh in, and both men made the 122lb limit for the bout, at their first attempt.
On the scales both men came in bang on the divisional limit of 122lbs, and both looked in great shape for the bout, and seemed incredibly relaxed.
Their first bout, last January, saw Kuga enter as the champion, but get broken down in 9 rounds, of a truly thrilling fight that was one of the main highlights of the Japanese schedule last year. Since then bother men have fought once, with Furuhashi retaining his title and Kuga booking this fight with a win over former champion Ryoichi Tamura, in what was the third bout between the two men.
At the weigh both fighters spoke confidently to the media, with Furuhashi explaining he can only imagine himself winning by KO, and explained that he's expecting Kuga to fighter differently to how he did a year ago. Notably Kuga's issue in their first bout seemed to be him running out of steam, and we wouldn't be surprised by that being on the mind of both men here.
Kuga explained that he has evolved since their first bout, but stated that he will win this time around, and like Furuhashi he seemed really confident of coming out on top, in what could be a genuine thriller, much like their first.
Related - Furuhashi and Kuga go again in Japanese title rematch!
Lets be honest, 2021 has been a year to forget. It has been a year where little of note has happened with Asian boxing due to the covid Pandemic, and although there were some green shoots, the bouts we all wanted to see simply didn't happen. Instead the major Asian countries seemed to either shut down the sport for long stretches of the year, or shut the rest of the world out, making for some long, dull, stretches.
Despite that there was still plenty that did happen, just unfortunately it was very stretches out, and the highlights were few and far between. Thankfully though we do still get to talk about those highlights and with that in mind lets start our 2021 Awards off with our Fight of the Year.
For this we need to go all the way back to January 22nd, for what was an amazing Japanese Super Bantamweight title bout between Yusaku Kuga and Gakuya Furuhashi.
Going in to the bout Kuga was the defending champion and was seeking his second defense of the title he won in May 2019, with his second win over Ryoichi Tamura. We all knew going in that he was the favourite, he had the edge in power, he was younger and he despite losing via a brutal KO to Jhunriel Ramonal at the end of 2019, he had had over a year to recover. Furuhashi on the other hand was fighting in his third title fight, ans knew it was now or never for him and his career. He was a well liked and well supported fighter, but he had come up short in two other Japanese title fights and he didn't seem like he had the fire power to live with Kuga.
Whilst we all expected something exciting when these two got in the ring, nothing could have prepared us for the sensational war we ended up getting. It was toe to toe action through large portions of the bout, with both men taking lumps out of each other. Kuga showed the better boxing skills, and the heavy hands, taking an early lead, but sometimes it's the fight in the dog that matter, and Furuhashi was simply not going to be denied. Not this time. He ended up fighting through the hell fire thrown his wat and in round 9 he finally broke down an exhausted Kuga, who had ran out of steam against a man who was obsessed with victory.
From round 1 to the start of round 9 this was brutal, it was thrilling, it was all action, and now, as we head in to 2022, we can look forward to more of this, as the two men will rematch on January 25th.
Earlier this year fight fans who follow the Japanese scene got a genuine treat as Gakuya Furuhashi (28-8-1, 16) [古橋大輔] claimed the Japanese Super Bantamweight title, and stopped Yusaku Kuga (20-5-1, 13) [久我勇作] in a genuine fight of the year contender.
That bout saw Furuhashi break down Kuga and stop him in 9 rounds, of a scintillating, back and forth war that saw both men take a lot of punishment, but in the end Kuga ran out of gas whilst Furuhashi was like a man possessed, and put in the performance of his career.
Since then both men have picked up a single win, with Furushashi defending his title in a thrilling bout in August against Seigo Hanamori [花森 成吾] and Kuga beating former Japanese champion Ryoichi Tamura [田村亮一], in what was the third bout between the two men. Those win have ended up working out nicely for fans wanting to see Furuhashi and Kuga go again.
Over the weekend it was announced we would see a rematch between the two men on January 25th 2022 on a Phoenix Battle show, promoted by Hideyuki Ohashi, at Korakuen Hall. With the bout serving as Furuhashi's second defense of the title.
Given the punishment both men have taken over their careers, including their war against each other, it's hard to see where the loser would go, but the winner would potentially move towards a regional title fight later in the year.
The card, which will be shown in Hikari TV, will also feature touted prospect Junki Shirasaki (1-0) [白崎隼樹], the long awaited debut of Kotoji Irita (0-0) [入田 琴司], and the return of former 2-time world title challenger Masayuki Kuroda (30-8-3, 16) [黒田雅之], who hasn't fought in over 2 years due to recurring injury woes.
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