Yesterday on social media Japanese fighter, and former WBA Asia Light Welterweight champion, Yusuke Konno (16-5, 9) [今野裕介] announced that he was bowing out of the sport and retiring at the age of 32.
In his announcement Konno stated that he was retiring due to health reasons. He explained there was issues with his left eye, which was in danger of suffering a retinal detachment, and that he was also suffering from cataracts. Despite retiring he seemed happy with his decision, and his career, which included travelling abroad 4 times as a fighter, and fighting on foreign soil twice. He thanked Kadoebi for managing his career and getting him the opportunities he's had, as well as thinking the various members of the gym.
In a follow up interview with Boxmob Konno went into more detail and revealed that the best bout he was involved in was his summer 2017 clash with Koichi Aso for the Japanese Light Welterweight title. Unlike many fighters who pick a win as their best bout, he picked one he lost, but it was a truly sensational bout with Konno leading after 9 rounds then being stopped in round 10, and it really was an amazing fight.
For that loss to take precedence in his mind over his brilliant win over 2019 win over Baishanbo Nasiyiwula or his 2018 win over Vladimir Baez is a testament to how much that bout means to Konno.
Konno was last seen in the ring in November 2020, when he lost to OPBF Light Welterweight champion Rikki Naito (25-2, 8) [内藤 律樹]. Despite losing that bout few could questions his will to win, and fought much of the bout 1-handed, due to a clear injury. Sadly that injury would, eventually, see him being stopped despite putting up a brave and gutsy effort.
Konno will now move into the restaurant industry and plans to open his own restaurant in the future. We would like to wish Konno all the best in his future, and thank him for some truly brilliant fights. He may never have been the most talented fighter, but he was always a fun, exciting fighter to watch, and we suspect he has genuinely left an impression on every fan who has followed his career.
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.
Tomorrow at Korakuen Hall we'll see OPBF Light Welterweight title champion Rikki Naito (24-2, 7) [内藤 律樹] defending his title against Yusuke Konno (16-4, 9) [今野裕介], in a really interesting all-Japanese match up.
Today the two men took part in their weigh in for the bout, with both men hitting the scales bang on the 140lb divisional limit.
At the weigh in both men showed a lot of respect to each other. Naito spoke about the strength of Konno and accepted that he had to take the challenger seriously. As for Konno he seemed to be motivated by the fact Naito is a notable name, and has the OPBF title.
Sadly it was also reported that the other title bout on this show, between Japanese Youth Super Flyweight champion Suzumi Takayama (3-0, 3) [高山涼深] and Hiroto Yashiro (2-0, 2) [矢代博斗], has had to be cancelled due to Yashiro pulling out of the contest. The rest of the card will however go ahead as planned, including a mouth watering chief support bout between Yoshimitsu Kimura (12-2, 7) [木村吉光] and Shuma Nakazato (10-1-2, 7) [仲里周磨], who both made the 130lb Super Featherweight limit.
For fans wanting to watch the show it will be available live on subscription service Boxing Raise, with the show having a live broadcast from 18:00 local time.
Related - Naito and Konno clash for OPBF title (Our full in depth preview of the bout)
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
One thing we don't see often is the UK betting websites putting up odds for domestic bouts in Japan. Rather interestingly however this weekend we do see a rare example of it as several companies have priced up Saturday's OPBF Light Welterweight title bout between defending champion Rikki Naito (24-2, 7) [内藤 律樹] and under-rated challenger Yusuke Konno (16-4, 9) [今野裕介].
The bout, which will be shown live on Boxing Raise, will be Naito's 4th defense of the OPBF title he won back in January 2018. Konno on the other hand will be fighting in an OPBF title bout for the first time, though has previously won a WBA Asia title and challenged for a Japanese title, losing by stoppage in the final round.
The bookies have, unsurprisingly, priced Naito as the clear betting favourite, with the best price being 2/7 on the defending champion. And he should, rightfully, be the favourite given he's the younger, fresher, more skilled and more successful fighter.
Konno on the other hand is an attractive 11/4, a very tasty price for a man who is certainly a live under-dog, as we've seen over the last few years with upsets over Baishanbo Nasiyiwula, Vladimir Baez and Kazuya Maruki. Although technically not the equal of Naito he is a big, strong fighter who could make Naito pay late, for his questionable stamina.
The draw can be backed as high at 20/1
Interestingly one betting company does have odds on method of victory. The decision for Naito is seen as the most likely, at 8/13, and that's the logical one. He has won 4 of his last 5 by decision and Konno has only been stopped once, by the aggressive and heavy handed Koichi Aso. A stoppage by Naito is 5/1, and that does seem unlikely. A decision for the challenger is priced at 9/2 however a stoppage for Konno is available at a very attractive 13/2 for those interested in the value bet.
In regards to the bout going the distance, the odds are 1/4 on the bout going 12 rounds and 11/4 on it ending early. Interestingly Konno has only been the distance once in his last 7, and that was an 8 round decision win over Vladimir Baez 2 years ago. He has never gone 12 rounds.
Whilst the bout is expected to go the distance it should be noted that there is a length of bout bet set at 10.5 rounds, with the over being 2/9 and the under being 3/1.
Related - Naito and Konno clash for OPBF title (Our full in depth preview of the bout)
Back in October Dangan announced that OPBF Light Welterweight champion Rikki Naito (24-2, 7) [内藤 律樹] would be defending his title against Yusuke Konno (16-4, 9) [今野裕介], with the WBO Asia Pacific title also on the line for the bout.
Today it was announced that, sadly, the WBO Asia Pacific will not up for grabs after all.
Dangan broke the news over social media and explained.
"Regarding the WBO-AP title deciding match at the main event on November 21, which was announced the other day, there was a difference in recognition with the WBO side in the operation of the same title, so we decided to cancel adding the same title to this match. .. We apologize for the correction of the announcement. The match will be played as the OPBF Oriental and Pacific title." (Translated from below tweet)
Despite the change we'll be honest and admit it's not really changed our view on the bout. We're excited to see how Naito will deal with the toughness and tenacity of Konno and how Konno will deal with the speed and movement of the champion. It is a shame that the WBO title isn't on the line, sure it is, but this is still a mouth watering match up and one we're really looking forward to.
For fans wanting to watch this one, and why wouldn't you?, it will be shown live on Boxing Raise, and is a great reason to subscribe to Dangan's streaming and Video on Demand service.
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