Earlier today fight fans in Okinawa got a rare show of note, headlined by a former world champion taking on a rising star of Japanese boxing. The show wasn't a big one, but the main was certainly a huge bout worthy of attention, and the under-card had several fighters of interest on it.
The show opened up with a 4 rounder between 22 year hold Kanta Yamauchi (3-2-1, 2) [山内 寛太] and 19 year old Nagi Sudo (2-2-1) [須藤 凪]. This was all action from the off and although Yamauchi was the better fighter through out there was no questioning Sudo's effort, with the youngster playing his part in a 4 round fire cracker. After 4 rounds the judges turned in cards of 40-36 and 39-37, twice, all for Yamauchi. He was a deserved winner, but he really had to earn the win in a fantastic curtain raiser.
The second bout saw touted 24 year old prospect Yusuke Mine (4-0, 1) [峯 佑輔] take a wide and clear decision over the durable Taiga Higashi (6-5, 2) [東 大河], with Mine controlling the 6 rounder without too many problems. Higashi tried to bring the action and apply pressure but the boxing IQ, footwork and movement of Mine were too much and Mine calmly controlled the action behind his jab, mixing up the action when he needed to. Higashi was never really discouraged but was also never able to really get a foothold on the bout, which was controlled by the skills of Mine.
In a solid performance Okinawa local Ryuto Owan (7-1, 5) [大湾 硫斗] dominated the tough, but limited, Takafumi Iwaya (4-5) [岩屋 卓史] who ended up being saved by his corner. Iwaya looked to start fast but Owan settled quickly, began to box his fight, using his movement and clean punching and began to control the bout from midway through the opening round. From there on Owan was in control, and he went through the gears, battering Iwaya, who was saved by his corner in round 4, whilst on the wrong end of a beating.
Sadly for Iwaya this is the second time in as many bouts that his toughness has been his worst enemy as he also took a pounding last September against Rentaro Kimura and it's hard to see his career continuing for much longer.
In the main event fans saw local favourite Daigo Higa (17-2-1, 17) [比 嘉 大吾] suffer a notable upset loss to the unbeaten Ryosuke Nishida (4-0, 1) [西田凌佑], with Nishida dethroning Higa of the WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight title.
From the off the size and stance of Nishida seemed to be a problem for Higa, who had real issues getting inside and working up close. Nishida seemed smooth, calm and soaked up the pressure well, whilst also landing plenty of leather himself. He was making Higa miss, and making Higa look like a Big Flyweight fighting against a Bantamweight. What didn't help Higa was when he did get inside Nishida clinched, using his natural size and strength advantages to stop Higa from getting shots off. Amazingly we also saw Nishida willing letting shots go up close, especially to the body.
The crowd, which were expected to be getting behind Higa, were nearly silent as their man struggled for any kind of sustained success. He had moments, but they were few and far between with Nishida having sustained success through all of the early rounds, dictating the action and the tempo without too many problems.
Higa began to find something of a groove in round 4, as he upped his pressure and work rate and began to fight with much more urgency. It was clear he felt he was in a hole and had to try and turn things around. He continued to be more aggressive in round 5 as well, landing some of his best shots, but it seemed like even his best shots didn't hurt Nishida who was standing his ground and landing his own leather whilst also trying to bully Higa physically when he had to.
After a few solid rounds from Higa he really did begin to look tired in the later stages, whilst Nishida seemed to have energy to burn and in the second half of the fight Nishida really started to beat up Higa who had to hold and spoil and do what he could to slow the offense of the challenger. Sadly for Higa he looked out of his depth at times, as well as out of his weight class. To his credit Higa was tough, rugged and hungry, but that was about it in stages as Nishida took total control of the action.
After 12 rounds the scores were read out, and they all favoured the challenger, widely. They were 117-111, twice, and 118-110, all in favour of Nishida who has now scored two big wins in back to back bouts, having beaten Shohei Omori last year.
For Higa this is a painful loss. He took a beating. At home. In front of the fans in Okinawa. He was dominated and shown, very clearly, that he is not a Bantamweight. Sadly however the JBC don't seem to be willing to risk seeing Higa miss weight again, as he did against Cristofer Rosales when he was the WBC Flyweight champion. He will need to go back to the drawing board, and learn to adapt to fighting as a Bantamweight, which we suspect will be incredibly tough for him.
As for Nishida, he's now beaten a former world title challenger and a former world champion. It's hard to imagine that he's not now looking for a world title fight sooner rather than later. This win was a stellar performance. It was a performance that showed how good he was, how composed he is, and how, even after just 4 bouts, he is already ready for major contests against top level fighters.
Earlier today the Muto Gym, the Japanese partner of MTK Global in their "MTK Japan" expansion, held a press conference in Osaka to announce five bouts.
From the bouts two were already known about, but the other three weren't, and were completely new announcements.
The most notable of the bouts mentioned today was actually one that was revealed yesterday.
That was the Japanese Middleweight title bout between Kazuto Takesako (12-0-1, 11) [竹迫司登] and mandatory challenger Riku Kunimoto (4-0, 2) [国本陸]. Kunimoto, a Muto Gym fighter, will be getting his shot at the Japanese title on May 2nd as part of a Dynamic Glove card at Korakuen Hall, but he will be up against it as he takes on a dominant and heavy handed champion and it's clear he will be the under-dog.
Another bout that was known about before this press conference was a bout between Muto fighter Yusuke Mine (3-0, 1) [峯 佑輔] and former world title challenger Masayuki Kuroda (30-8-3, 16) [黒田 雅之], which was announced earlier in the day. This bout will take place on March 30th at Korakuen Hall, and again it's the Muto fighter who will be regarded as the under-dog.
One of the bouts are set to take place on April 12th, and will see Tulio Kuwabata (3-1, 2) [桑畑凜生], also known as Dekanarudo Torio, look to bounce back from a December loss to Filipino puncher Ken Jordan (9-1-2, 8) as he takes on Japanese ranked fighter Kazuki Tanaka (11-3, 8) [田中一樹], who is looking to bounce back from a loss to Kyosuke Sawada (14-2-1, 6) [澤田京介] in a Japanese title eliminator. This looks like a ridiculous match up, at this point, for Kuwabata, who is talented but deserves an easy win after being blown out by Jordan. This is yet another case of the Muto fighter being the under-dog.
The two remaining bouts are both set for April 19th, and both look more competitive than the other three.
One of those will see Akio Furutani (8-4, 3) [古谷 昭男] take on Chikato Sumida (9-3, 1) [住田愛斗], in what is set to be an 8 round bout at Super Flyweight on "You Will Be the Champion 11". This looked really even on paper and Furutani, the Mutoh fighter, is probably the slight favourite.
The other bout, on the same card, will see Ryosuke Nishida (2-0, 1) [西田凌佑] taking a massive step up in class as he is set to take on Matcha Nakagawa (13-2-1, 5) [武田航], in another 8 rounder, in what looks like a mouth watering match up. Although taking a huge step up Nishida does look like a special fighter and he maybe has the best chance of notching an upset.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
We've known for a while that former world title challenger Masayuki Kuroda (30-8-3, 16) [黒田 雅之] would be back in the ring on March 30th, in what will be his first bout since his loss last May to Moruti Mthalane.
Whilst we've know that Kuroda would be in action we weren't aware of his opponent, until today.
Earlier this morning it was announced that Kuroda's opponent would be Yusuke Mine (3-0, 1) [峯 佑輔], a touted prospect who is looking to be fast tracked.
For the 33 year old Kuroda the bout will be his 42nd since his debut way back in 2005. It will, as mentioned, be his first bout since May when he lost to Mthalane. On paper he will be the favourite, with his experience expected to be key, along with fighting "at home" at the Korakuen Hall where he has fought 31 times during his career. He is however a veteran, and the naturally smaller man, having fought at Light Flyweight for a good portion of his career before moving up for his first world title fight, in 2013 against Juan Carlos Reveco.
Mine on the other hand is 23 years old and regarded as one of the brightest hopes at the Muto Gym in Osaka. The former amateur standout has been tipped for big things, but he was exposed some what last time out when he was dropped twice by Ardin Diale, back in December. On one hand that bout left question marks about his chin, though on the other hand it showed his mental toughness to battle back after a horror start.
The bout will be an 8 round contest at Super Flyweight, giving Mine an advantage in terms of weight, with the younger man being a natural Super Flyweight, but the bout is still a huge ask for the young professional novice.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Earlier today MTK Global announced that their expansion was into Japan ad they unveiled their link up with the Muto Gym in Osaka.
The deal will see the Osakan based gym, headed by Takashi Edagawa, having their fighters advised by MTK, who have a list of global stars in their stable. In fact this is the 14th separate territory for MTK to begin working in.
Whilst the Mutoh Gym isn't a big one it does have an established name. It's a gym with a history that includes having created a world champion, in former 2-time WBA Super Flyweight champion Nobuo Nashiro [名城信男], and numerous regional and national champions, including the likes of Masahiro Sakamoto [坂本真宏] and Takayuki Hosokawa [細川貴之].
At the moment the gym is going through some notable transitions with their most well established fighter being WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight champion Yuki Strong Kobayashi (16-8, 9) [ストロング小林佑樹] and notable prospects include Ryosuke Nishida (2-0, 1) [西田 凌佑], Yusuke Mine (3-0, 1) [峯 佑輔] and Tulio Kuwabata (3-1, 2) [桑畑凜生], also known as Dekanarudo Torio.
A press release from MTK Global included quotes from both the MTK Global CEO Sandra Vaughan and Mr Edagawa. The quotes are below:
Vaughan said: “This is a very proud day. We are thrilled to have set up shop in Japan and we welcome our good friend Takashi Edagawa to the team. He’s done a great job building Muto Boxing Gym and now its future is even brighter.
“The sport of boxing in Japan has grown exponentially in recent times and with champions like Naoya Inoue providing the wider public with an icon to follow, further momentum is inevitable.
“Together with Takashi and his team, we look forward to harnessing the huge amount of local talent, finding the right paths for existing champions and ensuring we keep unearthing and developing future prospects.”
Edagawa said: “I feel it is my duty to ensure that Japanese athletes have the opportunities to put in great performances across the world and as I join forces with MTK Global, it gives me more confidence of accomplishing that goal.
“I made a world champion in my fourth year in boxing and now I want to build other fighters to show the world that Japanese boxing is strong. I feel it is my duty to make this happen.
“Thank you to MTK Global for giving me this honourable moment in my career.”
It's unclear what the real effects of this will be, though with some luck it could mean that the Mutoh promoted "You Will be The Champion" branded shows may be made available on YouTube, like other MTK shows have been, for international fans. If that happens then that is a huge bonus for fans, and a huge boost in exposure for the fighters.
Earlier today at the Sumiyoshi Ward Center in Osaka fans saw a touted trio of prospects from the Muto gym, take on a trio of Filipino visitors. Despite the local hopefuls being very highly touted they had mixed fortunes.
Of the trio it was Ryosuke Nishida (2-0, 1) [西田 凌佑] who had the best day, taking a commanding win over Pablito Canada (7-18-4, 1). The talented Nishida couldn't stop Canada, though he did everything but. Nishida was too good in every way and clearly frustrated Canada who had points deducted for hitting on the break and a deliberate head butt. After 6 rounds the scores here were 60-52, from all 3 judges.
The highly regarded Yusuke Mine (3-0, 1) [峯 佑輔] will feel like he got a lot more than he expected, when he shared the ring with former OPBF Flyweight champion Ardin Diale (35-16-4, 17). Mine got the win, but boy did he have to dig deep here. Diale dropped the youngster with a jab at the end of round 1 and then dropped him again, with a right hand, in round 3 as Min found himself in a deep hole, very early on. The knockdowns forced a change in gameplan from Mine, who began to press more, cramping Diale for distance and working up close. It changed the fight and work Diale out, with the Filipino being deducted a point in round 8 for repeatedly spitting out his gum shield. After 8 rounds Mine took the win with scores of 76-75 and 76-73, twice, but had been given a serious test.
The third of the prospects was Tulio Kuwabata (3-1, 2) [桑畑凜生] who fought Filipino puncher Ken Jordan (9-1-2, 8) in the chief support bout. Jordan did what his country men failed to do, and took out Kuwbata in in the first round. Jordan dropped Kuwabata with a counter right hand, and although Kuwabata got back to his feet he was dropped a second time, and failed to beat the count.
For Muto the bouts for Mine and Kuwabata were risky match ups, and they were perhaps lucky to only see one of their men lose here. For Mine it bout was a serious lesson, whilst Kuwabata has to go back to the drawing board. Diale has again proven he's a live fighter, despite picking up recent losses and Jordan looks like a genuine dangerman, and one to watch going forward.
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