Earlier today a special exhibition show, dubbed "LEGEND" was held at the Yoyogi 1st National Gymnasium in Tokyo, with 7 exhibition fights taking place on the event. Despite all 7 of the bouts being exhibitions the event had plenty of fan interest and was one of the very few Japanese boxing events to be shown on PPV, with ABEMA streaming the show,
The event had major interest going in and has seen a number of stories emerge from it afterwards as well. With that in mind we though we'd take a brief look at the 7 "bouts" and the news that has come out following them.
The first "contest" saw former world champion Sho Kimura (19-3-2, 12) [木村翔] share the ring with former K-1 champion Yoshiki Takei (0-0) [武居由樹]. Takei, a naturally bigger man, seemed the boss, though this was entertaining and it seemed obvious that the bout was a chance for Takei to get some ring time ahead of his debut in March.
The second bout saw WBA Light Flyweight "super" and Ring Magazine champion Hiroto Kyoguchi (14-0, 9) [京口 紘人] share the ring with former 3-weight world champion Akira Yaegashi (28-7, 16) [八重樫 東]. This was, unsurprisingly, a toe to toe action bout from the off with both men setting an incredible pace and giving the fans a show. A real fun 3 rounds that drew applause from the audience. Afterwards Kyoguchi thanks Yaegashi whilst the 37 year old former champion admitted that he was tired. No surprise there given the tempo of the action.
The first match up with a professional taking on an amateur saw former world title challenger Takeshi Inoue (17-1-1, 10) [井上 岳志] share the ring with Yuito Moriwaki [森脇唯人]. The two men, who who have known each other for years, looked like they belonged in different weight classes, with Moriwaki towering over Inoue and using his reach and jab really well. As the bout went on they began to fight more of Inoue's style, fighting up close, and ended with a thrilling finish to entertaining the fans. Afterwards both men revealed they were rusty, with Moriwaki not having fought in a year, though admitted it was an honour to get this opportunity. Notably Inoue did suffer a cut here, from his left eye, due to a clash of heads.
A last minute change effected one of the bouts and Andy Hiraoka (16-0, 11) [平岡アンディ] saw his originally scheduled opponent, Daisuke Narimatsu [成松大介], pull out due to illness. Despite Narimatsu being out he was replaced by the talented Yuta Akiyama [秋山佑汰], and the two men managed to put on a high level technical exhibition. This one started technical, but as the bout went on the pace picked up and it turned into a fun one. Afterwards Hiraoka seemed to call out the regional champions at 140lbs, saying that he wanted to fight for an Asian title. As for Akiyama he revealed that that it was a good experience, though it did seem clear that he notice for the show was very short, and he apparently only got the call this morning.
Japanese Youth Light Welterweight champion Jin Sasaki (10-0, 9) [佐々木尽] shared the ring with Japanese amateur standout Seon Okazawa [岡澤セオン]. This was, as most of the "bouts", fun for the fans and afterwards both men spoke about their futures. For Sasaki the aim is to face Japanese Youth Lightweight champion Kaiki Yuba (7-0-2, 5) [湯場海樹], with the bout being eyed for a May date.
Okazawa stated he was impressed by Sasaki's physical strength, before revealing that he will become a "professional amateur", essentially being able to box as an amateur full time, from April thanks to sponsorship. This could well become vital to his amateur success ahead of the scheduled Tokyo Olympics.
Former world champion Takashi Uchiyama (24-2-1, 20) [内山 高志] was in action against current Japanese national champion Kosuke Saka (21-5, 18) [坂晃典] in the chief support bout. Uchiyama looked good early on, but as the contest went on it was clear he wasn't really ring fit and 4 years of inactivity did show as the rounds went on. Despite that he did look strong and powerful and Saka had to give him respect, even if Saka did seem to be in charge late on.
Afterwards Uchiyama stated that he's been retired for 4 years and that to prepare for this he had trained for around 20 days and avoided alcohol since the start of the month. He did look in good shape, but he wasn't fighting fit. As for Saka he was hugely respectful and spoke about how he was honoured to be in the ring with Uchiyama, and the respect was obvious for a man he clearly regards very highly.
The main event was really the main focus for many and that pit WBA "super", IBF and Ring Magazine Bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue (20-0, 17) [井上 尚弥] against former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa (17-1-1, 17) [比嘉 大吾], who is now competing in the Bantamweight division. This was the bout that really got the juices flowing and had international fans interested. This saw both men fighting with headgear to begin with as Inoue looked to fight at range and Higa looked to press the action. As the bout went on however Inoue seemed to want to make a statement and showed his class, both inside and at range. In round 3 the headgear came off and Inoue really did show that he was a level or two above Higa, despite fighting with his back on the ropes.
After the bout Inoue suggested that a bout with Higa has no merit to his right now, though seemed open to change that if Higa could win a title. Although it was only an exhibition he was openly admitting that he was taking it 100% seriously and that showed at times as he almost tried to make Higa look a little bit silly. Higa, to his credit, admitted that much of the spar suited Inoue. Although he came off looking second best we suspect that Higa will have preferred this type of exhibition to something where Inoue took it too easy on him, and this could serve as a wake up call, if Higa wants to go and win a world title at Bantamweight.
Earlier today fans were able to see the 88th All Japan National Championships, with 8 national champions being crowned in what was an incredible show of high level amateur boxing. For fans at the venue the show was brilliant, whilst those watching on TV, courtesy of NHKBS1 got guest analyst work from WBA "Regular" Bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue.
The lowest weight on the show was the Light Flyweight division, which saw Yudai Shigeoka [重岡優大], the older brother of touted professional prospect Ginjiro Shigeoka, take a 5-0 decisions over Daichi Hasebe [長谷部大地]. The bout was a high skilled, fast paced contest that really kicked the show off in an amazing fashion.
The Flyweight bout was another amazing contest, which saw Tosho Kashiwazaki [柏崎刀翔] taking a 4-1 decision over Ryomei Tanaka [田中亮明], the older brother of 3-weight world champion Kosei Tanaka. This was was tightly fought, but Kashiwazaki always looked like the aggressor, and it seems like that extra offensive mentality was the difference between the two men.
At Bantamweight 2014 Youth Olympics bronze medal winner Subaru Murata [村田昴] over-come Keisuke Matsumoto [松本圭佑], the son of former world title challenger Koji Matsumoto. Murata was cut around both eyes but took the decision win, thanks in part to an amazing effort in the final round, where he really put Matsumoto on the back foot to claim a 3-0 win.
The Lightweight bout saw 2016 Olympian Arashi Morisaka [森坂嵐] narrowly over-come Kenji Fujita [藤田健児] in a 3-2 decision. This was a messy bout at time, with the styles not quite gelling as the earlier bouts, but was very competitive and hard to take your eyes off as both men did all they could to try and take the win.
In the Light Welterweight final we saw the highly established Daisuke Narimatsu [成松大介] claim his latest title as he defeated Yuta Akiyama [秋山佑汰]. This was Narimatsu's 8th All Japanese title, and it seems like his intention is to go to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. If boxing is however removed from the Olympics we could imagine promoters scrambling over each other to become his professional promoter.
The Welterweight crown was won by Sewon Okazawa [岡澤セオン], who took a 5-0 decision over Kanjo Taiyo [金城大明], in what was an another entertaining contest with Okazawa making his claim to be pushed towards some notable international competitions, potentially including the Olympics.
At Middleweight Yuito Moriwaki [森脇唯人] continued his great run on the domestic scene, as he defeated Kyohei Hosono [細野恭兵] 5-0. This win saw Moriwaki retain the title he won last year, and claim the MVP award for the show, as he continues to thrive and really make his mark.
The heaviest weight class on the show as the Light Heavyweight division, which saw Takuro Kurita [栗田琢郎] take a 3-2 win over Takahito Nitta [新田隆人] to take the crown.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
News! We try and give you the most interesting news stories from the Asian boxing world!