The return of boxing to Japan has been a rather slow one, but it's been very different to what it's been in the US and the UK. Rather than most having long cards with preliminary fighters on them, fought in a bubble, or in the UK's case a studio, boxing in Japan has resumed in regular venues, albeit most behind closed doors. It has also given us some very notable domestic action, as the country essentially shows boxing is still alive in the country and solid match ups can't just wait.
Today the country had it's third title bout in 4 shows, and it's second show at the iconic Korakuen Hall.
The event saw Japanese Super Flyweight champion Kenta Nakagawa (19-3-1, 12) [中川 健太] take part in the Champion Carnival and successfully defend his title, for the first time, by taking a technical decision over mandatory challenger Yuta Matsuo (15-5-2, 8) [松尾雄太].
The styles of this bout were very much opposites. Nakagawa is a fighter who enjoys distance, working behind his straight punches and getting full extension on what he throws. Matsuo on the other hand typically enjoys his success up close, barrelling in and working on the inside. As a result styles clashed a bit here and there was quite a few moments where the men ended up in clinches and messy action.
At range Nakagawa was proving the much better boxer, landing his southpaw straight and catching Matsuo with right hooks. When Matsuo did get inside however he was making his pressure count and letting his shots go.
After 5 rounds it was pretty much a dead even bout. Both men had had moments. Rounds 1 and 2 seemed to be with the champion, round 3 was a good one for the challenger and 5 was another good one for Matsuo.
The competitive nature was shown on the scorecards, which were 48-47, twice and 49-46, after 5 rounds.
Sadly for Matsuo that was about the best he could do, and from round 6 he began to slow what Nakagawa began to take total control, landing more frequently, creating the distance he needed to work with and sweeping rounds 6 to 8.
In round 9 there was a nasty headclash that left Matsuo cut on the forehead and Nakagawa cut around the eye. The doctor checked the cuts, twice, stopping the bout and taking us to the scorecards less than 2 minutes into round 9.
By then there was no questioning the winner, with Nakagawa taking the decision 88-83, and two cards, and 88-84 on the other.
The win sees Misako Gym continue their rich run of form which has seen them having 6 Japanese champions, including Daishi Nagata who scored a shock win last week over Koki Inoue to become the Japanese 140lb champion. Having 6 Japanese national champions at the same time is a record and one the gym seems to be using to really build up the confidence of the fighters there, after all success breeds success.
For fans wanting to watch this bout it will be aired on tape delay on Fuji TV over the weekend as part of their regular Diamond Glove series.
Earlier today we were informed that the 3 bout card at Korakuen Hall would go ahead with no issues at all after the fighters, their chief seconds and the referees all tested negative for anything related to the "current situation".
The event, which will be behind closed doors, will feature Kenta Nakagawa (18-3-1, 12) [中川 健太] defending Japanese Super Flyweight title in a Champion Carnival bout against Yuta Matsuo (15-4-2, 8) [松尾雄太], as the main event. The bout will be televised at the weekend on Fuji TV.
As well the title bout the show will also feature the debut of amateur standout Rentaro Kimura (0-0) [木村蓮太朗], who is up against Yuya Azuma (5-3-1, 1) [東祐也], in a bout we suspect could be tougher than it looks.
The other bout on the card will see Nanako Suzuki (3-2, 1) [鈴木なな子] take on Aoi Watanabe (2-2, 1) [渡邉葵] in what will be the first female bout in Japan since the restart of boxing.
As mentioned all 6 fighters are clear of any issues relating to the ongoing crisis.
Related - Nakagawa takes on Matsuo in first defense!
Action is back at Korakuen Hall tomorrow as we get the latest show under the Diamond Glove banner, which is the name for the monthly that are aired on delay on Fuji TV. The main event of the show will be a Japanese Super Flyweight title bout, as reigning champion Kenta Nakagawa (18-3-1, 12) [中川 健太] defends his title in a Champion Carnival bout against Yuta Matsuo (15-4-2, 8) [松尾雄太], the mandatory challenger.
Whilst the bout isn't a big one internationally, and isn't expected to get much international attention, it has, strangely, been picked up by Polish betting website STSbet who have got odds on the bout, though it's only the "To Win" market that's available.
The champion is the clear betting favourite here, priced at 1/5 (or 1.2 for those who use decimal or -500 for those who prefer the American system) to win and retain his title. The challenger on the other hand is a sizable 3/1 (or 4.0 in decimal and +300 in American), to score the upset and claim a title in his third title bout.
Sadly this bout will be fought behind closed doors, though fans wanting to watch it can watch it on tape delay on Saturday night/Sunday morning, with Fuji TV airing it as part of their regular sporting content.
Nakagawa and Matsuo make weight for Japanese title fight!
Nakagawa takes on Matsuo in first defense!
Tomorrow at Korakuen Hall Japanese Super Flyweight champion Kenta Nakagawa (18-3-1, 12) [中川 健太] will be defending his title against mandatory challenger Yuta Matsuo (15-4-2, 8) [松尾雄太], as part of this year's Champion Carnival. Despite it being a title bout it will, sadly, be the next title bout fought without fans in attendance due to the on going global situation.
Today, ahead of their bout, the two men took part in their weigh in and both made weight, and looked in great shape.
On the scales champion was just under the limit, coming pretty much bang on the 115lbs, whilst Matsuo was well under the limit, coming in around 114.5lbs for the contest.
For Nakagawa this bout will be his first since reclaiming the title last year, when he upset Takayuki Okumoto, and the 34 year old from the Misako gym will be looking to build on the success the gym had recently, with Daishi Nagata's upset win over Koki Inoue. Sadly for him his first reign was a short one, losing in his first defense just 5 months after winning the title. In terms of time this is longer than his first, though of course there has been the on going situation that has left him unable to fight in recent months.
As for Matsuo this will be a third shot at a title, having previously lost in a Japanese interim Flyweight title bout, to Masayuki Kuroda in 2017, and a Japanese Super Flyweight title fight to Takayuki Okumoto last year. Despite those set backs he has been very competitive in both bouts and his style and toughness could prove a real issue for Nakagawa and his aging legs.
Although the bout is being fought behind closed doors tomorrow it will be aired on Saturday night/Sunday morning on Fuji TV for fans wanting to watch it. The broadcast is also expected to feature footage of Rentaro Kimura's (0-0) [木村蓮太朗] professional debut.
Related - Nakagawa takes on Matsuo in first defense!
Earlier today boxing returned to Japan with a Central Japan Rookie of the Year card in Aichi. Over the next couple of weeks we see more boxing in Japan as the sport slowly begins to get back to normal.
On July 16th we get the first card in Tokyo. The card is a small one, featuring only 2 bouts, but it is a fairly notable one from Ohashi . One bout will see OPBF Featherweight champion Satoshi Shimizu (8-1, 8) [清水 聡] defending his title against Kyohei Tonomoto (9-2-1, 4) [殿本恭平] and the other will see Japanese Light Welterweight champion Koki Inoue (15-0, 12) [浩樹井上] taking on his mandatory challenger Daishi Nagata (14-2-1, 5) [永田大士].
Sadly, though unsurprisingly for those who follow Japanese boxing, this won't be live. Thankfully however Fuji TV have now confirmed the bouts will be aired on tape delay less than a week later, airing the following Sunday night/Monday morning. The broadcast is set to run from 25:55 to 27:00 Sunday night, or from 1:55am to 3am Monday morning.*
On July 22nd Kenta Nakagawa (18-3-1, 12) [中川 健太] will be defending his Japanese Super Flyweight title against Yuta Matsuo (15-4-2, 8) [松尾雄太], on a show that also features the debut of Rentaro Kimura (0-0) [木村蓮太朗]. This will be aired the following Saturday/Sunday, with the broadcast set to run from 27:30 to 28:35 Saturday night, or 3:30am to 4:45am Sunday morning.
Whilst neither broadcast is live it is great to see boxing back in Japan and live events have been announced to be aired on G+ and Youtube in August as the sport begins to really gear up for it's fully fledged return.
*The way Japanese times work go beyond a 24 hour window, and extend the times into the early hours of the following day, this isn't a mistake but is a feature of Japanese time format.
(Image courtesy of Fuji TV)
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