Earlier today we had the first live televised card in Japan since the sport restarted, and it was a genuine mixed bag with some low level action, some fighters that didn't click, a sensational bout in the middle of the show, an intriguing Japanese title bout in the main event.
In the opening bout of the show the debuting Kodai Kobayashi (1-0) [小林 航大], from the E&J Cassius Gym, took a clear decision win over the win-less Shunsuke Miyauchi (0-2) [宮内 俊亮]. This was a real low level bout from both men, with Miyauchi pressing forward in the early rounds but showing very limited skills and Kobayashi needing time to shake the nervous energy. Thankfully for Kobayashi he seemed to land the better shots and did the cleaner work. After 4 rounds this was scored 40-36, twice, and 39-38 in favour of Kobayashi.
The second bout saw the touted Shigetoshi Kotari (2-0, 1) [神足 茂利] take on southpaw Motosuke Kimura (3-5-2, 1) [木村 元祐]. On paper this was supposed to be an easy second win for Kotari but in reality this didn't go as expected, at all. Kotari was dropped in the opening round from a round house left hand from Kimura, who seemed to land a shot that should never have caught a former amateur standout lime Kimura. The punch wasn't just looping, but was thrown with the back hand and looper around half the ring.
Sadly the knockdown made Kotari super cautious in rounds 2 and 3 and they were rounds that really lacked anything worthy of talking about. Kotari did seem to do enough to take them, but certainly didn't shine. He was caught with a number of clean counters in round 4, the round where be decided he needed to put his foot on the gas, and the counters seemed to take the wind out of his aggression. That lead to a rather dreary ending to the fight, with rounds 5 and 6 both being dull and tiresome.
After 6 rounds Kotari took the decision, but in reality he looked exposed. He wasn't just dropped but he also looked confused, never managed to figure Kimura out, and looked terrified of Kimura's counter's. He tried to draw leads and failed to land his own counter shots and failed to show the confidence needed to let his own hands go. The officials cards were 57-56 and 58-55, twice, but that can't cover over the fact Kotari did not look good.
After some pretty poor action, if we're being honest, to begin the show we got something spectacular in bout #3 as Toshiki Kawamitsu (5-0, 2) [川満 俊輝] and Kenshi Noda (2-1, 2) [野田 賢史] waged war in a sensational back and forth thriller. The fight didn't need a feeling out round, they just got to it, and let their shots go. From the off it looked like both men had a point to prove and they were putting on a high skilled, inside, action war. On paper that was expected to favour Noda, the bigger puncher, but it was Kawamitsu who seemed to be landing the cleaner, better blows.
The intensity continued in round 2 as both men tried to break the other down with great inside action and good work at range, when they were at range. Sadly for Noda however round 3 was a torrid one for him as his stamina, heart and durability were seriously questioned. He started the round well, but his inability to hurt Kawamitsu whilst Kawamitsu fought like a buzzsaw, seemed to drain the legs and belief from Noda, who slipped to the canvas numerous times. He was finally, officially, given a count late in the round, but by then he was looking very, very spent. He went out for round 4,looking to turn things around, but once again Kawamitsu simply showed that he wasn't going to be denied and forced the referee to finally jump in and save an exhausted looking Noda late on.
This was brilliant. The final round and a half might have been a bit too one sided, but the action, the intensity, the and the excitement was relentless. Absolute exhilarating contest between two young men desperate for victory. This was what we needed, this was what Japanese boxing needed back on TV. This was special!
In the co-feature we saw former world title challenger Ryohei Takahashi (19-4-1, 8) [高橋 竜平] taking a very debatable decision win over the Kiyohei Endo (3-4, 3) [遠藤 清平], in a bout that we felt Endo deserved. And we don't think we were the only ones. Endo started aggressively and was unfortunate to have a knockdown scored against him after he was caught on the back of the head.
Endo would continue to press, and pressure and seemed to easily out land Takahashi, but it was Takahashi with the cleaner, more telling single connects. Whilst we under-stand the quality Vs quantity argument we didn't feel the quality of Takahashi's single shots made up for how clearly out landed he was. There was also confusion after Endo seemed to score a knockdown of his own, though we're not totally sure if the referee told the judges to ignore it, as there was some instruction to the judges from the referee in round 6. Whether it was counted or not Endo certainly seemed to have taken the round.
Going into the final round it seemed like Endo was well and truly in it, if not in a slight lead. That wasn't something that Takahashi seemed to believe, with the former world title challenger doing little offensively for the first 2 minutes of the round before landing the two best shots of the round late on, in an attempt to steal it.
We went to the scorecards believing this one was razor thin, but the judges thought other wise, scoring it 78-73 and 77-74, twice, in favour of Takahashi. Those scores however do not reflect the nature of a very, very close bout that could easily have gone the other way.
In the main event we saw Japanese Light Middleweight champion Hironobu Matsunaga (17-1, 11) [松永 宏信] successfully defend his title, for the second time, as he over-came mandatory challenger Yuto Shimizu (14-5-2, 5) [清水優人]. The styles of these two men made for an interesting dynamic on paper, with Matsunaga being a bull like aggressive fighter, who's short in stature but aggressive, busy and strong, and Shimizu being a tall, rangy technical counter puncher. Early on however it took time for either man to find their groove.
The slow going saw Matsunaga taking the early rounds on work rate, whilst Shimizu looked to figure out what the champion brought. This lead to Matsunaga building momentum and in rounds 4 and 5 the champion began to turn the screw, landing clean left hands with alarming regularity. The aggression of the champion gave the challenger chances, and the accurate straight shots of Shimizu left the champion with a cut on the bridge of his nose.
After 5 rounds we had the open scoring and the scores were 50-45, 49-46 and 48-47, all in favour of Matsunaga. That should have made Shimizu feel like he was in with a chance, but instead it seemed to fire up Matsunaga, who had a point to prove and put his foot on the gas again. Shimizu finished round 6 with a nice flash of what he could do, in what seemed like an attempt to steal the round, but it was too little too late.
In round 7 the pressure of Matsunaga finally told. Early in the round he left the challenger with a huge cut over his left eye. Later in the round Matsunaga rocked Shimizu, before pinning him on the ropes and going into over drive, letting shots fly whilst Shimizu tried to clear his head. The shots kept coming and the referee took a close look several times. Finally enough was enough and the referee stepped in, saving the challenger.
For Matsunaga the win is a huge one, and sees him get through his Champion Carnival bout as the champion as he we head towards 2021. As for Shimizu this maybe his one and only chance given he turns 33 in January and he will have a long road back to a second title shot.
Tomorrow at Korakuen Hall Japanese Light Middleweight champion Hironobu Matsunaga (16-1, 10) [松永 宏信] will be in action as seeks his second defense of the Japanese title. The exciting champion will be up against mandatory challenger Yuto Shimizu (14-4-2, 5) [清水優人] in what will be a Champion Carnival bout.
Today, ahead of their bout, the two men weight in for the contest and both men made the 154lb limit, with both men coming in bang on the limit.
Like many Champion Carnival bouts this year, this was originally scheduled for much earlier in the year. In fact this was originally pencilled in for March 7th, before boxing was put on hiatus in Japan. Despite the lengthy delay both men seemed in great condition and seemed very much up for this bout.
At an online press conference after the bout Matsunaga revealed that he has prepared well and has stated that his speed advantage is a key part of his game plan here. He plans to move freely and use his foot speed to get in and out. Though he did admit that Shimizu was a technician.
Interestingly it appears the long lay off may have worked out for the best when it comes to the challenger who revealed that he had injured his right hand and that it's now fully healed. He revealed that a key part of his game plan is to not let Matsunaga build up his momentum.
For fans wanting to watch this one live it will be aired live on G+ tomorrow evening in Japan. For those in Japan G+ is a premium TV channel, whilst those outside of Japan can access G+ via international streaming platforms Isakura and ForjoyTV.
Related - Matsunaga faces mandatory challenger Shimizu!
(Image credit - Yokohama Hikari Gym)
In recent weeks we've seen YouTube become the outlet of choice Japanese fights, with BOXING REAL and A-Sign Boxing being great for fight fans wanting to follow the Japanese scene. It appears that YouTube will continue to be a major outlet in coming months, with BOXING REAL streaming a Shinsei card in September, Suruga Boys streaming their September card, Hiroto Kyoguchi (14-0, 9) [京口 紘人] streaming his bout with Thanongsak Simsri (14-0, 12), and TV Osaka streaming the Taisei Promoted "From the World to Mita 16" event on November 23rd.
Despite YouTube becoming a major outlet for Japanese fights we do still have TV channels in the country and today we saw announcements of two channels set to show come boxing in the coming months!
The first of the broadcasts will be a live broadcast on subscription service WOWOW, of the WBA "Super" and IBF Bantamweight title bout between Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16) [井上 尚弥] and Jason Moloney (21-1, 18). This is set to be aired on WOWOW Prime from 10:30AM in Japan on November 1st.
At the moment there hasn't been an announced tape delay airing, though it's assumed that Fuji TV will carry the bout in full on terrestrial TV, potential with same day delay during prime time. This has been the case with some international bouts of Fuji fighters and we suspect it'll continue here.
The second bit of TV news is that TBS will broadcast the bout between former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa (16-1, 16) [比嘉 大吾] and the unbeaten Seiya Tsutsumi (5-0-1, 4) [堤聖也]. The bout will take place on October 26th at Korakuen Hall, but will sadly not be aired until November 18th as part of the "Guts Fighting" series. We suspect that broadcast will also be used to hype up a potential December TBS show.
Whilst we're on the subject of televised boxing in Japan it's worth adding that Japanese pay TV channel G+ will be broadcasting two shows that take place in October.
On October 3rd they will be broadcasting a live card headlined by Japanese Light Middleweight champion Hironobu Matsunaga (16-1, 10) [松永 宏信], who will be defending his belt against Yuto Shimizu (14-4-2, 5) [清水優人], with this broadcast set to run from 17:45 to 22:00 local time.
On October 5th they will then broadcast the Teiken promoted card headlined by a bout between Kenichi Ogawa (24-1-1-1, 18) [尾川 堅一] and Kazuhiro Nishitani (21-4-1, 12) [西谷和宏]. This card, originally scheduled for September, will take place on October 2nd and will be on tape delay. This will be broadcast between 17:00 and 22:00 local time.
Both of those will then get re-shown through the month, with the Teiken show set to be re-shown on October 12th and the other card being rebroadcast on October 19th.
Fans of Japanese boxing haven't had it this good in years!
Last week we reported that former 3-weight world champion Jorge Linares (47-5, 29) had a positive result show up on a PCR test. As a result of Linares's test result the Teiken Gym was forced to close temporarily. Since then all of the Teiken fighters, and trainers, have been tested and shown negative results in PCR tests, however the gym is still not open, and hasn't been given permission to reopen from the public health centre.
Had the gym only been closed for a few days, as some hoped, the knock on from the closure would have been very limited. It would seen a bout that was supposed to take today place being cancelled, which it was last week, and Linares bout set for August 28th being cancelled. That would pretty much have been it.
Sadly though with the gym still being closed it has now had wider knock on issues. The most obvious of those relate to the fighters who had been preparing for a September 5th date, for a show at Korakuen Hall which was set to be televised live on G+. With fighters unable to train at the gym at the moment, the September 5th date has officially been scrapped today. Instead the show will be delayed until October 2nd, which may have other knock on issues relating to TV.
The original date for the fight sat on a TV slow reserved for a live boxing broadcast with G+ as part of their monthly Dynamic Glove series. That series shows a live boxing event on the first Saturday of every month, typically from Korakuen Hall. The new days falls on a Friday which may mean that the event misses out on live TV, though this yet to be confirmed. If live TV is lacking the best we can hope for is a tape delay broadcast.
The reason the event can't take the set aside October TV slot, on the first Saturday of the month, is that there is already a show set for that date, with Japanese Light Middleweight champion Hironobu Matsunaga (16-1, 10) [松永 宏信] defending his belt against Yuto Shimizu (14-4-2, 5) [清水優人] on October 3rd.
In a perfect world both events would get live TV coverage, though we suspect that that's unlikely to happen. It should be noted that the event is still being marketed as a Dynamic Glove show, suggesting that the event will still get TV exposure, though it's unclear if it will be tape delay or live broadcast.
What makes this even bigger news is that the September 5th date was set to be the first live televised event in Japan since boxing restarted there. They have had some tape delay broadcasts and have had some live streamed events, but no live televised boxing has taken place in the country since February.
We do, fully understand the reason for the delay, and I think everyone else does as well. But it's certainly been a few frustrating months for some of the fighters on this show. That includes Kenichi Ogawa (24-1-1-1, 18) [尾川 堅一], who has now had 3 different dates fall apart this year.
From what we under-stand, though again it's yet to be confirmed, the 6 bouts that were scheduled for September 5th will all still take place on the new date. However we do know that the card, for definite, still includes Ogawa's bout with the world ranked foe Kazuhiro Nishitani (21-4-1, 12) [西谷和宏] and Shokichi Iwata's (4-0, 3) [岩田翔吉] bout with Ryo Narizuka (9-9-1) [成塚亮].
Once we know more about the bout line up and the TV situation we'll report that.
This years Champion Carnival has been a truncated affair with some bouts set for much, much earlier in the year now being rescheduled for what remains of the year, whilst others have fallen by the way side all together.
Today we were informed of a newly rescheduled Champion Carnival bout which will see Japanese Light Middleweight champion Hironobu Matsunaga (16-1, 10) [松永 宏信] defending his belt, for the second time, on October 3rd as he takes on mandatory challenger Yuto Shimizu (14-4-2, 5) [清水優人].
For Matsunaga, who turns 33 in later September, the bout will see him looking to extend his current 10 bout winning record. That streak has seen him bounce back from a 2014 loss to Yuki Beppu to beat the likes of Sanosuke Sasaki, Je Ni Ma, Koshinmaru Saito, Nobuyuki Shindo and Koki Koshikawa.
As for Shimizu, who is 32, the bout will see him looking to build on big 2019 wins over Charles Bellamy and Nobuyuki Shindo. This bout will also be his second Japanese title shot, following a 2016 bout with Yuki Nonaka.
This bout was originally scheduled for March 7th at Korakuen Hall as part of a solid looking showing, but was cancelled in February when boxing went on an hiatus in Japan to deal with the on going global situation. Despite being pushed back, from March to October, it will still be held at Korakuen Hall and still appears to be getting a decent under-card.
Among the fighters said to be on the under-card are Ryo Akaho (35-2-2, 23) [赤穂亮] and Ryohei Takahashi (18-4-1, 8) [高橋竜平], who donated 3,000 masks back in May. Sadly though neither man has had their opponents announced for this event.
For those interested in watching the event ticked are likely to be made available, though this is yet to be confirmed, however the bout will be shown on G+ as part of the Dynamic Glove series of shows.
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