As a boxing fan we get fights we look forward to, expecting real excitement, we get other fights that just seem to come out of nowhere and deliver something extra special. Today we had a fight from that second category as Tomohiro Ebisu (17-4, 17) [胡 朋宏] claimed the “interim” Japanese Middleweight title and won an all out war with Makoto Fuchigami (23-12, 13) [淵上 誠]. The bout was expected to be fun, but nothing close to the incredible war that we had, a war that could well be the best Middleweight bout of 2016.
Before the men had gotten into the ring it seemed that both had the bout as a “must win” in their minds. Neither could really afford another set back, and both would know that another loss could well be the end of their career as a notable fighter, even on the talent thin Japanese Middleweight scene.
With in the opening minute both men made their intentions well known, they were both hunting a stoppage. They weren't just firing bombs from the off, but when they were in range they were letting the rockets fly with Ebisu's shots in the opening round all sounding painful to take. Fuchigami rode a number of them well but he seemed to eat a number flush, including a huge body shot from Ebisu.
Whilst the opening round wasn't a feeling out round it didn't give us any clue as to what was to come with round 2 being a genuine contender for round of the year. From the opening seconds Ebisu was unloading, looking to disconnect Fuchigami from his sense, Fuchigami on the other hand began to land counters as the two men stood and traded, taking turns in an incredible round of back and forth action. Head shots, body shots and combinations were thrown with reckless abandon as the Korakuen Hall exploded into a cacophony of noise and excitement. In the final seconds of the round the power of Ebisu took it's toll dropping Fuchigami, though it was unable to finish him off.
Round 3 was fought in a similar manner to round 2, with both men teeing off with bombs and traded toe-to-toe in another brilliant round of the year contender. At several points it looked like one man was going to hit the canvas before they fired back, with Fuchigami's legs completely losing themselves at one point. Although it seemed like both men were taking bombs they both refused to back down from the fight and at times it resembled, if not surpassed, the stunning bout between Fuchigami and Koji Sato.
The action continued to be hot in round 4, though it seemed clear that the pace of the bout was having an affect on both men as they both seemed to slow, though they were both unloading bombs in another stellar round of action. Unfortunately for Fuchigami it almost seemed like his shots bounced off Ebisu whilst Ebisu looked like a physical bully, and his body shots looked particularly eye watering. By the end of the round both men looked like they'd be fighting to a stand still.
In round 5 the bout began to take a different tone, with Ebisu moving more, trading less and making every shot count that little bit more. Fuchigami continued to try and force a fight, presumably hoping to empty Ebisu's tank, but due to his approach he was leaving himself more open to heavy head shots which Ebisu picked brilliantly. The movement of Ebisu continued in rounds 5, 6 and 7and it seemed that he was more comfortable with the change in tempo, despite Fuchigami trying to keep the bout up close, and having some success when the two men were together. Even though the paced had slowed from the incredible early rounds the action continued to be hot and was brilliant to end round 7 as Fuchigami took some huge bombs and continued to march forward.
Sadly for Fuchigami his hopes were put to the sword in round 8 as Ebisu's power finally broke through his will and Fuchigami was dropped twice. The first of the knockdowns came following a powerful left hand, after Fuchigami's senses were scrambled from a series of hard head shots, the second, only moments later, came as Ebisu chased the stoppage against a still hurt Fuchigami and dropped him with a monstrous right hand on the jaw, forcing the referee to wave the fight off immediately.
For Fuchigami this loss will likely send him into retirement. This was his 6th stoppage loss and the third time he'd been stopped in his last 5 fights, and at 33 he has had a long and hard career, with wars against top Japanese domestic fighters. As for Ebisu it opens the door for a bout with regular champion Hikaru Nishida next year, in what should be a Japanese FOTY contender.
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