Earlier today Japanese fight fans at the Korakuen Hall saw Kenta Nakagawa (13-2-1, 9) [中川 健太] become the new Japanese Super Flyweight champion, with the heavy handed southpaw claiming a split decision win over Hayato Kimura (25-9, 16) [木村 隼人所属].
The fight started off with a tense feeling and it seemed that both men were trying to feel out the other without committing too much. It was clear that each man knew their opponents strengths, something that had been documented going into the bout, and wanted to neutralise them whilst fighting to their own strong points. For Kimura that was a case of using his superior speed whilst Nakagawa looked to land his powerful left hand.
After a tame opening round the action began to pick up and the two were happier at a closer distance in the second round, with Nakagawa applying intelligent pressure with his footwork, and trying to open up Kimura. The tactic helped Nakagawa get a foothold in the bout but it was another round that lacked drama for the most part, and could have been scored either way, with Kimura being busier but Nakagawa getting through with most of the better shots.
By round 3 it seemed like both men were beginning to feel confident and the action did pick up notably with both having more success. Although the action was picking up, and the crowd was coming alive, the clean shots were still lacking with many being glancing blows, or missing the target altogether.
Thankfully the pace continued to build and the big shorts started to be thrown more freely with the crowd, and the atmosphere, raising the fighters who seemed more willing to exchange in round 4 as we had some great moments. The action still lacked in quality but was becoming more intriguing with every passing minute and this continued through round 5 with the styles beginning to gel, though the stances were leading to the occasional head clash and Nakagawa did seem to show some frustration at times in the final stages of the 5th round as he suffered a cut around he left eye.
After 5 rounds the open scoring was announce, giving Kimura a narrow lead, with cards of 48-47, twice to Kimura, and 48-48.
Knowing he was behind Nakagawa rallied, up the pressure and went about breaking down his faster opponent with intense pressure and was more willing to take a shot to land one. This forced some negativity from Kimura, who seemed happier to try and move, avoid a fight and stay away from the left hand of Nakagawa. The pressure had almost immediate impact and Kimura was hurt late in round 6 with Nakagawa's power and willingness to force the fight paying dividends.
The aggressive pressure of Nakagawa continued in round 7, forcing a loud “Kneta” chant and he again seemed to stagger Kimura with his power as Kimura began to be dragged into a dog fight. It seemed as if nothing Kimura could do could stop Nakagawa who was eating counters and not blinking whilst landing his own combinations and taking over the fight. The take over continued in round 8, with Kimura again unable to escape the pressure and the strength of Nakagawa who had done any to over-turn the deficit he had found himself in at the half way mark.
Kimura seemed to know he was behind at the start of round 9 and began to fight fire with fire as we got a sensational start to the round and saw both guys letting their hands go. It was much better from Kimura than the previous few rounds, and although he was forced to eat some bombs he proved he could stand and fight with Nakagawa, giving us a really thrilling 3 minutes.
Given the thrilling nature of round 9 it was clear both would be feeling the pace in the final round and it showed, with a round that lacked the intensity of the previous round. It wasn't full but it lacked the long trading sequences and instead merely gave us a few moments here and there.
By the end it seemed clear that Nakagawa had done enough to win. When he had to turn it around he did, and his domination of the second half of the fight was genuinely impressive. He didn't show the sweetest of science, or look the most defensively astute but he out landed his man with the bigger shots and was a well worthy winner.
Although the fight was hard to score early on questions do need to be asked of the judge who scored the bout to Kimura, and gave him rounds 6 and 8 to give him a 96-95 lead. Thankfully his peculiar scorecard was over ruled by scores of 97-93 and 97-95 for Nakagawa.
For Kimura this was a second loss in a Japanese title fight, though it seems likely he'll bounce back and fight again for the title down the line. For Nakagawa however this win is something that puts him on the proverbial map and shows he has more than just power going for him. He's unlikely to ever make a mark above the domestic scene, but he might be a very hard guy to dethrone at this level.
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