Just moments ago Japanese fans at the Kokugikan saw Japanese Super Featherweight champion Kenichi Ogawa (21-1, 16) [尾川 堅一] retain his title with a majority decision over mandatory challenger Satoru Sugita (12-4-4, 7) [杉田 聖].
The two men, who also faced off last year, looked to be well matched with Sugita having the better skills and Ogawa being the more powerful and bigger puncher. To begin it was the skills of Sugita which seemed to catch the eye as he made Ogawa look slow and clumsy. The skills of Sugita made Ogawa miss, and pay for those misses, and although Sugita lacked the power to hurt his man he was certainly looking the better boxer in thos early stages. Despite the good start for Sugita Ogawa did began to find some success in round 3 and began to build on that to the point where 2 of the judges had him in a 48-47 lead on the open scoring after 5 rounds, whilst Sugita lead on the other card 49-46.
In the middle rounds Sugita continued to counter Ogawa well, whilst the champion neglected his jab and looked unwilling to set up his shots, instead looking to land his powerful right hand.
The counters allowed Sugita to give Ogawa a cut above the left and seemed to force Ogawa to respond, whilst Sugita used his jab and moved well. Things looked even worse for Ogawa when his gum shield came out in round 9, and he narrowly avoided a point deduction.To his credit Ogawa bit down in round 10 and took the fight to Sugita, though it did look like it was too little too late to claim the win, some how though the judges though otherwise, scoring the bout 96-94, 97-93 and 95-95 togive Ogawa his 4th defense.
Ogawa seemed disappointed with his performance, whilst, at the venue, seemed a bit frustrated at the scoring with Ogawa certainly getting some good fortune here. Sadly for Ogawa it does seem he has found his level and this is the third ultra-close bout he has had since winning the title in late 2015. It could be that he's regressed as a fighter or is simply now fighting at the wrong weight, but something needs to change if he's going to become a world champion. For Sugita the loss with be a frustrating one but one that certainly keeps him in the mix in a very competitive Japanese domestic scene.
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