Last December Japanese boxing, and the Minimumweight division as a whole, got a huge shock as Ryoki Hirai (9-4-1, 4) [平井 亮輝] took a technical decision win over the once touted Takumi Sakae. At the time Sakae was world ranked and had only suffered a loss in a Japanese title fight to Tatsuya Fukuhara, who has subsequently gone on to win the WBO world title.
Today fans in Kobe saw Hirai fighting for the first time since his break out win, risking his world ranking against the heavy handed teenager Ryoya Ikema (11-4, 10) [池間 亮弥], who was looking to bounce back from a loss in February to Koki Ono.
The bout looked like a really interesting one on paper and proved to be an intriguing fight in the ring. The heavy handed Ikema was looking for bombs from the off, but the more techncially skilled Hirai was showing his speed and ability by making the teenager miss. When Hirai threw he seemed to get the more success, and landed several solid shots, but there was always a worry that Ikema would connect with a bomb, and some of his shots weren't far off.
In round 2 Ikema had some moments, including landing a long right hand, but Hirai was the one who again seemed to have the more consistent success, landing some very nice body shots and having two or three excellent flurries before dropping his man with a wonderful counter right hand. Ikema got back to his feet but was down again before the round was over. From then on it looked like a matter of time and Hirai knew it, startign round 3 quickly and unloading until the referee finally stepped in.
Although Hirai was 5-4-1 (2) just over a year ago he's now reeled off 4 straight wins and appears to be a genuine talent worth keeping a close eye on. Wins over Sakae and Ikema are solid and he's certainly showing enough skills and ability to be heading towards title bouts. As for Ikema, the youngster got given a lesson here, and hopefully he takes that lesson to improve himself, rather than gives up, at 19 he has time on his side, and if his team manage him right he could also find himself in the title scene in the years to come.
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