Last week we covered a tremendously exciting and brutal war for the Japanese Flyweight title. The bout was, just over a year later, given a do-over and today we cover that do-over in what is actually an even better bout than the first!
Takuya Kogawa (20-2, 11) vs Shigetaka Ikehara (23-4-2, 19) II
As those who follow this series will be aware from last week, in January 2012 Takuya Kogawa took a thin decision win over Shigetaka Ikehara to claim the previously vacant Japanese Flyweight title. The bout was a great fight, with both men landing some huge shots through 10 pulsating, rough and exciting rounds. In February 2013 the two men would face off again, in what turned out to be another amazing bout.
Previous to beating Ikehara in 2012 Kogawa had won the OPBF Super Flyweight title, beating Danilo Pena, and had lost in a WBC Flyweight title bout to Pongsaklek Wonjongkam. After beating Ikehara we had seen Kogawa record 2 defenses, beating Tetsuma Hayashi in the first and then stopping Keita Yamaguchi in second. As had always been Kogawa's way, the bouts were exciting, damaging and punishing. He had been unable to secure a second world title fight but clearly desired something bigger than just the national title, however he also didn't want to relinquish the Japanese belt until something big could be guaranteed.
As for Ikehara the loss to Kogawa had been followed by him travelling to Mexico to face Edgar Sosa for the WBC Silver Flyweight title. The bout was a nightmare for Ikehara who never looked like he belonged in the ring with the excellent Sosa and retired in his corner between rounds 8 and 9. He had looked out of his depth and looked like a man who knew he wasn't going to go on to win a world title. Despite that loss he had returned to the ring less than 3 months later and stopped Junichi Ebisuoka at Korakuen Hall and set up a rematch with Kogawa. And oh boy was Ikehara hungry to avenge his loss to his domestic rival!
Straight from the opening bell Ikehara was out firing, dragging Kogawa into a dog fight from round 1. This wasn't round 1 of a fight, but round 11 of a rivalry and Ikehara wanted to get the upper hand immediately. Kogawa was under pressure through out, and a slip caused by the pressure was a sign of just what he was under. Of course Ikehara's pressure left him in harms way, and he took punishment as a result, but seemed to dish out more than he took in a brilliant opening round.
The second round was similarly exciting, with Ikehara managing to drop Kogawa, scoring a flash knockdown to second a 10-8 round against the defending champion. The knockdown elicited a huge roar from the crowd and and saw Ikehara go after Kogawa, who was forced to fight fire with fire. The perception of Japanese fans being "quiet" was totally destroyed as they chanted following the knockdown, before Kogawa managed to recover his bearings. Even when Kogawa looked fine Ikehara's pressure continued and he would rock the champion again before the round was over. This was a sensational round, a truly brilliant 3 minutes of brutality.
Kogawa still looked rocked in round 3, but he wasn't going to just hand over the title because he'd been hurt and instead he saw off the aggression and fire of Ikehara, surviving some truly massive shots from the challenger. He looked to use his feet when his head settled, and finally began to find his range, his tempo and take advantage of a slowing Ikehara. Although Kogawa began to have moments it still seemed like Ikehara was only a couple of punches from rocking the champion once more.
We won't ruin any more of this bout, but this is a real hidden gem in a sea of great gems for the Japanese Flyweight title.
When we look at how significant a domestic title is in acting as a stepping stone to bigger honour, few rival the significance of the Japanese Flyweight title. The amount of world champions who have held the Japanese Flyweight title at some point is incredible. Since 1990 alone we've seen Yuri Arbachakov, Celes Kobayashi, Takefumi Sakata, Daisuke Naito, Tomonobu Shimizu and Toshiyuki Igarashi all take the title before moving on to bigger and better things. Today we get to enjoy a modern day classic for the belt that often goes over-looked and rarely ever gets mentioned.
Takuya Kogawa (17-2, 10) vs Shigetaka Ikehara (22-2-2, 18) I
In late 2011 Toshiyuki Igarashi vacated the Japanese Flyweight title, as he pursued a WBC world title fight. In January 2012 we then saw Takuya Kogawa and Shigetaka Ikehara clash for the vacant title, in what was the first bout between the two men.
Prior to this bout Kogawa was a fairly well known fighter on the Asian scene. He had won the OPBF Super Flyweight title in 2010, beating Danilo Pena, and had challenged WBC Flyweight king Pongsaklek Wonjongkam in 2011. Although he lost to Wonjongkam his effort was a solid one. Following the loss to the Thai great Kogawa returned to Japanese level and in his first bout he fought for the Japanese title against Ikehara. Interestingly his bout with Wonjongkam was aired on tape delay on TBS, rather than being shown live, which didn't help Kogawa's profile in the way it could have, but was still a brave effort against the Thai king.
Whilst Kogawa was pretty well known at the time, and had tasted title glory, the came couldn't be said of Ikehara. Ikehara's biggest wins were a close decision over Masayuki Kuroda and a TKO over the experienced Shingo Yamaguchi, and he had come up short in a pair of title bouts. He had fought to a technical draw with Tomonobu Shimizu in a Japanese title fight in 2009 and lost in 11 rounds to Rocky Fuentes for the OPBF Flyweight title. Ikehara had bounced back from the loss toFuentes.
It took only a few seconds for the bout to erupt, with the crowd roaring loudly after around 10 seconds, and we knew we could be seeing something a little bit special. Not necessarily the tidiest, but violent.
From the opening moments Kogawa was looking to box on the outside, using his feet but Ikehara wasn't having any of that was pressing, losing the distance, and using his physicality to try and get to Kogawa. Ikehara's pressure caused some messiness as he tried to get inside but gave the bout an immediate sense of excitement, and meant he was always coming forward.
After an exciting, but messy, opening round things moved up a gear up Ikehara's heavy shots thudding through the Korakuen Hall and his pressure forcing a response from Kogawa, who had to move through the gears quickly. A clash of heads late in the round left Kogawa in pain, but left Ikehara looking almost impervious to pain.
Round after round the two men exchanged bombs, with Kogawa typically landing the better volume of shots but Ikehara's shots looking, and sounding, much more powerful, especially his body shots. It was very much a case of two men matching each other amazingly well, though with different styles.
Despite both landing bombs the tempo remained high round after rounds, as both men dug deep, let their hands go seemed unwilling to let their foe have the final say in an exchange.
This is one of those many bouts that doesn't get the attention it deserves, but if you have about 40 minutes it's one that really is a hidden gem, and deserves it's place in our Closet Classics!
When we have some free time we're hoping to add a series of fun articles to the site. Hopefully these will be enjoyable little short features