There is one bout which will also be close to the site, and that's because it was the first bout we managed to run an official live stream for through the broadcaster. Thankfully the bout wasn't just a fight that we streamed, but it was also an instant classic and a genuine Fight of the Year candidate with two well matched, but stylistically very different, men giving us an absolutely incredible war that will go down as one of the best Flyweight bouts in recent memory. This was something special for us as a site and something just as special for us as fans. This was 2018 at it's absolute peak.
Sho Kimura (17-1-2, 10) Vs Kosei Tanaka (11-0, 7)
In one corner was Cinderella man Sho Kimura. Kimura had been stopped in a round on debut and had a career that had toiled away without recognition until 2017 when he pulled out one of the shocks of the year and stopped Zou Shiming in China. That win saw Kimura become the WBO Flyweight champion and an instant star in China, where the country almost adopted him. He had built on the win over Shiming by defending the belt twice, and had quickly become a man that fight fans wanted to see. He wasn't the most skilled, or the fastest or the most flashy, but what he was aggressive, tough and had an incredible engine. He was the sort of unstoppable object that makes for thrilling fights and with his ability to bite down on the gumshield and go for it late he was gaining a real reputation as a must watch fighter.
Kosei Tanaka on the other hand was the man groomed for success. He was a stellar amateur who had won his first world title in just his 5th professional bout, then won his second in his 8th bout. Now, in bout #12, he was looking to tie Vasyl Lomachenko's record for fewest fights to become a 3-weight champion. Tanaka had looked like a sensation rising through the ranks. He had shown he could box, he could brawl and that he could bang. He had also, sadly, shown he could be hurt, going down against Vic Saludar and Palangpol CP Freshmart. It was those vulnerabilities than really made us question the move up against a rugged, solid punching, fighter like Kimura. On one hand Tanaka had all the skills, but on the other hand Kimura wasn't the sort of fighter a boxer was going to easily out box, and in fact Kimura had beaten 2 Olmypians in his previous 3 fights.
The fight had high expectations on it, it was a rare fight that Western fans didn't need to go looking for, given the free stream that was available and it was a chance for both men to impress an international audience.
Thankfully it exceeded expectations, in a big way, as the two men put on a show case of violence from the opening round to the final bell. The styles gel perfectly and they set a hot tempo from the off. Kimura's pressure and Tanaka's willingness to to box up close saw the first round look completely unlike a typical opening round. This was a hot tempo to start the bout, and it only got hotter and hotter as the bout went on. Both men taking the best their opponent had, and firing back with just as good shots of their own.
As the rounds went on the pace just got better and better. It was a rare fight that started fantastically, but got better, and better as it went on, and even the final rounds, after both had inflicted massive amounts of punishment the other, continued to be thrilling. In fact the later rounds, with both men swelling badly around the eyes, saw some of the most eye catching moments of the fight, with a particular sequence in round 12, where both took it in turns to launch massive right hands, being regarded as one of the moments of the fight.
This was a fight that we hoped would be good, and in the end it turned out to be sensational. If you missed this, some how, we really do suggest you make up for it now.
By Marcus Bellinger (@marcusknockout)
A hectic weekend of fistic action turned out to be a fruitful one for Japan with a new world champion crowned, the consummation of a tasty looking all Japanese dustup and an anticipated super bantamweight clash that produced a world title contender.
We begin at the Civic Center in Kissimmee, Florida as Masayuki Ito took on Christopher Diaz for the vacant WBO super featherweight strap. Ito had started slow in some of his recent fights but the visitor was out of the gate quickly, landing with solid body shots and right hands. Diaz was often standing in mid-range without letting his hands go and was a sitting duck for the right hand and it was this punch that dropped him in round 4 and a knockout win for Ito looked a strong possibility.
To his credit the Puerto Rican not only rallied in the 4th but arguably had his best round in the 5th. Ito controlled the majority of the rest of the contest, repeatedly tagging Diaz with right hands, causing his left eye to shut. Whilst the home man never stopped trying there was no doubting the result at the final bell and Ito deservedly got the unanimous decision.
The narrative throughout the ESPN+ broadcast that Diaz was the more seasoned fighter was baffling considering that Diaz had never gone passed 8 rounds and had never fought anyone of any real quality whilst Ito had had a number of 10 and 12 round bouts with solid domestic and regional foes. This seasoning which is pretty much the norm in Japanese boxing certainly prepares them properly for the step up to world level and although certainly not every boxer from the land of the rising sun is victorious, very rarely are they embarrassed or blown out in a few rounds.
As for where Ito goes next then unless Top Rank were suitably impressed enough to sign him the most logical move appears to be a spot on one of the high profile cards at home until a big often comes in from abroad. The division at the moment is pretty thin in terms of depth but things can change very quickly below lightweight.
As part of a world title doubleheader in China, Sho Kimura successfully defended his WBO flyweight crown against Froilan Saludar. The challenger actually began pretty well, countering effectively over the first 2 rounds leaving the champion slightly confused. Kimura’s pressure then began to tell and the Filipino struggled under the weight of the body shots and it was a blow to the mid-section which saw proceedings come to an end in round 6.
Kimura now takes on former 105 and 108 lb champion Kosei Tanaka in Nagoya on September 24 in a fascinating matchup of boxer puncher versus all out pressure fighter. The rise of Kimura has been a remarkable one, from 10/1 underdog against Zou Shiming to now a world champion who’s made 2 successful defenses and is now in a far better financial position.
Tanaka looked impressive on his flyweight debut against Ronnie Baldonado in March but having been dropped more than once during his career and having suffered fairly serious injuries against Palangpol CP Freshmart it will be intriguing to see how he copes with the brute strength of Kimura. Tanaka’s huge edge in speed should be telling early on but things could get very interesting in the second half of the bout as Kimura’s non-stop pressure and size could come into play.
The less said about the other world title fight on the show the better as Knockout CP Freshmart and Xiong Zhao Zhong served up a dire 12 round shit fest that wasn’t befitting of some of the truly great fights at strawweight over the last decade. Knockout came away with the unanimous decision but a listless display with stretches of laziness that have been evident in recent bouts didn’t enhance his reputation at all. There was talk of an offer being made to Tatsuya Fukuhara but it now seems that mandatory challenger Byron Rojas will be next. The likes of Fukuhara, Tsubasa Koura and Masataka Taniguchi should be queuing up to take on the Thai who looks to be a champion ready to be taken.
Over at a jam packed Korakuen Hall Yusaku Kuga and Shingo Wake squared off for the Japanese super bantamweight title. The fight was built as a potential world title eliminator so there was a lot on the line for both men.
Wake proved to be too sharp and too skilful for Kuga who was dropped early on and never really got to grips with the sharpshooting southpaw. As the defending champion tried to turn the tide this only left more openings for Wake and eventually the towel came in during the 10th and final stanza. Kuga is definitely young enough to come again and as for Wake, he stated afterwards his desire for a world title tilt on New Year’s Eve.
With champions Ray Vargas and Daniel Roman having deals in the US these seem out of the question but if Ryosuke Iwasa comes through his mandatory defense against TJ Doheny in August then that maybe plausible. Also Isaac Dogboe who faces Hidenori Otake in August has shown a willingness to travel so maybe tempted by a trip to Japan.
As a huge advocate of more all Japanese bouts of significance at all levels it was great to see Kuga and Wake face each other as both could have gone in different directions and given the electric atmosphere that was created hopefully we see more of these type of clashes. At super bantamweight alone there’s the likes of Hinata Maruta of the Morioka Gym, Ryo Matsumoto from the Ohashi and Woz Boxing's Shohei Omori attempting to progress their careers. Speaking of Omori, the hard hitting southpaw returned with an excellent second round stoppage of Brian Lobetania which should give him a real confidence boost.
On the same card in Osaka, Masayoshi Nakatani made the 10th defense of his OPBF lightweight strap, eventually stopping Izuki Tomioka in 11 rounds and again a world title fight was mentioned but frankly seeing will be believing given how he has remained at regional level. Sho Ishida scored a 4th round knockout of Richard Claveras but in a crowded 115 lb weight class, opportunities at world level are few and far between. Finally Tatsuya Fukuhara won a 10 round decision over Naoya Haruguchi to keep himself in the minimumweight mix and is capable of giving anyone in the division a hard nights work.
(Image courtesy of Sumio Yamada)
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