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!
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
-Kyotaro Fujimoto (19-1): WBO #7 / WBC #20
A heavyweight Japanese fighter is something very rare, let along being ranked in the top 10. The former K-1 champion debuted in 2011 and has had a successful run in the regional scene, currently holding the OPBF & WBO Asia Pacific Heavyweight belts while riding on a 14 fight winning streak. Even though we may never see him challenging for a world title, it’s fun knowing he is there.
Super Welterweight/Jr Middleweight:
-Takeshi Inoue (13-0): WBO #5 / WBA #13 / WBC #19
The undefeated 4-year veteran is climbing the Super Welterweight rankings very fast, managing to place himself as the #5 in the WBO. A former Japanese title holder and now the unified OPBF & WBO Asia Pacific champion, may very well be one or two fights away from his first world title opportunity.
Super Lightweight/Jr Welterweight:
-Hiroki Okada (18-0): WBO #3 / WBA #4 / WBC #9
One of brightest prospects in Japan right now, Okada has never lost a single bout in his entire career. A bona fide knock out artist (13 KOs), he held the Japanese crown for 32 months and defended it 6 times, before winning the WBO Asia Pacific championship from Jason Pagara (41-3) this past December. Since the WBO world champion Maurice Hooker will not participate in the WBSS, this title will probably be his main focus as of now. Okada’s next confirmed appearance is on September 14th in the US (opponent TBA).
-Masayoshi Nakatani (17-0): WBC #7, WBO #13
Much like Okada and Takuma, Nakatani is also another undefeated fighter, who just recently made a record 10th title defense of the OPBF Lightweight championship. Despite the fact that he is ranked “only” #7 by the WBC, it’s worth pointing out that his last bout took place on July 29, so that win wasn’t taken into consideration at the latest ranking updates.
-Nihito Arakawa (31-6): WBO #3
Former Japanese, OPBF and reigning WBO Asia Pacific Lightweight champion, Arakawa has been in many big fights through out his 14-year career. At 36, he is still looking for his second world title opportunity.
Super Featherweight/Jr Lightweight:
-Masaru Sueyoshi (18-1): WBO #7
The 27 year old is steadily making his mark in Japan, suffering only one loss in his 4th pro bout, Sueyoshi has been victorious in his last 15 outings and even won the Japanese title on October of 2017. Another successful year and we might see him challenge for a world title by the end of 2019/beginning of 2020.
-Satoshi Shimizu (6-0): WBC #6
The Bronze Medalist at the 2012 Olympics, made his pro debut on September of 2016 and he has KOed/TKOed every single one of his opponents since then, claiming the OPBF Featherweight crown in just his 4th fight. He will defend that belt against Shingo Kawamura (16-3) later this month. If he can pass that test too, a fight with Gary Russell Jr. for the WBC title could be up for debate.
-Shun Kubo (13-1): WBA #7
The former WBA Super Bantamweight world champion returned this April, after his TKO loss to Daniel Roman in 2017, and won his comeback fight against former OPBF Featherweight champion & world title challenger Hiroshige Osawa (33-5) making a huge impact on his Featherweight debut.
Super Bantamweight/r Featherweight:
-Tomoki Kameda (35-2): WBA #2 / WBC #4 / WBO #9
El Mexicanito, has been on a 4-fight winning streak since moving up a weight class and has already broke the top 5 in both the WBA & the WBC. A fight with Emanuel Navarrete (WBA #1) could potentially set up a world title fight in 2019 with the winner of Daniel Roman/ Gavin McDonnell, which takes place this October.
-Hidenori Otake (31-2): WBO #6 / WBC #8
The reigning OPBF champion is scheduled to take on Isaac Dogboe (19-0) for the WBO World Super Bantamweight title on August 25.
-Takuma Inoue (11-0): WBO #8 / WBC #9
The undefeated former OPBF Super Flyweight champion is set to face reigning OPBF Bantamweight champion Mark John Yap (29-12), in a WBC World title eliminator fight on September 11.
-Hiroaki Teshigawara (17-2): WBO #6
Teshigawara recently stopped former world title contender Teiru Kinoshita (26-3) to defend his WBO Asia Pacific crown, bringing him one step closer to a WBO world championship match.
-Ryo Akaho (32-2): WBO #13
This is more of an honorable mention as Akaho made his return to the ring this past July, since his forced retirement last year, and knocked out Robert Udtohan, thus making it in the WBO world rankings once more.
Super Flyweight/Jr Bantamweight:
-Kazuto Ioka (22-1): WBA #2
In what must be considered the most bizarre ranking of this list, the former 3 division world champion, who’s return to the ring was announced just a couple of weeks ago, is already ranked #2 by the WBA ! Ioka is scheduled to fight WBC Silver champion and 2-time world title contender McWilliams Arroyo (17-3) on September 8, in the States.
-Koki Eto (22-4): WBC #5 / WBO #7 / WBA #9
The former interim WBA World Flyweight champion is currently ranked in the top 10 of the WBA, the WBC and the WBO. He fights Delfin de Asis (9-5) on August 16.
-Ryuichi Funai (30-7): WBO #5 / WBC #10 / WBA #13
Funai knocked out Philippino standout and world title challenger Warlito Parrenas (26-8), in impressive fashion, this past June, and won the vacant WBO Asia Pacific title. A strong first title defense and Funai could be challenging for the world championship by 2019.
-Kosei Tanaka (11-0): WBO #1 / WBC #2
Arguably one of the best fighters that have come out of Japan, Tanaka has won 2 world titles in 2 different divisions within 5 years. Now he looks to add a 3rd one to his collection as he goes one on one with Sho Kimura (17-1) for the WBO World Flyweight championship on September 24.
-Masayuki Kuroda (30-7): WBA #1 / WBC #4 / WBO #5
The current Japanese Flyweight champion has been on a 6-fight winning streak and has defended his belt 5 times since 2017 and now is ranked amongst the top 5 in the world and most importantly #1 by the WBA. A world title match against Artem Dalakian (17-0) sounds very plausible at this point and since both men have already fought this summer and have come out with no injuries, a fight between the two could take place around December.
-Junto Nakatani (16-0): WBC #5 / WBO #13
Undefeated Japanese flyweight prospect Junto Nakatani scored another TKO win on July 7 and now is ranked at the WBC’s top 5.
-Takuya Kogawa (29-5): WBC #8
After a draw with Yusuke Sakashita, Kogawa has retained his spot at the WBC rankings.
-Masahiro Sakamoto (12-1): WBO #4
The former WBO Asia Pacific champion will probably be in line for a WBO World title match against the winner of Kimura/Tanaka in 2019. He is scheduled to face South Korea’s Flyweight champion Ki Chang Go (6-2) on August 11.
-Ryuji Hara (23-2): WBO #1
Much like Ioka’s, this is the second strangest ranking, especially considering that Hara hasn’t fought since October of 2017. Actually Hara has been the #1 ranked flyweight by the WBO since January, despite having only competed once in this division against the debuting Seneey Worachina. Hara was set to face Angel Acosta for the world title on April 7 but an injury prevented him from stepping into the ring.
-Tetsuya Hisada (32-9): WBA #1 / WBC #3 / WBC #6
The reigning Japanese Flyweight champion, since 2016, recorded a 4th successful defense against Koki Ono (12-5) on July 16, thus improving his streak to 11 consecutive victories. Now as the #1 ranked Light Flyweight by the WBA, he is rumored to face Hekkie Budler for the gold sooner or later.
-Hiroto Kyoguchi (10-0): WBA #2
The undefeated IBF World Minimumweight champion has recently decided to move up a weight class and has already reached the top of the WBA ranking. If Hisada doesn’t face Budler right away, then an eliminator between Kyoguchi and Hisada looks more likely to take place.
-Ryoichi Taguchi (27-3): WBC #4 / WBA #4
Despite losing his 2 world title to Budler, Taguchi is still ranked amongst the top Light Flyweights in the world and without a doubt he will gain another crack at the gold in no time.
-Reiya Konishi (16-1): WBO #6 / WBA #7
The former world title challenger and now new WBO Asia Pacific champion, is coming closer to once again fight for the world championship.
-Tsubasa Koura (13-0): WBC #3 / WBA #9 / WBO #11
At only 23 years of age, Koura has already amassed 13 career wins, including 9 KOs, as well as the OPBF Minimumweight championship. His 3rd title defense will take place on August 24 against an unnamed opponent as of yet. It’s safe to say that we will see him in a WBC world title match in early 2019.
-Ryuya Yamanaka (16-3): WBO #6
Yamanaka recently lost the WBO world title to Vic Saludar. Just like Taguchi, he is only a few fights away from competing again for the big one.
-Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-6): WBC #9
Fukuhara has been victorious in both of his 2018 fights but he will need a few more before he can challenge Chayaphon Moonsri again for the WBC world title.
-Shin Ono (22-9): WBO #9
Ono will make his first Japanese title defense against Riku Kano (13-3) on August 24. His last world title fight was in 2016.
(Image - of Fujimoto, courtesy of Kadoebi Gym)
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