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