We have regularly spoke about the number of Japanese Middleweight title bouts that have ended up being thrillers. In fact we genuinely think it's the title that gives us amazing battles more consistently than any other title. The bouts might not be the best from a technical stand point but time, and time again they deliver incredible action between well matched fighters who really do fight for the belt. Today we bring you another bout for that title, and like others for the title, it was a thriller. Maybe not one of the very best, but it's in the chasing pack, and is really worthy of the 40 or so minutes it takes to enjoy.
Hikaru Nishida (15-8-1, 7) vs Tomohiro Ebisu (17-4, 17)
In one corner was Japanese champion Hikaru Nishida, a teak tough pressure fighter who was technically flawed but a bull. He could be out boxed, and was just a fight earlier in an OPBF title fight against Dwight Ritchie, but if you let him close the distance he was a nightmare to fight. As well as his toughness and incessant pressure he really excelled in terms of stamina, and seemed to get stronger in the middle and later rounds of bouts, taking advantage of opponents as they grew tired. We had seen the stamina and physicality of Nishida work well against the likes of Makoto Fuchigami and Akio Shibata and he had proven to be a really horrible fighter to go up against.
It's worth noting that whilst Nishida's record had 8 losses in 24 bouts he was once 4-5-1 (1) and had really rebuilt from a poor start whilst taking notable wins over the likes of Nishida, Fuchigami, Kazuhiko Hidaka and future OPBF champion Ratchasi Sithsaithong.
Ebisu on the other hand was seen as a glass cannon. His power was devastating, but his chin was a major issue, and none of his 21 bouts coming into this one had gone the distance, in fact 15 of his 21 bouts had finished in the first 4 rounds, including 3 of his 4 losses. Although he was a huge puncher, he had thudding power that shakes fighters to their core rather than knocked them out clean, and he lacked the speed to catch many fighters on the chin. Despite his flaws Ebisu was a fun, talented boxer-puncher and had managed to win the Japanese middleweight title in 2013, with a win over Sanosuke Sasaki, though it was a short reign and he did lose it in his first defense.
Coming into this Ebisu was the interim champion, following a win over Makoto Fuchigami in a 2016 Japanese Fight of the Year contender. That interim title had actually come about after Nishida was forced to pull out of a third bout with Fuchigami after suffering an injury in a freak accident and this bout was set to unify the two titles.
Within 90 seconds of the bout starting we had started to get what we were expecting. We were seeing Nishida pressing with real intensity and Ebisu landing heavy shots to the head an body of Nishida. Nishida managed to walk through the big shots in the opening few rounds and made Ebisu begin to stand his ground. When that happened we got fire works with the two trading bombs on the inside trying to take each other out some monstrous shots. Both were testing the other's resolve and it was clear, after just a few rounds, we were set for another Japanese Middleweight title war.
This wasn't pretty, but it was violent and got more, and more violent as the fight went on their footwork began to slow and they were spending more time at mid and close range.
We've spoken multiple times about how great the fights for the Japanese Middleweight title often are. In 2016 we saw the "interim" belt give us something totally mind blowing as veteran Makoto Fuchigami and hard hitting fighter Tomohiro Ebisu put it on the line in a pre-Christmas treat at the Korakuen Hall. The bout, as mentioned for the interim title, had come about following an out of the ring accident for Hikaru Nishida, who had fallen down some stairs forcing him to cancel a planned defense. Whilst the reason for the bout wasn't a good one, the fight it's self was something special.
Tomohiro Ebisu (16-4, 16) vs Makoto Fuchigami (23-11, 14)
December 24th 2016 saw Hachioji Nakaya promote one of their most memorable bouts. The card it's self was most forgetable, barring the main event. In fact the 6 under-card bouts combined for just 14 rounds, but the main event gave us a late runner for the Fight of the Year, or at least the Japanese Figth of the Year.
In one corner was former world title challenger Makoto Fuchigami, who had famously fought Gennady Golovkin in 2012, but had been in a number of thrillers at the domestic and regional level, including his 2011 bout with Koji Sato. The win over Sato had seen him unify the OPBF and Japanese titles but in the years that followed he had sort of struggled, going 5-5 including the loss to Golovkin, and a pair of losses to both Akio Shibata and Hikaru Nishida. In fact when Nishida suffered his injury he was training for a third bout with Fuchigami.
For those who haven't seen much of Fuchigami, perhaps only the Golovkin fight, he had an awkward style. He was super relaxed, rode punches well and threw them from some unorthodox angles himself. Although lacking in power he often landed clean blows at this level and showed real guts to time and time again, to turn fights around. He was never the most explosive, or toughest, but he was one of the gutsiest, bravest and exciting Japanese Middleweights of his time.
In the other corner was the stop of be stopped Tomohiro Ebisu. Like Fuchigami he had previously held the Japanese Middleweight title, stopping Sanosuke Sasaki in 2013, though had a very short reign and lost the belt in his first defense less than 6 months later. Through his first 20 fights, leading up to this bout, he had never heard the final bell, with an 8th round TKO win over Yasuyuki Akiyama being the closest he had come, having just over 2 minutes of that bout left. Of his 20 bouts 12 had finished, one way or another, in the first 3 rounds. He was a true glass cannon
Although not the most skilled of fighters Ebisu's power and dodgy chin made him a must watch fighter. An offensive monster, who knew he had to try and take a fighter out before they caught him on the jaw. He made for short but lively fighters, and whilst few of them were truly memorable, they were often fun, exciting and edge of the seat stuff.
What we got when Fuchigami and Ebisu clashed as a skilled boxer, against a huge puncher and they gave for a stylistically thrilling match up, that had both men landing bombs from the early stages. Fuchigame tried to fight as the smart man, using his edge in speed and technical ability, whilst Ebisu looked to land booming power shots, trying to take out the more experienced man. It made for a hot start to the fight, which just got better and better. Even moments of lower activity where thrilling, with Ebisu refusing to just be held and punching as Fuchigami tried to tie him up, forcing Fuchigami to use a different defensive approaches.
From round 1 this was a cracking back and forth, and was a pre-Christmas treat for fight fans looking to open present the following day.
Originally this bout was available for free on the A-sign boxing site, before becoming a reward for those who had used the paid service. Since then it has been one of the most under-watched videos on the A-Sign youtube channel, and really deserves so much more love than it's hard since being uploaded for free this past March. Give it a watch, as this is a closet class that shouldn't be left in the closet!
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