The Japanese Super Bantamweight scene is one of the most deep and interesting scenes out there, and it has been for years with great fight after great fight after great fight. One of the things that has stood out has been the competitiveness of those fights, and we have been getting a really consistent run of fantastic, competitive, back and forth fights. The division really has been pouring out some absolute thrillers over the last few years, both in title bouts and none title bouts. Today we go into the Closet and draw out a brilliant Japanese Super Bantamweight title fight from 2016, and it really is a lost modern classic.
Yasutaka Ishimoto (28-8, 7) vs Gakuya Furuhashi (18-7-1, 8) II
In August 2015 Yasutaka Ishimoto, best known by US fans for his bouts in Macao against Wilfredo Vazquez Jr and Chris Avalos, scored a razor thin win over Gakuya Furuhashi in a thrilling 8 round bout. The result of that win was a Japanese title fight for Ishimoto who would narrowly beat Yusaku Kuga in a thriller to claim the vacant Japanese title. After winning the belt he would make his first defense against Furuhashi, who had fought to a draw in a previous title bout against Yukinori Oguni.
Fans outside of Japan may have heard of Ishimoto but not many will have seen him, outside of his Macao fights. To those in Japan however he was a hugely popular domestic level fighter and a man who had some of the noisiest fans in the sport at the time. When he fought the Korakuen Hall was packed, loud and had an even louder more excited atmosphere than usual. Although Ishimoto wasn't a world class talent, or a banger, his following was massive, and his style was nothing short of thrilling, with every fight being an action packed brawl.
Furuhashi wasn't quite a popular as Ishimoto, though like Ishimoto his style was based around action, brawling and fighting at a high pace, trading blows and engaging in a really fun stylistic match up. It was a style suited to fighters with more power, but one he used and one fans enjoyed. Like Ishimoto he was popular, and was popular, in part due to his ability to get involved in a tear up.
With two fighters who enjoyed a war facing off, with history from their first bout, it's self a thriller, we were expecting something special here. And it delivered!
The first round was high paced feeling out round, that got better and better as the round went on. The crowd buying into the action with applause and cheers almost from the first noteworthy punch. Through round two we were beginning to see a high tempo contest fought at mid range, both guys firing off jabs and trying to follow them up. It was a fight that suited Ishimoto and one that Furuhashi knew he had to change, and change he did stepping up the pace, and then being punished on the inside. He knew that for him to win he had to grit it out and turn it into a war, and by the mid rounds that was exactly what had happened, with Furuhashi raiding on the champion.
From there on the bout just became something special with grit and determination driving Furuhashi on, as he looked to win the title and avenge his prior loss to Ishimoto whilst Ishimoto himself sought to break down the challenger and in what was becoming a hotly contest fight. The crowd were cheering on the action, supporting a great fight and there was hardly an empty seat in the Hall as it began bouncing.
With Furuhashi pressing in the second half of the fight the it seemed like he could, potentially turn things around as the men began exchanging combinations of headshots.
In the end one man would stay standing, but both would walk out of the ring with their reputations enhanced and fans desperate to see more of both fighters, who had let it all hang out in a forgotten yet brilliant modern day war.
Please note - The sound used in this video was subdued due to the recording method, though the image should be excellent.
The Super Bantamweight division is one of the most interesting at the moment in terms of the fighters in it, though has sadly been lacking in good match ups. Hopefully that will change in the near future as some of the notable fighters, finally, face off against each other.
Here we have looked at some of the best in the division with short profiles on 9 of the best in Asia as well mentions of other top Asian's in the division and the other top names in the division world wide.
Other Asian fighters at Super Bantamweight worth making a note of are-
Yukinori Oguni (14-1-1, 4)-Oguni is a technically well schooled boxer-mover who is the current Japanese champion and a former OPBF title holder, who lost the belt by stoppage to Wake. Although talented he is a light puncher and will likely struggle to get beyond Japanese level again. Despite that he will be in interesting fights, especially at domestic Japanese level.
Yasutaka Ishimoto (26-8, 7)-Another Japanese level fighter who is often in entertaining bouts is Ishimoto, who is best known for out pointing Wilfredo Vazauez Jr. Ishimoto has come up short in a couple of Japanese title fights but is expected to get a third shot shortly and it could well be his last. If he manages to claim a domestic title then that will be a perfect way to close out his career.
Yusaku Kuga (11-1-1, 7)-One beaten Japanese prospect Kuga is a talented and capable fighter who is expected to reach OPBF level in his career. Aged 24 he's not viewed as a sensational prospect but certainly as a man with real promise. Promoted by Watanabe his future is bright but it's hard to see his route to the top considering his domestic competition. Saying that however we do like a lot.
Hikaru Marugame (5-0, 3)-Marugame is another Japanese prospect and one who is tipped to go a long way. The 25 year old turned professional last year and has looked fantastic at times though has yet to have a serious test. That comes on October 19th when he takes on Jonathan Baat in a really testing 8 round bout at the Korakuen Hall. A win there would be a big statement for the youngster.
Kongthara KKP (7-0, 5)-We'll admit we don't know enough about Kongthara to really make a comment about how good he will be, but so far he has been really impressive and already holds wins over Shingo Kawamura and Nouldy Manakane. The talent he has shown has already impressed and he's already proved his stamina and ability over 12 rounds. One to keep an eye on.
As well as the Asian fighters there are also copious non-Asian fighters in the division worth noting.
Guillermo Rigondeaux (15-0, 10)-The best of the division, by some margin, is Cuban sensation Rigondeaux. Unfortunately Rigondeaux is a fighter who has proven to be hard to match, had to advertise and almost impossible to keep onside. Plenty of fans will accuse fighters of ducking him though comments from his own manager make it seem like he's actually as tricky outside of the ring as he is on the inside. An on song Rigondeaux is a pure boxer, but sadly his time may be running down.
Carl Frampton (21-0, 14)-Northern Irishman Frampton is regarded by many as the clear #2 in the division. He's a boxer-puncher with a lot of talent, a growing fan base and a combination of skills, speed and power. In a recent bout fans saw Frampton being dropped twice, in what was his US debut, those knockdowns saw some question his chin, and ability, but he did win the bout and has continued his unbeaten run. It's now thought that Frampton will be fighting Wake before the year is out in what really looks like one of the best bouts the division could give us.
Leo Santa Cruz (30-0-1, 17)-Mexican warrior Santa Cruz once looked like one of the sports emerging stars. A 2-weight world champion with an exciting style he was supposed to be a throw to the Mexican fighters of old. Unfortunately a lot of the shine and good will he had built in his career has been damaged in the last couple of years as he's gone through a number of WBC defenses against weak opponents. Although he's tough and does throw a lot of punches the belief seems to be growing that he's a divisional cash cow but one with out the ability to face the other top fighters.
Scott Quigg (31-0-2, 23)-WBA “regular” champion Quigg was often seen as the weakest of the champions. In recent times however he has looked impressive and his recent blow out of Kiko Martinez was one of the most impressive wins of 2015. He's looking for a showdown with Frampton though it does seem unlikely that we'll see that one as mandatory obligations and promotional spats are standing in the way. Hopefully we'll see Quigg fight another top name in the near future, and Donaire is said to be the man his team are targeting in what would be an intriguing contest.
(Images courtesy of www.boxrec.com apart from the images of Kubo, courtesy of Shinsei Gym, and Kim, courtesy of the KBF)
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