After missing much of this year in regards to Weekly Awards we now return to this series as we celebrate the best of the last week! If we're being honest it's been a good week, and we really have had a bit of everything in a week that has been really interesting, without having anything massive happen in the world of Asian boxing.
Fighter of the Week
One thing we like to see is a fighter answering new questions, proving something about themselves and showing there is more to them than we had previously assumed. One fighter who did that this week was our Fighter of the Week Shuichiro Yoshino. The talented triple crown winner defended his three titles with a polished, mature and effective performance against Valentine Hosokawa. For the first time in years Yoshino was up against a man he couldn't hurt, and instead of getting stuck in a war he boxed, he thought about what he was doing and showed a real maturity to his boxing. Not only that but he also went 12 rounds for the first time, getting really valuable in ring experience. This was as a good a learning experience as Yoshino could have wanted and it was exactly what he needed.
Performance of the Week
We had a lot of short, impressive performances in Japan this week, including that of Jin Sasaki and Aito Abe though we don't think any were quite as impressive a the 19 second blow out win for Yasutaka Fujita, against Kensuke Nakamura. Coming in to this we had actually about how Fujia would look, given his last outing saw him lose in the 2019 All Japan Rookie of the Year final against Kodai Honda. We needn't have feared as he became only the third man to stop Nakamura, and did it with what was essentially the first meaningful punch of the bout. The finish came from a cracking left hook that dropped Nakamura who got to his feet and stumbled around. This is how you bounce back from your first loss and against a usually durable domestic foe.
Fight of the Week
Shoki Sakai vs Hironori Shigeta
There was bigger fights, and there fights with more drama, but there was few fights that had us as excited as the 8 round brawl between Shoki Sakai and Hironori Shigeta, who gave us an exhibition in inside fighting . Sakai, a veteran of over 35 fights, was making his Japanese debut and had to prove as he took on Shigeta, a former Rookie of the Year winner. The mentalities of the two men proved vital to the action as both men showed a willingness to exchange up close and give us some great intense action. The bout was pretty competitive, though it was very much a "clear but competitive" win for Sakai, and a real fun one. It won't be in the running for Fight of the Year, but is well worthy of a watch if, or when, you get the chance.
Round of the Week
Ryugo Ushijima vs Ryukyu Oho (RD1)
We had some great rounds across the shows in Asia, with several rounds of the Shoki Sakai Vs Hironori Shigesta fight being sensational, but the best round, for us, was the action packed and dramatic opening round of Ryugo Ushijima's bout with Ryukyu Oho. The round saw both men being dropped and some wild exchanges. From the off Oho wanted to press and Ushijima was dragged into a fire fight that saw both men taking some solid punishment. If you missed this one it's well worthy of a watch, and it a fantastic example of what happens when match making goes right! The bout did peak early, sadly, but that peak was always going to be hard to match.
KO of the Week
Aito Abe KO1 Kentaro Omori
Not for the first time recently we managed to get a sensational KO on an relatively obscure show as 19 year old Aito Abe crushed Kentaro Omori in just 17 seconds of their Rookie of the Year bout. Abe came out like a man with a point to prove and Omori with stood the assault for a few seconds, before a huge right hand on the temple ended the show. This was short, this was sharp and it was brutal. For those with boxing raise this is well and truly worth a watch and Abe certainly appears to be someone we can expect a lot more KO's from as time goes on.
Prospect of the Week
We saw a lot of prospects in action this past week, but for us the one that impressed the most was Jin Sasaki, who showed exactly why those in Japan are so excited about him and his potential. He came out looking like a star in the making, blitzed Shun Akaiwa in 45 seconds, and made people sit up and take note. We knew he was good, he had impressed us earlier in his career, but we didn't know he was this good. Aged just 19 he is certainly one to keep an eye on for the future, and showed some incredible power, speed and aggression here.
Upset of the Week
Pungluang Sor Singyu KO7 Campee Phayom
In one of the final bouts of the week we saw former 2-time WBO Bantamweight champion Pungluang Sor Singyu score only his second win in 4 years! The veteran did it by stopping Campee Phayom, and claimed the WBA Asia Super Featherweight title as his reward. The bout was a pretty competitive one at times, though the experience and toughness of Pungluang began to show through as we moved into the middle rounds and he began to grind down the 22 year year old fringe contender. The pressure of Pungluang broke through in round 7 when he took out Campee in style and scored the shock win. Whilst looking on paper this may not be a massive shock the fact Pungluang was 1-5 in his previous 6 and was fighting well above his best weight, makes this a genuine surprise result. As well as being a surprise it's a huge set back for Campee
Last year we were really entertain by the Rookie of the Year tournament, and the various fighters involved. Whilst certain fighters impressed for their talent and skills others impressed due to their excitement. One such fighter was Light Welterweight puncher Yasutaka Fujita (5-1, 5), who lost in the final but left us craving more of him thanks to a crude but thrilling all action style. It was a style that essentially cost him the bout, but won him fans and attention. Since then things have changed massively for him, and the hope is that he can temper his aggression, improve his defense and rebuild from that loss.
Born in Aichi in 1994 Fujita only had a short amateur career. In total he fought just 10 times before turning professional, and went 7-3 (4). Given his lack of amateur experience he began his career in 4 rounders and debuted in November 2018, fighting out of the Nagoya Ohashi Gym.
On his debut it was clear Fujita could punch, taking just 59 to stop fellow debutant Keiichi Suzuki. The bout saw the two unloading on each other, with the power, strength and physicality of Fujita being too much for Suzuki, who was dropped once and then had to be saved by the referee. For the 23 year old Fujita this was the perfect way to make his debut.
Just 4 months after facing off with Suzuki for the first time the two men clashed again, as part of the Central Japan Rookie of the Year. This time things were over even quicker with Fujita needing just 37 seconds to see off Suzuki, who was dropped twice by the hard hitting youngster.
After blowing apart Suzki twice we then saw Fujita face his first test, as he took on Kosei Kataoka. Unlike Suzuki we saw Kataoka show some real toughness and resilience. Suzuki started fast before the tempo took a toll on him, and he slowed notably in round 3 as Kataoka tried to turn things around. Sadly for Kataoka it wasn't to be enough and in round 4 Fujita dug deep and forced Kataoka's corner to throw in the towel after just over a minute of round 4.
Fujita would then continue to advance towards the All Japan Rookie of the Year with second round TKO wins over Ryota Uno and Takuya Takahashi, who had made his way to the final based on a bye in the West Japan final. Those wins had seen him move to 5-0 (5) and book his place in the All Japan final in December. Although we had serious questions about his stamina, due to his performance against Kataoka, we were impressed by his intensity, work rate, stamina and destructive power. He had caught our eye, been exciting, and looked like a flawed warrior worthy of following.
Sadly for Fujita his power and aggression wasn't enough when it came to the All Japan final, in what was his Korakuen Hall debut. It was there that he met the young, determined Kodai Honda. The bout was a war from the off with Fujita being rocked in the opening seconds before dropping Honda moments later. He then went on to put Honda down a second time in a round that had the Korakuen Hall chanting "Fujita". It seemed he was on the verge of another quick win but Honda refused to quit whilst Fujita continued to unleash bombs until the tables were turned in the dying seconds. It was a truly sensational opening round.
Sadly for Fujita his inability to put Honda away when he had his man hurt turned out to hurt him big time, as Fujita had essentially emptied the tank. He lacked the defense needed to protect himself from Honda's bombs and he looked like he was running on fumes by round 3. Sadly for Fujita there was no second wind and he was stopped in 4 round, as Honda's heart and determination took him a huge win over the aggressive and exciting Fujita.
Earlier we mentioned that Fujita had began his career at the Nagoya Ohashi Gym. That gym and the Ohashi gym lead by Hideyuki Ohashi are completely unrelated, with the Nagoya Ohashi Gym being run by Hiromasa Ohashi.
Following the loss to Honda we saw Fujita change his life and in June he transferred from the Nagoya Ohashi Gym to the much more well established Misako Gym. Since transferring he's had the chance to train with much better fighters and has rounded off some of the defensive flaws, and stamina issues that cost him against Honda.
Fujita will be fighting his first bout as a Misako gym fighter on September 3rd as he goes up against the durable, but light punching, Kensuke Nakamura in a 6 rounder. The hope here is that we'll see a mentally improved Fujita in this bout. Few can doubt his fire power and excitement factor, but there is clearly work that needs doing in terms of his defensive work and pacing. If the training at Misako can help there then we genuinely see Fujita making his way up the rankings and, one day, getting in the mix for domestic or regional honours.
Fujita doesn't have world class potential but he had the potential to be a very TV friendly fighter and that is what the sport needs more of. With that in mind we hope you all stay around and Fujita in mind going forward because he is very, very fun to watch.
The 2019 Rookie of the Year tournament was genuinely brilliant with a number of great fights, both on the way to the All Japan final and in the All Japan final, back on December 22nd. Among the very best of the bouts was a Light Welterweight between Kodai Honda and Yasutaka Fujita, a round so good it deserves to be watched in isolation.
The two men had reached the final in impressive fashion. Honda had lost on his debut but has stopped his previous 3 opponents in a combined 6 rounds, including stopping the then 5-0 Masaki Kobayashi in the East Japan final in November. Fujita on the other hand had had stopped all 5 of his opponents in a combined 10 rounds, and had only been taken beyond 2 rounds once.
Whilst we didn't expect this one to go the distance, and it didn't was it was stopped in round 4, what we hadn't expected was that neither man wanted to go more than 3 minutes. From the opening moments we were seeing the two men in each others face and it was only 10 seconds in that we were seeing them trading bombs in some absolutely breath taking excuses. Fujita would then take the upper hand, and try to take out Honda who refuses to be taken out, and tried to pressure the free swinging Fujita. It wasn't the best game plan, but it made for some amazing action as Fujita threw punches like a newbie on a Fight Night game. Then Honda came back in the dying seconds of the round as it swung back towards him
In just the space of 3 minutes we had seen so much leather thrown that it was clear one man, or the other, wasn't going to remain standing after 5 rounds. We had seen Fujita throw everything, we had seen Honda eat everything then come back. This was a round to remember, and a brilliant way to start a Rookie of the Year final bout.
This past week has been a rather crazy one, with so much action crammed into so little time. We saw a Japanese Heavyweight fight in the UK, huge upsets featuring Filipino fighters, the Rookie of the Year final and so much more. Whilst the week wasn't full of high profile action it was one of the most packed weeks of the year, by some margin and a lot of fighters and bouts are being missed off this week. This was a tough week to be an award winner, but a great for fans as we complete the final week before Christmas!
Fighter of the Week
Akinori Watanabe (39-7-1, 33)
It wasn't a tough week for Akinori Watanabe, who retained his OPBF Light Middleweight title with a 2nd round KO win over Sitthidet Banti, but it was one where he scored, on paper, this biggest win, retaining a major regional title. The heavy handed fighter from the Kadoebi gym was expected to win with ease and he did just that, taking out the Thai challenger with a brutal body shot that left Banti in absolute agony. Fingers crossed that we see Watanabe in with a bigger test and a better challenge in his next defense.
Performance of the Week
Renz Rosia (16-9-1, 9)
At the start of the week few would have expected us to be talking about a win for Renz Rosia but the Filipino domestic level fighter managed to record a career best win on Saturday when he out pointed 2-time world title challenger Aston Palicte. Rosia managed to out box, out skill, out and out fight the bigger, hard hitting Palicte, who looked second best through out. Rosia won't get a lot of acclaim for this win, but it suddenly gives his career a massive shot in the arm. Sadly however it does leave Palicte's career in a real hole, and it's the sort of loss which will be hard for him to bounce back from, given how comprehensive it was.
Kodai Honda vs Yasutaka Fujita
The Rookie of the Year on Sunday was consistently entertaining, but one bout really stood out. That was the 140lb clash between Kodai Honda and Yasutaka Fujita, a bout that will be deserving or a re-watch, and another rewatch. It was just something sensational, with 4 knockdowns, both men going down twice, and an incredible intensity to the first round. Fujita started like a house on fire and Honda tried to respond, being dropped twice in the opening round, before finding a way to turn things around. This really is a must watch 4 round war.
Kodai Honda vs Yasutaka Fujita (Rd1)
The fight of the week, had the round of the week with the opening round of the Honda Vs Fujita bout being absolutely incredible, with Fujita setting an incredible pace and Honda trying to respond, fighting fire with fire. This is the sort of round that has every fan on their feet with their jaws on the floor, and the fact Honda would go on to fight back in the way he did in the following rounds just adds to how amazing this round is. A really sensational 3 minutes of action.
Daniel Dubois KO2 Kyotaro Fujimoto
There really wasn't any option was there? Englishman Daniel Dubois turned the lights off for Japanese Heavyweight Kyotaro Fujimoto in what was one of the best KO's this year. A huge, single right hand to the jaw took the Japanese fighter out in brutal fashion. This is one which will be replayed time and time again. It's just a shame the Asian fighter was on the wrong end of it, but this was a brilliant KO.
Odiljon Aslonov (1-0, 1)
Forner Uzbek amateur standout Odiljon Aslonov made his debut on Saturday in Russia and instantly looked like one to watch, as he battered Russian journeyman Varazdat Chernikov into submission. This was a debut where Aslonov's intention wasn't just to win, but to show what his strengths were, and from the first moments he was showing destructive and brutal body work, breaking down the Russian, who was completely outclassed. This heavy handed fighter looks like a beast and is one to make a real note of going forward.
Moruti Mthalane (38-2, 25) vs Akira Yaegashi (28-6, 16)
Monday's IBF Flyweight title fight, pitting defending champion Moruti Mthalane against Japanese star Akira Yaegashi, is a hard one to call. We expect Mthalane to win, no matter what, but how he gets the win really does befuddle us. We can see both a very early win for the South African, with Yaegashi officially being shot, or a late dragged out win for Mthalane, who finally breaks down a gallant Yaegashi in a FOTY contender. It's that potential for this bout to be something special that has seen up pick this bout, though we wouldn't be surprised to see if being a blow out for the South African,similar to Yaegashi's 2017 loss to Milan Melindo.
This is just an opinion, maaaan! It's easy to share our opinions, and that's what you'll find here, some random opinion pieces