The Boxingraise service has been truly fantastic and one of the best additions to the boxing scene over the last few years. Whilst it's not the cheapest service out there, costing 980JPY a month, it is a service that has promised a lot, and in terms of quality it has over-delivered with some amazing battles. Today we get to enjoy one of those as part of the The 2019 Treasure Trove. Boy is this a good one!
Yusaku Kuga (17-3-1, 12) vs Ryoichi Tamura (12-3-1, 6) II
To put some quick backstory behind the bout. In 2017 the hard hitting Yusaku Kuga won the Japanese Super Bantamweight title, stopping Yasutaka Ishimoto. In his first defense he retained the belt by beating Ryoichi Tamura in a sensational 10 round war. Kuga would make one more successful defense, blasting out Ryo Kosaka, before losing the belt in July 2018 to Shingo Wake. In his second bout following that loss he got a shot at Tamura to reclaim the belt, with Tamura winning it after Wake vacated.
For those who haven't seen Kuga he is a rough and tough boxer-fighter. He's got heavy hands, though due to being a bit crude around the edges he can't always land the big power shots clean. When he does connect he hurts opponents. Sadly for Kuga his biggest issues have always been his defensive issues. Whilst he has a solid chin, he can be out boxed, and fighters who are smart, like Wake was, managed to out box him comfortably in 2018, showing up major flaws with Kuga.
Whilst Kuga is tough and heavy handed Tamura is more tough and high octane, but has the same defensively flaws as Kuga. What Tamura does so well is physically bully opponents around, pushing them around the ring and unloading an incredibly intense barrage of punches. That energy and output was seen brilliantly in his title win, in January 2019 against Mugicha Nakagawa, but like Kuga he could be out boxed. It was always going to take a very, very good fighter to beat him, but he was beatable.
When we get iron chinned puncher against an iron chinned swarmer we can get some spectacular fights and that's exactly what we got here. In fact this was one of those rare fights that got better the longer it went on.
In the early going Kuga took control, boxing and moving well, landing good clean shots and avoiding many of Tamura's wilder shots. The first 2 rounds weren't bad, by any stretch, but they were surprisingly quiet. Then things came alive in round 3, and in round 5 he put Tamura down. Following the 5th round we had open scoring and that point the bout seemed a foregone conclusion with the scorecards reading 50-44, 49-45 and 48-46 all in favour of Tamura.
Then the bout moved up a gear as Tamura fought like a man possessed trying to keep his title and drag himself out of the hole he was finding himself in. It was with Tamura trying to take Kuga out that we ended up going from a great bout into great bout territory.
If you like rough brawls, a lot of heavy leather and great action this is for you. The bout isn't the quickest to get going, but when it moves through the gears it quickly becomes a sensational war and something that is well worthy of 40 minutes of any fight fan's time.
For a second week in a row we are looking at a world title bout from late in 2019 as he head to the Treasure Trove again, and bring you a very interesting bout. In fact this was the final world title bout of 2019 and is one we feel is very much an over-looked bout, which combined skills, heart, toughness and competitiveness. It was a bout that was very well fought, swung one way then the other, and saw both men having moments, with very, very different styles. Was it a Fight of the Year contender? No, was it a damn good bout? Hell yes!
Kazuto Ioka (24-2, 14) vs Jeyvier Cintron (11-0-0-1, 5)
Japan's Kazuto Ioka is one of the most accomplished fighters to ever come from the country. He is, at the time of writing, the only Japanese man to win world titles in 4 weight classes and is a genuine star in his homeland. The Osakan won the WBO Super Flyweight title in June, stopping Aston Palicte in another under-rated bout, and was making his first defense here as he took on his mandatory challenger. Although not too well known in the West, sadly, Ioka has managed to win titles from Minimumweight to Super Flyweight, and has a genuine who's who of lower weight fighters on his resume. He's beaten the likes of Oleydong Sithsamerchai, Akira Yaegashi, Felix Alvarado, Juan Carlos Reveco and McWilliams Arroyo, and has spent a huge chunk of his career fighting at the top. Although technically a well schooled fighter Ioka is a small Super Flyweight, he makes up for that however by being versatile and one of the best body punchers in the sport.
In the opposite corner to Ioka was talented Puerto Rican Jeyvier Cintron, a 2-time Olympian. The 24 year old Cintron was a wonderfully talented technical boxer, who looked like a natural Super Flyweight when compared to Ioka. He was big at the weight, very polished from his days as an amateur and a southpaw. In the eyes of some it was perhaps a bit too early for Cintron to get his shot, though he had earned it by beating Koki Eto in a title eliminator and he had also beaten the likes of Eliecer Quezada and Marvin Solano in the professional ranks. Although clearly a talented fighter this was seen as a big leap up in class, despite how good of an amateur he was, and this was to be his first bout at world level. He had travelled to Japan with a lot of self belief and seemed confident of upsetting the Japanese star.
From the opening moments it was clear that Cintron had the edge in speed, size and reach, and he was using his jab brilliantly to dictate the distance and tempo of the bout. Ioka was being coming forward but was struggling to cut the distance as Cintron began to show he was ready for this level of a bout. The challenger looked every bit a star in the making, whilst Ioka was quickly forced to change from trying to box with Cintron.
As we went through the early rounds Ioka managed to adapt. He moved from trying to box, to turning things into a fight, cutting the distance and working the body of Cintron. It was a needed change, and was something that managed to get Ioka a foot hold in the contest, something he was starting to need. The change in tactics not only got Ioka some control of the action but also began to see him slow Cintron, as the challenger had to dig deep and look to change his own tactics.
For those seeking tactical chess matches this is a real over-looked gem.
To end 2019 we got a host of world title bouts, one of which saw a pair of veterans put on a great showing in a bout that easily outshone all expectations and was much, much, more entertaining than it had any right to be. It wasn't a Fight of the Year contender, in the grand scheme of things, but was certainly a sensational post-Christmas treat for fight fans as we began to prepare for the end of the year.
Akira Yaegashi (28-6, 16) Vs Moruti Mthalane (32-8, 25)
In one corner we had former 3-weight world champion Akira Yaegashi, a popular Japanese warrior who had losses piling up but kept a solid cult following for the way he fought, and his in ring mentality, which focused more on thrilling fans than doing things the easy way. At the age of 36 and with a host of wars behind him it seemed almost certain, win or lose, that this was going to be his final bout at world level. He had given more than he needed to to the sport, and it had a taken a toll on his body over the years. He had suffered numerous injuries over the years, most notably to his eyes but also a nasty injury to his jaw early in his career, and yet was determined to reach the top one more time.
In the other was the often over-looked Moruti Mthalane, a sensationally talented South African who was defending the IBF Flyweight title. Mthalane had been unbeaten in 11 years coming in to this, with 3 world title reigns. Had Mthalane been heavier he would have been someone fight fans would have adored. He was aggressive, smart, and technical. He had given Nonito Donaire one of his toughest bouts, way back in 2008, and had been involved in a number of over-looked classics, including a brilliant 2012 clash with Ricardo Nunez. Sadly poor decisions had seen Mthalane lose a number of his prime years, but he remained very fresh faced at the age of 37 and was looking to record a third straight win over a Japanese opponents, having stopped Masahiro Sakamoto at the end of 2018 and the beaten Masayuki Kuroda in May 2019.
Despite a combined age in their early 70's hardcore fans knew these two could fight. What few expected was a really sensational bout. We knew they could go, but we also knew neither man was in their physical prime. What we ended up getting however was something amazing.
Early on we saw Yaegashi fighting on the move, setting distance and a high tempo to try and neutralised Mthalane's compact pressure. It was a smart gameplan from the Japanese warrior, who knew that mixing it up close with Mthalane wasn't going to be a good idea. Mthalane stayed tight defensively and pressured well, with the champion obviously knowing this wasn't going to be a sprint.
As the rounds went on Yaegashi began to go through the gears before Mthalane forced the bout to become a war, using his footwork to cut the distance. As early as round 3 the men were standing toe to toe and unleashing big shots, then trying to avoid the response. It was incredible to watch some of the back and forth we were getting, and it was very easy to forget that both men were the wrong side of 35.
Going into round 4, we knew we were getting something rather damn special. Though questions were hanging over both fighters. Could Yaegashi's body and engine hold up for 12 rounds? Could Mthalane, who had looked fantastic in beating Kuroda, really take the win against Japanese boxing royalty in Japan?
For those who missed this at the end of 2019 do your self a favour and enjoy this treasure from late in the year. For those who watched it live...you know it's worth a re-watch!
Many of the bouts we feature here are relatively long ones, but today we go into the Treasure Trove and grab a short bout, with a brutal finish. This is one of the shortest bouts we'll cover in this series, so our write up of the fight will be short, but it's one that really you have no excuse to not watch. It's short, it's exciting and it ends in one of the best KO's of 2019.
Shuichiro Yoshino (10-0, 8) vs Harmonito Dela Torre (20-2, 12)
Although not not well known in the west Shuichiro Yoshino is one of the rising stars in Japan in the Lightweight division. He's a very heavy handed boxer-puncher, who has scored a number of very eye catching KO's, including a truly brutal shot to lay out Kazumasa Kobayashi in December 2018. Coming into this bout he had pretty much proven to be the best Lightweight in Japan, with 4 defenses of the Japanese title. He was looking to make the move up from Japanese class to Asian class with this bout, as he was looking to unify the Japanese title with the vacant OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles. On paper this was a chance for him to graduate from domestic class, to regional champion, and move towards a potential world title fight.
Filipino fighter Harmonito Dela Torre had once been seen as a top Filipino prospect. He had debuted at the age of 17 and had won his first 19 bouts in a row, before losing to Mongolian Tugstsogt Nyambayar. He had struggled to bounce back from that loss, losing to Chinese hopeful Yongqiang Yang, but had beaten Richard Betos in a confidence builder before facing off with Yoshino. Despite the set backs Dela Torre wasn't to be over-looked. He was just 23 years old, but had managed to drop Nyambayar, and was very competitive with the Mongolian, his record didn't reflect his power. For him this was a chance to jump from prospect to regional champion, if not world title contender.
Despite being the under-dog it was Dela Torre that started the bout on the front foot, pressing forward and backing up Yoshino. Yoshino managed to regroup but was backed up again as Dela Torre continued pressing, launching off huge right hands, and connecting with a number of them. This was no feeling out round, in fact there wasn't even a feeling out minute, as Dela Torre looked to jump on Yoshino before the local man could settle.
Given how short his bout is, we won't go any further than this, but for a short, sweet, exciting fight, this perfect. For those with only 10 minutes to spare, watch this, you will not regret it!
Takahiro Onaga is a regular contributor to Asian Boxing and will now be a featured writer in his own column where his takes his shot at various things in the boxing world.