For this week's Treasure Trove fight we return to Korakuen Hall and bring you another really easy to over-look bout which took place in December. It wasn't a notable bout going in, as it featured two novices and wasn't a Rookie of the Year or a tournament bout of any kind, but managed to deliver some fantastic action in a short but thrilling contest well worthy of a watch.
Kenshiro Ishimori (1-0) Vs Tomoya Tanaka (0-2)
The bout matched Kenshiro Ishimori and Tomoya Tanaka, two really unknown fighters who were both in their 20's and both looking to make the most of a rare TV opportunity, with the bout being aired live on G+.
Aged 24 at the time Ishimori was a novice who had taken a 4 round decision win in his debut, way back in February 2019. Following his debut he had been out of the ring for almost 22 months coming into this bout. There was essentially no momentum in his career and coming into this he would have been desperate to try and find a way to catch the eye of fans and TV viewers alike.
Aged 23 Tanaka was a win-less fighter who desperately needed to get a victory to his name. He had made his debut in December 2019, losing a very wide decision, before being stopped in his second professional bout in August 2020. Given his first two performances he desperately needed not just a good performance, but a positive result. He would have known that falling to 0-3 would be a very hard position to rebuild from.
From the opening bell it was clear that Tanaka wanted to make a point as he came across the ring to meet Ishimori. Sadly for Tanaka it quickly became apparent that Ishimori was the quicker handed fighter and the more polished boxer as he started to make the most of his jab, moved well and began to land a lot of jabs. Tanaka however wasn't going to be thwarted by some simply jabs and kept pressing forward himself, despite tasting a lot of leather as a result. As a result of Tanaka's desire and Ishimori's jabs we were getting a really fun opening round that ended up getting better. With less than 30 seconds of the round left Tanaka was rocked and Ishimori tried to jump on him, looking for a quick finish before taking a huge right hand himself, and hitting the canvas. Ishimori beat the count, but looked shaken as we went to the bell, and he was somewhat fortunate that the bell came when it did, giving him a minute to shake the cobwebs.
In round 2 we saw Tanaka coming after his man, hoping that Ishimori hadn't had enough time to recover. This saw the two men trading some jabs, though it seemed like Tanaka could smell blood and was looking to turn the screw. Sadly for him however chasing Ishimori proved to be a mistake and after about 25 seconds of the round Ishimori landed a brilliant straight right hand, dropping Tanaka. To his credit Tanaka got to his feet, but had no idea where he was as the referee waved off the bout.
Although this was short it was dramatic, it was exciting and it was a really fun bout which left us wanting to see more of both men.
For this week's Treasure Trove fight we're looking at a November bout from Korakuen Hall that was shown on G+ and featured two relatively unknown fighters who ended up giving us a genuine treat in a bout that few would expected to deliver anything. That match didn't have any name value attached to it, in fact the show it was on was a pretty low key one, headlined by an 8 rounder after the originally planned main event was cancelled at short notice. For fans tuning in however, they were given something really exciting early on the show.
Shun Sekine (4-0, 3) vs Atsuyuki Sato (5-2-1, 3)
Coming in to the bout Shun Sekine was an unbeaten 23 year old Featherweight hopeful who had debuted in late 2018 and picked up 3 wins in 2019, including 2 in Thailand. On paper his record looked good at first glance, but his 4 opponents up to this point had a combined record of 1-10, and he had never faced a fighter with a winning record. He had looked powerful at times, but it was really hard to read much into his performances given how poor his competition had been. Having been out of the ring for 16 months it was clear he was going to want to make a statement here, and he was stepping up, not just in terms of opponent but also length of bout, with this being his first scheduled 6 rounder.
In the opposite corner to Sekine was fellow 23 year old Atsuyuki Sato. Sato's record was less eye catching than that of Sekine but in reality he had proven himself more than his foe. He had began his career in 2017, with a win, before going 1-1-1 in his next 3 fights to leave him with a 2-1-1 record. In 2019 he began a charge and managed to reach the East Japan Rookie of the Year final, losing a razor thin decision to eventual All Japan Rookie of the Year winner Hyoga Taniguchi in November 2019. He had been inactive since then, and like Sekine was desperate to get a win in his first 6 rounder. Interestingly his competition up to this point had a combined record of 15-20-4, significantly better than the competition of Sekine.
The fight started quickly, with both men looking to pump out their jabs and establish a range they were comfortable at. After about a minute of jostling for range the two men both upped their pace and tempo and during the second minute of the fight both men were standing their ground and letting their hands got up close. We had gone from a slightly fast start to the bout to a contest that was very exciting, very quickly. Neither man looked like they managed to hurt the other, but the round flew by and it was genuinely exciting, competitive and a great way to kick off the fight. It seemed Sato landed the better shots, but it was close either way.
The second round took off where the first ended and saw Sekine begin to find the range for his big right hand whilst Sato looked to walk him down and force a fight up close. This resulted in another fantastic round that saw a lot of work up close on the inside from both men. It seemed to be the fight Sato wanted but, in fairness, Sekine held his own and when there was space it was often Sekine having the better success.
The in fighting continued through round 3 as the tempo, some how, intensified. The two men spent less and less time at range, and although their work was slowly becoming sloppy, it was still incredibly enthralling, and it seemed, late in the round, that Sato was staggered, before he regrouped and fired back himself, showing his toughness and desire as the fans began to get far, far more than any of them would have expected.
Sadly with neither man having gone beyond 4 rounds prior to this fight, and the pace and tempo of the contest, both men began to show their flagging stamina in the second half of the fight. Whilst this impact the quality both men threw with, and seemed to limit their output in the later stages, they both continued to give their all, and the phonebooth exchanges continued time and time again. With the tempo slowing it seemed like Sekine was slowly getting more and more success, using his more refined boxing skills, but every time he seemed to be getting the upper hand Sato would come forward and will himself back into the contest.
The final round was one of the best we saw in 2020. The two men stood their ground and let shots fly, they traded bombs, and they threw everything they had in their arsenal, fighting right to the bell in 3 minutes of crazy, none stop action. If the bout had taken place before the covid19 rules limited fan behaviour, this would have resulted in fans on
For those who love in fighting, high tempo bouts, lots of uppercuts and body shots this is a great watch. It's well worth the 25 or so minutes needed to watch it. It really is a sensational fun, and action packed bout!
For this week’s Treasure Trove article we thought we’d go back to early 2020, a time before empty venues, and crowd less boxing, but . A time when the world was a different place and when it seemed like we were set for a brilliant year of fights. The fight in question was a match up that was easy to overlook internationally, but saw a Japanese fighter take on a Filipino in a contest that delivered sensational action and seemed like a platform for the winner to move on to bigger and better things. Sadly, however, the Pandemic essentially saw the winner left on the side for the rest of the year, and unable to build on the momentum from this barn burner.
Kento Hatanaka (10-0, 9) vs Roland Jay Biendima (15-5-1, 8)
The bout in question was a WBC Youth title fight that took place at the Aioi Hall in Kariya. It pitted two youngsters against each other, and delivered something genuinely thrilling, even if the result was never really in doubt.
Heading into the bout 21 year old Japanese fighter Kento Hatanaka was the WBC Youth Flyweight champion and was a second generation fighter, following in the footsteps of his father and former world champion Kiyoshi Hatanaka. Through his first 10 bouts he had quickly become a fan favourite with an exciting and explosive style that made for fun fights. He had also shown enough vulnerabilities to look beatable. With his power he always looked dangerous and his offense was always great to see but his defense was a major issue, and he had been dropped just 1 fight earlier by Jaysever Abcede. He was also very willing to go to war with opponents, as he had in his first defense of the WBC Youth title against Songsaeng Phoyaem in 2019.
His opponent was 23 year old Filipino challenger Roland Jay Biendima, a less well known fighter but a promising one himself. Coming in to this he had won 2 in a row, but was 3-3 in his previous 6 and had never won a bout on foreign soil. That sounds bad, but he was unlucky in a previous visit to Japan, losing a razor thin decision to Taiyo Inoue, and had lasted 9 rounds with Wulan Tuolehazi, who fought for a world title at the end of 2019. On paper there wasn’t much on his record to get too excited about, though he had run future world title challenger Samuel Salva close very early in his career, and had proven to be tough, with his only stoppage loss in 21 bouts coming to Tuolehazi.
On paper this looked like an easy second defense for Hatanaka against a tough, but limited, challenger. In reality however this ended up being anything other than easy for the unbeaten “Prince” Hatanaka.
The bout started quickly, with Hatanaka trying to establish his jab and use his explosive speed to keep Biendima at range. The Filipino, for the most part, took shots on the gloves whilst occasionally swinging for the moon. The opening round went pretty much as perfectly for Hatanaka as he could have hoped for and the pre-fight conception of this being an easy win for the Japanese local looked right. In round 2 however we began to see Biendima come to life, taking more chances and was being punished for his ambition. The fight was starting to warm up nicely, and the Filipino was the one starting to press the action, coming forward, and trying to turn the bout into a fight. His uncultured approach wasn’t netting him sustained success, but was starting to make things more exciting.
The pressure and work rate of the Filipino was making the fight exciting and in round 3 saw him have some major success as he left Hatanaka with a bloodied nose. The pressure of the Filipino saw him getting inside and the two men began to trade uppercuts, with Biendima getting the fight he wanted. That continued in round 4, when he began to land uppercuts with alarming regularity. The smooth movement, speed and explosiveness of Hatanaka was unable to shine as he was being cramped for space, limited in where he could go, and unable to force Biendima to respect him. For fans watching things were getting exciting, quickly, and for Hatanaka’s team things were getting just a touch nervous. He was fighting his opponent’s fight far too often. Whilst he was having success, this was not the type of fight he would have been wanting and not the type of fight that suited him against a less skilled, but gritty challenger.
Through middle rounds we continued to see the two men trading big headshots, trying to take each other out. The results of the headshots saw Hatanaka’s face being bloody and swollen as he continued to exchange shots up close, far too often. Biendima was taking the cleaner punches, being punished time and time again by the classier shots of Hatanaka, but wasn’t showing the damage in the same way as the local hero. In fact if anything the facial damage of Hatanaka was adding extra tension to a hotly competitive fight, with not just his nose bleeding, but also a nasty cut forming around his left eye.
As rounds went by it seemed to become harder and harder to score. A number of rounds were incredibly close, and could have gone either way. It felt like Hatanaka would get them, given he was pretty much fighting at home, but he was being pushed all the way and the blood and cuts were certainly making it look like he was coming off worse. He looked the more talented, but it became a case of will Vs skill and Biendima’s will was giving Hatanaka’s skill all it could handle.
The action never really slowed down in the later stages, as the two men looked to state a case for them deserving the win. Both had to battle like stubborn bulls at times, whilst the fight captivated with a mix of fantastic action and drama.
This wasn’t an all out war, at high intensity, but it was a captivating back and forth battle. A really, really good fight, and a bit of a forgotten gem. Sadly however it was marred by very wide scorecards in what felt like a clear but very competitive, bout. The judges barely gave Biendima anything, despite his effort and successes through the contest.
Sadly the Pandemic saw Hatanaka sit on the sidelines for the rest of 2020 after this contest whilst Biendima was out of the ring for 10 months, before returning in December and being stopped, in a round, by the world ranked Christian Araneta.
The Rookie of the Year tournament always throws some amazing fights our way and 2020 was no different, with a good number of really thrilling fights and excellent match ups. Today we share one of those bouts from the 2020 Rookie of the Year, with the bout in question being the East Japan Rookie of the Year final, pitting two unbeaten men against each other in a mouth watering match up.
Akira Hoshuyama (3-0, 2) vs Shugo Namura (4-0, 4)
In one corner was Akira Hoshuyama, a 24 year old fighter originally from the Shirai Gushiken Gym and a man who had once trained alongside Daigo Higa in the amateurs. Early in his career he was regarded as “Gushiken II”, due to being at the Gushiken gym and a similar style to the Light Flyweight legend, but had transferred to the Misako Gym when Yoko Gushiken closed his gym earlier in 2020. In September he had taken a 4 round decision over Shoji Matsumoto to book his place in the final and was looking to win here and move to a place in the All Japan final, in February.
Shugo Namura was a little bit more experienced and, at 26, a little bit older but had looked like a destructive fighter under the guidance of former multi-time world title challenger Hiroyuki Sakamoto. His first 4 opponents had lasted a combined 5 rounds, and he was destroying everything he hit. There was a crudeness to his style, but in many ways it was a style reminiscent of Sakamoto, who was a star back in the 1990’s and one of the most popular fighters in Japan when he was active.
Going in this hard everything. It had unbeaten men, it had men who could punch, fighters with exciting styles and it had the East Japan Rookie of the Year crown on the line. It ticked all the boxes we like to see for a fight. An even looking match up, with a really notable reward for the winner.
From the off it seemed clear that Hoshuyama was the more polished fighter, with his southpaw stance immediately giving Namura issues. Despite the stance advantage for Hoshuyama it seemed clear that Namura’s physical strength was a strength for him and Namura looked to tie up when the men were up close, rather than wanting to go to war with his man too early. After about 2 minutes of the bout a fight broke out with both having success, before Namura found himself on the canvas, giving Hoshuyama a huge 10-8 round to start the fight.
In round 2 the two men stood and traded bombs up close in what was a thrilling round of action. Despite the fact both were novices, it was clear both men were trained professionals, sadly for Namura however he was on the wrong end of many of the most telling shots. Despite taking more shots, Namura never backed down and always looked the more dangerous puncher, even if his defense was more open and letting him down. As a result of Namura’s flaws, his defense, and his dynamite power, the bout felt like we were walking a tight rope and that either man could end up being hurt, especially given how much leather was being thrown and how close the two men were.
Round 3 was much like round 2. It was another round fought up close, fought with bombs from both and with Namura always looking dangerous, but open, and Hsohuyama looking more polished, but like a fighter who needed to be careful, just in case Namura caught him clean. This made for a brilliant dynamic, and it was made even better by the fact both men were looking to score a stoppage, with neither wanting a decision. This ran over into round 4, as the two continued to box up close, with the cuter skills and better boxing of Hoshuyama neutralising the power, strength and hunger of Namura who refused to just sit and accept his loss.
For fans who haven’t seen this one, it’s great to watch. A really thrilling Rookie of the Year bout, and despite the scores being one sided, it was certainly a lot, lot better than the scorecards would suggest.
This week's one to watch is a bout between two novices, but two novices that you should make a note of, as both men have a lot of potential following good amateur careers. We that in mind we are thinking this could be a very high level bout, but also a somewhat entertaining one, with a skilled aggressive fighter against a talented and rangy outside boxer.
The One to Watch?
Junya Shimada (0-0) Vs Kotari Shigeotshi (2-0, 1)
May 6th (Thursday) (Note - This bout has now been postponed to May 20th due to the on going State of Emergency in Tokyo)
Unlike many countries Japanese boxing promoters don't like to molly coddle their top prospects, and rather than introducing them to the professional ranks with a series of mismatches they like to test their men early, and see what they have as soon as they can. With this bout we see a perfect example of that as a former amateur standout debuts against another former amateur standout in a match up that looks brilliant, despite the professional inexperience of the two men involved. This should be a compelling, high level, contest that really doesn't match up with the records of the two men involved.
It's fair to say that few, outside of those who follow the Japanese amateur boxing scene, will be familiar with Junya Shimada. That however will likely change very quickly with the former amateur standout expected to make a lot of noise in the professional ranks thanks to the backing of Teiken and his own, very accomplished, skillset. He's a 23 year old who went 58-23 in the amateurs and showed a style that was aggressive, exciting and seemed made for the professional scene.
Whilst this will be Shimada's debut the views from Japan are that he is a special talent, and he was unfortunate to regularly bump into very good fighters, several years older than himself, in the main Japanese tournaments. Hence picking up 23 losses in his 81 amateur bouts. Despite that he put in some excellent performances and showed a lot to like, with his speed, body punching, light footwork and combinations. The desire and belief he and his team have is clear, given how tough of a debut this is, and a win here would see him put on the fast track to titles.
At 24 years old Shigetoshi Kotari is slightly older than Shimada and has 2 professional bouts to his name, though he has yet to really shine as a professional, which is something rather surprising. When he turned professional there was huge hope on Kotari, who went 50-23 as an amateur and was sparring with some high profile Japanese fighters ahead of his 2019 debut. Sadly that debut told us very little as Indonesian opponent Lasben Sinaba was dire. Really dire. He Due to the Covid19 pandemic Kotari was out of the ring for around a year, but returned last October and put in an underwhelming performance as he defeat Motosuke Kimura via decision. In that bout Kotari was dropped and never looked comfortable with Kimura's negative style and counter punching. Whilst he has got 2 wins, it's really hard to give them too much weight.
Despite being underwhelmed by his performances so far Kotari is certainly not a bad boxer, just someone who doesn't yet look polished in a way we'd have expected someone with more than 70 amateur bouts. He's a very tall, rangy boxer, with lovely long levers, and he will have height and reach advantage over most opponents, but he looks like a nervous fighter and like someone who doesn't quite believe in their own body. He has the frame to be a brilliant outside boxer, but also the type of frame that looks fragile and given his knack of dropping his hands and over-reaching he could find himself in trouble quite regularly.
What to expect?
It's always hard to predict how a debutant will look. Likewise it's too early to know what Kotari can really do, and he could easily get over some of his jitters in the next fight or two. If that happens, then he could be a real handful.
Despite the issues with predicting this one, what we will say is that both men have a lot to like. Shimada really did look fantastic as amateur, and footage of him shows him to be a fighter who should be a very, very good professional. Should he have taken on an easier opponent for his debut? Sure, but we love the fact he's taking on someone with the ability and amateur track record of Kotari. Is Kotari flawed? Of course, but he's not going to be an easy fighter to beat.
Early on we expect this to be a slow bout. A very slow bout. As both men look to find their groove, both look to get a read on the other and both attempt to find out what exactly the other has to offer. After a quite start we expect to see both go through the fears, and when that happens we expect to see Shimada being the happier man, the more aggressive man and the crisper man. He needs to avoid the power of Kotari, but we think he has the tools needed to take a victory here, albeit a very close decision victory.
The bad news?
With both men being professional novices it's easy to miss out on this one, despite the fact both men were good amateurs. If you can look past their novice status however you're in for a treat with this one!
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.