One of the things that makes the "Treasure Trove" series more enjoyable than most other series we do for this site is the fact that every bout is made even before the first bell. We don't favour a fight due to who is in it, or the importance of the bout, and instead we get to enjoy the action in the ring and decide whether or not the bout deserves more attention afterwards.
With this in mind we end up with some bouts that don't get much attention, but deserve to be spoken about and watched again. Today we include one such bout that took place in early 2020 and was one that, on paper, didn't deserve any attention at all. It was however a very entertaining little war that proved paper doesn't mean anything when it comes to how exciting a fight can be!
Taisei Sakai (3-3-1, 1) vs Yuki Yazan (3-2, 2)
The bout in question here was a 4 round Super Bantamweight bout shown on Boxing Raise, via their agreement with Kadoebi, and was later uploaded directly to Kadoebi's own YouTube channel.
In one corner was 23 year old novice Taisei Sakai, a low key fighter who had been a professional since 2016 but had done very little prior to this bout. Interestingly he had started his career 0-3-1 but had then began to build some momentum winning 3 in a row before getting into the ring with Yuki Yazan. On paper Yazan was very similar, though a few years older. Yazan had made his debut in 2007 and had gone 3-1 to begin his career before a loss in late 2019 to Tsubasa Narai.
There was almost no fanfare going in to this one and no hype at all. In fact much of the attention was on the main event, a bout featuring Froilan Saluda and Ryoji Fukunaga. Despite that fans who were watching the whole show got something of an unexpected treat here.
From the off the taller, rangier Yazan looked the more natural fighter and the man who tried to use his advantages, using his long reach well. Sakai however knew he needed to find a response to the physical disadvantages he had, and ran in occasionally, rushing Yazan. It was a tactic that had mixed success in the opening round but certainly saw him show some hunger and fire. Despite the rushing tactics of Sakai it was Yazan landing the bigger, better, stiffer shots.
The second round started slowly, but quickly caught fire with both men holding their feet and giving us some amazing exchanges. Sadly for Sakai he seemed to come off worse in every exchange, but the gutsy little guy was like a terrier, and kept coming back for more. That was despite taking some huge bombs from the wiry Yazan. The tenacity from Sakai saw him ending round 2 with some real success, and it suddenly seemed like he had taken the best from Yazan and was starting to turn things his way. And then the bell came.
Sakai started round 3 like he had ended round 2 though midway through the round Yazan had began to rediscover his groove, and Sakai's effort seemed to have taken a toll on him, until the two men began to exchange again, this time in center ring. Sadly the exchanges were shortly lived with Yazan being cut from a clash of heads. Thankfully the cut wasn't fight ending and the action continued soon afterwards with a thrilling exchange just moments after the restart. Now it seemed like Yazan was fighting with a point to prove whilst also having a giant target on his face for Sakai's shots.
After 3 really solid rounds, with plenty of highlights, we entered the 4th and final round and, in all honesty, the bout was still up for grabs. Yazan likely won 2 of the first 3, but a good performance from Sakai in the final 3 minutes could have earned him a draw, and he knew it. As for Yazan he would have been desperate to not allow Sakai back into the bout. In the end round was another action packed one, with some great back and forth,
This wasn't an amazing bout, not by any stretch, but it was a wonderfully entertaining little war, with both men standing and exchanging shots. The low profile nature of the bout hid what was a very fun to watch fight and was one that really helped bolster the winner's career. In fact later in 2020 the winner of this one went on to win the East Japan Rookie of the Year, fighting in the All Japan final in early 2021. Sadly the loser of this bout hasn't, at the time of writing, fought since this contest.
Sometimes it's easy to overlook bouts due to the records of men, but as this bout proves, sometimes records need to be ignored and fights just need to be enjoyed, and this is one we genuinely enjoyed!
Whilst not the best division in the sport in recent years the Featherweight division has been a compelling weight class, with numerous compelling bouts below the world level and today we dig into the Treasure Trove to bring one such bout. It was a bout with lots of expectations in Japan and it exceeded all those expectations, giving us a genuinely thrilling action bout between a puncher and a boxer. The match up certainly didn't create much buzz in the west, but hardcore fans who did give the bout a watch managed to enjoy a compelling, exciting bout between two men with a point to prove and plenty of skills to show off.
Unlike some bouts in this series this match combines two of the things we love to see in a Treasure Trove bout. It has action, and it features a rising prospect, giving you two reasons to give the bout a watch!
Musashi Mori (11-0, 6) Vs Tsuyoshi Tameda (21-5-2, 19)
For this bout we rewind to November 28th 2020 for an Ohashi promoted event at Korakuen Hall. The card was littered with promising prospects but it was the main event that really had our attention and that was an WBO Asia Pacific title fight between unbeaten champion Musashi Mori and the heavy handed Tsuyoshi Tameda.
For fans who haven't followed the Japanese Featherweight scene in recent years it's fair to say neither of these men are household names in the west, yet both are talented and exciting fighters.
The more promising of the two going in was Mori, the 21 year old champion who had celebrated his birthday just a day before the bout. He had won the Rookie of the Year in 2017, aged just 18, and had won the WBO Asia Pacific title the following year, with a technical decision against the awkward Richard Pumicpic. Here he was seeking his third defense of the title and building on his impressive reputation as one of the brightest young talents in Japan. He had proven to be a skilled boxer with good speed, clever movement and was developing well under the guidance of Ismael Salas before the pandemic slowed his rise through the ranks. Despite the pandemic Mori and his team were looking to move him on to a world title fight as soon as they could, and he couldn’t afford a slip up here.
Tsuyoshi Tameda had one been groomed as a prospect himself, and had been guided early on by the legendary Kenji Yonekura, before the Yonekura gym closed its doors. He had been a professional since 2011 and despite being a crude fighter he was born with god given power. From 21 wins 19 were by stoppage and many of them were very early in bouts, with 13 wins inside 3 rounds. Whilst he had, regularly, beaten lower level fighters he had also proven what he could do with wins against decent fighters, like Takenori Ohashi, Mark Bernaldez, Retsu Kosaka, Tae Il Atsumi and Joe Tejones. He was regarded as a crude, but dangerous power puncher, and the type of fighter who could expose weaknesses with Mori, if the youngster had any issues with his chin or heart.
Interestingly both men were also being guided by former world champions. In charge of Mori's career was former WBC Bantamweight champion Yasuei Yakushiji whilst Tameda was being promoted by Hideyuki Ohashi, a former 2-time Minimumweight champion, who had taken over from Yonekura in regards to promoting Tameda.
On paper the bout had a lot to be excited about. A talented, fast rising youngster, looking to move his career forward up against a dynamite puncher looking to get his career back on track and claim his first title.
From the off Tameda’s intentions were clear as he raced at Mori and tried to behead him with a wild right hand. Mori, wisely, avoided the shot as Tameda stumbled to the canvas in a bizarre start. Despite the crude approach it was clear that Tameda was there looking for a stoppage and within 30 seconds Tameda had gotten close and we were getting a brawl. The style of fight was one that Tameda wanted, though Mori maintained his composure and fought fire with fire, landing several excellent counters. Through the round both men kept up an incredible pace, giving us a genuinely thrilling opening round.
The sensational pace from the opening round continued into round 2, though Tameda was slightly less reckless than he had been in the opening round. Mori again showed his composure, landed the more consistent shots overall but Tameda landed some brutal bombs on him and even seemed to make Mori stumble part way through the round with an uppercut. It was a fantastic round of two halves, with Mori impressing early on before Tameda roared back. After just 2 rounds it was clear we were getting something a little bit special and that continued into round 3, as Mori tried to get Tameda’s respect early on. For Mori it wasn’t his power that was key, but his consistency, his ability to land clean and his footwork, whilst Tameda’s power and work rate made him seem like he was only a few punches away from turning the tide. Although dangerous it was worth noting that Tameda was putting a lot of energy into everything he was doing, and he was taking some very clean body shots through the early rounds.
The fantastic action from the first 3 rounds went up another gear in round 4 as Tameda got close in the first minute and let rip with some huge shots. He failed to phase Mori, but it was clear that even his shots on the arms were damaging blows. Mori, smartly, began to hold, clinch and use negative tactics to neutralise some of the pressure, picking his moments to strike back well and showed some very nice footwork to create the space he needed to take some of the steam from Tameda’s pressure.
Through the middle portion of the fight we began to see Tameda slowing down and Mori creating space to work with on a regular basis. The younger man seemed to have taken much of the sting from Tameda’s pressure and continued to pick some brilliant counter shots. Tameda was still there, and still coming forward, but his work rate and intensity seemed to drop off, making it easier and easier for Mori to control the range and tempo. Despite that Tameda was certainly not done, and he kept trying, kept coming forward and kept looking to try and break down Mori.
With the pace slowing Mori was able to control much of the second half of the fight, boxing well and using his footwork, movement and boxing brain to rack up the rounds, and take a grip on the contest. Tameda, still as hungry as ever, refused to just accept a decision loss, but things were certainly going Mori’s way in the second half of the fight and the momentum was with the champion as we went towards the championship rounds, despite a determined effort from Tameda.
After having had 10 great rounds we went into round 11. It seemed like Tameda should be in the lead, but neither man had been down and both looked lively as we entered the penultimate round of the bout. Both had taken the best the other had to offer and both were still up and still fighting. The intensity might have dropped but the action was still fantastic throughout. Sadly though part way through the round a headclash left Tameda with a brutal cut above his right eye. The cut wasn’t the end of the bout, but seemed to take his concentration and Mori began to pour it on, backing Tameda in to the corner and forcing the referee to step in, waving off the bout and saving Tameda. Although the cut wasn’t the end, it was the start of the end and Tameda never looked quite right after suffering the cut.
Although not regarded as a Fight of the Year candidate, this was certainly an exciting, high tempo war, with a mix of skills, aggression, power shots, counter punching and excitement. Even the clear rounds, either way, still had moments for the other guy and the bout was certainly one of the most fan friendly WBO Asia Pacific title bouts we had in 2020.
A real must watch for fans wanting to enjoy the best hidden gems of 2020.
For today's Treasure Trove we're looking outside of the usual places for Asian boxing, and glancing over at Pakistan for a bout that we would describe as a fun, entertaining slopfest. For those expecting high quality action you look elsewhere, however for those who want boxing's version of fast food this will be a real ride, from a country that rarely gets any attention from the boxing media. This is the sort of bout we enjoy, knowing that both men are desperate to win, and really did give their all. Even if their all isn't all that impressive.
Adil Said (0-0) vs Abbas Ali (0-0)
The bout in question took place in October 2020 in Islamabad and pit debutants Adil Said and Abbas Ali, also spelled "Abbass Ali", against each other in a 4 round Middleweight bout. Coming into this neither man had any professional bouts to their name, and that likely showed given just how raw they were in the ring. Despite that neither man wanted to begin their professional career with a loss.
Of the two men Said was the older man, aged 26, and the heavier man on the scales, weighing in at 158lbs. He was based in Mardan, about 140KM or almost 90 miles from Islamabad, and that was essentially all we knew about him coming into this bout.
Ali on the other hand was 22 years old, came in at 154½lbs and came from Kamalia, which is about 430KM or around 200 miles from Islamabad. Other than that there was little to read into him.
In all honesty we went into this one blind when the bout was uploaded by the Pakistan Boxing Council, weeks after it took place. That however hardly mattered when the fight began and we were instantly entertained by the in ring action.
At the start of the bout Said rushed towards Ali and within seconds bombs were being thrown by both men. Neither man looked polished, or particularly well schooled in the first 20 seconds, but it was clear that both men were in there to let their hands fly and that's exactly what they did. Sadly for Ali it was often Said getting the better of the exchanges and his lack of defense was being punished. Ali tried to fire back but every time he did he seemed to come off second best, with Said landing some big but crude straight left hands. To end the round they just stood, squared up and unloaded bombs in a thrilling finish to the round that looked truly brutal.
It was really clear that neither man was technically well school, but they were well matched, and evenly crude, making for a really compelling round of crude, brawling, sloppy action.
The two men came out hungry in round 2 and again it was Said on the front foot, looking the bigger, stronger, more powerful man. Ali knew he was outsized but tried to be game, tried to use his quicker feet to avoid a tear up. Sadly for him however he couldn't stay off the ropes and Said pinned him against up against the ropes, unloading until the referee stepped in and waved it off.
Again this isn't the most skilled fight, it really is two raw novices swinging away at each other. Despite that the bout is wonderfully entertaining and wildly exciting. We also want to add that the commentary for this is brilliant. It was as if the commentator had little understanding of the sport, and was easily excitable as a result, adding to the raw entertainment factor. This looked like a fight outside of a pub on a Friday night, and whilst that can be a bad thing, it made this bout more endearing and was a very fun all debutant clash.
Expect to be entertained, but not impressed here!
The 2020 Treasure Trove - Clowning and tomfoolery in debut of Japanese youngster!
Usually in this serious we look at the best bouts, the most exciting action and the best back and forth. Sometimes however the fights we feature in the Treasure Trove are not included due to the action of the bouts, but rather the fighters involved in them. That's the case today as we shine a light on a hugely enigmatic fighter who caught our attention when he made his debut in December and put on a performance that we feel deserves to be viewed again. It was interesting, it was exciting and it was very much a "non-Japanese" style performance from someone who wanted to make an impression from the off.
Takahiro Tai (0-0) vs Ryosei Hamaguchi (6-6, 2)
The debutant in question was Takahiro Tai, a young switch hitter who had been a solid amateur on the Japanese scene before turning professional under the gym run by his father. Before his debut he had spoken about wanting to show what he could do in the professional ranks and seemed like an ambitious youngster, looking to race through the ranks at a young age. He wanted people to remember his name, to sit up and to take note of him. At this point in time he was just 23 and despite being young he was very much the sort of fighter who wanted to grab attention and not waste time to create a buzz about himself.
In the opposite corner was 24 year old Ryosie Hamaguchi, who had debuted in 2015 and had had mixed success. Up to this point he had fought 12 bouts, and despite losses piling up he had shared the ring with some decent opposition, such as Yuki Iriguchi and Toshiki Shimomachi. Sadly coming in to this bout his form had been faltering, and he had lost his previous 3, and 4 of his previous 5, but came into this with a point to prove. He didn't want to be shown up by a debutant, he didn't want another defeat on his record and he wanted to kick start his career against a some what cocky fighter. He wanted to give Tai an introduction to the professional ranks.
The confident Tai came out southpaw but after just 10 seconds made his first switch and quickly began fighting with his hands at his waist. It was a weird start for a man in his debut, given that so many fighters on their debut show nerves and focus on winning rather than looking stylish or flash. It was also not a very Japanese style, with Tai's style looking more like of Emanuel Augustus than a typical Japanese one. Switches were a regular thing through the round, as was Tai opening up with some wild, wide shots, that were thrown with bad intent. He was being caught, quite a bit, himself, but he really didn't seem to be phased by anything and was instead trying to entertain, show what he could do and show glimpses of the flash and style that he had been talking about before his debut. He was, in some ways, the perfect mix of clowning and action, and within a round it was hard to look away from him as we really didn't know what was about to happen next.
I n round 2 Tai looked a bit more serious and the clowning was toned down a notch as he got more aggressive. That was afor around 20 seconds before the clowning resurfaced and he began to try and embarrass Hamaguchi. Sadly Hamaguchi had no answer. When he let his hands go Hamaguchi would be punished, when he showed some ambition Tai would cover up and counter, and it was clear the men were operating on totally different levels. That was shown even more when Tai put his man down with a sweeping left hand. Hamaguchi beat the count but Tai wasn't there to waste his time and a follow up left forced the referee to jump in.
For those expecting a competitive bout this wasn't one of those. For those wanting to see a debutant entertain and show a fun, flashy style this is perfect. This was entertainment first, this was almost exhibition stuff at times from Tai who looks like a genuine character. He might not be the sensational talent he thinks he is, and he will almost certainly need to tighten up to reach title level, but there's no denying that this youngster caught our attention and made us desperate to see more and more of him. We think his cockiness will catch up with him one day, but until that happens we're going to enjoy the new clown of Japanese boxing thanks to this performance.
The Treasure Trove series is designed to share fights you might have originally missed, but are worth watching. That's because they are either controversial, exciting, dramatic or a showcase of a top prospect. For today's bout we are looking at a dramatic one from the East Japan Rookie of the Year final. It didn't have the clearest of endings, but it did have drama and action and featured one of the men regarded as one of the favourites for the tournament. It was a bout we had high expectations from and it was a bout that delivered more than expected.
Kosuke Tomioka (4-0, 3) vs Shunpei Kubo (5-1-1, 3)
the bout in question was the East Japanese Rookie of the Year final at Super Flyweight, a division that tends to see Rookies make a solid mark on the Japanese, Oriental and even world scene after the tournament finishes. Given the division is one of the most notable for the Rookie of the Year the match up already had attention on it, and that was before we even looked at the fighters in question.
The younger of the two men was the unbeaten Kosuke Tomioka, a charismatic, almost cocky, youngster who had impressed in his first 4 bouts. He was a touted amateur at junior level, came from the Tomioka boxing family which included him, two brothers and his cousin, and was regarded as one of the hot favourites for the tournament. He was just a teenager but he was widely seen as a super stud with talent, speed, reactions and enough experience from the amateurs to be a star.
In the opposite corner was the unheralded Shunpei Kubo, a 23 year old who had won his first 3 bouts before suffering a TKO loss to Rui Ikari in 2019. He had bounced back with 2 wins but was then held to a draw by Aito Abe, in what was a real hidden gem of a 4 rounder. Despite the older man, and the more experienced professional, he was seen as the under-dog, and the man expected to pick up a loss. He was fully aware that he was the under-dog but that hardly mattered, and he was there to win. In fact he was determined to prove the pre-fight perceptions very wrong.
At the opening bell Tomioka was half way across the ring and seemed relaxed whilst looking to control the action from the middle of the ring. Kubo seemed wary of making mistakes and didn't give Tomioka much to counter in the first minute, and it was clear Kubo was wary of Tomioka's power and speed. Despite being cautious Kubo did land some solid shots through the first round, particularly with his right hand, making the most of Tomioka's rather low guard. It was a technical first round, but one that seemed to suggest that both men knew what was at stake, and it had a very clear sense of tension.
The action picked up in round as Tomioka began to land powerful single shots, including a huge left hand that dropped Kubo about a minute into the round. Following the knockdown Tomioka went hunting, landing a number of solid shots, though Kubo took them surprisingly well. It seemed like Tomioka was zoned in and regularly landing hard lefts up top, he seemed to have found his groove, his timing and his range and Kubo was forced to take some genuine punishment without landing much himself.
In round 3 Kubo began pressing with a little more intensity and backed up Tomioka and within 20 seconds of the round starting the pressure had success as he dropped Tomioka with a right hand. Tomioka rushed to his feet, holding the ropes, as the referee looked at him and quickly decided he was unfit to continue.
The stoppage seemed a quick one, and soon after the fight Tomioka looked fine. It would have been good to have seen the referee take the mandatory 8 to make a decision, but the finish aside, this was one to watch. We had technical action, we had drama, and given the ending we also had some controversy. All in all a short, tense, but exciting fight, with a drama turn around, and a bout well worthy of a watch if you missed it the first time around.
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.