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.
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.