In 2019 we saw a lot of great fights, many of which went completely under the radar of your typical western fan. Some of these included some pretty well known names, others didn't but whatever the status of the bout we've been lucky to share so many of them already in this Treasure Trove series. Thankfully we have even more to share, and today we take you back to a short but exciting war from mid-November that saw one of the rising hopefuls of Japanese boxing take on a former Japanese title challenger in a very exciting contest.
Aso Ishiwaki (7-2-1, 5) vs Ryuji Ikeda (14-6-3, 9)
After losing a split decision in the 2018 Lightweight Rookie of the Year final, as a 19 year old, Aso Ishiwaki had continually impressed through 2019. He had began the year with a hotly contested draw against Yoji Saito, a former amateur standout, and had then scored two relatively low key stoppages, including a knockout win over glass cannon Takuya Matsusaka. Although not a big name he had been impressing in his performances and creating some real buzz due to his physical strength, toughness and power. He was very much a basic but physically imposing fighter who, despite his youth, was very much a man with very impressive strength. Despite being strong he wasn't particularly experienced at 140lbs.
Ryuji Ikeda on the other hand was a 24 year old veteran of the ring. He had been a professional for more than 7 years, had won the Rookie of the Year was back in 2013 and had fought for the Japanese Light Welterweigth title earlier in the year, lasting 5 rounds with Koki Inoue. Although not an amazing fighter he was a solid domestic contender with wins over Yuichi Ideta, Kentaro Endo, Ryosuke Takami and Cristiano Aoqui. He had the edge in experience and went into the bout as a Japanese ranked fighter looking to bounce back from the loss to Inoue in July. He also had a very aggressive and fan friendly style, that involved throwing a lot of leather, and although not a massive puncher he was the natural Light Welterweight and had fought at the weight for the previous 4 years or so.
From the opening moments it was Ikeda who looked to set the pace, starting fast behind his jab and looking to unleash a combination after around 30 seconds. He seemed to believe that his power and experience were going to be the key and even when he wasn't letting big shots go he was applying intelligent pressure behind his footwork. This caused Ishiwaki to back up and several times during the round Ishiwaki would find himself on the ropes as Ikeda came in with combinations of power shots. To his credit the youngster never looked flustered and seemed to end the round coming forward, building his confidence as we went to the bell.
In round 2 we saw the pace pick up, with Ishiwaki pressing more often and within a minute of the round we looked like we were on to something a little bit special as both began to unleash big shots. The more eye catching work seemed to come from Ikeda early in the round, but Ishiwaki's consistent and heavy shots were taking a toll on Ikeda who was dropped almost 2 minutes into the round. Ikeda seemed to know that time was limited if he was going to win so began to take more risks, and was punished for them.
This short, but action packed bout might not have been in the conversation for a FOTY award, but was a great little back and forth war and a real fun fight and well worth 7 minutes of your time!
The legendary Korakuen Hall is one of the sports best venues. It's an intimate little hall in Tokyo, combat sports are a near daily event and the venue consistently delivers great action. Today's Treasure Trove sees us picking one of those great bouts from the Korakuen Hall, and sharing that. It was, going in, not a bout we had high hopes for, but it delivered, in fact it massively over-delivered giving us a great fight that combined skills, power, physicality, action and drama. It lacked the up and down affairs of some great bouts, but it was still brilliant, and a real tough man's fight between two novices, each looking to break the other down and beat them into submission.
Yoji Saito (1-1, 1) vs Aso Ishiwaki (5-2, 3)
Going in the 23 year old Yoji Saito was favoured. He had turned professional with a decent amateur background, and had dropped Shu Utsuki on his debut before steam rolling rolling through Tameji Ito in his second bout. Although not the most technical of fighters Saito was a physically powerful guy, who his hard, and given his amateur background was expected to go through the ranks quickly under the guidance of the Kadoebi gym. He was seen as a bit of a bull and in going 6 rounds with Shu Utsuki in his debut he also showed he was tough, able to take shots from Utsuki and keep coming forward.
The 19 year old Aso Ishiwaki lacked the amateur background of Saito but had come through the Rookie of the Year reaching the All Japan final in 2018, where he lost a split decision to George Tachibana. On debut Ishiwaki was stopped in the first round, but following that loss he had developed into a brute, and shined in the Rookie of the Year tournament. This was his first bout of 2019, and with Nobuhiro Ishida behind him the youngster seemed full of desire and ambition. He was regarded as the under-dog, due to Saito's amateur reputation, but he really didn't seem to care about Saito's reputation.
From the opening round what we got was something, very, very special. We had two young men putting it all on the line. In the opening minute or so it seemed like the older man had got the better of it, pressing Ishiwaki back and making the teenager fight off the back foot. As the round went on however both men began to stand their ground more, launching huge head shots at each other on the inside. The intensity was amazing and only got better in round 2 as the fighters proceeded to try and shatter the other's will with one of the best rounds of the year. This was brutal, this was damaging and this was pure machismo on show. This was beautifully balanced brutality with both giving as good as they got.
We'll leave the rest of the bout to you, but if you love seeing bombs thrown, heavy hand traded and two men digging deep this is the bout for you!
Yu Che Li (5-1-2, 4) KO4 Waldo Sabu (13-15, 3) - This is Sabu's third loss since his surprise KO win Vs Ernesto Saulong last July
Ju Wu (7-0-2) UD8 Adones Aguelo (31-20-2, 21) - Career best win for Chinese teenager
Leshan Li (16-3-1, 9) MD6 Venson Delopere (6-5-4, 2) - Li scores third win since TKO loss to Takuya Watanabe, but is run very close by unheralded Filipino
Danrick Sumabong (9-2, 8) RTD3 John Rey Lauza (13-21-4, 6) - Young Filipino puncher continues to impress. Lauza now 0-10-1 in last 11
Elvin Gambarov (5-0, 4) UD6 Larry Smith (10-41-1, 7) - Azeri hopeful hears the final bell for the first time
David Drapac (7-1, 3) Pts6 Deok No Yun (3-1, 2) - Korean fight Yun suffers first defeat at hands of Drapac
Davao del Sur, Philippines
Ronald Johnson (16-1, 4) UD12 Saul Farah (69-23-3, 60) - In Heavyweight action Johnson dominates Farah over 12 in Davao City
Aries Buenavidez (13-3, 7) UD12 Roy Nagulman (8-1-1, 6) - Nagulman loses unbeaten record in 12 round defeat by Buenavidez
Joe Tejones (13-6, 7) SD12 KJ Natuplag (8-1-2, 7) - Unbeaten Natuplag loses narrow decision to under-rated Tejones
Orlie Silvestre (14-5-1, 8) UD8 Jenuel Lauza (5-7, 5) - Exciting Filipino warrior Silvestre takes decision win over limited Lauza
Metro Manila, Philippines
Bienvenido Ligas (10-1-1, 7) UD10 JC Francisco (8-15-6, 3) - Ligas claims PBF Super Flyweight title with wide win over Francisco
MJ Bo (8-2-2, 4) UD6 Powell Balaba (9-30-1, 5) - Bo recovers from opening round disaster, when he was down twice, to defeat Balaba
Floryvic Montero (5-7, 3) TKO1 Joan Ambalong (6-13-1, 3) - Limited fighter Montero wins GAB female Light Flyweight title inside a round
Yeoncheon, South Korea
Hyun Min Yang (8-2, 7) TKO5 Yihao Wang (5-4, 1) - Wang dropped twice in round 5 as Yang claims WBA Asia Middleweight crown
Dong Kwan Lee (11-2-2, 5) RTD5 Anthony Sabalde (13-9, 8) - Filipino Sabalde suffers 4th loss in 5, Lee scores third straight win
Jong Hwa Yoo (1-0-1, 1) KO1 Woong Hee Jung (0-1) - Yoo and Jun trade opening round knockdowns, Jung fails to see round 2
Bang Phli, Thailand
Thanongsak Simsri (9-0, 9) TKO2 Watcharaphon Chaisai (0-1) - "Srisaket II" picks up latest stoppage win. Simsri is now looking to train at the Green Tsuda gym in Japan and the 18 year old is building a fearsome reputation
Sukkasem Kietyongyuth (23-10, 15) TKO3 Anuch Noithong (0-6) - Sukkasem bounces back from May's loss to Yukinori Oguni with an easy win
Aso Ishiwaki (6-2-1, 4) TKO1 Sudtay Daungmala (0-1) - Excellent Japanese teenager Ishiwaki makes international debut and scores first win in 3
Artem Dalakian (19-0, 13) TKO10 Dennapa Kiatniwat (20-2, 15) - Thai southpaw comes up very short against WBA Flyweight champion Dalakian
Yuri Takemoto (7-1-1, 4) TKO1 Kiki Marciano (1-4) - Rookie of the Year king Takemoto blows out Marciano in a round
Retsu Kosaka (10-4, 4) TKO2 Anshori Anhar Pitulay (9-18-2, 6) - Inconsistent form continues for Kosaka who is now 4-4 in last 8
Shisui Kawabata (2-0, 2) TKO2 Mongkol Kamsommat (5-5, 4) - Japanese amateur standout picks up second win
Shu Utsuki (5-0, 4) KO3 Omrri Bolivar (8-2, 3) - Utsuki breaks down OPBF and JBC ranked Bolivar, in 3 rounds
Miyo Yoshida (13-1) UD10 Casey Morton (8-2-3, 1) - Miyo makes it look easy as she dominates Morton for WBO female Super Flyweight title
Hiroto Kyoguchi (13-0, 9) UD12 Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart (11-1, 5) - Kyoguchi retains WBA Light Flyweight title, Satanmuanglek puts up solid effort in loss
Kazuto Ioka (24-2, 14) TKO10 Aston Palicte (25-3-1, 21)- Ioka claims WBO Super Flyweight title to become 4-weight champion, stops Palicte in 10 rounds
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.