One thing that needs saying about this sport is that the best fights are sometimes bout we don't expect much from. For example two guys who both sport losing records meeting in a 4 rounder. Today however we are going to prove that even bouts like that can provide some real thrills and spills as we bring you an action packed East Japan Rookie of the year bout between two men with losing records, but the right mentality.
What needs to be remembered when two fighters each having losing records is that they believe the other fighter is beatable. When both share that mind set we can get some amazing action with two men desperate to pick up what would be considered a rare win. That's exactly what we saw here in a real action packed thriller.
Shodai Nagata (3-5) vs Kazuki Ikeya (1-2)
In one corner was Shodai Nagata, a 32 year old sporting a 3-5 record. There was little on his record to suggest he was one to watch. Just 2 fights earlier he had been dominated by fellow novice Yuta Ashina, and had bounced back with just a single, low key win over Futoshi Yamada. Nagata's 5 wins up to this point had been stretched over more than 3 years and he'd lost 4 of his previous 6. There was literally no reason to believe he had much to offer the sport. Thankfully though he was given a chance with this bout and he took that chance by putting in a wonderfully entertaining performance.
Whilst Nagata had nothing on his record to excite anyone neither did Ikeya, who was also 32 and had lost his first two bout before squeaking a decision over Atsushi Mikita in May 2019. He had been stopped in his debut, and had, perhaps, been a little unfortunate in his second professional bout, but had anything on his record to really suggest he was going to suddenly have some kind of thriller. As with Nagata however he played his part in a thriller here.
Of course both men would have assumed they were better than the other. Nagata would have assumed his extra experience would help him here, whilst Ikeya would have felt that he should have had wins in his previous 2 bouts. Both would have known a win would take them to a chance to fight on Japanese TV, and opened the potential door to an All Japan Rookie of the Year final. As a result the two Welterweights would have gone in to this knowing they could win, and they could open rather large doors for their career.
From the off Ikeya came out swinging, put his head down and unloading hooks like he had purchased them in a sale. He was landing on the guard, the head, the shoulders and every part of Nagata's body. He didn't care about where, as long as they were landing. Having realised Ikeya was setting a high pace Nagata decided to fire back, but selected his moments better, landing the cleaner shots and kept more in reserve whilst Ikeya continued to chase him down and unload bombs.
Ikeya's lack of power was evident in round 1 and in round 2 Nagata began to try and turn the tables, pressing Ikeya back more. It was still the intensity and hunger of Ikeya that was the making the fight, but Nagata's cleaner punching, and more refined technique was becoming a difference maker. Ikeya threw a lot, but stilled to land, Nagata threw less and may have even managed to out land Ikeya, who was feeling the tempo by the end of the round.
In round 3 we saw the action continue at a hectic pace, though the action was paused for quite a while after Ikeya took a ball busting low blow. This was smartly handled by Ikeya who sold it like it was a monstrous low blow and took his time to catch his breath. It was something he seemed to need and was a perfectly break for a man who had set a high pace and really needed a few extra moments to rest. After that we got straight back to the action we'd been having, with the two trading blows up close in some thrilling back and forth action. By now however it was becoming clear that the skill and strength advantages of Nagata were too much for Ikeya's energy and heart to over-come.
Despite being out classed, exhausted and put on the back foot Ikeya continued to try and fight hard in round 4. By then however Nagata was feeling in control whilst Ikeya felt like a man who had given everything and could really only muster arm punches and shoe shining shots, rather than anything with the power needed to stop Nagata in his tracks. In fact the only stopping in the tracks anyone had was Ikeya being stopped in his and a point being taken from Nagata in round 4, as he again went low, with less than a minute of the fight left. The restart afterwards was brilliant with the two men essentially trading to the bell with 40 seconds of pure, raw, violence ending the bout.
Despite the fact neither had much power or had winning record they had, between them, given us 4 fantastic rounds of fan friendly action. The bout may have lacked in terms of drama, but for action alone this is worth a watch. Simply a great fun, low level, action bout. The perfect type of gem for this series.
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.