Last week for the Treasure Trove series we shared a bout that was made available thanks to Seki-chan and Sakana, who purchased the rights for and filmed the show respectively. This week we return to that very same show from back on November 29th for another brilliant fight. This one is less dramatic but is even more compelling than last weeks Treasure Trove, with the two fighters being matched very well and giving us a thrilling back and forth action bout.
Naoya Shiotani (0-1) vs Sho Akatsuka (0-0)
As with last week’s Treasure Trove, between Hummer Taku and Yuma Yamanaka, we’re not looking at big names this week. In fact we’re looking at two rank novices, both looking to claim their first win, and make their first positive mark in professional boxing.
In one corner was Naoya Shiotani, a 33 year old fighter who had made his debut in April 2019 and been inside a minute. He was looking to bounce back from that loss some 19 months after suffering it. He had debuted in his home Prefecture of Mie, and was now the away fighter, travelling over to Kariya for this bout. He was from the little known Ichino Boxing Gym, a gym in Suzuka that really doesn’t get much attention at all
The other corner played host to the debuting Sho Akatsuka, a 23 year old from nearby Nagoya. Although he was making his debut he was from the more well established Nagoya Ohashi Gym, not to be confused with the Ohashi Gym run by Hideyuki Ohashi. Other than this being his debut, not much at all was known about the 23 year old, who seemingly had no amateur experience to talk about at all.
From the opening moments of this bout both men started quickly. It was immediately clear that Akatsuka, in the gold and black shorts was the more comfortable man, even when he got caught by a clean head shot in the opening few seconds. He did look polished, but he looked comfortable, calm and somewhat relaxed. Shiotani took a while to get going, but as the round progressed we began to see quite a few exciting exchanges, often on the inside. This wasn’t a slow feeling out round to begin the fight, a fairly active opening round that saw both men forced to cede ground and taste what the other man had to offer.
If round 1 was a taster of what each man had round 2 was a nice big meal of what both had as a slow start to the round erupted into a bit of an inside war, with both men getting inside at times and letting good solid shots go. What started as a good round Shiotani swing to Akatsuka, who lets a big flurry of shots go late in the round, before taking some back and then continuing his charge.
The pace rose massively in round 3 as Akatsuka immediately took the fight to Shiotani, who tried to stand his ground and fight back. The result almost a minute of back and forth high intensity action. The shots might not have had much on them, and neither guy ever looked in any distress, but the action was captivating, intense and brilliant, with both men teeing off inside the pocket. This was the sort of action that, at a higher level, would see people raving about it, and yet we were seeing it from two novice, desperately fighting away in search of their first win. Whilst the first two rounds were compelling the third was special, as both simply tried to break the other down. The crowd, who were allowed to chant and cheer due to Covid19 rules, gave both fighters a round of applause at the end of the round, a sign of their respect and enjoyment of the action they had seen over the previous 3 minutes.
The final round took off exactly where round 3 ended, with the two men trying to replicate some sort of movie scene. Standing just inches apart, and throwing leather on the inside, taking it in turns to throw a flurry before awaiting the response. It wasn’t technical, it wasn’t smart, it wasn’t boxing, but it was fighting. It was fighting where both men were wearing their hearts on their sleeves and letting the desire of victory take control of the action. It was completely and utterly compelling and the sort of rock em sock em action that is almost impossible to look away from.
If you can look past the low quality of the fighters, their lack of name value, and just enjoy boxing, this will be an ideal taste of what makes Japanese boxing so good for the fans in attendance.
Like last week’s Treasure Trove this isn’t a Fight of the Year contender. It’s not an all out war. But it is a brilliant little insight into a part of Japanese boxing, the Central Japanese boxing scene, that we rarely get to enjoy. It was also a chance to enjoy the heart of Japanese boxing, the well matched 4 rounders. Whilst we all tune in for the big names, and the glitz and glamour, the core of Japanese boxing isn’t the stars. It’s the young men and women taking part in the sport for the enjoyment of boxing, and that is what we saw here. Two men who wanted to enjoy the sport. It’s highly unlikely either will be a star in the future, but for 4 rounds they had us glued to them. We were in their hands. This was a genuine treat for us, and another example of what makes the Japanese 4 round bouts so special, so exciting and so meaningful to the fans and the fighters.
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.