After a couple of world title fights in this series recently we move down a level to a regional title fight, but give you one of, if not the, most dramatic fight of 2019, and a fight that if you missed it you really need to give it a watch now! This isn't just an Asian treat, but is a boxing treat, of the very, very highest level. We had drama, action, knockdowns, oh boy did we have a lot of knockdowns, and momentum shifts all over the place. Here we have one of the very, very best fights of the year!
Yuki Beppu (20-1-1, 19) vs Ryota Yada (19-5, 16)
The once beaten Yuki Beppu had won the 2014 All Japan Rookie of the Year and had ran off 14 straight stoppages to start his career. His stoppage run came to an end in 2017, when he fought to a draw with Charles Bellamy. He reeled off 4 more stoppage wins before losing in late 2018 to Yuki Nagano, in a Japanese title eliminator. In early 2019 Beppu scored his first decision win, out pointing Jason Egera, following his loss to Nagano and began to move towards this fight with Yada for the vacant WBO Asia Pacific Weltweight title. Although unknown outside of Japan Yada is a very heavy handed boxer-puncher. He's small for a Welterweight, but powerful, composed and a very dangerous fighter, who proved his boxing ability with his performance against Bellamy.
Earlier in this series we featured Ryota Yada's loss to Yuki Nagano, a bout that came about following Nagano's win in 2018 over Beppu, which had seen Yada lose the Japanese Welterweight title. Yada had bounced back from the loss to Nagano with a confidence building win over Robert Kopa which had helped prepare him for this bout with Beppu. Although Yada had 5 losses on his record he had started his career 3-3 and then rebuild, going 16-2, with his losses coming to Yuki Nagano and Jayar Inson. Although not the best fighter out there Yada is heavy handed, aggressive, and a pretty well rounded boxer-puncher, with a gritty toughness. He'd shown that he could run be stopped, with both Inson and Nagano taking him out, but it was going to take a fair bit to take him out.
Fans who had seen the two emerging through the ranks it was obvious this had the potential to be an excellent bout, though few would have expected it to be anywhere near as good as we got. We knew both could punch, we knew both could fight, but we didn't know they would give us the treat that we got, or give so much in their attempts to claim the WBO Asia Pacific Welterweight.
Unlike many bouts, which have a feeling out round, this was a war early on. Within 30 seconds Yada was rocked, and badly shaken as Beppu went on the hunt. To his credit Yada saw put the first wave of Beppu's offense, but was shaken again soon afterwards. It looked like we were going to get a very short fight but to his credit Yada regrouped and started to force Beppu backwards.
In round 2 we again saw Beppu's power striking early and he seemed on the verge of a stoppage as he wailed away on Yada, as he was stuck on the ropes. Yada again saw out the storm, but continued to be under pressure and was wobbled badly with over a minute of the round left. Yada got dropped to the canvas with his legs seemingly gone and would soon be dropped legitimately as Beppu hunted the early finish. He was all over the place as he tried to hold on we went to the bell.
From there on it was Yada who began to finally find himself in the bout, and he began to find Beppu, dropping him numerous times as the bout swung in his favour. Beppu would be yoyo'd to the ring numerous times, but his heart and fighting spirit kicked in, as we ended up seeing numerous knockdowns, heart and desire from both, intense exchanges, and a sense that the bout could swing on a single shot.
This was amazing. This was brutal. This was special. Sit down, grab a beer and enjoy a bout that will long live on as the best WBO Asia Pacific title bout!
For today's Treasure Trove we get to relive a fight that promise a lot, as the Japanese Welterweight title was on the line. The bout won't go down as the best Welterweight bout in Japan in 2019, but it's certainly a good one, and one well worthy of a watch, especially if you missed it first time around.
Ryota Yada (18-4, 15) vs Yuki Nagano (15-2, 11)
It's fair to say that Ryota Yada had one of the best bouts of 2019, his sensational war with Yuki Beppu, it's worth noting that that wasn't his only bout from the year. Another came several months early with Yada, the then Japanese Welterweight champion, faced off with mandatory challenger Yuki Nagano. On paper this looked like a fantastic match up, and whilst it didn't have the high drama and intense ups and downs of the bout between Yada and Beppu it certainly is worth a watch.
Yada, for those who aren't aware, is a boxer puncher from Osaka, he's not the most talented, but as we saw with his bout against Beppu he's heavy handed, tough, takes a good shot and is an aggressive fight. Technically he's basic, but he's strong, powerful, comes forward and makes fighters pay. When he lands opponents know it. He had held the title for just over a year, beating Toshio Arikawa for it in April 2018, and was looking to make his third defense as he went into his first mandatory title defense. On paper he was probably the slight favourite. Not only was Yada the champion, but he was also fighting at home, in Osaka, with Green Tsuda, his promoter, in charge of the event. It's also worth noting that despite having 4 losses on his record he had won 15 of his previous 16 bouts, after a 3-3 start, with the sole loss coming in a regional title fight.
Yuki Nagano on the other hand was a Teiken fighter, coming from Tokyo to fight in the lion's den. He had earned this title fight with a win over Yuki Beppu in 2018, as part of the 2019 version of the Champion Carnival, and had been riding on a solid unbeaten run of his own coming in with 13 wins in a row, including notable ones against Riku Nagahama and Yuki Beppu. Nagano, like Yada, wasn't the best boxer out there. He was, however, a crafty boxer-puncher, fighting out of the southpaw stance and blessed with concussive power. He was less powerful, less heavy handed and less physically imposing than Yada, but more rounded as a fighter, and certainly better at using an opponents aggression against them.
From the off it seemed clear that both men believed they had the power to take the other out, but they also knew they had to be cautious, as their opponent could also bang. This saw almost a tense stand off, with Yada being the one who was mostly coming forward, but doing so in a way that made it clear he didn't want to take a clean left from Nagano. Nagano, who did have moments on the front foot, was looking to line up the left time and time again.
As the fight went on we saw Yada becoming more aggressive, pressing more, trying to close the distance and press the challenger into a mistake. Nagano was however soaking up the pressure well and tagging the champion with solid lefts.
In the middle rounds the fight started to warm up nicely, with both taking a growing number of clean shots and from there on it felt like the fight could be over at any moments.
For those expecting an all out war, like Yada's bout with Beppu, this isn't that, this is more technical, and strangely more tense, but is a compelling watch. Especially if you don't know the result!
We return to out look at the best Japanese fight of 2018 ahead of this coming weekend, a weekend that promises to deliver a lot of action in the country.
This is part three of a multi-part article and will look at 5 bouts that took place from July 27th to August 16th. More parts to this will be posted in the coming weeks, so please keep your eye on for those!
If you missed part 1 than can be read here The best Japanese Fights of 2018 (Part 1)
And part 2 can be read here The best Japanese Fights of 2018 (Part 2)
July 27th – Korakuen Hall
Yusaku Kuga (16-2-1, 11) Vs Shingo Wake (24-5-2, 16)
One of the most anticipated Japanese title fights of 2018 was a Super Bantamweight bout between Yusaku Kuga and former world title challenger Shingo Wake. The bout pitted two of the best domestic fighters at 122lbs against each other and it promised so much. At domestic level Kuga was vicious and had made 2 defenses of the title leading into this bout. Wake was a sharp shooter who had battered into a pulp against Jonathan Guzman in 2016 but had bounced back with 4 stoppage wins leading into this bout.
August 9th – Korakuen Hall
Taiki Minamoto (15-5, 12) vs Tatsuya Otsubo (12-8-1, 4)
It's fair to say that August was the month where things really picked up for Japanese fights, with a lot of great fights. The first one that really caught fire was the Japanese Featherweight title fight between defending champion Taiki Minamoto and Tatsuya Otsubo. On paper this looked like a mismatch but turned out to be a real thriller as both men unloaded on the other in what was a bit of a dark horse fight. For Minamoto it was his first defense of the title, following a very impressive performance against Takenori Ohashi whilst Otsubo was having his second Japanese title shot, and this turned out to be a real treat.
August 11th-City Sogo Gym
Ryota Yada (16-4, 13) vs Kazuyasu Okamoto (14-5, 4)
The action from August went from strength to strength and on August 11th we saw Japanese Welterweight champion Ryota Yada make his first defense, as he took on the unheralded Kazuyasu Okamoto. Much like the Minamoto/Otsubo bout this wasn't expected to be too exciting but certainly exceeded expectation and was one of the many treats asign boxing has given us this year. Notably it wasn't the best fight on the card, but was still a high tempo, hard hitting and worth while watch.
August 11th-City Sogo Gym
Keita Kurihara (11-5, 10) Vs Kazuki Tanaka (9-1, 6)
Records don't tell us what to expect when we get a fight, instead the styles of the fighters involved should tell us whether we should be excited or not. When Keita Kurihara and Kazuki Tanaka were matched we knew to expect something special. Tanaka had been a former amateur standout who was tipped for big things as a professional whilst Kurihara was best known as a heavy handed slugger, who was always worth watching due to aggressive style and defensive flaws. When the two got in the ring, with a very hot crowd, they delivered a short but thrilling action bout.
August 16th-Korakuen Hall
Daisuke Sudo (4-6-3) vs Jun Ishimoto (5-5-1, 3)
Not all exciting fights are high profile or expected to be great fights and the clash between Daisuke Sudo and Jun Ishimoto proved just that. The two men entered the contest as total unknowns and were fighting in front of only a smattering of a crowd on the under-card of a world title bout. Despite the relatively small crowd watching the two men put on a show, fighting a high tempo and exciting 6 round contest. What made this really good was that both men fought as if they had a point to prove, like they could pick up a relatively rare win and really take a chance to shine. If you like high tempo wars this is well worth your time.
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.