Earlier in this series we looked at a Japanese Midddleweight title bout, and amazingly the men involved in that would later go on to have a second thriller a few months later, giving us more amazing rounds of their rivalry. Unlike their first bout, which ended in a draw, the rematch left us with no questions as to who was the better man. Whilst we had a conclusive ending this time, it doesn't take away from the fact we ended up with another cracker.
Kazuto Takesako (10-0-1, 10) vs Shuji Kato (10-1-2, 6) II
In March 2019 Kazuto Takesako saw his perfect stoppage run come to an end, as he was held to a draw by Shuji Kato in a mandatory Japanese title fight. For Takesako it was a successful defense, his second, but was a less than impressive performance. He had struggled mightily with the southpaw jab, the movement and the relaxed defense of Kato. The challenger exceeded expectations in not only taking the power of the champion but also landing plenty of leather of his own.
After 10 rounds both men had felt like they had deserved the win. Just 5 months later we saw them go again.
This time Takesako knew what to expect from the slippery Kato, he knew he had to find a way around the jab of the challenger and that he needed to find a way to neutralise the southpaw stance of Kato. As for Kato he knew he had to do more, and make sure the judges didn't have any questions as to who deserved the win.
The opening round was very much round 11 of their rivalry, rather than round 1 of fight 2. Just like their first fight Takesako was on the offensive, backing up Kato who tried to slip and slide, use the ring and his jab. Unlike the early staged of fight 1 Takesako was having success very early and was forcing his fight on to Kato, with the pressure having success early on. Kato was able to soak it up, and landed some meaty blows of his own, but it was clear, this wasn't a normal opening round.
If the opening round was round 11 of their rivalry then round 2 of this bout was certainly round 12, with the round being violent from the off. It was clear Takesako wanted to get revenge for being taken the distance and he was unleashing massive power shots. Kato was taking them, and landing some solid counters, but was clear having his toughness tested early. If he could see out the early storm then there was a chance he could get to Takesako late, especially with the way the champion was throwing everything with bad intentions, and leaving himself open for counters.
We won't ruin any more of the fight, but lets just say this is brutal, this is exciting and this is a bout that mean so much to both men following their draw. Neither man was in the ring to lose, and both had to dig deep with both men landing some very heavy leather as they both began to slow. A genuinely punishing battle for both men!
Whilst no one will ever describe the Japanese Middleweight scene as being world class it does deliver an alarming number of fantastic fights, in fact the title scene really tends to give us a more consistently entertaining fights than any other division in Japan. Thanks to great fights like Tadashi Yuba Vs Carlos Linares, Makoto Fuchigami Vs Koji Sato and Tomohiro Ebisu v Makoto Fuchigami we have started to become accustomed to Japanese Middleweight bouts being fantastically entertaining and worth watching.
This year has been no exception with 2 more great Japanese Middleweight title bouts. Today we delve into the Treasure Trove and bring you the first of those bouts, a very entertaining bout between concussive punching champion and the #1 contender. With the men clashing in the Champion Carnival.
Kazuto Takesako (10-0, 10) vs Shuji Kato (10-1-1, 6) I
It was March 2nd when Japanese Middleweight champion Kazuto Takesako returned to the ring for the first time in 2019 to make his second defense off the title. He had demolished all those who had been put in front. With 10 straight stoppage wins the hard hitting World Sports Boxing gym fighter had looked brutally heavy handed, with dynamite in his straight right hand, he was technically flawed but strong, and did enough things right to always have the respect of his opponents. He was not only able to land concussive blows up top but also had a very solid array of body shots in his arsenal and knew how to finish opponents off.
Kato on the other hand was pretty much the opposite and he was a skilled fighter not a puncher. He had respectable power, but not concussive. It was more the sort of power that kept opponents honest and allowed him to chip away at them. His real strength was in his movement, his southpaw stance and his busy jab, along with his ability to ride shots. In many ways he was the next Makoto Fuchigami, a fighter who lacked major power but had success with his skills, and although not a massively entertaining fighter he could have great fights with the right dance partner, such as an ultra aggressive opponent.
What we ended up getting was a show case of what both men were about, with Takesako pressing, constantly, and Kato countering, soaking up the pressure and unleashing his own combinations. Whether he was on the ropes or centre ring Kato was finding space for his own uppercuts and hooks, whilst Takesako's own offense looked more devastating, but less effective. The lead to a fantastic match of wills and and desire and a truly wonderful piece of boxing treasure.
Notable the two men did it all again a few months later in excellent rematch. Their second bout wasn't quite as this one, but was another brilliant fight between two men with styles that just matched up brilliantly.
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.