Last year we saw a Chinese fighter really announce himself on the world stage with two big wins in the US. Between those two bouts he fought one at home, in what is actually a bit of a forgotten treasure from the year. It's a bout that we don't think many Western fans watched, but it was entertaining, action packed and a fun little battle in Fuzhou. Albeit a rather one sided little battle, with the Chinese star battering a former world champion in impressive fashion.
Can Xu (16-2, 2) v Shun Kubo (13-1, 9)
The Chinese fighter in question is Can Xu, who announced himself in a big way in January, when he upset Jesus M Rojas to claim the WBA "regular" Featherweight title. The win was a massive shock, and saw Xu become the first Chinese fighter to win a world title above Flyweight. It wasn't just a big win but was an exciting win, with Xu throwing an incredible amount of leather in that fight and instantly endearing himself to US fans with his style, toughness, and personality.
After winning his title his next saw him go home and fight in front of Chinese fans, who wanted to see their new star in action. That lead to him taking on former WBA "regular" Super Bantamweight champion Shun Kubo, a talented and gutsy Japanese fighter.
Although Kubo isn't a big name he managed to make something of a buzz in 2017, when he stopped veteran Nehomar Cermeno, who retired between rounds 10 and 11, for the WBA "regular" title. His reign was a short one, as he was beaten up by Daniel Roman in his first defense. He bounced back from that loss by defeating Hiroshige Osawa and appeared to be fighting at a better weight for his gangly and rangy frame. It was assumed the extra few pounds would actually help him take a punch and allow him to fight at a weight more suited to his body.
In the opening moments we saw Kubo looking to create distance, use his jab and keep Xu at range. It was the type of gameplan the challenger was going to need to use to have any chance. Not only did he need did he need to keep it at range, but he also needed to get Xu's respect, some how. Sadly for Kubo that was always going to be the toughest part, given Xu has a brilliant chin, to go alongside his incredibly engine.
Kubo's tactics had success in the opening round, but by the end of it Xu was starting to cut the distance, get inside and get some of his shots off. The second round saw Xu build on a good finish to the opening round, and Kubo realised he had to respond, giving us some fun back and forth as both men let shots go up close. Kubo's gameplan had began to fall apart, and he had began to fight Xu's fight. This was where the excitement level began to increase, and where the bout began to get one sided.
From round 3 on wards Xu began to fully fight his fight, setting the pace, coming forward and letting his hands go, throwing punches in bunches. Kubo fought back, bravely, trying to do what he could to fight off Xu, standing his ground when he needed to, boxing when he could, and fight with heart and desire of someone desperate to win. That desire shone, but the gulf in ability wasn't something that be over-come by desire alone.
In the end Kubo got ground down, but not without playing his part in a short, exciting, little battle that was overshadowed by Xu's two other fights from the year. Of course those other two bouts were much memorable 12 round battles, and exhibitions in volume punching at a higher level.
In May 2019 we got a bit of a forgotten gem in the Philippines as a then rising Japanese fighter made his international debut and took on a Filipino who held a minor regional title. On paper this was a really interesting match up, and it gave us fans a chance to watch bout that combined boxing, brawling, and fighting. Neither man seemed to have the power to hurt the other, but both men managed to put on a cracking bout together and, in the 18 months or so since this bout, one of the fighters has since gone on to become a national champion one of the rising faces of the Featherweight scene.
Ryo Sagawa (6-1, 4) vs Al Toyogon (10-2-1, 6)
The Japanese fighter in question was Ryo Sagawa, who coming in to this bout had won 5 in a raw since suffering a stoppage loss very early in his career to Retsu Kosaka. Although he had an early career loss to his name Sagawa had shown some fantastic boxing skills and came in to this bout with wins over the likes of Junki Sasaki, Ryo Matsumoto and Shingo Kawamura. Despite his impressive wins coming in to this bout, this was regarded as a step up. No only was he travelling over to the Philippines for the bout, but he was also stepping up in weight, to take on an opponent at Super Featherweight.
Prior to turning professional Sagawa was a talented amateur who had turned professional with lofty ambitions. His early set back showed their was issues with how he responded to being his, but the way he had bounced from that loss was very impressive. Of course those who have followed him recently, will know that he has continued to develop and since this bouts he has gone on to great things winning the Japanese Featherweight title, and making 2 defenses of the title as we write this.
The Filipino that Sagawa was facing was 21 year old Al Toyogon, who sported a 10-2-1 (6) record and had won his previous 5. Whilst he didn't have a big win to his name he did have a number of decent regional level wins including victories over Naotoshi Nakatani, Nathan Bolcio and Ryusei Ishii. He looked like he was going forward with his career, and had won, and defended, the WBC Asian Boxing Council Silver Super Featherweight title.
Although not a big name Toyogon had momentum, he was young, he was promising, he was in form, he had more experience, he was the naturally bigger fighter and, most importantly, he was fighting at home. In fact all 3 judges and the referee were from the Philippines as well. The deck seemed to be stacked in his favour, big time.
From the early going both men tried to box, and it made for a rather slow start, with both looking to get behind their jabs and box at mid range. It didn't make for the best of action early on, though Sagawa did manage to show the skills, and smoothness that we now used to seeing from him. Although the skills of Sagawa showed through, Toyogon showed his toughness, coming forward behind a tight guard and not taking too much cleanly, whilst landing probably the best single shot of the round, a solid right hand. In round 2 Toyogon began to show a bit more ambition, and clearly had the fans in the venue behind him, cheering any success he had.
Toyogon pressed the action early in round 3 as he began to come alive, and as he began to use his aggression well. That success didn't last and by the end of the round Sagawa was the one coming forward, boxing off his jab and landing some gorgeous uppercuts. Essentially walking through the best of Toyogon. Although Sagawa had success it was a Toyogon round though his momentum didn't really last and Sagawa boxed brilliantly through round 4, to stem the success of Toyogon up close and seemingly begin to take control of the action.
Whilst we know some hate open scoring it was actually in effect here, and amazingly Toyogon was leading on 2 of the 3 cards after 4 rounds, with the third judge having it even. That included one judge who had the bout 4-0 in favour of Toyogon, which was an awful scorecard. Thankfully for fans wanting to see someone put a light to the touch paper, it was perfect, as the cards essentially told Sagawa to put his foot on the gas, which he did. And he did in style.
From round 5 we saw Sagawa dropping the "boxing" mentality and become more of a swarming pressure fighting, pressing the action and turning the bout into a brawl. This was where the bout took off, as he looked to make sure the judges couldn't possibly rob him.
After 8 rounds the Japanese fighter was leading on two of the cards, leading by a point on one of the cards with another card even. He knew he could still get done on them and he knew he couldn't let off the action as we ended up getting a brilliant finish to the bout.
This is a genuine hidden gem from 2019 but one this is well worth watching, especially now that Sagawa is the Japanese national champion and is a world ranked contender. It wasn't a Fight of the Year contender, not even close, but it was a genuinely worth while bout, well worth the 55 minutes or so that it takes to watch. A very good, solid hidden gem that had some great exchanges, and built from a slow temp at range to an inside war up close.
The dynamic and action changed significantly due to the scoring, and it is one of the rare bouts where open scoring positively affected the bout. Both guys had to dig deep at times, and we ended up with a genuinely good fight here.
As part of this Treasure Trove series we have spent a lot of time talking about the more obscure battles and wars from 2019. Today however we look at a huge bout that saw international TV exposure and was one of the biggest bouts of the year, at least in terms of Asian fighters. It pitted the top Thai against one of the top Mexican's, in a rematch that had been building for over a year. It wasn't the fight of the year, but was very damn good!
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-4-1, 41) Vs Juan Francisco Estrada (38-3, 26)
In one corner was WBC Super Flyweight champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, enjoying his second reign as the champion. The Thai had announced himself in the US with a controversial win over Roman Gonzalez, before blasting out the Nicaraguan in a rematch. Following that he had enhanced his standing in the sport with a decision win over brilliant Mexican Juan Francisco Estrada.
At his best Srisaket was a strong, powerful, come forward fighter with scary strength for a Super Flyweight and a terminator like mentality. Defensively he has always been quite open, and often relies on his toughness to get him through tough spots, and he is slow, but more than males up for those issues by being a terrifying man to fight. He walks through punches, he comes forward, he's relentless, strong, heavy handed and, worst of all, he's a hard hitting southpaw. One thing many think, when watching him, is that he's crude, and that's actually a bit unfair, he does do some very smart work, but it's on the front foot, and is often hidden behind his pressure and physicality.
Whilst Srisaket was regarded as an offensive pressure machine talented Mexican Juan Francisco Estrada was regarded as one of the best technical all rounders in the sport. His boxing IQ, timing and control of distance is fantastic, his handspeed is criminally under-rated and he's proven that he's really able to do everything. He's one of the very few fighters who's as good on the back foot as he is on the front foot, and can pressure, box, fight or counter. He's also tough, hard to hit clean and counters brilliantly.
Although incredibly skilled Estrada's biggest issue is that he can, at times, over-look his opponents. This was seen notably against Joebert Alvarez, in what was a very close bout despite the score cards. He can also be dragged into the wrong type of fighter, and at Super Flyweight he's certainly not a big puncher. He's a very clean puncher, but does lack 1-punch KO power.
In February 2018 the two men had clashed in their first bout, with Srisaket taking a majority decision win over Estrada. Following that win Srisaket had had issues outside of the ring, splitting with his long term partner and scoring two low profile wins. The most notable of those wins came over Hiram Irak Diaz and was a less than stellar performance. Estrada on the other hand had scored two solid wins, beating Felipe Orucuta and Victor Mendez, and looked good and hungry coming into the rematch.
This was a bout hardcore fans wanted, it was a rematch of a great bout and was expected to be something brilliant. What we got was something very memorable and compelling.
The bout started with Srisaket giving up his key advantage. Rather than fighting southpaw he actually came out fighting orthodox and rather than taking the fight to Estrada he tried to box with the Mexican genius. It was instantly a weird start to the fight, and seemed as if Srisaket wanted to beat Estrada at Estrada's game. It wasn't a good gameplan from the Thai.
As the early rounds went on Srisket continued to fight the wrong fight, falling behind. Despite that both men were landing some solid shots, in what was a really technical boxing contest. This was high level, entertaining, and a show case of what an Estrada fight is. It was higher being fought with a feeling that sooner or later Srisaket's power and aggression would begin to turn things around.
Having fallen a long way behind Srisaket finally turned southpaw, finally fought his fight and finally began to make his strengths count. This forced some brilliant action in the final few rounds as he attempted to wage war on Estrada.
This is a strange bout, but it's a brilliant bout. It's got one of the best Thai's ever fighting the wrong bout, before things click and it's got one of the best pure boxers in the sport showing what a boxing genius he is.
This isn't a hidden gem, but it is a fantastic bout, and a somewhat over-looked contest that really is worth a re-watch!
I genuinely expected this series to be finished several weeks ago. The original plan was to begin covering 2020 fights by June or July. Given whats happened this year that's not been possible, but thankfully content providers are making things available from last year, and giving more and more content for me to share in this series. With that in mind we're bringing you a DAZN fight this week.
This was actually one of first notable bouts of 2019 and turned into an unexpectedly fan friendly contest, despite being viewed as a complete mismatch going in.
Takeshi Inoue (13-0-1, 7) vs Jaime Munguia (31-0, 26)
Fans who followed the Japanese scene knew who Takeshi Inoue was prior to the start of 2019, but those who didn't follow Japanese boxing had no idea. Some simply thought he was another relation of Naoya and Takuma Inoue, not realising how common the name is in Japan. Those who knew about Inoue knew he was a strong, but crude fighter who came forward, often neglected to set things up and instead tried to bully and hustle opponents with his physical strength.
On the domestic and regional scene Inoue had had great success. He had won the Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles and scored notable wins over Akinori Watanabe, Koshinmaru Saito, Riku Nagahama, Ratchasi Sithsaithong and Yuki Nonaka. Other than his debut, where he was held to a draw with Daishi Nagata, we had only seen Inoue struggle with Nonaka, who's smart footwork and boxing brain had caused Inoue fits. Inoue's willingness to go forward worked into the hands of Nonaka's comfortable and relaxed back foot boxing.
Although Inoue was an unknown in the West his opponent wasn't. Jaime Munguia was the WBO Light Middleweight champion and was been groomed as the next big Mexican star. He was a big, strong, powerful fighter who set a high work rate and tried to drown opponents out with volume. Technically he wasn't a very good boxer, but he was a very good fighter and had had a brilliant 2018. Although he was denied a chance to face Gennady Golovkin he had gone 5-0 (4) in 2018 with wins against Sadam Ali, Liam Smith and Brandon Cook. He had entered 2019 red hot and was expected to continue his form.
Coming in to bout it was assumed that Munguia would be too big, too strong, too powerful, too good, and too aggressive for Inoue. Just pretty too much of everything. Some fans were complaining about Inoue being the opponent for what was Munguia's 6th bout in a year, whilst others saw it as a chance for Munguia to be busy again and continue to build his moment.
What no one saw coming was what we actually got.
From the opening round it was Inoue pressing forward. Despite being much smaller he was the more physically imposing guy, pushing Munguia on to the back foot and making the Mexican swarmer turn to boxing and moving. Munguia, to his credit, boxed well at times, behind his jab, and quickly realised that Inoue was there to win, rather than just make up the numbers.
Whilst Inoue was pressing and fiery he was crude, often missing with some wild looking shots. It was a high energy effort from the challenger but one that took everyone by surprise as he pressed and pressed.
To his credit Munguia saw out the storm, tried to take the fight out of Inoue, and as the bout went on Inoue did slow down, giving Munguia the space he needed to work. When that happened we saw some huge bombs landing from the Mexican, with Inoue eating them clean but continuing his forward match in a typical gutsy fashion.
This bout, which was supposed to be a total mismatch, was being turned into a thrilling action bout thanks to a very hungry and determined challenger. The champion was being forced to work hard through out, and the new rising Mexican star was being given one of his first real tests.
Although not an instant classic, or a fight of the year contender, this quickly became a gem, and one that was much, much better than anyone had expected.
Way back in March 2019 we had a genuinely excellent card from Shanghai, with several really good bouts. Earlier in the series we spoke about the sensational bout between Baishanbo Nasiyiwula and Yusuke Konno and today we look at another stellar bout on that card, which again saw China and Japan clash. Like that clash this was a nail biting bout, but yet a very different one, featuring a prospect taking on a fighter who would end the year in a world title fight.
Wulan Tuolehazi (10-3-1, 5) vs Ryota Yamauchi (4-0, 4)
Chinese fighter Wulan Tuolehazi is someone we have mentioned before in this series, for his fun bout with Ardin Diale, and is best known for his 2019 bout with Kosei Tanaka. At world level Tuolehazi was exposed, big time, by Tanaka, but on the regional level he was very much in the mix and had scored notable wins in 2018 over Kwanthai Sithmorseng and Jayr Raquinel. Although not the quickest, or the most powerful, Tuolehazi is well regarded as an awkward, rangy boxer, with a good boxing brain, and enough power to get respect of opponents. He's probably not going to be winning a world title, but we expect to see him banging on the door of another title fight in the years to come.
Japanese prospect Ryota Yamauchi has looked sensational through his first 4 bouts. He was beginning to look like one of the countries rising prospects, and had already stopped the likes of Lester Abutan and Yota Hori in his first 4 bouts. He looked a bit crude and wild, but very strong, quick, powerful and big. He had shown touches of real brilliance and it was clear that Kadoebi, his promoter, thought very highly of him, highly enough to put him in this bout this early. The bout wasn't just a step up in terms of competition, but also his first international bout and his first 12 rounder. Given that prior to this bout Yamauchi had fought just 14 total rounds prior to this contest it was clearly a big risk for the 24 year old hopeful.
The bout started quickly with Yamauchi looking to set the tempo behind his jab, and it seemed like his speed and busy jab was going to be a key factor in the fight. He was forcing Tuolehazi back with it and using it to set up his right hand. Tuolehazi would begin to respond may way through the round and then we saw the two men mixing up shots in a brilliant back and forth. The action was technical, but incredibly high tempo and absolutely thrilling throughout the first 3 minutes.
We typically see feeling out rounds, but that wasn't the case here, and they would never really look backwards, with the action continuing to be hot, and the drama increasing round by round.
In round 3 we saw the first knockdown of the fight, and a major momentum shift as Tuolehazi's right hand dropped Yamauchi, putting the Japanese fighter down for the first time in his career. Even before the knockdown Tuolehazi seemingly found something that he could land, regularly, on the young, and in fact Yamauchi seemed to have no answer or defense to the shot, that regularly from the Chinese fighter.
Yamauchi would later drop the local, and would go on to turn the fight from from boxing into a brawl, as he mixed up his tactics and tried to keep the bout out of the hands of the judges.
The bout, which had started with a brilliant opening round, remained a fantastic bout, right upto the end. It was action packed, dramatic, saw both men needing to show heart, and swung back and forth. If you missed this first time around, sit back and enjoy one of the real hidden gems of 2019.
Every so often a bout we expect absolutely nothing from massively over delivers and gives us something very special. Today we get to look at one such bout from the opening series of bouts from the Hajime No Ippo 30 Anniversary tournament, which took place in November 2019. The bout appeared to promise little but gave us an action thriller.
Shingo Kusano (11-8-1, 4) vs Qiang Ma (5-1-2, 3)
In one corner was tournament outsider Shingo Kusano, a Japanese southpaw who had lost his previous 4 bouts and looked like he was there to make up the numbers. He had been badly struggling for form and was more than 3 years removed from his last victory. Aged 30 it was essentially now or never for Kusano who had been a professional for over 8 years and had achieved very little since reaching the 2013 All Japan Rookie of the Year final.
At 23 years old Qiang Ma was seen as a tournament wild card. He had lost his debut in 2017 but had then gone unbeaten in 7 fights and had stopped 3 of his last 4. Although no world beater he seemed to have momentum on his side and would have been seeing the tournament as his chance to put his name on the boxing map and prove he was more than just a Chinese domestic level fighter. This was his international debut, and his chance to shine.
The fight started with both men feeling their way into the action and then Ma came alive, and went on the front foot. Although the first few forays forward didn't result in much success for Ma he did manage to drop Kusano. Although Kusano didn't look hurt from the knockdown Ma went for the finish and dropped Kusano for the second time just moments later. Kusano recovered to his feet but Ma could smell blood and had Kusano reeling all over the place soon afterwards. To his credit Kusano recovered his senses.
From there on the battle became a real test. Ma was looking to repeat his first round success whilst Kusano was looking to rely on his experience and ring craft to turn the tables on the Chinese youngster.
This is a dramatic and exciting bout, youthful energy against experience.
Whilst not a fight of the year contender it certainly worthy of a watch.
We love watching Rookie of the Year bouts due to how intense they can be, how hungry the fighters involved can be and how much both men want to prove themselves. It's rare that we we see young and hungry fighters matched against each other in the West. More often we mismatches with one fighter heading in as the clear favourite and the other there to pad the other guy's record. In the Rookie of the Year that doesn't happen. Today we look at great 2019 Rookie of the Year bout as continue to thrust our arm into the 2019 Treasure Trove.
Jin Sasaki (6-0, 5) Vs Tetsuya Kondo (4-1, 3)
In one corner was 18 year old hopeful Jin Sasaki, an unbeaten fighter who had looked really impressive and exciting since making his debut in August 2018. He was still young, a bit raw around the edges but looked powerful, heavy handed and really exciting. He was showing real signs of promise and had proven that whilst he was heavy handed he could box a big, as we had seen in his previous bout against Hikaru Sato. Whilst he looked like he was lacking experience, and his amateur experience really wasn't much at all, there was a feeling that he was a natural for the pros with his physicality being highly impressive for such a youngster.
Tetsuya Kondo on the other hand was a 22 year old who had lost a close decision on debut, to Taichi Koide, but had bounced back well with 4 straight wins to get his career on track. Despite his winning run he had, for whatever reason, been out of the ring for 13 months coming in to this bout, and had lost much of the momentum his winning run had built. Like Sasaki he was aggressive, had a fun to watch style, and and lacked the polish of a solid amateur. Saying that however he had shown some nice defensive touches against Ryugo Yanagibori in 2018.
Going into this bout, which was an East Japan Rookie of the Year semi-final bout at Lightweight, we knew we had two men who liked to be aggressive, like to fight, and could put on fun action. What we weren't quite expecting was the action we got.
Within about 30 seconds we were seeing exchanges, with Kondo sticking his jab in Sasaki's face and Sasaki pressing the action. Kondo was use smart footwork and land combinations before getting out of range a the tempo quickly increased. The styles were giving us some brilliant back and forth in the second minute of the bout. The exciting exchanges made it seem clear this wasn't going to last long, and Kondo was dropped with about 40 seconds left. He beat the count and the action resumed.
We won't ruin what happens, as the bout didn't last too much longer, but this was intense, exciting, and a lot of fun. The sort of bout that we love featuring in this Treasure Trove series.
Looking for a short fight to watch this week? You could do a lot worse than this one!
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!
One of the distinctly unique things about Japanese boxing is the Rookie of the Year and the way it's formatted, with the regional tournaments leading to an All Japan final in December. The tournaments, and the way they allow us to get well matched bouts with novices is one of the genuine highlights of the Japanese system. No other country, even South Korea who do run their own rookie shows, has something that comes close to the Japanese Rookie of the Year.
Kantaro Nakanishi (1-0-1) vs Shodai Morita (2-0, 2)
The All-Japan Rookie of the Year, for those unaware, pits the best rookie's in the West of Japan against the best in East Japan. To find out who's the best the fighters compete in a knockout tournament with the West and East finals typically taking place in November, before the All-Japan finals in December. Today's Treasure Trove bout is the West Japan Bantamweight final.
In one corner was Kantaro Nakanishi, who had gone 7-6 (4) as an amateur and was fighting out of the obscure HK Sports Gym in Kitakyushu City. His gym was a small one and he really was unknown, though had notably defeated a 5-0-1 fighter on debut and held a 4-0 opponent to a draw in his second bout, advancing in the tournament on a tie breaker. Aged 18 at the time of this bout he, and his team, would have been full aware that getting into the All Japan final would be huge and would give him a chance to show case his skills in front of a nation wide audience on G+ as part of the national final.
Of course the bout wasn't all about Nakanishi and Shodai Morita was also an unbeaten teenager, also aged 18. Unlike Nakanishi, who had gone the distance in both of his bouts, Morita had look explosive in his. He had blasted out Sadayuki Yamada in his debut and then stopped Daichi Okamoto inside a round to book his place in this final. Whilst Nakanishi was one of the few notable names at his obscure gym Morita was coming from the Morioka gym, which has the likes of Hinata Maruta training at it. It seemed he had the power, the better gym, and home advantage, with this being his third bout at the EDION Arena Osaka.
On paper this looked brilliantly well matched. The tough matched non-puncher against the heavier handed but less tested fighter. From the opening seconds it was clear we were going to get something really exciting.
Morita seemed the quicker man, dancing around, using his movement to unsettle Nakanishi. Despite being a novice himself Nakanishi showed great composure and didn't look flustered at Morita's movement and feints, instead remaining poised and making sure he had his say in every exchange. He was countering well, and a number of his right hands really caught the eye in the opening round, whilst Morita burnt a lot of excess energy with un-needed movement.
Despite the extra movement from Morita there was always a threat that he had the fight changing power. Not only was that threat on everyone's mind but it was clearly something that Morita himself had belief in. It was as if he felt when he landed clean the bout was going to be over, whilst he felt like Nakanishi couldn't hurt him. This made for an exciting dynamic, which one man needing to be more cautious, but still busy, and the other being a bit more reckless but also being very dangerous.
We won't ruin this one, but it's a cracking little 4 rounder that's well worthy of a watch.
Regular readers of the Treasure Trove series of articles will be well aware by now that we absolutely love Korean boxing. The skill level, particularly in recent years, is lower than in many Asian countries, but that the heart, determination and action make up for the lower technical ability. This weekly series has always put action and excitement ahead of skills, and with that in mind we have a real gem to share today!
Sung Jae Jo (7-0, 6) vs Gyung Mo Yuh (3-5-3)
In one corner was the unbeaten 23 year old Sung Jae Jo. Up to this point Jo had had everything his own way, with 6 stoppages from his 7 wins, and he had stopped his previous 5 in a row, including a win over Jong Min Bang for the Korean title in September 2018. He had never looked all that well polished, but in reality he didn't need to be, he was easily dealing with opponents with just his heavy handed blows and his trudging aggression. He certainly had areas he had to work on to go further in the sport but in reality on the Korean scene he was looking pretty solid. The Korean scene might be his limit, but he was certainly going to be a fun guy to watch.
Gyung Mo Yuh was in the other corner. He was a 31 year old fighter who had lost his first 4 bouts and won just 1 of his first 9, going 1-5-3 during that stretch. He had managed to notch back to back wins on route to this fight but they had come at Welterweight, where he had won a Korean title. Despite his "recent success", he had no right to be getting a Korean Middleweight title fight and was easy to over-look as being a legitimate challenger for Jo. Sometimes however it's those who are being over-looked who put in the best performances, and whilst Jo may have been expecting an easy fight he wasn't going to get that. Yuh was going to play his part in what turned out to be a great little war.
The two men clashed in January 2019 and despite the bout looking like a mismatch we ended up a very fun and enjoyable war.
From the opening round the champion was coming forward, looking to let his shots go on the inside whilst the challenger was showing the much more rounded skills, boxing and moving, and looking to control the distance. Despite the mentalities of the men being polar opposites the bout fight would quickly descend into Jo's type of fight, with bombs being thrown toe to toe.
Round after round was intense and both men had to take as good as they got. Although not a puncher Yuh was landing some really clean head shots as he tried to slow down the champion.
Despite the bout getting messy at times, especially when the two men began to tire, the intensity and excitement never dropped and both fought as if they had to give everything they had.
For those who love absolute wars, with heavy head shots, and don't mind defensive workd being ignored as a result this is brilliant. It's crude combatitve carnage and so much damn fun!
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.