Sometimes fighters leave it right to the end of the year to really thrill us, as if they need to give us a Christmas Cracker just a few days early. That was shown wonderfully at the 2019 All Japan Rookie of the Year final on December 22nd when we had a number of fantastic bouts. Today's we feature one of those gems as our Treasure Trove article, and it really was something amazingly special. Today we bring the you 140lbs Rookie of the Year final, and one of the most remarkable comebacks of late 2019.
Kodai Honda (4-1, 3) vs Yasutaka Fujita (5-0, 5)
The All Japan Rookie of the Year, for those who don't follow it, is the biggest annual boxing tournament. It takes months to go from the preliminary bouts to December's All Japan final and sees fighters needing to prove their value on the local area and advance through to the final stages. Typically the Rookie of the Year is the launchpad for fighters, with a lot of examples of fighters going from Rookie of the Year to Japanese, OPBF and World titles.
The stand out fight from this year's tournament saw the once beaten Kodai Honda from the Kawasaki Nitta take on the unbeaten Yasutaka Fujita, from the little known Nagoya Ohashi gym, run by former OPBF Super Bantamweight champion Hiromasa Ohashi.
Whilst expectations were that this one would be exciting, we didn't expect what we'd get, which was something very special.
Honda had lost on his debut, in November 2018, but had found his footing in 2019, racking up 4 wins to earn his place in the All Japan final. He had taken out his previous 3 opponents, in a combined 6 rounds, and was proving himself to be a vicious, heavy handed pressure fighter. Although lacking in polish he made up for it in aggression, power and his under-rated ability to slip shots, helping him get in close.
Fujita on the other hand had been a wrecking ball since turning professional. He had debuted just 18 days after Honda, scoring an opening round win, and only 1 of his first 5 opponents had survived beyond the second round. He was in the ring not just in search of victory, but in search of a destruction, pursuing opponents, punishing them, breaking them, and stopping them. He had shown the ability to box, but in reality he was an ultra-aggressive puncher.
When they got in the ring the styles of the two men looked like they were made for each other. Within just 10 seconds bombs were being launched and Honda was quickly dropped. His pressure was leaving him open and the power of Fujita was having it's effect. From there on Fujita spent the entire first round looking for his 6th straight early win. He threw everything at Honda who tried to grit it out and come forward. From then on it was clear that we were on the verge of something special, and something special we got as the momentum began to shift, and the fight turned.
This was intense, this was exciting, this was dramatic, this was a gem that is well and truly worth a watch. A genuinely incredible bout!
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.