The legendary Korakuen Hall is one of the sports best venues. It's an intimate little hall in Tokyo, combat sports are a near daily event and the venue consistently delivers great action. Today's Treasure Trove sees us picking one of those great bouts from the Korakuen Hall, and sharing that. It was, going in, not a bout we had high hopes for, but it delivered, in fact it massively over-delivered giving us a great fight that combined skills, power, physicality, action and drama. It lacked the up and down affairs of some great bouts, but it was still brilliant, and a real tough man's fight between two novices, each looking to break the other down and beat them into submission.
Yoji Saito (1-1, 1) vs Aso Ishiwaki (5-2, 3)
Going in the 23 year old Yoji Saito was favoured. He had turned professional with a decent amateur background, and had dropped Shu Utsuki on his debut before steam rolling rolling through Tameji Ito in his second bout. Although not the most technical of fighters Saito was a physically powerful guy, who his hard, and given his amateur background was expected to go through the ranks quickly under the guidance of the Kadoebi gym. He was seen as a bit of a bull and in going 6 rounds with Shu Utsuki in his debut he also showed he was tough, able to take shots from Utsuki and keep coming forward.
The 19 year old Aso Ishiwaki lacked the amateur background of Saito but had come through the Rookie of the Year reaching the All Japan final in 2018, where he lost a split decision to George Tachibana. On debut Ishiwaki was stopped in the first round, but following that loss he had developed into a brute, and shined in the Rookie of the Year tournament. This was his first bout of 2019, and with Nobuhiro Ishida behind him the youngster seemed full of desire and ambition. He was regarded as the under-dog, due to Saito's amateur reputation, but he really didn't seem to care about Saito's reputation.
From the opening round what we got was something, very, very special. We had two young men putting it all on the line. In the opening minute or so it seemed like the older man had got the better of it, pressing Ishiwaki back and making the teenager fight off the back foot. As the round went on however both men began to stand their ground more, launching huge head shots at each other on the inside. The intensity was amazing and only got better in round 2 as the fighters proceeded to try and shatter the other's will with one of the best rounds of the year. This was brutal, this was damaging and this was pure machismo on show. This was beautifully balanced brutality with both giving as good as they got.
We'll leave the rest of the bout to you, but if you love seeing bombs thrown, heavy hand traded and two men digging deep this is the bout for you!
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.