Every so often a division we don't tend to think of much in Asia delivers a fight of real value and excitement. Today we look at one such fight that took place at 154lbs in November 2019, and whilst it became a bit one sided by the end it was genuinely brilliant to watch live, with contrasting styles and an air of tenseness. This wasn't a Fight of the Year contender, don't get us wrong, but it was a genuine treasure hidden away just days before the WBSS Bantamweight final.
Hironobu Matsunaga (15-1, 9) vs Koki Koshikawa (9-1, 6)
In one corner was the once beaten Japanese Light Middleweight champion Hironobu Matsunaga. He had been riding a 9 fight unbeaten run since losing in the 2014 All Japan Rookie of the Year final, where he lost to Yuki Beppu. During that 9 fight winning run he had built his career really well with wins against the likes of Sanosuke Sasaki, Je Ni Ma, Koshinmaru Saito and Nobuyuki Shindo. He was an aggressive fighter who was physically strong, a bit limited defensively but pretty much an exciting bully in the ring, with a great engine and an under-rated jab.
Whilst Matsunaga had, arguably, over-achieved by winning a Japanese title having failed to even win Rookie of the Year Koki Koshikawa was seen as an under-achiever of sorts. He had been a solid amateur, and had been tipped for big things when he signed with the Celes Gym, but an early winning run was ended when he was clearly beaten in 2015 by Koshinmaru Saito. He had bounced back with 5 wins, including one over Daisuke Sakamoto in his final bout, but hadn't really impressed in the way many had anticipated.
The bout began with Koshikawa pressing forward, using his jab to apply pressure to the champion. It was a confident and competent start from Koshikawa who seemed to momentarily wobble Matsunaga late in the opening round, before being clocked hard himself moments later.
The second round saw the challenger again coming forward in the early going but less than a minute into the round we started to see more pressure being applied by the champion, who was finally finding his groove. It wasn't consistent success for the champion, but there was more moments for him, and he had began to back up Koshikawa, who continued to have moments.
The last 30 seconds of round 2 were genuinely brilliant and saw the bout move up a gear as both men began to unload huge shots on each other. From there on the bout took a real thrilling feel and things began to get brutal with Koshikawa getting cut early in round 3, and bombs going back and forth through the round.
If you missed this one it's worthy of a watch, especially given the current lack of live boxing.
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.