The Treasure Trove series is designed to share fights you might have originally missed, but are worth watching. That's because they are either controversial, exciting, dramatic or a showcase of a top prospect. For today's bout we are looking at a dramatic one from the East Japan Rookie of the Year final. It didn't have the clearest of endings, but it did have drama and action and featured one of the men regarded as one of the favourites for the tournament. It was a bout we had high expectations from and it was a bout that delivered more than expected.
Kosuke Tomioka (4-0, 3) vs Shunpei Kubo (5-1-1, 3)
the bout in question was the East Japanese Rookie of the Year final at Super Flyweight, a division that tends to see Rookies make a solid mark on the Japanese, Oriental and even world scene after the tournament finishes. Given the division is one of the most notable for the Rookie of the Year the match up already had attention on it, and that was before we even looked at the fighters in question.
The younger of the two men was the unbeaten Kosuke Tomioka, a charismatic, almost cocky, youngster who had impressed in his first 4 bouts. He was a touted amateur at junior level, came from the Tomioka boxing family which included him, two brothers and his cousin, and was regarded as one of the hot favourites for the tournament. He was just a teenager but he was widely seen as a super stud with talent, speed, reactions and enough experience from the amateurs to be a star.
In the opposite corner was the unheralded Shunpei Kubo, a 23 year old who had won his first 3 bouts before suffering a TKO loss to Rui Ikari in 2019. He had bounced back with 2 wins but was then held to a draw by Aito Abe, in what was a real hidden gem of a 4 rounder. Despite the older man, and the more experienced professional, he was seen as the under-dog, and the man expected to pick up a loss. He was fully aware that he was the under-dog but that hardly mattered, and he was there to win. In fact he was determined to prove the pre-fight perceptions very wrong.
At the opening bell Tomioka was half way across the ring and seemed relaxed whilst looking to control the action from the middle of the ring. Kubo seemed wary of making mistakes and didn't give Tomioka much to counter in the first minute, and it was clear Kubo was wary of Tomioka's power and speed. Despite being cautious Kubo did land some solid shots through the first round, particularly with his right hand, making the most of Tomioka's rather low guard. It was a technical first round, but one that seemed to suggest that both men knew what was at stake, and it had a very clear sense of tension.
The action picked up in round as Tomioka began to land powerful single shots, including a huge left hand that dropped Kubo about a minute into the round. Following the knockdown Tomioka went hunting, landing a number of solid shots, though Kubo took them surprisingly well. It seemed like Tomioka was zoned in and regularly landing hard lefts up top, he seemed to have found his groove, his timing and his range and Kubo was forced to take some genuine punishment without landing much himself.
In round 3 Kubo began pressing with a little more intensity and backed up Tomioka and within 20 seconds of the round starting the pressure had success as he dropped Tomioka with a right hand. Tomioka rushed to his feet, holding the ropes, as the referee looked at him and quickly decided he was unfit to continue.
The stoppage seemed a quick one, and soon after the fight Tomioka looked fine. It would have been good to have seen the referee take the mandatory 8 to make a decision, but the finish aside, this was one to watch. We had technical action, we had drama, and given the ending we also had some controversy. All in all a short, tense, but exciting fight, with a drama turn around, and a bout well worthy of a watch if you missed it the first time around.
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.