For this week's Treasure Trove we're digging a little bit deeper than usual as we get the rare chance to share a bout that was shown not on TV, or even a free stream, but on Boxing Raise! The bout was shown live on boxing Raise before the promoter of the event, Dangan, put the fight on their own YouTube for fans to enjoy and share.
Before we get into the bout we do need to talk a little bit about Boxing Raise, which is a premium Japanese service which combines a VOD service with a streaming service, showing boxing. The service is relatively cheap, has an insane amount of on demand content and is a service we do use. Sadly however so many of the best bouts on the service remain behind a paywall, which is why this fight being available to share is a little bit different. Thankfully it's not just one that's freely available, but it's also a very good fight, a controversial one and a hidden gem.
Kazuki Nakajima (8-0, 7) vs Seiya Tsutsumi (5-0, 4)
The bout in question saw the unbeaten pairing of Kazuki Nakajima and Seiya Tsutsumi clash in a scheduled 8 rounder back in January 2020. The bout wasn’t just a typical 8 rounder between two unbeaten prospects however. Instead this was a bout between two amateur standouts and was also a tournament final, serving as the final bout of the God’s Left Bantamweight tournament, which had begun in 2019.
The tournament had been a 7 man tournament. Tsutsumi had originally gotten a bye into the semi-finals, and then got a bye to the final when his semi-final opponent, Kenya Yamashita, was unable to compete. Nakajima on the other hand had had to fight twice to reach the final, stopping Kenichi Watanabe in the quarter finals and Jin Minamide in the semi final, blowing both out in the opening round, earning his place in the final.
For those who don’t follow Japanese domestic level boxing we will quickly talk about the two men before getting on to the fight.
Nakajima is an Ohashi promoter hopeful, fighting out of the same gym as Naoya Inoue. He’s a big, strong, powerful, Bantamweight, who has since moved up to Super Bantamweight, and although technically somewhat rigid, he is a very destructive fighter and when he lands clean he tends to hurt people. He’s not only big and powerful, but also a rangy southpaw, making him a true nightmare to get in the ring with.
Tsutsumi on the other hand is a smaller fighter, a natural Super Flyweight who has dipped his toes into the Bantamweight division a few times, and is best known for his bout with Daigo Higa that came after this. He’s also heavy handed, but is more of a rounded fighter who can move more and is more cerebral with his in ring work. Technically he is a lot more polished than Nakajima, but was giving away natural size and power. He had also fought just 112 seconds in the previous year due to the two bye’s he had had in the tournament.
Going in we had expected a war. We expected the styles of the two men to give us something of a tear up, and a short firefight. It seemed clear this was made to be a shoot out and was going to be short, but thrilling. Seemingly however no one told Tsutsumi that was the plan, and instead we ended up with a much, much more compelling bout, even if it wasn’t intense as expected.
Instead of tearing chunks out of each other from the off what we saw to open the bout was a smart boxing contest. Tsutsumi bucked the preconceived ideas and instead of standing and fighting with Nakajima he used his feet, moved, jabbed and try to prevent Nakajima from setting his rhythm. He also came out southpaw, not his usual orthodox stance. It was clear he had a gameplan and he wanted to fight to it, getting into Nakajima’s head immediately.
The unexpected tactics from Tsutsumi threw everyone, and saw him really leaving Nakajima looking bewildered to begin the fight. The smaller man continued to box and move through the early rounds, putting on a display that would have convinced many that he was a natural lefty. When Nakajima made a mistake he was punishment, when the fight was slow Tsutsumi was using the ring, using his jab and being incredibly smart.
As the bout went on the action began to pick up, with desperation from Nakajima forcing him to let his hands go more, especially given the large financial bonus set aside for the winner. This forced us to edge towards a shoot out, with Nakajima desperate to force his style of fight on the action. We never got a full on shoot out, but in the middle rounds it was clear Nakajima knew he had to do more, but even then he was still trying to solve a problem he didn’t expect, Tsutusmi as a southpaw.
By the final rounds Nakajima was starting to find his range and had was landing more regularly. He clearly closed the gap on the scorecards, though seemed to still be behind as we entered the final round and it seemed like Nakajima was either going to lose a decision or go all out in an attempt to win.
Given the controversy we don’t want to ruin the result of this one and instead let you watch it “as live”. What we will say is there was controversy and although it wasn’t the fire fight we expected it was a truly compelling bout. It always felt like Nakajima’s power could turn the tide, but Tsutsumi’s gameplan was near perfect. Despite a technical display from Tsutsumi it was a long way from being a “dull” performance, and was instead an exciting, technically smart showing from him against a very dangerous fighter.
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.