When we talk about some of the most eye catching KO's in recent years many of them have involved a Filipino. Whether it was the Filipino fighter scoring them, or receiving them it's hard to ignore how many great KO's have come when a bout has featured a Filipino. Today we take a look at one of the best finishes of 2007 and it was a finish that helped put one rising Filipino fighter on the global boxing map.
Nonito Donaire (17-1, 10) Vs Vic Darchinyan (28-0, 22) I
In one corner was 24 year Nonito Donaire, at the time he was rather unknown and was lacking not just a world title but a win of any note. In the other corner was hard punching IBF Flyweight champion Vic Darchinyan.
At the time Donaire really was an unknown, unless you followed the amateur boxing scene as Donaire was a very solid amateur. He had fought 18 times a professional but hadn't done anything to make a name for himself. His biggest wins weren't big and at this point his brother, Glenn Donaire, was a more well known fighter. Whilst his brother was more well known Nonito was the better boxer, the more rounded fighter and the more intelligent boxer, rather than the hard nosed, aggressive fighter that his older brother was.
Darchinyan on the other hand had won the IBF Flyweight title, made numerous defenses and had defeated Donaire's older brother. At this point in time he was starting to creep into the random pound of pound lists and was feared as one of the sports most destructive little men. He had been talking about unification bouts at Flyweight and the hope was for him to get past Donaire and move into bigger bouts. Bouts that could attract a more notable slot on the card and get more eyes on his contests.
Although not a polished fighter Darchinyan was exciting, hard hitting, willing to take one to land one, loud, brash and and grabbing a lot of attention. Going in this was seen as his next step towards something big.
From the off Donaire was surprising everyone, taking the fight to Darchinyan and showing no fear at all of the champion. Darchinyan had moments, but looked like he was regularly coming off second best against the younger, faster, fresher fighter. Through the first 4 rounds Donaire was doing more than enough to establish himself, and had done more than most had expected.
Despite Donaire looking in control the finish however a bit out of nowhere. Darchinyan rushed Donaire, looking to land a left hand. Donaire countered however, with a brutal and incredibly quick fire left hook. Donaire's shot landed clean, and sent Darchinyan crashing to the canvas.
To his credit Darchinyan got up, but had no idea where he was as the referee waved the bout off, with Darchinyan falling into the ropes.
The bout was regarded by many as the Upset of the Year and the finish was seen as the KO of the Year. It was brilliant, unexpected and helped make Donaire a star.
The shot put Donaire on the map, saw him win the IBF Flyweight title and begin his surge through the sport. Surprisingly it didn't finish off Darchinyan's career, with the Australian based Armenian bouncing back to unify titles at Super Flyweight and being a contender at Bantamweight in the years that followed.
We've all heard of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, and we've decided to put our spin on things with "Six degrees of separation" looking to connect Asian fighters you may never have assumed were connected! Today we connect the legendary Japan's Toshiaki Nishioka to Thailand's Amnat Ruenroeng.
Just as ground rules, we're not doing the more basic "A beat B who beat C who beat D" type of thing, but instead we want to link fighters in different ways. As a result we will limit A fought B connections, and try to get more varied connections together, as you'll see here! We also know there are often shorter routes to connect fighters, but that's not always the most interesting way to connect them.
1-Former WBC Super Bantamweight champion Toshiaki Nishioka was one of the few Japanese fighters who managed to not only score big wins at home but also in Mexico, over Jhonny Gonzalez, and the US, over Rafael Marquez. He shares his birthday, July 25th 1976, former Venezuelan Olympian Carlos Barreto.
2-At the 1996 Olympics Carlos Barreto fought twice. The first of those bouts was a win over Bulgarian fighter Aleksandar Hristov.
3-Korean fans are likely to recognise the name Aleksandar Hristov more than most. The Bulgarian had gone to the 1988 Olympics in Seoul and scored a massively controversial win in his second bout, against Jung Il Byun. After the bout Byun famously sat in the ring in protest of the result. The win over Byun was one of 5 that Hristov had en route to claiming the silver medal at Bantamweight. The talented Hristov got all the way to the final where he lost to Kennedy McKinney.
4-Following his Olympic success in 1988 Kennedy McKinney turned professional and would go on to win the IBF and WBO Super Bantamweight titles during his days as a professional. Another fighter who won the IBF Super Bantamweight title was Korean fighter Ji Won Kim.
5-Whilst Ji Won Kim is certainly not the most well known fighter to come out of Korea he is the only Korean to have won a world title and retired unbeaten, sporting a 16-0-2 (7) record when he walked away from the sport in 1986 making him one of the very few world champions to retire unbeaten. Another is Pichit Sithbanprachan, from Thailand.
6-Pichit Sithbanprachan, who went 24-0 (18), ruled as the IBF Flyweight champion for 2 years in the 1990's. Pichit was the only Thai to hold the IBF Flyweight title until 2014, when Amnat Ruenroeng won the title, also holding it for a couple of years.
From 1983 to 1995 Filipino fighter Domingo "Pretty Boy" Lucas (34-7-2, 10) was a staple of the world rankings in the lower weight classes. He was a 4 time world title challenger who went the distance with Ricardo Lopez and someone who managed to have a very solid in ring career based around his boxing IQ and his technical ability. Sadly his career came to an abrupt end in 1995, when he was just 29, but by that point he had left his mark and been able to challenge for titles at both Minimumweight and Flyweight.
We suspect many fight fans have spotted Lucas name on boxrec but don't really know much about him. With that in mind we felt he was a perfect candidate for this weeks 5 midweek facts.
We'll not only explain why Lucas's ended it when it did, but much more as we bring you 5 midweek facts about Pretty Boy Lucas.
1-Lucas' career came to an end after he suffered a brain injury in a 1995 loss against Chang Jae Kwon in Japan. He spent two months on hospital and required an operation to remove a blood clot on his brain.
2-Amazingly whilst Lucas was in hospital his wife gave birth to his son, Aljun is now an accountant, was born when Lucas was in a coma in hospital. Sadly Lucas is now divorced from his wife, with the two divorcing a few years after his injury.
3-In one of the "Best I Faced" columns, done by Anson Wainwright for RingTV, Ricardo Lopez revealed that Lucas was "the most skilful" opponent that he faced. That's a huge compliment coming from one
4-In 2011 Lucas featured in an episode of Filipino TV show "I Dare You". This appearance is actually something that featured on Lucas' IMDB page.
5-Lucas's style helped inspire that of another "Pretty Boy", Jerwin Ancajas. Ancajas revealed that his style was based on that of Lucas, who used a stiff jab and a very polished style. Lucas was also the reason that Ancajas adopted the "Pretty Boy" nickname.
One of the biggest names in Japanese boxing in recent years is that of Kazuto Ioka, the 4-weight world champion and one of the biggest names in the lower weight classes. What we suspect many will know is that he's not the only world champion in the family, with his uncle, Hiroki Ioka, being a 2-weight world champion himself.
Hiroki was one of the young stars of the late 1980's and 1990's, having a career that spanned 12 years and 42 bouts. He was a real prodigy and has remained in boxing since he began his in ring career. Whilst many will have heard the name, we suspect few will know too much about the talented Osakan. With that said, lets educate on Ioka with 10 facts you probably didn't know about...Hiroki Ioka
1-Ioka graduated from the same high school as Magnum Hokuto, an adult actor who claims to have slept with over 2000 women and is allergic to latex, so doesn't use condoms.
2-Despite being from Osaka, and being promoted by an Osakan promoter, he actually made his debut at Korakuen Hall in 1986, at the prodigious age of 17. Interestingly on the same card Koji Nishikawa became the Japanese Flyweight champion, dropping Yoshiyuki Ichikoshi 5 times, and future world title challenger Kenji Matsumura suffered his first professional defeat
3-Ioka was the first ever WBC Minimumweight champion, winning the belt in 1987 with a decision win over Mai Thomburifarm, age of just 18.
4-Ioka stills holds the Japanese record as the youngest world champion. He took his first world title at the age of 18 years, 9 months and 10 days.
5-In December 1991, when Ioka won the WBA Light Flyweight title, he become only the third Japanese fighter to become a multi-weight champion. The first was Fighting Harada and the second was Kuniaki Shibata. Like Harada before him he pursed a goal of becoming a 3-weight champion but fell short in world title bouts at Flyweight and Super Flyweight.
6-Ioka often used movie music for his walk on, including "Lead Me On" from Top Gun and "Eye of the Tiger" from Rocky III
7-Only 1 of Ioka's 8 losses came in a non world title bout, that was his final contest which saw him lose to Masamori Tokuyama. Incidentally Tokuyama would go on to become a 2-time WBC Super Flyweight champion, meaning all 8 of his losses came to fighters who held world titles at some point in their career.
8-Ioka was the last world champion to be trained by the legendary Eddie Townsend. Townsend trained Ioka from the age of 14 and the relationship was as much trainer-student as father-son. Sadly Townsend would die of cancer the day after Ioka made his first defense of the WBC Minimumweight title in 1988.
9-Ioka was involved in a hair product advert, for "Top Boy" which seems very similar to Head and Shoulders.
10-There is a 101 page photo book released of Ioka. The book was done by Kiyoshi Goto and is currently available on several Japanese websites, including Amazon.jp and toudoukan.com.
Bonus Fact 1 - Ioka's family tree dates back to pirates, with his family reportedly being descendants of the Murakami navy, and their sea faring ways lead them to running a fishery.
Bonus Fact 2- Ioka's shoe size is a Japanese 26, which is the same a US size 8 or a UK 7½
Bonus Fact 3 - This article was published 33 years after his first world title win in 1987!
This past week we saw hard hitting Japanese Minimumweight-come-Light Flyweight Kai Ishizawa (7-1, 7) score his latest win, stopping Masashi Tada in 6 rounds. With that win in mind we've decided to do an extra "Five For" this week, looking at Ishizawa, who has a lot of really interesting options to face off with on the Japanese domestic scene.
Although Ishizawa is a flawed fighter he's a very, very fan friendly one, with destructive power, and great combinations, and with that in mind we suspect he could be in some amazing fights over the next year or two, at least if he's matched well. And to be fair, it's probably easier to match him well than not to at the moment, given the exciting talent at 105 and 108lbs.
1-Masamichi Yabuki (11-3, 11)
Puncher Vs Puncher bouts are regularly ones that get the juices flowing and there's no better Puncher Vs Puncher bout in Japan at 108lbs that a bout between Ishizawa and Japanese national champion Masamichi Yabuki! This would guarantee fire works, with neither man happy to hear the bell, in fact neither man has won a decision thus far into their career. On paper Yabuki would be the favourite, having achieved more and fought at a higher level, but Ishizawa shouldn't be written off. On paper we think Ishizawa is the heavier handed fighter, and the more study man, but Yabuki is the better boxer, and the smarter fighter. Either way seeing them climb into the ring and face off would answer a lot of questions and give us something very violent, and very exciting!
2-Tsuyoshi Sato (10-2-1, 5)
When we think of great domestic match ups for Japanese fighters at 108lbs one name that will always pop up is Tsuyoshi Sato, who has an exciting style, through a lot of leather, comes forward and tries to make a war. It has cost him in the past, notably against Masamichi Yabuki earlier this year, but it's a style that makes him a must watch fighter. Combine that aggression and work rate with Ishizawa's fire power and brute strength and we have a potential Japanese Fight of the Year contender. If the naturally bigger Sato can get Ishizawa's respect this would would be an amazing war, though of course Ishizawa's power could end up being too much for Sato. Either way we would love to see these two men clash, and we would implore Kadoebi and MT Gym to give us this one in 2021!
3-Katsuki Mori (7-0, 1)
We love Ishizawa's power and aggression, but he is a flawed fighter, he's terrible with lateral movement, can be handcuffed by an opponent with good footwork and a busy style. With that in mind a bout between Ishizawa and Ohashi Gym prospect Katsuki Mori would be a great fight. Ishizawa probably has the power to take Mori out, though that's not a given and we're yet to see Mori actually being hurt, however Mori has the style, the activity and the tools to really test Ishizawa. This would be two men with different styles, that could end up gelling perfectly to give us something very, very special. We can understand the two men being kept apart for now, but we'd love to see this one take place.
Not only would Mori Vs Ishizawa be a great match up in terms of styles, but it would also be a huge local bout, with both men hailing from Kanagawa Prefecture giving the bout another extra edge to it!
4- Ryu Horikawa (3-0-1, 1)
There's no denying that Ishizawa is a heavy handed, pressure fighting monster, though we do question his work rate and his ability to adapt during a fight. On the other Ryu Horikawa looks like a sensationally talented boxer, with good movement, a great boxing brain and no fear of taking on good fighters early in his career. With that in mind we'd love to see this Puncher Vs Boxer bout. Although he only has 4 bouts to his name Horikawa has been very aggressively matched so far and Ishizawa would certainly not be beyond the radar of Horikawa, especially given the fact that Horikawa is the naturally bigger man, and was the more impressive amateur.
5-Takumi Chono (6-1, 5)
Another possible bout at 105lbs would see Ishizawa drop back down in weight and take on the 2019 All Japan Rookie of the Year runner up Takumi Chono, who's style, aggression, power and toughness would make for a great bout with Ishizawa. Chono might not be as strong, or as tough or as heavy handed as Ishizawa, but his style would gel well with Ishizawa's, the bout would be an exciting war up close and we suspect, given that Chono can punch, he'd draw the best out of Ishizawa. One complaint with Ishizawa is that he turns off in bouts, and against a fellow puncher we suspect we won't see that type of thing from him. Sadly though it's probably a bit too early for Chono to take on Ishizawa. Maybe one for late 2021...
This past Tuesday we saw talented Japanese Featherweight Reiya Abe (20-3-1, 9) returning to winning ways after a frustrating 2019. The "Genius" boxer took a round or to two figure out the unbeaten Ren Sasaki and then took a wide decision over the Watanabe Gym fighter. Although the win didn't undo his two failed Japanese title bids last year it did allow him to rebuild his confidence, show what he can do and get 8 good rounds under his belt as he looks to move forward with his career and build some momentum as we head into 2021.
With that win under Abe's belt, we thought he would be the ideal time to cover Abe in our "Five For..." series.
1-Ryo Sagawa (10-1, 5) II
The obvious choice is a rematch between Abe and Japanese national champion Ryo Sagawa, who beat Abe in 2019 for the Japanese title. The first bout between the two was razor close, scored 96-94, twice, and 96-95 to Sagawa, and we can't help but think the two men will always be competitive with each other. Both are highly skilled boxers, and with both men being world ranked this would, essentially, be a world title eliminator, as well as a Japanese title fight, and of course a rematch. It ticks pretty much every box we want from a rematch, and it would be competitive, interesting and meaningful!
2-Satoshi Shimizu (9-1, 9)
Another potential title bout for Abe would be a bout with OPBF champion Satoshi Shimizu. If we're being honest this is a more interesting match up than the Sagawa rematch due to the styles of the two men involved. Sagawa Vs Abe would be Boxer Vs Boxer, but Abe against Shimizu would be boxer against fearsome puncher. It would be great to see how Abe would cope with the freakish size and power of Shimizu, and how Shimizu would cope with the boxing, movement and high ring IQ of Abe. This would have the potential to be a very tense bout, and with the OPBF title on the line it would have serious meaning as well.
3-Ryo Matsumoto (24-3, 21)
If Abe can't secure a title bout next, and there's a good chance he can't, then maybe the best idea if for him to take on a former world title challenger. With that in mind maybe Shimizu's Ohashi Gym stablemate Ryo Matsumoto would be a great idea. For Abe this would be a great chance to score a win over a well known fighter, with top level experience, and would also be a chance to make a statement ahead of a potential bout with Shimizu. On the other Matsumoto is a talented fighter himself, looking for a big win, and a win over Abe would certainly be a big win. This would be a fantastic domestic match up, and despite not being a title bout we would certainly see this as being a very interesting clash.
4-Shohei Omori (21-3, 16)
Another potential former world title challenger that Abe could be looking at is Shohei Omori, who has moved up from Bantamweight to Featherweight in recent years. Omori was once tipped as the Japanese successor for Shinsuke Yamanaka at Bantamweight and whilst that has failed to happen the southpaw from Kyoto is still a really good fighter and the only men to have beaten him have been Marlon Tapales, now a former world champion, and the world class Hiroaki Teshigawara, so a win for Abe over Omori would have meaning. It would also see him against a man with a style that should match up with his, and Omori does have the power and speed to test Abe's chin and durability.
5-Hinata Maruta (10-1-1, 8)
Heading in 2020 we had expected to see Hinata Maruta challenge Ryo Sagawa for the Japanese Featherweight title as part of the Champion Carnival. Of course 2020 has been 2020. Maruta's Japanese title fight hasn't happened yet and although we'd love to see Maruta Vs Sagawa in 2021 there's a chance that Sagawa will have his eyes on bigger and better things, including a potential world title eliminator. If that happens, and if Sagawa vacates the Japanese title we'd absolute love to see Abe and Maruta clash for the vacant title in the new year. This would be a high skilled, high speed boxing chest match between two incredibly skills fighters each looking to prove they have that extra gear to the top. Whilst we would likelu miss out on Maruta Vs Segawa if we got this one, we wouldn't complain, in any combination of the three would be amazing!
On Tuesday at Korakuen Hall we had an interesting card headlined by world ranked Featherweight Reiya Abe (20-3-1, 9) taking on the then unbeaten Ren Sasaki (10-1, 6). The bout was regarded as a must win for Abe, who had gone 1-1-1 in 2019 and could ill afford another set back, and a potential coming out party for Sasaki, who was unbeaten but relatively unknown. In the end Abe ended up taking a decision, in an all southpaw bout, but what did take from the contest?
Lets discuss that in our latest Five Take Aways.
1-The step up showed for Sasaki
In his first 10 bouts Ren Sasaki had done a lot. He had won Rookie of the Year, had fought overseas and won the Knock Out Dynamite Tournament. He had also taken a number of unbeaten records and had looked promising. Sadly however for him there is a huge step up in class from facing the likes of Ge an Ma and Morihisa Iju, who we actually thought was unlucky against Sasaki, to facing Reiya Abe. This was a massive step up in class, and despite some moments the gulf in experience and ability showed in the middle and later rounds. Hopefully however this experience will help Sasaki going forward and help him develop as a fighter.
2-This was really high level stuff
One of the things that we tend to enjoy about Japan is seeing two aggressive fighters facing off, or an aggressive and a defensive fighter. This bout however was two very high level defensively minded, smart fighters. As a result we got a bout that didn't feel very Japanese. It was lacking the excitement and drama of a typical Japanese bout, but was still hugely intriguing, with both men laying traps, using angles and feints, trying to draw leads and countering, and using intelligent footwork. This was high skill Japanese boxing at it's best, and not fighting.
3-Japanese crowds can make noises even with masks!
We have bemoaned the silence of a masked Japanese audience in these articles in the past, but the crowd really appreciated the skills on show here with plenty of applauds and even some of the banned cheering. The idea that Japanese audiences are silent really is wrong, and is a myth that has some how been repeated for decades, but they are respectful and do appreciate a good bout between fighters they have bought into. That was the case here, as both men drew response after response from the crowd. When Abe was hurt in round 3 we got some pretty constant noise as the fans were sucked in by the action. Given the Korakuen Hall had less than 1,000 people in it this was a solid amount of noise.
4-Abe needs to stop playing with his food!
We have been consistently impressed over the years with Reiya Abe's skills. The guys is a natural in the ring, he's got an incredible ring IQ, solid speed, a brilliant judge of distance and is often one step ahead of his opponents. He really is a brilliant boxer and in terms of his raw ability and skills there are very, very few in Japan, at any weight, that match him. He does however lack in other areas, for example his power, work rate, tenacity and killer instinct. Quite a few times during his career, and again here. Quite often it seems he's happier to show what he can do, rather than closing the show and this actually quite frustrating to watch. He needs to stop playing with his food, put the hammer down, and make a statement!
5-Tetsuya Iida had a pretty easy day
During this series we've wanted to talk about more than just the action and the fighters. We've already mentioned the crowd and now we want to mention the referee, Tetsuya Iida, who didn't really do a lot. Unlike in the west where some referees feel they are part of the action and must be seen and heard by the fans in Japan the referees tend to play as little role as they can. They tend to let the action speak and only really get involved when they need to. There's no regular catchphrases from the referees and nothing of them trying to make a song and dance about themselves. They are their to officiate the bout. Iida did just that and was rarely needed here. To be totally honest he could probably have sat outside of the ring for most of this bout and only broke up a handful of clinches. Not only that but he spent most of the bout out of shot and rarely obscured the view of the judges. We can't help but feel referees in the UK and US need to watch how Japanese referees do things and try to spot the little things they do
One of the main bouts on Wednesday's Kadoebi show at Korakuen Hall saw Yoji Saito (2-1-2, 2) clash with Masashi Wakita (10-10-2, 5). This wasn't a bout that went long, but was a brilliantly entertaining little war right from the off. This was a For those who just need a little war to enjoy the week this was brilliant and the type of thing that a casual fan can just enjoy, as much as everyone else.
Having now watched this one back a few times here are our five take aways.
1-This was so much fun!
There are several different ways to watch boxing. Some people only want to see the best, and enjoy the highest level of action, the most skilled fighters on the planet. Others only want to see the names they recognise, and enjoy what they know. For us however one of the things we enjoy most about the sport is the action between the ropes, ignoring the names and just enjoying the fights. With that in mind this is a bout everyone should watch. From opening bell Saito made it very clear he wasn't wanting to mess around, pressing the action immediately and making this into a tear up. Wakita tried to respond in kind and as a result we ended up with a truly brilliant 1-round war. This pure, unadulterated, all action excitement.
2-Saito's record...it doesn't matter!
One of the more common parts of this series is that records don't matter and we need to echo that again here. Yoji Saito is not your typical 2-1-2 (2) fighter. He's not some limited novice struggling against other novices. He was a very good amateur, he's a solid professional, and he's the sort of fighter who will man handle some fighters with better records. He's a damn monster in the ring, with great physical strength, thudding power, a real gritty toughness and a brilliant aggressive style. We're not sure he'll ever win titles, but very, very few fighters at Japanese or Oriental level will enjoy having a fight with Saito. The guy is a genuine nightmare, it's just a shame it's taken him a little while to adapt to the professional ranks. If we're being truth the sport needs more Yoji Saito's!
3-The Hall Filled up for this ones!
Just before doing this article we re-watched the Takuya Kogawa Vs Hayato Yamaguchi fight and Korakuen Hall was almost empty for that. There was large gaps in the crowd, and from an optics point of view it looked awful. There's social distancing and then there's an almost empty venue. It seems that between that fight and this one crowd really filled up and there appeared to be far, far more people in their seats for this one. Whilst we enjoyed the Kogawa fight, a lot, we can't help but feel the fans knew this was going to be a lot of fun...and it was!
4-The count was strange
We've seen a few cases in recent weeks where Japanese referees seem to pause their count at "9" after a knockdown and give a fighter the benefit of the doubt. If you watch this one you'll see what we mean. Wakita is up at 6, the referee counts to 9, then looks at him, reads the situation and the fighters, and decides to to issue the 10 count. Looking at this through a fans eyes this is a weird thing to see. Almost like It's 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9......10. And it's certainly not a consistent count. However! We like it, it gives the referee the extra second to assess the fighter, and decide whether he's alright to go on or not. As a fighter who's been downed you like do appreciate the extra second, the referee can certainly take a little bit of extra time to decide if the bout should continue, and fans get the chance to see a fight go on longer if it can. This is very, very different to referees who will look to wave the bout out at "9.9". We like the thought process behind this, and whilst we know other's won't, we would like to see more referees doing this type of thing.
5-Thank you Wakita
After the bout we saw Masashi Wakita go to social media and he seemed legitimately heart broken about the result and about the sport in general. He gave a solid account of himself against a physical monster here and simply got broken down, but lesser men would have folded quicker, and wouldn't have gone out on their shield like he did. He gave a great account of himself, against a stronger, more powerful opponent and we genuinely want to thank him for the effort he gave. Despite the loss we want to see more of him, just maybe in more evenly matched bouts than this. On paper this might have looked competitive but those who have previously seen Saito likely knew he was stylistically all wrong for Wakita.
One of the many bouts we've seen take place this past week was Takuya Kogawa (31-6-1, 14) scoring a TKO win over Hayato Yamaguchi (15-9-1, 2) at Korakuen Hall on Wednesday. The bout wasn't the best on paper, but it was seen as being a must win for both men. Sadly for Yamaguchi, there was only one winner and it wasn't him.
As has become a bit of a custom in recent weeks we've enjoyed the bout, and now we're here to share our views on the bout with our Take Aways from the contest.
1-The venue was incredibly empty
We know venues in Japan are taking the current on going global situation seriously and are limiting the number of fans in venues for shows. Even with that in mind the Korakuen Hall was still very, very empty here for this bout. There was only a scattering of fans on the benches opposite the camera and it looked really eerie. Whilst we understand mid-week shows typically draw smaller audiences than weekend shows, and this was a small show anyway, it was still a bit sad to see the Hall so empty. That was especially true given how exciting Kogawa bouts typically are, and what an incredible servant he has been to Japanese boxing over the years.
2-This was a real fun fight
Typically bouts involving Takuya Kogawa are fun. They always have been and they always will be. He's a talented boxer, but tends to find himself involved in fights, wars and exciting brawls. This was no exception! The styles of the two men gelled really well, they were trading punches on the inside from early on and it was a case of both men thinking they could win in a battle of high output. Whilst this wasn't a FOTY contender or anything like that, it was still a good old fashioned phone booth war and if you missed it it's well worthy of a watch, especially from round 2 and onwards!
3-Weight classes matter
To his absolute credit Hayato Yamaguchi gave this a real good go against Kogawa and there was times where Yamaguchi was landing the better shots, throwing more and seemed to be the better guy. Sadly he was also the smaller guy, the less imposing guy and the guy without the power to make an impact. His best performances have been at Light Flyweight, including a close loss to Masayuki Kuroda. Here his success always seemed blunted by Kogawa being the much stronger man, and thats not a surprise given he's a natural Flyweight. In fact Kogawa was once a very effective Super Flyweight. Physically they looked similar, but Kogawa was a natural Flyweight taking on a natural Light Flyweight and the physical differences showed.
4-Kogawa won, but it's not the same as him being back to his best!
We genuinely thought Kogawa was shot to bits entering this bout. He's not looked good in since his 2016 bout with Yudai Arai, and since then he had gone 2-2-1, but struggled on both wins and could well have been 0-5. Genuinely he could have lost all 5. He looked strong, he looked good and he looked the boss, scoring his first stoppage since 2013. It should however be noted that Yamaguchi was the smaller man, he'd been stopped a few times earlier in his career, and he was fighting for just the third time since 2017. Yes this was a good win for Kogawa on paper, and for his confidence, but it will take a more serious test to know if this win was more about him being good, or Yamaguchi being bad.
5-Match Yamaguchi right and he could be in some amazing fights!
One thing we don't want to do is write Hayato Yamamguchi off after this bout. Instead we actually want to see more of him, but we want to see him matched softer than this. With that in mind we can't help but think Yamaguchi against someone like Tsuyoshi Sato, Katsuki Mori or Kenshi Noda could be really good in 2021. Those would all be fun fights, real exciting contests up close and at a high pace. We would see Yamaguchi as the under-dog in all 3, but he has enough about him to ask questions or all 3 men, and make for some really good action!
This past Tuesday we had the chance to enjoy an A-Sign Boxing card live on YouTube. Among the many interesting bouts on that show as a bout between former Japanese Youth Minimumweight champion Kai Ishizawa (7-1, 7) and former multi-time Japanese national title challenger Masashi Tada (13-8-3, 8).
The contest wasn't the most exciting, but was still an interesting contest, until Ishizawa went through the gears and made the referee step in in round 6. Until then we had seen an interesting bout which had seen Ishizawa start well and Tada battle his way back into the contest until Ishizawa finally started to land bombs.
With the bout now in the record books and having been watched back here are our five Take Aways.
1-The gameplan to beat Ishizawa has been set
We've been following Ishizawa for a while and it does seem like there is a clear gameplan to beating him. We've seen one fighter do it, and take victory, we've seen another do it and come up short, and we saw Tada show glimpses of it here. To beat Ishizawa you need to use a lot of movement, a lot of jabs, and not remain in position for long. Ishizawa is a pretty predictable fighter, he likes to be set, hates lateral movement, and struggles to get past the jab. Tada wasn't able to consistently replicate the success of Masataka Taniguchi of Yuga Inoue, but it's clear he had scouted those two and was trying something similar at times.
2-Ishizawa doesn't let his hands go enough
As a short pressure fighter Ishizawa's entire gameplan is based around getting up close and personal and working away combinations. He has the perfect set up to that with a real stiff jab, very fluid combinations and hurtful power. Sadly though there are times that he sleep walks through bouts. We've seen this as a few times but it was particularly notable here in rounds 3, 4 and 5. There were a number of times where he was in range and instead of throwing and letting leather fly he just tucked up, letting Tada getaway. He wasn't made to pay for it too much here, but at the higher levels he needs to feel confident enough to let his shots go. Ishizawa's best asset is his combinations on the inside, and we'd love to see a lot more of them going forward.
3-Tada had real success, but maybe too much
When Ishizawa was pressing forward and not doing we saw Tada build his confidence, have success on the outside and work well on the inside. In fact at times the veteran was making it look easy to out box Ishizawa, who looked timid, and maybe even too wary of what Tada was doing. There was some great work from Tada. Sadly for him however there was several times where he got too greedy and was made to pay. This happened pretty often, and was occurring as early as round 2. If Ishizawa had let his shots fly early there's a good chance he'd have closed the show earlier than he did.
4-Ishizawa's power is legitimately nasty
In round 5 we were desperate to see Ishizawa let his hands go. He had spent 3 fighting ultra-conservatively and it was genuinely frustrating to see him doing so little and being easily out worked by Tada. In round 6 Ishizawa then opened up and oh boy did he every prove his power was genuinely fight changing. In just over 100 seconds he rocked Tada, dropped Tada and then stopped Tada. It was a brutal display of clean, hard, combination punching. It looked natural, free flowing, destructive and fantastic. This is not the sort of thing we typically see from Minimumweights or Light Flyweights. This young man has fight changing power, he just needs to use it more!
Just to add to this, this was only the second time someone has stopped Tada, who is well known in Japan for his toughness!
5-There are some great bouts to make at 105 and 108 in Japan
Ok this is quite an Ishizawa centric 5 Take Aways article but it's hard not to not see just how many great bouts there are out there for him. For example who wouldn't love to see Ishizawa in with Tsubasa Koura, Katsuki Mori, Ginjiro Shigeoka, Yudai Shigeoka, Masamichi Yabuki, Ryu Horikawa, Shokichi Iwata or Reiya Konishi? We understand some of those guys won't be on a collision course any time soon but some of the bouts we could see Ishizawa in in the coming years look amazing!
Thinking Out East
With this site being pretty successful so far we've decided to open up about our own views and start what could be considered effectively an editorial style opinion column dubbed "Thinking Out East" (T.O.E).