On Friday night we saw unbeaten Kazakh fighter Daniyar Yeleussinov (10-0, 6) claim his latest win as he took a 2nd round TKO victory over former unified world champion Julius Indongo (23-3, 12). The win was, on paper, a big step up for Yeleussinov, but he made it look easy and showed why he was an Olympic champion.
With the win under his belt his focus will be on then future, and it should be a bright one, but before we look at that lets look back over the bout that was, as we give the bout our Five Take Aways treatment.
1-This is best we've seen from Yeleussinov in the pro's
When Daniyar Yeleussinov turned professional in 2018, following the 2016 Olympics, there was real expectations on his shoulders to be one of the big stars of Kazakh boxing. Then his first few professional fighters underwhelmed as he tried to adapt to the style of professional boxing. On Friday night however it looked like it had suddenly all clicked for the 29 year old Kazakh who looked razor sharp, aggressive, heavy handed, focused, and with a mean streak. This really was as good as he has looked since turning professional and was the sort of performance he needed to make a statement. Given he's now 29 it really is time to kick on, and a performance like this will hopefully convince his promoter to move to him towards a world title eliminator and a major fight in 2021.
Over the weekend there was a lot of conversation over whether Daniel Dubois "quit" or not. What there wasn't conversation about was Julius Indongo, who did, definitely quit. Indongo was dropped in round 1 and in round 2, and after beating the count in round 2 he made it clear he didn't want to continue. We won't criticise Indongo for choosing to say enough was enough however, he had been down twice, was 35, completely out classed and made the right decision. We just thought it was funny that no one has really mentioned this in the Daniel Dubois "quit" debate. Sadly however this is probably the end of Indongo as a serious fighter in the sport, and we suspect he'll either retire or trade on his name and pick up some pay days on his way out.
3-DAZN broadcasts are dire
We suspect this will be something we end up saying a lot in this series, but the commentary was awful, the camera angle used for much of the fight wasn't great, the canvas was poor and the venue looked very meh. There really is no redeeming factors in a DAZN broadcast at the moment. We had Sergio Mora suggest this was going to be a "sleeper" and tried to make out Indongo was a dangerous fighter at the first bell, Chris Mannix was more apt in his comments but they added little. The three man broadcast team really do not add anything to bouts, and either they need a shake up. Of the three Todd Grisham is the best, by some margin, but it doesn't sound like a coherent 3-man unit at all. Almost everything about the production here was bad, which is a shame given that DAZN is, for all intents, a premium service for boxing fans.
4-Indongo's success is hard to explain
It's going to sound harsh to say but Julius Indongo's success, and the fact he is a former unified champion, really is hard to explain. We saw him upset Eduard Troyanovsky in 2016, less than 4 years ago, with one of the biggest upsets of the year and we saw him follow up with a win over Ricky Burns the following year. We him score those wins. With our own eyes. But yet we are sat here in 2020 having no idea how he had that success. There's really nothing about him that suggests he was ever a world class fighter, and in 2020 he looks a shadow of what he once was. Yes he the older, more battle worn man here, but still he looked completely clueless when he was throwing wild hayemakers and getting caught by shots he shouldn't have been caught by. It's maybe unfair to say it, but he's among the worst "unified" champions in recent memory from a technical point of view.
5-Yeleussinov needs to be moved quickly in 2021
With his 30th birthday coming in March Daniyar Yeleussinov is no spring Chicken. Whilst it is fair to say he only made his debut in April 2018 it's still clear that he's not a spring chicken and he really does need to kick on. A win over Indongo is all good and everything, but from here on out it needs to to be really meaningful fights against fellow notable Welterweights. We'd love to see him face someone like Sergey Lipinets, David Avanesyan, Custio Clayton, Yordenis Ugas or Shawn Porter by the end of next year. Sure he's not the old man of the division, he's very much coming to the point where he needs to be in big fights. Fingers crossed Matchroom don't do the dirty on him and instead let him loose on the better fighters in the divison, the fighters he can actually test himself against.
This past Friday we saw Azeri Heavyweight hopeful Mahammadrasul Majidov (3-0, 3) score his latest win as he stopped Sahret Delgado (8-1, 7) on a DAZN broadcast from Florida. The bout looked a good on on paper but in the ring it came a pointless assignment for Majidov who really did little more than shake some ring rust.
If we're being honest the bout was a total farce but it is one we want to talk about in more detail in our latest Five Take Aways.
1-Delgado should be ashamed of himself
We need to begin this with a negative and that is Sahret Delgado should be ashamed of himself. The Puerto Rican wasn't just out of shape but he looked like he had never seen "shape". How he managed to come in at close to 300lbs is just bizarre, especially given that he's only around 6'3". He jiggled when he moved and looked more like he belonged in a "before" photo at Weight watchers than a boxing ring. Not only was he visibly out of shape but he was also unfit, and out of gas very quickly with his breathing being very audible after just 90 seconds of the bout. We saw a lot of fans complain about Jake Paul and Nate Robinson making boxing seem like a joke, but a fighter coming in in Delgado's "shape", round, is a much bigger insult to the sport. This likely lead to some of the issues at the end of the fight, which we'll touch on in a few moments.
2-Majidov needs to be moved much more aggressively
Azeri fighter Mahammadrasul Majidov was one of the best Super Heavyweight amateurs out there for years, and credit to him for sticking with the amateurs and the Azeri national team for as long as he did. However he is now 34 years old, and he now needs to be moved a lot more aggressively. Sure Heavyweights can still have success in their late 30's but at 34 time is certainly ticking on his career. No more pointless fights like this, that serve no purpose for him other than to get a W, he needs to be looking at genuine tests, fringe world ranked guys and others capable of asking questions of him. He turned professional far too late for these pointless fights, and he's too good for them anyway. He's talented, heavy handed, has good shot selection and knows how to box. He doesn't need these very low level fights.
3-Where the fuck was the medical assistance
Whilst Delgado should be ashamed of himself he's not the only one who covered himself in shame here. So to did the organisers at the show. In almost every other country Delgado would have been given Oxygen at the end of the bout when it was clear he was struggling to get his breath. Where was the medical assistance? Where was the Oxygen? Where were basic first aid and safety protocols? It shouldn't have taken Majidov to hold Delgado up, he should have been either sat down or lying down with an Oxygen mask. Sorry to say this but on the evidence shown here the Florida State Boxing Commission is not fit for purpose. They shouldn't have allowed Delgado, in the shape he was in, to fight, and they should have had on sight medical help for him. Absolutely disgusting. If we're going to hear about how something is making the sport a joke, maybe it's worth starting with the inept commissions, allowing out of shape an unfit fighters into the ring and not having basic medical at hand.
In regards to health care, did we really learn nothing from 2013 and the Magomed Abdusalamov tragedy?
4-Matchroom are failing a number of Heavyweights
The Matchroom stable is stacked with Heavyweights, of various ability, shape, form and nationalities. Some of those have been promoted amazingly well, and have had the doors and opportunities to raise their careers and build their profiles. It's true that some of those have done that on their own back, but for a promotional stable with the depth in Heavyweights that Matchroom have there are a number of Heavyweights being left behind. Their website lists 12 Heavyweights on their website, and it's known they work closely with several others, yet fighters like Majidov and Filip Hrgovic very much feel like second thoughts. Their recent match making for Majidov and Zhang Zhilei has left much to be desired. For a company with 12 Heavyweights, many of whom are in need of a big fight, surely it's time to begin to look at some in house bouts between fighters? It's similar to what they've done at Super Middleweight, signing a lot of good fighters but not matching them, and essentially holding them back as a result. Majidov, sadly looks likely to be one of those failed by the promotional powerhouse.
5-Majidov seems very basic, but is very strong and well schooled
Despite being a former amateur standout Majidov was never seen as a fighter who was going to do magical things in the ring. He is, for all intents and purposes, a very basic fighter. He's all about effective substance in his work, and isn't at all about flash and style. Despite being basic however he does everything he needs to do, and he does it well. His jab is a brutal ram rod, he control range with his straight punching and has a tight guard. He controls the pace and tempo well without doing anything sensational. His big strengths however is his very strong understanding of basic boxing fundamentals and his insane physical strength and power. He might not look "special" in what he does, but it's how he does everything that will make him such a dangerous fighter, and his strength and thudding power are genuinely terrifying assets. He might be basic, but basic will get him a lot of success.
Back on November 23rd we saw a really intriguing match up in Hyogo between Sho Ishida (28-3, 15) and Toshiya Ishii (3-1, 2). The bout was a must win for Ishida, who did end up doing enough to earn the decision, and a massive step up in class for Ishii, who acquitted himself but came up short on the score-cards. The bout wasn't a big one in regards to the wider sport, but it was a compelling one, and a really good meshing of styles, matching a heavy handed pressure fighter against a quick, sharp mover.
The bout ended going the 8 rounds, and giving us a lot to talk about, and we'll look at some of those things here, as we give the bout the Five Take Aways treatment.
1-Ishida's jab is fantastic
With a tall long frame Sho Ishida has always been a fighter with the frame to be a fantastic outside fighter. Not only that is he long and rangy but he's also quick and has under-rated power. With that in mind it'll be absolutely no surprise to anyone that he has a good jab. In fact his jab is one of his 2 real weapons. The jab is his best weapon, his crutch and the shot he uses to create space, and and control range, when he doubles and triples it however it's really something special. When he uses the jab to set up the straight right hand however he looks sensational. The one thing he lacks is work rate, and his combinations using the jab and straight were far, far too rare. If you have a jab like Ishida does, with is sharp, piercing and stiff, you use it more, and launch that sneaky right hand more often!
2-Ishii will come again, do not that loss against him!
The 19 year old Toshiya Ishii put in a great effort, and we dare say that had the bout been in Kanto he'd have gotten the decision. He may have a "1" on his record, but that's not the end for Ishii and this will not be the last we'll see of him. Sometimes we talk about "good losses" and this was a good loss for Ishii, who put in a great account of himself, in a big step up, and showed he belonged at this level. However it also showed there was work to do, and a bout like this is a really good way to learn those things. He needs to move his head more, he needs to slip in and out of range better, and he needs to tighten up defensively. Those are technical areas he can work on, and are areas his team will get to work on before his next bout. There is absolutely no reason, at all, to write him off after such a good, competitive loss.
3-Ishida has no inside game
We've praise Ishida's jab and straight right hand, and they really brilliant, however they are, sadly, Ishida's only two consistent weapons. He really is lacking in terms of an inside game, and seems to have no real belief when it comes to fighting on the inside. We understand he's a tall, long, rangy fighter, and doesn't want to be on the inside, but we would still expect him to be able to fight up close. He really can't. Against an experienced shorter fighter, for example Roman Gonzalez or Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, his inability to fight up close would be a major issues. He kept Ishii at range for long periods but Ishii still managed to get up close and have good success without Ishida have any answers, and that was an inexperienced Ishii. If Ishida is going to make a mark at world level he needs to be able to hold his own up close.
4-Credit goes to how Ishii dealt with his facial damage
The jabs and straight right hands of Ishida left Ishii's face a mess, he had a bloodied nose and a very nasty cut on his left eyelid. These were the type of injuries that could dent a young fighters confidence and even, potentially, lead to a stoppage. Ishii however dealt with them like they were nothing. The cut on his eyelid, at one point, seemed like it could end up really becoming a problem and stopping the fight, but really didn't show any discomfort at all from it, in what was a real sign of boxing maturity. Fingers crossed there won't be future issues with eye though we now know, after just 4 bouts, that Ishii is not afraid of giving his blood in the ring or fighting through adversity.
5-Masahiro Muroya wasn't needed
It's really rare to have a fight where a referee isn't needed but Masahiro Muroya was rarely seen here, with him not really being called on for more than a few moments late in the bout. We love to rave about the referees in this series, and if we got a chance we'd say something about Muroya, but it's hard to say anything at all about him. This was a clean, well fought contest, at a good pace, in great nature and as a result Muroya had what we suspect was one of the easiest fights he will ever have. From the little we saw of him, we liked his style, he let them work in the clinch and wasn't desperate to make himself part of the story. A minimalist job well done here Masahiro!
Last Monday we saw Japanese youngster Riku Kano (17-4-1, 8) over-come Ryoki Hirai (13-7-1, 4) with a close decision win to claim the WBO Asia Pacific Light Flyweight title. The bout was a remarkably dull, unexciting and unmemorable one that really failed to catch light. In fact if anything it really did under-whelm on a card that had, on the whole, over-delivered.
Despite being a poor bout there was a lot to take away from it, for both guys, who both had some obvious issues shown up here, and potentially even had their futures sealed, as harsh as that sounds.
1-These styles did not make for a fun fight
We'll start with an obvious one and that is that the styles of these two did not gel, at all. The first few rounds were low tempo action as both men trying to draw mistakes and counter. With both men fighting as counter punchers the bout never really got going until the middle rounds. We know match making is tricky task but this was just an awful bit of match making from a stylistic point of view, and it didn't help that the two men were fighting out of opposite stances, which made both guys more patient. Interestingly Kano made life harder for himself being as timid as he was as he seemed the much quicker fighter, and Hirai's lack of power meant he had little real threat to offer.
2-Hirai should have done more
We mentioned Knao made life hard for himself, and he really did. He was too timid, too cautious and not doing enough to separate himself from Hirai. He did, however, take home the win, so his tactics at least worked in the eyes of the judges. Hirai however didn't do enough early on. He let Kano get comfortable, take center ring and look like the aggressor. Funnily for Hirai he did drop Kano, he learned he had the power to hurt Kano and better yet he had seen other fighters bully and outhustle Kano in the past. Why he thought cautious cautious, single shot boxing was his best gameplan is a mystery.
3-TV Osaka's graphical over-lay is busy and still misses something
TV Osaka streamed this card and, on the whole, we thought the stream was fantastic, it was high quality and smooth. There was however a a lot of graphical overlays, with the channel identify in the top left, the match up in the top right and the round number in the bottom right, along with the show name. For some reason however they didn't actually show a round clock! If you're going to put all the other stuff there at least have a damn 3 minute counter folks!
4-This was kinda fun...when it finally warmed up
The bout took a long time to warm up, but when it did, it did become quite exciting with both men firing off leather on the inside, and getting much more physical with each other. It wasn't a fire fight, but it was much, much better in the second round as both guys began to work up close. The only problem there was that we did see accidental headclashes and holding, but it as so much better than the earlier rounds, where they did little. Sadly for Hirai the judges really didn't like his work in the second half of the fight, as still didn't do enough, but this part of the fight was certainly much better than the first half and saw both men letting their hands go more. If the bout had been fought more like that this it would, potentially, have been a decent bout.
5-Neither of these men are a threat at world level
It's a sad fact but none of the top guys in the division will have seen this and been left with any fear at all. The likes of Hiroto Kyoguchi, Carlos Canizales, Elwin Soto, Felix Alvarado and Kenshiro Teraji will not be shaking in their boots here. In fact we'd go as far as to suggest that fighters like Masamichi Yabuki and Kenichi Horikawa are looking at Kano and that WBO Asia Pacific title as something they could go off and chase in 2021. Kano might be the new WBO Asia Pacific champion but he needs to be really selective in who he defends against, as many of the more notable regional fighters at 108lbs will be licking their lips whilst looking at him. He's skilled, but very flawed, and still looks a long, long, long way from being ready for a second world title fight.
Over the last few months we've been doing our Five Take Away series, where we take a bout and discuss 5 points we've taken from the bout. For this edition Five Take Aways however we're going to do something a little bit different and instead of covering five points from a recent bout in Asia we're going to go international and cover five points from across the global boxing scene.
1-Corey Erdman deserves a lot more opportunities
We'll start this with a genuine positive, as things go down hill quickly, and that is that Corey Erdman is a fantastic commentator who deserves a lot more opportunities than he gets. We're genuinely sick of the 3-person commentary booth we keep getting on broadcasts and Corey, running the commentary solo, works much better. We suspect that with a partner on commentary things would improve, but he's doing a better job by himself than most of the the commentators on Sky, BT, DAZN and ESPN. It would be great to see him getting more opportunities as he's a fresh voice, researches well and cares about the fights and fighters. Often commentary is overly biased and just as much about the voices as the fight but when it comes to Corey Erdman the fight comes first, and it's the way it should be! Someone snap this guy up and give him more bouts to call!
2-Dubois shouldn't have been in the position to "quit"
After Saturday night's fantastic Heavyweight bout between Daniel Dubois and Joe Joyce we saw a lot of people talking about how Dubois "quit", a dirty and insulting word to a fighter. Some of these came from fans of the sport, where opinions can run wild at the best of times, and others came from former and current fighters and boxing media. Whether Dubois is a "quitter" or not is yet to be seen, though it's fair to suggest he chose to end this bout, and has been slammed for it. Given the swelling around his left eye, and the visible damage to it, most can understand why Dubois took the count on his knee and lost the way he did.
In reality however he was let down, and it wasn't just one person who let him down. His corner really should have done better, whether he was leading the bout or not it was clear he was going to have to fight with 1 eye in the final rounds against a man who tagging the swelling time and time again. His corner should have taken the decision out off his hands, pulled him from the bout, and played the "he wanted to go on, but we couldn't allow that, he couldn't see and he's too brave for his own good" card. He was also let down by the referee, Ian John Lewis, who should have taken him to the ringside doctor, who would almost certainly have waved it off. Had either the corner or doctor retired him Dubois wouldn't have the "quitter" tag hanging over his head, and he would have been saved from the punishment he took in the final round.
3-Tony Yoka and Daniel Jacobs stunk up the joint
Both Tony Yoka and Daniel Jacobs really should be feeling disappointed with themselves following their performances on Friday night. Tony Yoka had the world's attention on him with ESPN+ and Boxnation showing casing his bout with Christian Hammer. Sadly however he fought like the only people watching him were those in the venue and gave no effort at all to try and win fans over. Yoka has been praised with compliments but has a lot of clouds hanging over his head, including his controversial Olympic gold medal and missing multiple drug tests. His performance here is not how to win fans on side or build good will. He did mention that he had damaged his hand after the bout, and whilst that goes some way to explaining his lack of offensive output it doesn't explain him dropping to his knees everytime Hammer got close. It was like he was impersonating some kinky teenage girl around her partner.
Sadly Daniel Jacobs did no better in his bout with Gabriel Rosado, in what was a truly awful performance. Jacobs, at his best, is it a legitimate threat to the Middleweight and Super Middleweight divisions and has given Gennady Golovkin and Saul Alvarez really good tests. He has shown he can compete at that level. On Friday however he looked no more than a washed up contender struggling with a win-some-lose-some fringe contender. A terrible performance and potentially the end of his relationship with DAZN. Sadly after this performance it's hard to know what the future has left for the "Miracle Man", who turns 34 in February and could find himself frozen out of the big fights he wants.
4-People get pissy over novice bouts
On Saturday night Jake Paul knocked out former NBA player Nate Robinson 2 rounds. Following this bout we saw various new sites, boxers and fans pipe up about how dangerous the sport is and how it makes a joke of the sport. Going into this bout it was two professional novices fighting, this wasn't a former world champion battering some raw novice, or some top prospect squishing a local scrub, but two complete novices fighting. Sure they both had a high profile outside of boxing, but in reality this was a novice fight, and a lot less dangerous to a lot of fights we see week in and week out. The bouts pitting an unbeaten prospect against a guy who had been stopped a few times, or the bouts where a prospect is fighting someone coming up 2 weight classes. This wasn't some amateur standout beating up on someone, but was a simple novice bout.
As for making the sport a joke, is this really where you draw the line? Not the hundreds of titles? The weekly poor decisions? The consistent mismatches throughout the sport? The lack of true 50/50 fights at the top of the sport? The badly implemented replay system? The various, and often inexplicable, world rankings? The cheer leading commentary and the inconsistent media? The connections to crime through the sport, including the fact one of the most notable promoters killed 2 people?
You draw the line on the sport being a joke by two high profile individuals fighting each other in a novice bout? Damn man! Damn.
5-Waylon Law and Justin Frost were made for a trilogy
We started with a positive so lets end with one too. Australian fighters Waylon Law and Justin Frost were made for each other, and they were made to have a trilogy. They fought back in September, with Law taking a split decision, they fought again on Saturday, with Frost taking a majority decision, and now they obviously need a rubber match!
Genuinely if you've not seen the two bouts between these two you need to. They have put on two barn burners in 2020 and are almost perfectly matched. Their styles gel perfectly and their mentalities in the ring match up amazingly well. Please boxing gods lets see the trilogy finish off next time out! We deserve it as fans, and the two men deserve a chance to claim a series victory over the other.
When we go back through the annals of boxing history a lot of fighters are scarcely known. One of the many forgotten fighters from Japan is Shozo Saijo, a former Featherweight world champion and one of the most pivotal guys in the success of Japanese boxing.
Although a key figure, historically, Saijo's importance is rarely under-stood by fight fans in the West. We won't go into a full fledged profile of the former fighter, as we've already done one of those here Shozo Saijo, but here are 10 facts you probably didn't know about... Shozo Saijo.
1-Saijo began boxing at the age of 10, along with his brother.
2-In September 1968 Saijo became the first Japanese fighter to win a world title outside of Japan. He did so by beating Raul Rojas in a bout for the WBA Featherweight title, in what was actually the second bout between the two men in the space of just a few months following a win by Saijo in a non-title bout. This put him down as one of the few willing to prove himself in bouts outside of his homeland, and made it clear Japanese fighters could have success anywhere.
3-When he won the WBA Featherweight title he became the second world champion from the Kyoei gym, following in the footsteps of Hiroyuki Ebihara. This further helped the gym establish it's self in those early years, before going on to become one of the power players for the nation.
4-In Japan Saijo was known as the "Cinderella Boy" due to his good looks and unexpected story, similar to that of former Heavyweight champion James J Braddock who was dubbed the "Cinderella Man
5-In 1970 Saijo, the then WBA Featherweight champion, faced off with Hiroshi Kobayashi, the the WBA Super Featherweight champion, in the first ever bout between reigning Japanese world champions. Despite both being world champions the bout was actually a none-title bout, and ended in a narrow win for Kobayashi
6-Although not listed on IMDB Saijo has actually been featured in movies, including a 1974 movie (assumed to be Chokugeki! Jigoku-ken) with martial arts movie legend Sonny Chiba!
7-Following his boxing career Saijo entered the world of kick boxing, and amassed a very respectable 17-1-1 (13) record.
8-Saijo would pick up 4 of the major honours at the Japanese boxing awards, picking up his awards over a stretch of 3 years. He won the Best boxer award in 1968, the Skill award in 1969 and the Effort prize in 1970. He also won the Fight of the Year in 1968 for his bout with Flash Besande, which was the last out right winner not to have had a title on the line!
9-In 1968 Saijo won the inaugural Japan Professional Sports Award. As of the 2018 awards he was one of only 3 boxers to have won the award, along with the legendary pairing of Yoko Gushiken and Joichiro Tatsuyoshi
10-Now, in his 70's, Saijo is still involved in boxing and is the chairman of the Nakahama Boxing Gym
This past Monday we saw Japanese youngster Riku Kano (17-4-1, 8) claim his latest victory and add the WBO Asia Pacific Light Flyweight title to his collection of belts, which also included a WBA Asia and OPBF title. His performance wasn't the best or the strongest but he did enough in the eyes of the judges to take a split decision over Ryoki Hirai in a very close bout in Hyogo, and it's clear that Kano and his team will want to build on that win.
Given how close the bout with Hirai was it seems unrealistic to imagine Kano fighting for a world title next time out, however there's no reason that we don't look at some interesting possible bouts for the 23 year old's first defense, which will likely take place in 2021.
We can't see him or promoter Taisei Marumoto pushing Kano into a world title bout, and with that in mind we'll look at 5 regional or domestic level bouts that could make sense for Kano as he looks to build his experience and maturity, in our latest Five for.
Note - For the sake of this we are assuming that international opponents, who would need a 2 week quarantine in Japan, are going to be unavailable. As a result all 5 opponents will be Japanese.
1-Tsuyoshi Sato (10-2-1, 5)
A potentially thrilling bout would see the speedy and boxing IQ of Kano pit against the aggression and pressure of Kadoebi Gym's Tsuyoshi Sato, in what would make for a much more interesting bout that the Kano Vs Hirai bout. On paper Sato doesn't look like a powerful fighter, but he brings intense pressure, throws a lot of leather and would be the type of mental test Kano needs, especially given we have seen him crumble under pressure in the past. This could take place in either Kansai or Kanto and would be a brilliant match of styles between two youngsters desperate to make a mark on the sport in 2021. For Kano it would be a dangerous first defense whilst Sato would be looking to bounce back from an opening loss in July to the big hitting Masamichi Yabuki.
2-Ryu Horikawa (3-0-1, 1)
It'll be rare that we get to suggest that Kano will be the older, more experienced head in a bout but a bout between Kano and 20 year old Ryu Horikawa would be one of those rare occasions. It would also be a bout of real intrigue between two talented, speedy, skilled fights. Kano would be the favourite, given his experience and the level he has fought at, but Horikawa would be a very, very live under-dog and has the amateur background to allow him to be fast tracked into a bout like this. Horikawa has impressed since turning professional, and has looked great since his June 2019 debut, and this would be a rather logical step up in class. Kano would likely secure home advantage, in Hyogo, and that might be enough him over the line but Horikawa would be there to win, and has already proven he has the willingness to face tough opposition.
3-Rikito Shiba (4-1, 2)
Tsuyoshi Sato isn't the only man to have been stopped by Masamichi Yabuki in recent times, another is 25 year old Rikito Shiba, who lost to Yabuki in a Japanese eliminator in 2019. The talented Shiba had looked fantastic until running into the big punching Yabuki and would now make for an interesting opponent for Kano. Shiba, much like Sato, isn't a huge puncher, but is a talented fighter capable of boxing and punching. He would likely not make for as fun a bout as Sato, bout would arguably make for a more interesting test, as he seems to be more rounded than Sato. Having been out of the ring since December 2019 it's clear he'll be hungry to fight as soon as possible and would likely be available for a bout in early 2021. Like many on this list Shiba is less experienced as a professional than Kano, but has good amateur pedigree and would be a more than capable challenger for the regional champion.
4-Takumi Sakae (22-3-1, 16)
Once tipped as one to watch Takumi Sakae has failed to live up to the potential he showed early in his career and now the 27 year old is somewhat a forgotten man. Despite that the fighter from Fukuoka will be looking at any chance to get back on track and we wouldn't be surprised at all if he was to get a shot at Kano in 2021. Sakae won Rookie of the Year way back in 2013 and was once 13-0 (8) but since then has struggled and gone 9-3-1 (8), with his wins typically coming against limited opposition, and his losses coming every time he takes a step up. For Kano a bout against Sakae would be one he'd be favoured to win, and would strengthen his claim for a bigger bout, but for Sakae the bout would certainly be one he'd see as a winnable. Although certainly not a massive bout it would be a very interesting one, between two men who were both hyped early on but have, so far, fallen short of expectations.
5-Kai Ishizawa (7-1, 7)
A big outside shot, though by far and away the most interesting possibility, would be for Kano to clash with destructive pressure fighter Kai Ishizawa in what would be a serious test for both men. Ishizawa is a natural Minimumweight, though we have seen him dip his toes at Light Flyweight, and he'd be rearing to get a title fight, in an attempt to add to his short lived reign as the Japanese Youth Champion. For Kano the bout would mark a seriously tricky test against the sort of fighter we suspect he'll be looking to avoid, a strong power puncher. It's fair to say that we don't see Kano in a rush to share the ring with Ishizawa, but as a fan viewing Kano's bouts this would be a very interesting one and one that we would be genuinely looking forward to, not something we can typically say about Kano fights, which sadly don't tend to be particularly exciting bouts. This would be a chance for Kano to prove he can withstand pressure and would be a chance for Ishizawa to take a huge step forward in his career.
On Monday in Hyogo we got an intriguing card thanks to Taisei Marumoto, who promoted a card that was shown on TV Osaka. It wasn't the biggest card we've had recently, but it was one with a number interesting names on it, and some very good match ups. Surprisingly though it was the less notable match ups that left the bigger mark on us, with one of those lesser bouts being the Bantamweight clash between Wataru Ikegami (8-5-1, 5) and Shion Tamada (6-4, 3). This was, for all intents, a very low level Japanese Bantamweight bout, but it ended up being the highlight of the second part of the event, which was split into 2-part due to Covid19.
Although not a big bout it was one we wanted to discuss more and as a result we've decided to share our take aways from the bout.
1-The Bunka Center looked like a school theatre
One thing we've found outselves doing a lot with this series is talking about the venues, and in fairness Japanese boxing, during this current era, has seen us get the chance the appreciate the differences in venues. From the unique benches at Korakuen Hall and the balcony for the TV teams, the weird almost garage like look of the FujisanMesse, and the uber pale Central Gym in Kobe. All the venues have very different looks to them, and that was the case again here, with a venue that has a school theatre look to it. It was dark, it was solemn and all the lights were on the ring. It was a simple look, but one we rather liked.
2-Tamada's is a tough kid and we have no idea how he was making Super Flyweight
On to the actual fighters now and we'll start with Shion Tamada who left us with two really interesting things. Firstly we have no idea how he ever made Super Flyweight, something he was doing back in 2017. He looked huge compared to Ikegami, and was thicker, taller, wider, and looked a division, if not two, bigger than his foe. Standing at 5'7" he's a big guy at Bantamweight and we wouldn't be surprised at all if he ends up fighting at Super Bantamweight, or even Featherweight, in 2021 or 2022. We really do wonder how much he took out of himself making Bantamweight here and would love to see him allow his body to fill out. In saying that however what a tough kid he is. He took a pounding from round 3, after a good start and despite now being stopped 3 times few can doubt his heart and toughness.
3-Ikegami's far better than his record indicates
One of the regular comments in their series is that records are meaningless, and any regular reader of this series will see us state that repeatedly. Wataru Ikegami was a fantastic example of that. Coming into the fight with a 7-5-1 (4) record it was easy to assume he was a limited fighter, with perhaps not much on his punches. For those watching however he didn't look limited, at all. He started slowly, got a read on Tamada's speed, timing, reach and style, and then went through the gears from the end of round 2. In round 3 he gave Tamada a beating, and began to break him down, eventually dropping Tamada in round 7. He showed skills, and attributes not really associated with fighters sporting such poor records. In fairness he showed what he could do last year, giving unbeaten Korean Min Jang a real scare, in a bout that the judges got wrong. He has real skills, good work rate and has learned from his setbacks that he needs to put his foot on the gas more. At 30 years old he might be too old to really make a major mark on the sport, but he certainly has the ability for a good, late career run on the domestic stage. Unfortunately however the Japanese Bantamweight scene is a deep and tough one.
4-The stoppage looks odd....but was right
Sometimes looking at a stoppage doesn't tell you everything you need to know about it, and looking at this stoppage in isolation does look odd, wrong, and like the referee really messed up. He counted to 8, Tamada was on his feet, then he continued the count to 10 and waved off the bout. In isolation this decision was wrong. In reality however it was the right call from the referee. Tamada had taken a pounding, was a long way down on the cards, and didn't need to take more punishment. Given how round 6 had gone and how round 7 was going the referee made the right call. He saved someone from a potentially career changing beating. Yes the stoppage looked wrong, but it was, given the context, the right call.
5-A versatile arsenal is key
Ikegami showed a lot to like here, and proved a point that many fighters over-look. A versatile arsenal is a key to success. Ikegami had a really good jab, that helped burst up Tamada's face at range, he popped it regularly, and he landed it a lot. But he didn't rely on it. He mixed it up well on the inside, ripping uppercuts, straights, hooks, body shots and everything in his tool kit. He fought well on the outside, despite being the smaller man, and fought excellently on the inside. He broke down Ikegami up close and at range, and was always the one having the final say in the exchanges. He forced Tamada to fight at a higher pace than he would have wanted and dictated the action by being busy. We've all seen fighters who are excellent on the inside, but have no way in, or are brilliant on the outside but have no inside game. Ikegami showed both sides here and it would be something that better fighters would be well off copying. When at a range he didn't want to be at he quickly reset, put Tamada out of position and re-asserted himself. It was simple but effective stuff through out from a man who really does know how to box.
On Saturday we were lucky enough to be able to catch an interesting looking OPBF Light Welterweight / Super Lightweight title bout as Rikki Naito (23-2, 8) faced off with Yusuke Konno (16-5, 9). The bout, Naito's 4th defense of the title, looked like an easy one on paper, but it was one that had real intrigue due to the recent form of Konno, who had won his last 5 including solid wins over Kazuya Maruki, Vladimir Baez and Baishanbo Nasiyiwula. Those wins had seen Konno build up momentum and style wise he seemed to be the kryptonite for Naito, who has long issues with physical boxers and with stamina.
Of course those who watched the bout will known that Naito won the contest when Konno was forced to retire in his corner after 9 rounds with an injury, a disappointing end to a relatively interesting match. And an ending that came just before we expected to see Konno's stamina, toughness and size begin to play their part on the bout.
With the bout now behind we've taken the chance to rewatch it and give our take aways from the bout.
1-Naito is a joy to watch
We need to start with the obvious and that's that Rikki Naito really is a joy to watch. He's a pure boxer, with nice speed, good movement, lovely shot placement, a brilliant straight left hand, and he really does tick a lot of boxes. Sadly though he is very much a boxer and not a fighter. When dragged into a fight he struggles, and his lack of physicality, power, strength and questionable stamina are all major issues. At this sort of level he looks very classy, very talented and very much a wonderful boxer. Sadly for him however being a wonderful boxer does have it's limitations and he lacks those other tools needed to be a real star outside of Japan.
2-Konno's pressure told in round 6
In round 2 and in round 6, to a much bigger degree, we saw Konno's pressure really getting to Naito and it seemed like Naito was falling into the wrong sort of fight. Round 6 in particular made things really interesting, and it's a shame Konno suffered his injury as another round like that and we would could have been looking at a new champion. Konno's toughness, size, and power allowed him to take clean blows from Naito and his physical strength and body work could well have worn down the champion had he gone on unhindered. It really is a shame we saw him suffer the injury to his left shoulder that forced the early conclusion of the bout.
3-The injury of Konno seemed to show as early as round 6
Konno's excellent round 6 seems to come at a very serious price. He didn't take much punishment from Naito but by the dying seconds of the round it seemed he was a 1-handed fighter. He was in the position to throw left hooks a number of times, but simply didn't let them go. It was amazing, looking back, just how much success he had as a 1-handed fighter. It seemed that in round 6 he hadn't completely done in the arm, but was certainly not using it towards the end of the round. He then essentially fought the following 3 rounds without using his left. When he he walked towards his corner something seemed wrong, though strangely his team only iced his right side and not his left.
4-Kadoebi gave their man a chance even with an injury
Likely realising their man was a 1-handed fighter the Kadoebi team in charge of Konno gave their man every opportunity to continue on and allowed him to fight 3 rounds whilst clearly carrying an issue. To his credit he did throw some left hands in round 7, but they were few and far between, and they rarely looked right. To be honest, they looked wild, sloppy and lacked any crispness at all. We suspect those shots really just did more harm than good and likely explained why rounds 8 and 9 saw him essentially give up with the left all together. Credit to his undoubted toughness however, and well done to his team for giving him a chance and then pulling him out before he took any serious punishment or further damaged the shoulder. Fingers crossed he'll be back in the ring in 2021 with a fully healed shoulder
5-Naito's ceiling isn't too much higher than this
We started this saying how Naito is a joy to watch and then listing his flaws. Sadly those flaws are going to keep him at this type of level. At 29 it seems unlikely he'll develop any more in terms of power or physical strength, and if he does they will likely come at the expense of his speed and his already questionable stamina. Naito against anyone near the top of the division wouldn't bode well for the Japanese fighter, no matter how nice, smooth and technical his boxing skills are. With that in mind we see him continuing his career at the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific type level. On one hand that's disappointing, given his ability, but on the other hand that keeps some really good match ups on the table for him. A rematch between Naito and Daishi Nagata, or Konno, would be great, or Naito against fighters like Hiroki Okada, Andy Hiraoka, Akihiro Kondo, the winner of the upcoming bout between Jin Sasaki and Aso Ishiwaki, Hwang Kil Kil, Downua Ruawaiking and Koichi Aso would be entertaining bouts. His ceiling isn't massively high, but there are a lot of interesting match ups out there for him.
On we had a genuine treat as Yoshimitsu Kimura (12-2-1, 7) and Shuma Nakazato (10-1-3, 7) faced off in an excellent bout shown live on Boxing Raise. The bout had high expectations, with both 24 year old being highly regarded by those in Japan, and the delivered a compelling 8 round story, with momentum shifts both ways and really engaging action. We had pure boxing from both, we had both men dropped and hurt, and real determination, desire and hunger from both. The bout was a perfect example of what happens when you make 50-50 bouts, and unsurprisingly it was a close contest throughout and both men deserved to take something from it. In the end it was a draw that felt like a draw. This wasn't the judges getting it wrong, it was what the men deserved.
Having watched the bout live and then gone back and re-watched we've decided to share our take aways from the bout.
1-Nakazato seemed to be the better boxer
Although the bout was close there was very clear success for the two men in very different ways. When it came to pure boxing it seemed like Nakazato was the better man. His body shots, and composure seemed to be more notable than Kimura's and Kimura seemed to be afraid of what Nakazato has in his arsenal. This allowed Nakazato to ease himself into the bout more and he seemed to look more comfortable during the quieter moments. It wasn't a massive thing, but it was certainly something that made a difference early on, and saw him establish himself before Kimura.
2-Kimura seemed the better fighter
Whilst Nakazato was the better boxer, it seemed like Kimura was the better fighter, and this was particularly notable later in the bout, when he picked up the pace and began to grind Nakazato. It seemed by then he had to put his foot on the gas, big time, and try to change the momentum of the fight. This shouldn't have been a big surprise, given he had so much success against Hironori Mishiro when he turned that into a war, but it makes you think that maybe he left it too late. Admittedly after being dropped, hard, in the first half of the bout we can understand him being apprehensive of being caught again, but in a rematch we do wonder if we see him step it up earlier on.
3-This was high level entertainment
Although the bout was only over 8 rounders, and was between men who had never won titles, this was still really high level stuff, from both men. The boxing early on with cerebral from both, both men looking to draw mistakes, counter, and fight behind their jabs. They weren't negative, and they were rarely stood far apart, but it was still super high level boxing. As the bout went on the shackles came off and we then went into a fight, but again this was high level and smart stuff, with intelligent pressure, good shot selection and good countering from both men. When you add in the two knockdowns and the competitive nature of the bout we really did have a bit of everything and we couldn't have asked for much more entertainment than we got here. If fans haven't seen it yet we really do recommend a month of Boxing Raise to enjoy this one.
4-Both men have bright futures
Neither man is unbeaten, in fact both men have multiple set backs on their records, be it losses or draws, but don't let that paint the picture that these are talented fighters. Both men are just 24 years old and both men have shown what they can do, not just in this bout but in other bouts for both men as well. Both have very bright futures ahead of them and we wouldn't be surprised to see both men picking up titles in the next couple of years. Both will be looking for a rematch with Hironori Mishiro, the current OPBF champion, and both would likely fancy their chances with Kosuke Saka, the Japanese champion, and Joe Noynay, the WBO Asia Pacific champion. Don't look at their records and write these two off, they are genuinely talented fighters, with the ability to go a long way. Neither are likely to win world titles, but both will manage to have very solid careers and are young enough to take this draw and learn from it.
5-The officials all got it right!
It's rare for us to legitimately feel all the officials got it right but here they did. That included Michiaki Someya, who didn't wave the bout off when Kimura went down hard at the end of round 4, he didn't interject himself very often, and instead he allowed the bout to breath. He gave the men their space and they went to work. The three judges also got it right. All three had the score 75-75 and it's hard to argue with that. It's rare that we get to say all the officials got it right but they did. Fingers crossed this begins to happen more often .
Bonus Take Away - 50/50 match ups are needed more
We don't get many true 50/50 bouts in boxing this was as close to 50/50 as we can get. The records match up really well, the styles, experience and ages all matched up really well. The mentality of the two men matched up and amazingly the bout was seen as almost a perfect 50/50 on boxmob. The Japanese site had 52 people predict the result and 26 picked a Kimura win, 25 picked a Nakazato win and 1 person picked a draw. We could have expected those results. The promoter gave us a 50/50 match up and it proved utterly compelling. More of this please boxing, more this! Also we suspect if they fought again, the poll would similarly even. A fantastic match up and one that delivered.
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).