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.
On Monday A-Sign Boxing streamed the latest Hachioji Nakaya card, headlined by teenage sensation Jin Sasaki (9-0, 8) who took out Tatsuya Miyazaki (9-14-1, 9) in the final seconds of the opening round. The win saw Sasaki claim his third straight stoppage win and his second win this year. It also saw Miyazaki take his 11th stoppage loss, and likely sent the 36 year old into retirement.
On paper this wasn't great match up, no one will tell you otherwise. It was, potentially a chance to see whether Sasaki could take a shot, if Miyazaki landed, but the expected outcome was always an early win for Sasaki, and he continues to head towards bigger and better things. Given Miyazaki had already been stopped in the opening round twice before it was expected that he would be stopped very early here, and he was, at the 2:53 mark of round 1.
Despite the outcome being expected it was a bout worthy of a closer look and one that we felt deserved the Take Aways treatment.
1-Sasaki carries himself like a star
We said this last time we covered a Jin Sasaki bout and we'll say it again, the 19 year old exudes an aura of a star. He came into the ring with some high energy music, a huge robe, and the look of someone who was looking to turn heads. This is a young man who realises he's in the position to be something big in the boxing world, and he knows that to do that he needs to connect with fans, something he is doing every time he steps in the ring. From his entrance to his performance he gets it. He knows he needs to entertain and that's what he did through out the contest. Like a fighter who know he needs to shine, he finished the bout in style, and took the next step forward on his journey to stardom.
2-Miyazaki didn't come to lose
Despite a lengthy losing run and being seen as the very obvious under-dog Tatsuya Miyazaki didn't enter the ring to make up the numbers. He came forward, looked to use his experience and heavy hands and even backed up Sasaki at times. Whilst he did pay for trying to make a fight of things no one can say he came for a pay day. Had he been there to collect his purse he would have stayed down after being dropped may way through the round and not taken the heavy leather that came afterwards. He was gutsy, came to win and was simply up against someone better, stronger, quicker and more powerful.
3-The referee was in the right place through out
The ending here nearly got very ugly. With the clacker gone Miyazaki was in an awful position on the ropes and could have easily ended up taking a number of clean, unprotected shots. Credit, however, goes to Akihiko Katsuragi for being in the perfect position and stopping this one before that happened. It's easy to complain about referees, and then getting it wrong, but once again we were impressed by a referee. Through out the bout Katsuragi was scarcely needed, but when he had to act he did, and he was never out of position. Referees around the globe should be watching some of these Japanese fights and realising where the referees are standing. We recently watched a bout in the UK where the referee was almost constantly too far away, and had this situation happened with that referee in question Miyazaki would have ended up taking 3 or 4 shots too many.
4-Sasaki should fight at 140lbs
This was Sasaki's first bout as a Welterweight and if we're being honest we hope this is his last bout at the weight for a while. He's a natural 140lb fighter at the moment, and he will certainly grow into a 147lb fighter one day, but for now lets have him fighting at 140lbs, rather than carrying around the extra water weight. Thankfully it does seem like this was a one off and his next bout will be at 140lbs, when he returns on December 26th for a Japanese Youth title bout against Aso Ishiwaki.
5-Sasaki Vs Ishiwaki is gonna be awesome!
Having just mentioned Jin Sasaki Vs Aso Ishiwaki we really don't think we can explain just how excited we are about this one. The styles, mentalities, and toughness, power, aggression, strengths and flaws of both men should gel amazingly well here. It's not a given that we end up with a Fight of the Year contender, but our guess is that this is going to be something very, very special. The bout was rumoured earlier in the year, and now with the two men putting pen to paper we have a post-Christmas gift to look forward to. Interestingly both men have had trouble getting opponents, so facing off against each other is the perfect solution. They built this fight brilliant after Sasaki's win here and had the two men stare down on the entrance way to the ring, and this really does fill us with a sense of pure excitement.
Bonus Take Away - Ichitaro Ishii deserves real respect from the boxing world
The stream for this bout was put on by A-Sign Boxing and it was a fantastic stream with Junto Nakatani doing guest commentary and adding some star power to the show. The entire show only had 3 bouts and one of those was mismatch. Despite that we he left us feeling like it was really worth tuning in. Once again he has put together a product that was fantastic, and giving us the Sasaki Vs Ishiwaki announcement after Sasaki's win really added to the allure of that bout. It's easy to hate on promoters, but Ishii is proving that they aren't all bad. He's used a low profile card to build towards something big amd that is what promoters should be doing every show. Fingers crossed that one day Ishii gets the budget to run wild and do exactly what he wants to do, but until they we'll need to appreciate what he's doing with limited financials and a smart brain.
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 Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao to former Japanese world title challenger Daiki Kaneko.
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- It's fair to say that Manny Pacquiao is a true living legend. What he's done in the sport is unlikely to be matched any time soon and his rise through the ranks is sensational. Born on December 17th 1978 the Filipino has become one of the all time greats. Incidentally on the same day that Pacquiao was born Korean great Jae-Doo Yuh fought his final. As weird as that sounds Pacquiao was born on the day that Yuh retained the OPBF Middleweight title with a win over Hung-Won Kang.
2- Whilst we don't think many will have known that Jae-Doo Yuh had his final bout on Manny Pacquiao's birthday we do suspect that everyone know's that Yuh had a legendary 2 fight series with Japanese star Koichi Wajima. In the first bout Yuh stopped Wajima in 7 rounds, to become the WBA Light Middleweight, whilst their rematch saw Wajima avenge that loss to reclaim the title.
3-Amazingly Koichi Wajima is the only 3-time WBA Light Middleweight champion. He's also a 2-time WBC Light Middleweight champion, a feat he's not alone in having with mover than 5 men to hold that title two, or more, times. Another is the under-rated, and far too often forgotten, Vernon Forrest.
4-Despite often being under-rated Vernon Forrest was a real skilled guy with so much talent and his ability to compete at an incredibly high level in to his mid-to-late 30's was a testament to his ring craft, brilliant jab and fine boxing skills. Away from the ring he was a classy and brilliant guy who's charitable work was amazing and the work Destiny's Child Inc does is incredible. On the same show as Forrest's final fight was the US debut of Indonesian fighter Daud Yordan.
5-Although the hope was that Daud Yordan would carry the Indonesian flag after Chris John eventually hung up the gloves "Chino" never really managed to reach the heady heights hoped of him. Despite that he has had a notable career, fighting in several world title fights and competing in and around the world level for much of his career. He may have failed at the top but was certainly a key figure in a down period for Indonesian boxing. One of his most notable wins was his brilliant 2018 win over Pavel Malikov.
6-Although Russian fighter Pavel Malikov was stopped by Daud Yordan that was not the only fight he had against a notable Asian fighter. Others included Leonardo Doronio, Carlo Magali, Adones Aguelo and, in 2017, Daiki Kaneko, in what was a brilliant 2017 clash. Sadly whilst that was a tremendous bout it was also the final bout of Kaneko's career.
Between 2001 and 2014 Japan's Daigo Nakahiro (24-4-2, 10) managed to have a pretty over-looked impact on the Super Flyweight division.
During his career Nakahiro fought a genuine who's who, including Kohei Kono, Daisuke Naito, Pongsaklek Wonjongjkam, Hidenbobu Honda, Ryo Akaho, Yota Sato and Malcolm Tunacao. Whilst he had mixed results against the top guys he certainly played a bigger part in the sport than many realise.
Not only did Nakahiro face some very notable fighters but he also had some real success winning Rookie of the Year and the Japanese Super Flyweight title and also went on to be leave boxing for another successful career.
With that introduction out of the way, let ups bring you 5 Midweek facts about Daigo Nakahiro.
1-Boxing wasn't the first sport to bite Nakahiro, who was previously in the high school football team. Interestingly he played along side Futsal player Akihito Seto and professional soccer player Kenji Haneda, who played over 150 times in the J League.
2-In December 2002 Nakahiro won the All Japan Rookie of the Year crown, at Super Flyweight. In the final he defeated future 2-time WBA Super Flyweight champion Kohei Kono.
3-In an interview after his retirement Nakahiro admitted that the only bout he never thought he could win was his WBC world title bout against Pongsaklek Wonjongkam.
4-Interestingly Wonjongkam has also spoken about the bout with Nakahiro, telling RingTV's Anson Wainwright that Nakahiro had the best defense of anyone he faced. Wonjongkam stated "I couldn't hit him", which is a rare odd phrease to use when the judges had it a a clear win for Wonjongkam. Though Nakahiro's defense for the bout did come at the expense of his offensive. Nakahiro spent much of the bout fighting behind a tight guard and ducking and diving, making Wonjongkam miss, but not making him pay.
5-Following his retirement Nakahiro has become an occupational therapist working, to help people with physical and metal health rehabilitation. Prior to that role he had been working as a staff member at Senogawa hospital whilst he was still fighting
Boxing in Japan has become an international thing in recent years, and when a top Japanese fighter is in action the entire boxing world takes note, as we saw with the WBSS Bantamweight final a year ago. Back in an era of imperial Japan however things were very, very different. The one massive star of the era was Tsuneo Horiguchi, also known as Piston Horiguchi.
Whilst we don't expect many fans to be too aware of "Piston Horiguchi" he's a really interesting fighter, one that we won't really be able to do full credit to in this series. Despite that we'll try to teach you something new about Horiguchi with the latest in this series, with 10 facts you probably didn't know about... Piston Horiguchi
1-Horiguchi was the son of a police chief
2-Horiguchi was managed by Yujiro Watanabe, the man who is dubbed the "father of boxing" in Japan. Although Watanabe isn't too well known by fight fans now a days his influence in Japan early on is huge, and he set up the first Japanese boxing, the Nippon Kento Club in 1921.
3-Horiguchi wasn't just managed by a legend, in Watanabe, but he was also trained by a Japanese boxing legend, in the form of Fuji Okamoto, who would later become the president of the Japanese Professional Boxing Association. Although Okamoto's full record isn't known he is regarded as one of the early Japanese champions, and his career pre-dates the Japanese boxing commission.
4-In 1935 Horiguchi played himself in a Japanese movie called "King of the Ring",
5-Horiguchi is reported to be a former Japanese and Oriental Featherweight champion and former Japanese Middleweight champion. It should be noted that these titles pre-date the JBC and OPBF.
6-The May 28th 1941 bout between Horiguchi and Takeshi Sasazaki was dubbed "Fight of the Century" in Japan. Althoygh the venue isn't listed on boxrec we have been informed that it was at the Ryogoku Kokugikan.
7-With over 170 bouts to his name, including at least 138 wins and 82 KO's Horiguchi holds a number of Japanese national records that are not likely to ever be beaten. It's worth noting that there are differing reports on his career record, but the minimum numbers are 176 bouts, 138 wins and 82 KO's, with others reporting he had 183 bouts, 142 wins and 87 KO's. It's worth noting that his official record, as per the gym he set up, is 138-24-14 (82), different to the Boxrec record.
8-Horiguchi passed away in October 1950 at the age of just 36. He died after being hit by a train close to Chigasaki. There are mixed reports as to what he was doing on the train line, though the two main lines of thought are that he was either drunk or suicidal.
9-On Horiguchi's grave, in Chigasaki City, there is an inscription that translates as "Fighting is my Life"
10-The gym that was set up by Horiguchi, the P-Horiguchi Gym, is now run by Horiguchi's grandson. Prior to it's current chairman it had been run by Piston's son, meaning it is now been in the family for 3 generations.
Extra Fact 1 - Horiguchi met Babe Ruth, and the two had their picture taken together, which we've included.
Extra Fact 2 - Horiguchi's career really was intense. He fit his whole 170+ fight caerer into 17 years, which included 0 fights in 1945 and just 2 bouts in 1944. Amazingly he in 1946 he fought 20 bouts, a Japanese record!
(Image courtesy of p-horiguchi.co.jp)
One thing we don't want to do too often in this series is share an incomplete round, however every so often we feel it's just and fair, and that's the case here with a round from a truly sensational war from 1995. It was a bout that everyone should make time to see, but if they can then we suggest you plonk yourself down, grab a biscuit and enjoy the brilliant, though incomplete, round 7 from a true classic.
Saman Sorjaturong (26-2-1, 21) vs Humberto Gonzalez (43-2, 30)
To set the stage we need to realise what we had in the ring here. In one corner was unified Light Flyweight champion Humberto "Chiquita" Gonzalez, one the best little men in history. He was like a mini Tyson with power, aggression and tenacity. Although he had 45 bouts to his name he was only 29 years old coming into this fight and had looked sensation in his previous 7, avenging one of his two losses, twice!
In the other corner was little known Thai Saman Sorjaturong. The Thai had fought for a world title once before, and found himself being demolished by the legendary Ricardo Lopez in 2 rounds. Saman was dropped in round and twice in round 2 by "Finito" as his hopes of becoming a world champion were dashed. At least for the time. Some 11 wins later he was then given a shot at Gonzalez.
From the open bell the bout was sensational and it had seen tremendous action almost immediately. That action quickly turned into drama, with Gonzalez being dropped in round 2 before starting to break down the Thai, who was dropped in rounds 5 and 6.
Heading into round 7 it seemed like the pressure, power and experience of Gonzalez was going to be too much for the Thai. And then we got into the round.
Just seconds into round 7 they were trading with Saman forced to fight with his back on the ropes, he managed to turn the tables and quickly dropped Gonzalez, who got up with blood smeared all over his face. Gonzalez tried to take the fight back to Saman but the Thai was buoyed by the knockdown and by seeing the crimson mask on Gonzalez. From there the bout was his as he just unloaded, forcing Lou Filippo to step in.
If you've never seen this minute of carnage you really should treat yourself, no matter how busy your day is!
When we talk about the Heavyweight division we really do talk about one of the strangest divisions. The size disparity in some of the fights in the division is frankly ridiculously and the term "David Vs Goliath" can be used in the division in a way it can't be used in any other. It's pretty much the only division in the sport where we can see the height difference between two fighters being a foot, if not more. Sure some divisions have freaks, we're looking at you Sebastian Fundora, but they are one of off's, whilst the Heavyweight division has a lot of variation in size and shape.
Today we are looking are looking at one of the notable David Vs Goliath bouts. The fight may not have been the most exciting, but it sure was a notable event, and an upset.
April 14th 2007
Porsche-Arena, Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Ruslan Chagaev (22-0-1, 17) vs Nikolay Valuev (46-0, 34)
We don't tend to think of Asian fighters making a mark at Heavyweight but that's exactly what Ruslan Chagaev did, both in the professional ranks and the amateurs. Following a successful amateur career he committed to professional boxing, albeit not until he had gone back and forth between the two codes. By spring 2007 he was a rising contender in the professional ranks and had earned a place as the WBA's #1 ranked contender. At that point he was 28 years old and although a very talented southpaw, and an unbeaten one at that, he had struggled against Volodymyr Vyrchys and John Ruiz.
Stood at just 6'1" and with a 74" wingspan Chagaev was seen as being on the smaller side for a Heavyweight, but was still well regarded. Despite being small few, if any, fighters dwarfed him quite like 7'0" behemoth Nikolay Valuev, the then WBA champion and the man that Chagaev was needing to face.
At this point the 33 year old Valuev was looking like man that the money men were angling to break the 49-0 record of Rocky Marciano. He was 46-0 and had defended the belt 3 times, all by stoppage. Not only was Valuev a giant unbeaten man, but he also seemed to have key players behind him, that seemed like they were pulling strings to keep his unbeaten record intact. That had seen him take close wins over Larry Donald and John Ruiz, and it was assumed that if he was still standing he would get the decision against anyone. In terms of his boxing skills he was limited, slow, and fought at a low pace, but he was also a genuine behemoth in the land giants. He was over 300lbs, an awkward guy to get close to, with huge arms and when up close he could exhausted fighters by clinching them and leaning on them. Although very limited, he was so awkward that he managed to be a very, very hard man to beat.
Heading into the bout Valuev was the betting favourite. It was assumed that even if he "lost" he would get the decision. All he had to do was make it close enough to give the judges a nudge. Given his size advantages, and with the bout taking place in Germany that wasn't expected to be too much of an issue.
From very, very early on we knew this wasn't going to be very exciting.
From the off Chagaev, who looked like a child in comparison to Valuev, was trying to stay away, use his speed, and not allow Valuev to hold him. Valuev, who took the center of the ring, followed Chagaev, but lacked the mobility to really close the distance, and instead applied rather slow by deliberate pressure. Although not exciting it was an interesting first round that saw Chagaev trying to figure out the giant, and have some success late in the opening round. It was a close round but one where Chagaev's class in the final 45 seconds or so proved to be the difference.
The pattern of the first round set the style for a number of rounds. What Chagaev was doing, to neutralise, the giant was smart, toying with his lead hand, countering, drawing mistakes and relying on his amateur background. Despite that though Chagaev wasn't exactly wowing audience, instead he was taking a cautious approach to the action, creating additional space and making Valuev follow him and making Valuev miss, a lot.
To his credit the big man kept plodding forward, pressing and showed surprising energy for someone so big. He kept throwing out the jab, and kept the pressure on. Sadly for himself the jab, against a southpaw, wasn't an effective weapon, despite his reach. After 4 rounds he seemed to bow his head and looked a little dejected at the way the fight was going. Despite his effort he was having very limited success and eating some solid left hands from the challenger.
By the the end of round 6 it was clear that Chagaev wasn't going to hurt Valuev, who he had caught clean with some really solid left hands, but that he had also piled up the points with some very effective, if unexciting, boxing. He was fighting to a tailor made game plan and it was working marvellously against the clumsy but game Russian champion. It was however a game plan that was always going to be a tough one to keep to mentally, especially given the success he was having and the sheer amount of movement he had to do to control the bout on the back foot. In round 7, for the first time, we began to see cracks in Chagaev's game plan, as he got too close, letting Valuev clinch him a couple of times. Chagaev also ended up trapped in the corner once or twice as Valuev managed to have some genuine success.
The success of Valuev in round 7 may not have been quite enough to take him the round but he built on it and had a very good round 8, snapping Chagaev's head back with a jab early in the round and having success through out. It seemed like the giant champion was finally turning the tide and that maybe, just maybe, Chagaev was starting to feel the effects of Valuev's constant pressure.
Despite seemingly building some momentum Valuev's success was thwarted in round 9, with Valuev looking slower and less energetic than he had in the previous two rounds. The pressure was still there but there wasn't as effective, and instead it was Chagaev's clean left hands catching the eye.
As we went into the final 3 rounds it seemed clear that Valuev was going to have to step on it. At worst it seemed like Chagaev needed just 1 rounds to secure a decision, though from the first 9 it was quite possible to have already given him 7. Things then got worse for Valuev as Chagaev put on one of his tidiest rounds for a while and forced Valuev to back off at one point, essentially securing the round and the bout on the scorecards.
With more than enough rounds in the bank Chagaev then got super negative in round 11, making the action messy, spitting out his gum shield, and being as risk averse as possible. Although he was negative through out he was more so in round 11, trying to counter less. It was clear that was feeling the bout, his legs not as quick as they were earlier. He wasn't being dominated, not by any stretch, but he was certainly throwing fewer full blooded left hands than earlier in the bout and looking to "old man" Valuev, who finished the round very nicely. Despite some nice flashes in the final round, Chagaev again seemed happy to keep the tempo slower and tie up when he needed to, smartly doing it so late in the bout that there was no real chance for Valuev's bulk to tire him. It was a really messy round to finish the fight but it was the sort of round that worked fine for Chagaev and his early lead.
After 12 rounds Chagaev celebrated, knowing he was deserving of the win. Valuev on the other hand went back to his corner looking dejected and exhausted.
Despite Chagaev having done some great work, there was always the risk of him being robbed on the cards, especially given the relatively strong finish for Valuev. It was something that Chagaev and his corner didn't seem to consider. They seemed to have felt he dominated the bout and did so in a way that he couldn't be robbed.
Despite Chagaev seemingly winning the bout with ease the first card was read out as 114-114, drawing huge boos, the second score was 115-113, a card that felt all too close, then the third card came in 117-111. The bout was a majority decision...with Chagaev being announced as the new champion.
The win wasn't just a solid upset, without being a massive one, but was also a massive moment for Asian boxing, with Chagaev, from Uzbekistan, becoming the first Asian to win a Heavyweight title.
Sadly Chagaev's reign was a terrible one with two defenses in 2 years before a rematch with Valuev was cancelled and Chagaev would then lose to Wladimir Klitschko. Despite how poor his reign was this win, this fight, this moment was huge for Chagaev and for Uzbek boxing. It would take until 2019 for another Uzbek fighter to win a world title, when Murodjon Akhmadaliev took the WBA and IBF Super Bantamweight titles with a huge win over Daniel Roman.
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).