Late last week we saw Japanese veteran Gakuya Furuhashi (27-8-1, 15) put in a career defining performance to witn a thrilling 9 round war with Yusaku Kuga and claim the Japanese Super Bantamweight title, doing so in a 2021 Fight of the Year contender. It was Furuhashi’s third shot at the domestic title and it was likely his last, if he lost. He knew his career needed him to win, and he dug deep, found limitless energy and did what he needed to stop Kuga.
With that win under his belt we thought Furuhashi was in a great position to weigh up his options and look at some match ups that are out there for him. And boy is there a lot of options out there for the new champion. In fact we struggled to whittle it down to just five for this week’s “Five for… Gakuya Furuhashi”.
1-Hiroaki Teshigawara (22-2-2, 15)
Our first option is probably the least likely, all things considered, but would be the most interesting option in our eyes, as we favour unification bouts quite strongly in this series. That would be a bout between Japanese champion Furuhashi and OPBF champion Hiroaki Teshigawara. If we’re being totally honest we suspect Teshigawara, who is highly ranked by the WBC and IBF, has no intention of keeping his OPBF title, never mind unifying it, and is instead focusing on getting a world title fight. From a fan perspective however we would love to see this one, and it would be a fantastic battle. Every fight Furuhashi is in sees a lot of leather thrown, and he comes forward looking to make a fight an inside battle, and Teshigawara is an educated boxer-puncher who would look to catch Furuhashi coming in with heavy shots. It would almost certainly be a win for Teshigawara, but would still be a real fun one to watch.
2-Ryoichi Tamura (14-5-1, 7) II
In 20219 we saw Furuhashi earn a shot at the Japanese title with an amazing 8 round decision win over former Japanese champion Ryoichi Tamura, in a bout that could easily have gone either way. We had our jaws drop watching the intense action involved in that one and to see the two do it again over 10 rounds for the belt would be amazing. Of the two fighters Furuhashi is the quicker, sharper man but Tamura is the stronger man with a more imposing physicality. What they have in common, however, is what makes a fight between the two a sure fire thriller, and that is that they fight in similar fashion, wanting to entertain fans, wear their opponents down and have a thrilling toe to toe war. This would be the sort of fighter that would push both men closer to retirement, but would have fans glued to the in ring action. At the time of writing Tamura is ranked #4 by the JBC, but the rankings do need up dating and he could well be banging on the door for a title fight when the update does go through.
3-Toshiki Shimomachi (12-1-2, 8)
Whilst we would love to see Furuhashi get a chance to face a fellow warrior, like Tamura, there is also a case of wanting to see him face a fighter with a very, very different style, especially given his recent wars with Kuga and Tamura. With that in mind a bout between Furuhashi and the slippery, counter punching stylist Toshiki Shimomachi would be an interesting fight. For Furuhashi this would seem like a lower profile first defense, but one where he would certainly not take the punishment we’ve seen from him in recent bouts. It would look like an easier match up on his body than some of the others but would be a mentally testing bout for the champion. As for Shimomachi this would be a huge chance for him to show what he can do on the national stage, as he looks to grow from being a former Japanese Youth Champion to a full national champion. It would be a bout where the challenger would be the clear under-dog, but he would certainly have a good chance here against someone who does give a lot of countering opportunities.
4-Ryohei Takahashi (19-4-1, 8)
We’re back to looking at potential wars here and bout between Furuhashi and former world title challenger Ryohei Takahashi would certainly be an entertaining one, and one fought between two men who are at a similar level. Takahashi is best known for his loss in an IBF world title fight to TJ Doheny and despite looking out of his depth there his toughness did impress and he ended up taking a real beating from Doheny. Against Furuhashi we would expect something similar, with Furuhashi being too good, too sharp, and too quick. However we would expect this one to be incredibly entertaining and a real fun fight from the opening bell. Takahashi lacks the ability to control the distance and tempo of the bout, and would be forced to fight Furuhashi’s style, something that will always be fan pleasing. Given Takahashi is ranked #5 by the JBC his name should certainly be in the mix, and given his world level experience a win over him would be meaningful for Furuhashi.
5-Ryosuke Nishida (3-0, 1)
A wildcard choice to close this out would be a bout between Furuhashi and the fast rising Ryosuke Nishida, who scored a huge win last December over Shohei Omori. The win over Omori saw Nishida claim a #6 ranking with the JBC and puts him, potentially, in place to tie a Japanese record for the fewest fights to win a Japanese title, a record held at 4 bouts by the likes of Naoya Inoue, Akinobu Hiranaka, James Callaghan, Modest Napunyi and Joichiro Tatsuyoshi. Of course Nishida would be a big under-dog against Furuhashi but he was also the under-dog against Omori and showed some fantastic potential in that bout. We love unification bouts but we also love to see fighters daring to be great and seeing Nishida get a shot at the title in just his 4th bout would be amazing. Like the potential Shimomachi bout this wouldn’t be an all out war, that’s not Nishida’s way, but it would be a very compelling match up mixing Furuhashi’s pressure with the movement and speed of Nishida.
Others considered (as this really was a long short list to whittle down):
Yuskau Kuga II
*All rankings correct at time of writing on January 25th.
It's fair to say that January wasn't a busy month, by any stretch of the imagination, but there was a handful of gems that took place over on Japanese subscription service Boxing Raise and with that in mind we felt it was worth sharing those gems as we cover the The Best of Boxing Raise January 2021.
As with our previous "Best of Boxing Raise" article all the fights featured here can be accessed by subscribers by logging into Boxing Raise and adding the "movie/####" to "https://boxingraise.com/".
The rising Lightweight hopeful - Shu Utsuki (7-0, 6) vs Masashi Wakita (10-10-2, 5) [movie/9409/]
To begin with we don't have a gem per se but a bout you should make an effort to watch as it features one of the most promising Lightweights in Japan. That is the unbeaten, and heavy handed, Sut Utsuki who was up against the rangy and experienced Masashi Wakita. The bout wasn't the most competitive or most exciting, but for fans wanting to see one of the more promising Japanese fighters at 135lbs this is well worth a watch.
Japanese Super Featherweight title bout - Kosuke Saka (20-5, 17) vs Takuya Watanabe (37-9-1, 21) [movie/9411/]
An obvious choice here for this months list was the first Japanese title fight of 2021, and that saw Japanese Super Featherweight champion Kosuke Saka take on mandatory challenger Takuya Watanabe. On paper this one promised a lot, with Saka being one of the biggest puncher in Japan and Watanabe being a well known tough guy, who has been in some thrilling action bouts during his long career. The bout may not have quite reached the lofty expectations some, including ourselves, had for the bout, but it was certainly worth a watch.
Japanese title war! - Yusaku Kuga (19-4-1, 13) vs Gakuya Furuhashi (26-8-1, 14) [movie/9413/]
Another obvious choice to enjoy was the sensational Japanese Super Bantamweight title fight between defending champion Yusaku Kuga and mandatory challenger Gakuya Furuhashi. Like the Saka Vs Watanabe bout, the expectation was high, and this exceeded those expectations, giving us a legitimate fight of the year contender. If you like high-tempo, inside, phone booth wars this will be down your alley. And if you don't like those sorts of fights, why are you even following this sport? Genuinely this is going to be a very, very hard fight to beat and we may well have already seen the Japanese fight of the year!
Teenager debuts - Seiya Iwamoto (0-0) vs Keisuke Endo (0-0) [movie/9432/]
One thing Japan does better than anywhere else is making 4 rounders something, and their regular 4 round shows match novices who both come to win, rather than have a prospect taking a quick and easy win against someone incredibly limited. One example of that was the debut of 17 year old Seiya Iwamoto, who took on Keisuke Endo in a short but fun fight. The skill level here was low but the action came from the opening bell and the bout really is a gem hidden away on the service. Fun, short and exciting.
All debutant Lightweight clash - Tomoki Sato (0-0) vs Jun Nakahara (0-0) [movie/9434/]
Another 4 rounder that's worth watching is the Lightweight bout between Tomoki Sato and Jun Nakahara. Again these were two debutants and both men were there looking to leave an impression. This wasn't a crude battle, like Iwamoto Vs Endo, but was an entertaining bout, with 2 knockdowns and a chance to see two fighters who may well end up competing in a Rookie of the Year tournament one day. Despite the novice status of both men there was plenty to like here, and it's clear both fighters have got something to work with, even if they are both very, very rough around the edges.
Another 4 rounder! - Kei Fujita (2-1, 2) Vs Narimichi Miura (1-2, 1) [movie/9436/]
Another exciting 4 rounder was the bout between Kei Fujita, who fought on the under-card of Kazuto Ioka Vs Kosei Tanaka, and Narimichi Miura. On paper this looked like it could be an explosive one given neither man had seen the final bell in any of their bouts. It didn't end up being quite as explosive as anticipated, but it was still a damn good bout and round 2 in particular was thrilling. If you like competitive back and forth action this is fantastic to watch and was fought in really good spirits by two men who believed they could take home a victory.
We know some don't enjoy "club level" fights, but to us they are quickly becoming some of our favourites and the 4 rounders in this list are great examples of why, with exciting action and both fighters coming to win. With so few fights taking place in January we really do suggest giving these 4 rounders a watch, as well as the three bigger bouts!
This past weekend in the US the Super Bantamweight division came alive with stellar performances from Raeese Aleem and Stephen Fulton, who both looked spectacular on Showtime on Saturday night. Before those two bouts we also had a Japanese national title fight in the division, with that bout taking place on Friday in Tokyo, and being shown around the globe on Boxing Raise.
That bout in Japan saw Gakuya Furuhashi (27-8-1, 14) dethrone Yusaku Kuga (19-5-1, 13) in what was a sensational fight for a title that has repeatedly given us amazing bouts. It was a brilliant back and forth, fought almost entirely on the inside, and it saw both men take a lot of punishment. It was competitive, dramatic, brutal and one we suggest all fight fans make an effort to watch in 2021.
Having had time to let the bout breathe before rewatching it earlier today we've decided it's now time to share our take aways from what was a genuinely amazing fight.
1-The styles gelled perfectly
When we look at potential bouts, and how much we're going to enjoy them, or whether they are going to be fan friendly we need to think about how each fighter fights, and how their styles should gel. For this bout the styles gelled amazingly. Both men have the same mentality or fighting, rather than boxing, both have similar game plans, and both have similar strengths. This made for a bout that was great on paper, and equally as good in the ring.
Despite this being a mandatory title defense for Kuga it rather fortunately showed what good match making should focus on. It's not the records that matter when making a good fight, but the styles. Both of these men wanted to work at a high pace. Both wanted to let their shots go and both did so in different ways. Kuga wanted to fight at mid-range, but was willing to fight up close in spurts. Furuhashi wanted to fight up close, and was willing to take a bomb or two to get inside. In many ways this was similar to the Angela Leo vs Stephen Fulton fight seen on Saturday, and again the styles gelled. Wonderful to watch.
2-Akihiko Katsuragi did a great job
We've been over this so many times in this series but Japanese referees seem to be consistently fantastic and Akihiko Katsuragi, the third man in the ring here, is no exception. Katsuragi stayed out of the action, he let fight, he didn't look to interject at any point. He wasn't there to get involved unless he needed to be, such as at the end of the rounds. The one exception to that came towards the end of the bout when he quite rightly stopped the contest with Kuga being completely gone. We saw a lot of praise for David Fields' work on Saturday night, for letting Leo and Fulton fight, and it was the same here with Katsuragi. When they clinched, which was incredibly rare, they were allowed to fight out of it, breaks were few and far between.
Not only did Katsuragi not interject but he was also aware of the fight, it's meaning and the men involved. A lesser referee would, potentially, have stopped this at various points. A nervous referee may have thought a man was more hurt than he actually was and jumped in. We've seen it in the past with early stoppages particularly prevalent in the UK. Katsuragi showed no intention of stopping this until he needed to.
3-This deserved a louder audience
Originally this bout was planned for April 28th 2020, as part of the annual Champion Carnival series of fights. Sadly due to Covid19 the bout was postponed by around 9 months. Covid19 not only meant there was a lengthy delay to the bout, but also meant that restrictions were put on the fans, who were limited by number and by what they were allowed to do. All fans were forced to wear masks to attend the fight and they weren't allowed to chant and cheer on their man. Instead they were pretty much limited to applauding.
We fully understand the rules, the regulations and the limitations on the fans and the venues, and why they are in place.
However this bout deserved so much more noise and atmosphere than it got. Throughout the bout we had rounds of applause, with fans appreciating the fighters, the action and the fantastic bout they were watching unfold. Sadly however it deserved chants, cheering, and roars of appreciation from a full Korakuen Hall. It was a brilliant bout, a brutal war, and a great come from behind victory for Furuhashi. It deserved to have fans going wild over what we were seeing. Instead it sounded appreciative, rather than excited. It sounded respectful, rather than rapturous. It sounded mild instead of deafening.
4-Furuhashi wasn't going to be denied
This was Furuhashi's third shot at the title and at the age of 33 it was almost certainly going to be his last. Given the punishment he took in the bout a loss would have been incredibly hard to bounce back from, mentally and physically. He put everything he had into the bout. And that's really the key to this point. It was do or die and he wasn't going to be denied. He had his head snapped back multiple times, he took huge shots to the body and kept coming forward, and it didn't matter that he had to walk into the danger zone to get to his man. He wasn't going home empty handed here.
When a fighter has the mentality Furuhashi had here they are able to dig deeper and deeper than anyone can imagine and that showed as he fought like a man willing to go to the depths of hell for the title. He beat Kuga in part, due to his desire. His refusal to lose. It's rare we see a fighter dig as deep as Furuhashi did, but he showed exactly what the title meant to him, and how much he needed that belt.
5-The end for Kuga?
Yusaku Kuga is someone known for his brutal power and his durability. Or rather he was. Sadly this is now the third time in 6 fights that Kuga has been stopped, having also been worn down by Shingo Wake in 2018 and blasted out by Jhunriel Ramonal in 2019. With that in mind we do wonder if this is the end for him. He took a lot of punishment here, and he's also been in gruelling bouts with Ryoichi Tamura, twice and Yasutaka Ishimoto, in their first bout. A man can only go to the well so many times before his body says no more and we can't help but feel that might be where Kuga's body is right now. He has been on the wrong end of a lot of punishment during his 25 fight career, and it may well be time to hang them up, for the good of his long term health.
The month of September was,lets be honest, a fun one for the most part. That fun is expected to continue through a rather exciting looking October.
Yasutaka Ishimoto (28-8, 7) vs Gakuya Furuhashi (18-7-1, 8) II
The month kicks off with a really exciting Japanese Super Bantamweight title bout between defending champion Yasutaka Ishimoto and former challenger Gakuya Furuhashi. The bout is a rematch from a thoroughly engaging bout the two men had last year and should prove to be a very friendly bout again here. For Ishimoto the bout serves as his second defense of the title whilst Furuhashi is looking to gain both the title and avenge his defeat when the men first met.
For fans interested in watching the bout will be aired live on G+
Jessica Chavez (27-4-3, 4) vs Naoko Fujioka (15-1, 6)
Female boxing doesn't get the attention it, sometimes, deserves. October has several notable female bouts, with possibly the best of them seeing WBC female Flyweight champion Jessica Chavez battle against 3-weight world champion Naoko Fujioka in a bout that really is mouth watering. Both of these are top, established talents and both know that a win here would see them strengthening their already impressive legacies. It's a great bout and both will come into this in fantastic condition. It may sound like hyperbole but this is possibly the best bout of the month.
Satoshi Hosono (32-2-1, 21) vs Jonathan Victor Barros (40-4-1, 22)
The early part of the month is rather packed and on the third we get an intriguing IBF Featherweight world title eliminator as Japanese veteran Satoshi Hosono, a 3-time world title challenger, faces Argentinian veteran Jonathan Victor Barros, himself a former world champion. The winner of this will be expecting a bout with Lee Selby in 2017 and both know that a loss here could be the of their career at the top level. Given the styles of the men and what's on the line this really does have the hall marks of something really exciting.
Kenta Nakagawa (12-2-1, 9) vs Hayato Kimura (25-8, 16)
The second Japanese title fight of the month comes on October 6th as the heavy handed Kenta Nakagawa faces former Korean Super Flyweight champion Hayato Kimura for the currently vacant Japanese title. The two men have had very different careers but should match up well in the ring with Nakagawa being the bigger puncher and Kimura being the more experienced and arguably more skilled fighter. The winner of this will pick up the title vacated earlier this year by Sho Ishida, who vacated in search of a world title fight.
Fans interested in watching this one can do so on delay courtesy of boxingraise.com
Rex Tso (19-0, 12) vs Ryuto Maekawa (11-0-1, 7)
Staying at Super Flyweight, which may well have been the most interesting division over the last few weeks, October 8th sees unbeaten fighters Rex Tso and Ryuto Maekawa colliding for the WBO International and WBC Asian Boxing Council Super Flyweight titles. Of the two men Tso is the more well known, and the favourite by our guess, but can be dragged into a war by lesser fighters and this could potentially be a lot of fun as a result.
Nana Yoshikawa (6-1, 4) vs Eun Hye Lee (8-0, 3)
Just over a week from the Chavez Vs Fujioka bout we get another intriguing female world title fight, this time between once beaten Japanese fighter Nana Yoshikawa and unbeaten Korean Eun Hye Lee for the WBO female Flyweight title. Coming in to this one Yoshikawa seems to be suggesting it's now or never and at 38 years old she may well be right. The 33 year old Lee is a former WBO female Light Flyweight champion champion and is looking to become a 2-weight champion here.
Je Ni Ma (9-1-3, 8) Vs Hironobu Matsunaga (10-1, 5)
The WBO Asia Pacific titles appear to be here to stay and Japanese fighters appear to have gone “in for a penny, in for a pound”. This is seen again on October 9th when once beaten Japanese fighter Hironobu Matsunaga travels to Daejon to face big punching Korean Je Ni Ma for the Light Middleweight title. The bout is a great test for both men who will likely be looking to use a win here to launch their careers towards bigger and better fights. Given the power of Ma, and his 12 fight unbeaten run, he should be favoured here, but Matsunaga has impressed recently and stopped a former Japanese Middleweight champion last time out.
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).