One of the many bouts this past weekend that deserved a little bit more extra attention was the contest between rising Japanese hopeful Hayate Kaji (15-0, 9) and the tough Hiroki Yajima (9-9-3, 4), who clashed on Friday but had their bout televised on G+ on Monday, on tape delay.
At one point, a few years ago, Kaji looked like he was going to be one of the future stars of the Teiken Gym but came into this bout on the back of a run of under-whelming performances that had seen some sour on him. However how he looked here is just one of a number of things we want to discuss in our Take Aways from the bout.
1-Kaji looks to be taking the sport seriously again
We mentioned that Kaji had had some poor performances, and sources inside Teiken had explained that Kaji hadn't been fully listening to trainers and had been struggling to maintain his weight. There was also murmurs of him being frustrated at his career stalling, and potentially being annoyed at how slowly his career has progressed following his Rookie of the Year success in 2014. It was somewhat understandable that his career hadn't moved on quickly, but with poor performances it was easy to see where Teiken were coming from with his slowly, slowly progress. In this bout however he looked like a man with a point to prove. The silly mistakes were gone. He looked professional, mature, calm, controlling, and better than he has in a long time. It almost seemed like he had a point to prove, and did it. Fingers crossed Teiken repay him with a more meaningful bout as a result.
2-Yajima has balls!
With a 9-8-3 record coming in to this it would be easy to think that he was going to be stopped by a solid puncher like Kaji. That seemed even more likely when he was dropped in the opening round. Kaji however gritted his teeth, gutted it out and and recovered from two knockdowns to see out the bell. Gritting it out in one fight is one thing, but Yajima has now gone the distance in all 9 professional losses, including 4 of his last 5.
Even when he was way down and winning was beyond him, he held, spoiled and did all he could to clear his head and see out a torrid round 7. Credit to him for not taking the easy way out.
Side note - Yajima lost on his debut to the brilliantly named Astro Cheerioboy Maura, a name that sounds almost like a perfect for a cereal mascot!
3-Kaji's jab is really solid
We often get impressed by body shots and uppercutts from fighters but for Kaji the best shot in his arsenal is his sharp, stiff jab. He doesn't throw it quite as much as he should but it's a real solid shot, and something we'd like to see him building more work from. He's got a solid right hand, and if he puts them together more we could see him hurting a lot of opponents with his 1-2's. It's just a shame he often forgets to set his right hand up with the jab. Come on Kaji, pump that jab out more, it's a very nice shot, and then let the right hands fly behind it!
4-Crowds aren't the be all and end all
For the last few weeks we've had crowds back in boxing in Japan. One big thing that certain promoters, especially those in the UK and US, are desperate for are crowds. Unfortunately a bout like this shows that crowds aren't the be all and end all. In Japan at the moment crowds aren't allowed to cheer and yell, and chant. Instead they've been told they need to wear masks and can only clap. Sadly for this particular bout the crowd seemed almost completely fed up. There was no clapping, and almost no noise from the Korakuen Hall at all. The often repeated myth of Japanese fans being quiet at boxing, which isn't as true as some will tell you, certainly seemed the case here. This was almost eerie at times. If promoters are to bring crowds back in the West they need to try and make sure there is some noise in the venue, some how.
This wasn't actually a bad bout, even if it did drag a bit. But if fans are sat in silence for this Western promoters will need to realise they need to put on good bouts to have an atmosphere, and may even need to continue pumping crowd noises in anyway.
5-Akihiko Katsuragi doesn't like holding!
It's fair to say holding is a bane of every boxing fan around the globe, especially when it's continual and ruining the fight. For fighters planning to do that, they better avoid Akihiko Katsuragi, who took two points from Yajima for holding, one in round 7 and one in round 8. The decision was a foregone conclusion by then, so the deductions didn't affect the result, but we'd love to see more referees look to stamp it out like this. The holding wasn't as bad as we have seen in the past, and Katsuragi did perhaps get a little overly antsy late on, but if he's consistent and points are taken quicker for holding going forth we won't be complaining! Our only complaint here is that he could have taken one earlier, and that may have sorted things out before the bout started to feel like it was dragging.
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).