One of the huge number of fights we've have over the last week or saw was the Super Featherweight bout between Kenichi Ogawa (25-1-1-1, 18) and Kazuhiro Nishitani (21-5-1, 12), which took place on October 2nd and was televised the following Monday. The bout saw two world ranked Super Featherweights facing off on what may go down as one of the hidden gems of the year. It wasn't a bout that got much attention internationally, but was a very notable bout in Japan, with the winner being expected to land a world title fight sooner rather than later.
Those that watch this will know it was a great bout, those that haven't seen it should give it a watch. For those who just want to know what we made of it, here are our Five Take Aways from Kenichi Ogawa Vs Kazuhiro Nishitani
1-Fans have not turned on Ogawa
One thing we've heard from those in the West is that fans in Japan soured on Ogawa after his controversial drug test fail. The reality is that they haven't, and never really did. Some certainly were disappointed, and others were surprised, but there hasn't been this big turn away from him. In fact there was a large, and very visible, number of people with t-shirts emblazoned with "Crush Right" on them. That's the nickname that Ogawa has. The fans can appreciate mistakes, and it appears this mistake has been put down as a genuine one. In fact the drug he tested positive for, androstanediol, is often found in skin creams, which is what he's stated it must have come from. They believe him, and haven't turned on him. Despite what some might suggest.
2-This was technical but exciting
Usually when we talk about exciting bouts we talk about all out wars, slug fests and high octane battles. This, however, was a mostly technical fight but a very exciting technical bout. Both men had to take some serious leather, both were dropped, both landed some monstrous punches, but for the most part this was fought at mid range, and was fought from a technical standpoint. Both guys focused on their jabs and their straight punches, both looked to time and counter each other, and both fought smartly. Yes we had some moments where the tempo picked up and they exchanged, but for the most part this was a technical battle and a very, very engaging one.
3-Round 10 was tremendous and the crowd knew it!
We've mentioned the bout was a good one, but round 10 in particular was fantastic, with both men digging deep and the pace from both men increasing. The crowd, who had been silent for vast swathes of the show, let the fighters know they were appreciating the action with roars and applause through the most exciting moments. Given the Korakuen Hall had around 700 people in it, and they were told not to cheer, and were wearing masks, they still managed to give a great atmosphere at times, especially in this last round.
At times the fans in Japan have been quiet, especially since the sport restarted in the country with all sorts of rules regarding fan behaviour due to the on going situation. Here however they made a lot noise as we went to the bell and showed that limited fan numbers can still provide a solid atmosphere. Promoters in the US and UK, who are looking to bring fans back as soon as possible, may want to be aware that fans will need good action. Having fans in the venue and the venue being silent, as we'd had earlier on this card, is an awful optic. If fans are going to be back in venues promoters will need to deliver something for fans to get behind, or else they are, from a visual perspective, better off holding shows behind closed doors.
4-Nishitani wasted his prime
Although never a big name Kazuhiro Nishitani is a talented fighter, he has been for years. Sadly though his best years were wasted toiling away in the hope of his team landing him a world title fight. In March 2017 he scored the biggest win of his career, stopping Shuhei Tscuhiya to claim the Japanese Lightweight title. That should have been built on, and he should have marched onwards and upwards. Sadly however he gave up the title without defending it, dropped back to Super Featherweight and had tick over after tick over. That saw him wasting more than 3 years of his career. He's now 33, and we suspect those 3 years of wasted nothingness will haunt him. The 130lbs division has been a stacked one in Japan and for Nishitani to never land a national or regional title fight after moving down in weight is unforgivable.
5-We want a Crush Right T-Shirt and fighters should do more of them
We mentioned a lot of fans were wearing these shirts, which have Ogawa's nickname written on them, and we really want one. Nothing much to add here, but they look good and have a simple design. Fingers crossed more and more fighters start getting T-Shirts like this and make money from them as there is a big, and rather untapped, market for these types of things. Another really good design out there, is the "One Shot Kill Vanishing Right" shirt that Ryo Sagawa has! With the international rise in attention for Japanese fighters we'd love to be able to see these sent around the world, and would love to see more of them. Shirts for the likes of Kenshiro, Hiroto Kyoguchi and of course Naoya Inoue, would certainly do good business, and we do wonder if we'll see companies begin to take that idea up in the future. There are often limited runs, designed for a Japanese audience, but there is a growing international fan base for a lot of these fighters
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).