The excellent Boxing Raise service is one of those that we suggest every fight fan wanting to follow Japanese boxing at least considers subscribing to, at least on and off, and the service has regularly delivered some of the best fights we’ve seen every month. In December the one absolute stand out bout was the Super Flyweight clash between Ryoji Fukunaga (13-4, 13) and Kenta Nakagawa (19-4-1, 12).
The bout saw Fukunaga unify the WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight title, which he held going into the bout, with the Japanese title, that Nakagawa held, and the previously vacant OPBF title, to see him end the year a triple crown winner. It wasn’t however just a big fight in terms of the silverware on the line, but also the in ring action with the bout being a truly brilliant fight, one of the legitimate Japanese Fight of the Year contenders. In the end Fukunaga, the bigger puncher, came out on top, thanks to a 10th round TKO but before we got there we had everything we could ask for, and the two men really delivered something special.
1-Kadoebi’s pre-fight presentation added something
Before the ring entrances Kadoebi played something of hype package before hand showing highlights of the two men along with interviews of the two fighters and a voice over of someone building up anticipation for the bout. Whilst the fight really didn’t need anything to build it up, it was still great to see Kadoebi going the extra few steps and delivering a really nice build up video. If we’re going to have to wait a few moments for a fight then using something like this is fantastic, and something we really should start seeing in the west, rather than going to a studio team who end up chatting garbage for far too long. This was short, it was sharp, it made the bout feel a little bit more important and let us see, and hear, from the men we were about to see fight. It was only a minute or two but it served its purpose really well and added a little bit of extra gloss to the fight.
2-Fukunaga can really take a shot!
Whilst we already know Ryoji Fukunaga was a big puncher, what this bout showed is that he can really take a shot too. This wasn’t shown too much early on, but as the bout progressed, and as both men grew tired, both landed with alarming regularity and both seemed to buzz the other with clean shots, that were followed up on. Amazingly whilst Fukunaga was buzzed a few times he never really looked close to going down. He has been down in the past, and was down in his previous fight against Froilan Saludar, but here he looked like a man possessed with staying on his feet no matter what. It was a testament to grit, determination and toughness for him to stay up right in rounds 8 and 9 in particular. More about those rounds a little later. When a man is fighting and has that “you’ll never stop me” mentality, he’s a very, very hard man to beat, and we saw that so much here. He physically and mentally beat Nakagawa here.
3-The all-southpaw dynamic wasn’t an issue
Often when we get all-southpaw bouts the dynamic of the fight is off, with many all-southpaw bouts feeling awkward and failing to catch fire. This was not one of those bouts. The two men shared respect for each other early on, but when they began to find their groove, and get comfortable this became a bout that got better and better as it went on. Early on both men took their time looking to find their range, used their jabs and began to lay the groundwork for what was to come later in the bout. Nakagawa was dropped in round 4, and from there on fireworks were seen regularly between the two men, who had no issues at all with their opponents stance. This was perhaps the best all-southpaw bout of 2020, and it is one that seriously deserves a watch as the drama unfolds in amazing fashion.
4-Rounds 8, 9 and 10...what the hell!
We had some amazing fights in 2020, and some fantastic rounds, though rarely have we had back to back round of the year contenders. This fight however gave us just that with rounds 8 and 9, and what we had of round 10, being insane. The action started quickly in both rounds, and saw the two men both landing bombs, both looked out on their feet several times, before responding with a huge burst of shots of their own. It seemed like both men had not just fought themselves to a standstill but also fought the other into waking up, and digging deeper and deeper into their energy reserves. Going beyond the point of fighting on fumes, and beyond the tank being empty. This was almost 8 and a half minutes of pure brutality and beautiful violence. If you haven’t got boxing raise these rounds alone are worth the price of a month subscription and are absolutely sensational.
Action, drama, determination, desire, brutality, heart and jaw dropping back and forth. These rounds were simply awesome.
5-Yuji Fukuchi did an amazing job
It seems like we’re always praising Japanese referees in this series but they often deserve, as Yuji Fukuchi did here. A less referee would have jumped in multiple times during this bout. Ian John Lewis for example would have denied us much of the fight. Fukuchi however allowed this to go on, even when both men were rocked, tired, and looking close to spent. He gave the fighters the chance to fight back, he let them show their heart and their fighting spirit and made it clear that they were allowed to fight. He did an amazing job by letting the fight flow, by letting the bout come to a natural conclusion and made a perfect stoppage when he finally stepped in and saved Nakagawa. His patience and understanding of the fighters, the understanding of the bout he was officiating, and what the fight meant allowed him to do the perfect job and few would have done as good a job as Fukuchi did. We’ve praised Michiaki Someya and Nobuto Ikehara multiple times during this series but Fukuchi did just as good here. Genuinely fantastic from the referee.
With December 2020 now firmly behind us and our feet both into 2021 we thought there was no better time to look back at what Boxing Raise brought us in December, in what was a genuinely excellent month for the service. The month brought us some amazing KO’s, brilliant bouts, thrilling wars and some of the best entertainment the service has provided in the entirety of 2020
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/".
Brutal KO in women’s world title bout - Etsuko Tada (19-3-3, 6) Vs Ayaka Miyao (23-8-2, 6) II [movie/9127/]
Really early in the month we saw WBO female Minimumweight title bout between former world champion Etsuko Tada and Ayaka Miyao. The bout was a rematch of a draw from earlier in the year and delivered everything we needed for a great contest, with good back and forth action and one of the best KO’s in female boxing in recent memory. This was a brutal finish in a bout between two legitimate world class fighters
Japanese title bout! - Masataka Taniguchi (12-3, 7) vs Hizuki Saso (12-6-2, 4) [/movie/9128/]
On the same show as the Tada Vs Miyao rematch was a Japanese title bout between Masataka Taniguchi and Hizuko Sasao, who look to fill the vacancy left by Norihito Tanaka back at the start of the year. This wasn’t the most competitive or best of bouts, but it was great to see a new champion being crowned almost a year after the belt was vacated. Even though it’s not the best of bouts it is still worthy of a watch.
Women’s world title action in Osaka - Miyo Yoshida (14-1) vs Tomoko Okuda (6-2-2, 1) [/movie/9160/]
The second female world title bout to be made available on the service was the WBO female Super Flyweight bout between Miyo Yoshida and Tomoko Okuda. This didn’t end in the brutal fashion of the Tada Vs Miyao bout but was certainly among the most meaningful and significant contests on Raise during December. Well worthy of anyone’s time during the next few days, where there is a lack of fighters in general.
War for Triple Crown! - Ryoji Fukunaga (12-4, 12) vs Kenta Nakagawa (19-3-1, 12) [movie/9185/]
The best bout on Boxing Raise during December, by some margin, was the tremendous triple title unification bout between Ryoji Fukunaga and Kenta Nakagawa, who fought to unify the OPBF, WBO Asia Pacific and Japanese Super Flyweight titles. This one of the very best bouts of 2020, not just December on Boxing Raise, and saw both men being hurt, both digging deep, both landing some monstrous shots and both fighting incredibly hard. If you like brutal wars and punishing battles this is one you must watch!
Hard hitting champion takes on rugged veteran - Masamichi Yabuki (11-3, 11) vs Toshimasa Ouchi (22-9-3, 8) [movie/9266/]
The final Japanese title fight of 2020 came on December 26th when Japanese Light Flyweight champion Masamichi Yabuki made his first defense, taking on veteran Masamichi Yabuki. On paper this was a test to see what Yabuki could bring if his power didn’t do the job, especially given the number of early blowouts he’s had, and it was a bout that saw the champion needing to answer a number of questions.
Sharp finish between Japanese youngsters - Jinki Maeda (5-0, 3) vs Kaito Okubo (5-1, 2) [/movie/9292/]
On one of the final Japanese shows of 2020 we saw youngsters Jinki Maeda and Kaito Okubo clash in what looked like a really compelling match up. This was a tactical battle from the off, with both men looking to control the range until a sudden, and brutal finish in round 2. The bout wasn’t the most exciting but it showcased some stuff from two youngsters, and a finish that really did look incredibly brutal. A gorgeous finish worth watching the bout for.
A legend returns! - Reiya Konishi (17-2, 7) vs Katsunari Takayama (31-8-0-1, 12) [/movie/9290/]
After more than 4 years away from professional boxing we saw former multi-time world champion Katsunari Takayama return to the ring and take on 2-time world title challenger Reiya Konishi. The bout was one that had been scheduled for November and then got added to a December show after Konishi got a false positive Covid19 test. Despite the delay this one lived up to all the expectations and was a high tempo war throughout. A real gem of a post-Christmas fight between two high tempo fighters each letting shots fly.
Veteran takes on former champion - Ryota Yada (20-6, 17) vs Yuichi Ideta (13-15-1, 7) [/movie/9284/]
The final bout to be shown on Boxing Raise in 2020 was supposed to be a mismatch as former Japanese Welterweight champion Ryota Yada took on the completely out of form Yuichi Ideta. This was supposed to be a mismatch for the hard hitting Yada though no one told Ideta he was supposed to lose again and the veteran took the fight to Yada making this a thrilling battle of will Vs skill. It’s not the prettiest fight you’ll see but it is a solid one and a real enjoyable watch as Ideta tries to roll back the clock to the days when he was once regarded as a genuine prospect and hopefu.
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).