On Saturday Shinsei Gym put on a live stream of their show from the Central Gym in Kobe. The stream only featured two bouts live, though they did later upload the entire show to the Boxing Real Youtube channel.
One of those streamed bouts was the WBO Atomweight title bout between Mika Iwakawa (10-5-1, 3) and Nanae Suzuki (10-4-1, 1). It was the first of a host of world title bouts over the weekend, and whilst not a massive bout it was certainly a notable one. It was also one that we felt deserved the Take Away treatment.
1-Boxing Real Streams are amazingly professional
First we need state the obvious. The streams that Boxing Real are giving us are on a different level to pretty much all the others from Japan. This isn't just a multi-camera set up, but includes replays, on screen graphics, commentary, and has the real feeling of being a TV quality production. If you see one of these streams you could very easily be confused into thinking you were watching a TV production and this is just fantastic. We love the fact that Suruga Boys, A-Sign and Boxing Raise do stream live events but Boxing Real have raised the bar, and it's now down to the others to match them in terms of production
Also it was great to hear Ryuya Yamanaka doing commentary!
2-A white canvas was horrible to look at
After complimenting the production quality of the stream we now need to complain about the production quality of the show. The ring canvas, which was mostly off-white, really didn't look great. It wasn't helped by the fact both fighters were in white and the general venue was very light. As a result it was actually quite an eye sore and seemed to almost camouflage into the floor of the venue. This might be less of an issue when there are more fans in the venue, or when doors and windows don't need to be open, which has lead to a lot of light in the venue, or even when fighters aren't wearing white, but for this bout it was quite distracting.
3-Mika Iwakawa is skilled...but doesn't do enough
The 37 year old champion showed some really nice touches during the bout, her movement at times was fantastic and her ability to pick a shot was a delight to see. Sadly though she never showed those things in more than a few glimpses. She was under pressure through out and sadly didn't cope well with that pressure, often resorting to holding, which was a shame. When she showed what she could do she was really impressive and hopefully we see more of that in the future.
4-Nanae Suzuki's energy is incredible
We've no idea how Nanae Suzuki managed to keep up the pace she does. From round 1 to round 10 she kept coming forward, kept bulling her way through Iwakawa, chasing the champion, attacking and marching forward. Her work rate seemed to get better the longer the bout went on, and that was despite Iwakawa regularly holding her and pushing her around. Whatever is powering Suzuki...we want it! She looked like the energiser bunny through out and it was hugely impressive. Sadly she lacked the skills to make the most of her energy but we can't fault her relentlessness and incredible stamina. She was always the one forcing the fight and trying to make this a war.
5-This was real hard to score
When judges turn in cards of 97-93 both ways you can often assume one judge got it very wrong. In reality however this bout seems like one of the rare ones where either woman could have won depending on what a judge prefers. The quality work was almost all from Iwakawa, who looked like the much, much more skilled fighter. But she was being out worked, out hustled, and out fought in pretty much every round. Obvious we're supposed to score on things like effective aggression and defense, and those both favoured Iwakawa, but some offensive is better than no offense, and we had rounds where Iwakawa's work rate totally dropped off. A real tough one to score.
The Offense Vs Defense match up make this a really interesting one without it really being a great one to watch. It was messy, it was rough, but was also very compelling.
From September 26th to November 23rd there are set to be a number of Japanese shows made available, for free, on YouTube. Whilst we'll be tuning in to all of them we know some fans need a reason more than just "free boxing" to put their time aside, so with that in mind let us try to tempt you into watching the free action we'll be getting!
Firstly the shows are free. There is no catch there. If these are a success they may become a more regular thing, and may show promoters that there is a market for these, and a reason to put them on. Secondly they give everyone a chance to dip their toes into Japanese boxing during a time when life is certainly not great for many of us, and it could a bit extra escapism from what is going on outside of where we all live.
And there's also some interesting fighters and bouts coming up on those shows.
On paper this is probably the show we are the least interested in, especially given the other action taking place on the same day, however this shouldn't be ignored outright. Firstly the fact that BOXING REAL are behind the stream is something to sit up and make a note of, as they have provided amazing streams in the past and are very much a growing channel at the forefront of these free streams.
Anyone who has ever watched an Atomweight fight will know the women are small, but never stop throwing and we suspect that will be the case again here when Mika Iwakawa (9-5-1, 3) defends her WBO Atomweight title against Nanae Suzuki (10-3-1, 1). It may not be the most dramatic bout of all time, but it will certainly by a high tempo battle and given that women's rounds are still 2 minutes long this will really fly by. We're expecting non-stop punching, in a thrilling, if some what low level affair.
Former world champion Shun Kubo (13-2, 9) isn't a huge name in the sport but as a former world champion it'll be interesting to see what, if anything, he still has to offer the sport. He shouldn't struggle too much with Takashi Igarashi (13-4, 5), but there is a chance that Kubo's heart isn't in the sport after stoppage losses to Danny Roman and Can Xu in recent bouts.
One time world title contender Kohei Oba (36-3-1, 14), who was once dubbed the "Mayweather of Nagoya", will end a multi-year break from the ring to take on former Rookie of the Year winner Yoshiki Minato (8-3, 3). Not a great bout, but you've got to admit that having the nickname of "Mayweather of Nagoya" is at least a little bit interesting and we're curios as to what he has left in the tank.
Whilst the September 26th show isn't the best we do really want you to get behind the September 27th show if possible. This is from a small local promoter in Shizuoka who are almost certainly losing money to put this show on, but wanted to continue to have boxing in the region during these tough times. Originally they had wanted to run a boxing festival, as they have the last few years, but the on going situation prevented that but they are going to showcase local fighters regardless. With that in mind it'd be great to get behind the Suruga gym for this one.
If the feeling of supporting a small promoter isn't good enough there are 3 interesting bouts on this show.
The first of those is the return of Tsubasa Murachi (4-1, 3), who was knocked out hard by Froilan Saludar last year. Murachi was hoping to be fast tracked and risked it all against Saludar, who's experience and power proved too much. Rather than having an easy comeback he's taking on under-rated domestic foe Ryotaro Kawabata (12-3-2, 6) in a well matched 8 rounder. This looks competitive on paper and will let us see what Murachi's loss to Saludar has done to the 23 year old.
Although a faded force Koichi Aso (23-9-1, 15) has been a consistently exciting fighter to watch. Win or lose Aso is rarely in a dull fight and his aggressive, pressure style makes him on of Japan's most fan friendly fighters. He's up against a man flying high, as he takes on Shogo Yamaguchi (12-5-3, 7), who scored a a career best win over Shuhei Tsuchiya last time out, having been knocked down before pulling out the victory. This has the potential to be a real humdinger of a bout!
There are a lot of exciting prospects making their name in Japan, this is not a secret. One of the very best from those is Rentaro Kimura (1-0, 1), who made his debut earlier this year with a KO of the Year contender, which you can see below. He is the big hope of Shizuoka, a former amateur standout and a man who we suspect will be fighting for titles in 2021. One thing we'd love to see from fans is for them to get on the Kimura express early, and if you missed his debut there's no need to miss his second bout, as he takes on Takafumi Iwaya (4-3) on this show. There's a good chance this ends in Brutal fashion just as Kimua's debut did
From where we're sat the October 13th card on A-Sign Boxing is the show that needs the least amount of "selling" done for it. Before we even mention the fighters we need to just say this is promoted by arguably the most forward thinking promoter in world boxing. Ichitaro Ishii is thinking out of the box regularly, employing social media brilliantly, adapting things like behind the scenes and special documentaries into promoting events and giving fans more access to knowing fighters than any other promoter in the sport. What he's doing on a relatively small budget brilliant for the sport.
As for the bouts the main event is a truly fantastic match up between world ranked Featherweight Reiya Abe (19-3-1, 9) and the unbeaten Ren Sasaki (10-0, 6). Abe is one of the most talented boxers in Japan, but also a frustrating one, with a style is focused around countering, a lot. As a result Abe needs a suitable dance partner to look good against, and we suspect Sasaki will be such an opponent. If you like boxing skills, counter punching, ring craft, a cerebral approach to boxing and in ring genius, this is a bout you'll enjoy. A lot.
Of course not everyone likes the cerebral stuff and some people just want to see action! You need not worry as Kai Ishizawa (6-1, 6) is in the house and taking on the rugged Masashi Tada (13-7-3, 8). Ishizawa is a super heavy handed, aggressive youngster who's somewhat rough around the edges, but scary strong, a serious puncher and one of the most exciting youngsters in the sport. When he gets in the ring it's always worth tuning in for. Tada isn't the best fighter, but he's tough and it'll be great to see if he can blunt the buzz saw that is Kai Ishizawa.
Although the other two bouts mentioned for this show have the ingredients to be show cases of different styles the bout we suspect will be the best of the bunch is the clash between Kai Chiba (12-1, 8) and Haruki Ishikawa (8-2, 6). On paper these two are made for each other, and in the ring we'll likely see that play out. Chiba is a real solid boxer-puncher, who had his chin cracked by Brian Lobetania. We know Chiba can punch, and can be taken out. Ishikawa on the other hand gave us one of the best fights of 2019 last time out, as he took on Toshiya Ishii, and in that fight showed a willingness to wage war on Ishii.
For something of a taster for the Chiba Vs Ishikawa bout, enjoy round 2 of Ishikawa's last bout:
We don't think we need to really tell people why they should tune in to see Hiroto Kyoguchi (14-0, 9) take on unbeaten Thai Thanongsak Simsri (14-0, 12), but if you're not already on board for this one we'll try to entice you to tune in on Kyoguchi's own YouTube channel.
Kyoguchi is regarded by many who follow the lowest divisions as one of the very best at 108lbs. Don't take our word for that though but instead that of experts. He's the Ring Magazine champion, the WBA "Super" champion, and is ranked #2 by BoxRec, TBRB and ESPN. He's a fun, exciting fighter and is quickly becoming a YouTube star in his own right, with his own channel being the outlet for this bout.
Simsri is obviously not regarded as highly as Kyoguchi, but he is a hotly tipped Thai fighter who has been dubbed "Srisaket II" by the Thai press and is regarded as one of the brightest hopes in Thailand. He's actually fought in Osaka a few times and despite being in Kyoguchi's homeland we don't see that being an issue for the hard hitting Thai. He'll be there to win and should make for a thrilling bout here.
On paper the best card, from what we know of right now, is the final card which takes on November 23rd and features a former multi-time world champion and 3 world title challengers and a man we have already mentioned for one of his previous bouts. This is being shown by Osaka TV and should, in theory, have the best production values, and the stronger overall name name appeal.
The main event here will see youngster Riku Kano (16-4-1, 8) one of the former world title challengers, battle against Ryoki Hirai (13-6-1, 4) in a brilliantly well matched bout do the vacant WBO Asia Pacific Light Flyweight title. At one point Kano was seen as the super prospect, and fought for a world title when he was just 18! Sadly things haven't gone his way since then, but it's still way too early to write him off. Hirai on the other hand had a terrible start to his career but is very much in the mix for regional and domestic titles. We expect this to be a compelling, and hotly fought 12 rounder for the belt.
Another of the world title challengers on this show is Sho Ishida (28-2, 15), who is best known for his competitive bout with Kal Yafai in the UK. Once tipped as a potential face of Osakan boxing Ishida's career is beginning to struggle and he's likely hoping that a move to Bantamweight will help save give new life to his once promising boxing career. In the other corner is the unbeaten Toshiya Ishii (3-0, 2), the main who faced off with Haruki Ishikawa in that round we shared a little bit earlier. Given Ishii's fun aggressive boxing style and Ishida's need to win to remain relevant this really can't disappoint.
Once again we have saved the best until last with former multi-time world champion Katsunari Takayama (31-8-0-1, 12) taking on multi-time title challenger Reiya Konishi (17-1, 7) in a 6 rounder that could end up being something very, very special. This will be Takayama's first bout since announcing his return to professional boxing earlier this year, afater failing to qualify for the Tokyo games, and there are real questions over what he has left in the tank. On the other hand Reiya Konishi is no push over and has twice fought for world titles, showing his heart and toughness in those bouts. Both of these men like letting their hands go, both get involved in trench warfare far too often and together they have the potential to give us the best damn 6 rounder of 2020!
For those note familiar with Takayama we have have left one final treat below, his incredible war with Francisco Rodriguez Jr, from 2014.
Five for... Eri Matsuda
Last week we saw Japanese female fighter Eri Matsuda (4-0, 1) make her first defense of the JBC female Atomweight title, stopping Mont Blank Miki. The performance was a long way short of a perfect outing from the unbeaten champion, but it was clear she was happy to show more to her boxing than the outside fighting that we had seen in her first few bouts, and she showed she can hang on the inside if she needs to. Given how she has been matched and moved so far it made her an ideal fighter to cover in our "Five for..." series, as we look at 5 fighters who could be next for Matsuda.
1-Mika Iwakawa (8-5-1, 3)
If you're part of Matsuda's team you surely have to believe the focus is on getting her a world title sooner rather than later, which will be a theme through this article. The easiest of the title holders, on paper, is WBO champion Mika Iwakawa. The champion won the WBO title in July 2018, when she narrowly defeated Nao Ikeyama, and hasn't fought since. Instead of being active the 36 year old has been picking up ring rust on the side line, and has only had 14 rounds since the start of 2017. Given her age, her inactivity and her style, which is aggressive but clumsy, she should be the perfect target for Matsuda to pick up her first world title. Don't get us wrong, Iwakawa is a good fighter, but from the champions in the division she's the weak link, and the one with most flaws for Matsuda to pick apart.
2-Saemi Hanagata (16-7-4, 7)
On paper the most interesting, and toughest, bout out there for Matsuda would be a bout with IBF Atomweight Saemi Hanagata. Hanagata, who defended her title last week, is a heavy handed fighter who has shown an ability to box, brawl, fight and move though her career. She's not a destructive fighter or the best pure boxer, but she does everything well, when she's on form. The biggest issue with Hanagata is her inconsistencies and whilst she is a nightmare when firing at 100% she can come up short against fighters she should beat, like she did in 2017 against Shione Ogata and in 2014 against Mida Oda. If Hanagata is on song she'd likely drag Matsuda into a fight and come out on top, but for Matsuda she'd certainly be interested in facing Hanagata, arguably the division's top fighter now, and planting her flag as the best out there.
3-Monserrat Alarcon (13-4-2)
Mexican fighter Monserrat Alarcon recently unified the WBA Atomweight throne, unifying her "regular" title with the interim title of Ayaka Miyao. Last week the talented Alarcon proved she was willing to travel, that she was world class and solid little fighter. She does however lack power, and despite being a good, aggressive counter-puncher she certainly doesn't look unbeatable. If you're part of Matsuda's team you'll have seen Alarcon in action, you'll have been able to scout her recently and been able to pick up flaws with the champion. You could even turn to Miyao as a sparring partner, getting her insight into Alarcon, her flaws and strengths. If you're Alarcon you likely see a bout with Matsuda as a chance to collect another solid Japanese pay day and take a win over their rising star, before Matsuda matures and builds her experience.
4-Ayaka Miyao (23-8-1, 6)
The one fighter on this list that makes sense for Matsuda to pursue a bout with is fellow Japanese fighter Ayaka Miyao. Miyao lost last week to Alcaron, but is still regarded very highly in the division as a former world champion and someone who has a style which could test Matsuda as a boxer. Miyao, even in her mid 30's, is a speedy fighter who uses her foot speed to control distance and her hand speed to land before opponents can respond. At the moment Miyao's career is struggling, with 3 losses in her last 6, but she would likely see a win here as a chance to remain in the title mix. This would be a high-risk bout for both but the winner would be well deserving of a shot at any of the champions.
5-Fabiana Bytyqi (14-0-1, 5)
The final of the champions in the division is the WBC queen Fabiana Bytyqi, from the Czech Republic. The unbeaten 23 year old is a real unknown, despite being the first world champion from the Czech republic. Bytyqi won the WBC title a year ago, almost to the day, by beating Britain's 47 year old Denise Castle, in what was Castle's second world title bout and first bout for more than 4 years, and since then she has defended the belt once, with a draw against Maria Soledad Vargas. She makes for an interesting match up for Matsuda, but on the other hand it will take a solid offer to get her to Japan for a bout, and that makes her the least likely of the world champions for Matsuda to face next.
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).