Last week fight fans at Korakuen Hall saw Japanese Featherweight Ryo Sagawa (10-1, 5) retain his title with a 6th round KO win against Yuri Takemoto (8-2-1, 4). We, however, had to wait until the weekend to watch the bout on tape delay on Fuji TV.
Following the contest we were left with something's we wanted to talk about, and thought it was a great bout to cover for our second Take Aways article
1-Ryo Sagawa is a joy to watch
We all have natural biases in what we like and for us one of the most fun to watch styles are the aggressive technicians. The guys who are skilled but come forward and don't look to win bouts solely on the back foot. Ryo Sagawa fits that mould perfectly. He is very much a joy to watch, pressing forward, jabbing, poking, finding holes and letting shots go. One issue we often see with technical boxer is that they wait for something to happen but Sagawa makes things happen and that is a real fan friendly quality. He also does that without being reckless, but simply by being accurate and busy.
Despite being offensively minded Sagawa also still has big question marks over his chin, which makes every exchange have a sense of tension to it. It's likely his chin will be an issue when he steps up a level, but at domestic level it's part of what is giving every opponent something to make them feel they have a chance.
We don't think many international fans are aware of Sagawa, but they really should be, this kid is a joy to watch, he makes boxing look easy, has under-rated power and when he has an opponent hurt he goes for the kill.
2-Yuri Takemoto has a bright future
Aged just 24 Takemoto jumped at the chance to take on Sagawa at Korakuen Hall. Although we don't often talk about the geographical situation in Japan Takemoto is based in Wakayama, over 300 miles from Tokyo, and was fighting in the capital for just the second time, with the last time coming in the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2018. This was a huge step up in class, against a brilliant fighter and Takemoto acquitted himself really well.
It was too much of a step up, too soon, but he showed enough here to prove that he shouldn't be written off, and we dare say he learned more in defeat than he had in his last 3 bouts combined.
The youngster was ambitious, came to win, fought bravely and fought back despite taking some huge shots. That showed enough to earn him new fans, and prove he has a hell of a chin. Don't sleep on him despite this loss, he should come again in a few years time.
3-The Japanese title still has massive significance
In recent weeks we've seen the WBA pump out "interim" titles like their business model depends on having 4 champions per weight class. In Japan titles are still kept to a relative minimum with the national title having huge prestige. Whilst a Japanese title doesn't match the value of a WBA "interim super duper" trouser keeper up we do need to make it clear that a national title that has top domestic fighters fighting for it helps grow an important national scene.
We don't expect the US to follow suit but we can't help but think that a true national title or a regional title for some countries that don't have one would be a really important stepping stone, and help to eliminate the need for these pointless WBA belts.
In Europe there is the EBU title and in Asia there is the OPBF title. In North America there is nothing similar at the moment in terms of prestige. The NABF, USBA and NABA titles were all supposed to serve that function, but they haven't done the job properly and have fallen by the way side, allowing prospects to win "interim" world titles instead. That's a real shame.
National and regional titles are great things and it's a shame that so few countries have a scene like Japan and the UK in regards to their national titles.
4-Korakuen Hall looks better with fans but...
The bout was held at the iconic Korakuen Hall and was actually the first headline bout at the venue to have fans. That was brilliant, and it's great to see fans back at the "hall". However it did leave us wondering about social distancing and a lot of people seemed to be sat in small clusters on the benches. We know why the venue was only partially filled, and we know why fans haven't been at bouts, but their close proximity to each other here had left us a little bit uneasy.
Unlike some venues, such as the City Sogo Gym in Hirakata, where seating can be placed and spaced with plastic chairs Korakuen Hall has long benches for seats on one side of the ring, giving it a very unique and intimate look. Sadly the venue might be verging on "too intimate" for the current climate.
Not only do the organisers, in this case Misako, need to look at at the number of people in the venue but also how concentrated they are in any region of the venue.
Whilst it may well be a case of the camera making it look crowded, we suspect that changes will need to be made to how fans are allowed to sit in the venue.
Also even a splattering of fans makes a big difference to the whole atmosphere and we suspect other promoters, will be desperate to get fans back in to venues, even if it is a limited number.
5-We wish it had been Hinata Maruta
Whilst we were impressed by Yuri Takemoto's effort, and it was a very brave and credible one, we still wish that Ryo Sagawa had faced Hinata Maruta, as originally expected. We feel a bout between those two men would be something very special and would see both men raising their games to exceptional levels.
We understand why we didn't get it, and really do think Takemoto exceeded all expectations, but it does feel a little bit underwhelming still, given what seemed like a done deal.
A bout between Sagawa and Maruta was scheduled earlier in the year, but we all know what's happened in 2020, and sadly the bout has been put on hiatus, likely until 2021. We still hope we see those two in the ring together, but there is a real worry that the two men may go in different directions. That's because Sagawa is currently world ranked and will likely be looking for those bigger opportunities sooner rather than late.
(Screen shot used to show how close together fans were)
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).