In May 2019 we saw Japan's Ryuichi Funai (31-8, 22) fight for the final time as he faced off IBF Super Flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas. The bout was a one sided beating for Funai, who lacked the speed, tenacity and work rate to get to the Filipino, who was too quick, too sharp and far too good. Following that bout Funai retired from the sport, having achieved one of his dreams of fighting in the US.
Sadly Funai is probably better remembered for that loss than anything else in his career, but the very likeable, friendly and rather quite Funai was in fact a very solid fighter. During his 39 fight career he reached the East Japan Rookie of the Year final, won the Japanese Super Flyweight title, beat the likes of Gakuya Furuhashi, Teppei Kikui, Kenta Nakagawa, Takayuki Okumoto, Warlito Parrenas and Victor Emmanuel Olivo.
In the ring Funai's style was basic, he lacked world class tools, but he still managed to earn a world title fight, a big fight in the US and a chance to fight for a world title before ending his career.
Today we want to shine a light on Funai and his career as we bring you 5 Midweek Facts about Ryuichi Funai
1-Prior to taking up boxing Funai placed basketball at Junior High School, and didn't begin boxing until he was High School and visited the Watanabe gym. Soon afters he began to train as an amateur fighter and managed to run up a 4-4 (2) record, a less than stellar start to his career, but one that gave him something of an under-standing of the ring and how to box, before he began his professional journey in 2005.
2-Like many fighters from Tokyo, Funai spent almost his entire career fighting at the Korakuen Hall. From his 39 professional bouts, 34 took place at the Japanese "Holy Land" of boxing. The other 5 took place at the Super Arena in Saitama, the Sangyo Hall in Kanazawa, the EDION Arena Osaka, the The Ota-City General Gymnasium and the Stockton Area
3-In 2017 Funai beat Kenta Nakagawa in 7 rounds to claim the Japanese Super Flyweight title. Despite the fact the men fought each other they were actually very good, long term friends who had gone to high school together, Tokyo Metropolitan Port Technical High School, and had set up a boxing club together.
Interestingly after their 2017 fight the two had agreed to go to a Ramen shop together, with the loser paying for a meal together. Unfortunately the one they had agreed to go to was closed on the day they went
4-Following his retirement from boxing Funai began to "MR. CHICKEN Chicken Restaurant", where he sold Singaporean chicken rice meals. Since then he has left that job and set up his own business, selling curry from a mobile restaurant. His specialities are "Futara Shoten" and "Keema Curry".
Funai getting into the food industry really isn't much of a surprise and in 2020 he revealed that he was debating going to cooking school instead of becoming a professional boxer. He also revealed that he had trained to be a chef early in his boxing career and had a part time job in a kitchen whilst he was fighting.
5-As well as selling curry Funai is also a boxing trainer, working 3 times a week, at 3 different gyms, including the "SOETE" gym of former Watanabe Gym stable mate Akio Shibata.
The month of May promised a lot for Japanese fighters, with a staggering 8 world title fights featuring Japanese fighters during the first month of the new Reiwa period of Japanese history. Sadly what could have been a huge month for Japanese fighters was a nightmare, with their fighters going 1-7 for the month at the top level. Whilst history was made in Europe, Japanese fighters suffered losses on Japanese, Chinese and American soil, and some defeats were horribly one sided.
The first of the Japanese fighters to fall short was Ryuichi Funai (31-8, 22) who was stopped in the 7th round by Jerwin Ancajas (31-1-2, 21) on May 4th, in an IBF Super Flyweight title bout. Ancajas was a big under-dog, but his performance saw him being totally out classed, and used as a punch bag by Ancajas, who had one of his best performances. Whilst Fuani showed his toughness his lack of defense, speed and movement really cost him hard here and allowed Ancajas one of his best performances so far.
Just over a week later, on May 13th, we saw Masayuki Kuroda (30-8-3, 16) put up a brave effort as he lost to Moruti Mthalane (38-2, 25), in an IBF Flyweight title bout. To credit Kuroda he was always seen as the under-dog and was really competitive in the first half, though ended the bout as the clear loser, suffering awful facial swelling in the process. Kuroda's effort deserves so many plaudits, but at the end of the day Mthalane was too good, too sharp and too skilled.
The third man to lose again put up a brave effort, with Reiya Konishi (17-2, 7) coming up short in an IBF Light Flyweight title fight with Felix Alvarado (35-2, 30) on May 19th. Again the Japanese challenger put up a great effort, and was competitive at times, but was unable to match the champion overall, and was rocked hard late on as Alvarado came close to dropping the Shinsei man. All credit to Konishi for his effort, but he was clearly second best here to the excellent champion
The weekend of May 25th and 26th was a nightmare for Japanese fighters, a real nightmare, with a 0-3 run over the weekend. The first of those to lose was Masayuki Ito (25-2-1, 13), who lost the WBO Super Featherweight title to Jamel Herring (20-2, 10), in what was regarded as a 50-50 bout. Herring really boxed to a fantastic gameplan to out point Ito, who failed to ever get a read on the southpaw stance of Herring.
Just a day later we saw back to back losses for Shun Kubo (13-2, 9) and Sho Kimura (18-3-2, 11).
Kubo put in a fan friendly performance, though was stopped by Chinese fighter Can Xu (17-2, 3) in a WBA "regular" Featherweight title fight. Kubo came to win, and gave a good account of himself, but was worn down by Xu, who made his first defense.
Kimura on the other hand was lacklustre, and very disappointed in himself, as he lost to WBA "regular" Light Flyweight champion Carlos Canizales (22-0-1, 17). Kimura, who dropped down in weight, looked like he had lost 25% of his usual hunger, desire and energy and was rarely a threat to Canizales.
The final set back came on May 31st when former WBO Minimumweight champion Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-7-6, 7) lost a technical decision to WBC champion Wanheng Menayothin (53-0, 18). This rematch was expected to be hotly contested, but Fukuhara was just doing enough to lose competitive rounds to Wanheng, who extended his unbeaten record.
The only shining light for Japanese boxing at the world level this past month was the sensational Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16), who created history in Glasgow by stopping Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-1,12) in 2 rounds to add the IBF Bantamweight title to his WBA regular belt. This bout, on May 18th, saw a Japanese fighter win a world title bout on European soil for the first time, after 20 losses, and proved to be their only success at world level this past May.
Whilst many of those who lost were clear under-dogs, such as Funai, Mthalane and Kubo, others weren't. Kimura was the betting favourite and Ito was a 50-50 shot. To see such a band month is a real worry and one that will linger in the mind of Japanese fans for the foreseeable future, as all the countries other top fighters, several of which have big fights in June and July.
Whilst the month promised a lot, it was a disaster for Japanese fighters, and hopefully not a sign that the Reiwa era will be a bad one for the Land of the Rising Sun.
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).