For “Remarkable Rounds” our idea has always been to try and mix well known rounds with some less well known ones. This week we look at one of the more well known rounds in recent memory, and it was a round that left many fans becoming huge fans of both men, and amazingly came in the final round of a world title fight, following 11 other really good rounds.
We also have a personal affinity to the fight as it’s one we helped fans see as we worked alongside CBC in building attention to the bout, which ended up being an instant classic, and one of, if not the, best fights of 2018!
Sho Kimura (17-1-2, 10) Vs Kosei Tanaka (11-0, 7)
For this round we go back to September 2018 when Sho Kimura was defending the WBO Flyweight title against unbeaten sensation Kosei Tanaka. On paper the two men could hardly be more different.
In one corner was the underrated Sho Kimura, who had won the WBO Flyweight title in a massive upset in China in 2017. Prior to winning the world title Kimura was pretty much an unknown fighter, with even those in Japan not really being familiar with him. His title win came in a huge shock against Chinese star Zou Shiming, and almost immediately the Chinese fans took Kimura as one of their own. After winning the title he had made two defenses, stopping Toshiyuki Igarashi and Froilan Saludar, before taking on fast rising countryman Kosei Tanaka.
At this point in his career Tanaka was well regarded by hardcore fans, who had seen him winning world titles at Minimumweight and Light Flyweight in his first 8 bouts. Despite only having 11 bouts coming into this bout with Kimura he had already proven himself with wins against the likes of Ryuji Hara, Julian Yedras, Vic Saludar, Moises Fuentes and Angel Acosta. Although not a huge name across Japan he was a star in the Chubu region, and CBC were looking to help build him into a bigger star.
Kimura had turned professional with no fanfare or buzz. He had lost in his debut and had pretty much rebuilt himself afterwards, doing so without any sort of notable publicity. He had just gritted his teeth, improved, and slowly built a reputation as a tough guy with limitless energy. He had no major amateur background, he had no big backing and no TV behind him. Instead he had to grind for every bit of success. He was more of a fighter than a boxer.
Tanaka on the other hand was a former amateur standout. He had turned professional to notable publicity in Chubu, and his career was documented from when he was an amateur right up to this bout. He had been treated like a special fighter, with CBC in Nagoya backing him from the off. He was, for all intents, Chubu’s answer to Naoya Inoue, and like Inoue he was deemed a sensational young fighter, with the ability to be a true national star down the line. He was all about speed, skills, and his very solid amateur pedigree. He was a boxer, albeit one with a warrior’s mentality and heart.
The first 11 rounds of this bout were brilliant. Both men had shown what was in their locker, both men had asked massive questions of the other and both had brought the best out of the other man. They had given us 11 amazing rounds. Yet the best was yet to come.
From the opening seconds of the round the two men went up close with Kimura unloading a flurry, then Tanaka came back, Kimura wasn’t to be denied and continued pressing and seemed to be bossing the round until Tanaka came back at him, showing what he could do. Then the two men each tried to exchange big right hands before we were again into a war of wills up close. In this, lengthy, back and forth, Kimura seemed to take the early advantage and certainly out threw Tanaka but was backed up by the cleaner, harder shots of the younger man. Kimura then turned the tables his way, again, and began to grind down Tanaka with volume until Tanaka, once again, responded.
By the end of the round both men looked exhausted, swollen, glad it was over and with a new found respect for each other. Fans however were left amazing by what they had seen, and knew they had sat through something truly remarkable.
It was a round that was like a mini bout, with multiple momentum shifts through it, various changes in tempo and action and a genuinely amazing round. It failed to deliver a knockdown. Neither man was stumbled or badly rocked. Yet it was still a round that perfectly combined action, drama and skills. It was a perfect round, and an absolutely amazing way to end the fight. A truly brilliant ending to a sensational fight.
One year ago we were lucky enough to work with CBC for the first time. We agreed terms to carry the official stream of their international broadcast for the WBO Flyweight world title bout between Sho Kimura (17-1-2, 10 at the time) and Kosei Tanaka (11-0, 7 at the time).
Entering the bout Kimura was looking to make his third defense of the title, building on not only his title win against Zou Shiming but also wins against Toshiyuki Igarashi and Froilan Saludar. He was looking to continue his remarkable ascent from obscurity to star and build on real momentum that had been generated by his 3 wins at world level.
Tanaka on the other hand was looking to etch his place in history and match the record for fewest fights needed to become a 3 weight world champion, a record of 12 fights set just months early by Vasyl Lomachenko. He was looking to become a 3 weight champion at the age of just 23 and less than 5 years after making his debut.
We had high hopes for the bout. Kimura had been wonderfully impressive in recent bouts, not just his world level wins but also his win against Masahiro Sakamoto. He had shown real grit and determination,a great work rate, under-rated power and amazing energy. In fact he seemed to get stronger the longer fights went on. Tanaka on the other hand was an extremely skilled boxer, who got dragged into fights willingly, he had a reputation for getting into wars and had been dropped dropped twice just 2 fights previous by Palangpol CP Freshmart. Despite being skilled their was a sense of vulnerability about Tanaka that could have been his down fall here.
What we ended up getting was something exceeded expectations. It wasn't just a great fight, instead it was a bout that was widely hailed FOTY contender. A back and forth war that left fans on their seat, they styles of the two men gelling, the mentality of the two battling at the top. The fight was the sort of battle that makes people realise just how good fights with the little men can be.
On this anniversary of the bout we suggest you all relive this instant classic!
We also want to quickly explain that the rematch between Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa and Yasuyuki Akiyama would have been on this list were it not for the fact that it is hidden behind a pay wall and we can't share the fight video. For us that's the best OPBF and best WBO Asia Pacific title fight of the year, and would probably be #2 on top 3.
#3 - Ryoichi Taguchi (27-2-2, 12) Vs Hekkie Budler (31-3, 10)
May 20th – Ota-City General Gymnasium
The first fight on our list of best 3 is the IBF, WBA and Ring Magazine Light Flyweight title bout between Ryoichi Taguchi and Hekkie Budler from back in May. The bout was a thrilling competitive war between two world class Light Flyweights, with very little to split the fighters. Both men had flaws exposed, both men seemed to have a year or two taken off their careers and as fan we had something very special.
Sadly since this bout, way back in May, bout we've not seen either man return to the ring. Taguchi is supposedly in talks for a Spring 2019 return up at Flyweight, in a WBO world title bout, whilst Budler will be facing off with Taguchi's stablemate Hiroto Kyoguchi on December 31st in Macau.
#2 - Akira Yaegashi (26-6, 14) vs Hirofumi Mukai (16-5-3, 6)
August 17th - Korakuen Hall
Our second entry is the fantastic Super Flyweight bout between former 3-weight world champion Akira Yaegashi and 2-time world title challenger Hirofumi Mukai. These took didn't take long to get to know each other, and as the bout went on the action got more and more intense, with round 6 being a contender for round of the year. Mukai tried to use his reach early on but got dragged into Yaegashi's type of fight as the contest played out, becoming more and more of a war.
Neither man has fought since this contest, but both are expected to return to the ring in 2019. Yaegashi has got his eye on fighting for a Super Flyweight world title, something that we don't give him much of a chance of winning, whilst Mukai would likely be looking for one more good run on the regional scene.
#1 -Sho Kimura (17-1-2, 10) Vs Kosei Tanaka (11-0, 7)
September 24th - Takeda Teva Ocean Arena
Our Fight of the Year, not just in Japan but globally, is the WBO Flyweight title bout between Sho Kimura and Kosei Tanaka, a fight that we can't talk highly enough. It was two brilliantly matched fighters, with styles and mentalities that gelled perfectly, it had two men willing to put it all on the line, it had a incredible atmosphere, a high work rate from both men, an amazing sequence from both with right hands in round 12 and it had a young fighter chasing history. This really was, for us, the most exciting bout of the year, the best bout of the year, and a bout that had everything we had wished for and more.
If you've not seen this one we suggest putting an hour away and giving it a watch. If you have seen it, you know what to expect and should make the time to rewatch it, as it's simply fantastic. One of the times where a bout didn't just live up to expectations, but thoroughly exceeded them.
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).