Just over a week ago Japanese fight fans at Korakuen Hall saw talented youngster Taku Kuwahara (8-0, 5) scored his latest win, over-coming Yoshiki Minato (9-4, 4) in what was a truly fantastic 8 rounder at Super Flyweight. The bout was one that was easy to overlook if you didn't follow the Japanese domestic scene, but ended up over-delivering on every front. It was a contest between two highly skilled youngsters, fought at a brilliant tempo through out and the two delivered one of the best bouts we've seen in Japan in 2021.
With the bout having been aired around a week ago we've given a watch, and another watch and have now decided to talk about the bout in more detail as we give it the Five Take Aways treatment!
1-Fuji done goofed!
Prior to the bout Fuji TV showed clips of the two men, and tried to get some words from both men. Sadly the words from both fighters were pretty drowned out by some music, making very, very difficult to catch what either man was trying to say. It's a real shame as they only had to reduce the volume on the music to help add to this bout. A simple mistake to correct, especially given this was a pre-recorded segment, and music was clearly added over the top of the videos, but a mistake all the same. Thankfully this is not something we are used to seeing from Fuji TV and is, at least for now, a one off.
2-These two put on a showcase of boxing
When this bout was first announced, back in 2020, the expectations were high. Both fighters were known as very talented youngsters with bright futures ahead of them. It was assumed they would both look to take home a victory, and it was generally sold as an East Japan hopeful against a West Japan hopeful. Boxing fans who followed the Japanese scene knew these two could put on a great bout, but few would have expected something as good as we got. Both men really did go out there with the intention of not just winning, but winning over new fans and winning over the judges. They put on something of a technical war, with Kuwahara's skills up against Minato's will and genuinely this ended up being a very special bout.
The folk behind this deserve big props for their match making, and the fighters also deserve credit for signing up to the bout, and performing the way they did. Both were a joy to watch, with Kuwahara's body shots being a genuine delight.
3-Time for Kuwahara to fight for titles!
Taku Kuwahara has been on our radar since his debut in 2018 and he's proven his talent time and time again, with good performances against the likes of Takamori Kiyama, Jonathan Refugio, Ricardo Sueno and now Yoshiki Minato. He's been described as a prospect or hopeful for the last 3 years, though now he needs a chance to prove what he can do and to be given a shot for a title. We aren't sure whether he's going to commit to Flyweight or Super Flyweight, but the reality is he could mix with regional and domestic title holders in either division and fingers crossed we see him get that type of opportunity next. He's too good to hold back, and he's answered enough to prove he belongs at a higher level. Time for Mr Ohashi to let him prove what he can really do!
The bout seemed like a pretty fair win for Kuwahara, who seemed to be a bit better in every area, though to see two judges have this a shut out, and the third judge give Minato a single round really does feel harsh. Minato held his own through out. Every round was competitive, and it's a case where more 10-10 rounds would have reflected the actual nature of the bout a lot more accurately than what we got. Looking at the scorecards, this looks like an easy win for Kuwahara, it certainly wasn't.
Although Kuwahara won the majority of the rounds, we felt there was 2 or 3 rounds that could, and maybe should, have gone Minato's way. Sadly for him the three wise men didn't agree. It's hard to say the judges got it wrong here, but it's a shame we didn't see at least one judge from West Japan, and it a real shame that Minato's work wasn't reflected on the cards.
We didn't agree with 80-72 or 79-73, though we can understand how the judges got there. For us it was a lot, lot closer than those cards suggest, and it's a shame that Minato didn't get a bit more recognition for his work.
5-Fuji have another potential star
Fuji TV have, for a few years now, been the most important free to air channel in Japanese boxing, and they have been pushing boxing a lot in recent years. They have the likes of Naoya Inoue and Ryota Murata on their channel and have linked up with various other notable fighters, such as Kenshiro Teraji and now former world champions Daigo Higa and Masayuki Ito, in recent years. They also seem to be building a very good stable of fighters through their agreements with various promoters. We've seen the likes of Rentaro Kimura, Ryutaro Nakagaki and Keisuke Matsumoto all get a lot of attention on Fuji Broadcasts over the last 12 months or so.
With that said, Taku Kuwahara also appears to fit that that mould of young, charismatic, talented fighter that they have working alongside, who should be given the limelight. Sure he's not the next Naoya Inoue but he's a sensationally talented young fighter, with an exciting aggressive style and a defense that sometimes seems like it could get him in trouble. He's TV friendly, he's got a good team behind him, and if Fuji get on board with him, we genuinely think they could have another future world champion to focus their broadcasts on. He's only 25 now and there is a lot of time for him to be moved not just on to regional titles, as mentioned above, but also world titles.
Bonus take away -
Do not write off Minato!
This was Yoshiki Minato's third loss in 4 bouts. He has gone from 8-0 to 9-3 in less than 2 years. Despite that do not write him off! He's 22 years old, he has been matched hard, he has shown what he can do, he's a very solid young prospect and on he back of this performance he certainly has the ability to mix at, if no win at, Japanese and Oriental title level. We would go as far as to sat the one thing he is missing, and needs to work on is something that will come naturally. Physical maturity. He still looks a little bit of a feather fisted fighter, but give him another 12 to 24 months and he will be one to keep a serious eye on the domestic scene. A really under-rated youngster, with the potential to go a lot, lot further than his record currently suggests.
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).