One of the more meaningful bouts from the last 7 days of Asian boxing saw Japanese Light Middleweight champion Hironobu Matsunaga (17-1, 11) score a 7th round TKO win over mandatory challenger Yuto Shimizu (14-5-2, 5), as part of the Champion Carnival. The bout was a pretty interesting one on paper, with the all action Matsunaga taking on the bigger, craftier Shimizu, and proved to be a decent one in the ring, though perhaps it was a little underwhelming given the pre-fight hopes.
With the bout now in the bag however it's one we want to talk about in more detail as we'll discuss our Five Take Aways from Matsunaga Vs Shimizu
1-Matsunaga is must watch
Stood at around 5'5" Matsunaga doesn't look like a Light Middleweight, especially not in this day and age of Light Middleweights regularly coming in close to, if not over, 6' tall. Despite that he is among the most fun fighters in the division to watch. He's like a terrier, who is always pressing forward, a fast, aggressive fighter who brings pressure, output, and an exciting style. Whilst it's obvious that he won't be mixing with the top guys in the division, he is carving out a very solid career for himself and is also becoming one of the most fan friendly fighters in Asia. Yes he's diminutive, but he's don't let that distract from the exciting style he brings to the ring.
2-Shimizu never got Matsunaga's respect
In recent years Yuto Shimizu has had real success by getting the respect of his opponents, using his size well and making the most of being a 6' foot tall guy with long arms and legs. He has used his reach well against the likes of Charles Bellamy and Nobuyuki Shindo, and made life tricky for them. Here however he never got Matsunaga's respect, he could never force Matsunaga back, and the champion just kept coming. In part that was due to the lack of output from Shimizu, who really did look timid, and in part that was due to the agility, movement and pressure from Matsunaga, who really never stopped moving, pressing and swaying. As a result of this we dare say Shimizu was a mentally broken man, well before he was stopped in round 7.
3-Open Scoring works Fine...but...
For years now Japan has employed open scoring for JBC, OPBF and WBC world title bouts. They are one of the few countries, that use the system and use it well. Whilst we won't say we've never seen a fighter in the lead cruise the final few rounds, we will say, again, that it works, and it worked here, as it has regularly worked in Japan. But it does take certain things to be in play.
Firstly you need fair judging, which is something that we've not always seen in some some countries. With out that open scoring, and scoring in general if we're being honest, doesn't work. It also requires consistency from the judges, again something we don't see, and it needs accountability, we think you know that that also doesn't seem to exist.
From what we've seen in Japan open scoring isn't the issue, and we can't think of many cases where open scoring has harmed a bout in Japan. The issue, around the world, is poor judges repeatedly getting assignments and repeatedly messing up.
With that said, we have no idea how a judge gave Shimizu 2 of the first 5 rounds here!
We know others will disagree and are staunchly against Open Scoring, and we get that too, but seeing it in use, regularly, has left us feeling it works. Though it needs to be noted it works less well in Thailand, where judges have been less consistent, fair and even in their scoring of bouts. Fingers crossed that changes one day
4-There's interesting bouts out there for Matsunaga
We'll admit the Japanese Light Middleweight scene isn't the most interesting to a global audience, and Takeshi Inoue aside we don't think many fans in the west could name a current Japanese fighter at 154lbs. Despite that the scene it's self is an interesting one for those who follow it and Matsunaga certainly has some interesting bouts available to him for the next year or two. Obviously a clash with Inoue would be great be we'd also absolutely love to see Matsunaga take on Akinori Watanabe. Alternatively a rematch with Yuki Beppu, who is the only man to beat Matsunaga, or a bout with Ryosuke Maruki, which would provide fireworks, or a bout with Rei Nakajima, or potentially a bout wih Keita Obara, if Obara can be tempted up a weight.
5-Kazutoshi Yoshida timed his stoppage well
On first look at the stoppage, live and in real time, we felt that referee Kazutoshi Yoshida let the punishment go on a bit too long before stepping in. On reflection and reviewing, we take that back. He got the stoppage bang on. Yes Shimizu had been in trouble earlier in the round but he was fighting back, aware of where he was, trying to spoil and smother. The final, huge, right hook from Matsunaga however jacked back Shimizu head and it was the perfect time to step in. Credit to Shimizu for remaining up right but it's fair to say he had no issues with the stoppage. We dare say he knew he was a beaten man, and he knew Yoshida have given him every chance he could.
Once again we're actually praising referees, what is wrong with us?
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).