On Tuesday at Korakuen Hall we had an interesting card headlined by world ranked Featherweight Reiya Abe (20-3-1, 9) taking on the then unbeaten Ren Sasaki (10-1, 6). The bout was regarded as a must win for Abe, who had gone 1-1-1 in 2019 and could ill afford another set back, and a potential coming out party for Sasaki, who was unbeaten but relatively unknown. In the end Abe ended up taking a decision, in an all southpaw bout, but what did take from the contest?
Lets discuss that in our latest Five Take Aways.
1-The step up showed for Sasaki
In his first 10 bouts Ren Sasaki had done a lot. He had won Rookie of the Year, had fought overseas and won the Knock Out Dynamite Tournament. He had also taken a number of unbeaten records and had looked promising. Sadly however for him there is a huge step up in class from facing the likes of Ge an Ma and Morihisa Iju, who we actually thought was unlucky against Sasaki, to facing Reiya Abe. This was a massive step up in class, and despite some moments the gulf in experience and ability showed in the middle and later rounds. Hopefully however this experience will help Sasaki going forward and help him develop as a fighter.
2-This was really high level stuff
One of the things that we tend to enjoy about Japan is seeing two aggressive fighters facing off, or an aggressive and a defensive fighter. This bout however was two very high level defensively minded, smart fighters. As a result we got a bout that didn't feel very Japanese. It was lacking the excitement and drama of a typical Japanese bout, but was still hugely intriguing, with both men laying traps, using angles and feints, trying to draw leads and countering, and using intelligent footwork. This was high skill Japanese boxing at it's best, and not fighting.
3-Japanese crowds can make noises even with masks!
We have bemoaned the silence of a masked Japanese audience in these articles in the past, but the crowd really appreciated the skills on show here with plenty of applauds and even some of the banned cheering. The idea that Japanese audiences are silent really is wrong, and is a myth that has some how been repeated for decades, but they are respectful and do appreciate a good bout between fighters they have bought into. That was the case here, as both men drew response after response from the crowd. When Abe was hurt in round 3 we got some pretty constant noise as the fans were sucked in by the action. Given the Korakuen Hall had less than 1,000 people in it this was a solid amount of noise.
4-Abe needs to stop playing with his food!
We have been consistently impressed over the years with Reiya Abe's skills. The guys is a natural in the ring, he's got an incredible ring IQ, solid speed, a brilliant judge of distance and is often one step ahead of his opponents. He really is a brilliant boxer and in terms of his raw ability and skills there are very, very few in Japan, at any weight, that match him. He does however lack in other areas, for example his power, work rate, tenacity and killer instinct. Quite a few times during his career, and again here. Quite often it seems he's happier to show what he can do, rather than closing the show and this actually quite frustrating to watch. He needs to stop playing with his food, put the hammer down, and make a statement!
5-Tetsuya Iida had a pretty easy day
During this series we've wanted to talk about more than just the action and the fighters. We've already mentioned the crowd and now we want to mention the referee, Tetsuya Iida, who didn't really do a lot. Unlike in the west where some referees feel they are part of the action and must be seen and heard by the fans in Japan the referees tend to play as little role as they can. They tend to let the action speak and only really get involved when they need to. There's no regular catchphrases from the referees and nothing of them trying to make a song and dance about themselves. They are their to officiate the bout. Iida did just that and was rarely needed here. To be totally honest he could probably have sat outside of the ring for most of this bout and only broke up a handful of clinches. Not only that but he spent most of the bout out of shot and rarely obscured the view of the judges. We can't help but feel referees in the UK and US need to watch how Japanese referees do things and try to spot the little things they do
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).