The excellent Boxing Raise service is one of those that we suggest every fight fan wanting to follow Japanese boxing at least considers subscribing to, at least on and off, and the service has regularly delivered some of the best fights we’ve seen every month. In December the one absolute stand out bout was the Super Flyweight clash between Ryoji Fukunaga (13-4, 13) and Kenta Nakagawa (19-4-1, 12).
The bout saw Fukunaga unify the WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight title, which he held going into the bout, with the Japanese title, that Nakagawa held, and the previously vacant OPBF title, to see him end the year a triple crown winner. It wasn’t however just a big fight in terms of the silverware on the line, but also the in ring action with the bout being a truly brilliant fight, one of the legitimate Japanese Fight of the Year contenders. In the end Fukunaga, the bigger puncher, came out on top, thanks to a 10th round TKO but before we got there we had everything we could ask for, and the two men really delivered something special.
1-Kadoebi’s pre-fight presentation added something
Before the ring entrances Kadoebi played something of hype package before hand showing highlights of the two men along with interviews of the two fighters and a voice over of someone building up anticipation for the bout. Whilst the fight really didn’t need anything to build it up, it was still great to see Kadoebi going the extra few steps and delivering a really nice build up video. If we’re going to have to wait a few moments for a fight then using something like this is fantastic, and something we really should start seeing in the west, rather than going to a studio team who end up chatting garbage for far too long. This was short, it was sharp, it made the bout feel a little bit more important and let us see, and hear, from the men we were about to see fight. It was only a minute or two but it served its purpose really well and added a little bit of extra gloss to the fight.
2-Fukunaga can really take a shot!
Whilst we already know Ryoji Fukunaga was a big puncher, what this bout showed is that he can really take a shot too. This wasn’t shown too much early on, but as the bout progressed, and as both men grew tired, both landed with alarming regularity and both seemed to buzz the other with clean shots, that were followed up on. Amazingly whilst Fukunaga was buzzed a few times he never really looked close to going down. He has been down in the past, and was down in his previous fight against Froilan Saludar, but here he looked like a man possessed with staying on his feet no matter what. It was a testament to grit, determination and toughness for him to stay up right in rounds 8 and 9 in particular. More about those rounds a little later. When a man is fighting and has that “you’ll never stop me” mentality, he’s a very, very hard man to beat, and we saw that so much here. He physically and mentally beat Nakagawa here.
3-The all-southpaw dynamic wasn’t an issue
Often when we get all-southpaw bouts the dynamic of the fight is off, with many all-southpaw bouts feeling awkward and failing to catch fire. This was not one of those bouts. The two men shared respect for each other early on, but when they began to find their groove, and get comfortable this became a bout that got better and better as it went on. Early on both men took their time looking to find their range, used their jabs and began to lay the groundwork for what was to come later in the bout. Nakagawa was dropped in round 4, and from there on fireworks were seen regularly between the two men, who had no issues at all with their opponents stance. This was perhaps the best all-southpaw bout of 2020, and it is one that seriously deserves a watch as the drama unfolds in amazing fashion.
4-Rounds 8, 9 and 10...what the hell!
We had some amazing fights in 2020, and some fantastic rounds, though rarely have we had back to back round of the year contenders. This fight however gave us just that with rounds 8 and 9, and what we had of round 10, being insane. The action started quickly in both rounds, and saw the two men both landing bombs, both looked out on their feet several times, before responding with a huge burst of shots of their own. It seemed like both men had not just fought themselves to a standstill but also fought the other into waking up, and digging deeper and deeper into their energy reserves. Going beyond the point of fighting on fumes, and beyond the tank being empty. This was almost 8 and a half minutes of pure brutality and beautiful violence. If you haven’t got boxing raise these rounds alone are worth the price of a month subscription and are absolutely sensational.
Action, drama, determination, desire, brutality, heart and jaw dropping back and forth. These rounds were simply awesome.
5-Yuji Fukuchi did an amazing job
It seems like we’re always praising Japanese referees in this series but they often deserve, as Yuji Fukuchi did here. A less referee would have jumped in multiple times during this bout. Ian John Lewis for example would have denied us much of the fight. Fukuchi however allowed this to go on, even when both men were rocked, tired, and looking close to spent. He gave the fighters the chance to fight back, he let them show their heart and their fighting spirit and made it clear that they were allowed to fight. He did an amazing job by letting the fight flow, by letting the bout come to a natural conclusion and made a perfect stoppage when he finally stepped in and saved Nakagawa. His patience and understanding of the fighters, the understanding of the bout he was officiating, and what the fight meant allowed him to do the perfect job and few would have done as good a job as Fukuchi did. We’ve praised Michiaki Someya and Nobuto Ikehara multiple times during this series but Fukuchi did just as good here. Genuinely fantastic from the referee.
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).