Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
We get the first live televised Japanese card of the year this coming Saturday, though it's a relatively small show from Kadoebi with the focus more on debutants than established names, with one very clear exception.
The one exception on the card will see OPBF Welterweight champion Riku Nagahama (12-2-1, 4) make his first defense of the title he won back in February 2020, as he takes on Ryota Toyoshima (12-2-1, 8) in a very interesting looking match up. The talented Nagahama has bounced back well from stoppage losses to Takeshi Inoue and Yuki Nagano, and is currently riding a 4 fight winning streak, including his title winning bout against Kudura Kaneko last year. Despite that run he still has question marks over his toughness and his chin. Toyoshima on the other hand is unbeaten since a 2017 loss to Masaharu Kaito, who also gave him his first loss way back in 2015. The challenger has won his last 5 and certainly enters the bout as the puncher, but a win here would be his most meaningful by far. Our preview of this bout can be read here Potential thriller as OPBF champion Nagahama takes on Toyoshima!
In the middle of the card is another bout between two men with some experience as Japanese ranked Super Flyweights Chikato Sumida (9-3, 1) and Ken Achiwa (12-15-5, 4) clash in an 8 rounder at Bantamweight. Coming into this the 27 year old Shumida has won 5 of his last 6, and will know another win will continue to move him towards a title bout. On the other hand the 34 year old Achiwa has only scored a single win in his last 6, though he is much better than his record suggests and should give Sumida a bit of a test here.
Most of the card here is based around introducing some Kadoebi promoted novices, who will make their debuts. One of those is Flyweight hopeful Jukiya Iimura (0-0), who went an excellent 68-13 in the amateurs. He’s being matched in a 6 rounder against 36 year old Daisuke Yamada (6-5, 1), who reached the East Japan Rookie of the Year final, back in 2016 when he was then blasted out in a round by Junto Nakatani. We suspect Iimura will have too much for Yamada, though it’s nice to see him making his debut in a 6 rounder.
Another of the debutants, this time at Super Bantamweight, will be Jun Ikegawa (0-0) who takes on Kakeru Yoshikawa (4-1-2) in a tough looking debut. As an amateur Ikegawa went 51-15 and was a very solid amateur in the Kansai League, where he made his name as a talented southpaw. The 23 year old Yoshikawa has gone unbeaten in his last 4, and is unbeaten since July 2017. Notably he enters this bout following back to back draws in 6 rounders, and may well have the stamina and experience to ask real questions of Ikegawa.
Another of the debutants is 21 year old Yugo Kon (0-0), who notched a 23-11 amateur record during his relatively short career in the unpaid ranks. He’s been matched with Koji Tsurumi (4-3-1, 1) in a 6 round bout at a contracted 54.5KG’s (just over 120lbs). Kon wasn’t the deeply experienced amateur that some of the others on this card were, but he seems to be incredibly hungry to prove a point and we suspect he could end up being moved relatively quickly over the next few years. Although his record might not show it, Tsurumi is going to be in a confident mood here, having taken the unbeaten record of Shion Yokoyama 2 bouts ago, and scoring a draw with the aforementioned Kakeru Yoshikawa.
In an all debutant bout Kadoebi fighter Yudai Murakami (0-0) will be taking on Naoki Shimizu (0-0) from the MT Gym, in a 4 rounder at Lightweight. Murakami went 29-6 in the amateurs, and does have some hype behind him as he begins his career. Reportedly Shimizu went 14-7 in the amateurs, and will be regarded as the under-dog here in what will be the opening bout of the show.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
The first Japanese show of 2021 comes to us this coming Thursday thanks to Hideyuki Ohashi who puts on the next show under the Phoenix Battle series. This is a card that has a brilliant main event, but really the key part of the card are the bouts below it, which are all intriguing bouts for touted prospects.
We'll start with the main event, which will see OPBF Bantamweight champion Keita Kurihara (15-5, 13) defending his belt against former WBC "interim" Bantamweight champion Takuma Inoue (13-1, 3), in what is a puncher Vs Boxer bout. For the heavy handed Kurihara this will serve as his second defense, following his title win in late 2018 against Yuki Strong Kobayashi and a win here would likely see him taking huge strides towards a world title fight. As for Inoue this will be his first bout since losing to Nordine Oubaali in 2019. For Inoue a loss would be very hard to come back from, and he'll be incredibly focused here making for what should be an excellent match up. Our full, in depth, preview of this one can be read here Keita Kurihara Vs Takuma Inoue - The first big Japanese fight of 2021!
In an excellent looking 8 rounder we'll see the fast rising Katsuki Mori (7-0, 1) take on Sora Takeda (6-1, 1) in a battle between two Rookie of the Year winners. In 2018 Takeda won Rookie of the Year at 105lbs and since then has added two more wins to record, giving him a 6 fight winning streak since a loss on his 2017 debut. Mori won the Rookie of the Year in 2019, and has only fought once since then. Of the two men Mori seems to be the more promising man, who has shown more so far in his career, but this is certainly not a gimme either way.
One of two highly regarded novice prospects on this card is former Japanese amateur stand out Ryutaro Nakagaki (1-0, 1), who takes a huge step up in class from his debut to take on fellow southpaw Yuji Okinori (10-5-2, 3). The 21 year old Nakagaki is tipped as a future champion and was a stellar amateur on the Japanese scene before making his professional debut last year. When he turned professional the worry was about his power, but he showed he had plenty of pop on his debut. In Okinori we have we have a 27 year old who asks questions, and comes in with a bit of momentum following back to back TKO wins. We strongly favour Nakagaki, but this is a legitimate test.
The other highly regarded professional novice is Keisuke Matsumoto (1-0, 1), the son of former world title challenger Koji Matusmoto, who looks for his second win as he takes on Bejita Ishikawa (3-12-2, 1). Matsumoto was given a test on debut, and had to pull himself off the canvas to secure victory, though showed great composure and the mentality that should take him far in the sport. Ishikawa on the other hand is well known for his gimmick, of dressing up like Dragon Ball Z character Vegeta, hence his ring name of Bejita. Ishikawa is unlikely to provide much of a test, but it's going to be good to see Matsumoto back in the ring, as he is tipped as something special, despite the issues on his debut.
We've not really have much action to kick off the year but it will be picking up over the next few days. Before we see shows in Japan we do actually get one in India of all places as "Project Solutions" promote a show in Gurgaon. Sadly this isn't a particularly big show, but there is some stuff to discuss from it.
The most notable fighter on the show is 25 year old Shiva (11-3-1, 5) who will be looking to extend a 6 fight unbeaten run as he takes on Manish Harode (1-3-1). This 8 rounder is certainly not a big fight, but it could end up being a lot more competitive than it looks on paper. Shiva might be experienced, but he's not yet proven what he can do, as he continues fighting at a low level, and was held to a draw last time out.
Another 8 rounder on this card will see unbeaten 140lb hopeful Sachin Rohila (3-0, 1) look to build on his promising start to professional boxing as he takes on Sahil Sahil (1-1), who notched a win back in November. It's We're not 100% on why these two are scheduled for an 8 rounder, though it's always interesting to see novices fighting longer bouts and seeing them needing to dig deep in the tank.
Sadly, Shiva aside, there is no one this show with more than a handful of fights, though credit to the promoters for trying to basically build the Indian scene from nothing.