Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
It's fair to say that February is set to be a very, very quiet month with less action scheduled for the month than there was in January, also a super quiet month. Thankfully however this coming Thursday there is a notable show taking place at Korakuen Hall, and it's a genuinely exciting card with a Japanese Youth title fight and Japanese title fight both set for the show. Better than that, is the fact both of the title fights look very, very even and very interesting on paper..
The show only has 4 bouts on it in total. The most interesting of those will see Shinnosuke Kimoto (6-4, 2) take on Shota Ogasawara (5-3, 3) in a 6 round Super Bantamweight bout. Incidentally this is their second bout, but more about that in a moment. Coming in to this Kimoto is looking to rebound from a majority decision loss to talented youngster Tom Mizokoshi, a loss than ended a 2-fight winning run for him. As for Ogasawa he'll be fighting for the first time in over a year, following his loss in the 2019 All Japan Rookie of the Year. Although he lost last time out in a notable bout Ogasawara is better for a different loss, his thrilling 2019 loss to Ryugo Ushijima. As mentioned these two have fought before, with Ogasawara beating Kimoto back in 2017, in what was Kimoto's debut. Fair to say Kimoto will want revenge here!
The first of the two title fights on the show will see Ryu Horikawa (3-0-1, 1) clash with Yudai Shigeoka (2-0, 1) in a sensational looking Japanese Youth Light Flyweight title fight, for the vacant title. The 20 year old Horikawa impressed in his 2019 debut and impressed even more in his second professional bout, when he beat Yuki Nakajima, though was unlucky in his third bout when he was controversially held to a draw in China against Xiang Li. Horikawa is a very skilled and quick boxer-mover and will be looking to make the most of his slick footwork here. On the other hand Shigeoka, the older brother of Ginjiro Shigeoka, looked promising on debut and sensational in his second bout, as he calmly outboxed OPBF Lito Dante over 6 rounds. Shigeoka looks the more imposing fighter, the physically stronger and more polished, but also the man with the slower footwork. This should be a genuinely fantastic match up, and a really high level bout between two sensational youngsters. Our preview of this bout can be read here Horikawa and Shigeoka battle for Youth crown in Tokyo!
In the main event we'll see Japanese Featherweight champion Ryo Sagawa (10-1, 5) defend his belt against mandatory challenger Hinata Maruta (10-1-1, 8), in a bout that was originally scheduled for 2020 but was delayed due to Covid19. For Sagawa this will be his third defense since beating Reiya Abe for the vacant title in 2019 and he looks to continue an excellent 9 fight winning run which has seen him defeat Junki Sasaki, Ryo Matsumoto, Al Toyogon and the aforementioned Abe. The champion has looked fantastic in recent bouts, but there are question marks about his chin and durability. On the other hand Maruta, who turned professional with a lot of buzz, has failed to meet the expectations put on his young shoulders, however a win here would see that buzz return. Aged just 23 Maruta has the tools to go a very, very long way, but a 2017 loss to Hidenori Otake slowed his rise and a controversial draw against Ben Mananquil also slowed him down. Coming in this the challenger has won his last 3, and has shown a more aggressive side to his boxing than earlier in his career. Our in depth preview of this bout can be read here Sagawa and Maruta clash at last, in Japanese title bout!
Yoyogi First Gym, Tokyo, Japan
As well as the show at Korakuen Hall there will also be a special event at the Yoyogi 1st Gym in Tokyo. This however isn't one you'll find on Boxrec and is instead a charity event where we'll get 7 exhibition bouts, and nothing that will go down on a fighters record. Despite that it's something that is worth being aware of, in part due to the fighters featured on it, including several world champions, amateur standouts and genuine Japanese stars.
One of those will be an potential dream bout as WBA "Super" and Ring Magazine Light Flyweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi (14-0, 9) shares the ring with the now retired Akira Yaegashi (28-7, 16), who himself held the IBF Light Flyweight title along with titles at Minimumweight and Flyweight. It's a shame the careers of these two didn't over-lap as this is a brilliant match up.
Another retired former world champion on this show will be former WBA Super Featherweight champion Takashi Uchiyama (24-2-1, 20) who will be in the ring with current Japanese national Super Featherweight champion Kosuke Saka (21-5, 18). Although Uchiyama would be strongly favoured to win, had the two men clashed for real, this could be an interesting exhibition, especially given that Uchiyama is in fantastic condition.
A third former world champion included in the event is former WBO Flyweight champion Sho Kimura (19-3-2, 12) who will be battling with former K-1 fighter Yoshiki Takei (0-0), who makes his professional boxing debut in March. Whilst not the greatest match up it will be a chance to see what Takei brings as a boxer, and we always love seeing Sho Kimura in the ring.
Former world title challenger Takeshi Inoue (17-1-1, 10) will be taking on amateur standout Yuito Moriwaki in one of several bouts between professional fighters and amateurs. Another of these will see 140lb hopeful Andy Hiraoka (16-0, 11) share the ring with Japanese Olympian Daisuke Narimatsu and the a third will see Japanese Youth champion Jin Sasaki (10-0, 9) [佐々木尽] face off with the very highly regarded Seon Okazawa.
We've saved the best until last, and that's a bout between WBA "super" and IBF Bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue (20-0, 17) and former WBC Flyweight kingpin Daigo Higa (17-1-1, 17) [比嘉 大吾], in what should be a sensational exhibition bout over 3 rounds and something worthy of paying the hefty admission fee for. This is two big names, both in their primes, facing off in a bit of a dream fight, even if it is just an exhibition.