After a bit of a break from events at Korakuen Hall return to the Japanese boxing "Holy Land" this coming Thursday for a really good looking card featuring an OPBF title bout, two Hajime No Ippo 30th anniversary tournament semi finals and two under-card bouts featuring notable names!
The main event will see Riku Nagahama (11-2-1, 4) take on unbeaten Japanese-Afghan Kudura Kaneko (11-0, 8) in a bout for the vacant OPBF Welterweight title fight. The talented Nagahama has won 3 in a row since losing to Yuki Nagano in May 2018, and will be getting his second title fight, follow a loss in a Japanese Light Middleweight title bout against Takeshi Inoue. Kaneko on the other hand is someone who is getting his first title fight, but has earned it on the back of impressive wins against the likes of Toshio Arikawa, Rikuto Adachi and Moon Hyon Yun. Neither of these two are well known, but a win here will put the winner on the map, and see them become the new OPBF champion. Our preview of this bout can be read here Kaneko and Nagahama clash for OPBF crown!
In one of the two Hajime No Ippo 30th anniversary tournament semi finals we'll see hard hitting and teak tough Korean fighter Jae Woo Lee (7-2, 6) take on Japan's Shingo Kusano (12-8-1, 5). On paper this could end up the more fun of the two semi final bouts, especially given the quarter final bouts the men were involved in. Jae Woo Lee got past Tsuyoshi Tameda in a 3 round war, whilst Kusano was dropped multiple times before bouncing back to beat Qiang Ma. This could be a thriller, but it's hard imagine Kusano handling the pressure of Lee.
The other semi final will see Filipino fighter Richard Pumicpic (21-10-2, 6), who had a bye in the round of 8, take on Daisuke Watanabe (9-4-2, 6), who advanced on the basis of a technical draw against Koshin Takeshima. This is the tougher of the two semi finals to predict. Pumicpic is, and has long been, an under-rated terror to face off with, but he is the naturally smaller man and is on away soil. Watanabe has an incredibly under-rated record, and on his day is a threat with his solid boxing and heavy hand. We expect another exciting fight here, though this could easily end up being a real mess, with head clashes, if the fighters aren't careful.
One of two notable fighters on the under-card is former OPBF Minimumweight champion Tsubasa Koura (14-1, 9), who will be up against Ariston Aton (9-2, 5). Koura, who hasn't fought since losing the OPBF title last year to Lito Dante, was originally scheduled to face Yujie Zeng (14-10-1, 6) before Zeng was replaced by Aton. For Koura the clear purpose of this bout is to rebuild however Aton is no push over and he was very competitive last December against Tatsuro Nakashima.
The other notable fighter on the under-card is former Japanese Lightweight champion Shuhei Tsuchiya (23-5, 18), who who has his first fight since June 2017, as he takes on Shogo Yamaguchi (11-5-3, 6). Tsuchiya was in the ring in January, albeit in a public exhibition, after his planned opponent failed to secure a visa, and we suspect he'll come on top here. As for Yamaguchi he has scored just 2 low level wins in his last 9, and was stopped last time out by Masanori Rikiishi.
The main focus this coming Tuesday is on the Korakuen Hall the much anticipated Hajime No Ippo 30th anniversary tournament quarter-finals. The card features the 3 quarter-final bouts and we are expecting serious fireworks in some of these.
The standout bout among the quarter finals will see the unbeaten Koshin Takeshima (4-0, 3) take on the criminally under-rated Daisuke Watanabe (9-4-1, 6). The talented Takeshima will be looking to build on solid wins already this year over Jian Wang and Jon Jon Estrada, but this will be his first bout against a fellow Japanese fighter. Watanabe on the other hand is unbeaten in his last 4, including a KO win last time out against Dai Iwai, and is unbeaten since a 2018 loss to Reiya Abe. This is by far and away the most interesting of the 3 quarters and should be a very hard one to call.
In a bout with an international flavour we'll see China's Qiang Ma (5-1-2, 3) take on the out of form Shingo Kusano (11-8-1, 4). Although this is Ma's international debut he does appear to have all the momentum coming into this and is unbeaten in 7 bouts, including a win last time out for a minor, regional, WBO belt. The 30 year old Kusano has lost his last 4 bouts, and is win-less since a February 2016 victory over Apisak Puttawong, who has gone 0-6 since losing to Kusano.
Whilst we would be shocked by a Kusano win over Ma that's not the quarter final we see as the biggest mismatch. Instead that mismatch is the quarter-final pitting the huge punching Tsuyoshi Tameda (21-4-2, 19) against Korean Jae Woo Lee (6-2, 5). Coming in Tameda should be regarded as one of the clear favourites for the tournament and he's looking for his 4th win of the year, and his 9th win in 10 bouts. Lee, a former Korean Featherweight champion, has a punchers chance, but he's been out of the ring since March 2018 due to injuries and should be regarded as a very, very clear under-dog. If Lee comes out swinging this could be very fun, but we see Tameda's power and experience being too much for the visitor.
Also on this card is the highly touted Masahiro Suzuki (3-0, 2), who looks to continue his ascent to big fights as he takes on fellow Japanese fighter Hokuto Matsumoto (5-2, 1). this will be Suzuki's second bout against a Japanese foe, as he looks to build on August's win over Kosuke Arioka, and net his third victory of the year. We regard Suzuki very highly, but this isn't a gimme. The light punching Matsumoto was stopped last time out, by Kenta Endo, but is a tough and talented fighter and he will be looking for an upset win here.