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.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
This coming Wednesday we get the latest show from Ohashi, who put on their third card since boxing returned to Japan in July. This card lacks a "big name" has go some real talent on it, including a Rookie of the Year winner. From what we gather this card is very much a developmental card, but we won't complain given the inexperience of the prospects involved.
The most notable of the prospects on this card is the hard hitting Kazuki Nakajima (8-0-1, 7), who looks to build on his win in the God's Left Bantamweight tournament back in January. The unbeaten Nakajima will be up against 23 year old Kenta Nomura (7-3, 3), in an 8 round Super Bantamweight bout. We'll admit we felt Nakajima was very lucky to get a draw against Seiya Tsutsumi in January, and was announced the tournament winner on the tie breaker rules, but we have been impressed by Nakajima in the past and suspect he'll show what he can do here. He's basic, but very heavy handed, and very exciting. Nomura is the naturally bigger man, but with 3 losses in his last 6, and 2 by stoppage, it's hard to imagine him surviving 8 rounds with Nakajima here.
Another 8 rounder will see the unbeaten Katsuya Yasuda (6-0, 4) face off with Japanese based Venezuelan Omrri Bolivar (8-3, 3). The talented Yasuda turned professional with some pretty high expectations on his shoulders, but a lack of activity has seen the 28 year old have a career that feels like it has stalled, several times. He turned professional in 2017 and fought twice that year before only fighting once in 2018, then taking 10 months before returning to the ring. He's talented, but needs to get his career back on track quickly, and win here would be a great starting place for that. Bolivar once showed some promised but with stoppage losses in his last 2, and 3 of his last 6, it's hard to see him holding his own with the talented Yasuda.
Arguably the diamond among the rough on this show is 2019 All Japan Rookie of the Year winner at Minimumweight, Katsuki Mori (6-0, 1). The talented, smooth, highly skilled and gorgeous to watch Mori will be fighting for the first time since his Rookie triumph as he takes on the much more experienced Yuki Uchida (7-7, 1) in a 6 rounder. We were really impressed by Mori last year and the 20 year old has the potential to be a genuine contender in the coming years. He is one of the most gifted young fighters we've seen compete in Rookie of the Year in recent years. In Uchida we'll see Mori in with a 27 year old who has shared the with a number of notable fighters, such as Tsuyoshi Sato and Shin Tomita. Uchida will be there to win, and will be there to fight, however we do feel that Mori's advanced skills, and boxing brain, will be the difference here.
We really are closing in on Christmas, and even though we're a few days away we are set for one of the annual treats boxing calendar, the All Japan Rookie of the Year final. As well as the Rookie of the Year's there's a lot of other stuff going on, with a title bout, an eliminator and a host of prospects in action. This Sunday is big for Asian boxing!
Our attention is obvious focused on the All Japan Rookie of the Year final from Korakuen Hall, with G+ airing the show live, and in full. For fans who want to know what makes Japanese boxing special at the lower end this is it. This is the culmination of a tournament that covers the whole country and takes the better part of a year. To get to the final you need to have won your regional final, and you don't get this far by chance. You get here on merit alone, and as a result we get some amazing match ups.
We won't be going through all 12 bouts, but we have picked out favourite match ups from the line.
It's always great to see all-unbeaten fights in the final and at Minimumweight we have one such bout, as Katsuki Mori (5-0, 1) takes on Takumi Chono (5-0, 3). This is a brilliant fight, with both men being young, having very similar records and both proving themselves to get this far. Mori is a sensational pure boxer from the Ohashi gym and will be looking to show case his skills, but Chono is not a push over, and has looked strong and powerful through out. The winner of this will really be one to watch in 2020.
At Featherweight we expect to see fire-works as Kyonosuke Kameda (5-1-1, 4) and Jinki Maeda (3-0, 2) face off. It's been an emotional year for Kameda, the cousin of Koki, Daiki and Tomoki, and only 2 weeks ago there was a a real chance he'd miss out on this bout due to the politics at the Kyoei gym. Now here the hard hitting 21 year old will be wanting to make the most of his opportunity. Maeda has quietly made his way to the final, blowing out his first two professional opponents before shutting out the then 4-0 Hikaru Fukunaga. We expect this one to be the standout bout of the day.
More fireworks are expected up at 140lbs where Kodai Honda (4-1, 3) and Yasutaka Fujita (5-0, 5) will face off. The 20 year old Honda lost on debut, more than a year ago, but has reeled off 4 wins since then, and he has stopped each of his last 3 opponents. Fujita on the other hand has been blitzing opponents and his 5 bouts have lasted just 10 rounds. Expect bombs to be thrown, and to be thrown early here!
Whilst the Rookie of the Year show is the biggest it's certainly not the only show of note, and at the Sumiyoshi Ward Center the Muto Gym will be show casing some of their brightest young talents, as well as a regional champion.
The main event of the show will see WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight champion Yuki Strong Kobayashi (15-8, 9) defending his title against Korean challenger Ki Chang Go (8-3, 4). This will be Kobayashi's first defense since winning the title in May with a minor upset against Ben Mananquil, and he'll be looking to go into the new year with some real momentum behind following a bizarre decision loss to Keita Kurihara at the end of 2018. It's really hard to see what Go offers here, and it was only last year that Go was stopped by career Flyweight Masahiro Sakamoto, a stablemate of Kobayashi's at the time. Our full and in depth previous of this regional title bout can be read here Kobayashi defends against Go in Osaka!
In supporting bouts we'll see a trio of Muto gym prospects taking on Filipino foes. The most notable of the trio is Yusuke Mine (2-0, 1), who takes a huge step up to take on veteran Ardin Diale (35-15-4, 17). This is a brilliant bit of match making from the Muto team, who know that Diale is on the slide, but still very live and has been in there with a who's who of the lower weights. A risky match up for their star prospect, but a win here will instantly launch him into the mix for regional titles. High risk and high reward for Mine here.
Another stellar prospect is Tulio Kuwabata (3-0, 2), who will be fighting as Deka-narudo Torio, who takes on hard hitting Pinoy Ken Jordan (8-1-2, 7). The 23 year old Kuwabata is tipped very highly by those in Japan and has been matched aggressively so far, with this being a pretty logical looking step. Jordan is unbeaten in over 2 years and recently claimed an ABF title, back in August. This is a bout between two youngsters each coming to win, and it should give us some very competitive action over 8 rounds.
The third prospect of note is Ryosuke Nishida (1-0, 1), who made his debut in Thailand back in October. Unlike his fellow hopefuls he won't be in an 8 rounder, but instead he'll be scheduled for 6 rounds against the tough Pablito Canada (7-17-4, 1), and will likely be taken the distance by Canada who has only been stopped twice in his 28 bout career.
A second Osaka, card, this time from the EDION Arena, will also be worthy of some attention.
The main event here is a Japanese Super Flyweight title eliminator, the final of the eliminators to take place this year, and will see former world title challenger Hiroyuki Kudaka (26-18-3, 11) clash with Yuta Matsuo (15-4-1, 8) for the chance to fight Kenta Nakagawa in the new year. At 34 years old a loss will likely send Kudaka into retirement, ending an incredibly interesting and often exciting career, so we expect to see him being fired up for this. Matsuo is no world beater, but he is better than his record suggests and is hoping to secure a second Japanese Super Flyweight title fight, following a loss to Takayuki Okumoto earlier this year. Our in depth preview of this eliminator is available to read here Kudaka and Matsuo to clash in final Japanese eliminator of 2019!
In an 8 round supporting bout Kenta Nomura (6-3, 3) will battle Ryo Suwa (11-2, 2), in a very interesting looking contest. Nomura is looking to bounce back from an August loss to Toshiki Shimomachi, in a Japanese Youth title fight, and although he's nothing special he does tend to make for good fights. Suwa on the other hand has won 4 of his last 5 and will see this as a chance to take a huge step towards a potential youth title fight of his own.
This show will also feature the debut of former amateur standout Kantaro Juri (0-0), who fought in the Asian and World Youth Championships back in 2014, who will be in a 6 rounder at a contracted 53KG's. Sadly his opponent here hasn't been confirmed, though we have been told it will be an Indonesian opponent.
As well as the Japanese action there is also a low level Indian card in Golaghat.
This card will be headlined by Sagar Narwat (9-1-1, 3) taking on Shiva (9-3, 3) in an 8 round bout. For Narwat this is a chance to get back to winning ways following October's loss to Troy O'Meley in Australia. As for Shiva he's now wheeled off 3 straight wins after he suffered a trio of losses on the road in 2017. Sadly this bout aside the card isn't really worth getting too excited about.