Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Let's be honest April started like a month on fire with a lot of action in the first few days of the month, and it's been nice to have a few days to catch our breath. But we're back on April 8th with the next show from Korakuen Hall and it's one that we're really excited about. It features a Japanese title bout, the Japanese debut of a highly regarded prospect and the next bout in the career of a very exciting puncher!
The exciting puncher in question is Yasutaka Fujita (6-1, 6), who came runner up in the 2019 All Japan Rookie of the Year. Since his Rookie run he has fought just 19 seconds, blowing Kensuke Nakamura out last September. Here he will be up against the decent Shun Akaiwa (5-2-1, 3) in a scheduled 6 rounder. Akaiwa started 2020 with a career best win, stopping Kenta Endo, but ended the year having been blitzed in 45 seconds by the destructive Jin Sasaki. We suspect Fujita will try to replicate Sasaki, and this could mean we get a very, very explosive match up. If you're in the venue for this one don't blink!
The prospect making his Japanese debut is Go Hosaka (4-0, 3), who fought his first 4 bouts in the Philippines under the guidance of the now defunct ALA Promotions. Since ALA folded, in 2020, he has signed with Misako in Japan and will be looking to show what he can do as he takes on Kanta Fukui (7-3-1, 5). So far in his career Hosaka has looked like a fantastic prospect, with lovely technical skills, sharp punching and good movement, though he hasn't really had to answer too many questions in his 4 fights so far. Fukui has proven to be a decent fighter on his day, had success in the 2018 Rookie of the Year, pushed Shuma Nakazato close and held Yoji Saito to a draw. He is however 2-2-1 in his last 5 and lacks the technical tools that Hosaka has. For a first fight in Japan this is a genuine test for Hosaka, but one he should pass, albeit one he'll have to work for.
The main event will see Japanese Welterweight champion Keita Obara (23-4-1, 21) make his first defense, following his title win in February 2020, as he takes on the tough Shoki Sakai (25-11-2, 12). The 34 year old champion had sadly been out of the ring for well over a year now and his hopes of securing another big international fight, like his 2016 world title bout with Eduard Troyanovsky, appear to be over. As for Sakai he only made his Japanese debut last August and this will be his third fight on Japanese soil. Aged 30 Sakai is the younger man, but certainly has more miles on the clock and is very much a fighter who has taken significant punishment during his career. The styles here should gel well, with Sakai being a pressure fighter, marching forward and Obara being a rangy boxer, and we expect some genuinely exciting action here. The winner of this likely gets a defense towards the end of the year but for the loser, it's really hard to see where to go, and we suspect retirement may loom if either man gets stopped. Our in depth preview of this bout can be read here Obara faces Sakai in first Japanese title defense!
After what has been a good August for fans of the Asian scene things slow down massively in early September. Which is a huge shame, as it seems to kill some of the growing momentum we've seen in places like Japan and Kazakhstan. Despite that we do get a Japanese show this coming Thursdays from Tokyo, it's a small show but pretty notable one all the same.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
This show sadly only features two bouts, but both are expected to be interesting ones.
The only supporting bout will see 2019 Rookie of the Year runner up Yasutaka Fujita (5-1, 5) take on Kensuke Nakamura (4-8-2). Since losing in the All Japan Rookie of the Year final last December, in a barn burner against Kodai Honda, we've seen Fujita change gyms and sign up with the Misako gym. The transfer to the well established gym is expected to see Fujita improve his boxing skills, and partner them up with power and aggression. On paper Nakamura is a weak opponent for Fujita, but the idea will be for Fujita to show those in charge at Misako what improvements he's been making, and to rebuild his confidence after the loss to Honda. We expect this one will be fun, be we do expect technical changes from Fujita.
In the main event Shuichiro Yoshino (12-0, 10) will be defending his JBC, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific Lightweight titles against veteran Valentine Hosokawa (25-7-3, 12). For Yoshino the bout serves as his first defense of the triple crown and he will be coming in to the bout in search of a 9th straight stoppage. The hard hitting champion had has some issues at times, but he's proven to be a very good boxer-puncher and the hope, from him and his team, is for him to move beyond regional title level in the near future. As for Hosokawa the 39 year old is looking to become a 2-weight Japanese champion having previously held the Light Welterweight title. Despite his age Hosokawa is still very much a live fighter and a very under-dog here. We wouldn't be surprised at all if Hosokawa's aggression and work rate drags the very best from Yoshino here in a very good match up. Our full preview of this bout can be read 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.