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Japan Update

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By Joe Koizumi
Photos: Boxing Beat

The world traditionally stops working to prepare to celebrate Christmas holidays, but this country of hard-workers has watched title bouts almost every day this week. It may be said boxing is declining, but it is still popular among hardcore fight fans that can pack at least some 2,000 capacity of the Korakuen Hall, a majority of our shows are regularly held in Tokyo.

On Monday, WBC female atomweight champ Momo Koseki (11-0-1, 3 KOs), a southpaw speedster, made her ninth defense as she defeated compatriot Saemi Hanagata (7-3-1, 3 KOs), 101.5, by a unanimous decision (98-92 and 96-94 twice) over ten heats at the Hall. Koseki continually utilized her sharp southpaw lefts to the onrushing challenger, steadily piling up points despite Hanagata’s retaliations.

On Tuesday, WBA#2/WBC#3 Filipino Rocky Fuentes (32-6-2, 19 KOs), 112, scored his sixth defense of his OPBF flyweight belt when he pounded out a unanimous nod (116-112, 115-113 and 117-111) over Japanese challenger Yuki Nasu (23-7, 16 KOs), 112, over twelve hard-fought rounds at the Hall. The hard-hitting Nasu, who had once lost to Fuentes, attempted to avenge his defeat, but the champ was much more aggressive in later rounds as he impressively accelerated his attack down the stretch. It was a good fight, both swapping punches toe-to-toe in the center of the squared circle.

On Wednesday, unbeaten Filipino Arthur Villanueva (20-0, 11 KOs), 115, acquired the vacant OPBF super-flyweight title by eking out a very close but understandable verdict (113-112 twice and 114-112) over Japanese prospect Taiki Eto (10-2, 7 KOs), 115, over twelve give-and-take heats at the Hall. The extravaganza fully entertained the whole crowd but promoter and ex-world champ Yoko Gushiken (who strongly claimed Eto’s victory) as they exchanged knockdowns and had the spectators on their feet. Eto quickly floored Villanueva with a smashing left-right combination just after the opening bell, but the game Filipino promptly stood up and displayed furious retaliations thereafter. The fourth saw Villanueva’s right just touch Eto’s arm when the Japanese was stepping back to avert his attack. Eto hit the deck, but looked to have lost his equilibrium by himself. The referee then counted a mandatory eight against Eto, against which Gushiken furiously claimed that it wasn’t a knockdown but only a slip during the next recess. The open scoring system indicated Villanueva was leading on points after the fourth: all 38-36. The free-swinging Filipino kept stalking the Japanese footworker who occasionally landed good counters but was apparently less aggressive in evaluating their performance. After the eighth, the official tallies announced were all 77-73 for Villanueva. Then, the tide almost turned in round nine, when Eto became very loose and badly hurt Villanueva with a flurry of punches with the ref taking a count near the ropes. Gushiken angrily said, “Without the referee’s standing count, Eto could have kept on battering him and scored a TKO victory.” We fully agree what Gushiken insisted on, but it’s no use crying over the standing count already taken. Eto exhausted his stamina after his desperate ninth-round assault, and Villanueva obviously became slowing down to make it like a fight of sleep-walkers. It was also a very competitive entertaining fight. The newly crowned champ Villanueva is obliged to fight the OPBF top contender and formidable compatriot Demecillo Marco Singwancha in his initial defense.

On Friday, a Japanese title doubleheader was an attraction that drew a nearly sell-out crowd at the Hall. Busy-punching Suyon Takayama (17-1, 7 KOs), 146.75, was awarded a vacant national welterweight belt as he earned a hard-fought unanimous decision (96-94 twice and 98-92) over muscular footworker Koshinmaru Saito (18-5-1, 10 KOs), 147, over ten. After this supporting bout, at least one-third of the audience left the Hall without watching the main event. Before a sparse crowd, Hisashi Amagasa (22-4-2, 15 KOs), 126, very barely kept his national featherweight throne by a split duke (96-95, 97-94 and 95-96) over shifty southpaw Masayuki Wakimoto (20-4-1, 7 KOs), 126, over ten. It was such a close affair as either could be a victor, since neither was apparently more effective throughout the contest. The elongated champ kept missing roundhouse blows, while Wakimoto couldn’t show his aggressiveness enough to dethrone the champ despite occasionally scoring a few good southpaw left only at a time.

This reporter is now traveling to Kobe city, where ex-WBC champ Hozumi Hasegawa will make a comeback against Mexican Arturo Santos today (Saturday). Please don’t call this country’s fight schedule crazy though there are a couple of shows on Christmas Eve here in Japan. Furthermore, on the last day of the year, we will see no less than three world title bouts in Tokyo, and two more in Osaka. The first show in 2013 will take place at the Hall on January 5, when sensational light-fly genius Naoya Inoue will face Thai champ Ngaoprajan Chuwattana in his second pro bout. When on earth will our fight scribes take a rest?




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