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Japanese heavyweight situation

By Joe Koizumi

We, in Japan, have many excellent boxers in smaller classes, but a very few good ones in heavier divisions than the middleweight category. We see our national champs only up to the 160-pound class. Therefore, it is delightfully shocking that the Japan Boxing Commission (JBC) has authorized sensational tournaments to decide the new Japanese heavyweight champion.

Fast-rising ex-martial art fighter, Kyotaro Fujimoto (6-1, 4 KOs) will cope with 40-year-old Japan-based Ugandan Okello Peter (21-6, 19 KOs) in a quest for the vacant national heavyweight belt in Tokyo on July 25. Fujimoto, 26, once produced a great sensation as he defeated world-rated American Chauncy Welliver by a unanimous decision to be rated in the top fifteen by the WBC.

His sweet dream didn’t last long as he badly tasted his first setback at the hand of Australian Solomon Haumono via fifth round stoppage in a bid for the long vacant OPBF throne last September. Kyotaro, strange enough, looked to have left his fighting spirit in Tokyo prior to his Haumono defeat in Osaka as he showed nothing but moving around only to be flattened by a single shot of the more experienced Aussie.

Beneath the Fujimoto-Peter headliner, once-beaten Rio Hidaka (10-1, 8 KOs) will face compatriot Masataka Takehara (7-8-3, 3 KOs) in an eliminator to decide the next challenger to the winner of the main event in his initial defense. The previously unbeaten Hidaka, a stocky and sturdy puncher, lately dropped a unanimous decision (79-75 twice and 78-76) to tall French heavyweight Gregory Tony over eight frustrating rounds on May 24. Tony utilized his advantageous height and reach to nullify Rio’s vaunted power-punching throughout the contest. Takehara also suffered a very bitter defeat by Lucas Browne only 68 seconds into the first round in Richmond, Australia, this March.

Speaking of technical level of these four heavyweights including the ageing Ugandan Okello, none of them belong to world class at this moment. But our customers seem to get interested in watching big boys compete each other with a higher expectation of a knockout or TKO than in such bouts of smaller boxers.

In Japan young athletes, tall and big, seldom enter the boxing world—chiefly because of low purses and less attention—but try their abilities in baseball, sumo, or other amateur sports. We just wish the new Japanese national heavyweight champ’s coronation might be such a stimulation for youngsters to test their fists for fame and fortune in the near future.




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