Bantamweight Title Fight Preview Between Naoya Inoue and Jamie McDonnell
By: Ste Rowen
This Friday at Ota-City Central Gym in Tokyo, Jamie McDonnell, 29-2-1 (13KOs) will once again step away from home comforts to fight a man, most boxers would rather avoid. The Doncaster native, and WBA ‘Regular’ bantamweight champion will step into the ring with the much feared, Naoya ‘The Monster’ Inoue, already a two-weight world champion in just 15 pro fights.
It’s been almost four years since McDonnell picked up the vacant WBA ‘Regular’ after stopping 52-3 (34KOs), Tabtimdaeng Na Rachawat with a crushing left hook, and since then, the former IBF titlist has fought just six times, fighting twice in 2016 and once last year – a Monaco rematch with Liborio Solis that ended in a ‘No-Contest’ due to a cut above the left eye of McDonnell.
In my end of 2017 UK P-4-P rankings, McDonnell was a ‘notable exception for those same reasons. Such a talented fighter deserves to be in the ring more often, but now he has the perfect opportunity to remind boxing fans just how good he is when he takes on ‘The Monster’,
‘Right now, I am in unbelievable physical and mental shape like never before,’ Jamie told Sky Sports, ‘I have a good understanding that Naoya Inoue is a great boxer and a knockout artist…and he’s pound-for-pound, but I can box with anyone.’
‘I’m unbeaten for the last 10 years, and I’m a long-time world champion…I don’t think Inoue has fought someone like me in his entire career.’
Along with the record to back up his claims, McDonnell also brings a significant size and reach advantage into the bout. The two boxers came face to face earlier in the week and the difference between them was clear, but it’s not something ‘The Monster’ is overly worried about. Speaking to ‘Boxing Mobile Japan’ he said,
‘It isn’t easy to find those kinds of fighters in Asia…It’s the first time that I’m going to face a fighter that tall. But it’s the same when meeting any fighter for the first time, there’s always something new to contend with.’
‘I think it’ll be similar to the Omar Narvaez fight in terms of intensity…McDonnell is a tough fighter, but I want to knock him down with one punch.’
If victorious, Inoue, 15-0 (13KOs) will technically become a three-weight world champion, after picking up titles at light-flyweight and super-fly, and the Japanese phenomenon has also confirmed his place in the upcoming bantamweight World Boxing Super Series, assuming he gets the win this week.
It took Naoya just six pro bouts to pick up his first world championship honours by stopping 29-2-1, Adrian Hernandez with a brutal right hook. He defended the WBC belt just once before jumping up two weight classes to take on Narvaez for the WBO strap at super-fly. ‘The Monster’ continued to live up to his nickname by carrying his much-hyped power through the weight divisions and wiping out his Argentinian opponent in two rounds.
The Japanese has only gone the full distance twice, 10-rounds with recently dethroned light flyweight, Ryoichi Taguchi and 12 dominant rounds with David Carmona – who takes on Kal Yafai in Fresno, also this weekend. McDonnell however has a wealth of experience, including in high level bouts, going the 12-round distance on nine occasions, including his two impressive points wins over Tomoki Kameda back in 2015.
Whoever comes out victorious in Tokyo on Friday, it’s hard to envision a bout that doesn’t entertain. Whether it’s six minutes out of your day as, Naoya plans, or if it goes the full twelve, this could end up being the perfect way to start your Friday.
Top Rank Results: Ryota Murata KO’s Blandamura in Japan
By: Ken Hissner
Japan’s 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist Ryota Murata, 13-1 (10), lost a disputed decision in his first attempt at the WBA World Middleweight title to Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam, 36-2, on May 20th 2017 by split decision at the Ariake Colosseum in Japan. In the rematch he won the title stopping N’JIkam in the 7th round on October 22nd at Kokugikan, Japan. His first defense was Sunday at the Yokahama Arena promoted by Top Rank on ESPN2 easily stopping his challenger Emanuele Felice Blandamura.
Ryota Murata, 14-1 (11), of Tokyo, Japan, stopped European Middleweight champion and Ranked No. 5 Emanuele Felice Blandamura, 27-3 (5), of Roma, Lazio, Italy, at 2:56 of the 8th round in defense of the WBA World Middleweight title at the Yokohama Arena, in Japan, over 12 rounds.
Photo Credit: Top Rank Boxing Twitter Account
In the first round Blandamura kept moving around the ring jabbing with an occasional left hook with Murata stalking him. In the second round Murata landed a hard right to the chin of Blandamura who was standing in front of him with hands held high. Blandamura landed a double left hook while moving backwards mostly blocked by Murata. Blandamura landed a 3-punch combination to body and head of Murata.
In the third round Murata who is a slow starter starts opening up more landing a left hook to the body and right to the head of Blandamura. Murata landed a solid right to the chin of Blandamura. Referee Raul Caiz, Jr. warned Murata for hitting behind the head. Murata went on the attack after this with solid punching right hand to the head of Blandamura. In the fourth round Murata landed several right hands to the head of Blandamura who tried countering but Murata blocked those punches. The light punching Bladamura is landing jabs and left hooks that have no effect on Murata. Murata landed two right hands to the chin of Blandamura. Murata got another warning from referee Caiz for hitting behind the head.
In the fifth round Blandamura landed a 3-punch combination to head and body of Murata. Murata received yet another warning for pushing the head of Blandamura down. Murata lined up a right to the head of Blandamura who came right back with a double left hook to body and head. Murata warned by referee Caiz for pushing. Murata backed Blandamura into the ropes where Murata is most successful landing rights to the head of Blandamura. In the sixth round a right to the ribs from Murata hurt Blandamura. Murata landed a double left hook to the body and head. A straight right to the chin of Blandamura spun him around as he was hurt. A chopping right from Murata on the chin of Blandamura got his attention. The 38 year-old Blandamura is slowing down afoot.
In the seventh round the 32 year-old Murata continued to stalk and land right hand after right hand to the head of Blandamura. Murata landed a stiff right to the head ob Blandamura followed by a left hook to the body. In the eighth round Murata landed a pair of rights to the head of Blandamura who fired back of a right of his own to the head of Murata. Murata landed a solid left hook to the body of Blandamura. Murata landed five unanswered punches to the head of Blandamura. He chased the running Blandamura before catching him with a terrific right to the head of Murata on the head of Blandamura knocking him to the canvas. Referee Caiz started counting and wisely waved it off before finishing the count.
After losing the first two rounds Murata started the beginning of the end for Blandamura by the eighth round. The audience was so polite they even clapped for the Italian anthem something that would never happen in the US.
WBC World Flyweight champion Daigo Higa, 15-1 (15), of Tokyo, Japan, failed to make weight and was stopped 1:42 of the 9th round to WBC International champion Cristofer Rosales, 27-3 (18), of Managua, Nicaragua, in a scheduled 12.
Flyweight southpaw Junto Nakatani, 15-0 (11), of Sagamihara, Kanagawa, Japan, well ahead defeated Mario Andrade, 13-7-5 (3), Mexico City, MEX, by TD8 in a scheduled 10.
American Boxers Fighting Out of Japan Back to 1961!
American Boxers Fighting Out of Japan Back to 1961!
By: Ken Hissner
Japan is a hot bed for boxers with quite a bit of activity on the small island. In the past such boxers as America’s Steve “Flasher Ishibashi” Smith was one of those boxers to win Japan‘s National Title.
Japan produced 209 boxing events in 2016. Already in 2017 they have had 46 events with 20 scheduled into June. Some prominent boxers have come from Venezuela but not in the numbers of American’s who primarily were serving in the US Military in Japan when turning professional.
Having turned professional in April of 1971 Smith was 8-2 while fighting out of Japan including two bouts in Australia and South Korea while living in Japan. In his eleventh bout he won the Japanese middleweight title knocking out champion Cassius Naito, 24-3-2 in February of 1973.
In Smith’s next bout after becoming Japan’s champion he was knocked out by Billy “Dynamite” Douglas, 26-6-1, who was brought in from the USA. He would go onto win five of his next six fights in Japan including re-winning the vacant Japanese middleweight title in April of 1974. This would be when Smith decided to return to the city he was born in Philadelphia, PA.
In October of 1974 Smith would make his USA debut on the undercard of the Emile Griffith and “Bad” Bennie Briscoe undercard. He defeated out Nick Peoples, 6-17-1, at the Spectrum. He would soon meet up with the tough competition of future world champion Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, 10-1, in January of 1975 at the Spectrum and Philly’s Stanley “Kitten” Hayward, 30-10-4, at the legendary Blue Horizon in April losing both by stoppage. In October he would travel to Paris and was stopped by Jean Mateo, 26-3-1. He would return to Philadelphia scoring three consecutive wins including over Bobby Payton, 10-0, and Willie Warren, 41-26-1. He would then run out his career in four bouts on the road including a stop in Johannesburg, South Africa. He lived in Tokyo, Japan.
The first to this writer’s knowledge was George Carter, 20-11 (10), of Lakeland, GA. He would debut in Japan on May of 1961 defeating Japanese veteran Hachiro Tatsumi, 77-24-6, over ten rounds. He would fight out of Japan with occasional bouts in the USA until the end of his career in July of 1972.
After Carter won two of his first ten round bouts in Japan he went to Philadelphia in January of 1962 and was defeated by one of their best future boxers in Dick Turner, 10-0-1, at the legendary Blue Horizon. After winning one of two bouts in Massachusetts Carter would return to Japan losing two bouts including one to South Korean Olympian and future world champion Ki-Soo Kim, 9-0-1, in January of 1964.
Carter wouldn’t fight again until the end of 1966 losing in Japan then going to Korea in a rematch with Kim who was then 25-0-2. After being inactive for almost a year he would go onto win seven of his next eight bouts in Japan. In February of 1970 he won the Japanese super welterweight title defeating future WBC & WBA super welterweight world champion Koichi Wajima, 13-1, only to lose the Japanese title two months later to Wajima by split decision.
Carter would go onto win four out of five all knockout wins earning an April 1971 Japanese middleweight title bout with champion Turtle Okabe, 16-8-4, winning the title over ten rounds. He would go onto win his next four bouts including two title defenses before going to Australia and losing to world contender Tony Mundine in February of 1972. Some five months later back in Japan Carter would lose what would be his career final bout in July of 1972. He lived in Kawasaki, Kanagawa, Japan.
Kevin Palmer, 24-1-1 (15), out of New York City debuted in Japan in February of 1993 living in Yoksuka, Kanagawa, Japan, until his final bout in August of 2001. He would go 8-0-1, then winning the vacant Japanese middleweight title stopping Naotaka Hozumi, 6-0, in the tenth and final round.
In Palmer’s second defense he defeated Yoshinori Nishizawa, 10-8-4, whom he had drawn with previously. In September of 1996 he won the OPBF middleweight title defeating Jung-Mo Kim, 17-1-1, over twelve rounds. He would go onto win his next ten bouts including five title defenses before losing his first and last bout in a rematch to Naotaka Hozumi, 17-2-1 in August of 2001.
Another American boxer who found success in Japan was Frederick Roberts, 38-7-2 (20), from the Bronx, NY, fighting as Rick Yoshimura. He would lose his first two bouts in New York starting in 1983 before moving to Akishima, Japan, in November of 1987 going 15-3 winning the Japanese super lightweight title and dropping back to lightweight taking that title. He would make twenty-two defenses including a draw. In February of 2001 he would fight to a draw for the WBA lightweight title to Japan’s Takanori Hatakeyam, 24-1-2, over twelve rounds. He would not get a rematch and went onto losing his last two bouts with the final one in October 2003.
Carlos Elliott, 26-3 (22), out of Huntsville, AL, debuted in Japan in 1983 until 1991 winning the Japanese super welterweight title in 1985 and the OPBF title in 1987. In his fourth bout he knocked out Chung-Jae Hwang, 26-2, in South Korea. He would lose in an attempt to win the Japanese welterweight title and another loss in Indonesia. He was 25-1 in Japanese rings. In his final bout he February of 1991 he would lose to Gilbert Dele, 26-0-1, for the vacant WBA super welterweight title in Guadeloupe. He lived in Hachinohe, Aomori, Japan.
Charles Bellamy, 26-3-2 (17), from New York City, fighting as Charlie Ota debuted in Japan in 2006 going onto with both the Japanese and OPBF super welterweight titles in 2010. While living in Hachioji, Tokyo, Japan, he had two fights in New York. In March of 2012 he defeated Gundrick King, 16-7, at MSG, and in November of 2013 defeated Mike Ruiz, 17-7, in Brooklyn.
Following the Ruiz fight in May of 2014 Bellamy lost to future and current WBC super welterweight champion Jermell Charlo, 23-0, in Montreal, CAN, over twelve rounds. In his next fight in December he would lose by split decision to Yuki Nonaka, 26-8-2, in an attempt to regain his Japanese super welterweight title in December. He would go onto win one bout in 2015 and one in 2016 before fighting to a draw in his last bout in January of 2017 to Yuki Beppu, 14-0.
Paul “Takeshi” Fuji, 34-3-1 (29), of Honolulu, Hawaii, would debut in Japan April of 1964 winning five bouts before returning to Hawaii winning another five bouts. Upon his return to Japan he won the vacant Japanese super lightweight title in June of 1965.
In November of 1965 Fuji would return to Hawaii gaining a win before losing to Johnny Santos, 27-2, over a two week span. In September of 1966 he won the OPBF super lightweight title. In April of 1967 he won the WBC and WBA super lightweight titles knocking out Italy’s Sandro Lopopolo, 39-4-5, in Tokyo, where he was residing. He made a defense in November of 1967 knocking out Germany’s Willie Quatuor, 57-6-5. In November of 1968 he lost his WBA title to Argentina’s Nicolino Locche, 89-2-14, in Tokyo. He would go 3-0-1 before retiring in May of 1970 in his final bout.
More Boxing History
Everybody Has a Game Plan ‘Til You Get Hit: The Anthony Macias Interview Part 3
Everybody Has a Game Plan ‘Til You Get Hit: The Anthony Macias Interview
Part Three of Three: The Gracie Hunter, The Janitor, and Fighting on the Side Shows
By William Colosimo | email@example.com
William Colosimo: That fight at UFC 6 obviously strained your relationship with Albin- but as far as Oleg is concerned, you came back at the next UFC to corner him vs Ken- so that match you had with Oleg didn’t hamper your relationship with him at all?
Anthony Macias: You know, he didn’t speak a whole lotta English when he was here then. We didn’t pal around like every day and stuff, it was just in the gym, and we’d hang around every now and then- but we weren’t really close friends. No, it didn’t… not from my point of view- I had a little animosity towards him- but that was my own fault, you know? I should’ve told Buddy to screw off, and… well, you’ve seen me fight Dan. And then, you’ve seen me fight Oleg. So, you tell me. Did I fight Oleg? (Laughter) It’s pretty obvious if you’ve ever seen me fight.
WC: So basically what you’re saying is if you’re willing to fight Severn, who’s a monster- why wouldn’t you be willing to fight Oleg, or put up a better fight against him, or-
AM: Well, not only that- he had a knee injury. Oleg had a knee injury, and he had that cut on his eye from UFC 5- which was only about three months prior to that- so yeah, yeah, I could’ve… I trained with him a little bit, so I already knew a little bit about his style, what he was gonna try to do. Dan- it was just… never seen the man, except for at the press conference- and just went in there and fought. So yeah, I would have fought Oleg.
WC: Oh, that makes a lot of sense- you knew his weakness with the damaged knee and the cut.
When you trained with Oleg, he was known for that tuck under knee bar and a guillotine- were there other techniques that he had that he was really good at that he never got to showcase in those early fights?
AM: Yeah, man- well, his ankle crank- he’s got a really, really good ankle lock. Not a heel hook or a toe hold, but a regular achilles ankle lock. The day that he fought Ken Shamrock in UFC 7- we were all staying in the hotel together: me, Buddy Albin, and Oleg- we were all staying in the same hotel. It was like a suite- it had two different rooms, or three different rooms. And he gets me up at like five in the morning- he’s like “Anthony, Anthony- let’s wake up and exercise like morning workout.“ I go, “Okay.” He gets me in a leg lock, and he will not stop cranking on it. My ankle goes “pop, pop”- I go “Oleg, Oleg, stop!” And he just kept cranking on it. So, yeah he had a really, really good ankle lock. That’s exactly what he was going for whenever Renzo up kicked him.
WC: He got Dave Beneteau with that in their second match too, now that I think about it.
AM: Yeah- he’s got a really good ankle lock. But his rolling knee bar was beautiful- I learned that quickly.
WC: You went on a tear right after your UFC stint- you were in three different eight-man tournaments, you won all three of them; that was all in ’96:the Oklahoma Free Fight Federation (OFFF) 1 and 2, I think, and then IFC-
AM: Yeah. Okay, well- let me get the record straight here. They’ve gotten a couple of tournaments, but what they’ve forgotten is, for Dale Cook- I fought on a Thursday- (Editor’s Note: 3/21/96) I fought an eight-man tournament on Thursday, which they didn’t get in Sherdog. Won an eight-man tournament there, then I went to Enid (Oklahoma) on Saturday, and won an eight-man tournament there. (Editor’s Note: the OFFF 2, held on 3/23/96)
WC: Where did you win the second one on Saturday?
AM: Enid. The first one was in Lawton, Oklahoma.
WC: Oh, okay.
AM: That may be on Alex Andrade’s fight (record), but it’s not on mine for some reason.
WC:I’ll have to check that out. So then, were both of those shows the OFFF?
AM: They were… it’s the “Freestyle Fighting Federation,” is what the organization was called. It was Tony Holden and Dale Cook.
WC: And was that March of ’96?
AM: Yeah, it’s March, I believe, of ’96.
WC: Okay. That was March, and then-
AM: Two days right before that, I’d fought another eight-man tournament down in Lawton, Oklahoma.
WC: And do you remember any of the fighters that you had fought in that one?
AM:Oh man. I do, man- I’ve got them on tape I think, somewhere. But it’s some VHS shit (laughter).
WC: It looks like here on the Sherdog record, they’ve got you for one of the eight-man tournaments in February of ‘96. March ’96 was the other Oklahoma one. And then they had IFC 2. So you had the one that was uncredited, you said- and then it looks like those other three. So it might have been fourdifferent eight-man tournaments you won in 1996.
AM: Yeah, I did a little bit of work in ’96.
WC: At this point was this your career? Did you think this was what you were going to make your living at? Were you dedicated to the NHB at this time?
AM:Well, I didn’t know because… let’s see, ’96, there still weren’t any weight classes yet, I don’t think. You’re talking to a 180 pound guy by the time now, I guess, and I’m 180 pounds- against Mark Kerr? (Laughter) You see what I’m saying? So, I never got a call back from UFC or anything. I just tried to stay on the side shows, and I do a little work here and there. Had a little fun.
WC:And then after you won those four different eight-man tournaments, you went to Extreme Fighting 3 to fight Allan Goes. That was a frustrating fight, because he kept cheating.
AM: Yeah, dude- I don’t know why he didn’t get disqualified. I do not understand that. The commission was there. I could have bit his ear off just as easily.But I ain’t like that, that’s just, I’m not… I wasn’t brought up that way, brother. I’m not that kind of sportsman. “Aw damn it, you beat my ass, good job, hell yeah, let’s go again later.” You know what I mean?
WC: Unless I heard it wrong- it sounded like after he fouled you for I think the third time, you had tapped-but the referee was coming in to stop it anyway. Did he tell you that he was gonna disqualify him, but you tapped first?
AM: No, he didn’t say anything. I said”Get this mother f-er off of me”- because he kept cheating. He already head butted me a couple times, and fish hooked me. And so I said, “Get this mother f-er off me,” and I guess that was the verbal submission, so…
WC: I gotcha. I didn’t know if the ref was stepping in to stop it because of the disqualification or what.
AM:I’ll tell you the hardest I’ve ever been hit was by Vladimir Matyushenko in IFC. Dude, he hit me so hard I woke up next year.
WC:Is that the finals of the eight-man tournament you fought him in? That one?
AM: Yeah, that’s one of them.
WC: Okay. I remember the second one was pretty quick due to- I think- a cut over the eye?
AM: Yeah. The same eye that he dropped a knee on two months before- which I was stupid to take the fight; I should have waited six months and let my eye heal. And yeah, one punch cut it right back open- same eye.
He hit the hardest. And I’ve been… hell, I’ve ducked down into kicks before. And dude, that boy could hit (laughter). He didn’t knock me out, but I realized after the fight… me and my corner guys are standing there at the end of the cage- most people are leaving, and I’m like, “Where’s my bag?” And they’re like, “It’s in your hand.” And right at that moment, I woke back up and I don’t remember anything in between him hitting me the very first punch, and that moment of me standing there just saying “Where’s my bag?”It started coming back as time went on, but I didn’t remember anything right at that point. I was like “So… what happened?” (Laughter)
WC: So in that third fight of the night, you were basically on automatic pilot once…
AM: Yeah. Good guy though, he’s a nice guy too.
WC:And then a little bit after that, you had the Kazushi Sakuraba fight. Now Sakuraba, a lot of people considered him possibly the greatest of all time. You had a great back and forth fight with him. It seemed like his gas tank might have outlasted yours a little bit.
AM: Man, I took that fight on two weeks’ notice.
WC:Who contacted you about that one?
AM: Okay, there’s this little circle called Andy Anderson, Buddy Albin… (laughter) and if you’ll remember, Andy Anderson was at almost all of the IFC’s- he was the referee.
WC: I wanted to ask you about Andy Anderson. He fought on UFC 5, and then after that it seemed like every PPV you could always catch him in a crowd shot in the audience. Basically, what was Andy’s role in the NHB world? Did he become more of a promoter or a manager?
AM: Yeah, promoter, manager, kind of event coordinator… I know that the IFC that they did in Kiev, Ukraine- he basically paid for that entire show.
WC: What was your relationship with him? I know you said he was a training partner at one point.
AM: I had a great relationship with Andy. I worked for him for eight and a half, nine years- I managed about four different strip clubs- he owned a corporation, he owned different clubs. And I managed four of those clubs for him. We were real good friends, up until the point he went to jail.
But I guess he got contacted by… was it “EC”? Is that who does that, or…
WC: As far as who did Pride at the time?
AM: Yeah, yeah, I wasn’t for sure who it was.
WC: It was this company called KRS (Kakutougi Revolutionary Spirits) I think, for the first four shows, and then they got sold- and I don’t know what they were called exactly after that. (Editor’s Note: Dream Stage Entertainment)
AM: I met a bunch of different people, but I know none of them owned it. (Laughter)
WC: But anyway, Sakuraba… you guys were- in my opinion- pretty darn dead even in that first round. What are your thoughts-
AM: Man, he is a master, brother- he is a master.
WC: That he is. That’s what I wanted to ask you, now that you were in the ring with him- what were your impressions of him? Do you think he was the greatest, or one of the greatest of all time?
AM: Well, you know, definitely one of the greatest- of course. I don’t know about the greatest. Anybody could be: Anderson Silva, Royce Gracie at different points in their career- you know what I mean? But yeah man, he is definitely one of the greatest for sure. Strong guy, stronger than I thought he’d be. Doesn’t have the physique for the strength that he has. He’s got a… you see a country boy doesn’t look real big, but you know he’s been throwing hogs all day, or tipping cows, so he’s strong as shit. He’s got that strength. (Both laugh)
WC:How hard were his strikes?
AM: They were pretty solid, they were good. They didn’t have a lot of snap on them, but they were thudding. They were more thudding punches.
WC: What did you think was your downfall in that fight? Do you think more gas, because it was too short notice?
AM: Oh definitely more gas, and I had… let’s see, he was like a black belt and I was like a yellow belt (laughter) in skill level, you know what I mean?
WC: I gotcha.
AM: That’s how he made me feel. You know he was baiting me for shit with doing one thing to try to get me to do something else- and I was like, “Oh, we’re gonna play chess.”
WC: So he was really good with the feints?
AM: If you notice we were kinda talking back and forth throughout the fight. Neither one of us could understand each other, but we’re, you know…
WC: Oh- was he trying to taunt you, or trying to get into your head?
AM:No, I was like “Oh, good shot,” or “Oh no, you ain’t getting that,” whatever- stuff like that, just stuff you do through the fight.
WC:Did you have anything that you wanted to get out there? Anything I didn’t cover?
AM: No, man, I think we got everything straight, dude.
WC: All right. Anthony, I appreciate your time so very much.
AM: Hey, no problem brother.
Boxing Insider Interview Part 2: Tomoki Kameda is Crafting his Style
Boxing Insider Interview Part 2: Tomoki Kameda is Crafting his Style
By: Kirk Jackson
Questions for the former WBO Bantamweight Champion Tomoki Kameda 31-2 (19 KO’s):
“Kameda-ke Saishū Heiki”
Boxing Insider: Our last interview, you mentioned you are a blend of more than three styles. There is the Japanese style of boxing, Cuban style and the Mexican style. It’s important to acknowledge there is a generalization to each style, but there are exceptions to each style. There are unique traits from each style, can you elaborate on the characteristics from each style you’ve absorbed and blended into your hybrid style of fighting?
Tomoki Kameda: There are few that I can mention. Let’s say with Mexican style, body shots and upper-cut and the close range brawling. From the Cubans are the movements especially the legs and the fighting strategy. From the Japanese style, the heart of a samurai and the aggressiveness.
BI: Can you also talk about the other styles or traits from other styles you have?
TK: I am learning from Filipino style as well. I watched a lot [Manny] Pacquiao’s and [Nonito] Donaire’s fights and the Filipino trainers improve my speed and the levels of punches. Level is that the volume of punches they can deliver upper part and/or lower part of the body.
BI: When you prepare for an opponent, do you have a particular style or certain strategies in mind you want to implement based on your opponent? Is the objective based on their physical traits, strengths and weaknesses? Are the technical deficiencies or aspects of their style what you look to exploit with your versatility?
TK: I need to know my opponents so I can prepare myself for it. Of course, I have the basic skills already, my basic weapons if we put it that way. From there I can add more the necessary skills I need for a particular opponent. I have to study all the aspects of my opponent, so when I am in the ring, everything will be automatic.
BI: Or would you prefer to have your opponent react to your actions?
TK: When the fighters are in the ring, they want to dictate the pace. I want to dominate, so I want to impose to the other fighter my actions.
BI: Can you discuss some of the things you learned from your father and older brothers? I wouldn’t want for you to reveal too many secretes, but is what you learned from your family, certain moves you integrated into your style; or more so the philosophy and mentality on what it takes to be a successful fighter at the highest level?
TK: I think it is more of the genes, we, the Kameda family is blessed with a good set of genes. What I mean about that is we won’t have a hard time in taking care of our bodies. We can always make the weight and maintain it. Another thing is that since we are family, we are always training together. Giving tips and support.
BI: There is the Jeet Kune Do style of fighting heavily influenced by Bruce Lee; Jeet Kune Do is not fixed or patterned, it is essentially a philosophy/fighting style with guiding thoughts that serve as a guide for movement and action. Can that be a way of analyzing your style?
TK: In way, it is like that since I incorporate different styles that work for me. I could easily change my style depends on my opponent.
BI: Your personality stands out when you fight; I believe it transcends and many observers watching gauge a sense of who you are. It’s artistic; I believe it’s a good trait because it connects the observer to the athlete. Can you sense the personality or the mentality of an opponent when you’re in the ring with them?
TK: Everything is unpredictable once you are inside the ring. When the first punch is thrown, your body will be in auto mode. You will remember everything what you have trained for. It is more of feeling myself and giving me confidence.
BI: We’ve discussed your ability to change range. I believe your versatility; the ability to change range makes you an unpredictable fighter. Can you elaborate on other elements in which makes you unpredictable? Is it your speed, different angles, or another facet of your style you possess?
TK: It depends with my opponent. If my opponent likes to move a lot then I have to employ a strategy for that. I won’t elaborate the details, but I guess you know what I mean.
BI: Is there a facet you want to add to improve as a fighter?
TK: In all of my fights, it is a learning experience. I would know afterwards what I need to improve on and what skills I need to maintain. This will make me a better fighter.
BI: Do you believe you have any weaknesses?
TK: Everyone has their own weaknesses, for me, I believe it is my speed. I need to train more for that in order to be faster.
BI: Do you have an all-time dream match-up you would have liked to participate in?
TK: There is none in particular. I would love to fight whoever is the best. I want to test myself on how much I can achieve… but if I have my way, I believe a fight with Manny Pacquiao would be a dream match.
BI: Is there anyone specifically right now you want to fight?
TK: Whoever is holding the belt right now is the one I want to fight. I want to get that belt again. It’s mine.
Thanks again Tomoki Kameda!
*Kameda is currently ranked in the top ten for both the WBC and WBA sanctioning bodies and is seeking another world title in the near future.
Boxing Insider Interview with Tomoki Kameda
Boxing Insider Interview with Tomoki Kameda
By: Kirk Jackson
Questions for former WBO Bantamweight Champion Tomoki Kameda 31-2 (19 KO’s):
“Kameda-ke Saishū Heiki”
BI: Thanks again for your time Mr. Kameda; I hope everything is well with you.
BI: You come from a fighting family; your father is an amazing trainer and your older brothers are world renowned champions. Do you consider yourself the best fighter in your family? If not as of yet, what will it take to be recognized as the best fighter in your family?
TK: I believe that all of us, the 3 brothers are the best. We have achieved several records. The oldest, Koki, was able to get 3 different divisions championship. The first one in Japan to achieve it. Daiki was 2 different divisions champion and then me. I was able to get one championship belt and the first one in Japan to get the Bantam weight championship belt. With that records, we were able to get a Guinness Book of World Records recognition as the most siblings to win world boxing titles. To be the best fighter in the family…our father has that honor. He trained all 3 of us.
BI: Is being the best fighter in your family important to you? Is there a sibling rivalry between you three? Does that provide you with extra incentive to train harder and seek bigger challenges?
TK: As I have mentioned all 3 of us are the best and yes, it is important. It is natural to have sibling rivalries as any siblings would have. In our case, growing up with my brothers has helped me a lot in training. I have learned a lot from them. The moves, their advice and all other stuff. I maybe the youngest, but my older brothers helped me a lot in order to achieve what they have achieved.
BI: Can you describe growing up in the rough environments of Osaka?
TK: Is it really rough? We don’t see it that way. I think it was ordinary. I believe that this is a misconception from the outsiders. If they think it that way, it creates an image that we, from Osaka, are tough. Yes, we are. Osaka has the Kameda brothers.
BI: At age 15 you moved to Mexico in pursuit of dreams and to essentially to search for great challenges. Can you talk about the cultural transition and the difficulties adjusting to a new language, culture and surroundings?
TK: The first time I went to Mexico, it was really difficult. Number one is the language, I didn’t know any Spanish language. Of course, the culture itself. Very different from where I grew up. But Mexican people are very warm and friendly. I was able to adjust and adapt the new environment. They are very kind and helpful.
When I started training, Mexican style of boxing training is different from what my father had trained me. It was good for me because it was an added knowledge, an addition to my boxing IQ. I had to ask a lot of questions to my coach while I was training. It is very important to learn everything they taught me and the depth of this kind of training.
BI: Based on your origin, it can be stated you possess traditional elements from the “Japanese” fighting style however, you moved to Mexico to learn from Mexican trainers. It can be said you have the influence of the “Mexican” style fighting as well. Your current trainer Ismael Salas is from Cuba and familiar with the Cuban School of fighting. Is it accurate to say you are a blend of all three styles?
TK: Yes, you can say that. I am a blend of different fighting styles, but not just 3. I believe it is very important to learn different fighting styles to make you a flexible fighter. Also now, I am training in Japan but with Filipino trainers.
BI: In the past you stated you are a mix between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather. When watching your fights, I can see elements comparable to Mayweather; your precision, patience, timing and ability to change range. Which elements from each fighter do you feel like you represent?
TK: I want to be a hybrid fighter. From Pacquiao I was able to learn that a big heart is also essential when in the ring. Get his stamina, never lose steam from the beginning of the fight until the very last round. From Mayweather, yes, you are correct that I am learning to be precise, patient and the change of range. It makes me an unpredictable fighter. Opponents will be confused as to what element I’ll use when fighting.
BI: Mayweather and Pacquiao retired last year and were long considered the best fighters pound for pound for the past decade or so. Who is the best fighter pound for pound in your eyes and why?
TK: Yes, both of them are considered the best fighters pound for pound, but nobody broke that mold compared to the late Muhammad Ali, may he rest in peace. Ali has the speed and stamina. He owns every part of the ring. Overall performance is spectacular, that’s why he is the greatest.
BI: You are a world champion; first Japanese fighter to win a WBO title. What is your most rewarding accomplishment as a professional so far?
TK: Winning the title itself is the most rewarding. That is the goal of every boxers. I was able to achieve that goal. Worked hard for it, you can say blood, sweat and tears. When I was able to get that belt I really felt I’m on the top of the world. Plus it helped us, the 3 brothers, to get a Guinness record.
BI: What are your goals for this year and beyond?
TK: I am setting my eyes on a higher division. Most probably the Super Bantam. That will be my next goal and achieve that goal.
BI: Do you plan on staying in the Bantamweight division? Do you plan on moving up to Super Bantamweight and how many weight classes do you feel like you can comfortably move up?
TK: Yes, I have the plan to move up to Super Bantamweight. I have mentioned that it is my next goal. I think I could still be comfortable with Super Featherweight and/or the Lightweight division. We’ll see. I want to achieve it step by step. As they say, “there is nowhere else to go but up.”
BI: Your fights against Jamie McDonnell were extremely competitive and the decisions could have gone either way. Depending on who you ask, some may say you won both if not at least one of the fights. What did you learn from those encounters that you’ll utilize moving forward in your career?
TK: The two fights went the other way, but it is a learning experience. After those fights it made me realize that there is more that I need to learn as a fighter. I am now even more eager to train and love boxing more. It was a big motivation for me. It makes me hungrier to get that belt again and even more up. I am very enthusiastic and highly motivated in training.
BI: What is the toughest thing you had to deal with as a professional?
TK: Being a champion and staying that way is the most difficult thing to deal with. Everyone sees you as a target. They want to bring you down. I should always train in order to be at a higher level. Other fighters are training hard as well. I have to be a step or more ahead.
BI: Aside from your unique life story and background, what is a trait that separates you from other fighters?
TK: Many fighters would claim that they are hybrid fighters, but that is the trait that separates me from them. You know my background and what I have achieved. I trained in many different fighting styles. I am learning continuously and my enthusiasm in fighting is always high. Like a child that is always learning and always want to achieve my goal.
BI: How can the fans get in touch with you and follow what you’re doing? Do you have a message for the fans out there?
TK: My fans can follow me in my Instagram, @tomokikameda and also Twitter, @tomokikameda. To my fans out there, I appreciate that you are continuously supporting me. Now I am training harder to be the world champion again. Your support is giving me more energy and motivation. Thank you for that.
Weekly Round Up Around the World
Weekly Round Up
By: Ben Underwood
ASIAN WEEKLY ROUND UP
WBA ORDERS TAGUCHI VS MIYAZAKI
Ryoichi Taguchi must defend his WBA Light Flyweight title against his mandatory and former WBA Minimumweight champion Ryo Miyazaki (21-1-3,15 KO’s). This will be Taguchi’s fourth defence since winning the belt from Alberto Rossel in 2014 and is a step up in class after fighting a string of lower level challengers.The two teams have 30 days from last wednesday (8th June)to come to some agreement and being as they were already discussing the bout, it shouldn’t be too hard to come to some agreement.
Miyazaki of the Ioka gym is looking to become a two weight world champion after a 4 fight winning streak , but really hasnt been fighting opponents that would deem him a mandatory place. The last person to beat Miyasaki is Fahlan Sakreerin Jr in late 2013. The bout is said to be staged in August although a venue is yet to be decided.
MASUDA WINS WAR WITH KAWAGUCHI
2 years ago Kentaro Masuda and Yu Kawaguchi engaged in a fantastic ,engaging battle that saw Masuda win by technical decision after 10 rounds of action. This time the rematch staged at the Korakuen Hall, was a cauldren of hard punches ,blood and pure will to win. The contest was a real treat for the fans as they witnessed a bloody war for the Japanese Bantamweight title.
Both men didnt seem to have much respect for the others style and the action began from the first bell as they both landed meaty shots. The early rounds were very competitve but Masuda was ahead on two judges cards and Kawaguchi was bleeding from the left eye.
Sensing that he needed to turn it around, Kawaguchi put the pressure on in round 6 and forced masuda to fight at a higher pace. In round 9 it looked as though Masuda had hit the end of the road as he began to tire, but by the 10th and final round he came out fast and energetic and was ready to go to war for 3 more minutes.
Credit must go to both fighters for giving it their all in a close ,bloody battle that saw Masuda come out a split decision winner with scores of 96-94,96-95 and 96-95 for Kawaguchi.
KOGAWA DEFENDS AGAINST OTAKE
Former WBC title challenger Takuya Kogawa will defend his Japanese Flyweight title on July 15th against ranked contender Masafumi Otake, in what will be his 3rd defense in a year. Takuya won the title in 2015 from Shigetaka Ikehara and had two hard defenses against Tetsuma Hayashi and Masayuki Kuroda and looks to have an easier night on paper when he faces Otake.
Masafumi has had a long career and has faced nearly everybody on the Japanese circuit and with this being his only shot at the title to date, he will be looking to rip up the script and sail off into the sunset with the title.
The bout will be held at the Korakuen Hall as the main event of Dangan 163.
SHIRO IN DOUBLE TITLE FIGHT
As reported in May, Japanese prospect Ken Shiro will be defending his national title against Toshimasa Ouchi , it has been announced that it will not only be for Shiro’s Japanese title, but also for the OPBF Light Flyweight title. The bout is set to take place at the EDION Arena ,Osaka and could be a spring board for a world title shot for Shiro. Ouchi will be looking to become a champion for the first time after only getting a draw against Masayuki Kuroda for the Japanese title in 2012.
SHIMING DOESNT SHINE IN US
Powder puff Flyweight Zou Shiming made hard work of his US debut as he laboured to a shut ot decision against Hungarian Jozsef Ajtai ,a man who was stopped in two by featherweight champion Andrew Selby in November.
Shimings lack of power seemed to be the only reason why there wasn’t a spectacular knockout as Ajtai looked so scared at times and was content to get on his bike and survive, the crowd became restless because of Zou’s inability to finish .The Hungarian was just looking to spoil and negatively didnt look to for the victory as Shiming took the decision on all 3 judges scorecards with whitewash scores of 100-89.
The win certainly won’t do much for Zou’s stock and may have to work on his power in order to get the credit his talent deserves. The Chinese boxer and former 2-time Olympic champion improves to 8-1,2 KO’s, while Ajtai falls to 15-3, 10 KO’s.
JAPANESE DOUBLE TO RETURN IN AUGUST
WBA Super Flyweight champion Kohei Kono and WBA Light Flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi will be defending their titles on August 31st at the Ota Ward Gymnasium. The opponents are yet to be announced, but there are talks of each man defending against their mandatories. These would be former WBA Minimumweight champion Ryo Miyazaki for Taguchi and Kono will defend against interim champion Luis Conception.
It is more than likely Watanabe will want those bouts for an end of year show. Taguchi is 24-2-1, 11 KO’s and Kono is 32-8-1, 13 KO’s.
BERCHELT TO DEFEND AGAINST PIRIYAPINYO
WBO interim Featherweight champion Miguel Berchelt (29-1, 26 KO’s) is set to defend against Thailand’s Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo (61-2, 41 KO’s) with the winner facing Vasyl Lomachenko for the WBO full title.Lomachenko has already beaten Chonlatarn and the only other loss on his record is to Chris John but is willing to go for his title shot should he win. Both fighters have high Knockout ratios and looks to be a entertaining fight with a few knockdowns.
FUJIMOTO GETS TOP BILLING ON AUGUST 2ND
Kdoebi Held a press announcement today (06/15/2016) to give details of their show in August . The main event will be a Heavyweight bout between Japanese champion Kyotaro Fujimoto and an opponent yet to be named, Fujimoto (14-1,7 KO’s) will be looking to chase a world title shot should he prevail
World ranked Yukinori Oguni who is in the running to face the winner of Shingo Wake and Jonathan Guzman of their IBF title fight. Oguni has yet to recieve news on an opponent ,but I imagine it will be a stay busy fight so he can prepare for his shot.
Fomer world title challenger will be carrying on his ring return as Motoki Sasaki looks for a third outing on the show . With a record of 40-10-1,25 KO’s Motoki Sasaki will hear of her opponents name sometime this week.
Weekly Round Up of Asian Boxing
Weekly Round Up of Asian Boxing
By: Ben Underwood
TACONING’S WORLD TITLE CALL
4 years is a long time to wait for a second title shot, but that is exactly how long Filipino Light Flyweight Jonathan Taconing had to wait for his shot. With a record of 22-2-1 (18 ko’s) Taconing is rumoured get his shot on June 11th against mexican champion Ganigan Lopez, although the bout is still awaiting official confirmation it is set to be officially announced withing the next few days.
It is said by sources that the bout will be staged in the arena coliseo in Mexico, so Taconing will be giving away home advantage to Lopez, but Jonathan is no stranger to these shores as last year he was seen beating Ramon Garcia Hirales in 10. This came after a failed but highly controversial title tilt against Thai champion Kompayak Porpramook for the WBC bauble. While Taconing appeared to be well in control a cut to Porpramook was deemed to be from a clash of heads and the Thai veteran was the winner by a shut out decision after 5 rounds.
Lopez is making his first defence of the WBC title that he won from Japanese Yu Kimura so impressively. Although Lopez is pushing 35, he is a former WBC silver champion at Minimumweight in which he won from Omar Soto and a multiple WBC latino champion at, Minimum, Light Flyweight and Flyweight.
The mexican is certainly no slouch and Taconing will have to be on his guard for however long the bout lasts. Lopez,a southpaw will also have to be alert as the Filipino has that aggressive,heavy handed style and with a point to prove.
AKAHO BACK WITH A WIN
After losing his WBO world title bid to champion Pungluang Sor Singyu last August, Ryo Akaho of Japan went over old ground in an entertaining battle with Toyoto Shiraishi . Both men were at a crossroads in their careers,which meant that they had everything to fight for.
The two fighters who fought each other for the OPBF Super Flyweight championship, which ended in a TKO victory for Akaho. Now both are fighting as Bantamweights and they didnt disappoint as the Japanese crowd was treated to this all or nothing encounter.Even though Shiraishi was delivery the better boxing and was marking up Akaho around the left eye, it was Ryo that was landing the heavier blows. Shiraishi started to slow by the fifth and Akaho’s big shots started to get through more frequently. In the sixth Toyoto was dumped on the canvas and was sytematically outworked in the last two rounds to go down a points loser to Ryo Akaho.
Akaho now 27-2-2 (18 KOs) can now look forward to bigger fights, perhaps another crack at a version of the world title. Shiraishi who falls to 26-10-3 (12 KO’s) showed he is game and can compete comfortably at OPBF level.
Scores were 77-76,78-74 and 79-72 which I think was an injustice to Toyoto Shiraishi.
FORMER JAPANESE MIDDLEWEIGHT CHAMPION HALTED
Rising talent Hironobu Matsunaga had his biggest test to date when he came up against former national champion Sanosuke Sasaki. Sasaki,who won the title by knocking out veteran Tadashi Yuba and then losing it 4 months later to Tomohiro Ebisu, had all he could handle with Matsunaga at the Korakuen Hall in Tokyo.
Sasaki came out trying to establish the jab in the first round ,which seemed to do the job and take the first round. Success was short lived as Matsunaga worked out a way around that jab and started to throw more combinations that seemed to unsettle Sasaki. Hironobu, confidence growing rapidly,was marking Sasaki with his meaty shots and by round four the inevitable knockdown came with a further point taken from Sanosuke for holding,making round four a 10-7 round.
Matsunaga sensed the end by round five and came out to draw the fight to the conclusion everybody was expecting and made the referee intervene and stop the bout.
Matsunaga was impressive and his record is now 10-1 (5 KO’s),while Sasaki loses his fourth fight on the spin with a record of 11-5 (5 KO’s).
KONO HAS BEEN ORDERED BY THE WBA
WBA Super Flyweight champion Kohei Kono has been given his orders to negotiate a fight with Luis Conception ,the Interim champion for the WBA. Conception made himself manatory by beating Hernan Marquez via unaminous decision and the two men have been given a 30 day free period to negotiate.
This unification match will see Kono fight two mandatory fighters in a row ,while Conception,an Interim champion at both Flyweight and Super Flyweight has his first attempt at a world title. There is no anouncement on where the fight will be and what date it will be staged on.
OPBF WELTERWEIGHT MATCH UP COMES TO JAPAN
Australian OPBF welterweight king Jack Brubaker will be making his second defense of his crown by fighting on away soil against (24-1,8 KO’s) Suyon Takayama. It will be Brubaker’s first time fighting away from his native country and is a step up in class for both boxers. The bout is said to be taken place at the Korakuen Hall in Tokyo with the date being confirmed as July 25th.
Brubaker ripped the crown from Xing Xin Yang in August last year with a knockout and has a 10-1-1,5 KO’s ledger.
Kubo Retains Title in Kobe
Kubo Retains Title in Kobe
By: Ben Underwood
Unbeaten Super Bantamweight Shun Kubo defended his OPBF title successfully with a 12 round unaminous decision against Benjie Suganob. The tall southpaw used his jab effectively in the early stages of the battle keeping Filipino Suganob on the outside. Meanwhile Suganob was searching for a way in and got his chance in the 5th stanza as he upped the tempo as he made the champion look uneasy momentarily .Kubo of Japan, regained composure and started to land hard left hands that made suganob take notice, which kept him away for the next three rounds.
In round nine Benjie came on strong again , trying to claw back the scores from the tired Kubo, but it seemed to be too little too late for the game Suganob as he could not decrease Shun’s lead. In the end the judges were all in agreement and thought Shun Kubo was a deserved winner with scores of 117-113, 115-112, 115-113 to retain his title in which he won in december by Knocking out Lloyd Jardeliza of the philippines. Now Kubo excels with a new record of 10-0 7 KO’s and is WBC ranked 11th. Benjie Suganob adds another setback to his record and is now 10-5-1 with 5 KO’s.
Ryo Mutsumoto In Hospital
Ryo Mutsumoto is expected by many boxing insiders to reach the dizzy heights of world championship level with an amateur record of 53-3 (39) at the time of turning professional. Matsumoto’s amateur career was not decorated with Olympic golds or world championship glory, but winning the Japanese High School tournament is an achievement, as it is regarded as being one of the toughest tournaments in the world of amateur boxing. There was one tournament where Ryo had to be pulled from as a result of an condition which sadly deemed him too ill to compete.
Matsumoto a tall, powerful boxer with an 83% knockout ratio ( 15 ko’s from 17 wins )as a professional comes from the highly respected Ohashi gym,training alongside excellent Japanese WBO Super Flyweight champion Naoya Inoue.Ohashi,himself is a 2-time world amateur champion and holds Ryo in high regards.
Winning his pro debut in just 94 seconds, he was off to a winning start. Matsumoto racked up six straight knockouts before going in with tough veteran Yoshinori Koto scoring an impressive 5 round stoppage victory. Three outings later and Matsumoto found himself winning an 8 round decision over 4-time world title challenger Hiroyuki Hisataka, a win that really made the Asian Boxing world take notice of him.Next came Thailand’s Rusalee Samor a world ranked and very dangerous opponent for the 12-0 prospect,but Ryo systematically outboxed and knocked Samor out in the 12th to take the OPBF Super Flyweight title from Rusalee, a former IBF Pan Pacific Flyweight champion.
Ryo’s 5ft 8 inch frame proved to big to boil down to Super flyweight, so he predictably moved up as far as super Bantamweight and in his last bout, which happened on may 8th saw him in a tough back and forth affair with mexican Victor Uriel Lopez ,with Matsumoto looking sluggish, Lopez won by fifth round stoppage.
News has come to light that Matsumoto is still in Hospital following the fight ,although this is not from the result of being stopped. This is from the condition that plagued him during his amateur days.
The nature of the illness has not been disclosed ,but Boxinginsider.com wish Ryo Matsumoto recovers quickly and that he can continue to fulfill his potential.
Introducing Inoue: Can He Melt “Chocolatito”?
Introducing Inoue: Can He Melt “Chocolatito”?
By: Brandon Bernica
As soon as perennial talent Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez finished unlacing his gloves after a dominant performance over McJoe Arroyo a few weeks ago, the boxing universe began to chatter. See, Gonzalez has hit the point in his accomplished career where his promoters are scraping the bottom of the bucket of potential foes at 112 pounds. Consensus is that, other than a rematch with Juan Francisco Estrada – who Gonzalez already edged out in a classic little-man’s scrap, no one in the division seems to pose any semblance of a threat to the Nicaraguan champ.
Paired with middleweight monster Gennady “GGG” Golovkin on April 23rd for the 3rd time, the dynamic was crystal clear. Golovkin billed as the heavy-handed ticket magnet that galvanized Southern California’s Mexican fanbase, whereas “Chocolatito” showcased as the slightly lesser-known flyweight maestro, conducting an orchestra of scathing hooks to the solar plex and overhand rights that thudded like strikes to a bass drum. Golovkin appears headed towards assuming the top space in boxing’s pound-for-pound hierarchy. In doing so, he will have to replace the man firmly ensconced in that position by most of the boxing press – his cohort, Roman Gonzalez. And in the prime of his career at 45-0 and with Hall-of-Fame credentials, who could argue that?
Every race has its dark horse. As frontrunners fade and contenders jockey to escape mediocrity, one horse usually thrusts forward to lead the pack. With our eyes trained on the one runner exercising his dominance over the field, an underdog missiles his way out of obscurity until he grabs our attention. Once our peripherals finally recognize this challenger’s determination, the real race begins.
Across the Pacific Ocean, an anomaly is slowly building a dangerous reputation in the sport. Naoya Inoue – hailing from Yokohama, Japan – is not your average fighter. For starters, he reigns as a two-time super flyweight world champion already, winning his first title in his 6th pro fight. Even more bizarre is that he still has less than 10 fights total and barely broke the age of 23 a couple weeks ago. In an era when promoters are looking to season their fighters with 15-20 comically soft tuneups before even considering decent opposition, this feat is remarkable.
If you’re old-school and prefer your cup of analysis with heavy doses of the eye test, Inoue is tough to knock in any perceivable category. Even small highlight reel sample sizes reveal gifts many veterans in the sport spend their lives seeking with no fruition. For an orthodox fighter, Inoue uncorks his lead left hook with a quick, rebuking snap. If that punch doesn’t punish his oft-poorly distanced foes, a slicing right hand – never thrown off balance – cleans up his combinations. Perhaps the most noticeable aspect of Inoue’s quick yet explosive career is his propensity to down fighters with body shots. Today’s culture of quick-fix consumption in the form of Vine clips and Instagram videos has diluted the sport’s craft, with boxers head-hunting for their shot to be seen on Sportscenter’s nightly top plays. Body snatching is a lost art, so the fact that the Japanese prodigy often pulverizes his foes’ guts with blows to the midsection is as impressive as it is unnoticed. What better way for an under-the-radar talent to finish fights than with punches that are also rarely appreciated by fans? To top it off, his defensive reflexes and footwork stay steps ahead of the men attempting to punch him, keeping him scotch clean and favorable in the judges’ eyes.
With all that being said, it begs the question: how could boxing’s best kept secret remain so anonymous for so long?
For one, Japanese fighters have long been reluctant to cross stateside into our collective consciences. And who could blame them? Boxing is celebrated in a Japanese culture where bravery is amongst its most notable precepts. Japanese fans shower adulation on their homebred fighters. One would surmise that financial incentives are strong for these fighters to remain on the island. 130-pound titan Takashi Uchiyama – considered the best in that division by many – has never ventured outside his home country to fight. Uchiyama’s rival Takashi Miura also held 32 of his 34 matches in Japan. One of the two foreign-turf opportunities he seized was the chance to appear on the massive Canelo vs Cotto undercard last year against Francisco Vargas, which proved to be a classic war between two rugged fighters. Japan’s boxing independence even attracts fighters from other countries to live and train inside its borders, including current lightweight champion Jorge Linares, who lives in Tokyo.
Another theory behind Inoue’s lack of public prominence deals with boxing’s long-standing, passive discrimination of the “little guy”. One common myth is that smaller fighters lack the one-punch pop to make for entertaining fights. Yet Gonzalez’s fights against Estrada and Brian Viloria validate that weight shouldn’t be a determining factor for fan enjoyment. Still, pundits such as BJ Flores will fail to acknowledge anything that transpires in the sport below 122 pounds (10 pounds above Gonzalez and 7 above Inoue). In fact, it took HBO up until last year to finally “gamble” and slate Gonzalez onto a GGG undercard. Mind you, Gonzalez is the best to offer south of 122 pounds; if he could barely find significant TV time, how does that bode for lesser warriors around that weight? And how likely does that make a network to fund a foreign fighter who, on paper, lacks the paid dues that landed “Chocolatito” air time?
Inoue’s slim amount of pro experience also might discourage fans from looking beyond the surface into what the Japanese star is all about. Guillermo Rigondeaux won his first title in his 9th fight, and Vasyl Lomachenko challenged for his first in only his 2nd official battle of his pro career. Granted, both those guys were amateur stars, yet their rapid ascensions didn’t scare away networks from getting them big time fights. Both men are of foreign descent as well and don’t speak much English. By default, you would believe that everyone would be clamoring to bring Inoue to America to be groomed into a marketable television fighter, yet that hasn’t been the case.
What’s clear is that there remain a number of factors obstructing Inoue’s inevitable birth into superstardom in the US. What isn’t clear is whether Gonzalez would be able to handle a slick, youthful talent in Inoue a few years down the line.
Yeah, yeah, Gonzalez would be favored against the Japanese slugger now. But let’s say Inoue continues down the path of success he’s towing closely right now. Perhaps he gets to hang a few more belts from his living room mantle and learns more inside of the ring in doing so, all while hitting his stride at 25 or 26. By that time, Gonzalez will only be in his early 30’s, meaning each man will presumably still command top-notch skills. Hopefully, boxing will realize the value in lower division fights, allowing this to be an event hardcore fans would anticipate with fervor.
Within the ropes, both fighters carry strong claims that they possess the qualities necessary to outlast the other guy. Gonzalez punches in bunches, is a master at gauging timing and distance, and punctuates combinations with torso turning power. Yet – out of anyone Gonzalez could face in the interim – Inoue is much more defensively sensible. Plus, his power, punch variety and intelligent offensive restraint pose monstrous quandaries that Nicaragua’s own will have to overcome. Remember also that Inoue is naturally the bigger man (3 pounds heavier), so taking and giving shots will be much easier on his end than for Gonzalez.
Two conclusions can be drawn from all of this. One is that Inoue is a diamond blaring from the rough, reflecting off the sun and daring us to notice its greatness. Two is that Gonzalez is a cut above, and to uplift respect for the smaller combatants of the sport to new heights, he might just need a true rival to test him, one who also has never glimpsed defeat in the eye. A match made in heaven just may require some divine intervention to fulfill these expectations. But like the dark horse, expectations are meant to be shattered. That’s when the fun really starts.