Roundup Japan 2019
By Joe Koizumi
Photos by Naoki Fukuda
The year 2019 celebrated some important developments and successful results of Japanese boxers as Naoya Inoue acquired the Muhammad Ali trophy by winning the WBSS bantamweight final against Nonito Donaire in the Fight of the Year, Ryota Murata regained the WBA middleweight belt by avenging his US loss and halting Rob Brant in their rematch, Kazuto Ioka seized his fourth world belt in the WBO junior bantamweight category by stopping Aston Palicte, and three-division champ Kosei Tanaka impressively kept his WBO flyweight throne three times in a year.
This reporter hereby reviews all world title bouts with Japanese contestants involved in Japan and abroad in 2019.
The first Nipponese participant in a world title contest was Ryohei Takahashi, who failed to win the IBF 122-pound belt, losing to TJ Doheny via TKO in the eleventh session in New York on January 18. Previously unbeaten, Takeshi Inoue, on January 26, had an ambitious crack at the WBO 154-pound title against Jaime Munguia only to lose a very unanimous decision despite his more-than-expected performance in Houston TX.
The first world title go in Tokyo took place on February 26, when southpaw prospect Masataka Taniguchi was unanimously outscored by WBO 105-pound ruler Vic Saludar. It was WBO flyweight champ Kosei Tanaka that defeated his grudge rival, former WBA 108-pound champ Ryoichi Taguchi by a unanimous decision in Gifu on March 16.
Game veteran Ryoichi Funai, on May 4, had a mandatory crack at the IBF 115-pound champ Jerwin Ancajas only to be stopped at the end of the sixth round in Stockton CA. In Tokyo, Masayuki Kuroda also had a mandatory shot at IBF flyweight titleholder Moruti Mthalane, losing a unanimous nod on May 13.
Naoya “The Monster” Inoue participated in the WBSS semi-final in Glasgow, England and dispatched Emmanuel Rodriguez in just two pulverizing rounds on May 18. In Kobe, Japan, Reiya Konishi couldn’t win the IBF junior flyweight belt due to his unanimous decision loss to Felix Alvarado on May 19.
It was a shocker that WBO 130-pound ruler Masayuki Ito was dethroned by unheralded puzzling southpaw Jamel Herring on a unanimous nod in Florida on May 25. China witnessed Shun Kubo annihilated by WBA feather champion Xu Can in six lopsided rounds on May 26. On the same bill, former champ Sho Kimura moved down to the 108-pound division and tasted a one-sided decision loss to WBA champ Carlos Canizales.
Ex-WBO 105-pound titleholder Tatsuya Fukuhara flew to Thailand and had a shot at WBC champ Wanheng Menayothin by a unanimous verdict on May 31. In Chiba, Japan, intelligent speedster Kazuto Ioka impressively acquired his fourth belt in the WBO 115-pound category as he halted Filipino Aston Palicte via tenth round stoppage on June 19. On the same show, unbeaten WBA 108-pound champ Hiroto Kyoguchi kept his belt by defeating Thailand’s Tanawat Nakoon on June 19.
Japanese hero and 2012 Olympic gold medalist in London, Ryota Murata regained his WBA middleweight belt by decking a fine second-round TKO over Rob Brant in Osaka on July 12. Beneath the sensational rematch, unbeaten Kenshiro Teraji scored a fourth round stoppage of mandatory challenger Jonathan Taconing.
WBC interim 122-pound champ Tomoki Kameda was outclassed and outmaneuvered by WBC full titlist Rey Vargas in a WBC unification bout in Carson CA on July 13. Nagoya, Japan, witnessed unbeaten enfant terrible Kosei Tanaka halt mandatory challenger Jonathan Gonzalez in seven heats to keep his belt on August 24.
On October 1, WBA 108-pound champ, unbeaten Hiroto Kyoguchi had a tough time coping with top contender and compatriot Tetsuya Hisada but dropped him in the ninth and won a unanimous decision to retain his belt in Osaka.
In the WBSS bantamweight final, Naoya “The Monster” Inoue and Nonito Donaire put on a crowd-pleasing performance with Naoya victorious thanks to an eleventh round knockdown to win the international tournaments. On an undercard, his younger brother Takuya Inoue failed to win the WBA 118-pound belt, losing a unanimous nod to French champion Nordine Oubaali in Yokohama.
Japanese southpaw veteran Ryosuke Iwasa, on December 7, impressively acquired the vacant IBF 122-pound belt when he decked an eleventh round stoppage of Filipino Marlon Tapales in Brooklyn NY.
On December 23, the eve of Christmas eve, in a world title tripleheader, WBA 160-pound champ Ryota Murata kept his throne by demolishing Canadian Steven Butler by a fifth round TKO. Unbeaten WBC 108-pound titlist Kenshiro Teraji retained his belt by dispatching Filipino Randy Petalcorin in four lopsided rounds. Veteran three-class champ Akira Yaegashi couldn’t cope with the superior power of IBF flyweight kingpin Moruti Mthalane only to succumb in the ninth round. The South African was simply too strong and powerful.
On New Year’s eve, in Tokyo, WBO 115-pound champ Kazuto Ioka was victorious and successful in defending his belt against mandatory challenger Jeyvier Cintron on points in Tokyo. In a companion title go, WBO 112-pound champ Kosei Tanaka finely kept his belt by flattening China’s Wulan Tuolehazi in three quick rounds.
All seemingly go well in Japan, but there are still unsolved and difficult problems rising in the Japanese fraternity. Legal disputes between the JBC (Japan Boxing Commission) and the Kameda family haven’t been settled yet, and that might be a serious financial problem for the future of the JBC. The number of professional boxing aspirants is decreasing year after year due to our country’s economic growth and the decrease of younger generations (based on the declining birth rate). The new trading system of professional boxers from a gym to another might cause an apparent decline of local boxing gyms in the near future since boxers are going to concentrate in Tokyo. It will be a phenomenon of centralization. Young amateur boxers, however, tend to turn professional more positively than previously thanks to good successful examples of Naoya Inoue, Ryota Murata, etc. What fate will await Japan this year?