Japanese Scene: Arakawa & Ota Kick Off Champion Carnival With TKO Defenses

Sidney Boquiren recaps the opening matches of this year's Champion Carnival.  For more Japanese boxing updates, you can follow Sidney on twitter: RingwalkNippon@Twitter

Arakawa survives 2nd round scare, stops Nakamori in 8

The humble and businesslike comments made by Nihito Arakawa after his bout Saturday with Hiroshi Nakamori reflected disappointment in a performance that was short of dominance but a fitting display of his current abilities. The cerebral technician showed spots of brilliant pressure and pinpoint accuracy, but also had trouble in stalking a tricky and awkward opponent. Clearly in control from the middle rounds, Arakawa buzzed Nakamori badly early in the eighth, and though it seemed a bit premature, referee Biney Martin stepped in to save the challenger. Making the second defense of his domestic 135lb crown, Arakawa advanced to a record of 19-1-1, 13KO.

The 29-year old southpaw opened the fight well enough to take the initial round, but the challenger exploited an opening that had gotten Arakawa in trouble in past contests. Timing a counter right just as the titleholder shot a right jab, Nakamori put the champ on his backside hard in the last minute of the second round. Though Arakawa managed to make it to the end of the round, he was clearly off his equilibrium and even took a seat in the challenger’s corner.

From there on out, however, the incumbent went to work, spraying Nakamori with a variety of sharp punches. Lead lefts and left uppercuts were particularly effective. As his opponent was seemingly losing steam as early as the fourth, Arakawa would surgically attack to the head and body while remaining weary of Nakamori’s counterpunching. By the sixth frame, the challenger was limited to fighting in short bursts, but was able to survive as Arakawa could not fully cut off the ring. At the end of that stanza, Nakamori saw the additional point he earned for the knockdown become neutralized when he was docked for hitting after the bell.

Turning up the heat at the end of the seventh when he sniped Nakamori with at least five clean power punches in combination, Arakawa had the challenger on the defense early in the subsequent round. Buzzing his opponent with a big left hand, Arakawa forced referee Martin to halt the fight at the 0:55 mark when he caught Nakamori flush again with a left and right. (It was understood after the bout that the challenger was checked in between rounds and was warned that they could stop the fight if he continued to take damage.)

Though he boasts the #6 spot in the WBA rankings, it may still be a while before Arakawa is paired with elite competition. Admittedly, the southpaw says he needs to work on gaining physical power and wants to improve his defense. A few more title defenses on the local level while preparing for his next big step would be reasonable, though one good matchup that could bolster his status would be a showdown with regional OPBF strapholder Ryuji Migaki.

Ota punishes Marumoto over five rounds, wins by TKO in 6

Arakawa’s gymmate, Charlie Ota, warmed up the crowd with an excellent display of power punching, battering veteran Taisei Marumoto for five and a half frames before earning the stoppage in round six. The American expat not only gave those in attendance a show with nasty body blows and flashy combinations, Ota also appeared to make subtle technical improvements in his game throwing straighter punches and displaying a tight defense. The Japanese and OPBF super welterweight champ improved to 16-1-1, 11KO, with the win.

Though the challenger had seen better days in the past as a regional welterweight titleholder, Marumoto was a game opponent early on, keeping Ota at a distance with a surprisingly decent jab. The 34-year old also had his moments inside, working the champ’s body with lefts and rights.

However, the old lion could not show the young cub a lesson as Ota was simply too sharp and overpowering. The sound of thunderous lefts and rights to Marumoto’s body resonated throughout the packed Korakuen Hall, and like his cohort, Ota found the target both below and up top. The difference in hand speed was obvious, as the champ could score with a lead right, move in to throw a quick combination and then back out when necessary.

Impressively, Ota’s work with his left hand was much improved, not only his jab, but also the fluidity of his left hook especially in combination. In one particular attack, the beltholder had Marumoto reeling when he landed with a series of left hooks in rapid succession.

Opening a cut below the challenger’s left eye in the fourth, Ota continued to pummel the veteran, opening a new cut over the same eye in the fifth frame. As the challenger’s face became a bloody mask, the champ moved in to finish the fight, smartly starting by attacking the body before focusing again on the head. Though Marumoto would make it out of that round, he was quickly cornered by Ota in the sixth. A furious flurry of blows in which several rights landed solidly would convince the referee to stop the bout at the 1:06 mark.

Like his gymmate, Ota is probably a few more bouts away from stepping up in class, though the American is more than willing to test himself, mentioning several names of top contenders as guys he would like to fight. At the rate he continues to improve, it would be great to see him matched with highly rated foreign opposition. The pool in Japan is simply too small to gauge exactly how far the young man could excel. The only domestic opponent who would be an interesting challenge at the moment is Nobuhiro Ishida. The former world titleholder has not made an indication as to whether he will continue to fight as a pro, but a match with Ota would be an interesting crossroads bout.

More Boxing Notes

  • During his 14-year career, Tadashi Yuba won national titles in the lightweight, light welter and welterweight divisions, and attempted to become the first four-division champion in Japanese history when he challenged Ota last September. That fight ended in a close points loss, but Yuba set up a rematch with the American by taking a decision over Takayuki Hosokawa in tonight’s undercard. The veteran, who turns 34 in a couple of weeks, showed none of the fire that he displayed against Ota, allowing the journeyman to control the pace of the early rounds and looking as if his feet were tied down to cement blocks. Yuba’s output was minimal and his telegraphed punches often missed the mark. However, the judges apparently credited the local superstar for his power, giving Yuba the nod by scores of 77-75 (twice) and an unbelievable 79-75.
  • Daiki Kameda announced shortly after defending his WBA flyweight title against Silvio Olteanu at the end of December that he would vacate the crown as making the 112-pound limit was too difficult. His move north was confirmed by the organization on the first of the month, and, according to the newest ratings released yesterday, Kameda was installed at #1 at super flyweight. While most of boxing fandom could care less about the alphabet titles, they still hold meaning in places like Japan. The Kamedas ability to lobby and position themselves high in the rankings in order to get title shots has been a hot topic out here (older brother Koki won his bantamweight title as the WBA’s #2 rated 118-pounder despite never having fought or beaten a contender at that weight). The family will almost certainly draw criticism with Daiki placed at the top spot in his new division.
  • Former world flyweight strapholder Malcolm Tunacao, who has had a rebirth since deciding to campaign out of Shinsei Gym (the same gym at which Hozumi Hasegawa trains), has a new opponent for his OPBF title defense on February 5. Originally scheduled to face former domestic champ Mikio Yasuda, the Filipino will take on Daigo Nakahiro. The Hiroshima native had been a Ring Magazine rated contender at 115, but loss his spot in the top ten a week before he would lose his national title last September. He moves up to face the streaking Tunacao. Last year, his first with the Kobe operation, Tunacao went 3-0, including an excellent performance against highly rated Kohei Oba.

e-mail Sidney Boquiren

For more coverage of Japanese boxing, follow Sidney on Twitter: RingwalkNippon@Twitter

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