Japanese Scene: Youth Conquers in Tokyo, Iwasa & Mitamura claim vacant titles

Sidney Boquiren recaps Friday's boxing action from Japan.  For more Japanese boxing updates, you can follow Sidney on twitter: RingwalkNippon@Twitter

In the past few weeks, both Akira Yaegashi and Shinsuke Yamanaka graduated from the national ranks and scored their first world titles. While the domestic scene is a bit dry above super featherweight, the former Japanese minimumweight and bantamweight champions showed that the lower divisions are still breeding grounds for pugilistic talent. The card at Korakuen Hall on Friday would determine their successors, with a pair of young pros pit against veterans to vie for the empty thrones.

Highly touted Ryosuke Iwasa (10-1, 7KO) faced off against Kobe-based Filipino import Zerofit Jerope Zuiyama (24-3-3, 8KO) for the 118-pound crown. The 21-year old’s sole loss was handed to him by Yamanaka, as the two clashed in the 118-lb installment of the annual Champions’ Carnival in March. While Iwasa’s record was blemished by the 10th round stoppage, his stock only rose as spectators and critics had to acknowledge the youngster has as much heart as he has skill. His performance on Friday would seem to have proven that the setback against Yamanaka does not seem to have discouraged him at all.

After three minutes of gauging his opponent, Iwasa opened up in the second, attacking the Filipino’s soft midsection with straight lefts. More than proficient with his right, the southpaw mixed in right uppercuts and hooks before stepping out of the pocket. Jerope did connect with his own right occasionally, but as Iwasa was able to slip away from most of the journeyman’s punches, it was clear the younger man had a wide advantage in foot and hand speed.

The 21-year old continued his aggression in round three, tagging the Kansai resident with a beautiful three punch salvo in the middle of the frame. Refusing to be intimidated or run over, Jerope held his ground and retaliated with a couple of rights to Iwasa’s body.

However, the discrepancy in talent was all too evident in the next few innings. Without throwing a punch, Iwasa constantly forced the Filipino to the ropes. Starting off his assault by attacking the body, he followed up with a right and a couple of lefts upstairs. Iwasa then found the target with a hard straight left, and came behind that with a left uppercut. Jerope would be in trouble toward the end of the round as the lefty rocked him with a right uppercut.

Just thirty seconds into the fifth, Iwasa sent the journeyman to the canvas with a sweet short left uppercut. One key criticism of the youngster in the aftermath of the Yamanaka bout was a lack of poise and method in finishing off a hurt opponent. Against Jerope, the southpaw bided his time and chose not to unload immediately. Though he was not able to end the fight before the end of the frame, he would inflict more damage to the Filipino, connecting with several left uppercuts and a solid left-left-right combination at the tail of the period.

While the journeyman showed he was game as the fight proceeded into the second half, he would not be able to overcome the large point deficit nor Iwasa’s superior skill set. Even when he managed to trap the youngster in a corner, Jerope would end up eating more leather than landing it. He would be in trouble again in the ninth round when the lefty cracked him with a straight left-right uppercut combination.

The final round was a formality as Iwasa would cruise to an easy decision by scores of 97-92 and 98-92 (twice).

Though Shinsuke Yamanaka is the man with the WBC belt around his waist, Iwasa could very well be the better pro in the long run. He will only turn 22 next month, but has shown abilities that grizzled veterans are not able to execute. This writer would like to see him be more confident in his free-flowing style when the stakes are high, as he was very vanilla against Yamanaka and Jerope. The kid has the speed, punch arsenal, and vision, and he could make for many more exciting fights if he can effectively use that style.

In the co-feature, undefeated but unheralded Takuya Mitamura (11-0, 1KO) claimed Yaegashi’s old title, taking a unanimous decision over former world title challenger Takashi Kunishige (22-7-2, 2KO).

The veteran had gone ten rounds with current WBC champ Kazuto Ioka back in 2009, and was criticized for his unwillingness to engage with the phenom. Against Mitamura, he would again employ a safety first strategy, keeping distance and quickly clinching when the youngster closed in.

With an abnormally long reach, Mitamura showed little fear in getting countered as he threw straight rights from long distance. Once he got Kunishige to set his feet, the prospect zeroed in with right crosses and left hooks. Though he never hurt the veteran badly at any point during the bout, he built up a point lead fairly early, as Kunishige was unable to establish his own offense.

Final scores read 98-93, 97-94, 96-94.

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If you have not had a chance to see Yamanaka vs. Iwasa, you can catch it here:

e-mail Sidney Boquiren

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

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