Japanese Scene: Arakawa & Fuchigami Retain Titles With Stoppages

Sidney Boquiren recaps Monday's boxing action from Japan (Fuchigami recap after the jump).  For more Japanese boxing updates, you can follow Sidney on twitter: RingwalkNippon@Twitter

Arakawa’s technique shines en route to TKO4

Cerebral boxer Nihito Arakawa’s technical prowess was on full display from the opening bell of his title defense against Masanori Shoda on Monday. The Japanese lightweight champ, who has flown under the radar for many boxing fans in Japan, may not be a flashy, outspoken character, but is certainly deserving of recognition for his skillful conquests in the ring. While 14 stoppage victories in 22 appearances equates to a respectable KO percentage, that success has been the fruit of timing, precision and punch selection rather than power. Perhaps more impressive, however, has been his ability to make slight adjustments and tactical decisions that create opportunities for those stoppages – as was the case last night.

Working behind a snappy jab, Arakawa was the busier fighter in the initial stanza. His footwork looked sharp as he circling his opponent while searching for openings to Shoda’s midsection. Left hands and right hooks to the body found the mark with pinpoint precision. The challenger, ranked #9 by the JBC, kept a high, tight guard, and it seemed that his game plan was to try to go over the champion’s southpaw jab with a lead right. Though Shoda connected with the biggest punch of the period when he landed one of the counter rights, Arakawa was in clear control as the challenger had no answer for the champ’s accuracy and volume.

A pattern would develop starting in the second frame, as every time the strapholder scored with a good shot, Shoda would immediately rush forward and attempt to return the favor. Picking up on his counterpart’s intentions, Arakawa coolly avoided each on-coming barrage with nimble footwork as well as good head and body movement. The incumbent would also mix things up in his own offensive, successfully testing a right uppercut-straight left combination when Shoda focused his defense down below.

The challenger’s frustration was evident in the third as he simply had no means of attacking the elusive champion. Hoping that a chance would surface, Shoda had little choice but to hide behind his guard for extended periods. Arakawa responded by increasing the variety and placement of his punches, as well as masking heavy punches by offering lighter, compact shots designed to free up his opponent’s guard before unloading.

By the fourth, the beltholder had locked on with rights and lefts and was particularly effective with the right uppercut. Midway through the round, Arakawa blasted Shoda with a right hook that buckled the challenger’s knees and had him hurt badly. Calmly, the champ pressed forward, dropping Shoda with quick, precise punches. Though he rose from the mat before the referee could finish the ten-count, Shoda was in poor shape and would not be able to withstand the ensuing flurry. The bout was halted at the 2:04 mark.

With the win, Arakawa made the third defense of his domestic crown and advanced his record to 20-1-1, 14KO. The 29-year old also continued an unbeaten streak in 11 straight appearances, the lone blemish in that duration being a majority draw against then OPBF beltholder Randy Suico. In his post-fight interview, Arakawa called out the current owner of the regional title, Ryuji Migaki (16-2, 12KO). Should that bout get finalized, the winner would be in a decent position for a world title shot, as both Arakawa and Migaki own top ten rankings within both the WBA and WBC.

Fuchigami forces Tajima to retire on his stool

Arakawa’s cohort at Hachioji Nakaya Gym, Makoto Fuchigami, was slightly off his game in the co-feature, but still managed to defend his national middleweight title. Though not particularly tall for the 160-pound division, Fuchigami is deceptively long, using a pesky southpaw jab to set up right hooks and the straight left. Opponents often find the beltholder awkward to fight as the 27-year old seems to be dancing to his own rhythm while in the ring.

On Monday, challenger Hidenori Tajima had some early success as he moved to determine the distance at which they fought while countering Fuchigami’s stick with right hands. The champ would land a few looping right hooks in return, but it was not until round three that he established his dominance. Just as the contestants were heading into the final minute of the frame, Fuchigami flashed a right jab and followed it simultaneously with a blistering left hand. The blow landed flush on Tajima’s chin, sending the challenger straight to the canvas.

Though the titleholder attempted to finish off his opponent, the follow-up assault lacked composure, allowing Tajima to run out the final 60 seconds. While Fuchigami continued to press in the following two frames, he was unable to land another punch with similar authority. Instead, a few well-timed counter rights by Tajima seemed to buckle the champ’s knees late in the fifth. Those punches, however, would prove to be the challenger’s last hurrah, as his corner would call off the fight between rounds as they were concerned Tajima’s jaw had been broken.

Fuchigami (16-6, 7KO) will likely make a quick return to the ring, as the gym is planning an August card. Should he get through that defense successfully, a showdown with Japanese middleweight boss Koji Sato could materialize.

More Hachioji Nakaya Notes

  • Though it’s likely not to be a part of a televised portion of the card, super flyweight prospect Masamichi Nozaki (12-2, 4KO) is tentatively scheduled to fight on the undercard of Saul Alvarez vs. Ryan Rhodes. Hachioji Nakaya Gym representatives recently signed a multi-year deal with Canelo Promotions which would allow the 22-year old to campaign part-time in Mexico. The youngster made his debut in Mexico a few weeks ago, but stuggled to a majority decision. Nozaki has since remained in the country to better adjust to the environment and should perform better his next time in the ring.
  • Arakawa accompanied Nozaki on the trip to Mexico last month, working in 30 rounds of sparring with one of Alvarez’s older brothers. In the course of his time there, he observed that Mexican fighters would often incorporate uppercuts into their combinations, which may have inspired him to do similarly last night.

e-mail Sidney Boquiren

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

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