Japanese Scene: Lee, Sato and Iwasa Win in Tokyo

Sidney Boquiren recaps Saturday night's Korakuan Hall show (undercard after the jump).  For more Japanese boxing updates, you can follow Sidney on twitter: RingwalkNippon@Twitter

Lee turns tide with a single right hand

Ryol Li Lee made his return to the ring on Saturday, six months removed from surrendering his WBA super bantamweight crown to Akifumi Shimoda. For four plus rounds, however, it seemed that the former champ would come to regret setting up a date with Rikiya Fukuhara as the veteran proved again to be a game, live opponent. A former national titleholder himself, Fukuhara pressed the action early and was likely ahead on the cards moving to the middle rounds. But a single short right counter by Lee late in the fifth rocked the veteran, sending him crashing to the canvas. Though Fukuhara attempted to beat the count, he was in no condition to continue and the fight was waived off at the 2:39 mark.

Lee has decided to move back to the featherweight division where he held the Japanese belt in 2010. While it appears that he retained the mobility that propelled him to his upset victory over Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym last October, he was stifled last night as Fukuhara (24-6-1, 18KO) kept him in check with effective pressure. The veteran began to find success with his straight right and right uppercut from the second stanza, and buckled Lee with a looping left hook on a few occasions. When Fukuhara was not on the offensive, he proved to be an elusive target as Lee had a difficult time scoring with meaningful blows.

But as in the past, Fukuhara’s less than sturdy chin would lead to his downfall. Round four offered good two-way action, with the veteran owning the first half of the period and Lee coming back late. Though Lee tried to carry the momentum into the fifth, Fukuhara tagged him with a right-left-right combination. A solid right hand moments later landed flush and seemed to have the former world titleholder reeling. Just as Fukuhara pressed forward to inflict more damage, Lee – who is not known as a big puncher – showed that he could use power to get himself out of a jam. As Fukuhara stepped inside, Lee unleashed the short right with excellent timing and placement. The veteran looked like he had run straight into a truck at full speed by the way he crumbled to the mat upon contact.

With the stoppage victory, Lee advanced to 18-2-1, 9KO. Plans for his next fight have not been revealed, but the one that should be made is with the man that currently owns Lee’s old title – Satoshi Hosono. Lee seems to be destined to take on the current national featherweight strapholder. While Hosono made his mark much earlier in his career by claiming the OPBF throne in his thirteenth fight, both stepped into the spotlight with wins over respected veteran Hiroyuki Enoki (Lee by SD, Hosono by UD), and both went on to fight Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym for the world title. As Lee and Hosono have returned to the 126lb division and both need to rebuild their resumes, a showdown between the two is only a matter of time.

Sato destroys Ujiie in 6 for OPBF defense

Koji Sato retained his regional middleweight title in the main supporting bout with a surprisingly entertaining battle against Fukutaro Ujiie. The Teiken product, who challenged Felix Sturm back in 2009, worked a stiff jab and overwhelmed the challenger with a body to head combo that kept Ujiie shelled up in his guard. Outgunned, Ujiie still persisted in bringing the fight, buzzing the champ a few times with left hooks and one-twos. Sato turned up the pace in the sixth and, trapping the challenger on the ropes, unloaded with big hooks to the head from both sides. Ujiie managed to block a few, but only delayed the inevitable, as he would soon fall to the canvas upon eating several consecutive haymakers. Though the challenger got back to his feet, he was in no shape to defend himself and was quickly rescued by the referee.

The official time of the stoppage was 1:33 of round six. Sato, now 20-1 (18KO), is clearly at the top of a weak weight class in Japan and the OPBF. The one person he has not faced that could make it an interesting bout is current national beltholder Makoto Fuchigami. Talk of that matchup has been made in the past, so hopefully it gets done in the near future.

Iwasa scores KO in comeback

Talented prospect Ryosuke Iwasa was back in action on the undercard and delivered with a beautiful one punch knockout of Indonesian visitor Rasmanudin. The 21-year old last fought in March when he and Japanese bantamweight champ Shinsuke Yamanaka engaged in a war that will likely be considered for fight of the year honors. Iwasa started slowly, perhaps looking to go a few rounds to shake off some rust, but ended up dropping the Indonesian hard with a straight left before the fight had gone four minutes. The prospect improved to 9-1, 7KO.

More Boxing Notes

  • Earlier in the week, Japanese super flyweight champ Yota Sato (22-2-1, 11KO) defended his title with a unanimous decision over Yoshihito Ishizaki (6-2-1, 4KO). Scores were 97-93, 97-94 and 96-95.
  • OPBF welterweight king Akinori Watanabe (23-4, 21KO) made the first defense of his crown on Thursday with a fourth round KO over Korea’s Jung-Hoon Yang (6-3, 2). The knockout artist, who shares the national record for consecutive stoppage victories, dropped Yang with a single left hook to the body.
  • Yuriorkis Gamboa is back in Japan, again to show support for Kazuto Ioka, who works with the same trainer. However, it looks like the Cuban beast will also get in some work as he has agreed to spar with domestic lightweight beltholder Nihito Arakawa on Monday’s Korakuen card. Arakawa is one of my personal favorites and it will be interesting to see how the technician handles someone of Gamboa’s ability. A report on the session with pictures (hopefully) to follow.

e-mail Sidney Boquiren

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

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