Japanese Scene: Ioka-Yaegashi set for June, Fuchigami and Amagasa defend titles

Amagasa & Fuchigami

Sidney Boquiren has the latest boxing news from Japan (plus recaps after the jump). For more Japanese boxing updates, you can follow Sidney on twitter: RingwalkNippon@Twitter

After months of negotiations, contracts for a fight between top minimumweights Kazuto Ioka and Akira Yaegashi have finally been sealed. The WBC and WBA champions will square off at Osaka's Bodymaker Colosseum on June 20, marking the first ever unification bout between Japanese titleholders. Ioka (9-0, 6KO; Ring #2) has made two defenses of the green belt he won from Oleydong Sithsamerchai in February 2011, while Yaegashi (15-2, 8KO; Ring #9) will wager the strap he won last October against Pornsawan Porpramook.

Blending athleticism and technique, Ioka is a thoroughbred raised under uncle and former two-division champion Hiroki Ioka. The 23-year old won multiple titles in the unpaid ranks as a high schooler, then set the national record for fastest to a world title, taking the crown from Sithsamerchai in just his seventh pro bout. Gradually refining his game with a solid showing against Juan Hernandez last August, then blowing out Yodgoen Tor Chalermchai in just 98 seconds on New Year's Eve, the prodigy may be making his last performance at boxing's lowest weight class. Ioka moved down for the title shot against Sithsamerchai and has regularly been troubled in making the 105-pound limit.

Yaegashi is also a speedy technician, but unlike the WBC champ, the 29-year old had a more difficult road to this unification bout. In his seventh pro fight, Yaegashi also got a shot at a world title, but was thoroughly outclassed by Eagle Kyowa, suffering a fractured jaw in the process. After easing back into things with a unanimous decision over a journeyman, Yaegashi fell short on points against the late Masatate Tsuji. Only after winning the national crown and making three defenses did Yaegashi get another shot at a world title. In his battle with Pornsawan, while starting out with his typical textbook style, Yaegashi proved he could also bang. The barnburner was highly celebrated among pundits, including Fight of the Year honors from ESPN.com.

The summer showdown should be a technical one, but not without quick, furious exchanges. While Ioka has built his career on setting records in the spotlight, Yaegashi will certainly be motivated to take the opportunity to step out of the youngster's shadow. This writer thinks the WBA champ will bring the fight to Ioka, and it will be the WBC titleholder's responsibility to show that he truly is in a different class.

Sato camp plans defense for this summer

Just weeks after upsetting Suriyan Sor Rungvisai to win the WBC super flyweight title, Yota Sato is back in the gym as his representatives are planning a defense this summer. Chunichi Sports reports that Sato's handlers at Kyoei Promotions are negotiating a mid-July fight with Sylvester Lopez (19-3-1, 15KO). The Filipino was ringside when the new champion lifted the belt from Suriyan on March 27.

Lopez's best wins include a first round blowout of veteran trial horse Everardo Morales and a TKO over rugged Oscar Ibarra in a heated battle last September. In his most recent appearance last month, the 24-year old knocked down visiting Yuki Fukumoto twice before earning a stoppage in four. Sato also has a win over Fukumoto via TKO, but looked quite mediocre against the journeyman until putting it together in the seventh round.

The fight should be a battle between Sato's unpredictable and quick style and Lopez power.

Fuchigami, Amagasa, and Mitamura retain titles

Though it took much longer than expected, regional middleweight champ Makoto Fuchigami (19-6, 10KO) defended his OPBF crown by stopping Kyung-Suk Kwak in ten frames on Monday. Fuchigami, who won the title against Koji Sato in Rocky Balboa-like fashion last December, dominated every stanza of the fight but could not finish off the surprisingly tough Korean challenger. Pummeling Kwak to the body round after round, it was only after Fuchigami landed a succession of neck-twisting lefts up top that the referee stepped in to protect the visiting fighter.

In the night's main event, Hisashi Amagasa survived a late rally by popular journeyman Noriyuki Ueno to make the first defense of his featherweight crown. The 26-year old champ had been in full control of the fight from the start, buzzing the challenger badly with surprisingly concussive left hooks in the opening moments. Ueno looked out on his feet at several points in the first six rounds, falling to the mat once in the fourth as well. However, a looping left hook in round seven almost won him the title as he caught Amagasa on the button. The champ was in extremely bad shape, barely running out the last minute of the frame. Somehow Amagasa stayed on his feet for the last two periods, earning a UD by scores of 97-91 (twice), 97-92.

On Tuesday, Takuya Mitamura (12-0, 2KO) protected his undefeated status and his national minimumweight belt with a ninth round stoppage over Toshihiro Nakashima. According to Nikkan Sports, it was a back-and-forth contest featuring heavy trading, with the titleholder finally taking the upper hand in the ninth. The referee stepped in at the 1:52 mark after Mitamura looked to follow up after rocking the challenger with a hard left hook.

e-mail Sidney Boquiren

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

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