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Japanese Scene: Igarashi Claims Vacant National 112lb Title, Tunacao Defends OPBF Crown, Details of Rojas' Victory Over Nashiro

Sidney Boquiren has the ringside report from this past weekend's show at the Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, plus details of Tomas' Rojas win over Nobuo Nashiro.  For more Japanese boxing updates, you can follow Sidney on twitter: RingwalkNippon@Twitter

Igarashi blasts Kobayashi in three

Toshiyuki Igarashi was impressive in earning the national flyweight title on Saturday when he stopped rugged veteran Takayasu Kobayashi in three rounds. Coming out of the corner cautiously at the initial gong, the former Olympian freed himself up mid-way through the second round and turned it up all the way in the third. Igarashi was relentless in finishing off his opponent when a solid left hand rocked Kobayashi at the halfway point. Trapping the veteran in a corner, a nice flurry of punches forced the referee to call off the bout.

Looking a bit stiff in the first round, Igarashi was the picture of a textbook boxer, both hands securely upright in a guard as he circled and looked for opportunities. The southpaw would find some success by connecting to the body with his left, but it was a rather uneventful frame. The chess match would continue in the next period, with Igarashi again going to the veteran’s midsection. However, during the second minute of action, the lefty seemed to switch into a more liberal style, immediately reaping results with a hard straight left and a classic double hook combination. He would finish out the round well, tagging Kobayashi with yet another left to the body.

Not to be out done, the 31-year old veteran challenged Igarashi to go toe-to-toe, and the duo started the third with a right hook versus left hook duel. A pause in the action allowed the prospect to create some space, and behind a flicker-like jab, Igarashi found an opening for the left up top. The blast left Kobayashi on wobbly legs and the veteran looked to clinch his way out of the jam. However, Igarashi maneuvered out, cornering his opponent against a post where he quickly put on the finishing touches. The official time of the stoppage was 2:07 of round three.

A former interim champ, the sole blemish on Igarashi’s record (13-1-1, 10KO) was a points decision against full titleholder and two-time world challenger Tomonobu Shimizu at the end of 2008. Since then, the prospect has won six straight, all but one by stoppage, including a first round KO of trial horse Rexon Flores.

Teiken chairman Akihiko Honda commented after the bout that he would like to set up a world title shot for Igarashi within the year. Just outside the top 10 in both the WBC and the WBA ratings, a run at either belt could be possible. Do not be surprised if the Japanese powerhouse puts their prospect up against Pongsaklek Wonjongkam. Although this writer feels the Thai legend still has a few good fights in him, a showdown with Wonjongkam would be the most lucrative option and one might believe the Kameda fight was his last big hurrah. If that bout were to happen and Igarashi allows himself to freestyle in the ring, he could very well have a chance.

For those interested, here’s a clip of Igarashi in action. Round 2 of his fight with Abel Ochoa.

Revitalized Tunacao makes defense of regional strap

Former world flyweight champion Malcolm Tunacao continues a late career surge as he successfully defended his OPBF bantamweight crown against replacement opponent Daigo Nakahiro. With the challenger bleeding profusely above his right eye from an accidental clash of heads, the champ caught Nakahiro with a flurry of punches late in the sixth, prompting the referee to wave off the fight.

A solid technician, the southpaw took the lead from the beginning of the bout capitalizing on his advantage in speed and was very effective with his left. According to Nikkan Sports, the challenger worked his way back by attacking the incumbent’s body and connecting with his left hook. However, Nakahiro could not make it out of the sixth frame as Tunacao’s superiority was on display as he connected with a combination of blows to end the contest. The TKO stoppage came at the 2:32 mark.

The 33-year old Filipino has had a remarkable turnaround since joining Hozumi Hasegawa and company at Shinsei Gym, making the Kobe-operation his base since last year. Though it has been ten years since his reign as a world champion, Tunacao has looked revitalized in the past 12 months. Since campaigning in Japan, he is 4-0 (2KO) including a clear decision win over highly rated contender Kohei Oba.

Not shy with the microphone, Tunacao called out WBC titleholder Koki Kameda after the victory.

More Boxing Notes

  • I apologize to those looking for a recap of the Rojas-Nashiro bout. I have not had a chance to see the fight as I was at Korakuen covering Igarashi-Kobayashi. As Scott posted earlier, the Mexican defended his green belt by unanimous decision (116-111, 114-113, 116-113). By accounts in the Japanese press, Rojas, who had a three-inch reach advantage and was five-inches taller, took the rugged Nashiro to school. The southpaw kept the two-time champion at the end of his jab and countered with right hooks and straight lefts when the brawler forced his way inside. Similar to his title-winning effort against Kohei Kono, Rojas played matador to a pressure fighter, and won on his technical superiority.
  • The fight has been uploaded to youtube, so enjoy it while it is still available: Part 1 & Part 2
  • As Scott also noted, Hirofumi Mukai took a decision over 10 frames against former world title challenger Sonny Boy Jaro on the undercard of Rojas-Nashiro. The 25-year old prospect is Nashiro’s gymmate and is currently a perfect 5-0. While most new pugs start off with four-rounders, Mukai’s successful amateur background allowed him to enter the pro ranks with a B-class license (i.e. he is eligible according to JBC standards to take part in six-rounders) and he has made the most of it, already tabbed at #11 in the OPBF ratings. According to Daily Sports Online, against Jaro, the southpaw controlled the entire fight, cutting the Filipino with a left hand in the second round. With no stoppage victories on his record, a lack of power may be a concern, but that may be due to the fact that he has been matched with tougher opponents. Look for the youngster to seek a shot at the national or regional strap within the year.
  • Top prospect Yoshihiro Kamegai was supposed to be the headliner of the Korakuen card, but was forced out of the appearance due to illness. It was announced that the national 140-pound champ would be giving up his crown, making way for scheduled dance partner Shinya Nagase to face Kazuya Ito for the vacant title next month. Though it is unfortunate that Kamegai (17-0, 15KO) could not make the fight, the prospect has quickly outgrown domestic competition and really should be looking outside Japan’s boarders for opponents. While he was matched with former world champion Jose Alfaro in his last bout, I imagine the talented 28-year old will be eased back into action with the likes of Prawet Singwancha (who mysteriously owns the #5 spot in the WBC ranking) or unknown Jhoan Perez (who is ranked one spot higher by the WBA).

e-mail Sidney Boquiren

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

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