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Japanese Scene: Sato Tops Kono, Follow-up Notes on Friday's Tripleheader

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

Kyoei040911_medium Sato regains momentum, wins UD over Kono

Super flyweight prospect Yota Sato claimed the biggest victory of his career on Saturday by earning a unanimous decision over Kohei Kono. In a classic clash of styles pitting technician and pressure fighter, it was expected that the two-time world title challenger would give a stern test to the national champ. Sato not only passed the exam with high marks for his ring generalship and technique, but was also awarded with extra credit points for knocking the brawler down early in the fight. The youngster proved more polished, displaying good accuracy and effectiveness with his power punches. Final scores read 97-93 (twice) and 96-93.

Sato found success early as a beautiful, well-timed right uppercut landed squarely on the challenger’s chin less than thirty seconds into the second stanza, dropping him instantly. Kono rose on shaky legs and bravely came forward to meet the adrenaline-jacked titleholder. Sato did what he could to end the fight then and there, rocking him again moments later, but the proud, persistent veteran prevented a stoppage by firing back and landing occasionally.

Though Sato took command of the fight from that round, Kono was not without his bright spots, showing future opponents how to score on the prospect. Seeing that the champ leaves that big head up in the air unguarded more often than he should, Kono came around his left glove with a right cross, scoring with surprising frequency. Nice two-way action in the middle rounds kept spectators excited, but as has been his downfall in the past, the challenger was far too one-dimensional. That he was forced to uncharacteristically retreat late in the bout was a testimony to an accumulation of punishment from Sato.

With the win, Sato successfully defended his Japanese title for the third time and improved to 21-2-1 (11KO). The prospect had been on a good streak in 2010, handing then unbeaten slickster Go Onaga his first loss, then scoring a wide points victory over former Ring Magazine rated contender Daigo Nakahiro. Though he did not look sharp in his TKO win in December against journeyman Yuki Fukumoto, his performance against Kono was certainly a sign that Sato has regained his groove. Ranked in the top ten in both the WBA and WBC, Kyoei Gym boss Keiichiro Kanehira said that he would like to set up his charge for a world title shot for his next fight. While a bout with Tomas Rojas would be something purists would thoroughly enjoy, this writer would prefer that the prospect meet with boxer-puncher Hugo Cazares.

Highlights of the fight can be seen here.

Seto wins first title in 41st pro bout

In the undercard, Sato’s stablemate, Mikihito Seto, edged out Kyohei Tamakoshi for the vacant super bantamweight belt. According to Nikkan Sports, the veterans threw down from the opening bell, with Seto scoring with better punches, particularly with left hooks to the body and his right hand. Final tallies were 97-93, 96-94, 96-95.

The title was available as previous owner Masaaki Serie, who has beaten both men, could not appear in the Champion Carnival due to injuries

Follow-up notes on Friday’s tripleheader

  • As is tradition in Japan, a press conference was held the day after the world title bout, and noticeably absent from the event was Hozumi Hasegawa. While the now former featherweight champion did not suffer damage that would elicit prolonged physical recovery, it seems he showed signs of uncertainty toward his future in the sport. He made no comment on whether he would continue or retire immediately after the fight, nor through an intermediary on Saturday. He simply stated that a decision on his future could not be made so easily, and that he would like to take a break for a while. Should he decide to continue his career, current indications are that he would stay at 126, with handlers opining that he would look to build his resume at the division before making another charge at a title.
  • It looks like Teiken is indeed moving forward with their designs on sending several of their clients to fight in the US. As mentioned in a post last month, Japan’s preeminent promotional firm was looking to export Toshiaki Nishioka in the fall on the condition that he win on Friday. After stopping Mauricio Munoz in nine frames, Teiken is trying to set up an October date in Las Vegas for the super bantamweight champion. An opponent has not been set, but one name being thrown around is Rafael Marquez.
  • Takahiro Ao might also make an appearance overseas. Though not among the original list of Teiken fighters that were mentioned as candidates, a summer defense overseas is being considered. Talks for WBA 122-pound beltholder Akifumi Shimoda to fight in the US in June are also in progress, and top prospect Yoshihiro Kamegai is expected to join Nishioka in the fall as well.

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

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