Fukunaga barely defeats Kaji, keeps three belts

Photo: Naoki Fukuda

By Joe Koizumi

35-year-old late bloomer, Japanese southpaw WBO#7, IBF#8, WBC#12 Ryoji Fukunaga (15-4, 14 KOs), 115, squeaked by previously unbeaten Hayate Kaji (15-1, 9 KOs), 114.75, on a hairline majority decision (115-113 twice, 114-114) over twelve hard-fought rounds to keep his three regional super-flyweight belts of Japan (JBC), OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific on Saturday in Tokyo, Japan. It was such a close affair that the interim tallies were announced after the fifth as 48-47 twice for the champ and 47-48 for the challenger. Kaji seemingly had an upper hand until the tenth, but Fukunaga, a game southpaw, showed his final surge in the last two sessions.

In the semi-windup, former Japanese super-bantam champ Yusaku Kuga (20-5-1, 13 KOs), 122, scored his third victory (in as many encounters) over grudge rival Ryoichi Tamura (14-6-1, 7 KOs), 122, over eight. Kuga, a game hard-puncher, kept his national belt against Tamura in 2017, and he wrested the same belt from the then titleholder Tamura in 2019. This time it was an eliminator to decide the mandatory challenger to current titlist Gakuya Furuhashi who had dethroned Kuga via upset TKO route this January.

Promoter: Dangan Aoki Promotions.

Attendance: 580 (with the JBC’s regulation at the Korakuen Hall).

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  • Pedro Guevara hasn’t done much in 2 years, but he is #5 in the WBO, and had one fight in 2021. 2 of his 3 losses were in Japan, out of 40 fights. He would be a good test for Fukunaga. If they fought, the winner should get a top 4 spot. KJ Cataraja not beating anyone good, and is #6 in the WBO. Donnie Nietes is legit, a long time champ, but 39. I would like to keep an eye on WBO title fights at 115 over the next 18 months.

  • Man, I love that photo because it reminds me how fantastic Reyes gloves are and how you rarely see them anymore. Not only are Reyes puncher’s gloves, it’s easier to open up the glove when blocking punches.

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