By Joe Koizumi
Photos by Naoki Fukuda
Upcoming late-bloomer, IBF#10/WBA#13/WBO#13 Ryuichi Funai (29-7, 20 KOs), a lanky KO artist at 114.75, kept his Japanese national 115-pound belt as he displayed a devastating overhand right to a game warrior from Osaka, Shota Kawaguchi (21-9-1, 9 KOs), 114.75, and badly dropped him to prompt the referee Nakamura’s intervention at 3:09 of the second round on Monday in Tokyo, Japan.
Funai, a year his junior at 32 and making his second defense, was a little befuddled by Kawaguchi’s tricky style before his coup-de-grace exploded at the jaw of the loser, who fell prone and attempted to raise himself only to succumb forward again. Since he once failed to win the national belt from unbeaten Sho Ishida (who recently lost to Khalid Yafai with the WBA belt on the line in Cardiff, UK) via majority nod last year, Funai thus registered five victories straight with four within the distance.
Funai, this March, had his third attempt to win the belt against defending titlist Kenta Nakagawa and very impressively dethroned him with a seventh-round knockout at the Hall. Funai and Nakagawa were formerly classmates that established a boxing club in their high school and started their amateur career together. Nakagawa turned professional three months earlier in 2004 than Funai—from different gyms. They were destined to exchange gloves in the paid ranks sooner or later since both of them belonged to the same 115-pund category. Both of them were truly late-bloomers as it took Nakagawa eleven years to acquire the national belt, while Funai took no less than twelve years to capture his throne. Were this reporter as gifted as this year’s Nobel prize winning novelist Kazuo Ishiguro, I could write their unique personal episode more interestingly and impressively. May Japanese director Takeshi Kitano show his interests in producing a movie featuring their friendly rivalry. I promise to buy a movie ticket.
Veteran campaigners fought in quest of the right to have a mandatory shot at the Japanese 115-pound champion, that is, the winner of the main event, but it disappointingly resulted in a technical draw with JBC#1 Go Onaga (28-3-4, 19 KOs), 115, suffered a very nasty gash on the forehead upon repeated head collisions with four-time world challenger, JBC#2 Hirotaka Kudaka (previously fighting as Hiroaka Hisataka; 25-17-2, 11 KOs), 114.5, at 2:13 of the third round in a scheduled eight. In order to decide the next mandatory challenger, the judges were ruled to select either to advance to the national title bout—with all the judges voting for Kudaka due to his aggressiveness.
Former Japanese flyweight champ Takuya Kogawa (29-5, 13 KOs), 117, showcased his Slapsie Maxie Rosenbloom way of fighting in earning a close but unanimous verdict (77-76, 77-75, 78-74) over Naoto Fujimoto (9-8-1, 4 KO), 116.75, over eight. The speedster with busy hands had lost his national belt to Masayuki Kuroda via split duke in their third meeting this June. Kogawa, a two-time world challenger, is still gunning to climb up to the top again in the national fraternity.