By Joe Koizumi
Photos by Boxing Beat Magazine
With the dynamic emergence of “The Monster” Naoya Inoue, the current WBA and IBF world bantamweight champion, foreign people may suppose that our Japanese boxing fraternity goes soundly, but it is not true as Inoue is only a rare exception. With our new emperor’s coronation, we have entered a new era named “Reiwa” from May 1. In short, May 2019 is the first month of the Reiwa era. Since then, eight Japanese ringmen participated in world title bouts, but our outstanding boxers suffered 1-7 in eight bouts with world championships on the line.
On May 4, Ryuichi Funai, the mandatory contender after winning the eliminator, had an ambitious crack at the IBF 115-pound belt against Jerwin Ancajas only to be stopped due to the ring physician’s advice in the beginning of the seventh round in Stockton, CA. Ancajas, an aggressive sharpshooter, was simply too much for Funai despite his determination and durability.
Also mandatory challenger Masayuki Kuroda, on May 13, failed to dethrone IBF flyweight kingpin Moruti Mthalane, from South Africa, via unanimous verdict (116-112 twice, 117-111) in Tokyo, Japan. The 36-year-old champ’s stinging lefts with power and precision effectively battered Kuroda, a game and gallant challenger, into a bloody mess, though he fought very gamely.
Just six days later, on May 19, gutsy Japanese challenger Reiya Konishi found IBF 108-pound ruler Felix Alvarado, Nicaragua, too pugnacious and powerful for him to cope with only to lose a unanimous nod (116-112, 117-111, 118-110) over nearly lopsided twelve heats in Kobe, Japan. The crestfallen loser Konishi, in his second attempt to win a world throne, pitifully said, “I truly realized the distance of level between the summit of the world and Japan.”
Our bright star Masayuki Ito, IBF 130-pound defending titlist, disappointingly forfeited his precious belt to Jamel Herring via upset decision (118-110 twice, 116-112) in Kissimmee, FL, on May 25. Our fans very gloomily watch Ito lose round after round to such a puzzling taller southpaw as Herring live via satellite.
On the same day due to the time difference, on May 26, people in Japan also fell into great gloom as a couple of Japanese prospects were beaten to the punch and couldn’t win world belts in Fuzhou, China. Former WBA 122-pound champ Shun Kubo took a bad shellacking by newly crowned WBA featherweight titleholder Xu Can to be halted midway in round six before the huge Chinese audience. Though highly expected, ex-WBO flyweight ruler Sho Kimura, having moved down to the 108-pound category, was completely outpunched and outlegged by shifty and hard-punching Venezuelan Carlos Canizales, dropping a very one-sided decision (119-109 twice, 118-110) over twelve disappointing rounds. It was a sad day that our aficionados saw the three contestants including the prefight favorite Ito all tasted bitter setbacks.
On May 31, in Thailand, former WBO interim champ Tatsuya Fukuhara, an aggressive southpaw, couldn’t win the WBC 105-pound belt only to lose a technical decision (79-73, 78-74 twice) to unbeaten Wanheng Menayothin (53-0, 18 KOs), 33, due to the champ’s bad gash midway in the eighth round. Japanese boxers, in Thailand, thus suffered 1-24-1 in twenty-six world title bouts including a single triumph of Koki Eto who upset Kompayak Porpramock to win the WBA interim flyweight belt. Probably Thailand might be located in an unlucky direction to Japan.
Only Naoya Inoue, regular WBA 118-pound titlist, annihilated Emmanuel Rodriguez via spectacular second round demolition to acquire the IBF belt in Glasgow, UK, on May 18. He is a remarkable prodigy far beyond other Japanese boxers, but May 2019 might be recorded as the worst month ever in the Japanese ring history. All Japanese boxers aren’t Inoue.