By Joe Koizumi
Japanese 130-pounder Kenichi Ogawa’s IBF coronation warmed all the hearts of our aficionados. Ogawa (26-1-1-1NC, 18 KOs), 33, had a rollercoasting career and displayed a four-year perseverance caused by his unfortunate forfeiture of the once-acquired but later stripped IBF belt. It was in December 2017 that the hard-punching Japanese, formerly a nippon-kempo (a sort of karate) specialist at Meiji university, temporarily won the vacant IBF junior light belt by edging Tevin Farmer by a hairline split decision (116-112, 115-113, 112-116) in Las Vegas. Ogawa, however, tested positive for Androstanedior, and Teiken Promotions strongly and persistently denied his intake of any forbidden drug by submitting a lot of proofs, but in vain. The Nevada State Athletic Commission, four months later–in April 2018, reversed it into a no contest, and the IBF eventually denied Ogawa’s belt and declared it vacant again. Pitifully, Kenichi was fined twenty percent of his purse, and was suspended for six month by the NSAC. The Japan Boxing Commission (JBC) followed the verdict and also suspended him for a year from his Farmer bout.
Ogawa’s JBC suspension was over on December 10, 2018. The patient Kenichi kept winning thereafter to maintain his high world rating, and was slated to face IBF#1 Shavkat Rakhimov for the vacant belt in Dubai UAE on August 20 this year, but it was only nine days before that Rakhimov’s injury pitifully called off the Dubai bout. Then, it was rescheduled on November 27, when Ogawa would face IBF#2 Azinga Fuzile, South Africa, instead at the MSG because of Rakhimov’s long treatment.
The durable Ogawa, now 33, waited long for his opportunity to seize the IBF championship for four years since his Farmer bout (which became a no contest), and floored Fuzile three times to finally acquire the belt by a unanimous decision to his credit. The newly crowned champion Ogawa jubilantly said, “I’ll demonstrate my strength anywhere in the world.”
All sports papers in Japan dealt with his impressive coronation big on Monday. The Sports Hochi, one of the leading sports papers here, emphatically reported his victory at the Madison Square Garden at the front page. Ogawa, congratulations!