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All Japan Rookie of the Year Final results!

After an incredibly busy Saturday of action globally for fight fans, the action continued into Sunday as we turned our attention to Japan and the Korakuen Hall for the 2020 All Japan Rookie of the Year.

The tournament, now in it's 67th edition, was delayed due to Covid19 and was, sadly, held without an audience at Korakuen Hall, though was thankfully aired live on G+ and provided a lot of fantastic, thrilling, 2-way action as fighters battled to be crowned the All Japan Rookie of the Year.

In the show opener we saw teenager Ren Kojima (6-1-2) [小島 蓮] etch his name into the history books as he took the Minimumweight crown, out pointing Ryo Sasaki (5-3, 2) [佐々木 凌] over 5 rounds. Through out the bout Kojima simply out worked, out boxed, out sped and out manoeuvred Sasaki, who was often chasing but rarely cutting off the ring. Real credit needs to go to Kojima for his energy, and his movement, which were impressive through out. After 5 rounds the judges had this one 50-45, twice, and 49-47 all to Kojima who becomes the first fighter from the Emi Gym to win Rookie of the Year.

​The second bout was something truly special as we saw Ryota Karimata (6-0, 3) [狩俣 綾汰] narrowly outpoint Hyogo Kimura (6-2-1, 1) [木村 彪吾] to be crowned the Light Flyweight Rookie of the Year. This was just an amazing bout, fought at a high pace from the off, with neither man letting the other get their nose in front. It was toe to toe action from the first round to the final bell and really hard to split the two men, who gave everything they had. After 5 rounds the judges had this 48-47, twice, and 48-48 to give Karimata a razor thin decision. This is one that fans need to go back and give a watch to as soon as they can as it was tremendous action and the perfectly balanced, 50/50 type bout that we always hope to see in Rookie of Year finals.

In the Flyweight bout Akira Hoshuyama (5-0, 2) [宝珠山 晃] narrowly over-came Yasuhiro Kanzaki (6-2, 2) [神崎 靖浩] . The early going saw Hoshuyama look to box at range, fighting off his southpaw jab though Kanzaki managed to counter him, and shook him with about 2 minutes of the opening round gone. Hoshuyama managed to regroup well and found his range in round 2 before being dropped by a left hook late in the round. Rather interestingly Hoshuyama got to his feet quickly, whilst the ref was out of range, and ate a huge uppercut straight afterwards, and was sent back down. It was only 1 knockdown, officially, but it was still an interesting moment and not something we see often. Sadly for Kanzaki it did result in him being deducted a point, which ended up being vital on the cards. Hoshuyama recovered well from the knockdown and hurt Kanzaki in round 3, as he began to land some huge straight left hands. The success of Hoshuyama's from round 3 continued into round 4 as he began to break down Kanzaki who ended up with a bloodied nose in round 5.

We went to the scorecards at the end of this one, and the scores were 47-46 from all 3 judges, sadly for Kanzaki two of those judges went with Hoshuyama. The point deduction essentially costing Kanzaki the draw.

​At Super Flyweight we got the hugely anticipated clash between Shunpei Kubo (7-1-1, 5) [久保 春平], who had upset Kosuke Tomioka in the East Japan final, and the unbeaten Taichi Sugimoto (6-1-1, 1) [杉本 太一]. The opening round saw Sugimoto rocked to his core late in the round, though to his credit he gutted it out and fought back well in round 2 as regrouped and cleared his head. Sadly however Sugimoto was hurt again in round 3, and was rocked repeatedly in round 4 as Kubo began to use his head head for target practice, finally forcing a stoppage with just over 30 seconds of the round remaining. With the win Kubo scored the first stoppage of the day, and took the Super Flyweight crown, with a very impressive performance.

The fifth bout on the show was the Bantamweight bout and saw ​Ryuki Sudo (2-1, 1) [須藤 龍揮] take a beating at the hands of southpaw Fuya Tomita (6-2, 2) [冨田 風弥]. This was explosive from the off with both men landing some big shots in the first 90 seconds, and both showcased some solid whiskers through out the first round. Sadly for Sudo he seemed to be on the receiving end a lot of the time and he was tagged early in round 2, before being dropped about a minute into the round. Sudo beat the count but took a beating through what was left of the round, and narrowly made it into round 3. Tomita was genuinely looking for a finish through the third, though Sudo did just enough to avoid the referee jumping in. Tomita's hunt for a finish continued through the final round, though to his credit Sudo managed to do enough to see out the round and hear the final bell. 

After 4 rounds the judges had this 40-35 and 38-37, twice, with Tomita taking the unanimous decision. We really do wonder how the judges found 2 rounds to give to Sudo, though credit where it's due, he showed surprising durability.

​At Super Bantamweight we saw Yuki Yazan (7-3, 4) [矢斬 佑季] suffer a clear decision loss to the unbeaten Sora Fukunaga (9-0, 4) [福永 宇宙]. This was an interesting match up, with Yazan looking the much bigger man, but the clean, hurtful, accurate shots were pretty much all from Fukunaga, who had Yazan in all sorts of trouble in round 5. Credit goes to Yazan for always trying to win here, but round after round he seemed to be on the wrong end of things. After 5 rounds the judges had this one 50-45 and 49-46, twice, all in favour of Fukunaga.

The first bout that was scheduled for the show but didn't take  place was the Featherweight bout, which was scheduled to be between Kazunori Hirano (4-0, 4) [平野和憲] and Hikaru Fukunaga (8-1, 5) [福永輝]. Sadly this was cancelled when Fukunaga had a positive PCR test, giving Hirano the Rookie crown by default. Fukunaga was suffering from fever and was said to be genuinely quite unwell.

We returned to in ring action at Super Featherweight, as the hard hitting Tsubasa Narai (7-0, 6) [奈良井 翼] took on Seika Fukuda (5-1, 1) [福田 星河]. On paper this one looked really interesting, but Narai took all the interest away rather quickly. Within the first minute Marai made it clear he didn't want to drag it out, and landed some solid bombs. Fukuda showed some heart and desire but was dropped mid-way through the round. Narai, knowing his man was hurt, went on the hunt and dropped Fukuda for a second time with the referee quickly waving off the contest.

At Lightweight ​​Hiromasa Urakawa (7-1, 4) [浦川 大将] managed to over-come the gutsy Eiji Togawa (6-4, 3) [戸川 叡二]. This one started slowly, with both men showing respect to the other, though the power of Urakawa showed and he left Togawa with a bloodied nose at the end of round 2. The bleeding was worsened in round 3, as Urakawa began to land with some lovely combinations up top. Knowing he was down Togawa looked to turn the bout around in the 4th round, as he increased the tempo of the fight. Sadly for Togawa it seemed like Urakawa had an answer for everything he did, and Togawa was rocked late in the round. Togawa managed to have his best round in round 5, and he managed to bloody Urakawa's nose, but it was too little too late to turn the bout around. After 5 rounds Urakawa took a clear, and well deserved, decision over the brave Togawa.

The planned Light Welterweight bout was the second bout to be cancelled, as Reiji Kodama (2-0, 1) [兒玉麗司] was forced out of his bout with Aito Takabatake (6-0-1, 1) [高畠愛大]. Kodama, like Hikaru Fukunaga, also had a positive result in his PCR test, though he was said to be asymptomatic. Sadly the positive test meant Kodama had to be pulled from the show, and as a result Takabatake won the Rookie title by default.

At Welterweight Kaichi Yamazaki (2-3, 2) [山﨑 海知] came up short against Hiroya Nojima (6-1, 2) [能嶋 宏弥]. Within a minute of the fight starting we had drama as Yamazaki was dropped from a short right hand. He popped up and got clobbered again by Nojima, who was then deducted a point for hitting a downed opponent. Sadly the early drama was about as good as it got, with Nojima happy to box and move for much of the rest of the bout as he walked his way to a clear decision win. Yamazaki came to fight, but he was second best for pretty every minute, of every round, as he lost a wide 4 round decision here. All 3 judges turned in identical cards of 39-35 to Nojima.

The final bout on the show was the Middleweight bout, between teenager Eiki Kani (3-1-2, 1) [可兒 栄樹] and the hard hitting Katsuhiro Nakata (6-0, 4) [中田 勝浩]. From the off it was hard to ignore the clear size difference between the two men, with Nakata towering over Kani. Despite being the much, much taller man Nakata rarely used his size and instead allowed Kani to fight on the inside, giving us a brilliant action war pretty much from the off. With Nakata willing to standing his ground, and Kani marching forward, we ended up with a bout packed uppercuts, which left both men bloody messes by the mid-way point of round 3, though there was no quit with either man. Despite both men wearing claret across their faces as we entered round 4, neither man showed any intention to change their tactics and the round was another brutal one with both taking a lot of leather, and at various points both men seemed to be hurt during a sensational 3 minutes of violence. That was then followed by an equally punishing fifth round as we ended up getting a genuine treat to close the show.

After 5 rounds this was an incredibly tough one to score and that showed on the scorecards with the first judge giving it 48-47 to Kani. He was over-ruled however by the other two judges who both had it 48-47 to Nakata. It was hard to argue either way, and hopefully, one day down the line, we see these two re-run the bout over a longer distance. It was brutal, it was exciting, competitive and a fantastic way to end the show.


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