|Yamanaka, Sato and Arakawa
shine in 2011 edition of Champion Carnival
| Champion Carnival, the annual year-opening series of national title fights,
was capped off last Thursday with an awards ceremony held during the “Boxing
Day” fan appreciation festivities. Though the 2011 edition was missing
a few names due to bigger opportunities (Kazuto Ioka and Takashi Miura,
for example), injury (Masaaki Serie), and illness (Yoshihiro Kamegai),
several other pugilists rose to the occasion to put forth excellent performances.
Previous carnivals have proven to be a stage for up-and-coming boxers to
shine, and this year’s offering lived up to that expectation as on-lookers
saw some of the nation’s brightest hopefuls take positive steps toward
world contender status.
A 10th round stoppage victory in the most anticipated showdown of the carnival’s
draw of fights earned national 118lb champion Shinsuke Yamanaka (14-0,
10KO) MVP honors. The Teiken prospect’s March 5th battle with fellow unbeaten
Ryosuke Iwasa was unexpectedly a highly technical and strategic one, but
contained the classic element of ebb and flow as each fighter attempted
to assert his dominance in 28+ minutes of action. Yamanaka overcame a potential
disaster in the second round – when the slick challenger rocked him with
a counter left hand – to claim momentum in the middle frames with superior
boxing and cleaner punches. Progressively finding a home for his left hand
as the bout continued to the late innings, the southpaw titleholder battered
Iwasa to the point that the challenger had bad swelling around both eyes.
The end came as Yamanaka overwhelmed Iwasa in the middle of the final round
with a flurry, causing the referee to step in at the 1:28 mark.
Yota Sato (21-2-1, 11KO), perhaps the breakout fighter on the domestic
scene in 2010, was commended with the award for technical ability as he
scored his biggest career win against two-time world title challenger Kohei
Kono. It was assumed that the defending champ, a quick boxer who prefers
to work from the outside, would have his hands full as Kono, a relentless
pressure fighter, would come at him non-stop for all ten rounds. However,
Sato established himself early, staking a claim on control of the bout
by flooring the challenger with an exquisitely timed right uppercut seconds
into round two. Though it was hardly a one-sided affair, the 27-year old
champ boxed nicely to a well-deserved unanimous decision.
Selected as the recipient of the third and final honor, “Outstanding Performance,”
was lightweight Nihito Arakawa. The cerebral technician put on a nice display
of accurate punching as he attacked challenger Hiroshi Nakamori with precision.
Coming off the canvas from a knockdown in the second stanza, the defending
champion used lead lefts and left uppercuts to wear down Nakamori in the
middle rounds. As the contest turned toward the homestretch, Arakawa rocked
the challenger badly early in the eighth with a big left hand. A follow-up
left-right would convince referee Biney Martin to halt the bout at the
While the trio of champions garnered the official awards for this year’s
carnival, there were certainly other fighters that deserve recognition.
Flyweight Toshiyuki Igarashi (13-1-1) had one of the more stiff assignments
as he was matched with wily veteran Takayasu Kobayashi. The former Olympian,
however, delivered with a third round explosion in the form of a blistering
left hand that made it by Kobayashi’s guard. Maneuvering out of the way
as his debilitated opponent looked to clinch, Igarashi forced the stoppage
with brutal efficiency, trapping the veteran in a corner with a barrage
Minimumweight strapholder Akira Yaegashi (14-2, 7KO) put on a clinic of
which boxing purists would have been proud. Using speed, pinpoint punching
and ring generalship, the champ was almost untouchable, resulting in a
unanimous decision by wide margins over challenger Norihito Tanaka.
Though this year’s carnival is now over, as we head toward the summer,
we can look forward to the start of a new Korakuen tournament. Victors
of that series of fights are given preference for participation in next
year’s Champion Carnival, and with exciting youngsters such as lightweight
Shuhei Tsuchiya and minimumweight Ryuji Hara as potential entrants, the
2012 iteration of the carnival could be another good one.
For an extended description of the Champion Carnival format and an overview
of this year’s fights before the start of the event, please see my preview at Bad Left Hook. Links to full recaps can be found below as well:.