by Joe Koizumi


July 20, 1998
TOKYO--Korakuen Hall--Unbeaten prospect AKIHIKO NAGO, 115, showed a lackluster performance, but kept his title by winning a unanimous nod over non-stop warrior HIROAKI MURAKOSHI, 114 3/4, over 10. Nago, WBA #10 and WBC #14 115-pound contender, extended his unblemished mark to 12-0, 9 KOs. The good loser fell to 11-5-2, 9 KOs, but his determination and durability won the praise of the crowd that had expected Nago's easy KO win.

Piloted by ex-WBA junior fly champ Yoko Gushiken, Nago rapidly zoomed up as one of the most expected and brightest prospects as he dethroned hard-punching Yoshiaki Matsukura by a spectacular 9th round KO here on Mar. 9. His surging popularity gathered a sell-out crowd at the Hall, though his challenger Murakoshi was least known in Tokyo.

Murakoshi, a local boy in Shimizu City, previously had an ambitious shot at the OPBF title against Filipino Raffy Montalban and showed a much better performance than expected despite his losing effort in Tsuruga on Dec. 6 of the previous year. He had lost on 4 occasions, but hadn't experienced any defeat by kayo.

Nago, ex-All Japan high school champ scouted by Gushiken, made good use of his footwork to avert Murakoshi's roundhouse punches from the start. It was a funny fight with Murakoshi stalking the Fancy Dan and Nago dancing all night.

Nago attempted to counter the wild swinger, but Murakoshi kept boring in with a tight peek-a-boo guard and blocked the champ's occasional solid shots. Nago, known as a one-punch finisher, seemed to be at a loss against the non-stop onrushing opponent, though he had Murakoshi's shots almost perfectly missing.

As the contest progressed, the sell-out crowd began booing Nago's negative dancing. It was true that he seldom threw punches. Encouraged by his chief second Gushiken, Nago started throwing punches to the shell-like guarded opponent from the 6th on. But Murakoshi showed his gameness and kept the pressure on him.

The last 2 rounds witnessed Murakoshi's last surge to make the champ ride a bicycle. Nago failed to show his vaunted power punching with which he had often impressed the spectators by scoring knockdowns with a single shot in his previous bouts.

Murakoshi, in the 10th and final session, was penalized a point for coming in from the head. It caused furious protests of his adherents from Shimizu.

Nago, 3 years his junior at 21, is a talented hard-hitter, but he had better master southpaw jabs to have his opponent's guard open or have his foe off-balance. Anyway, it was one of the worst showings for Nago, the future world champ, along with his performance against Filipino Arnold Fernandez whom he stopped in 9 rounds after a dull processing on Oct. 20 of the previous year.

JBC #1 ranked super-light MASAAKI TAKEDA, 140, stopped his winning run at 17, as he was amazingly stopped by ex-national light champ and currently JBC #4 140-pounder HIROYUKI MAEDA, at the limit, at 2:59 of the 4th in a semi-final 10. Maeda, 26, raised his ledger to 16-5-2, 10 KOs. Takeda, a prefight favorite, tasted his second defeat and dropped to 18-2, 12 KOs.

Takeda, conquerer in their first encounter on points on Jun. 6 of the last year, tried to finish the opponent this time, and started fireworks from the start. He often shook up Maeda with his specialty, a solid straight right, in the 1st and 3rd. Maeda, however, almost toppled him with a vicious right in the 2nd, though he was forced to be defensive due to Takeda's furious aggressiveness.

The 4th saw Takeda turn loose with a barrage of punches that visibly hurt Maeda, who, however, suddenly turned the tables with a good right to the jaw with precision. Takeda became rubbery-legged only to be a human dummy for Maeda who unleashed a fusillade of punches to the groggy foe. Referee Masakazu Uchida declared a well-timed stoppage to save the loser from further punishment.

Maeda will move up to the #1 rank to be entitled to have a mandatory crack at the national 140-pound crown against Junichi Ono, a fast-footed speedster, with whom Maeda had drawn this year. It will be an interesting rematch that will happen early next year.

Busy-punching Osamu Sato, 121 1/4, floored Shinobu Hirado, 122, with a well-timed left-right combo in the 2nd, and won a unanimous nod (double 79-75 and 78-74) over Shinobu Hirado, 122, over 8.

Despite his ballyhooed amateur mark of 123-20 with 90 stoppages, Koichi Saito, 140, couldn't impress the crowd with his aggressive but less accurate attacks only to be content with a unanimous decision (double 59-57 and 60-56) over durable Seiji Takechi, 140, in his pro debut for 6 rounds.

Ex-amateur boy Masashi Nema, 121, scouted by Yoko Gushiken, decked his pro debut with a fine one-punch KO of Kuninotaka Fukui, 121 1/4, with a single body shot at 3:09 of the opening canto in a scheduled 4. He looks talented.

Co-promoters: Kyoei and Shirai-Gushiken Promotions.

July 19, 1998
FUKUOKA--Accion Fukuoka--JBC #7 ranked super-light SHIGEO OKAYAMA, 141 1/4, was held to a technical draw by SEIICHI SATAKE, 143 3/4, at 1:38 of the 4th round in a scheduled 10. Okayama is 10-4-1, 6 KOs. Satake fell to 5-1-3, 3 KOs.

-- Joe Koizumi
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