Naoya Inoue, Takashi Uchiyama and other current and former boxing stars will come together at Yoyogi National Gymnasium on Feb. 11 for an unprecedented charity fight card to show appreciation for the medical professionals who have been working hard during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The event has been named “Legend.”
In addition to the professional fighters, a couple of amateurs who have already secured berths for the Tokyo Olympics will also participate.
Organizers revealed six bouts for the event on Wednesday at a Tokyo hotel. Among them is a matchup of retired former triple-division champ Akira Yaegashi and WBA light flyweight title holder Hiroto Kyoguchi.
“I announced my retirement last September and have worked as a trainer and coach (for the Ohashi gym) since then,” said Yaegashi, who won world titles in the mini flyweight, flyweight and light flyweight classes. “And I’ve changed my views on boxing and have been fascinated by it again. Hopefully, I’ll help the sport regain its popularity as a form of entertainment.”
Kyoguchi said he’s never even sparred with Yaegashi, who he described as “a legend.”
“I don’t want him to tune up perfectly to face me,” Kyoguchi joked. “But Inoue was saying that he doesn’t want to put on a lukewarm match and I’m in the same boat. I want to display something that genuinely excites the audience.”
All bouts will be exhibitions with a maximum of three rounds lasting three minutes each. Further details will be revealed later.
Uchiyama, who at one point as the WBA super featherweight champion had 11 straight successful title defenses, retired in 2016 and will be making a one-day return to the ring against Japanese super featherweight champion Kosuke Saka.
Former K-1 kickboxing champion Yoshiki Takei, who will make his pro boxing debut next month, will take on Sho Kimura, former owner of the WBA flyweight belt.
“I’m a boxer now, but I’d like to challenge Kimura with the pride of a K-1 fighter,” Takei said.
Takei added, jokingly, “I heard we’ll fight under K-1 rules … forgive me if I kick him.
That prompted a response from Kimura.
“Well, I heard it’ll be boxing rules. He’s a former K-1 champion and I’m curious about how strong he is.”
Inoue, nicknamed “The Monster,” wasn’t at Wednesday’s news conference, but is the biggest name slated to compete. The WBA and IBF bantamweight champion is one of the world’s best pound-for-pound fighters. His opponent will be announced at a later date.
Another intriguing aspect of the event is the matchup of amateurs and professionals.
Jin Sasaki, 19, is the Japanese youth super lightweight champion and will be squaring off against Sewon Okazawa, who is set to compete in the 69-kg division at the Tokyo Games.
“I know Okazawa is skilled and strong, but I want to show my spirit as a pro boxer, so I’m planning to overwhelm him,” Sasaki said. “I’m going to get in the ring with a mindset to knock him down in order I’ll raise my own profile because I’m not well known.”
Onsite Screen Co. Ltd., a medical equipment import and export and consulting company, is sponsoring the event and fans, officials and reporters will all undergo PCR testing using the company’s own on-site system, before entering the arena. While the results can be delivered in around 30 minutes, they are not recognized as official since the tests aren’t administered by a medical doctor. Reporters were required to go through the system prior to Wednesday’s news conference.
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