I feel refreshed!” Jyunjin Nakatani reveals with a smile the behind-the-scenes story of his “2 weight class win by KO with a shudder! | FRIDAY DIGITAL

I feel refreshed!” Jyunjin Nakatani reveals with a smile the behind-the-scenes story of his “2 weight class win by KO with a shudder!

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The MGM Grand Garden was the birthplace of one of the most famous fights in boxing history. It was the perfect arena for Jyunjin Nakatani’s two-weight championship.

I’ve never seen Juntaro Nakatani express his joy with his whole body like this. You made his childhood dream come true in a good way. ……”

Mr. Sumito Nakatani, 47, who was at ringside watching his son fight, felt this way as he watched the new WBO super flyweight champion run across the ring with his fist raised in victory.

Sumito and his wife arrived in Las Vegas three days before the fight to join his eldest son, who was aiming for a two-weight championship, and his second son, who was supporting his brother as a manager. After Junjin passed the weigh-in the day before, the four of them had dinner together as a family for the first time in a while. The father was more nervous than the always nonchalant Junjin.

A few hours before the bell, they heard that their opponent, Andrew Moloney, who had been hired as a sparring partner, had lost by KO in a match the day before.

The two fighters may share a similarity in that they are both tall southpaws, but their technique, speed, and punching power are not comparable, and they are not strong enough to be a “virtual Junjin Nakatani. The Moroni camp has miscalculated in the preparation stage.

Hearing these words, Mr. Sumito regained some composure. Nevertheless, his body stiffened with a parental desire for good results and to avoid injury.

However, Jyunjin Nakatani was not overawed when he appeared at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, where George Foreman, Mike Tyson, Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Manny Pacquiao, and other fist-heavy fighters had fought fiercely.

The new WBO super flyweight champion looked back.

I thought it would be great to fight in a place where so many great fights have taken place. I was deeply moved to think that I would be competing in a ring that I have watched on TV screens since I was a little kid, and when I stepped on the canvas, I felt the joy.

Nakatani, who defended his WBO flyweight title twice, had one tune-up fight at super flyweight last November. In preparation for the Moroni fight, he camped in Los Angeles, California, U.S.A., from the end of March. The number of sparring rounds he did, mainly with world-ranked fighters, was 209 rounds. His first defense of the WBO flyweight title was also held in Tucson, Arizona, but the fans in the boxing mecca of Las Vegas were more discerning.

Whenever I landed a punch, the crowd would erupt. Also, the ring was lit up, so I could see all over the place. I could clearly see the faces of my parents at ringside. They came all the way from Japan to support me, and I wanted to show them a good match.

In the final round, a counter left hook that had become ingrained in his body caught fire (Photo: AP/Afro)

Moroni’s twin brother, Jason, had won the WBO bantamweight title a week earlier.

I expected him to come in with a strong mindset, saying, “We are going to be world champions together as brothers. I was right, and they came out strong from the first round.

Nakatani landed sharp jabs and used his step work to deal with Moloney’s advances. Then, in the second round, he hit a double left uppercut followed by a right uppercut to the chin, taking him down.

He said, “I kept practicing changing my foot position a little bit in the flow and adjusting to where he was coming in. Another theme was to use more jabs. I was able to do that as planned.”

Nakatani had a good start, but in the third round, he was hit by a head butt from Moloney and cut above his left eye. Fresh blood dripped down.

I got a little blood in my left eye, but I could see it if I rubbed it,” Nakatani said. I left that part to Rudy.

Rudy Hernandez, Nakatani’s trainer since the age of 15, is also a renowned cutter. Nevertheless, in the fifth, sixth, and seventh rounds, he was involved in close combat with Moloney, and there were several times when he was pushed back.

Moroney was stubborn,” Hernandez said, “and he increased the pressure, going for my wounds and batting me back down. When we clinched, the second told me to turn to the side. Moroney did a lot of hand work, so I guess the other side got the point…”

Before the start of the eighth round, Rudy told the fighter, “You’re hitting a good uppercut,” and also reminded him to “hit and move away, and hit and move away again.

After I hit him with a jab, I tried to get a little distance and side with him.” Then I gradually got back into a rhythm. Moroni was tired, so I was fighting with the feeling that if I landed a strong punch, he would fall.

I had been practicing placing my fist on my forehead to avoid batting Moroni, but in the fight, I blocked with my head. I regret that.”

After picking up the pace, Nakatani took him down for the second time in the 11th round with a straight left hand. In the final round of 12, the victory did not move without forcing him to strike. Still, he dared to go for the knockdown.

In the interval before this round, Rudy said only: “Step to the left and right, and don’t stand in front of Moloney.

At 2:39 of the 12th round, Nakatani hit a counter left hook at the exact right moment. The next moment, Moloney was in the ring in a big heap, unable to move for a while.

For the first time in his 25th fight, Jyunjin Nakatani exploded with joy (photo by AP/Afro).

I wanted to finish him off properly,” he said. I want to compete in the U.S. in earnest in the future, and I wanted to show off who I am.

I landed a left hook from the front. It had an impact, so I knew I could beat him. I had been learning how to time my strikes in sparring. But I am not the type of fighter who wins in that way. I tend to overwhelm my opponent with a lot of moves, and then fall down when he doesn’t like it. It felt good to beat him cleanly, and I was really happy.

Rudy also commented, “It was a good job. A trainer who has coached Nakatani for more than 10 years said.

Even in the fifth and seventh innings, when he lost the points, he showed his ability to adapt by landing several technical uppercuts from close range. After I got through it, I told him to take advantage of his reach: ‘Keep your distance,’ ‘Jab,’ and ‘When you see an opportunity, uppercut. It’s a very satisfying victory. I’m really happy too.

I think Jundt is at his best in the bantamweight division. He still has a lot of potential. In order to move up further, he needs to increase his power and his number of moves. And I want him to master the distance.

The tripod with Rudy (left) is still going on.
After the match, Nakatani and Moronie commended each other for a good fight and took a commemorative photo.

Nakatani has always said that Rudy is the reason he has come this far, and since the day he met him after graduating from junior high school, he has followed his mentor’s teachings without hesitation. Nakatani has developed the physical and mental strength to handle this.

The mental toughness to finish his prey with 21 seconds until the bell has rung has been honed over the past 10 years in the home of boxing. In his third year of junior high school, when it was time to decide on a career path, Nakatani told his father , “I will not go on to high school. He asked his father to let him come to the U.S. to become a successful professional boxer. Mr. Sumito, who ran an okonomiyaki restaurant and disciplined Nakatani by telling him to “do something different,” was at a loss. Still, he decided to do his utmost to support the man in his chosen path.

I don’t care who the champion is.

When asked who he would like to fight in his next fight, Nakatani replied, “Any champion,” while naming the WBC champion of the same weight class.

The WBO super flyweight champion has been single-mindedly pursuing the goal he has set for himself. He has achieved another dream. But this is not the goal. He is sure to blossom into an even bigger flower.

The fans in Las Vegas will remember Nakatani’s name even if they don’t like it because of this KO.
The whole family will support the champion. After the match, he enjoyed a few days off in Las Vegas.
  • Interview and text by Soichi Hayashi

    Born in 1969. Passed the professional boxing test as a junior lightweight, but suffered an injury to his left elbow. After working as a reporter for a weekly magazine, he became a nonfiction writer and educator, teaching at a public high school in the U.S. He graduated from the Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies, Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Information Studies, the University of Tokyo, in 2014. He is the author of "Minority Fist," "America's Lower Level Education Site," and "America's Problem Child Regeneration Classroom" (all Kobunsha e-books), "God's Ring," "The Door to the World: Forward! Samurai Blue" and "Hohoite to Nurture Coaching" (all published by Kodansha).

  • Photography Ryuto Nakatani

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