By Elliot Worsell

IT could very well be an age thing. Either that or an increasing need for and appreciation of sleep. Whatever it is, the prospect of watching boxing from Japan at the wonderfully civilised hour of 11am has become not only more and more appealing but now also appears to represent the best way to watch the sport and do justice to the action inside the ring.

This thought arrived on Saturday (February 24) – somewhere between 11 and 12 o’clock – and was largely inspired by the performances of Junto Nakatani and Takuma Inoue, both of whom won bantamweight world title fights on the same bill in Tokyo. To see their fights end in surprisingly dramatic fashion – Nakatani stopped Alexandro Santiago in six rounds, and Inoue stopped Jerwin Ancajas in nine – was one thing, but even better was the fact that both fights were wrapped up by 1pm, UK time.

Indeed, so accustomed have we become to associating the act of watching boxing with fatigue, I was almost unsure what to do after watching all the fighting conclude on Saturday. Unlike when watching fights from the US, I hadn’t interrupted my sleep to watch boxers through eyes I hoped would stay open for the duration. Nor, as is the case when watching UK fights, had I impatiently waited up half the night in the hope the main event would both begin and finish before midnight.

Instead, thanks to the time difference, I had managed to watch some elite-level boxing with the rest of the day still ahead of me. Also, I felt I had a far greater appreciation of what I had actually watched – the details, the intricacies – by virtue of having observed it through relatively fresh eyes and with a clear mind. Gone, you see, was any of the resentment you sometimes experience when either waking up for a fight or waiting up for one. Gone, too, were the myriad distractions you often experience when attending a fight, as well as the need to constantly check train times to ensure you can get home at the end of it all.

Junto Nakatani in action

That’s not to say watching a dodgy stream of an event from Japan is preferable to attending fights in person, but certainly for UK boxing fans there is a real thrill to the comfort of watching boxing from Japan nowadays. This is true of watching not only someone like Nakatani, who is fast becoming one of their big stars, but also of course Naoya Inoue, the biggest star of them all, who has been regularly brutalising opponents while boxing fans in the UK figure out what constitutes brunch.

On Boxing Day, in fact, many of us will have watched Inoue stop Marlon Tapales in impressive style; a show sullied only by the tragic turn taken by an earlier fight between Seiya Tsutsumi and the late Kazuki Anaguchi. There was also that balmy morning in July when Inoue ran through fellow champion Stephen Fulton as though the unbeaten American was an opponent like any other. Then, to go back even further, how can anyone forget the classic 2019 fight between Inoue and Nonito Donaire, which took place at Thursday lunchtime in the UK and firmly cemented Inoue’s reputation as a can’t-miss fighter, especially when, for us, the joy of watching him doesn’t come at the expense of a good night’s sleep.

There is something more to it than just sleep, too, by the way. With Japanese boxing, there is, it seems, a kind of quality guarantee, for rarely do the big fights there ever disappoint. If, for example, you’re not watching Inoue break faces and new ground, or Nakatani rise through the weights, you might instead be treated to boxers like Kenshiro Teraji or Kazuto Ioka in action. Or Kosei Tanaka. Or Seigo Yuri Akui. Or the 105-pound Shigeoka brothers (Yudai and Ginjiro).

Whoever performs, never is the action from Japan anything less than pulsating and never is the quality anything other than elite. That they then deliver the action to the soundtrack of silence – so quiet are Japanese crowds – only serves to make the experience of watching these events all the more surreal and in some ways pleasurable. After all, with the noise removed from the spectacle – both of the fans and the hype men – you are essentially gifted boxing in its purest form: two highly skilled and often competitively matched boxers trying to outdo one another with strength and smarts.

Simply put, to watch boxing from Japan before midday in the UK is to pretty much get everything you want from the sport while at the same time eradicating everything you could, in an ideal world, do without. You see the best in the world perform and can then judge them without being told what to think or what to feel by hyperactive pundits or commentators eager to present the preferred version of events for either their boss or promoter. All you are left with in the end is the boxing, the action, the stuff that really matters. Better yet, in the process of watching it unfold you feel fresh, invigorated, perhaps even inspired. You are alert, awake. It feels almost like a dream; too good to be true.