Above: Tokyo’s famous Korakuen Hall, the small but mighty venue where so many iconic battles have taken place.
Award-winning photographer Naoki Fukuda has the timing, the artistic eye and the years of experience to capture images of boxing that get you as close as you can be without getting punched in the face. Beyond the incredible moments of combat, the Japan-based maestro is also tuned in to the full range of humanity in the sport — everything that fighters bring with them into the ring — and that richness is what truly sets his work apart and draws in anyone who sees it.
For our year-end awards issue, we asked Naoki to select some of his favorite images from 2022. Enjoy…
Daishi Nagata (right) would win the OPBH junior welterweight title with a unanimous decision over Akirhiro Kondo at Korakuen Hall on Dec. 5.
Junior featherweight Gakuya Furuhashi (left) eked out a 10-round split decision over Ryoichi Tamura on Dec. 26.
Esneth Domingo (right) celebrates his fourth-round stoppage win over Kosuke Tomioka on Dec. 26.
Ryota Murata reels from the force of Gennadiy Golovkin’s punch during their middleweight unification fight on April 9 in Saitama.
Murata was stopped in the ninth round, but his fighting spirit impressed Golovkin so much that he gave his robe to the Japanese fighter.
Tomoki Kawasaki went the eight-round distance despite being dropped by this punch in the first round, but Akira Hoshuyama would prevail by unanimous decision on Aug. 9 in Tokyo.
Paul Butler was helpless under fire from bantamweight champion “Monster” Naoya Inoue on Dec. 13.
Butler lasted until the 11th round…
…which was longer than most expected.
Naoya’s brother Takuma (right) thoroughly outboxed fellow junior featherweight Gakuya Furuhashi on June 7 to win a unanimous decision.
Strawweight force Yudai Shigeoka appraises his third-round knockout of Tatsuro Nakashima on November 17 at Korakuen Hall.
Yuni Takada delivers the knockout punch in the fifth round of his strawweight fight against Katsuki Mori on November 8.
Kenshiro Teraji is overcome with emotion after avenging his loss to Masamichi Yabuki and reclaiming his junior flyweight belt with a third-round knockout on March 19.
Junior lightweight Yoshimitsu Kimura (right) was 30 seconds from the 12th round’s end when he finally stopped countryman Kanehiro Nakagawa on Aug. 30.
On Jan. 25, in his fourth pro fight, Kantaro Juri (right) won an eight-round unanimous decision over two-time flyweight world title challenger Masayuki Kuroda, whose first pro bout was in 2005.
After 11 tough rounds between Shuichiro Yoshino (left) and Masyuki Ito on April 9, a head clash ended the lightweight bout and led to a technical decision in favor of Yoshino.