By Marcus Bellinger (@marcusknockout)
Japanese professional boxing is in a great place right now when some truly elite fighters and a plethora of outstanding youngsters racing through the ranks at a lightning pace. The country is hosting the 2020 Olympics but boxing’s place is yet to be confirmed due to a dispute between governing body AIBA and the IOC.
Japan has never been a traditional powerhouse in amateur boxing but has had plenty of success at the youth and junior levels. Here are a small selection of boxers from the land of the rising sun who could either feature in Tokyo, or more likely in the professional ranks in the years to come.
Hayato Tsutsumi, bantamweight, (56kg).
The next potential superstar from Japan, Tsutsumi ruled the roost at the youth level and has made a solid start in the elite level. He’s had plenty of success domestically winning various tournaments. 2016 was a banner year as Tsutsumi claimed flyweight golds at the Asian and World Youth Championships before repeating the success up at bantamweight at the 2017 Asian Youth Championships.
His move to the senior ranks saw him win the national title in 2017 and reach the last 4 in 2018 but elimination in the first contest of the 2018 Asian Games will have been a disappointment but should be seen as a valuable learning experience. If boxing doesn’t take place in Tokyo, expect promoters to be queueing round the block to sign up Tsutsumi. You can view the final of the 2017 national Championships involving Tsutsumi below.
(Ed's note - The fight below is against highly regarded Teiken prospect Mikito Nakano, now 2-0 (2) in the professional ranks)
Sora Tanaka, light welterweight, (64kg).
Blessed with an exciting style and punching power, Tanaka won gold at the Asian Junior Championships in 2017. After winning Bronze at the 2018 Asian Youth Championships, Tanaka didn’t fare as well at the world Youth’s, going out in his first bout. An excellent performer at home, the teenager is definitely one for the future whether that’s as an amateur or a professional. Tanaka’s bout from the 2018 World Youth Championships can be seen below
Ryutaro Nakagaki, flyweight, (52kg).
Nakagaki’s first success away from home came in 2015 when he topped the podium at the Asian Junior Championships. His best result to date saw him take Asian Youth gold in 2017 as he prevailed over top notch Uzbek Abdumalik Khalokov in the final. Nakagaki’s 2 outings at the Japanese nationals saw him reach the last 4 in 2017 and the last 8 in 2018 and there is plenty to build on for the gifted youngster. You can take a look at a bout from 2015 involving Nakagaki below.
Sho Usami, welterweight, (69kg).
2018 saw Usami reach the quarter-finals of the Asian Youth Championships before going one better at the World Youth Championships in Hungary, coming away with a credible Bronze medal. A shot at the national crown last year saw him lose in his opening bout but again he should only improve given the right coaching and appearances at international tournaments. You can watch Usami’s semi-final contest at the World Youth Championships below
Finally it’s not just Hayato who has the boxing bug in the family as younger brothers Ryonosuke and Reito Tsutsumi have shown plenty of promise. Ryonosuke reached the last 8 at the 2018 World Youth Championships after grabbing Bronze at the Asian Youth Championships, losing out on both occasions to the outstanding Atichai Phoemsap. Reito’s most notable triumph so far saw him earn lightweight gold at the 2017 Asian Junior Championships. Footage of both Tsutsumi’s in action can be viewed below.
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