In November we counted down a number of honourable mentions for our 20 for 20. Now it's time to look at the 20 fighters who have managed to make it into the list properly, and they come from all over Asia and all over the weight classes. Some of these you may already be aware of, some are perhaps less well known, but either way these 20 men are going to be well worth following in the new year as they look to push forward in their career and move towards major success.
For these fighters we will look at the the reason why you should follow them, our expectations for them in the coming year and the issues they may face going forward. The one rule with all of these fighters is that they can't have fought for a world title at the time of writing.
Some of these are world ranked, and some of these may well be set for world title fights in the near future, but so far they have not had that top level bout.
Without any further ado, lets take a look at the man we have ranked #16 in our list of Ones to watch in 2020, and began our count down to the man we rank #1
Kento Hatanaka (10-0, 9)
Youngster Kento Hatanaka has slowly created a bit of a following due to his exciting, aggressive and power punching style. The second generation fighter, the son of former world champion Kiyoshi Hatanaka, hasn't yet progressed to regional title level, but that looks likely to happen sooner rather than later and with his father's name, and the backing of local TV with CBC and stablemate Kosei Tanaka getting attention it's hard to see Hatanaka having a big 2020. The fighter really ticks all the boxes we could hope for from a Flyweight. It's also worth noting that last time out he was tested, and we really mean tested, yet came through that test successfully and showed he had heart and toughness to go with his aggressive skills.
We all love seeing aggressive fighters, but when we see those aggressive fighters show more to their arsenal than just their power and combinations we begin to realise there is more to them than just their offensive work. For Hatanaka we now know that he can box, there is a lot to work on there, but he can do it. Likewise he has got genuine power, but he has shown he has a good engine as well, going 10 rounds for the first time in 2019. Titles, above that of the WBC Youth title, need to be on his mind as we enter a new year and with the backing of Hatanaka and CBC there is the money there to push him for OPBF, WBO Asia Pacific or Japanese honours.
Young, good looking, exciting to watch, well backed and with real power, there is so many things that Hatanaka has that other fighters would wish to have and it's to imagine him not making a big impact in 2020.
What do we expect?
Although Hatanaka was given a real scare last time out by Jaysever Abcede we suspect that test will actually convince Hatanaka, and his father, that he needs to be fighting at this type of fringe regional to regional title level going forward. He needs to be tested, he needs to be given the battles to hardening him mentally and make him dig hard. With that in mind we wouldn't be surprised to see him fighting for a nationa or regional title by the end of 2020, if the right opportunity becomes available. If not he'll continue to be the main support to Kosei Tanaka and getting good experience and developing on big shows in Chubu.
The longer term plan is certainly for Hatanaka to mix at world level, and whilst those are plans are years down the line they will want to have some route to the top for the youngster. That will, obviously, involve regional titles on the route there but more notably it will also involve mixing with varied styles, opponents and sparring partners. We expect to see Hatanaka off to the US at some point in 2020, hopefully for more than just a training camp.
In an ideal world Hatanaka will either fight in the US in 2020 or, at very least, have a bout shown to a US audience on TV. We suspect Kosei Tanaka will fight on US TV in 2020, and if he does, it only makes sense for Hatanaka to be bundled with him, giving him a huge chance to grab eye balls and get an international audience talking about him, even if it does leave him in Tanaka's shadows for the foreseeable future.
Whilst Hatanaka ticks a lot of boxes, we did see some issues arise against Abcede, and it's clear there is a lot to work on. He was dropped, he was shown to be have a defense that needs serious work, and whilst he did do 10 rounds, at a good pace, he could certainly still work on his fitness. Bigger concerns however are more related to his surname than anything else.
We've seen it time and time again, where having a famous father can be both a blessing and a curse. It certainly helps Hatanaka early in his career to share his dad's name, and whilst Kiyoshi Hatanaka wasn't a massive star he was a star in Chubu. That has certainly helped get Hatanaka attention and exposure through CBC. However longer term sharing a famous surname can cause pressure on a young fighter, who will get compared to their father when they start to create some buzz of their own.
Whilst Kento has so far been able to use his surname for positive, we're maybe only a year before people really start to compare him to his father, who held the WBC back in 1991. And do so unfairly. They need to be aware of what happened to his father,who retired at a young age due to damage to his eye, and let Kento have his own career, which has the potential, long term, to out do that of Kiyoshi.
(Image courtesy of boxmob)
When we have some free time we're hoping to add a series of fun articles to the site. Hopefully these will be enjoyable little short features