As we did with the regional finals in November we have decided to break down the bouts on the show in an attempt to give you guys some details on each of fighters and fighters involved in the finals.
Reiya Konishi (6-0, 4) Vs Yuki Kubo (6-1, 2)
The first bout on the show comes at 105lbs and looks like a brilliant way to kick off the show with two men who know what a win could do for their careers.
The unbeaten Konishi is from the Shinsei gym and at just 21 years old has really impress rarely losing a round thus far in his career, that's despite facing 4 unbeaten men including Jun Takigawa last time out. Against Takigawa we saw Konishi being given a real test and passing it in a bout that would certainly have been character building for the youngster who had stopped his previous 4 opponents. Interestingly he has fought as high as Flyweight and it may be that he's either boiling down to make Minimumweight for this bout or that he's just incredibly strong, we suspect we'll find out very soon.
Aged 27 Kubo is significantly older than his young opponent though the Celes gym fight cannot rely on age to win him his upcoming bout. Like Konishi, Kubo comes into this bout in realy form having won his last 6 bouts including 3 wins over unbeaten opponents with his last foe being the then 5-0 Masayuki Ichikawa. Beaten on his debut, narrowly, Kubo has bounced back well and shown some real skill whilst fighting behind his southpaw stance however his relative lack of power maybe an issue against his better opponents, possibly including Konishi here.
Kenji Ono (6-1, 3) Vs Seita Ogido (6-1-1, 1)
On paper one of the most evenly matched bouts is this Light Flyweight contest between a pair of young southpaws. Sadly it also seems likely to be one of the worst with neither guy really standing out so far in their career's.
On paper the 26 year old Ono is the bigger puncher with 3 stoppages from his 7 bouts. Saying that however the Teiken promoted fighter hasn't looked great when he's not managed to stop opponents and all 3 decisions wins have been razor thin split decision victories. His loss, back in 2012, has also raised question marks about his chin as Daisuke Hayakawa stopped him in 2 rounds. It seems either Ono will hurt you or really struggle.
Ogido is the younger man at 21 years old though does boast an extra fight's worth of experience and has shown that he doesn't mind going the distance. Like Ono we've seen Ogido struggle with making wins clear and he has 2 very close decision wins on his record as well as a split decision draw and a split decision loss. Although talented it does seem like he needs to mature into his power and strength and also needs more experience before moving on to better opponents.
Kenya Yamashita (6-0, 4) Vs Shun Kosaka (9-0)
One of the most interesting bouts comes at Flyweight where we get two unbeaten men colliding with very different styles and mentalities. One is a pure boxer whilst the other has a fighters instinct.
Yamashita is a product of the Koguchi gym, the same gym as Shingo Wake, and at just 18 years old appears to be the gym's future star. He has shown solid power so far stopping 4 of his 6 opponents though strangely he has been run very close when he's not managed to stop opponents with 2 split decision wins as well as his stoppages. To date he has beaten 3 unbeaten fighters including a very notable win against the then 5-0-1 Sonin Nihei in his regional final. Although he has already had 6 fights he has only been a professional for a year and we suspect a lack of real experience could be major question mark coming into this bout.
Aged 19 Kosaka is also a very promising younger but the Shinsei gym hopeful has next to no power having been unable to record a single stoppage in his first 9 bouts. Whilst that sounds bad he has shown he has incredible ability and has lost only 1 of his 39 professional rounds so far. His competition, on the whole, hasn't looked great on paper though many of his of his foes have been more experienced than he has been and that will likely have helped him develop a few tricks whilst he continues to mature into a fine prospect.
Masayoshi Hashizume (6-0, 4) Vs Shogo Yonenaga (6-1, 3)
A bout that has us licking our lips with excitement comes at Super Flyweight where we expect a really exciting bout between two men who have shown a willingness to really let their hands go.
Of the two it's men here it's the 21 year old Hashizume, of the Ioka gym, that has us really excited. The hard hitting southpaw has fought 4 successive unbeaten opponents and he's taken the last 2 of them out in a combined 158 seconds. He's heavy handed, exciting, aggressive and everything a fan should want to see in a prospect, though he can be a little bit wild and has left himself a little open in the past. Of course coming from the Ioka gym he will be very confident, will be training with top tier gym mates, all of which could help him to have developed a little quicker than some other Rookies. If you've not seen him we suggesting giving a watch to his fights with Takeshi Kajikawa from two fights back and his most recent contest, when he took on Eita Sakurai,and again looked destructive.
Aged 26 Yonenaga will be feeling like he's coming into his physical prime however the Miyata gym prospect doesn't quiet fill us with the same excitement as Hashizume has done. Yonenaga has been a professional for a little more than 2 years and although he suffered an early loss, a 4th round TKO to Hiroto Kurosawa in May 2013, he has bounced back really well to win 5 on the spin. Last time out he stopped Hokuto Sakata in the 4th round and strangely all of his stoppages have come in the fourth. He's not as explosive as his opponents but with 28 rounds under the belt he is experienced and actually has twice as many rounds as his younger foe. That experience will likely be his key if he's to win here.
Keisuke Tabuchi (8-1-2, 6) Vs Ryohei Takakashi (4-1-1)
At Bantamweight we have a bout that is interesting though may not quite be as exciting as some of the others.
Tabuchi is a 21 year old who appears to have most of the advantages here. Although he's from the little known Yao boxing gym he is experienced, with 11 bouts, he's got real momentum with a 10 fight unbeaten streak, and has power having stopped 6 opponents, including 3 of his last 4. Like many fighters on this show however Tabuchi seems to struggle when he can't score a knockout and his 2 close wins, as well as his draw and loss, have all been very close bouts and we suspect he'll lose close bouts in the future. One of those close bouts was his narrow win over Takaaki Kitagawa from just 2 fights back.
Takahashi lacks the power and experience of Tabuchi but is older, at 24, and comes from an established gym, Yokohama Hikara, which boasts championship level fighters like Daiki Kaneko and Ryo Akaho. Training with the likes of Kaneko and Akaho will almost certainly have helped Takahashi more than sharing the ring with some lesser foes however that training is just training. If there is a major advantage for Takahashi coming into this bout it's that he has shown a great ability to win rounds having scored 4 pretty clear decision wins. He started his career 0-1-1 though has rebuilt very well and seems to know that his strength isn't his power.
Shohei Kawashima (8-0-2, 1) Vs Yuki Matsudo (8-1, 4)
Domestically the Super Bantamweight division in Japan is fantastic at the moment with the likes of Shingo Wake, Yusaku Kuga, Shun Kubo, Sho Nakazawa and Shohei Omori all making their name in, or around, 122lbs. The winner of this bout will be hoping to join those names we just mentioned.
Aged 22 Kawashima is one of the many Shinsei gym fighters who has reached this stage in the Rookie of the Year. Unbeaten in 10 bouts he is man who has been given some good tests, including his last bout against Shisato Okuma though his big issue appears to be a lack of power, an issue is almost certainly going to hold him back from reaching the top. With 10 bouts on his ledger you actually need to go back to debut, in November 2012, to find his sole stoppage which came very late in the bout. One notable thing about Kawashima however is his experience which included 40 rounds already, a huge number for a fighter in the Rookie of the Year.
Matsudo may have a loss on his record but he appears to have many advantages over Kawashima coming into this bout. Aged 20 the Aoki prospect is a tall and rangy southpaw with spiteful power, developing man strength and confidence that is building rapidly. He was beaten on his debut but has since gone 8-0 with and never looked like losing during that on-going run. His most recent bout, a 5 round decision over Yoshifumi Tamaki, looked a great test on paper but Matsudo made it look easy losing just a round on route to his win and he'll be hoping to do the same here. Sadly the only footage we have of Matsudo comes from several fights back when he over-came Ryuya Kaji with a decision back in July.
Reiya Abe (7-1, 4) Vs Kyohei Tonomoto (5-1, 2)
At Featherweight we get a bout between two men with a single loss each and a combined age of 40. It's fair to say that the winner will be moved on quickly but the loser certainly still has a future which ever way this one goes.
The more experienced, and slightly older, fighter is Abe at 21 years old and with 8 fights behind him. Of those 8 fights the last 6 have all been wins with only one of them even being close. We had expected the KG Yamato fighter to have been given a serious test last time out, as he faced Naoto Moriya in a very good looking bout, in the end however he made that contest look easy with a 113 second win and we feel he's really finding his grove with 4 stoppages in his last 5 bouts. As well as his power he's also a dreaded southpaw and a relatively tall one at a little under 5'8” making his a nasty proposition for anyone.
At just 19 years old Tonomoto is a relative baby in boxing terms though he already has 6 fights worth of experience and has been a professional since early 2013. Of his 6 bouts the last 4 have all been wins, though he was somewhat fortunate to over-come the limited Toru Kageyama in a bout that was much harder than we would have expected given Kageyama's known limitations. In his most recent bout Tonomoto looked very good in defeating Takashi Igarashi and if he performs to that level again here he really could put on a performance to remember against a very good foe.
Yuichiro Kasuya (5-0, 1) Vs Masashi Wakita (4-2-1, 2)
On paper one of the weakest bouts is the Super Featherweight contest and even though we think it's weak we've got to admit we're really looking forward to it thanks to the way both men performed last time out.
Last time out Kasuya, then 17 though now 18, put on a sensational performance in his bout with Yutaka Ekawa in a bout that some regarded as the best bout of the Rookie of the Year competition this year. The fight was a thriller and saw both men hurt as the crowd got their money's worth. We're hoping to see more of the same here from the Ishikawa youngster who is a fighter showing real signs of being an all-action fighter, despite some clear limitations. At his age he's not yet developed the power he will need to make the most of his style though we suspect in the near future this kid could become one of those must watch fighters, win or lose. For those wanting to see Kasuya we sadly don't have footage of the Ekawa bout but we do have his bout with Shonosuke Sango.
Wakita, also an 18 year old, comes into this bout without a win since late May and has gone 0-1-1 in his last 2 contests, though the draw last time out was a really good contest against an unbeaten foe. Sadly that leads us to suspect that he is very fortunate to be in this bout and his confidence will likely be shot. Prior to his recent blips he was on a 4 fight winning streak though those wins had come against weak opponents. In theory Wakita is a nightmare to fight as he stands at 5'10” and fights as a southpaw though we suspect the fact he's so young leaves him lacking the physical maturity he needs for now. Sadly we think this is probably coming a year too early for Wakita, though we suspect he will put up a great effort here.
Andy Hiraoka (6-0, 3) Vs Shogo Yamguchi (6-0-1, 3)
At Lightweight we get a wonderfully enticing bout between two unbeaten men with very similar looking records each looking for their biggest win and a chance to really put themselves on the fast track.
Hiraoka has been one of the real success stories of this years Rookie of the Year and the 18 year old student has managed to capture the imagination of the boxing media as well as the fans. He is seen as the rising star of the Hanagata gym and has got the folks there very excited. The excitement isn't just because he's young and unbeaten but also because he's shown clear ability and has the potential to go a very long way. Not only is he talented and young but, at 5'11” and boxing as a southpaw, he's also a bit of a physical freak who uses his size excellently to box behind his sharp jab and make the most of his natural advantages. We suspect if he wins here he'll go on to become one of the stars of Japanese over the next few years. Sadly the sole footage we have of Hiraoka was his bout Susumu Nakata.
Although much of the attention here is on Hiraoka it's fair to say that Yamaguchi, a product from the Seien gym, is deserving of plenty of attention himself. Aged 21 he too is unbeaten and has reached this stage in the Rookie of the Year tournament by winning fights, in fact he has won his last 6 following a draw on his debut. Sadly whilst he is in great form on paper he did struggle in his last 2 bouts and wins in both of them may just cover up the cracks. If he's not as good as his record suggests then it's likely he'll be kept at the end of Hiraoka's long jab.
Naoharu Kida (6-0, 3) Vs Tetsuya Morisada (4-3, 4)
We're sad to report that this bout won't be taking place. With that said there is no point in us going into the details of either fighter though we have been informed it was Kida who was unable to take part in the contest. For what it's worth we have had footage of Kida in the past with his bout against Minoru Iizuka being the most notable whilst footage of Morisada came form his bout with Chocoboy Oizumi.
Yuki Beppu (7-0, 7) Vs Hironobu Matsunaga (6-0, 3)
Another all unbeaten bout, and possible the most exciting bout on paper, comes at Welterweight where we see the heaviest puncher in action against his toughest test to date.
Obviously the puncher here is Beppu who has looked devastating so far with 7 straight stoppage wins, including 5 in the opening round. Aged 23 it seems likely that Beppu will only become stronger and more powerful and if that happens he may well end up becoming one of those rare Japanese fighters that can make a name for himself both in the East and in the West. The big issue at the moment is how does his power effect better fighters than those he has been matched up with so far, though it does need saying that he made very light work of Shota Yamamoto in what was, supposedly, his toughest test to date. If his power is as legit as it seems this guy has the potential to really be something special. Sadly however we don't know what his stamina or chin is like as of yet and they are going to be major questions even if his power is legitimate.
Matsunaga is a 27 year old southpaw who has shown good power in some of his bouts but on the whole appears to be more of a boxer than a puncher. That's been a good thing recently as 3 of his last 4 bouts have gone the distance, including a very narrow win over Makoto Kawasaki in September. Trained at the Yokohama Hikara gym he does have good training partners available to him but we do wonder how good he really is and what his chin is like. We suspect we'll find out how good Matsunaga's chin is here.
Hisao Narita (7-1, 4) Vs Toshihiro Kai (4-6-2, 1)
The final bout on the show comes at Middleweight in what is clearly the biggest mismatch of the show and features the only fighter with a losing record.
Narita, the clear favourite in this one, is a fighter from the Nakaya boxing gym who has strung together 6 successive wins after being stopped in a round by Shun Tomoshige back in April 2012, whilst fighting as a Welterweight. Although not a top prospect we have seen plenty from the 23 year old to suggest he could go on to mix at Japanese title level, especially given that the division is a weak one domestically. Although he didn't look great last time out, beating Asashi Hatsumi, he has shown plenty to like and we suspect he'll find a way to show what he's about here. Interestingly Narita celebrates his 24th birthday a day after this fight.
Kai is easily the luckiest man on this show and also the worst. Saying that however Kai needs to be given credit for winning his last bout, stopping Ryota Ikawa, and will know that he is being over-looked going into this bout. With no pressure on his shoulders the 29 year old may well find himself putting the performance of a life time, after all what is there to lose?
(Image courtesy http://www.kadoebi.com)