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 #15 in our list of Ones to watch in 2020, and began our count down to the man we rank #1
Shuichiro Yoshino (11-0, 9)
Seeing fighters unify titles is what we want to see, especially at the top level. World title unifications are, whether we admit it or not, usually the biggest bouts and the best vs the best. Whilst Shuichiro Yoshino isn't at world level we did see 2019 become a huge year for him as he unified the Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific Lightweight titles to become the undisputed champion of the Asian scene. Seeing a fighter do that really suggests they are ready to step up a level, and stepping up a level from Asian title level puts Yoshino into the mix for world level, or at least fringe world level.
In 2019 Masayoshi Nakatani, the previous OPBF Lightweight champion, surprised American fans by giving Teofimo Lopez a tough test. It's also worth noting that other Japanese fighters who have held the OPBF Lightweight title include Nihito Arakawa, Hiroyuki Sakamoto, Tsuyoshi Hamada and the legendary Guts Ishimatsu. All of whom have made a mark at the top level, win or lose, and we see Yoshino genuinely getting into the mix in 2020. He may not win at the highest level, but he will certainly be able to hold his own with other fringe world level fighters.
For those who haven't seen Yoshino he has a fan friendly style, and we wouldn't be surprised at all if an American promoted brought him to the US late in 2020 with the plan for something bigger in 2021.
What do we expect?
With a Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific title around his waist there's only really 2 options for Yoshino now. He can either look to settle at regional level, following Masayoshi Nakatani who wasted years of his career defending the OPBF title when he had the potential to do so much more, or he can look to move forward and chase bigger fights.
To begin we do hope to see him defending his regional titles, at least once. There are good options for him on the regional scene George Kambosos, Jr., Xiangxiang Sun and even Jorge Linares, who is still popular in Japan and would serve as a perfect stepping stone opponent towards world level. Even if Linares is a faded force.
After a defense or two of his title, or titles as the case may be, it would be great for him to face some more well known international names. Maybe some former contender type, like a Raymundo Beltran or Sharif Bogere, to boost his name on the international stage. Better yet would be an American debut, maybe even on the under-card of a Lightweight world title bout to try and build him as a possible future challenger.
The biggest problems with Yoshino are less things we've spotted, and more things have gone unanswered.
He has often looked too calm in the ring, too lazy at times, and been happy to rely on his power and skills to turn fights on when he wishes. It's a great trait to have in many ways, but something he needs to get out of his system before fighting against a world class opponent. The top guys won't fade and let him turn things around like some of his opponents have. It is however a little bit unfair to criticise Yoshino too much given that each bout is still a learning experience for a man with only 11 bouts and 50 rounds under his belt.
On a similar note we're unsure about Yoshino's stamina, and he has never seen round 10 before. He's looked comfortable going 7, 8 and 9 rounds, but will that carry up to 12 rounds? Likewise will he be comfortable fighting at a higher pace set by his opponent? Likewise we wonder what his chin really like?
Sadly the biggest concern for Yoshino isn't him, but the others in the division. The Lightweight division is strong, and that strength could be too much for Yoshino with the likes of Vasyl Lomachenko, Devin Haney, Richard Commey, Luke Campbell and Teofimo Lopez all in and around the top of the division.
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