This coming Saturday we see two Japanese fighters in action in Florida. One of those is WBO Super Featherweight world champion Masayuki Ito, a man who really came of age in 2018 with a huge win over Christopher Diaz to become a world champion. The other is Koki Eto (24-4-1, 19) a less well known, but arguably more interesting fighter than Ito, despite being significantly less talented.
Ito is a world class fighter, but is a technically well schooled fighter who came through the hard way, developed skills and reached the pinaccle, Eto on the other hand is a 1-man action man, a wildly entertaining fighter who's flaws have made him a must watch fighter. Despite being hugely entertaining Eto is somewhat an unknown outside of Asia, and this weekend's bout, against 2-time Olympian Jeyvier Cintron (10-0, 5), will be his second outside of Asia. Ahead of Eto's bout in the US we've decided to make the latest fighter to get our "Fighter Focus" treatment, following Ryuichi Funai who also made his US debut earlier this month.
So to begin with lets go through some cliff notes, and some factoids about Eto and his career so far:
So now to look at Koki Eto in more depth, understand him as a fighter and add some meat to the interesting notes from above, and try to understand why we once refered to Eto as the "One man Highlight reel".
He was born in Okinawa along side twin brother Taiki Eto, and the two of the, along with older brother Shingo Eto, were quickly compared to the Kameda brothers, who were also a fighting threesome. Little really is reported about the Eto clan's amateur careers, though Koki clearly didn't have a strong one debuting in a 4 round bout against a fellow novice in August 2008. The following year he would enter the Rookie of the Year but was sadly eliminated by a majority decision loss to Naoki Shiosawa. Whilst that was a notable set back for Eto he would get revenge the following year, stopping Shiosawa in the 5th round a rematch just 8 months later.
The win over Shiosawa was part of a great run of form for Eto, who strung 8 wins together including a win on his international debut, in Mexico in early 2011, and a win over Shota Hashimoto, who had also been stopped by Koki's twin brother. That winning lead to him travelling to Thailand, for his first of 3 bouts in the country, and challenger WBC International Silver Flyweight champion Panomroonglek Kaiyanghadaogym. The bout looked like a straight forward win for the local, on paper, but in actuality Eto went over determined to take the victory and ran the Thai incredibly close on the cards of all 3 Thai judges.
Sadly after the set back against Panomroonglek Eto struggled on his return to the ring, fighting to a 6 round draw with Yota Hori. Eto's career would then be put on ice for a while, before he returned 11 months later and beat the then world ranked Denchailek Kratingdaenggym in 2 rounds. At the time Denchailek was ranked #10 by the WBA and this loss derailed his career completed, with the Thai never returning to the boxing ring afterwards.
Around 9 months after Eto stopped Denchailek he got to make the WBA ranking he had taken from the Thai, fighting against Kompayak Porpramook for the WBA Flyweight title in Bangkok. This turned out to be the bout that put Eto on the proverbial map, as he travelled as the under-dog and came out on top of a 12 round fight that was truly amazing. Eto looked to set a fast pace from the opening round, showing no fear of the harsh Thai conditions and he took the fight to Porpramook from the off. The Thai was fighting back hard, but a 12th round knockdown by Eto proved vital with the Japanese fighter winning a razor thin decision
Sadly for Eto his reign would last less than 4 months, with the fighter losing the title to Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep in his first defense. Eto was stopped in round 6 and despite putting up a good effort he was eventually stopped in the 12th round, whilst down on all 3 cards. Despite losing to the Thai he had again put in a thrilling effort, showing guts and determination whilst being slowly beaten up by the Thai.
Given his tough bouts against Porpramook and Yodmongkol, in the space of just a few months, Eto was given a bit of a break before returning to face Filipino foe Ardin Diale for the OPBF Flyweight title. This was another insane bout, with Eto being dropped in rounds 3 and 7 before battling back and stopping Diale in the 8th round. By the stoppage he was 5 points down in all 3 cards, with 5 rounds left. This was widely proclaimed as one of the best bouts in Asia in 2014 and again saw Eto show his heart and willingness to have a war.
Despite having 3 incredible bouts in a row Eto would actually revert to boxing for his next two, defending the OPBF title against Cris Paulino and Yuki Fukumoto. These were both competitive bouts, but neither was particularly exciting, with Eto pulling out stoppages in the second half of both bouts.
After making his second defense of the OPBF Flyweight title Eto moved up to Super Flyweight and challenged the then WBC world champion Carlos Cuadras. Entering as a huge under-dog Eto was completely out boxed in the first half, though had success in the second half of the fight, closing up the scores slightly and making things respectable. Although he lost 117-111, twice, and 116-112 Eto showed he could compete on the fringes of world class, and probably should have been kept at that level.
Sadly instead of building on the loss to Cuadras Eto has been consistently facing limited opposition and not really looking good in the process. He struggled to beat Filipino domestic level fighter Michael Escobia, was dropped by Jun Blazo before scoring a stoppage, and has really just faced a string of over-matched opposition. That string of bad opposition has allowed Eto to go 7-0 (6) but he's looked very poor in some of those bouts, and at times it has appeared he has regressed from the man who managed to take rounds off Cuadras. He's always looked exciting, but so technically flawed that he could end up being taken out by anyone he faces.
Although a truly exciting fighter at his best, and arguably the closest we have to a current day Naoto Takahashi, the 31 year old Eto has had a damaging career and with his technical flaws and incredible toughness that damage will add up. It's hard to know how much longer Eto has left in his body, but it's clear that win or lose his bout with Cintron will be wonderfully enjoyable for as long as it lasts.
At his best Eto was, for a time, one of the must watch Asian fighters, but the last few years of fighting relative nobodies has seen Eto losing his appeal and becoming less and less interesting. His fight with Cintron will give his career another boost, but we're expecting him to come up short and to end his career in the near future.
(Image courtesy of SGS Gym)
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