There are a number of weight classes in boxing right now that have a solid amount of depth including cruiserweight, light heavyweight, welterweight, super flyweight and light flyweight just to name a few but the featherweight division is bristling with talent and is as stacked as any in the sport.
Gary Russell Jnr, Leo Santa Cruz, Lee Selby and Oscar Valdez are the 4 current world champions at 126 lb and there is certainly no obvious weak link within this foursome. When you factor in contenders Carl Frampton, Abner Mares, Joseph Diaz, and Genesis Servania just to name a few you realise the strength in depth that exists and you can now add Japan’s fast rising Satoshi Shimizu to the mix.
Shimizu stopped Sa Myung Noh in 5 rounds to capture the OPBF crown at the Korakuen Hall on 2 October and make it 4 wins from 4 with all coming inside the distance. Noh was by no means a world beater but the Korean had never been stopped and went to Japan in June and scored a come from behind knockout of then OPBF champion Ryo Takenaka.
Shimizu was an excellent amateur and claimed Bronze medals at the 2009 Asian Championships, the 2012 Olympics and the 2014 Asian Games and also competed at the 2008 Olympics along with multiple world championship appearances. Shimizu had intended on appearing at the 2016 Olympics but Daisuke Narimatsu took the available lightweight spot.
The Japanese southpaw then elected to turn professional under the guidance of the Ohashi Gym. He made his debut in September 2016 against forma Korean champion In Kyoo Lee and scored a 5th round stoppage. 4 months later Carlo Demecillo was up next and was expected to provide a solid test having gone 10 rounds with Hisashi Amagasa however, he was unable to stand up to the heavy hands of Shimizu and was taken out in 3 rounds. Previous to his OPBF triumph Takuya Yamamoto was drilled in a round in May.
So far Shimizu has displayed genuine power along with a quirky and unorthodox style in the ring and his tall frame and southpaw stance make him a nightmare proposition for future opponents. Shimizu could return before the end of the year and at 31 he has no time to waste and his handlers have stated that a world title shot will come in 2018.
The regional scene is pretty weak at featherweight with only Mark Magsayo and Genesis Servania standing out as intriguing options and a bout against the forma seems highly unlikely. A bout with Servania would tell us a whole lot about Shimizu especially given the Filipinos display against Oscar Valdez. Besides these 2 fights looking at the rankings an opponent such as Oscar Escandon would bridge the gap nicely from regional to world level and would be a good indicator of Shimizu’s readiness to compete for a world strap. Being matched tough and moved quickly has become the norm in Japan and especially in the Ohashi Gym with Akira Yaegashi and the Inoue brothers being great examples and next year should tell us whether Shimizu can live up to those expectations.
(Image courtesy of Ohashi Gym)
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