With over 40 world champions South Korea is a country that has long been linked to boxing. Sadly though it's more than a decade since they had a man holding a world title and they are certainly a long way removed from their best years. Despite that it is worth noting that the country has started to, slowly, build an exciting and interesting domestic scene. That domestic scene has been lead by the rise of the BoxingM, the management that really has pumped money into the sport, run tournaments and given fighters a chance to make their mark.
One of the big hopes that has become a focus of BoxingM has been exciting teenage puncher Jeong Han Cha (5-0, 5), who is set to make his international debut on June 25th, when he takes on 23 year old Japanese foe Takahiko Kobayashi (8-3, 6) at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo. This is the main event of a Dangan promoted card pitting Japanese locals against Korean visitors, as has the potential to be a very special bout.
Born in September 2000 Cha didn't have much of an amateur background, with no amateur bouts. What he did however have was a track record in sports in general, having competed in baseball and was a natural athlete, before being bitten by the boxing bug.
Cha made his professional debut at the age of 17, and quickly impressed as he scored a 2nd round win over fellow debutant Geon Kim in June 2018. This bout was held on a very obscure card at the Taepoong Gymnasiumm, in front of about 12 fans and took place at Welterweight. Despite the low quality of the show Cha showed some genuine promise, especially in round 2 when he began to let his shots fly. Notably he was left with a bloodied nose in round 1 but gritted it out and twice dropped Kim to secure the win. The bout saw him showing great instinct, despite some crude skills and defensive flaws.
Just a month after his debut Cha would fight in the second ever Battle Royale, a Korean Rookie tournament comparable in some ways to the Japanese Rookie of the Year tournament. In his first round bout of the tournament he stopped Gun Ho Lee in the second round, unloading a 2 handed assault on Lee until he went down and the referee was forced to halt the bout. His progress through the tournament continued in October when he took on Shin Hee Min, and once again his power excited, with Min stunned in round 2 and not responding whilst Cha wailed away with clean shots.
Due to issues outside of his hands Cha was essentially given a bye for the semi-final of the Battle Royale, but fought on the same card as the other semi-finals bouts and stopped Gun Ho Lee in a second bout between the two men. This time Lee managed to survive into round 3 with Cha, but was against broken down by his pressure, power and work rate
In his Battle Royal final Cha would battle fellow unbeaten Yun Seong Kim, who like Cha was also a southpaw. Kim boxed really well in the first round and left Cha with a bloodied nose, much like Cha had on his debut. Cha however applied pressure, constantly, and in round 2 he broke through, stopping Kim with a series of head shots, after previously having dropped with a body shot that was ruled low.
From his 5 bouts so far Cha has looked like a throw back to the Korean fighters of old. The Korean fighters who were instilled with a "come forward and punch" mentality. His defensive issues are still there, as they were on his debut, and they do need work however his offensive pressure and power are what have made him so fun to watch and have left him marked as the Korean hopeful to watch. He really does hit hard, his combinations are excellent and the way he jumps on an opponent when he has them hurt has been incredible so far.
Against Kobayashi, himself a punch, we're expecting to see Cha given a real test. Although Cha has been left with a bloodied nose a couple of times we've never really seen him hurt, and Kobayashi certainly has the power to hurt him. Kobayashi is also much taller than Cha, rangier and is a very series test for Cha. If Cha comes through this with a win it's hard to imagine BoxingM doing anything but pushing thee youngster to title bouts sooner rather than later, with a potential domestic title fight later in the year. A loss would his career, but would certainly not be the end of his career and he could easily bounce back down the line.
(Image courtesy of boxingm)
The Watanabe gym is stacked with great prospects, many of whom are tipped to be stars of the future. One of those is the unbeaten Shu Utsuki (4-0, 3), who made his professional debut in 2018 and has already impressed with some solid performances and good wins. He'll be looking to extend those good performances on June 19th, when he returns and faces Omri Bolivar (8-1, 3) on a big card in Chiba.
Utsuki, as with many of the top prospects at the Watanabe Gym, is a former amateur standout with a notable career in the unpaid ranks. That career as an amateur saw Utsuki go 81-27 and also captain the Heisei International University boxing team As an amateur he would fight in numerous tournaments on the domestic scene, notably coming runner up in the 2012 Junior Selection tournament in Ibaraki. Though unfortunately it doesn't appear that he turned good performances into notable tournament wins or notable international appearances.
In February 2018 Shu Utsuki, along with Seiya Tsutsumi and Eri Matsuda, took part in his B license pro-test. He looked really good at his pro-test and made his debut a month later, doing so on the same show as Tsutsumi. His debut was unspectacular if we're being honest, with the youngster beating Thai foe Meechaiya Kaewkwanresort in round 3. A few months later he would go on to defeat the debuting Yoji Saito, a fellow amateur standout, in what was a much tougher bout. Against Saito we saw Utsuki being dropped by the power punching Saito, but regroup well to take a narrow and hotly contest win. Despite it being Saito's debut it was an ultra-competitive bout, and is well worth hunting down on Boxing Raise, and is currently available to those who don't subscribe to the service.
In his third professional bout, which took place last November, Utsuki took on unbeaten Chinese fighter Da Xu, who travelled to Tokyo with ambition of upsetting Utsuki. He came with fire and put Utsuki under pressure, but the local hopeful boxed well, stayed composed during Xu's pressure and saw off the Chinese fighter in round 2 with a brilliant hand on the chin. Xu somehow got to his feet following he shot but had no idea where he was as the refere waved the bout off.
Utsuki's only bout so far this year was a big step up in class, but a successful one, as he defeat Japanese based Filipino Jerry Castroverde, with an 8th round TKO following the towel being thrown in. This was only the second time Castroverde had been stopped and was a real statement for Utsuki who proved he could go 8 rounds, and proved he still had power and speed late into bouts. Sadly this bout isn't available online, as his previous 2 were.
As mentioned Utsuki's next bout will take place in Chinba against Bolivar. That bout will take place on the under-card of Kazuto Ioka's bout with Aston Palicte and will be Utsuki's first contest outside of Korakuen Hall. Whilst the bout isn't expected to get any TV or streaming coverage it is a good step in the right direction for Utsuki, who will likely find himself in the title mix in 2020.
As a fighter Utsuki is well schooled, as you'd expect from a man with over 100 amateur bouts, heavy handed and composed. There is however a feeling that he will take longer to make his mark on the sport than the likes of Tsutsumi and Ginjiro Shigeoka, who both looked a lot more "pro-ready" straight from the off.
One again we've have a relatively quiet week for Asian fighters, despite some pretty notable fighters in action. It wasn't a week that will stand out as something special at the end of the year, or a highlight, but we certainly shouldn't write the week off as a fail, because it really wasn't. In fact it was a week of showcases for unbeaten prospects and rising hopefuls.
Fighter of the Week
Israil Madrimov (3-0, 3)
The Uzbek has done it again and stolen the week with another fantastic performance, as he became only the third man to stop Mexican veteran Norberto Gonzalez. And he did so in just his third bout. We tend to have a general rule that we don't regard world ranked fighters as prospects, and we do, admittedly, hold a fighter like Madrimov to a high level than we do with many others, but even at an elevated standard he is something special and deserves not only the plaudits he's getting, but a legitimately big fight next time out. He's something special and it's going to become a waste of time to have him face any more gatekeepers like Gonzalez.
Performance of the Week
Carl Jammes Martin (13-0, 12)
When we have a TV friendly fighter like Carl Jammes Martin we always want to watch more of him, and that was certainly the case this week when he put on a showcase to stop Yutthichai Wannawong inside a round. Whether Martin had scored an opening round stoppage or a UD we'd always want to see more of him, and for the 20 year old that's exactly what we need from him. If he keeps putting on performances like this he will remain a must watch fighter, though hopefully his competition will step up shortly.
Bakhtiyar Eyubov vs Brian Ceballo
Kezakh fighter Bakhtiyar Eyubov may not have been able to take the upset win over Brian Ceballo but the bout was a fun one, with a number of really good rounds early in the bout, as Ceballo seemed to look fight fire with fire. In fairness Ceballo realised he had the skills to take an easy win of the previously unbeaten Kazakh, but he did pick moments to stand and fight in what was really fun as a bout. A nice combination of power punching, fighting and skills. And Ceballo ended the bout looking like a surefire star of the future, he is well worth following.
Gennady Golovkin Vs Steve Rolls (round 3)
Former Middleweight king Gennady Golovkin was supposed to steam roll Steve Roll, and whilst he did stop him in round 4 that wasn't until we saw Rolls attempt to take the fight to Golovkin. The first round was quiet but Rolls grew into the fight and rounds 2 and 3 were both very fan friendly with the under-dog trying to shock the world. They weren't round of the year contenders or anything but was exciting and it was great to see Rolls standing up to the champion for the round, and having success of his own.
In Duck Seo KO1 Tysinn Best
Korean fighter In Duck Seo travelled over to Australia and was expected to be the man to move unbeaten Australian Tysin Best to 11-0. Instead Seo ripped up the script and sent Best crashing to the canvas, with one of the most brutal KO's of 2019. The Australian was dropped hard before being knocked out in spectacular fashion by the Korean who really announced himself as the type of fighter who cannot be over-looked at this level. Unfortunately for Best he looked the better boxer, but that was that a moot point given Seo's toughness and power, which decided the bout.
Dave Apolinario (11-0, 6)
It's beecoming harder and harder to ignore just how good Dave Apolinario is, and this week we saw him having his stiffest test so far. The unbeaten "Dobermann" was up against fellow Filipino southpaw Adrian Lerasan, and was genuinely tested, but came out on top and answered a lot of questions. Apolinario showed he could fight for 10 rounds, at a good pace, and against a southpaw. He also showed that even when he can't hurt his opponent he can easily out box them, has solid concentration for 10 rounds and very good stamina. Lerasan hadn't got in to the ring to lose, and as a result Apolinario was forced to work for his win, and he showed so much against a fighter trying to beat him. A fantastic step forward for the unbeaten youngster.
Artem Dalakian (18-0, 13) vs Dennapa Kiatniwat (20-1, 15)
This next week is another quiet looking one, but there is a world title fight, as unbeaten WBA Flyweight champion Artem Dalakian defends his belt against mandatory challenger Dennapa Kiatniwat, aka Sarawut Thawornkham. On paper this looks great and whilst the Ukrainian champion will be strongly favoured he could be surprised by the Thai, who has travelled over with a lot of confidence.
Whilst there are some really big gyms in Japan that have fighters recognised well outside of the country other gyms are less well known. For every Teiken, Ohashi or Watanabe there's 20 or more gyms that even your hardcore boxing fan won't have heard of. One great example of that is the Kuratoki Boxing Gym in Wakayama. Though the gym is a pretty obscure one, it does have some talent among it's ranks, with the diamond in the rough being 2018 Rookie of the Year winner Yuri Takemoto (6-1-1, 3). He might not be well known, but the 22 Southpaw is a real hopeful worthy of attention.
Born in Osaka in 1996 the young Takemoto wasn't an amateur standout when he turned professional in 2017. There was no real expectations on his shoulders when he passed his C Class license pro-test in March 2017, just a few weeks before his 21st birthday, and in fact it's fair to say no one really took any notice of him on his debut. Since then however he has proven his ability and turned around a mixed start to his professional career into that of a very promising young fighter.
Going back to his debut, Takemoto debuted in June 2017 at the Big Wave in Wakayama, a venue he will now headline at on June 16th. He would secure a win on debut by stopping Kanta Fukui in the second round in one of the preliminary bouts, the card was a small one not many would have been there for Takemoto's bout. A couple of months after his debut he fought in Kyoto, on the under-card of the first match between Shinsuke Yamanaka and Luis Nery. Takemoto would lose a razor thin devision to local fighter Kensuke Nakamura, a stablemate of Kenshiro's. By razor thin, we really do mean razor thin, with all 3 judges having the bout scored 39-38 to Nakamura.
Takemoto would suffer another setback a few months later, fighting to a 4 round draw with Tomoya Kishine in Osaka, on a show that featured the likes of Juiki Tatsuyoshi and Hiroshige Osawa.
Since those back to back setbacks we've seen Takemoto go on an impressive run, winning 5 bouts in a row, with a massive 2018 which saw him win 4 bouts, become the Rookie of the Year and put his name on the radar of hardcore Japanese fans.
Takemoto's Rookie of the Year campaign began in May 2018 when he took on fellow novice Kazunori Harima, and scored a 53 second win. Takemoto dropped Harrima twice in the opening round, once with a right hand and once with a left hand. Interestingly this bout is available over the Boxing Raise service, and whilst he looked wild Takemoto was incredibly fun to watch.
The win over Harima saw Takemoto progress to the West Japan Rookie of the Year Semi-final, where he beat Takafumi Iwaya in Kobe.
Having won his West Japan Rookie of the Year semi Takemoto was scheduled to battle Temin Kimura in the regional final in September of 2018. Kimura however pulled out, and in November Takamoto blew out Teru Nobita, inside a round, to book his place in the All Japan final a month later. Going in to the bout Nobita was unbeaten, though failed to last 3 minutes with Takemoto.
Takemoto's final bout of 2018 was his All Japan Rookie of the Year final, where he took on the then unbeaten Hikari Mineta from the Teiken gym. Takemoto would drop his man 3 times in the opening round, though fail to stop Mineta, who put in a great effort to fight his way back into the contest. Despite Mineta's effort it was Takemoto who would take the decision, the win and the Rookie of the Year crown.
This past March we saw Takemoto fight for the first time since his Rookie win, and he defeated Filipino foe Reymond Empic over 6 rounds. He is now set to return where it all began, the Big Wave in Wakayama, where he will face Kiki Marciano on June 16th in what will be Takemoto's first 8 round bout. He'll be expected to stop Marciano, who has ben stopped in his last 2 bouts, but bigger and better things are surely just around the corner for the talented man from Wakayama.
This past week hasn't been a big one for Asian fighters, unfortunately, as we hit the June slump, but there was still a fair bit of action, and some solid performances.
Fighter of the Week
Wanheng Menayothin (53-0, 18)
Unbeaten Thai Wanehng Menayothin extended his unbeaten record this past Friday, when he took a technical decision win over Tatsuya Fukuhara. The bout wasn't a great one, but again saw the talented Thai show off the skills, accuracy and sharp punching that has taken him to over 50 wins. It's a shame the bout ended when it did, with Fukuhara seemingly coming on at the time of the conclusion, but there is no doubting that Wanheng was value for his win.
Performance of the Week
Junto Nakatani (19-0, 14)
It didn't take long for Japanese Flyweight champion to go through Filipino foe Philip Luis Cuerdo, in what looked like an interesting assignment on paper. Instead of being a good test against a naturally bigger southpaw Nakatani took him out inside half a round to move a step closer to a world title fight. Whilst this won't prepare Nakatani for someone like Moruti Mthalane or Charlie Edwards it was a great statement win and the next step forward.
Mugicha Nakagawa vs Jin Miura
There wasn't a FOTY contender in Asia this past week, in fact there was little in terms of amazing bouts in general, there was however a solid, well contested and exciting bout on Friday in Tokyo, as Mugicha Nakagawa and Jin Miura fought to a draw. This was entertaining without ever becoming anything special. Just unfortunately the week lacked in terms of great fights, with lots of solid action and nothing spectacular.
Kook Min Moon vs Yo Sub Lee (1)
Sometimes the best rounds aren't the ones fought at the highest level, but instead the ones where we see some intense action and give a great sense of "action per second". There are few rounds this year that gave us more action second than the opening round of Kook Min Moon's battle with Yo Sub Lee, which featured 3 knockdowns in just over a minute. The quality wasn't amazing, the skills on show were limited, but the action was intense.
There was no valid KO for the award this week
Kai Ishizawa (6-0, 6)
Hard hitting Japanese youngster Kai Ishizawa used Indonesian foe Silem Serang like a yo-yo, dropping him several times on route to a 4th round TKO win. Whilst the win was always expecred this was the sort of performance that Ishizawa needed after sych a tough bout against Yuga Inoue last year November. This was a sign that Ishizawa was still the destructive monster he had looked in his first 4 bouts, and fingers crossed he'll build on this win with a big step up later in the year.
Carl Jammes Martin (12-0, 11) vs Rakesh Lohchab (6-0, 2)
The Filipino fight scene has had a strange year, with ALA beign eerily quiet and the likes of Gerry Penalosa and Sanman beign the key promotional players this year. Although ALA, and their stable are quiet, there are a number of rising Filipino fighers bringing action and excitement to Filipino viewers. For us the most exciting rising prospect in the country is the all action Carl Jammes Martin, who takes on unbeaten Indian Rakesh Lohchab this coming weekend, and we are really looking forward to seeing Martin back in the ring. He is one of the most exciting fighters on the planet, and every fight of his going forward will be must watch TV, including this one.
We now head into June, and we do so on the back of a huge May that had everything a fight fan could wish for. We had regular, frequent action, at every level, we had fantastic fights, brilliant performances, and a month that is going to be one of the very, very best of 2019.
Fighter of the Month
Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16)
We had some great performances through the month, but it was clearly only one man who was in the running to be regarded as the fighter of the month, and that was the Monster. Inoue not only boosted his profile to a point of international star, progressed to the WBSS final, claimed the IBF Bantamweight title, but did so in a fashion that seemed to tell the world how good he was, stopping the unbeaten Emmanuel Rodriguez in 2 rounds. This was the type of win that made those, who dind't know of Inoue, sit up and take note. And for those who had long supported the Monster it was vindication that he wasn't just a normal fighter, in fact he was an historical fighter, becoming the first Japanese fighter to win a world title fight in Europe.
Fight of the Month
Taiki Minamoto (16-5, 13) vs Reiya Abe (19-2, 9)
May really did have a lot going on it, with a huge number of fights, but we actually go back to the very start of the month for our Fight of the Month. That was the Japanese Featherweight title fight between between the hard hitting Taiki Minamoto and Reiya Abe, a bout that was sensational, with momentum shifts, excitement, skills, power, heart. Abe, the more skilled fighter, was dropped twice, but gritted his teeth and earned a draw in what wasn't a warm it wasn't a brawl, but it was a brilliant, high skilled, boxing contest. We love wars, and we had those through the month, but this was a brilliant fight and is a must watch for any fight fan.
KO of the Month
Takenori Ohashi TKO7 Shun Wakabayashi
When a fighter is being out boxed, out sped, out fought and out skilled there is always a chance he can bail himself out, if he's a puncher. That's what we saw when Takenori Ohashi landed a brutal uppercut, leaving Wakabayashi out cold, flat on his back and rendering any of Wakabayashi's success as moot. It was proof of the adage of "it only takes 1 punch" and proof that when a fighter is a puncher, they are always in the fight. A massive KO and a huge statement for Ohashi.
Lap Cheong Cheong (6-0, 4)
Although we saw more notable prospects, and we saw bigger wins, we were really impressed by Macao's 22 year old Lap Cheong Cheong this month, as he took an excellent win over Muhammad Wahid in Hong Kong. The unbeaten Macau man pressed the fight through out, took the fight to his foe and tried to break him down from the first round the final seconds. Wahid's toughness prevented the stoppage, but Cheong couldn't have impressed much more. We loved hi style, mentality and hunger, and he looks like a really exciting young fighter.
Masafumi Ando KO3 Toshio Arikawa
Japanese domestic level journeyman Masafumi Ando scored the biggest win of his career, by far, by stopping former Japanese Welterweight champion Toshio Arikawa in 3 rounds. Ando, who had won just 1 of his previous 4 bouts, was a huge under-dog against Arikawa and when he was dropped himself things seemed to be against him. That however instantly changed when he dropped Arikawa and sent him into retirement. What's particularly remarkable about this win is that Ando hadn't scored a stoppage in well over 5 years, and had only beaten 1 opponent with a winning record, the then 1-0 Masanori Iwai.
Ryoichi Tamura Vs Yusaku Kuga II (6)
We had some amazing fights during the month, in what was a truly amazing month. Among the best was the 10 round rematch between Ryoichi Tamura and Yusaku Kuga. The bout had some amazing rounds, the pick of which was the 6th round, as Tamura, who knew he was well behind, moved through the gears and began to push Kuga back. Kuga held his ground more than he did in the later rounds, and gave us a really special 3 minutes of damaging and brutal action. An excellent 3 minutes in what was a fantastic bout, and is well worthy a watch by anyone who likes hard hitting wars.
After a truly hectic May, which has had big fights littered through the month, we drop back to reality in June as the schedule almost tails off completely and we sort of struggle to get too excited about too much taking place over the coming weeks. Thankfully here there is still enough to talk about without feeling the month is threadbare, but it's less about big fights, and more about emerging fighters.
This past week hasn't been the best or the busiest for Asian Boxing, with a very clear down turn in weekly activity, despite some big fights over the weekend. Sadly with such a lack of activity it has made our weekly awards a little bit focused on the fights from the weekend.
Fighter of the Week
Can Xu (17-2, 3)
The last 7 days have really lacked a big win for Asian fighters, other than China's Can Xu, who retained his WBA "regular" Featherweight title with an excellent stoppage win against Shun Kubo on Sunday. The under-rated Chinese "Monster" shocked us all when he beat Jesus M Rojas in January and the stoppage over Kubo was another impressive performance by a young man with a lot of potential. Although Kubo wasn't really suited to the fight that Xu brought it's hard to take away from Xu who looks like he really is coming into his own, and could very easily be the break out Chinese boxin star the country has needed.
Performance of the Week
Can Xu (17-2, 3)
For a second week running we have a double award winner. It was hard to see anyone really competing with Xu for the performance of the week, as he pressed the action, went through the gears and broke down the determined Kubo. Whilst Kubo seemed to be the more technically skilled fighter Xu's relentless attack, combinations and physicality were impressive and, it's great to see that Xu is now finding power on his shots.
Notable mention - Yuki Strong Kobayashi
Can Xu Vs Shun Kubo
With so little action it was clear that this weeks Fight and Round were unlikely to be spectacular. That's seem notably in the Fight of the Week, which, whilst entertaining, wasn't a FOTY contender or anythign like that. This was just a fun, fan friendly bout with Xu moving through the gears and throwing more punches by the round whilst Kubo was eventually broken down. Kubo thougfh played his part, standing at mid-distance, trying to fight with Xu and made for an entertaining contest, until he was stopped. No one can doubt Kubo's fighting heart, but with this being his second stoppage loss in 3 bouts it's hard to know where he goes form this.
Can Xu Vs Shun Kubo (round 3)
As we've not managed to see the Osakan show from Sunday, the round of the week was another that will not stand the test at the end of 2019, despite again being fan friendly. This was the pick of the rounds from the Xu vs Kubo fight, and was the point where Xu began to step up his work rate, whilst Kubo would decline quickly in the rounds that followed and eventuaally be broken down.
We had no valid KO's this week
Tulio Kuwabata (3-0, 2)
Unbeaten Japanese prospect Tulio Kuwabata took a major step up this weekend and beat the previously unbeaten Eric Pulgo in a 6 round bout in Osaka. The talented Kuwabata looked sharp and skilled and appears to be one to keep an eye on in the Bantamweight and Super Bantamweight divisions. With this only being his third bout it's hard to know how far he will go, but there is a lot of talent here.
Notable mention - Shichao Gao
Charles Bellamy (28-3-2, 18) vs Yuto Shimizu (12-4-2, 5) II
Back in September Charles Bellamy took a split deciison over Yuto Shimizu in an entertaining 8 round battle. We're expect their rematch, this coming Saturday, to be even better than their first contest. Shimizu is the under-dog, as he was in their first bout, but at 37 years old we do wonder what Bellamy has left in the tank.
Earlier this year we did an "Introducing..." on Kadoebi prospect Yuki Nakajima. He has an older, a similarly promising, brother who fights out of the Ohashi gym. That is Bantamweight prospect Kazuki Nakajima (6-0, 5), who's a couple of years older than Yuki and a little further along with his career. Like Yuki big things are expected from Kazuki, though he has gone through a little bit of a career stagnation recently and hasn't fought since December, and we're hoping to see him back sooner rather than later.
Nakajima was born in May 1993, in the city of Yamatokōriyama, Nara prefecture and would run up an impressive amateur record of 72-15 (30) before turning professional. Whilst that record isn't an mind blowing one he was highly regarded and had competed on the national scene and was crowned the Kansai League MVP. That amateur pedigree excited those at the Ohashi gym and in 2017 Nakajima signed with the Hideyuki Ohashi lead gym.
On June 25th 2017 Nakajima made his debut, taking on fellow debutant Alangkan Worakhut from Thailand. The Japanese southpaw needed just 109 seconds to see off the Thai, who was dropped twice in the bout, once from a straight left and once from an uppercut. Although not badly hurt from the shots Alangkan knew he was beat and held his shoulder whilst being counted out, as if to suggest he had injured himself and although it seems hard to belive he did seem in total agony in his corner after the bout.
Just a couple of months later Nakajima would secure his second win, stopping Indonesian Resnu Sundava in 26 seconds. Nakajima would finish this one with a left hand to the body of the visitor. It's worth noting that Sandava had never previously been stopped, but didn't look like he wanted to be in the ring with Nakajima and looked like a man wanting to get out of the ring as quickly as possible.
Thankfully in December 2017, as part of the under-card to Naoya Inoue's win over Yoan Boyeaux, Nakajima was actually tested, as he went up against the criminally under-rated Taiga Higashi. Higashi, who really is a nightmare for a prospect, gave Nakajima a really good 6 round test. Not only did Nakajima get taken 6 rounds, for the first time, but he also lost a couple of rounds to Higashi, who also dropped Nakajima with a right hook, and was forced to fight through adversity. Although it had taken 6 months Nakajima had now been shown what professional boxing was about, and showed could dig deep when he needed to.
After having had such a good test the hope was for Nakajima to be given another test straight away. Sadly he was matched with Thai foe Siripong Prasroedpong, who lasted just 85 seconds. Thankfully it wasn't long before he stepped back up in class and stopped the tough Takuya Fujioka, who retired between rounds and took his first stoppage loss. Fujioka never looked like he was able to get into the bout as the skills, speed and power from Nakajima were simply too much and Fujioka's corner did well to save their man from additional punishment in the later rounds. Nakajima would again step up in his follow up bout, beating Yoshihiro Utsumi in 7 rounds, in what was his most impressive performances to date.
As mentioned Nakajima hasn't fought this year, with his win against Utsumi coming back in December. He's still young enough to take some time off, but we'd hope he fits in a couple of fights this year and makes up for lost time. He was looking really good at the end of 2018, and certainly has the potential to find himself in the title mix at Bantamweight, at least domestically and regionally, and it would be a massive shame if that potential went to waste.
Nakajima is a sharp punching, well school, heavy handed southpaw with high level skills. He still needs development, which experience will help him with, but the tools and team are in place for him to have an excellent career.
The Minimumweight division is one of the most interesting in Japan, thanks to the sheer number of rising hopefuls breaking through the ranks. Not only is there a lot of rising Minimumweight hopefuls, but there is a wonderful mix of styles among those youngsters. We have highly skilled boxer punchers, like Ginjiro Shigeoka, slick boxers like Yuga Inoue and aggressive punchers, like Kai Ishizawa.
It's the last of those hopefules we're going to look to introduce today, with Kai Ishizawa (5-0, 5) being one of the most interesting, exciting and aggressive Minimumweights out there. He's not as technically gifted as the aforementioned Inoue or as wonderfully rounded as the sensationally talented Shigeoka, but he is very promising, very exciting and very, very aggressive. Often using his physicality and incredible strength to make up for his technical limitations.
The 22 year old Ishizawa, from Kanagawa, debuted in June 2017, following a 42 fight amateur career. In the unpaid ranks Ishizawa didn't really impress, running up a 28-14, record. What he did do however, was show a style that had the potential to be very successful in the professional ranks, albeit with the need to be refined and polished.
On his debut Ishizawa looked really powerful, taking out Thai novice Phongsaphon Panyakum in 2 rounds. Interestingly since losing to Ishizawa the Thai youngster has gone 3-0 in his native Thailand showing that he's not a total bum, even if he was given a JBC ban following the loss to Ishizawa.
Just a few weeks after his debut Ishizawa would return to the ring and stop Yoshimitsu Kushibe in 2 rounds, in what was Kushibe's 12th professional bout. It was a big step up, but a step up that the young puncher made with no problems at all.
Despite having fought his first 2 bouts in the space of about 8 weeks it would take almost 6 months before Ishizawa would have his next bout, and it was an incredibly short one as he blasted away Nrathip Sungsut inside a round. It was around this time that he was starting to get some attention. It's rare to see Minimumweight prospects blowing away opponents, but that's what Ishizawa was doing, and was doing in an exciting fahsion.
Not only was Ishizawa creating a buzz after his first 3 wins, but he was also creating real belief within his team, the MT Gym, that he was a genuine talent. That belief was tested in April 2018 when he was matched with the then unbeaten Tatsuro Nakashima. Nakshima was 7-0-1 (5) and had reached the East Japan Rookie of the Year final in 2017, being eliminated on a tie-breaker following a draw with Yuga Inoue. This looked a huge step up for Ishizawa, but he again came out on top scoring a TKO win over Nakashima, who was saved by the referee with a badly swollen left eye, the result of Ishizawa's power. This was a Japanese Youth title eliminator, though sadly Ishizawa was unable to take part in a planned title bout with Daiki Tomita in July 2018 due to suffering an injury in training.
Despite missing out on a clash with Tomita we did see Ishizawa get a shot at the Japanese Youth title in November of last year, when he took on 2017 Rookie of the Year Yuga Inoue for the belt. The bout saw Ishizawa being out boxed, out fought and out battled through the first 4 rounds. He was made to look slow, clumsy and ineffective against a more technical, sharper and smarter fighter. Despite being out classed Ishizawa was showing his will to win and refusing to just roll over, eventually cutting Inoue and breaking him down to score a 6th round TKO.
We'll see Ishizawa attempt to extend hi KO run on June 1st, when he takes on Indonesian visitor Silem Serang. On paper this looks a mismatch, with Serang having a record of 13-19-2 (1) however the Indonesian did recently go 8 rounds with Ishizawa's former foe Tatsuro Nakashima and has also gone put up good efforts, in losses, to Wanheng Menayothin, Andika Sabu and Palangpol CP Freshmart. He might have 11 stoppage losses but he rarely gets blown out early, and should ask some questions of Ishizawa before being stopped later in the bout.
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