For a second week in a row we're getting the chance to speak about a former amateur standout making their debut in Japan, with this week's "Introducing" looking at Celes Gym's new hopeful Issei Ochiai (0-0), who begins his career on August 3rd. The touted southpaw is tipped for big things at the Celes gym, managed by former world champion Celes Kobayashi, and it's not without good reason.
The Celes gym isn't one of the biggest, and it rarely promotes shows of it's own, but it has guided Ryosuke Iwasa to a world title and will be hoping to do the same with Ochiai, who like Iwasa is a southpaw fighter.
The youngster was a notable feature on the domestic amateur scene over the last few years, and ran up a solid, if unspectacular, 23-7 amateur record. That might not be a jaw dropping figure, but he was often fighting against more experienced foes and he managed to show real improvement as an amateur, coming second in the national championships in 2018 at the junior level,
Ochiai began fighting at a really young age, in fact he was still in elementary school when he began training under his father's guidance. He would later develop his skills enough to fight at a higher and higher level, reaching the quarter finals of major domestic tournament in 2017.
The youngster continued to develop his skills and created a bit of a buzz locally in Ehime Prefecture but nationally attention on him was relatively minimal, allowing him to build on his skills without too much in terms of major media attention. That means a lot of his amateur fights aren't actually available, but from the few that are we can see a really solid and sharp fighter.
From the footage available Ochiai as an amateur he's a sharp punching southpaw, with nice movement, good speed, nice variety to his punching and an excellent straight left hand. There were some clear areas to work on, often being a touch wide with his punches, as we saw against Riki Kawabe in one of his Inter-High School bouts. One of the notable features of Ochiai's amateur style was the he used distance, and fought at range with his footwork being incredibly smart.
Ochiai will debut as a Super Flyweight on August 3rd as he takes on Thai foe Lerdchai Chaiyawed. On paper this should be a formality for Ochiai, but in reality Chaiyawed is no push over and has already scored a win over Samartlek Kokietgym and put up two solid efforts in Japan. As a win it won't be a huge one, but it's a sign of intent from Celes and from Ochiai, who we expect to be moved quickly through the ranks.
Although the last week has lacked world title bouts for Asian fighters it has been a exciting one, with several fantastic shows from around the continent. Better yet a lot of those shows were available to watch, with YTV, Boxingraise and Paravi all having cards from Japan available live. That has allowed us a good feel for what has been an unheralded week of action, and a week that has seen more attention given to the negative issues of boxing.
Fighter of the Week
Ginjiro Shigeoka (4-0, 3)
The fighter of the week, for us, was teenage sensation Ginjiro Shigeoka, who only needed 72 seconds to wipe out Clyde Azarcon and become the new WBO Asia Pacific Minimumweight champion. The youngster, who has been hyped since his debut, was expected to be asked serious questions by the much taller and more experienced Azarcon, but a great body shot put the Filipino down for the count and it's now clear that Shigeoka is deserving of the plaudits. This kid isn't just good, he's very, very special and it's going to be hard to predict just how far he can go.
Performance of the Week
Ginjiro Shigeoka (4-0, 3)
For a second week running our Fighter and Performance awards are won by the same fighter. Last week it was a man who, at the age of 40, is coming to the end of his career, rolling back the clock to score one of his most notable wins to date. We wouldn't say Pacquiao's win over Thurman was one of his best, but at the age of 40 it was notable. For Shigeoka however it was picking up his first regional title after just 10 months as a professional that impressed and taking out a fighter who appeared to have so many advantages, so quickly, so easily, really was a performance that made us realise this kid is for real. Shigeoka has predicted a 4th or 5th round finish, but even he has to have been impressed by finding the killer blow after just over a minute.
Jin Minamide (3-0, 3) Vs Tetsu Araki (14-1-1, 2)
The God's Left Bantamweight tournament is a really good idea, a brilliant concept in fact and we can't wait for the other divisions to be covered, something that has been announced but yet to be put into action. The best bout from the recent quarter finals was the 6 round war between Jin Minamide and Tetsu Araki. On paper this was, by far, the best of the quarter final bouts and it delivered in the best way, giving us competitive, exciting action right through the contest. This won't go down as a Fight of the Year contender, but it will go down as a fantastic example of what good match making and a shared winners mentality can give us.
Jin Minamide vs Tetsu Araki (Rd6)
The fight of the week also had the round of the week, with the 6th round of Minamide's bout with Araki being insane, bloody, wild, exciting action. It wasn't a pretty round, and wasn't a round you'd show to any prospect looking to develop their skills form watching a battle, but it was amazing.The round was 3 minutes of violent chaos, with the final seconds just having the two men stand and trade blows in what may go down as the Japanese sequence of the year. This was brilliant and well worth the Boxing Raise subscription price for the month.
Unfortunately no KO really stood out, though Shigeoka's KO of Azarcon with a body shot was impressive it wasn't really something we felt deserved a KO of the week award.
Yusuke Mine (1-0)
Turning professional after a notable amateur career can be tricky, especially to deliver a great performance on your debut. For Yusuke Mine the biggest issue he had was a cut caused by the head of Jesel Guardario, a cut that curtailed the bout in round 4. Prior to the conclusion Mine showed a lot to get excited about, with his skills, movement, timing and jab, a really clean and crisp jab. The youngster would likely have wanted to score a stoppage here, and failed, but did look every bit of a super prospect, and it's clear that the Mutoh Gym will be pushing him hard going forward.
Kazuto Takesako (10-0-1, 10) vs Shuji Kato (10-1-2, 6) II
This coming week we see a lot of really interesting match ups, including two really intriguing rematches. One of those is rematch between Koki Eto and Jeyvier Cointron and the other is the Japanese Middleweight title bout between Kazuto Takesako and Shuji Kato. We're picking the second one of those bouts as out one to watch due to the fact their first one was so brilliant. Their first didn't end with any weird and bizarre ending was instead a 10 round war that swung one way then the other, with Takesako narrowly retaining his title with a draw. We know these two are well matched, we know they are ultra-competitive and we know we could be set for something very, very special.
The month of August is set to be a hectic one, both in terms of boxing and our personal lives. Despite being hectic it's a month that doesn't have many huge fights through out it, with pretty much all the big ones taking place over a single day, but does have a lot of notable right through the month. We have Japanese title fights, Japanese youth title bouts, OPBF title bouts, prospects in action and so much more, even if we don't have a huge number of world title bouts.
Knockout CP Freshmart (19-0, 7) Vs ArAr Andales (10-0, 2) - Bangkok, Thailand
The first major bout of the month is one of the few world title bouts and will see unbeaten WBA Minimumweight champion Knockout CP Freshmart return to the ring for his first bout of 2019. In the opposite corner to the unbeaten champion will be unbeaten Filipino youngster ArAr Andales, who looks to become one of the few Filipino's to have won a world title as a teenager. Knockout has had a frustrating reign, often showing glimpses of brilliance but crowding them with long stretches of tedium and his fanfare has certainly eroded, with the mocking name of "Unanimous Decision CP Freshmart" seeming a lot more apt than his actual name. Andales on the other hand was an unknown 12 months ago, but a regional title has boosted him to this fight and a chance to end the tiring and dull reign of the Thai champion.
Koki Eto (24-4-1-1, 19) Vs Jeyvier Cintron II (10-0-0-1, 5) II - Florida USA
A few hours later our attention turns to the US as we see Japanese slugger Koki Eto and unbeaten Puerto Rican hopeful Jeyvier Cintron go again. The two men fought just 3 months ago, with the bout ending in a No Contest due to a clash of heads, and they will both be looking to avoid a similar fate here. The winner will be the leading challenger for the WBO Super Flyweight title, currently held by Kazuto Ioka, though both men will bee annoyed that they have had to wait, given they would have expected a shot at the end of the year, had it not been for their headclash. From their first bout Cintron clearly looked the better fight, but Eto did look dangerous, especially with his booming and hard right hand. If we avoid a similar conclusion to last time we could be in for something very exciting.
Takeshi Inoue (13-1-1, 7) Vs Patomsuk Pathompothong (38-10-1-1, 24) - Tokyo, Japan
Recent world title challenger Takeshi Inoue returns to the ring for the first time since losing to Jamie Munguia, and will re-enter the title mix immediately as he battles against Thai veteran Patomsuk Pathompothong for the WBO Asia Pacific Light Middleweight title. This really should be a straight forward win for the aggressive and physically strong Inoue, as he takes on a naturally smaller, older and limited for. For the Thai, who has been stopped in his last 2 bouts in Japan, this really will be his last chance at this level and another loss could well end his career.
Kazuto Takesako (10-0-1, 10) Vs Shuji Kato (10-1-2, 6) II - Tokyo, Japan
Another title fight on the same card will see Japanese Middleweight champion Kazuto Takesako take part in a rematch with Shuji Kato. The two men had a real thriller earlier in the year, which resulted in a draw that pleased neither man. This rematch will see both men desperate to avoid another draw, though given how well their styles gelled the first time around we're struggling to see anything but another close one. Takesako, seeking his third defense here, is the big punching favourite but Kato is the smarter boxer, and his southpaw jab gave Takesako all sorts of issues in their first match up. This might not be a Fight of the Year contender but will certainly be a very entertaining and intriguing bout all the same.
Takuma Takahashi (3-0, 3) vs Sitthidet Bantti (11-4, 5)
The fast rising Takuma Takahashi looks to continue his perfect start as he takes on Thai visitor Sitthidet Bannti. The hard hitting Takahashi may not have polished his style, yet, but looks like a natural dangerman and wins in hs first 3 against Joepher Montano and Jonel Dapidran are impressive.He'll be a clear favourite here and will, hopefully, face a domestic opponent later in the year to begin moving towards some form of a title bout. Bantti on the other hand has never been stopped and has been in with some good fighters, including Atchariya Wirojanasunobol, Xiangxiang Sun and Saddam Kietyongyuth. A win for Takahashi is expected, but the way that win comes will be very interesting.
Issei Ochiai (0-0) Vs Lerdchai Chaiyawed (1-2)
Celes Kobayashi's big new signing Issei Ochiai makes his debut, with a lot of expectations on his shoulders. The Celes gym has failed to develop many guys, but their success with Ryosuke Iwasa is fairly notable and Ochiai is one of the more talented amateurs that the gym has signed since Iwasa won a world title. Although talented he should be asked some real questions here by a Thai who a win over Samartlek Kokietgym and gave tough 8 round bouts to Ryoki Hirai and Seita Ogido when fighting in Japan. The visitor is no bum, and this is a real test for the Japanese novice.
Takayuki Okumoto (22-8-4,10) Vs Dynamic Kenji (11-3, 7)- Osaka Japan
Japanese Super Flyweight champion Takayuki Okumoto looks to put 3 very close bouts behind him and score his third defense of the title he won last year as he takes on the heavy handed, though very unheralded, Dynamic Kenji. Okumoto is a true veteran, who debuted at the age of 15, and has been given a number of chances, before finally making the most of one last year when he usurped Hiroyuki Kudaka, since then he has narrowly retained the title and is a rather lucky champion. Kenji on the other hand is getting his first shot at this level, and he's unlikely to be in the mix again if he losses, given his lack of a big name promoter and his rather low profile. This is a hard bout to call, and like the Takesako Vs Kato bout certainly has one guy being much more skilled and the other being the much bigger puncher.
Toshiki Shimomachi (9-1-2, 5) Vs Kenta Nomura (6-2, 3) - Osaka Japan
Another title bout from Osaka will see Toshiki Shimomachi and Kenta Nomura battle for the currently vacant Japanese Youth Super Bantamweight title. Coming in both fighters have some momentum, with Shimomachi on a good unbeaten run following an early career and Shimomachi looking very powerful since moving up to Super Bantamweight after fighting mostly at Super Flyweight. This bout should be very exciting and could well give the winner a huge shot in the arm ahead of some bigger an better bouts over the next 24 months.
Thanongsak Simsri (9-0, 9) Vs Melianus Mirin (10-5, 6) - Osaka, Japan
Whilst the Osaka show will be a notable one thanks to the Japanese and Japanese youth titles it's hard to ignore that Thai youngster Thanongsak Simsri, who looks to score his 10th straight T/KO win and live up to the "Srisaket II" moniker the Thai boxing press have given him. In the opposite corner to the 19 year old Thai prospect will be the limited but tough Melianus Mirin, who has yet to be stopped and has fought stiff competition, including Wanheng Manyothin and
Daud Yordan (38-4-0-1, 26) Vs Patomsith Pathompothong (21-11, 10)- Pattaya, Thailand
The popular Indonesian fighter Daud Yordan gets his return from a 2018 loss to Anthony Crolla as he travels to Thailand to battle the limited Patomsith Pathompothong. The well travelled Yordan, who has fought will be fighting in his 6th different country in as many fights, will be strongly favoured here and will obviously be hoping to get his career back in track after inactivity and the Crolla loss. The Thai on the other hand has picked up 4 wins this year, but his level of competition has been incredibly low. Despite Yordan being the man on the road he has to be the favourite.
Hiroaki Teshigawara (19-2-2, 12) Vs Shohei Omori (20-2, 15) - Tokyo, Japan
Arguably the pick of the early month bouts is an OPBF Super Bantamweight title bout pitting hard nosed champion Hiroaki Teshigawara against the excellent Shohei Omori. For Teshigawara this is a big step up in class and a win will mark him a definitive fringe contender, at worst. He's on a good roll already and has been notching good wins over regional opposition, but this is a step up. Omori on the other hand is rebuilding following his second loss to Marlon Tapales, and has looked fantastic since moving to Super Bantamweight. The hard hitting southpaw challenger was once tipped as the successor to Shinsuke Yamanaka at Bantamweight but he really appears to have found his better weight 4lbs north and could see a win here as a launch pad to a second world title fight. An excellent match up and one we're really looking forward to.
Kenichi Horikawa (40-15-1, 13) Vs Ryuto Oho (12-5-1, 4) - Tokyo, Japan
Japanese veteran Kenichi Horikawa looks to extend his second reign as the Japanese Light Flyweight champion as he takes on youngster Ryuto Oho. The often under-rated veteran, who holds the record for most wins of any active Japanese fighter, is heading towards his 40th birthday but continues to fight with the vigour and fire of a much, much younger man. Horikawa's reign isn't likely to lead to a world title fight, but we're certainly glad the little warrior is having some success towards the end of his career. Oho is a talented youngster but has shown durability issues and will need to rely on his youth and speed to survive Horikawa's aggression here. An interesting match up, but one where the champion enters as the clear favourite.
Masahiro Suzuki (2-0, 1) Vs Kosuke Arioka (9-3-1, 8) - Tokyo, Japan
Talented Japanese prospect Masahiro Suzuki might not be getting much fan fare but the highly skilled 24 year old has impressed us in both of his pro bouts so far and now he takes on his first domestic opponent. The excellent Suzuki has shown a lot in just 12 rounds of professional boxing, we know he's a smart fighter, we know he can fight on the front foot or the back foot and we know he's a very sharp puncher. His promoter now wants us to see how he copes against a puncher. Although fairly limited Kosuke Arioka can bang and he'll be expected to give Suzuki a real chin check before the unbeaten youngster looks to climb through the national rankings.
We don't often want to "introduce" debutants but there's sometimes a case where we feel that a debutant is the most fitting fighter for one of these "Introducing" pieces, and that's the case this week, as we take a look at Mutoh Gym's latest top prospect, Yusuke Mine (0-0), ahead of his July 26th debut.
The talented youngster is regarded as the gym's brightest prospect since Nobuo Nashiro joined the gym, and has been labelled with the "Nashiro II" tag. That is something that could be a curse for some, though is clearly a sign of respect given that Mine has a personal relationship with Nashiro. In fact it was Nashiro who actually headed the university team that Nashiro fought for as an amateur.
Having mentioned Mine's amateur career that really has to be the focus of this introducing article. In the unpaid ranks he really was a standout, competing not only on the domestic scene but also making his mark on the international scene. He ran up a very impressive 51-12 (10) record. In 2014 he came runner up in the Japanese Interschool Athletic Meet at 49KG's, it's worth noting that just 7KG's north Hinata Maruta also came runner up. The following year he went all the win to the gold medal of a International Invitational Tournament in Taipei, showing his skills against a variety of international opposition. Despite his successes in the unpaid ranks he did fail to shine at the 2016 Japanese National Championships, losing in 2 rounds to the sensationally talented Ryomei Tanaka, who would go on to win the competition.
Although known for his boxing it's worth noting that Mine's love of combat sport began before his love of boxing, and he actually started with Karate at the age of 5, before moving to boxing in High School, at the same high school that Kazuto Ioka had once gone to. That lead him, eventually, to being taken under the wing of Nashiro, the most successful fighter from the Mutoh Gym, and it's clear that Nashiro has has something to do with Mine turning professional and signing up Takashi Edagawa's gym.
Unfortunately despite being a good amateur, footage of Mine from his days in the unpaid ranks was quite hard to find and what was available didn't really show him at his best, in fact the one fight that was available in full that we found saw him losing 5-0 in a University League match in 2018. What seemed clear though is that he had talent, but didn't really look at the races, against a very talented southpaw opponent.
Mine's debut will take place this coming Friday, as he takes on Filipino foe Jesel Guardario (8-3-1, 4). On paper this is a really decent opponent for a debut, and the Filipino is no push over, despite plenty of limitations. He went 6 rounds with Ryo Suwa last year, in Kobe, but shouldn't be too stiff of a test for Mine, if Mine is as good as the folk in Osaka are suggesting.
Another week has passed and whilst it wasn't the biggest week it clearly had some stand out moments, and one very clear standout fighter.
Fighter of the Week
Manny Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39)
It's not every week that the Fighter of the Week is the easiest award, but this week is one where their is really no other contender than Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao, who showed, even at the age of 40, that he is a fantastic fighter. From knocking down Keith Thurman in the opening round to skirting around the ring in the 12th Pacquiao did as he pleased against the previously unbeaten American. Thurman had moments in the second half, but by then he was needing a KO as Pacquiao took his foot off the gas. The punching senator might not be the supreme wrecking machine he was a decade ago but even this older, slower Pacquiao appears to be one of the top fighters in the sport.
Performance of the Week
Manny Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39)
A rare double win here for our Fighter and Performance award as Pacquiao takes this one too. He was up against a younger fighter and still seemed able to out box, out speed, out punch and out think his foe. Thurman struggled with Pacquiao's foot work early on, as well as his timing, and whilst Pacquiao has long been known for his thunderbolt straight left hand it was his right hook that was a major tool here. This wasn't a punch perfect display from Pacquiao, and it likely won't go down as one of his top 5 performances, but it was the stellar showing from the week.
Han Bin Suh (4-0-2, 3) vs Jong Won Jung (5-7-2)
On Monday we had a little card in South Korea which was headlined by a brilliant little gem between Korean Super Bantamweigth champion Han Bin Suh and challenger Jong Won Jung. This was a million miles away from the glitz and glamour of the MGM, and seemingly fought in front of only a scattering of fans, but was a thrilling action fight, and the sort of thing that has made Korean boxing, to all it's limitations, worthy of following. Much of the fight was fought up close, with offensive taking a clear priority over defense, and combinations taking a preference over smart footwork and single shot counters. The fact only a handful of people is a shame, as this is worth every minute it'll take to watch.
Manny Pacquiao Vs Keith Thurman (10)
The Pacquiao Vs Thurman fight was, for the most, pretty easy to score, though one round really stood out as being the best, round 10. The round saw Thurman taking risks and having success early on before being hurt from a body shot, in a round that swung one way then the other and left us all wondering whether he could recover for the bout's penultimate round. This wasn't a Round of the Year contender, but was a very entertaining and exciting 3 minutes
Despite the week being a good one, no KO really stood out as being something to talk about. The closest we got was Sergey Lipinet's brutal shot to Jayar Inson, who some how rose to his feet and was stood standing and smiling. Inson clearly wasn't aware of where he was.
Koshin Takeshima (4-0, 3)
Japan's Koshin Takeshima isn't getting much attention, mostly due to the fact he's fighting in the lesser reported markets of Japan with fights in Kariya, Gifu and Nagoya. Despite that he's creating a bubble of expectancy and that showed again this Saturday when he defeat Jon Jon Estrada over 8 rounders. Prior to the bout Takeshima had fought a total of just 8 rounds but went 8 with no issue against a tough and dangerous Estrada. Although the Filipino has now lost 3 in a row, and 7 of his 19, Estrada was the sort of fighter that Takeshima needed to face and the win was a big statement from the 23 year old Japanese fighter.
Ginjiro Shigeoka (3-0, 2) vs Clyde Azarcon (15-2-1, 5)
Over the coming days we have some great fights coming up, and one amazing one between Tsuyoshi Sato and Rikito Shiba which was cancelled though could be rescheduled for later in the year. Despite how good some of those fights are the one we are most interested in the WBO Asia Pacific Minimumweight title bout between fast rising youngster Ginjiro Shigeoka and Filipino Clyde Azarcon. For Shigeoka this is a chance to really land with a wallop and claim his first title in just his 4th professional bout, whilst Azarcon will be looking to upend the fast rising Japanese fighter in what we think is the most interesting bout this week...a week that also includes the quarter final bouts for the God's left tournament and a mouth watering Japanese Bantamweight title bout.
The end of July is upon us and we see another surge in action, especially in Japan, with tournaments, titles, prospects and a touted debutant!
On July 23rd we get something a little bit different as Dangan put on the quarter final bouts for their God's Left Bantamweight tournament:
Gaku Aikawa (9-7-1, 3) Vs Kenya Yamashita (13-5, 10) - Tokyo, Japan
Kazuki Nakajima (6-0, 5) Vs Kenichi Watanabe (8-4-1, 4) - Tokyo, Japan
Jin Minamide (3-0, 3) Vs Tetsu Araki (14-1-1, 2) - Tokyo, Japan
The three matches above are all part of the God's Left tournament and on paper the stand out match up is the Minamide Vs Araki bout, pitting one of the most touted prospects against the man with the most success at title level, with Araki having been a Japanese Youth champion. It's hard to imagine anything but a win for Kazuki Nakajima in his bout with Kenichi Watanabe, with Aikawa Vs Yamashita has the potential to be an all out thriller.
One thing about Japanese boxing right now is that a lot of the youngsters want to impress. It's not just that they want to win, but they want to win in style, they want to make fans talk about them, they want to leave a great impression. One such fighter is 22 year old Light Flyweight Tsuyoshi Sato (9-1-1, 5), who has quickly become one of most must watch young fighters in Japan.
The young Sato is a member of the Kadoebi Gym, a gym with a lot of a talent, and even in such a talent packed environment as the Kadoebi gym the youngster is standing out as someone very exciting, with an incredibly fan friendly style.
Sato made his debut in November 2015, aged 18, and beat the then 17 year old Tatsuya Tomioka with a 4 round unanimous decision. Whilst this was a rather low key win it is worth noting that in 2016 Tomioka would come runner up in the All Japan Rookie of the Year.
Sadly for Sato his second bout saw him suffering a defeat, losing to Tatsuhiro Toguchi in 2 rounds. Following his loss Sato would then fight to a split draw with Daiki Kameyama, who later went on to win the Rookie of the Year in 2018. By this point Sato was 1-1-1 and had been a professional for over a year though wasn't creating much buzz, however a buzz would quickly form for Sato by the end of 2017.
Sato's 2017 had began with the draw against Kameyama, in February. His second bout of the year saw him stopping the then 3-0 Natsu Ohashi before taking a decision over Yuki Uchida and then taking a split decision win over Kameyama, avenging the draw from the start of the year. That win over Kameyama saw Sato claim the East Japan Rookie of the Year crown and move on to the All Japan final, where he faced West Japan champion Yusei Nagai.
Nagai, who was 3-0 at the time, was under extreme pressure from Sato from the opening moments and within seconds Nagai was being forced to fight entirely off the back foot. It wasn't something that suited him. Around 1 minute into the fight Nagai found himself being tagged in the corner, and by the it seemed like a matter of time, with Sato dropping him soon afterwards. Nagai would recover to his feet but the pressure from Sato was incessant and he'd force a stoppage soon afterwards.
Following his Rookie triumph in 2017 Sato would have a great 2018, going 3-0 (2), with a 6 round decision win over Yoshiki Abe and stoppages against Sulis Bareer and Toma Kondo. Those wins continued to build Sato's reputation, experience and style, and by the end of the year he was becoming a must watch fighter, even if he was still only fighting in low level bouts against domestic foes.
Earlier this year Sato took part in a Japanese Youth title eliminator, and wore down Tetsuya Tomioka in 2 rounds to book himself a title fight. That title fight comes on July 27th when he faces Rikito Shiba for the Japanese Youth Flyweight title. This is a bout that we're really looking forward to, and Shiba has previously been featured in one of these "Introducing" pieces himself, with two talented, skilled and exciting young fighters battling for their first title.
For those who haven't seen much of Sato he's an all out pressure fighter. He's not the biggest single punch puncher, but he's developing his power, throws hard combinations and has improved a lot from his 1-1-1 start to professional boxing. He is one of the the Japanese scene's most exciting young fighters and someone who, win or lose, will be a must watch little action man.
This past week we really saw action pick up in a big way, with a number of notable Japanese cards which created headlines, a major upset in Russia and a card in Saudi Arabia. It's a week that felt so much different to recent weeks and it's very clear that business is picking up, after a dreary June.
Fighter of the Week
Ryota Murata (15-2, 12)
When a fighter loses in fashion that sees them being dominated, especially in an upset, it can be easy to write them off. We certainly did that last year when Ryota Murata was beaten by Rob Brant. This week however Murata showed he shouldn't be written off as he avenged his loss to Brant in shocking fashion, beating Brant in 2 rounds, and forcing the referee to save the American, who was wobbling and had been down. This was not what we were expecting from Murata, but we're so glad to have seen him show what he can do, reclaim the WBA "regular" Middleweight title. Although Murata has so much ability this was the first time he's truly shown that ability, and we're really hoping he can build on this win. Sadly though much of his career has been flat and this performance may end up being little more than an anomaly.
Performance of the Week
Joe Noynay (18-2-1, 7)
Filipino youngster Joe Noynay has been written off as the under-dog far too many times in his career, and this past Friday he showed that fighters, and fans, need to take notice of him. He travelled to Japan, dropped Olympic bronze medal winner Satoshi Shimizu 3 times, twice in the opening round, and successfully defended the WBO Asia Pacific Super Featherweight title. Although not a puncher this was Noynay's second straight stoppage win in Japan and he is going to be getting himself a serious reputation as a Japanese Killer, similar to that off forgotten Filipino Bantamweight Jess Maca.
Andy Hiraoka, Kenshiro, Rolden Aldea
Naoko Fujioka Vs Tenkai Tsunami
When we have two of the best female fighters on the planet facing off we can always expect a dark horse of a fight, and that's what we got this week with a thrilling 10 round battle between the legendary Naoko Fujioka and the under-rated Tenkai Tsunami. The bout, was engaging, swung one way then the other and was almost impossible to call. It was one of the bouts that had the potential to be something special, and it delivered. in a big way, again showing what happens when two top, world class, well matched female fighters face off. Given the result, the action and the way the bout was fought we're really hoping to see the two run it over again, and give us another special bout.
Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa vs Koki Tyson (RD 12)
One thing we didn't expect this week was for for the OPBF Middleweight title to remain vacant. We expected Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa and Koki Tyson to give us a shoot out, with one man eventually taking the other out to take the crown. Surprisingly however we got the opposite with the two men competing in a 12 round fight that had some dull moments but was a thoroughly engaging contest with tactical holding from Tyson and bombs from both. Despite some sloppy action at times the final round was great, with both firing off some bombs, and the round got better as it went on, with a loud fan base cheering on Tyson. It won't go down as a Round of the Year contender, but with the atmosphere, the huge power shots from both and the clear desire this was a great round, and a fantastic ending to a fight we had expected to be over much, much earlier.
Roldan Aldea KO8 Mikhail Alexeev
For much of the week it seemed like Kenshiro's TKO over Jonathan Taconing, to retain the WBC Light Flyweight title, was going to take the honour of the best stoppage of the week. It wasn't a clear KO but it was a beautiful finish of a usually durable Filipino. Instead however it was Filipino journeyman Roldan Aldea that stole honour for the best KO, and did so in relatively notable upset in Russia. The unheralded Aldea Aldea was cornered by the previously unbeaten Mikhail Alexeev in round before landing a gorgeous uppercut that split the guard of Alexeev who had his senses turned off. It took a second or two, but after a slight delay Alexeev would then crash face down onto the canvas. This was a beauty of a shot, and one of the most eye catchign KO's of 2019. Truly fantastic from Aldea.
Andy Hiraoka (14-0, 9)
It's fair to say that Andy Hiraoka has been almost demanding a chance to show what he can do in recent months, being very much a frustrated man on social media and a young fighter simply wanting a chance. This week he got a chance, and he showed what he could do, as he clearly out boxed former world title challenger Akihiro Kondo to claim his first major scalp. The youngster showed poise, skills, speed and a solid ring IQ to score his best win to date, and the hope will surely be for him to fight for a senior title in 2020
Manny Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39) Vs Keith Thurman (29-0-0-1, 22)
Despite having had a great week this past week the next few days are a bit lacking, though we do have 3 fights of real note featuring Asian fighters in the West. One of those will fee Filipino great Manny Pacquiao take on big talking American Keith Thurman, in a bout to unify the regular and super titles at Welterweight. The bout is a good one on paper and we're expecting to see both men being forced to answer big questions about their future. Sadly it's not the same bout it could have been a few years ago, but should still be a very interesting contest.
Japanese fighter Masamichi Yabuki has been quietly creating a buzz in the lower weights thanks to his power. Win or lose Yabuki has always been someone worth following and has created a pretty solid following among those that follow the Japanese scene. What many perhaps aren't aware of is that Yabuki has a boxing brother, the talented and fast rising Masanori Rikiishi (5-1, 3), who is in the mix for a potential title fight in the near future. With that in mind we want to cover Rikiishi in this weeks "Introducing..." segment.
Interestingly Masamichi's birth name was Honma Sato whilst Rikiishi's was Masayoshi Sato, though of course both fighters are now better known by their current fighting names than their birth names.
Rikiishi was born in Suzuka city, Mie prefecture and prior to turning professional in 2017 he had managed to make a mark on the amateur scene, going 25-5 (15). His natural talent, and power, were obvious and when he turned professional he did so with a little of hype and expectancy on his shoulders, even without a hugely impressive record.
On debut Rikiishi took on Korean for Sa Ya Lee in a 6 round bout, and took a clear 6 round decision, whilst fighting out of the Yakushiji Gym. It wasn't a high profile debut, such as those enjoyed by someone like Naoya Inoue or Ryota Murata, but it was still an impressive debut against a live opponent over 6 rounds.
Rikiishi's second bout was also a 6 rounder against a live opponent coming to win, as he took on the then 4-1 Ryo Tanimoto, just 4 months after making his professional debut. Rikiishi would stop Tanimoto early in round 3, after scoring his second knockdown of the fight. This win saw Rikiiishi, who debuted under a B Class license, advance to becoming an A Class fighter and his ambition really was huge.
After his second bout Rikiishi left the Yakushiji gym and joined up with the Midori Gym, or the Green gym if you want to translate the term Midori. Sadly his first bout for the Midori gym showed too much ambition with the then 2-0 Rikiishi battling against former Japanese Featherweight champion Kosuke Saka. Saka would prove too good, at the time, and stop Rikiishi in round 2. Rikiishi looked worried by Saka's aggression from the off, and despite having some success he was almost always fighting on the back foot and taking more than he was giving. Eventually Saka's power and aggression got to Rikiishi, dropping him twice and forcing the referee to save him.
Having lost in such 1-sided fashion to Saka it made sence to give Rikiishi an easy confidence building bout on his return. That easy bout, 4 months after his loss, saw him take out Indonesian journeyman Egy Rotzen in 2 rounds.
With the win over Rotzen being used to rebuild Rikiishi's confidence it wasn't long until he was back in a real fight, taking on former Japanese Lightweight title challenger Genki Maeda. In the opening round Rikiishi dropped Maeda, with a sweeping left hand and he'd score another knockdown in round 3, from a clubbing left hand. He would drop Maeda twice in round 5, with the referee waving the bout off after the second one.
Most recently Rikiishi took a wide 8 round decision win over Kei Iwahara, going 8 rounds for the first time. The bout was a dominant win for Rikiiishi, who dropped his man and left him with some huge swelling around the right eye, in an excellent showing.
Rikiishi will return to the ring on July 23rd, fighting as part of a stacked Dangan card at Korakuen Hall. He will be up against Shogo Yamaguchi and a win should push Rikiiishi one step closer to his first title fight.
The talented Rikiishi is a boxer first and a puncher second. Although he can fight in a war when dragged into it, he's at his best at mid range, can switch hit and has real venom in his left hand. He's not a KO puncher, by any means, but he's a guy where every clean shot seems to hurt, and that includes his under utilised jab. The biggest issue he has is that he still has a reckless edge. He's quick enough to get away with it, usually, but when he steps up to title level that will need taming, and will need sorting. Saying that however Rikiishi is a very fun, very exciting and very talented young Lightweight who can go a very long way.
It feels like the last few weeks I've started our weekly awards by apologising for a lack of action, and interesting awards winners. It was as if I was making excuses for these articles not being the most interesting. This week however things have suddenly changed and we've had a lot of incredible action, compelling match ups and interesting fights. It's not been a perfect week, but given what we've had recently it has been a very solid week.
Fighter of the Week
Koki Inoue (13-0, 10)
After a couple of forgetful performances from Koki Inoue he managed to put on a show as he defended the Japanese Light Welterweight title and stopped Ryuji Ikeda. On paper this was an easy first defense, it was supposed to be, but he still put on the performance he needed, shining like the exciting fighter he proved to be earlier in his career. There was, obviously, areas to still improve on, but his ring IQ, control of distance and powerful flowing combinations were excellent, and it's obvious that matched with the right opponent he can be very fun to watch.
Performance of the Week
Kanat Islam (26-0, 21)
After being out of the ring for close to 2 years we saw Kazakh hopeful Kanat Islam return to the ring and put in one of the shortest bout's well see in 2019. In fact it lasted less time than it would take for most fans to sit down after the national anthem, but still put the 154lbs division on alert. Islam pretty hurt Julio De Jesus with the first connect then let only a handful of shots go before De Jesus hit the canvas and the referee instantly waved off the contest. Officially this was stopped after 14 seconds, and it was all Islam.
Tsuyoshi Tameda (19-4-2, 17) vs Tae Il Atsumi (16-2, 8)
We expected a great fight when Japanese puncher Tsuyoshi Tameda took on Japanese based Korean foe Tae Il Atsumi. There was something about the match up that got us really excited before a punch was thrown and it took only seconds to see that out expectations were pretty accurate. This bout was dominated by Tsuyoshi throwing bombs from the off, his lack of accuracy left him open but it was only a matter of time before he was going to land. When he did Atsumi tried to respond, and the touchpaper was lit! This didn't last long, but was thoroughly entertaining.
Tsuyoshi Tameda vs Tae Il Atsumi RD1
Whilst we had some great fights no single round really stood out, with the best of them arguably being the pick of the bunch. It was a round that had some really fun back and forth moments, some knockdowns and some wild brawling as Tameda forced his fight on to Atsumi. The second round was too short to really steal the show, but the first round was damn good action!
Kanat Islam KO1 Julio De Jesus
Whilst it wasn't beautiful it's hard to argue with the blow out KO that Kanat Islam scored as the best of the week, it was certainly the most impactful, eye catching and destructive. A huge right hand over the top started things and 2 more followed to send De Jesus crashing to the canvas. Yes this bout was an horrific mismatch, even when you accept the long lay off for Islam, but the finish was truly brutal.
Mikito Nakano (3-0, 3)
We had a lot of prospects in action over the last 7 days, and they included some sure fire stars like Taku Kuwahara, Kuntae Lee, Sultan Zaurbek and even the unheralded Mark Vicelles. The one who impressed the most however was Mikito Nakano, who took a huge step up and blew out Filipino Arvin Yurong in what was a really credible test. Yurong had shown some ability against Xiang Li back in January but Nakano went through him like a knife through hot butter to score a 2nd round KO. We knew Nakano was good, but this was special and the Asian scene at Featherweight is seemingly on the verge of a new star.
Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa (11-4, 10) v Koki Tyson (14-3-2, 12)
This coming week has 4 male world title fights, a female world title fight and so much more, though for us the bout we're most excited about is the OPBF Middleweight title bout between Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa and Koki Tyson, in what we're expecting will be a full on shoot out. It's not the highest quality bout we're expecting to see, but it has the real potential to be the most exciting, the most fan friendly and the most entertianing. In fact if this bout doesn't end up being a shoot out we'll be truly surprised...and a little bit disappointed!
This is just an opinion, maaaan! It's easy to share our opinions, and that's what you'll find here, some random opinion pieces