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!
The middle portion of July is incredibly packed with a lot of action coming in just a few days, including 4 world title bouts, a regional title bout and several notable hopefuls. It really is set to be an insanely busy few days.
Unbeaten WBC Light Flyweight champion Kenshiro looks to make his next defense as he battles against hard hitting Filipino challenger Jonathan Taconing, who enters as the mandatory challenger. At the moment Kenshiro is arguably the most under-rated world champion in the sport, and is certainly the most under appreciated fighter in Japan. This however is no gimme for the champion and Taconing brings a real air of danger with him thanks to his hard hitting southpaw style. On paper this may end up being the bout of the month, and is a true boxer Vs banger affair.
It's fair to say that 2019 has been a really good year for boxing so far, with some great fights, brilliant KO's amazing upsets and exciting youngsters breaking through. Sadly however this past June was a less than great one for Asian boxing, with not a lot really happening. As a result our awards for the month are probably the least impressive ones of the year so far.
Fighter of the Month
The fighter of the month was an obvious pick, with Kazuto Ioka becoming the first Japanese man to become a 4-weight world champion, and doping so in a brilliant win over Aston Palicte. The bout perhaps won't be as fondly remembered as Ioka's achievement, though was a fun bout that we'll talk about more shortly, but was the culmination of all of Ioka's work so far and really did show the technical ability of his against the strength and toughness of Palicte. The options for Ioka, now at Super Flyweight, are plentiful and both Akira Yaegashi and Kosei Tanaka are known to be sniffing around for a fight, both of which would be huge in Japan.
Fight of the Month
Kazuto Ioka Vs Aston Palicte
Having just mentioned Kazuto Ioka's win over Aston Palicte we'll also award that bout our fight of the month award. It wasn't the most amazing and nail biting of bouts, but it was an excellent match up that saw skills, power, speed, excitement and the eventual breaking down of a bigger man but a more technically sound fighter. The bout won't be in the running at the end of the year for Fight of the Year but in a relatively weak month it was, for us, the bout that stood out the most in June.
KO of the Month
In Duck Seo KO1 Tysinn Best
Whilst the month didn't have many amazing KO's in Asia it did see an absolute beauty from Korean fighter In Duck Seon as he bested Tysinn Best in spectacular fashion. Seo was being out boxed, out thought and out sped, but had the toughness and the power so turn the tables, and boy did he turn the tables in an eye catching fashion. Best was sent crashing, face first, to the canvas and was down for quite some time whilst Seo knew he had just put his name on the regional boxing map.A huge win and a brilliant KO.
Dave Apolinario (11-0, 6)
Filipino fighter Dave Apolinario still isn't getting the buzz and fanfare he clearly deserves, though it seems like it's only a matter of time before the "Doberman" is on the mind of every knowledgeable fight fan. The talented youngster Adrian Lerasan and had to show what he could do against a solid southpaw foe. The unbeaten Apolinario couldn't blow his man out the water but showed he could do 10 rounds, at a decent pace, against a good, tough, rugged southpaw and clearly answered more questions. Their are still tests for the unbeaten Apolinario to answer, but so far he is looking like the goods.One to keep a serious eye on in the coming years.
Whilst the biggest upset in boxing occurred at the start of the month, when Andy Ruiz stopped Anthony Joshua in the US. Sadly there wasn't a big upset in Asian boxing, and whilst not everything went as expected there wasn't an sizable upset worthy of much attention.
Kazuto Ioka Vs Aston Palicte Round 7
We are back to that excellent WBO Super Flyweight title bout between Kazuto Ioka and Aston Palicte, which had a round of the year contender in the 7th. The round really saw Palicte attempt to turn the tide, and went after Ioka, hurting him early in the round before Ioka fought back. Whilst it's fair to say that June was a weak month this was still a great round, and would have been in the mix for month of the year.
We spend so much time talking about the Ohashi Gym in Yokohama that it can be really hard to truly grasp how much great talent is under the guidance of the legendary Hideyuki Ohashi. One of the many fighters at the gym looking to make a mark in the coming years is Light Welterweight Andy Hiraoka (13-0, 9), who already looks he could be a very special young fighter, though clearly needs time and work to get the most of his ability.
Although well known as a boxer now Hiraoka was a standout track athlete, and didn't really have much of an amateur career. His athletic background over-lapped with the early part of his boxing career and obviously he was a natural athlete, who was pushed into learning boxing by his father.
Hiraoka made his professional debut back in 2013, whilst not actually an Ohashi gym fighter. He was originally signed to the Hanagata gym, run by former Flyweight world champion Susumu Hanagata. It was under Mr Hanagata that Hiraoka first made his mark on the sport, winning the 2014 East Japan Rookie of the year crown at Lightweight, beating Shintaro Nakamura in the final. That had set him up for an All Japan Rookie of the Year, whilst aged just 18.
Sadly Hiraoka's dream of becoming the Rookie of the Year champion came to an end early as illness left him unable to compete in the All Japan final against Shogo Yamaguchi. Notably around the same time he took part in a major distance race, seemingly unclear on what option he wanted to do.
After missing out on the Rookie of the Year final it was almost 2 years before we saw Hiraoka return to a boxing ring. When he did return, in 2016, he was signed to the Ohashi gym, and had returned following a lengthy stay in the US, where he trained at the Floyd Mayweather Gym in Las Vegas, and worked with the likes of Eddie Mustafa Muhammad and Roger Mayweather, really working on his skills and ring craft.
Upon Hiraoka's return to competition he quickly took out a pair of Thai novices, getting a feel of the ring again. After a couple of straight forward bouts he finally faced Shogo Yamaguchi, the man he was supposed to fight in the Rookie of the Year tournament, and despite some struggles he managed to see off Yamaguchi in the 6th round. The win over Yamaguchi seemed to expunge some frustration of missing out in 2014.
Following his win over Yamaguchi we then saw Hiraoka enter a 4 man tournament to crown a Japanese Youth Light Welterweight champion. In his first bout of the tournament Hiraoka scored a 3rd round TKO over Ukyo Yoshigai in August 2017. That win netted him a bout against Takahiko Kobayashi for the Japanese Youth title just weeks later.
Despite having been stopped twice to facing Hiraoka we saw no fear from Kobayashi who got off to a great start, out boxing and out landing Hiraoka who really struggled through the first 4 rounds. Thankfully for Hiraoka the effort of Kobayashi took it's toll on him, and he would slow down,allowing Hiraoka's strength and stamina to play a part. In round 5 Koabayashi fell apart with Hiraoka forcing a stoppage win and claiming the title, and his biggest win to date.
Having won the Japanese Youth title in November 2017 Hiraoka would kick off his 2018 with an 8 round decision win over Fumisuke Kimura, in a none-title fight. The win was a really mature one from Hiraoka, but one that did really excite many at the time, with Kimura not being regarded very highly. It is worth noting however that since that bout Kimura has gone on to stop Hayato Ono and Giraffe Kirin Kanda.
Hiraoka would then make his first defense of the title, defeating Ukyo Yoshigai last September in his only defense of the belt so far. Like their first bout Hiraoka would stop Yoshigai in the third round to retain his title.
Later this month Hiraoka takes a huge step up in class to face off with former world title challenger Akihiro Kondo. The bout is set to be a massive test for Hiraoka, who knows that a win will boost his career in incredibly ways, but is certainly a a tough test and a win is far from a given, even with Kondo being stopped earlier this year by Downua Ruawaiking. A win and he is immediately in the OPBF title picture, however a loss will be a big set back for the confident youngster.
Aged 22 has over-come battles from child hood. His mother is Japanese and his father is from Ghana, giving him darker skin than most in Japan, and he is also very tall for someone in the country. He stands out from most in Japan, but given his athletic background it should be little surprise that he has fought to the point where he is now and looks to be fighting towards big success. He's a really strong, powerful kid, and despite being rough around the edges he has the build and athletic ability to go a long way. It's now just a case of whether those at the Ohashi can smooth off his rough edges and develops him from the diamond in the rough that he is today.
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