The Watanabe gym is thriving, despite a recent loss for Shin Ono and the retirement ceremony of Kohei Kono. The reason they are thriving so much is their young talent. We recently covered Ginjiro Shigeoka in a previous "Introducing..." and now we'd like to talk about another Watanabe prospect, Fumiya Fuse (7-0, 1) [富施郁哉], who isn't on the same trajectory as Shigeoka, but has been very impressive himself.
Born in 1998 Fuse was only 18 when he made his professional debut in January 2017. There was no hype behind the youngster, no expectation and no real pressure. Despite being under the radar he quickly impressed and exactly 11 months after his debut he was crowned the 2017 Bantamweight Rookie of the Year.
Fuse had made his debut at Super Featherweight, but quickly dropped the weight to move down to Bantamweight. At Bantamweight he settled and scored Rookie wins over Takayoshi Suzuki and Wataru Ikegami to become the East Japan Rookie of the year. As the East Japan champion he would then competed in the all Japan final against the unbeaten West Japan representative Hiroki Tokuyama. Fuse would stop Tokuyama, though in fairness the stoppage was a poor one, to become the all Japan champion and go into 2018 with some expectations on his shoulders.
Having fought 5 times in his debut year, going 5-0 (1), Fuse was actually not too active in 2018, fighting just twice. The first of those bouts saw him defeat the previously unbeaten Yohanis Tatul over 6 rounds before making his international debut in October 2018, travelling to Korea and schooling Dong Young Lee, in a Japan Vs Korea show. That performance, more than any of the others, showed just how good Fuse is. He out boxed, out moved, out punched, out skilled and out sped the Korean who struggled to win a single from the 6 round contest.
Unlike many of the youngsters at the Watanabe gym Fuse doesn't have power, he's not a destructive fighter. He has enough snap on his shots to keep opponents respectful, but won't go out and destroy them. Instead Fuse will out box them, using his movement, handspeed and brain to out think fighters, and rack up the points. We suspect that might change when he matures, given he still hasn't got his man strength, but for now he is developing a very sharp boxing style.
In some ways his career has started in a similar way to that of current WBO Super Featherweight world champion. Like Ito we've not seen Fuse show much power, instead relying on his boxing skills, both have won the Rookie of the Year and if Fuse can have a career anything like that of Ito he'll have done something to be very proud about.
For those wanting to follow Fuse's career, he'll be in action again on February 26th, when he'll face Naoto Mizutani as part of an undercard on a major Watanabe show. A win there will move Fuse towards a potential Japanese youth title fight, and we'll be looking forward to his progress through 2019.
After a couple of quiet weeks, with only a single show or two of note, we had boxing really pick up this past week with notable cards in the Japan, the US and even Vietnam. Not only did we have notable shows but we also had a world title fight, and it now seems like the sport is starting to get into the swing of things.
Fighter of the Week
Manny Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39)
Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao turned 40 in December, an age that many fighters turn whilst they are retired. Not is Pacquiao 40 years old but this week he proved he was still a top class fighter, as he defeat Adrien Broner in the US. Pacquiao appeared to be giving away significant size to Broner, and was 11 years old than the American, but looked in total control through out their 12 round bout, even staggering Broner in rounds 7 and 9. It wasn't a vintage Pacquiao performance, by any stretch, and he did look like a faded version of his prime self, but it was still a comfortable and controlling display against the cocksure Broner. Sadly the performance, whilst it was controlled, did seem to show how far Pacman had slid from his destructive best, though at the age of 40 that is to be expected!
Notable mention - Shingo Wake
Performance of the Week
Reiya Abe (19-2, 9)
We think that we'll be mentioning the name Reiya Abe a lot in 2019, and we don't believe that that's a bad thing! This week he shut down the talented and aggressive Daisuke Sugita in Tokyo, dropping Sugita twice and hardly losing a minute of the bout in what was a thoroughly controlled performance. For much of the fight Abe simply stuck to his boxing, using his skills to neutralise Sugita, before dropping his man twice. There was no real urgency from Abe, but he didn't need to be, he was just showcasing his skills from the first round to the final bell, only really going through the gears in the 8th round as he started to look to close the show. This wasn't an exciting fight, but it was a fantastic performance that showed what Abe can do.
Kenshin Oshima (4-1-1, 3) vs Ikuro Sadatsune (9-2-3, 3)
We stay in Japan for our Fight of the Week, an 8 round contest between two youngsters each looking to shine. This wasn't an all out war, like some Fight of the Weeks, but it was a bout that swung one way, then the other. It saw both men hurt, both having to over-come adversity and both digging deep in a fight that really exceeded expectations. The competitive nature of the bout will leave the door open to a potential rematch somewhere down the line. The was skills involved, making this more of a technical chess match at times, but they upped the pace regularly enough to give us some brilliant moments
Shohei Yamanaka vs Tatsuhito Hattori (Round 4)
There is something about these lower level Japanese bouts, over 4 rounds, that keep delivering fantastic rounds. This was seen perfectly this week when the debuting Shohei Yamanaka battled Tatsuhito Hattori in a bout that was easy to overlook. Yamanaka, as mentioned, was debuting whilst Hattori was fighting his 6th professional bout, more than a decade after his previous contest. Yamanaka had done enough to claim the first rounds on our card, but was dropped in round 3, meaning it was all to play for in round 4 ant they both went out there seeking to do enough to take the victory. A fantastic and thoroughly engaging round.
Notable mention - Round 3 Oshima Vs Sadatsune
Mikhail Lesnikov KO Afrizal Tamboresi
It's taken a while but 2018 finally has a brutal KO thanks to Russian Mikhail Lesnikov, who blasted out Indonesian fighter Afrizal Tamboresi in Vietnam. Tamboresi was rocked hard from an uppercut, somehow remaining upright. That however wasn't a good thing for him and he would be caught by a brutal left hook just seconds later. He was dropped hard and stayed down. A gorgeous KO for the Russian, who had never previous scored a KO.
Vikas Krishan (1-0, 1)
We have a feeling that Indian boxing is going to be huge over the coming few years, and part of that rise will be linked, directly, to the "Indian Tank" Vikas Krishan. Krishan made his debut on Friday, against Steven Andrade, and looked like a pro-ready fighter immediately with his intense pressure style, sharp punching and intelligent footwork. His amateur background, which is arguably the best of any Indian fighter, shone through here and it seems like he has the ambition, drive and age to really progress. There are still things he needs to work on, but he showed enough here to get excited about.
Notable mention- Fazliddin Gaibnazarov
Tugstsogt Nyambayar (10-0, 9) Vs Claudio Marrero (23-2, 17) (January 26th)
It feels like we've lacked a really explosive fight so far. We've had some excellent action fights, some brave performances but nothing truly explosive. That's likely to change next week when unbeaten Mongolian Tugstsogt Nyambayar takes on Dominican puncher Claudio Marrero. With a combined 33 wins, 26 by T/KO, it's hard to imagine this one goes the distance. Both men have been down and we would not be surprised to see both hitting the deck in what could end up be an early contender for Fight of the Year.
Vic Saludar (18-3, 10) Vs Masataka Taniguchi (11-2, 7) [and undercard]
After weeks of waiting we finally saw the announcement of the WBO Minimumweight title bout between Vic Saludar and Masataka Taniguchi. The bout was one of the worst kept secrets in the sport, but we were still awaiting the confirmation until this week. The bout is a really good looking one. Both are aggressive, both have nasty power, and both have exciting styles that should gel really well. Although the bout looks like it won't be televised live, unfortunately, it does look almost certain to be a really fun fight, when TBS finally get around to airing it.
As well as the main event we also saw the under-card being revealed, and includes Shu Utsuki (3-0, 2), Fumiya Fuse (7-0, 1), Ginjiro Shigeoka (1-0, 1) and the debut of Suzumi Takayama.
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