One of the areas of professional boxing that has started to get more and more attention in recent years has been Japan, thanks in a big part to Naoya Inoue's growing success, and the great work CBC have done in making Kosei Tanaka fights widely available. Whilst a lot of the emerging Japanese talent is competing in the lower weight classes it doesn't change the fact the country is over-flowing with talented youngsters all looking to make their name and become one of the countries next big stars.
With that in mind it seems the perfect time to try and predict who will be the next big Japanese star, and bring attention to 5 of Japan's brightest young prospects.
Although Shigeoka has only had 4 bouts it's impossible not to be impressed by what he has shown. He's an aggressive yet intelligent fighter, he presses well, has amazingly crisp punches, switches between head and body with ease and has nasty spiteful power, something we don't often see at 105lbs. Going forward the one issue will be a question of how much weight he can add to his frame, and at just over 5' he likely doesn't have the frame to hit the weights which get Western attention. Still he looks like a nailed future world champion, and we're really excited to see how his brother, Yudai Shigeoka goes with his career as well.
Kuwahara began his career as a Light Flyweight, but has now moved up to the Flyweight division and the reality is that he's grown into the 112lb weight class. It's fair to say Flyweight is currently a division that lacks in terms of depth, unlike Light Flyweight and Super Flyweight, and there's no reason why Kuwahara can't have a big 2020 and pick up a national or regional title as he climbs towards a potential world title fight in the next year or two.
Nakano looks to be a man with a real understanding of the ring, understands his advantages, and how to use them effectively. He's a very sharp puncher, a smart boxer and although he's certainly not untouchable he minimises the effect of shots when he has to take them. Fighting out of the Teiken gym it's clear he's getting top sparring, and with Kenichi Ogawa, Masaru Sueyoshi and Shuya Masaki there is real talent at the Featherweight and Super Featherweight divisions in the gym. Unlike many youngsters Nakano isn't in love with his power, but knows how to deliver it to head and body.
Although not a big puncher Iwata looks to have enough power in his shots to get the respect of his opponents, and combines that with brilliant footwork, handspeed, movement and a very smart boxing brain. There is obviously a feeling that he will be moved quickly, as most promising Japanese fighters are in the lower weights, and he's already in the JBC rankings, however we don't expect him to be fighting for a title for another year or two due to the depth at 108lbs.
Suzuki looked fantastic on debut, showing great composure, defense, stamina and clean punching to beat the dangerous Antonio Siesmundo last November. Since then he has notched 2 more wins, taking a decision over Filipino Kelvin Tenorio and stopping Kosuke Arioka. After just 3 fights he is already ranked by both the OPBF and the JBC and has proven to a be a strong fighter 140lb, never mind 135lbs.
Limiting this list to 5 was incredibly difficult, given the likes of Ryota Yamauchi, Yuki Yamauchi, Seiya Tsutsumi, Rikito Shiba, Shu Utsuki, Tomoya Ishii, Kuntae Lee, Ryu Horikawa and so many others. What this proves, more than anything, is the depth in Japan and the future is very, very bright for fight fans in the Land of the Rising Sun.
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.
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.
It's fair to say that April has been an up and down month, rather than a spectacular month. It's given us some really good highlights, but those highlights were spread through the month and often at a relatively lower level. It's not been a bad month, but it instantly looks disappointing given that two of the months biggest bouts were underwhelming, and we have an incredible May just around the corner.
Fighter of the Month
John Riel Casimero (27-4, 18)
The month didn't have a major standout for the Fighter of the Month award, there were a number of contenders, but no one took the month by the scruff of the neck quite like John Riel Casimero. The inconsistent, though hugely talented, Filipino claimed the WBO "interim" Bantamweight title when he score a final round KO win ocer Ricardo Espinoza Franco, in an off TV bout. The bout was level on the cards going into the 12th round, and it really was all to play for, with Casimero turning it on, and taking out the Mexican in the first minute of the round. A great victory and one that instantly puts him in the Bantamweight mix. Potentially Casimero could face Zolani Tete next, in what would be a really good match up between two world class, though often frustrating, fighters.
Fight of the Month
Yoji Saito vs Aso Ishiwaki
Whilst some categories were stacked this month, it's hard to think of a bout that stood out for all the right reasons and was a genuinely good, 50-50 type bout, that didn't end in the opening round, more about that in a minute. Looking back over the month the best of the bunch, for us, was the 6 round thriller between Yoji Saito and Aso Ishiwaki, who really went to war and tried to take each other out. The fight was expected to go Saito's way to begin with, given his amateur pedigree, but Ishiwaki saw off the early storm and was perhaps unfortunate to not take a notable win in what was a thriller. A really good bout, in a month lacking sensational contests.
As we mentioned there was really good 1-round fights, or rather 1 round shoot outs. These included the brilliant Boxing Raise exclusive between Seigo Yuri Akui and Yoshiki Minato, and the similarly entertaining contest between Yuki Yazawa and Kazuki Nakamura.
KO of the Month
Nonito Donaire KO6 Stephon Young
We had a lot of competition in this category, with great KO's scored in Asia by Cristiano Aoqui, Koiki Tyson and Chainoi Worawut, among others. The pick of the KO's however came on a higher level as Nonito Donaire's much famed left hook left Stephon Young looking up at the lights, but with no idea where he was. Donaire, even at the age of 36, may well have the most powerful left hook, pound for pound at least, in the sport and Young just became another victim to the shot. Not only was it a beauty to look at, in it's gorgeous and sudden violence, but it was also incredibly significant, as it put Donaire into the WBSS final later in the year.
Ginjiro Shigeoka (3-0, 1)
One of the toughest categories this week was the Prospect of the Month, with a number of prospects in action, such as Olympic champion Shakhobidin Zoirov, Seiya Tsutsumi, Riku Kunimoto, and our eventual pick, Ginjiro Shigeoka. The Watanabe Wondrer Kid impressed as he beat Joel Lino in what was a huge step up in class, and it seems clear that he learrned more in the bout than many of the other prospects who were in action. He not only learned a lot, but also clearly beat a very talented fighter, and a title bout is surely just around the corner.
Kanehiro Nakagawa vs Seiichi Okada and Masayasu Nakamura vs Tatsuya Takahashi
A real rarity here, but we have a draw here with two genuinely notable upsets, both of which are impossible to split for which is the best or biggest.
On one hand we had Kanehiro Nakagawa (7-6, 4) out-point former Japanese Super Featherweight champion Seiichi Okada (22-7-1, 13) and on the other we had Masayasu Nakamura (7-3-1, 6) take a decision over former Japanese Bantamweight title challenger Tatsuya Takahashi (30-9-5, 21), in what was Nakamura's first bout in almost 3 years.
Whilst fingers can be pointed at both fights, both wins are huge for the under-dogs who should be able to use their victories as a launch pad.
Seigo Yuri Akui vs Yoshiki Minato - Round 1
One of the final shows of the Heisei Era gave us a full on shoot out, as Seigo Yuri Akui and Yoshiki Minato tore into each other, with neither showing any intention of going to the final bell. Within 20 seconds Akui had staggered his man, and Minato decided to fight fire with fire, dropping Akui with a huge left hand. When the bout resumed Minato went hunting Akui who took a few moments to regroup, turning the tables with some huge shots of his own. About 80 seconds into the round Akui had scored his own knockdown, then another 20 seconds later. Minato, who had picked the wrong fight, tried to gut it out but was stopped shortly afterwards. This may not have been technically solid, but was full on, non-stop entertainment.
One of the big issues with boxing this year, at least for us, is how inconsistent things have been. Some weeks have there's been almost nothing with an Asian interest, and other weeks there has been an overload of activity. Not only is there a huge variation in quantity of fights but also the quality of activity.
This past week wasn't a quiet one, by any stretch, but was one where some of the best fights went with out broadcast exposure, and was one that perhaps did lack in terms of real quality. We had some great names in action but the competitiveness from the bouts was certainly lacking. With that in mind, this actually is one of the weakest weeks for our Weekly Awards.
Fighter of the Week
Mark Magsayo (19-0, 14)
One of the few categories with a few notable mentions was the Fighter of the Week, though in reality we struggled to see past Mark Magsayo here following his return to the ring, after more than a year out of action. The Filipino wasn't up against anything too testing, in the form of Erick Deztroyer, but managed to show case his speed, skills and destructiveness as he broke down the Indonesian journeyman in a very 1-sided affair. Given the long lay off this was an impressive win, and hopefully it will be the start of big things to come from Magsayo.
Notable mentions: Shuichiro Yoshino, Musashi Mori, Seiya Tsutsumi
Performance of the Week
Kanehiro Nakagawa (7-6, 4)
When a fighter enters the bout with no real expectations but then scores a notable upset, even at the domestic level, they tend to automatically be in the running for Performance of the Week. With that in mind it's hard to not be impressed by Kanehiro Nakagwa this week. The Misako gym fighter scored a major upset on the Japanese domestic scene this past Monday, when he defeat former Japanese Super Featherweight champion Seiichi Okada. Whilst Okada isn't the fighter he once was few expected Nakagawa to take the win, and he deserves real attention after this victory.
Notable mentions: Seiya Tsutsumi, Ginjiro Shigeoka.
Sadly there was no Fight of the Week that stood out. Partly this was an issue with a lack of fights, none of which were worthy of attention, and that the better fights haven't been made available to watch outside of very select markets. It's a shame that this is the first week of 2019 not to have an explicit winner of Fight of the week.
Much like the lack of Fight of the Week we've not managed to see a round which has jumped out as being something special.
A third straight "none award" is the KO of the week. We've sadly not been able to see Seiya Tsutsumi's KO of Ryan Rey Ponteras, which was said to have been brutal. All we've seen is an image of Ponteras flat on his back, and this is a shame given that he had never previously been stopped. A lot of the other KO's from the week were less than spectacular.
Please note that if you do have a suggestion for any of the 3 awards that weren't given please do nominate them in the comments.
Ginjiro Shigeoka (3-0, 2)
The Japanese teenager shone again, albeit away from the TV cameras, as he took a clear and wide win over Joel Lino. It's not going to be long before we stop considering Shigeoka as a prospect and more like a regional, or national, contender and in fact we suspect today's win will have served as chance to for his team to judge whether he's ready for a title fight. Given how he answered a lot of questions here, it's hard to imagine his team not just pushing him into something big later this year.
Nihito Arakawa (32-6-2, 18) Vs Denys Berinchyk (10-0, 7)
This coming weekend has several really good looking match ups, and for us the most promising, at least on paper, is the clash between Japanese tough guy Nihito Arakawa and Ukrainian destroyer Denys Berinchyk. Whgen this bout was first announced our thoughts were "this is gonna be violent" and that hasn't changed. This could be a low-key FOTY candidate between two men are who likely to put on a fairly high skilled war. A really interesting match up and likely to be a very, very exciting and hard hitting one.
The middle part of April promises a lot, despite having had some bouts fall through. We'll see prospects, title fights and must win cross road bouts over the coming week or so.
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 and 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 2019 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.
The Watanabe Gym is currently a thriving environment in Japan, with a number of notable names, including Hiroto Kyoguchi, Ryoichi Taguchi, Ryuichi Funai, Masataka Taniguchi, Nihito Arakawa and Shin Ono, among them. It's a gym that has began snapping up young promising talent who are looking to turn professional, and not only signing but also fast tracking them, something that has made the gym really attractive to talented youngsters.
One of the many youngsters to sign up with the gym in recent years is Ginjiro Shigeoka (1-0, 1) [重岡銀次朗], a fighter who had a sensational amateur career before turning professional with Watanabe last year, and instantly making a brilliant impression on the professional scene.
Ginjiro began his combat sport career as a kid who took up Karate in Kumamoto, though followed his older brother into boxing. As an amateur Ginjiro went 56-1 (17), with his only loss being a loss to his brother in a local tournament bout, where their father threw the towel in just seconds into the bout rather than see his two kids fight each other.
With his excellent amateur pedigree Shigeoka had the opportunity to pick his gym, and left Kumamoto, where the boxing scene is rather limited, to sign with Watanabe in Tokyo. His amateur background also saw him earning a B Class license in his pro-test, allowing him to begin his career fighting in 6 round bouts.
On his debut, in September 2018, the then 18 year old faced off with the Sanchai Yotboon of Thailand. Yotboon had a record of 4-0 (4), but looked like a very limited novice as Shigeoka immediately put him on the backfoot and dominated him. The Thai was able to survive into round 3 but was dropped twice in the round with the referee halting the bout after the second knockdown.
Whilst Yotboon was certainly not an amazing opponent for Shigeoka the actual performance from the Japanese teenager was sensational. He looked sharp with everything he did, his punches were crips, his movement was swift, his power looked scary, his defense was impressive, and his ability to apply pressure was amazing.
Since his debut word has come out from the Watanabe gym about the youngster impressing the more well known fighters at the gym and it seems clear that he's being viewed as their next star. He's young but already having more established fighters raving about his ability. He has been holding his own with much more well known fighters, and impressing regularly in sparring sessions.
News recently broke that Shigeoka's next bout would be in February, with a date yet to be announced, before a bout in Kumamoto in April. He's made it clear that he's targeting Japanese ranked fighters for this year and clear has his eye on getting a Japanese title fight sooner, rather than later.
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