We're not saying that due to the wars and great fights Japanese boxing had during the year, but more based on the number of fighters who had genuine break out years. There was fighters who really exceeded all expectations and they have helped lay the ground work for what should be an incredible year.
Here we take a look at a number of those fighters, who in some cases were highly regarded prospects, and in other cases were relative unknowns.
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Daigo Higa (14-0, 14)
At the start of 2017 Higa was probably the most well known fighter on this list, with somewhat of a cult following internationally and a notable growing Japanese fan base. He was just 21 but tipped for big things in the future. Few would have expected that those big things would have come this past May in just his 13th professional bout.
Before we get on to his big win it's worth noting the began 2017 with a record of 11-0 (11) and kicked off the year in February with a 4th round TKO win over Filipino visitor Diomel Diocos. Just 3 months later he took on the talented Juan Hernandez, who had won the WBC title just a few months earlier in impressive fashion in Thailand. Hernandez had been stripped for failing to make weight but that didn't take anything away from the destructive performance of Higa, who the dropped the Mexican a number of times on route to a 6th round TKO victory.
The win over Hernandez was Higa's first bout televised on Fuji TV and he took his opportunity to shine for a terrestrial audience, with that audience returning in October to watch hie beat the fight out of French challenger Thomas Masson in 7 rounds.
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Hiroto Kyoguchi (9-0, 7)
Talking about exciting fighters it's hard not to have been impressed by Kyoguchi, who had began 2017 with just 10 professional rounds, having debuted in April 2016. His 2017 was an amazing one that saw him fight 4 times but included a headline performance on a televised card and become one of the leading figures at the well established Watanabe gym.
In February Kyoguchi claimed his first title, the OPBF Minimumweight title, stopping experienced Filipino Armando de la Cruz in 3 rounds. That was just 10 months after his debut. In April he recorded his first defense of the title as he won a 12 round decision over Jonathan Refugio, almost doubling his career rounds at that point. The win over Refugio had been a frustrating one with the challenger on the back foot in the final rounds, but proved Kyoguchi could fight 12 rounds, had great energy and could keep his all pressure style going over the distance.
In July, just 15 months after his debut, he headlined a major TV Tokyo broadcast and defeated the teak tough Jose Argumedo with a 12 round decision to claim the IBF Minimumweight title. The bout wasn't the most memorable, with a lot of messy action, and despite the win it arguably took the shine off Kyoguchi's rise through the sport with Argumedo refusing to fight Kyoguchi's fight and in the end Kyoguchi's break out win was perhaps a little dour.
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Ken Shiro (12-0, 6)
Another of the more well known fighters who managed to break out in 2017 was Ken Shiro, who went 3-0 (1) during the year, but fought at such a high level that he has arguably put him self at #2 in the talent stacked Light Flyweight division.
He began 2017 with a planned Japanese title defense against Tetsuya Hisada, that bout was later cancelled and his year didn't really begin until May, but when it began it began in style. The baby faced fighter managed to narrowly over-come a Ganigan Lopez and claimed the WBC Light Flyweight title with a majority decision. Sadly the bout wasn't aired live, and instead it was featured on a delayed broadcast on the relatively obscure BS Fuji. The same happened with Ken Shiro's first defense, another majority decision win over a talented Mexican, Pedro Guevara. Those two wins were both very high level contests and should have been given more attention but sadly it wasn't to be.
In late December Ken Shiro finally got his chance for a show case on a live terrestrial broadcast, with Fuji TV showing his second defense, against Gilberto Pedroza. The champion took his chance to shine as he he showcased his boxing and finishing abilities to stop Pedroza in 4 rounds. He helped himself further by giving an interview that revealed some of his charming personality and really made the most of his opportunity to shine.
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Sho Kimura (16-1-2, 9)
Arguably the biggest break out of 2017 has been that of Sho Kimura, who has really made himself into a must watch fighter in the space of just 12 months, and a key figure at Flyweight. The 29 year old debuted back in April 2013, and was stopped inside a round by fellow debutant Shosuke Oji. He then floundered slowly developed through the Japanese scene before winning the WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight title in November 2016, taking a narrow decision over Masahiro Sakamoto. Other than the win over Sakamoto there was nothing of any real note on his record, which read 13-1-2 (6). There was no reason to think 2017 was going to be a big year for him.
The thoughts of Kimura having a break out were unthinkable back in May, when he he stopped SaksithYutthanaChaiyonggym in Hong Kong. Amazingly however it was only 2 months later that he was taken from obscurity to become a world cha,pion, stopping Zou Shiming in Shanghai in 11 rounds to claim the WBO Flyweight title. The bout didn't receive a lot of Japanese coverage before happening, and in fact the outcome of the bout was that Kimura became a bigger name in China than he was in Japan. He had travelled and beaten up a national treasure and the Chinese took to him warmly for his display, looks and style.
To have gone from total obscurity to having featured on huge shows in both China and Japan, having had TV coverage in both and having impressed a televised audience in both it's hard to argue with Kimura being the biggest Japanese break out of the year. He wasn't a touted prospect going in to the year, only really the most hardcore of Japanese fans would have known much about him, but to end the year with wins over Shiming and Igarashi is incredibly impressive and he is worthy of whatever big fights come his way in 2018.
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Takeshi Inoue (12-0-1, 7)
The 4 men mentioned above have all won world titles in 2017, Takeshi Inoue on the other hand hasn't, but still deserves to be included in this list as he too has had an incredible year, albeit on a much smaller level. He began the year 8-0-1 (4) having never fought in a bout scheduled for more than 8 rounds, but has ended the bout with a solid collection of titles, accolades and a growing fan base.
He kicked off the year with a televised win over Akinori Watanabe, putting in an exciting performance against the big hitting veteran, who was constantly over-whelmed by the pressure and aggression of Inoue. Just 3 months later Inoue would get his first title bout, taking on Koshinmaru Saito for the vacant Japanese Light Middleweight title. The bout against another veteran was competitive early on, but Inoue began to break down Saito who was eventually stopped in round 7 to give Inoue his first title.
The talented fight from the World Sport gym made his first defense of the national title in August, stopping Riku Nagahama in the 8th round before returning to the ring 3 months later to battle Ratchasai Sithsaithong. Coming into the bout the Thai was the OPBF champion, the WBO Asia Pacific title was also on the line, and Ratchasi had become a problem for Japan, having stopped Yutuak Oishi and Jumbo Oda Nobunaha Shoten Petagine earlier in the year. He however was unable to over-come Inoue, who stopped him in 8 rounds to become a rare triple champion.