The Shinsei Gym has been a notable one in recent years and has been one of the main sources of fights of fights in Hyogo, whilst managing the careers of fighters like Hozumi Hasegawa, Ryuya Yamanaka, Etsuko Tada, Shun Kubo and Reiya Konishi. Whilst Hasegawa and Yamanaka have both retired the gym is still an excellent environment with not only Tada, Konishi and rising female star Kasumi Saeki, but also Yuki Yamauchi (2-0, 1) [山内祐希] an incredibly promising Super Bantamweight prospect who appears to be on the fast track to the top.
Yamauchi was a genuine former amateur standout. His record in the unpaid ranks has been reported as 66-16 (25) and he won a number of awards, including a silver medal at the 2016 World University Championships and a number of high school titles. His test bout in 2018 saw him sharing the ring with Tenta Kiyose and he looked sharp, crisp and very much a pro-ready. Interestingly that pro-test took place on the same day as Kasumi Saeki's pro-test, who won her first title in her third bout and is set to fight for a world title in her 4th professional bout.
Less than 3 months after taking part in his pro-test bout Yamauchi made his professional debut, taking on Filipino foe Jimboy Rosales. On paper this wasn't expected to be a huge test, and it proved not to be anything too tough for the Japanese fighter. Yamauchi set the tempo for the fight early on, controlled the distance from the opening seconds, with his razor sharp and excellent straight left hand, and managed to find a home for his body shots in round 3. Those body shots would break Rosales up, and drop him to the canvas, where he would take the 10 count.
In his second bout Yamauchi would take a big step up in class to take on the hard hitting Alvin Medura. Medura had never been stopped, and was 8-2 (7) as a professional, but was unable to match the skills or speed of Yamauchi, who repeatedly found a home for his left hand often on the jaw of Medura. The impressive punching of Yamauchi seemed to frustrate Medura, who became clumsier and a head clash in round 4 saw the bout coming to an early conclusion, with Yamauchi taking a clear technical decision win over the heavy handed Filipino, at the start of round 5.
Interestingly his second bout had been rumoured to be a 10 round bout, and had originally been listed on the Shinsei Gym website as a 10 round contest, before being reduced to a 6 round contest. In the end the length wasn't an issue, due to the head clash, but it did seem very obvious that Shinsei were looking to push him fast and hard to the top. It wasn't just Shinsei looking to push him but also himself, and talk prior to that bout was that Yamauchi was looking to move into the title mix in 2019, something that certainly looks plausible if he can fit in 3 or 4 fights this year.
Whilst it's unclear how many fights Yamauchi will have this year we do know that his next fight will take place on March 24th at the Kobe Sambo Hall and will see him battle against unbeaten Filipino fighter Claudevan Sese (7-0-3, 1) in a bout scheduled for 8 rounds. This will be Yamauchi's first bout set for more than 6 rounds and it seems like a very clear step up in class for the 23 year old southpaw.
The Shinsei Gym will push talented youngsters hard .They are not a gym that protects their fighters and allows them to go stale, and with that in mind it does seem really obvious that they will be looking to give Yamauchi stiffer and stiffer tests until he's reached title level. There is clearly a lot of developing that he needs to do before he takes on a really top tier domestic or regional fighter, but there's no reason for him to avoid things like a Japanese Youth title or a WBC Youth title, both of which could be in his grasp before the end of 2019, with senior titles to potentially follow in 2020.
It's nice to see how wide ranging the Japanese scene is, and whilst much of the focus is on fighters from Tokyo, Kanagawa or Osaka there are other places that are providing great talent at the moment, and the Chubu region is one of those with a great crop of youngsters coming through at once. Of course that charge is lead by Kosei Tanaka but below him are fighters like Kento Hatanaka and, the man we want to talk about here, Koshin Takeshima (2-0, 2) [竹嶋宏心], who is a Featherweight fighting out of the historic Matsuda gym in Nagoya.
The Matsuda gym isn't a hugely well known one in the west, and it would be easy to walk past it on the street without know it's historic place in Japanese boxing, but it has developed two world champions, Kiyoshi Hatanaka and Yasuei Yakushiji, several domestic and regional champions and 7 All Japan Rookie of the Year winners. It's a traditional gym, set up in 1943, and is now the basis for several very talented young fighters. Including Takeshima.
Takeshima was a standout amateur. In the unpaid ranks he went 82-19 and placed in the top 3 of numerous notable national competitions, whilst also captaining his University team. He didn't managed to make a mark internationally, but with over 100 amateur bouts in Japan he was certainly an experience and accomplished fighter before deciding to turn professional.
Having decided to turn professional in 2018 Takeshima would make his debut as the Aioi Hall in Kariya when he took on Indonesian fighter Yohanis Tatul. The bout, which is available on Boxing Raise, saw Takeshima look crisp, sharp and a natural in the ring. He looked razor sharp from the opening bell, with lighting quick combinations, a laser guided southpaw left hand and not only had the punches in his arsenal but also the footwork, getting in and out of range with ease. Tatul was an awful opponent though he was good enough to allow Takeshima to show a bit of everything, from body punching to counter punching before Takeshima secured a 3rd round TKO.
Takeshima's second bout came in September, when he was on the under-card for Kosei Tanaka's bout with Sho Kimura. He was again up against an over-matched Indonesian foe, this time Kiki Marciano, who was stopped in the 2nd round of the bout. Sadly footage of this isn't available, though we have been informed that Marciano was put down hard from a solid body shot that left him in agony. The bout was nostly a show case for Takeshima's body shots, and even prior to the knockout he had dropped Marciano with body shots.
Takeshima's next bout is pencilled in for March 16th, as part of the Kosei Tanaka Vs Ryoichi Taguchi card, and will see him take on Chinese visitor Jian Wang (7-1-1, 2). Wang isn't an amazing fighter, but he does have a good work rate, he's tough and he's a very clear step up for Takeshima. Wang was involved in a 10 round thriller with Seong Yeong Yang back in January and we're really looking forward to seeing how Takeshima deals with Wang in an 8 round contest.
If Takeshima, as expected, defeats Wang it's almost certain that he will be Japanese and OPBF rankings by the end of the year, with a potential title fight in 2020 or 2021.
When a fighter loses on their debut we are often far too quick to write them off, suggest they aren't worth following and overlook them going forward. The one mark on their record can, at least in the eyes of Western fans, show that they aren't as good as others and even a few years down the line we can be seen holding that loss against them. That's possibly going to be the case with Yoji Saito (1-1) [齊藤陽ニ], though that would be a huge mistake of fans given that Saito is one to watch, and is a very promising young fighter.
The 23 year old Saito is part of the really well established Kadoebi Gym and prior to turning professional in 2018 he was an experienced amateur, running up a 28-26 record.
It's not an amazing record but showed Saito's experience and due to that experience he turned professional with a B Class license. Something that is typical of successful, or experienced fighters.
Unfortunately for Saito his debut came against another experienced amateur, Shu Utsuki. Utsuki had been an amateur standout, going 81-27 in the unpaid ranks and had captained his University team among other things. Utsuki's amateur pedigree helped him get over the line in what was a really exciting and action packed 6 round bout shown over the BoxingRaise service. Utsuki was dropped in round 1, from an ultra-aggressive Saito, but battled back hard to take a narrow win over the debutant. It was a loss on debut, but a very, very credible one for Saito given that Utsuki is himself regarded as one of the top prospects at the Watanabe Gym.
Less than 6 months after his debut Saito returned to the ring and took on Tameji Ito, who was fighting in his 10th professional bout. Saito showed the same aggressive, combination punching pressure style he had showed on debut. The style quickly forced Ito on to the back foot and Saito really went to work, closing the distance and unloading on his man with both hands. Ito was dropped mid way through the round and again later on in the same round as Saito's pressure dropped Ito hard.
Saito's next bout is set to take place on April 6th at the Korakuen Hall, with Saito facing Aso Ishiwaki on a Kadoebi promoted card to be shown on G+. That should give those who haven't yet seen Saito a chance to see what he can deliver, and why we have featured him here.
Although certainly not the most polished of fighters Saito is someone we're going to be really excited to follow. He's perhaps not the technically skilled type of fighter we have typically covered in these "Introducing" segments but he is someone who will certainly provide explosive action and a lot of fun for fans wanting to follow a fighter who delivers explosive action.
At the start of the year we got really excited about the news that Kuntae Lee (1-0, 1) [李健太] would be turning professional, kicking off his career after a genuinely excellent amateur career that saw him going 102-10, including a 62 fight winning run.
Whilst fighters with amateur careers are usually best known for what they did in the Olympics and the World Amateur championships Lee is actually better known for who he competed for. The third generation Korean, living in Japan, would make his name on the international stage by competing for North Korea. He did that at a number of events, including the 2014 Youth World Championships, losing to Liu Xiaoshuai, the 2016 Asian/Oceanic Olympic qualifiers, losing to Battarsukh Chinzorig and the 2018 Asian games, again losing to Battarsukh Chinzorig.
Despite twice losing to Battarsukh Chinzorig in high profile bouts, the Mongolian did hold Lee in high regard, speaking positively about Lee's speed in particular.
On the domestic scene he was a multi-time championship winner, beating the likes of Masahiro Suzuki, Shu Utsuki and Go Hosaka, all highly regarded prospects themselves, and Nobuhiro Hiranaka, the son of Akinobu Hiranaka and a man tipped to go to the 2020 Olympics.
His amateur form really got hardcore fans excited, they knew he was going to be something special, but it seemed almost certain he was focusing on the 2020 Olympics, looking to remain part of the North Korean amateur set up. With AIBA and the IOC falling out however Lee decided to turn professional, signing up with the highly established Teiken gym.
In late 2018 Lee, along with Mikito Nakano, took part in his B License Pro-test essentially announcing his intention to abandon the amateur system that had allowed him to shine. Instead of the Olympics he was turning professional, and looking to announce himself in the paid ranks.
Whilst Nakano made his debut in October 2018 Lee had to wait until February 2019, the same show that Nakano fought his second bout on. Despite the wait Lee seemed to want to leave a good impression, and quickly showed off a sharp jab, sticking it in the face of Thai foe Aphisit Namkhot at will. The Thai seemed to be mentally broken by the snap on the jab of Lee, who looked razor sharp, controlled distance brilliantly, and was quick, accurate and very relaxed.
Despite having controlled the Thai behind his lead hand for almost 3 minutes, Lee did finally let his left hand go late in the round, and it went right through at the end of the round dropping Aphisit for the count.
After his debut win Lee spoke about wanting to fight overseas and it seems like he wants to make a name for himself internationally. It's going to be exciting to see him do that. Although his debut opponent was poor he certainly looked a very classy fighter and has the size and skills to go a very, very long way.
The Kawashima Boxing Gym hasn't had many major names go through it's doors since it was set up, with the most notable person at the gym being chairman Hiroshi Kawashima.
Mr Kawashima set up the gym after ending his career as a fighter, and whilst he was a pretty notable figure in the 1990's, he was overshadowed somewhat by his contemporaries. Despite often being over-looked he did hold the WBC Super Flyweight champion between May 1994 to February 1997 and was dubbed "untouchable" back in his prime.
The gym recently had Japanese Welterweight Toshio Arikawa, but it's gem in the making is 24 year old Super Flyweight Ryusei Kawaura (5-0, 4), who will surely be looking to follow in the footsteps of Kawashima and his success at 115lbs. Like his mentor Kawaura is a southpaw, but doesn't have a similar style to the untouchable former champion, instead applying a more aggressive style than the former champion.
Kawaura got a lot of attention from his time fighting in the amateur ranks, where he went 38-14 (6). Whilst that's not an amazing record, he was able to collect 3rd places on a regular basis, coming third in notable tournaments in 2009, 2010 and 2012, as he began to build his experience.
After running up his amateur record Kawaura turned professional, beginning his paid career in late 2016. On debut he fought Thai novice Tepyotin Yodvaree and looked pretty exciting with a relaxed pressure style, built on excellent body punching, and fantastic footwork, to get him in range to land his gut busters. By the end of the first round it was clear the Thai bad felt the body shots and wasn't a big fan of taking more. To his credit the visitor did come out for round 2, but was saved by the referee after several knockdowns as Kawaura just went through the gears.
It would be 5 months until Kawaura returned to the ring and stopped another over-matched Thai, in Anucha Pleengam, in just 92 seconds, then another Thai followed, Nadtakorn Sithjacknoi, who almost survived 2 rounds.
Having started his career 3-0 (3) Kawaura had began to get some hype, but not a lot. He had stopped a trio of poor Thai foes. Thankfully in 2018 he did step up, in a big way, and out pointed Filipino puncher Marjun Pantilgan over 8 rounds. It was a monster step up and yet it was a controlled performance of pressure accuracy and sharp movement from Kawaura who was a comfortable winner in what was his first real test.
After beating Pantilgan we would hen see Kawaura face his first domestic test, going in against Yuki Yoshimura, who was fighting for the third time as part of a comeback. Kawaura quickly over powered his foe, and forced Yoshimura's corner to throw in the towel mid-way throw round 3. Kawaura had set the tone with his jab, but had closed the show with his uppercuts and straights whilst Yoshimura had no answer to anything thrown his way.
Sadly only Kawaura's debut is his only bout available to see, and not much other footage of Kawaura has is out there either from fan cams, Boxingraise or TV. Notably however it does seem hard to envision him not having more bouts available in the near future, especially given what he's done since his debut. We would be surprised to see him on a Dangan Card or a G+ card by the end of 2019, and hopefully pressing for titles in 2020. The one question mark over him seems to be activity, and 5 fights in since December 2016 is poor, especially given they have combined for just 16 professional rounds. But he's a talent and someone every fan should add to their watch list.
The World Sport Boxing Gym got a good amount of attention on January 26th when their biggest name fighter, Takeshi Inoue battled Jamie Munguia. The gym does however have some other very interesting fighters there, including Japanese Middleweight champion Kazuto Takesako (10-0, 10) and one of Japan's truly elite prospects, Masahiro Suzuki (1-0, 1) [鈴木雅弘].
Suzuki made his professional debut on November 3rd last year, fighting on the under-card of Takesako's Japanese title defense against Sanosuke Sasaki at the Korakuen Hall. On his debut he really impressed, over-coming hard hitting Filipino foe Antonio Siesmundo, who had travelled with the intention of stopping Suzuki.
On his debut Suzuki relied on his amateur skills to see off the aggression of Siesmundo, before stopping the tiring Filipino in the 6th, and final, round. By that point Suzuki had proven more in 6 rounds than many fighters prove in 12 fights. He had shown a high level of skill, a fantastic ring IQ, sharp punching and maturity not often seen in a debutant. He had immediately looked like a star in the making.
Suzuki's performance shouldn't have been a surprise. He was an excellent amateur, going 64-26 (21) in the unpaid ranks, he had competed internationally and had travelled to Finland for the 2015 Tammer Tournament. He was an accomplished fighter before he turned professional, and it showed.
The 23 year old from Tokyo will be returning to the ring on March 2nd, again fighting at the Korakuen Hall. His opponent for that bout hasn't yet been confirmed but given how he made his debut we are expecting someone rather testing for the Light Welterweight hopeful, who we have really high hopes for. The World Sport gym aren't known for regressing the competition level that their fighters fight and and this should mean that we see Suzuki progressing to big fights fairly soon, with national titles potential within his grasp at some point in 2020.
If you want to watch Suzuki's debut a link to the fight with Siesmundo is below, and his March bout is expected to be shown live on G+ as part of the Dynamic Glove card headlined by Takesako's Japanese title defense against Shuji Kato.
The Celes Gym isn't a particularly well known one, in fact other than Ryosuke Iwasa we would be pretty surprised if Western fans recognised anyone else from the gym. Despite that it is pretty popular and the gym Chairman, Celes Kobayashi, is a notable figure in Japanese boxing. He is a former world champion, and someone who regularly shows up on G+ broadcasts, where he does commentary.
Whilst the Celes isn't too well known it does have a really exciting prospect rising through the ranks, Jin Minamide (2-0, 2) [南出仁]. To date he has only had 2 cameo appearances, but has looked destructive in both and is obviously a fighter that Celes have very big plans for.
As an amateur Minamide ran up a respectable 43-22 (15) record. That record lead to him turning professional as a B class fighter, meaning he started his career fighting in 6 round bouts rather than the 4 rounders that we typically see for novices.
Minamide made his debut back in June of 2018, when he faced Indonesian foe Anthony Holt. On paper this looked like a good test for Minamide, given that Holt was 5-3-1 (3), but instead Minamide made things look too easy, a he applied intelligent pressure, and landed a brutal straight left to the body to drop Hold in the first minute. Holt recovered to his feet but was dropped by a left hand to the head just moments later. A third knockdown followed as Minamide cornered his man and unloaded on the Indonesian, with the referee stopping the bout as soon as Holt dropped to the canvas.
Despite needing less than a round to score his debut win Minamide would be out of the ring until November, when he returned with dyed hair and a cocky swagger to take on Filipino foe Conrado Tanamor. Tanamor was 10-2 (4) and showed some ambition in the first 30 seconds. Sadly he was quickly put on the foot after that and ambitious start and would be dropped a little more than a minute into the bout. From then on Tanamor looked beaten and would be dropped again soon afterwards, taking the 10 count in the neutral corner.
Although Minamide has only had around just over 3 minutes of in ring action as a professional he has looked powerful, destructive and exciting. The 23 year old southpaw looks like a real prospect and a the potential face of the Celes gym. However his competition hasn't looked like they really wanted to be in the ring with him, they looked like they were hit and didn't like it before looking for a way out. It's going to take a durable and skilled opponent for us to really know what Minamide has in the locker, and too see if he has the skills to go with his power. If he does then, he's going to be a real threat and a major prospect.
Minamide will be back in the ring on March 2nd, when he face Marjun Pantilgan and hopefully he'll fit 3 or 4 fights into 2019 en route to taking a huge step towards getting into the title mix. We're also hoping he faces significantly better opposition than he's had so far.
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.
Young Japanese talent really is coming through the ranks at an alarming rate, and a lot of it is signed to a handful of major gyms. One of those gyms that is now signing up fantastic fighters on a regular basis is the Ohashi Gym, lead by former world champion Hideyuki Ohashi. In recent years the gym has developed Naoya Inoue into an internationally recognised star and other fighters are joining the gym in the hope of making their name on the international stage as well.
Among those coming through the ranks is 23 year old Light Flyweight Taku Kuwahara (3-0, 2) [桑原拓], who looks like he will be the next fighter at the gym to be fast tracked to a title, and to making his mark on a wider stage.
Kuwahara began boxing at a young age and ran up a reported amateur record of 50-18, winning several notable titles along the way, including the 2013 National Light Flyweight crown.
He would join up with the Ohashi gym in 2018 and pass a B license pro-test before making his debut in May, on the same show that saw Kenshiro retain the WBC Light Flyweight title against Ganigan Lopez and saw Naoya Inoue defeat Jamie McDonnell to claim the WBA "regular" Bantamweight title. Although Kuwahara was only up against Indonesian journeyman Mochamad Sholimin he still impressed, stopping the visitor inside a round.
Kuwhara would face an Indonesian foe in his second bout as well, blitzing Ardi Tefa in 46 seconds last September.
Having stopped a pair of Indonesian foes Kuwahara was then matched against fellow unbeaten Japanese hopeful Takamori Kiyama, himself a former amateur standout and a very talented southpaw hope. This was a much better test of Kuwahara's skill, but a bout that really allowed Kuwahara to showcase his skills, as he took a clear 8 round decision win over the talented Kiyama, proving not only that he was skills, sharp, and could move but also that he could fight for 8 rounds, at a good pace. As a result of going 8 rounds Kuwahara answered some questions about his stamina and engine, whilst leaving many talking about just how promising he looked, and in fairness how talented Kiyama was.
At the moment it's unclear when Kuwahara will return to the ring to kick his 2019 off, but it's expected that he will be fighting for titles by the end of 2020, at the very latest. In fact we wouldn't be surprised to see him fighting for a belt this year, just given his natural talent, and how the Ohashi have allowed their talented youngsters to be fast tracked in recent years.
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