Over the last few year we have seen top Japanese prospects flooding the lower weight classes, and it's genuinely becoming harder and harder to spot who will go all the way, and who will fall short.
One of the most highly touted of those coming through is Teiken promoter youngster Shokichi Iwata (2-0, 1), who fights in his third professional bout on July 12th and is looking like a prospect who could go a very long way and become one of the future faces of the Teiken gym.
The 23 year old from Tokyo really came to the attention of the hardcore Japanese fans as an amateur where he ran up a brilliant 59-12 (16) record. That record included wins over Kosei Tanaka and Takuma Inoue, beating both in the same tournament in 2013 and some international experience, fighting in a tournament in Taipei in 2013. Given that sort of amateur background there was clearly a lot of interest in Iwata when he eventually decided to turn professional.
Unlike many Japanese fighters Iwata made his debut in the US, doing so on December 8th 2018 when he defeated Joel Bermudez at the StubHub Center in Carson. Not only did Iwata debut on US soil, but he did so on the final HBO show, before the American TV giant stepped away from boxing. It was a huge stage for his debut, even if he was buried way down the card, and it seemed like Iwata didn't really shine as many had hoped. He got the win, but the performance wasn't mind blowing, especially given his amateur credentials.
Having had his debut Iwata then turned his attention back home and earned a B class JBC license in early 2019, having signed up with the Teiken Gym in Japan. Having passed his B class test he made his Japanese debut in May, defeating the 2018 All Japan Light Flyweight Rookie of the Year Daiki Kameyama over 6 rounds. This time around we saw what Iwata could really do, with the Japanese youngster showing touches of genius with his movement, his jab and his speed. It wasn't the most aggressive or exciting of performances but it was a brilliant showcase of his boxing skills and his boxing brains.
Whilst there are still a lot of questions for Iwata to answer, he has shown, in just 2 bouts, that he is a smart, talented fighter, with excellent skills, good stamina, a great boxing brain, fantastic speed and a stunning jab. He has the tools to go a very, very long way, but will obvious have bigger tests of those skills as his career develops.
We're hoping to see him being a given a test next time out, with his return pencilled in for July 12th, as part of a major card in Osaka. At the time of writing his opponent for that bout hasn't been named, though the bout will be another 6 rounder with Iwata likely to move into 8 rounders sooner, rather than later and from there on we expect to see the youngster answering questions and impressing us as he heads towards title fights and major glory.
The Ohashi gym has become a hotbed for fantastic young fighters, with the gym, along with the Watanabe Gym and the Teiken Gym, signing up much of the top amateur talent from Japan over the last few years. Among those fighters to sign with the Ohashi gym and join up with former world champion Hideyuki Ohashi is 27 year old Katsuya Yasuda (3-0, 2), who is set to take a major step up in class this coming July, and try to make up for a disappointing 2018.
The Ibaragi born Yasuda first made his mark on the sport as an amateur, winning a national amateur crown in 2013 and running up an excellent 64-12 (30) amateur record. Like many top Japanese amateurs he didn't really make a mark on the international scene, but his reputation from the domestic amateur ranks had seen him become a fighter with suitors for when he finally decided to turn professional.
Yasuda would make his professional debut on August 30th 2017, at the age of 25. He was older than many top Japanese prospects when he turned professional, but still not an old fighter by any stretch. On debut he needed just 62 seconds to stop Indonesian foe Reno Arizala. Despite it being a very short bout Yasuda showed excellent footwork, sharp punching and a very nasty straight left hand, that left Arizala down for the 10 count. Whilst the bout was a mismatch it was a good debut win for Yasuda who showed enough to get excited about.
Having blitzed his debut opponent Yasuda's second bout would see him take on sturdy Korean southpaw Ki Soo Lee, and Lee wasn't there to roll over, in fact Lee was there to win and to upset the former amateur stand out. The blows of Lee would take an effect early on, and he would leave Yasuda with an almost swollen shut right eye. With the eye a mess Yasuda had to focus on protecting himself more than he'd have liked, and this allowed Lee to be the aggressor, something that didn't Yasuda did struggle with.
Despite the adversity Yasuda would do enough to take the win, taking a majority decision with scores of 58-56, 58-57 and 57-57. It wasn't a lucky win, but was a real gut check, and something that forced him to prove his will to win.
Given the swelling under his eye in the Lee fight it was little wonder that Yasuda would be out of the ring for quite some time, in fact it was over 8 months that Yasuda would be out of the thing, before he returned at Lightweight, having had his first 2 bouts at Light Welterweight. On his return he battled Indonesian journeyman Anshori Anhar Pitulay, who was making his Japanese debut hut had suffered losses on the road in Australia and Thailand, often by stoppage and took him out in 3 rounds, making the most of his body shots which took out Pitulay.
The unbeaten Ohashi man will return to the ring on July 1st as he looks for his biggest win to date. He will be up against Japanese based Filipino Jerry Castroverde in an 8 round bout. A win over Castroverde is expected, and would be a huge boost for his career, though it's not a given and the Filipino is no push over, despite just a single win in his last 5 bouts. A win here should give Yasuda's career a shot in the arm and hopefully lead him to really biting down and running with his career, which has lacked the activity it needs for him to fulfil his true potential.
The Watanabe gym is stacked with great prospects, many of whom are tipped to be stars of the future. One of those is the unbeaten Shu Utsuki (4-0, 3), who made his professional debut in 2018 and has already impressed with some solid performances and good wins. He'll be looking to extend those good performances on June 19th, when he returns and faces Omri Bolivar (8-1, 3) on a big card in Chiba.
Utsuki, as with many of the top prospects at the Watanabe Gym, is a former amateur standout with a notable career in the unpaid ranks. That career as an amateur saw Utsuki go 81-27 and also captain the Heisei International University boxing team As an amateur he would fight in numerous tournaments on the domestic scene, notably coming runner up in the 2012 Junior Selection tournament in Ibaraki. Though unfortunately it doesn't appear that he turned good performances into notable tournament wins or notable international appearances.
In February 2018 Shu Utsuki, along with Seiya Tsutsumi and Eri Matsuda, took part in his B license pro-test. He looked really good at his pro-test and made his debut a month later, doing so on the same show as Tsutsumi. His debut was unspectacular if we're being honest, with the youngster beating Thai foe Meechaiya Kaewkwanresort in round 3. A few months later he would go on to defeat the debuting Yoji Saito, a fellow amateur standout, in what was a much tougher bout. Against Saito we saw Utsuki being dropped by the power punching Saito, but regroup well to take a narrow and hotly contest win. Despite it being Saito's debut it was an ultra-competitive bout, and is well worth hunting down on Boxing Raise, and is currently available to those who don't subscribe to the service.
In his third professional bout, which took place last November, Utsuki took on unbeaten Chinese fighter Da Xu, who travelled to Tokyo with ambition of upsetting Utsuki. He came with fire and put Utsuki under pressure, but the local hopeful boxed well, stayed composed during Xu's pressure and saw off the Chinese fighter in round 2 with a brilliant hand on the chin. Xu somehow got to his feet following he shot but had no idea where he was as the refere waved the bout off.
Utsuki's only bout so far this year was a big step up in class, but a successful one, as he defeat Japanese based Filipino Jerry Castroverde, with an 8th round TKO following the towel being thrown in. This was only the second time Castroverde had been stopped and was a real statement for Utsuki who proved he could go 8 rounds, and proved he still had power and speed late into bouts. Sadly this bout isn't available online, as his previous 2 were.
As mentioned Utsuki's next bout will take place in Chinba against Bolivar. That bout will take place on the under-card of Kazuto Ioka's bout with Aston Palicte and will be Utsuki's first contest outside of Korakuen Hall. Whilst the bout isn't expected to get any TV or streaming coverage it is a good step in the right direction for Utsuki, who will likely find himself in the title mix in 2020.
As a fighter Utsuki is well schooled, as you'd expect from a man with over 100 amateur bouts, heavy handed and composed. There is however a feeling that he will take longer to make his mark on the sport than the likes of Tsutsumi and Ginjiro Shigeoka, who both looked a lot more "pro-ready" straight from the off.
Whilst there are some really big gyms in Japan that have fighters recognised well outside of the country other gyms are less well known. For every Teiken, Ohashi or Watanabe there's 20 or more gyms that even your hardcore boxing fan won't have heard of. One great example of that is the Kuratoki Boxing Gym in Wakayama. Though the gym is a pretty obscure one, it does have some talent among it's ranks, with the diamond in the rough being 2018 Rookie of the Year winner Yuri Takemoto (6-1-1, 3). He might not be well known, but the 22 Southpaw is a real hopeful worthy of attention.
Born in Osaka in 1996 the young Takemoto wasn't an amateur standout when he turned professional in 2017. There was no real expectations on his shoulders when he passed his C Class license pro-test in March 2017, just a few weeks before his 21st birthday, and in fact it's fair to say no one really took any notice of him on his debut. Since then however he has proven his ability and turned around a mixed start to his professional career into that of a very promising young fighter.
Going back to his debut, Takemoto debuted in June 2017 at the Big Wave in Wakayama, a venue he will now headline at on June 16th. He would secure a win on debut by stopping Kanta Fukui in the second round in one of the preliminary bouts, the card was a small one not many would have been there for Takemoto's bout. A couple of months after his debut he fought in Kyoto, on the under-card of the first match between Shinsuke Yamanaka and Luis Nery. Takemoto would lose a razor thin devision to local fighter Kensuke Nakamura, a stablemate of Kenshiro's. By razor thin, we really do mean razor thin, with all 3 judges having the bout scored 39-38 to Nakamura.
Takemoto would suffer another setback a few months later, fighting to a 4 round draw with Tomoya Kishine in Osaka, on a show that featured the likes of Juiki Tatsuyoshi and Hiroshige Osawa.
Since those back to back setbacks we've seen Takemoto go on an impressive run, winning 5 bouts in a row, with a massive 2018 which saw him win 4 bouts, become the Rookie of the Year and put his name on the radar of hardcore Japanese fans.
Takemoto's Rookie of the Year campaign began in May 2018 when he took on fellow novice Kazunori Harima, and scored a 53 second win. Takemoto dropped Harrima twice in the opening round, once with a right hand and once with a left hand. Interestingly this bout is available over the Boxing Raise service, and whilst he looked wild Takemoto was incredibly fun to watch.
The win over Harima saw Takemoto progress to the West Japan Rookie of the Year Semi-final, where he beat Takafumi Iwaya in Kobe.
Having won his West Japan Rookie of the Year semi Takemoto was scheduled to battle Temin Kimura in the regional final in September of 2018. Kimura however pulled out, and in November Takamoto blew out Teru Nobita, inside a round, to book his place in the All Japan final a month later. Going in to the bout Nobita was unbeaten, though failed to last 3 minutes with Takemoto.
Takemoto's final bout of 2018 was his All Japan Rookie of the Year final, where he took on the then unbeaten Hikari Mineta from the Teiken gym. Takemoto would drop his man 3 times in the opening round, though fail to stop Mineta, who put in a great effort to fight his way back into the contest. Despite Mineta's effort it was Takemoto who would take the decision, the win and the Rookie of the Year crown.
This past March we saw Takemoto fight for the first time since his Rookie win, and he defeated Filipino foe Reymond Empic over 6 rounds. He is now set to return where it all began, the Big Wave in Wakayama, where he will face Kiki Marciano on June 16th in what will be Takemoto's first 8 round bout. He'll be expected to stop Marciano, who has ben stopped in his last 2 bouts, but bigger and better things are surely just around the corner for the talented man from Wakayama.
Earlier this year we did an "Introducing..." on Kadoebi prospect Yuki Nakajima. He has an older, a similarly promising, brother who fights out of the Ohashi gym. That is Bantamweight prospect Kazuki Nakajima (6-0, 5), who's a couple of years older than Yuki and a little further along with his career. Like Yuki big things are expected from Kazuki, though he has gone through a little bit of a career stagnation recently and hasn't fought since December, and we're hoping to see him back sooner rather than later.
Nakajima was born in May 1993, in the city of Yamatokōriyama, Nara prefecture and would run up an impressive amateur record of 72-15 (30) before turning professional. Whilst that record isn't an mind blowing one he was highly regarded and had competed on the national scene and was crowned the Kansai League MVP. That amateur pedigree excited those at the Ohashi gym and in 2017 Nakajima signed with the Hideyuki Ohashi lead gym.
On June 25th 2017 Nakajima made his debut, taking on fellow debutant Alangkan Worakhut from Thailand. The Japanese southpaw needed just 109 seconds to see off the Thai, who was dropped twice in the bout, once from a straight left and once from an uppercut. Although not badly hurt from the shots Alangkan knew he was beat and held his shoulder whilst being counted out, as if to suggest he had injured himself and although it seems hard to belive he did seem in total agony in his corner after the bout.
Just a couple of months later Nakajima would secure his second win, stopping Indonesian Resnu Sundava in 26 seconds. Nakajima would finish this one with a left hand to the body of the visitor. It's worth noting that Sandava had never previously been stopped, but didn't look like he wanted to be in the ring with Nakajima and looked like a man wanting to get out of the ring as quickly as possible.
Thankfully in December 2017, as part of the under-card to Naoya Inoue's win over Yoan Boyeaux, Nakajima was actually tested, as he went up against the criminally under-rated Taiga Higashi. Higashi, who really is a nightmare for a prospect, gave Nakajima a really good 6 round test. Not only did Nakajima get taken 6 rounds, for the first time, but he also lost a couple of rounds to Higashi, who also dropped Nakajima with a right hook, and was forced to fight through adversity. Although it had taken 6 months Nakajima had now been shown what professional boxing was about, and showed could dig deep when he needed to.
After having had such a good test the hope was for Nakajima to be given another test straight away. Sadly he was matched with Thai foe Siripong Prasroedpong, who lasted just 85 seconds. Thankfully it wasn't long before he stepped back up in class and stopped the tough Takuya Fujioka, who retired between rounds and took his first stoppage loss. Fujioka never looked like he was able to get into the bout as the skills, speed and power from Nakajima were simply too much and Fujioka's corner did well to save their man from additional punishment in the later rounds. Nakajima would again step up in his follow up bout, beating Yoshihiro Utsumi in 7 rounds, in what was his most impressive performances to date.
As mentioned Nakajima hasn't fought this year, with his win against Utsumi coming back in December. He's still young enough to take some time off, but we'd hope he fits in a couple of fights this year and makes up for lost time. He was looking really good at the end of 2018, and certainly has the potential to find himself in the title mix at Bantamweight, at least domestically and regionally, and it would be a massive shame if that potential went to waste.
Nakajima is a sharp punching, well school, heavy handed southpaw with high level skills. He still needs development, which experience will help him with, but the tools and team are in place for him to have an excellent career.
The Minimumweight division is one of the most interesting in Japan, thanks to the sheer number of rising hopefuls breaking through the ranks. Not only is there a lot of rising Minimumweight hopefuls, but there is a wonderful mix of styles among those youngsters. We have highly skilled boxer punchers, like Ginjiro Shigeoka, slick boxers like Yuga Inoue and aggressive punchers, like Kai Ishizawa.
It's the last of those hopefules we're going to look to introduce today, with Kai Ishizawa (5-0, 5) being one of the most interesting, exciting and aggressive Minimumweights out there. He's not as technically gifted as the aforementioned Inoue or as wonderfully rounded as the sensationally talented Shigeoka, but he is very promising, very exciting and very, very aggressive. Often using his physicality and incredible strength to make up for his technical limitations.
The 22 year old Ishizawa, from Kanagawa, debuted in June 2017, following a 42 fight amateur career. In the unpaid ranks Ishizawa didn't really impress, running up a 28-14, record. What he did do however, was show a style that had the potential to be very successful in the professional ranks, albeit with the need to be refined and polished.
On his debut Ishizawa looked really powerful, taking out Thai novice Phongsaphon Panyakum in 2 rounds. Interestingly since losing to Ishizawa the Thai youngster has gone 3-0 in his native Thailand showing that he's not a total bum, even if he was given a JBC ban following the loss to Ishizawa.
Just a few weeks after his debut Ishizawa would return to the ring and stop Yoshimitsu Kushibe in 2 rounds, in what was Kushibe's 12th professional bout. It was a big step up, but a step up that the young puncher made with no problems at all.
Despite having fought his first 2 bouts in the space of about 8 weeks it would take almost 6 months before Ishizawa would have his next bout, and it was an incredibly short one as he blasted away Nrathip Sungsut inside a round. It was around this time that he was starting to get some attention. It's rare to see Minimumweight prospects blowing away opponents, but that's what Ishizawa was doing, and was doing in an exciting fahsion.
Not only was Ishizawa creating a buzz after his first 3 wins, but he was also creating real belief within his team, the MT Gym, that he was a genuine talent. That belief was tested in April 2018 when he was matched with the then unbeaten Tatsuro Nakashima. Nakshima was 7-0-1 (5) and had reached the East Japan Rookie of the Year final in 2017, being eliminated on a tie-breaker following a draw with Yuga Inoue. This looked a huge step up for Ishizawa, but he again came out on top scoring a TKO win over Nakashima, who was saved by the referee with a badly swollen left eye, the result of Ishizawa's power. This was a Japanese Youth title eliminator, though sadly Ishizawa was unable to take part in a planned title bout with Daiki Tomita in July 2018 due to suffering an injury in training.
Despite missing out on a clash with Tomita we did see Ishizawa get a shot at the Japanese Youth title in November of last year, when he took on 2017 Rookie of the Year Yuga Inoue for the belt. The bout saw Ishizawa being out boxed, out fought and out battled through the first 4 rounds. He was made to look slow, clumsy and ineffective against a more technical, sharper and smarter fighter. Despite being out classed Ishizawa was showing his will to win and refusing to just roll over, eventually cutting Inoue and breaking him down to score a 6th round TKO.
We'll see Ishizawa attempt to extend hi KO run on June 1st, when he takes on Indonesian visitor Silem Serang. On paper this looks a mismatch, with Serang having a record of 13-19-2 (1) however the Indonesian did recently go 8 rounds with Ishizawa's former foe Tatsuro Nakashima and has also gone put up good efforts, in losses, to Wanheng Menayothin, Andika Sabu and Palangpol CP Freshmart. He might have 11 stoppage losses but he rarely gets blown out early, and should ask some questions of Ishizawa before being stopped later in the bout.
The Japanese Super Bantamweight scene is one of the most interesting, right across the levels. We have exciting prospects, a great domestic title scene, and some fantastic world class fighters finding themselves in the mix at world level. It's a division that is hard to break into, but is one where if you can conqueror domestically you're probably ready to fight at world level.
Today's introducing looks at one of the Japan's rising prospects in the division, Tulio Kuwabata (2-0, 2) who is set for a huge step up in class later this month when he takes on experienced Filipino John Mark Apolinario in a 6 round bout.
The 22 year old Kuwabata is a fighter at the well established Mutoh Gym, one of the best gyms in Osaka. He's one of their best prospects, along with Riku Kunimoto who has also featured in one of these articles, and like Kunimoto he was able to make his name in the amateurs. On paper his amateur record, reportedly 25-11, is unremarkable though the competition he was facing in the unpaid ranks was very interesting as he was part of the ultra competitive High School and University scenes, captaining teams at both levels.
The youngster turned professional last year and made his debut in China, stopping Zhiliang Yang in Kunming, on a show that also featured Riku Kunimoto. The youngster, fighting in a 4 round bout, stopped Yang in the second round of the bout and looked good without looking spectacular. It was interesting to note that he was kicking off his career on the road, something we rarely see from Japanese prospects.
Having debuted in September the youngster would return to action around 3 months later for his Japanese debut, and take a clear step up in class as he took on Japanese foe Yosuke Taniguchi at the Sumiyoshi Ward Center on Christmas Eve. This was a huge step up in class from his Chinese debut and yet Kuwabata made things look easy as he applied intelligent pressure on to his more experienced, and taller, opponent. It was obvious after just a few seconds of this bout that he was able to out jab the longer man, and was quickly able to establish his jab. It wasn't just the jab that shone here however, and he was showing off great variety with some crisp body shots and a brilliant knockdown at the end of the opening round with a looping right hand up top. He would close the show the following round, as he turned up the pressure and dropped Taniguchi for the second time.
Although not a true amateur star it's hard not to be impressed by his crisp punching, variety and confidence. Going in with Apolinario this early in his career is impressive, and a win over the Filipino, even if Apolinario is a somewhat faded force, would be a statement to the division, as Kuwabata begins to hunt rankings, and future title fights.
Sadly we can't share footage of his win over Taniguchi, but it it is available on Boxing Raise for those interested.
The Shinsei Gym is one of the more established ones in Hyogo, and has shown an ability to not only promote level shows, but also bringing through talented youngsters. Fighters like Ryuya Yamanaka and Shun Kubo have both going all the way to the top in recent years, and Reiya Konishi is currently banging on the door for a world title as well.
Given the level of fighters at the gym it's little wonder that they have a number of prospects coming through the ranks, one of the most promising is Tetsuro Ohashi (6-0-1, 1), a talented, skilled Super Flyweight prospect who is just 20 years old and has a lot of promise.
Ohashi, from Hyogo, made his debut in June 2017 as an 18 year old. His debut had come following a short, 10 fight, amateur career. His 10 amateur fights saw him run up a 5-5 (3) record, though he was still, obviously, a kid when he took part in those bouts and hadn't become the fighter he now is, who is a really promising hopeful.
On debut Ohashi stopped Akihiro Imai in 4 rounds, that was followed up soon afterwards with decisions wins against Genki Tashima and Kazusa Arai, with Ohashi ending 2017 with a record of 3-0 (1). Whilst neither of those wins will stand out it is worth noting that Arai had managed to get a little bit of hype after debuting in Thailand as an extremely young 15 year in 2016, so a win over him, when both were 2-0, was a pretty notable result for the young Ohashi.
The early momentum for the young Ohashi continued beyond the spring of 2018, when he out pointed Hiroaki Satomura in a West Japan Rookie of the Year bout. That win, in Osaka, moved the youngster on to the West Japan Semi-finals, where he was held to a draw by Shuto Aritsu. Despite the draw it was Ohashi who progressed to the West Japan final by virtue of the tie breaker rules that are used in the Rookie of the Year competition.
In November of 2018 Ohashi took on Shunichi Okazaki in the West Japan Rookie of the Year final. The bout pitted unbeaten men against each other, in fact not only were both unbeaten but both had identical 4-0-1 (1) records, making the bout look wonderfully even on paper. In the end the bout wasn't competitive, in the slightest, with Ohashi being too sharp, too quick and too smart for Okazaki, who had no answer to Ohashi's speed, movement and jab. It wasn't a flawless performance by any stretch, but it was an dominant one by the then 19 year old.
Ohashi would turn 20 just days after he beat Okazaki and the following month he would take on Shinobu Wakagi in the All Japan Rookie of the Year final. Once again Ohashi showed off his speed, his ring craft and his sharp punching, controlling the fight with his jab, movement, straight left hands and slippery footwork. It was like watching a matador and a bull, with Wakagi swigning at the air over and over, whilst being tagged by clean, accurate shots.
Although not a power puncher Ohahsi is a wonderful little boxer, with fantastic control of the ring, brilliant footwork and so much promise. He's not a puncher, but at the age of 20 there is time to develop his man strength, and we actually saw Masayuki Ito struggle to develop his power early in his career and has a similar style to Ohashi.
The 20 year old Ohashi will return to action on May 19th. His opponent, at the time of writing, is unknown but it's expected that the youngster will be his first 6 round bout, and we're really looking forward to seeing how he matures and develops. There is real potential here with Ohashi, and we really hope he delivers in the years to come.
Typically when we do an "Introducing..." we look at fighters who either have very strong amateur pedigrees or have done something as a professional, for example won Roookie of the Year, or a B class tournament. Today however we're going to look at someone who had a pretty poor amateur record, and hasn't yet done anything of real note, though will be taking a big step up in class on May 19th when he takes on an WBO Asia Pacific ranked opponent.
The fighter in question is 22 year old Tsubasa Murachi (3-0, 3) who debuted in May 2018, in a 4 rounder, and will be moving into his first 8 round bout next time out, incidentally just 1 day before he actually made his debut.
The youngster, as mentioned, had a less than stellar amateur record. His actual record isn't totally clear, but we've been told he was 16-16 (1), and even if it's slightly off it's around that. A 50-50 type amateur record. Despite not being an amazing amateur the youngster was confident and dropped out of university in his third year to pursue his boxing career.
His debut was fought over 4 rounds, in a C class bout. The plan was set in motion however to move to a B class bout if he won his debut. Of course, know he is now 3-0 (3) we know that Murachi won his debut, in fact he did so at DESAFIO 7 when he stopped Shun Fukuda in 92 seconds.
On his debut Murachi didn't look like a special talent, despite blowing out Fukuda. He looked talented, but like he was over-confident, arrogant almost. There was a cockiness to him, which left him looking wild at times and he had some defensive flaws. Despite the flaws and arrogance he looked heavy handed, exciting and crisp. There was something there, even if it was a long way from a flawless performance, that would have made fans take note. A flair, a excitement factor. The unnerving confidence of a man who knew he was too good, even on debut. There was no debut jitters, just cocky naivety.
Having won his debut Murachi would take a big step up in his second bout, moving into 6 round territory, having claimed a B class license after his debut. Not only was he stepping up in terms of length of bout, but also competition, taking on Wataru Ikegami, who had had 9 professional bouts prior to facing, had never been stopped and had actually taken on Fumiya Fuse in the East Japan Rookie of the Year final in 2017. Despite Ikegami being a good opponent on paper he was unable to cope with the power of Murachi. The youngster needed just 12 seconds to drop Ikegami and just over a minute to close the show, forcing the referee to save Ikegami.
It wasn't until Murachi's third professional bout that we saw him needing to go more than a single round, with China's Sheng Peng lasting 5 rounds with Murachi. For the first time Murachi's power wasn't enough, and Peng managed to give the youngster a pretty good fight, taking his shots and landing plenty of his own in a very entertaining scrap. Sadly for Peng he would begin to slow down and Murachibegan to land too regularly or the referee to allow the bout to continue, stopping it mid-way through round 5.
Murachi's next bout will be against Raymond Tabugon (21-9-1, 11), who has a WBO Asia Pacific ranking, a lot of experience and notably put Andrew Moloney down in 2017. He is no push over. If Murachi sees off Tabugon, then it's hard to imagine Murachinot getting title fight later in the year.
Although not a big name, Murachi is a crisp, free flowing offensive fighter. There is work to be had defensively, but he's heavy handed, a very crisp puncher, and a very, very exciting talent.
Sadly we're not able to share footage of the youngster, but if you're wanting to see what the fuss is about all 3 of his current bouts are on Boxing Raise. It's not going to be long however until he gets some form of TV coverage.
As we've mentioned a number of times in these "Introducing..." articles, the Watanabe gym is rich with young and emerging talent. It's a gym that is so deep in talent that it may well be the strongest gym in Japan right now, and is certainly up there with Kadoebi and Ohashi in terms of overall depth. One of the many fighters at the gym making their mark is 24 year old southpaw Ren Sasaki (8-0, 5), a promising young southpaw.
Born in Morioka City in 1995 Sasaki didn't really have much of an amateur career, in fact our sources suggest he was 1-0 (1) as an amateur before beginning his professional career in late 2016, under the Tokyo based Watanabe Gym.
As with many fighters who lack a strong amateur background Sasaki was involved in 4 round bouts to begin his career, making his debut in October 2016. On his debut he quickly saw off Kyota Shinya, scoring an opening round TKO win over his opponent. It would then be 6 months before he returned to the ring, fighting in an East Japan Rookie of the Year preliminary bout against Yuichi Wakita. Wakita would himself be stopped in round 3 by Sasaki.
Having won his first Rookie of the Year bout in April 2017 Sasaki would go on to have an excellent 2017. He would go on to beat Masaaki Shiraishi in his second bout from East Japan Rookie and then defeat Yoshiki Nakamura in the competition's semi-final bout. Those wins lead Sasaki to the East Japan Rookie of the Year final in November, where Sasaki met Toru Kiyota. Kiyota came into the bout with a 7-1 (5) record, a reputation as a talented puncher and a man in good form. He would however be worn out and then stopped by Sasaki, with an official time of 3:09 in round 4.
The win over Kiyota wasn't pretty, it wasn't an attractive win, but it was a huge win for Sasaki who earned himself a place in the 2017 All Japan Rookie of the Year. In the All Japan final he would face another unbeaten fighter, Shuto Takase, the West Japan representative. Sasaki entered the bout 5-0 (3) whilst Takase was 4-0-1 (1). The bout, like Sasaki's bout with Kiyota, was another messy one, though it was clear that Sasaki had developed a style that was effective for him, and it often involved Sasaki pressing the action, breaking his opponent down, and that again happened here, stopping Takase in the 4th round.
With the Rookie of the Year crown won 2018 had the potential to be a huge year for Sasaki. His first bout of the year saw him stop Thai novice Somphot Seesa, in the 2nd of a scheduled 6 rounder. This bout may not have been a very notable one, though did come on a big show featuring two world title fights and did give Sasaki the experience of fighting on a big show.
Sasaki's second bout of 2018 saw him take on Kanehiro Nakagawa in a B Class tournament final. The bout looked like a mismatch on paper, with Nakagawa having a 5-5 record against the 7-0 record of Sasaki, in the end however this was actually a really competitive and tough bout, with Nakagawa holding his own with Sasaki. The toughness of Nakagawa forced Sasaki to go 6 rounds for the first time, and just narrowly sneak the win with a majority decision.
Sadly Sasaki wouldn't fight again in 2018 and now we have to wait until this coming May to see to see him again, with his next bout now set for May 12th. That will be a landmark bout for Sasaki as he travels to Hong Kong to take on Ge An Ma in an 8 round contest.
Unlike many featured in our "Introducing..." section we're not expecting Sasaki to get a title fight any time soon, but he is certainly one to make a note of going forward.
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