As mentioned in last week's "Introducing" , we get a really, really interesting Japanese Middleweight match up on December 16th when Mikio Sakai (1-0) and Ran Tomomatsu (1-0) clash. Last week we looked at Tomomatsu and this week we'll be looking at Mikio Sakai, who also had a very good amateur career and is tipped to go a very, very long way in his career, which is guided by the excellent Kadoebi Gym, who seem to be signing a considerable amount of talent in and around the Middleweight division. In terms of sparring no Japanese gym is as good at Middleweight as Kadoebi, who have a mix of power punchers and boxers, and will be a great place for Middleweight hopefuls to develop their skills.
The 26 year old Sakai was a very solid amateur running up a 44-22 (19) record in the unpaid ranks. He was part of the university team that he went to and whilst not making a huge impact nationally he was very, very, solid. Among his amateur achievements was a win at the 2011 Japanese Interschool Meet, winning a tournament that also saw wins for Naoya Inoue and Ryo Matsumoto, and reaching the last 8 at the 2018 Japanese National Championships.
Following his amateur career Sakai turned professional and made his debut back on August 23rd when he faced off with the flawed, but dangerous, Japanese based Colombian puncher Elfelos Vega. From the very early going it was clear that Sakai was no typical debutant. Sure, the bout was a 6 rounder, but watching what Sakai was doing made it clear he was a special talent. He looked so relaxed in the ring, whether on the outside picking moment to strike, or when stood in range, countering Vega. Not only was he relaxed and judging distance well, but he was also picking specific shots well, and switching between head and body.
After 6 rounds Sakai had taken a very clear and wide win over Vega in what was genuinely an excellent debut from the the youngster. There was was areas to improve, including the way he dropped his hands before he really got out of range, but there was so much to be excited about and be encouraged about.
Although Sakai does appear a little bit of a light puncher, given the shots he tagged Vega with without hurting him, he also looks like a genuinely skilled boxer, who picks shots well, has impressive handspeed and composure, and a lot of positives to build on. He also showed surprisingly stamina, fighting at a good tempo throughout the 6 round bout.
Against Tomomatsu we'll see Sakai chin checked, and it's a great chance to see if he's tough as well as skilled. If he is then Japanese boxing may well have another very good addittion toi the Light Middleweight or Middleweight division.
On December 16th we get a really, really interesting Japanese Middleweight match up between Ran Tomomatsu (1-0) and Mikio Sakai (1-0). To help fans know who the fighters are we'll be doing "introducing..." articles for both. This week we're going to look at the 25 year old Tomomatsu, who fights out of the Watanabe Gym and turned professional with a very impressive reputation from the amateur ranks.
Born in Kumamoto Prefecture Tomomatsu has been one of a rising number of fighters from the region, which did go through a real stretch without notable fighters. Despite that he he is now fighting out of the Tokyo based Watanabe gym, joining a number of fighters from across Japan who have joined the impressive stable under Hitoshi Watanabe's banner.
As an amateur Tomomatsu went an impressive 41-9 (16) and was regularly in the final 4 for major tournaments at 81KG's, which is above the professional Light Heavyweight limit, winning the 2016 Japanese National Championships and losing in the final in the 2017 version of the competition, he also came runner up in the 2017 Japanese National Sport Festival.
Following his solid amateur career Tomomatsu signed with the Watanabe Gym with out too much fanfare and fuss. Although he was well known in the circles that followed Japanese amateur boxing, he certainly wasn't get the attention that his style and credentials maybe deserved, especially given that he was fighting well above his natural weight as an amateur. When he turned professional the aim was to make a mark at his more natural weight, and he instantly made a mark thanks to a thrilling 6 round debut war.
Tomomatu's debut came on June 25th when he took part on a Japan Vs Korea show at the Korakuen Hall. The debuting Japanese fighter didn't have a gimme to represent his country and get an easy win. Instead he went up against the then unbeaten Korean puncher Sang Geun Lee (then 6-0, 4), and the two men really just wailed away on each other in what was, easily, the most competitive and exciting of the Japan Vs Korea bouts on the card. In the end Tomomatsu did enough to earn the win, but was given a solid test and essentially got the win due to a knockdown he scored.
Despite being a close one, and it was close, Tomomatsu answered a number of questions we don't tend to see debutants answer. He showed his will to win and impressive stamina, going 6 rounds at a very high pace, he took big shots and walk through them, and mixed both boxing and slugging into his work. It wasn't a flawless performance, not even close, but it was an exciting, memorable debut that gave us a lot to be excited about.
Against Mikio Tomomatsu will needto answer more questions, but what we have seen of him in his debut suggests that he is certainly one to watch, and win or lose against Mikio it's hard to imagine his career fizzling out without major success in the future.
Fans who followed the Japanese boxing scene in the 00's may be able to recall Yoshimitsu Yashiro. The Teiken promoted Super Featherweight fought as a professional from 2001 to 2009 and ran up a solid 21-1-2 (12) record, whilst winning the Japanese Super Featherweight title in 2008 and making 2 defenses, before losing to Takashi Miura in 2009, then retiring. Whilst not a huge name he certainly played his part in the sport on the domestic scene.
Now there is another member of the Yashiro family set to make their name in the sport, Yoshimitsu's cousin Hiroto Yashiro (1-0, 1), who has also signed up with the Teiken Gym and is expected to have a very, very fruitful career.
The 22 year old Yashiro, who celebrates his 23rd birthday in December, went an 75-19 in the unpaid ranks. Whilst he failed to really take home the big tournament wins he was a key figure in the teams for both his High School and University, and had began boxing way back in elementary school.
Unlike many amateurs in Japan Yashiro's style was a more technical one, something that likely that comes from being a big Guillermo Rigondeaux fan, and his patience likely cost him bouts over the short amateur format, where every round is important. Despite not having a style suited to success in the amateurs he still managed to notch up his impressive record and develop some excellent skills, including a sharp jab, a solid right hook and a stinging straight left hand.
Back in September Yashiro made his professional debut at Korakuen Hall and looked fantastic as he dismantled Thai foe Adundet Khonwong in 2 rounds. From the opening bell he looked sharp, relaxed and comfortable, like a man who knew his amateur background would give him the foundation to shine. And shine he did! He dropped Adunet twice to force the referee to stop the bout, giving Yashiro a stoppage win on debut. Whilst not a massive win on paper this was still a victory against the #7 ranked Thai and a man who had lasted into round 3 with Shingo Wake less than 2 years ago, and nearly survived 3 rounds with Yuta Uetani, in early 2017. It was impressive without being big for Yashiro, and was certainly something should have raised a few eye brows given his name and amateur pedigree.
At the moment Yashiro's second bout isn't yet confirmed, though we suspect that the plan is for him to be very busy in 2020 with reports from Japan suggesting that he is wanting to win a Japanese Youth title as soon as he can. He obviously has eyes on more established titles but did seem to suggest that the Youth title was going to be his first focus.
With talent, patience, skill and a strong team behind him Yashiro has the ability to go a very long way. The key is really his desire and his ability to take a shot. If he's tough enough then the future is very, very bright for Yashiro.
Over the years we have seen a number of Japanese based American fighters, who are in Japan for various reasons. These have included fighters like Mark Anthony Brooks, aka Mark Horikoshi, the wonderfully personable Brandon Lockhart Shane, Charles Bellamy and the truly thrilling Rick Yoshimura, who is the most successful of the Japanese based Americans.
At the moment there isn't too many young Japanese American fighters making a mark, but teenager Dominique Kenshin (3-0, 1), is certainly someone worthy of attention as he begins his career.
Kenshin, also known as Dominique Wallace, is a 19 year old with promise and is actually guided by the aforementioned Yoshimura. Wallace fights out of Yoshimura's Ringside Fitness Gym in Yokota, and despite only making his professional debut earlier this year has already shown real potential. A lot more potential than some would have expected given he had had only a handful of amateur bouts.
Aged 18 when he debuted in February 2019 Kenshin looked strong and athletic when he out pointed, Takuya Kanda over 4 rounds. He looked very unpolished, but had a busy jab, some nice uppercuts to the body and a willingness to respond every time he was hit. There was a clear rawness about him, and his lack of amateur background showed it's self regularly as he put himself off balance, and even got caught clean by a hard hook when he dropped his defenses in the first round. As the fight went on however you could visibly see the youngster calming down, improving and using his physical tools more and more effectively.
In his second bout, just a few months later, Kenshin stopped Hiroto Watabe and further showed some signs of polish. He was still more reliant on physical traits and athleticism than his boxing ability, looking bigger, stronger and faster than Watabe, but there was again signs of development, growth and promise.
Back in July Kenshin took his third professional win narrowly over-coming fellow youngster Hyoga Taniguchi. This was the first southpaw to face Kenshin and he pushed the teenager all the way in a very close bout, that was even closer when Kenshin had a point deducted in round 4, making things super close on the score-cards.
Away from the ring Kenshin graduated high school in 2018 and with Yoshimura guiding his career there is some genuine hope that he can make the most of his natural traits. There is a lot of polishing to do with youngster, but there's also no pressure on him to be rushed. He'll be having his 4th professional bout on November 22nd, on the upcoming "Genkotsu" card where he will face Hiro Ichimichi. A win there would continue his rise, though it's clear that he will need to really improve his boxing skills if he's going to continue to have success going forward.
It's hard to class Kenshin as a prospect right now, but he is certainly someone worthy of some attention, and an ideal fighter to be given the "introducing..." treatment, especially given his age, his rather unique background and the fact that he appears to be Rick Yoshimura's current protege.
We regularly see a pair of brothers battling through the pro-ranks together in some way. Whether they are as publicly close as the Inoue brothers or not we have a lot of brother pairings in boxing.
What is less common, although certainly not unheard of, is a brother-sister partnership making a mark in Japan. This has certainly been done in Argentina, with the Matthysse clan who had two brothers and a sister all fighting at a high level. In Japan this year we saw the first brother-sister pairing of professionals when Ayato Hiromoto (1-0, 1) joined his sister Eruka Hiromoto in the pros. With Eruka already holding an OPBF title, it makes sense for us to introduce her big brother, ahead of his November 17th bout in Yamaguchi.
The 22 year old Ayato Hiromoto isn't a big name prospect who had the press raving about him when he turned professional, but he's certainly one to keep a very, very close eye on. He's talented, patient, has the backing of Kadoebi and looks like a fighter who could go on to do big things in the pro ranks.
As an amateur Hiromoto went 31-17, though was unfortunate to be part of the talent laden 52KG division on the Japanese amateur scene. The Japanese amateur scene might not be something you're too familiar with but being in the same division as Ryomei Tanaka, Tosho Kashiwazaki and Tomoya Tsuboi was never going to be easy and losses were going to happen.
Whilst his amateur record didn't scream quality his performances and ability did and he signed up with the Kadoebi gym earlier this year. Back in July he took part in his test bout, sparring with another of the many boxing brother's in Japan Yuki Nakajima. During that test bout he impressed, and looked sharp, accurate and moved well, and obviously showed more than enough to get excited about.
Just a few weeks after he had claimed his B class license Hiromoto made his professional debut, stopping Suriyo Chonlathan in 2 rounds. The bout was one sided from the off and the Thai was down multiple times before the referee pulled the plug on the bout and stopped the contest.
Hiromoto's second bout comes on November 17th when he takes on Filipino foe Romel Oliveros in a scheduled 6 rounder at Super Flyweight. Despite being less experienced than Oliveros it's hard to see anything but a win for the Japanese youngster, who will be looking to develop over the next year or two before heading towards potential title fights.
Whilst we don't expect Hiromoto to be in big fights by the end of 2020 there's a real good chance that he will be in the title mix by the end of 2022, and we wouldn't be surprised to see him against notable regional fighters over the next 18 months or so.
Sometimes it can be tricky to get a read on a young fighter who hasn't signed with a major promoter and is fighting in relatively obscure shows, however every so often one such fighters turns out to be a diamond in the rough. We're hoping that this week's introducing may be about one such fighter, Toshiki Kawamitsu (3-0). The unbeaten 24 year old is a really obscure prospect, even by typical Japanese standards, but he looks like he certainly has something about him.
The youngster, originally from Okinawa, hasn't got one of those mega strong amateur pedigrees we usually see with Japanese prospects we get excited about but Kawamitsu certainly has a stronger amateur background than many would suspect. He was ranked #9 in Japan in 2013 at Light Flyweight. Not great by it's self but the men above him included Shokichi Iwata (the champion), Takuma Inoue (#1), current multi-weight world champion Kosei Tanaka (#2), the very highly regarded Seiya Tsutsumi (#3) and current amateur star Tomoya Tsuboi (#7). The depth in that division in 2013 was just insane.
Notably he was coming through the amateur ranks from the same geographical area as Daigo Higa, with both being promising fighters in Okinawa, in fact from what we could find both went to the same high school and were in the same year. Notably both had to go through similar struggles and both managed to have success despite those struggles.
Unlike Higa, who turned professional in 2014 at the age of 18, Kawamitsu didn't rush to the professional ranks, instead he turned professional in November 2018, when he was 23. He also didn't show the ferocious power that made Higa such a must watch coming through the rank. What he did show early on however was a gritty determination, a fun style, with a combination of technical ability and exciting battling.
In his debut, last November, Kawamitsu defeated Junichi Itoga in a bloody bout, which ended 20 seconds early with a technical decision. Accidental headclashes had left Itoga's face streaming with blood and he was way behind when the bout was stopped, with Kawamitsu seeming to find a new gear during the round anyway.
Sadly none of Kawamitsu's following fights have been made available, with his though his debut is available on Boxing Raise, though shut out wins over Yasushi Handa and Kosuke Fukuda have seem him build his record to 3-0.
With no footage of his last two bouts being available we're looking forward to November 9th when Kawamitsu will fight on the Dangan card featuring the semi-finals of the God's Left Tournament. This should be a great chance to see what Kawamitsu has learned in the last year, and how his aggressive style holds up against Yuni Takada in an 8 round bout. We suspect he'll be too good for Takada, but how he looks here, in his first step up, will be really important going forward.
One of the interesting things to emerge in the last few years is the growing interest in female boxing. Whilst some boxing fans are still not sold on the idea of female boxing, the Japanese crowd have been getting some female only shows the last few years and there is certainly a notable market for female boxing in Japan. In the west the likes of Katie Taylor, Claressa Shields, Cecilia Braekhus and Mariana Juarez have all got notable followings, but the sport in general still gets derision.
What is great about the current generation of female boxing is that they are paving the path for the next set of female fighters. Today we're going to look at one of those looking to emerge through the ranks in the coming years. Sayo Segawa (0-0).
The 22 year old Segawa is one of the many talented youngsters at the Watanabe gym and has turned professional after more than 40 amateur bouts, with over 30 wins. During her amateur time she won the Japanese Women National Championships in 2015, reached the final of another tournament that same year and made it to the semi-final of last year's Japanese Women National Championships.
Fighting in the surprisingly deep Atomweight division Segawa will in there with a lot of tough regional fighters in the years to come. From the footage of her as an amateur however her style should translate to professional success She's very, very quick, with good balance and footwork, likely from her enjoyment of ballet. There is a feeling that she lacks power and physicality, though we've seen Eri Matsuda rise through the ranks at the same weight based on her footwork and technical skills so this shouldn't be a huge issue for Segawa.
Fromthe footage that is out there of her the one area she needs work on is her defense, and she did get stopped last year in a Japanese amateur tournament, but sparring at the Watanabe gym should help her tighten that up, and quickly. If she can work on that the she should really shine in the professional ranks, given the skills has already got in her arsenal.
On October 30th Segawa makes her professional debut, taking on Thai visitor Watcharin Khodam (1-2, 1) at the legendary Korakuen Hall. Segawa will be strongly favoured over the Thai, who fights in Japan for the second time in her career following a TKO loss last year to Rena Takahashi. The Thai comes in with back to back losses but the bout is less about the visitor, and more about Segawa, who begins her career in a 6 rounder and is expected to be moved fast.
A fighter having a loss in Japan is certainly not the end of their career, as it can be in some other countries. In fact often when a fighter has a loss to their name it's how that loss came about that is significant, along with their style and the value they bring. With that in mind our "introducing" this weeks looks at the entertaining, but somewhat fragile, Kazuki Saito (7-1, 5), who suffered his first loss in 2018 and looks like he has chin issues, but yet is such a wonderful talent with incredible skills. He's the sort of fighter who you watch thinking he could score an easy win...or be taken out whilst in total control. The type of fighter who we know can deliver drama and excitement due to his limitations, just as much as his strengths.
Before turning in 2016 Saito was very highly regarded from his time in the amateur ranks. He won the numerous trophies and ran up an incredible 83-14 record. That type of amateur background saw him turn to the pros with a lot of expectation on his shoulders, though his style needed some work before he began to face real tests.
In his first 2 bouts Saito took on real no hopers from Thailand in 6 round bouts. Both of those foes were made to look worse than they were by Saito who dominated both and stopped them in a combined 5 rounds whilst show casing incredibly crisp punching, a fantastic jab and really clean combinations. His amateur pedigree was clear immediately.
Following those first 2 bouts, both of which are on Boxing Raise for those interested, he took a notable step up in class to take on Filipino Jimmy Borbon. It was against Borbon we saw the first cracks appear in Saito, when he was dropped with a sweeping left hook 2 minutes into the bout. This was the first time had began to question Saito's chin, though to his credit he got to his feet, saw out follow up attack and stopped Borbon in the 6th round.
If Saito's team were worried about his chin they didn't show it, as his came against the then 8-1 (7) Alvin Lagumbay. The hard hitting Lagumbay, who later went on to have a very notable win over Keita Obara, wobbled Saito in the opening round but struggled to cope with the movement, jab and boxing skills of Saito. In round 4 Saito hurt the Filipino and a follow up forced the referee to save Lagumbay, who was on the ropes at the time.
Having notched another win over a Filipino fighter, Marbon Bodiongan, it looked like Saito was on the right track and that he was able to look after his chin. Perhaps even showing that it was inexperience and not a questionable chin that caused him to be dropped by Borbon. Sadly however it was made clear it was his chin that was an issue in July 2018 when he was stopped by Amphol Suriyo, aka Pharanpetch Tor Buamas, in 2 rounds. Saito had won the first round without any issues but in round 2 the visiting Thai showed a bit more aggression and rocked Saito to his boots with a wild right hand. Moments later Saito was down. He got up, still wobbly legged and was dropped almost instantly before the referee waved the bout off.
Since his loss Saito has picked up 2 decisions wins, but with his suspect chin there is always a chance he's going to be dropped in any fight. However he is such a natural boxer, with gorgeous offensive skills, lovely combinations and heavy hands. In many ways he is like a lower level Jorge Linares, a clear talent but such a questionable chin.
Saito's next fight comes on October 26th when he takes on Izuki Tomioka in a Japanese Lightweight title eliminator. On paper that's a safe fight for Saito's chin, but Tomioka is a skilled fighter himself and should be a very solid test for Saito.
The Japanese scene seems to red hot with emerging talent, and this year, probably more than any other recently, we've seen fighters decide to abandon the amateur code and begin their professional campaigns. There's a long list of fighters who have turned pro this year, and one of the most highly regarded among them is Ryu Horikawa (2-0, 1) who has signed with the well established Misako Gym and looks to be their next big hope.
At the moment the Misako gym is absolutely on fire, 5 Japanese champions. The success of Norihito Tanaka, Kenichi Horikawa, Ryo Sagawa, Yusuke Suzuki and Shuichiro Yoshino has got the gym bouncing whilst other names are also making their mark there. The confidence in the gym is high and with Horikawa there they seem to have a real star for the future.
Aged 19 Horikawa is seen as one of the faces of the future for Japanese boxing. He turned professional earlier this year, following a 37-8 amateur career. That amateur record included a good run in the 2018 Japanese High School Selection Tournament, where he lost in the semi-final to Shogo Tanaka, the eventual winner.
In his debut the youngster didn't really impress in the way he should. He seemed over-eager to impress and rather than using the boxing skills he had in his arsenal he came out aggressively and took some solid counters from Jun Ishimoto. The aggression however did pay off when Ishimoto corner stopped the bout in round 3. By that point Horikawa had began to show more maturity and composure, though had been rocked early in the bout.
His debut left question marks, though thankfully his second bout put minds at ease as he out pointed fellow promising youngster Yukji Nakajima in a B class tournament bout. This was a real 50-50 type bout, with both men facing off super early in their careers and both expected to go a long way. Whilst a loss, this early, wouldn't have been the end it was still high risk for both fighters. Impressively Horikawa put on a incredibly mature performance, boxing behind his jab, being aggressive yet smart, and showing real sharpness to his punches. Given his reckless debut this was an incredible transformation and he really did out box Nakajima. After 6 rounds Horikawa was the worthy winner of the bout, taking a clear decision.
Next time out Horikawa will face off with Xiang Li (7-2-1, 2) in a WBO Youth Light Flyweight title bout. That bout, which will take place on October 17th, isn't just Horikawa's first bout but will also be his first bout outside of Japan, with the contest taking place in Shanghai, and his first 10 rounder. Although likely to be the under-dog, given the fact he has to fight in China against a Chinese local, Horikawa will see this bout as a winnable one and a real chance to make his make outside of Japan.
Given his talent, his eagerness to face stiff competition and the strong team behind him, the future is very bright for Horikawa and we're really looking forward to seeing how far he goes, and how quickly he gets there!
The idea of these "Introducing" segments isn't just to put a light on young up and comers but also exciting fighters, fighters who are worthy of some attention, no matter their age, record or ability. If there's a reason for fans to be interested in someone they get considered for weekly feature. We say that because we're about to look at a 30 year old with a less than stellar looking record, but a man who really does excite every time he steps in the ring. Win or lose it's always worth making a mental note of when Cristiano Aoqui (14-7-2, 10) fights. The Brazilian-Japanese puncher is a flawed fighter with dynamite in his hands!
Aoqui has been raised in Japan, though has strong roots to his Brazilian culture. Those roots are often shown on his shorts which usually have a combined Japanese and Brazilian flag on them. The background has seen fans from both countries following his career and his fights.
Prior to turning to boxing Aoqui had been training in Karate, he then turned to boxing and made his professional debut in 2006, at the age of 17. He turned professional without having any amateur bouts, and having only been training for a couple of years at the Suruga academy.
The exciting, but raw, style of Aoqui had some mixed success early on. He won his first 3 bouts but quickly saw his record fall to 3-2 by the summer of 2008. He then took more than 3 years away from the ring and seemed to retire before getting a call that inspired him to return to the ring. On his return success was quick to return and he'd go 4-0-1 over his following 5 bouts before losing in a 2013 Rookie of the Year bout to Ryuji Ikeda.
The Rookie of the Year loss was a set back, but Aoqui bounced back well winning 3 of next 4 and breaking into the Japanese and OPBF rankings, thanks in part to 2 wins over Quaye Peter. That rise was stopped in late 2015 when he lost a razor thin decision to Valentine Hosokawa, in what was a brilliant 8 round fight. Less than a year after the loss to Hosokawa we saw Aoqui get a huge shot, as he faced off with the then Japanese Light Welterweight champion Hiroki Okada. Against Okada we saw a brilliant, aggressive and exciting effort from Aoqui, though sadly he would come up short, losing a technical decision to the then unbeaten Okada.
The loss to Okada was followed by defeats to Noriaki Sato and Koki Inoue in 2017, with the loss to Inoue coming due to an injury that ended what seemed like a brilliant match up at that time. Notably after these loss Aoqui left the Suruga Gym and joined up with former foes Okada and Hosokawa at the Kadoebi Gym since joining the Kadoebi gym we've seen Aoqui fight 3 times and score 3 wins, all by TKO.
In the ring Aoqui is a charismatic, exciting, aggressive fighter. He's flawed, and defensively not the best. In fact he often over-commits in his combinations, but this is why he's worth watching. He's explosive, a monstrous puncher, when he has opponents hurt he goes for the kill and he's a big puncher. When he lands clean he hurts opponents, if he doesn't out right clean their clock.
Aoqui's next fight will be on October 21st, when he battles in a Japanese title eliminator against Daishi Nagata. That bout should be something incredibly special, given the styles of the two men. Win or lose Aoqui will be looking to put on a show and will be worth following well after the bout.
Here we've included his bout with Filipino foe Anthony Marcial. This isn't the most exciting bout of Aoqui's but the brutal finish shows just how damaging his shots can be.
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