Japanese fighters in and around the Middleweight division don't typically get much attention, which is partly why Ryota Murata is such an oddity right now. That however doesn't take away from the fact that there really good bouts that take place in Japan at the weight, including some of the best Japanese bouts of the last few years. With that in mind today's "Introducing" looks at up coming debutant Mikio Sakai (0-0), a new signing for the Kadoebi gym and a new addition to the Japanese domestic Middleweight scene.
Currently the Kadoebi Gym has more than it's share of "bigger men" with a number of fighters from 140lbs upwards. For many in Japan from Light Welterweight upwards it's the gym is the best gym, able to offer the best sparring and the best environment to develop. It's got other Middleweights like Shoma Fukumoto and Koki Tyson to get fighters in with and it's got enough there to build a fighter from debut to champion. That's likely played a part in why Sakai has signed there, and why Sakai is going to be moved aggressively as a professional. It does, however, help that he was a very good amateur.
In the unpaid ranks Sakai went 44-22 (19) and competed in a variety of notable national tournaments. He would win the Japanese Interschool Meet in August 2011, a tournament that also saw Naoya Inoue and Ryo Matsumoto pick up wins, and would get into the business end of the 2012 and 2018 Japanese national championships. Although he never managed to go all the win and win national crown as a senior it was clear he had talent, power and skills.
Due to the way he continually fought in pretty notable competition it's not that difficult to see some footage of a younger Sakai fighting in the amateurs and his style, even as early as 2012, looked like it was suited more to the professional game than the amateurs. He was quick on his feet, skirted around the outside of the ring and looked land big right hands at range, with combinations on the inside. He would look to draw mistakes to counter with his hands a touch lower than they should be, but have the speed and reflexes to counter.
That style he showed early on has stayed with him into the later part of his amateur career, though it was polished and the wider hooks, thrown from out of range, have been curtailed, becoming much sharper. He's not looked destructive, in terms of 1-punch power, but he looked a sharp clean puncher with a good work rate. The one really issue however is that he often looked under-sized and that would have been a major problem on the international stage, with some amateur Middleweights being incredibly big guys.
As a professional we're expecting Sakai to be an aggressive boxer-puncher. The small gloves will help him when it comes to power, and his style looks pro-ready, with sharp shooting at range, good combinations on the inside and nice movement. At 26 he's coming into his physical peak, so maybe a little late to debut, but with Kadoebi behind him he will be moved quickly, if they feel confident in him.
Talking about Kadoebi's confidence in Sakai they are showing belief right out the blocks and when he debut's on August 23rd against Elfelos Vega (7-6, 5), who has gone the distance the distance with the likes of Takeshi Inoue and Charles Bellamy. This is a really tough debut, despite Vega's record, and a dominating win for Sakai would be a real statement of intent from the new pro, who may struggle a bit against someone as dangerous and tough as Vega this early in his career.
The start of August was like a house on fire, with title bouts things taking place in 3 successive days, and 7 title bouts in 8 days. Thankfully things slow down in the middle of the month, at least a small bit, with fewer notable title bouts, but still a lot of action, cramped into not a lot of time. Also, unlike the start of the month, we really see the action spread all over the place.
Jung Kyoung Lee (7-2-1, 3) vs Akinori Watanabe (37-7-1, 31) - Seoul, South Korea
The first big bout from this section of the month will see OPBF Light Middleweight champion Jung Kyoung Lee make his first defense of the title, as he battles Japanese veteran Akinori Watanabe. Lee won the title earlier this year, stopping Samuel Colomban, and hastily arranged his first defense, before an injury pushed it back. Now rescheduled the bout is a big test for the champion, and a chance to find out what exactly the challenger has left in the tank. A great match up and a rare chance to get excited about what's happening in a Korean ring.
Aidos Yerbossynuly (11-0, 8) vs Rocky Jerkic (17-1, 13) - New South Wales, Australia
In Australia we get two bouts featuring unbeaten Kazakh hopefuls. One of those is unified minor title holder Aidos Yerbossynuly defending his belts against once beaten Australian Rocky Jerkic. The 27 year old Yerbossybuly has proven to be a decent fighter, but this is a clear step up in class a proper chance to see what he's like against some one else with with hunger and ambition. Jerkic on the other hand is 31, can ill afford another loss, after a 2017 defeat to Anthony Buttigieg, and will be seeing this as a big chance to claim a WBA minor title. This could be one of the hidden gems of the month
Nursultan Zhangabayev (7-0, 5) Vs Steve Gago (11-0, 4) - New South Wales, Australia
The other Kazakh in Australia is 26 year old Nursultan Zhangabayev, who will be up against fellow unbeaten Steve Gago. The talented Zhangabayev was given a real test last year by Arnel Tinampay, one of the sports most under-rated fighters, and has since gone on to drop to Welterweight, where he stopped Ivan Matute to claim a minor title at Welterweight. Gago on the other hand is a 30 year old who has padded his record against limited Thai's and may well be unprepared for the talented, if unheralded, Kazakh. It is worth noting Gago did notch his best win last time out, defeating Adam Diu Abdulhamid, but this is a big step up from that bout.
Jing Xiang (16-4-2, 3) v Jomar Caindog (10-1-1, 4) - Shenzhen, China
Highly skilled Chinese prospect Jing Xiang drops in weight as he looks to make his mark at Minimumweight, rather than in the stacked Light Flyweight division. The talented Xiang is one of China's brightest hopefuls but he's going to be pushed hard here by Filipino Jomar Caindog, who's only loss so far was to upcoming world title challenger Samuel Salva more than 3 years ago. The winner of this will become the WBO International Minimumweight champion and will likely find their self on the edge a shot at the WBO world title. Caindog doesn't have much on his record, but won't be travelling to los, whilst Xiang is one of the sports most well hidden talents.
Xiang Li (4-0, 3) v Do Jin Lee (6-2, 3) - Shenzhen, China
Unbeaten Chinese hopeful Xiang Li will be looking to build on January's win over Arvin Yurong as he takes on Korean foe Do Jin Lee, in a bout for a couple of minor titles. Li looks a bit rough around the edges, but can certainly punch and there is a lot to like about him. Despite the talent Li he does need to be much more active than he has been, and start to rack up some momentum, after a very stop-start opening to his career. Lee on the other hand is an 18 year old Korean with patchy form to say the least, going 1-2-2 in his last 5, but got a taste of international experience last time out, losing a decision in June to Mirai Naito, and may feel more confident for this road bout than he was for that one.
Jeo Santisima (17-2, 14) v Alvius Maufani (6-3-2, 3) - Leyte, Philippines
The year has been a really disappointing one for ALA Promotions and their top fighters have had much of their momentum stopped in 2019. Now we see some of those fighters trying to get back on track with the hard hitting Jeo Santisima being one of them. The 23 year old banger, who was last seen scoring a win over the incredibly tough Victor Uriel Lopez, is having little more than a tick over bout here as he takes on limited Indonesianm Alvius Maufani. Santisima is a great prospect, who could have been on the verge of a world title fight with some more activity, Maufani on the other hand is very limited and has failed to take a win in any of his last 3, and was actually stopped last time out. We don't see this one going the distance.
Albert Pagara (31-1, 22) Vs Lucky Tor Buamas (12-3, 12) - Leyte, Philippines
Another ALA prospect looking to put a frustrating year behind him is Albert Pagara, who takes on hard hitting Thai foe Lucky Tor Buamas. The touted Pagara is looking for his 6th win since a loss to Cesar Juarez in 2016, though his career really has slowed down and it's a real shame that he appears to be both inactive, and taking a massive step backwards here. Whilst Pagara has been disappointingly inactive Lucky will be fighting for the first time in over a year, and has lost his last 2, and 3 of his last 8. Not only has Lucky been shown up recently in terms of his defeats but he has been stopped, and has typically been fighting at Super Flyweight. Pagara should be too good, too strong, too big and too powerful for the limited Thai.
Apichet Petchmanee (4-0, 2) Vs Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo (61-4, 41) II - Bang Phun, Thailand
In Thailand we see fighters go again as talented prospect Apichet Petchmanee takes on former world title challenger Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo. These two fought earlier in the year and despite picking up the win Apichet really failed to shine, with a good argument that he didn't do enough to win. Whilst it was a big step up in class for the unbeaten man he was expected to have the skills, youth, size and amateur pedigree to over-come the much older and naturally smaller Chonlatorn without any problems. Instead it was the experience and ring craft of Chonlatarn that proved to be the biggest factor and we'll see whether or not Apichet will have learned from that first bout.
Jayr Raquinel (10-1-1, 7) v Takuya Kogawa (30-5-1, 13) - Tokyo, Japan
Once beaten Filipino fighter Jayr Raquinel looks to make his second defense of the OPBF Flyweight title as he takes on former world title challenger Takuya Kogawa. The 22 year old champion has been out of the ring since losing to Wulan Tuolehazi last September, and that sort of inactivity could be a major issue here, though he is an excellent young fighter who will be hoping to show what he can really do. As for Kogawa the Japanese veteran is 34 and will know that this could be his final title fight. With almost 250, hard, rounds under his belt he is a stalwart of the Japanese scene, who has taken a lot of punishment in a very memorable career.
Ryota Yamauchi (4-1, 4) vs Alphoe Dagayloan (13-2-5, 5) - Tokyo, Japan
We love seeing talented youngsters face off in their careers, taking risks early and not sitting pretty whilst running up big unbeaten records. With that in mind we have to admit we really love the look of this match up between rising Japanese hopeful Ryota Yamauchi and the under-rated Alphoe Dagayloan of the Philippines. For Yamauchi the bout is a chance to bounce back from his close and controversial loss to Wulan Tuolehazi, the man who also beat Jayr Raquinel. For Dagayaloan on the other hand it's a chance to get another notable win on his record, following solid wins over the likes of Esneth Domingo, Madiyar Zhanuzak and Rongguo Wu. The winner of this will almost certainly find themselves in the regional title mix sooner rather than later, and the loser will have a lot of time to rebuild. A fantastic match up, and one that could outshine the main event.
Mikio Sakai (0-0) v Elfelos Vega (7-6, 5) - Tokyo, Japan
Former Japanese amateur standout Mikio Sakai makes his debut, and does so against the dangerous Elfelos Vega in a very tough looking debut bout. Sakai is very highly regarded following a genuine solid amateur career on the Japanese national scene, and given how many top "bigger" fighters train at the Kedoebi gym it's clear Sakai will get great sparring. Vega, whilst not the most talented, can bang and is tough so this should be a great test of Sakai and what he has to offer. If Sakai looks good we wouldn't be surprised for Kadoebi to have him in with some sort of ranked fighter by the end of 2020. For Vega a win would kick start his career, but he will enter as the clear under-dog.
Ryo Nakai (0-0) v Jay Lloyd Quidlat (4-0-1, 2) - Tokyo, Japan
Another former Japanese amateur standout making his debut is Ryo Nakai, who could well end up the better of the two debutants. He will be up against unbeaten Filipino foe Jay Lloyd Quidlat, in a very good looking test. Although naturally much smaller than Sakai we have heard that Nakai has the more long term potential, given he's younger and was more accomplished in the unpaid ranks. Quidlat has been a professional for a little over a year but this is a very clear step up in class from the low level Filipino foes than he's been facing off with so far.
Shohjahon Ergashev (16-0, 14) v Abdiel Ramirez (24-4-1, 22) - Oklahoma, USA
One of Uzbekistan's top hopefuls, Shohjahon Ergashev, will be up against Mexican puncher Abidel Ramirez in what looks like a really good fight. Ergashev looked poor when he defeated Mykal Fox earlier in the year, despite winning he looked predictable, open and very technically poor, here however he should be up against someone less awkward and more willing to fight. Ramirez is no world beater, but is someone who believes in his power, and that should make for an entering, if short lived, war between two men looking to take each other out early. We'd suggest you don't blink if you're watching this one!
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