We spend so much time talking about the Ohashi Gym in Yokohama that it can be really hard to truly grasp how much great talent is under the guidance of the legendary Hideyuki Ohashi. One of the many fighters at the gym looking to make a mark in the coming years is Light Welterweight Andy Hiraoka (13-0, 9), who already looks he could be a very special young fighter, though clearly needs time and work to get the most of his ability.
Although well known as a boxer now Hiraoka was a standout track athlete, and didn't really have much of an amateur career. His athletic background over-lapped with the early part of his boxing career and obviously he was a natural athlete, who was pushed into learning boxing by his father.
Hiraoka made his professional debut back in 2013, whilst not actually an Ohashi gym fighter. He was originally signed to the Hanagata gym, run by former Flyweight world champion Susumu Hanagata. It was under Mr Hanagata that Hiraoka first made his mark on the sport, winning the 2014 East Japan Rookie of the year crown at Lightweight, beating Shintaro Nakamura in the final. That had set him up for an All Japan Rookie of the Year, whilst aged just 18.
Sadly Hiraoka's dream of becoming the Rookie of the Year champion came to an end early as illness left him unable to compete in the All Japan final against Shogo Yamaguchi. Notably around the same time he took part in a major distance race, seemingly unclear on what option he wanted to do.
After missing out on the Rookie of the Year final it was almost 2 years before we saw Hiraoka return to a boxing ring. When he did return, in 2016, he was signed to the Ohashi gym, and had returned following a lengthy stay in the US, where he trained at the Floyd Mayweather Gym in Las Vegas, and worked with the likes of Eddie Mustafa Muhammad and Roger Mayweather, really working on his skills and ring craft.
Upon Hiraoka's return to competition he quickly took out a pair of Thai novices, getting a feel of the ring again. After a couple of straight forward bouts he finally faced Shogo Yamaguchi, the man he was supposed to fight in the Rookie of the Year tournament, and despite some struggles he managed to see off Yamaguchi in the 6th round. The win over Yamaguchi seemed to expunge some frustration of missing out in 2014.
Following his win over Yamaguchi we then saw Hiraoka enter a 4 man tournament to crown a Japanese Youth Light Welterweight champion. In his first bout of the tournament Hiraoka scored a 3rd round TKO over Ukyo Yoshigai in August 2017. That win netted him a bout against Takahiko Kobayashi for the Japanese Youth title just weeks later.
Despite having been stopped twice to facing Hiraoka we saw no fear from Kobayashi who got off to a great start, out boxing and out landing Hiraoka who really struggled through the first 4 rounds. Thankfully for Hiraoka the effort of Kobayashi took it's toll on him, and he would slow down,allowing Hiraoka's strength and stamina to play a part. In round 5 Koabayashi fell apart with Hiraoka forcing a stoppage win and claiming the title, and his biggest win to date.
Having won the Japanese Youth title in November 2017 Hiraoka would kick off his 2018 with an 8 round decision win over Fumisuke Kimura, in a none-title fight. The win was a really mature one from Hiraoka, but one that did really excite many at the time, with Kimura not being regarded very highly. It is worth noting however that since that bout Kimura has gone on to stop Hayato Ono and Giraffe Kirin Kanda.
Hiraoka would then make his first defense of the title, defeating Ukyo Yoshigai last September in his only defense of the belt so far. Like their first bout Hiraoka would stop Yoshigai in the third round to retain his title.
Later this month Hiraoka takes a huge step up in class to face off with former world title challenger Akihiro Kondo. The bout is set to be a massive test for Hiraoka, who knows that a win will boost his career in incredibly ways, but is certainly a a tough test and a win is far from a given, even with Kondo being stopped earlier this year by Downua Ruawaiking. A win and he is immediately in the OPBF title picture, however a loss will be a big set back for the confident youngster.
Aged 22 has over-come battles from child hood. His mother is Japanese and his father is from Ghana, giving him darker skin than most in Japan, and he is also very tall for someone in the country. He stands out from most in Japan, but given his athletic background it should be little surprise that he has fought to the point where he is now and looks to be fighting towards big success. He's a really strong, powerful kid, and despite being rough around the edges he has the build and athletic ability to go a long way. It's now just a case of whether those at the Ohashi can smooth off his rough edges and develops him from the diamond in the rough that he is today.
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