The Japanese scene is full of talented new blood this year with a host of young fighters all turning professional. This year, more than any other, seems to have been the year where those talented youngsters have almost abandoned the amateur system, rather than remain in the unpaid ranks and make their way to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. It's strange, given how big the Olympics will be for Japan, that so many fighters are turning professional and ditching their Olympic dreams but it's also really exciting how constant the stream of top youngster turning to the professional ranks is.
One of the latest names to begin their professional career, rather than seek a place at the Olympics, is Yudai Shigeoka (0-0). He would almost certainly have been in the running for the Japanese national team next Summer, but instead has followed his younger brother, Ginjiro Shigeoka, to the Watanabe Gym and to the professional ranks.
Aged 22, just a few years older than Ginjiro, the talented Yudai was a fixture at the top of the national amateur scene for years. He ran up an excellent 81-10 (20) record in the unpaid ranks and his achievements really are worth looking over.
As a youngster Yudai won the 2015 Japanese High School Invitational Tournament in Okayama, among other high shool tournaments. The high school success was followed by consecutive finals in the Japanese National Sports festival, losing in the 2017 final to Tomoya Tsuboi and to Tosho Kashiwazaki in the 2018 tournament. He was unlucky to lose to Kashiwazaki in the 2017 Japanese National Championship semi-final but would take home the top prize in the 2018 version of the tournament.
Not only was Yudai repeatedly getting to the business stages on the domestic scene but he was also getting valuable international experience. He reached the final of the 2018 World University Championships, losing to local hero Edmond Khudoyan in the gold medal bout, and showed that he belong at a very very high level.
After seeing his brother made his debut for the Watanabe gym it seemed Yudai was intrigued by following him into the paid ranks. When the Light Flyweight division was dropped from the Olympic plan for 2020 he essentially had the decision made for him. He wasn't comfortable moving up in weight, and likely knew his chances of reaching the games was reduced by the fact his natural division was no longer an option. Rather than waste time following those dreams he decided to turn professional.
Whilst Yudai's professional debut has yet to be announced he impressed in his B license pro-test bout. That test saw him sparring 3 rounds with former world title challenger Masataka Taniguchi, and looking every bit the top tier prospect that you'd expect. He looked sharp, with great variety and defensively smart. He looked very much like an elite prospect, similar in a way to his slower but heavier handed younger brother. He's a southpaw, like his brother, and is very sharp, accurate and skilled, with a more style more suited to boxing, than his brother's hard hitting pressure style
With the Watanabe behind Yudai's professional ascent up the rankings it's obvious Yudai won't be held back. His brother fought for his first title in just his 4th bout, 10 months and 2 days after his debut, and we wouldn't be shocked if we saw something very similar for Yudai.
Yudai, like Ginjiro, has real ambition and he spoke, already, about wanting to become a world champion alongside his brother. Given the ability of both men that is a real possibility.
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