Between now and the end of this year we'll see a number of Japanese title eliminators. Among those bouts are a number of rematches, including the recent bouts between Kenichi Horikawa and Koji Itagaki, and Ken Osato and Satoru Sugita. We get another rematch this coming Sunday when Accel Sumiyoshi (11-4-2, 3) and Tatsuya Yanagi (15-5-1, 6) meet in a Japanese Lightweight title eliminator. The bout will be the third between the two men and will clearly be the most significant between the two men.
The two men first fought back in December 2015 when a then 5-4-1 (1) Sumiyoshi held a then 11-3 (4) Yanagi to a 10 round draw. The following year the two men would have an immediate rematch and Sumiyoshi would stop Yanagi in 3 rounds, in what was a short but exciting encounter.
Since their second bout Sumiyoshi has won his last 5, scoring notable wins over Allan Tanada, Naotoshi Nakatani and Motoki Sasaki. Yanagi on the other hand has gone 4-1, winning his last 4 bouts following a razor thin loss to former Japanese champion Seiichi Okada. The success of both men since their back to back bouts has lead to both being highly ranked by the JBC and their bout will decide who challenges either Shuichiro Yoshino (8-0, 6) or Kazumasa Kobayashi (10-7-1, 6), who fight in December.
Given he is leading the series with a win it's clear that Sumiyoshi will be the favouring coming into this bout. The 33 year old hasn't got an excellent record though he has actually turned things around well following a bizarre 4-4-1 start to professional boxing. In his first 9 bouts he was matched insanely hard, taking on the likes of Kento Matsushita, Yuhei Suzuki, Kota Tokunaga and Masayoshi Nakatani. Since that baptism of fire however he has found his groove and gone 7-0-1, avenging the draw with the win over Yanagi in their second bout. He has done that whilst not getting much attention due to his bouts being mostly in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi, one of Japanese boxing's smaller markets. Had he been fighting regularly in Tokyo there is a good chance he'd have been a staple on the Dangan cards.
In the ring Sumiyoshi is a pretty sharp fighter and you can see by watching him that he was a pretty experienced amateur. He's comfortable in the ring, with a very good jab, nice variety and confidence in his skills. Defensively he's open, and fights with his lead hand rather low, and does lack power, but we know he can hurt Yanagi as we saw in the second bout, where he actually got backed up a lot. In that second fight Sumiyoshi allowed Yanagi to come at him, countered wonderfully and then made the most of Yanagi's tiring arms as he crashed some gorgeous headshots on to his man who was dropped 3 times in round 3.
At 28 years old Yanagi is the younger man though technically he's the more experienced man, with 21 fights under his belt compared to the 17 of Sumiyoshi. He hasn't however got the amateur background of Sumiyoshi, and instead came through the Japanese rookie service, taking the Rookie of the Year crown in 2012. His record would advance to 10-0 before he went through a real rough patch and slid to 11-5-1, with his sole win during that run being a narrow decision over Toru Suzuki who retired afterwards. Now however he has turned his career around and won his last 4, including 2 wins over Masashi Noguchi.
In the ring Yanagi doesn't really do anything amazingly, but has has a solid jab, can move around the ring well and appears to hit harder than his record suggests. He's loose and relaxed in the ring and does seem to avoid plenty of shots thrown in his direction. Sadly though for Yanagi his chin does seem suspect and he gets wild and wide when he looks for the finish.
We're expecting Yanagi to be more cautious than he was in the second bout with Sumiyoshi, but we don't expect to see him get revenge here. Instead we're expecting a another stoppage for Sumiyoshi, albeit much later in the fight than round 3. Sadly neither Sumiyoshi or Yanagi will be expected to put up a serious challenge against Yoshino in the new year.
Last year we saw Japanese Lightweight Masayoshi Nakatani (9-0, 5) break through in a big way. He began the year with a win over Yoshitaka Kato to claim the OPBF Lightweight title and later went on to climb into the world rankings whilst defending his belt twice. We won't pretend that Nakatani set the world on fire but he did impress as he easily out pointed Ricky Sismundo in his first defence and then almost shut out Futoshi Usami in his second defense.
The 3 wins for Nakatani last year took him from “Ioka prospect” to “world ranked contender” it was as good a break through year as the Osaka native could have wished for. Whilst he hasn't stopped an opponent in his 3 bouts he had earned 36 rounds of valuable experience, matured as a fighter and developed his skills massively.
When we first saw Nakatani he looked like a tall, rangy Lightweight who gave up his height to beat people up. Despite being almost 6' he was a fighter who loved tagging the body and completely destroyed Shuhei Tsuchiya with body shots alone. Since then he has developed his skills become a more pure boxer-puncher who now uses his reach and uses his height to fight on the outside where he can establish his jab and move around the ring. In many his style has helped set the groundwork for other Ioka fighters such as Sho Ishida and Takeru Kamikubo who fight in a similar manner to Nakatani, using their height and speed.
Although not yet a big name in regards to where he stands at the Ioka gym we suspect Nakatani will have the ability to become a world champion and follow in the footsteps of Kazuto Ioka and Ryo Miyazaki. It may not be soon but his intentions are to reach that level. His next to world title fights will be his 3rd defence of the OPBF title and will see him battle against the little known Accel Sumiyoshi (4-3-1, 1) on April 5th
Sumiyoshi isn't a big name fighter, his record isn't flawless and he isn't a sensational Lightweight. He is however a fighter who has been matched incredibly hard since his debut back in 2012. To date his opponents have had a combined record of 95-43-9 and it's little wonder he has lost a few bouts considering he has gone up against fighters like Kento Matsushita, a former multi-time Japanese and former OPBF title challenger, Yuhei Suzuki, a 2-time Japanese title challenger, and Kota Tokunaga, who battles for the Japanese title later this month.
Footage of Sumiyoshi is certainly not easy to come by but ringside reports of his bout with Leonardo Doronio, who he fought to a draw last December, suggest the bout was a slugfest with both showing fantastic work rate. Also in his past he has gone up against tall fighters, notably Kota Tokunaga who managed to take a split decision win over Sumiyoshi last year. That experience will help Sumiyoshi however we have Tokunaga being a level, if not two, below Nakatani.
Coming into this fight the pressure is on the champion not to just win but to shine and that's what we're expecting with Nakatani easing himself into the fight behind his jab before making a statement later in the fight with a stoppage. If he can do that then we expect to see him move on to a world ranked foe later in the year and then work his way towards a world title fight in either late 2015 or early 2016.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Having canned the old "Full Schedule" of Asianboxing we have instead decided to concentrate more on the major bouts. This section, the "Preview" section will look at major bouts involving OPBF and national titles. Hopefully leading to a more informative style for, you the reader.