The Champion Carnival comes to the fore again on April 11th when Japanese Lightweight champion Shuichiro Yoshino (9-0, 7) defends his belt against mandatory challenger Accel Sumiyoshi (11-4-3, 3). For Yoshino this will be his 4th defense, and he will be looking to extend his current stoppage run of 5 stoppages, whilst Sumiyoshi will be getting his second title fight, following a loss in an OPBF title fight back in 2015. On paper this looks like a rather weak mandatory defense for the unbeaten and highly talented champion, though the challenger is much better than his record suggests, and he could prove to be Yoshino's toughest challenge so far.
Yoshino was an excellent amateur before eventually deciding to turn professional in 2015, at Welterweight. He came down in weight, and his third bout was at Lightweight, where he has now settled and made a name for himself. As a professional Yoshino might only have 9 bouts to his name but he has already beaten the likes of Yoshitaka Kato, Spicy Matsushita, Masaski Saito and Genki Maeda. During his career so far he has looked like a special fighter, with all the tools to go much, much further than the Japanese title, but still to develop his experience before climbing too high too quickly.
As a boxer Yoshino is powerful, skilled, quick, and a sharp puncher. He's proven to be able to box for 8 rounds, as he did against Kato, battle on the inside when he needs to, and score really sensational KO's, as he did against Kazumasa Kobayashi last December. He's a really good all rounder, who will probably find himself fighting for a regional title later this year, with both the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles well within his grasp.
On paper Sumiyoshi looks a limited challenger, with 7 set backs in 18 fights and only 3 stoppage wins to his name. It should however be noted that Sumiyoshi has been matched insanely tough from the offer. His debut was against Yuya Okazaki, who would later challenge for an OPBF title, and he would suffer a decision loss in his third bout to the very experienced Kento Matsushita. He would then go 3-3-1 over his following 7 bouts, to fall to 5-4-1. That looks awful on paper but his losses not only came to Matsushita but also Yuhei Suzuki, Kota Tokunaga and Masayoshi Nakatani. To put those losses into perspective Suzuki was fighting for the first time since losing in a Japanese title fight, Tokunaga would become the Japanese champion 12 months after beating Sumiyoshi whilst Nakatani was defending his OPBF title against Sumiyoshi.
Since those setbacks Sumiyoshi has gone 6-0-2 scoring wins of note against the likes of Allan Tanada, Naotoshi Nakatani and Motoki Sasaki, whilst fighting to 2 draws with Tatsuya Yanagi.
In the ring Sumiyoshi is much better than his record would suggest. Sadly however he lacks power, and has found his bouts going long, and getting hard in the later stages. He's a solid boxer, but does nothing special. He's sharp and talented, but not amazingly quick, strong or powerful. Against fighters who he can jab and jab he can control fighters, but there's a big step up to doing that against someone as talented and rounded as Yoshino, who has himself a really good jab, one with more snap on it than Sumiyoshi does.
We do regarded Sumiyoshi's record as misleading, and we genuinely wouldn't be surprised if he won a Japanese title in the future. Against Yoshino however he would need a miracle, and we see this as either a late stoppage for the champion or a very wide decision for Yoshino. If Sumiyoshi wins it'll go down as a major domestic upset, though if Yoshino wins it will hopefully lead to a bout for an OPBF or WBO Asia PAcific title, which may well test the talented fighter from the Misako gym.
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.