The Japanese Youth title scene is a genuinely intriguing one, even if it doesn't feature the huge names that compete in Japan. This coming Sunday we get the chance to see some Youth title bouts, and again the bouts are really interesting, without being huge news.
One of those bouts this weekend will see Japanese Youth Featherweight champion Hikaru Matsuoka (15-4-3, 2) make his first defense, as he takes on Kyohei Tonomoto (8-2, 4). Neither of these two are big names, but both will certainly see this bout as a chance to help make a name for themselves.
The 24 year old champion, a member of the Taisei Gym, win the title last year with a technical decision win over Noboru Osato. That was his third straight win and his 7th win in his last 8. Whilst that sounds impressive, his competition hasn't been the best, and more worryingly he has shown a real lack of durability, with 3 stoppage losses, including 2 stoppage losses in his last 9. Whilst he has shown a shaky chin he also has a lack of power, with only 1 stoppage in his last 7 wins and only 1 stoppage in th elast 6 years. Like some other fighters however his focus isn't on punching through the target or inflicting damage. He knows he 's not a puncher. Instead he looks to box behind a jab, fight at range and control the fight with his jab and movement.
Although no world beater it's clear that Matsuoka is a talented fighter. He's well schooled, a good mover and he fights to his strengths. Looking through his record he has fought plenty of notable opponents, scoring wins over Richard Pumicpic, Yu Konomura and of course Osato. On the other hand he has lost to the likes of Seizo Kono and Yuki Strong Kobayashi. From those losses it's clear if he needs to avoid punchers, and if he can do that he could have a pretty successful career. Luckily for him, Tonomoto is no huge puncher.
Aged 23 Tonomoto is someone who has been really over-looked and hasn't really had much attention at all. That's despite reaching the 2014 Rookie of the Year final, where he lost to the then unheralded Reiya Abe. Part of the reason why Tonomoto hasn't had much attention following his Rookie of the Year run is due to inactivity, and he took more than 3 years out, following a blow out win against Namchoke Meesri. Thankfully for the youngster he was young enough to have that 3 year break and still being a young kid when he returned to the ring last December, when he stopped Nanthipat Kesa inside a round.
Given his long break there isn't a lot of recent footage available of Tonomoto, though his last fight is available on Boxing Raise. That fight lasted just 164 seconds but it was clear Tonomoto was a pretty well schooled fighter, firing off hard and crisp jabs, flowing combinations, nice movement and although there was flaws he looked fun and exciting. He looked defensively questionable, but exciting, aggressive and like someone with the potential to go a very long way. That was however a bout against some one not fit to be in the ring with him, whilst his upcoming bout is a contest against a national youth champion.
Despite the inactivity we're actually backing Tonomoto here. We suspect that both will match each other well in terms of speed, though Matsuoka may have the slight edge, however Tonomoto appears to have the variation in his work, and the more aggressive mentality. Those, we suspect, will be his keys in a very close and competitive bout.
Prediction SD8 Tonomoto, in an bit of an over-looked and hotly contested fight
This coming Sunday in Hyogo fans will see both of the Matsuoka twins fighting for Japanese Youth titles. One bout will see Arata Matsuoka for the Japanese Youth Flyweight title against Hikaru Ota whilst his brother, Hikaru Matsuoka (14-4-3, 2) fights for the Japanese Youth Featherweight title, in a relatively interesting look match against Noboru Osato (10-6-4, 2). Of the two bouts it's certainly the Featherweight one that looks the most interesting and the one where the winner has actually got real upside, as the Flyweight bout is pitting two limited fighters against each other.
Hikaru Matsuoka debuted at the age of 17, at just over the Super Flyweight limit. Since then his frame has filled out and he has moved up in weight to naturally become a Featherweight. Early in his career he struggled to really build momentum, drawing 2 of his first 3 bouts and moving to 3-1-3 after 7 contests. That hard start seemed to build a resolve in Matsuoka who would then go on a good run to move to 8-1-3, with a notable win over Richard Pumicpic. Sadly such a big win was followed by back to back stoppage losses to Yuki Strong Kobayashi and Seizo Kono, with his chin instantly becoming an issue. The chin issues would again be seen in his most recent loss, another stoppage loss to Tenmei Serizawa in 2016. That loss was followed by over a year out of the ring but since returning he has picked up a couple of low key wins on the domestic scene.
Sadly footage of Matsuoka is hard to find, though from what we have seen he is a sharp boxer, who has good stamina, good movement, and crisp counter punching. Sadly though whilst he is a very good fighter to watch his complete lack of fire power is a major issue and he will struggle to get respect of fighters who come forward and hunt him down. He will be a hard one to hunt down, but if you can trap him he appears to lack the power to make a good fighter back off.
Interestingly Osato is also 23, and made his debut at the age of 17 and his career also struggled early on with Osato going 2-2-3 after his first 7 bouts. Sadly Osato has never really managed to build his forum up, never managing to spring up more than 2 wins before being held to a draw or losing. Whilst that sounds terrible he has actually fought really stiff competition, earning a draw with Yuki Iriguchi in 2016 and losing to the touted Takuya Mizuno and Yuki Strong Kobayashi the following year. Sadly it does seem like Ota can't get over the line when he needs to, and despite being competitive again most of his foes he falls just a tad short when he needs to put it together.
Osato looks like an intelligent fighter, he uses a good jab and remains on his toes, using a lot of movement. Sadly though he looks like his body hasn't yet filled out and that he hasn't yet developed his man strength or power. He did survive 8 rounds with Yuki Strong Kobayashi, and was competitive, but fought like a man who knew not to get involved or stand still too much. It was a tactic that almost earned him a win, but one that showed he's not confident in his power or physicality.
Whilst footage of both was hard to come by we were more impressed by Matsuoka, though both looked very talented boxer-movers, both looked smooth in the ring and both had the same flaw, a lack of power. That should make for an interesting contest, and should give us some really good technical boxing. We suspect Matsuoka will do enough to earn the win, but this will certainly be a very competitive and compelling contest.
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.