Every so often there's a bout with no title and no status attached to it that just stands out as a special type of bout. On December 3rd we get one of those as two youngsters clash in a truly excellent match up. That bout sees the highly regarded Hinata Maruta (7-1-1, 6) take on the hard hitting Tsuyoshi Tameda (18-3-2, 16) in a 10 round Featherweight clash, in what is nothing short of an amazing bout on paper.
Maruta was the highly regarded wunderkind, who was supposed to put the Morioka boxing gym on the map. He looked sensational early on, beating Jason Canoy on debut and winning the WBC Youth Bantamweight title in his third bout. There was touches of genius in his early performances, but he would come up short as he took on the then OPBF Super Bantamweight champion Hidenori Otake, losing a clear but competitive decision to the veteran. He bounced back from his sole loss with a couple of easy wins before being held to a controversial split decision draw in the Philippines against Ben Mananquil, in a bout that Maruta deserved to get the win from.
In the ring Maruta is a natural talent. He may not have had the recent big wins his talent deserves but he is a special fighter to watch. Everything he does in the ring looks fluid, natural and smooth. He's quick, he moves well, he takes a shot well, he has under-rated stamina and a really high boxing IQ. Sometimes however he can be seen to be lazy, waiting too long to strike, and hoping that an opponent makes a mistake, rather than forcing the fight. That's doubled by the fact that when he does force things he can look clumsy, and it doesn't seem like he's as sharp when he's the aggressor as he is when he's the one fighting on the counter. He also, maybe, lacks in terms of experience and maturity, and despite an incredible talent, hasn't quite put things together yet to put on an amazing performance on a regular basis.
Whilst Maruta is a boxer-puncher we would describe Tameda as being more a pure puncher. The Ohashi gym fighter was one of the last notable men from the Yonekura gym, before it closed in 2017, and whilst there he proved himself a really heavy handed boxer-puncher, scoring notable wins over the likes of Takenori Ohashi, Mark Bernaldez and Retsu Kosaka. He's also got an early career draw with Masayuki Ito, from the 2011 Rookie of the Year. With 3 losses to his name it'd be easier to cast him aside but those losses include a narrow Rookie of the Year loss, a defeat to Simpiwe Vetyeka and one to Reiya Abe, who is the only man to stop Tameda. As well as being heavy handed he's also tough, with the Abe stoppage coming from accumulation. Those losses really show the level he can fight out, but since being Kosaka for a Japanese Youth title he has been matched very softly.
Although blessed with power Tameda is actually a solid boxer. He's a tad slow, defensively a little open but other wise technically pretty solid. He has shown a problem when up against a fighter who gives him angles, a sharp jab and movement, but if a fighter stands in front of him he is incredible dangerous. He's also got a good engine and can mentally break fighters, if they give him half a chance to just apply constant pressure. If a fighter feels they can out box him they will have to do for a prolonged period, and not just a few rounds. That is where he could be at his most dangerous here, if Maruta slows down at some point in the second half of the fight.
We have a puncher against an incredibly slick fighter. If Maruta fights to his potential he should take the win here, possibly even by breaking down Tameda in the later rounds, but he will have to box smartly for 10 rounds and avoid being caught by one of Tameda's bombs. We suspect Maruta can, and will, come out on top, but he will have to be smart and really make Tameda pay for his mistakes.
In recent years Japanese prospects have been fast tracked with alarming regularity. It's become almost the done thing in Japan, with promoters knowing that if a fighter can fight against good fighter's there no point in keep them busy and padding their records for years. The latest Japanese youngster to be headed on the fast track to the top is Hinata Maruta (5-0, 4), who was long tipped to be a star for the Morioka gym. This coming Friday Maruta will take a huge step up in class and look to prove that he belongs to be regarded as the next in the line of super talents, like Naoya Inoue and Kosei Tanaka, as he takes on OPBF Super Bantamweight champion Hidenori Otake (29-2-3, 13).
Of the two men it's probably Otake who is better known. He is a former Japanese national champion, the current OPBF champion and a former world title challenger, who showed his toughness in a wide loss to the then WBA champion Scott Quigg in the UK. Aged 36 he is in the twilight of his career, but has looked good recently whilst running up a 7 fight winning run, following the loss to Quigg. Those wins have included his OPBF title victory over Jelbirt Gomera and a stoppage win over Kinshiro Usui in his first defense.
At his best Otake was a teak tough fighter who was insanely tough and had incredible energy. He's now likely on the slide, but still appears to be incredibly tough, and know how to bring the relentless assault that can cause fighters to mentally crumble. Over 12 rounds very few fighters will look to have a toe-to-toe war with him. On the other hand Otake is technically flawed, crude around the edges. He's not a very accurate fighter, or a very heavy handed one, but he's very physically strong and fighters to his strengths, making fights a trench war and simply breaking down opponents with his relentlessness.
It should be noted that some cracks have appeared in Otake's toughness recently. He was cut a few fights back by the little known Alexander Espinoza, and he also struggled with Gomera, who has subsequently lost two more bouts. The Japanese warrior does like to set his feet before throwing, and against a mover, or a fighter with high ring IQ he can have his flaws taken advantage of.
Whilst Otake is probably the better known it's fair to say that fans in Japan do see Maruta as a star of the future. He's a handsome and fresh faced youngster, who has the looks to become a crossover star, he has the frame to move through a number of weights and more importantly he has the skills to go to the top. Aged 20 he is a prodigious talent, but one who has been known about long before his professional debut, with a solid amateur background and a team who regularly take him over to the US for training camps, building on his skills and experiences. Although still a boxing baby he won the WBC Youth Bantamweight title, and defended it twice, whilst also making a statement on debut by beating the then world ranked Jason Canoy.
In the ring Maruta is a slick, boxer-mover who has solid power, enough so to drop the teak tough Jason Canoy, one of the best jabs in the sport, a lovely ability to switch between head and body, good footwork and a very high ring IQ. He has been shown to turn off at time, but it often seems like he's doing so to get more experience and learn more about the sport and his opponents, rather than truly switching off. As a result he has lost a few rounds, but never come close to losing a fight.
One place where Maruta is perhaps a little “weak” is his experience. He has only had 26 professional rounds, compared to Otake's 219, but as mentioned he has held a number of training camps in the US, and that has seen him take part in long sessions, and share the ring with a number of other styles. Those training camps will help him fight over the longer distance, but we're still interested in how he will fair in the later rounds, especially with Otake's relentless forward march. Interestingly he has already been chin checked, taking some bombs from Canoy, and appears to have a very sturdy chin, but hasn't been tagged when he's tired yet.
We have seen Murata answer more questions in his first 5 bouts than most fighters, but it's clear that this bout has been made to allow him to prove even more. It's a chance for him to prove his stamina, and to prove his power, if he stops Otake it would be a huge statement, whilst a decision win would “just” be a big statement. This is certainly dangerous match making, but that seems to be the way they go with the top young talents in Japan, and it's part of what is making the Japanese scene so exciting right now. Young fighters are told to prove themselves, almost straight away.
We can see how Otake could win. We can see him just refusing to go away, taking Maruta in the deep water and drowning him, with either a late stoppage or a close decision. But our view is that Maruta's speed, skills and movement will be too much for Otake, and we even go as far as to say that a stoppage for Maruta isn't out of the question. The old adage “speed kills” is likely to play a factor here, and Maruta will be too quick and too sharp for the veteran, who will be made to look his 36 years of age, and will be finished off late into the bout.
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.