The Japanese Youth Flyweight title has so much promise to help establish what the Japanese Youth titles are all about, but sadly neither of it's first two champions have really established the belt. Junto Nakatani gave it up after winning it to fight for the main Japanese title whilst Arata Matsuoka made one defense before giving it up earlier this year.
Due to Matsuoka vacating we're now set to see a new champion being crowned, as Joe Shiraishi (8-0-1, 4) takes on Yoshiki Minato (8-2, 3) for the belt this coming Monday, at the EDION Arena Osaka. The bout is the chief support contest for a card headlined by Yuki Nonaka and although a much less high profile bout, the expectation is that this will be much, much more competitive than Nonaka's. Notably it is also the second time the two fighters will have met in their young career.
The unbeaten Shiraishi, 22, is an Ioka promoted youngster from Osaka who turned professional in 2016 but really made his mark in 2017 when he became the All Japan Rookie of the Year. Along the way to his Rookie triumph he beat Minato via unanimous decision, in the first bout between the two men, before winning the West Japan Rookie of the Year against Toma Kondo and the All Japan final against Kento Yabusaki. Since winning the Rookie of the Year we've seen Shiraishi score two wins, both stoppages over international opponents, as he's taken out Stevanus Nana Bau and Prince Andrew Laurio. That newly found power is an interesting new addition to Shiraishi's game and sign that he is physically maturing and developing his technique.
Minato also debuted in 2016 and he has rebuilt well following his loss to Joe Shiraishi in the Rookie of the Year. He reeled off 4 straight wins and won the 2018 Rookie of the Year before losing inside a round to Seigo Yuri Akui this past April, a loss that really isn't anything to be embarrassed by. After losing to Shiraishi we also saw Minato, who is now 21, develop his power scoring 3 stoppages in the 2018 Rookie of the Year. Of course the loss to Akui is his latest result, and whilst that's a bad result Akui is an incredibly dangerous on the Japan scene and is much further advanced in his career than either Minato or Shiraishi.
In their first bout, which was really competitive, Shiraishi just seemed to have that extra bit of snap on his punchers and was a bit more aggressive than Minato. For both men it was their 5th bout and since then both have developed, so whilst their first bout is certainly something to look at here, we suspect a very different fight here.
Shiraishi is a quick handed, technically solid boxer-puncher, who as mentioned is adding power to his game. He's not got venom in his fists but certainly hits cleanly and can hurt opponents. He combines the clean punching with crisp combinations and smart work on the back foot. Minato isn't quite as crisp or clean with his punching but his key to victory is power and when he connects with his straight right hand he seems to really hurt opponents.
If Shiraishi can avoid the hard right hand of Minato he should have the skills and the tools in the arsenal to take win the rounds needed to take a decision, or a late stoppage. We feel that Minato's only way to win here will be a KO, he's a touch less clean with his punching, which will see him losing rounds, but that right hand really could turn the tables if he can land it clean.
Prediction - UD8 Shiraishi
Flyweights in Japan have real momentum right now. Not only do you have Kosei Tanaka at the top but fighters like Masayuki Kuroda and Junto Nakatani are both having really good runs, with Kuroda set for a world title fight and Nakatani set to make his first national title defense.
Sadly the youth level Japanese scene isn't as hot as it is at senior level, and this coming Sunday we'll see that being exemplified pretty well, when Japanese Youth Champion Arata Matsuoka (7-6, 4) makes his first defense. The champion, who won his title last December, will be taking on little known Jukiya Washio (7-2-1, 2), in a bout that doesn't really get the juices going. The champion has a less than stellar record, whilst the challenger is unknown and isn't much of a puncher.
Whilst it may not be something special on paper, we do actually expect a pretty decent fight here, and one that's much more competitive than the records suggest.
There isn't a huge amount of footage of the 24 year old champion, though rather kindly his last bout, his title win, was shared by TV channel Osaka TV. That bout was a clear decision win over Hikaru Ota, in what was one of the worst Japanese Youth title bouts on paper. In that bout Matsuoka showed what he was able to do. He was a much more skilled fighter than his record suggested, he had a really nice southpaw jab, picked his shots better than you'd expect of someone who's lost such a high percentage of his fights, and almost moved well, using the ring well to neutralise Ota before firing off his own counters. Not all his shots are crisp, and his defense could certainly do with some work, but there is a pretty talented fighter there, something his record doesn't show.
Despite looking pretty good against Ota we can't ignore Matsuoka's losses. The most recent of those came last September, when Shunji Nagata stopped him in 4 rounds. That ended a 4 fight winning streak, a streak that had followed up 4 losses in 5 bouts. In fact Ota started his career 2-5 so has turned things around really well. There is clearly a lot for him to do, but he does have some momentum here.
Sadly it's not just Matsuoka who is lacking in terms of footage but also Washio, and the only fight of his we've seen in full was his 2016 clash with Junichi Itoga. Washio, who is now 21, was just 19 when that bout took place, and it lasted just 156 second, so what we can really read into that bout is unclear. However he did look like a confident youngster, finding holes in Itoga's limited defense, and landing at will. He looked good, but Itoga looked awful and it really is hard to take too much from this bout.
Since the fight with Itoga the youngster has gone 4-2, though both of his losses were razor thin defeats. What needs to be noted is the level he's been fighting at, and that's a concern. He has really never faced anyone with real promise, and arguably his best win came in April 2017, when he beat Naoki Tanaka.
Whilst this bout isn't appealing on paper we do expect it to be hotly contest, with Matsuoka's experience, southpaw stance, and level of competition, being the difference. Whilat the bout isn't going to get much attention, it should be a solid and competitive bout, where the styles of both gel well. Neither, from what we've managed to see, like to make things messy, and although the southpaw vs orthordox stances could cause some issues, we're expecting a clean contest here.
Preduction - Matsuoka SD8
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.