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
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
Despite a number of interesting fighters, and a lot of potentially intriguing match ups, the Japanese Welterweight division doesn't get much attention. That's despite fighters like Ryota Yada, Yuki Beppu, Yuki Nagano and Giraffe Kirin Kanda all being worthy contenders on the domestic scene.
Arguably the most interesting Japanese Welterweight bout we'll see this year isn't actually at the top of the table, so to speak, but will instead be this Sunday's Japanese Youth title fight. The bout will pit unbeaten champion Kudura Kaneko (9-0, 6) against once beaten Ioka protege Rikuto Adachi (12-1, 9). Both men have just turned 21, and could have waited years to face each other, but instead want to face off, knowing a win will instantly put them on the verge of a bout for the full version of the Japanese title.
Kaneko is a Japanese based Afghan born boxer-puncher. He left Afghanistan as a child and has really built himself a life in Japan whilst getting plaudits for his attitude, and his dreams are certainly positive ones, with the fighter hoping to help get things built back in Afghanistan. Whilst his backstory is genuinely amazingly amazing, we can't help but be impressed by his actual boxing career as well.
Kaneko made his debut all the way back in 2015, as a 17 year old, and showed real ability early on as a punching, scoring stoppages in 4 of his first 5. Since then he has gone 5-0 (3) and shown more and more to his. He has taken 2 decision wins over Change Hamashima, claiming the Japanese youth title in the second win. The biggest win of his career however came last November, when he stopped former Japanese champion Toshio Arikawain 3 rounds. That was a performance to be proud of, neutralising the power of Arikawa and then taking him out in very impressive fashion. Whilst Arikawa is no world beater, he's a very dangerous fighter and for Kaneko to take him out this early in his career was a huge statement. He's shown he can box, he can punch, he can bang. He's not the quickest, but he is very, very talented and very promising.
Adachi, like Kaneko, debuted in 2015 as a 17 year old but has gone a very different route to Kaneko. He would actually take decisions wins in his first 3 bouts, before growing into his strength and reeling off 5 straight stoppages to advance to the All Japan Rookie of the Year final in 2017. He would lose in the Rookie of the Year final to Hironori Shigeta, a very talented fighter himself, by a single round on 2 cards, and many felt he deserved the win. Since then he has reeled off 3 more stoppages, including a stoppage over Jonel Dapidran. Impressively he went 4-0 (4) in 2018, showing great activity, and has gone 9-1 (9) in his last 10 bouts, impressive given his first 3 went the distance.
In the ring Adachi is a fighter who looks naturally big, yet doesn't look like he fills out his frame, in fact it looks clear that he will be fighting at Light Middleweight, if not Middleweight, in the future. He's got decent hand speed and good movement, but is a little bit naive defensively. He doesn't have much of an inside game, though given his freakish looking size that's not much of a surprise. His jab is a razor sharp, a really nice punch that he varies, from snapping opponents with it, to touching them and controlling range. Watching him there's a lot to like, but a lot of areas where clear improvements can be made. If he added some boxing on the inside and tweaked his defense than there would be a lot to get very excited by.
If Kaneko hadn't impressed so much against Arikawa this would be a fight that Adachi would be the favourite. Problem us that Kaneko looked fantastic against Arikawa, and that maybe enough to swing the odds in his favour. Adachi looks like he's going to be very good, with some key areas to work on. If he uses his brain, fights to a gameplan that focuses on his speed, he should come out on top.
Kaneko is no push over, and is a more rounded fighter. He lacks the speed of Adachi, but looks to be the more natural fighter. If he can make this a fight we suspect he'll win.
This is a hard one to call, and a very, very interesting match up. If pushed for a prediction, we suspect Adachi gets the win in a very close decision. The bout is in Osaka, and he's the local prospect. We wouldn't be surprised by any result at all here though. It's one of those bouts that really could go any which way.
Towards the end of April fight fans in Okayama get a small treat, thanks to a card at the Suntopia. The card is a double header, and here we're going to look at one of the part of that double header, a JBC Youth Bantamweight title fight which will see Tetsu Araki (13-1-1, 2) make his first defense of the title, and take on the unbeaten Atsushi Takada (6-0-3, 3).
In another world both of these men could easily be unbeaten, in fact it wouldn't take a huge rewriting of history to see the men come into this bout with records of 15-0 and 9-0, and whilst that may have looked nicer on paper it should be noted that both are excellent young fighters.
The once beaten champion began his career in 2014, fighting to a split decision draw against Koichi Uryu. Just 4 months later Araki would defeat Uryu in a rematch, beginning a 4 fight winning run. That run came to an end in September 2015 when he lost a split decision to Tenta Kiyose, with essentially 1 round costing him a split decision win. Since then he has reeled off 9 straight victories, including notable ones against Yuto Nakamura, the Japanese Youth Super Flyweight champion, Ryuto Owan, a previously unbeaten prospect, and Morihisa Iju, who reached the 2014 West Japan Rookie of the Year final.
Sadly we've not managed to see much of Araki, a problem we often have with Japanese fighters who typically compete outside of Tokyo. Despite the lack of footage we have been told that he is a talented fighter and has a very busy jab, a light flowing style and the ability to press the action in the later rounds. He's not the most powerful or strongest, but he is a talented and smart fight with good straight punching, and solid body shots.
Aged 21 Takada is the younger man, Araki is 24, and he began his career in 2015. Strangely he too began with a draw, unable to get over the line against Wolf Nakano. A 3 fight winning run was interrupted when he dropped to Flyweight and was held to a draw by Kyomu Hamagami. A second 3 fight winning run also ended with a draw, when Hironori Miyake hold him over 8 rounds. Look at his record we do see a strange symmetry to his results and notable weight changes, fighting at Super Flyweight on debut, moving up to Bantamweight, then down to Flyweight, back to Super Flyweight and now back up to Bantamweight. He's a growing youngster, though we do wonder just how strong he is at 118lbs.
Takada is also lacking in terms of footage, even Boxingraise has no footage of him or Araki, despite that we have been told that he does hit harder than his record suggests, is aggressive and has a mean left hand, which he fires off with very respectable timing and power.
Given the lack of footage it's hard to make a prediction on this one. Araki does however have the advantages in experience and home advantage, and we would make him the favourite on the little footage of the two men we have seen, but it is a toss up, and that's part of what makes these Japanese youth title fights so interesting.
The Japanese Youth title scene is a really interesting one, with a number of promising youngsters breaking through and getting a chance to having meaningful bouts very early in their careers. Whilst not all Youth champions will go on to great success the youth title have certainly given us pretty interesting and well matched bouts at a lower level.
On April 14th we get a host of shows, with one in Tsu being headlined by a Japanese Youth Super Flyweight title bout. That bout will see heavy handed champion Yuto Nakamura (9-5, 7) make his first defense of the title, and take on little known challenger Toma Kondo (7-4, 1).
Nakamura won the title last December, when he took a razor thin decision win over Ryosuke Nasu, building on an impressive opening round win over Futa Akizuki just a few months earlier. Those two wins helped Nakamura rebuild from a series of set backs, and saw him put himself on the map, even if it was only at Japanese Youth title level.
Although unlikely to ever be a player at the top echelons of the domestic scene Nakamura is a solid boxer-puncher. He's exciting and a heavy handed but crude, a bit on the wild side but aggressive and pretty fan friendly. When his power comes into play it is genuinely fight changing, as Akizuki found out, but there is a real worry that his power won't carry up and it never really seemed to worry Nasu last time out. In fact if anything it was Nasu's shots that left Nakamura looking like a damaged fighter, with serious cuts and swelling around his face, and Nasu is not a puncher.
Whilst Nakamura put himself on the map last year it was a year to forget from Kondo, who lost 2 of his 3 bouts. In fact Kondo is 1-3 in his last 4 bouts and hasn't looked good since losing in the 2017 All Japan Rookie of the Year final to Joe Shiraishi. At 22 years old there is clearly time to rebuild, and get his career back on track, but at the moment his confidence isn't going to be high and there will be pressure on him to win here.
Despite Kondo's poor recent results his performances haven't actually been bad and he's looked like a really promising young fighter. Last time out he lost to Tsuyoshi Sato, by TKO in round 5, and he had really solid moments in the bout but was always under intense pressure from a very aggressive fighter. Kondo looks to be a solid pure boxer, with nice skills, a good jab and intelligent movement. Sadly though he has a total lack of power and he will always struggle to get the respect of his opponents.
Kondo has the skills to counter and frustrate Nakamura but the huge difference in power will be a massive difference here, and we suspect Kondo's inability to get respect from Nakamura will be a massive problem. Nakamura isn't as technically good as Kondo, or as quick or as sharp, but we expect he'll be successful here and retain his title.
The Japanese Youth titles will give future world champions their first chance to win a belt. That however isn't main focus of the belts, instead it's giving the youngsters a chance to fight meaningful fights for a physical reward before moving towards Japanese and OPBF title fight. On December 9th we see a bout that falls perfectly into that description, as Ryosuke Nasu (9-3-3, 2) and the hard hitting Yuto Nakamura (8-5, 7) battle for the Japanese Youth Super Flyweight title. The winner of this bout will become the new champion, and make a huge step towards getting a Japanese title fight down the line.
The 21 year old Nakamura is a serious puncher, but a flawed one. He began his career 2-2 (2), with two razor thin losses, and then reeled off 4 more wins before losing in a West Japan Rookie of the Year bout to Hibiki Jogo. Rather than step down a level after that loss we've seen Nakamura face stiff competition, suffering a stoppage loss to Matcha Nakagawa, a competitive decision loss to Tetsu Araki and score a huge win over Futa Akizuki, who lasted just 35 seconds.
Footage of Nakamura isn't massively easy to come by, though his fight with Nakagawa is on Boxingraise and that fight, given how recent it was, is a good reflection of Nakamura's style. He appears to be an aggressive fight who applies steady pressure, looking to make the most of his power. Sadly for him it's his defense that was an issue in that fight, with Nakagawa picking him apart with his southpaw jab and straight left hands. He looked like his desire to fight was there when the referee stepped in, but the reality is that he looked slow and open to being tagged. We suspect that his problem going forward will always be his defense and that needs to tighten up a lot for him to reach Japanese title level.
The 20 year old Nasu debuted just weeks before his 19th birthday and began 1-1-1 before reeling off a few wins and getting his career going. Thing then began to his another rough patch, with a draw to Joe Shiraishi and an opening round loss to Masamichi Yabuki. He put those results behind him with a huge win against Naoto Iwai but would again struggle to build on the win before losing this past February to Ricardo Sueno. That loss was followed by a win over Kenta Matsui but in reality he's been awfully inconsistent.
Despite being inconsistent Nasu is a talented fighter when he puts it all together. He showed that when he defeated the talented Iwai. He did that by keeping things simple, he marched forward behind an accurate jab, didn't waste energy and countered brilliantly. It wasn't a performance that will anyones socks off, but it was a technically solid display against a man who looked the more gifted fighter. The feeling we get from watching him is that he's a very technical fighter, but someone who doesn't have much power, speed or inventiveness to his work. Technical but basic if you will.
We suspect the power of Nakamura will be the difference and he will be able to stop Nasu, however he will have to take some clean shots on route. In the end it will be too much pressure and power from Nakamura for Nasu to survive 8 rounds with, something we feel confident on given how quickly Yabuki stopped Nasu down at Flyweight.
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.
Some Japanese Youth title fights look amazing on paper, sadly others don't and when Junto Nakatani vacated the Flyweight title there wasn't a great deal of suitable fighters to fill the vacancy. Sadly that has lead to a less than appealing match up between Arata Matsuoka (6-6, 4) and Hikaru Ota (9-8, 5). On paper this looks like a joke, given the previous title fight had Nakatani fighting against Seigo Yuri Akui in what was a match watering match up, however it does look competitive and in our eyes that's better than a mismatch for the title.
The 23 year old Matsuoka, who's twin brother Hikaru Matsuoka will also be fighting for a youth title on the same show, made his debut in 2014, as a 19 year old made his debut in 2014, as a 19 year old and went 2-5 through his first 7 contests. He then, finally, found his footing in the sport with 4 wins though that winning run came to an end in September when he was stopped in 4 rounds by Shunji Nagata. The fight with Nagata was a big step up in class and resulted in Matsuoka suffering his first stoppage loss, though we suspect more will come in the future.
Ota is also 23 and he debuted at a 17 year old, back in 2012. Like Matsuoka his career also struggled going 3-3 after 6 bouts before stringing together a few wins. Sadly however he has gone from 6-3 to 9-8. What he has done however is faced notable fighters, losing to the likes of Kenji Ono, Naoki Mochizuki, Seiya Fujikita and going 1-1 with Ganbare Shota. His win over Shota is the best of his career, and is better than anything Matsuoka has, but still does suggest that he's a particularly promising fighter, going places.
With neither having made a name for themselves yet this bout gives both fighters a chance to claim their first title and put themselves on the map. We suspect both will fight like they have something to gain, and will really put it on the line, but sadly it's an underwhelming contest and we don't expect the holder to have a long reign, with several fighters now likely eyeing up the potential winner.
It's an even fight on paper, but we suspect Matsuoka's slightly better durability, southpaw stance and power will be the difference, and he'll take the victory in the second half of the fight.
On November 19th we'll see Ryuto Oho (11-4-1, 3) make his first defense of the Japanse Youth Light Flyweight title, as he takes on once beaten challenger Yuta Nakayama (6-1-1, 3) at the Korakuen Hall. For the champion it's a chance to build on recent wins over Hideyuki Watanabe and Tetsuya Tomioka, as well as recording his first defense, whilst Nakayama will be getting his first title fight and a chance to claim his first career silverware of any kind.
The 23 year old champion has been around the Japanese scene for a while already, having debuted more than 6 years ago. His early career was full of promise and in 2013 he went on to claim the Japanese Rookie of the Year crown at Flyweight, picking up impressive wins against the then 6-0 Yuji Okinori in the East Japan final and the then 5-1-1 Yukiya Hanabusa in the All Japan final. Sadly that early promise faltered in 2014 when he suffered defeats to Joe Tanooka and Katsunori Nagamine, with a draw to Shuji Hamada being sandwiched between those two losses. A string of wins in 2015 and 2016 ended when he was out pointed by Yuta Matsuo and then, in 2017, he was stopped in a round by Seigo Yuri Akui. Thankfully his career has gotten back on track with his last two bouts both being wins, including his Youth title triumph.
Oho is an aggressive fighter, who comes forward, looks to attack behind his jab and moves well. Sadly when he lets his bigger shots go he looks very open and wild, dropping his left hand when he throws his looping right over the top. Although he's quick he does look easy to time and his power doesn't look like it's hugely intimidating at this level. Whilst not massively powerful his aggression is exciting and he will break fighters down, though will need to hope he doesn't get caught before they wilt to his pressure.
Nakayama turns 23 just days before this fight, but he'll know that this is a great chance to make his mark on the domestic scene at such an early stage in his career. He debuted in July 201 and went 1-1-1 through his first 3 bouts, but has rebuilt brilliantly with 5 straight wins. Those wins include a decision victory over Tatsuhiro Toguchi and a stoppage victory over Filipino Powell Balaba. Not only has he reeled off a string of wins, but he has stopped 3 of those 5 opponents, suggesting that he's finding some power in his shots too, and it's likely that he's starting to develop his man strength and correct his punching technique. This is however a step up in class, and we'll have to see how he copes with a fighter as talented and as skilled as Oho.
Nakayama is a good mover, who is light on his feet, protects himself well and is able to make opponents miss, and make them pay. He is a little loopy with some of his punches but they still have a crispness to them that look like they would pick holes in a defensively flawed fighter, or a fighter who falls short when attacking him. His movement is really his key strength and impressively he appears to be able to stay on his toes pretty well, even if an opponent is pressing him hard.
Oho is the more well known fighter but stylistically we suspect he will be in trouble here. His pressure is made to order for Nakayama, who we suspect will pick him apart when he comes forward and will counter him regularly before forcing a stoppage in the later stages. Oho will have some real moments early on, but we see him tiring and being stopped, with Nakayama taking control as soon as Oho slows down a touch.
On November 10th the Japanese Youth title gives us two interesting bouts, one of those will see Yuga Inoue and Kai Ishizawa battle for the Minimumweight title whilst the other is a Lightweight clash between the unbeaten Shawn Oda (9-0, 8) and the experienced Seiryu Toshikawa (10-4, 6). For both fighters it's their first chance to claim a title, and a great opportunity to move towards bigger and better fights.
It's fair to say that the more well known of the two fighters is Oda. The unbeaten man from Okinawa is a 20 year old who has been tipped for success for a while. He made his first mark in 2016, winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year in December. That was remarkable given he had only made his debut in May of that year and had won the Rookie of the Year after only 12 professional rounds at the age of 18. The big hope after that was that he would be fast tracked but with only a single fight in 2017 his rise was slowed, and he's had to catch up for lost time this year. He's done that quite well in fairness with good wins against the likes of Roldan Aldea and Masashi Wakita.
Watching Oda we see a raw but athletically gifted fighter, who is exciting, heavy handed, quick and promising. He's got fast and heavy hands, but can been seen over stretching, and taking some risks he doesn't need to take, though he has toned down those risks in recent fighters. He's still very young but very explosive and is someone who we suspect will become a staple at the upper echelons of the Japanese domestic scene in the years to come. To get to the very top he would need to really develop his skills, but we can't see any reason why he won't be fighting for senior titles in the years to come. In fact as he matures he could become a serious handful on the regional scene just due to his natural athletic traits, even if he doesn't develop the skills he currently has.
Despite being more experienced we've not seen as much of the 22 year old Toshikawa as we have of Oda. He's been a professional since 2014, making his debut at the age of 18. He would lose 3 of his first 6 bouts, losing to Jin Miura on debut, Teppei Kasyuuma in his third bout and to Daichi Kawabuchi in his sixth bout. Since then however he has gone 7-1 (4) with his only loss in coming in the 2016 East Japan Rookie of the Year final at Super Featherweight, a split decision loss to eventual All Japan Rookie of the Year Yuji Awata. Coming in to this bout he is riding a 4 fight winning run, including a big win in July over Ryuji Ikeda.
Toshikawa looks to be an educated and technically well schooled fighter with a long, sharp, quick jab which he uses to come forward behind. He seems to want to fight up close, though at times seems unsure what to do what he gets on the inside, as he waits for his opponent to throw. It's when he draws a lead that he's effective on the inside, countering well with both hands. He's surprisingly quick and has lovely shot selection, when he lets his hands go, but there is a sense that he doesn't have the natural power to go all the way, and will struggle to score stoppages as he moves through the levels.
Although we think Ishikawa is a very solid fighter with nice skills, we don't think he'll manage to get Oda's respect, and instead the unbeaten man will be too quick and too powerful, and will strike too many clean hurtful blows. We wouldn't be shocked to see Ishikawa go the distance, but we suspect he'll be the clear loser on the score cards.
Fore those wanting to read our preview of the Inoue Vs Ishizawa bout that's available here - Ishizawa and Inoue battle for Japanese youth title!
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.