In December 2016 we finally saw Shuhei Tsuchiya (22-4, 18) fulfil some of his early promise and claim the Japanese Lightweight title, eventually building on his 2010 Rookie of the Year crown. This coming Saturday Tsuchiya will return to the ring as he attempts to make his first defense of his title, and takes on mandatory challenger Kazuhiro Nishitani (16-4-1, 8). Whilst the bout is Tsuchiya's first as a champion it will be the second time Nishitani will have challenged for the title, having previously come up short in December 2015 against Kota Tokunaga.
Tsuchiya made his debut in 2009 but really burst on to the Japanese scene the following year, when he claimed the All Japan Rookie of the Year crown. On route to that title he beta a number of unbeaten opponents, including Masanobu Nakazawa in the East Japan final and Yuki Miyoshi in the All Japan final. Not only did Tsuchiya claim the Rookie of the year title but he did so with a perfect record, and was 8-0 (8) following the win over Miyoshi. Tsuchiya's power saw him advancing his record to 12-0 (12) before finally being taken the distance by Indonesian Heri Andriyanto.
Sadly for Tsuchiya the win over Andriyanto was the start of some career issues for the heavy handed Japanese fighter, who would suffer a number of losses as his record fell to 16-4 (14). Whilst those 4 losses were genuine set backs, they all came to decent fighters in the form of Shoji Kawase, Masayoshi Nakatani, Leonardo Zappavigna and Ricky Sismundo. Those losses could have been the start of the end for Tsuchiya but instead they were the start of Tsuchiya's rebuilding process, which has since seen him go 6-0 and defeat Kazuki Matsuyama and Masashi Noguchi, with the win over Noguchi netting Tsuchiya the Japanese title.
In the ring Tsuchiya is an aggressive fighter who relies on his power. He's not a world class puncher, but he is heavy handed and on the domestic level not many will take his power. Whilst he is a big puncher he does has defensive flaws, which Nakatani really took advantage of, and he also has question marks over his own durability, with 3of his 4 losses being by stoppage. Although his limitations are known, and it's very unlikely that he will compete above domestic level, he a very solid Japanese level fighter and could potentially be a long term champion at this level.
The 29 year old Nishitani has also been a professional since 2009, though hasn't had the success of Tsuchiya and didn't manage to make a name for himself in the Rookie of the Year competition. Despite that he got off to a good career start, winning his first 7 bouts and there was some hope put on his shoulders. Sadly that winning run came to an end in 2011, losing to Tetsuya Nishinaga and then Yuhei Suzuki in 2012. An unbeaten 8 fight run, which saw Nishitani go 7-0-1, followed before Nishitani lost to Yusuke Tsukada in 2015. The loss to Tsukada wasn't a huge setback as Nishitani got a Japanese title fight just 6 months later, and gave a very good effort as he came up short against Kota Tokunaga.
Although Nishitani has suffered 4 defeats they have all been by decision, and they have all been pretty competitive in all honesty. Whilst he is beatable he is certainly not limited and can put up a good fight the top of the domestic level. He has respectable power, good work rate and decent skills. Nothing out standing, but certainly nothing terrible and he can certainly make life difficult for a fighter like Tsuchiya.
Notably Nishitani has fought just 2 rounds since his loss to Tokunaga, and is coming in to this bout as one of the least active fighters to be involved in the 2017 Champion Carnival bouts. He might enter this bout refreshed and hungry or rusty and with his inactivity showing through the bout.
Given his status at champion, as well as higher level experience and activity it's hard not to favour the champion, but we don't think it'll be easy for him. We do think Tsuchiya will be too good, but we think Nishitani will make it competitive through out with the bout really being an entertaining one for the fans in attendance, and those tuning in on G+.
The Japanese Lightweight scene has never been the most interesting, or exciting, of the domestic divisions in the country but it has long been an under-rated one. That's certainly the case now with the likes of OPBF champion Masayoshi Nakatani, former world title challenger Nihito Arakawa, the under-rated Hurricane Futa the fast rising Shuichiro Yoshino, and the promising Masaru Sueyoshi. Despite a rising number of interesting fighters of names it does seem like we aren't getting the best of bouts, however we do still get some interesting bouts.
The next bout of note comes this coming Monday as the heavy handed Shuhei Tsuchiya (21-4, 17) faces off off with the under-rated, but in form, Masashi Noguchi (12-5-1, 6) for the currently vacant Japanese Lightweight title, a title that was recently vacated by Arakawa.
Of the two men it's certainly Tsuchiya who is more well known and in fact he has been on the radar of fight fans since way back in 2010, when he won the Lightweight Rookie of the Year and moved his record to a very impressive looking 8-0 (8). Not only had he won the Rookie of the year, but he had beaten 7 unbeaten fighters in his first 8 bouts and needed just 12 rounds to rack up those wins, including a win over future Japanese interim Light Welterweight champion Masanobu Nakazawa. Tsuchiya's KO run would end up moving to 12-0 (12) before he was taken 8 rounds by Heri Andriyanto and then 10 rounds by Stevie Ongen Ferdinandus, with some of his momentum being lost, but others seeing the positive from those wins.
Sadly since being 14-0 (12) things have been a struggle for Tsuchiya who has since gone 7-4 (3) suffering stoppage defeats to Shoji Kawase, Masayoshi Nakatani and Leonardo Zappavigna as well as a decision loss to Ricky Sismundo. Whilst none of those losses are embarrassing there is certainly a lack of a major win recent bouts, with wins over Kazuya Soma and Kazuki Matsuyama being the most noteworthy wins in the last 4 years for Tsuchiya. Despite the less than great form Tsuchiya is regarded as a very decent fighter with nice skills, nasty power and a developing skill set that has been helped by experience.
Whilst Tsuchiya is relatively well known the same cannot be said of Noguchi, however Noguchi cannot be over-looked coming into this bout. The 27 year old lost 3 of his first 4 and was 2-4 after 6 bouts but has buit his career amazingly well over the last 5 years and built a 4-5 (3) record into a 12-5-1 (6) one. That has seen him going 9 fights unbeaten and generate some real confidence and momentum. That's included going 2-0-1 with Masaki Saito, scoring a decent win over Kazuya Soma and a notable victory over Tomoya Yamada.
Whilst Noguchi is in good form we'll be honest and admit that his competition hasn't been the most testing and that this is a huge step up for him. It is however one he will come into with the knowledge that he might not get another shot at a belt if this one doesn't go his way. He'll also be aware that he's not the fighter who struggled to get going early in his career, those losses aren't a negative but instead part of his development.
Although it's clear that Noguchi is an improved fighter we don't think he will have the power to keep Tsuchiya honest and as a result we suspect he'll be broken down in the second half of the fight with Tsuchiya coming out on top courtesy of his more developed skills and his more destructive power
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.