When we think of the most exciting weights on the Japanese scene we typically think of the lower weights, the weights where the top Japanese fighters rise through the ranks quickly and move towards world title fights in the space of just a few years. Strangely though the weights around Middleweight have started to become fascinating domestically with a wave of young fighters looking to make a name for themselves. We saw that earlier this year with Hikaru Nishida upsetting Akio Shibata to claim the JBC and OPBF Middleweight titles, and we may well see it again on April 17th, when the little known Yuto Shimizu (11-2-2, 4) [清水 優人] challenges Japanese 154lb champion Yuki Nonaka (28-8-3, 9) [野中 悠樹].
Of the two Nonaka is the more well known. Of course he's the current champion, but he's also a man who has edged his way into the world rankings, been a 2-time Japanese champion, an OPBF champion and has scored notable wins over the likes of Charlie Ota, Kazuhiko Hidaka and Koshinmaru Saito.
In the ring Nonaka is a joy to watch. He's not the quickest, or the more powerful but he's a joyful boxer to see in action, as he throws wonderful combinations, judges distance and timing excellently and uses the southpaw stance very well. At 38 however his career is coming to an end and any fight could be his last. That's not to say he's had a hard career, but he is physically on the slide, much like Shibata was in his loss to Nishida.
In Shimizu we have a relatively obscure fighter who has only really been making a name for himself the last 2 or 3 years, despite debuting way back in 2007. In all honesty we doubt anyone thought Shimizu was going to become a contender when he began his career, and quickly slipped to 3-2-2 (1) after 7 fights, all at the 4 round stage. Since then however he has racked up 8 wins, defeating the likes of Hikaru Nishida, Toru Chiba, Takehiro Shimokawara and Yosuke Kirima.
Footage of Shimizu has been hard to come by though from we can see he has began to show more power in recent bouts, stopping 3 of his last 4 opponents, including Shomokawara who was proven to be tough at this level. We're not going to suggest he's a big puncher, but he's certainly got power to trouble fighters and could well be the type of fighter who holds his power late into a fight. What's key however is that at 28 he's not only much younger than the champion, but he's also a fighter coming into his prime.
It can seem odd to pick the challenger, who haven't seen much of, over the recongised champion but here we will be picking Shimizu to upset Nonaka, and maybe even force a late stoppage. We suspect that youth will play a big part in this but the key will be hunger and Shimizu's string of very good domestic wins have shown that hunger, which will continue to grow. For Nonaka however we think this could well be the end of his career, win or lose.
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.