It was a way to limit the list but also give some exposure to some perhaps lesser known fighters. For those wondering these haven't been put into a particular order but all men featured here have had 5 or fewer fights at the time of writing.
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The first fighter that came to mind was teenager hopeful Takuma Inoue (4-0, 1), who fights for the 5th time as a professional in July.
The talented Inoue is the younger brother of the destructive Naoya Inoue and although Takuma doesn't share his brother's vicious power he does appear to have everything else in his locker. We've already seen him show exceptional footwork, timing, movement and hand speed.
Takuma does appear to be missing lights out power thus far however his competition so far has been exceptional with wins against Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr, who he completely schooled in the video opposite, and Nestor Daniel Narvaes being very notable wins so far.
In July we'll see Takuma battle against Mark Anthony Geraldo in a bout for the OPBF Super Flyweight title. A win there would prove that Takuma is deserving of a very high world ranking and a world title fight in the next 12 months wouldn't be any sort of a short.
Notably Takuma went a sensational 52-5 (14) in the amateurs whilst clashing a number of times with Kosei Tanaka with all their fights together being very close.
The second fighter that came to mind was the sensationally talented Ken Shiro (3-0, 2), the boxing son of former OPBF and Japanese champion Hisashi Teraji. Ken Shiro isn't a man that has made the same instant impact as say Kosei Tanaka or even the Inoue brothers but he's on that same incredibly level of ability and in fact he's just as impressive as Takuma Inoue.
Ken Shiro debuted last year, schooling Heri Amol though it was really his bout against Katsunori Nagamine earlier this year that boosted the youngster from “promising youngster” to “most watch prospect”. It was against Nagamine that we saw the youngster show off his defensive smarts and totally neutralise his naturally bigger foe who was later stopped by the referee. And for those interested it's that fight that can be seen in the video here.
At the moment we've not heard any news regarding Ken Shiro's next bout but the 23 year old will likely return in July or August. It's unlikely that that bout will be for a title though we can see Ken Shiro being moved to title fights very soon, probably early next year, and given his talent there is no doubting he'll take titles sooner rather than later.
If you like stoppages and an aggressive style then a man worth noting is Daigo Higa (5-0, 5), a Shirai Gushiken Sports Gym prospect who has really impressed so far despite being just 19 years old.
Although the most experienced man listed here in terms of fights Higa has fought just 7 rounds as a professional and has steam rolled everyone before him. That's included a genuinely impressive victory over Filipino foe Virden Rivera last time out, with Rivera being stopped in the 2nd round, and a win in South Korea against Pongpayu Chaiyonggym. We won't pretend they are sensational wins but they are very good for a youngster like Higa who has already experienced fighting outside of his homeland.
Higa is next expected to be in action on June 8th, albeit against a yet to be named foe. That bout is scheduled for 6 rounds and we suspect that be the end of the year the youngster will be moved to 8 rounds and may even be up against a Japanese ranked foe. He does need rounds though at the moment he's been looking like a bull terrier and is a frightening prospect given his style and power.
A wildcard entry of sorts is the “yet to debut” Hinata Maruta (0-0) who is widely regarded as the “next star prospect”. Although yet to make his debut Maruta has been sparring with the world ranked Shun Kubo, he has been showcased training in short videos released by Morioka gym and has been receiving really positive feed back.
At the moment Maruta is a wildcard though all the sounds coming from those in the know is that this kid is very special and at the moment he's only 18.
We'll see Maruta make his pro debut later this year, with a late summer or early fall date expected, and from then on we'll know if he's as good as the hype suggests. If he is as good as we're hearing then there is little doubt that he could be moved at a similar pace to Naoya Inoue or Kosei Tanaka. And that's despite the fact that he's likely to be fighting in, or around, the Super Bantamweight division.
Unfortunately amateur footage of Maruta is sparse however we have been informed that the youngster went 55-11 (31) in the unpaid ranks, often fighting older fighters due to his ability.
Super Bantamweight hopeful Hikaru Marugame (4-0, 2) hasn't moved particularly quickly, given that he debuted back in July 2013, though the 25 year old is certainly a rare talent and a lot of promise. The question with him will be whether or not he'll manage to live up to that potential in the long run.
Marugame made his debut, as mentioned, back in the summer of '13 and since then has scored notable wins over Roman Canto and Wataru Miyasaka. The Miyasaka fight saw Marugame taking a clear win but being forced to work hard for it against a very testing opponent who took the prospect 8 hard rounds. It now seems likely that Marugame will continue to compete in, or around, the high end of the domestic scene with the likely intention being to work towards a title fight next year.
Although not the biggest puncher Marugame is a former amateur standout who competed in a number of notable international competitions and he certainly has the experience from the amateurs to build a successful professional career. The question is how successful he'll be however and that's something we're hoping to find out in the coming years.
Sadly the only footage we've got of Marugame is his debut against Makoto Kato, which can be seen opposite.
The last of these fighters that we have some form of footage of is Genki Hanai (4-0, 3) a fighter who is expected to make his name around 105lbs or 108lbs. He's unfortunate to be over-shadowed by the likes of Kosei Tanaka and Ken Shiro though he is a talented fighter with an aggressive style and heavy hands. He's also proven his ability to go the distance, having surprisingly been taken then 8 round distance by Crison Omayao.
Hanai is the hope of Gifu and although he's not linked up with a big gym there is a lot of excitement behind him. In the very early stages of his career we under-stood that excitement though his last couple of bouts have slowed his momentum a little bit, despite their being positives to take from those bouts.
At 24 years old he doesn't have as much time to “waste” as some of the others on this list so we're expect him to be moved quickly over the next 18 months or so. Hopefully that will tell us how good Hanai really is, though something makes us feel that he'll be more impressive when he steps up to face better competition.
Sadly we've no footage of the the next two fighters.
Koshikawa fights in a huge step up on June 8th when he battles former Japanese title challenger Koshimaru Saito. Saito will enter that bout as a ranked domestic contender though a win for Koshikawa would boost him from “prospect” to “contender”. Given how weak the Japanese domestic scene is at 147lbs there is every chance Koshikawa will be in the title mix by the middle of next year.
For fans from the west Koshikawa is likely to be the most notable due to his size and, like many others, he was a good amateur. We wouldn't say Koshikawa was an international star in the unpaid ranks but he was a very capable fighter. It was due to that amateur pedigree that he began his career in 6 rounders and why he is already being moved towards 8 round bouts. Given that he is now 24 he's a baby in the division but we do expect to see him matched very hard if he looks good in his clash against Saito.
As an amateur Tanaka ran up a sensational 63-14 (14) record and it seems that the pro-style has suited him down to the ground already, especially when you consider the way he's been stopping opponents in the paid game. Unfortunately it may be a while until we manage to get footage of him in action but he's confident and talented.
With Green Tsuda backing him he's got a good gym with notable names, such as Nobuhiro Ishida and Yu Kawaguchi, there for him to talk to and get advice from the world really is his oyster. They key to Tanaka's future however seems to be just how much he can develop and how quickly he's moved. If he's given time at Japanese domestic level and the OPBF level to full mature then he really could go a very, very long way.
It's really hard to say how good Matsumoto is, or will be, but the signs are that he could be another prodigy and may well be a real star of the future for Japanese boxing, even if we will need to wait a number of years to see how good he really is.
Images courtesy of-
Celes Gym and Green Tsuda
Note-Kosei Tanaka has not been included on here as he's advanced beyond the "prospect" stage despite still being a "novice".