When we talk about about Prospect of the year we really need to define what we consider a "Prospect". For us a prospect is a fighter who isn't ranked, when they are ranked they become a contender, it's also someone who lacks in terms of achievement but have shown a lot of promise and potential. To advance that to "Prospect of the Year", we are also then looking at a fighter who has made huge strides through the last 12 months, and achieved something of note, whilst creating a buzz for themself.
Sadly fighters like Ryosuke Nishida and Yudai Shigeoka have both moved from prospect into contendership this year, with both fighters taking huge strides forward in their two bouts this year. For Nishida his win over Daigo Higa in April was absolutely huge, and earned him the WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight title. As for Shigeoka he ended up winning both the Japanese Youth Light Flyweight title and the WBO Asia Pacific Minimumweight title.
With that in mind we had to look else where, and thankfully we didn't have to look for long before we came across 23 year old Flyweight-come-Super Flyweight Jukiya Iimura, who had an amazing first year in the professional ranks. He made his, much anticipated, debut in January and impressed immediately with an opening round win over Daisuke Yamada. He stole the show on his debut and added a win over former amateur standout Tomoki Kawasaki in June. It was, however, how he ended the year that earned him this award, as he moved up in weight and out boxed former Japanese Super Flyweight champion Takayuki Okumoto over 8 rounds to record the biggest win, by far, of his short career.
In just 12 months Iimura has moved from amateur standout to someone who is set to move into the Japanese rankings when they are next updated. To say this was a massive year for Iimura is an understatement, and fingers crossed he delivers further on his potential in 2022. If he continues at this rate he could well be in the mix for regional honours in his first two or three years as a professional, much like Shigeoka and Nishida were.
Earlier today in Osaka fight fans had the chance to see unbeaten Japanese Youth Flyweight champion Joe Shiraishi (10-0-1, 5) [白石聖] record his first defense, blasting out challenger Jukiya Washio (7-5-1, 2) [鷲尾樹貴也] inside a round.
The 23 year old Shiraishi, who won the title in September when he took a decision over Yoshiki Minato, landed a peach of a counter left hook on to Washio who dropped to the canvas. Washio tried to beat the count but was unable to steady himself in time, giving the referee no option but to stop him, at an official time of 2:09 of round 1.
With this win Shiraishi will continue to move towards a shot for the main Japanese Flyweight title, and although it's unlikely he'll get that shot in 2020, we wouldn't be surprised to see him well and truly in the mix for a title shot the following year.
As for Washio, it's hard to know where his career really goes from here. This was his first stoppage loss, but he's now 3-5 in his last 8 and the 22 year old clearly needs to drop down a level and be given a chance to regroup before stepping back up to this type of bout.
Another notable youngster picking up a win on this card was 21 year old Welterweight hopeful Rikuto Adachi (14-2, 11) [安達陸仁], who beat Masafumi Ando (6-10-2, 3) [安藤暢文]. Ando had moments but was clearly looking the lesser man, with a lot of holding coming in round 6, enough for him to be deducted a point. The bout was then called off, with Ando citing a shoulder injury at the end of the round.
We've known for a while that on December 28th we'd be getting an IBF Super Flyweight world title eliminator in Osaka between Sho Ishida (28-1, 15) [石田 匠] and Israel Gonzalez (24-3, 11). Until today there was no real details about the supporting bouts on that card, though today we were informed of two notable bouts taking place on the show.
The chief support bout will be an 8 round Welterweight bout, between 21 year old hopeful Rikuto Adachi (13-2, 10) [安達陸仁] and the under-rated Masafumi Ando (6-9-2, 3) [安藤暢文], who comes into this bout just 7 months removed from a KO win over former Japanese champion Toshio Arikawa. This isn't a massive bout, but is an interesting one, much more interesting than it looks on paper.
The other bout that caught our eye is a Japanese Youth Flyweight title bout between unbeaten champion Joe Shiraishi (9-0-1, 4) [白石聖] and under-rated challenger Jukiya Washio (7-4-1, 2) [鷲尾樹貴也]. For Shiraishi this will be his first defense, following his title win in September, and he looks to keep his momentum going after also winning the Rookie of the Year in 2017. Washio has lost his last 2, and 4 of his last 7, but he's a capable fighter and should prove a decent test for Shiraishi, who will be looking for bigger fights next year.
Earlier today in Sanda fight fans had the chance to see Japanese Youth Flyweight champion Arata Matsuoka (8-6, 4) [松岡新] make his first successful defense, as he took a clear decision over Jukiya Washio (7-3-1, 2) [鷲尾樹貴也].
Washio started the fight looking sharp, making and finding a home for his jab. Matsuoka struggled at times in these early stages and lost the first 2 rounds, tough battled back well in rounds 3 and 4 as he worked his way into the contest.
Having battled his way back into the bout after a relatively poor start Matsuoka began to increased the tempo in the second half, having more and more success in the later rounds. The late charge from Matsuoka was enough to secure him the win, with scores of 78-74, twice, and 77-75.
After the bout Matsuoka revealed he was unhappy with his performance in the first half, suggesting he was stiff, but it certainly seemed that as the bout went on he got better and better. Interestingly Washio noted that he had started but lost his crispness as the bout went on. It should be noted that Washio had never been in an 8 round bout before this and that was likely part of his issue with him fading late on, whilst this was the second time Matsuoka had completed 8 round.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
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