We've known for a while now that Shoki Sakai (23-11-2, 12) [坂井 祥記] would be making his Japanese debut on August 31st, following a long career spent in the West, on an A-Sign show. Despite knowing the when and where, Korakuen Hall, there was still a major question mark as to who Sakai would be facing.
After a bit of a wait Sakai's opponent was named yesterday, as being 2017 All Japan Rookie of the Year winner Hironori Shigeta (6-1-1, 3) [重田裕紀], who will be looking to extend his current 7 fight unbeaten run.
The 29 year old Sakai has fought almost all of his career in Mexico, being one of the few Japanese fighters better known away from home. In recent years he has surfaced in the US as well as Mexico and has mixed with some pretty well known fighters, such as Nery Saguilan, Ashley Theophane, Eddie Gomez, Alexis Rocha and Gor Yeritsyan. Although no world beater Sakai is a really tough fighter who is very under-rated but has struggled recently and is win-less in his last 5.
Shigeta on the other hand has fought all but one bout in Japan, with his only excursion being a draw in South Korea back in 2018. Sadly despite looking good at the 2017 Rookie of the Year he has been relatively inactive, with just a single bout in both 2018 and 2019.
Rather interestingly the card still isn't actually complete and those behind the card are currently searching, quite publicly, for an opponent to face teenage hopeful Jin Sasaki (7-0, 6) [佐々木 尽]. Fingers crossed Sasaki gets an interesting opponent for the date, with the show set to be a great window to expose what a fighter can do in what will be a show that will be streamed for free on Youtube.
We have all been waiting for live boxing to return for weeks, though we all understand why the sport hasn't been taking place on any sort of regular basis. Now it appears that there are events being lined up for the next few months.
It appears that one of those events will be streamed live on the A-Sign boxing YouTube Channel, who had been hoping to stream events back in March but will now need to wait until August to have their live feeds.
Originally the channel, which has provided so amazing fights on delay, was hoping to stream some Rookie of the Year cards as part of the "Save Japanese Boxing" campaign. It's now unclear if they will be able to stream them when they get re-arranged. However the channel are planning to show an event on August 31st from the Shinjuku FACE, which isn't expected to have fans attending.
With no fans attending there is a plan to bring in a tipping system for fans to financially aid the fighters for their bouts.
The event is set to be headlined by the Japanese debut of Shoki Sakai (23-11-2, 12) [坂井 祥記], who has fought his entire career so far in the West. His opponent hasn't yet been named.
Other bouts announced for this show includes a match up between Ken Koubuchi (5-4, 4) [鯉渕 健] and cult hero Takuya Yamaguchi (4-11-2, 2) [山口拓也], as well as a bout between Ryugo Ushijima (3-1-2, 2) [牛島 龍吾] and Ryukyu Oho (6-3, 3) [大保 龍球]. Whilst not amazing bout
Others announced for this show include promising teenager Jin Sasaki (7-0, 6) [佐々木 尽] and 2019 Rookie of the Year winner Hyoga Taniguchi (3-2-2, 1) [谷口 彪賀], who are both currently without an announced opponent.
Later this week we'll see Mexican based Japanese fighter Shoki Sakai (29-3-2, 13) take on unbeaten prospect Alexis Rocha (12-0, 8) as part of a Golden Boy promotions card in Indio, California. Interestingly this bout has been picked up by UK's bookies who are offering odds on the contest.
The only market that's available is the "To Win" market, and all of the bookies have Rocha as the clear favourite.
The unbeaten Rocha, who will be defending his WBC Continental Americas Welterweight title, has been priced between 2/9 and 1/8 depending on the bookies. Rocha is a very highly regarded prospect, following notable amateur success including reaching the last 8 of the 2013 World Junior Championships. On paper he is stepping up here, but does, understandably, deserve to be the favourite. Though the odds are rather short on him given that he's stepping up quite significantly.
Sakai on the other hand is available as high as 5/1, though some have got him as short as 3/1. Although the under-dog Sakai is a talented fighter, and in 2017 he upset Englishman Ashley Theophane, though has failed to win any of his last 3, losing a clear decision last time out to Eddie Gomez.
For those who are curios about the draw that's available at 22/1
It's very rare for Japanese born fighters to make a name for themselves away from home. In fact in recent years the only real exception to that rule was Tomoki Kameda, who famously began boxing in Mexico where he fought more often than he fought in Japan, with 16 bouts in Mexico to 12 his his native Japan.
Although Tomoki has made a name for himself he isn't actually alone in being a Japanese boxing carving out a career in the west, and this past weekend American fans got their first chance to see Shoki Sakai (21-5, 13). With Sakai winning his US debut with an 8 round win over Carlos Villa (11-3-1, 6) in Texas on Saturday.
Whilst Sakai made his US debut this past Saturday it was actually his 26th bout in the West, with 24 bouts already on his record from Mexico and one from Argentina.
Although not known as well as Tomoki Kameda Sakai has been a fixture on Mexican cards for about 6 years now and has acquitted himself well, win or lose. That has included a win over the then 10-0 Omar Barajas, a very competitive loss to Nery Saguilan and a recent win over Javier Mercado.
Although not a big name Sakai has started to attract a growing buzz and 25 has time on his side, and is a former WBC Youth champion at 140lbs. His win over Villa may help him create a buzz in the states, and if so we'd not be shocked to see him on some bigger US cards in the future.
Yesterday saw the weigh in for Saturday night's WBC United States Silver Lightweight title fight between Mexican based Japanese fighter Shoki Sakai (17-4, 11) and the charismatic Mexican Nery Saguilan (30-4-1, 11).
Sakai weighed in at 132.25lbs which we believe is the lightest of his career and is almost 7lbs lighter than he was in his May bout with Omar Barajas, a bout that ended in a shock win for Sakai. Sadly for the Japanese fighter that was almost 3lbs lighter than Saguilan who was a ready 135lb for the fight.
The bout will be Saguilan's first defense of the title that he won earlier this year when he stopped Seiichi Okada in 8 rounds, sadly though that was a shadow of the fighter Okada once was and we're unsure how good Saguilan is considering his real struggle with Adones Aguelo back in January.
Despite being the lighter man on on the scales Sakai was the naturally taller man and it's hard to believe that there is only 2" between the two men who looked like they were in very different divisions.
(Image courtesy of the brilliant Pepe Rodriguez)
News! We try and give you the most interesting news stories from the Asian boxing world!