In November we counted down a number of honourable mentions for our 20 for 20. Now it's time to look at the 20 fighters who have managed to make it into the list properly, and they come from all over Asia and all over the weight classes. Some of these you may already be aware of, some are perhaps less well known, but either way these 20 men are going to be well worth following in the new year as they look to push forward in their career and move towards major success.
For these fighters we will look at the the reason why you should follow them, our expectations for them in the coming year and the issues they may face going forward. The one rule with all of these fighters is that they can have fought for a world title at the time of writing, as the fighters who have are, essentially, already ones to watch having dabbled at world level. Some of these are world ranked, and some of these may well be set for world title fights in the near future, but so far they have not had that top level bout.
Without any further ado, lets take a look at the man we have ranked #3 in our list of Ones to watch in 2020
Junto Nakatani (20-0, 15)
The Flyweight division is probably as it's weakest in recent memory, and although there is some excellent talent at the top, it's not very deep with only a handful of fighters actually being world class. Yes the likes of Kosei Tanaka, Moruti Mthalane and Julio Cesar Martinez Aguilar are sensational but fighters, but below them, there's a clear lack of really recognisable contenders, as we see from the level of challengers Artem Dalakian has been defending the WBA belt against.
That opens to door to rising contenders, prospects and hopefuls all making their mark in the new year. There is a lot of rising Flyweights all jostling to make it to the top, and we've already mention Giemel Magramo as one such fighter in this series. Another of those is unbeaten Japanese youngster Junto Nakatani.
The unbeaten 22 year old Nakatani had a really solid 2019, winning the Japanese national title before stopping Milan Melindo later in the year, in a bout that was clearly made to get people talking about Nakatani, rather than truly advancing him as a Flyweight contender. Having done all that's needed on the domestic scene, and by that we mean he has not only won the title but he also holds a win over the champion that followed him, it's almost certain that 2020 will be the year he moves into world title mix and we suspect that we'll see that happen early in the new year. With a freakish size, good skills, heavy hands and sharp punching he is a fantastic talent, he already proven domestically and he is on the verge of some big fights in the lower weights. He also combines his physicals and traits with a charming personality and seems to have connected well with fans in Japan, something that he'll need if he's to get the TV backing to get the big fights at home.
What do we expect?
Obviously the least we expect from Nakatani in 2020 is a world title fight. Whether he wins it or not is a tougher question to answer. Whilst the division is currently lacking in top names, despite Kosei Tanaka and Moruti Mthalane being champions, it does have some talent in it's ranks and Nakatani will need to pick his next move carefully. That however shouldn't be too much of a problem as he is ranked #1 by the WBA, for Artem Dalakian, and #3 by the WBC, lining him up as a leading contender for their champion Julio Cesar Martinez. Options are there for the youngster, and it really is a case of his team picking the right route to his first title fight, and whether they go a mandatory route, haggle to try and get home advantage or say sod it and travel to the lions den.
Nakatani is in a position where he can rush, and given his frame it may be smart to move quickly than wait, fill out and move up. But he doesn't need to rush. He is, again, just 22 years old, and if he and his team want to hold him back a little bit they can do that. We don't expect them to hold him back long, if at all, but they are in they are in the position where they can do that. If they do hold him back whilst building up a war chest of sponsors to bring a world title bout to Japan then that would certainly be a smart idea for the MT Gym and their young fighter.
If, and it's a big if, Nakatani doesn't fight for a world title in 2020 we would be massively disappointed in how he's been handled during the year.
There really isn't too many concerns about Nakatani in the ring, though he has hit downed opponents a couple of times and will clearly need to sort that out before landing a big fight. There is however plenty of other concerns about Nakatani and his career.
We wonder how well the MT Gym can really back him financially, or whether they have the backing of someone bigger, for example are they happy to work alongside Teiken to secure the big fights? Are MT Gym experienced enough to get the best from Nakatani and develop his skills, ability and experience full?
Also the sheer size of Nakatani does leave us with some concerns. He's young and can make 112lbs at the moment, but how long before his body simply out grows the division? On the same subject, how much success will he had at Super Flyweight where his physical advantages are potentially less significant than they are at Flyweight?
A final concern is that he will have to travel for the biggest fights. Fights in Mexico, Vs Martinez, or in Ukraine, Vs Dalakian, are not places that a fighter would be rushing to go to. Needing to travel for those bouts could be a step too far, at this point, for the youngster.
When we have some free time we're hoping to add a series of fun articles to the site. Hopefully these will be enjoyable little short features