As we are quickly approaching the Rookie of the Year East finals we've decided that it would make a lot of sense to look at 12 bouts and 24 men involved in them. After all it may help if you want to follow the fighters to the All Japan finals at the end of the year or if you want to just become more aware of the fights and fighters.
Masayuki Ichikawa (5-0, 2) Vs Yuki Kubo (5-1, 2)
The Minimumweight final is one of the most interesting on paper due to the similar records of the two men involved though in all honesty we suspect on the domestic fans really care.
Ichikawa is a 24 year old promoted by Kadoebihoseki who made his debut in June 2013. He reached the final with a 3rd round majority technical decision over Yoshiki Abe in the semi final and holds a 3rd round KO over Hayato Kai in his preliminary bout. Although unbeaten we're unsure of his talent and whether or not he has the ability to push on if he wins here.
At 27 years old Kubo is in his physical prime and the Celes gym promoted fighter will feel this is his time to shine. Boxing from the southpaw stance he'll feel he has an advantage over his young orthodox foe. Whilst Kubo does have a loss it came on his debut more than 2 years ago and he is now 5-0 (2) in his last 5 bouts, just like Ishikawa. If he wins here he'll likely have to be fast-tracked in 2015 to really build on things.
Kenji Ono (5-1, 3) Vs Akira Kokubo (1-3-3)
The Light Flyweight final features the man with the strangest record of anyone in the finals and whilst he'll be the clear under-dog he'll also be aware there is no pressure on his shoulders. For the other man it's all on him.
Of course on Ono that is the favourite going into this fight. The Teiken fighter is a 26 year old southpaw from Tokyo who made his debut back in December 2011 and fought 3 times in 12 months before spending more than 18 months out of the ring. Since returning this year he has stopped both Kazutaka Matsunishi and Hikaru Ota whilst also scoring a close decision over Naoyuki Tsukada. In his sole loss he was stopped in 2 rounds by 2012 Rookie of the Year finalist Daisuke Hayakawa, a very heavy handed fighter.
Kokubo has a bizarre record for being in the ROTY East final and what makes it even stranger is the faxct he's reached the final on back-to-back draws, infact he has drawn his last 3 bouts abd is win-less in 5 bouts having not won since February 2013 when he narrowly beat Ryo Irie. The whoe record of Kokubo is just strange. He lost his debut cleanly in the only decisive bout of his career. Since then he's had a majority decision win, 2 split decision losses and then all 3 kinds of draws, unanimous split and majority. Aged 30 the Misako fighter will likely know he needs a clear win to make a name for himself though will feel very fortunate to have reached this stage of the competition.
Kenya Yamashita (5-0, 4) Vs Sonin Nihei (5-0-1, 1)
The first of 3 fights between unbeaten men will come at Flyweight and although both are unbeaten both have very different ways of winning their bouts so far with one being a power puncher and the other a stylist. For us this looks like one of the very best bouts on the show and the winner will go on to big things, and so too could the loser given the fact both are kids.
Of the two it's of Yamashita that comes into the bout with the edge in power and the Koguchi gym fighter, aged 18, has shown real confidence in his power since turning professional at the end of last year. In his sole distance bout he was run very close by Tatsuji Kakumoto though since then he has stopped both Katsunori Shimooki and Takunari Yokoyama, a man who was 4-0 at the time.
The Watanabe managed Nihei is a youngster himself at just 20 years old and although his record isn't that of a puncher we would argue he has faced the stiffer comeptition since he made his debut back in May 2013. Of Nihei's 6 opponents 5 have have been unbeaten with his last two, Naoki Mchizuki and Masayasu Nakamura, having records of 5-0 and 4-0 respectively.
Shogo Yonenaga (5-1, 2) Vs Hokuto Sakata (5-3-1, 3)
The Super Flyweight bout features the most experienced man on the show against a similarly capable fighter, at least on paper. Given how strong the Japanese scene is at 115 we don't expect either to make a huge dent on the domestic title scene but the winner will go into the All-Japan final with plenty of confidence.
Yonenaga is a 26 year old managed by Miyata Gym. He made his debut back in back in October 2012 and lost his second professional contest, a 4th round TKO to Hiroto Kurosawa. Since then he has strung together 4 wins with the last two being decisions over Jun Ishimoto and Yuito Yamaguchi. Sadly those bouts didn't tell us a lot about the 26 year old.
The 25 year old Sakata is managed by the little known Shakujii Sports Boxing gym and he made his debut back in December 2011. Although won on his debut he would win just 1 of his next 5 fights as he fell to 2-3-1 at the end of lats year. Since then things have turned around and good wins over Tatsuo Sakamoto and Yugo Ueda has given him this great opportunity to progress his career to the next level. Notably he is, with 9 fights, the most experienced fighter on the card.
Ken Kodama (4-0-1, 1) Vs Ryohei Takahashi (3-1-1)
The Bantamweight final features two men with 5 bouts each going into this one but both have notably different 5 fight records with one being unbeaten which the other has suffered the acrimony of defeat.
Kodama, the unbeaten man, is a 24 year old who boxes out of the Shinji Takehara & Takanori Hatakeyama gym and describes his style as a "fighter". he made his debut in March 2013 when he stopped Isami Kimoto and impressed recently with a really good in over Junichi Obara in his semi-final bout, albeit by split decision. He is current on a 3 fight winning streak though will need to step up if he's going to take this opportunity.
Aged 24 Takahashi has been a professional since late 2012, though did lose inside a round on his debut to Shogo Sumitomo. After struggling in 2 fights at Super Flyweight we've seen Takahashi move up to Bantamweight where he has now strung together a trio of decision wins. Fighting out of the Yokohama Hikari gym Takahashi will have spent time with Daiki Kaneko who also began his career with a less than stellar record before coming into his own as he matured into a very good fighter.
Yuyki Matsudo (7-1, 4) Vs Yoshifumi Tamaki (5-1-1, 2)
For us one of the best fights comes at 122lbs despite the fact both men have got a loss against their name.
The 20 year old Matsudo is a southpaw belonging to the Aoki gym. He suffered a defeat on debut at the end of 2012 on the triple world title show held at the Ota-City Gym but since then he has run off 7 straight wins, 6 at the Korakuen Hall and one in Thailand as he put his passport to good use. His last two wins have seen him out pointing the previously unbeaten Ryuya Kaji and blowing away Hikaru Takaki in 92 seconds. It appears he has solid power and skills and considering his age and experience we would seriously follow him whether he wins or loses here.
Tamaki is also a 20 year old southpaw, just like Matsudo, and comes from the Oguma boxing gym. Tamaki started his career in July 2012 and on his first 4 bouts before being narrowly beaten by Yuto Sasamori. Since then his career has floundered a bit including a 4 round majority draw with Ryo Hino last time out. He'll be coming into this bout to put the draw to Hino well behind him and may well know that he'll have to box out of his skin if he doesn't want to suffer a third set back in 4 bouts.
Reiya Abe (6-1, 3) Vs Naoto Moriya (6-1-1, 3)
At Featherweight we get another very interesting looking bout as two men with very similar records battle each other. It's these sorts of bouts we love seeing and it's this type of bout that makes the Rookie of the Year competitions so good.
The 21 year old Abe is a talented southpaw and part of the KG Yamato gym. He began his career in June 2013 and lost his second bout, a very close decision to Koki Kobayashi in July 2013. Since then however he has run off 5 wins with the the most recent coming against the previously unbeaten Haruka Itakura. It's worth noting that Abe's only loss so far has actually come at Super Featherweight.
Moriya is a 23 year old managed by World Sport. He made his debut in August 2012 and began his career with 4 wins in a little less than a year before being clearly beaten by Shingo Kusano. Since his loss he has gone 2-0-1 scoring stoppage in both of his wins though he was held to a draw by Kimihiro Nakagawa. Having scored 2 stoppages in his last 3 we do have to assume he's growing more confident in his power though he's certainly not a monster puncher.
Yuichiro Kasuya (4-0, 1) Vs Yutaka Ekawa (5-2-1, 2)
The Super Featherweight bout has the youngest fighter on the card, a man who will still be 17 when he fights. Of course with the Super Featherweight division being amazingly strong in Japan we don't expect to see the winner here moving on to being a name in the division any time soon but of course they do have a lot of time to improve.
The 17 year old is Kasuya, a man who debuted earlier this year and has shown that he is a true prodigy despite a very hard fought win last time out against the more experienced Takahiro Araki. We do have to wonder about Kasuya's power though at 17 years old he's years away from developing his "man strength" and probably a decade away from reaching his prime. We just really hope that Ishikawa gym aren't going to ruin him by keeping him so active so young.
Ekawa, a fighter from the RK Kamata stable, is a 25 year old southpaw who started his career in August 2012. Surprisingly he began his career with just 1 win in his first 4 bouts, whilst being stopped twice, though since then he has run up 4 straight wins including wins over Tateo Saito and Hikaru Akutsu who were both unbeaten at the time that Ekawa fought them.
Andy Hiraoka (5-0, 3) Vs Shintaro Nakamura (5-2-1, 2)
One of the stand out bouts is at Lightweight where we have an outstanding teenage prospect in action against a more experience and mature fighter.
Hiraoka, a member of the Hanagata boxing gym, is an 18 year old prospect that some have singled out as a championship level fighter from very early in his career. Stood at close to 6-foot he is a very tall, rangy fighter and with his youth and talent he seems almost certainly one to watch, whether he wins or not here. Interestingly he turned up to the press conference for the show in his school outfit and appears to be a talented boxer and a promising student. Of course it's his boxing that has caught our eye and since debuting last December he has looked like a fighter with real potential.
At 25 years old the Nakamura, a member of the Kadoebihoseki gym, is clearly the older man and at 5'8" he is also the much shorter man. He debuted way back in January 2012 and although he won his first 2 bouts his career quickly hit the rocks with a draw to Kazuya Soma and then back-to-back losses as he dropped to 2-2-1. In the last 12 months he has got his career back on track with 3 wins though the last 2 have both been by split decision.
Naoharu Kida (5-0, 3) Vs Yasuki Katagiri (4-0, 1)
The second bout between unbeaten men takes place at Light Welterweight where we get two men with perfect records battling against each other in the most important bout of their career.
At 21 years old Kida is the younger man and has been a professional since early 2013. Although he's been a professional for a while he's not yet managed to blow us away regularly and his struggle with Kenji Ishii last December suggests that he has a lot of improving to do, however a 46 second blow out against Minoru Iizuka in July was impressive. Managed by Watanabe there is a good team behind him though and he will improve with their help and trainers.
The 26 year old Katagiri, a Soka Arisawa fighter, has been a professional for around a year and although he won his first 3 bouts comfortably he did struggle last time out as he narrowly over-came Shunsuke Fukushima in a very close unanimous decision. The Saitama native has fought his last 3 bouts in Tokyo and although he's not based in the capital he does seem to have made Tokyo his boxing home.
Hironobu Matsunaga (5-0, 3) Vs Masaya Tamayama (4-0, 3)
The third, and final, bout between unbeaten fighters will be a very interesting looking Welterweight clash with the winner likely to be moved through the domestic rankings relatively quickly.
The 27 year old Matsunaga is a promising Southpaw from the Yokohama Hikari gym. Although unbeaten he has had serious questions asked of him so far and struggled last time out with a split decision win over Makoto Kawasaki. It's worth noting however that Kawasaki has now gone the distance with Matsunaga twice and his other 3 bouts combined have lasted just 5 rounds, suggesting that Matsunaga is a serious puncher.
Tamayama is a Teiken promoted 20 year old, who turns 21 before his upcoming bout. He has been a professional since August 2013 and began his career with a trio of stoppage wins before being given a very good test last time out by Hiroki Ashizawa, who is unbeaten himself. Although young Tamayama appears to clearly have some sting on his punches and with Teiken behind him he'll only get better with great training and very sparring partners.
Hisao Narita (6-1, 4) Vs Asahi Hatsumi (4-1, 2)
The highest weight division competed at is the Middleweight division which will be the weight class for the final bout of the show.
The 23 year old Narita, a product of the Hachioji Nakaya boxing gym, began his career in November 2011 as a Light Middleweight and although he won on his debut he did lose his follow up contest, fought at Welterweight. Since then however he has filled into a Middleweight and is currently riding a 5 fight winning streak into this bout with a trio of successive stoppages and will be very confident coming into this contest.
Stood at 6'2" Hatsumi is a very promising 23 year old fighter from the Miyata gym. Although he lost, an opening round TKO, on his debut back in February 2013 he has managed to go on a great run with 4 successive victories, including a 3rd round TKO over Naoya Kaneko.
Incidentally Hatsumi's loss has come to a man that Narita actually beat, Japanese based Colombian Elfelos Vega.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
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