On December 21st fight fans will see former Japanese Heavyweight champion Kyotaro Fujimoto (21-1, 13) take part in his first bout on international soil, as he travels over to London, England, to take on the unbeaten 22 year old hopeful Daniel Dubois (13-0, 12). It is the biggest bout in history for a Japanese Heavyweight fighter, and it features a man who has essentially held together the Japanese and regional title scenes in the last few years, acting as a lynch pin the local scene.
Despite how significant Kyotaro has been for the Japanese, Oriental and Asian Heavyweight scene he is a bit of an unknown to a wider audience, such as the British one he will be fighting in front of later in the month. With that in mind he seems a perfect fighter to put under a microscope and look at in more detail.
The 33 year old boxer has certainly had a weird journey to get to where he is, and although he's far too obscure to deserve some kind of biopic, he's had a professional sporting career that could make an interesting movie all the same.
Born in Osaka in 1986 Kyotaro Fujimoto's first sporting career wasn't actually in boxing. Instead he was a professional kick boxer, competing in minor kick boxing leagues from the age of 19 as "Kyotaro Ranger". His kick boxing career went on to bloom and as a professional boxer he ran up a reported 18-5 (9) record.
Whilst Kyotaro didn't stay kick boxing for long he did achieve quite a lot, winning the K1 Heavyweight championship in 2009 and scored notable wins over the likes of Mighty Mo, Melvin Manhoef, Gokhan Seki, Pater Aerts and Jerome Le Banner. Despite his success fans didn't always enjoy his style, which was negative, and did little to interest the viewing public. He was charismatic, but unenjoyable to watch and certainly not a fan favourite that you'd expect from someone who was quite flamboyant outside of the ring.
With 2 losses in 2009, including one to Tyrone Spong who has also turned to professional boxing, and two more in 2010, including one to Semmy Schilt, Kyotaro closed out his career at a point where it seemed he had lost his ambition for the sport. He then began to look for a new avenue for his career and found professional wrestling.
In 2011, Kyotaro announced his intention was to leave the world of kick boxing behind him and move on to professional wrestling, and he was given an offer to join All Japan Pro Wrestling, the historic rival to New Japan Professional Wrestling. He would wrestling in an event that summer and seemed like that was going to be the route for him. On paper it allowed him to use his size and combat sport experience, along with his personality and flair, to become a star, without taking significant punishment.
It's here that we should mention professional wrestling in Japan is less "safe" than in the USA. High risk moves are done in major Japanese promotions, and whilst injuries are still rare wrestlers do tend to get banged up a bit more often, though they do have less intensive schedules than their WWE counterparts.
Kyotaro then decided that wrestling wasn't going to be for him, and instead he signed papers with the Kadoebi gym to become a professional boxer, and seemed to suggest that he would be able to fight as either a Heavyweight, albeit a small one, or a Cruiserweight.
Despite only deciding to go the boxing route in the second half on 2011 his combat sport experience allowed Kyotaro's team to put him on a relatively tough schedule of fights. He debuted at the very end of 2011 and within a year he was 5-0 (3) with a notable 10 round win over Chauncy Welliver, who was fighting in his 55th professional bout.
Sadly ambition got too much too soon and on December 31st 2012 Kyotaro fought for the OPBF Heavyweight title against the limited, but heavy handed Solomon Haumono. The hard hitting "Solo" managed to do what no other Kyotaro opponent had done up to this stage. Haumono had come to the ring in decent shape, full of hunger and pressured Kyotaro with some intensity. It was a style that meant Kyotaro was on his bike even more than usual, and in round 5 the visitor did what he needed to, catching up Kyotaro and battering him against the ropes. Kyotaro was dropped about 35 seconds into round 5 and then again about 25 seconds later before the referee waved off the bout, crowning Haumono the new OPBF champion.
The loss put the brakes on Kyotaro's and saw him change focus from regional titles to more local success, and in 2013 the Japanese Boxing Commission finally re-activated the Japanese Heavyweight title, which hadn't been seen since the 1950's. Kyotaro fought Japanese based Ugandan Okello Peter for the belt, whilst the same had Kotatsu Takehara take on Rio Hidaka in an eliminator.
Kyotaro would defeat the 41 year old Peter, in 6 rounds, to claim the newly active title, and then take a narrow decision win over Takehara in a mandatory defense of the belt.
Surprisingly it was around this time that Nobuhiro Ishida announced he wanted a shot at the Japanese Heavyweight title, and he began to bulk up for a shot. The JBC were pretty much against a title fight, given the natural size difference between the two men, though allowed them to fight in an 8 round bout. Essentially allowing Ishida to prove himself as a Heavyweight in a lower risk fight than a 10 round title bout. Surprisingly Ishida give Kyotaro all he could handle in their 8 round bout, and was unlucky not to take the decision, with Kyotaro taking a narrow decision win in April 2014.
Following Kyotaro's win over Ishida he would defend his title for a second time against Takehara, stopping the veteran this time around, then take a decision over Frenchman David Radeff, before a rematch with Ishida. This time the belt was on the line, but like their first bout there was little to split the men, with Kyotaro taking a razor thin split decision over Ishida to record his third, and final, defense of the title.
Having made 3 defenses of the Japanese belt, and running out of suitable challenger Kyotaro before to look back to the regional scene. After picking up 3 easy wins in 8 rounders he then took on the slow, out shape, but heavy handed, Willie Nasiio for the OPBF title. This time Kyotaro would have the speed needed to avoid his opponent, rack up rounds and take the Oriental belt, becoming the first Japanese born OPBF Heavyweight champion.
Kyotaro would then stop Herman Ene Purcell to add the WBO Asia Pacific title to his collection, becoming the first Japanese Heavyweight triple crown winner, unifying the Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific belts. The regional titles would be defended together 3 times, all by stoppage before Kyotaro seemed to vanish off the map, spending almost 13 months out of the ring.
When Kyotaro returned to action, this past October, it was in disappointing fashion, stopping Thai Suthat Kalalek, aka Kajornsak Saikaew Boxing Camp, the same man he had beaten in his previous bout. He revealed around this same time that he had considered retirement, and was wanting big fights to keep him interested in the sport. It was strange to think that he had failed to secure a big bout with the likes of Joseph Parker, especially given the two had come incredibly close to signing for a bout, but for whatever reason Kyotaro was unable to get into the ring with a notable name.
Thankfully just a few weeks ago Frank Warren announced that his rising star, Daniel Dubois, would be facing Kyotaro next. For Dubois this will be his 5th bout of the year whilst Kyotaro lands his the big fight he has wanted, and fights outside of Japan for the first time.
For those who haven't seen Kyotaro we have included a video below, though we'll go on to describe his style anyway. He's regarded as a small Heavyweight with a style similar to a Cruiserweight who has moved up. It'd be unfair to describe him as a poor man's Oleksandr Usyk, as he's more like a bankrupt version. His style has had success regionally, due to the limitations of his opposition, but taking on someone with the aggression and power of Dubois will see Kyotaro's style have limited, if any, success.
Although we don't see Kyotaro putting up any sort of a challenge to Dubois, it's still great to see a Japanese Heavyweight fighting in a high profile bout, just a shame it won't end well for the man from the land of the rising sun.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
-Kyotaro Fujimoto (19-1): WBO #7 / WBC #20
A heavyweight Japanese fighter is something very rare, let along being ranked in the top 10. The former K-1 champion debuted in 2011 and has had a successful run in the regional scene, currently holding the OPBF & WBO Asia Pacific Heavyweight belts while riding on a 14 fight winning streak. Even though we may never see him challenging for a world title, it’s fun knowing he is there.
Super Welterweight/Jr Middleweight:
-Takeshi Inoue (13-0): WBO #5 / WBA #13 / WBC #19
The undefeated 4-year veteran is climbing the Super Welterweight rankings very fast, managing to place himself as the #5 in the WBO. A former Japanese title holder and now the unified OPBF & WBO Asia Pacific champion, may very well be one or two fights away from his first world title opportunity.
Super Lightweight/Jr Welterweight:
-Hiroki Okada (18-0): WBO #3 / WBA #4 / WBC #9
One of brightest prospects in Japan right now, Okada has never lost a single bout in his entire career. A bona fide knock out artist (13 KOs), he held the Japanese crown for 32 months and defended it 6 times, before winning the WBO Asia Pacific championship from Jason Pagara (41-3) this past December. Since the WBO world champion Maurice Hooker will not participate in the WBSS, this title will probably be his main focus as of now. Okada’s next confirmed appearance is on September 14th in the US (opponent TBA).
-Masayoshi Nakatani (17-0): WBC #7, WBO #13
Much like Okada and Takuma, Nakatani is also another undefeated fighter, who just recently made a record 10th title defense of the OPBF Lightweight championship. Despite the fact that he is ranked “only” #7 by the WBC, it’s worth pointing out that his last bout took place on July 29, so that win wasn’t taken into consideration at the latest ranking updates.
-Nihito Arakawa (31-6): WBO #3
Former Japanese, OPBF and reigning WBO Asia Pacific Lightweight champion, Arakawa has been in many big fights through out his 14-year career. At 36, he is still looking for his second world title opportunity.
Super Featherweight/Jr Lightweight:
-Masaru Sueyoshi (18-1): WBO #7
The 27 year old is steadily making his mark in Japan, suffering only one loss in his 4th pro bout, Sueyoshi has been victorious in his last 15 outings and even won the Japanese title on October of 2017. Another successful year and we might see him challenge for a world title by the end of 2019/beginning of 2020.
-Satoshi Shimizu (6-0): WBC #6
The Bronze Medalist at the 2012 Olympics, made his pro debut on September of 2016 and he has KOed/TKOed every single one of his opponents since then, claiming the OPBF Featherweight crown in just his 4th fight. He will defend that belt against Shingo Kawamura (16-3) later this month. If he can pass that test too, a fight with Gary Russell Jr. for the WBC title could be up for debate.
-Shun Kubo (13-1): WBA #7
The former WBA Super Bantamweight world champion returned this April, after his TKO loss to Daniel Roman in 2017, and won his comeback fight against former OPBF Featherweight champion & world title challenger Hiroshige Osawa (33-5) making a huge impact on his Featherweight debut.
Super Bantamweight/r Featherweight:
-Tomoki Kameda (35-2): WBA #2 / WBC #4 / WBO #9
El Mexicanito, has been on a 4-fight winning streak since moving up a weight class and has already broke the top 5 in both the WBA & the WBC. A fight with Emanuel Navarrete (WBA #1) could potentially set up a world title fight in 2019 with the winner of Daniel Roman/ Gavin McDonnell, which takes place this October.
-Hidenori Otake (31-2): WBO #6 / WBC #8
The reigning OPBF champion is scheduled to take on Isaac Dogboe (19-0) for the WBO World Super Bantamweight title on August 25.
-Takuma Inoue (11-0): WBO #8 / WBC #9
The undefeated former OPBF Super Flyweight champion is set to face reigning OPBF Bantamweight champion Mark John Yap (29-12), in a WBC World title eliminator fight on September 11.
-Hiroaki Teshigawara (17-2): WBO #6
Teshigawara recently stopped former world title contender Teiru Kinoshita (26-3) to defend his WBO Asia Pacific crown, bringing him one step closer to a WBO world championship match.
-Ryo Akaho (32-2): WBO #13
This is more of an honorable mention as Akaho made his return to the ring this past July, since his forced retirement last year, and knocked out Robert Udtohan, thus making it in the WBO world rankings once more.
Super Flyweight/Jr Bantamweight:
-Kazuto Ioka (22-1): WBA #2
In what must be considered the most bizarre ranking of this list, the former 3 division world champion, who’s return to the ring was announced just a couple of weeks ago, is already ranked #2 by the WBA ! Ioka is scheduled to fight WBC Silver champion and 2-time world title contender McWilliams Arroyo (17-3) on September 8, in the States.
-Koki Eto (22-4): WBC #5 / WBO #7 / WBA #9
The former interim WBA World Flyweight champion is currently ranked in the top 10 of the WBA, the WBC and the WBO. He fights Delfin de Asis (9-5) on August 16.
-Ryuichi Funai (30-7): WBO #5 / WBC #10 / WBA #13
Funai knocked out Philippino standout and world title challenger Warlito Parrenas (26-8), in impressive fashion, this past June, and won the vacant WBO Asia Pacific title. A strong first title defense and Funai could be challenging for the world championship by 2019.
-Kosei Tanaka (11-0): WBO #1 / WBC #2
Arguably one of the best fighters that have come out of Japan, Tanaka has won 2 world titles in 2 different divisions within 5 years. Now he looks to add a 3rd one to his collection as he goes one on one with Sho Kimura (17-1) for the WBO World Flyweight championship on September 24.
-Masayuki Kuroda (30-7): WBA #1 / WBC #4 / WBO #5
The current Japanese Flyweight champion has been on a 6-fight winning streak and has defended his belt 5 times since 2017 and now is ranked amongst the top 5 in the world and most importantly #1 by the WBA. A world title match against Artem Dalakian (17-0) sounds very plausible at this point and since both men have already fought this summer and have come out with no injuries, a fight between the two could take place around December.
-Junto Nakatani (16-0): WBC #5 / WBO #13
Undefeated Japanese flyweight prospect Junto Nakatani scored another TKO win on July 7 and now is ranked at the WBC’s top 5.
-Takuya Kogawa (29-5): WBC #8
After a draw with Yusuke Sakashita, Kogawa has retained his spot at the WBC rankings.
-Masahiro Sakamoto (12-1): WBO #4
The former WBO Asia Pacific champion will probably be in line for a WBO World title match against the winner of Kimura/Tanaka in 2019. He is scheduled to face South Korea’s Flyweight champion Ki Chang Go (6-2) on August 11.
-Ryuji Hara (23-2): WBO #1
Much like Ioka’s, this is the second strangest ranking, especially considering that Hara hasn’t fought since October of 2017. Actually Hara has been the #1 ranked flyweight by the WBO since January, despite having only competed once in this division against the debuting Seneey Worachina. Hara was set to face Angel Acosta for the world title on April 7 but an injury prevented him from stepping into the ring.
-Tetsuya Hisada (32-9): WBA #1 / WBC #3 / WBC #6
The reigning Japanese Flyweight champion, since 2016, recorded a 4th successful defense against Koki Ono (12-5) on July 16, thus improving his streak to 11 consecutive victories. Now as the #1 ranked Light Flyweight by the WBA, he is rumored to face Hekkie Budler for the gold sooner or later.
-Hiroto Kyoguchi (10-0): WBA #2
The undefeated IBF World Minimumweight champion has recently decided to move up a weight class and has already reached the top of the WBA ranking. If Hisada doesn’t face Budler right away, then an eliminator between Kyoguchi and Hisada looks more likely to take place.
-Ryoichi Taguchi (27-3): WBC #4 / WBA #4
Despite losing his 2 world title to Budler, Taguchi is still ranked amongst the top Light Flyweights in the world and without a doubt he will gain another crack at the gold in no time.
-Reiya Konishi (16-1): WBO #6 / WBA #7
The former world title challenger and now new WBO Asia Pacific champion, is coming closer to once again fight for the world championship.
-Tsubasa Koura (13-0): WBC #3 / WBA #9 / WBO #11
At only 23 years of age, Koura has already amassed 13 career wins, including 9 KOs, as well as the OPBF Minimumweight championship. His 3rd title defense will take place on August 24 against an unnamed opponent as of yet. It’s safe to say that we will see him in a WBC world title match in early 2019.
-Ryuya Yamanaka (16-3): WBO #6
Yamanaka recently lost the WBO world title to Vic Saludar. Just like Taguchi, he is only a few fights away from competing again for the big one.
-Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-6): WBC #9
Fukuhara has been victorious in both of his 2018 fights but he will need a few more before he can challenge Chayaphon Moonsri again for the WBC world title.
-Shin Ono (22-9): WBO #9
Ono will make his first Japanese title defense against Riku Kano (13-3) on August 24. His last world title fight was in 2016.
(Image - of Fujimoto, courtesy of Kadoebi Gym)
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