The Rookie of the Year is one of the very best proving grounds to Japanese novices wanting to make their mark on the sport, and the winners regularly, though don't always, go on to achieve big things in the sport. Here we're going to look at the winners of the 2014 All Japan Rookie of the Year tournament, and look at where their careers are now, what they've done since winning.
For many of the fighters here their careers have continued on to this day, but with some mixed success.
Note - The "then" records are the records following the Rookie of the Year finals.
Middleweight-Hisao Narita (then 8-1, 4)
Poor Hisao Narita was one of the winners from the 2014 Rookie of the Year who really didn't have a good time after the competition. Narito would win his first bout in 2015, narrowly defeating Yusuke Konno, but then 4 in a row, including losses Hironobu Matsunaga and Takeshi Inoue. A small winning run was then followed by back to back defeats, to Sanosuke Sasaki and Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa. Narita hasn't fought since losing to Hosokawa in June 2018 and it seems likely that Narita is now down with the sport, though he is only 28.
At the time of writing Narita has a professional record of 12-7 (6)
Welterweight-Yuki Beppu (then 8-0, 8)
Aged 23 when he won the Welterweight tournament Yuki Beppu was hailed as one of the ones to watch. His career since then hasn't totally lived up to expectations but he has proven to be a better fighter than just purely being a puncher. He would fight some very limited opposition to run his record to 14-0 (14) before fighting to a draw with Charles Bellamy, in what was a huge step up and a very credible performance. A loss to Yuki Nagano in 2018 saw Beppu lose his unbeaten record, which was then 18-0-1 (18) but he has bounced back with 2 wins, including his first decision win over Jasen Egera. His next bout is expected to come in December for the WBO Asia Pacific Welterweight title against Ryota Yada.
Beppu's current record is 20-1-1 (19)
Light Welterweight-Tetsuya Morisada (then 4-3, 4)
The forgotten man of the 2014 Rookie of the year is Tetsuya Morisada, who didn't get his moment in the sun. Morisada won the title by default Naoharu Kida abstained from the final. Kida wouldn't fight against until late 2016, coming back for what appears to have been a one off. Sadly for Morisada the limited but hard hitting would lose 3 of his following 5 fights. Although a puncher he is very much a glass cannon, and only 1 of his bouts ever went the distance, and it now seems like his career is over on the back of 3 straight stoppage losses and more than 12 months away from the ring.
His record if 6-6 (6) and despite only being 24 we doubt we'll see Morisada fight again.
Lightweight-Shogo Yamaguchi (then 6-0-1, 3)
Another fighter who won the All Japan Rookie of the Year without fighting in the final was Lightweight Shogo Yamaguchi, who had a walk over and Andy Hiraoka who fell ill before the final. Yamaguchi was a promising and unbeaten 21 year old who picked up 3 wins in 2015 before seeing his career stumble with a loss to Akihiro Kondo and then one to Genki Maeda. Sadly since then Yamaguchi has really struggled to get going and has only picked up 2 wins in 7 bouts. Despite that poor run of results it's worth noting he and Andy Hiraoka did finally face off, fighting in May 2017 with Hiraoki stopping Yamaguchi in 6 rounds.
With a record of 11-5-3 (6) the 25, soon to be 26, year old Yamaguchi is in a really tough point in his career, though he was active as recently as July, when he lost to Masanori Rikiishi.
Super Featherweight-Yuichiro Kasuya (then 6-0, 1)
Teenager Yuichiro Kasuya looked like a real one to watch when he won the Super Featherweight Rookie of the Year within a year of his professional debut. The youngster looked highly skilled, a natural in the ring and like a fighter with a lot of potential. His lack of power wasn't expected to be a major issue and as he matured it was assumed he'd fill into his body and add some physicality to his game. Sadly his career hasn't really gond the way that was expected following 3 successive set backs. The first of those saw him fight to a draw with Masaki Saito, before back to back losses to Spicy Matsushita and Izuki Tomioka. In 2018 he moved over to the Kadoebi Gym and has shown signs of reaching his early promise.
At 22, soon to be 23, the jury is out on what Kasuya will do with his career but he's now 13-2-1 (4) and has run off 4 straight wins, so we certainly wouldn't rule Kasuya out of becoming a player on the national scene at Lightweight in the years to come.
Featherweight-Reiya Abe (then 8-1, 4)
One of the most notable names from the 2014 Rookie of the Year was the then 21 year old Reiya Abe, who took the Featherweight crown and has become a fixture in the Japanese title picture over the last year or two. The talented southpaw sharp shooter surprisingly lost in his first bout after winning the Rookie of the Year, losing a decision to Shingo Kusano, but avenged that loss in 2016. Abe ran up an excellent 11 fight winning run following the loss to Kusano, but narrowly failed to take home the Japanese title in 2 title fights earlier this year.
Despite recent set backs against Taiki Minamoto, who held Abe to a draw, and Ryo Sagawa, who he lost a narrow decision to, there is absolutely no reason at all to write off the 26 year old Abe, who is now 19-3-1 (9) as a professional. We'd be hugely surprised if he doesn't pick up a title in the coming years, when he adapts his style just a little. He's a genuine talent.
Super Bantamweight-Shohei Kawashima (then 9-0-2, 2)
The then 23 year old Shohei Kawashima seemed like one to watch following the Rookie of the Year, given his age, unbeaten record and and his style. He proved he wasn't just a flash in the pan and in 2016 gave Cristian Mijares a very close bout in Mexico. Sadly a loss to Gaku Aikawa in 2017 left questions over Kawashima but he has since answered them with some solid performances, including one in March in the Philippines against Juan Miguel Elorde. Sadly he hasn't had much luck, and at times his match making has been too soft, but he is a real talent and hopefully he will get some bigger bouts in the near future.
With a record of 17-3-2 (4) Kawashima is still very much active and fights for the 23rd time as a professional on October 19th, sadly though it's against a less than inspiring opponent in the form of Masajiro Honda. Given his ability, and the way he seems to step up against stiffer competition, we'd love to see Kawashima given more bouts on the road against fringe contender types.
Bantamweight-Ryohei Takahashi (then 5-1-1)
Of all the fighters on this list the reality is that Ryohei Takahashi has had the highest profile single bout of any fighter, with Takahashi having fought for the IBF Super Bantamweight title earlier this year, when he put up a brave effort against TJ Doheny. Takahashi's is a tough, rugged fun fighter to watch but his limitations were shown against Doheny. Through his career he has come up short in his 2 most notable bouts, the loss to Doheny and a loss to Andrew Moloney, but he's a solid domestic and regional level fighter. With wins against the likes of Matcha Nakagawa, Kazuki Tanaka and Mike Tawatchai he belongs in the regional title picture and we suspect he will get a title fight of some kind in 2020.
With a record of 17-4-1 (7) Takahashi is far from done, and the 29 year old picked up his last win in June, stopping Jin Wook Lim, in what is his only bout since the loss to Doheny.
Super Flyweight-Masayoshi Hashizume (7-0, 4)
The then 21 year old took the Rookie of the Year crown with a technical decision over Shogo Yonenaga and is still unbeaten almost 5 years later. At the time of his Rookie win he was seen as being one of the future faces of the Ioka gym, along with the likes of Sho Ishida and Masayoshi Nakatani, but sadly the gym has never managed to guide any of those 3 to the achievements expected of them. In the years that followed his Rookie win Hashizume was matched incredibly softly until taking on Kota Fujimoto, and struggling to a draw in 2017. A second draw in 2018 saw him come up just short in a Japanese Super Flyweight title fight against Takayuki Okumoto.
Sadly Hashizume has only fought once since his draw last year with Okumoto, picking up a win over Filipino journeyman Jayar Estremos. Now with a record of 17-0-2 (10) we do wonder where the talented southpaw is going with his career. He has the skills, but there is doubt about his team and his desire, though at 25 there is still plenty of time to buckle down and kick on.
Flyweight-Kenya Yamashita (7-0, 4)
When the then 18 year old Kenya Yamashita beat Shun Kosaka, who was 9-0 himself, in the Rookie of the Year final the expectations were that Yamashita would go on to be a star. At the time he was a stablemate of Shingo Wake, had a really exciting style and ticked all the boxed as one to watch. Sadly however within just a few fights of his Rookie triumph the shine had been taken off his rise, with 3 losses in 5 fights, including a thrilling 3rd round KO loss to Katsunori Nagamine. Despite those losses he has remained a tenacious, fan friendly fighter and has been a "stop or be stopped" fighter, only going the distance in 1 of his post Rookie of the Year bouts.
With a record of 14-5 (11) Yamashita's early promise is clearly not being realised, but on the other hand he is giving his so much action and excitement it's hard to complain about the 23 year old, who is very much a fan favourite. He last fought in July, in the quarter finals of God's Left Bantamweight tournament, stopping Gaku Aikawa, and will face Seiya Tsutsumi in the semi final on November 9th. Win or lost Yamashita is always worth watching.
Light Flyweight-Kenji Ono (then 7-1, 3)
Ono won the Rookie of the Year by beating Seita Ogido in the final and the then 26 year old seemed to have plenty of promise. He would reel off 4 straight wins following his Rookie triumph, including winning an incredibly bout with Jun Takigawa in 2016, but is win-less in his last 4, which have included an opening round blow out to Seigo Yuri Akui. Although there is time for him to do something with his career, we're not really sure what he can do before his career slips away.
Now aged 31 with a record of 11-3-2 (6) Ono is already on the older side for a Light Flyweight, and a loss in February to Hayato Yamaguchi, following back to back draws, doesn't bode well. Ono has fought just once a year in 2019, 2018 and 2017 and we wouldn't be surprised to see his career coming to an end sooner rather than later.
Minimumweight-Reiya Konishi (then 7-0, 4)
Whilst Ryohei Takahashi has had the biggest single fight we think it's very fair to say that Reiya Konishi has made more of his career than anyone else on this winners list. The then 21 year beat Yuki Kubo in the final then climbed through the domestic rankings before taking the Japanese Minimumweight title in 2017, with a win over Masataka Taniguchi. After defending the Japanese title twice he moved up in weight and challenged the WBA "regular" Light Flyweight champion Carlos Canizales in a really good bout in 2018. Despite losing to Canizales, by unanimous decision, Konishi would remain in the mix and got his second world title fight earlier this year, losing a clearer decision to Felix Alvarado.
At 26 years old Konishi is already a 2-time world title challenger and his 17-2 (7) record is very unlikely to be the end of his story. He's not fought in May but we wouldn't be surprised to see him back in the ring before the end of 2020 and potentially working his way to a third world title fight. With his style he's worthy of attention and with Shinsei gym needing a consistent draw Konishi could well be part of much bigger plans for his team.
The Lucky loser - Hironobu Matsunaga (then 6-1, 3)
Matsunaga lost in his final to Yuki Beppu as Welterweight but since then has had one of the more notable careers. In fact Mastunaga's career has been more successful than almost all the winners. He was 27 when he lost to Beppu but since then he has reeled off 9 wins, including one over Hisao Narita, and gone on to claim both the WBO Asia Pacific and Japanese titles at 154lbs. His recent wins have included stoppages over Koshinmaru Saito and Nobuyuki Shindo, and he has really made the most of his career.
Now aged 32 Matsunaga is the Japanese Light Middleweight champion and sports a 15-1 (9) record. Despite losing in the Rookie of the Year final he has shown not to write off fighters, and has done fantastically well with career. He's expected to defend his national title next year at the Champion Carnival, and, barring Konishi, is possibly the most successful of all the 2014 Rookie of the Year finalists.
For many fans the key thing left this year are the three shows spanning the final 2 days of the year. We can't say that we're not incredibly excited about them but there's several things we're excited about before then, including the All Japan Rookie of the Year finals which come on December 21st from the Korakuen Hall. The show is the end of this year's Rookie of the Year competition and is likely to be a fantastic platform for some very promising fighters to build on.
As we did with the regional finals in November we have decided to break down the bouts on the show in an attempt to give you guys some details on each of fighters and fighters involved in the finals.
Reiya Konishi (6-0, 4) Vs Yuki Kubo (6-1, 2)
The first bout on the show comes at 105lbs and looks like a brilliant way to kick off the show with two men who know what a win could do for their careers.
The unbeaten Konishi is from the Shinsei gym and at just 21 years old has really impress rarely losing a round thus far in his career, that's despite facing 4 unbeaten men including Jun Takigawa last time out. Against Takigawa we saw Konishi being given a real test and passing it in a bout that would certainly have been character building for the youngster who had stopped his previous 4 opponents. Interestingly he has fought as high as Flyweight and it may be that he's either boiling down to make Minimumweight for this bout or that he's just incredibly strong, we suspect we'll find out very soon.
Aged 27 Kubo is significantly older than his young opponent though the Celes gym fight cannot rely on age to win him his upcoming bout. Like Konishi, Kubo comes into this bout in realy form having won his last 6 bouts including 3 wins over unbeaten opponents with his last foe being the then 5-0 Masayuki Ichikawa. Beaten on his debut, narrowly, Kubo has bounced back well and shown some real skill whilst fighting behind his southpaw stance however his relative lack of power maybe an issue against his better opponents, possibly including Konishi here.
Kenji Ono (6-1, 3) Vs Seita Ogido (6-1-1, 1)
On paper one of the most evenly matched bouts is this Light Flyweight contest between a pair of young southpaws. Sadly it also seems likely to be one of the worst with neither guy really standing out so far in their career's.
On paper the 26 year old Ono is the bigger puncher with 3 stoppages from his 7 bouts. Saying that however the Teiken promoted fighter hasn't looked great when he's not managed to stop opponents and all 3 decisions wins have been razor thin split decision victories. His loss, back in 2012, has also raised question marks about his chin as Daisuke Hayakawa stopped him in 2 rounds. It seems either Ono will hurt you or really struggle.
Ogido is the younger man at 21 years old though does boast an extra fight's worth of experience and has shown that he doesn't mind going the distance. Like Ono we've seen Ogido struggle with making wins clear and he has 2 very close decision wins on his record as well as a split decision draw and a split decision loss. Although talented it does seem like he needs to mature into his power and strength and also needs more experience before moving on to better opponents.
Kenya Yamashita (6-0, 4) Vs Shun Kosaka (9-0)
One of the most interesting bouts comes at Flyweight where we get two unbeaten men colliding with very different styles and mentalities. One is a pure boxer whilst the other has a fighters instinct.
Yamashita is a product of the Koguchi gym, the same gym as Shingo Wake, and at just 18 years old appears to be the gym's future star. He has shown solid power so far stopping 4 of his 6 opponents though strangely he has been run very close when he's not managed to stop opponents with 2 split decision wins as well as his stoppages. To date he has beaten 3 unbeaten fighters including a very notable win against the then 5-0-1 Sonin Nihei in his regional final. Although he has already had 6 fights he has only been a professional for a year and we suspect a lack of real experience could be major question mark coming into this bout.
Aged 19 Kosaka is also a very promising younger but the Shinsei gym hopeful has next to no power having been unable to record a single stoppage in his first 9 bouts. Whilst that sounds bad he has shown he has incredible ability and has lost only 1 of his 39 professional rounds so far. His competition, on the whole, hasn't looked great on paper though many of his of his foes have been more experienced than he has been and that will likely have helped him develop a few tricks whilst he continues to mature into a fine prospect.
Masayoshi Hashizume (6-0, 4) Vs Shogo Yonenaga (6-1, 3)
A bout that has us licking our lips with excitement comes at Super Flyweight where we expect a really exciting bout between two men who have shown a willingness to really let their hands go.
Of the two it's men here it's the 21 year old Hashizume, of the Ioka gym, that has us really excited. The hard hitting southpaw has fought 4 successive unbeaten opponents and he's taken the last 2 of them out in a combined 158 seconds. He's heavy handed, exciting, aggressive and everything a fan should want to see in a prospect, though he can be a little bit wild and has left himself a little open in the past. Of course coming from the Ioka gym he will be very confident, will be training with top tier gym mates, all of which could help him to have developed a little quicker than some other Rookies. If you've not seen him we suggesting giving a watch to his fights with Takeshi Kajikawa from two fights back and his most recent contest, when he took on Eita Sakurai,and again looked destructive.
Aged 26 Yonenaga will be feeling like he's coming into his physical prime however the Miyata gym prospect doesn't quiet fill us with the same excitement as Hashizume has done. Yonenaga has been a professional for a little more than 2 years and although he suffered an early loss, a 4th round TKO to Hiroto Kurosawa in May 2013, he has bounced back really well to win 5 on the spin. Last time out he stopped Hokuto Sakata in the 4th round and strangely all of his stoppages have come in the fourth. He's not as explosive as his opponents but with 28 rounds under the belt he is experienced and actually has twice as many rounds as his younger foe. That experience will likely be his key if he's to win here.
Keisuke Tabuchi (8-1-2, 6) Vs Ryohei Takakashi (4-1-1)
At Bantamweight we have a bout that is interesting though may not quite be as exciting as some of the others.
Tabuchi is a 21 year old who appears to have most of the advantages here. Although he's from the little known Yao boxing gym he is experienced, with 11 bouts, he's got real momentum with a 10 fight unbeaten streak, and has power having stopped 6 opponents, including 3 of his last 4. Like many fighters on this show however Tabuchi seems to struggle when he can't score a knockout and his 2 close wins, as well as his draw and loss, have all been very close bouts and we suspect he'll lose close bouts in the future. One of those close bouts was his narrow win over Takaaki Kitagawa from just 2 fights back.
Takahashi lacks the power and experience of Tabuchi but is older, at 24, and comes from an established gym, Yokohama Hikara, which boasts championship level fighters like Daiki Kaneko and Ryo Akaho. Training with the likes of Kaneko and Akaho will almost certainly have helped Takahashi more than sharing the ring with some lesser foes however that training is just training. If there is a major advantage for Takahashi coming into this bout it's that he has shown a great ability to win rounds having scored 4 pretty clear decision wins. He started his career 0-1-1 though has rebuilt very well and seems to know that his strength isn't his power.
Shohei Kawashima (8-0-2, 1) Vs Yuki Matsudo (8-1, 4)
Domestically the Super Bantamweight division in Japan is fantastic at the moment with the likes of Shingo Wake, Yusaku Kuga, Shun Kubo, Sho Nakazawa and Shohei Omori all making their name in, or around, 122lbs. The winner of this bout will be hoping to join those names we just mentioned.
Aged 22 Kawashima is one of the many Shinsei gym fighters who has reached this stage in the Rookie of the Year. Unbeaten in 10 bouts he is man who has been given some good tests, including his last bout against Shisato Okuma though his big issue appears to be a lack of power, an issue is almost certainly going to hold him back from reaching the top. With 10 bouts on his ledger you actually need to go back to debut, in November 2012, to find his sole stoppage which came very late in the bout. One notable thing about Kawashima however is his experience which included 40 rounds already, a huge number for a fighter in the Rookie of the Year.
Matsudo may have a loss on his record but he appears to have many advantages over Kawashima coming into this bout. Aged 20 the Aoki prospect is a tall and rangy southpaw with spiteful power, developing man strength and confidence that is building rapidly. He was beaten on his debut but has since gone 8-0 with and never looked like losing during that on-going run. His most recent bout, a 5 round decision over Yoshifumi Tamaki, looked a great test on paper but Matsudo made it look easy losing just a round on route to his win and he'll be hoping to do the same here. Sadly the only footage we have of Matsudo comes from several fights back when he over-came Ryuya Kaji with a decision back in July.
Reiya Abe (7-1, 4) Vs Kyohei Tonomoto (5-1, 2)
At Featherweight we get a bout between two men with a single loss each and a combined age of 40. It's fair to say that the winner will be moved on quickly but the loser certainly still has a future which ever way this one goes.
The more experienced, and slightly older, fighter is Abe at 21 years old and with 8 fights behind him. Of those 8 fights the last 6 have all been wins with only one of them even being close. We had expected the KG Yamato fighter to have been given a serious test last time out, as he faced Naoto Moriya in a very good looking bout, in the end however he made that contest look easy with a 113 second win and we feel he's really finding his grove with 4 stoppages in his last 5 bouts. As well as his power he's also a dreaded southpaw and a relatively tall one at a little under 5'8” making his a nasty proposition for anyone.
At just 19 years old Tonomoto is a relative baby in boxing terms though he already has 6 fights worth of experience and has been a professional since early 2013. Of his 6 bouts the last 4 have all been wins, though he was somewhat fortunate to over-come the limited Toru Kageyama in a bout that was much harder than we would have expected given Kageyama's known limitations. In his most recent bout Tonomoto looked very good in defeating Takashi Igarashi and if he performs to that level again here he really could put on a performance to remember against a very good foe.
Yuichiro Kasuya (5-0, 1) Vs Masashi Wakita (4-2-1, 2)
On paper one of the weakest bouts is the Super Featherweight contest and even though we think it's weak we've got to admit we're really looking forward to it thanks to the way both men performed last time out.
Last time out Kasuya, then 17 though now 18, put on a sensational performance in his bout with Yutaka Ekawa in a bout that some regarded as the best bout of the Rookie of the Year competition this year. The fight was a thriller and saw both men hurt as the crowd got their money's worth. We're hoping to see more of the same here from the Ishikawa youngster who is a fighter showing real signs of being an all-action fighter, despite some clear limitations. At his age he's not yet developed the power he will need to make the most of his style though we suspect in the near future this kid could become one of those must watch fighters, win or lose. For those wanting to see Kasuya we sadly don't have footage of the Ekawa bout but we do have his bout with Shonosuke Sango.
Wakita, also an 18 year old, comes into this bout without a win since late May and has gone 0-1-1 in his last 2 contests, though the draw last time out was a really good contest against an unbeaten foe. Sadly that leads us to suspect that he is very fortunate to be in this bout and his confidence will likely be shot. Prior to his recent blips he was on a 4 fight winning streak though those wins had come against weak opponents. In theory Wakita is a nightmare to fight as he stands at 5'10” and fights as a southpaw though we suspect the fact he's so young leaves him lacking the physical maturity he needs for now. Sadly we think this is probably coming a year too early for Wakita, though we suspect he will put up a great effort here.
Andy Hiraoka (6-0, 3) Vs Shogo Yamguchi (6-0-1, 3)
At Lightweight we get a wonderfully enticing bout between two unbeaten men with very similar looking records each looking for their biggest win and a chance to really put themselves on the fast track.
Hiraoka has been one of the real success stories of this years Rookie of the Year and the 18 year old student has managed to capture the imagination of the boxing media as well as the fans. He is seen as the rising star of the Hanagata gym and has got the folks there very excited. The excitement isn't just because he's young and unbeaten but also because he's shown clear ability and has the potential to go a very long way. Not only is he talented and young but, at 5'11” and boxing as a southpaw, he's also a bit of a physical freak who uses his size excellently to box behind his sharp jab and make the most of his natural advantages. We suspect if he wins here he'll go on to become one of the stars of Japanese over the next few years. Sadly the sole footage we have of Hiraoka was his bout Susumu Nakata.
Although much of the attention here is on Hiraoka it's fair to say that Yamaguchi, a product from the Seien gym, is deserving of plenty of attention himself. Aged 21 he too is unbeaten and has reached this stage in the Rookie of the Year tournament by winning fights, in fact he has won his last 6 following a draw on his debut. Sadly whilst he is in great form on paper he did struggle in his last 2 bouts and wins in both of them may just cover up the cracks. If he's not as good as his record suggests then it's likely he'll be kept at the end of Hiraoka's long jab.
Naoharu Kida (6-0, 3) Vs Tetsuya Morisada (4-3, 4)
We're sad to report that this bout won't be taking place. With that said there is no point in us going into the details of either fighter though we have been informed it was Kida who was unable to take part in the contest. For what it's worth we have had footage of Kida in the past with his bout against Minoru Iizuka being the most notable whilst footage of Morisada came form his bout with Chocoboy Oizumi.
Yuki Beppu (7-0, 7) Vs Hironobu Matsunaga (6-0, 3)
Another all unbeaten bout, and possible the most exciting bout on paper, comes at Welterweight where we see the heaviest puncher in action against his toughest test to date.
Obviously the puncher here is Beppu who has looked devastating so far with 7 straight stoppage wins, including 5 in the opening round. Aged 23 it seems likely that Beppu will only become stronger and more powerful and if that happens he may well end up becoming one of those rare Japanese fighters that can make a name for himself both in the East and in the West. The big issue at the moment is how does his power effect better fighters than those he has been matched up with so far, though it does need saying that he made very light work of Shota Yamamoto in what was, supposedly, his toughest test to date. If his power is as legit as it seems this guy has the potential to really be something special. Sadly however we don't know what his stamina or chin is like as of yet and they are going to be major questions even if his power is legitimate.
Matsunaga is a 27 year old southpaw who has shown good power in some of his bouts but on the whole appears to be more of a boxer than a puncher. That's been a good thing recently as 3 of his last 4 bouts have gone the distance, including a very narrow win over Makoto Kawasaki in September. Trained at the Yokohama Hikara gym he does have good training partners available to him but we do wonder how good he really is and what his chin is like. We suspect we'll find out how good Matsunaga's chin is here.
Hisao Narita (7-1, 4) Vs Toshihiro Kai (4-6-2, 1)
The final bout on the show comes at Middleweight in what is clearly the biggest mismatch of the show and features the only fighter with a losing record.
Narita, the clear favourite in this one, is a fighter from the Nakaya boxing gym who has strung together 6 successive wins after being stopped in a round by Shun Tomoshige back in April 2012, whilst fighting as a Welterweight. Although not a top prospect we have seen plenty from the 23 year old to suggest he could go on to mix at Japanese title level, especially given that the division is a weak one domestically. Although he didn't look great last time out, beating Asashi Hatsumi, he has shown plenty to like and we suspect he'll find a way to show what he's about here. Interestingly Narita celebrates his 24th birthday a day after this fight.
Kai is easily the luckiest man on this show and also the worst. Saying that however Kai needs to be given credit for winning his last bout, stopping Ryota Ikawa, and will know that he is being over-looked going into this bout. With no pressure on his shoulders the 29 year old may well find himself putting the performance of a life time, after all what is there to lose?
(Image courtesy http://www.kadoebi.com)
Last week we saw the East Japan Rookie of the Year finals, this week comes the West and Central Japan Rookie of the Year finals to find the Western representative for the All Japan Finals in December.
This week then we've tried to break down the 12 bouts for this part of the competition looking at the men involved in the contests and, where we've been lucky, managed to link to some footage of the fighters involved. We hope this helps you understand the fights and fighters ahead on Sunday's bouts.
Reiya Konishi (5-0, 4) Vs Jun Takigawa (5-0, 3)
The show kicks off with almost perfect start as we get very evenly matched and unbeaten fighters colliding in the biggest bout of their careers. There is really little to complain about here and both will putting it all on the line to kick off the action in the best way possible, with an exciting win.
The 21 year old Konishi is from Kobe and part of the Shinsei Gym which has long worked with the excellent Hozumi Hasegawa. If Konishi can have a career like Hasegawa's then it's fair to say that Shinsei will have got themselves a superb fighter. At the moment however the 21 year old is still at the early stages of his career and already ready made an impact barely dropping a round in his 5 career bouts which have included 4 success stoppages including victories over 2 unbeaten men. As well as his impressive record he was also the West Japan Skills award winner suggesting that he has skills to go with his power.
At 24 Takigawa is the older man and the Aichi native will hope that this will be a case of man against boy. The Yakushiji Gym fighter won the Central Japan technical award on his way to this stage of the Rookie of the year and has looked like he can do a bit of everything in his career so far. He turned professional back in mid-2013 though it's been his wins over Hideako Kamiyasu, a 4th round KO, and Naoya Haruguchi, a 5 round unanimous decision, that have really caught the eye.
We'll be honest we're really looking forward to this one.
Seigo Yuri Akui (2-0) Vs Seita Ogido (6-1, 1)
In terms of pure experience the biggest mismatch is at Light Flyweight though we're actually expecting a really good bout, even if the fighters involved aren't punchers, in the slightest.
Okayama native Akui is a 19 year old who made his debut in April of this year and has lost just 1 of his 8 career rounds, interestingly however both of his opponents this far have been unbeaten men suggesting that maybe the novice does know more than his record suggests. A member of the Kurashiki Moriyasu Gym we've got to admit he's not got a large team behind him however Akui will know that winning the All-Japan Rookie of the Year will put him on the proverbial shop window for a transfer to a bigger and stronger gym that maybe able to help him improve as a fighter.
The once beaten Ogido is a 21 year old southpaw boxing out of the Hiranaka gym in Okinawa. Although he's part of this year's Rookie of the Year has has been a professional for more than 3 years having made his debut in June 2011 with a majority decision win over Shingo Yamada, he has however had a stop-start career which saw him spending 22 months out of the ring before re-emerging earlier this year with his sole stoppage victory, a 2nd round TKO over Naoki Shoda. In his most recent bout he over-came Kenta Matsui with a 5 round decision to move on to this interesting and potentially career changing contest.
Shun Kosaka (8-0) Vs Naoki Shoda (4-7-1)
The Flyweight plays host to the winningest fighter on the show as well as the most experienced man in what appears, on paper, to be the biggest mismatch on the show.
Kosaka's 8-0 record is the longest winning run on the show and the Shinsei gym fighter has been going about things quietly but confidently since making his debut in December 2012 as a baby faced 17 year. Unfortunately as he's still a kid, now 19, it appears his man strength hasn't yet started to develop though he has dropped only a handful of his 33 career rounds. We wonder if he will ever truly develop sting on his shots but so far he's not really needed it so it's hard to say if and what will happen when he does require some power.
The 24 year old Shoda is a product of the Missile Kudo boxing gym and although record is blotchy, to say the least, his desire cannot be question and his career, which began in 2009, has had more up and downs than most rollercoasters, he is however with a man who know what it's like to have a rocky career and if any one is going to help him it will be Kudo, a former Japanese champion with a similar looking record to Shoda. It does need noting that Shoda has won just 1 of his last 6 bouts though that was a highly important victory over Kazuyuki Tomita to net his this massive opportunity. A win for Shoda would be a real life Rocky story.
Masayoshi Hashizume (5-0, 3) Vs Eita Sakurai (4-0, 1)
The second all unbeaten bout comes at Super Flyweight in what is the best bout since the Minimumweight bout and it promises to be a very good contest both on paper and in the ring.
The 21 year old Hashizume is a product of the Ioka gym and is regarded by some as the next Ioka gym fighter to become a champion. So far in his career he has been incredible with only Ryusuke Tanaka really giving him any issues in a hard fought, but clear, unanimous decision win. Last time out he looked sensational blowing away Takeshi Kajikawa in 38 seconds to become the West Japan MVP and he'll know a win here will give him a great chance to become the All Japan Rookie of the Year MVP. Fighting as a southpaw this kid looks something a bit special.
Aged 20 Sakurai comes into this bout unbeaten but with with out a really impressive win and his 4 rounder over Teruyuki Kobashi last time out wasn't the sort of stunning win scored by Hasizume. The Shizuoka native is a product of the Fuji gym and like one or two others will know that a win here, especially over someone as touted as Hashizume, would put him in the market for a bigger name trainer. A lot to gain here here for the unbeaten 20 year old but he knows he'll be viewed as the under-dog.
Morihisa Iju (5-0, 4) Vs Keisuke Tabuchi (7-1-2, 5)
Potentially one of the most explosive encounters comes at Bantamweight as both fighters carry some solid whack on their shots and real promise.
The unbeaten Iju,a 25 year old from the Yutaka Okinawa gym, is unbeaten and has looked explosive since making his debut in June 2013. Of his 5 bouts so far only 1 has gone beyond the second round and it's clear that he has heavy hands and likes to use them. Interestingly he did fight his first 2 bouts as a Super Bantamweight before settling this year at Bantamweight where he scored notable stoppages over Koichi Uryu and Masaru Urata, both of whom were unbeaten when he stopped them in in a combined 3 rounds.
Tabuchi comes into this contest as the Fighting Spirit Award winner for the West and the 21 year old from a local gym in Yao, Osaka, has really had to show that fighting spirit in his carer. He lost on debut back in April 2012 and although he's gone 7-0-2 (5) since he has had some real battles including his recent contest, a 5 round struggle over Takaaki Kitagawa. Tabuchi seems to each stop opponents or really struggle with them, there are no easy decisions on his ledger and if he wins here we suspect he will have to do it the hard way again.
Shohei Kawashima (7-0-2, 1) Vs Shisato Okuma (8-1-2, 6)
Two of the most experience men collide in the Super Bantamweight bout which features the fighter with the longest unbeaten record of anyone on the show against a solid puncher.
The unbeaten Kawashima is a 22 year old fighter from the Shinsei gym who boats a 9 fight unbeaten record but has gone 8 bouts with out a stoppage following a 4th round TKO victory on his debut in November 2012. On paper his opponents have been tough with 5 unbeaten foes, including a debutant, though he has struggled to remain unbeaten and we wouldn't be surprised if he does lose when he steps up ever so slightly, whether that's this bout or an All-Japan final is for the future to show us.
Okuma is a product of the Nakazato gym, which currently has Katsunari Takayama and Hiroyuki Hisataka fighting under it's banner. The once beaten 25 year old is on an 8 fight unbeaten streak spanning back almost 3 years though he seems to be one of those fighters who either blasts people away, as he did with Yukiya Higa and Keisuke Fukuda, or struggle as he did with Yuta Horrike and Masatsugu Ito, last time out. He's heavy handed but we do wonder about his over-all skills.
Takashi Igarashi (5-0, 1) Vs Kyohei Tonomoto (4-1, 2)
In the Featherweight bout we get a very even looking contest with both men having the same number of fighters and neither being much of a puncher. It may not be the most attractive of the contests but it does seem like it will probably be very competitive.
The unbeaten Igarashi is a member of his local Tokoname gym and at just 18 years old is a very promising. He won the Central Japan MVP last time out with his win over Sho Takahashi though a number of his bouts have been very close with 3 narrow decisions, including a split decision over Takahashi. We do wonder if his struggles are down to a lack of power, he's not stopped anyone other than Masanari Iwane on his debut, or whether it's a lack of confidence, maturity or experience though we assume when things click he could be one to watch.
The once beaten Tonomoto is also a teenager at 19 years old. A member of the Harada gym he has been a professional since 2013 and made his debut in April 2013 with a 4th round TKO against Takuya Yamamoto. In his second bout he was clearly out pointed by Shingo Kawamura and has since strung together a trio of wins includin a split decision last time out against Toru Kageyama. This will be Tonomoto's first bout against an unbeaten opponent though it is certainly a winnable contest for him and a chance to open up the door to a big opportunity.
Yuya Shimakura (3-0) Vs Masashi Wakita (4-2, 2)
At 130lbs we can interesting bout though on paper it's one of the worst as an unbeaten man takes on an opponent with a couple of losses. With the Japanese scene at Super Featherweight being insane right now this could feature men who are going to be a long way from domestic title contention no matter how good they look in what is left of the Rookie of the Year.
Shimakura is from the Gifu Yokozeki gym and is an unbeaten 19 year who made his debut at the end of last year with a clear decision over the win-less Yosuke Goto, since then he has moved up in quality and his hard fought win over Kazuaki Okada last time out was by far his best win. Without a stoppage through his first 3 fights there is some doubt about his power though he has only lost 3 or 4 rounds so far in his career and with developing confidence and experience there is certainly a bit of promise about the youngster from Gifu city.
Aged 18 Sakita doesn't have a perfect record but is a youngster who is very interesting as a Super Featherweight. Trained at the Sakaihigashi Mitsuki Boxing Gym he's a freakishly tall, 5'10", southpaw who lacks maturity but does have talent. He lost on his debut back in May 2013 when he was just a teenager and he also lost last time out, a KO loss to Takuya Hashimoto in a Lightweight contest, notably though both losses have come at Lightweight. With his frame it could be that he's been a little bit mismanaged and that it would have been better for him to have gone the amateur route whilst he developed physically. At his stature and and stance he is gonna be a nightmare by default just hopefully he's not going to take too much damage before he can physically mature.
Takahiro Shinoda (1-0, 1) Vs Shogo Yamaguchi (5-0-1, 3)
Another of the all-unbeaten bouts comes at Lightweight where we find the least experienced fight on the show fighting someone who has been in 6 times as many bouts and 18 times as many rounds. We kid you not.
It's almost impossible to get any sort of a read on Shinoda who has fought just 1 professional round, in fact it took him just 1 minute to see off Hayato Shimosakoda in August giving the 20 year southpaw the bizarre status of having next to know experience going into this incredibly important contest. What we do know about him is that he's a prospect of the Nara gym but other than that we only know what we saw in his debut, and that was that he had a solid looking right hook that twice dropped Shimosakoda.
At just 21 years old Yamaguchi is himself a youngster though with 6 fights and 18 rounds of professional experience he looks like a veritable veteran in comparison to Shinoda. Yamaguchi made his debut in April 2013 and fought to a draw though has scored 5 straight victories including 3 against unbeaten foes such as Junichi Ibato, Kazuaki Okada and Fine Arai, though he did struggle with Arai who ended a 3 fight stoppage streak of Yamaguchi's. Yamaguchi trains at the Seien Gym, AKA "Far West", and whilst the gym is a relatively small one is does have success stories in it, Yamaguchi will be hoping to become another.
Chocoboy Oizumi (4-2-2, 2) Vs Tetsuya Morisada (3-3, 3)
On paper the Light Welterweight contest appears to be the weakest of the 12 bouts on offer however in some ways it's actually likely to be one of the most entertaining, despite the fighters having only won 50% of their professional contests.
Oizumi is the better known fighter due to his moniker of "Chocoboy" though he is also know as Afro Sho and his real name is actually Sho Oizumi. Aged 23 he's a smidge over 5'7" and fights from the southpaw stance. Although his record doesn't look great it needs to be noted that he actually started his career with a 0-2-1 record and has done really well to turn things around with a 5 fight unbeaten run. As part of the Atsume boxing gym, alongside Japanese Light Middleweight champion Yuki Nonaka and former OPBF Super Featherweight champion Masao Nakamura he has been able to get a very high level of sparring that will certainly help him improve.
With an even record of 3-3 Morisada doesn't look like a man, on paper, who should be competing in a major Rookie of the Year bout like this, however he has won his last 2 bouts including an opening round blow out against the much fancied Yusuke Yamanouchi. Blessed with power the 19 year old Morisada is heavy handed though seems to react bad to being hit and has been stopped twice himself. As a "stop or be stopped" type of fighter we've got to admit we are looking forward to seeing the Niimi gym hopeful in action.
Yuki Beppu (6-0, 6) Vs Shota Yamamoto (5-1, 3)
The Welterweight clash promises to be an explosive one with the hardest hitter, pound-for-pound, on the show against a confident and promising fighter in what looks likely to help move the winner towards not only the All-Japan Rookie of the Year final but also well on their way to a national title shot.
The 23 year old Beppu is a puncher with truly heavy hands. So far his 6 bouts have lasted a combined 9 rounds with only one opponent, Koki Tomio, last more than 2 rounds with him. Beppu is managed but the Kurume gym and has been looking like a fighter who is capable of creating headlines with his power, aggressive style and willingness to finish things early, as he did against Shinpei Tominaga in his most recent bout. We suspect that if Beppu can continue to rip apart the field and become the All-Japan Rookie of the Year then Japanese boxing will have a domestic star on it's hands in the near future.
The once beaten Yamamoto is a 21 year old who stands at 5'10" and is coming into this bout on a 2 fight winning streak since losing a close decision to Hideo Mikan in August 2013. Incidentally Yamamoto began his career with victory over Mkan in Novemeber 2012 before scoring back-to-back opening round victories. Since the loss we've seen Yamamoto blow away Shosui Kitajima and take a very hard fought decision over Ryo Kanda to get him into this position.
Toshihiro Kai (3-6-2) Vs Ryota Ikawa (1-5)
The Middleweight bout is the only one that features two men with losing records though of course the Middleweight division in Japan is centred around only a small number of fighters and the lack of quality here does correlate some what to the domestic scene at large.
Kai is a 29 year old southpaw who has certainly had a stop-start career. He debuted way back in 2003 as a Welterweight and went 1-1-1 in his first 12 months as a professional before taking a 14 month break from the ring. Between October 2005 and May 2012 Kai fought 4 times, lsoing all 4 bouts, including a majority decision to Takayuki Hosokawa. He then took a year long break from the rint before returning last May to beat Shinichi Nomoto since then he has been stopped in a round by Koki Tyson Maebara and fought to a draw with Isamu Yonemitsu. Managed by Miyazaki World this is really his make or break fight.
The 28 year old Ikawa began his career with 5 successive losses between December 2011 and December 2013. Earlier this year however he recorded his first, and so far only, win avenging 2 prior defeats to Brandon Lockhart Shane in what was their third bout together. The 28 year old Ikawa began his career with 5 successive losses between December 2011 and December 2013. Earlier this year however he recorded his first, and so far only, win avenging 2 prior defeats to Brandon Lockhart Shane in what was their third bout together. Promoted by the Oboshi boxing gym it's hard to say what they expect of Ikawa but if he manages a win here then it needs to be said that this is a miraculous career turn around.
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