In November we counted down a number of honourable mentions for our 20 for 20. Now it's time to look at the 20 fighters who have managed to make it into the list properly, and they come from all over Asia and all over the weight classes. Some of these you may already be aware of, some are perhaps less well known, but either way these 20 men are going to be well worth following in the new year as they look to push forward in their career and move towards major success.
For these fighters we will look at the the reason why you should follow them, our expectations for them in the coming year and the issues they may face going forward. The one rule with all of these fighters is that they can have fought for a world title at the time of writing, as the fighters who have are, essentially, already ones to watch having dabbled at world level. Some of these are world ranked, and some of these may well be set for world title fights in the near future, but so far they have not had that top level bout.
Without any further ado, lets take a look at the man we have ranked #17 in our list of Ones to watch in 2020
Shokichi Iwata (4-0, 3)
The Light Flyweight division is, right now, one of the hottest in the sport, with so much fantastic talent at the top of the division. You could easily have a WBSS style tournament in the division and complain more about who isn't in the tournament than negatively talk about those who are included. The division really is stacked. As well as the top guys however the division also has a host of really exciting youngsters coming through the ranks, one of those is Teiken promoted Shokichi Iwata. The talented 23 year old was an excellent amateur, who scored wins over Takuma Inoue and Kosei Tanaka, has already made his US debut and recently had his 4th bout shown to a US audience. The belief is that he is going places, and going there quickly with Teiken expected to push him to the moon.
We've already seen Iwata impress, we've seen him on US TV, we've seen him on US soil, we've seen him box and brawl, with in just 4 fights we have seen so much to get excited about. At times he has shown flaws, and his November win over Alejandro Cruz Valladares perhaps showed he was too happy to take a shot sometimes. Though we do suspect that was, at least partly, due to Valladares' lack of power. Thankfully it did show that Iwata was willing to put on a show when he wanted to, and his May over Daiki Kameyama showed he could play it safe when he needed to.
What do we expect?
Whilst 2020 doesn't seem likely to be the year where Iwata gets a world title fight, we do expect to see a lot of him, with potentially 3 fights against progressively better opponents through the year. A world title really does look outside of his reach for the year, but moves towards a national or regional title should be the least we expect from someone with his ability. He is such a skilled fighter that we expect to see him break into the world rankings and be up against a notable divisional name by the end off the year. It may be that he faces a faded a force, but we certainly suspect that his name will be one that is spoken about, a lot, in mid to late 2020 before he really announced himself on the world stage in 2021.
Iwata's biggest issue, perhaps, is finding his identity in the ring. We have seen him fight, we have seen him box, but we suspect haven't yet seen him settle on a style that he's fully happy with. Having alternate game plans on his pocket is a great asset to have when he needs them, but in 2020 we expect to see Iwata settle on a main style. Be it the outside boxing that he showed against Kameyama, or the aggressive fighting he style he showed against Valladares. He's very good at both, but we'd like to see him stick to one if we're being honest.
For Iwata 2020 doesn't bring many concerns, but there are maybe one or two things to consider with him, notably the other fighter in and around the Light Flyweight division. Iwata is among the most accomplished, terms of his amateur pedigree, but he's certainly not alone in terms of his potential and his desire to be a big name.
Iwata is likely to get opportunities that others won't, the fact he is backed by Teiken and has such a strong amateur background certainly help him, but there isn't really an easy route to a title give the competition in and around the domestic and regional scene. Even supposedly easier title fights, like a bout with Japanese national champion Yuto Takahashi, aren't as easy as they look.
The youngster clearly has ambition to get in the mix quickly, and that's great, but that ambition can be a concern if it's not tempered a little bit, and Teiken will certainly want to just make sure Iwata doesn't look beyond his opponents and he doesn't race into fights that he's ready for at the time. That's likely not too much of an issue, but does need keeping in mind, at least for the next year or two.
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