In December we are going to be sharing our "20 for 20", a list of 20 fighters to keep an eye on for the new year. Ahead of that we will be looking at a number of fighters who just missed out on that list.
These are the fighters who perhaps won't be ready for a world title by the end of next year, but we feel will make a mark in the year, and go on to do big things in the following year or two. Typically they are the prospects who perhaps need a little more time to develop, or who are still a bit too young for the big fights, or maybe just don't seem like they are quite there yet. These are our "Honourable mentions - 20 for 20" fighters and these will be posted daily until the start of December!
Shu Utsuki (6-0, 5)
The Watanabe gym is bringing through a lot of Japanese talent at once, as they look to rebuild following the retirements of Takashi Uchiyama and Kohei Kono, and the downfall of stalwart Ryoichi Taguchi. Among those rising through the ranks from the gym is Lightweight hopeful Shu Utsuki, a hard hitting, aggressive and exciting fighter who will almost certainly be mixing for titles by the end of 2020.
The 25 year old was a former amateur out with over 80 wins in the unpaid ranks and has been moved pretty well since his debut in March 2018. He's not had the big fan fare of other prospects but has ticked a lot of boxed and gone about things the right way with a consistent level of activity. He fought 3 times in 2018 and has added 3 more wins in 2019, including wins over Jerry Castroverde and Omrri Bolivar, and he has also headlined a show himself this year.
Blessed with heavy hands, and exciting style and a strong amateur pedigree it seems impossible for Utsuki to not make a big mark in 2020, especially if the regional and domestic titles are to be split as triple-crown winner Shuichiro Yoshino looks to move onto bigger and better things. Utsuki will be in the mix for all 3 titles and it seems clear that his intention if to claim some silverware in the new year.
Having seen how quickly stablemate Hironori Mishiro has moved through the rankings Utsuki will want to do something similar.
Expectations for 2020?
It's clear that Utsuki is a talent. He's a natural in the ring with very sharp punching, impressive composure, nice shot selection and movement. There is no point giving him any more easy wins, especially now that he's headlined a card himself. Instead 2020 has to be about moving forward and claiming silverware.
We do expect Utsuki to wait until Yoshino vacates at least 1 title before getting a title shot of his own but the 25 year old boxer-puncher doesn't need to rush. We expect he'll get a title shot towards the back end of 2020 and before then he'll take on a couple of regionally ranked fighters, taking a couple of good tests, then get a shot.
We have seen Utsuki answer questions that few prospects are asked this early in their careers. We have seen him dropped and hurt, we have seen him battle through adversity and we know he can bite down on his gum shield. We know there is more to him than just his technical skills and power and we suspect that before his eventual title fight Watanabe will want him to just prove his stamina, which really is the only big question mark hanging over him.
Expect a couple of tough and durable opponents for Utsuki before a title bout as Utsuki looks to put himself on the boxing map.
For those who haven't seen Shu Utsuki we have included his 2019 bout with Thai visitor Somphot Seesa below.
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