It's rare we get to talk about "bigger" fighters from Japan but Mitsuro Tajima (0-0) is certainly a bigger man, at least for a Japanese boxer, but is also someone worth giving attention to ahead of his debut later this year. Unlike many "bigger" fighters in Japan he's a proven quality, following success in the amateurs, and looks likely to be moved quickly on the domestic scene over the coming year or two.
Tajima is a Japanese-Brazilian, like Cristiano Aoqui, and whilst we won't touch much on the politics of Japanese-Brazilians there is actually more of these than many would assume. In fact around 0.1% to 0.2% of the population of Japan are considered Japanese-Brazilians. Despite the number the Japanese-Brazilian's do still suffer from some prejudice, though thankfully it has become less prevalent than it once was.
In the amateurs Tajima made a big mark on the Japanese scene. He fought at 81KG's (around 178.5lbs) in the amateurs, and dominated many of the domestic competitions he entered. He would run up a very impressive 42-9 (20) amateur record and win a number of domestic titles whilst fighting as a university student. His university, the Chuo University, posted several times about his amateur success back in 2015, with Tajima winning the several national amateur titles.
As a student Tajima was studying at the faculty of Commerce and impressing in the ring until injury stalled his boxing career, due to a shoulder injury. Prior to turning professional he had been out of the ring since 2018, when accumulated injuries had seen him need to rest his body and recover.
Back in February Tajima took part in pro-test, and impressed. He spent his pro-test bout sparring with Yamato Fujinaka at the Kaneko gym in Tokyo. Through out the spar Tajima looked sharp, quick and easily out sped, out boxed, out though and out skilled Fujinaka, who had no answer to the jabs, angles and movement of Tajima.
Prior to turning professional Tajima had wanted to fight at the Olympics but it was clear those hopes weren't going to come to anything. Instead of wallowing in what could have been he looked at the offers and decided to turn professional with the Green gym, which has had two world champions and also has a track record, of sorts, with Heavyweights. It was, after all, the Green Gym that had success with Okello Peter, the only fighter to have fought for a world title whilst registered with a Japanese gym.
The gym wasn't just selected for it's track record though with Tajima admitting that he also needed one that was close to his mother. His mother isn't the most fluent Japanese speaker, but is his motivation, and he wanted to be close to her. Sadly Tajima's father died when he was young, and the fighter obviously wants to support his mother.
Interestingly Tajima expects to put on weight now he has turned professional. He was essentially a big Light Heavyweight, taking his amateur weight, and is going to be fighting as a Heavyweight in the professional ranks. Whether that works or not is yet to be seen, but given the competition in Japan at Heavyweight isn't too stiff we wouldn't be surprised at all if Tajima makes his mark on the domestic scene within just 5 or 6 fights.
Last week we began a new series, in the wake of the current global issue that has essentially put boxing on a pause, along with everything else. We continue that series this week by looking at the most significant professional wins in the career of Ki Soo Kim (33-2-2, 17), who retired in 1969 having etched his name in the history books.
For this we are again not looking at the biggest, or the best wins, but the ones which have the most significant for Kim and his career. As with the previous article in this series we'll list them chronologically, with the earliest of the five first, and try to shine a light on the most meaningful wins that the Korean legend scored.
1-Sae Chul Kang (October 1961)
The start of Kim's career is shrouded in some debate. BoxingM and other Korean sources suggest that Kim debuted in August 1961 with his second bout taking place in October, whilst Boxrec state his debut was in October. Whatever actually happened is unclear, as is the specific date, but what is clear is that in October 1961 Kim beat Sae Chul Kang to become the Korean Middleweight champion. What made this even more impressive is that Kang was the OPBF Light Middleweight champion, making the win a huge one for Kim at this very early stage of his career.
2-Fumio Kaizu (January 10th 1965)
Ki Soo Kim twice scored wins over Fumio Kaizu in 1965. The first of those was the more impressive of the two, as he travelled to Japan to stop Kaizu to become the OPBF Middleweight champion, claiming the title for the first time. The win saw Kim become the first Korea to win the title and with 5 defenses of the belt he also set a new bar for champions during his reign, that lasted for more than 2 years. It wouldn't be until Jae Doo Yuh that Kim's record for defenses would be beaten.
3-Nino Benvenuti (June 25th 1966)
The significance of a win doesn't really relate to how controversial it was, and Ki Soo Kim's win over Nino Benvenuti is certainly a controversial one, that many who have, and haven't, seen it will have their view on. With that said however the official result is that Kim got the win over the man who had beaten him in the 1960 Olympics, and with the win Kim became the first ever Korean world champion. The win was, by far, the most significant of Kim's career and one of the biggest in Korean boxing history.
4-Freddie Little (October 3rd 1967)
Another of Kim's wins that will forever have question marks over it, though again those question marks don't take away from the significance of it, was his 1967 win over Freddie Little. The bout, widely regarded as a full on robbery came against an American who would see controversy strike again a year later, when he was robbed of a win over Sandro Mazzinghi. Little, one of the best 154lb fighters of the late 1960's and early 1970's, would later go on to become a world champion and after retirement served on the Nevada State Athletic Commission. The win over Little really was controversial, but with the decision going his way the win was still a massive one for Kim. A massive one, with a huge asterisk over it.
5-Hisao Minami (March 1st 1969)
Picking a 5th fight was quite tricky here, though we've gone with Kim's final professional bout, which came in early 1969 against Hisao Minami. Minami had given Kim his second professional loss, taking a razor thin decision over the Korean in November 1968 to take the OPBF title. Less than 4 months later Kim avenged the loss, reclaiming the OPBF title and closed out his career as an Oriental champion. This win had come after back to back losses for the then 29 year old Korean who seemed to know it was time to walk away from the sport and do other things.
Back in March 2019 we cover Yuki Yamauchi as part of our "Introducing..." series, just as he was preparing for his third professional bout. The Shinsei gym youngster hasn't really exploded on the scene since then, but he is well and truly worth keeping on the radar going forward, and did manage to notch a couple of wins in 2019.
When we looked at Yamauchi last year he was 2-0 (1). He'd debuted around 8 months earlier, with a win over Jimboy Rosales and had notched a victory in his second pro bout over Alvin Medura. Those wins saw him head into 2019 with a bit of career momentum and it seemed that that momentum was going to grow through the year.
Less than a week after we covered Yamauchi last year he went on to score his third win, defeating the previously unbeaten Claudevan Sese in 3 rounds to move to 3-0 (2). It was a good step forward for Yamauchi, and another good win for the youngster, who was scheduled to go 8 for the first time. He didn't need the 8, but it was good to see his team willing to put him in an in just his third bout.
Sadly Yamauchi's career, like that of many young Japanese fighters last years, wasn't really built on through the middle of the year. Whislt we would have loved to have seen him fighting in in the summer at some point we instead had to wait until October to see him back out. Almost 7 months after his win over Sese. It feels very much like a missed opportunity from Yamauchi and his team, one of several we've seen for him since we covered him in "Introducing...".
When Yamauchi finally returned to the ring in October 2019 he took on Ryuta Wakamatsu as part of the Knock Out Dynamite tournament. This was Yamauchi's Korakuen Hall debut and saw him stopping Wakamatsu in 3 rounds, taking a decent bonus for the stoppage.
For many Yamauchi's bout with Wakamatsu was pretty much the first time they had a chance to see the youngster in action. Not only was it his Korakuen Hall debut, but also his Boxing Raise debut, and the southpaw looked the real deal immediately. He took the center of the ring and controlled the distance with his smart movement, hand speed and patience. It wasn't a flawless performance, but was a calm, mature one, that saw Yamauchi rely on his boxing skills to chip away at Wakamatsu and then burst his face up. Calm, controlling, and impressive.
Sadly after stopping Wakamtsu in the Knock Out Dynamite semi final Yamauchi was actually unable to fight in the final this past January, when he was supposed to fight Ren Sasaki. It was another missed opportunity for Yamauchi, who could have built on the win over Wakamatsu. If we're being honest we suspect Yamauchi would have been too skilled for Sasaki, who was lucky to make it past semi-final opponent Morihisa Iju on the same show as Yamauchi's win over Wakamatsu.
At the moment it's unclear when Yamauchi will be back in the ring. Hopefully it will be sooner rather than later however, with the 24 year old really needing to make a move on with his career sooner rather than later. He's been a professional since July 2018 and has only managed 3 times since then. He's young, but should be a lot more active at this early stage in his career.
Whilst everything in sport is pretty much on a world wide lockdown we've decided to try and have a bit of fun. As part of this we've agreed to do a small series on some of the best names in boxing history. Those who follow us on twitter will notice we do share some of these occasionally and thought they would make for a bit of a fun series.
To lay down some ground rules. We will be accepting fighters who either have a strange Ring name, Nickname or Real name. We will also only be accepting fighters who have some form of a link to Asia, be it that they are a citizen of an Asian country or they fought in Asia, or they fought for an OPBF or PABA title. Sadly this rules of the legendary greats like Jukebox Timebomb.
Even with those rules we still feel fairly confident we can come up with enough great names to make this a semi-regular series over the coming months.
Army Wonder Boy (12-9-5, 7)
Filipino fighter Army Wonder Boy is a fighter from the 1950's and 1960's that appears to have never had his real name recorded, though we're open to adding that if someone can inform us of his birth name. Unlike many with great ring names he was a fighter who actually went on to achieve things, and in 1961 he stopped Hisao Kobayashi to become the OPBF Featherweight champion. His reign was a short one, but his name is now etched in history as the 4th ever OPBF Featherweight champion.
Clever Tony (2-2, 1)
Having mentioned Army Wonder Boy we'll include some of the great names he fought in this article. One of those was Clever Tony, who we again don't have a birth name for. Little is really known about Tony, and his record is likely incomplete, but what we do know is that he fought in the 1950's and lost to Army Wonder Boy in the 1956. It appears that was it for Tony, who may have hung up the gloves before before becoming less clever Tony.
Young Terror (24-9, 13)
Whilst Clever Tony was unable to defeat Army Wonder Boy "Young Terror", the ring name of Fulgencio Cabangon, was able to defeat him. In fact Young Terror fought a number of notable fighters. He beat Wonder Boy in 1959, future OPBF champion Yukio Katsumata in 1960, Carl Penalosa in 1962, Ric Penalosa in 1963, and twice lost to the excellent Rene Barrientos.
Crusher Miura (15-5-1, 10)
Heavy handed Toshimi Miura adopted a brilliant name during his career in the 1980's. "Crusher" wasn't a nickname as such, but instead his actual ring name. Like many fighters from the International Gym, which we will feature a lot of, he adopted a fighting name, combining a word that meant something in English with his surname. In the amateurs Miura was a very good fighter, going 43-5, and made a mark on the professional ranks by winning the Japanese Bantamweight title.
I M Gentle (6-11-1)
We'll finish this with a great one. Australian fighter Charles Costa went by the name "I M Gentle". Typically we wouldn't include Australian fighters but with Gentle having been an early opponent of future OPBF Light Heavyweight champion Gary Hubble we have to include him, and one of the least offensive and least scary ring names of all time. Given his name it may come as no surprise that he failed to pick up a single stoppage win in his 18 fight career.
With no fights taking place at the moment we've decided that the show must go on and it'd be foolish to not continue to some of our many running series. With that mind let us bring you the next in our "Who are you?" series...a series that has been on a short hiatus, but really doesn't need to be halted any longer.
Today we'll be looking at heavy handed Filipino puncher All Rivera (21-4, 18), a huge punching fighter who's flawed, but fun to watch, like many punchers. He's never likely to make a mark on the world scene but at the regional level he is danger man and someone who could be involved in a lot of great fights when boxing returns later in the year.
Born in March 1993 All De Guia Rivera in Bonbon, North Samar River is certainly not someone we expect many fans to be too aware of. Despite that he's been a professional for close to a decade and has proven to be a bit of a glass cannon, and lots be honest glass cannons are great fun to watch!
Rivera debuted in August 2011, aged 18, and he was stopped in just 67 seconds. Despite the loss he was back in the ring just 2 months later, when he stopped Mark Paulo Minguillan in 3 rounds, having been dropped in round 2 before stopping Minguillan the following round.
After notching his first win Rivera wouldn't fight against for 7 months. When he did get back in the ring he scored his second win, stopping Avelino Ramos, and started to slowly create some momentum scoring 3 more wins in the following 7 months to end 2012 with a 5-1 (4) record. By then his debut loss was firmly behind him and although he was still fighting at a very low level he was moving in the right direction.
The quality of Rivera's opponents began to step up in 2013. They still weren't notable opponents but they went from novices to fighters with experience, like Roselito Campana and Ronals Postrano. Not only were the opponents stepping up, but so to was the scheduled length of his bouts, with Rivera's 8th bout scheduled for 10 rounds. He didn't need the rounds, due to his power, but was obviously expected to be able to manage the rounds if needed.
Sadly for Rivera a step up in 2014 proved to be too much as he was stopped in 7 rounds by the often over-looked Leonardo Doronio. Going in to that bout Rivera was 10-1 (8) whilst Doronio was 13-9-2 (8), but Doronio was experienced at a much higher level to Rivera and the result showed that difference. The loss served to be a blessing of sorts for Rivera who moved up in weight in 2015 and scored several notable wins. They included blowing out the experienced Mark Sales and taking the unbeaten record of Adones Cabalquinto, who was 21-0 at the time.
Having strung together a couple of good wins Rivera got his biggest bout to date, an OPBF title fight in Japan against Shinya Iwabuchi. On paper this looked like a tough, tough ask for Rivera on his international debut. In reality however he made it look easy, beating up, breaking down and bashing Iwabuchi into submission, stopping the popular Japanese slugger in 7 rounds. Rivera would then go on to defend his title, 9 months later, against Adones Cabalquinto in their second clash.
As we entered 2017 Rivera was racing away and had moved to 17-2 (15), he was a regional champion, he was looking exciting and was still only 23 years old. There was a lot to get excited about in regards to the Filipino and his future. He then travelled to Russia and battled Aik Shakhnazaryan, in what turned out to be a thrilling 12 round bout. The action seemed to be dictated, overall, by Rivera, who seemed to do enough for the decision. Sadly though Rivera would go on to lose a razor thin split decision to the Russian.
Rivera bounced back from the controversial loss to Shakhnazaryan by winning 3 bouts in a row at home before travelling off to the US last September. Sadly for Rivera he was stopped inside a round on his US debut by Malik Hawkins. The talented Hawkins was far too good, too sharp and too heavy handed for the Filipino, dropping him late in the opening round. It seemed like Rivera beat the count, but the bout was waved off regardless.
Since losing to Hawkins we've also seen Rivera fight once, defeating Rodel Wenceslao back in February for the GAB Welterweight title.
With potential fights at 140lbs or 147lbs there are some match ups out there for Rivera. Clashes with the likes of Rikki Naito, Alvin Lagumbay, Jayar Inson, Hiroki Okada or Yuki Beppu would also be great to see. Fingers crossed we do see at least one of those potential clashes when the sport returns later in 2020.
With Coronavirus still running rampant and putting boxing on hold we've made the decision to continue doing our "Introducing..." series, looking forward towards fighters we will, hopefully, see fighting later this year. With that in mind we're hoping to look forward, beyond the current issues that are almost putting the world on pause, and try to shine a light on fighters who will be ones to watch when sport resumes. With that in mind let us introduce Ryutaro Nakagaki!
The 20 year old Nakagaki recently signed with the Ohashi gym, with whom he will be debuting later in the years if things in Japan improve. Prior to signing with the Ohashi gym and deciding to go professional he had been a stellar amateur, running up an excellent 82-15 (19) record.
Of course it's not just his amateur record that makes Nakagaki a notable hopeful but his actual amateur achievements. He was a multi-time domestic champion, winning the Japanese National Sport Festival, at the under 18 level, in 2016 and 2017, and the 2017 2017 Japanese Interschool Athletic Meeting. He was also successful on the international stage, winning the 2015 Asian Junior Championships, the 2017 Asian Youth Championship and the 2017 Beket Makhmutov Youth Tournament. He also reached the semi-finals of the 2018 World University Championships. In total we've been told that he won 8 notable tournaments whilst making a legitimate name for himself as an amateur to make a genuine note of.
Unlike many young Japanese amateurs there is actually a lot of footage of Nakagaki out there. From this footage, uploaded by the brilliant sakana 1976, we can see that Nakagaki is a brilliantly talented smooth boxing southpaw. The youngster looks to control range, box off a very sharp lead right hand and controls distance will with a combination of his footwork and jab. He's an extremely talented youngster, who is well on the way to becoming a brilliant technical boxer.
Back in February Nakagaki announce he would be turning professional, holding a press conference at the Ohashi gym. The plan had been for him to take part in his pro-test at the Korakuen Hall as part of an Ohashi show, along with Keisuke Matsumoto, but unfortunately coronavirus put a stop to that and instead Nakagaki had to take part in his pro-test behind closed doors at Korakuen Hall, passing his B test license.
As we write this the plan is still for Nakagaki to debut on May 28th, at Korakuen Hall as part of an Ohashi show, and he is hoping to be raced through the ranks in a manner similar to stablemate Naoya Inoue. The hope is for him to be a world champion within 2 years of his debut, showing his ambition to race away and make the most of his talent.
Heading into his debut the one doubt for Nakagaki is his power. We know he's skilled, quick and has a smart boxing brain, but if he can add power now he's fighting as a professional, the future will be incredibly bright for the youngster.
With Akira Yaegashi (28-7, 16) now expected to hang up his gloves in the 2020 it's clear we're going to miss the all action warrior. Rather than getting sad over the man we'll miss we have decided to instead look back over his career to look at 5 of his most notable wins, celebrating the fighter we have all enjoyed over the years.
Yaegashi, arguably more than any other Japanese fighter, became a cult icon in the west despite piling up losses and the reason for that was his style, his heart, his desire and his ability to always make things exciting for fans. Despite only fighting 35 professional bouts he managed to deliver more thrills, spills and action than almost any other fighter from the east. He deserved his cult following, and having fans around the globe hunting down streams of his fights, and he repaid every one of those fans.
One thing to note before we get any further, is that whilst aren't necessarily his best wins, but his most notable, and the ones that stand out for their significance. They are also put in time order, not order of significance.
1- Weerasak Chuwatana (April 3rd 2006)
Yaegashi's 2006 win over the little known Weerasak Chuwatana is a bit of a forgotten win but is one of the most significant. At the time it was Yaegashi not only claim his first title, the OPBF Minimumweight title, but tying the record of Tadashi Mihara and Eiji Kojima in winning an OPBF title in just his 5th bout. Whilst that record has now been broken it was still a genuine accomplishment for Yaegashi.
2- Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (March 17th 2009)
The significance of a win is hard to determine. A title win is obvious worth a lot of attention, so to is a title defense, but is beating a debutant? Maybe not, but when we look back over Yaegashi's career him having a win over the debuting Srisaket Sor Rungvisai is a win that will go down as a win with a lot of meaning. Given what Srisaket has done, becoming a 2-time WBC Super Flyweight champion, this is a really outstanding win when we look back over Yaegashi's career. At the time it didn't mean much, but on reflection this is, for us, a bigger win that his Japanese title win over Kenichi Horikawa, just 3 months later.
3-Pornsawan Porpramook (October 24th 2011)
Yaegashi's 2011 win over Pornsawan was the win that really put him on the map, in so many ways. The win saw him claim the WBA Minimumweight title but also take part in a legitimate Fight of the Year, brawling with the Thai is a sensational back and forth war that every fan should have seen by now. Yaegashi eventually broke down the Thai tank, but had to go through hell to do. Whilst the title win was a real achievement the fact the fight was regarded by many international sites and publications as a FOTY candidate helped get Yaegashi some fan attention in the west among tape traders and online fans. This bout did so much more to launch Yaegashi to cult hero than pretty much any of his other bouts. This also set up Yaegashi's historic bout with Kazuto Ioka.
4-Toshiyuki Igarashi (April 8th 2013)
Yaegashi became a 2-weight champion in 2013 when he defeated WBC Flyweight champion Toshiyuki Igarashi. This bout not only saw Yaegashi claiming a second weight title but also avenging a number of amateur defeats to Igarashi in what was very much a rough and ugly bout. This isn't pretty, this isn't tidy, but it was engaging, bloody and once again saw Yaegashi trying to make a war of things in what was a rare ugly Yaegashi fight. Despite how ugly it was, as many Igarashi fights were, this was still action packed in a rare "fun but ugly" contest. The bout also lead to Yaegashi's memorable bout with Roman Gonzalez.
5-Javier Mendoza (December 29th 2015)
Whilst December 29th 2015 saw the long awaited return of Naoya Inoue, who had spent almost a year out of the ring after damaging his hand against Omar Andres Narvaez, it also saw Yaegashi getting one of his most important and impressive wins. The stalwart managed to over-come heavy handed Mexican Javier Mendoza to claim the IBF Light Flyweight title, becoming a 3-weight world champion in the process. On paper this was a really tough bout for Yaegashi, who had been stopped twice in 2014 and had only picked up two very low key wins following a defeat to Pedro Guevara in December 2014. What he did against Mendoza however was sensational, using his speed and skills to easily defeat the Mexican, who was lucky to see out the final rounds. The win was genuinely one of the most rounded performances from Yaegashi, and showed he still had it, despite being the wrong side of 30.
Despite Coronavirus essentially cancelling the sport of boxing right now, globally, we have to face facts and admit the sport will be back. We don't know when but it will be back. With that in mind it makes sense for us to take this downtime to continue our "Introducing" series. Obviously the articles won't be talking about someone ahead of an upcoming bout, but upcoming bouts were always secondary for the "Introducing" behind what were essentially a chance to shine a torch on a fighter that deserved some attention.
So, with that out of the way, lets return to the "Introducing" series with someone we've been looking forward to writing about for years. Like legitimately years. That is Keisuke Matsumoto, a second generation hopeful who will be hoping to make his professional debut in 2020, if the coronavirus pandemic can be gotten under-control and if boxing can resume in Japan this year.
When we mentioned that we've been wanting to write about Matsumoto for years we really are serious. Our very first mentioned of him was way back in August 2014, when the then 14 year old Matsumoto was making headlines in Japan for winning 5 consecutive Under 15 titles. Whilst the under 15 titles doesn't guarantee success the fact he was essentially dominating the field at such a young age was getting the Japanese media excited about his potential for the 2020 Olympics.
Not only was Matsumoto showing great talented at a very, very, young age, but he was also a second generation fighter. He was following in the footsteps of his father Koji Matsumoto, himself a former 2-time world title challenger, who was making a name for himself as a trainer at the Ohashi gym. It was the Ohashi gym that had essentially been a second home for the younger Matsumoto who was able to rub shoulders with world class fighter like of Naoya Inoue and Akira Yaegahsi, who he could consider training buddies and gym mates.
As the years went on, from 2014, the younger Matsumoto would continue his amateur career, running up an impressive 80-15 (30) record in the unpaid ranks. He couldn't quite replicate the dominant success he had had in the under 15's but the tall and lanky frame of the youngster still found success, both nationally and internationally. We won't go through all his amateur achievements but just a few notables. He reached the semi-finals of the 2015 Asian Junior Championships, won the 2016 Japanese High School National Championships, a tournament that also saw Ginjiro Shigeoka picking up a winners medal, lost in the final of the 2018 Japanese National Championships and won the Taipei City Cup, also in 2018.
Sadly for Matsumoto he found himself a nemesis in the amateur ranks, the exceptionally talented Hayato Tsutsumi. Had it not been for Tsutsumi it's fair to say that Matsumoto would have taken more senior honours in the amateur ranks. Sadly though Tsutsumi was around and Matsumoto failed to secure a place in the Japanese set up for the Asia Oceania qualfiers for the 2020 Olympics. As a result he had a hard choice to make and decided that, instead of waiting for the 2024 Olympics, he would turn professional.
Matsumoto announced his decision to turn professional at the start of 2020 over social media, before taking part in a press conference in February to announce he had signed with the Ohashi gym and would be taking part in his pro-test in March before debuting in May. Sadly his original pro-test plans went awry due to coronavirus, though he still managed to pass his test in a very different environment, taking the test at the Ohashi Gym rather than Korakuen Hall as planned.
As we write this Matsumoto is still technically pencilled in for a May debut, though the reality is that his debut will likely be pushed back and it could be much, much later in the year before we see the wonderfully talented youngster kick off his professional career.
We return for an "Revisiting" this week, and this time around we look at Hiroshi Kawashima protege Ryusei Kawaura (7-0, 4) who we covered on the February 18th 2019 version of "Introducing..."
When we looked at Kawaura last year he was 5-0 (4), and had come in to 2019 on the back of good wins over Marjun Pantilgan and Yuki Yoshimura back in 2018. He hadn't blown the world away but there was growing excitement over him, and his potential to follow in Kawashima's footsteps was seen as really exciting. He was being dubbed "Kawashima II" , and like his mentor was becoming a smart fighter with very good defensive IQ.
His first bout of 2019 saw fighting around 3 months after we looked at him, and he easily out pointed the experienced Renoel Pael over 8 rounds in May. In fact not only did Kawaura out point Pael but he dropped him in a near shut out of the Filipino. Pael had no answer for the speed, movement and boxing brain of the Japanese hopeful, though did manage to ask some questions of Kawaura. There was a a few moments in round 3 where Pael seemed to land clean, and later on in the bout Pael brought some pressure. That pressure was good for Kawaura's development and certainly did no harm for the talented youngster, who had to use his brain to make Pael miss.
The win over Pael shot Kawaura up the WBO Asia Pacific rankings. He entered that bout with a #14 ranking and by his next fight he was #6.
The next bout, his most recent to date, saw Kawaura take on Joy Joy Formentera 6 months after Kawaura had beaten Pael. It was a real shame that Kawaura was out of the ring for half a year, and for a fourth straight year he fought in November.
Despite the lay off Kawaura managed to clearly beat Formentera over 8 rounds. This was a real tactical all southpaw bout, and saw Kawaura go up against a talented and high skilled fighter. The Japanese fighter always looked in charge, based on his ring craft and IQ, but was against someone who asked boxing questions, and actually left Kawaura bloodied from the nose. This was the perfect type of test for the talented fighter who needed someone to challenge him as a boxer, rather than try to attack him as a fighter.
Kawaura was the clear winner against Formentera but for a second fight in a row he had to prove what he could do, against a fighter with a similar, but less polished, style to his own.
At the moment it's unclear when Kawaura will kick off his 2020, but if he only fights twice again this year it would be a travesty for his career unless he manages to secure a title fight of some kinda, then at least he would have a launchpad to be busier in 2021. He's still young at the age of 25, but he turns 26 at the end of March and will really need to kick on soon. He was 22 when he made his debut, and can no longer go on with this 2 fight a year schedule if he's to come close to reaching the level that his mentor did.
One thing we expected was that Kawaura would have had a televised or streamed bout in 2019. That still hasn't happened but really needs to happen in 2020. We understand Kawashima and Kawaura wanting to control their own destiny but for him to be hidden away from fans who aren't in the venue for his bouts is a major issue in building his profile and name. Fingers crossed that will change this year, and he will have a televised bout before the end of 2020!
The next few weeks are busy ones for Japanese boxing a lot of notable bouts taking place in not much time. These include a number for rising prospects, with one of the most promising being today's subject of our "Introducing..." series, Suzumi Takayama (3-0, 3).
The talented Takayama made his professional debut in February 2019, but before then he had been a very solid amateur on the Japanese domestic scene.
In the unpaid ranks Takayama had gone 35-16 (10) after beginning boxing at High School. He was inspired to box by his uncle, former 2-time world challenger Yuji Watanabe who was a notable fighter in the 1990's right through to 2000. Although his uncle failed to win a world title he had been the Japanese Super Featherweight and OPBF Lightweight champion, and was a very clear inspiration to his talented nephew.
On debut Takayama was scheduled for 6 rounds against Thai visitor Nirun Baonok, aka Rungniran Korat Sport School. The Thai had previously fought a number of times in Japan, going 4 rounds with Teiru Kinoshita, 3 rounds with Kenji Oba and the 8 round schedule with Takashi Kunishige. Takayama took out the visitor in 3 rounds on the under-card of Vic Saludar's world title defense against Masataka Taniguchi.
Despite winning his debut Takayama's performance was overshadowed by that of two other Watanabe Gym prospects. Ginjiro Shigeoka, who stopped Gerttipong Kumsahwat inside a round, and Shut Utsuki, who stopped Jerry Castroverde in the 8th round.
Takayama would return to the ring 4 months later, when he took on Korean foe In Soo Jang as part of a Japan Vs Korea card at Korakuen Hall. On paper this was a tough test for Takayama, but he made it look easy. He wobbled Jang several times in the opening minute or so, before dropping him with a hard left hand. The bout continued after the first knockdown, but not for long, with the referee stepping in when Jang was rocked only a few moments later.
It was another 4 months before Takayama would return to the ring again, where he took on 2018 Super Flyweight Rookie of the Year Tetsuro Ohashi in a bout for the Japanese Youth Super Flyweight title. Before the bout Takayama stated that he felt this was his real debut, it was the first time he had faced a Japanese fighter and his first 8 round. On paper this was a brilliant match up, and it lived up to expectations.
In the first round Takayama dropped Ohashi, with a short left hand. In round 2 Takayama found himself on the canvas from a sensation straight left hand from Ohashi. The bout was a real high skilled, war, with both men knowing they hard the power to put the other down. In the end however it was Takayama's power that proved vital, stopping Ohashi in the 8th round, whilst narrowly down on all 3 cards. Takayama would drop Ohashi twice in the 8th round, with the corner throwing in the towel, and realising their man, who had put in an amazing effort, was simply done.
Having claimed the youth title in just his third bout Takayama is expected to be fast tracked over the next year or two. He was scheduled to return to the ring on March 17th, when he was expected to face Sophon Klachun, however that bout is now in limbo following the JBC's announcement that boxing would be suspended during the month of March. On paper it's a step backwards, following the win over Ohashi, but a stay busy fight followed by a step up in summer and then moving towards senior titles in 2021 wouldn't be a bad plan at all for Takayama, who isn't ready for top domestic guys, but can move his way there over the next year, or year and a bit.
Sadly for fans who haven't seen him, the only quality footage of him is on Boxing Raise, who have his second and third professional bouts on their service.
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