Our final "Introducing" of 2019 isn't going to be one of our usual articles looking at a specific fighter but instead a look back at some of the fighters we've mentioned during the last 12 months, ahead of the changes we'll be making to these articles in the coming year.
Since we started this way back on January 8th we've looked at some winners, some losers and some fighters who's future isn't as clear as we'd have hoped. We won't go through all 50 fighters here, but we will talk about those who have have shined the most, and those who have disappointed the most.
The first Introducing saw us talk about Mikito Nakano, who was 1-0 (1) at the time and has since added 3 wins, all inside the distance. He has gone from a good novice into a fine prospect and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him fighting for a title in 2020.
Just a week later we spoke about Ginjiro Shigeoka, who was also 1-0 (1) and his rise has been legitimately meteoric. In just his fourth bout he claimed the WBO Asia Pacific Minimumweight title and if he picks up a win on New Year's Eve, against Rey Loreto, there is no doubt that he will be in the world title mix in 2020.
We spoke about Shokichi Iwata in week 25 and since then he has scored back to back TKO5 wins, with both of those victories coming on massive Japanese cards. The 23 year old Teiken prospect looks like he has the potential to go all the way to the top, and to do so quickly. He has shown he can box, or brawl, and whilst he may not quite have figured out his style in the ring he already looks like a special talent.
What a year Andy Hiraoka has had! We featured him in week 26, when he was then 13-0 (9) and since then he has scored the biggest win of his career, signed with Top Rank and made his US debut. The talented 140lb'der showed he could go 10, as he did in victory over Akihiro Kondo, and looked very good in his American show case in November.
Another man who has had a great year is Toshiya Ishii, who was covered in week 33. He made his debut in April, took the unbeaten record of Fumiya Fuse in August then took the Japanese Youth Bantamweight title in December. His win Fuse, who we covered in an introducing article in week 4 was impressive but his war with Ishikawa was something special and we advise all fans to give that a watch.
In week 34 we looked at Yudai Shigeoka and although he didn't debut for a few weeks after that he has shone since some much. His debut was an easy win over a Thai, but despite the ease of the win he showed so much ability, brilliant crisp punching, fantastic movement and ring IQ. He then followed that up with a win over Lito Dante and looks set to have a monstrous 2020, following in his brother's footsteps.
In week 9 we looked at Yoji Saito, who entered the year 1-1 (1) and looked like a huge punching monster. He fought twice in 2019, and went 0-0-2. Notably his first bout of the year, a draw with Aso Ishiwaki, looks very good on reflection and Ishiwaki used that bout as a great opportunity to shine, and was the focus of his own "Introducing" in week 38!
In week 17 we discussed Tsubasa Murachi and his year is a really tricky one to try and dissect. On one hand he impressed, in his win over Raymong Tabugon, and there was clearly skill and ambition with the youngster. But on the other hand he ended the year in September, following a brutal KO loss to Froilan Saludar, and the road back up to that level is going to be a rough journey for the 22 year old. Don't write him off, but he's going to have to go back to the drawing board.
Another man who is hard to get a good read on was Kai Ishizawa who may take more credit from his loss to Masataka Taniguchi in September, than most fighters take from a win. He was fantastic in defeat, he showed his toughness, his braveness, his power and his will to win. Sadly he lacked in technical areas, and Taniguchi was too good for him, but the reality is that both men came out with enhanced reputations. Sadly it was still a loss, and his one other bout this year was a blow out against an over-matched Indonesian
We love watching Christiano Aoqui, who we introduced in week 40, and despite a loss to Daishi Nagata following our article it's hard to write off the hard hitting Japanese-Brazilian, who has lost in the past and bounced back. He's never going to be a world beater but we expect him to remain in the domestic title mix next year.
Well we got that one wrong
In week 35 we spoke about the return of Teppei Kayanuma, who was supposed to fight in September. Though didn't. And we're not totally sure why. We are hoping that changes, and that he does return to the ring, but with more than 3 years since his last bout it now seems unlikely.
For week 46 we spoke about Dominique Kenshin, by this point we were trying to tweak the formula slightly and pick fighters who were in action during the week of the article, and as a result felt Kenshin was the man to cover. That was the wrong choice and he was was stopped in a round by Hiro Ichimichi. He's not fought since, and being honest he has a lot of work to do, in every part of his boxing.
Changes Will be Made
So as for 2020, "Introducing..." is changing. We are taking it more international, and instead of being exclusively Japanese fighters, as it was in 2019, we will be looking around Asia for fighters to cover. Whilst the key focus will, again, be prospects, we aren't going to be too rigid in that and we'll look at covering other fighters we find interesting as the year goes on. This could mean anyone from novice, to journeyman, fringe contender to prospects. The only fighters we'll not cover in this section are clear world level fighters. We want to shine a light on a fighter without much attention, and the hope is that we help a bring a fans attention to a fighter they aren't aware of. In 2019 we generally had good success picking our prospects, and we hope that continues in 2020.
See you in the new year for the next "Introducing...", and the next chance to see a light shined on a fighter you may not have even knew existed!
(Image credits - Kadoebi and Teiken)
Over the years we have seen a number of Japanese based American fighters, who are in Japan for various reasons. These have included fighters like Mark Anthony Brooks, aka Mark Horikoshi, the wonderfully personable Brandon Lockhart Shane, Charles Bellamy and the truly thrilling Rick Yoshimura, who is the most successful of the Japanese based Americans.
At the moment there isn't too many young Japanese American fighters making a mark, but teenager Dominique Kenshin (3-0, 1), is certainly someone worthy of attention as he begins his career.
Kenshin, also known as Dominique Wallace, is a 19 year old with promise and is actually guided by the aforementioned Yoshimura. Wallace fights out of Yoshimura's Ringside Fitness Gym in Yokota, and despite only making his professional debut earlier this year has already shown real potential. A lot more potential than some would have expected given he had had only a handful of amateur bouts.
Aged 18 when he debuted in February 2019 Kenshin looked strong and athletic when he out pointed, Takuya Kanda over 4 rounds. He looked very unpolished, but had a busy jab, some nice uppercuts to the body and a willingness to respond every time he was hit. There was a clear rawness about him, and his lack of amateur background showed it's self regularly as he put himself off balance, and even got caught clean by a hard hook when he dropped his defenses in the first round. As the fight went on however you could visibly see the youngster calming down, improving and using his physical tools more and more effectively.
In his second bout, just a few months later, Kenshin stopped Hiroto Watabe and further showed some signs of polish. He was still more reliant on physical traits and athleticism than his boxing ability, looking bigger, stronger and faster than Watabe, but there was again signs of development, growth and promise.
Back in July Kenshin took his third professional win narrowly over-coming fellow youngster Hyoga Taniguchi. This was the first southpaw to face Kenshin and he pushed the teenager all the way in a very close bout, that was even closer when Kenshin had a point deducted in round 4, making things super close on the score-cards.
Away from the ring Kenshin graduated high school in 2018 and with Yoshimura guiding his career there is some genuine hope that he can make the most of his natural traits. There is a lot of polishing to do with youngster, but there's also no pressure on him to be rushed. He'll be having his 4th professional bout on November 22nd, on the upcoming "Genkotsu" card where he will face Hiro Ichimichi. A win there would continue his rise, though it's clear that he will need to really improve his boxing skills if he's going to continue to have success going forward.
It's hard to class Kenshin as a prospect right now, but he is certainly someone worthy of some attention, and an ideal fighter to be given the "introducing..." treatment, especially given his age, his rather unique background and the fact that he appears to be Rick Yoshimura's current protege.
This is just an opinion, maaaan! It's easy to share our opinions, and that's what you'll find here, some random opinion pieces