Last years Japanese Rookie of the Year was an odd one as the Covid19 pandemic completely decimated the calendar and saw the Rookie of the Year being pushed backed massively, and not ending until February 2021, 2 months after the originally planned date. Despite the delay to the finals we did see some really promising fighters emerge from the tournament, one of whom was Lightweight fighter Hiromasa Urakawa (7-1, 4), who really impressed through the tournament.
With that Rookie of the Year triumph under his belt, and a bright future ahead of him, we though it was a good idea to give Urakawa the "Introducing" treatment, as he looks to build on his success and move towards potential title fights.
The very basics for Urakawa is that he's a 24 year old Lightweight from the Teiken Gym, who was born in March 1997, but it's what he is as a boxer that we're interested in.
Unlike many Japanese fighters Urakawa didn't really have much of an amateur background in the sport, in fact he's explained in the past that the reason he's involved in the sport was that he "wanted to see a match of an acquaintance". There was no major story there, like there is with many fighters, and no big name fighter seems to have inspired him, instead it was a love of the sport that a friend was doing.
With little to no amateur experience Urakawa made his debut in March 2018, aged 20, and took on Shuichi Aso at Korakuen Hall, live on G+. Within seconds of his debut Urakawa had looked raw, heavy handed and exciting, shaking Aso very quickly in the bout. As the contest went on Urakawa continued to show some nice traits, including a good jab and nice belief in his power and aggression. He did however show a lot of raw qualities and it was very, very clear that he was inexperienced. He looked rigid, tense, and like he was trying to put a lot on almost every shot he threw and it was clear that he was a young man who was a work in progress. Albeit a young man with something exciting about his raw style.
Urakawa would return to the ring 4 months later for his second bout, which saw him quickly stopping Koshi Fujisaki, with that bout ending after just 1 minute. The ending was from a brilliant right hand that dropped Fujisaki, who almost tried to tackle Urakawa by the ankles unaware of where he was for a few seconds. Urakawa's bout continued to be televised, with his third bout being shown, on tape delay, on G+ against Hiroki Sakakubo. Once again Urakawa's power was a difference maker, as he landed a right hand, dropping Sakakubo early in round 2 and then finished him off later the same round with a flurry of big shots.
The win over Sakakkubo came in a preliminary bout of the 2019 East Japan Rookie of the Year. Sadly for Urakawa however he could come up shot in his very next bout an be eliminated from the competition when he was out pointed by Shinnosuke Saito. Sadly the bout saw the usual aggression of Urakawa being tamed, massively, as he seemed too focused on defensive work, rather than showing off his raw aggression. It was the wrong tactic, and something he later admitted in an interview with Boxmob.jp.
Having lost his unbeaten record to Saito and been eliminated from the 2019 Rookie of the Year Urakawa looked to get back on the horse, and ended the year with a KO win against Ren Matsuoka. This saw Urakawa get back to being an aggressive fighter, and once again his power paid dividends as he dropped Matsuoka midway through the second round, and Matsuoka was unable to continue.
In 2020 Urakawa entered the East Japan Rookie of the Year again, and kicked off his campaign in September, when boxing resumed in Japan. Despite having been out of the ring for over 9 months Urakawa again showed off his power, as he took out Yuki Aizawa in 3 rounds. This was, up to this point in his career, the most polished performance from Urakawa's career. He showed aggression, but also a more mature edge to his boxing. He was tighter defensively than he had been earlier in his career but kept his nasty power, dropping Aizawa late in round 2, then forcing a stoppage at the very start of round 3 with Aizawa's team threw in the towel.
Following his win over Aizawa we then saw Urakawa return to a live TV broadcast as he took on Toshiki Tanaka in the East Japan semi-final. This was, on paper, a big of a gimmie for Urakawa, but to his credit Tanaka came to win and gave the heavy handed Urakawa some real questions to answer early in the bout. Sadly however the bout was curtailed in round 3 when Urakawa was left cut from a clash of heads. Despite only going 2 and a bit rounds the bout went to the scorecards with the judges all giving the bout to Urakawa.
Sadly the planned final for the East Japan Rookie of the Year Lightweight bout fell through at short notice, when Urakawa's scheduled opponent Ryan Joshua Yamamoto, failed to make weight for the contest. This saw Urakawa admit he was frustrated, and he seemed genuinely angry about the situation as he was essentially in the best condition of his career. Although it was a frustrating experience it did allow Urakawa a final to the All Japan final, which we got in February. That final saw him take on Eiji Togawa and the two men delivered a genuinely solid match up, with both showing respect to the other, and both also showing some hunger to win, and to be crowned the All Japan Rookie of the Year. Togawa put in a genuine effort in every round, but in the end the cleaner, heavier, more telling shots were landed by Urakawa, with all 3 judges giving the decision to the Teiken fighter after 5 well contested rounds.
Since his Rookie of the Year triumph, back on February 21st, we've not seen Urakawa return to the ring, though we would expect him back in action in the Summer on a Teiken promoted card. Fingers crossed when we do see him return, it'll be in a solid 6 rounder, giving him a chance to show his continued improvement in the ring.
Although it's unlikely that Urakawa is a world champion in the making he is a fun fighter to watch, a raw fighter with some potential and some one with the ability to make some noise at the upper echelons of the Japanese domestic scene. Don't expect to see him in huge bouts, but do expect him to be in some fun contests, when matched against the right type of fighters. Something we suspect Teiken will do for him.
Rather interestingly every bout of Urakawa's has been shown, either on G+ or on Boxing Raise, meaning people can actually watch every professional bout of his, at least at the time of writing.
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