When we talk about the most promising Uzbek prospects one name that seems to get over-looked, a lot, is Elnur Abduraimov (5-0, 5), who seems to never get any sort of a mention at all, despite being a genuine talent. The 26 year old look fantastic in the amateurs, and is looking very promising in the professional ranks, despite taking a break from the pro-ranks over the last year, when he turned his hand back to the amateur code.
Despite being massively over-looked we thought he was a fighter deserving of more attention, and the perfect fighter to talk about his week, in our Introducing series, as we continue to shine a light on talented and promising fighters from Asia.
Abduraimov was born in 1994 in Chirchik City in the Tashkent region of Uzbekistan. Like many top fighters he took to the sport at a young age, and began boxing aged just 10, being trained by his father. That early training put him on a journey through the sport and set him up for notable amateur success.
Abduraimov was shining at a young age on the domestic scene and in 2009 he was starting to make an impression on some of the international tournaments, competing at the President Heydar Aliyev Cup in Baku in 2009, where he reached the semi-finals. Despite only being a teenager at this point someone were suggesting he was a youngster to keep a serious eye on.
Although Abduraimov had come up short in the 2009 President Heydar Aliyev Cup it wasn't long until he had began picking up small tournament wins, with one coming in neighbouring Kazakhstan in 2010.
Of course winning small tournaments as a teenager is one thing, and doing them as an adult is something different altogether. As it turned out however Abduraimov could do it at the top level, claiming bronze at the World and Asian Championships in 2015. He was in the running for a place at the 2016 Olympics, but sadly missed out to compatriot Hurshid Tajibayev, who went to Rio instead and reached the quarter finals.
Having missed out on the Olympics Abduraimov managed to have a big 2017, winning the Asian Championships as part of a dominant Uzbek national team. The team won 9 of the 10 available golds and was a scarily strong team. It included the likes of Hasanboy Dusmatov, Murodjon Akhmadaliev, Israil Madrimov, Bektemir Melikuziev and Bakhodir Jalolov, as well as Abduraimov.
The amateur success, particularly the success at the Asian Championships, saw Abduraimov become an attractive fighter for promoters to try and get at and in 2018 he finalised a deal with DiBella Entertainment and Max Alperovich to turn professional. Despite doing that he also kept the door open to the amateurs, allowing him to essentially compete in both codes, where he saw fit, very similar to Bakhodir Jalolov who had also switched between pros and amateurs.
Originally the plan had been for Abduraimov to debut in May 2018, but sadly that debut was delayed, and instead we had to wait until September 2018 to see what he could do in the pros. Sadly we only got a glimpse of his ability as he blasted through Aaron Jamel Hollis in 104 seconds.
Just weeks after making his professional debut Abduraimov was back in the ring, at the same venue in Indio, California, where he stopped Giovannie Gonzalez in 2 rounds. His busy activity in the professional ranks continued when he made his Russian debut in November 2018, and blasted away Aelio Mesquita. In the space of just 2 months he had gone from 0-0 to 3-0 (3) and seemed destined for a busy career and a rapid ascent. Sadly however Abduraimov's 2019 was much less focused on the professional ranks, fighting just twice as a professional during the year, and instead focusing on the amateurs, with his viewing being to compete at the 2020 Tokyo games.
Having spent of 2019 focusing on the Olympics Abduraimov managed to book his Olympic ticket earlier this year, when he won the Asia/Oceania Olympic Qualifying tournament in Amman. Sadly with the Olympics being delayed to 2021 we won't see him fighting in Tokyo for a while still.
Thankfully Abduraimov's not sitting and resting on the side, and recent reports from Uzbekistan have emerged to suggest Abduraimov will be back in the ring later this year for another professional bout, potentially in the US. It would be his first pro bout since a 4th round TKO win over Issa Nampepeche in May 2019.
In regards to what Abduraimov is like as a fighter he is a southpaw with a text book style aided by excellent speed and power. He's defensively tight, come in behind his jab, presses forward and is very well schooled. Like many of the Uzbek fighters he's as comfortable going to the body as he is going up top. He is a text book fighter, but he has got a bit of that Uzbek flair we're seeing more and more of, and his style seems to have converted over to the professional ranks wonderfully.
Our guess is that after the Tokyo Olympics Abduraimov will commit fully to the pro ranks, and when that happens we expect him to tear it up at Lightweight, and get into the world title mix within a year or two of the Olympics. He'll go in to the games as one of the top medal contenders and will be looking to leave a mark in Tokyo, before stamping his way through the professional ranks.
In late August former Japanese amateur standout Reo Saito (0-0) became the latest in a growing line of Japanese amateur fighters announcing that they had turned professional. By announcing his decision Saito followed the likes of Rentaro Kimura, Keisuke Matsumoto and Ryutaro Nakagaki in the pros. Like a number of other top fighters turning professional he decided to turn professional under the long established Teiken Gym, and will likely be making his debut towards the end of the year.
With a real lack of fights this coming week, we thought this was an ideal time to take a look at Saito, explain why fans should be excited about him, and what he will bring to the professional ranks, as we continue to shine a light on fighters in this "Introducing" series.
Sadly we've not been able to track down all the details regarding Saito's amateur career, though we have managed to track results dating back all the way to 2015 for the youngster. The first tournament we've found results for when it comes to Saito is the 2015 Japanese High School Invitational Tournament, which saw Saito win the whole thing at 60KG's. Interestingly another winner here was Yudai Shigeoka, down at 46KG's.
The following year Saito continued his success, winning Japanese High School National Championships in March 2016. Other winners there included Ginjiro Shigeoka, Keisuke Matsumoto and Hayato Tsutsumi, a classy trio alongside Saito. Of coruse that wasn't Saito done for the year, oh no. Just a few months later he would claim the Japanese High School National Tournament with Ginjiro Shigeoka and Hayato Tsutsumi also taking top honours.
Also in 2016 Saito competed at the Asian Youth Championships in Kazakhstan, reaching the quarter finals where he lost to Indian fighter Ankush Dahiya, the eventual silver medal winner. He also reached the quarter finals of the AIBA Youth World Championships in Russia that same year, losing to eventual winner Delante Johnson of the US.
By the time we went into 2017 Saito was quickly becoming one of the fighters to keep an eye on. He was showing excellent potential, having great domestic results, and seemed to have the tools to make the move to the pros somewhere down the line. He was however still very young, and a fighter who was still improving. He wasn't close to the finished article, but was getting more and more experience under his belt. That experience lead him to success at the 2017 Taipei City Cup, where he was one of 3 Japanese winners.
Despite his success in Taipei Saito actually went out at the semi-final stage in the Japanese National Championships in 2017. He was unfortunate to lose to Rentaro Kimura in arguably the toughed division in the competition. He however remained part of the amateur set up after though, though specific results are harder to come by, however he was still in his teens by this point, and still had a lot of potential to show as he went to University.
When Saito announced his decision to turn professional he took to social media, explaining that he had dropped out of University this past July and had signed with Teiken as a professional boxer. He said he was starting from scratch and it seems clear that he does have the potential to be a massive star in the sport.
To go along with the results we of course need to talk about his style and this is the most exciting thing when it comes to Saito. His style is very much made for the professional ranks. He likes to get inside, he likes to have a fight, go to the body and throw short sharp combinations. His style is one that will be exciting to see in the professional ranks, but certainly needs work. Back in 2018 we did see him being stopped in the amateurs by Ri Jinu and it was his defense that let him down there. That needs to be tweaked, but if he can sort that out, which should be done at the Teiken gym, there is huge potential for this one hotly tipped youngster.
Now aged 22 there is no reason to think that Saito can't be a force to be reckoned with on the domestic and regional scene. World titles may be out of his reach, but we would be shocked if he never manages to claim some form of title before his career ends.
Last year we were really entertain by the Rookie of the Year tournament, and the various fighters involved. Whilst certain fighters impressed for their talent and skills others impressed due to their excitement. One such fighter was Light Welterweight puncher Yasutaka Fujita (5-1, 5), who lost in the final but left us craving more of him thanks to a crude but thrilling all action style. It was a style that essentially cost him the bout, but won him fans and attention. Since then things have changed massively for him, and the hope is that he can temper his aggression, improve his defense and rebuild from that loss.
Born in Aichi in 1994 Fujita only had a short amateur career. In total he fought just 10 times before turning professional, and went 7-3 (4). Given his lack of amateur experience he began his career in 4 rounders and debuted in November 2018, fighting out of the Nagoya Ohashi Gym.
On his debut it was clear Fujita could punch, taking just 59 to stop fellow debutant Keiichi Suzuki. The bout saw the two unloading on each other, with the power, strength and physicality of Fujita being too much for Suzuki, who was dropped once and then had to be saved by the referee. For the 23 year old Fujita this was the perfect way to make his debut.
Just 4 months after facing off with Suzuki for the first time the two men clashed again, as part of the Central Japan Rookie of the Year. This time things were over even quicker with Fujita needing just 37 seconds to see off Suzuki, who was dropped twice by the hard hitting youngster.
After blowing apart Suzki twice we then saw Fujita face his first test, as he took on Kosei Kataoka. Unlike Suzuki we saw Kataoka show some real toughness and resilience. Suzuki started fast before the tempo took a toll on him, and he slowed notably in round 3 as Kataoka tried to turn things around. Sadly for Kataoka it wasn't to be enough and in round 4 Fujita dug deep and forced Kataoka's corner to throw in the towel after just over a minute of round 4.
Fujita would then continue to advance towards the All Japan Rookie of the Year with second round TKO wins over Ryota Uno and Takuya Takahashi, who had made his way to the final based on a bye in the West Japan final. Those wins had seen him move to 5-0 (5) and book his place in the All Japan final in December. Although we had serious questions about his stamina, due to his performance against Kataoka, we were impressed by his intensity, work rate, stamina and destructive power. He had caught our eye, been exciting, and looked like a flawed warrior worthy of following.
Sadly for Fujita his power and aggression wasn't enough when it came to the All Japan final, in what was his Korakuen Hall debut. It was there that he met the young, determined Kodai Honda. The bout was a war from the off with Fujita being rocked in the opening seconds before dropping Honda moments later. He then went on to put Honda down a second time in a round that had the Korakuen Hall chanting "Fujita". It seemed he was on the verge of another quick win but Honda refused to quit whilst Fujita continued to unleash bombs until the tables were turned in the dying seconds. It was a truly sensational opening round.
Sadly for Fujita his inability to put Honda away when he had his man hurt turned out to hurt him big time, as Fujita had essentially emptied the tank. He lacked the defense needed to protect himself from Honda's bombs and he looked like he was running on fumes by round 3. Sadly for Fujita there was no second wind and he was stopped in 4 round, as Honda's heart and determination took him a huge win over the aggressive and exciting Fujita.
Earlier we mentioned that Fujita had began his career at the Nagoya Ohashi Gym. That gym and the Ohashi gym lead by Hideyuki Ohashi are completely unrelated, with the Nagoya Ohashi Gym being run by Hiromasa Ohashi.
Following the loss to Honda we saw Fujita change his life and in June he transferred from the Nagoya Ohashi Gym to the much more well established Misako Gym. Since transferring he's had the chance to train with much better fighters and has rounded off some of the defensive flaws, and stamina issues that cost him against Honda.
Fujita will be fighting his first bout as a Misako gym fighter on September 3rd as he goes up against the durable, but light punching, Kensuke Nakamura in a 6 rounder. The hope here is that we'll see a mentally improved Fujita in this bout. Few can doubt his fire power and excitement factor, but there is clearly work that needs doing in terms of his defensive work and pacing. If the training at Misako can help there then we genuinely see Fujita making his way up the rankings and, one day, getting in the mix for domestic or regional honours.
Fujita doesn't have world class potential but he had the potential to be a very TV friendly fighter and that is what the sport needs more of. With that in mind we hope you all stay around and Fujita in mind going forward because he is very, very fun to watch.
With not too many fights yet set in stone for the next few months trying to talk about fighters in the week or so before they fight is a little bit tricky at the moment. That means that this "introducing" series has spent the last few weeks covering fighters who haven't necessarily got their next fight, or in some cased their debuts, scheduled. Thankfully things are starting to return to some form of normality and today we do get to talk about a fighter who does have a fight pencilled in, though that is set for later this month. The fighter in question is the talented teenager Kosuke Tomioka (2-0, 2).
Tomioka, who was featured in our honourable mentions for "20 for 20" last year, turned 18 a few days ago and is pencilled to have his third professional bout on August 31st, as part of a show streamed by the A-Sign Youtube channel. That bout will be a Rookie of the Year bout, with Tomioka regarded as one of the favourites to win this year's tournament at Super Flyweight.
Of course, as we usually do, we need to roll the clock back and look at what Tomioka did as an amateur before talking about his professional journey so far. Before that however we want to roll back even further, and look at his family.
Tomioka is part of a small but notable boxing family. He has two brothers who have had professional careers, with Tatsuya Tomioka running up a 5-3 (2) record between 2015 and 2017, and Tetsuya Tomioka, who is currently 6-4 (5). His cousin Izuki Tomioka, who currently sports a 7-3-1 (2) record and has been very competitive at OPBF and Japanese title level in his career, is also a boxer and a very talented one at that.
Of the 4 members of the Tomioka fighting family it does appear that Kosuke is the most promising, and along with Izuki the most talented.
So on to his amateur achievcements. As ab amateur Tomioka managed to pick up 6 national titles, ranging from an elementary school tournament in 2014 to a junior high school tournament in 2017. This was then followed by him beginning his professional carer in 2019, getting a C class license in January that year.
Aged just 17 when he made his professional debut Tomioka immediately impressed, stopping Shinobu Wakagi in just 42 seconds. What made this win all the more impressive was that Wakagi had reached the All-Japan Rookie of the Year in December 2018, losing a decision to Tetsuro Ohashi in the final. That was a statement of what Tomioka could do, and just 3 months later he notched his second win, stopping Asato Mori in the final second of a 4 rounder, having been well up on the cards.
Although he is still very much a novice professional Tomioka has the tools to go a very long way. He's athletic, charismatic, a solid puncher with a good boxing brain. He looks a natural in the ring, and it's clear that his years of ring experience has helped him understand the sport brilliantly. He has a good jab, good movement, and is very quick and crisp with his punches. He does look like a kid, but a very, very advanced one. There are, of course, areas where he needs to improve, and his defense is an obvious area that does need work as he steps up. Saying that however his potential and performances so far have left us really excited for what his future in the sport.
For Tomioka's next bout we'll see him take on fellow novice Shota Hara (2-2-1). Tomioka is regarded, clearly, as the favourite, and a win here will see him progress to the next round of the Rookie of the Year, which we now know will run into early 2021 due to the on going global situation. For those who want to see Tomioka in action, we really do suggest you make an effort to watch this bout live at the end of August, especially given the free stream that will be available for the entire show.
The wave of notable amateur fighters turning professional continues this week, with a trio of Kazakh fighters all making their professional debuts on Sunday. We have already covered two of those fighters in this series, Tursynbay Kulakhmet (0-0) and Talgat Shaiken (0-0), who were both meant to debut earlier in the year but their debuts got delayed due to the on going global situation The third however wasn't supposed to be on that previous card and has actually just recently turned professional and is Heavyweight hopeful Kamshybek Kunkabayev (0-0).
Kunkabayev, like Shaiken and Kulakhment, was a true amateur stand out, or more specifically still is. In the unpaid ranks he had been picking up major medals for years before heading to the professional ranks earlier this year and signing with MTK Kazakhstan.
Born in Kyzylorda in the south-central region of Kazakhstan back in 1991 Kunkabayev began to make a name for himself in the amateurs in his early 20's. This was enough to see him battling in an international team tournament in 2012, where he battled Tony Yoka of all people, and took a win on count back over the future Olympic Gold medal winner. That same year he also came runner up in the Akhmat-Khadzhi Kadyrov Memorial, in Russia
Just a year later Kunkabayev had become a staple on the International stage, losing in the semi final of the 2013 Great Silk Way Tournament where he lost in the semi final to to Azeri great Mahammadrasul Majidov. In 2014 he again showed progress, winning the Gold medal at the CISM Championships, took a Bronze medal from the President's Cup. Interestingly in that year's domestic championships in Kazakhstan he managed to reach the semi-final, where he lost to Ruslan Myrsatayev
In 2015 Kunkabayev's success continue to build and won the notable and highly regarded Strandja Memorial, scoring a very notable TKO1 win over Bakhodir Jalolov in the final. That same year he also picked up a tournament win at the Vllaznia Memorial was was the runner up in the World Military Games in South Korea.
Having proven himself as a very good fighter in the international tournaments Kunkabayev was then able to move on to the bigger and more notable amateur competitions. In 2016 he competed in the WSB, fighting for the Astana Arlans, where he lost in the semi-finals to Englishman Frazer Campbell, who was part of the British Lionhearts.
In 2017 he showed what Kunkabayev could do against the very best and won Silver medals at both the World Amateur Championships in Hamburg and the Asian Championships in Tashkent. In the Asian Championships he lost in the final to Bakhodir Jalolov, though got revenge of the Uzbek in the World Championships a few months later, before losing to Azeri nemesis Mahammadrasul Majidov.
It's worth noting that Kunkabayev also beat Bakhodir Jalolov in the WSB in another chapter to their long amateur rivalry that crossed from amateurs to WSB and now looks likely to continue in the professional ranks.
Kunkabayev's last major amateur success so him against doing the silver double in 2019, when he again took Silver at both the World Amateur and Asian Championships. Once again he clashed with his two great rivals, though sadly lost in the finals of the World Championships to Mahammadrasul Majidov and to Bakhodir Jalolov in the finals of the Asian Championships.
With 4 major silver medals to his name Kunkabayev will try and change that at the Tokyo Olympics, which he does still intend to compete in despite turning professional. Those 4 medals are a sign of what he can do, but also, potentially, that he falters when things get to the big stage. Losing in 4 finals is perhaps a sign that he can't get it done, but getting to 4 finals shows how good he is.
In regards to his style Kunkabayev is a rather slippery looking southpaw boxer-puncher. He's a big bloke, a real big bloke, but very light on his feet, with quick hands, lovely movement, a very sharp left hand and the ability to go to either head or body. Stylistically has has shown a willing to box on the back foot, move, and counter. It's not the most exciting style, but it has been a successful one for him. In fact when he has has changed things up and been more aggressive, as he was in the 2019 World Amateur Championships final last year, he has looked less polished. That however may have been more down to facing his old rivalry and bringing out the red mist rather than a real sign of what he can do coming forward.
Notably on his debut the talented Kunkabayev will be facing off with fellow Kazakh Issa Akberbayev (20-1, 15) on August 23rd in Almaty. A win there, despite the tough match making, is expected from Kunkabayev who is expected to fight another bout or two as a professional before the Olympics in Tokyo.
We're really excited about what Kunkabayev can do joining the professional ranks, even if his career will be truncated by the Tokyo games. He has the tools to go far, and with MTK behind him he has a backer who can open doors for him. We're not sure if he has "World Champion" written all over him, but he certainly has the skills and the long amateur pedigree to get into the title mix and should be no worse than a future world title challenger.
This coming Thursday we'll see fans back at Korakuen Hall for the first time for a boxing event since February. The return of fans is welcome, and another sign that boxing is, gradually, getting back to normal in the Land of the Rising Sun. The card's main event is a Japanese title fight, featuring domestic Featherweight champion Ryo Sagawa, but there are other bouts on the card and if you're able to get a ticket those other bouts will be worth getting there early for.
One of those bouts will feature 25 year old Super Bantamweight prospect Takeshi Takehara (5-1, 1), who we're going to try a shine a light on today as he looks to bounce back from his sole loss and rebuild has career going forward. Unlike most fighters featured in this series he wasn't an amateur stand out, but is some one we are excited to follow over the coming years, and a nice addiction to a deep domestic division in Japan.
As an amateur Takehara didn't have a long or successful career. In fact his 21 fight amateur career saw him go 11-10 (4) in the unpaid ranks before heading to the pros in 2018. As a professional he signed with Kyoei and was supposed to debut in a Rookie of the Year bout in April 2018, just days before his 23rd birthday.
Sadly Takehara's debut plans were cancelled when he was forced to pull out of the fight, which would have seen him take on Shota Ogawa. As a result of that cancellation Takehara had to wait until October to make his debut, and completely missed out on the chance to compete at the 2018 Rookie of the Year.
When Takehara finally made his debut it was in a small C Class tournament put on by Dangan and saw him take on Naomichi Yaginuma. Despite being in his debut Takehara looked calm and confident, pressing forward with sharp footwork, and his jab looked really quick. Despite his lack of high level amateur experience it was clear that he knew his way around the ring and knew how to box. He ended up taking a decision win here and progressed in the tournament. Sadly however Takehara was unable to shine in the tournament final as his opponent pulled out of the bout.
In April 2019 Takehara actually did enter the Rookie of the Year, making up for the issues he had had a year earlier. In his first bout as part of the competition he out pointed Kaisei Nakayasu to progress to the next stage. Just 2 months later he would return to action and defeat Shohei Yamanaka. That win would move Takehara further in the competition and his success kept rolling with a win over Mizuki Akima in July 2019.
The win over Akima was supposed to lead Takehara into the East Japan Rookie of the Year Semi final. Takehara however got a bye as Tsubasa Narai was forced to pull out of the bout. That resulted in Takehara fighting in the East Japan Rookie of the Year final, where he impressively stopped Kotaka Umemoto. After scoring 4 decision wins before this bout Takehara actually showed a bit of spite here, forcing the referee to save Umemoto after a series of head shots in round 3.
Having won the East Japan Rookie of the Year Takehara progressed to the All Japan final, where he faced Ryuya Tsugawa.
Before we talk about the final we need to quickly touch on what happened between Takehara's win against Akima but before his bout All Japan final. The Kyoei Gym closed, temporarily, and left the Kyoei fighters scrambling to to be transfered to a different gym for the final. That ended up with Takehara and Kyonosuke Kameda transferring to the Hanagata gym for their Rookie of the Year final.
In the All Japan final, in December 2019, Takehara faced off with Tsugawa in what ended up being a very technical and competitive match up. It wasn't the most exciting bout from the finals, but was among the most compelling and competitive and there wasn't much to pick between the two men, who were really did match each other incredibly well. Sadly for Takehara all 3 judges went with Tsugawa and as a result Takehara suffered his first professional loss.
We began this by talking about how Takehara will be back in the ring later this week. Just to extend that a little but, the youngster will be looking to bounce back from the loss to Tsugawa as he takes on Beverely Tsukada (3-4-2. 2) in his first 6 rounder.
The 2019 All Japan Rookie of the Year was an interesting tournament, and one where we were really impressed by a number of the fighters involved. Whilst Katsuki Mori was the one that really caught the eye there were others that impressed as well. One of those was Featherweight Jinki Maeda (4-0, 2), who deserves a mention this week ahead of his next professional bout, on August 9th.
Prior to turning to boxing the Maeda was a stellar Nippon Kempo competitor, winning the 32nd All Japan Student Kempo Championships as an individual. From the footage of Maeda competing in Nippon Kempo you could see he was quick, well balanced, with long reach, and very good with his hands.
Whilst there is overlap between Nippon Kempo and boxing the sports are very different. However from what we could find that was all the combat experience Maeda had before he turned professional with the Green Tsuda gym. From what we could find he essentially had no prior amateur boxing experience when he turned professional. Despite his lack of boxing experience he made his professional debut in the 2019 West Japan Rookie of the Year, competing as a Featherweight and shone.
On April 21st 2019 Maeda made his professional debut, taking on Genki Kakiuchi. The talented Maeda shined from the off, using his southpaw stance and height well, before dropping Kakiuchi with a brilliant 1-2 just over a minute into the bout. To his credit Kakiuchi got to his feet, a surprise given how he went down, but the referee waved off the bout with Kakiuchi looking unstable on his feet. The bout was waved off after just 83 seconds.
Whilst a blow out over Kakiuchi was impressive for the debuting Maeda it wasn't a fluke and just 3 months later he scored another quick win as he blasted out Shoya Yamashita in 80 seconds in another West Japan Rookie of the Year bout. Yamashita, just like Kakiuchi, was dropped quickly, and struggled to beat the count, looking unsteady and forcing the referee to halt the bout. This should have moved Maeda into the West Japan Rookie of the Year final in September, that however fell through when Konosuke Kirihigashi was unable to face Maeda, resulting in a bye.
With the bye Kakikuchi would progress to the next round, where he faced off with the then 4-0 (4) Hikaru Fukunaga in November, to decide the West Japan representative for the All Japan final in December. From the off Maeda looked respectful of Fukunaga, realising this was a much more testing bout than his first 2. He showed patience, a fantastic jab and a willingness to use the ring as he easily out boxed Fukunaga. There was nothing special about what Maeda did, it was all basic, straight forward boxing, but he neutralised his dangerous opponent and won the rounds with simple out-side boxing. That win then moved him on to the All Japan final.
The All Japan final saw Maeda face off with Kyonosuke Kameda, the cousin of the Kameda brothers. Going in to that bout much of the attention was on Kameda, with his family being a focus pre-fight. Despite Maeda being somewhat over-looked going into the final the talented southpaw simply out worked Kameda, proved he wanted it more and put his foot on the gas when it was needed. It was a close contest, but Maeda was showing that bit of extra hunger whilst Kameda was trying to be too cute. The result was a split decision for Maeda, who scored the biggest win of his career so far and claimed the Rookie of the Year crown.
On August 9th Maeda returns to the ring for the first time since his Rookie of the Year triumph, as he takes on the hard hitting Arashii Iimi (7-2, 7) in a 6 rounder. On paper this is a real step up for Maeda, who takes on not only the most experienced opponent of his career, but also the most dangerous. This should see real questions being asked Maeda, who will have to prove himself.
Although his next bout is a step up Maeda does look like the sort of fighter who can go places in the sport. He's a long, rangy southpaw, he's quick, accurate, very well balanced and although his boxing IQ needs developing his Nippon Kempo experience is something that is very useful to rely on when he needs to. It's not boxing experience, but it is combat sport experience, and he is developing his boxing brain fight by fight.
Don't expect Maeda to be in a title fight any time soon, but he is definitely one to keepo an eye on for the future.
Back in June Teiken announced they had signed a number of top Japanese amateurs to professional contracts, with the intention of letting the men make their debuts later in the year. One of the most interesting of the fighters signed by the Japanese promotional giant was Subaru Murata, who is expected to fast tracked though the professional ranks.
The 23 year old Murata is from Iwade City and first took to Karate before turning his hand to boxing when he was in elementary school. He would develop his boxing skills before making a mark for himself when he was in High School, winning a number of competitions including National High School titles. He would then be a success in his university team and was a member of the Self-Defense Force Physical Education School.
Impressively Murata's success wasn't just on the domestic scene. He managed to make a mark on the international scene, competing at the 2014 AIBA Youth World Championships, in Bulgaria and the 2014 Junior Olympics in China. At the Youth World Championships he reached the quarter finals, beating Scotland's Lee McGregor along the way. Whilst at the Junior Olympics he managed to win a bronze medal.
In the years that followed Murata would build his reputation and carve out a really solid amateur career. He had a sensational 2018, winning the All Japan Championships and taking the "Excellent Fighter" award at the annual awards ceremony the following year. He would also compete at a number of international championships, including the 2016 Asian Students Championships, where he reached the semi finals, and the 2019 AIBA Championships.
By the time Murata was done with the unpaid ranks he had run up an excellent 68-12 record.
In the ring Murata's style is a very aggressive one for an amateur. He likes to come forward, be aggressive and is a southpaw. He has good handspeed, appears to have respectable pop and has got a style that should work well in the professional ranks, with a bit of polish. Despite being aggressive there are flaws for him to work on, specifically defensively. If he can work on those defensive issues, then he really can be fast tracked.
At just 23, and with his 24th birthday coming in October, the future is really bright for Murata who looks like he has the tools to go a very, very long way in the sport. With the right training and management Murata looks likely to be another future world champion from the Teiken Gym.
At the time of writing no date has been announced for Murata's debut or his pro-test but both are expected to be announced shortly.
For those curious, and we suspect there will be one or two people wondering, Subaru Murata is not related to fellow boxer Ryota Murata, another Teiken fighter.
Back in June talented 22 year old Bek Nurmaganbet (0-0) announced that he was turning professional, having left the Kazakh amateur national to join the pro ranks. At the time there was a number of promoters believed to have been chasing his signature before he agreed a deal with Suleimen promotions, who have a host of other talented Kazakh's signed with them. He announced that deal earlier in July and just a few days ago they confirmed that he would be making his professional debut on July 26th in Minsk.
For those unaware Nurmaganbet was one of the best amateurs in the world before deciding to head to the professionals and those who have followed the amateur ranks in recent years are very excited about seeing how far Nurmaganbet can go.
The youngster impressed had impressed way back in the Youth ranks, taking a silver medal at the AIBA Youth World Championships in 2016, losing in the final to talented Scottish fighter Willy Hutchinson. Although he lost in the final it was a razor thin bout, with Hutchinson winning the final via a split decision. On his route to the final Nurmaganbet scored a notable victory over current professional prospect "White Chocolate" Nikita Ababiy.
After a relatively quiet 2017 Nurmaganbet then went on to quickly make a mark in the senior ranks, winning a national Kazakh title in 2018, where he was the second youngster of the fighters to win their weight class. That same year he also took home a President's Cup in Astana, losing in the semi-final to eventual winner Bektemir Melikuziev. You know, that Uzbek terror who has been racing through the rankings towards a world title shot!
Despite having already made his name in the youth ranks and the domestic ranks it was really 2019 that we saw Nurmaganbet announce himself globally. It was in 2019 that he won the AIBA Asian Amateur Championships, being one of two Kazakh's to take home gold, alongside the phenomenal Tursynbay Kulakhmet.
Nurmaganbet was also supposed to go to the recent World Amateur Championship's but an injury forced him to abandon those plans. In the end his replacement, essentially the #2 in the Kazakh team, went on to win the gold medal.
Despite only being in his early 20's the natural talent that Nurmaganbet has is obvious when he steps in the ring. As an amateur he was really highly skilled with a loose, relaxed style. Typically his hands do look a little on the low side but he looks a natural in the ring, very fleet footed and very natural moving around the ring. Like many of the top amateur's he's a southpaw and despite fighting at 81KG's in the amateurs, around the Light Heavyweight limit, he looks very quick with a lovely quick jab and a rocket of a smooth left hand.
In many ways Nurmaganbet is similar to fellow Kazakh hopeful Tursynbay Kulakhmet. He isn't quite the natural talent that Kulakhmet is, but stylistically they are similar, with fluid styles and a lot of energy in what they do.
We suspect that when Nurmaganbet debuts a lot of the focus will be on slowing things down slightly, sitting on his shots more and just adapting what he's shown in the amateurs. He looks fantastic, big, tall, rangy, quick, strong, powerful and smart. He's young, has time to adapt and has a very bright future ahead of him.
Sadly at the time of writing Nurmaganbet's opponent for his debut hasn't been named though the reality is that we don't expect him to be in too tough to begin with. We expect to see him have an easy bout on July 26th then begin to see his competition ramp up as he begins to adapt to the pro ranks.
It's fair to say that 2020 has been a bit of a write off so far boxing. Thankfully for fans of the sport there are good times ahead, and as always in this "Introducing" series we want to talk about someone we're excited to see building their career. Today we're going to look at a Japanese fighter many tipped for Olympic success, but he failed to qualify for the Japanese team, and as a result announced his plans to turn professional earlier this month. That is is the brilliant Kenji Fujita.
Fujita, along with 3 other top Japanese amateurs, signed with Teiken earlier this year, and was announced officially as a Teiken fighter on June 6th. That was great given that back in November Fujita announced he was retiring from amateur boxing, after 10 years of being involved in the sport. He had lost in the All Japan final in 2019 to Hayato Tsutsumi and stated that he was done ending his days in the unpaid ranks with a career record of 153-21 (40).
It was just amazing numbers that Fujita put up but also great achievements. Going all the way back to 2010 he had won at the Japanese Junior Selection Tournament, winning at 54KG's in the same tournament that Naoya Inoue won the 48KG division. We won't go through all his success but he would claim 3 All Japan amateur titles and a bronze at the 2013 Asian Championships in Jordan. It's fair to add that had it not been for Arashi Morisaka and Hayato Tsutsumi there's a real chance he would have claimed a lot more in terms of domestic titles.
Fighting out of the Self Defenses Forces Physicla Education School, Fujita has come from a hot bed of boxing talent, including new professional stable mate Subaru Murata.
Despite having around 175 amateur bouts to his name Fujita is still relatively young. He only turned 26 earlier this year. He has his best years ahead of him, unlike Satoshi Shimizu who was also a former SDF fighter who remained an amateur for far too long. Fujita mixes experience and youthfulness perfectly here.
As a fighter Fujita has a really nice style, fighting out of the southpaw stance. He moves around the ring really easily, he's very light on his feet, going forward and backwards, he's a very accurate puncher, with lightning quick hands. Although very technical he's also able to show an aggressive side when he needs to but does appear to be the type of fighter who prefers action at mid to long range.
We do like how Fujita fighters but it seems likely that Teiken will try to take what they have and just tweak things a bit. We suspect they will try to add an extra bit of offensive zing to Fujita's mind set. We also suspect they will look to work on his inside game, which is the one area where he is deficient, as was seen in a number of his meetings with Morisaka.
We've seen Teiken sign up a lot of talented amateur fighters in recent years, such as Mikito Nakano, Kuntae Lee, Kenshi Noda, Shokichi Iwata and Fujita is another in that mould. The gym, which did seem to fall asleep at the wheel, is now building an excellent stable of former amateur standouts, and Fujita is among the very best.
At the moment Fujita hasn't had a date set for his professional debut or pro-test, but it seems likely that his pro-test will be in late summer with his debut coming in late 2020.
For those wanting to see what Fujita is about we've included one of his many clashes with Arashi Morisaka below.
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