In the last 12 months or so we really saw boxing in Thailand pick up in terms of quality, and the exciting feeling of the country having some genuinely good prospects, contenders and hopefuls. One of those that we didn’t speak too much about in 2020 was Super Bantamweight hopeful Yuttapong Tongdee (5-0, 4), who got a little bit lost in the shuffle, though does deserve some real attention as we head through 2021, which could be a huge year for the 27 year old.
Despite being highly regarded as a prospect as we head into the year, Yuttapong actually only made his professional debut in 2020. Before that he had been a very solid amateur and had competed not just on the national scene but was a regular on the international circuit.
Whilst full amateur records are rarely available we know that Yuttapong was fighting internationally as early as 2014, when he competed in the Tammer Tournament in Finland, where he sadly lost to English fighter Jack Bateson in the semi-final of the 52KG division.
Yuttapong’s international appearances became more regular in 2015. One of his early tournaments for the year was an International in Thailand, where he reached the final before losing to Chatchai Butdee. He then reached the semi-finals of an International Invitational Tournament in Taipei City, losing a close decision to Dannel Maamo.
In 2016 Yuttapong competed at the Asian Students Championships in Uzbekistan but was unfortunate to face Ertugan Zeynullinov in the first round, with Zeynullinov going on to win the gold medal a few days later. He did however get revenge several months later, when the two clashed in semi-finals of the World University Championships, before Yuttapong went all the way and won the tournament, beating current Japanese professional prospect Yuki Yamauchi in the final.
Yuttapong had one of his most notable wins at the 2017 Giraldo Cordova Cardin Tournament in Cuba, where he beat Cuban great Robeisy Ramirez in the quarter final of the tournament, before losing in the semi final.
In 2018 Yuttapong had another notable year, winning gold at the Asian games, winning an International tournament in Thailand, and a bronze medal at the Asian games. That same year he also took second place at the Galym Zharylgapov Memorial, reached the quarter finals of the President's Cup in Kazakhstan, and the semi final at the Thailand National Championships, making a stellar year for Yuttapong.
After having had such a long and successful amateur career Yuttapong turned professional in 2020, debuting in July on a show promoted by T.L. Promotions, one of the leading promotional outfits in Thailand. On his debut he defeated Artid Bamrungauea via 4th round TKO, in a scheduled 6 rounder, on a card that also featured the highly touted Phoobadin Yoohanngoh and the talented Arnon Yupang.
Around 6 weeks after his debut Yuttapong returned to the ring and took his second professional win, defeating Jirawat Thammachot with a 6 round unanimous decision. The bout saw Tongdee dominate from the off, proving he was too quick, too accurate, too sharp and too smart and dropping Jirawat in round 3 on route to a shutout win. Yuttapong would stay busy after the win over Jirawat in August, stopping Tongthep Taeyawong in September, after beating the fight out of his man in 2 rounds, and then stopping Kan Hamongkol in 4 rounds to race out to 4-0 (3) by the end of October.
Yuttapong would return for one more bout before the end of 2020 and that was a bout with former world title challenger Pigmy Kokietgym, aka Wicha Phulaikhao, a 77 fight veteran who had faced some very notable fighters during his long career. On paper this was a big step up for Yuttapong, but he made it look easy and barely got out of second gear against his smaller and older opponent, who was stopped in round 5.
Since turning professional Yuttapong has looked like a natural fighter. His amateur experience really shows and he’s composed, calm and relaxed in the ring. He throws lovely combinations, looks crips of offensive and very nice variety in his shots. Defensively he can be hit, and can leave himself open when attacking, something that saw him being tagged several times by Pigmy, but it often seems like a calculated gamble from him against out-matched opponents, and something we expect to see him tighten up when he steps up.
Yuttapong is expected back in the ring in later this month, and from there on we expect him to be busy, maybe as busy as last year, but still busy, as he climbs into the regional title scene and, potentially, the world rankings this year.
Aged 27 time isn’t really on Yuttapong’s side, but with 5 fights since July 2020 it’s clear he and his team know activity is key, and that appears to be their currently focus for the promising Super Bantamweight hopeful.
On February 21st we’ll get the All Japan Rookie of the Year finals, ending a tournament that was delayed due to Covid19. The competition is a platform for talented youngster in Japan to launch themselves into the public consciousness and has been used to help kick start the careers of numerous world champions, including the likes of Fighting Harada, Junto Nakatani, Jiro Watanabe, Takuya Muguruma, Daisuke Naito, Masayuki Ito, Ryoichi Taguchi and Kiyoshi Hatanaka. The tournament, which has the finals televised live on G+, is a fantastic proving ground for youngsters and this year will be no different.
With that in mind we turned our attention to the Rookie of the Year final’s to find someone to speak about for this week’s “Introducing...” and came across Light Flyweight hopeful Ryota Karimata (5-0, 3) who ticks a lot of boxes as a future contender and has some real ambition to make it in the sport, and catch up with the achievements of someone he trained with when he was in high school.
The 25 year old Karimata, originally from Okinawa, was involved in boxing way back in his high school days, when he was at the Miyako Comprehensive Business High School. Due to the lack of youngsters participating in boxing at the school he trained at the Miyako Technical High School Boxing Club, that was also where Daigo Higa was training as a youngster, and the two trained together back when they were young.
Despite training alongside a future star Karimata never really made much of a mark on the amateur scene in Japan. That was despite fighting in the Ashiya University team, and even sharing the ring with some other notable likes Rikito Shiba. Following his time at university he left the sport, and he got a job at a hotel when he graduated. At the time it seemed he was leaving the sport behind for good.
Thankfully that turned out not to be the end of Karimata and he turned professional with the well established Misako gym in Tokyo.
On June 9th 2019 Karimata made his professional debut, taking on Keiichiro Kusumoto in Hiroshima in a Light Flyweight bout. Despite going up against an opponent with 6 fights to his name Karimata Karimara showed no fear and pressed confidently from the early going, showing some nice footwork, a sharp jab and aggressive in ring mentality. The aggression paid off and late in the round a 1-2 from Karimata dropped Kusumoto, who also ended the round with a cut around his left eye. Karimata began to go through the gears after the knockdown and had Kusumoto in trouble as the bell went. With their man cut and having been dropped in round 1, Kusumoto’s corner withdrew him from the bout before the start of round 2.
Despite making his debut in the bout Karimata, and needing just 3 minutes to secure his first win, Karimata looked like a solid prospect there and then.
Just 4 months later Karimata returned to the ring for his second bout, taking on the debuting Shoma Tada at Flyweight. This time things were much, much tougher for Karimata. The 26 year old Tada used a busy jab, seemed to be quicker and lighter on his feet than Karimata, and almost dropped Karimata in the opening round. Karimata had to dig deep against a hungry debutant, who was bigger and stronger, and in the end did just enough to edge out a razor thin 4 round majority decision. The bout seemed to serve as a warning to Karimata, avoid the Flyweight division. After this bout he headed back to Light Flyweight, where he has remained ever since.
In his third professional bout Karimata fought in Okinawa for the first time and over-came Hidetoshi Takane, taking a 4 round decision. This bout, sadly the only Karimata bout not available on Boxing Raise at the time of writing, is a bit of a mystery to us. Thankfully reports from the venue state that Karimata was the boss throughout, dropping Takane and took a very clear decision, in an exciting bout. Notably Takane had reached the East Japan Rookie of the Year final in 2019, and a win over Takane here was a genuinely impressive one for Karimata.
Before he had his 4th professional bout Karimata got the chance to travel, going over to Thailand weeks after his win over Takane, as he was part of the team helping Norihito Tanaka prepare for his bout with Knockout CP Freshmart. Although he didn’t fight on international soil he did travel with Tanaka and trainer Keita Suzuki and the experience of being abroad and soaking in the vibes of major fight week may well come in handy in the future.
Sadly Karimata, like so many other fighters last year, saw their career being put on ice due to the Covid19 pandemic. As a result it was almost 7 months between his win over Takane and his follow up bout, which came in a qualifying bout for the East Japan Rookie of the Year in September 2020. That bout saw him share the ring with Chinami Tanaka and from the off Karimata was walking down his man, pressing. Tanaka tried to fight him off, but it failed and Karimata continued pressing, rocking Tanaka with a right hand and then breaking him down through much of what was left of the round. With around 20 seconds of the round left Karimata cornered his man, hammering him until he dropped to the canvas and was counted out.
Around 2 months after his win over Tanaka we saw Karimata return to the ring, and take on Kengo Hatsushika in the East Japan Rookie of the Year semi-final. The bout started with Hatsushika trying to jump on Karimata before he could settle. It was a high risk gameplan from Hatsushika and one that backfired when Karimata decided to fight fire with fire, and dropped his man with a huge right hand. Hatsushika tried to beat the count but the fight was waved off after just 50 seconds.
Karimata was supposed to return in December, at the East Japan Rookie of the Year final, but the bout was cancelled when Hayato Aoki was forced out of the contest, crowning Karimata the winner by forfeit. Karimata will now fight in the All Japan final against Hyogo Kimura, with the two men battling to be crowned the All Japan Light Flyweight Rookie of the Year.
For Karimata the All Japan crown is just the next step as he attempts to catch up to Higa and his in ring achievements. It’s a lot of catching up to do, but it seems to be his goal, and it’ll be exciting to see him go about it over the coming weeks, months and years.
For fans wanting to watch Karimata 4 of his 5 bouts are available on the Boxing Raise service. Whilst his upcoming bout will be shown on G+.
The Flyweight division has long been one of the most interesting to follow and the winners of the Japanese Rookie of the Year at Flyweight often end up having some of the most promising and exciting careers, with Junto Nakatani being a particularly notable recent example. Someone looking to add their name to the long list of All Japan Rookie of the Year Flyweight champions is 24 year old Misako Gym hopeful Akira Hoshuyama (4-0, 2), who returns to the ring February 21st in his all Japan final.
Given his unbeaten professional record, his place in the All Japan final, and his journey to the final we thought Hoshuyama was a great fighter to cover in this week’s “Introducing…”, especially with this being a chance for fans to open their eyes to someone who really worth getting to know before his next bout.
Unlike many fighters we discuss in this series Hoshuyama wasn’t a former amateur standout. In fact he went 7-6 in the unpaid ranks, and even described himself as a “loser” last year when discussing his days as an amateur. Despite his limited record in the unpaid ranks he wanted to be a professional fighter, and it seemed like he was aware that the two were different when he began his professional journey in 2019.
When Hoshuyama turned professional he did so at the Gushiken Shirai Sports Gym, run by the legendary Yoko Gushiken.
It was under the iconic Gushiken that Hoshuyama made his debut in October 2019, and he would score a 2nd round TKO win over Kotaro Usuzawa, kicking off his professional career in style. In the first round Hoshuyama dropped his man, with a solid left hand, and was then in trouble in round 2, forcing Usuzawa’s team to save their man, who had no answer for the clean left hands and brilliant right hooks of the talented Hoshuyama.
Around 3 months after his debut Hoshuyama returned to the ring for his second fight, where he took on Korean foe Geon Kim, in the very first Japanese bout of 2020. From the off it was clear that Hoshuyama was no normal prospect, and he certainly didn’t look like a man who had gone 7-6 in the amateurs. He looked sharp, showed some lovely movement, and looked like a natural in the ring. There were flaws, and it was clear he lacked experience, but it was clear that he knew what he was doing in the ring. Kim on the other hand looked very crude, and ate numerous straight left hands down the pipe. The clean headshots from Hoshuyama beat the fight out of Kim until the referee was forced to step in and wave off the bout.
Sadly the bout with Kim would be Hoshuyama’s final one under the guidance of the Shirai Gushiken Gym, with the gym closing its doors a few months later. By that point however the youngster had been given the “Gushiken II” moniker by some of those in Japan.
When Hoshuyama returned to the ring, almost 8 months later, he was now a Misako gym fighter, and he made his Misako Gym debut in an East Japan Rookie of the Year bout against the then unbeaten Shoji Matsumoto (3-0-1, 1), on September 6th 2020. Through the bout Hoshuyama dictated the tempo and distance of the fight. Early on he established control of the center of the ring and showcased his crisp, sharp jab, as well as his solid left hand. As the bout went on his gameplan began to change and in the later stages he allowed Matsumoto to come to him, and landed some solid uppercuts as Matsumoto began to get desperate, and chase the bout. By the end of 4 rounds Hoshuyama had won pretty much every minute of every round, and took the decision with scores of 40-36 from all 3 judges.
Having booked his place in the next round of the Rookie of the Year Hoshuyama sadly had to wait for his next bout, and didn’t fight again until the East Japan Rookie of the Year final where he took on the dangerous Shugo Namura (then 4-0, 4). On paper this looked like a really tough test for Hoshuyama, and his first bout against a puncher. Early on he showed respect to Namura but established his southpaw jab at range and tied up Namura up close, frustrating his aggressive and heavy handed foe. Late in the opening round Hosuyama dropped his man and secured a 10-8 round. From there on Hoshuyama seemed to always look relaxed and in control against the very lively, but inaccurate, Namura. To his credit Namura continually tried to force the action, but his aggression was often crude and ineffective whilst Hoshuyama fought a more intelligent, and educated fight. After 4 rounds Hoshuyama was the run-away winner with all 3 judges scoring the bout 40-35 in his favour, despite the relentless effort of Namura. This booked Hsouyama a place in the All Japan final.
For those wanting to watch this bout we've included it below.
Although certainly not the biggest puncher, most physically intimidating or quickest fighter out there, there is a lot to like with Hoshuyama. He looks like he takes a good shot, has a very sneaky left hand, looks like someone who is full of energy and he’s also one of the few Japanese fighters who really seems to be willing to smother, hold and stall. It’s a skill we rarely see from Japanese fighters but Hoshuyama uses clinching well to take the steam off his opponents.
In the All Japan final, which will be shown live on G+, Hoshuyama will be up against 20 year old Yasuhiro Kanzaki (6-1, 2) over 5 rounds. A win there will help set Hoshuyama well on the way to bigger and better things, though once again he’s in with a decent opponent, and this is not a gimme for the unbeaten 24 year old.
Despite turning professional with an unflattering record, credit goes to Hoshuyama for rebuilding his boxing and adapting to the professional ranks, where he is now on the verge of winning Rookie of the Year. If he manages that then bigger and better things could well be on the horizon for the youngster who is already showing plenty of promise.
In recent years we've seen Kazakh fighters begin to make a bigger and more significant mark on the professional boxing scene than ever before. The charge, lead by Gennady Golovkin, has seen the likes of Beibut Shumenov and Zhanat Zhakiyanov winning world titles and an emerging number of prospects. Among those prospects are notable names, like Daniyar Yeleussinov, Aidos Yerbossybuly, Sadriddin Akhmedov, Zhan Kossobutskiy and Batyrzhan Jukembayev along with a host of lesser known hopefuls.
Later this month we expect to see another Kazakh hopeful begin his professional journey, which was actually pencilled in to begin late last year before the bout was cancelled very close to fight time.
That is 28 year old Darkhan Zhumsakbayev (0-0), who is pencilled in to debut on February 12th in Florida.
Like many Kazakh's who turn professional Zhumsakbayev had a very long and notable amateur career. He was never banging on the doors for the big global championships, in part due to the depth of talent coming out of the country, but was regularly seen in international tournaments, racking up serious experience in the unpaid ranks. It's due to that experience that his, eventual, professional debut is something to get excited about.
As a fighter Zhumsakbayev has been making his name on the Kazakh scene for years, though was often regarded as the #3 or #4 in his homeland, where there really has been stiff competition over the last decade or so.
We obviously won't go through all of Zhumsakbayev's amateur achievements, but we will go some of the highlights, and show just how long he has been on the radar of those who follow the Kazakh amateur scene.
One of his earliest highlights was in 2009, when Zhumsakbayev won the Kazakh Youth Championships. The following year he reached the last 16 at the World Youth Championships. Sadly as he began to compete at senior level he found himself up against stiff competition and ended up struggling to win at the highest levels of domestic competition. Despite that he was a losing finalist in 2013 Kazakh national Championships and and twice lost in the semi-finals showing how consistent he was on the domestic scene.
Zhumsakbayev's good showings in domestic competition saw him getting the chance to compete in various international competitions such as the "President's Cup" in 2014, where he lost to Filipino Charlie Suarez, and the 2015 World Cup of Petroleum Countries, where he was the losing finalist. Incidentally that same tournament also had the brilliant Christian M'Billi taking home a silver medal along with Serge Michel.
Despite competing, a lot, as an amateur relatively recent footage of Zhumsakbayev is rather scarce. Thankfully however there is some decent quality footage from some older tournaments, including a bout with Thai Sailom Ardee from 2015. In that bout Zhumsakbayev looked a little bit under-sized but showcased a lot to like, with an aggressive mindset, a lot of head movement and actually managed to upset the Thai at home. In other bouts he was also a high energy and aggressive fighter, who looked like he had a style very much suited to the professional ranks.
Sadly we're not sure how Zhumsakbayev will look now, a few years on from that win, but a result like that shows what he can do, and the style he showed in that bout was certainly fan friendly. With that in mind we are looking forward to his debut.
Sadly at the age of 28 the Featherweight will have to be moved quickly, though with his extensive amateur background that shouldn't be an issue. The fact he's going to debut in a 6 rounder is a good sign that he, and his team, may well feel he has the background to be matched well this year and fingers crossed in 2022 and 2023 we begin to see him in with some noteworthy names, before father time starts to get his mitts on Zhumsakbayev.
This “Introducing” series typically tries to shine a light on young prospects but sometimes we look elsewhere and look at fighters who just deserve a little bit more attention than they typically get. This week we’re looking at one of those fighters who isn’t particularly young, but should be on, or near, your radar and that’s the rarely spoken about Kosuke Ando (8-2, 3), who is a promising Light Flyweight.
Ando is a 28 year old fighter from the KG Yamata Gym who got introduced to boxing by his close friend, and fellow fighter, Reiya Abe. Like Abe he lacked in terms of amateur pedigree and instead of being moved quickly when he turned professional he managed slowly with his debut coming in February 2016. On debut he defeat Kodai Gushiken, at Korakuen Hall, and within 16 months he was 3-0 (2), and had progressed to the second round of bouts in the 2017 edition of the East Japan Rookie of the Year.
Sadly for Ando his 2017 Rookie of the Year dreams came to an end in July that year, well before the final stages of the competition, as he suffered a 4th round TKO loss to Tomoya Yamamoto.
Following his first loss Ando spent more than a year out of the ring, returning in October 2018 to beat Akihiko Fukami via TKO in the final seconds of the bout. This win was followed 4 months later when Ando faced off with Kodai Gushiken, the man he’d beaten back on his debut. In the rematch with Gushiken we again saw Ando come out on top, taking a decision win over 4 rounds to move to 5-1 (3).
Following his efforts in the 2017 Rookie of the Year Ando tried again in 2019 and in his first round bout he beat Yuki Kajitani, via 4th round majority decision, to book his place in the East Japan Rookie of the Year final. In that final he upset the previously unbeaten Hidetoshi Takane in a 5 rounder, dropping Takane along the way to assure himself the decision victory and his place in the All Japan final in December.
Sadly for Ando his Rookie of the Year dreams came to an end in December 2019, in the All Japan final, where he lost a razor thin decision to West Japan representative Sho Omote. This was a really good bout that started off mostly technical but the action built as the bout went on, with Ando being dropped twice in round 4. The knockdowns proved vital on the scorecards, with Omote winning with scores of 47-46 on two of the cards.
Despite having lost in the Rookie of the year final Ando’s career wasn’t over, not by any stretch. Sadly however his return to the ring was delayed due to Covid19 essentially putting boxing on hiatus in Japan. Thankfully 2020 wasn’t a total wash out for him, and instead he got into the ring in October and bounced back with a 6 round shutout win over former for Hidetoshi Takane, the man he had beaten in the East Japan Rookie of the Year.
We’ll see Ando back in the ring on January 29th when he takes on Japanese ranked Minimumweight Shuri Hasebe (8-5, 2) in an 8 round bout. A win there won’t assure Ando a Japanese ranking of his own, but it is likely to see him rewarded with one, if he gets past Hasebe. Notably this is not just a step in quality for the 28 year old, but also in terms of bout length, with this being his first 8 rounder.
Aged 28 it really is time for Ando’s career to kick on, and we dare say that’s why he’s facing a JBC ranked fighter later this month. He’s no longer a spring chicken, but instead someone in their supposed physical prime and someone who knows that 2 or 3 good wins could, potentially, help him secure a title fight in 2022 or 2023.
In terms of his style Ando does show some similarities to Reiya Abe, albeit like a cheaper, less effective, less intelligent and much less patient Abe. Like Abe we see Ando wanting to create space, backing off, trying to draw errors, but he’s much less patient with it and often decides to try and force the action more. It does make his bouts more enjoyable to watch than his friend’s, but he does lack a lot of the nuance and boxing IQ that Abe has. He also struggles, mightily, to hold his own up close, and can be seen as very loopy with his shots. There is a very clear “rough around the edges” look to how he fights.
Despite not being a star in the making Ando is a man who has spent the last few years improving, and polishing. He’s never going to be a world champion, he lacks the natural traits to do that, but there’s no reason to overlook the fact that he has the potential to be a legitimate contender on the Japanese scene. He might not be a special fighter, but he is someone who deserves a bit of attention as he move towards his first bout of 2021 and a genuine step up in class.
This coming Friday at Korakuen Hall we’ll see Tentaro Kimura (5-0-2) look to score his biggest win to date as he takes on Koki Mioya in a B Class tournament bout. The bout is being seen by those in Japan as a really interesting one between two young, good looking, fighters who have the pretty boy looks to appeal to female fans, and the promise and potential to get male fight fans following them too. Given the interest in the fight we’ve to give both men a bit of a light, covering Mioya in an “Introducing” article, posted earlier today and now we bring you an “Introducing” about Kimura.
Before we go any further we need to address the elephant in the room. Tentaro is not Rentaro Kimura, despite the fact both look similar and both fight out of the Suruga Danji gym in Shizuoka. Despite that the two men are related with Tentaro being the younger cousin of the very, very highly regarded Rentaro, and the two are genuinely close. Not only that but both of the youngsters are regarded as genuine prospects, though Tentaro lacks the strong amateur pedigree and the power of his cousin.
Kimura was born in Numazu City, in Shizuoka prefecture, and was a sport loving youngster who originally enjoyed playing football before being bitten by the boxing bug in High School. As an amateur he competed in several notable tournaments but failed to win any of the major national tournaments. He then went to university, but dropped out to concentrate on becoming a professional boxer under the guidance of the Suruga Danji Boxing gym, lead by Masaaki Maejima, better known as Suruga Denji.
Before turning professional Kimura had managed to notch up a 10-7 record, but his desire to turn professional saw him begin his professional journey at the age of 19. As a result he debuted in November 2018, when he took on Chinese fighter Bangxin Zhang at Korakuen Hall, in what was a Japan Vs China show. This bout saw the talented Kimura use his speed and amateur fundamentals well, to outland Zhang, and regularly finding a home for his jab. After 4 rounds it was hard to find anything to give to Zhang, with Kimura taking a 4 round shutout over the visitor. For fans wanting to watch this one it is available on Boxing Raise.
Despite looking skilled and sharp, Kimura did look like a man with self belief issues and a lack of confidence in his abilities, something that has been mentioned by his promoter in the past.
In March 2019 we saw Kimura return to the ring and score his second win, this time at the Memorial Center in Gifu, where he easily out pointed Yuki Omori on the under-card of Kosei Tanaka’s bout with Ryoichi Taguchi. Once again it was the speed and skills of Kimura that shone en route to his win. Just 2 months later he was back in the ring, this time in his home prefecture of Shizuoka, as he competed in a Central Japan Rookie of the Year bout against Fuya Tomita.
Against Tomita it seemed like Kimura had become more confident than he was on his debut and he held his feet a lot more than he had on his debut. He still looked sharp, with genuinely nice hand speed and smart foot work, but there appeared to be much more self belief as he out boxed, out worked and out fought Tomita Tomita to a clear decision win.
Kimura would extend his winning record in August 2019 when he took on Teru Nobita at the Aioi Hall in Kariya and took a split decision win over Nobita to become the Central Japan Rookie of the Year at Bantamweight, his biggest success so far since turning professional. Sadly however Kimura’s Rookie of the Year campaign ended soon afterwards, as he fought to a draw around 6 weeks later with Western Japan champion Kantaro Nakanishi, who actually ended up going all the way and winning the All Japan Final in December.
Despite missing out on a chance to compete in the All Japan Rookie of the Year final Kimura kept busy and ended 2019 with a 6 round draw against Tokuken Yoshimoto. On one hand that was disappointing, suffering a second successive draw, however going 6 rounds for the first time would have been a good tick box for Kimura and although Yoshimoto is no world beater he’s a credible domestic opponent, so a draw against him is a decent result.
Sadly Kimura’s rise was slowed dramatically in 2020 when Covid19 prevented many fighters from being active. In July 2020 Rentaro Kimura made his debut, and the focus of many swung to that of Rentaro, who quickly began to look like a star. Despite that Tentaro himself did secure a win in September, when he beat Wataru Yokoyama at the FujisanMesse in Fuji City, Shizuoka. That win saw Kimura put in a solid and entertaining performance, with his speed and work rate being too much for Yokoyama, though the bout certainly had its share of messy action.
On January 22nd, when Kimura takes on Mioya, the opportunity is there for the youngster to shine, though he’s in with a fighter very similar to him. Mioya, like Kimura, is a speedy fighter, with good hand speed and good movement but little in the way of power. Despite that we are looking forward to that contest and it genuinely could be a very action packed one, with the two fighters expected to match each other very well.
As well as being bitten by the boxing bug, Kimura is also a self confessed anime nerd, with a huge collection of anime related items, including Cosplay outfits and various pillows, something he admitted he was spending all his purse money on in 2019 to Sports Hochi. In that very same article his promoter explained that Tentaro lacked confidence, though went on to say that Tentaro is a genius and picks things up very quickly, with an ability to impersonate Mayweather. His promoter also explained that the lack of early KO’s isn’t a problem, and mentioned how Shinsuke Yamanaka also had a lot of early career decision wins, before gaining his confidence and finding his power.
Whether we see that genius or not in the future is unclear, but with Masaaki Maejima’s belief in him and regular sparring along with his cousin the future is bright for Kimura, as long as he can, one day, develop the belief in his own ability. He has the tools and the boxing brain to do well, and the bout with Mioya on Friday should tell us a lot about what he has to offer the sport. Saying that however he’s only 22 now and is still an improving fighter. Win or lose against Mioya we wouldn’t suggest anyone writes off Kimura, who has years left ahead of him to develop and succeeded in the sport.
On January 22nd Boxing Raise will streaming a small, but very good looking, show with 4 bouts on it. Two of those are title bouts, with two of the others being finals of small tournaments that Dangan have been running. One of those tournament finals will feature 23 year old southpaw Koki Mioya (8-1-2, 2) who we’ve decided to take a look at this week in the latest “Introducing”.
Mioya was born in Nikko City, Tochigi Prefecture back in the summer of 1997 and like so many fighters he began boxing because of his father. In fact his profile on the Teiken website explains exactly how he started, stating that he began boxing “Because I enjoyed playing with my dad with toy gloves when I was a kid”.
That enjoyment later led Mioya into amateur boxing, which he did through junior high school and high school. Despite his love for the sport his days in the unpaid ranks weren’t the most successful, as he ran up a less than spectacular 19-16 record through 35 amateur bouts. Despite failing to make a major mark on the amateur he did manage to do well in a Kanto Inter high tournament, where he came second, and he certainly had promise, despite his underwhelming results.
In November 2016, at the age of 19, Mioya made his professional debut as he faced off with fellow novice Taisei Sakai, who entered with a 0-1 record. On paper this looked like a typical novice bout, but sadly it never really got going as a headclash very early inro the bout caused the contest to be waved off after just over half a round. The southpaw stance of Mioya and the orthodox stance of Sakai didn’t gel at all and it quickly became a mess of holding, wrestling and, unfortunately, head clashes, with Mioya coming off second best. After just 97 seconds this was waved off.
Some 5 months after his underwhelming debut Mioya was back in the ring, and picked up his first win, taking a razor thin decision over Yukito Kurasaki, in April 2017. This bout was shown live on G+ and was a great chance to see what the youngster could do, in a bout that was much better than his debut. From the off he looked sharp and quick and had nice variation in his shots, though rocked in rounds 2 and 3 and cut again in round 4, from another head clash. With the win he progressed to the second round of the East Japan Rookie of the year, where he then picked up a decision win against Seiya Kumagai in June, in what was a much better and more polished performance.
Sadly for Mioya his winning run came to an end in September 2017 when he came up short on the scorecards against Riki Hamada in the East Japan semi-final. Notably Hamada himself would lose in the East Japan final to the big punching Arashi Iimi inside a round.
Having done relatively well in the 2017 version of the Rookie of the Year Mioya entered the tournament in 2018, and got a bye in his first round when Haruki Kudo was unable to face him in April. That led to Mioya facing Issei Watanabe in in his July bout, following a 10 month gap between fights. Against Watanabe we saw Mioya take a shutout decision, and move into the East Japan semi-final for a second year. This time the semi-final wouldn’t be his stumbling block as he managed to narrowly over-come Taiga Hayashi, claiming a majority decision, to progress on to the East Japan final. In that final was again pushed all the way, but did enough to take home the split decision win, and progress to December’s All Japan final against Hiroki Hanabusa.
After back to back close decisions to reach the final Mioya had had to prove he could dig deep and had to dig deep again in the All Japan final, where he managed to just hold on for a draw against the then 5-0-1 Hanabusa. Despite the draw it wasn’t enough for him to claim the All Japan crown, with Hanabusa taking the crown on the tie breaker rule.
Despite the disappointment in the Rookie of the Year final we saw Mioya look like a more confident fighter when he returned to the ring in 2019. His first bout of the year saw him scoring his first stoppage, as he KO'd Anurak Madua in 4 rounds, following a barrage of body shots in the corner. He then followed that up with a 4th round TKO win against Tongthep Taeyawong, where Mioya showed lovely speed and started to look like a man, rather than the teenage boy he had been earlier in his career. There were still areas to work on but he looked much more confident than he had in his early bouts.
Sadly Mioya’s development was slowed significantly in 2020 where he fought just a single professional bout, scoring a win over Daiju Hamaguchi in October to book his place in his upcoming B class final. Although it wasn't an amazing match up, the bout did see Mioya answering some questions and going 6 rounds for the first time in his career, as he took a 6 round decision over Hamaguchi.
Although not blessed with incredible power or strength Mioya is a very solid boxer, with nice speed and movement. He has very good height and reach for a Super Bantamweight and nice reflexes. Sadly however he does struggle to get the respect of his opponents and has, in recent bouts, become more focused on drawing mistakes at mid range and countering with his sharp combinations and hand speed. At the level he’s been fighting at this has worked, for the most part, though we do wonder if he can carry it up when he begins to face bigger, better, stronger opponents.
At just 23 years old there is a real chance that Mioya will hit his stride and find his man strength in the coming years, but for now he’s very much struggling to hurt fighters and as a result his fights are going long. In just 11 bouts, all of which have been scheduled for 4, 5 or 6 rounds, he has already fought 44 rounds. Good for his experience, but a sign that he really does struggle with hurting opponents and putting them away and a potential sign that he will really struggle in 8 and 10 rounds in a few years, if he doesn’t develop physically in the near future.
Despite his issues Mioya does have the backing of Teiken and is a popular young fighter and with 3 straight wins he does have momentum behind him here.
On December 27th we get the penultimate show in this years Rookie of the Year tournament, as we find out who will represent West Japan in the All Japan final in 2020. With that in mind we've decided to look at that show to pick the fighter who we want to introduce this week, and with that in mind we've decided to focus 23 year old Super Bantamweight hopeful Sora Fukunaga (7-0, 3).
Like many fighters from West Japan Fukunaga isn't really a name we expect many to be familiar with. The reality when it comes to Japanese boxing is that those outside of East Japan struggle to get much much attention, and coming from Kochi Prefecture Fukunaga is certainly not a man from a boxing hotbed. In fact Kochi is very much a boxing black hole, with almost no impact on the sport at all, meaning Fukunaga could be the man to kick start the local scene. Which seems to be something he is hoping to do.
Originally boxing wasn't even the sport of choice for Fukunaga who originally played baseball in junior high school, then took up Judo at high school. He was 20 when he entered the Kuroshio Boxing gym and just months after entering the gym he had ambitions to turn professional. He did just that in September 2018 when he passed a C license test, still aged 20 at the time.
Just over a month after getting his boxing license Fukunaga made his professional debut, fighting up at Featherweight. He would go on to get a winning start, as he took a 4 round decision against Akihiro Nakata. Just weeks later he celebrated his 21st birthday.
Sadly it took some time for Fukunaga to return to the ring and he didn't fight until almost 6 months after his professional debut. In his second bout Fukunaga took another decision victory, as he out pointed Keisuke Iwasaki, in a razor thin bout scored 39-38 in his favour by all 3 judges. This was a great fight for fans in attendance, with round 3 in particular being something very special. This win became particularly notable as Iwasaki would, just 8 months later, compete in the 2019 All Japan Rookie of the Year, losing a split decision to Seiya Meguro, and more recently out-pointed the big punching Mammoth Kazunori.
Despite a lengthy break between his first two fights Fukunaga was through the second half of 2019 beating Yuto Nonoguchi just 2 months after the win over Iwasaki, and then stopping Nonoguchi in a rematch 4 months later to secure his first stoppage win and end the year 4-0 (1).
Sadly for Fukunaga the momentum he had been building in 2019, boosted by Iwasaki's showing in the Rookie of the Year, was slowed in 2020 when he, like many boxers, were put on the side line due to the on going global situation. This meant that Fukunaga was out of the ring for more than 10 months before continuing his career in August 2020. On his return to the ring he scored a 4th round TKO win over novice Kairi Suetsugu in the first round of this years West Japan Rookie of the Year tournament.
Just weeks later Fukunaga was back in the ring and stopped Shuta Kuwabuchi inside a round in the West Japan Rookie of the Year semi-final. This was an impressive win, dropping Kuwabachi twice in the opening round to progress to the final where he faced Ren Nishimura. This was a much, much tougher bout, and a hotly contested one, with Fukunaga doing just enough to take home the victory, and become the West Japan Rookie of the Year.
We mentioned that Fukunaga wanted to kick start boxing in the local scene and he's gone as far as to admit his goal is to become the first All Japan Rookie of the Year champion from Shikoku, one of the smaller main islands that make up Japan. To do that he still needs to win two bouts. The first of those is his December 27th bout against 20 year old foe Ren Anzai from Aichi. If he does that he will then compete in the All Japan Rookie of the Year final, which is scheduled to take place in the new year.
In regards to his style Fukunaga is a fun fighter to watch. He's aggressive, he comes forward, he stalks his opponents and presses the action. He's not yet experienced enough to know how to cut off a fighter whe's moving but he's strong, powerful and lets his hands go on the inside. The way to beat him, at least for now, is to jab and move, and make him follow you, but given the level of opponents that he's up against not many are going to have the tool kit to beat him. He's not a pure puncher, but he's heavy handed, has good balance, looks physically imposing and has a lot to like. He is however someone who looks like a diamond in the rough and needs a lot of polishing. If he wins the Rookie of the Year we suspect that polishing will be done in 2021 and 2022 and he will begin to move towards a Japanese title fight after that.
With the East Japan Rookie of the Year final's coming up on December 20th we felt it made sense to focus on one of the finalists for this week's "Introducing". After looking over the match ups on the card we decided the man who made the most sense to look at was hard hitting Flyweight Shugo Namura (4-0, 4), who promises excitement every time he steps in the ring, and will be a very interesting match up at the East Japan final. But more about that contest a little bit later.
Born in Matsudo City, in Chiba Prefecture, Namura isn't from an area with a hotbed of professional boxers. Whilst some fighters from Chiba have become stars, they have pretty much all had to move away from the region to build there career. Namura is no different and he has fought out of the SRS gym since turning professional last year.
Whilst the SRS gym is certainly not a huge name, like Teiken, Ohashi, Watanabe, Misako or Kadoebi, it is very much a gym rooted in letting youngsters reach their potential and is run by former multi-time world title challenger Hiroyuki Sakamoto, one of the most inspirational fighters in Japan. Unsurprisingly you can actually see a lot of Sakamoto in Namura's style.
For those who can't remember Sakamoto himself he was a he was a Lightweight contender in the 1990's and 00's, who challenged Stevie Johnston, Cesar Bazan, Gilberto Serrano and Takanori Hatakeyama, making a name for himself as a man of few words outside of the ring and heavy hands inside it.
Stylistically Namura is very similar to his mentor. Like Sakamoto we see Namura throwing everything with bad intentions, and he really loads up on his power shots whilst sometimes neglecting his jab. That however makes him real fun to watch and an explosive monster.
Before we discuss his career so far we need to remember that Namura, like many fighters involved in the Rookie of the Year, doesn't have a strong amateur background. In fact none of our usual sources reported any sort of an amateur record for him and to be fair that does show in his style. As mentioned it's almost certainly been moulded by Sakamoto and the folks at the SRS gym, rather than an amateur coach, and it's actually a style that appears to work for him. He's a strong, powerful, hard hitting brute, with a huge hand right and real desire to find the range for his hooks and uppercuts, just like Sakamoto.
Namura made his debut back on September 8th 2019, when he stopped Tatsuya Kawaguchi in just 74 seconds. Namura was on the offensive straight from the off, pressing forward and dropping his man with a left hook around the minute mark. Kawaguchi beat the count but was stopped during the foll up barrage. The youngster was back in the ring just 3 months later, making his Korakuen Hall debut against Shunsuke Miyauchi. This bout had a competitive opening round but as the two men traded shots in round 2 Miyauchi ended up hurt and needing to be saved by the referee, who jumped in when Miyauchi was rocked.
Sadly Namura's rise, like that of many, was slowed in 2020 by the ongoing global situation. As a result he waited almost 10 months for his return, which came in September 2020 against Kei Fujita in an East Japan Rookie of the Year qualifying bout. This was our first chance to see Namura in action and sadly it was over almost before it began with Fujita coming out aggressively and then having the tables turned when Namura's power began to be felt. After about 30 seconds a huge right hand from Namura dropped Fujita who was stopped after 41 seconds.
Having won his qualifying bout in September Namura returned to the ring for the East Japan Rookie of the Year Semi final in November, where he faced Teppei Saito. This looked a great matchup with a 3-0 (3) Namura taking on the 3-0 (2) Saito. As with his previous bout however Namura had too much power. Saito came out with ambition, used his jab well, but then got forced to back up and the pressure from Namura, along with some work inside dropped Saito. It wasn't a hard knockdown but did enough to leave Saito worse for wear and when the bout resumed he was dropped again, with the referee waving the bout off after just 53 seconds.
In his Rookie of the Year final the 4-0 (4) Namura will be up against unbeaten 24 year old Akira Hoshuyama (3-0, 2) in what should be a thriller. Hoshuyama is the more technically skilled fighter, and has twice as many rounds to his name than Namura, but the power and destruction of Namura is likely to swing things his way if he can get inside.
For fans wanting to watch Namura's next bout it will be shown on G+ on December 27th, on tape delay. Win or lose it's going to be a great one to watch given what we've seen of both men.
*Note at the time of writing Boxrec.com list Namura's win over Fujita as a 4 round TKO. It was actually an opening round win, and people wanting to watch it can do so over on Boxing Raise, which has Namura's bouts with Fujita and Saito.
On December 13th we see the debut of another promising Japanese youngster, as Takahiro Tai (0-0) begins his professional campaign at the age of 23. The youngster was a former standout amateur and is someone that we feel is worthy of the "Introducing..." treatment, especially with his debut being just a few days away, and his debuting an historic one for the RST Boxing Gym, run by his father.
Born in October 1997 in Hiemji City Tai's first combat sport wasn't actually boxing. Instead it was Kyokushin Karate, he then entered the Takasago Gym before beginning to training at the RST Boxing gym, where he learned to box as an orthodox fighter. He then learned, during college, how to fight southpaw and quickly became a capable switch hitter, something he's prided himself on.
Tai was getting attention for his amateur exploits rather early on and those exploits grew more when he represented his University Team. He wasn't just part of the Ashiya University Boxing team however, but actually went on to be the captain of the team and impressed regularly in 2018, in his third year at University.
During his days in the unpaid ranks Tai went 43-14 (15), and impressed in the 2019 All Japan Championships, reaching the business end of the competition. He also managed to have a notable rivalry with Jun Ikegawa, who beat Tai 2-1 in their 3 fight series. Notably Tai has declared revenge in the professional ranks against Ikegawa who recently turned professional himself with the Kadoebi Gym.
As an amateur Tai was a switch hitter, with long levers, clean, accurate, fast punches and a good understanding of the ring. There was a certain sense of flare to his work, an almost cocky confidence, and an exciting exuberance to his work. At times he did move too much, and even taunted opponents, but it was clear he was a natural talent, and he looked incredibly comfortable in the ring, even if he looked too comfortable at times. It was clear he was having fun in the ring, win or lose he wanted to entertain fans and himself.
Earlier this year Tai became the first fighter the at the RST Boxing Gym to turn professional, after the gym it's self got professional certification earlier this year. That might not seem big news, though it is worth noting that the gym is owned and run by Tai's father, and it's clear that Takahiro's professional dreams were a big reason why the gym became a professional boxing gym. He will be their sole professional focus here, and is the man they are pinning their hopes one for the foreseeable future.
Tai passed his B class license test back in September, on September 26th, just a month after the gym became a professional one,
Tai isn't getting a gimme on debut. Instead he will be up against the 6-6 Ryosei Hamaguchi, who has lost 4 of his last 5, but is a very capable fighter at this level and scored a very decent win just a few fights back against Hiroyuki Takahara. Although no world beater Hamaguchi has been in the ring with some genuinely talented fighters, including the very highly regarded Toshiki Shimomachi, who he faced in the 2017 Rookie of the Year. We suspect Tai will have too much, given his amateur showings, but this should still serve as a decent test on his debut, against a fighter who has been a professional for a few years now.
Given Tai's personality, his style and his comments to the media, we're expecting him to be a very entertaining fighter in the professional ranks. There is certainly an air of confidence to him, and in interviews he has spoke about wanting to increase his profile and make a name for himself. With that in mind we can't but feel excited about what Tai may have to offer over the coming years.
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