It's fair to say that the start of April was a little bit crazy, and thankfully for us fight fans, the action continues to come thick and fast through the middle portion of the month with prospects and title fights!
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Keita Obara (23-4-1, 21) Vs Shoki Sakai (25-11-2, 12)
The first of the title fights from this part of the month will see Japanese Welterweight champion Keita Obara defending his title, for the first time, as he takes on Shoki Sakai in a very interesting match up. The hard hitting Obara won the title in early 2020, when he stopped Yuki Nagano, but he's been out of the ring since and at 34 it's unclear what drive he has left for the sport. Sakai on the other hand has only just began to fight on the Japanese scene, having spent much of his career fighting out of Mexico. Given the pressure style of Sakai we expect him to be a nightmare for Obara, but he might be just a little too basic for the hard hitting champion.
Go Hosaka (4-0, 3) Vs Kanta Fukui (7-3-1, 5)
Talking about fighters who are new to Japan we can't ignore the wonderfully promising Go Hosaka. Hosaka is a Japanese born fighter who began his career over in the Philippines, fighting out of the now defunct ALA stable, and will now be making his Japanese debut. So far we've been impressed by Hosaka, who has looked very promising, but this should be the toughest bout of his career so far, and Fukui will be there to pick up the W. Fukui is no world beater but he's no push over either and we are expecting him to put in a very solid shift in one of, if not the, biggest fight of his career so far.
Mohegan Sun Casino, Uncasville, Connecticut, USA
Jerwin Ancajas (32-1-2, 22) vs Jonathan Javier Rodriguez (22-1, 16)
The most important bout from this portion of the month for us, by far, will see IBF Super Flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas defending his title, for the 9th time, as he takes on mandatory challenger Jonathan Javier Rodriguez. This bout, which was first scheduled for November 2019, yes 2019!, has been scheduled a few times but has slipped due to visa issues and Covid19. Despite the wait the bout is actually a fairly interesting one, especially given that fact that Ancajas, a fighter who relies on speed and sharpness, has been out of the ring for well over a year coming in to this. Rodriguez might not be the most technically polished fighter out there but he's tough, strong and brings the heat, something that could genuinely trouble Ancajas after such a long lay off.
Balai Sarbini Convention Hall, Jakarta
Tibo Monabesa (20-1-2, 8) vs Toto Landero (11-4-2, 2)
It's rare that we can get excited about a fight in Indonesia but we'll honestly say we're getting one such fight here. In one corner will be Indonesian hopeful Tibo Monabesa, who's sole loss came to Hiroto Kyoguchi, and in the other is former world title challenger Toto Lanadero, who gave Knockout CP Freshmart fits in 2018. Since being stopped by Kyoguchi Monabesa has fought just twice, though has picked up credible wins in both of those bouts, and he is clearly sniffing around for a world title fight in the talent laden Light Flyweight division. As for Landero he is 1-3 in his last 4, and 3-4 in his last 7, though has mixed at a very high level with losses to Knockout, Simpiwe Konkco and Melvin Jerusalem. Monabesa is the bigger man, and the man at home, but Landero will not be there to make up the numbers, and he could well be a banana skin here.
Hebi Marapu (15-0, 11) Vs Hero Tito (27-15-2, 11)
Althoiugh not a huge bout, by any stretch, we are excited to see Hebi Marapu back in the ring for his first fight since 2019. The unbeaten Indonesian puncher caught our eye around 3 years ago, when he almost gutted Phutthiphong Rakoon with a body shot, but sadly he failed to kick on since then, picking up 3 low key wins. He should pick up another here. Hero Tito is a stalwart of the Indonesian scene, having debuted in 2004, but he has been racking up losses in recent years and is likely to suffer another here. Tito is tough, and could drag Marapu late, but we would be hugely surprised if he gave Marapu a loss. Saying that, it's still a shame that Marapu's career failed to develop in the way it really should have.
EDION Arena Osaka, Osaka, Osaka, Japan
Toshiki Shimomachi (12-1-2, 8) Vs Thunder Teruya (7-8-1, 4)
Over in Osaka we'll see one of the hidden gems of Japanese boxing in action, as Toshiki Shimomachi kicks off his 2021 with a bout against Thunder Teruya. The talented Shimomachi is a slippery, skilled, and tricky Japanese fighters, who's style really does appeared to be inspired by the American defensive masters. Teruya is no push over, and he gave Rentaro Kimura solid test last year, but we're expecting a show case from Shimomachi. If you've not seen the once beaten 24 year old we suggest you give him a watch before this show, as he's been very impressive in recent times.
Jinki Maeda (6-0, 4) Vs Yushi Fujita (9-8-4, 2)
Hard hitting Japanese youngster Jinki Maeda continues his rise through the ranks as he takes on the experienced Yushi Fujita. On paper this should be no test for the sharp punching Maeda, who won the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2019, though we have a feeling that Fujita will not go away quietly and he could serve as a genuine test for Maeda, despite the records of the two men. Maeda, like stablemate Shimomachi, is a bit of a hidden gem from Japan despite his Rookie of the Year triumph and we have a feeling that Green Tsuda want to let him develop without too much fuss. Fujita is the perfect opponent for him at this point in his career.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Ryusei Kawaura (8-0, 5) vs Joe Tanooka (15-7-5, 1)
One other under-the-radar Japanese prospect in action here is the wonderfully skilled Ryusei Kawaura, who is banging on the door of a title fight. The man dubbed "Untouchable II", after his mentor Hiroshi Kawashima, looks to be the real deal and has all the tools to be moved very, very quickly. We've been impressed by his skills, his boxing IQ and his understanding of range, though he has often been in against fighters who have allowed him to show those tools. Here he's up Joe Tanooka, a talented, but feather fisted, boxer who should be able to ask some questions that we've not yet seen Kawaura being asked. Tanooka won't have the power to hurt Kawaura, but he will have the tools to test him, and right now that's exactly what Kawaura needs. Someone to test his skills against, before a potential title fight.
This past week has been a brilliant one for us. We've had great fights on a number of days, we've celebrated Christmas, and managed, for at least a week, to enjoy a mix of boxing and normal life. We're of course not the only ones who have had a good week, and so have a number of fighters! So with that said lets take a look at the big winners of the past week as we hand out our weekly awards!
Fighter of the Week
We open this up with a somewhat peculiar pick, but a very valid one, and that is Yuichi Ideta as the fighter of the week. The 36 year old Ideta hadn't won a fight in almost 10 years. He was being given almost no chance and the popular opinion, including that of ourselves, was that he was a patsy for Ryota Yada to swat aside. A mere showcase bout for Yada, a former Japanese champion. We were wrong, very, very wrong, and instead of coming to the ring to lose Ideta out worked, out muscled, out battled and out fought the younger, more proven Yada. This was a huge, career defining win for Ideta, who looked like a man with a point to prove and proved it in the perfect way. Ideta has almost certainly gone from the cast of yard, to the regional and domestic title mix.
Performance of the Week
Aged 37 and having not been in a professional boxing ring for well over 4 years few gave Katsunari Takayama much of a chance when he returned to the ring on Sunday. He had been written off by many, but within seconds of the bout starting it was the Takayama of old, the sharp, quick, mosquito like fighter who was light on his feet, with good upper body movement and accurate jabs. He looked much smaller than Reiya Konishi but that never looked like it mattered as he easily out boxed, out fought, out though and out pointed Konishi. Konishi was there to win, don't get us wrong, but he could never cope with the incessant movement and punching of Takayama. This was a hell of a performance from a man we thought was done.
Fight of the Week
Hironori Mishiro Vs Masayuki Ito
The 10 round Lightweight bout between OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro and Masayuki Ito was streamed live, worldwide on Boxing Day and it delivered a brilliant, technical, well matched bout that saw both men showing exactly what they could do. Through the bout it seemed like Ito was landing the heavier single shots but Mishiro's jab was a constant weapon and turned out to be the difference on the scorecards, with Mishiro sneaking the win. This was 10 rounds of high skill chess, fought at a very high speed, with momentum shifts, and each man needing to find a solution to their opponents strengths. Maybe not a Fight of the Year contender, but a genuinely fantastic bout.
Bakhodur Usmonov vs Vildan Minasov
Round of the Week
Bakhodur Usmonov vs Vildan Minasov (Rd 4)
Talented Tajik amateur Bakhodur Usmonov made his debut this past week, on Christmas eve, when he took on Vildan Minasov in what turned out to be a truly fantastic 6 round back and forth that saw both men showing off solid boxing skills, heart, power and determination. Minasov looked to make it a war from the off and Usmonov was under intense pressure, whilst trying to stick to his boxing. In round 4 Usmonov was in troubler again, before he gritted his teeth and tried to turn the fight around, going to war with Minasov, giving us 3 minutes of brutal, back and forth action. This was fantastic
KO of the Week
Jinki Maeda TKO2 Kaito Okubo
In one of the final bouts of the week we saw the brilliantly talented Jinki Maeda in action, as he took on Kaito Okubo. In round 2 of their bout, with Okubo near the ropes Maeda landed a dynamite straight left hand that forced Okubo to spin and sent him down hard. His team immediately signalled to the referee to stop this and let them help Okubo. This was a sensational KO by a young man who has been very impressive in 2021 and fingers crossed we'll see him in an interesting fight next year.
Ryo Akaho TKO2 Yuto Nakamura
Jin Sasaki TKO3 Aso Ishiwaki
Prospect of the Week
We were expecting to see the hard hitting 19 year old Jin Sasaki being given a genuine test this week when he took on Aso Ishiwaki. Instead Sasaki just went into the ring and made a statement, dropping Ishiwaki 3 times to secure the Japanese Youth Light Welterweight title. Sasaki stormed out and came close to stopping Ishiwaki in the first round, dropping him twice and leaving him on wobbly legs at the end of the opening round. It seemed clear Sasaki wanted an early win and wanted to use his power to make a statement. In round 2 he took his foot off the gas but closed the show in style in round 3 and made it very clear that this was his week. This was a prospect announcing himself in a big, big way and putting the 140lb division in Japan on notice.
So, Christmas is just around the corner, and we want to wish you all a great, whether you celebrate Christmas or not. We also bring good tidings, with the final "What's to come" of 2020, the third part of our look at what December will bring, and it's a lot between December 26th and December 21st!
Sumida City Gymnasium, Tokyo, Japan
Masayuki Ito (26-2-1, 14) Vs Hironori Mishiro (9-0-1, 3)
One of the most interesting match ups from this end of year run will see former WBO world champion Masayuki Ito clash with OPBF champion Hironori Mishiro. The two men are best known for their exploits at 130lbs, but will be clashing at Lightweight here in what should be a really good fight. Ito is, by far, the more experienced professional and has fought at a higher level, but Mishiro was a very good amateur, and appears to be the more rounded and technically polished professional. This should be a compelling 10 rounder.
Jin Sasaki (9-0, 8) vs Aso Ishiwaki (8-2-1, 6)
The hidden gem from this part of the year will be the 140lb Japanese Youth title fight pitting 19 year old hard hitting sensation Jin Sasaki against all out warrior and toughnut Aso Ishiwaki. This is one we expect to be a complete and utter war. Sasaki has been really impressive in recent bouts, and has blown out his last 3 opponents in the opening round, but this is a genuine step up in class for him. Ishiwaki isn't the most skilled, but he's teak tough, comes to fight and is physically very strong. If Ishiwaki can see out the opening storm this could become something truly spectacular to end the year.
Kai Chiba (12-1, 8) vs Haruki Ishikawa (8-2, 6)
We expect fireworks to fly when we finally see Kai Chiba and Haruki Ishikawa trading blows. The men were set to fight earlier this year before Ishikawa tested positive for Covid19 at the weigh in, and going into the original date we were hugely excited of what we were set to see. Despite the delay hanging over this one we are still expecting something of a thrilling nature, and both men will believe they have the power to take the other man out.
Aioi Hall, Kariya, Aichi, Japan
Masamichi Yabuki (11-3, 11) vs Toshimasa Ouchi (22-9-3, 8)
Hard hitting Japanese Light Flyweight champion Masamichi Yabuki puts his title on the line for the first time as he takes on veteran Toshimasa Ouchi. Yabuki won the title in the summer, when he blitzed Tsuyoshi Sato, and will be looking to end the year on a high and move towards a potential world title fight in 2021. As for Ouchi this will be his third, shot at a title, and likely his last. It really is hard to imagine the 35 year old Ouchi getting another big fight if he loses here.
EDION Arena Osaka, Osaka, Osaka, Japan
Ryota Yada (20-6, 17) Vs Yuichi Ideta (13-15-1, 7)
Former Japanese Welterweight champion Ryota Yada returns to the ring in what looks likely to be a stay busy bout, as he takes on limited veteran Yuichi Ideta. Yada, who is eyeing an OPBF title fight in 2021, will be looking to get a couple of rounds here, before seeing off Ideta. As for Ideta the bout the bout will be his 30th professional contest, and at the age of 36 could prove to be his last one. Not a great bout, but very clearly put together to keep Yada ticking over.
Takayuki Okumoto (23-9-4, 11) Vs Akio Furutani (8-4, 3)
Another former Japanese champion looking for a relatively easy win is former Super Flyweight champion Takayuki Okumoto, who looks to bounce back from a 2019 loss to Kenta Nakagawa. The solid, and generally fun to watch, Okumoto should have far too much in the locker for Furutani, who is the naturally smaller man. Despite that Furutani has momentum and has won his last 4 in a row, including a big upset win over former OPBF Flyweight champion Keisuke Nakayama. Whilst we don't imagine this will be a competitive bout, we do expect it will be an exciting one.
Katsunari Takayama (31-8-0-1, 12) vs Reiya Konishi (17-2, 7)
We get a potential post-Christmas cracker as we get the rescheduled show down between Katsunari Takayama and Reiya Konishi. This was originally meant to take place in November before Konishi tested positive for Covid19, in what now appears to have been a false positive. The two men should make for a sensational bout, with both known for letting their hands go, being tough, and fighting with intensity. The big question going in is what does a 37 year old Takayama look like after more than 4 years away from professional boxing? If he's half the fighter he used to be this will be an amazing battle.
Toshiki Shimomachi (12-1-2, 8) Vs Satoru Hoshiba (7-4, 2) II
Japanese Youth Super Bantamweight champion Toshiki Shimomachi looks to make his second, and final, defend of the Youth title as he takes on the aggressive and exciting Satoru Hoshiba. These two men clashed in the 2017 Rookie of the Year, with Shimomachi winning, and since then he has gone on to become one of the top prospects in Japan. Hoshiba on the other hand will be after revenge, after the title and a chance to go into 2021 with a big win to his name. We expect this to be boxer against brawler, and the styles should gel well to give is a very, very good fight.
Jinki Maeda (5-0, 3) Vs Kaito Okubo (5-1, 2)
Exciting 2019 All Japan Rookie of the Year winner Jinki Maeda looks to extend his unbeaten start at he takes on the once beaten Kaito Okubo, in a very good match up. We've been really impressed by Maeda in recent bouts, and the youngster appears to have the tools to go a long way, with good boxing, brilliant movement and smart understanding of distance. Okubo on the other hand shouldn't be over-looked and he has stopped his last 2. We're expecting a cat and mouse style fight early on, but this could descend into a very compelling fight after a couple of rounds.
Ota-City General Gymnasium, Tokyo, Japan
Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14) Vs Kosei Tanaka (15-0, 9)
In a huge all-Japanese year ending WBO Super Flyweight world title bout we'll see Kazuto Ioka take on the unbeaten Kosei Tanaka. For Ioka the bout will serve as his second defense of the title he won in 2019, and a win here will see him keep his status as not just a world champion but also one of the biggest and most important names in Japanese boxing. For Tanaka the bout is a chance to become a 4-weight world champion and essentially rip the torch of stardom from Ioka. This is expected to be a very, very high level bout, with both men hungry to make a point and go into the new year as a world champion. Expect excitement, and a lot of adapting and altering game plans from both men here.
Yuki Strong Kobayashi (16-8, 9) vs Daigo Higa (16-1-1, 16)
A second title fight in Japan on New Year's Eve will see WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight champion Yuki Strong Kobayashi defending his title against former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa. This is a huge opportunity for Kobayashi to make his way towards a potential world title fight and get a big name on his record, whilst Higa desperately needs to shine after an under-whelming performance against Seiya Tsutsymi last time out. Although clearly over-shadowed by the world title bout this should end up being a brilliant bout, and could well end up being a sensational 12 round back and forth battle as Higa goes up against a naturally much bigger man.
It's fair to say action picked up, notably, in October but that's nothing compared to what we are set to get through November, as boxing races towards the end of the year with a brilliant, packed and stacked month. The next few weeks are among the best we've had in a long time with lots of notable names and interesting bouts, and thankfully we don't need to wait long between some of these exciting match ups!
Aioi Hall, Kariya, Aichi, Japan
Masanori Rikiishi (8-1, 4) vs Soreike Taichi (7-3, 5)
The first bout of real note in November takes place on November 1st, with Japanese Lightweight hopeful Masanori Rikiishi looking to continue his strong run of form. The talented fighter from the Midori Gym is looking for his 7th straight win following a 2018 loss to Kosuke Saka, and a win here would likely take him to within touching distance of a Japanese title fight. Taichi on the other hand will be there looking to get his career back on track following a loss in February to Kazuma Sanpei. Sadly for Taichi he has been stopped in 2 of his 4 losses to naturally smaller men than Rikiishi, and we see him failing to complete the schedule here too.
Intex Osaka, Osaka, Osaka, Japan
Hiroto Kyoguchi (14-0, 9) vs Thanongsak Simsri (14-0, 12)
The first major bout of the month will see WBA Light Flyweight "Super" champion Hiroto Kyoguchi make his next defense as he takes on unbeaten Thai challenger Thanongsak Simsri. The talented Kyoguchi hasn't looked as good in recent bouts as he did when he won the title at the end of 2018, but will be regarded as the very clear favourite here as he takes on a relatively unknown contender. Although unknown outside of Asia Simsri has looked impressive and is a heavy handed youngster from the same region as Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. We do see Simsri as a future champion, but feel this may be too much too soon for him.
Jinki Maeda (5-0, 3) vs Kaito Okubo (5-1, 2)
Also on November 3rd is brilliant prospect Jinki Maeda, who won Rookie of the Year in 2020. The talented, sharp punching and fast rising Maeda isn't being matched easily here as he takes on the once beaten Kaito Okubo, who has notched up two wins since his sole defeat in 2019 and will tower over Maeda in the ring. We expect to see Maeda win, but we are expecting him to answer some questions on route to victory. The perfect type of match up for the unbeaten 24 year old
Korakuen Hall, Japan
Junto Nakatani (20-0, 15) Vs Giemel Magramo (24-1, 20)
After several delays it now seems we will finally see a new WBO Flyweight champion being crowned this month as we finally get the long awaited showdown between Junto Nakatani and Giemel Magramo. The title has been vacant since Kosei Tanaka vacated it earlier in the year, and we had hoped to see Nakatani and Magramo battle in the Spring, and then the summer. Despite the, repeated, delays this is still one of the most interesting Flyweight bouts on the docket and is a real 50/50 bout. Both men can box, both have solid power, and both are looking for a top tier divisional win. This is the sort of bout we, as fans, should all be behind.
Korakuen Hall, Japan (G+)
Kazuto Takesako (11-0-1, 11) Vs Riku Kunimoto (4-0, 2)
In a delayed Champion Carnival bout we'll see Japanese Middleweight champion Kazuto Takesako taking on mandatory challenger Riku Kunimoto. As with the Nakatani Vs Magramo bout this has been delayed numerous times, due to the on going situation and then training issues affecting Kunimoto. On paper this is a massive step up for Kunimoto, who has never faced anyone even close to Takesako's ability or power. Despite the step up this is not a foregone conclusion, and will instead be an interesting way for both men to answer a lot of questions about their ability.
Takeshi Inoue (16-1-1, 10) Vs Nath Nwachukwu (6-0-2, 3)
WBO Asia Pacific Light Middleweight champion Takeshi Inoue is in action here, but not a title defense, as he takes on Japanese ranked Middleweight Nath Nwachukwu. On paper this really does just look like a stay busy bout for Inoue, who's best known for 2019 fight with Jaime Munguia, but in fairness Nwachukwu will be coming to win, and won't be wanting to give up his unbeaten record. Inoue's the clear favourite, but we do expect him being forced to work for a win here.
Takuma Takahashi (5-0, 5) Vs Kodai Kiyota (9-6-2, 9)
The exciting, flawed, heavy handed, crude, Takuma Takahashi looks to put controversy behind him and build on his highly entertaining bout with Leonardo Doronio from back in January. In that bout Takahashi was in all sorts of trouble, and seemed lucky that Biney Martin let him get away with some very questionable tactics. Here he's up against domestic foe Kodai Kiyota in what should be a very easy win for the unbeaten man. A real confidence builder more than anything else.
RCC Boxing Academy, Ekaterinburg, Russia
Ravshanbek Umurzakov (10-1, 7) vs Zoravor Petrosian (9-0, 4)
Back on to the subject of delayed fights here as we finally see Uzbek fighter Ravshanbek Umurzakov take on Ukrainian youngster Zoravor Petrosian. This bout was originally scheduled to take place in mid-September but fell through at the 11th hour when Umurzakov was unable to get into Russia. Despite the bout falling through a few weeks ago Petrosian fought anyway, looked really good, and we're now set to see them get in the ring together. This could be the hidden for the weekend.
Workpoint Studio, Bang Phun, Thailand
Thananchai Charunphak (10-1, 8) Vs Pigmy Kokietgym (61-13-2, 25)
Once beaten Thai prospect Thananchai Charunphak is among the most promising fighters in Thailand, and this week we get to see him step up again for what is essentially his third bout against a notable foe. The once beaten 20 year old, who already holds wins over Samartlek Kokietgym and Kompayak Porpramook, is tipped very highly.In the opponent corner will be veteran Pigmy Kokietygym, a former world title challenger who has seen better days, but should still provide something of a test for the youngster.
Pungluang Sor Singyu (54-8, 36) Vs Amnat Ruenroeng (20-4, 6)
In a brilliant match up between veterans we'll see former WBO Bantamweight champion Pungluang Sor Singyu take on former IBF Flyweight champion Amnat Ruenroeng. At his best Pungluang was a strong, powerful aggressive fighter, who came forward and let his hands go. As he's aged he's slowed down, but is still having success and recently upset Campee Phayom. Amnat however has always been a tricky, awkward, fast, skilled, nightmare who knows the dark arts and how to get away with things. We're not expecting this to be the most action packed bout, but it is a genuinely intriguing one, and one of the most interesting non-title boutswe've seen in Thailand in years.
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, Hollywood, Florida, USA
Zhilei Zhang (21-0, 16) vs Devin Vargas (22-6, 9)
Chinese Heavyweight contender Zhilei Zhang looks to continue his unbeaten record as he takes on Devin Vargas in Florida. The Chinese giant, who stands at 6'7", is a real talent, a quick handed, well schooled, southpaw with surprising speed and power. Sadly though he's 37, and any dreams of him getting a big fight before father time inflicts a loss on him are slim, even with Matchroom behind him. Vargas is a serviceable opponent for a prospect, but the 38 year old American is little more than that and shouldn't really ask questions of a contender, like Zhang. A really pointless match up that does little more than keep a 37 year old busy, rather than building his profile in what is the "now or never" part of his career.
One of our biggest loves in this sport is the journey of a fighter, following them from very early in their careers right through to the point where they win titles, or in some cases don't. Of course we can usually spot the mega prospects a mile off, the fighters who were top amateurs, and went on to win medals in international competition before moving on to fight in the professional ranks as high experienced and accomplished fighters. One of the harder things to judge is which prospects can go all the way without that sort of amateur foundation.
With that in mind we've decided to take a look at 4 Japanese prospects who are currently making a mark in the sport without an extensive amateur career and are still pretty much under the radar. In fact we've gone one step further and gone with a sub rule that they must have competed in the Rookie of the Year tournament in recent years. This literally rules out top amateurs but leaves us with a lot of promising talent to talk about, and a nice mix of styles, weights and strengths,
Toshiki Shimomachi (12-1-2, 8) - Rookie of the Year winner in 2017
Of all the fighters we're featuring here we dare say that slippery Super Bantamweight fighter Toshiki Shimomachi is the further along in terms of development and where his career stands right now. He's already got 15 fights to his name his Rookie triumph was the better part of 3 years ago, and he is the current Japanese Youth Super Bantamweight champion. Despite all that he is still only 23 years old and is still adding new wrinkles to his game, which really is improving all the time.
Shimomachi turned professional in 2015, debuting at the age of 19, and despite a 2-1-1 (1) start his career has blossomed with the youngster going 10-0-1 (7) in his last 11. That's not perfect, but the recent draw did come to Daisuke Watanabe, who later went on to win the Hajime No Ippo 30th Anniversary tournament.
If you like slippery fighters, who rely on a good boxing brain and setting up counters Shimomachi is that type of guy. He's got a high level boxing brain, good reflexes and very under-rated power.
Jinki Maeda (5-0, 3) - Rookie of the Year Winner in 2019
Shimomachi isn't the only boxer-type on this list, another is Featherweight standout Jinki Maeda. From what we could find Maeda had next to no amateur experience, and instead he moved into boxing having been a stellar Nippon Kempo competitor. The quick speed and reflexes needed in Nippon Kempo seemed to have translated over to boxing well and Maeda is quickly proving himself to be a force to be reckoned with.
Maeda, like Shimmomachi, is 23 but only made his debut in April 2019 and his rise through the sport has been wonderfully quick. Already in his career we've seen him win Rookie of the Year, doing so with a win against Kyonosuke Kameda, but also score a sensational win in 2019 against Arashi Iimi.
Whilst still a long way from a title fight, of any kind, Maeda appears to be one of those rare natural talents who just under-stands what he's doing in the ring and has an innate under-standing of what he's supposed to be doing. He likes to lure opponents into mistakes, strikes quickly, and makes a quick impact. A tremendous young fighter.
Katsuki Mori - (7-0, 1) - Rookie of the Year winner in 2019
Another talented youngster is Ohashi gym's brilliant skilled Katsuki Mori, who is an aggressive but well schooled technical fighter. His game plan is based around his speed, reflexes and movement and he looks sensational at times. As with everyone else in this list he lacks in terms of amateur experience but that certainly doesn't show, and it's to suggest he's one of the best natural talents in Japan.
Although he's a bit feather fisted Mori is very much a fighter who seems to fight to his strengths. Rather than trying to bomb opponents out he will counter them, out land them, make them miss, and land flashy combinations. During his 7 fight career he has only lost a small number of rounds, and has managed to win the 2019 Rookie of the Year with very, very few issues at all.
At the moment it's a little bit unclear whether Mori's immediate future is at. It could be Minimumweight, where he won the 2019 Rookie of the Year, or Light Flyweight, where he fought his last bout, but longer term it seems like he will fill out his frame end up at Flyweight somewhere down the line. By then we'd hope he has a bit more spite on his shots, but for now he's a growing kid and not the complete fighter that he will become. There is work to do, as we see in the video below, but it's clear he's an excellent prospect, who is just lacking that bit of man strength at the moment.
Aso Ishiwaki (8-2-1, 6) - Rookie of the Year losing finalist 2018
We've mentioned some boxers and now we'd like to talk about a true fighter, as we add Aso Ishiwaki into the mix. Ishiwaki is an educated pressure fighter who really reminds us of Daiki Kaneko in many ways. Although not as technically polished as Kaneko was Ishiwaki is an aggressive fighter with incredible physical strength, under-rated power and skills that are developing fight by fight. Like Kaneko it's his presence in the ring that seems to be his biggest strength and early losses haven't hindered his progress.
Ishiwaki began his career in 2017 and loss inside a round on debut. The following year he marched his way to the All Japan Rookie of the Year final, taking several unbeaten records along the way until losing a split decision in the All Japan final to George Tachibana. That probably saw some write him off, but at that point he was just 19 and filling out his frame.
In 2019 Ishiwaki went on to fight 4 times, going 3-0-1 (3), and impressed in both his draw with Yoji Saito and his year ending win over Ryuji Ikeda and showed that he's developing his skills to go with his energy, work rate, toughness, strength and power. Very much a dark horse but someone we really do see making a mark on the regional title scene. He may never make a splash on the global scene, but he's the sort of fighter who will provide us with a lot of action and some real thrilling bouts at 135lbs and 140lbs.
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.
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