When we look at the world rankings we see a lot of names that don't really belong in any top 15, but somehow end up there. As we write this, on April 1st, we can go through the world rankings and see names like Mladen Miljas, Tom Schwarz and Mirko Geografo. Another of those names is Japanese fighter Kazuhiro Nishitani (21-4-1, 12).
We suspect many reading this have either no idea who Nishitani is, or even knew he was world ranked. In fact we suspect many, even in Japan, aren't too sure who the 33 year old from Hyogo really is. He is one of the more obscure Japanese Super Featherweight's, and if we're being honest we'd be be hard pressed to even put him in the top 10 Japanese fighters at 130lbs. Some how though the IBF have managed to squeeze him into the 10 in their Super Featherweight world rankings.
So for those wondering who Kazuhiro Nishitani is, we thought it was time to shine a light on one of boxing's most obscure world ranked fighters as part of our "Who are you?" series.
To begin with Nishitani is fighting out of Kobe, a small Japanese boxing market. He's further hampered, in some ways, by being promoted by Senrima Kobe Promotions, a small local outfit based in Hyogo. Whilst the promotional team have lead Teiru Kinoshita to two shots at the IBF Super Flyweight title, they are still a very small gym, in a very small market. They are miniscule compared to the likes of Watanabe, Teiken, Ohashi and even the smaller Osakan gyms like Green Tsuda and Osaka Teiken.
In Japan there are two main markets, Osaka and Tokyo. There are then other regional markets, but essentially if a fighter doesn't fight in one of those two, they tend to struggle for attention, with some like Kosei Tanaka being an exception to the rule in recent years. Hyogo being one of those much, much smaller markets.
Despite the low profile Nishitani has made a mark on the domestic scene and has been world ranked for quite a while, so lets look at how he got there, and how his career has been so far.
Given he's relatively unknown it's hard to believe Nishitani's been a professional for over a decade. He made his pro debut back in November 2009, and won his first 7 bouts, going 7-0 (2) on low key cards from 2009 to 2011. During that run of results the most notable win was a decision over Tsubasa Muramatsu.
In late 2011 Nishitani's unbeaten run came to an end when he went and fought in Osaka, losing to the unheralded Tetsuya Nishinaga. That was followed up but a loss in early 2012 to Yuhei Suzuki, who would later come up short in 3 Japanese title fights. Nishitani would rebuild from those 2 losses by scoring 7 straight wins, and advancing his record to 14-2 (7). Sadly though that form lead nowhere and things then went down hill, quickly, for Nishitani who won just 1 of his following 4 bouts, falling from 14-2 to 14-4-1 (7).
During that bad run of form Nishitani came up short to the then Japanese Lightweight champion Kota Tokunaga. He was competitive with Tokunaga, but lost quite clearly to the man making his second defense of the title. After a single quick win Nishitani got a second shot at the title, as he took on Shuhei Tsuchiya in 2017. Despite being dropped by Tsuchiya in round 5 Nishitani battled back hard and went on to stop Tsuchiya in the 8th round to claim the Japanese Lightweight title.
On paper the win over Tsuchiya should have shot Nishitani into some decent fighters. He was the Japanese Lightweight champion, he had just beaten the popular Tsuchiya at Korakuen Hall, live on G+. Sadly though he vacated the title, rather than defending it, and moved down in weight, from Lightweight to Super Featherweight.
Around 7 months after winning the title Nishitani would return to the ring and defeat the debuting Phruekphaibun Khanthusaeng in 2 rounds. What should have been a title defense was instead a blow out against an over-matched Thai. That was then followed by wins over Filipino domestic level fighters in the form of Rey Ramos, Glenn Medura and Monico Laurente.
Despite the limited competition Nsihitani is now riding a 6 fight winning. Despite not being the best fighter, he has proven to be tough, rugged, have a solid work rate and a fantastic will to win. Sadly though he lacks in too many other areas. He's not the most skilled, he lacks speed, he's very basic, and his technique is questionable at best. He can play a part in some fun domestic level bout fights, if matched with the right opponents, but it's hard to imagine him making any impact on a world class fighter.
With a small promoter behind him, along with his 33rd birthday, it's hard to imagine Kazuhiro Nishitani getting a world title fight. Despite that he can claim something few can, he has been a world ranked professional boxer. He might not be a world beater, but he can tell everyone he was a top 10 ranked fighter. Sadly though that ranking really does make a joke of the IBF and their questionable rankings.
Whilst we can hate on the IBF, and world title bodies, it's worth saying well done to Nishitani and his team for being so close to a world title fight. Saying that however the reality is that he is one of the many oddly ranked fighters, who has some how managed to get into, and remain in, the world rankings.
For those who want to see a little bit of Nishitani we have included video of his crowning glory, his win over Tsuchiya, sadly though there really isn't much other quality footage of him out there, which is a shame.
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