A fighter having a loss in Japan is certainly not the end of their career, as it can be in some other countries. In fact often when a fighter has a loss to their name it's how that loss came about that is significant, along with their style and the value they bring. With that in mind our "introducing" this weeks looks at the entertaining, but somewhat fragile, Kazuki Saito (7-1, 5), who suffered his first loss in 2018 and looks like he has chin issues, but yet is such a wonderful talent with incredible skills. He's the sort of fighter who you watch thinking he could score an easy win...or be taken out whilst in total control. The type of fighter who we know can deliver drama and excitement due to his limitations, just as much as his strengths.
Before turning in 2016 Saito was very highly regarded from his time in the amateur ranks. He won the numerous trophies and ran up an incredible 83-14 record. That type of amateur background saw him turn to the pros with a lot of expectation on his shoulders, though his style needed some work before he began to face real tests.
In his first 2 bouts Saito took on real no hopers from Thailand in 6 round bouts. Both of those foes were made to look worse than they were by Saito who dominated both and stopped them in a combined 5 rounds whilst show casing incredibly crisp punching, a fantastic jab and really clean combinations. His amateur pedigree was clear immediately.
Following those first 2 bouts, both of which are on Boxing Raise for those interested, he took a notable step up in class to take on Filipino Jimmy Borbon. It was against Borbon we saw the first cracks appear in Saito, when he was dropped with a sweeping left hook 2 minutes into the bout. This was the first time had began to question Saito's chin, though to his credit he got to his feet, saw out follow up attack and stopped Borbon in the 6th round.
If Saito's team were worried about his chin they didn't show it, as his came against the then 8-1 (7) Alvin Lagumbay. The hard hitting Lagumbay, who later went on to have a very notable win over Keita Obara, wobbled Saito in the opening round but struggled to cope with the movement, jab and boxing skills of Saito. In round 4 Saito hurt the Filipino and a follow up forced the referee to save Lagumbay, who was on the ropes at the time.
Having notched another win over a Filipino fighter, Marbon Bodiongan, it looked like Saito was on the right track and that he was able to look after his chin. Perhaps even showing that it was inexperience and not a questionable chin that caused him to be dropped by Borbon. Sadly however it was made clear it was his chin that was an issue in July 2018 when he was stopped by Amphol Suriyo, aka Pharanpetch Tor Buamas, in 2 rounds. Saito had won the first round without any issues but in round 2 the visiting Thai showed a bit more aggression and rocked Saito to his boots with a wild right hand. Moments later Saito was down. He got up, still wobbly legged and was dropped almost instantly before the referee waved the bout off.
Since his loss Saito has picked up 2 decisions wins, but with his suspect chin there is always a chance he's going to be dropped in any fight. However he is such a natural boxer, with gorgeous offensive skills, lovely combinations and heavy hands. In many ways he is like a lower level Jorge Linares, a clear talent but such a questionable chin.
Saito's next fight comes on October 26th when he takes on Izuki Tomioka in a Japanese Lightweight title eliminator. On paper that's a safe fight for Saito's chin, but Tomioka is a skilled fighter himself and should be a very solid test for Saito.
The last week of October isn't a crazy one in terms of big fights, but is a very good in terms of noteworthy fights, with a world title bout, a Japanese world title bout a bunch of Japanese title eliminators, several notable prospects and a very good cross roads fight.
Wanheng Menayothin (53-0, 18) vs Simpiwe Konkco (19-5, 7) - Thailand
On Friday October 25th we'll see WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin make his next defense, as he takes on mandatory challenger Simpiwe Konkco from Aouth Africa. The unbeaten Thai is the longest reigning active champion, and whilst his competition, overall, hasn't been great this is a solid defense against a very under-rated challenger. Sadly Wanheng's best wins so far have come against the likes of Tatsuya Fukuhara and Pedro Taduran and he lacks consistency, so a win here will bolster his standing before a potential US debut. For Konkco the bout is a second world title shot a win would put him on the map, big time.
Sadriddin Akhmedov (9-0, 8) vs Johnny Navarrete (33-15-2, 15) - Quebec, Canada
Hard hitting Kazakh prospect Sadriddin Akhmedov fights for the first time as a married man as he takes on Mexican veteran Johnny Navarrete. The hard hitting Akhmedov will be strongly favoured here, and is expected to blow through the Mexican in terms to return for a December card at the Bll Centre. To dat Akhmedov has squeezes 3 fights and his weeding into 2019 and is a busy boy, but given his natural talent, and power, we have no reason to think this will be anything short of a blow out.
Kazuki Tanaka (11-2, 8) Vs Kyosuke Sawada (13-2-1, 6) - Tokyo, Japan
In a very even looking Japanese Bantamweight title eliminator we'll see the aggressive Kazuki Tanaka take on the skilled and smart Kyosuke Sawada. This pits puncher against boxer and should be a very interesting match up between two talented fighters with very different in ring mindsets. We expect Tanaka to press and Sawada try to keep behind his his jab, though we have seen Sawada dragged into a fight before and sooner or later we expect this one to break out into a war.
Hinata Maruta (9-1-1, 7) Vs Takenori Ohashi (17-5-2, 11) - Tokyo, Japan
The wonderfully smooth Hinata Maruta takes on the former Japanese Featherweight champion Takenori Ohashi in a Japanese Featherweight title eliminator. Although very talented Maruta has faltered in his biggest bout to date, losing a competitive decision to veteran Hidenori Otake in an OPBF title match, but has bounced back with some impressive results and will be looking to build on his recent wins over Tsuyoshi Tameda and Coach Hiroto. On the other hand Ohashi is no slouch, and whilst technicall he's slow and clunky he has lights out power, and is a danger through out a bout. This really is boxer against puncher in what could turn out to be the gem of the Japanese title eliminators taking place on October 26th.
Kazuki Saito (7-1, 5) Vs Izuki Tomioka (6-2-1, 2) - Tokyo, Japan
Another Japanese title eliminator will be taking place at Lightweight and will see the talented, but somewhat chinny, Kazuki Saito take on the skilled, but light hitting, Izuki Tomioka. This is a bout that pits two men who have real potential, but big flaws, against each other. Saito is a joy to watch offensively, but his durability issues cannot be ignored, and he has been down in a number of fights and we do worry about him whenever he's caught. Izuki gave Masayoshi Nakatani fights in a 2018 bout for the OPBF Lightweight title, but looked worried against Shuya Masaki just a few months later. Izuki is an excellent and fighter, but his lack of stopping power is a major question mark, even at this level.
Keita Obara (21-4-1, 19) Vs Toshiro Tarumi (12-3-3, 6) - Tokyo, Japan
Former world title challenger Keita Obara drops back down to domestic level for a Japanese Welterweight title eliminator against Toshiro Tarumi. Obara has proven to not be world class, but isn't too far behind and bouts against the likes of Kudratillo Abdukakhorov have shown some of his limitations. Despite that Obara has still only ever been beaten by 1 Japanese opponent, and that was on his debut. Tarumi is a solid domestic fighter, but this is a massive step up in class for him, and we suspect it's too much too soon for him. Tarumi lacks the power needed to get Obara's respect and isn't sharp enough to be able to replicate Abdukakhorov's gameplan.
Wenfeng Ge (11-1, 6) Vs Kompayak Porpramook (60-7, 41) - Chongqing, China
Chinese 32 year old Wenfeng Ge looks to bounce back from a loss in January to Giemel Magramo, which saw him being stopped in the 10th round. The Chinese fighter will be taking on former WBC Light Flyweight world champion Kompayak Porpramook, a 37 year old Thai who has been in some amazing bouts during his long career. We suspect the local fighter will have the energy and speed to avoid an all out tear up with Porpramook, but the Thai never stops trying and we'd expect at least some exciting exchanges here in a bout both men will see as a must win.
Seigo Yuri Akui (13-2-1, 9) vs Shun Kosaka (16-5, 4) - Okayama, Japan
In a bout to crown a new Japanese Flyweight champion we'll see the exciting Seigo Yuri Akui battle the rugged Shun Kosaka. So far we've seen both of these two lose to their best opponents, in fact both share a loss to Junto Nakatani, but they should make for a very interesting domestic title bout, with Akui's quick start and intense aggression being matched against Kosaka's toughness. If Akui can take out Kosaka early this would be very impressive, however the longer it goes the more and more Kosaka's toughness will play a part. A very interesting match up and one that feels very hard to call.
Shu Utsuki (5-0, 4) vs Somphot Seesa (4-2, 4) - Tokyo, Japan
Fast rising Japanese hopeful Shu Utsuki looks to continue his rapid rise as he takes on Thai foe Somphot Seesa. On paper this is, arguably, Utsuki's easiest bout to date and it has a "stay busy" feel to it for the hard hitting Watanabe gym fighter. Seesa has a bit of experience but he was stopped in both of his previous visits to Japan, to Daisuke Sugita and Ren Sasaki, and it's hard to imagine him lasting long with Utsuki here.
Yudai Shigeoka (0-0) vs Manop Audomphanawari (3-2, 3) - Tokyo, Japan
Former amateur standout Yudai Shigeoka, the older brother of Ginjiro Shigeoka, makes his professional as he takes on Thai foe Manop Audomphanawari. In reality this should be a simple win for Shigeoka, but we're looking forward to seeing him in the ring and seeing his rise, especially given the incredibly quick rise of his brother.
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