Despite Coronavirus essentially cancelling the sport of boxing right now, globally, we have to face facts and admit the sport will be back. We don't know when but it will be back. With that in mind it makes sense for us to take this downtime to continue our "Introducing" series. Obviously the articles won't be talking about someone ahead of an upcoming bout, but upcoming bouts were always secondary for the "Introducing" behind what were essentially a chance to shine a torch on a fighter that deserved some attention.
So, with that out of the way, lets return to the "Introducing" series with someone we've been looking forward to writing about for years. Like legitimately years. That is Keisuke Matsumoto, a second generation hopeful who will be hoping to make his professional debut in 2020, if the coronavirus pandemic can be gotten under-control and if boxing can resume in Japan this year.
When we mentioned that we've been wanting to write about Matsumoto for years we really are serious. Our very first mentioned of him was way back in August 2014, when the then 14 year old Matsumoto was making headlines in Japan for winning 5 consecutive Under 15 titles. Whilst the under 15 titles doesn't guarantee success the fact he was essentially dominating the field at such a young age was getting the Japanese media excited about his potential for the 2020 Olympics.
Not only was Matsumoto showing great talented at a very, very, young age, but he was also a second generation fighter. He was following in the footsteps of his father Koji Matsumoto, himself a former 2-time world title challenger, who was making a name for himself as a trainer at the Ohashi gym. It was the Ohashi gym that had essentially been a second home for the younger Matsumoto who was able to rub shoulders with world class fighter like of Naoya Inoue and Akira Yaegahsi, who he could consider training buddies and gym mates.
As the years went on, from 2014, the younger Matsumoto would continue his amateur career, running up an impressive 80-15 (30) record in the unpaid ranks. He couldn't quite replicate the dominant success he had had in the under 15's but the tall and lanky frame of the youngster still found success, both nationally and internationally. We won't go through all his amateur achievements but just a few notables. He reached the semi-finals of the 2015 Asian Junior Championships, won the 2016 Japanese High School National Championships, a tournament that also saw Ginjiro Shigeoka picking up a winners medal, lost in the final of the 2018 Japanese National Championships and won the Taipei City Cup, also in 2018.
Sadly for Matsumoto he found himself a nemesis in the amateur ranks, the exceptionally talented Hayato Tsutsumi. Had it not been for Tsutsumi it's fair to say that Matsumoto would have taken more senior honours in the amateur ranks. Sadly though Tsutsumi was around and Matsumoto failed to secure a place in the Japanese set up for the Asia Oceania qualfiers for the 2020 Olympics. As a result he had a hard choice to make and decided that, instead of waiting for the 2024 Olympics, he would turn professional.
Matsumoto announced his decision to turn professional at the start of 2020 over social media, before taking part in a press conference in February to announce he had signed with the Ohashi gym and would be taking part in his pro-test in March before debuting in May. Sadly his original pro-test plans went awry due to coronavirus, though he still managed to pass his test in a very different environment, taking the test at the Ohashi Gym rather than Korakuen Hall as planned.
As we write this Matsumoto is still technically pencilled in for a May debut, though the reality is that his debut will likely be pushed back and it could be much, much later in the year before we see the wonderfully talented youngster kick off his professional career.
We've had another relatively quiet week of action, barring one US show, but it's a week that has also seen a lot of fighters taking part in press conference to announce that they would be turning professional this year, and a cancelled show. So lets take a look at the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly from the week ending February 23rd 2020!
1 - Top amateurs turn pro
Over the last week we saw no less than 5 Japanese amateur standouts turn professional. Whilst not all of them will reach the top we are really excited to see the development of Keisuke Matsumoto, Ryutaro Nakagaki and Toshihiro Suzuki, who were all genuinely exceptional talents in the unpaid ranks. Of that trio we expect to see them all fight for, if not win, world titles, and wouldn't be surprised at all to see them being just the first wave of amateur stars turning professional before the Olympics. It's an exciting time in Japanese boxing, that's for sure!
2 - Mark Breland doing the right thing
We often have coaches who are too brave for their fighters, but Mark Breland was the bravest of them all, making the right decision in stopping Deontay Wilder from taking further punishment on Saturday. By the time of the stoppage Wilder was a bloody, beaten mess and he looked completely hapless. He had been unable to back up Tyson Fury, and was being tagged repeatedly. Whilst Wilder might want to complain the reality is that his trainer did the right thing and saved him for another day. Wilder's future might not look great in the sport, but at least he has a future. Had that bout gone on a round or two longer there's a chance Wilder wouldn't have much of a future at all as a fighter. Well done Mark Breland for doing the right thing.
3 - Tyson Fury backing up his words
Staying in the wider world it was fantastic to see Tyson Fury back up his words. We assumed he was taking the piss when he spoke about going out with the intention of knocking out Deontay Wilder, but for him then to go out and batter the then reigning WBC Heavyweight champion was just fantastic. We wouldn't go as far as to say it was the greatest performance by a British fighter, as some have suggested, but it was one of the rare times that we've seen a long term champion undressed and embarrassed. This was a showcase from the best Heavyweight in the world, and hopefully we won't see Fury facing any more weak opponents, as he did in the build up to this fight.
1 - A lack of action
Whilst not every week will be busy we were really surprised by little action took place this past week. It wasn't helped that there was an interesting looking Filipino event cancelled due to coronavirus and a card in Korea cancelled for the same reason. Thankfully we do have action coming up, and it does appear this was a one off quiet week.
2 - Muto gym tax evasion news
In a weird story from Osaka it appears the Muto Gym, and chairman Takashi Edagawa could be in some hot water over some issues with tax, and more exactly evasion of tax. It's unclear how serious the issue is, but it doesn't sound great with the gym accused of faking real estate purchases among other things. Even if the gym is innocent, or has corrected the issue, there will be a cloud over their head going forward, and it doesn't sound like the first time the gym have been accused of something like this.
Whilst we have stated we were impressed by Mark Breland, who made the right decision in stopping Deontay Wilder from taking too much unnecessary punishment. Sadly post fight comments from Wilder's other trainer, Jay Deas, were just ugly. They were full of excuses, blaming the attire Wilder wore into the ring, and criticised Breland. We understand the idea of doing what's in your bosses interest, but here Wilder needed a unified team to help him after his loss and to look after him in the ring. Deas seemed to want to blame Breland for the loss, rather than accepting their man was beaten, and was able to come again thanks to pulling the plug on the bout before took potentially life changing punishment.
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