Back in the summer of 2019 we looked at Japanese hopeful Masanori Rikiishi (then 5-1 (3), now 9-1 (5)) as part of our Introducing series. Back then Rikiishi had just scored a then career best win over Kei Iwahara and seemed to be positioning himself as a contender on the Japanese domestic scene at 135lbs. Since then however Rikiishi has gone from strength to strength and has seemingly set his eyes on other things, whilst quickly becoming one of the most under-rated fighters in Japan. So let's take a look at where Rikiishi is now, where he was, and how he's gotten to where he is since we first looked at him.
Before we look at where he is now let's go back around 18 months and look at where Rikiishi was when we first looked at him.
As mentioned when we introduced Rikiishi he was 5-1 (3) and has just recently scored a win over Kei Iwahara. He had been rebuilding well after a 2018 loss to Kosuke Saka and had been rebuilding his confidence with wins against progressive better fighters. He had bounced back from his loss with a win over the poor Egy Rotzen, he then beat Genki Maeda in a good step up before beating Kei Iwahara to continue the forward progress with his career. By that point he was starting to create some buzz and was back on the right track with his career.
Just weeks after we "introduced" Rikiishi he took the next step forward with his career and battled against Shogo Yamamguchi. On paper this was another step up in class for Rikiishi and a potential test for the young Japanese fighter. He passed the test with ease and ended up forcing Yamaguchi's team to pull him out of the bout after 5 rounds, with Yamaguchi suffering a nasty injury over his left eye which forced an early conclusion to the contest.
Less than 2 months after his win over Yamaguchi we saw Rikiishi return to the ring and take another step up in class, as he took an 8 round decision over Nicaraguan visitor Freddy Fonseca, who is best known for his bout with Joseph Diaz. Rikiishi took a clear and dominant decision over Fonseca as he proved he could do 8 rounds at a good pace, and that he could control a pretty good fighter. It was a very impressive win in just his 8th professional bout, and also saw Rikiishi begin a move down in weight, coming in just over the Super Featherweight limit.
In 2020 Rikiishi continued to take on decent tests, and float between Lightweight and Super Featherweight. His first bout of the year took place 11 months after his win over Yamaguchi, due to the pandemic, and saw him take a very good domestic win over Yuichiro Kasuya. The bout was a genuinely intriguing one on paper, with Kasuya being a talented but often frustrating fighter, but ended up being a relatively straightforward win for Rikiishi who ran out the clear winner on all 3 cards. The win was a particularly notable one as Kasuya was regarded as a contender for the Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles, and he had top 10 rankings with all 3 bodies, pushing him to the verge of a title fight.
Less than 3 months after defeating Kasuya we saw Rikiiishi return to the ring for his second bout of 2020, which saw him battle against Soreiki Taichi. Coming in to this one it seemed like Rikiishi was heading towards a Japanese Lightweight title bout, and he was ranked #2 by the JBC at the time. During the fight Rikiishi would drop Taichi twice, and record a 3rd round TKO win, whilst looking like a man who was really developing his power and counter punching. In fact he looked like a brutal puncher here, and hurt Taichi pretty much every time he landed clean, and drew mistakes from Taichi, which he punished in style.
Following his win over Taichi we were expecting to see Rikiishi call for a Japanese Lightweight title fight. Instead however he stated his intention was to drop to Super Featherweight and chase a rematch with Japanese champion Kosuke Saka, the man who stopped him earlier in his career. It seems like that will be the target for Rikiiishi this year.
Despite looking impressive and destructive in his win against Taichi it is worth noting that Rikiishi did suffer in that win, with his hand being damaged. We really do hope it was just a minor blip for for his career, and not something that will be a longer term problem for the talented man from the Midori Gym.
As a fighter Rikiishi is a real talent and a man with many tools in his arsenal. We have seen him boxing and moving in the past, we have seen him take the role of a counter puncher, and we have seen him showing solid power. There are questions still for him to answer, but over the last 18 months he has come a very, very long way. He has shown solid fundamentals, been facing progressively better tests and appears to have someone in his sights that he wants to face. Although he is still a work in progress he seems to be the sort of fighter who is developing in the perfect way.
We'll be honest, we do hope Rikiishi gets another test before a rematch with Saka, but we also repsect the fact that he's already wanting to get revenge over a man who bullied and battered him early in his career. There is no fear from Saka and that is something that deserves genuine credit in a boxing world where too many fighters are scared of losing, rather than wanting to see how good they really are.
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.
The month of August has already been pretty damn entertaining and we're about half way through it. Over the coming 2 weeks or so we see it get even better, with a host of notable fighters in action in varying level of match ups. Here we take the opportunity to highlight some of the best of what's still to come in August!
PLEASE Note - All bouts are subject to change, cancellations and postponements, something that is a lot more rife right now than usual due to the on going situation.
Israil Madrimov (5-0, 5) vs Eric Walker (20-2, 9)
In a WBA World title eliminator at Light Middleweight we'll see sensational Uzbek Israil Madrimov seek his 6th professional win as he takes on 37 year old Eric Walker. On paper this looks like a good step forward for Madrimov, despite Walker's advanced age. Unlike many older fighters Walker doesn't have a lot of miles on the clock, due to a very late start in boxing. Saying that however this is still likely to be more about Madrimov, and the Uzbek taking strides towards a world title fight, than it is about Walker and his redemption story.
Shakhram Giyasov (9-0, 7) vs Francisco Hernandez Rojo (22-3, 15)
Another Uzbek looking to move towards a world title fight is Olympic Silver medal winner Shakhram Giyasov. The talented Giyasov has shown some cracks in recent bouts and should be tested here as he takes on Francisco Hernandez Rojo. The Uzbek has shown some real potential but we do need to see him answering more questions and hopefully Rojo, who once lost a very close bout to Ryan Martin, will ask some of some of those questions. At his best Rojo could be the acid test needed for Giyasov, though it should be noted that it's well over 2 years since Rojo last fought, and this could be a genuine issue for the Mexican fighter.
Korakuen Hall, Japan
Ryota Yamauchi (6-1, 5) Vs Satoru Todaka (10-3-4, 4)
In a bout for the now vacant WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight title we'll see the once beaten Ryota Yamauchi take on Satoru Todaka, with the winner pushing their claim for a WBO world title fight. Yamauchi has long been tipped for a world title and looks like a real talent, though one with plenty of areas to work on. As for Todaka this is likely to be seen as a must win, following a loss last year to Kenichi Horikawa in a Japanese title bout. We suspect this has been put together to make Yamauchi look like a star, and that's exactly what we expect of the Kadoebi gym youngster.
Masanori Rikiishi (7-1, 4) Vs Yuichiro Kasuya (13-2-2, 4)
In a real 50-50 match up we see former Rookie of the Year winner Yuichiro Kasuya take on the hard matched Masanori Rikiishi, in a mouth watering clash. This bout won't get the attention that many others will, but is, for us, one of the best match ups of the month. We favour the hard hitting Rikiishi, who comes into the bout on the back of a big win over Freddy Fonseca, but Kasuya is no push over and this could be a very intriguing match up, that could end super competitive on the cards
Korakuen Hall, Japan
Shingo Kusano (13-8-1, 5) Vs Daisuke Watanabe (10-4-2, 6)
In the Hajime No Ippo 30th Anniversary tournament final we'll see slippery southpaw Shingo Kusano take on the aggressive Daisuke Watanabe, in what could turn out to be a really, really intriguing match up. Neither of the two men were expected to make their way to the final but both have battled hard to get here, giving a very unexpected main event here. Of the two we think Watanabe has got the edge, but Kusano's performances in the tournament have been two of his very best and he is very much a man fighting for his career. We expect this one to gel very nicely and end up being a very nice match up from stylistic point of view.
Shingo Wake (26-6-2, 18) vs Shohei Kawashima (18-4-2, 4)
Former world title challenger Shingo Wake was shocked last year in his rematch with Jhunriel Ramonal. Now his career hangs by a thread and he can't afford another set back if he's to remain in the mix for a second shot at world honours. He'll be giving his all to not just win, but to shine when he takes on the talented but light punching Shohei Kawashima. On paper this looks a really even match up, but we expect it to be a mismatch, with Wake making an example of his fellow Japanese fighter, and making a statement. At the age of 33 Wake doesn't have long left and will be desperate to shine. Kawashima can play spoiler, but we don't think he has the ability to do it against a talented southpaw like Wake.
Tursynbay Kulakhmet (0-0) Vs TBA, Talgat Shaiken (0-0) Vs TBA, Kamshybek Kunkabayev (0-0) Vs TBA
Due to the fact none of the above have had their opponents announced at the time of writing we're going to roll this into one and say it's time to take note of the Kazakh talent coming through the ranks under the guidance of MTK Kazakhstan. Although maybe unfair we dare say this trio are the most talented and interesting. For us Kulakhmet is the most talented, Shaiken the most exciting and as a Heavyweight Kunkabayev is the one most likely to make waves on the casual fan. Take note, all 3 of these men are looking to make an impact in the pros and all 3 have got barrels of potential. None of the trio need to be handled softly and all 3 could be let off the leash very quickly, given their incredible talent and amateur backgrounds.
Korakuen Hall, Japan
Ryo Matsumoto (23-3, 21) vs Takuya Mizuno (17-2-1, 14)
Former world title challenger Ryo Matsumoto is in an awkward position in that cannot afford another loss any time soon, after 2 defeats in 2018. Saying that he is still a sensational talent, and one of the most amazing young boxers to watch, with speed, power, precision and skills. He has all the tools to go far, but now needs to make them work. In Takuya Mizuno we see a solid puncher, but someone who hasn't looked technically astute recently. If Mizuno can't blast Matsumoto out early on we expect to see Matsumoto take a very clear win. Still this is a real test of what both men have and is a very well matched but between very capable young fighters.
Ryutaro Nakagaki (0-0) vs Shohei Horii (3-5-2, 2)
Former multi-time Japanese amateur champion Ryutaro Nakagaki begins his professional career with a 6 round bout against Shohei Horii. The confident Nakagaki was a sensationally talented amateur who boxed with a pure boxing style, and the big question mark with him, going into the professional ranks, is whether he can add some spite to his shots. If so he's expected to be moved very quickly. Aged just 20 he is one to keep a real eye on, though the speed of his progression will depend on his early performances. Horii on the other hand has been stopped in 4 of his 5 losses and will not be expected to last the schedule with Nakagaki. If this goes 6 the hype will cool massively on Nakagaki, and he'll know that coming in so we expect this one to end early with Nakagaki making a statement.
Keisuke Matsumoto (0-0) vs Hironori Miyake (9-9-2, 1)
Another talented debutant on this show will be "Mirai Monster" Keisuke Matsumoto. Keisuke, no relation to Ryo, is a third generation fighter following in the foot steps of his father and grandfather. Given his father is Ohashi gym trainer Koji Matsumoto there is real pedigree here with Matsumoto, who has long been tipped as a star of the future. In the opposite corner will be Hironori Miyake. On paper this is a genuinely good test, despite the losses on Miyake's record. Miyake has never been stopped and has given the likes of Kyosuke Sawada and Yoshihiro Utsumi good tests. This should Matsumoto being asked questions, and needing to show what he got in the locker.
Shinjuku FACE, Tokyo, Japan
Shoki Sakai (23-11-2, 13) vs Hironori Shigeta (6-1-1, 3)
To end the month we get a card from Hachioji Nakaya. The show is actually a really interesting one, with a number of intriguing domestic level bouts, but it's the main event that is the pick of the bunch. It will see Shoki Sakai make his Japanese debut, after 36 fights in the West, and will see him up against 2017 All Japan Rookie of the Year winner Hironori Shigeta. Both men are 29 and yet both are at very different stages of their career's. Sakai is slowly becoming the rugged journeyman that gets matched hard against prospects, and has gone 0-4-1 in his last 5. Shigeta on the other hand is a man who will be looking at a potential national title fight if he wins here. Both guys will be coming to win, and this will be a very compelling bout, to top off a very, very good card.
This past week has been an interesting one in many ways. The quantity of shows has dropped off, noticeably, but the quality was high through out with two major Japanese cards from the Korakuen Hall as well as several other noteworthy cards.
Fighter of the Week
Ryo Sagawa (8-1, 4)
On Friday we had a hugely anticipated show at the Korakuen Hall, featuring a number of notable Japanese fighters, with many of them being in ultra competitive contests. The man who won the most significant of those was Ryo Sagawa, who defeated Reiya Abe for the Japanese Featherweight title. The bout was an ultra competitive contest over 10 excellent rounds, and for Sagawa it completes a remarkable run of results, which also includes a win over Ryo Matsumoto and Al Toyogon. Given how close it was it keeps Abe in the title mix, but Sagawa is well deserving of the Fight of the Week award, and we expect to see him in some much bigger bouts in the coming years.
Performance of the Week
Masanori Rikiishi (7-1, 4)
Japanese fighter Masanori Rikiisi isn't someone Western fans will be too aware of, though they may see his name breaking into the world rankings sooner rather than later, especially his match makings, and this weeks performance. The unheralded 25 year old stepped up massively to take on his first non-Asian opponent, and completely schooled Nicaraguan Freddy Fonseca. Fonseca is best known by American fans for losing earlier in the year to the Jo Jo Diaz, and whilst Rikiishi couldn't stop Fonseca he did drop him twice and totally dominate him over 8 rounds to secure his best win to date.
Saemi Hanagata 915-7-4, 7) Vs Nao Ikeyama (18-6-4, 5) III
After 2 thrilling bouts, both of which ended in draws, we got exactly what expected when Saemi Hanagata and Nao Ikeyama took to the ring to end their trilogy. From the first round to the last this was an engaging, competitive bout, that never seemed easy to score and always looked like both fighters felt they had what it took to take home the win. We love competitive back and forth and this was just that, even if neither fighter had the power to hurt the other. The momentum shifts, action and gelling of styles between these two is great, and it's a shame their rivalry now seems to be over after 30 extremely competitive rounds.
Note - Unfortunately the A-Sign card hasn't been made available, had been out there there's a good chance that 3 bouts from that card would have been in the mix for this award.
Ayaka Miyao vs Monserrat Alarcon (Rd 10)
Fans of female boxing were treat this past week. Not only did they have the big Amanda Serrano Vs Heather Hardy bout in the US but there was also a Japanese card that completely focused on female boxing. The card didn't get a lot of attention, but it should have given the quality of action on the show. The highlight for us was the final round of the WBA Atomweight title bout between Ayaka Miyao and Monserrat Alarcon. This was a sensational round of action, with so much leather thrown as both fighters tried to secure victory in an incredibly close bout. If you like female boxing this is well worth hunting down.
Note-As with the fight of the week some of the best rounds haven't yet been made available to watch due to one of the cards being put on a tape delay to much later in the month.
Muhammad Waseem KO1 Conrado Tanamor
Pakistani fighter Muhammad Waseem had been out of the ring for over a year until returning in a cameo on Friday in Dubai. The cameo was very short, lasting just over a minute with Waseem taking out Filipino fighter Conrado Tanamor with a brutal body shot. The bout was a mismatch, but the shot was still a beauty and it's clear that if Waseem can shake some ring rust, against a decent opponent, he could well find himself back in the world title mix before the end of the end of 2020.
Iskander Kharsan (7-0, 6)
Unbeaten US based Kazakh prospect Iskander Kharsan has some how remained under the radar despite showing the potential to be someone very special. That ability, power punching and confidence was on show this weekend when he stopped Isidro Ochoa in the 5th round. The Kazakh youngster applied intelligent pressure and sharp punching to take control, dropping Ochoa in round 5 with an excellent straight right hand. Ochoi, to his credit, saw out the round but retired in the corner as Kharsan picked up best win to date.
Taku Kuwahara (5-0, 4) vs Jonathan Refugio (21-6-5, 7)
There are a number of solid bouts coming up over the next week or so, but the one that really stands out is a match up between fast rising Japanese hopeful Taku Kuwahara and experienced Filipino Jonathan Refugio. On paper this is a massive step up for Kuwahara, but the body punching phenom from the Ohashi gym is tipped for big things and will be expected take home the win here. Refugio is no world beater, but the Filipino is a durable, skilled and tough fighter, who can do enough to test rising hopefuls. This should be a great chance to see just how good Kuwahara is, and how quickly the Ohashi team can move him.
The end of July is upon us and we see another surge in action, especially in Japan, with tournaments, titles, prospects and a touted debutant!
On July 23rd we get something a little bit different as Dangan put on the quarter final bouts for their God's Left Bantamweight tournament:
Gaku Aikawa (9-7-1, 3) Vs Kenya Yamashita (13-5, 10) - Tokyo, Japan
Kazuki Nakajima (6-0, 5) Vs Kenichi Watanabe (8-4-1, 4) - Tokyo, Japan
Jin Minamide (3-0, 3) Vs Tetsu Araki (14-1-1, 2) - Tokyo, Japan
The three matches above are all part of the God's Left tournament and on paper the stand out match up is the Minamide Vs Araki bout, pitting one of the most touted prospects against the man with the most success at title level, with Araki having been a Japanese Youth champion. It's hard to imagine anything but a win for Kazuki Nakajima in his bout with Kenichi Watanabe, with Aikawa Vs Yamashita has the potential to be an all out thriller.
Japanese fighter Masamichi Yabuki has been quietly creating a buzz in the lower weights thanks to his power. Win or lose Yabuki has always been someone worth following and has created a pretty solid following among those that follow the Japanese scene. What many perhaps aren't aware of is that Yabuki has a boxing brother, the talented and fast rising Masanori Rikiishi (5-1, 3), who is in the mix for a potential title fight in the near future. With that in mind we want to cover Rikiishi in this weeks "Introducing..." segment.
Interestingly Masamichi's birth name was Honma Sato whilst Rikiishi's was Masayoshi Sato, though of course both fighters are now better known by their current fighting names than their birth names.
Rikiishi was born in Suzuka city, Mie prefecture and prior to turning professional in 2017 he had managed to make a mark on the amateur scene, going 25-5 (15). His natural talent, and power, were obvious and when he turned professional he did so with a little of hype and expectancy on his shoulders, even without a hugely impressive record.
On debut Rikiishi took on Korean for Sa Ya Lee in a 6 round bout, and took a clear 6 round decision, whilst fighting out of the Yakushiji Gym. It wasn't a high profile debut, such as those enjoyed by someone like Naoya Inoue or Ryota Murata, but it was still an impressive debut against a live opponent over 6 rounds.
Rikiishi's second bout was also a 6 rounder against a live opponent coming to win, as he took on the then 4-1 Ryo Tanimoto, just 4 months after making his professional debut. Rikiishi would stop Tanimoto early in round 3, after scoring his second knockdown of the fight. This win saw Rikiiishi, who debuted under a B Class license, advance to becoming an A Class fighter and his ambition really was huge.
After his second bout Rikiishi left the Yakushiji gym and joined up with the Midori Gym, or the Green gym if you want to translate the term Midori. Sadly his first bout for the Midori gym showed too much ambition with the then 2-0 Rikiishi battling against former Japanese Featherweight champion Kosuke Saka. Saka would prove too good, at the time, and stop Rikiishi in round 2. Rikiishi looked worried by Saka's aggression from the off, and despite having some success he was almost always fighting on the back foot and taking more than he was giving. Eventually Saka's power and aggression got to Rikiishi, dropping him twice and forcing the referee to save him.
Having lost in such 1-sided fashion to Saka it made sence to give Rikiishi an easy confidence building bout on his return. That easy bout, 4 months after his loss, saw him take out Indonesian journeyman Egy Rotzen in 2 rounds.
With the win over Rotzen being used to rebuild Rikiishi's confidence it wasn't long until he was back in a real fight, taking on former Japanese Lightweight title challenger Genki Maeda. In the opening round Rikiishi dropped Maeda, with a sweeping left hand and he'd score another knockdown in round 3, from a clubbing left hand. He would drop Maeda twice in round 5, with the referee waving the bout off after the second one.
Most recently Rikiishi took a wide 8 round decision win over Kei Iwahara, going 8 rounds for the first time. The bout was a dominant win for Rikiiishi, who dropped his man and left him with some huge swelling around the right eye, in an excellent showing.
Rikiishi will return to the ring on July 23rd, fighting as part of a stacked Dangan card at Korakuen Hall. He will be up against Shogo Yamaguchi and a win should push Rikiiishi one step closer to his first title fight.
The talented Rikiishi is a boxer first and a puncher second. Although he can fight in a war when dragged into it, he's at his best at mid range, can switch hit and has real venom in his left hand. He's not a KO puncher, by any means, but he's a guy where every clean shot seems to hurt, and that includes his under utilised jab. The biggest issue he has is that he still has a reckless edge. He's quick enough to get away with it, usually, but when he steps up to title level that will need taming, and will need sorting. Saying that however Rikiishi is a very fun, very exciting and very talented young Lightweight who can go a very long way.
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