For this week's introducing we're focusing on a man who has a very high aim in mind and has had a history that saw him being punished as an amateur, and given a lengthy ban in Japan. Despite the ban the youngster in question is regarded as a very special fighter and was on our radar way back in 2019, when he planned to make his debut, before his plans fell apart. Despite the delay we want to introduce you to Narumi Yukawa (0-0), who is scheduled to debut on March 18th at Korakuen Hall in a 6 rounder.
Yukawa was born in Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture, in 1995 and it wasn't long until there was a buzz around his name following some impressive performances in the unpaid ranks. As an amateur he was developing reputation for himself as a charismatic and heavy handed fighter, with a good style, and managed to run up a 38-13 (22) record in the unpaid ranks.
Whilst that record isn't the best out out there, Yukawa was impressive and came third in a National Polity and 5th at the 2015 All Japan Championships in 2015, whilst fighting at Welterweight. It was clear he had the potential to do great things in the sport, though he was still a young man. And young men do stupid things.
In 2016, whilst part of the Nippon Sport Science University boxing team, Yukawa was caught in possession of cannabis, being caught with 7grams. He then fled when he was questioned by the police in Tokyo and was seen trying to dispose of the drugs. This lead him to serious legal issues, saw him drop out of University. Those legal issues saw him being given a suspended sentence of 3 years. That sentence essentially suspended from boxing during his punishment, which cost him years of his career.
During his suspension Yukawa apologised, made it clear that his had learned a lesson, and tried to get the punishment, which was excessive, to be reduced. That however didn't happen and instead the best he managed was to get permission to pass his pro-test in 2019, before the suspension was over, and he was allowed to train.
Yukawa was somewhat fortunate that Suruga Danji, of the Suruga Danji Boxing Gym in Shizuoka, believed in him, and in January 2019 a post on Danji's blog explained the siutation in regards to Yukawa's future. The key thing to note was that Yukawa was training, doing so harder than anyone else, and wanted a chance to prove himself, prove his ability and turn things around. Danji's blog went on to state "He made his own mistakes, accepted the price, and nevertheless clenched his teeth and worked harder than anyone else. He will surely give courage and excitement to many people and show the belt of the world. I believe he will." He also left the door open to those wanting to talk to Yukawa, in regards to things like youth development and drug prevention workers, essentially leaving the door wide open to Yukawa to get help and focus on his boxing.
In December 2019 Danji updated his blog and explained that Yukawa had passed his pro-test bout, doing so at Korakuen Hall. It was a huge step towards Yukawa making his professional debut, but his suspension still hung over him, and would until August 2020. Despite needing to wait to fight as a professional Yukawa concentrated on his craft, and spent the time developing, both as a man and as a fighter, and had the backing of Danji.
After more than 4 years and 10 months after his last fight Yukawa will return to boxing on March 18th as he takes on Yuya Azuma, a man who we saw last year being brutally stopped by Rentaro Kimura. That appears to have not been some weird coincidence however with Yukara and Kimura both being from the Suruga Danji gym, and Azuma likely viewed as someone who asked some questions of Kimura and should do the same with Yukawa.
Having mentioned Kimura it is worth nothing that we expect to see something of a friendly rivalry between Yukawa and Kimura, who will both be looking to race to title fights, and push each other further, which will be great news for fans in Shizuoka, who clearly have two very talented youngsters emerging from the area. For those wanting to see what the two can do, we've included a video of the two men sparring together below.
Interestingly Yukawa is regarded as a switch hitter and has listed his goal for the sport as "Defeat Naoya Inoue", a lofty goal for the young man who has yet to make his professional debut!
Whilst we joke about the punishments given for performance enhancing drugs in boxing, it is worth noting just how serious some countries take drugs in general, and Yukawa's punishment is an example of just that. Maybe, if, boxing took PED's seriously we would see the use of them among fighters being a career killer, rather than a mere short term inconvenience.
Whilst the start of March was quiet the middle portion of the month really does see action step up a great, and there is a lot of action in not a lot of time. Better than just having a lot of action is the fact it's really varied action as well ranging from world title fights to prospects.
American Airlines Center, Dallas, Texas, USA
Hiroto Kyoguchi (14-0, 9) vs Axel Aragon Vega (14-3-1, 8)
The most notable bout of the month, featuring an Asian fighter, will see Ring Magazine and WBA "Super" Light Flyweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi making his US debut as he takes on Mexican youngster Axel Aragon Vega. The talented Kyoguchi had a frustrating 2020, with two bouts being cancelled, and will be looking to make a statement in his first bout since signing with Matchroom. As for Vega this will be his second world title fight, following a narrow loss last year in a WBO Minimumweight title bout, despite that he will be a clear under-dog.
Workpoint Studio, Bang Phun, Thailand
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (49-5-1, 42) Vs Kwanthai Sithmorseng (50-7-1, 27)
Former 2-time WBC Super Flyweight champion will be in a tune up bout here, with big plans for later in the year, as he takes on former WBA Minimumweight champion Kwanthai Sithmorseng. On paper this looks interesting, especially as Srisaket is taking on a former world champion, but in reality this should be little more than a brisk work out for Srisaket who should be too big, too strong, and too powerful for the rather limited Sithmorseng. Despite that this will be a good chance to see what Srisaket is like ahead of third bout with either Roman Gonzalez or Juan Francisco Estrada.
Phongsaphon Panyakum (11-1, 6) vs Karoon Jarupianlerd (44-10, 20)
Touted Thai prospect Phongsaphon Panyakum will look to secure his biggest win so far as he takes on former Naoya Inoue foe Karoon Jarupianlerd, aka Petchbarngborn Kokietgym. Although not too well known internationally Phongsaphon has been impressing on the Thai scene and we're really excited about his future. On paper this is a huge step up for Phongsaphon, though he will be favoured to pick up a win and answer a number of questions about his potential.
Chainoi Worawut (13-0-1, 12) Vs Pungluang Sor Singyu (54-9, 36)
Another Thai looking to progress their career is Chainoi Worawut, who takes a massive step up to take on former 2-time WBO Bantamweight champion Pungluang Sor Singyu. The hard hitting and exciting "Rockman" has impressed through his career with an exciting style but has, mostly, had things his own way against typically under-skilled and over-matched opponents. Pungluang on the other hand is a skilled pressure fighter, with a good chin and a real will to win. We expect Pungluang to push Chainoi all the way here in a real test for the youngster.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Saemi Hanagata (16-7-4, 7) Vs Eri Matsuda (4-0, 1)
Japanese veteran Saemi Hanagata will be looking to record her second defense of the IBF Atomweight title as she takes on fellow Japanese fighter Eri Matsuda. The aggressive and exciting Hanagata is a true veteran at 36 years old, and although being an "older" fighter she has looked full of energy in her most recent bouts. As well as an energetic fighter she is rugged, aggressive and exciting and brings a lot of pressure. Matsuda on the other hand is a rangy tall boxer, with a very smooth technical style, based on outside boxing. Despite being a professional novice Matsuda has been hugely impressive and she can't be written off here, even if this is only her 5th professional bout.
Narumi Yukawa (0-0) vs Yuya Azuma (5-4-1, 1)
Controversial fighter Narumi Yukawa will make his long awaited professional debut, almost 5 years after his last amateur bout. The talented Yukawa was given a suspended sentence after being convicted of drug offenses, which ended his amateur career and almost ended his entire boxing career. Now however he has served his time and is looking to make an impact on boxing once again. In the opposite corner to Yukawa will be Yuya Azuma, who is best known for his 2020 loss to Rentaro Kimura. This should be a really good test for Yukawa, and it'll be great to see what he looks like in the ring after all these years.
Banana Sports Complex, Binan City, Laguna, Philippines
Criztian Pitt Laurente (5-0, 3) Vs Ernesto Saulong (22-6-2, 9)
Over in the Philippines we're expecting to see touted youngster Criztian Pitt Laurente take on his most notable test, by far, since he turned pro in 2019. The talented 21 year old hopefully will be sharing the ring in an 8 rounder with former world title challenger Ernesto Saulong. Laurente turned professional with a lot of expectations after being a very solid amateur but has yet to make any sort of a mark at all on the professional scene. Saulong, best known for challenging Ryosuke Iwasa in 2018, should have the experience and skills to test Laurente, even if he is expected to come up short here.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Seiya Tsutsumi (5-0-2, 4) vs Tulio Kuwabata (3-1-1, 2)
Unbeaten hopeful Seiya Tsutsumi had a frustrating 2020, fighting to 2 draws, and he'll be looking for a much better 2021 as he returns to the ring here and takes on former amateur standout Tulio Kuwabata. The talented Tsutsumi is one to watch, and is a genuine prospect despite the setbacks last year, and he will enter this bout as a clear favourite. Kuwabata turned professional with a lot of hype back in 2018 but an upset loss in 2019 to Ken Jordan popped his hype bubble, and that was then followed by a technical draw with Yoshihiro Utsumi in 2020. Those setbacks have left Kuwabata in desperate need of a win. We expect this to be a very exciting bout, but one where Tsutsumi needs to be strongly favoured.
Takuya Kogawa (31-6-1, 14) vs Shun Kosaka (16-6, 4)
Former world title challenger Takuya Kogawa looks to continue his long career as he takes on Shun Kosaka, in what should be a very fan friendly match up. The talented Kogawa has shown some wear and tear in recent years, and his numerous wars have been catching up with him, however he still some tricks in the tank and he'll be hoping to show those here. Kosaka on the other hand has been beaten in 3 of his last 4 and desperately needs a win here if he's to remain relevant. Given the styles of the two men this should be very exciting, though neither fighter is likely to go on to big things after this bout.
Jukiya Iimura (1-0, 1) vs Tomoki Kawasaki (0-0)
A very easy to over-look bout will see novices Jukiya Iimura and Tomoki Kawasaki clash in a 6 rounder. Iimura really impressed us in his debut, back in January, and we are really excited to see him back in the ring, especially so soon after his debut and prior to turning professional he had been a very solid amateur. Kawasaki on the other hand was an impressive amateur who will be kicking off his professional career, and we're excited to see what he'll be bringing to the pros. This might not be a massive bout, but we are really excited to see how these two men will match off and it's arguably more interesting than any other bout on the March 24th show.
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