As we've mentioned a number of times in these "Introducing..." articles, the Watanabe gym is rich with young and emerging talent. It's a gym that is so deep in talent that it may well be the strongest gym in Japan right now, and is certainly up there with Kadoebi and Ohashi in terms of overall depth. One of the many fighters at the gym making their mark is 24 year old southpaw Ren Sasaki (8-0, 5), a promising young southpaw.
Born in Morioka City in 1995 Sasaki didn't really have much of an amateur career, in fact our sources suggest he was 1-0 (1) as an amateur before beginning his professional career in late 2016, under the Tokyo based Watanabe Gym.
As with many fighters who lack a strong amateur background Sasaki was involved in 4 round bouts to begin his career, making his debut in October 2016. On his debut he quickly saw off Kyota Shinya, scoring an opening round TKO win over his opponent. It would then be 6 months before he returned to the ring, fighting in an East Japan Rookie of the Year preliminary bout against Yuichi Wakita. Wakita would himself be stopped in round 3 by Sasaki.
Having won his first Rookie of the Year bout in April 2017 Sasaki would go on to have an excellent 2017. He would go on to beat Masaaki Shiraishi in his second bout from East Japan Rookie and then defeat Yoshiki Nakamura in the competition's semi-final bout. Those wins lead Sasaki to the East Japan Rookie of the Year final in November, where Sasaki met Toru Kiyota. Kiyota came into the bout with a 7-1 (5) record, a reputation as a talented puncher and a man in good form. He would however be worn out and then stopped by Sasaki, with an official time of 3:09 in round 4.
The win over Kiyota wasn't pretty, it wasn't an attractive win, but it was a huge win for Sasaki who earned himself a place in the 2017 All Japan Rookie of the Year. In the All Japan final he would face another unbeaten fighter, Shuto Takase, the West Japan representative. Sasaki entered the bout 5-0 (3) whilst Takase was 4-0-1 (1). The bout, like Sasaki's bout with Kiyota, was another messy one, though it was clear that Sasaki had developed a style that was effective for him, and it often involved Sasaki pressing the action, breaking his opponent down, and that again happened here, stopping Takase in the 4th round.
With the Rookie of the Year crown won 2018 had the potential to be a huge year for Sasaki. His first bout of the year saw him stop Thai novice Somphot Seesa, in the 2nd of a scheduled 6 rounder. This bout may not have been a very notable one, though did come on a big show featuring two world title fights and did give Sasaki the experience of fighting on a big show.
Sasaki's second bout of 2018 saw him take on Kanehiro Nakagawa in a B Class tournament final. The bout looked like a mismatch on paper, with Nakagawa having a 5-5 record against the 7-0 record of Sasaki, in the end however this was actually a really competitive and tough bout, with Nakagawa holding his own with Sasaki. The toughness of Nakagawa forced Sasaki to go 6 rounds for the first time, and just narrowly sneak the win with a majority decision.
Sadly Sasaki wouldn't fight again in 2018 and now we have to wait until this coming May to see to see him again, with his next bout now set for May 12th. That will be a landmark bout for Sasaki as he travels to Hong Kong to take on Ge An Ma in an 8 round contest.
Unlike many featured in our "Introducing..." section we're not expecting Sasaki to get a title fight any time soon, but he is certainly one to make a note of going forward.
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