In late August former Japanese amateur standout Reo Saito (0-0) became the latest in a growing line of Japanese amateur fighters announcing that they had turned professional. By announcing his decision Saito followed the likes of Rentaro Kimura, Keisuke Matsumoto and Ryutaro Nakagaki in the pros. Like a number of other top fighters turning professional he decided to turn professional under the long established Teiken Gym, and will likely be making his debut towards the end of the year.
With a real lack of fights this coming week, we thought this was an ideal time to take a look at Saito, explain why fans should be excited about him, and what he will bring to the professional ranks, as we continue to shine a light on fighters in this "Introducing" series.
Sadly we've not been able to track down all the details regarding Saito's amateur career, though we have managed to track results dating back all the way to 2015 for the youngster. The first tournament we've found results for when it comes to Saito is the 2015 Japanese High School Invitational Tournament, which saw Saito win the whole thing at 60KG's. Interestingly another winner here was Yudai Shigeoka, down at 46KG's.
The following year Saito continued his success, winning Japanese High School National Championships in March 2016. Other winners there included Ginjiro Shigeoka, Keisuke Matsumoto and Hayato Tsutsumi, a classy trio alongside Saito. Of coruse that wasn't Saito done for the year, oh no. Just a few months later he would claim the Japanese High School National Tournament with Ginjiro Shigeoka and Hayato Tsutsumi also taking top honours.
Also in 2016 Saito competed at the Asian Youth Championships in Kazakhstan, reaching the quarter finals where he lost to Indian fighter Ankush Dahiya, the eventual silver medal winner. He also reached the quarter finals of the AIBA Youth World Championships in Russia that same year, losing to eventual winner Delante Johnson of the US.
By the time we went into 2017 Saito was quickly becoming one of the fighters to keep an eye on. He was showing excellent potential, having great domestic results, and seemed to have the tools to make the move to the pros somewhere down the line. He was however still very young, and a fighter who was still improving. He wasn't close to the finished article, but was getting more and more experience under his belt. That experience lead him to success at the 2017 Taipei City Cup, where he was one of 3 Japanese winners.
Despite his success in Taipei Saito actually went out at the semi-final stage in the Japanese National Championships in 2017. He was unfortunate to lose to Rentaro Kimura in arguably the toughed division in the competition. He however remained part of the amateur set up after though, though specific results are harder to come by, however he was still in his teens by this point, and still had a lot of potential to show as he went to University.
When Saito announced his decision to turn professional he took to social media, explaining that he had dropped out of University this past July and had signed with Teiken as a professional boxer. He said he was starting from scratch and it seems clear that he does have the potential to be a massive star in the sport.
To go along with the results we of course need to talk about his style and this is the most exciting thing when it comes to Saito. His style is very much made for the professional ranks. He likes to get inside, he likes to have a fight, go to the body and throw short sharp combinations. His style is one that will be exciting to see in the professional ranks, but certainly needs work. Back in 2018 we did see him being stopped in the amateurs by Ri Jinu and it was his defense that let him down there. That needs to be tweaked, but if he can sort that out, which should be done at the Teiken gym, there is huge potential for this one hotly tipped youngster.
Now aged 22 there is no reason to think that Saito can't be a force to be reckoned with on the domestic and regional scene. World titles may be out of his reach, but we would be shocked if he never manages to claim some form of title before his career ends.
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