This past week has been an odd one, not a bad one, but an odd one, with of the action only really taking place, or becoming possible to watch, very, very late in the week. There was fights early on the week that weren't televised until Saturday, the biggest bout featuring an Asian took place on Saturday night in the US, there was two touted Uzbek's in action on Saturday night and a lot of action took place in Osaka on Sunday. Due to that these awards are going out a little later than usual, though we suspect we all know who's sweeping most of the awards this week!
Fighter of the Week
It's fair to say there was only one fighter in the running for the Fighter of the Week award and that was Japan's Masayoshi Nakatani, who scored a notable upset win as he stopped touted Puerto Rican hopeful Felix Verdejo. Not only did he win however, but there was so many under-lying stories before the bout and during the bout. Nakatani, who hadn't fought in 17 months, had retired in September 2019, had then refound his love for the sport, signed with Teiken, and was dropped twice en route to a great comeback. This week was Nakatani's week, and hopefully a world title fight in 2021 will follow.
Performance of the Week
Had Nakatani just won a pretty dull fight we'd have had to find someone else for our performance of the week, but lets be honest his performance was great, gutsy, determined and full of hunger. The things we had questioned before the bout. He had been dropped in the opening round, as Verdejo couldn't miss him with the right hand, and he was rocked several more times by huge right hands from the Puerto Rican. He was dropped to a knee in round 4 as a loss looked like a formality. Then he gritted it out, and turned it around, turning the bout on it's head with one of the greatest comebacks of 2019. It was a performance worthy of rave review and this weeks Performance of the Week.
Fight of the Week
Masayoshi Nakatani Vs Felix Verdejo
We're sad to do this, but we need to continue raving about the sensational bout between Nakatani and Verdejo which had it all. The fight had drama, it had action and it had intrigue. It wasn't a high tempo bout. It wasn't a slugfest, and it likely won't be on any Fight of the Year short lists, but as a contest it was truly compelling, utterly fascinating and high drama. A must watch, even if, at times, it did lack the intensity of our favourite style of fights.
Round of the Week
Rentaro Kimura Vs Thunder Teruya (Rd3)
Whilst the drama and excitement of Nakatani Vs Verdejo will linger for a long time we don't actually think it had any amazing rounds, and was instead a great fight due to the over arching drama. As for a great round however round 3 of the bout between super prospect Rentaro Kimura and the amazingly named Thunder Teruya was great. The tempo was solid through out, saw both men land some solid blows and even saw the prospect stumbling backwards before turning the tables and hammering Teruya late in the round. It wasn't a round of the year contender, but was very intriguing and entertianing round.
KO of the Week
Elnur Abduraimov KO1 Abraham Oliva
A very easy award here goes to Elnur Abduraimov for his brutal KO of Abraham Oliva in Mexico. This was a sensational one punch KO that had Oliva collapsing in a disgusting fashion with his legs buckling under him. If you've managed to see this one we seriously advise giving it a watch. Brutal.
Prospect of the Week
There was a lot of prospects in action over the last week, but for us the most impressive, and interesting, was the debuting Takahiro Tai, who put on a showcase in clowning, and made us sit up and take not. Tai's debut wasn't flawless, he didn't beat a big name, or score a win of note, but his performance will certainly have caught the eye with a very un-Japanese style. He was show boating through out, closed the show well and certainly proved to be a fighter worthy of attention.
On December 13th we see the debut of another promising Japanese youngster, as Takahiro Tai (0-0) begins his professional campaign at the age of 23. The youngster was a former standout amateur and is someone that we feel is worthy of the "Introducing..." treatment, especially with his debut being just a few days away, and his debuting an historic one for the RST Boxing Gym, run by his father.
Born in October 1997 in Hiemji City Tai's first combat sport wasn't actually boxing. Instead it was Kyokushin Karate, he then entered the Takasago Gym before beginning to training at the RST Boxing gym, where he learned to box as an orthodox fighter. He then learned, during college, how to fight southpaw and quickly became a capable switch hitter, something he's prided himself on.
Tai was getting attention for his amateur exploits rather early on and those exploits grew more when he represented his University Team. He wasn't just part of the Ashiya University Boxing team however, but actually went on to be the captain of the team and impressed regularly in 2018, in his third year at University.
During his days in the unpaid ranks Tai went 43-14 (15), and impressed in the 2019 All Japan Championships, reaching the business end of the competition. He also managed to have a notable rivalry with Jun Ikegawa, who beat Tai 2-1 in their 3 fight series. Notably Tai has declared revenge in the professional ranks against Ikegawa who recently turned professional himself with the Kadoebi Gym.
As an amateur Tai was a switch hitter, with long levers, clean, accurate, fast punches and a good understanding of the ring. There was a certain sense of flare to his work, an almost cocky confidence, and an exciting exuberance to his work. At times he did move too much, and even taunted opponents, but it was clear he was a natural talent, and he looked incredibly comfortable in the ring, even if he looked too comfortable at times. It was clear he was having fun in the ring, win or lose he wanted to entertain fans and himself.
Earlier this year Tai became the first fighter the at the RST Boxing Gym to turn professional, after the gym it's self got professional certification earlier this year. That might not seem big news, though it is worth noting that the gym is owned and run by Tai's father, and it's clear that Takahiro's professional dreams were a big reason why the gym became a professional boxing gym. He will be their sole professional focus here, and is the man they are pinning their hopes one for the foreseeable future.
Tai passed his B class license test back in September, on September 26th, just a month after the gym became a professional one,
Tai isn't getting a gimme on debut. Instead he will be up against the 6-6 Ryosei Hamaguchi, who has lost 4 of his last 5, but is a very capable fighter at this level and scored a very decent win just a few fights back against Hiroyuki Takahara. Although no world beater Hamaguchi has been in the ring with some genuinely talented fighters, including the very highly regarded Toshiki Shimomachi, who he faced in the 2017 Rookie of the Year. We suspect Tai will have too much, given his amateur showings, but this should still serve as a decent test on his debut, against a fighter who has been a professional for a few years now.
Given Tai's personality, his style and his comments to the media, we're expecting him to be a very entertaining fighter in the professional ranks. There is certainly an air of confidence to him, and in interviews he has spoke about wanting to increase his profile and make a name for himself. With that in mind we can't but feel excited about what Tai may have to offer over the coming years.
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