In May 2019 one of the fighters we looked at in our introducing series was Tulio Kuwabata (then 2-0, 2). Since we looked at the Osakan last year things haven't got amazingly well for him, fighting twice and going 1-1 to see his current record stand at 3-1 (2). He's gone from being regarded as a prospect of note to someone who many are doubting has the ability to go to the highest those at the Muto gym expected and showed real issues in his most recent bout, which came in December 2019. Sadly Kuwabata failed to get back on the horse and pick up a win before the world was plunged into chaos, and as a result has been out of the ring for more than 8 months and is more than a year removed from his last win, in May 2019.
When we spoke about Kuwabata last year he was days away from his third professional bout. That was originally planned to be a bout against the highly experienced John Mark Apolinario in what was scheduled to be a 6 rounder. Sadly Apolinario had to pull out of the bout and Kuwabata ended up taking on the previously unbeaten Eric Pulgo, in what looked like a genuinely decent test.
Despite the change of opponent Kuwabata dealt with Pulgo without too many issues. In fact the Japanese youngster looked sharp, accurate, light on his feet and had a very nice jab. There were areas to work on, but for a man in his third professional bout there was a lot to like, and a lot of areas where his team could see mistakes and work on them. For all the nice work he showed with his jab there there was defensive issues in his performance, though he got away with them as Pulgo lacked the experience to punish him and make him pay for them. In the end Kuwabata won every round against Pulgo in what turned out to be little more than a public sparring session for the Japanese youngster.
In December Kuwabata took another step up, going from willing opponent there to lose, in Pulgo, to the hard hitting Ken Jordan, who boasted an 8-1-2 (7) record. The Filipino hadn't beaten anyone of note, but was entering the bout as a hungry fighter. Jordan had previously won a minor title and looked like was a genuine prospect from the Philippines, despite an early career loss to the under-rated Jimboy Haya.
Despite Jordan being regarded as a decent prospect few would have expected him to do what he did to Kuwabata. That was stop him, in a round. From the off Jordon looked relaxed and calm, and like he knew of Kuwabata's defensive lapses, throwing his left hook regularly. Kuwabata managed to have moments but it was clear that Jordan wasn't the willing sparring partner that Pulgo had been. He had ambitions of his own and rocked Kuwabata with a sweeping left hook, before sending him down what appeared to be a glancing shot. Kuwabata got to his feet but couldn't the follow up onslaught from Jordan, who dropped him again. The bout was stopped, despite Jordan getting to his feet.
The loss to Jordan is a major setback for Kuwabata however it's certainly not the end. He was caught, his defensive flaws were punished, and the hype around him was burst, big time. That is far, far from the end however and given what he now knows about himself, there are areas he and his team can work on, go back to the drawing board, tidy up that defense, tighten up, get that back hand up and get it tighter. Jordan spotted the hole for the left hook quickly and repeatedly threw it, knowing it was there for him.
Also the hype about Kuwabata needed to be scaled back. He seemed too bothered about getting a gimmicky name, going with "Dekanarudo Torio", when his focus should have been more on the in ring action.
We don't think Kuwabata should be written off, but we do see him struggling above domestic level. Sadly for him however he's not going to get an easy one when he returns to the ring. Instead he will be returning on August 9th to take on former Japanese Super Flyweight champion Takayuki Okumoto, in what appears to a very, very hard match up for the youngster.
Whilst we do see him having a ceiling of domestic class, we think Kuwabata's potential could fall short of that if he's not matched softly after the Okumoto bout. We see him losing that and then having a lot of rebuilding to do. That's not what we expected to be saying 12 months ago, which is a shame. Don't ignore Kuwabata, but his stablemates like Yuske Mine, appear to have more long term potential than him.
This past week hasn't been the best or the busiest for Asian Boxing, with a very clear down turn in weekly activity, despite some big fights over the weekend. Sadly with such a lack of activity it has made our weekly awards a little bit focused on the fights from the weekend.
Fighter of the Week
Can Xu (17-2, 3)
The last 7 days have really lacked a big win for Asian fighters, other than China's Can Xu, who retained his WBA "regular" Featherweight title with an excellent stoppage win against Shun Kubo on Sunday. The under-rated Chinese "Monster" shocked us all when he beat Jesus M Rojas in January and the stoppage over Kubo was another impressive performance by a young man with a lot of potential. Although Kubo wasn't really suited to the fight that Xu brought it's hard to take away from Xu who looks like he really is coming into his own, and could very easily be the break out Chinese boxin star the country has needed.
Performance of the Week
Can Xu (17-2, 3)
For a second week running we have a double award winner. It was hard to see anyone really competing with Xu for the performance of the week, as he pressed the action, went through the gears and broke down the determined Kubo. Whilst Kubo seemed to be the more technically skilled fighter Xu's relentless attack, combinations and physicality were impressive and, it's great to see that Xu is now finding power on his shots.
Notable mention - Yuki Strong Kobayashi
Can Xu Vs Shun Kubo
With so little action it was clear that this weeks Fight and Round were unlikely to be spectacular. That's seen notably in the Fight of the Week, which, whilst entertaining, wasn't a FOTY contender or anything like that. This was just a fun, fan friendly bout with Xu moving through the gears and throwing more punches by the round whilst Kubo was eventually broken down. Kubo played his part, standing at mid-distance, trying to fight with Xu and made for an entertaining contest, until he was stopped. No one can doubt Kubo's fighting heart, but with this being his second stoppage loss in 3 bouts it's hard to know where he goes form this.
Can Xu Vs Shun Kubo (round 3)
As we've not managed to see the Osakan show from Sunday, the round of the week was another that will not stand the test at the end of 2019, despite again being fan friendly. This was the pick of the rounds from the Xu vs Kubo fight, and was the point where Xu began to step up his work rate, whilst Kubo would decline quickly in the rounds that followed and eventuaally be broken down.
We had no valid KO's this week
Tulio Kuwabata (3-0, 2)
Unbeaten Japanese prospect Tulio Kuwabata took a major step up this weekend and beat the previously unbeaten Eric Pulgo in a 6 round bout in Osaka. The talented Kuwabata looked sharp and skilled and appears to be one to keep an eye on in the Bantamweight and Super Bantamweight divisions. With this only being his third bout it's hard to know how far he will go, but there is a lot of talent here.
Notable mention - Shichao Gao
Charles Bellamy (28-3-2, 18) vs Yuto Shimizu (12-4-2, 5) II
Back in September Charles Bellamy took a split deciison over Yuto Shimizu in an entertaining 8 round battle. We're expect their rematch, this coming Saturday, to be even better than their first contest. Shimizu is the under-dog, as he was in their first bout, but at 37 years old we do wonder what Bellamy has left in the tank.
The Japanese Super Bantamweight scene is one of the most interesting, right across the levels. We have exciting prospects, a great domestic title scene, and some fantastic world class fighters finding themselves in the mix at world level. It's a division that is hard to break into, but is one where if you can conqueror domestically you're probably ready to fight at world level.
Today's introducing looks at one of the Japan's rising prospects in the division, Tulio Kuwabata (2-0, 2) who is set for a huge step up in class later this month when he takes on experienced Filipino John Mark Apolinario in a 6 round bout.
The 22 year old Kuwabata is a fighter at the well established Mutoh Gym, one of the best gyms in Osaka. He's one of their best prospects, along with Riku Kunimoto who has also featured in one of these articles, and like Kunimoto he was able to make his name in the amateurs. On paper his amateur record, reportedly 25-11, is unremarkable though the competition he was facing in the unpaid ranks was very interesting as he was part of the ultra competitive High School and University scenes, captaining teams at both levels.
The youngster turned professional last year and made his debut in China, stopping Zhiliang Yang in Kunming, on a show that also featured Riku Kunimoto. The youngster, fighting in a 4 round bout, stopped Yang in the second round of the bout and looked good without looking spectacular. It was interesting to note that he was kicking off his career on the road, something we rarely see from Japanese prospects.
Having debuted in September the youngster would return to action around 3 months later for his Japanese debut, and take a clear step up in class as he took on Japanese foe Yosuke Taniguchi at the Sumiyoshi Ward Center on Christmas Eve. This was a huge step up in class from his Chinese debut and yet Kuwabata made things look easy as he applied intelligent pressure on to his more experienced, and taller, opponent. It was obvious after just a few seconds of this bout that he was able to out jab the longer man, and was quickly able to establish his jab. It wasn't just the jab that shone here however, and he was showing off great variety with some crisp body shots and a brilliant knockdown at the end of the opening round with a looping right hand up top. He would close the show the following round, as he turned up the pressure and dropped Taniguchi for the second time.
Although not a true amateur star it's hard not to be impressed by his crisp punching, variety and confidence. Going in with Apolinario this early in his career is impressive, and a win over the Filipino, even if Apolinario is a somewhat faded force, would be a statement to the division, as Kuwabata begins to hunt rankings, and future title fights.
Sadly we can't share footage of his win over Taniguchi, but it it is available on Boxing Raise for those interested.
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