One thing we've always tried to do in his "Introducing..." series is to try and make fans aware of fighters they should have on their radar as early as possible, and that has seen us talk about fighters before their professional debuts. That's the case again this week, albeit with a slight twist.
The fighter we're looking at will be making his professional boxing debut on March 11th, though fans of other combat sports may have already seen this man in action. That's because we're focusing on someone who has recently converted from K-1 to boxing. Despite converting from one sport, which was essentially kickboxing, we do see this youngster having massive upside as a boxer, and the potential to go a very, very long way and do so very quickly.
For those who haven't yet guessed, the man we want to discuss this week is Yoshiki Takei (0-0), a 24 year old who recently signed with the Ohashi gym, where he will be trained by Akira Yaegashi. A 24 year old who is already a combat sports star, and one of the most exciting kickboxing to boxing converts in years.
Born in Adachi, Tokyo in 1996, the young Takei was regarded as a problem child, a youngster who misbehaved. As a youngster he was taught kickboxing by Seiichi Furukawa and the training genuinely changed him. Helping him mature, grow up and instilled discipline into the youngster. He went from being a naughty child into someone who was showing fantastic natural ability for sport, and in high school he turned his hand to boxing as well as kickboxing.
Way back in 2011 Takei was getting enough attention to be featured on a Fuji TV program and just a few months later he fought to a draw in an amateur kickboxing bout with Tenshin Nasukawa, a man who is currently one of the faces of Japanese kickboxing. He would then be featured again on Fuji TV in 2014, in a follow up story to his 2011 appearance, before making his professional kickboxing debut.
Takei made his professional kickboxing debut in November 2014 and scored a KO win. Sadly however he would then suffer back to back losses in the first half of 2015, falling to 1-2 (1) within 6 months of his debut. Those losses were learning experiences and he quickly bounced back from them, whilst also moving down in weight. By the end of the year he had scored 3 straight wins and moved his record to 4-2 (3) and was beginning to build momentum as well as building his name.
The move down in weight worked perfectly for Takei who won his first title in 2016, when he claimed the 53KG title in “Krush”, a title he would defend later that year before featuring yet again on a Fuji TV show, which was another follow up story to his original appearance on the channel years earlier. By now he was a success story. A story of someone who had gone from a problem child to a kickboxing champion. The best, however, was yet to come, and he was still incredibly young and still developing, as both a man and a fighter.
Just months after the third Fuji TV program about him Takei competed in a tournament for the K-1 Super Bantamweight title, and he ended up going all the way and winning the tournament to win the title. Notably he beat former professional boxer Kenji Kubo in the final to claim the title.
In 2018 and 2019 Takei continued building his kickboxing record, scoring a lot of knockouts along the way, and it began to seem like he had very few equals in the sport. After losing 2 of his first 3 bouts he went on to win 22 in a row, with his final bout coming in March 2020. By then he had notched a 23-2 (16) record, and shown not just great kickboxing ability but also fantastic boxing ability, with many of his wins coming from punches, as opposed to kicks.
In late 2020 Takei announced that he would switch from kickboxing to professional boxing, and signed with the Ohashi Gym, the same gym that manages the likes of Naoya Inoue and Takuma Inoue, along with highly regarded prospects like Katsuki Mori, Ryutaro Nakagaki and Keisuke Matsumoto. Not only was it revealed that he was going to be an Ohashi Gym fighter but that he was going to be training under former 3-weight world champion Akira Yaegashi. Interestingly he also revealed the biggest reason to switch sports, admitting that he had suffered an injury that was making it difficult to kick. Even with that injury however he was still having great success in kickboxing, in part due to his very polished boxing skills.
In January 2021 Takei passed his B-license pro-test, following a 2 round spar with Japanese ranked puncher Tsuyoshi Tameda. Footage of that spar was quickly made available online, thanks to the Ohashi Gym, and it was clear that Takei seemed to have some brilliant tools in his arsenal. He under-stood distance well, had some lovely uppercuts in his arsenal, good speed in his hands and feet and looked very natural against Tameda. Whilst it’s obvious Tameda wasn’t there to hurt him, it was still great to see how good Takei looked in the session, and it’s obvious he has a lot of potential in the sport.
In his debut Takei will take on 34 year old Japanese fighter Kazunori Takai (6-7-3, 3). On paper Takai shouldn't be much of a challenge for Takei, however it is worth noting that Takai is a southpaw, and it's rare to see a fighter willingly debut against a lefty. Despite that we are expecting a destructive and eye-catching debut from a man who is expected to be moved quickly through the ranks, and potentially become a world champion at Bantamweight or Super Bantamweight.
We wouldn't be stretching things to suggest that February 2021 was one of the quietest months since boxing restarted following the start of the Covid19 pandemic. Thankfully it appears normality resumes in March as we have a lot to get excited about, and better yet it comes from all over the globe as Asian fighters look to make a name for themselves both internationally and at home.
With that in mind lets take a look at what's to come in the first part of the month.
Municipal Boxing Gym Felix Pagan Pintor, Guaynabo, Puerto Rico
Ruslan Madiyev (13-1, 5) Vs Danielito Zorrilla (14-0, 11)
The first notable bout to feature an Asian will see once beaten Kazakh Ruslan Madiyev return to the ring for the first time in well over a year as he takes on unbeaten Puerto Rican Danielito Zorrilla as part of the "Ring City USA" series. On paper this looks like a really well matched bout, and Madiyev will know that a win here can get his career back on track, though in reality we suspect Zorrilla will be too good and too strong for the US based Kazakh fighter.
Miami, Florida, USA
Kozimbek Mardonov (1-0, 1) vs Abel Nicolas Adriel (23-20-3, 5)
Former Uzbek amateur standout Kozimbek Mardonov will be another Central Asian fighter to keep an eye out for early in the month. The talented 23 year old made a quick impact on his debut, at the end of January and will be looking to impress against as he takes on 31 year old Argentinian Abel Nicolas Adriel. Stood at 6' and fighting at Super Middleweight Mardonov has the potential to be a star of the future and we suspect he'll impress against the experienced, but limited, Adriel. Despite having 20 losses to his name Adriel has only been stopped 4 times, though we suspect another stoppage is on the cards for him here.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Andy Hiraoka (16-0, 11) Vs Fumisuke Kimura (9-6-1, 6)
Unbeaten Japanese Light Welterweight Andy Hiraoka returns to a Japanese ring for the first time since July 2019 as he takes on limited domestic foe Fumisuke Kimura. Hiraoka's last 2 bouts were both in the US, as he linked up with Top Rank, but there is clearly a desire to show what he can do at home as well, and we suspect he'll look to make a statement here. Sadly Kimura is 0-2-1 in his last 3, and we suspect Hiraoka will take him out relatively early on.
Yoshiki Takei (0-0) v Kazunori Takai (6-7-3, 3)
Former K-1 champion Yoshiki Takei makes his professional boxing debut as he takes on Kazunori Takai in a 6 rounder. Despite making his name in kickboxing Takei looks like he has excellent hands, and has impressed not just in K-1 but also in his pro-test with Tsuyoshi Tameda and an exhibition bout with Sho Kimura. There is genuine a lot of buzz around Takei in Japanese boxing circles. As for Takai he's a 34 year old who is 0-5-1 in his last 6, and hasn't scored a victory since September 2017. This should be little more than a show case for Takei.
Taku Kuwahara (7-0, 4) vs Yoshiki Minato (9-3, 4)
In a mouth watering clash between youngsters we'll see the unbeaten Taku Kuwahara take on Yoshiki Minato, a former Rookie of the Year winner. The talented Kuwahara has been tipped for major success since turning professional, but his career stalled massively in 2020, due to Covid19, and he'll feel he needs to make up for lost time this year. Aged just 22 Minato has time on his side, but is 1-2 since winning the 2018 All Japan Rookie of the Year and his sole win came against the returning Kohei Oba, who looked shot to pieces.
Rikuto Adachi (14-2, 11) Vs Takeru Kobata (8-5-1, 3)
The first Japanese Youth title fight of the month takes place at Welterweight as the once touted Rikuto Adachi takes on Takeru Kobata. The bout will be Adachi's second shot at the title, and his first bout since signing with the Ohashi Gym in 2020, and he'll know that he needs a win to get his career back on track after an injury plagued 2020. Kobata on the other hand will be looking to build on a solid performance, albeit in a loss, against Shoki Sakai. Stylistically this could end up being a very exciting match up, and it's a real chance of being a banana skin for Adachi.
Bolton Whites Hotel (formerly De Vere Whites), Bolton, Lancashire, United Kingdom
Viktor Kotochigov (12-1, 5) Vs Gary Cully (11-0, 5)
Staying with title action we'll see once beaten Kazakh fighter Viktor Kotochigov look to get his career back on track, and bounce back from an upset loss to Maxi Hughes, as he takes on Gary Cully for the WBO European Lightweight title. The talented Kotochigov looked lost and confused at times against Hughes, who turned in one of the best performances of his career, and it's clear that Kotochigov cannot afford another loss here. The unbeaten 25 year old Cully is regarded as one of the most promising Irish fighters and will be looking to build on a successful 2020, which saw him beat Joe Fitzpatrick and Craig Woodruff. Although not a huge bout, this is very much an interesting match up to end this portion of the month with.
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