A fighter having a loss in Japan is certainly not the end of their career, as it can be in some other countries. In fact often when a fighter has a loss to their name it's how that loss came about that is significant, along with their style and the value they bring. With that in mind our "introducing" this weeks looks at the entertaining, but somewhat fragile, Kazuki Saito (7-1, 5), who suffered his first loss in 2018 and looks like he has chin issues, but yet is such a wonderful talent with incredible skills. He's the sort of fighter who you watch thinking he could score an easy win...or be taken out whilst in total control. The type of fighter who we know can deliver drama and excitement due to his limitations, just as much as his strengths.
Before turning in 2016 Saito was very highly regarded from his time in the amateur ranks. He won the numerous trophies and ran up an incredible 83-14 record. That type of amateur background saw him turn to the pros with a lot of expectation on his shoulders, though his style needed some work before he began to face real tests.
In his first 2 bouts Saito took on real no hopers from Thailand in 6 round bouts. Both of those foes were made to look worse than they were by Saito who dominated both and stopped them in a combined 5 rounds whilst show casing incredibly crisp punching, a fantastic jab and really clean combinations. His amateur pedigree was clear immediately.
Following those first 2 bouts, both of which are on Boxing Raise for those interested, he took a notable step up in class to take on Filipino Jimmy Borbon. It was against Borbon we saw the first cracks appear in Saito, when he was dropped with a sweeping left hook 2 minutes into the bout. This was the first time had began to question Saito's chin, though to his credit he got to his feet, saw out follow up attack and stopped Borbon in the 6th round.
If Saito's team were worried about his chin they didn't show it, as his came against the then 8-1 (7) Alvin Lagumbay. The hard hitting Lagumbay, who later went on to have a very notable win over Keita Obara, wobbled Saito in the opening round but struggled to cope with the movement, jab and boxing skills of Saito. In round 4 Saito hurt the Filipino and a follow up forced the referee to save Lagumbay, who was on the ropes at the time.
Having notched another win over a Filipino fighter, Marbon Bodiongan, it looked like Saito was on the right track and that he was able to look after his chin. Perhaps even showing that it was inexperience and not a questionable chin that caused him to be dropped by Borbon. Sadly however it was made clear it was his chin that was an issue in July 2018 when he was stopped by Amphol Suriyo, aka Pharanpetch Tor Buamas, in 2 rounds. Saito had won the first round without any issues but in round 2 the visiting Thai showed a bit more aggression and rocked Saito to his boots with a wild right hand. Moments later Saito was down. He got up, still wobbly legged and was dropped almost instantly before the referee waved the bout off.
Since his loss Saito has picked up 2 decisions wins, but with his suspect chin there is always a chance he's going to be dropped in any fight. However he is such a natural boxer, with gorgeous offensive skills, lovely combinations and heavy hands. In many ways he is like a lower level Jorge Linares, a clear talent but such a questionable chin.
Saito's next fight comes on October 26th when he takes on Izuki Tomioka in a Japanese Lightweight title eliminator. On paper that's a safe fight for Saito's chin, but Tomioka is a skilled fighter himself and should be a very solid test for Saito.
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