The next few weeks are busy ones for Japanese boxing a lot of notable bouts taking place in not much time. These include a number for rising prospects, with one of the most promising being today's subject of our "Introducing..." series, Suzumi Takayama (3-0, 3).
The talented Takayama made his professional debut in February 2019, but before then he had been a very solid amateur on the Japanese domestic scene.
In the unpaid ranks Takayama had gone 35-16 (10) after beginning boxing at High School. He was inspired to box by his uncle, former 2-time world challenger Yuji Watanabe who was a notable fighter in the 1990's right through to 2000. Although his uncle failed to win a world title he had been the Japanese Super Featherweight and OPBF Lightweight champion, and was a very clear inspiration to his talented nephew.
On debut Takayama was scheduled for 6 rounds against Thai visitor Nirun Baonok, aka Rungniran Korat Sport School. The Thai had previously fought a number of times in Japan, going 4 rounds with Teiru Kinoshita, 3 rounds with Kenji Oba and the 8 round schedule with Takashi Kunishige. Takayama took out the visitor in 3 rounds on the under-card of Vic Saludar's world title defense against Masataka Taniguchi.
Despite winning his debut Takayama's performance was overshadowed by that of two other Watanabe Gym prospects. Ginjiro Shigeoka, who stopped Gerttipong Kumsahwat inside a round, and Shut Utsuki, who stopped Jerry Castroverde in the 8th round.
Takayama would return to the ring 4 months later, when he took on Korean foe In Soo Jang as part of a Japan Vs Korea card at Korakuen Hall. On paper this was a tough test for Takayama, but he made it look easy. He wobbled Jang several times in the opening minute or so, before dropping him with a hard left hand. The bout continued after the first knockdown, but not for long, with the referee stepping in when Jang was rocked only a few moments later.
It was another 4 months before Takayama would return to the ring again, where he took on 2018 Super Flyweight Rookie of the Year Tetsuro Ohashi in a bout for the Japanese Youth Super Flyweight title. Before the bout Takayama stated that he felt this was his real debut, it was the first time he had faced a Japanese fighter and his first 8 round. On paper this was a brilliant match up, and it lived up to expectations.
In the first round Takayama dropped Ohashi, with a short left hand. In round 2 Takayama found himself on the canvas from a sensation straight left hand from Ohashi. The bout was a real high skilled, war, with both men knowing they hard the power to put the other down. In the end however it was Takayama's power that proved vital, stopping Ohashi in the 8th round, whilst narrowly down on all 3 cards. Takayama would drop Ohashi twice in the 8th round, with the corner throwing in the towel, and realising their man, who had put in an amazing effort, was simply done.
Having claimed the youth title in just his third bout Takayama is expected to be fast tracked over the next year or two. He was scheduled to return to the ring on March 17th, when he was expected to face Sophon Klachun, however that bout is now in limbo following the JBC's announcement that boxing would be suspended during the month of March. On paper it's a step backwards, following the win over Ohashi, but a stay busy fight followed by a step up in summer and then moving towards senior titles in 2021 wouldn't be a bad plan at all for Takayama, who isn't ready for top domestic guys, but can move his way there over the next year, or year and a bit.
Sadly for fans who haven't seen him, the only quality footage of him is on Boxing Raise, who have his second and third professional bouts on their service.
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