As we all know a number of gyms in Japan are run by former fighters. A lot of those are run by former world champions such as Hideyuki Ohashi, Hiroki Ioka, Hiroshi Kawashima and Kiyoshi Hatanaka, others are run by less well known fighters, like Kazuhiro Ryuko. Although Ryuko was pretty notable, winning the Japanese and OPBF titles, challenging for a world title and holding a notable win against a young Celes Kobayashi, himself a current gym owner and former champion, he isn't a top name. Ryuko's gym however is a good one, and has a number of exciting prospects based there.
The pick of fighters from Ryuko's gym, known as the RK Boxing Family, is Rikuto Shiba (2-0, 1) [芝 力人], a 23 year old Flyweight hopeful who had a distinguished, though not standout, amateur career before turning professional last year and quickly catching the eye of fans.
Born in October 1995 Shiba managed to run up a 38-13 amateur record. That's not amazing but he was a key figure in the team of his high school and his University before his debut. As we're all too aware of the High School and University leagues in Japan are incredibly tough and whilst a 38-13 record is far from amazing it's a respectable record and not something to be sniffed at.
Shiba would turn professional in 2018, and make his debut on May 20th 2018 at the Ota-City Gymnasium, where he beat the then 2-0 Hiroki Inamine. This wasn't a typical debut however, as it came on a stacked card, headlined by Ryoichi Taguchi's bout with Hekkie Budler, which also saw Hiroto Kyoguchi defending his IBF Minimumweight title against Vince Paras. Although he beat Inamine he was forced to work for the win, dropping Inamine on route to a clear, but competitive, unanimous decision win.
Around 4 months after his debut Shiba returned to the ring for his second professional bout, taking on Yasuhiro Tanaka in a B Class tournament final. This was Tanaka's 11th professional bout, and he was looking to build on a solid win over Satoshi Tanaka. Despite the gulf in professional experience Shiba looked confident, calm and accurate. He showed cased a lovely sharp jab, good footwork, and a crisp hook, though did show some inexperience, when complaining about headclashes early in the bout. As the contest went on Shiba began to turn the screw, showcasing more of what he could do, doubling and tripling his hook and land solid clean right hands. Those blows took a toll and in round 5 the referee saved a tired looking Tanaka, who had taken some huge body shots and was forced to cover up on the ropes.
For fans wanting to watch Shiba's bout with Tanaka, it's available on Boxingraise.
Talented, sharp and powerful Shiba is an exciting fighter to watch, with good solid fundamentals. He's expected to have his third bout on April 11th in a Japanese Youth title eliminator and is eyeing his first title by the end of the year. Given his stiff competition he hasn't had things all his own way, but has shown a lot to get excited by. If he continues to impress he will almost certainly find himself in the Japanese rankings sooner, rather than later.
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