Whilst there are some really big gyms in Japan that have fighters recognised well outside of the country other gyms are less well known. For every Teiken, Ohashi or Watanabe there's 20 or more gyms that even your hardcore boxing fan won't have heard of. One great example of that is the Kuratoki Boxing Gym in Wakayama. Though the gym is a pretty obscure one, it does have some talent among it's ranks, with the diamond in the rough being 2018 Rookie of the Year winner Yuri Takemoto (6-1-1, 3). He might not be well known, but the 22 Southpaw is a real hopeful worthy of attention.
Born in Osaka in 1996 the young Takemoto wasn't an amateur standout when he turned professional in 2017. There was no real expectations on his shoulders when he passed his C Class license pro-test in March 2017, just a few weeks before his 21st birthday, and in fact it's fair to say no one really took any notice of him on his debut. Since then however he has proven his ability and turned around a mixed start to his professional career into that of a very promising young fighter.
Going back to his debut, Takemoto debuted in June 2017 at the Big Wave in Wakayama, a venue he will now headline at on June 16th. He would secure a win on debut by stopping Kanta Fukui in the second round in one of the preliminary bouts, the card was a small one not many would have been there for Takemoto's bout. A couple of months after his debut he fought in Kyoto, on the under-card of the first match between Shinsuke Yamanaka and Luis Nery. Takemoto would lose a razor thin devision to local fighter Kensuke Nakamura, a stablemate of Kenshiro's. By razor thin, we really do mean razor thin, with all 3 judges having the bout scored 39-38 to Nakamura.
Takemoto would suffer another setback a few months later, fighting to a 4 round draw with Tomoya Kishine in Osaka, on a show that featured the likes of Juiki Tatsuyoshi and Hiroshige Osawa.
Since those back to back setbacks we've seen Takemoto go on an impressive run, winning 5 bouts in a row, with a massive 2018 which saw him win 4 bouts, become the Rookie of the Year and put his name on the radar of hardcore Japanese fans.
Takemoto's Rookie of the Year campaign began in May 2018 when he took on fellow novice Kazunori Harima, and scored a 53 second win. Takemoto dropped Harrima twice in the opening round, once with a right hand and once with a left hand. Interestingly this bout is available over the Boxing Raise service, and whilst he looked wild Takemoto was incredibly fun to watch.
The win over Harima saw Takemoto progress to the West Japan Rookie of the Year Semi-final, where he beat Takafumi Iwaya in Kobe.
Having won his West Japan Rookie of the Year semi Takemoto was scheduled to battle Temin Kimura in the regional final in September of 2018. Kimura however pulled out, and in November Takamoto blew out Teru Nobita, inside a round, to book his place in the All Japan final a month later. Going in to the bout Nobita was unbeaten, though failed to last 3 minutes with Takemoto.
Takemoto's final bout of 2018 was his All Japan Rookie of the Year final, where he took on the then unbeaten Hikari Mineta from the Teiken gym. Takemoto would drop his man 3 times in the opening round, though fail to stop Mineta, who put in a great effort to fight his way back into the contest. Despite Mineta's effort it was Takemoto who would take the decision, the win and the Rookie of the Year crown.
This past March we saw Takemoto fight for the first time since his Rookie win, and he defeated Filipino foe Reymond Empic over 6 rounds. He is now set to return where it all began, the Big Wave in Wakayama, where he will face Kiki Marciano on June 16th in what will be Takemoto's first 8 round bout. He'll be expected to stop Marciano, who has ben stopped in his last 2 bouts, but bigger and better things are surely just around the corner for the talented man from Wakayama.
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