In the summer of 2019 we did an "Introducing..." on Japanese hopeful Shu Utsuki (then 4-0 (3), now 6-0, (5)). Since then he has has fought twice, as we'll go through in this week's "Revisiting".
Before we get on to what Utsuki's done recently it's worth noting what he had done previously. He had captained his University boxing Club and as an amateur had gone an excellent 81-27. As a professional he had shined in 2018 and within a year of his debut he had raced out to 4-0 (3), with decent low key wins against Da Xu and Jerry Castroverde. He had impressed but was still a rather obscure Japanese prospect, who was bouncing around the Super Featherweight and Lightweight divisions.
When we spoke about Utsuki last year he was just 9 days from his 5th professional bout, which was to be against Japanese based Venezuelan Omrri Bolivar. Going in to that bout he seemed to be stepping up in class and was arguably in the toughest match up of his professional career. At least that's how it looked.
Instead of being tested by Bolivar we saw the talented, and heavy handed, Utsuki blow out the Venezuelan in 3 rounds. This bout, which came on the under-card of Kazuto Ioka's bout with Aston Palicte, was a brutal KO by Utsuki at the start of round 3, showing his power was legit.
Utsuki would then build on that win a few months later when he defeated Thai foe Somphot Seesa in 2 rounds, finishing off Seesa with a third knockdown during the round.
Rather interestingly in early 2020 Japanese TV viewers got the chance to see Utsuki's 2019 bout with Castroverde, as it was, finally televised, almost a year after it took place. That performance was, by far, the most testing that Utsuki has had since entering the professional ranks. Although he managed to stop Castroverde in the 8th round he had been given a very, very serious test by the then Japanese based Filipino. That test was only passed after Utsuki landed some huge blows part way through the 8th round and forced the corner to throw in the towel and save Castroverde.
Like many of the recent Japanese prospects to turn from being solid amateurs to professional hopefuls Utsuki has a lot of things going for him. He has really solid balance, nice shot selection and imposing physical strength. Technically there is work for him to do, and he can be hit rather easily, which is disappointing for a man with over 100 amateur bouts to his name, but there is still a lot to get excited about.
Utsuki's power, strength and punching is all really impressive and we dare say that the hope, coming into 2020, was to have him knocking on the door of a domestic title fight before we got to 2021. Sadly 2020 has, for obvious reasons, not gone to plan for anyone but we will see Utsuki back in the ring before the year is over. In fact on October 30th we'll see Utsuki take on domestic foe Takayuki Sakai, in a decent looking 6 round Lightweight bout.
From when we first spoke about Utsuki his career has moved forward, but there is still a long, long way for him to go, and it's a shame that 2020 has slowed his momentum just as it seemed he was on the verge of something big. Fingers crossed 2021 does deliver something bigger for the talented fighter from the Watanabe Gym.
For those who haven't seen Utsuki before we have included his bout with Castroverde below.
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