In May 2019 one of the fighters we looked at in our introducing series was Tulio Kuwabata (then 2-0, 2). Since we looked at the Osakan last year things haven't got amazingly well for him, fighting twice and going 1-1 to see his current record stand at 3-1 (2). He's gone from being regarded as a prospect of note to someone who many are doubting has the ability to go to the highest those at the Muto gym expected and showed real issues in his most recent bout, which came in December 2019. Sadly Kuwabata failed to get back on the horse and pick up a win before the world was plunged into chaos, and as a result has been out of the ring for more than 8 months and is more than a year removed from his last win, in May 2019.
When we spoke about Kuwabata last year he was days away from his third professional bout. That was originally planned to be a bout against the highly experienced John Mark Apolinario in what was scheduled to be a 6 rounder. Sadly Apolinario had to pull out of the bout and Kuwabata ended up taking on the previously unbeaten Eric Pulgo, in what looked like a genuinely decent test.
Despite the change of opponent Kuwabata dealt with Pulgo without too many issues. In fact the Japanese youngster looked sharp, accurate, light on his feet and had a very nice jab. There were areas to work on, but for a man in his third professional bout there was a lot to like, and a lot of areas where his team could see mistakes and work on them. For all the nice work he showed with his jab there there was defensive issues in his performance, though he got away with them as Pulgo lacked the experience to punish him and make him pay for them. In the end Kuwabata won every round against Pulgo in what turned out to be little more than a public sparring session for the Japanese youngster.
In December Kuwabata took another step up, going from willing opponent there to lose, in Pulgo, to the hard hitting Ken Jordan, who boasted an 8-1-2 (7) record. The Filipino hadn't beaten anyone of note, but was entering the bout as a hungry fighter. Jordan had previously won a minor title and looked like was a genuine prospect from the Philippines, despite an early career loss to the under-rated Jimboy Haya.
Despite Jordan being regarded as a decent prospect few would have expected him to do what he did to Kuwabata. That was stop him, in a round. From the off Jordon looked relaxed and calm, and like he knew of Kuwabata's defensive lapses, throwing his left hook regularly. Kuwabata managed to have moments but it was clear that Jordan wasn't the willing sparring partner that Pulgo had been. He had ambitions of his own and rocked Kuwabata with a sweeping left hook, before sending him down what appeared to be a glancing shot. Kuwabata got to his feet but couldn't the follow up onslaught from Jordan, who dropped him again. The bout was stopped, despite Jordan getting to his feet.
The loss to Jordan is a major setback for Kuwabata however it's certainly not the end. He was caught, his defensive flaws were punished, and the hype around him was burst, big time. That is far, far from the end however and given what he now knows about himself, there are areas he and his team can work on, go back to the drawing board, tidy up that defense, tighten up, get that back hand up and get it tighter. Jordan spotted the hole for the left hook quickly and repeatedly threw it, knowing it was there for him.
Also the hype about Kuwabata needed to be scaled back. He seemed too bothered about getting a gimmicky name, going with "Dekanarudo Torio", when his focus should have been more on the in ring action.
We don't think Kuwabata should be written off, but we do see him struggling above domestic level. Sadly for him however he's not going to get an easy one when he returns to the ring. Instead he will be returning on August 9th to take on former Japanese Super Flyweight champion Takayuki Okumoto, in what appears to a very, very hard match up for the youngster.
Whilst we do see him having a ceiling of domestic class, we think Kuwabata's potential could fall short of that if he's not matched softly after the Okumoto bout. We see him losing that and then having a lot of rebuilding to do. That's not what we expected to be saying 12 months ago, which is a shame. Don't ignore Kuwabata, but his stablemates like Yuske Mine, appear to have more long term potential than him.
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