This coming Wednesday we're going to see a new Japanese Youth champion being crowned at Bantamweight as the enigmatic and exciting Takahiro Tai (3-0, 3) takes on the talented but light punching Fumiya Fuse (10-1, 1) in a very interesting and well matched bout between two promising young fighters. Both men are 23 years old, both a very well regarded, both are seen as very promising fighters and they have very, very different styles.
Of the two men Fuse is the more experienced and the more technically well schooled fighter. The youngster from the Watanabe Gym made his professional debut in 2017 and by the end of the year had won the All Japan Rookie of the Year crown, beating 4 unbeaten fighters along the way. The following year he made his international debut, fighting in South Korea and stepped into 8 rounds in 2019, before losing to the brilliant Toshiya Ishii. Since that loss however he has gotten back on the right track, beating Melmark Dignos and Fuya Tomita.
In the ring Fuse is a wonderfully talented boxer, with nice hand speed, an aggressive mentality, but very light punches. Despite lacking power he is very fun to watch, lets his shots go in bunches, controls distance well with fast feet and very fast hands. Sadly Fuse's lack of power is his big downfall and he struggles to get respect of opponents, even when he lands clean, which he does a lot. He picks shots really well, switches things up well, but really can't hurt opponents and that is something that will be a major problem for him down the line. Defensively he's decent, he has a good guard and he moves well, but can be caught going in straight lines at times, thankfully it's not a common thing but it does happen.
Whilst Fuse is the more well known the more interesting fighter is Takahiro Tai, a switch hitting boxer-puncher who gets into the ring with the intention of putting on a show and increasing his profile. Unlike many impressive amateurs in Japan Tai decided to turn professional with his father's gym, and take more control over his career than had he joined a bigger gym. That has allowed him to be moved quickly and show what he can do without needing a slow build up. Although only 3 fights into his career he has already shown a real charisma in the ring, an exciting style, heavy hands and the mentality that suggests he wants to make fans sit up and pay attention. Sadly though he has also looked like a fighter who is flawed, and depends on his athletic ability, strength and power rather than his actual boxing ability.
Since turning professional, with his debut coming late last year, Tai has beaten some solid domestic level fighters, including Koichi Wakita and Joe Tanooka. He has looked flawed, open, and defensively flawed, but he's beaten the fight out of more technically capable fighters and has got the combination of speed, power, strength and aggression to go a long way domestically. He'll certainly need to polish up before thinking about international titles, and focus less on entertaining, but we dare say he has a more polished style in his locker for when he'll need it, and so far he's simply not needed it. Instead he's been happy to have fun, to entertain, and to get fans talking, even if it has resulted in him taking some extra shots as a result.
Coming in to this the speed and technical edges are both with Fuse, but the power, strength and physical side of things are all with Tai. Sadly for Fuse we think the physical side of things will be the difference maker here and that despite a good start, Fuse will be broken down in the middle rounds, with Tai going on to stop his man and win the title.
Prediction - Tai TKO6
On October 19th we are expecting fireworks at Korakuen Hall thanks to a mouth watering OPBF Bantamweight title bout between the unbeaten Kazuki Nakajima (10-0-1, 8) and former champion Keita Kurihara (15-6, 13). On paper this might not look like a special bout, or something worth getting too excited about but, as we've learned over the years, records don't do the fighting and instead that's the job of the fighters. In this case we have two men who are both happy to have a war, both have fight changing power, and both have a lot of flaws that the other will look to target.
The 28 year old champion won the belt back in May when he took a competitive decision over Kai Chiba to claim the title, the first of his career. That was only the third time Nakajima had seen the final bell since debuting in 2017, and it was his most polished performance to date. In fact given how he had looked in the past he seemingly re-invented himself for the bout and showed that he was more than a basic puncher, which he had looked at times. He still looked flawed, tense, slow and tight, but there was more polish there and he has clearly been developing over the last year or two at the Ohashi Gym.
In the ring Nakajima is very basic, he's flat footed, he's not the most fluid of fighters, but he is a legitimate puncher, who has frightening power and has a very textbook-like style. He fights as a southpaw, making him awkward, but due to his lack of speed he can be out boxed, out moved and out though, as we saw in 2020 when he was very lucky to get a draw against Seiya Tsutsumi. The power of Nakajima is particularly potent early on, with 5 of his wins coming in the opening round, but his shots continue to be thudding much deeper in bouts, as we saw in his win against Yoshihiro Utsumi in 2018, where he broke Utsumi up in 7 rounds. If you can keep him moving, and not allow him to set himself, Nakajima looks very basic and poor, but if you stand at range and don't use lateral movement, or even worse engage him in a mid distance war, Nakajima's power will almost certainly be a difference maker.
The challenger, also aged 28, is a very different type of fighter to Nakajima, but shares some of the same strengths, and weaknesses. Kurihara is less of a flat footed puncher, and more of an aggressive, puncher-fighter, who looks to take the fight to an opponent, and get into range for his bombs. Technically he's very flawed, but very tough, exciting and heavy handed. Unlike Nakajima, who needs to be set to land his power, he can throw bombs from any where, and seems at his best coming forward. He's open to counter shots, and doesn't have the quickest of feet, but is very much a fighter at heart wanting to cause chaos in the ring and force a war up close, beating the fight out of opponents. Sadly for him, though similarly to Nakajima, it's boxer-movers that give him problems and we saw that earlier this year when he lost the OPBF title to Takuma Inoue, who used basic boxing fundamentals to make Kurihara look very limited. Against fighters looking for a fight however, Kurihara is a real threat to anyone.
Although his record might suggest he's limited Kurihara is not a typical 15-6 (13) fighter. He lost 4 of his first 7 and has gone 12-2 (10) since then with his only defeats in recent years coming against Hiroaki Teshigawara and Takuma Inoue, two world title contenders. In his last 14 bouts he has proven to be a top domestic level, and regional level, fighter who has managed to beat the likes of Ryan Lumacad, Kazuki Tanaka, Yuki Strong Kobayashi, Warlito Parrenas and Sukkasem Kietyongyuth. He has looked like a devastating fighter, and whilst we have seen him out boxed, in both the loss to Inoue and his controversial win over Kobayashi, he is very, very dangerous in the ring.
Given the styles, and mentalities, of the two men we can't see this one being dull. Instead we expect the fight to be tense early on, with Nakajima looking to take center ring quickly, setting his feet and trying to catch Kurihara coming in. Kurihara on the other hand will look to get a feel for Nakajima's power, speed and timing. After 3 or 4 rounds we expect to see Kurihara begin to feel comfortable and up his tempo, trying to take the fight to Nakajima. When that happens we'll start to see a fire fight, and we wouldn't be surprised to see both men being dropped.
We know this is a fire fight in the making, and when we get bouts like that it's hard to pick a winner. We will however be edging to Kurihara, thanks to his higher level experience. Though can just as easily see the more polished Nakajima winning with his straighter, more accurate punches.
Prediction - Kurihara TKO6
On October 19th we're set to see a new double champion being crowned in Japan at 140lbs as the unbeaten pairing of Andy Hiraoka (17-0, 12) and Jin Sasaki (11-0, 10) clash for both the Japanese national and WBO Asia Pacific titles. Notably however this is a match that genuinely doesn't need titles to be a must watch match up as we get two unbeaten youngsters risking their records in a bout that promises genuine fireworks, excitement, thrills and danger. In fact this among the very best bouts that we could make in Asia at 140lbs, and seems destined to be something very, very special for fans at the legendary Korakuen Hall this coming Tuesday.
Of the two men it's the 24 year old Hiraoka who is more well known internationally. The Ohashi promoted fighter has been showcased in the US on Top Rank shows a couple of times, and has shown some potential in his wins over Rogelio Casarez and Rickey Edwards. Prior to his US excursions though he was coming along nicely as a prospect in Japan winning his first 14 bouts before making his US debut. In those early bouts he had reached the All Japan Rookie of the Year final, though was unable to compete due to health reasons, won the Japanese Youth title, and scored a very notable 10 round win over Akihiro Kondo. He had proven himself as a domestic prospect, but still had a lot to work on, and we've seen he still has areas to improve in his US bouts as well.
Whilst Hiraoka is the more well known of the two fighters, he's not someone who has looked the most polished. He's a tall, rangy, young kid, who started his athletic career as a runner before developing into a very promising boxer. He has a lot of enviable tools in his kit, such as his height, reach, wide shoulders, speed, stamina power and atheltic ability, but is very much a fighter who is still developing as a boxer, and his lack of amateur experience does show in his performances. He's also a man who hasn't always looked comfortable in the ring, and we've seen him hurt before, with Hiraoka battling through adversity to take home wins more than once. He has answered plenty of questions, but still has a lot of question marks hanging over his chin, his heart and what he does when he's taking big shots or under intense pressure.
Aged just 20 Jin Sasaki is very much the type of fighter who is looking to break out, and has really created a lot of buzz in the last 18 months or so thanks to some impressive, destructive, exciting, flawed and heavy handed displays. He's, at times, very raw, very flawed, and almost looks unskilled at times, but he's also a truly brutal puncher, with a must watch style, and a willingness to bet on himself every time he's in the ring. Unlike many Japanese fighters there is an aura of cockiness and arrogance surrounding Sasaki. That confidence gives him an air of being a man "you want to see lose", but his power, and excitement factor leave him being someone you want to follow, see more of, and be entertained by. In many ways he's a breath of fresh air for Japanese boxing, and was very much one of the few winners from the Pandemic era of boxing in Japan, with A-Sign boxing showcasing him on their YouTube events.
Watching Sasaki is like watching a wrecking ball. He's very, very heavy handed and wins over the likes of Shun Akaiwa, Tatsuya Miyazaki and Aso Ishiwaki in 2020 really helped put him on the map. Earlier this year however he really struggled in a 2-round fire fight with Kaiki Yuba. That bout saw Sasaki coming close to being stopped, more than once, before being bailed out by his power, when he seemed close to done. That performance against Yuba showed that Sasaki has balls of steel, and that stereotypical Japanese will to win. That will to win makes him almost as dangerous as his lights out power and ultra-aggressive in ring style. He comes to fight, he comes to pressure, and he comes to land big shots. From the off. He can be out boxed, he can be made to miss, and he gives opponents chances to punish him, but if he lands we know he can turn bouts on their head in an instant.
We certainly feel Hiraoka, for all his flaws, his the much better boxer. He's the more polished, the technical, and whilst not an in ring genius, he has a much better boxing brain. However as we saw when Sasaki fought Yuba, another much better boxer, he only needs to land one good shot to turn a fight around. That what we expect to see again here. We suspect Hiraoka will look to control the fight behind his long reach, catching Sasaki numerous times in the first few rounds, but won't be able to keep Sasaki at bay and sooner or later the younger man will get in a good, clean, hurtful shot. We then suspect that Hiraoka will not be given a chance to recover, with Sasaki unloading on him and forcing a stoppage.
Prediction - Sasaki TKO4
This coming Saturday we'll get a bit of a treat in Japan as Super Flyweight triple crown champion Ryoji Fukunaga (14-4, 14) returns to the ring to defend his WBO Asia Pacific, OPBF and Japanese titles against unbeaten challenger Hayate Kaji (15-0, 9), in a bout that promises to be explosive, exciting and action packed. Whilst the bout won't get much international attention, it is a bout in a hotly competitive division, the winner could find themselves on the verge of a world title bout and it's one that should be something a little bit special given the styles and mentalities of the two men involved.
Of the two fighters it's clearly the champion who will go in as the favourite. The 35 year old has really impressed in recent years and has managed to unify his three titles thanks to big wins over Froilan Saludar and Kenta Nakagawa. In those bouts we saw Fukunaga being hurt, being forced to grit out some tough moments, but also fight like a man full of determination, getting through the rough patches and fighting like a man possessed. Sadly for Saludar and Nakagawa the hard hitting Fukunaga is a brutally heavy handed guy, with a high work rate, and steely determination, and he managed to stop both. With 14 stoppages in 14 wins, it's obvious he's a dangerous fighter, but he's also a fighter who is improving, even in his mid 30's, showing more maturity, a better boxing brain, and a growing under-standing of the sport.
Early in his career Fukunaga looked poor. He lost on his debut, in 2013, and lost again 2 years later, in an opening round TKO loss to Ryo Matsubara. Since then however he has really come a long way and both of his more recent losses were in competitive bouts to decent fighters, Yuta Matsuo and Kongfah CP Freshmart. He has built from those losses and now looks like someone who could land a world title fight before ending his career. Like many fighters in Japan he has learned from tough set backs, he has had to learn the hard way, and even with 4 losses on his record we can't write him off.
Whilst Fukunaga has improved following some early set backs the same can't really be said of Kaji. The 24 year old Kaji burst on to the pro scene back in 2015, as a teenager, winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year with an opening round KO win against Taiyo Inoue. He seemed destined to be a star at that point, and over the following couple of years his career continued to develop, and he would score decent wins over Jun Blazo and Kichang Kim. Sadly though things started to change, and there were rumours from those at Teiken that Kaji wasn't listening to trainers, and soon afterwards his performances start to suffer, with poor performances against the likes of Arnold Garde, Rey Orais and Diomel Diocos in 2019. He quickly went from a man people wanted to see getting a big fight into someone who no longer looked ready and seemed to be regressing. His power wasn't carrying up, and his performances seemed to show him just going through the motions, rather than trying to impress. It was as if his motivation was waning.
At his best Kaji is a hard hitting, aggressive fighter, who gets in to the ring with the intention of throwing a lot of hard leather. Sadly though that's not been the Kaji we've been seeing in recent bouts. Instead we've started to see Kaji become tamer, more timid, and whilst he is certainly more technical than he used to be there is a sense that he's very much a fighter trying to change styles, and is losing his identity as a result. He still looks like someone who could become someone special, but he's not looked good, at all, in recent bouts. His intensity has dropped, his power doesn't look vicious and he looks like someone who is boxing to orders, rather than fighting in a style that is natural to him.
We suspect that Fukunaga will look to bully the younger man early on, march forward and try to break down the challenger. Kaji will try to box, but we suspect after 4 or 5 rounds he'll elect to change styles, feeling that he needs to fight Fukunaga's aggression with more aggression of his own, and in the middle rounds we're expecting a war to break out. Sadly for Kaji we don't expect this to go well for him and by round 9 he'll be under intense pressure and the corner will need to think about saving him.
Kaji has got the skills and tools to win rounds, but we really don't see him having what is needed to win a fight with Fukunaga, and sadly for the challenger we're expecting this to become a true fire fight sooner rather than later. If Kaji can keep a busy jab, and move well, he has a chance, but we struggle to see him keeping that up for 12 rounds against the pressure, power and determination of the champion.
Prediction - TKO9 Fukunaga
This coming Wednesday fight fans in Kyoto will be watching out for a WBC world title fight, as Kenshiro Teraji defends against Masamichi Yabuki. That bout isn't the only title bout on the show however, as Aoba Mori (7-2-1, 1) takes on Yuga Inoue (11-2-1, 2) for the Japanese Youth Flyweight title. On paper this isn't a big bout, not by any stretch, but it's an interesting bout between two young men each looking to make a statement and begin to move their career's forward in a big way.
Of the two men it's Inoue who's the more well known having on the All Japan Rookie of the Year back in 20017, as well as having had a brilliant bout for the Japanese Minimumweight title in 2018, with Kai Ishizawa, and facing strong domestic competition since then. Aged 22 he is a promising fighter, even with a couple of losses to his name, but doesn't yet appear to be even close to the finish product, technically or physically.
Inoue is a very skilled boxer-mover. He's light on his feet, likes to fight behind his jab and unleash short but sharp combinations before getting out of harm. As he's grown he has developed more to his game, but still seems to lack in terms of his power game, and whilst he does look a lot stronger than he was when he faced Ishizawa he stills looks like he's a long way from reaching his physical prime and we might not see the best of him for a while still. Sadly his lack of power is an issue, and when he takes on better fighters they will try to walk him down, with a lack of respect for what's coming back. That is something he will need to work on before even dreaming of taking on the best in the country.
Whilst Inoue has been on the radar for a while the same can't be said of Aoba Mori who really isn't too well known, even by those who follow Japanese domestic boxing. The 21 year old He debuted in 2017, losing on debut up at Bantamweight, but has slowly slipped down the weights and has been fighting around Flyweight, or Super Flyweight in most of his recent bouts. Sadly his competition doesn't really stand out, and there's not really any recognisable opponents on there. On paper this is, his biggest fight so far, by a huge margin though he should come in to the ring as the bigger man, the stronger man, and trickier man, given he's a southpaw.
Whilst there isn't too much footage of Aoba out there there is enough to get a look into what he brings to the ring. He's a someone who fights very upright, uses a nice southpaw jab, though looks very inexperienced at times, and does look like someone who is a youngster at the formative years of his career. He's not sharp, his footwork is rough and he often throws his left hand whilst well out of range. Despite there there are some nice things he does and he does look aggressive, he looks like he comes to press and is improving fight by fight. Sadly, like Inoue, he lacks power and seems to slap rather than punch through the target.
Whilst we know Aoba will be the taller, bigger man, we do feel this is too much of a step up in class for him. He will have moments, but we feel that Inoue's more rounded boxing, more eye catching flurries and higher level of experience will prove to be the difference in a very competitive but drama free 8 rounder. Don't expect to see either man being all that hurt, or dropped, but that shouldn't take away from this being hotly contested, and both men having a chance to show what they can do at times.
Prediction - UD8 Inoue
This coming Saturday the Korakuen Hall plays host to the next Japanese title fight, and will see Rikito Shiba (5-1, 3) clash with Shokichi Iwata (6-0, 4) for the now vacant Japanese Light Flyweight title. For Shiba this will be a chance to claim a second belt, having previously held the Japanese Youth title, whilst Iwata, who has been touted as a future world champion, will be getting his first at title level. Despite both men only having 6 fights each the bout is a perfect example of the match making in Japan, that doesn't protect high regarded hopefuls, and instead matches them hard early on, and lets them shine with out waiting for an opportunity at domestic level.
The 25 year old Shiba was a solid amateur before turning professional, in 2018, scoring a very good win over Hiroki Inamine on debut. He then added good wins over Yasuhiro Tanaka, Hizuki Saso and Shisui Kawabata, to claim the Japanese Youth throne in 2019. Sadly for Shiba his winning run came to an end in December 2019 when he faced off with Masamichi Yabuki in a Japanese title eliminator, succumbing to the power of Yabuki in 4 rounds. Since that loss Shiba has fought just once, taking a 7th round TKO win over Hideyuki Watanabe, in a bout that really saw him under a lot of pressure, and take more punishment than expected.
In the ring Shiba is a solid boxer-puncher. He's not a massive hitter, but he gets respect, and his stoppage over Watanabe was an impressive one, but he is a very talented boxer, with a good amateur back ground, a good understanding of the ring and lovely speed. His real issue however is that he often looks under-sized, a bit on the lighter side, and we saw against Yabuki, he's not the biggest, strongest or toughest. Whilst Yabuki is a monstrous puncher, and not many in the division hit like he does, it was still a worry to see Shiba hurt almost every time Yabuki connected with a clean shot. That sort of fight can damage a fighter mentally, and it's going to be a major test for him here, following his poor performance against Watanabe as well.
Whilst Shiba was a good amateur his success in the unpaid ranks was over-shadowed by that of fellow 25 year old Shokichi Iwata, who was regarded as one of the top amateur in Japan at one point, and holds notable amateur wins against the likes of Kosei Tanaka and Takuma Inoue. He made his professional debut in late 2018, doing so on a show in the US, and ended 2019 with a 4-0 record, without scoring a win of note. Thankfully he stepped up with wins over Ryo Narizuka and, most recently, Toshimasa Ouchi this past June. Sadly for him he hasn't yet kicked on in the way many had anticipated, but this opportunity against Shiba is a huge one, and a win would boost his career massively, moving him towards bigger and better fights.
In the ring Iwata is a very good boxer puncher, who can brawl when he needs to, has very respectable power, speed and movement and knows how to change the tempo of bouts. His jab is solid and his work on the inside is very much under-rated. Notably we don't think we've seen anything close to the best from Iwata, who feels like he's been fighting in 3rd gear a lot of the time and it would be really exciting to see what he can do when he's really being tested, again not something we've really seen since he turned professional.
Whilst we think Shiba has the potential to win this title in the future we are going in to this one feeling like the bout will instead be a show case for for Iwata who will look to set the tempo early on, and control the bout there after, breaking down Shiba as the rounds go on. Shiba will try to counter, as he did against Watanabe, but we feel the body shots of Iwata will take the fight out of him.
Prediction - Iwata TKO9
Over the last 4 years or so Japanese had two notable Lightweights, one travelling for overseas fights against some of the biggest names in the sport and one staying at home, unifying domestic and regional titles whilst developing a reputation as a dangerous boxer puncher.
Of course the fighter who has been fighting internationally is Masayoshi Nakatani, who has faced the likes of Teofimo Lopez, Felix Verdejo and Vasyl Lomachenko in recent years. The other is the unbeaten Shuichiro Yoshino (13-0, 10), who has unified the Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles whilst remaining in the East and making a solid claim as the best Japanese Lightweight. This coming Thursday he'll be back in the ring, looking to defend his Japanese title as he takes on youngster Shuma Nakazato (10-1-3, 7). The focus for Yoshino is to win here and then advance into the types of bouts we've been seeing Nakatani enjoy, whilst Nakazato will be looking to claim his biggest win to date.
For those who haven't seen the two men Yoshino is someone who really should be on your radar. He was moved incredibly quickly through the Japanese domestic scene, winning the Japanese domestic title less than 2 years later his debut, with a TKO win against Spicy Matsushita. Since then he has really come into his own, making 6 defenses of the Japanese title and unifying it with the two regional titles to become a triple crown champion. Along the way he has shown a bit of every thing, with some brutal knockouts, including one against the once touted Harmonito Dela Torre, good boxing skills, as seen last year against Valentine Hosokawa, and desire to win, coming from behind against Izuki Tomioka in early 2020. He has however looked like someone who needs to face bigger, better, more testing opponents and is pretty in need of a major international test.
In the ring Yoshino is a genuine talent. He's dangerous, he's talented, he's gutsy and he's a man with a decent boxing brain, when he needs to use it. He has been genuinely tested on the Japanese scene, with Tomioka, Matsishita and Yoshitaka Kato all asking questions of him, but he has always come out on top thanks to his strong amateur background, very heavy hands, good timing, and the versatility that makes him a real all round. He can boxing, he can brawl, he can come forward and he can box as a counter puncher. Given those tools in his arsenal he is more multi-faceted than Nakatani, though lakes the awkward size and toughness of his countryman.
Aged 24 Shuma Nakazato is an unknown outside of Japan, though is someone who shouldn't be over-looked or ignored. He began his career at Featherweight, as a teenager, but since then he has matured in a solid Super Featherweight. At 130lbs he has given Hironori Mishiro a real test in 2018, before notching up wins over Kanta Fukui and Yuji Awata, as well as fighting to a draw with Yoshimitsu Kimura in a sensational 8 round bout last year. In those bouts we've seen a gutsy, talented, but flawed young fighter showing improvements with every fight, but very much looking like an inexperienced youngster who is still developing as a fighter.
In the ring Nakazato is a solid boxer-puncher, but sadly he's very much an average Super Featherweight moving up in weight here, which will not serve him well. He's quicker than Yoshino, he's younger, but he we don't feel he has fight changing power at 135lbs, or the the experience needed to really test Yoshino. Instead we see Nakazato making a good start, boxing well, having success with his speed and movement early on, but coming undone when Yoshino decides to turn things around, and has a read om his man.
We expect Nakazato to bee very competitive through 4 rounds but and up being stopping the second half of the fight.
Predoction - TKO8 Yoshino
Back in January we saw Japanese veteran Gakuya Furuhashi (27-8-1, 15) put in a career defining performance to break down Yusaku Kuga and claim the Japanese Super Bantamweight title, and in doing so gave us one of the very best fights of 2021. On August 2nd we see Furuhashi return to the ring to make his first defense of the Japanese title as he takes on 23 year old youngster Seigo Hanamori (7-3, 5), in what look like an easy first defense for the talented and all action champion. Whilst this looks like a mismatch, we do need to take a closer look and see if Hanamori can actually be a banana skin for Furuhashi, and whether, maybe, Furuhashi has had a career that is at it's peak, before a very, very sharp come down.
For those who haven't followed Furuhashi the 33 year old is a genuine fan favourite in Kanagawa and nearby Tokyo. He turned professional way back in 2007 and won the 2008 All Japan Rookie of the Year, winning his first 8 professional bouts along the way. Sadly however he started to pile up losses soon afterwards and went from 8-0 to 10-3 in just over 2 years. Just a few fights later he had fallen to 13-5 and it seemed like his career was going to be spent trying to fight his way out of the domestic mix. Since then however he has gone 15-3-1, fought for the Japanese title 3 times, winning it last year in his third shot, and held future world champion Yukinori Oguni to a majority draw in 2015. He has also maturing perfectly with age, winning his last 9 fights, the longest run of his career, including really good wins against Ryoichi Tamura, in 2019, and Kuga, earlier this year.
In the ring Furuhashi is a true blood and guts warrior. He gets in the ring, he wears his heart on his sleeve, and he fights. He's not a boxer, he's a fighter. He sets a high tempo, walks through fire when he needs to, sets a high pace, and really lets his shots go. He can be out boxed, he can be hurt, he can be beat, but at domestic level he's a real handful due to his incredible hunger and desire, toughness, work rate and refuse to lose attitude. It's those traits, rather than his boxing skills, that have seen him beating Tamura and Kuga in his last two bouts, and it's those traits that have made him such a huge fan favourite among the Japanese domestic fan base.
Whilst Furuhashi is a genuine name on the Japanese domestic scene the same cannot be said of Seigo Hanamora, who is, in fairness, a pretty obscure youngster, even for those who follow the Japanese scene in depth. He began his career in 2016 and had mixed success from the off, going 2-2 and 3-3 early in his days as a professional. Notably however he has won his last 4, all by stoppage, and has built some momentum coming into this fight. Sadly however his competition in those bouts has been very, very poor, and the one notable name on his record is Haruki Ishikawa, who stopped him in 2 rounds in 2018, and recently won a Japanese Youth title. Ishikawa is a very good fighter, but losing to him in 2 rounds is not a sign that someone is ready for a Japanese title fight. Especially not against a fighter like Furuhashi.
In the ring Hanamori is an aggressive fighter who throws everything with bad intentions. He's fun to watch, due to his aggressive nature, but he does leave himself open, he's very much there to be hit and he doesn't seem to hit as hard as he seems to think he does. He hammered away on John Yano in 2019 and took 5 rounds to stop him, and he had to put a lot into those 5 rounds before Yano ultimately wilted. Against someone like Furuhashi, who won't be bothered by his power, he's on to a hiding.
Hanamori might, one day, develop into a Japanese champion. It took Furuhashi over a decade and we might see the same for Hanamori. Here however we can't see anything but a loss for Hanamori. He'll come in confident, but be broken down, beaten up, and eventually stopped by a fighter who simply has too much of everything for him. Furushashi will take the fight to him, and will simply grind him down, likely within 5 or 6 rounds.
Prediction - Furuhashi TKO6
On August 2nd we'll see a new Japanese Youth Minimumweight champion being crowned as Shunsuke Isa (8-3-1, 1) clashes with Yuni Takada (8-7-2, 3) for a title recently vacated by Kai Ishizawa. On paper this is a clear mismatch, with Isa being the clear favourite, however as we all know records don't fight and we can't help but think that Isa may have bitten off more than they can chew here.
The 23 year old Isa, from Kawasaki, has been a professional since 2016, when he scored a TKO win over Dai Kamimachi. Despite scoring a stoppage in his debut he has shown no power at all since then, failing to register any stoppages in his 11 subsequent match ups. Early on in his career he showed some real promise, winning his first 4 bouts before losing to Retsu Akabane in the 2017 East Japan Rookie of the Year. Since then he has had very mixed results, going 4-2-1, and struggling in a number of those wins. More notable than the results however is the fact that in 2019 he was out pointed by Yuni Takada, the man he will be facing against here.
In the ring Isa is a fun fighter to watch. Despite his lack of power he lets shots go, he uses a lot of movement, and is a surprisingly aggressive fighter for someone with little to no stopping power. He's quick, he's full of energy and he's looks like someone who could develop into a decent fighter, one day. Sadly though he looks very much rough around the edges. His lack of physical maturity and power is one thing but he's also lacking in terms of accuracy, punch selection and at times composure. Things he will improve with experience and age, but for now there are clear flaws that fighters can take advantage of.
With just 8 wins in 17 bouts Yuni Takada has the record of a very, very limited fighter. What those numbers don't show however, is that the 23 year old is no push over and that he has faced some very, very good fighters over the years. His opponents include recent Japanese title challengers Tatsuro Nakashima and Huzuko Saso, recent WBO Asia Pacific title challenger Toshiki Kawamitsu, as well as former Japanese champion Norihito Tanaka and the hugely talented Kai Ishizawa. Not only that but he's actually managed to be competitive with some of those, earning a draw with Saso and taking rounds from Ishizawa and Tanaka. So whilst his record looks poor, Takada is certainly a better fighter than his record suggests.
In the ring Takada has a really some really nice tools in his aresenal. He has an excellent jab, good movement, good balance, and under-stands what he's doing in the ring. Like Isa he lacks power, but does seem much more polished, and is very quick. We'd like to see more from him in terms of work rate, but when he does pick up his pace he does look like a real prospect, despite his record. He's also pretty accurate when under pressure, which he used to great effect in the first bout with Isa in 2019. Since then he has had some of his toughest fights, best performance and learned so much.
With Takada having already beaten Isa, and having learned so much since then, we strongly favour him here. Isa has the tools to come good, and we think he will in the future, but right now we think he lacks the power needed to get Takada's respect, or hurt him. We think that whilst he will have moments, he will be out worked, out landed and out fought, in an entertaining, competitive but clear win for Takada.
Prediction - UD8 Takada
Over the last few years no Japanese title has been treat quite as strangely as the national Bantamweight title, which would be well within it's rights to have some sort of complex after what it's been through. Since Ryo Akaho won it in August 2017 it has been fought for just 3 times, successfully defended once, vacated twice, and had a host of bouts for it cancelled due to health issues, such as illness and a fighters missing weight. It must get the feeling that no one really wants it. Despite a lineage that includes legends of the sport, such as Yoshio Shirai, Naoto Takahashi, Joichiro Tatsuyoshi, Yasuei Yakushiji, Toshiaki Nishioka and Shinsuke Yamanaka.
That lineage will have another name added to it this coming Monday as Kyosuke Sawada (14-2-1, 6) takes on Ikuro Sadatsune (11-4-3, 4) for the currently vacant belt. Whilst the title may have been treated badly in recent years, it's clear, coming in to this, that both of these men are desperate to call themselves a Japanese champion and both are looking for the biggest win of their career, so far.
Of the two men it's Sawada who has earned this shot more. He actually earned a shot at the title back in 2019, when he beat Kazuki Tanaka in a Japanese title eliminator. That was meant to set up a bout with the then champion Yusuke Suzuki, who defeated Sawada back in 2013, but sadly Suzuki was forced into retirement following his bout with Yuta Saito. As a result Sawada was sat waiting for a shot at the vacant title when Covid19 destroyed the Japanese boxing schedule. That wait went on, and on, until Sadatsune stepped up to the challenge and and we ended up getting this bout arranged for a date in May. A date that would be postponed it's self due to Covid19 forcing a number of shows in Japan to be scrapped.
Despite all the issues around the title and bout we're expecting a good one here between a former amateur standout, Sawada, and someone who turned professional young and has learned the sport on the job, becoming a very good fighter in the process.
The 33 year old Sawada has been a professional since 2013, following an amateur career that had more than 80 bouts and around 60 wins. He turned professional with high expectations on his shoulders, but was matched hard from the off, and suffered back to back losses to Yusuke Suzuki, in Sawada's debut, and Hiroaki Teshigawara to start his career 0-2. Since then however he has turned things around, going 14-0-1 (6) and scoring notable wins over the likes of Kinshiro Usui, Yosuke Fujihara, Keita Nakano and Kazuki Tanaka. Those wins had lead him to becoming one of the main players on the Japanese domestic scene at 118lbs and one of the more under-rated domestic fighters.
In the ring Sawada really does rely on his amateur background. A lot. He's a pure boxer with good movement, good technical boxing skills and the sort of fighter who likes to do things at range on his jab and his straight shots. When dragged inside he can handle himself, but is very much happier at range where his shots seem to flow effortlessly. At his best he's a joy to watch, with fluid combinations and sort, though not destructive, power. At the age of 33 however, and with 21 months of ring rust coming in to this, we do wonder what he's going to look like here.
Aged 23 Sadatsune is a boxing baby, however he's been a professional since he was 17 and debuted way back in September 2015. He began his career with a 6 fight unbeaten record, going 5-0-1, before a loss in 2016, at the East Japan Rookie of the Year final, ended that run. Sadly he then struggled to get going again and fell from 5-0-1 to 6-2-2 in less than a year. It seemed like his career was going nowhere before he rediscovered some form winning 3 in a row before two razor thin losses in 2019, losing to Kenshin Oshima and Sho Ishida in bouts that he had a very valid claim to have won. Those setbacks could have been big but Sadatsune just kept ploughing on and picked two wins to get his career back on track before the pandemic struck, and slowed his ascent and he's now been out of action for around 18 months.
In the ring Sadatsune isn't as well schooled or as natural a boxer as Sawada, but he is a fighter who is improving with every fight, is criminally under-rated. He's strong, tough, has very over-looked technical skills and has more than held his own with the likes of Sho Ishida. He's also a southpaw, which further adds problems to facing him, and although he's not a big puncher he will hit harder as he matures physically, and now at 23 we suspect he will begin to show more and more pop. Since his 2017 loss to Kai Chiba, his second loss, he has never looked a clear second best in the ring, and has instead looked like a really hungry fighter who wants to prove something every time he fights. Whilst it is worth nothing that he's been inactive he does actually work at the boxing he fights out of, and we suspect with that in mind he will have stayed fit over the last 18 months or so and we think that could pay dividends here.
Had this bout taken place in 2020, we would have favoured Sawada, who at 32 would have been at the back end of his prime and would have been coming in on the back of the win over Kazuki Tanaka. With the long lay off however a lot of small things have changed against him. He's been inactive, he's aged, he's got ring rust, the momentum of his win over Tanaka, Nakano, Fujihara and Usui are now history and in that same time Sadatsune has matured and at 23, heading to 24, he's coming into his physical prime, he's developing as a man and is moving from a fresh faced boy to a fully fledged man.
We think the delay will actually swing this one from a Sawada win to a Sadatsune win, albeit in a very, very close decision. We see his youth, energy and the time Sawada has been out of the ring being the keys in a close, well fought, technical bout. We expect to see Sadatsune have that extra little bit of hunger and energy when he needs it, and to just bite down that bit harder than Sawada. It'll be close, it'll be amazingly competitive, but we see Sadatsune just, narrowly, coming away with the victory.
Prediction - SD10 Sadatsune
Having canned the old "Full Schedule" of Asianboxing we have instead decided to concentrate more on the major bouts. This section, the "Preview" section will look at major bouts involving OPBF and national titles. Hopefully leading to a more informative style for, you the reader.