The fate of a prospect can vary massively. Many get marked for the top and some of them reach the stars, become the fighters that their team, and themselves believed they could be. We've seen it recently with a who's who of Japanese youngsters like Naoya Inoue and Kosei Tanaka, among others.
Sadly not all touted youngsters go on to be a star, and instead of world titles they are battling to remain relevant, to make something of their career. That, unfortunately, appears to be the case with Riku Kano (14-4-1, 7), who debuted as a very young fighter in the Philippines, and would win a regional title aged 17, in Thailand. At the age of 18 he made his Japanese debut and in August 2016 he attempted to set a Japanese record as the youngster ever Japanese world champion. Unfortunately he lost that world title bout, being beaten by veteran Katsunari Takayama by technical decision. Since losing to Takayama Kano has gone 4-2, losing the two times he has stepped up in class.
This weekend Kano, at the age of just 21, is essentially fighting to get his career back on track, taking on Indonesian journeyman Mektison Marganti (5-10-1, 3) for the WBC Youth Light Flyweight title. Another setback for Kano and his hopes of ever being a major success will be hanging by a thread, whilst a win gives his career a shot in the arm, and gives him his third title following reigns as the WBA Asia and OPBF interim champion.
Whilst the loss to Takayama is completely understandable, especially at the age of 18, Kano has since gone on to suffer stoppage losses to Jerry Tomogdan and Shin Ono. Whilst he was competitive, in the early parts, for both of those bouts he came undone when the pressure picked up. Tomogdan broke him with body shots, dropping him in rounds 4 and 6, whilst Ono put pressure on him, and broke him down in 8 rounds, following a headbutt that Kano never seemed to recover from.
Despite not liking pressure Kano is talented, he's a skilled youngster and that skill just hasn't managed to turn into the big results that his team, headed by former OPBF champion Taisei Marumoto, would have wanted. If he can put those skills to use he can go a long way, but if he keeps crumbling under-pressure he will, saldy, be regarded as a major under-achiever.
We've focused a lot on Kano for what is a preview, and part of the reason for that is the fact Marganti doesn't bring a lot to the table. In fact we suspect that most wouldn't recognise his name at all. That's despite the fact he has shared the ring with some notable fighters, such as Wanheng Menayothin and Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart, twice. Like many Indonesian fighters he has been picked to play the role of a designated loser on Thai cards, and Australian cards, with a record of 0-5 outside of Indonesia.
At the age of 23 Marganti, also known as Tyson Lahagu, seems to have found a role in boxing that suits him. Travelling, losing, but making the home fighters go rounds. We expect him to continue that role here. He's not as bad as a 5-10-1 record would suggest, but he's also not a fighter who has the tools move on to the next level. That is, unless, he can get a team around him who can really build his skills, and turn him into more than someone who puts in a sparring type effort.
Given how Marganti goes rounds with good fighters we're not expecting an stoppag here from Kano, but we are expecting Kano's skills to be too much for the Indonesian. We're predicting a clear decision for Kano, who will hopefully show the skills that made him such a prospect early in his career. A win could help him build his confidence here, and hopefully help him rebuild his career going forward.
Prediction UD10 Kano.
This coming month is littered with huge bouts, but we're actually excited about a number of the "lesser" bouts. One of the ones that has really gotten us a bit excited is the May 4th clash between WBC Asian Boxing Council Silver Super Featherweight champion Al Toyogon (10-2-1, 6) and Japanese challenger Ryo Sagawa (6-1, 4). On paper this is a bout that is very, very, easy to over-look. Especially given how packed the weekend is, even in Asia alone with a Japanese card set to be shown on the same day, but could end up delivering in a big way.
The 21 year old Filipino is the current champion and will be seeking his second defense of the title. He won the belt last September, when he stopped Nathan Bolcio in 6 rounds and retained it with a 12 round win over Ryusei Ishii. Those wins saw Toyogon extend his current winning run to 5 bouts, with 4 stoppages during that run, 3 of which came in the opening round. That sort of form has really helped him kick start a career that was floundering following a 4th round TKO loss to John Ray Logatiman in May 2017, when he was still a teenager.
Although Toyogon hasn't gone through a who's who he does hold wins against Naotoshi Nakatani and Jason Tinampay, both stopped in the opening round, as well wins against the aforementioned Bolcio and Ishii. He has certainly improved as he's gotten old and hits harder than his record suggests. Sadly there's not a lot of quality footage of him available, but what there is out there does make him look pretty promising. He's aggressive, has heavy hooks and looks a pretty fun fighter. Whilst he's fun he is also pretty raw and his punches do appear to travel around the houses, with a lack of real crispness to his shots. Although not a crisp puncher as such, he is heavy heavy handed and throws pretty unorthodox shots. Although wild and unorthodoxy he is a pretty good finisher and when he has his man hurt he really does go for the kill.
With just 7 bouts to his name it would be easy to suggest that Sagawa is just a typical novice. The reality however is that he was a very well established amateur on the Japanese scene, going 62-22 as an amateur, and since turning professional he has been matched hard. Being matched hard saw him lose his second bout, being stopped by Retsu Kosaka, but he has bounced back with 5 straight wins, including victories over Junki Sasaki, Ryo Matsumoto and Shingo Kawamura. During those wins he has shown fantastic boxing skills, a great control of the ring, and has shown that he has learned from his loss to Kosaka. There are still question marks over Sagawa, especially his chain and general durability, but in terms of skills he's genuinely fantastic.
Sagawa uses good footwork to control bouts, keeps them at range when he can and uses sharp start shots to chip away at opponents. When he has his man hurt he can close the show, but seems to realise that due to his own questionable chin he's best off taking very few risks and keeping things disciplined. Strangely, for someone who is typically making sure bouts are fought at range, he does drop his hands a lot and is certainly not an amazing defensive fighter.
If Toyogon can get close, unload at range and catch Sagawa there is a real chance of the Filipino taking Sagawa out, and scoring his best win to date. In reality however Sagawa's boxing skills, ring craft and crisp punching should be too much for the crude Filipino fighter.
Prediction - TKO7 Sagawa
The Super Featherweight division in Japan is a really interesting one. Not only is there Masayuki Ito, who defends the WBO world title later this month against Jamel Herring, but also the likes of Hironori Mishiro, Kosuke Saka, Takuya Watanabe and, of course, Japanese national champion Masaru Sueyoshi (18-1-1, 11).
This coming weekend Sueyoshi looks returns to the ring to defend his title against mandatory challenger Ken Osato (15-2-1, 4). This will be a rematch from a 2018 clash that saw Sueyoshi being dropped before battling back to stop Osato in the 8th round of a very interesting match up. That first bout, despite being a win for Sueyoshi, did leave enough doubt that a rematch, down the line, would remain intriguing. If they fought again could Osato finish off Sueyoshi? Or would Sueyoshi manage to control the bout better if they fought a second time and avoid the trouble he was in first time around?
For those who haven't seen Sueyoshi before he's a talented, though frustrating, boxer. He's an excellent judge of distance with good movement, sharp punching and good ring control. He's often seen on the back foot, dictating the tempo of the bout with smart half steps. He doesn't have amazing power, but that's slightly misleading, as he does hit hard when he sits on his shots, something that he rarely does. If he sat on shots more he could do real damage, but instead he relies on his foot work, and is regularly shifting his weight backwards, relying more on speed than power.
At 28 years old we're not expecting Sueyoshi to reinvent himself. He can tweak his style but will never reinvent the wheel. He will always be a fighter with a good technical brain, but a fighter who relies on his speed, accuracy and counter punching, rather than his power and aggression. It can make his bouts frustrating to watch at times, but has seen him going unbeaten for well over 6 years, since losing a split decision to Masayuki Ito back in his 4th bout.
If we're being honest Osato isn't a fighter who looks like he will progress beyond Japanese level, however at just 24 he is likely to have a long and credible career in the domestic title scene. He's proven to be a more aggressive fighter than Sueyoshi, with some a style that has plenty of aggression to it. Despite that he's not the crispest of punchers often firing shots with a slappy style, and although he does have a solid hook it does look like it could be tightened up significantly, and would be much more potent if hee did shorten it. He's a lot more rigid than Sueyoshi, and not only suffers in terms of general movement but also in stamina, often fighting with a tense style, rather than relaxing in the ring. That was certainly shown the first time he fought Sueyoshi, where the tension seemed to sap his energy, and he really struggled in the second half of the fight, if he can change that he does have a chance.
Although we don't imagine Osato moving beyond domestic level that isn't an insult and he could well surprise Sueytoshi. He does hit hard enough to hurt the champion, he's talented enough to land, and to land regularly on Sueyoshi, but it's hard to imagine him winning against someone like Sueyoshi on a regular basis. He's too tense, too likely to drain himself and not the type of fighter who has shown that he can clearly put on 10 good rounds. A lot of his bouts have been close and it's to imagine him putting on 8 or 10 really good rounds one after the other.
We know Osato can hurt Sueyoshi, and can be dangerous, but we can't imagine Sueysohi will be too good, too smart and too tricky for Osato. We suspect Osato will have success early, as he did the first time around, but we expect to see the same winner as last time. We'd be very surprised if Osato scored the win here. The real question is whether he does better than last time, and we suspect he probably will. We're still expecting him to lose, but we're not expecting him to get stopped.
Prediction UD10 Sueyoshi
The Japanese Youth title scene is a genuinely intriguing one, even if it doesn't feature the huge names that compete in Japan. This coming Sunday we get the chance to see some Youth title bouts, and again the bouts are really interesting, without being huge news.
One of those bouts this weekend will see Japanese Youth Featherweight champion Hikaru Matsuoka (15-4-3, 2) make his first defense, as he takes on Kyohei Tonomoto (8-2, 4). Neither of these two are big names, but both will certainly see this bout as a chance to help make a name for themselves.
The 24 year old champion, a member of the Taisei Gym, win the title last year with a technical decision win over Noboru Osato. That was his third straight win and his 7th win in his last 8. Whilst that sounds impressive, his competition hasn't been the best, and more worryingly he has shown a real lack of durability, with 3 stoppage losses, including 2 stoppage losses in his last 9. Whilst he has shown a shaky chin he also has a lack of power, with only 1 stoppage in his last 7 wins and only 1 stoppage in th elast 6 years. Like some other fighters however his focus isn't on punching through the target or inflicting damage. He knows he 's not a puncher. Instead he looks to box behind a jab, fight at range and control the fight with his jab and movement.
Although no world beater it's clear that Matsuoka is a talented fighter. He's well schooled, a good mover and he fights to his strengths. Looking through his record he has fought plenty of notable opponents, scoring wins over Richard Pumicpic, Yu Konomura and of course Osato. On the other hand he has lost to the likes of Seizo Kono and Yuki Strong Kobayashi. From those losses it's clear if he needs to avoid punchers, and if he can do that he could have a pretty successful career. Luckily for him, Tonomoto is no huge puncher.
Aged 23 Tonomoto is someone who has been really over-looked and hasn't really had much attention at all. That's despite reaching the 2014 Rookie of the Year final, where he lost to the then unheralded Reiya Abe. Part of the reason why Tonomoto hasn't had much attention following his Rookie of the Year run is due to inactivity, and he took more than 3 years out, following a blow out win against Namchoke Meesri. Thankfully for the youngster he was young enough to have that 3 year break and still being a young kid when he returned to the ring last December, when he stopped Nanthipat Kesa inside a round.
Given his long break there isn't a lot of recent footage available of Tonomoto, though his last fight is available on Boxing Raise. That fight lasted just 164 seconds but it was clear Tonomoto was a pretty well schooled fighter, firing off hard and crisp jabs, flowing combinations, nice movement and although there was flaws he looked fun and exciting. He looked defensively questionable, but exciting, aggressive and like someone with the potential to go a very long way. That was however a bout against some one not fit to be in the ring with him, whilst his upcoming bout is a contest against a national youth champion.
Despite the inactivity we're actually backing Tonomoto here. We suspect that both will match each other well in terms of speed, though Matsuoka may have the slight edge, however Tonomoto appears to have the variation in his work, and the more aggressive mentality. Those, we suspect, will be his keys in a very close and competitive bout.
Prediction SD8 Tonomoto, in an bit of an over-looked and hotly contested fight
Flyweights in Japan have real momentum right now. Not only do you have Kosei Tanaka at the top but fighters like Masayuki Kuroda and Junto Nakatani are both having really good runs, with Kuroda set for a world title fight and Nakatani set to make his first national title defense.
Sadly the youth level Japanese scene isn't as hot as it is at senior level, and this coming Sunday we'll see that being exemplified pretty well, when Japanese Youth Champion Arata Matsuoka (7-6, 4) makes his first defense. The champion, who won his title last December, will be taking on little known Jukiya Washio (7-2-1, 2), in a bout that doesn't really get the juices going. The champion has a less than stellar record, whilst the challenger is unknown and isn't much of a puncher.
Whilst it may not be something special on paper, we do actually expect a pretty decent fight here, and one that's much more competitive than the records suggest.
There isn't a huge amount of footage of the 24 year old champion, though rather kindly his last bout, his title win, was shared by TV channel Osaka TV. That bout was a clear decision win over Hikaru Ota, in what was one of the worst Japanese Youth title bouts on paper. In that bout Matsuoka showed what he was able to do. He was a much more skilled fighter than his record suggested, he had a really nice southpaw jab, picked his shots better than you'd expect of someone who's lost such a high percentage of his fights, and almost moved well, using the ring well to neutralise Ota before firing off his own counters. Not all his shots are crisp, and his defense could certainly do with some work, but there is a pretty talented fighter there, something his record doesn't show.
Despite looking pretty good against Ota we can't ignore Matsuoka's losses. The most recent of those came last September, when Shunji Nagata stopped him in 4 rounds. That ended a 4 fight winning streak, a streak that had followed up 4 losses in 5 bouts. In fact Ota started his career 2-5 so has turned things around really well. There is clearly a lot for him to do, but he does have some momentum here.
Sadly it's not just Matsuoka who is lacking in terms of footage but also Washio, and the only fight of his we've seen in full was his 2016 clash with Junichi Itoga. Washio, who is now 21, was just 19 when that bout took place, and it lasted just 156 second, so what we can really read into that bout is unclear. However he did look like a confident youngster, finding holes in Itoga's limited defense, and landing at will. He looked good, but Itoga looked awful and it really is hard to take too much from this bout.
Since the fight with Itoga the youngster has gone 4-2, though both of his losses were razor thin defeats. What needs to be noted is the level he's been fighting at, and that's a concern. He has really never faced anyone with real promise, and arguably his best win came in April 2017, when he beat Naoki Tanaka.
Whilst this bout isn't appealing on paper we do expect it to be hotly contest, with Matsuoka's experience, southpaw stance, and level of competition, being the difference. Whilat the bout isn't going to get much attention, it should be a solid and competitive bout, where the styles of both gel well. Neither, from what we've managed to see, like to make things messy, and although the southpaw vs orthordox stances could cause some issues, we're expecting a clean contest here.
Preduction - Matsuoka SD8
Despite a number of interesting fighters, and a lot of potentially intriguing match ups, the Japanese Welterweight division doesn't get much attention. That's despite fighters like Ryota Yada, Yuki Beppu, Yuki Nagano and Giraffe Kirin Kanda all being worthy contenders on the domestic scene.
Arguably the most interesting Japanese Welterweight bout we'll see this year isn't actually at the top of the table, so to speak, but will instead be this Sunday's Japanese Youth title fight. The bout will pit unbeaten champion Kudura Kaneko (9-0, 6) against once beaten Ioka protege Rikuto Adachi (12-1, 9). Both men have just turned 21, and could have waited years to face each other, but instead want to face off, knowing a win will instantly put them on the verge of a bout for the full version of the Japanese title.
Kaneko is a Japanese based Afghan born boxer-puncher. He left Afghanistan as a child and has really built himself a life in Japan whilst getting plaudits for his attitude, and his dreams are certainly positive ones, with the fighter hoping to help get things built back in Afghanistan. Whilst his backstory is genuinely amazingly amazing, we can't help but be impressed by his actual boxing career as well.
Kaneko made his debut all the way back in 2015, as a 17 year old, and showed real ability early on as a punching, scoring stoppages in 4 of his first 5. Since then he has gone 5-0 (3) and shown more and more to his. He has taken 2 decision wins over Change Hamashima, claiming the Japanese youth title in the second win. The biggest win of his career however came last November, when he stopped former Japanese champion Toshio Arikawain 3 rounds. That was a performance to be proud of, neutralising the power of Arikawa and then taking him out in very impressive fashion. Whilst Arikawa is no world beater, he's a very dangerous fighter and for Kaneko to take him out this early in his career was a huge statement. He's shown he can box, he can punch, he can bang. He's not the quickest, but he is very, very talented and very promising.
Adachi, like Kaneko, debuted in 2015 as a 17 year old but has gone a very different route to Kaneko. He would actually take decisions wins in his first 3 bouts, before growing into his strength and reeling off 5 straight stoppages to advance to the All Japan Rookie of the Year final in 2017. He would lose in the Rookie of the Year final to Hironori Shigeta, a very talented fighter himself, by a single round on 2 cards, and many felt he deserved the win. Since then he has reeled off 3 more stoppages, including a stoppage over Jonel Dapidran. Impressively he went 4-0 (4) in 2018, showing great activity, and has gone 9-1 (9) in his last 10 bouts, impressive given his first 3 went the distance.
In the ring Adachi is a fighter who looks naturally big, yet doesn't look like he fills out his frame, in fact it looks clear that he will be fighting at Light Middleweight, if not Middleweight, in the future. He's got decent hand speed and good movement, but is a little bit naive defensively. He doesn't have much of an inside game, though given his freakish looking size that's not much of a surprise. His jab is a razor sharp, a really nice punch that he varies, from snapping opponents with it, to touching them and controlling range. Watching him there's a lot to like, but a lot of areas where clear improvements can be made. If he added some boxing on the inside and tweaked his defense than there would be a lot to get very excited by.
If Kaneko hadn't impressed so much against Arikawa this would be a fight that Adachi would be the favourite. Problem us that Kaneko looked fantastic against Arikawa, and that maybe enough to swing the odds in his favour. Adachi looks like he's going to be very good, with some key areas to work on. If he uses his brain, fights to a gameplan that focuses on his speed, he should come out on top.
Kaneko is no push over, and is a more rounded fighter. He lacks the speed of Adachi, but looks to be the more natural fighter. If he can make this a fight we suspect he'll win.
This is a hard one to call, and a very, very interesting match up. If pushed for a prediction, we suspect Adachi gets the win in a very close decision. The bout is in Osaka, and he's the local prospect. We wouldn't be surprised by any result at all here though. It's one of those bouts that really could go any which way.
The month of May is set to be a genuinely insane one, with notable fights on an almost daily basis. This isn't a top heavy month, but is a very consistent and packed month. One of the first major bouts of note will see Hinata Maruta (8-1-1, 7) take on Coach Hiroto (13-2-2, 4). The talented Maruta will be looking to build on a career best win, stopping Tsuyoshi Tameda back in December, whilst Hiroto will be seeking redemption after a being kicked out of the Kadoebi gym for failing to make weight, which also cost him a bout against Shohei Omori.
For those who haven't followed Maruta's career you've missed out on following a sensationally talented youngster. The fighter from the Morioka Gym turned professional with huge expectations on his shoulders, beating the then world ranked Jason Canoy on debut. He would quickly win a WBC Youth title but his career faltered in 2017, when he lost a decision to Hidenori Otake and then took another a hit with an unfortunate draw in the Philippines against Ben Mananquil. Those set backs have slowed his ascent, but Decembers win over Tameda saw Maruta fighting as a Featherweight and looking like the fighter many knew he could be.
In the ring the 22 Maruta is a slick, sharp punching, hard hitting boxer-puncher. He can fight on the back foot or the front foot, has freakish dimensions and great technical ability, with heavy hands. What has been a problem however is his work rate, and his urgency. Too often he has looked like a man happy to have rounds, rather than a fighter who wants to move through the gears and make a statement. He did however show more urgency last time out, and it was great to see him go for the finish against Tameda, adding spite to his technical ability, speed and physical traits.
Hiroto is only 28 but made his debit almost a decade ago. Sadly things have been stop-start from him, with 14 fights prior to 2012, before almost 5 years out of the ring. He's fought 3 times since his return in 2017, but has now been out of the ring for over a year, with his last bout being an 8 round draw against Ryo Hino in January 2018. The reason for that long break was him failing to make weight for the aforementioned bout with Omori, that lead to him essentially being turfed out of the Kadoebi gym back in March 2018. He has now transferred to a new gym, but the inactivity won't have helped him leading into what is one of his biggest bouts to date.
Despite not being the most well known fighter Hiroto has faced a small who's who of Japanese boxing. he's shared the ring with Takenori Ohashi, Shingo Wake, Takafumi Nakajima, Gakuya Furuhashi and Ryo Hino. Through his career he has proven to be a capable fighter, but not and extraordinary one. He's not amazingly quick, slick, heavy handed or explosive. He's a solid all round, but nothing amazing, and with both of his losses coming by stoppage he's also not a fighter boasting an iron chin.
Whilst we have been disappointed by Maruta at times we do feel that as he matures we'll begin to see more spite, more urgency and more fire in his punching. When that happens we're expecting to see him really shine, and we suspect that's going to be exactly what he does here. Hiroto is a decent enough test for Maruta, at this stage, but we're expecting the young prospect to do everything to impress, and to move towards a title fight.
Our prediction here is a stoppage win for Maruta, in round 5 or 6.
It's not often that you'll see a national champion, who is making their second defense and on a 6 fight unbeaten run being regarded at the under-dog in a mandatory Japanese title defense. This coming Wednesday however we see just that, as Japanese Featherweight champion Taiki Minamoto (16-5, 13) defends his title against Reiya Abe (19-2, 9) in a truly mouth watering clash at Korakuen Hall. On one hand you have an explosive, and hard hitting champion, who has lost just once in the last 4 years, on the other a challenger who has won his last 11 and at times has looked untouchable.
This is one of the most interesting looking Japanese title bouts of 2019.
The 28 year old Minamoto is promoted by the Watanabe gym and has been a pro for a little over 8 years.His career showed early promise, though also showed him to be a bit of a glass cannon, going 9-3 (8) in his first 12 bouts. From his 3 early losses 3 were stoppages, whilst the other came to future world champion Masayuki Ito. Since that start he has gone 7-2 (5), beating the likes of Eita Kikuchi, Seizo Kono, Dai Iwai, Takenori Ohashi and Tatsuya Otsubo, whilst his last loss came in 2015 to Yukinori Oguni. It was the win over Iwai that set up his rise to the title, which he took from Ohashi and defended against Osubo. During those bouts we saw the best of Minamoto, who looked amazing against Ohashi, using his boxing skills, speed, accurate punching and heavy hands to dismantle, beat up and stop the then defending champion. Against Otsubo however we saw Minamoto struggling, and needing to dig incredibly deep to over-come the then challenger.
At his best Minamoto is a real talent. He's an excellent boxer-puncher, and his performance against Ohashi saw everything click for him, he dominated the then champion, using movement, speed, skills, power, and ring IQ. It was a relative mismatch with Minamoto never looking in any trouble and Ohahsi being made to look like a rank novice. When he fights like that he is going to be a very, very, very hard man to beat at domestic level. Sadly though his performance after the winning the title saw him ignoring his boxing skills and becoming more of a brawler, fighting Otsubo's fight. It was a stupid tactical move and showed a bit of arrogance in a bout where he was strongly favoured to win. If he fights like that against Abe he'll be made to look silly, and he'll know he needs to stick rigidly to a game plan, and not make errors.
In Abe we have a 26 year old who has really come into his own and improved so much from his early days in the ring. Had he been with a big promoter he may well have a 21-0 record, with both of his losses being razor thin decision, though his losses have helped shaped the fighter he is today. His first loss came in his second professional bout, when he was 20, he would bounce back the following year to win the Rookie of the Year before a loss in 2015 to Shingo Kusano. That loss saw Abe's record fall to 8-1 (4) but since then he has gone on a tear. Look at Abe's record since his second loss is impressive, taking the unbeaten records of Ryo Hino, Hikaru Marugame and Daisuke Sugita, whilst adding notable wins over Shingo Kusano, avenging his loss, Tsuyoshi Tameda, Joe Noynay and Satoshi Hosono. His record is as good as anyone who hasn't yet fought for some form of a title.
In terms of his style Abe is a relaxed counter punching southpaw. He looked to establish a long distance on his bouts, pecking away with accurate clean punching, landing solid straight left hands and using his right jab and footwork to neutralise opponents. It's not always an exciting style to watch, but it is almost always very effective, and fighters are finding it very hard to cut him off, to change the fight or even have success against him. He has hardly lost a round in his last 5 bouts, and no one, since Noynay more than 2 years ago, has managed to run him close. He's slippery, skilled and will make opponents pay for rushing in. He is, arguably, the best counter puncher on the Japanese domestic scene right now.
Whilst we think Minamoto will need to box to win, he will also have to be smart about it. Boxing with Abe holds a lot of risks, most obvious of which is the fact Abe is the better pure boxer. Brawling and coming out swinging would cost Minamoto heavily, with Abe being given serious countering chances. If Minamoto can box smartly, not give Abe chances and control the fight with his harder punching, he has a chance. Otherwise we see Abe continuing his surge and taking a relatively clear decision, and the Japan title.
Prediction UD10 Abe.
Towards the end of April fight fans in Okayama get a small treat, thanks to a card at the Suntopia. The card is a double header, and here we're going to look at one of the part of that double header, a JBC Youth Bantamweight title fight which will see Tetsu Araki (13-1-1, 2) make his first defense of the title, and take on the unbeaten Atsushi Takada (6-0-3, 3).
In another world both of these men could easily be unbeaten, in fact it wouldn't take a huge rewriting of history to see the men come into this bout with records of 15-0 and 9-0, and whilst that may have looked nicer on paper it should be noted that both are excellent young fighters.
The once beaten champion began his career in 2014, fighting to a split decision draw against Koichi Uryu. Just 4 months later Araki would defeat Uryu in a rematch, beginning a 4 fight winning run. That run came to an end in September 2015 when he lost a split decision to Tenta Kiyose, with essentially 1 round costing him a split decision win. Since then he has reeled off 9 straight victories, including notable ones against Yuto Nakamura, the Japanese Youth Super Flyweight champion, Ryuto Owan, a previously unbeaten prospect, and Morihisa Iju, who reached the 2014 West Japan Rookie of the Year final.
Sadly we've not managed to see much of Araki, a problem we often have with Japanese fighters who typically compete outside of Tokyo. Despite the lack of footage we have been told that he is a talented fighter and has a very busy jab, a light flowing style and the ability to press the action in the later rounds. He's not the most powerful or strongest, but he is a talented and smart fight with good straight punching, and solid body shots.
Aged 21 Takada is the younger man, Araki is 24, and he began his career in 2015. Strangely he too began with a draw, unable to get over the line against Wolf Nakano. A 3 fight winning run was interrupted when he dropped to Flyweight and was held to a draw by Kyomu Hamagami. A second 3 fight winning run also ended with a draw, when Hironori Miyake hold him over 8 rounds. Look at his record we do see a strange symmetry to his results and notable weight changes, fighting at Super Flyweight on debut, moving up to Bantamweight, then down to Flyweight, back to Super Flyweight and now back up to Bantamweight. He's a growing youngster, though we do wonder just how strong he is at 118lbs.
Takada is also lacking in terms of footage, even Boxingraise has no footage of him or Araki, despite that we have been told that he does hit harder than his record suggests, is aggressive and has a mean left hand, which he fires off with very respectable timing and power.
Given the lack of footage it's hard to make a prediction on this one. Araki does however have the advantages in experience and home advantage, and we would make him the favourite on the little footage of the two men we have seen, but it is a toss up, and that's part of what makes these Japanese youth title fights so interesting.
On April 21st fight fans in Osaka will get a Japanese title double header. One of the bouts headlining that show will see Japanese Super Flyweight champion Takayuki Okumoto (21-8-4, 10) make his second defense, and take on mandatory challenger Yuta Matsuo (15-3-1, 8).
The 27 year old champion is a 12 year veteran of the sport. If that sounds mathematically strange it is, and that's because Okumoto started his career as a 15 year old, fighting in Thailand. He had mixed success, going 1-1 with the loss coming to former world champion Ratanapol Sor Vorapin, before waiting to mature and fight on Japanese soil, where he has fought all but 1 of his subsequent 31 bouts. Whilst he's no world beater Okumoto has proven to be a gutsy fighter, who is improving, has a good work rate and is certainly not a typical 21-8-4 fighter. His long career has seen him beat the likes of Shota Kawaguchi, Yuta Saito and Hiroyuki Kudaka, come up short against the likes of Ratanapol, Eaktwan BTU Ruaviking and Ryuichi Funai.
Okumoto is a southpaw with credible speed and power, a wealth of experience and under-rated skills. He's not heavy handed or lightening quick, but he is all round pretty solid with a good boxing brain a relative toughness and good patience. He can come forward, boxing on the back foot and fight as the counter puncher. Sadly whilst Okumoto is a good all rounder he isn't likely to make a mark above domestic level. He's not got any elite level quality, and that's typically needed for fighters to reach the top, but he will be a hard man to dethrone at this level and it will take a special domestic fighter to beat him.
The challenger, 29 year old Matsuo, is relatively unknown though has been in an around the title mix for a few years now. He did earn this shot last year, stopping veteran Rey Orais in 5 rounds to become the mandatory challenger, and this will be his second title fight. Matsuo has been a professional since 2012 and his most notable contests to date have been losses to Ardin Diale, in 2015, and Masayuki Kuroda, in 2017. Despite those losses it is worth noting that he has scored noteworthy wins over Yota Hori, Ryuto Oho and Ryoji Fukunaga, all of which are good domestic wins but there's little to suggest he will have much success above the domestic level.
Watching Matsuo we see a relatively active boxer with an aggressive mentality. He's not the quickest or the sharpest, but he does have a rather unique rhythm, bouncing at mid-distance with and getting in and our. he's quite quick, with both hands and feet, and has a slight jerkiness to his style. It's a more aggressive style than that of Okumoto, but also a less rounded style, and a much more energy intensive one, with a lot of excess movement.
This isn't the biggest title bout we'll see in Japan this year, but could end up being one of the most competitive, with two well matched, flawed, but promising fighters. Both are true domestic level fighters and both will put it all on the line here.
Being at home, and being the champion, Okumoto will have the crowd behind him and we think that could be a key factor here. The bout is a 50-50 one, though we suspect that the home advantage will be enough to help earn Okumoto the decision victory, in a very hotly contest bout.
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.