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 February 26th we'll see Vic Saludar defending his WBO Minimumweight title against Masataka Taniguchi. That main event is a brilliant match up, but it's not the only interesting bout on the card, with the talented southpaw Fumiya Fuse (7-0, 1) taking on Naoto Mizutani (5-5-1, 2) in a solid match up and a good step forward for Fuse.
Aged 20 Fuse is one of the many talented youngsters making a mark at the Watanabe Gym. He turned professional at the age of 18, debuting back in January 2017, and would go on to win the 2017 All Japan Rookie of the Year at Bantamweight. In 2018 Fuse would give his reputation a boost, beating Indonesian Yohanis Tatul in May before travelling over to Korea and schooling Dong Young Lee in Daejeon. That win over Lee really showed what an exceptional young fighter Fuse was.
For those who haven't seen Fuse in action before he is a quintessential boxer, with a sharp jab, great ring control, smart footwork and accurate punching. He's got lovely timing, smart defense and a fantastic ability to judge distance. It's his ability to find the right shot that really impresses, given he's such a youngster and such a novice. He can often see shots that much, much more experienced fighters wouldn't see, and he looks like the sort of fighter who knows how to open up an opponent with both his offense and his defense. Sadly however he really does lack power and he doesn't appear to be able to hurt fighters, which is a shame as that is the only thing missing. We've got our fingers crossed in the hope that as he physically matures he will develop his power and manage to add a bit of bang on to his punches.
At 29 years old Mizutani has had a career that had faltered a fair bit, with as many defeats as wins. Despite suffering a number of losses it should be noted that he has typically faced stiff competition, with his defeats coming to the likes of Kenshin Oshima, Ryota Ishida and Ryo Akaho, among others. As for his wins, the most notable was a 2018 win over 2017 All Japan Super Flyweight Rookie of the Year Mirai Imagawa. Like Fuse he's a southpaw, and in fact he will only be the second southpaw Fuse will have faced, and his first since debut opponent Shinnosuke Hasegawa more than 2 years ago.
Watching footage of Mizutani, thanks to the excellent Boxing Raise service, we see a really basic fighter. Mizutani will come forward behind a rather slapping looking jab, often over reaching and leaving himself open to counters. His left seems to have more snap to it than his jab, but he seems to telegraph the shot quite a bit and looked like he is there to be countered when he throws it. Again Fuse he may not been punished by power shots, but he will be tagged by clean shots for those mistakes.
Given the flaws with Mizutani it's hard to see him offering too much, technically, to test Fuse, though what he will do is test Fuse's ability against a fellow southpaw and his stamina over 8 rounds. Fuse's a fantastic little boxer, and we'd be very surprised by anything other than a clear win for the youngster, though this will be a good way to see how he looks, and a good step towards a potential Youth title fight later in the year.
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.