We have repeatedly waxed lyrical about the current Light Flyweight scene and the talent at the top, making it the deepest division in the sport right now. What we haven't gone into as much depth about is the rising talent, the young prospects and promising hopefuls looking to rise through the ranks and make a name for themselves. This coming Monday however we see one of the talented youngsters in title action as Daiki Tomita (13-1, 5) takes on Hayato Yamaguchi (15-7-1, 2) for the WBO Asia Pacific Light Flyweight title, which was vacated by Reiya Konishi earlier in the year.
For the once beaten Tomita this bout will be his second title fight, following a loss last year to the then OPBF Minimumweight champion Tsubasa Koura. The loss to Koura seems to have been made Tomita realise making that making the Minimumweight limit was getting tough for his growing body and he moved up to Light Flyweight properly in April this year. He flirted with the division a few times earlier in his career, with a couple of early career bouts there and a one off bout above the 108lbs limit against Mochamad Sholimin in 2017.
As a fight Tomita showed a lot of early promise. In 2016, as a 19 year old, he had won the All Japan Rookie of the Year and was lined up to fight for the Japanese Youth title in 2018, though had that bout fall through when Kai Ishizawa suffered a training injury. Due to Ishizawa's injury Tomita got the shot as Koura and it did feel like the bout had come just a little bit too early for him. Against Koura we saw Tomita prove he was a good boxer, with solid fundamentals, nice speed and real grit, but he was easily outclassed by Koura, who was too quick, too sharp, too experienced and too smart. His first bout following Koura was at Light Flyweight and saw Tomita stop former world title challenger Jeffrey Galero in 3 rounds, becoming only the third man to stop Galero, following Koura and Pedro Taduran, the newly crowned IBF Minimumweight.
Aged 30 Yamaguchi is a bit of a veteran, having made his debut way back in 2008. During his long career he has real mixed success. He lost 2 of his first 3 bouts before rebuilding and winning the 2010 All Japan Rookie of the Year. His run of form lead to a Japanese title fight in 2011, losing a close decision to Masayuki Kuroda. Another loss, to Cris Paulino, followed the Kuroda bout and at the end of 2012 Yamaguchi was 8-4-1, a short winning run followed before back to back defeats to Renan Trongco and Yu Kimura, in 2014 and 2015. Those losses saw Yamaguchi fall to 12-6-1 (2) and although he began to get his career back on track a loss in 2016 to Tetsuya Hisada, in a Japanese title eliminator, again killed any momentum he had. It then seemed like he'd retired but returned after more than 4 years away from the ring to upset Kenji Ono.
In the ring Yamaguchi is feather fisted but gutsy and brave. With 3 stoppages against him he will always have question marks over his durability, but few will question his desire. Sadly his desire doesn't match up to his ability and his biggest wins have all come against lower domestic level lighters, like Kneji Ono, Hiroya Yamamoto and Seiya Fujikita. A win over Tomita wouldn't be the biggest shock, given those wins, but we would consider it an upset all the same.
Prediction - UD12 Tomita
The Light Flyweight division isn't one of the outstanding ones but on some levels it is an exciting one and one that appears set to go through a number of changes in coming years, with a number of emerging young talents who look set to make their name in the division over the coming year or two.
At the top of the Japanese domestic scene right now is Yu Kimura (15-2-1, 2), who looks to make the next defense of his title at the start of April when he battles against late replacement Hayato Yamaguchi (12-5-1, 2), who has got the bout after Shin Ono was forced to pull out due to a rib injury.
Kimura won the title last year when he narrowly out pointed the under-rated Kenichi Horikawa and has since defended it twice, including an impressive victory over Yuki Chinen. Those wins have helped put the 31 year old Teiken fighter on the verge of a world title fight with world rankings with all 4 world title world title bodies, including a #2 ranking with the IBF. Sadly however he has yet to really capture the attention of fans outside of Japan, many of whom haven't had the chance to see him. Even those who have been able to see him in footage have had a limited number of chances with very little footage being available, the most notable of which was his bout with Ryoichi Taguchi.
Speedy, talented and well school Kimura is one of the many fighters on the verges of a world title fight. Given his age however he will need to make that leap from domestic champion to world contender sooner rather than later. A win over Ono would have allowed him to make that leap, especially considering the fact Ono gave IBF Minimumweight champion Katsunari Takayama a really tough test. Sadly however a bout with Yamaguchi doesn't quite have the same lure to it as the originally scheduled contest.
Whilst Kimura is a man in the form of career, and has won his last 6, the same cannot quite be said for Yamaguchi who actually lost last time out to Renan Trongco in the Philippines. Prior to that loss Yamaguchi was on a roll with 5 straight wins, including notable victories over Hiroya Yamamoto and Hiroyuki Otsuka. That run of 5 wins had followed back-to-back losses to Masayuki Kuroda and Cris Paulino in title bouts.
Through his 18 fight career Yamaguchi's most impressive performance was actually the loss to Kuroda, a narrow loss to the then Japanese Light Flyweight champion. Kuroda, a solid domestic level fighter, was defending the national title for the second time and Yamguchi took him all the way a razor thin bout that actually saw Yamaguchi dropping the champion. Another of his stand out results his narrow win over Eiji Fujiwara win in the 2010 All-Japan Rookie of the year, unfortunately that was very close and came more than 4 years ago.
On paper this looks almost nailed on to go the distance. Neither fighter is a big puncher and both have shown good resiliency, despite each being stopped once. If it does we can't see past a Kimura win, despite the fact he has seen his opponent change less than a month before the bout. For Kimura we suspect his confidence, longer training camp and high level of sparring will help him retain his title, but he'll not have an easy time with his competent challenger. If Kimura makes the mistake of over-looking Yamaguchi then we may see the title change hands though we suspect he'll be a professional and get the win before looking towards a bigger bout later in the year as he looks to move onwards and upwards.
For Yamaguchi this is a great opportunity to make a name for himself, but unfortunately we see him coming just short against the very talented Kimura.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
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.