This coming Saturday we'll see Japanese Youth Featherweight champion Hiroki Hanabusa (9-2-3, 3) attempt to make his first defense of the title, which he won last November when he upset Kyonosuke Kameda, as he takes on fellow youngster Toshiyuki Takahashi (7-4, 4).
The 23 year old Hanabusa, from Ishikawa, made his debut in 2017 and had good success early on, and even won the 2018 All Japan Rookie of the Year at Super Bantamweight. At that point the then 20 year old was 5-0-2 and looking like a genuine one to keep an eye in the always competitive Japanese Super Bantamweight scene. Sadly since that solid start he has had some mixed results, going 4-2-1, with a notable 2020 loss in a Japanese Super Bantamweight title fight against the slippery and skilled Toshiki Shimomachi, and a 2021 loss to fast rising Teiken hopeful Katsuya Fukui. More telling than his post-Rookie of the Year results however was his struggle to get a notable win, with his first 3 post Rookie of the Year wins coming against limited foreign opponents. It wasn't until late last year that things changed, with his notable win over Kameda for the title.
In the ring Hanabusa is something of an aggressive technical fighter. He comes forward a lot, throws a lot of busy, sharp jabs and keeps opponents working to either create space and keep him away, or to respect to his jabs. He's not a powerful fighter, or a physically imposing one, but he's busy, sharp, busy and awkward, with an educated lead hand. He can jab just as well to the body as he can to the had, and he comes out like a man who feels he can win on his jab alone. Despite the jab lead offense Hanabusa is also a pretty smart fighter, who can counter well when he needs to and to beat him you need to genuinely be a good fighter. Losses to Fukui and Shimomachi are not bad losses to have and both have come to top domestic prospects. One thing that is working against him however, is that he does look someone what lightweight, and when a fighter puts it on him, as we saw in the later rounds against Kameda.
As for Takahashi, the 22 year old from Kanagawa also debuted in 2017, but unlike Hanabusa he never really had much early career momentum. He lost in his debut and would later go on to lose 3 in a row, as he fell to 3-4. From then however he has really found his groove, winning his last 4 bouts. Sadly however his competition during that 4 fight run doesn't tell us much at all, and all of the opponents were limited, with none of them having wins in more than 50% of their bouts. Despite that he will have confidence coming in to this. Notably however he has been having his best success at Super Bantamweight and not Featherweight.
Footage of Takahashi isn't widely available, unfortunately, but there is enough out there to get a read on him. In the ring he looks quick, uses some nice footwork to get just out of range and also apply intelligent pressure. He's not a big puncher but he does look very quick and sharp. Sadly his punches aren't as crisp as his movement and footwork, though with some time to polish off we suspect that can be changed, and there is certainly a good prospect in him, though he's also very much a work in progress. Sadly he's defensively lacking in polish and looks like he doesn't enjoy being the one getting bullied, instead he wants to be on the front foot, exerting pressure with his footwork and not being backed up unless he wants to be.
Although footage of Takahashi is hard to come bye, from what there is out there, it's hard to see what he brings to the table to really test Hanabusa. Hanabusa looks sharper offensively, smarter, more accurate and busier. Takahashi doesn't belong alongside the likes of Fukui and Shimonachi, at least for now, and we can't help but feel he's been hand picked to help make Hanabusa look good, especially with his long, piercing jab.
The question, we feel, is not whether Hanabusa will win, but more whether or not he can break down his foe. We're not sure he can, but we are pretty sure he will retain his title here.
Prediction - UD8 Hanabusa
For a third day in a row we get title action in Japan as Japanese Youth Featherweight champion Kyonosuke Kameda (7-2-1, 6) defends his title, for the first time, and takes on Hiroki Hanabusa (8-2-3, 3) in an interesting looking match up.
Kameda won the title back in July, when he stopped the previously unbeaten Tsubasa Narai in 2 rounds to claim his first professional title. During that bout we saw a very polished performance from Kameda, who looked relaxed, calm, confident and heavy handed. He took the first round to see what Narai had in the longer, and then hurt, and stopped Narai with some huge head shots in the second round. That was the biggest win of his career, so far, and showed the improvements Kameda has made since signing with the Harada gym.
In the ring Kameda is an awkward fighter to go up again. He's long, he's rangy, heavy handed and although he's still raw around the edges, he's dangerous and tough to get to. He's improved significantly since his debut, which he lost, and although we doubt he'll ever go on to win world titles, he certainly has the potential to mix it up at domestic and regional level, and certainly has the power to be a nightmare at this Youth title level, especially against naturally smaller fighters, such as Hanabusa. Worryingly for the Japanese domestic scene, Kameda is only 23 and could have a few years to develop his skills at the Harada gym before needing to face the top dogs.
The 22 year old Hanabusa has been a professional since 2017, and began his career as a Super Flyweight, though went on to most of his notable success at Super Bantamweight, where he won the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2018. Heading in to 2019 it seemed Hanabusa was heading places, but a loss in 2020 to Toshiki Shimomachi and one in 2021 to Katsuya Fukui have really left him in desperate need of a good performance. Sadly those two losses have come in his last two bouts, and he has no momentum at all coming into this bout. Also he's moving up in weight, from Super Bantamweight to Featherweight, and isn't a naturally big, strong or powerful fighter.
In the ring Hanabusa is a talented boxer-mover. He lacks fight changing power, but uses the ring well, throws plenty of leather and comes to fight, but does so in a technical, efficient manner. Sadly for him he hasn't the natural size to compete at Featherweight, and although he has had solid results at Super Bantamweight, he's not really a naturally 122lb'der either. In fact he'd probably have more success at Bantamweight, though the 118lb weight class is stacked in Japan at the moment. He's a talented, aggressive, comes to win and should make for a fun dancer partner, but one without much threat.
Given Hanabusa likes to fight, he likes to throw punches and comes to fight, we expect him to bring pressure early on, try and force Kameda into a high tempo fight. Kameda on the other hand will be patient, look to create some space, relax, and then use his power, taking out Hanabusa in the first half of the fight. The size, power, and strength of the two men will be the difference maker here.
Prediction - TKO4 Kameda
On August 9th we'll see Japanese Youth Super Bantamweight champion Toshiki Shimomachi (11-1-2, 7) make his first defense of the title title over a year after winning it. In the opposite corner to the champion will be fellow youngster Hiroki Hanabusa (8-0-3, 3), in what looks like a brilliant match up. We know not many fans will be aware of who these two are, but fans who do follow the Japanese Youth Scene will know that this is a bout to be very excited about.
The once beaten champion is a 23 year old who made his debut back in December 2015. His first 12 months or so were a struggle, as he went 2-1-1 (1) but since then he has rebuilt well, winning the 2017 All Japan Rookie of the Year, at Super Bantamweight and won the Japanese Youth title in 2019. Whilst he hasn't made too much noise he has notched decent wins over the likes of Arashi Iimi, Renan Portes and Kenta Nomura, and also has a very credible draw with Daisuke Watanabe to his name.
In the ring Shimomachi is a very talented southpaw boxer who creates space well, lines up his quick left hand but can increase the tempo when he needs to. His overall style is really relaxed, but he's also really sharp and accurate and when he lets his shots go they are thrown with bad intent. One big complaint is that he is too relaxed, and doesn't pick up the pace very often. He can look lazy, and too negative, but is very good at avoiding shots even in the middle of the ring. If, or maybe when, he can find his extra gear he looks like a man with the potential to go very far and his skills can't be questioned.
At 21 years old Hanabusa is the younger man and, on paper, he's also the man stepping up. Despite that he's actually been really impressive, winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2018 showing what he could on foreign soil, with a draw against Ayati Sailike in China last year. He impressed last December when he beat Baolin Kang and looks like a real prospect for the future. Despite that he is still a youngster and a real boxing baby.
Early in his career Hanabusa looked rather awkward, his balance was poor, his threw wild shots and was rather lucky at times that fellow novices didn't make him pay. In 2019 however he rounded off his skill set pretty impressively and now seems a much more rounded, polished fighter. There are areas to work on but the 21 year old has improved so much from his early bouts. He's still not totally polished, but is becoming a much better boxer-mover and has looked very good in recent bouts.
Whilst we do see Hanabusa as being an improving fighter, he's still not as polished, smooth or natural in the ring as Shimomachi. We could see Hanabusa out working Shimomachi at times, but we expect to see the champion's natural skills and class prove to be too much over the 8 round distance. There will be moments where Shimomachi makes life difficult for himself, by virtue of his low activity, but as the bout goes on and he settles down he will end up landing more and more accurate, eye catching, blows and take a clear decision over his compatriot.
Prediction - UD8 Shimomachi
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.