The Japanese Lightweight scene is a frustrating one at times. On paper it should be interesting, there's plenty of talent there, and lot of interesting match ups that could be made there in the coming years, but sadly we seem to be between waves of fighters. At the moment Japanese national champion Shuichiro Yoshino (11-0, 9) looks to be head and shoulders above the rest, having unified the Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles. Despite the fact Yoshino looks to be well ahead of the others he hasn't yet vacated, and will instead defend the national title on February 13th against mandatory challenger Izuki Tomioka (7-2-1, 2) as part of the 2020 Champion Carnival.
The 28 year old Yoshino has really been on a relative fast track right from the start of his professional career. The talented boxer-puncher had been an excellent amateur on the Japanese scene, going 104-20 (55), before beginning his professional career in late 2015. In just his 4th professional bout Yoshino had beaten Yoshitaka Kato. Just 6 months after that he had won the Japanese title, which he has now defended 4 times, and last year Yoshino unified the national title with the 2 regional thrones.
In the ring Yoshino is a real talent. He can box, he can brawl and boy can he punch, with his last 7 wins all coming inside the distance. We actually need to go all the way back to his Japanese title win to see the last time someone was even semi-competitive with him, and even then Yoshino stopped Spicy Matsushita in 7 rounds. The power of Yoshino really is brutal and his KO's against Kazumasa Kobayashi and Harmonito Dela Torre have shown that it takes only a single left hook for Yoshino to finish someone off. The fact he has scored 2 awesome KO's whilst on the back foot shows how dangerous he is and how brutal his left hook is.
The 22 year Tomioka has been a professional since late 2016, and has shown some promise and also been in some frustrating fights. He's a talent, but a frustrating one who is perhaps getting this shot a little too early in his career. He won his first 5 bouts, winning the Japanese Youth Lightweight title in just his 4th bout way back in August 2017. He would defend the belt twice, beating Taiju Shiratori and fighting to a technical draw against Kaiki Yuba. He then faced the then OPBF Lightweight champion Masayoshi Nakatani and was stopped in 11 rounds by Naktani, following a very close bout. Another loss to Shuya Masaki followed up and really frustrated as Tomioka refused to really let his hands go. Since then however he has picked up 2 straight wins and earned this title fight, thanks to a win over Kazuki Saito.
At his worst Tomioka is a frustrating mover who looks unconvinced by himself, moving more than puncher and ultra-negative, as we saw against Masaki. At his best however he is brilliant boxer, with a sharp jab, excellent speed, great ring IQ and a fantastic judge of distance and timing. He's tall and rangy, and dictates things really well whilst picking great shots. It was these traits that were all on show last time out, when he schooled Kazuki Saito in a career best win. Despite schooling Saito the youngster still showed touched of negativity, and also a lack of physical strength and punching power. He's skilled, but we do wonder about his physical maturity.
We think Tomioka has future national champion written all over him. He's such a natural talent and a pure outside boxer. A truly fantastic young boxer. Sadly for him however he's up against a strong, powerful, heavy handed fighter who can hold his own when boxing, and bang. We see Tomioka having success, but Yoshino's pressure will build and he will begin to find a home for his left hook and straight right hand. Sooner or later we see Tomioka being stopped, and having his good early work being undone.
If Yoshino is successful here, fingers crossed he moves on and begin to face fringe world class guys and move towards a world title fight. There is, after all, no point wasting time at domestic level. As for Tomioka he will come again, and will find himself in an interesting era of Japanese Lightweight fighters, along with Shu Utsuki, Masahiro Suzuki and Katsuya Yasuda.
Prediction - TKO8 Yoshino
The bouts to decide who will be challenging for Japanese titles at next year's Champion Carnival are a mixed bag this year, with one of the most interesting on paper being the Lightweight bout between Kazuki Saito (7-1, 5) and Izuki Tomioka (6-2-1, 2). On paper both are novices, with less than 10 bouts each, but both fighters were capable amateurs, have proven to be talented professionals, and although both are flawed those flaws should make for a compelling match up.
Of the two we'd argue Saito is the more well known. The 27 year old from the Kadoebi gym, is an incredibly talented boxer-puncher, with one huge flaw. His chin.
Saito moves brilliantly around the ring has gorgeous sharp offense, wonderful combinations and looks like a natural in the ring, until he gets hit. When he gets tagged there's a real worry he'll go down, and he doesn't seem to recover quickly when he does get hurt. He's been down in several fights, and was stopped by Pharanpetch Tor Buamas after going down twice in round 2. Whilst having a poor chin hasn't prevented some fighters from reaching the top of the sport, we do see that as the big issue with Saito and what will likely prevent him from reaching the levels that his skills should have taken him too.
As an amateur Saito was really good, going 83-14, and you can see that amateur background when he fights. Unfortunately the smaller gloves have exposed his lack of durability and in some ways he's like a Japanese domestic level Jorge Linares. Talented, but lacking the toughness to back up his skills.
Tomioka on the other hand is very different. The 22 year old is a pure outside fighter, jabbing, moving, spoiling on the inside and getting back behind his long jab. He started his career at Super Featherweight but quickly moved up to Lightweight and in 2018 gave Masayoshi Nakatani a really competitive fight, before being stopped in the 11th round. Sadly he followed that up with a less than enthralling bout against Shuya Masaki, losing that by split decision. As with Saito it's fair to say that Tomioka is an incredible skilled fighter, and he really is, but like Saito he has a major flaw. Tomioka really lacks the physical side of the game, lacking power. The lack of power means that whilst he can win rounds on his he struggles to keep opponents at bay, and fighters will feel happy to take risks against him if they feel the need to.
Tomioka will be looking to keep this bout at range, moving and keeping up his effort for the scheduled 8 rounds. He's done 8 a number of times, and went into the 11th with Nakatani, but will likely need to be able to land a straight behind his jab to make Saito think twice. Whilst Tomioka is rather feather fisted he likely has got enough power to keep Saito honest, if he actually lets a power or two go.
We're expecting to see Tomioka attempt to set the tempo, and try to keep it at range, but due to a lack of activity and an unwillingness to let his bigger shots go we'll see Saito get into the bout, and after 8 rounds we suspect Saito will have done enough to earn the decision. This might not be pretty at times, but we expect a very close, competitive and intriguing match up, that is open to debate on the scoring.
Interestingly the winner of this may find themselves with a chance to become a triple champion next year, as current Japanese champion Shuichiro Yoshino holds not only the Japanese title but also the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles. There's a chance he vacates one, or two, of those belts but if not that would mean the winner of this will get a massive bout next year.
Prediction SD8 Saito.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo )
Masayoshi Nakatani (16-0), along with Nihito Arakawa (31-6) and Kazuhiro Nishitani (19-4), is currently one of Japan’s top Lightweights.
While studying at the Kindai University, he participated in 60 amateur bouts. Turned pro on June of 2011, at the age of 21, winning 6 fights in a row (5 KOs), including a victory over future Japanese champion Shuhei Tsuchiya (14-1*).
Nakatani, on January of 2014, went face to face with former Japanese and the then reigning OPBF champion Yoshitaka Kato (26-4*) for the OPBF belt. Despite being the less experienced of the two, he took the champion to his limit for 12 rounds, earning the majority decision, thus the championship and the East Japan Boxing Association Monthly MVP Award.
Nakatani, since then, has defended his title 9 times, including wins over Ricky Sismundo (26-7*), Futoshi Usami (12-1*), Krai Setthaphon (23-1*), Ryan Sermona (20-8*), Amphol Suriyo (22-2*). A bonafide knock artist, having finished 10 out of his 16 bouts, most within the first five rounds, he has placed himself at the top of the division, as he is ranked #7 by the WBC, #13 by the WBO and #5 by the IBF.
His next opponent is Izuki Tomioka (5-0) an up comer, who’s building his name in the regional scene, having scored wins over Yuichiro Kasuya (9-1*) as well as Taiju Shiratori (8-2*) and has claimed the Japanese Youth Lightweight title.
Despite the fact that Nakatani is the clear favorite in this outing, on July 29th, we can’t dismiss the young lion, who in less than 2 years has made quite an impact in the Japanese scene (ranked #15).
It will be interesting to see how both these athletes will match each other. Nakatani needs just a few more significant victories before he can challenge for a world title, so it’s imperative he succeeds here, as a loss to a rookie will not look that good on his record.
*Fighter’s record prior to the fight.
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.