This coming Thursday fight fans at Korakuen Hall will get the chance to see unbeaten Japanese Bantamweight champion Seiya Tsutsumi (6-0-2, 5) make his first defense, as he takes on Kenshin Oshima (7-2-1, 3), who will be getting his second shot at the title. The bout is a great chance to see Tsutusmi build on his title win, earlier this year against Kyosuke Sawada, whilst Oshima will be looking to rebuild from a loss to the aforementioned Sawada, in what was a bout for the vacant title at the start of the year.
Of the two men it's the reigning champion who has the higher profile, but has also had no luck at all. The heavy handed Tsutusmi, who is now 26, debuted in March 2018 and quickly caught the eye following a solid amateur career. Unlike most Japanese fighters he got some international experience under his belt early, with 2 of his first 4 bouts taking place away from home before scoring an eye catching and destructive win over tough Filipino journeyman Ryan Rey Ponteras just 13 months after his debut. He seemed to be racing to big things, but unfortunate draws in 2020 against Kazuki Nakajima and Daigo Higa, in bouts that many felt he should have won, slowed his rise through the ranks and cost him. In fact within 6 months of those draws both Higa and Nakajima had gone on to win regional titles, regional titles that he probably felt he should have fought for. Despite those draws, and being out of the ring for the entire of 2021, Tsutusmi put in a career best performance back in June, when he stopped Kyosuke Sawada in 8 rounds to claim the Japanese title, and show the Japanese boxing world that he could get over the winning line in big fights.
In the ring Tsutumi combines a solid boxing brain, under-rated movement and very solid power, with an aggressive mindset and a calm, confident in ring demeanour. He is well schooled, dating back to his days as an amateur, but has developed a style that is very much that of a professional boxer, who has spiteful powerful. Despite being heavy handed he's also not an idiot or a glass cannon. He showed he was smart when he faced Nakajima, choosing not to fight fire with fight but instead boxing and moving, and making the most of his advantage in foot speed, but also showed he was tough and determined in his 10 round bout with Higa, showing he had the stamina to go 10 rounds with the hard hitting former WBC Flyweight champion. He's small, at Bantamweight, and could likely drop 3lbs to become an extremely dangerous fighter at Super Flyweight, but is a ball of educated power punching that few will enjoy facing off against.
Whilst Tsutsumi has been in with a string of notable names the same can't be said of Oshima. The 28 year old Teiken fighter began his career in 2016, and there was expectation on his shoulders following a good amateur career. Sadly though a loss in his second bout, to Yuki Iriguchi, and a draw in 2018 against Nobuaki Kanazawa left him with a 3-1-1 (3) record. Whilst those early results were mixed, who's more notable is the fact that as he's build his record since then, he has shown a distinct lack of power, going 4-1 with out a stoppage since his first 3 wins. Whilst that has seen him face better opponents than his early foes, he's only really been beating capable domestic and regional level fighters, such as Ikuro Sadatsune and Wilbert Berondo, whilst the loss came against Sawada via technical decision. Not having a stoppage to his name since 2017 is a worry here, though there is no doubting his technical ability, there is a worry that he's not got the power or self belief to to be aggressive and turn bout around when they aren't going his way.
In the ring Oshima has a nice variety of shots, and does throw some of those shots with a sense of sharp crispness. Sadly though he is defensively poor, and whilst some of his shots are crisp and tights, especially his body shot, he does leave himself open when he throws, which did cost him against Sawada who scored a knockdown against him in round 2. Against a talented but light handed fighter, like Sawada, that wasn't too bad, but against an explosive heavy handed fighter like those defensive flaws are going to be a massive issue. Worse for Oshima is the fact he seems to have the Japanese fighting fire, and often takes one to land one. Again that's not too much of an issue against someone like Sawada, but against Tsutusmi that's not a good idea. Notably that Sawada bout is his only one since the start of 2020, and ring rust could be a major issue for him here
Whilst there is no doubting that Oshima has plenty of tool, we see him missing an important one here. Power. His lack of power will lead to Tsutsumi having little respect for him, and instead of the fight being a tough first defense we suspect Tsutusmi will press, and force Oshima into the wrong fight, there his heavier and hard shots will be the difference maker. Oshima's willingness to stand and trade against Sawada, and relative inactivity over the last few years, will not help him in what was always going to be a very, very, very tough bout for him.
Prediction - TKO5 Tsutsumi
Over the last few years the Japanese Bantamweight title has been something of a cursed title. Ryo Akaho was forced to give it up due to issues making weight, Yuta Saito, we then saw injuries ill and weight issues force the cancellation of several fighters with Yuta Saito and Yusuke Suzuki amassing just a single successful defense between them, before men retired, following a war together in 2019. We then saw the title remain vacant after Suzuki gave it up, due to a technical decision and then a planned bout fall apart when a fighter failed to make weight.
Between January 2018 and today we've had only 5 bouts for the title, along with a single interim title fight. We've seen 3 champions crowned but none managing to establish themselves as the king of the division, and this is in a brilliant division in terms of Japanese talent. A division that could, and should, have given us a string of great bouts in recent years.
This coming Thursday we hope to see the curse finally broken as defending champion Kyosuke Sawada (15-2-2, 6) seeks his first defense and takes on the criminally under-rated Seiya Tsutsumi (5-0-2, 4). The bout is not just one that we hope breaks the curse, but also ends up delivering something of a special bout between two highly skilled, intelligent fighters with different styles, but very polished styles.
As the reigning champion Sawada comes into the bout with a lot to lose, especially given this is his first defense of the title he waited so long to fight for. He was supposed to get a shot in 2020, before Covid and Suzuki's retirement thwarted plans. He had to wait until July 2021 to finally get a shot, only to see his bout with Ikuro Sadatsune end in a technical draw. A rematch against Sadatsune was then cancelled when Sadatsune failed to make weight. He finally won the belt in February, when he took a split technical decision over Kenshin Oshima, but aged 33 when he won that bout it's clear his time at the top is limited.
Now aged 34 Sawada is a fighter who is easy to over-look, especially with 2 losses on his record, however those losses really can be ignored. They came in his first two bouts to Yusuke Suzuki, who later won the Japanese Bantamweight title, and Hiroaki Teshigawara, who later won the WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight and OPBF Super Bantamweight titles. Since those losses he has gradually built a very, very respectable career for himself with wins over the likes of Gaku Aikawa, Kinshiro Usui, Yosuke Fujihara, Kazuki Tanaka and Kenshin Oshima.
In the ring Sawada is a gorgeous fighter to watch. He is text book through and through with a brilliant boxing brain, wonderful speed, timing, and understanding of the ring. His downfall really is a lack of power, though even that isn't the major issue it seems as he can hurt and drop people due to his ability to land clean and consistently. He is very much a pure boxer. He keeps range well, he lands clean, and he lands a lot whilst getting full extension on his shots. Sadly at age of 34 it's fair to say he will begin to slow down soon, and will need to rely even more on his skills than his, but he does look like he's been aging well and looks to be, arguably, be better than ever in recent bouts.
Although he's never held a title Seiya Tsutsumi is one of the most unfortunate fighters in the sport. He had a solid amateur career, though Sawada's was better, before turning professional in 2018 and quickly made a split winning 4 bouts in the space of 7 months and getting international ring time in Thailand and China. It seemed obvious, almost immediately, that he was going to be moved aggressively and that was shown in his first bout of 2019, when he splattered the tough Ryan Rey Ponteras inside a round. He was then part of the God Of Left Bantamweight tournament, where he reached the final by default. Sadly in the final the judges weren't on his side, as he was forced to accept a draw with the dangerous Kazuki Nakajima, in a bout that it seemed Tsutsumi deserved the win in. His only bout since then was another draw, that time against former world champion Daigo Higam in a bout that he again should have got the W in. As a result of those draws it's now more than 3 years since Tsutsumi scored a win, and more than 1.5 years since his last bout.
In the ring Tstusumi can genuinely do it all. He's a very heavy handed fighter, as he showed early in his career, against the likes of Ponteras, but he can also box, as we saw in his "draw" with Nakajima, where he moved, boxed and seemed to make Nakajima look really silly for large swathes of the bout. He has also shown he can do 10 rounds, as he did against Higa. He's not flawless, but as an all rounder he really can do it all, at a very, very high level. The major issue for him coming in to this bout is the lengthy lay off, and potentially his confidence. He's not fought since the end of 2020, when he fought Higa, and with such a long lay off, it'll be interesting to see if he has ring rust and is less sharp than usual. Notably, despite the recent lack of activity, Tsutsumi is still only 26 and we suspect his team will have kept him busy with good sparring perhaps limiting his rustiness.
Coming in to this, we expect to see Sawada starting fast, looking sharp out of the blocks and looking fantastic in the first few rounds. As time goes on however we expect to see Tsutsumi growing into the bout, and the rounds go on his power, aggression and in some ways his frustration, will show throw as he begins to get used to the speed and sharpness of Sawada and begins to turn. When that happens we suspect that the power and heavy hands of Tsutsumi will change the flow of the bout, with Sawada being hurt, and stopped later on.
Prediction - TKO9 Tsutusmi
On February 5th we'll, hopefully, see a new Japanese Bantamweight champion being crowned as Kyosuke Sawada (14-2-2, 6) and Kenshin Oshima (7-1-1, 3) battle for the title which has been vacant since Yusuke Suzuki retired in January 2021 due to injuries. Since then we have seen one fight take place for the title, with Sawada having a technical draw with Ikuro Sadatsune, before a scheduled rematch was cancelled with Sadatsune unable to compete, continuing what has been a rather cursed run for the title over the last few years, with cancellations, injuries and weight issues cancelling a surprising number of bouts for the belt. Despite the "curse" the belt still has real meaning, it's been held by some Japanese legends and is a title both men will be desperate to win. For Sawada the bout is, as mentioned, his second crack at the belt whilst Oshima will be getting his first title bout, and his first real chance to show just how good he is, after something of an underwhelming start to his professional career, so far.
Sawada is a very well schooled pure boxer, with lovely hand speed, textbook skills and a lot of amateur experience, having scored over 60 wins in the unpaid ranks. That amateur experience was supposed to help him race through the ranks, though unfortunately he came up against Yusuke Suzuki and Hiroaki Teshigawara in his first two bouts, and a lot of the expectations that were on his shoulders were quickly forgotten, with some then wondering whether he was going to ever make a mark on the sport. As it turned out however his losses weren't actually bad ones and both Suzuki and Teshigawara went on to achieve plenty themselves, with both winning titles, it was just unfortunate that Sawada had come up against them so early in his career, and theirs.
Since his bad start to the pro ranks Sawada has gone unbeaten and managed to show genuine improvement along the way. He has adapted his amateur style without throwing all the amateurs away. As a result he's a wonderfully skilled boxer, who sticks to the text for the most part, but can switch things up when he needs to. He's most comfortable range, his punches are very crisp and he's light on his feet with excellent shot selection. Sadly he can be made to look a little bit lost up close, but in fairness to him he has the tools, typically, to avoid an inside battle, and the composure to see things out, tie up when he needs to, and create space. Notably he also has solid power, much more so than his record suggests, and he gets opponents respect due to how cleanly he lands, especially with his counter shots as we saw against Sadatsune. His speed, timing and placement are all excellent, and make him a very tough opponent, no matter who he's against, and helps explain how he's turned his career around in such an impressive fashion after back-to-back losses to start his days as a professional.
Oshima turned professional with some buzz, and was regarded by some as a potential face of the future of the Teiken Gym. Prior to turning professional he had gone 27-13 in the unpaid ranks and seemed to have the potential to make a mark in the professional ranks, especially given his style was rather "pro-ready". Sadly however he would lose his second professional bout, to Yuki Iriguchi. he would then suffer another set back when he fought to a draw with the then win-less Nobuaki Kanazawa. With a 3-1-1 record after 5 fights it seemed like Oshima's amateur promise wasn't going to be realised in the professional ranks, but just like Sawada he has turned things around, winning his last 4 bouts. Not only has he won 4 in a row but they have included some solid wins too, including decision victories over Joe Tanooka, Ikuro Sadatsune and Wilbert Berondo. Sadly though the most win on his record did come more than 2 years ago, way back in November 2019.
Whilst it has been a while since we last saw Oshima in the ring, and by a while we really mean "too long!", one thing is undeniable. He's a talented boxer. He's very much a boxer-come counter puncher, with a nice array of punches, a very impressive sense of composure and good timing and distance control. He's never going to make for the most fun of bouts, and he does rely on his movement and jab a little too much at times rather than using the rest of his arsenal, but there is clearly a lot of skill there. He times fighters well, he picks good counter shots, and creates distance forcing opponents into errors. His style is awkward, he's a nightmare to fight and although he lacks the speed, power and explosiveness of top prospects, there is no denying his boxing brain and his ring IQ, he's just a little big unlucky to lack the physical traits to go with his brain.
Sadly for Oshima whilst his run was nice, this is a notable step up especially after such a long break, and in many ways he's the type of fighter that Sawada would have loved to face. Oshima lacks fight changing power, something that Sawada would perhaps be wary of, and Oshima is also not a high tempo guy, allowing Sawada to out work him. Sawada is also the quicker, sharper, fighter and the more polished boxer.
We suspect that the early portion of this bout will be a good technical chess match, with Sawada getting the better of things. As it goes on however Sawada will begin to take total control, and the bigger question isn't going to be who wins, but rather whether or not Sawada will manage to stop Oshima late on. We don't think so, but we do think Oshima will be in trouble in the final few rounds.
Prediction - UD10 Sawada
Back in July we saw a scheduled Japanese Bantamweight title fight between Kyosuke Sawada (14-2-2, 6) and Ikuro Sadatsune (11-4-4, 4) end in an inconclusive manner, as a head clash early in round 2 left both men bloodied, and saw the bout being waved off as a technical draw. It was a disappointing conclusion to the bout for both men and the fans, and it also left the title vacant. Prior to the early ending we had seen a lot of things happen in the opening round, including a knockdown and some really telling moments.
Rather than looking back of the career of the two men so far, as we usually do in their previews, we're going to focus on that first fight as the basis of how we expect to see the second bout go.
The first bout, or rather the first round of it, was controlled by Sawada, a former Japanese amateur standout who used two really effective tools through the first round of their first bout. One of those was his boxing brain and the other was his movement. Through out that first round he out thought Sawada, made him make mistakes and used his quick hands and understanding of range and distance to counter, land cleanly and dropped Sadatsune with a gorgeous combination. Through out the round, not just on the knockdown, Sawada seemed too quick, too sharp and too smart for the more bull like Sadatsune, who trudged into shots at times.
Although Sadatsune is a southpaw, that didn't really help him, and in fact Sawada seemed more than comfortable with the lefty stance of Sadatsune, and it helps him landing his straight right hand damaging left hook.
Whilst the first didn't lead to a conclusive ending, it was clear, just from the first 3 minutes, that Sawada is a much, much better boxer than Sadatsune.
Despite feeling like Sawada is the better boxer, and the man who looked likely to win the first bout, had it not ended the way it did, it is worth noting that that was only round 1 and Sadatsune was likely to find his way into the bout. We think that'll be the case again here, and he will begin to get a read on Sawada's speed and timing, will begin to close the distance, and make it a rough fight in the later rounds. By then however we feel it will be too little too late for Sadatsune, who will be in a deep hole by the time he begins to have success against a tiring Sawada, who will finish the bout on cruise control.
Prediction - UD10 Sawada
Over the last few years no Japanese title has been treat quite as strangely as the national Bantamweight title, which would be well within it's rights to have some sort of complex after what it's been through. Since Ryo Akaho won it in August 2017 it has been fought for just 3 times, successfully defended once, vacated twice, and had a host of bouts for it cancelled due to health issues, such as illness and a fighters missing weight. It must get the feeling that no one really wants it. Despite a lineage that includes legends of the sport, such as Yoshio Shirai, Naoto Takahashi, Joichiro Tatsuyoshi, Yasuei Yakushiji, Toshiaki Nishioka and Shinsuke Yamanaka.
That lineage will have another name added to it this coming Monday as Kyosuke Sawada (14-2-1, 6) takes on Ikuro Sadatsune (11-4-3, 4) for the currently vacant belt. Whilst the title may have been treated badly in recent years, it's clear, coming in to this, that both of these men are desperate to call themselves a Japanese champion and both are looking for the biggest win of their career, so far.
Of the two men it's Sawada who has earned this shot more. He actually earned a shot at the title back in 2019, when he beat Kazuki Tanaka in a Japanese title eliminator. That was meant to set up a bout with the then champion Yusuke Suzuki, who defeated Sawada back in 2013, but sadly Suzuki was forced into retirement following his bout with Yuta Saito. As a result Sawada was sat waiting for a shot at the vacant title when Covid19 destroyed the Japanese boxing schedule. That wait went on, and on, until Sadatsune stepped up to the challenge and and we ended up getting this bout arranged for a date in May. A date that would be postponed it's self due to Covid19 forcing a number of shows in Japan to be scrapped.
Despite all the issues around the title and bout we're expecting a good one here between a former amateur standout, Sawada, and someone who turned professional young and has learned the sport on the job, becoming a very good fighter in the process.
The 33 year old Sawada has been a professional since 2013, following an amateur career that had more than 80 bouts and around 60 wins. He turned professional with high expectations on his shoulders, but was matched hard from the off, and suffered back to back losses to Yusuke Suzuki, in Sawada's debut, and Hiroaki Teshigawara to start his career 0-2. Since then however he has turned things around, going 14-0-1 (6) and scoring notable wins over the likes of Kinshiro Usui, Yosuke Fujihara, Keita Nakano and Kazuki Tanaka. Those wins had lead him to becoming one of the main players on the Japanese domestic scene at 118lbs and one of the more under-rated domestic fighters.
In the ring Sawada really does rely on his amateur background. A lot. He's a pure boxer with good movement, good technical boxing skills and the sort of fighter who likes to do things at range on his jab and his straight shots. When dragged inside he can handle himself, but is very much happier at range where his shots seem to flow effortlessly. At his best he's a joy to watch, with fluid combinations and sort, though not destructive, power. At the age of 33 however, and with 21 months of ring rust coming in to this, we do wonder what he's going to look like here.
Aged 23 Sadatsune is a boxing baby, however he's been a professional since he was 17 and debuted way back in September 2015. He began his career with a 6 fight unbeaten record, going 5-0-1, before a loss in 2016, at the East Japan Rookie of the Year final, ended that run. Sadly he then struggled to get going again and fell from 5-0-1 to 6-2-2 in less than a year. It seemed like his career was going nowhere before he rediscovered some form winning 3 in a row before two razor thin losses in 2019, losing to Kenshin Oshima and Sho Ishida in bouts that he had a very valid claim to have won. Those setbacks could have been big but Sadatsune just kept ploughing on and picked two wins to get his career back on track before the pandemic struck, and slowed his ascent and he's now been out of action for around 18 months.
In the ring Sadatsune isn't as well schooled or as natural a boxer as Sawada, but he is a fighter who is improving with every fight, is criminally under-rated. He's strong, tough, has very over-looked technical skills and has more than held his own with the likes of Sho Ishida. He's also a southpaw, which further adds problems to facing him, and although he's not a big puncher he will hit harder as he matures physically, and now at 23 we suspect he will begin to show more and more pop. Since his 2017 loss to Kai Chiba, his second loss, he has never looked a clear second best in the ring, and has instead looked like a really hungry fighter who wants to prove something every time he fights. Whilst it is worth nothing that he's been inactive he does actually work at the boxing he fights out of, and we suspect with that in mind he will have stayed fit over the last 18 months or so and we think that could pay dividends here.
Had this bout taken place in 2020, we would have favoured Sawada, who at 32 would have been at the back end of his prime and would have been coming in on the back of the win over Kazuki Tanaka. With the long lay off however a lot of small things have changed against him. He's been inactive, he's aged, he's got ring rust, the momentum of his win over Tanaka, Nakano, Fujihara and Usui are now history and in that same time Sadatsune has matured and at 23, heading to 24, he's coming into his physical prime, he's developing as a man and is moving from a fresh faced boy to a fully fledged man.
We think the delay will actually swing this one from a Sawada win to a Sadatsune win, albeit in a very, very close decision. We see his youth, energy and the time Sawada has been out of the ring being the keys in a close, well fought, technical bout. We expect to see Sadatsune have that extra little bit of hunger and energy when he needs it, and to just bite down that bit harder than Sawada. It'll be close, it'll be amazingly competitive, but we see Sadatsune just, narrowly, coming away with the victory.
Prediction - SD10 Sadatsune
Boxing history is full off strange stories, strange careers and odd tales from it's long and brilliant history. The story of how we've managed to get to a Japanese Bantamweight title bout between Yuta Saito (12-9-3, 9) and Yusuke Suzuki (10-3, 7) in 2019 is one of those stories that has had twists, turns, injuries, illness and upsets to lead us to where we are, and to set up a potential under-the-radar war for July 27th.
We need to rewind almost 2 years to get to the start of this story. Backin August 2017 Saito was stopped in a Japanese title fight by Ryo Akaho. Akaho's next defense was planned for early 2018 against Yusuke Suzuki, the then mandatory challenger. Sadly Akaho would fail to face Suzuki due to issues making weight.Suzuki would then suffer an injury in the build up to a fight against Suguru Muranaka, with Muranaka then failing to make weight for a bout with Saito for the vacant belt.
From Saito's loss to Akaho in August 2017 the title wasn't fought for again until September 2018, when Saito beat up Eita Kikuchi to claim the belt, ending a supposed curse on the belt. That curse however still had one more twist with Sato suffering an illness that delayed his first defense until this past April, when he would stop Hayato Kimura, to unify the main title with Kimura's interim belt. On the same day as Saito's win over Kimura we saw Suzuki return to the ring, after 18 months out, due to the issues causing bouts with Akaho and Muranaka falling through. Now, 18 months after Suzuki was supposed to fight Akaho he gets his long awaited chance. Saito on the other hand gets the chance to notch his second defense.
With a record of 12-9-3 it's fair to say that Saito is no world beater, though he's better than those numbers suggest and has turned around a 2-3 start to his professional to develop a pretty notable career, that's despite once being 8-7-2. The problem for Saito, though much of his career, was that he could be out boxed. He quickly developed a reputation as a dangerman, thanks to his bludgeoning power and naturally heavy hands, but he was a crude puncher, and people used speed and movement to neutralise him. In recent bouts he has shown a real improvements and stoppage wins over Kikuchi and Kimura. In those wins he has proven himself to be a very good pressure fighter, bringing the action and breaking opponents down. He can still be out boxed, but it will take a very good domestic fighter to over-come his aggression and pressure.
Suzuki began his career in 2012 and their was quite a bit of expectation on his shoulders, so much so that he was put in a B class tournament in 2013, losing to future Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Yusaku Kuga in his third professional bout. He would rebuild from that early set back though suffered back to back losses in 2015 and 2016, to Ryoichi Tamura and Jeffrey Francisco. Since those losses Suzuki has reeled off 4 wins, including a good one against Eita Kikuchi. Sadly those 4 bouts have come over the last 3 years as injuries have really been derailed his rise. No, at the age of 30, it is now or never for Suzuki.
Stylistically Suzuki is an awkward looking southpaw. He's hard hitting, has a bit of a herky-jerky style and always looks a bit awkward, as if he's trying to draw a mistake with feints. When he actually goes on the offensive he looks really hard hitting and exciting, though we suspect his herky jerky style has been responsible for judges occasionally going against him. Had he shown a bit more aggression there's a chance, and a good one at that, that he would won all 3 bouts where he has come up short.
With this bout we're expecting Saito to bring intense pressure, forcing Suzuki into a fight. This should give us a real fire fight, and a potential thriller. Both men can hit hard, both are tough and both come to fight. Techncially Suzuki is the more rounded, though we feel like his inactivity and ring rust will work against him here, he has fought just 3 rounds since November 2017 and that will likely be a big problem in the later rounds.
Prediction - Saito UD10
On April 18th we see the Japanese Bantamweight title being unified, as regular champion Yuta Saito (11-9-3, 8) takes on interim champion Hayato Kimura (28-10, 19) in an interesting contest. The bout isn't the best of the 2019 Champion Carnival bouts, but is an intriguing one and one that could, finally, end the curse of the Japanese Bantamweight title.
The "curse" reared it's head last year, and struck a number of fighters. We saw Ryo Akaho vacate the title due to weight issues, Ryoichi Tamura suffer an injury before a title bout, Suguru Muranaka fail to make weight and Saito suffer an illness after winning the belt. It was Saito's illness which lead to an interim title being created, and has essentially lead to this bout.
Saito's title win, which came in September, was the biggest win of his career by far. The Hanagata Gym fighter won the title by stopping veteran Eita Kikuchi in 2 rounds. It was his first win in over 2 years, though he has been in and around the title mix for much of that time. He had fought to a draw with Tatsuya Takahashi in early 2017 and had also given Ryo Akaho a close bout in a title fight. Whilst the win over Kikcuhi was his best win Saito had shown good ability prior to the win, and had been incredibly close in a number of his losses. With some luck he could well have had 6 of his losses swing the other way, and things would look very, very different.
At 31, and now reportedly suffering from ulcerative colitis, we do wonder what Saito has left in him. He was never the quickest, or sharpest of fighters. He is heavy handed, tough, happy to bring pressure and force a fight, at a pretty exciting pace, be he's not quick and can certainly be out manoeuvered, out jabbed and outsped.
Kimura is a 29 year old who already has close to 40 bouts, an has been a professional for close to 14 years. He fought many of his early bouts outside of Japan, fighting numerous times in Thailand, Korea and the Philippines before really beginning to make a name for himself in Japan, from 2013 onwards. Whilst his success in Japan has been mixed he has fought stiff competition, losing to the likes of Michael Dasmarinas, Marlon Tapales, Sho Ishida, Kenta Nakagawa and Rene Dacquel, and has usually been competitive even in his losses.
As a fighter Kimura is a busier fighter than Saito, he's someone who can fight at range, but can also bring a war when he wants. At his best he sets a high work rate, brings pressure and lets his hands go, though can often fight a bit too much too orders, and can be rather tiresome to watch. A bit too reserved. When he shakes the shackles however he's a very good fighter and should be mixing on the regional scene, rather than just the domestic one.
Although Kimura can be in some pretty dull bouts we don't imagine this will be anything short of brilliant. The aggression of Saito will draw out the fighter in Kimura and we're expecting to see the two men meet in center ring, go to war, and give us some exhilarating action. We'd favour Kimura to come out on top, relying on his better speed, experience and youth. Saito is the puncher, but we've seen Kimura over-come punchers before and we expect to see him do the same again here.
The 2018 curse of the Japanese Bantamweight title has really been a massive problem this year. First we saw Ryo Akaho vacate the title after falling ill from weight, cancelling a January fight with Yuhei Suzuki, then we saw Suzuki suffer an injury ahead of a scheduled bout for the vacant and then we saw Suguru Muranaka fail to make weight. In the end we had to wait until September to see a champion being crowned, with Yuta Saito defeating Eita Kikuchi for the vacant title.
Even with a champion being crowned things haven't been plain sailing, with Saito then being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. This has caused a number of issues, including the JBC taking the rare step of organising a JBC "interim" title bout, with Hayato Kimura (27-10, 18) facing off with Seizo Kono (19-10-1, 12) for the JBC Interim Bantamweight title on December 20th.
Sadly the bout doesn't capture the imagination in the way a title bout should, though we expect the contest to be a good one all the same. The two men are both flawed, on paper they are similarly matched, and both are hungry fighters looking to make the most of their chance. A chance that perhaps neither has really earned.
The 29 year old Kimura began his career as a teenager in Thailand, debuting on his 16th birthday. Over the last 5 years however he fought solely in Japan where he has mixed success. To begin his career he was 19-5 (14), fighting in Thailand, Korea, Japan and the Philippines. Since fighting exclusively in Japan Kimura has gone 8-5 (4) That has included losses in two Japanese title fights, losing decisions to Sho Ishida and Kenta Nakagawa, as well as a loss in a OPBF title fight against Rene Dacquel, all at Super Flyweight. He has been matched hard, with other losses coming to Marlon Tapales and Michael Dasmarinas, both at Bantamweight, but his best wins have come against the likes of Toyoto Shiraishi and Kenya Yamashita, and those wins were 2 years apart.
Although Kimura is lacking results, and has scored his most notable wins at Super Flyweight, he is a very capable fighter and he is still developing, both technically and physically. He'd a quick boxer puncher, with a sharp jab and nice offensive work. Sadly for him his foot work and balance questionable and he does lack real thunder in his shots. Although tough he is defensively flawed can be tagged, often relying too much on his reactions.
The 29 year old Kono has been a professional for a little over 11 years and has had an interesting career, but like Kimura it's not all rosy and successful. In fact his career has seen him fighting for the WBC Youth Intercontinental Super Bantamweight and OPBF Bantamweight title, losing by stoppage to Rey Vargas and Mark John Yap respectively. Other losses on his record to notable names include a TKO loss to Taki Minamoto, a decision loss to Yu Kawaguchi and a decision loss to Kazuki Tanaka. Worryingly he is now 18 months from a win, following back to back losses to Yap and Tanaka. Not only is he ona 2 fight losing run but he is 6-7 over his last 13 fights dating back over 6 years! Not the sort of form a fighter should be getting a title shot from, even if some of those losses have been at Super Bantamweight.
Although out of form Kono is a decent fight, with a good work rate, a fun enough style and someone who brings a decent amount of aggression and excitement. He's at his best on the front foot, however his foot work is a touch slow, his punches don't appear to be crisp and snappy, and he can often be seen with his hands down when on the edge of range, sometimes inside it. His lack of real speed or power is a major issue, and although technically pretty solid he is clearly missing a standout out trait.
Given the recent losses for Kono it's hard to see him bringing any momentum into this bout, or much confidence. Kimura however is coming into the bout on the back of a win over Kenya Yamashita and we suspect that that sort of boost will really help Kimura. Kono is the naturally bigger man, but he's not a man who fights with his size usually, and we suspect that the size advantage will actually be neutralised by the speed and movement of Kimura anyway.
Although we don't think these are the best in the division in Japan this should still be a very interesting match up, and leave us going into 2019 with some interesting things going on at 118lbs in Japan. Hopefully next year will be a much better one than this year for the Japanese Bantamweight title, which has really been cursed through the whole 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.