Despite the Japanese Middleweight scene not making much waves on the global scene, except for Ryota Murata and Shinji Takehara, it has been brilliant as a fight fans wanting to watch some great fights. There's been something the Japanese Middleweight title that has just delivered thrillers, such as Makoto Fuchigami Vs Koji Sato and Tadashi Yuba Vs Carlos Linares and Makoto Fuchigami Vs Tomohiro Ebisu.
The latest thriller for the title was earlier this year, when Kazuto Takesako (10-0-1, 10) saw his stoppage run come to an end in a thrilling draw against mandatory challenger Shuji Kato (10-1-2, 6). On August 3rd they run it back, in a very highly anticipated rematch, with both men looking to make a point, and walk away as the better man and the champion.
In their first bout Takesako had entered as a steam roller. He had scored his first 10 wins in just 23 rounds, with only 1 bout going beyond 3 rounds. He had won the title in just 92 seconds, smashing through the durable Hikaru Nishida, and had recorded his first defense by stopping former champion Sanosuke Sasaki in 2 rounds. He was seen as the unstoppable force on the Japanese scene.
Kato on the other hand wasn't really much of a name, though had won the Rookie of the Year in 2017 and had earned his shot at the title with a decision win against Hikaru Nishida in late 2018. He had momentum coming in to the bout, but looked like he was taking a massive step up, with his best win being a narrow victory win over the man Takesako had blitzed for the belt.
When they got in the ring we saw Takesako being made to look human, with Kato neutralising the power of Takesako with smart defense, good movement and a really accurate jab. It was the smart work of Kato that actually saw him taking a very clear early lead and instead of Takesako blowing him out it was the champion forced to dig incredibly deeply late on to to pull out the draw. It saw both men proving so much about themselves. We learned that Kato can take a shot, knew how to ride punches and could pick up his game to fight at title level. We also learned that Takesako could go 10 rounds, could dig deep and could fight hard in the later stages of a bout, proving that whilst he was a puncher, it wasn't only his power that made him dangerous but also his desire to win.
After their first bout both men spoke about a rematch, and now we get that rematch with both hungry to prove a point. For Kato it's a case of proving his first performance against Takesako wasn't a fluke, whilst Takesako will be desperate to get back to his destructive best.
Given how Kato neutralised Takesako we feel he'll be the more confident man here, but that confidence may be misplaced and with Takesako knowing he needs to step it up, shorten his punches e see the champion making a statement. Kato can be a nightmare, especially with his long southpaw jab, but we expect Takesako will have trained to combat that southpaw stance and will find himself landing his right hand much more often than in the first bout.
Prediction - Takesako TKO7
The Japanese Middleweight scene isn't known as something too exciting, but right now it's probably as interesting as it's ever been. There's a relative lack of depth, and very few really interesting bouts to be made, but those top domestic level bouts are really interesting match ups.
One of the fighters that really does standout as a must watch fighter on the domestic scene is national Middleweight champion Kazuto Takesako (10-0, 10), who will be looking to make his second defense on March 2nd, when he takes on mandatory challenger Shuji Kato (10-1-1, 6). For Kato this will be his first title fight, but also a huge step up in class for him.
Takesako is from the World of Sport Boxing Gym, the same gym as the recent world title challenger Takeshi Inoue. He turned professional back in 2015 and rose through the ranks quickly, whilst leaving destruction behind him. His first 6 bouts took place over 21 months and saw him need just 12 rounds to stop all 6 foes. Those wins lead to him getting a Japanese title eliminator in late 2017, and he made the most of his opportunity as he blasted out Shoma Fukumoto in the opening round. That win lead to him facing Japanese champion Hikaru Nishida in early 2018, and Nishida was also blasted out inside a round.
Since the winning Takesako has fought twice. His first opponent following his title win was tough Thai Chaiwat Mueanphong, who managed to survive into the 7th round with Takesako before eventually succumbing to his power. He then defended his title against a game and aggressive Sanosuke Sasaki, who came to win but was stopped in the second round.
Takesako is, as he record suggests, a big puncher. His power is legitimate and when he lands clean he hurts fighters. He has devastating blows to both head and body and surprising hand speed for such a puncher. Where he perhaps looks limited is in terms of his naturally size, he's only about 5'10" which is tiny for a Middleweight, and in his recklessness. When he feels he has his man hurt he can leave himself a little bit too open. Another issue is his defense is quite basic. He's essentially a puncher-boxer, who appears to be able to take a shot as well as landing his own dynamite leather.
Whilst Takesako has been on our radar for a while the same can't really be said of the 28 year old challenger. Kato, a southpaw from Tokyo, made his debut in December 2014 fighting just above the Super Middleweight limit, stopping his foe inside a round. He would drop down in weight for his second bout, in July 2015, and take a decision win. After having won his first 2 bouts Kato would suffer his first loss, being taken out by Altin Pepa in September 2015. His return to the ring would also end in disappointment as he was held to a draw by Agoo Masaru. Since that draw however, Kato has built himself a decent record, winning his last 8 bouts. Those 8 bouts have sene him being crowed the 2017 Middleweight Rookie of the Year, and becoming the mandatory for the Japanese title, following a split decision win over Hikaru Nishida last November, in what is by far and away his best win to date.
Watching footage of Kato we see a rangy fighter, who uses his lead hand to control distance, pawing at his opponent, moving backwards and trying to lure opponents in. It's not a pretty style, but it is an effective one at the lower levels. When he comes forward he doesn't appear to have much power on his shots, but they are thrown from some awkward angles. His technique often looks really poor, bug his size seems to allow him to get a real amount of weight behind his blows, which do do damage.
Whilst Kato has been having success, and will tower over Takesako, we really don't see what he has to offer when he goes up against Takesako. We suspect that Kato will manage to frustrate and annoy the champion, but won't be able to get Takesako's respect. We expect to see the champion begin to slip the lead hand of Kato and then pound away on the inside, stopping the challenger in the first 3 or 4 rounds, depending on how tough Kato is, and how well he can survive the power of the champion.
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.