On May 10th Japanese fight fans at Korakuen Hall will get a compelling Japanese Youth Minimumweight title fight, as defending champion Shunsuke Isa (9-3-1, 1) makes his first defense, taking on the highly regarded Katsuki Mori (9-1, 2) in what looks to be a brilliant match up between two talented young fighters each looking to progress their career, and move forward to bigger and better things.
Aged 24 Isa is the older man and the more experienced. The youngster from Kanagawa debuted way back in 2016 and won his first 4 bouts before losing in the East Japan Rookie of the Year to Retsu Akabane. He bounced back 9 months later with a pair of close wins before drawing with Masatora Okada and then losing to Yuni Takada in 2019, the man he would beat in 2021 for the Youth title. Although a talented fighter Takada has struggled with scoring stoppages, and his sole stoppage win was way back on his debut, meaning he has now gone 12 bouts with out a stoppage victory, and has started to come into his prime without developing much in terms of stopping power.
In the ring Isa is a fighter who likes to be on his toes, using a lot of quick movement and footwork to create space, using a busy jab and making opponents miss. Whilst he does lack power to begin with, he also in a way where he doesn't get much behind his shots, instead keeping things at range and using his speed and reach well. What Isa does well is box, move and dictate the tempo and range of the bout. Notably his style is very, very energy intensive, there is a lot of movement in his style, a lot of energy being burnt and it's a style that is certainly not suited to the longer distance of a 10 or 12 rounder, but in 6 and 8 round bouts his style is very effective. Notably he does appear the sort of fight who will do anything to avoid an inside fight, and a fighter targeting his body could end up taking his legs away, and taking the fight out of him, especially if his opponent doing it had a decent body attack and a decent bit of pop. Up top however he's a very tough guy to catch clean with head shots.
Aged 22 Katsuki Mori is the younger fighter, and he turned professional in 2018 before winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2019. Mori's Rookie of the Year triumph saw fans getting very excited about him and his style, which was fun to watch and saw him throwing a lot of leather and being an aggressive boxer-fighter, capable of fighting on the back foot, or overwhelming fellow novices on the front foot. Sadly in 2020 Covid19 slowed his ascent through the ranks, with Mori fighting just once, but he was more active in 2021, scoring two wins, before losing earlier this year to Kai Ishizawa in a Japanese title fight. A fight that he put up a good effort in, but was unprepared for and it was a massive step up against a very dangerous fighter. Rather than having a confidence boosting bout since that loss, he has jumped in here against Isa.
In the ring Mori is a genuinely fun to watch fighter, with fast hands, fast feet and a high work rate. He likes to fight up close, letting his shots go in flurries, and landing clean accurate blows. He can box and move, but it often seems like he would rather engage in a tear up, and let shots fly on the inside, than have the bout at range. Despite not being a puncher he seems to be someone who believes in his physical approach, his defense on the inside and his work rate, which often sees him simply out working and out swarming opponents. One thing that we do wonder however, is whether the loss to Ishizawa will see him change his style, and be less willing to take the fight to his opponents, and maybe consider boxing and moving more, and swarming less.
If Mori is the same fighter as he was before the loss to Ishizawa, and continues to be an aggressive, physical fighter, we see him genuinely getting to Isa early on, attacking the champions body, working away and chipping down his speed, stamina and movement. If he can do that we wouldn't be surprised at all if Isa was to be slowed almost to a halt as Mori presses later in the bout and takes a clear, but hard fought, decision. If however Mori has some worries following that loss, holds back a little bit and iasn't as aggressive as he once was, there is a chance the outside boxing, movement and awkward style of Isa could ease him to a decision. If we're being honest we suspect Mori and his team will plan to be aggressive, and will accept Ishizawa was too much whilst Isa doesn't have the thunderous power of Ishizawa, meaning they don't need to worry, and play safe.
Prediction - UD8 Mori.
On August 2nd we'll see a new Japanese Youth Minimumweight champion being crowned as Shunsuke Isa (8-3-1, 1) clashes with Yuni Takada (8-7-2, 3) for a title recently vacated by Kai Ishizawa. On paper this is a clear mismatch, with Isa being the clear favourite, however as we all know records don't fight and we can't help but think that Isa may have bitten off more than they can chew here.
The 23 year old Isa, from Kawasaki, has been a professional since 2016, when he scored a TKO win over Dai Kamimachi. Despite scoring a stoppage in his debut he has shown no power at all since then, failing to register any stoppages in his 11 subsequent match ups. Early on in his career he showed some real promise, winning his first 4 bouts before losing to Retsu Akabane in the 2017 East Japan Rookie of the Year. Since then he has had very mixed results, going 4-2-1, and struggling in a number of those wins. More notable than the results however is the fact that in 2019 he was out pointed by Yuni Takada, the man he will be facing against here.
In the ring Isa is a fun fighter to watch. Despite his lack of power he lets shots go, he uses a lot of movement, and is a surprisingly aggressive fighter for someone with little to no stopping power. He's quick, he's full of energy and he's looks like someone who could develop into a decent fighter, one day. Sadly though he looks very much rough around the edges. His lack of physical maturity and power is one thing but he's also lacking in terms of accuracy, punch selection and at times composure. Things he will improve with experience and age, but for now there are clear flaws that fighters can take advantage of.
With just 8 wins in 17 bouts Yuni Takada has the record of a very, very limited fighter. What those numbers don't show however, is that the 23 year old is no push over and that he has faced some very, very good fighters over the years. His opponents include recent Japanese title challengers Tatsuro Nakashima and Huzuko Saso, recent WBO Asia Pacific title challenger Toshiki Kawamitsu, as well as former Japanese champion Norihito Tanaka and the hugely talented Kai Ishizawa. Not only that but he's actually managed to be competitive with some of those, earning a draw with Saso and taking rounds from Ishizawa and Tanaka. So whilst his record looks poor, Takada is certainly a better fighter than his record suggests.
In the ring Takada has a really some really nice tools in his aresenal. He has an excellent jab, good movement, good balance, and under-stands what he's doing in the ring. Like Isa he lacks power, but does seem much more polished, and is very quick. We'd like to see more from him in terms of work rate, but when he does pick up his pace he does look like a real prospect, despite his record. He's also pretty accurate when under pressure, which he used to great effect in the first bout with Isa in 2019. Since then he has had some of his toughest fights, best performance and learned so much.
With Takada having already beaten Isa, and having learned so much since then, we strongly favour him here. Isa has the tools to come good, and we think he will in the future, but right now we think he lacks the power needed to get Takada's respect, or hurt him. We think that whilst he will have moments, he will be out worked, out landed and out fought, in an entertaining, competitive but clear win for Takada.
Prediction - UD8 Takada
On April 21st we'll see Japanese Youth Minimumweight champion Kai Ishizawa (7-1, 7) returning to the ring for his first bout of 2021, and his first defense of that Youth title, that he has now held for well over 2 years. In the opposite corner to the exciting champion will be unheralded challenger Yuni Takada (8-6-2, 3), who really is a massive under-dog coming in to this.
For those who haven't seen Ishizawa you have been missing out on one of the most exciting and destructive Minimumweights on the planet. The 24 year old from Kanagawa is an all pressure fighter with seriously spiteful power, which will easily carry up to Flyweight without any issues. He's a come forward fighter, with under-rated defense, real hunger and a style that is developing fight by fight and he gets moulded by the folk at the MT Gym in Japan, who also guide the career of Junto Nakatani.
As an amateur Ishizawa went a rather under-whelming 28-14 but turned professional aged 20 and quickly caught the eye, winning his first 4 bouts in a combined 10 rounds, including a very good win over Tatsuro Nakashima. In November 2018 he showed his desire and toughness to break down Yuga Inoue in the 6th round, despite being out boxed for swathes of the fight, to claim the Japanese Youth title, though sadly really just sat on the title whilst chasing bigger things. He was on the verge of bigger things in 2019 when he competed in a Japanese eliminator against Masataka Taniguchi, and even dropped Taniguchi, but he was unable to defeat his countryman who took a clear decision over the youngster. Sadly Covid19 then delayed his ring return and he was inactive for 13 months as a result, before bouncing back last October with a win over veteran Masashi Tada.
Aged 24 Ishizawa is at the age where Youth champions are essentially forced to vacate the title and this will likely be his one and only defense before restarting his pursuit of the senior title later in the year. With a bit more maturity under his win and a few more bouts we suspect he will be ready for a rematch with Taniguchi sooner rather than later.
As for Takada he's had a very mixed career. The 22 year old debuted in 2015, winning his first 2 bouts before going 3-2-1 after 6 bouts. From there on he seemed to come undone every time he had any momentum going, in what has been a very blotchy 10 fight run. At his best he can be a very capable fighter and his win against Shunsuke Isa was good proof of that, as was his draw with Hizuki Saso. Sadly though his best is only that of a "capable" fighter, and at times he has been a lot less impressive than that. He has also never really tested any of his better opponents, including Toshiki Kawamitsu, who stopped him in 2019, and Norihito Tanaka, who took a decision over him last year.
Takada has got the tools to ask some questions. He has hunger, he has decent movement, under-rated toughness, and a very decent hand speed. Though the problem is he doesn't have anything that really stands out about him. He uses a lot of energy, lacks power and has been stopped in 3 of his 4 losses. Against Ishizawa they are major issues for a fighter.
Early on we expect to see Takada trying to establish his jab, and his jab is the quicker jab of the two men. Sadly though we suspect he'll struggle to really establish himself, and will instead find himself under pressure form Ishizawa. Ishizawa will back up Takada with his own stiff jab, eventually working his way inside and then breaking down the challenger, who will have no answer. Sadly for Takada we saw what Toshiki Kawamitsu's pressure and work rate did to him in 2019, where Takada had a good start but was broken down and saved by the referee. We expect something similar here. But quicker.
If Takada survives 4 rounds it'll be a moral victory for him.
Prediction - TKO4 Ishizawa
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.