One of the unique, but truly brilliant, things about Japanese boxing is their domestic Youth title. It helps stop young hopefuls from meandering early in their career's and gives them something to fight for, before maturing and preparing for a proper Japanese title fight. The title might not have the reputation of the full national title, which is one of the most highly regarded titles below world level, but it's added a new spice in recent years to the Japanese domestic scene and has given us some amazing bouts since it was created just a short few years ago.
We expect another when Tsubasa Narai (7-0, 6) and Kyonosuke Kameda (6-2-1, 5) clash for the Japanese Youth Featherweight title, and put it on the line in what should be a very, very explosive, and very exciting clash.
The match up isn't one that will get international attention, but fans at the EDION Arena Osaka are in for a real treat, between two men who are young, exciting, heavy handed and flawed. Neither are the smartest or smoothest boxer. Neither has an impenetrable defenses, but both like to let their hands go, and both have fight ending power.
Of the two men it's fair to say Kameda is the more well known. He's the cousin of the Kameda brothers, and turned professional in with a lot of noise around him, on a show that was put together essentially put together by Koki Kameda at the very start of 2018. Despite the chatter around him, and his cousin matching him up, he also actually lost on debut, being stopped in 2 rounds by Shinnosuke Kimoto. Since then however Kameda has bounced back and gone 6-1-1 (5) with his two set backs being relatively understandable ones. The first was a draw in 2019 to the awkward Ryugo Ushijima, in the East Japan Rookie of the Year, and the second was a split decision loss in the All Japan Rookie of the Year final, against Jinki Maeda.
Between his losses we saw Kameda pick up some genuinely solid wins, including a victory over the then unbeaten Tom Mizokoshi, and a TKO win over the then 5-0 Daiki Imanari. He also score a notable win last year against Daiki Asai last year. He's not the most polished fighter out there. In fact he is very much a rough around the edges fighter, but he's very heavy handed and is a freak at Featherweight, standing at around 6".
Whilst Kameda has the Kameda name helping him with his career, and with the attention he's had, Narai doesn't have that and has instead depended on making a mark with his fists. Something he has done really well. He debuted in April 2019, with a TKO win overKento Nakano, and stopped Taison Mukaiyama just weeks later. At that point it seemed like he was well on the way to a place in the 2019 East Japan Rookie of the Year, before he sadly had to pull out of the tournament. At that point in time he was fighting at Super Bantamweight. More than a year after the victory over Yazan we saw Narai return to the ring as a Super Featherweight and re-enter the Rookie of the Year, and this time he went all the way, stopping all 4 of his opponents on route to winning the All Japan tournament. In fact he stopped all 4 of his foes in the tournament in a combined 9 rounds and looked very, very impressive doing so.
Interestingly, despite being the All Japan champion at Super Featherweight, Narai isn't a big fighter. He's he's around 5'4" and will be the shorter, smaller man when he gets in the ring with Kameda. In fact Kameda will seriously tower over him. Despite that Narai looks to be the more polished boxer, he's certainly the more aggressive and the bigger puncher. He does appear to have some defensive issues, and has been tagged in the past by lesser fighters than Kameda. Given how small he is, he will have to take risks, he will struggle with the size, but if he can sneak in, land his devastating right hand, we could end up seeing Kameda's chin being given a real check.
On paper Narai is likely to enter as the favourite. He's unbeaten and will have a lot of momentum coming into this on the back of his Rookie triumph. He's in great form, the man moving down in weight, and is a very, very dangerous fighter. He is however the man who will be much smaller, and could find himself really struggling to get around the jab of Kameda. If that happens, and if Kameda fights a responsible and intelligent, performance, he could frustrate Narai, rack up the rounds, and eventually catch Narai coming in, when he gets desperate. If he can do that we suspect he'll unload and force a late stoppage, or cruise to a clear decision.
That however would take a lot of concentration from Kameda and is not something he's consistently shown through his career. Instead we suspect Kameda will look to use his jab, use his reach, but end up making mistakes and getting tagged by Narai. When that happens we expect to see Kameda seeing red and trying to fight fire with fire. When that happens it'll become a shoot out, and we favour Narai in that situation.
We might see him hit the canvas at some point, but we favour Narai here, by stoppage.
Prediction - Narai TKO4
On July 17th we'll get the next Japanese Youth title fight, and it's a mouth watering on as teenage sensation Jin Sasaki (10-0, 9) attempts to defend his Japanese Youth Light Welterweight title against second generation fighter Kaiki Yuba (7-0-2, 5), himself the Japanese Youth Lightweight champion.
Coming in to this one we have the makings of something very special. We not only have two unbeaten fighters risking their "0", we also have two men who have real power facing off, and two youngsters who are each looking to move on to bigger and better things than the youth title. In fact the bout also doubles as an eliminator for the Japanese senior title, with the winner in line to face Andy Hiraoka for the vacant Japanese 140lb title. The bout has explosive fighters, fighting for something meaningful and we really can't ask for more than that!
Coming in to this bout all the momentum is with the 19 year old Jin Sasaki, who won the title in December when he battered Aso Ishiwaki in 3 rounds. That was Sasaki's 3rd stoppage win of 2020, his fourth successive stoppage, and his 10th straight win. Not only that but was, in many ways, a fight that saw Sasaki prove a lot more than we'd seen from him in the past. Prior to that win Sasaki had been blitzing fighters, with his power and aggression being the key to his wins, and he hadn't really had to show much in terms of boxing skills. Against Sasaki however we saw him relax more and show there was more to him that brutally heavy hands in what was a career best win.
Despite being just 19 Sasaki is a special talent. He has genuinely nasty power, very under-rated boxing skills, but also a real understanding of what being a star is all about. He brings showmanship to the ring, he oozes charisma and has that must watch quality that stars have. Whether he can reach the top is unclear, but at 19 he ticks pretty much every box a fighter can tick, and he looks like someone who just "gets" it. He is someone who understands what boxing is, what he is doing in the ring, and how he needs to act to build his reputation. He is however still a boxing baby with just 21 professional rounds to his name, since his debut in 2018, and he has only been beyond 3 rounds once in his career. He's very inexperienced, and we do have question marks about his chin and his stamina, but from what we have seen he looks every bit a star of the future.
At the age of 22 Yuba is the older, more mature fighter, and standing at 5'10 he's also the taller man, but he's actually moving up in weight here having won the Japanese Youth Lightweight title in early 2020, in his most recent bout. Moving up and down the weights does however, run in the Yuba blood line with his father being the legendary Tadashi Yuba who won Japanese titles in 5 weight classes during his long and storied career. Like his father Yuba is a tall, rangy fighter, with heavy hands, but flawed defense and sadly a frustrating history of head clashes, which have resulted in both of his professional draws. Sadly for him he's not fought since January 2020, and as a result he enters this bout on the back of a long period of inactivity, but that win was the biggest of his career.
In the ring Yuba is a talented boxer-puncher who fights out of the southpaw stance. He's a patient fighter, who likes to control behind his long lead hand and line opponents up for his heavy straight left hand. At times he does seem over-eager to land his left, with his poise going as he over-extends and at other times throws the left when well out of range, but most of the time he does show good composure, timing and very good counter punching skills. Like his father he does love his own power, and in fairness to him it is nasty when he lands, but he is much more polished than his father ever was, and is a better boxer than his dad, even if he's not quite the same puncher his father became.
On paper we really like this fight. Sasaki's aggression and power against Yuba's counter punching and power. Sadly though fights aren't won and lost on paper, and we can't help but feel things are stacked against Yuba. His inactivity feels like it could be an issue, moving up in weight seems like it could be a problem, and fighting in Sasaki's home of Hachioji could also be an issue. With out the ring rust we suspect Yuba would have a real chance here with his patience, his timing and his counter shots. But with such a long lay off, we think it'll take him 3 or maybe 4 rounds to get a read on Sasaki, and that's 3 or 4 rounds he doesn't have.
We expect Sasaki to jump on Yuba, apply a lot of pressure, and take the fight to the taller man from the off. Yuba might catch him with a counter or two, but will have to take some heavy leather in the process, and we suspect that Sasaki will hurt Yuba when he lands. Yuba will try to fight back, but we suspect the added weight and strength of Sasaki will play a major role in breaking him down, and this could be over in 4 rounds with Sasaki picking up his latest win.
Don't get us wrong, Yuba has a chance. He has the power and skills to catch Sasaki, and if he does we could see our prediction turn out to be very wrong, but we're backing the teenage terror here.
Prediction - TKO4 Sasaki
This coming Thursday we get one of the most compelling match we've seen all year, as the unbeaten pairing of Ryutaro Nakagaki (2-0, 2) and Ayumu Hanada (6-0, 4) battle for the vacant Japanese Youth Super Flyweight title. Not only is this a title bout however, but it's a match up between two of the best young Super Flyweights on the planet and is a match up that will see the winner put on the fast track to more senior and more well recognised titles.
Not only are the two men talented unbeaten youngsters, but they are also fighters who have come from very different boxing back grounds. The 21 year old Nakagaki was a product of the Japanese amateur scene, and one of the very best amateurs in Japan over the last few years. Not only was he a good amateur but talent scouts were raving about him, and he ended up signing with the very highly regarded Ohashi Gym, the same gym that has developed fighters like Naoya Inoue and Akira Yaegashi. Hanada on the other hand never had that amateur development and instead left Japan all together to debut as a baby faced youngster in Mexico, developing his skills away from home, and when he finally returned back to Japan he didn't end up with a major gym, but instead chose a gym that allowed him more control of his career.
Despite having very different paths to this bout, the men are both well regarded, and seen as very, very bright hopes for the future.
Aged 21 Nakagaki is the older man, and the talented southpaw genuinely looks like a very special talent. In fact he legitimately looks like one of the best prospects in world boxing, despite having only had two professional bouts to his name. As an amateur he went 82-15 (19), won 8 amateur titles and looked like something very special. When he turned professional Mr Ohashi seemed really excited about the youngster, though did worry about his lack of power, something that was certainly questionable when he was an amateur. Since turning professional however he has looked like the consummate boxer-puncher, with brilliant pure boxing skills, very spiteful power, very sharp punching and sensational shot selection.
Since making his professional debut in October 2020 Nakagaki has shown everything a fighter can show in just 2 bouts. On debut he took out the limited Shohei Horii, in 2 rounds, then stepped up and looked even better when he stopped Yuji Okinori in 4 rounds, showing brilliant body work in that bout. So far he has looked brilliant and we expect to see that continue here.
Hanada on the other hand debuted as a professional way back in 2018 as a 16 year old in Mexico. It was in Mexico that he had his first 4 boiuts, going 4-0 (3) before returning to Japan in 2019 for his first contest in the country, albeit one not recognised by the JBC or Boxrec. Last year he finally JBC license and began and made his official Japanese debut in December 2020 when he blitzed Ryuku Nagamine in just 100 seconds. Since then he has added a second win, albeit in a very competitive bout with Mammoth Kazunori this past April, in what turned out to be a very good test for both of the youngsters.
In the ring Hanada looks almost like a discount store version of Ricardo Lopez. That's certainly not meant as an insult, but it's clear he's looking to build his style around the legendary Mexican fighter. His poise, balance and combinations are very much like that of "Finito" and it's clear the Mexican training has really sculptured his in ring style He's measured, he's talented, heavy handed, young, promising and really likes to do things in a technical style.It's a joy to watch when he pulls it off, though he is very much a work in progress, and lets be honest there's not been many fighters even close to being as good as Lopez. In the bout with Kazunori in April we saw a number of issues with Hanada that he will need to work on, but as a 19 year old boxer-puncher, he looks like he has an excellent future ahead of him, if he gets the right training and the right match ups.
With both of these men being boxer-punchers, this has the potential to be a very high level bout, though it's really the difference, rather than the similarities, that we think will decide the fight. Hanada is the more raw fighter, he has a lovely style, but one that needs significant polishing and work. He looks like he's trying to replicate a master boxer, but lacks the experience to really pull it off. At the moment. Nakagaki on the other hand is a very polished fighter, relying less on his power and more on his skills and speed and punch picking.
For us the bout is coming way too early for Hanada. He has a punchers chance, but that's all we see him having here. We expect to see Nakagaki out boxing, out skilling and out fighting Hanada, potentially even scoring another stoppage, late in the bout, with body shots.
No matter who wins or loses here however, we expect to see huge things from both men in the future, and don't be surprised if the winner and loser both end up competing at the world level before the end of the 2020's.
Prediction - TKO7 Nakagaki
This coming Sunday we get the next in a long series of really interesting Japanese Youth title bouts. This one is at Super Bantamweight as the talented and skilled champion Tom Mizokoshi (8-2-1, 4) takes on the crude but heavy handed Haruki Ishikawa (8-3, 6), in what is very much a boxer against puncher match up. The champion is one of the best young pure boxers in the country whilst Ishikawa is a very big puncher, but someone who does lack in terms of his defensive skills. The combination of these styles should make for a genuinely excellent bout.
Aged 22 Mizokoshi is one of the young stars of the Midori Gym. He made his debut back in 2017, at the age of 18, and despite some early set backs, going 2-1-1 in his first 4 bouts Mizokoshi then found his groove and went on to win his next 5. That run of performances started to get people genuinely excited about the youngster but sadly a lot of that excitement was forgotten in August 2020 when he suffered an upset loss to Hiroyuki Takehara, who stopped Mizokoshi in 3 rounds and left him with a broken jaw. Thankfully Mizokoshi bounced back from the broken jaw, and this past March scored his most notable win to date, beating Satoru Hoshiba by 8 round decision to win his Youth title.
In the ring Mizokoshi is a defensively minded boxer, who moves around the ring wonderfully, he's light on his feet, uses very good straight punches and is very much a pure boxer. He wants to control the range, he wants to keep things long, and if an opponent makes a mistake he looks to land hurtful counters. On the whole he is risk adverse, and has a style that we actually see a lot of in the US, rather than Japan. He's someone who seems to appreciate that he's not the complete package, or a fully mature fighter, and fights in a style that hides the fact he's not a fully mature man quite well. Sadly however, as we saw against Takahara, when he's tagged he can be hurt, and he has been hurt in roother fights as well. One final thing worth noting is that although he's a boxer first, he does have respectable pop in his shots, and fighters shouldn't plan to walk through him. He lands often enough and clean enough to make that a bad idea.
Aged 21 at the time of writing Ishikawa is the slightly younger fighter, but is the more physically imposing, and the more wild swinging puncher of the two. He's the one who would be regarded as a genuinely dangerous fighter and he has been for a while. He began his career in 2017, whilst a teenage, and stopped his first 5 opponents in a combined 11 rounds. That explosiveness made fans sit up and take notice though sadly for him his unbeaten run would come to an end in the 2018 All Japan Rookie of the Year final, losing a very close decision to Yusei Fujikawa. Sadly since that loss he has gone 2-2, with the most notable bout being a TKO4 loss in a Japanese Youth Bantamweight title bout to Toshiya Ishii, in an instant classic. He also lost last time out, in December 2020, to Kai Chiba in a very underwhelming performance.
At his best Ishikawa is a very fun to watch fighter, who takes risks, has heavy hands, comes to fight and doesn't care too much about taking a shot or two, if he can land one of his own. Sadly though his loss to Ishii seemed to show up limited technical skills and against Kai Chiba he looked very passive, as if he felt he couldn't win. Those results do not bode well for him here, and if he's not in the right mindset coming in to this we really see him getting frustrated by the movement of Mizokoshi. If he can land clean however, this fight could turn in a moment, and he could go from being out boxed, to winning in spectacular come from behind fashion.
We feel Mizokoshi should be able to out box Ishikawa right through the fight, though we wouldn't be surprised, at all, if he had one or two scares along the way. He should be able to see out the storms, and he should be able to rely on his boxing skills, but Ishikawa's power will mean that the challenger is always a dangerous threat.
It wouldn't be out of the question to see Mizokoshi dropped, en route to a very wide decision win.
PRediction - Mizkoshi UD8
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
One of the most exciting things about Japanese boxing right now is the Japanese Youth title scene, which has provided so many great fights over the last few years. The title might not be a sign that someone is, or isn't, destined for greatness but it is a title that is giving us some fantastic action bouts between two youngsters who are happily putting it on the line to claim a belt. We saw this in February, with a great bout between Yudai Shigeoka and Ryu Horikawa, and in December, when Jin Sasaki stopped Aso Ishiwaki.
This coming Sunday we'll see another new Japanese Youth Champion being crowned as Tom Mizokoshi (7-2-1, 4) and Satoru Hoshiba (7-4, 2) clash for the vacant Japanese Youth Super Bantamweight title. Interestingly this will not be the first time the men will have clashed, with the two having fought in a short but thrilling clash in 2019, which we'll talk about in more detail a little later on.
The title might not have the longest of lines so far, with the first champion being Takuya Mizuno in 2017, but it's a title that helped people sit up and take note of it's second champion, the highly skilled Toshiki Shimomachi, who we suspect to see big things from the future. Despite that it's certainly a title that can be used as a launch pad, and right now Hoshiba and Mizokoshi will both be wanting to launch their careers forward by winning the belt.
Of the two men the 21 year old Mizokoshi is the more highly regarded and he's seen as one of the brightest hopes at the Midori gym. As an amateur he went 9-5 though didn't wait around in the unpaid ranks long and made his professional debut in 2017, as an 18 year old, winning his debut inside a round. A draw to the then unheralded Hiroki Hanabusa in 2018 slowed his rise and a loss later that same year to Kyonosuke Kamaeda saw him fall to 2-1-1. Despite those set backs Mizokoshi found his groove and won 4 in a row, from late 2018 to the end of 2019, and was building a lot of momentum before Covid19 put a stop on boxing in Japan for most of 2020.
Sadly for Mizokoshi when he returned to the ring in August 2020 he was upset by Hiroyuki Takahara, who stopped Mizokoshi in 3 rounds and left the youngster requiring a break from the ring due to fractured jaw. Sadly that injury forced him to cancel a scheduled bout with Mugicha Nakagawa, as well as giving him his second loss.
In the ring Mizokoshi is a fun fighter to watch. At times he can look a bit timid, staying on the outside, and moving a lot, but he's looking to draw and error to counter. When he spots those errors he often explodes with a huge flurry of shots. When those errors are less forth coming he makes sure to land good, solid, single shot counters, landing the eye catching blows and then getting away in and attempt to draw another mistake. He's quikc, he's sharp and yet he also look like he can be hit, in part due to his rather low guard. It's a style that we suspect will have limitations when he steps up in class, but is certainly a fun one to watch and it's clear he is trying to entertain and fight to his strengths, which are his speed and movement. Whilst there is a lot to like about him there are major worries about his defense and his chin, and they were both shown up against Takahara last August, when a single right hand crumpled him. We also worry about his single punch power, and he negative he can look at times.
The 23 year old Satoshi Hoshiba made his professional debut way back in 2015, in fact he did so on the same show that featured Kosei Tanaka Vs Vic Saludar. Sadly for Hoshiba he was stopped in the first round in his debut, and was then stopped again in his second bout. Impressively he rebuilt his career following his 0-2 start, winning 4 in a row to reach the West representative final of the 2017 Rookie of the Year, losing a razor thin decision to Toshiki Shimomachi. Since that loss he has gone 3-1, including a good win last year against Takayoshi Suzuki. Interestingly he was supposed to face Shimomachi in a rematch late last year, for the Japanese Youth title, but sadly that bout was cancelled due to Shimomachi being ill.
In the ring Hoshiba is very different to Mizokoshi, in terms of styles and mentalities. Instead of boxing and moving he comes to fight. He looks to out work, out battle, out fight and out hustle opponents. He comes into the ring to fight, to press the action and to make opponents work every minute of every round. This saw him really impress against Shimomachi, who was unable to dictate the pacing and distance of the bout, and has seen Hoshiba give real problems to naturally better fighters. Sadly however his chin has let him down several times and walking into the fire has seen him getting burned multiple times in the past. He's exciting, but with a lack of power he really does need to rely on work rate, a lot, and it's a style that will limit his longer term potential.
We mentioned earlier that these two have fought before. They did that in 2019 when Mizokoshi managed to stop Hoshiba in 2 rounds. It is worth noting, however, that Mizokoshi was in all sorts of problems before catching Hoshiba with a perfect counter that bailed him out, and left Hoshiba wobbling whilst Mizokoshi unloaded. It was proof that Mizokoshi had heart, but also warning signs that he could be hurt.
Coming in to this it's easy to suggest that Mizokoshi should get the job done again. He's beaten Hoshiba once, and should do it again, right? Whilst we would typically agree we don't think it's all that straight forward here. Mizokoshi was hurt by Hoshiba when the men first fought and since then Mizokoshi has been stopped, in brutal and dramatic fashion. We need to wonder how his jaw is, and how much he's recovered since that loss. We're going to assume he hasn't fully recovered, at least not mentally, and with that in mind we suspect Hoshiba, if he starts fast, can leave Mizokoshi asking questions of himself. If Hoshiba keeps that up, and avoid the big counters, there's a real chance he could end up stopping his man here.
Whilst Mizokoshi is going to come in to the bout as the favourite, we're predicting an upset here. The pressure and work rate of Hoshiba, added to the damaging loss for Mizokoshi last time out, resulting in a second stoppage loss for the exciting Mizokoshi.
Prediction - Hoshiba TKO6
On March 11th we'll see the next Japanese Youth title fight, as Rikuto Adachi (14-2, 11) and Takeru Kobata (8-5-1, 3) clash for the Japanese Youth Welterweight title at Korakuen Hall. On paper this isn't close to being one of the best Japanese Youth title bouts, but it's still an interesting one between two 22 year old fighters each looking to win their first professional titles and move their careers forward.
Of the two fighters it's Adachi who is more well known, has faced stiffer competition and is regarded as the more promising fighter. At 5'11" he's a tall Welterweight and having debuted as a 17 year old in 2015 he's also someone who has been training as a professional for years. In fact there was a lot of buzz about him in 2017, when he reached the All Japan Rookie of the Year final as a 19 year old. Although he lost in the Rookie of the Year final the loss was regarded as a learning experience and with Hiroki Ioka guiding his career he was expected to go on to bigger and better things. Sadly those bigger and better things haven't yet come for Adachi, who lost in a Japanese Youth title fight in 2019 against Kudura Kaneko and then really struggled to get going again.
In 2020 Adachi moved from the Hiroki Ioka Boxing gym to the Ohashi boxing gym, moving from Osaka to Kanagawa in the process, and it was assumed Ohashi would guide the talented youngster to success. Sadly however Adachi has had several bouts cancelled since signing with the Ohashi gym, and as a result he's now been out of the ring since December 2019.
In the ring Adachi has shown himself to be a rangy, tall, long boxer. He towers over many of his opponents and presses forward behind his jab, which he uses to try and create chances to land a big right hand. He's defensively quite open, appears to lack genuine crispness in his work, but is young, strong and big. Notably however the move to the Ohashi gym, and more than a year out of the ring, is likely to have polished off a lot of issues with Adachi and the key question coming into this is "how much has he improved since his last bout?" We suspect he will always be a flawed, but aggressive boxer-puncher, however we also know that his team will be working on those flaws.
Whilst Adachi has long been regarded as a genuine prospect the same can't be said for Kobata, who also debuted in 2015, as a 17 year old. In fact Kobata debuted as a Featherweight back in late 2015, and suffered a TKO loss on debut. Amazingly Kobata began his career 0-2-1 after 3 bouts and it was fair to assume his career was going no where. Credit however has to go to Adachi who buckled down hard and went on to reach the 2017 All Japan Rookie of the Year final, losing in the final at Lightweight to Kosuke Arioka. Since then his body has filled out and he has moved to Light Welterweight and more recently Welterweight.
Early in his career Kobata looked very basic. He came to fight, but that was about as polite as we could be. He was a come forward southpaw, who marched in straight lights, let his hooks go and had very limited defensive skills or boxing intelligence. It made him fun to watch, but also saw him lose 3 of his first 9 bouts. Since then however he has matured, he has developed and despite still being limited he certainly appears to be more durable in recent years. Now-a-days he neutralises pressure better, he uses his southpaw jab and he knows what he's doing in the ring. In is most recent bout, against Shoki Sakai, he proved to be a crafty fighter, and a tough one and showed enough to genuinely run Sakai close. Although he has lost 2 of his last 4, it needs to be noted that he's not as bad as his record suggests.
On paper Adachi should be the favourite. He's the bigger man, the more highly regarded fighter and the man with the better record. We have no issue with Adachi being regarded as the favourite, and we suspect that if he can use his jab and reach well here he should be able to take a clear decision with a safety first gameplan.
However with the ring rust and the change in gyms we do wonder just how good Adachi will look here, and if Kobata gets off to a good start, makes the most of his southpaw stance and continues to show the improvements he has in recent years, we suspect he could be a genuine banana skin here.
Although we do think Adachi should be the favourite, we don't think he'll actually win here, and instead we're calling the upset. We suspect the work rate of Kobata, as well as his recent activity will play a major factor here and he will manage to squeak a razor thin decision.
Prediction - Kobata SD8
As we entered 2021 one of the divisions that had us the most excited was the Light Flyweight division, which has an incredibly stacked top 10-15 on the global stage. As well as being one of the best divisions at the top it is also one of the best in terms of emerging youngsters looking to make their mark on the upper echelons of the sport.
This coming Thursday at Korakuen Hall we see two of the best prospects in the divisions clash, as Ryu Horikawa (3-0-1, 1) and Yudai Shigeoka (2-0, 1) battle for the vacant Japanese Youth title in a truly brilliant match up that will put the winner on the fast track to more senior titles and much bigger fights.
Of the two fighters the older man is Yudai Shigeoka, the older brother of the more well known Ginjiro Shigeoka. The 23 year old Shigeoka, who turns 24 in April, had a very successful amateur career before turning professional in 2019, following his brother to the professional ranks. He debuted in a low key bout, stopping Thai visitor Manop Audomphanawari in 2 rounds back in October 2019, before stepping up massively and out pointing OPBF champion Lito Dante over 6 rounds, in a much more polished performance. Sadly however he has been out of the ring since beating Dante, back in December 2019.
From his performances so far we know that Shigeoka is a talented southpaw, with good handspeed, fantastic accuracy and timing and a good judge of distance. Against Manop he showed some brutal body work, and looked very relaxed and natural against a man who really wasn't fit to face him. Against Dante however we saw Shigeoka show what he can do with an excellent boxing display, staying wary of Dante's strength and power. Rather than going to war with Dante he boxed, moved, and tied up when he needed to, showing fantastic maturity for a fighter in just his second professional bout.
In the eyes of many Yudai Shigeoka is just as promising as his younger brother, and potentially has more upside, being a little bit more of a boxer-puncher, rather than a puncher-pressure fighter, and being taller. A win here would certainly open the door for Watanabe to move him towards bigger fights later in the year.
At just 20 years old Ryu Horikawa is a boxing baby, but one who has shown a lot of potential already. Like Shigeoka he too debuted in 2019, albeit at the age of 19, and quickly caught the eye. His debut saw him score a 3rd round TKO win over Jun Ishimoto before he scored an excellent win over Yuki Nakajima, just weeks after his debut. He then squeezed in a third fight before the end of 2019, as he travelled to China and made his international debut, fighting to a much debated draw with Xiang Li in a 10 rounder for the WBO Oriental Light Flyweight title. That experience will serve him well here in a scheduled 8 rounder. In 2020 Horikawa managed to fight in a single fight, defeating Daiki Kameyama in a very close and competitive 6 rounder as he continued to build his record and experience.
In the ring Horikawa is a fantastic boxer-mover. He’s very quick, very sharp and almost glides around the ring. Although not the biggest or strongest fighter at 108lbs he has an excellent jab, understands range very well and can sneak inside very easily, before getting away. One of his biggest strengths is his reflexes, and he spots openings very quickly, both on the front foot and the back foot, often tagging opponents at the slightest of mistakes. Despite being very good, his inexperience does occasionally show and he is clearly not the strongest fighter, with Yuki Nakajima pushing him around up close in the later stages of their 2019 bout.
On paper this might not look like an amazing match up, but it is one we are expecting to be a fantastic high speed, chess bout between two quick, talented fighters, each looking to kick their career on to the next level. Sadly for Horikawa we think his physical immaturity will be an issue here. He is, arguably, the better pure boxer but sadly he’s in with a stronger, more powerful fighter and we suspect, over 8 rounds, that will grind him down. The key for Shigeoka is his potent body attack, and we suspect that will take the wheels form Horikawa in the middle rounds, and leave the younger man in real problems in the final stages.
We suspect Horikawa survives the 8 rounds, but does come up short in a competitive, but clear, decision.
Prediction - Shigeoka UD8
Of all the bouts still to come in 2020 the one that has us the most excited to watch isn't a fight with big names. It's not even a world title bout. Instead it's a bout between two youngsters we've been following for a little while, and think could make for something very special when they get into the ring together on December 26th for a Japanese Youth title bout. It's not a bout we expect people worldwide to care too much about, but it's one that those who follow the Japanese scene in depth will be anticipating like Christmas day its self.
The bout in question is the 8 round Japanese Youth Light Welterweight title bout between the unbeaten and power punching Jin Sasaki (9-0, 8) and all action tough guy Aso Ishiwaki (8-2-1, 6). This is a bout that has the potential to be something that outshines the main event, its self a very good bout between Masayuki Ito and Hironori Mishiro, and in fact could be the Christmas Cracker that we all deserved this year.
It's a bout that has so many small sub-stories all playing a factor as well. Not only do we have two youngsters taking a major risk, but we also have the also great East Japan Vs West Japan rivalry, a Youth title on the line, and two men each wanting to take a huge stride down the path to stardom in 2020. That completely ignores the key reason to be excited however, the styles of the two men in the bout. Styles that should make for something amazing.
Of course with these not being the most well known of fighters we do need to explain why we're so excited about this bout. To begin with lets look at the unbeaten Jin Sasaki.
The 19 year old Sasaki is one of the best teenagers in boxing right now, and amazing he only turned 19 in July, by which point he was already 7-0 (6). The youngster is the star of the Hachioji Nakaya Gym and is a genuine revelation after going 1-3 in the amateurs. He turned professional in 2018 and debuted just weeks after his 17th birthday. Even at that young age his prodigious power was obvious and he stopped his first 4 opponents in a combined 8 rounds, whilst also making his international debut over in Bangkok. He would later enter the 2019 Rookie of the Year, at Lightweight, though had to pull out of the tournament at the East Japan final stage. Despite the disappointment of the Rookie of the Year in 2019 Sasaki has made himself a must watch fighter in 2020 with blow out wins over Shun Akaiwa and Tatsuya Miyazaki, and has been a star on the A-sign live Stream shows.
Unlike many Japanese fighters who are respectful, almost to a fault, Sasaki carries himself with an air of cocky confidence. His walk to the ring, his celebrations and his general attitude scream that he know he's a star and that he wants fans to pay attention to him. Whilst some of that is likely youthful exuberance a lot of it is stems from a very positive attitude and he seems to bask in the attention he has been receiving. He's blessed with that aura of a star, as well as brutally heavy hands, a finishers instinct and under-rated boxing skills to go with it. As with most Japanese fighters at 140lbs, we don't think he'll make a mark on the global stage, but on the domestic and regional picture he could be a real star for the next 10 to 15 years, if he wants to be.
As for Aso Ishiwaki he's a 21 year old fighting out of Nobuhiro Ishida's gym in Neyagawa, Osaka. Like Sasaki he didn't have much of an amateur pedigree and turned professional aged just 17. Sadly Ishiwaki lost on debut within a round, being stopped by Kanta Takenaka in a Lightweight bout. Sadly the inexperience of Ishiwaki showed here but just 4 months later he was back in the ring and started a 5 fight winning streak. That winning streak took him to the 2018 All Japan Rookie of the Year final, where he suffered a razor thin split decision loss to George Tachibana. It would have been easy to write him off after that bout, with a 5-2 (3) record, however he gritted his teeth, worked hard and had a break out 2019. That year began with a thrilling 6 round draw against Yoji Saito, and ended with a trio of stoppage wins, including one against former Japanese title challenger Ryuji Ikeda. By the end of the year we were desperate to see more of him.
In the ring Ishiwaki's style really reminds us of former world title challenger Daiki Kaneko. He's not the most technically well schooled or the biggest single punch puncher in the sport, though his power is certainly solid. But what he is, is a very tough, strong, physically powerful fighter, who comes forward, seems to have excellent stamina and grinds opponents down with aggression and work rate. Unlike Sasaki we don't see the cockiness or the aura of incredibly self belief with Ishiwaki, but we do see a self assured tough guy who has the mentality of a silent destroyer. He won't tell you he's good and he's not flamboyant, but he will show you he's good, and you will sit up and take note. In some ways that's a lot more intimidating than the outward confidence of a fighter like Sasaki.
When it comes to the actual fight it's a really hard one to call.
We expect to see Sasaki show a lot more care than he has in recent bouts, he's quick and heavy handed, but he will be respectful of Ishiwaki's toughness and strength, and his solid power. Sasaki will know that if this becomes a war he'll struggle to keep the pace with Ishiwaki. On the other hand he'll also need to land solidly enough to get Ishiwaki's respect early. If he can't this is going to be a long night for the teenage sensation.
As for Ishiwaki he has, at times, been a slow starter and he'll need to avoid that here. He'll need to apply pressure quickly, and look to break down Sasaki, asking him mental and physical questions round after round. The longer it goes the more he'll ramp up the pressure trying to break down Sasaki.
If Sasaki can hurt Ishiwaki, and it's a big if as the man from Osaka looked like a granite chinned monster against the hard hitting Yoji Saito, then there is a chance this could be over all. If he can't we suspect the higher level of competition will play a major role in the outcome.
We're feel that Ishiwaki will see out some real rocky storms early on, Sasaki will land some massive shots, wobbling Ishiwaki, hurting him, and maybe even dropping him. But won't be able to finish him off, and eventually the pressure and back and forth will break down Sasaki in a thrilling shoot out for the title. But we do not expect this to be a 1 and done rivalry and we wouldn't be surprised to see the two men clash again down the line.
Prediction TKO6 Ishiwaki
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.