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
The second Dynamic Glove card of 2020 takes place on February 1st and features two title bouts. The lesser of those is a very interesting Japanese Youth Super Featherweight title bout between Ryusei Ishii (8-5-1, 5) and the hard hitting Yamato Hata (9-1, 9). Neither of these men are big names, but both are looking to make a mark in 2020, and a win here would be a great chance to claim their first title and build momentum before the year really kicks off.
Of the two men it's the 22 year old Hata who is the more exciting and promising fighter. The man from the Teiken Gym has been a professional since 2015, and prior to that he had been a solid amateur, running up a 39-9 record. His power was obvious early on, as he stopped his first 3 opponents, but in bout #4 the then 20 year old was upset by Takuya Hashimoto, who stopped him in round 4. Hata was dropped and although he fought on he couldn't clear his head and his team threw in the towel soon afterwards. Since that loss he has gone 6-0 (6), and scored decent wins over Shingo Kusano and Ryuku Oho, with the win over Oho netting Hata his shot at the Japanese Youth title.
In the ring Hata is a talented and heavy handed boxer-puncher, who fights out of the southpaw stance. His jab is sharp, hard and hurtful, he moves around the ring well and looks to create openings with his movement. His variety of shots is a delight to see and when he lets his shots fly he looks a natural, capable of striking fight ending shots to head or body. Defensively he's a touch open when he lets his shots go, but it's so exciting to see him in full flow offensively, and every shot seems to be very, very hard. If you can't catch him when he's firing off shots it's going to be very tough to beat Hata.
Ishii is someone has had some very mixed success during his 14 fight career. He's managed to score some upsets, notably a 2017 win over Sho Nagata, but also lose a lot of his bouts, in fact coming in to this he has gone 3-4-1 in his last 8 bouts. His win last time out, against Masashi Wakita saw him earn this title fight, his second Japanese Youth title fight. In his first shot at a Japanese Youth title he was narrowly out pointed by Kazuma Sanpei in 2017, but since then he has gained valuable experience, even if he's not really shined in his last few bouts.
In the ring Ishii is a boxer-mover but one with very low hands, who fires in wild and wide shots and looks like the sort of fighter who could find themselves in all sorts of problems against an aggressive fighter. Given he drops his hands a lot Ishii is, understandably, a slick mover, he uses upper body movement well, and does have a sharp jab, and long reach. Sadly though his does seem to struggle with pressure and doesn't have the sort of power to scare opponents away from coming forward.
Ishii has the skills to make Hata look poor at times, but we suspect Hata's aggression, heavy hands, and fierce in ring mentality will break down Ishii in the middle rounds. It'll be an exciting fight until then but sooner or later Hata's power will be the difference maker.
Prediction - TKO6 Hata
We expect 2020 to he a year where young fighters really shine, as they look to kick off the decade and make their mark in a big way. One of the many young fighters who will be looking to shine through 2020 is is the unbeaten Kaiki Yuba (6-0-2, 4) who kicks off his year in late January as he battles Kanta Takenaka (7-4-1, 2) for the Japanese Youth Lightweight title, on January 28th. For Yuba this is a second at the title whilst Takenaka will be getting his most meaningful bout to date.
Of the two fighters it is Yuba who has the bigger expectations on his shoulders. Kaiki is the son of former Japanese domestic legend Tadashi Yuba, a 5-weight national champion, and has been earmarked for professional success from when he made the decision to turn pro. He looked good early in his career, following his 2017 debut, but his ascent was slowed in 2018 when he had a Youth title bout with Izuki Tomioka end in a technical draw. A second technical draw, just 14 months later, again slowed Yuba's rise but since then he has blown out two opponents and rebuilt momentum ahead of his second shot at a Japanese youth title.
In the ring Yuba is a talented boxer-puncher. The 21 year old Southpaw can box really well behind his jab, and knows that when he has his man hurt he can take them out. He lacks his father's truly frightening power, but when he puts his weight into a shot they are hurtful blows, and he's proven he can fire them off on the back and front foot. In reality he's better going forward, but when he is under pressure he has shown good composure and a sharp ability to counter.
The 23 year old Takenaka is much less well known than Yuba. He has been a professional since 2015 and had very mixed results, with the best of them being an opening round win over a then debuting Aso Ishiwaki who has since really impressed us. Despite mostly mixed results he has gone 4-1 (1) in his last 5 and seems to be finding his feet after once being 3-3-1 (1), despite that however there isn't really much buzz about him, and he did suffer his sole stoppage loss just under a year ago.
Watching Takenaka in action he doesn't really impress us. He's rather straight up, defensively quite open and wild with his offensive work. Worryingly he leaves his chin in the air and doesn't appear to be able to cope with southpaw very well, as seen when he was beaten last year by Masashi Wakita. Although technically flawed Takenaka does appear to a trier, and looks like he takes a good shot and gives a effort every time. Sadly though his stamina is questionable and whilst he does give a solid effort that doesn't make up for the defensive issues that we think will be a big problem here.
We expect to see Takenaka come to win, but the power, skills and speed of Yuba will be too much. Yuba will look to pick him apart with his jab, and have success with it, until he hurts Takenaka. When that happens we expect to see Yuba finish off Takenaka, forcing the referee to jump in and save the limited, but tough, Takenaka.
Prediction - TKO5 Yuba
Earlier this month we saw a tremendous Japanese Youth Bantamweight title fight, with Toshiya Ishii stopping Haruki Ishikawa in a 4 round shoot out that saw both men hitting the canvas. On December 28th we cut down a few pounds for another Japanese Youth title bout, as unbeaten Japanese Youth Flyweight champion Joe Shiraishi (9-0-1, 4) take on Jukiya Washio (7-4-1, 2), in an rather weak looking first defense.
The talented Shiraishi has been on a great since making his debut in May 2016 as a 19 year old. Despite a draw in his second pro bout, to Ryosuke Nasu. In 2017 the youngster would go on to win the All Japan Rookie of the Year at Flyweight, taking the unbeaten of Yoshiki Minato along the way and noting good wins over Toma Kondo and Kento Yabusaki. He sadly failed to build on his Rookie success in 2018, when he only fought once, but in 2019 he's scored a KO win against Prince Andrew Laurio of the Philippines and beating Minato in a rematch, to claim the Japanese Youth title back in September.
Although not a big puncher Shiraishi has proven to be a solid hitter with great boxing skills, a smart boxing mind. He's accurate, he punches through the target, moves well and appears to be getting better with every fight, whilst also maturing and developing physically. There are areas for him to work on, his work rate isn't great and he does look like he's still years from his physical prime, but there's so much to like about him and it's clear that he has the potential to go a very long way, if guided and matched right.
It's a bit harder to see a bright future for Washio, despite the fact the challenger is a perfectly solid fighter himself. The 22 year hasn't really scored any major wins, and is 3-4 in his last 7, but with a touch of luck those numbers could have been very different and he has been within distance of a win in 2 of those losses. It's worth noting however that he's not naturally a Flyweight, and he's looked poor at at the weight, which again isn't the most natural division for him. Arguably his best weight is actually Light Flyweight, where he has had much of his success so far.
Washio's most notable bout to date came earlier this year, when he challenged Arata Matsuoka for the Japanese Youth Flyweight title, and lost a clear but competitive decision. During the bout Washio looked better than his record would suggest. He seemed to through some very smart right hands, but looked very under-sized and under-powered against Matsuoka, who bossed the action on the front foot. Had the men both been naturally the same size the bout could have gone Washio's way, but it was so clean, even when he landed clean, this his shots just lacked in terms of power compared to that of his rival.
Sadly for Washio we see him in up against someone who is just better than him in every way. We feel that Shiraishi is too big, too good, too strong, too sharp and too smart for him. Washio will have moments, but they will be few and far between as Shiraishi gets an easy first defense under his belt, by simply boxing and moving.
Prediction - UD8 Shiraishi
On December 12th fight fans at the Korakuen Hall will see a new Japanese Youth Bantamweight champion being crowned as youngsters Toshiya Ishii (2-0, 1) and Haruki Ishikawa (8-1, 6) battle for the vacant title in a very interesting looking bout. In one corner is a former youth amateur standout, who is being fast tracked to the top, whilst the other corner houses a Rookie of the Year finalist, having his 10th professional bout. Notably both had to earn their right to fight for the title by winning bouts as part of a 4 man tournament held back in August at Korakuen Hall.
Of the two men it's the 18 year old Ishii who is probably the more interesting fighter. He went 30-14 (17) in the amateurs, coming runner up in the 2018 Interscholastic tournament and signed with the REBOOT IBA with a lot of expectation on his shoulders. His debut was standard, easy win over a limited foe, in Adam Wijayta, but in just his second bout he beat the then Japanese ranked Fumiya Fuse, a very skilled but light punching fighter. Although Fuse is quick and skilled Ishii out did him in both areas and although he wasn't flawless he looked a real natural talent.
In the ring Ishii is a composed, yet aggressive, fighter. He's skilful but aggressive, and confident and comes forward with very educated pressure, and you can see why REBOOT IBA aren't afraid of letting him in their with more established professionals.Of course there is work to be done, a lot of work, but for a fighter at this novice stage of his career he looks very talented and, if he wins, we see the Youth title being one of many belts he collects as his career develops.
Aged 20 Ishikawa is no old man either, and he only debuted in May 2017, though unlike Ishii he hasn't got the amateur pedigree, instead developing in the professional ranks. He began his career with 5 stoppages before claiming the 2018 East Japan Rookie of the Year crown with a decision win against Beverly Tsukada. That win saw him advance to the All Japan final where he lost a majority decision to Yusei Fujikawa. Since the 2018 Rookie of the Year we've seen him score 2 including his a win over Atsushi Takada, which netted him this title shot.
Watching Ishikawa we see a man who is very confident in not only his power but also his ability to take a shot. He comes forward, he launches bombs and he takes shots on his way in. He's certainly "crude" but he looks so strong and powerful that he seems like the fighter who, at least at this level, can get away with the "take one to land one" gameplan. Heck it's worked this much right? Sadly though we don't see that gameplan carrying up to the domestic level, and he certainly needs to tidy up his style before mounting a series challenge to Japanese ranked opponents.
Whilst we love seeing fighters with Ishikawa's mentality we don't think that is going to work against someone with the skills, movement and boxing brain of Ishii. Yes, there is a chance an Ishikawa bomb lands clean and takes out the youngster, but in reality we suspect that the gulf in skills will be the difference here. We don't think Ishii has the power to take Ishikawa out, but we do see him taking a clear decision, and the title.
Prediction UD8 - Ishii
The Japanese Youth title scene kicks up another fantastic match up on October 19th as we see unbeaten youngsters clash for the Super Flyweight title. in one corner will be 20 year old Tetsuro Ohashi (7-0-1, 2), looking to build on his 2018 Rookie of the Year win, whilst the other will play host to fast rising 23 year old Suzumi Takayama (2-0, 2) in what looks like an excellent match up, between men with very contrasting styles.
Takyama ran up a 35-16 (10) amateur record before turning professional with the Watanabe gym and making his debut this past February, as part of the card headlined by Vic Saludar's world title defense against Masataka Taniguchi. His debut, a 3rd round KO win over Rungniran Korat Sport School, showed enough to get excited about him, but hard to read too much into things, given the limitations of the Thai. What was exciting however was that Watanabe gym were willing to step him up quickly, which they did in his second bout and are doing again here. One thing that is clear about the Watanabe gym is they don't want their prospects to waste time and will instead allow the talent to shine as quickly as possible.
Having only turned professional in February there's not much footage of Takayama available, though thankfully his second bout, against Korean southpaw In Soo Jang, is available on Boxing Raise. The footage of Takayama's contest with Jang is short but but shows a composed, sharp punching young man who looks like he has a solid straight left hand and a very good right hook,to body or head. There is still work to do defensively and in terms of gauging distance against a fellow southpaw, but he looked good, stopping the Korean inside a round.
Whilst Takayama has the amateur background to allow him to be fast tracked the same can't be said of Ohashi who who made his debut in June 2017 and after picking up 3 wins that year. In 2018 he progressed quickly, winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year in December, when he shut out Shinobu Wakagi over 4 rounds. Watching Ohashi we see a very quick fighter who looks to fight on the outside, using his feet and his jab. He looks jittery in the ring at times but very sharp and like he's on a different level of speed compared to opponents. His jab, especially when it's doubled, is fantastic and the way he moves around the ring looks really natural and not like a youngster who has only been a professional for a couple of years.
We like who Takayama fights, we like his speed, his movement and the way he uses his jab to score points and punish opponents when they over commit. Sadly though he looks like a kid in the ring, his lack of physicality and power is an issue, and issues that can be hard to over. He's really skilled, but looks like he's not yet matured into his frame, and that could be something that doesn't happen for a year or two yet. Against a fighter like Takayama, who is a physically mature fighter, that will be an issue.
We feel Ohashi has the skills to have some early success against Takayama but in the end the power and strength of Takayama will be the difference. Whatever early success Ohashi can get on his speed will be erased by Takayama's power in the middle rounds, as his shots began to take a toll on Ohashi. When Ohashi slows it'll be the start of the end for him and Takayama will take him out in the later rounds.
Prediction - TKO7 Takayama
The Japanese Youth Flyweight title has so much promise to help establish what the Japanese Youth titles are all about, but sadly neither of it's first two champions have really established the belt. Junto Nakatani gave it up after winning it to fight for the main Japanese title whilst Arata Matsuoka made one defense before giving it up earlier this year.
Due to Matsuoka vacating we're now set to see a new champion being crowned, as Joe Shiraishi (8-0-1, 4) takes on Yoshiki Minato (8-2, 3) for the belt this coming Monday, at the EDION Arena Osaka. The bout is the chief support contest for a card headlined by Yuki Nonaka and although a much less high profile bout, the expectation is that this will be much, much more competitive than Nonaka's. Notably it is also the second time the two fighters will have met in their young career.
The unbeaten Shiraishi, 22, is an Ioka promoted youngster from Osaka who turned professional in 2016 but really made his mark in 2017 when he became the All Japan Rookie of the Year. Along the way to his Rookie triumph he beat Minato via unanimous decision, in the first bout between the two men, before winning the West Japan Rookie of the Year against Toma Kondo and the All Japan final against Kento Yabusaki. Since winning the Rookie of the Year we've seen Shiraishi score two wins, both stoppages over international opponents, as he's taken out Stevanus Nana Bau and Prince Andrew Laurio. That newly found power is an interesting new addition to Shiraishi's game and sign that he is physically maturing and developing his technique.
Minato also debuted in 2016 and he has rebuilt well following his loss to Joe Shiraishi in the Rookie of the Year. He reeled off 4 straight wins and won the 2018 Rookie of the Year before losing inside a round to Seigo Yuri Akui this past April, a loss that really isn't anything to be embarrassed by. After losing to Shiraishi we also saw Minato, who is now 21, develop his power scoring 3 stoppages in the 2018 Rookie of the Year. Of course the loss to Akui is his latest result, and whilst that's a bad result Akui is an incredibly dangerous on the Japan scene and is much further advanced in his career than either Minato or Shiraishi.
In their first bout, which was really competitive, Shiraishi just seemed to have that extra bit of snap on his punchers and was a bit more aggressive than Minato. For both men it was their 5th bout and since then both have developed, so whilst their first bout is certainly something to look at here, we suspect a very different fight here.
Shiraishi is a quick handed, technically solid boxer-puncher, who as mentioned is adding power to his game. He's not got venom in his fists but certainly hits cleanly and can hurt opponents. He combines the clean punching with crisp combinations and smart work on the back foot. Minato isn't quite as crisp or clean with his punching but his key to victory is power and when he connects with his straight right hand he seems to really hurt opponents.
If Shiraishi can avoid the hard right hand of Minato he should have the skills and the tools in the arsenal to take win the rounds needed to take a decision, or a late stoppage. We feel that Minato's only way to win here will be a KO, he's a touch less clean with his punching, which will see him losing rounds, but that right hand really could turn the tables if he can land it clean.
Prediction - UD8 Shiraishi
The Japanese Youth Title bouts have been some of the under-rated highlights of recent years, and whether they do, or don't, help prospects become stars is yet to be seen, after all the titles have only been around for a few years. What they do do is give young and fast rising prospects a chance to test themselves for some notable silverware. The titles are already proving to be something youngsters in the country want, and are quickly becoming a stepping stone towards the more well established senior titles.
This coming Friday we get an exceptionally good looking Japanese Youth title fight, as Rikito Shiba (3-0, 2) and Shisui Kawabata (2-0, 2) battle for the Light Flyweight title. To a fan who doesn't follow the Japanese scene this bout doesn't look like anything special, but those who do follow Japanese boxing will be really excited about this bout, between unbeaten 23 year old southpaws.
Prior to turning professional both were solid amateurs, with Shiba going 38-13 and captaining a university team whilst Kawabata had around 50 amateur bouts of his own and was used as a sparring partner for Naoya Inoue last year before making his professional debut. Since turning professional neither has tasted defeat and both have looked better with every fight.
Of the two men it's Shiba who has been the more impressive professional. The RK Kamata boxing gym fighter impressed on his debut, beating Hiroki Inamine over 6 rounds, then won a B Class tournament final just a few months later. He would earn a shot at the Youth title in April, when he stopped Hizuki Saso, though would sadly see a proposed fight with Tsuyoshi Sato fall through in July when Sato suffered an injury. That would have been a very special fight, though we're glad that Sato isn't needing to wait long to fight for the title with this bout against Kawabata now being set.
In the ring Sato is a little genius. He's heavy handed, very highly skilled, a great judge of distance and a nasty body puncher. We've yet to see him being tested, and the truth is we think it might be a long time until that happens, which is why the Sato falling through was so disappointing. He's not an average 3-0 fighter, and is more like what British fans would expect a 16-0 type to look like, with a high IQ and a very smart, yet aggressive, approach in the ring.
Kawabata made his debut back in March and was obviously expected to shine on debut given his amateur back ground and time sparring with the "Monster". Surprisingly however Kawabata was dropped by Thai fighter Natchaphon Wichaita on debut, before bouncing back to stop the Thai in the second round. What was saw in his debut was a fighter with nice speed and decent power, but not the crisp shots that we've seen from some other former amateurs who have turned professional. Despite being knockdown he showed good composure and was obviously more embarrassed than hurt. You could pick a lot of areas for him to work on, both defensively and offensively, especially in the way he often seemed to slap his shots, but there was a lot to like and he fought like a man eager to impress.
In is second pro bout Kawabata took out Mongkol Kamsommat in 2 round, on the under-card of Ioka Vs Palicte. On paper this result doesn't mean a lot but it was the quickest that Mongkol had been stopped thus far in his career. He can clearly hit, with solid power, though we do wonder what that power is like against a capable opponent, like we'll see with his bout against Shiba.
We feel that Kawabata will have a good career. He's shown enough in 2 fights to look like a future fixture on the regional title scene. Sadly though he's yet to show us anything to suggest he can have with Shiba, who had faced better opponents, dug deeper and just looks like the type of fighter who could go all the way. Shiba looks like a star in the making and with him we see that crisp, sharp, clean punching that other top level former amateur standouts have. We expect that clean and clear approach will be the difference maker here, and will lead him to his first title.
Prediction TKO5 Shiba
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.