This coming Saturday we'll see Japanese Youth Featherweight champion Hiroki Hanabusa (9-2-3, 3) attempt to make his first defense of the title, which he won last November when he upset Kyonosuke Kameda, as he takes on fellow youngster Toshiyuki Takahashi (7-4, 4).
The 23 year old Hanabusa, from Ishikawa, made his debut in 2017 and had good success early on, and even won the 2018 All Japan Rookie of the Year at Super Bantamweight. At that point the then 20 year old was 5-0-2 and looking like a genuine one to keep an eye in the always competitive Japanese Super Bantamweight scene. Sadly since that solid start he has had some mixed results, going 4-2-1, with a notable 2020 loss in a Japanese Super Bantamweight title fight against the slippery and skilled Toshiki Shimomachi, and a 2021 loss to fast rising Teiken hopeful Katsuya Fukui. More telling than his post-Rookie of the Year results however was his struggle to get a notable win, with his first 3 post Rookie of the Year wins coming against limited foreign opponents. It wasn't until late last year that things changed, with his notable win over Kameda for the title.
In the ring Hanabusa is something of an aggressive technical fighter. He comes forward a lot, throws a lot of busy, sharp jabs and keeps opponents working to either create space and keep him away, or to respect to his jabs. He's not a powerful fighter, or a physically imposing one, but he's busy, sharp, busy and awkward, with an educated lead hand. He can jab just as well to the body as he can to the had, and he comes out like a man who feels he can win on his jab alone. Despite the jab lead offense Hanabusa is also a pretty smart fighter, who can counter well when he needs to and to beat him you need to genuinely be a good fighter. Losses to Fukui and Shimomachi are not bad losses to have and both have come to top domestic prospects. One thing that is working against him however, is that he does look someone what lightweight, and when a fighter puts it on him, as we saw in the later rounds against Kameda.
As for Takahashi, the 22 year old from Kanagawa also debuted in 2017, but unlike Hanabusa he never really had much early career momentum. He lost in his debut and would later go on to lose 3 in a row, as he fell to 3-4. From then however he has really found his groove, winning his last 4 bouts. Sadly however his competition during that 4 fight run doesn't tell us much at all, and all of the opponents were limited, with none of them having wins in more than 50% of their bouts. Despite that he will have confidence coming in to this. Notably however he has been having his best success at Super Bantamweight and not Featherweight.
Footage of Takahashi isn't widely available, unfortunately, but there is enough out there to get a read on him. In the ring he looks quick, uses some nice footwork to get just out of range and also apply intelligent pressure. He's not a big puncher but he does look very quick and sharp. Sadly his punches aren't as crisp as his movement and footwork, though with some time to polish off we suspect that can be changed, and there is certainly a good prospect in him, though he's also very much a work in progress. Sadly he's defensively lacking in polish and looks like he doesn't enjoy being the one getting bullied, instead he wants to be on the front foot, exerting pressure with his footwork and not being backed up unless he wants to be.
Although footage of Takahashi is hard to come bye, from what there is out there, it's hard to see what he brings to the table to really test Hanabusa. Hanabusa looks sharper offensively, smarter, more accurate and busier. Takahashi doesn't belong alongside the likes of Fukui and Shimonachi, at least for now, and we can't help but feel he's been hand picked to help make Hanabusa look good, especially with his long, piercing jab.
The question, we feel, is not whether Hanabusa will win, but more whether or not he can break down his foe. We're not sure he can, but we are pretty sure he will retain his title here.
Prediction - UD8 Hanabusa
This coming Saturday we'll see a new Japanese Youth Super Featherweight champion being crowned as Hyoga Taniguchi (5-3-2, 1) and Seika Fukuda (6-3, 1) clash for the title. The bout pits two talented but flawed youngsters against each other, and although neither is likely to make a name above domestic level, both could well be major players on the domestic scene over the coming decade or saw.
Of the two men Taniguchi is the more well known. The 23 year old southpaw made his debut in 2018 and struggled early on, going 1-2-1 after 4 bouts. He then reeled off a nice run going 3-0-1, and winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2019, before suffering something of an upset loss last year to Hiro Ichimichi. Since that loss he has bounces back with a 6 round decision win over Caliente Koyasu, though it's really hard to know what he has to offer. Taniguchi is a work horse in the ring, but with a lack of power, a lack of physicality and desire to dig deep to win bouts, his future does seem to depend on whether or not he can grow into his man strength in the near future or not.
In the ring Taniguchi is an aggressive fighter who comes forward behind his jab, sets a nice tempo, and looks relaxed coming forward. Sadly for him he is very much a work in progress. Defensive he is open, especially to counters, and given his lack of power and physical strength fighters will be willing to take one to land one. It's clear, watching him, that he's a thinking fighter, but unfortunately for him it's not thoughts that are instinctive and instead he's thinking about things as we see them, and at times it looks like we can see the cogs turning when he's fighting. When found out of his comfort zone he really looks like he's really uncomfortable, though to his credit he is willing to hold when he needs to, and does have nice speed that he and his team can build on. Though there is so many areas where he will need to improve if he's to make a mark at the top of the domestic scene, rather than just becoming a bit player on the domestic level.
Aged 22 Fukuda is a tall and rangy fighter who debuted in 2019 and won his first 5 bouts, reaching the All Japan Rookie of the Year final, before losing inside a round in the final against Tsubasa Narai. That bout could have seen Fukuda being written off, but in reality it said more about Narai's power than it did about Fukuda. He bounced back with a win over Eiji Togawa but has lost his last two, losing 8 round decisions to Yuna Hara and Seira Kishida. With 3 losses in his last 4, it's hard to know what his mindset is, but this is a great chance for him to make a mark on the sport and to claim his first professional title.
In the ring Fukuda really is someone who looks like he has a nice under-standing of the ring. He uses quick footwork, changes leaves and comes forward. Sadly though he looks like a boy rather than a man and, like Taniguchi, lacks his man strength and power. As well as lacking in terms of physicality, he also seems to have questionable balance, and there's something of an awkwardness to his footwork at times, along with wide, looping slow punches. He's certainly not a bad fighter, but just like Haniguchi, he looks like a work in progress, and someone trainers need to spend a lot of time with to really develop and round off.
With neither man having much power we're not expecting an early finish here. Instead we're expecting something of a light punching war, with the styles gelling, and both men digging deep to try and dictate the tempo and work rate. Of the two men, Fukuda does look the better fighter, but he'll know he's the away fighter, travelling from Osaka for the bout, and will need to try harder to win over the fans and the judges. Sadly though we do get the feeling that home advantage will be the key here, and in a very, very hotly contested bout, fought at mid to close range, we'll see Taniguchi just do enough to edge the decision. Regardless of who wins, neither of these youngsters is the complete product yet, and hopefully in a few years time we'll see them clash again, after both have had time to work on some of their flaws and limitations.
Prediction - MD8 Taniguchi
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.
This coming Sunday fight fans in Hyogo will get the chance to see the latest Japanese Youth title fight, as Seira Kishida (5-1-2, 2) and Seika Fukuda (6-2, 1) battle for the vacant Japanese Youth Super Featherweight title. Both men are in their early 20's and this will be the first title fight for both men, with both knowing a win here could give their career a notable boost in the right direction.
Of the two men Kishida the older man, at 23, and also the naturally bigger fighter, standing at 5'11". He's also the man in better form. In fact since losing to Kazuki Higuchi in December 2018 he has gone 4-0-2, albeit at a low level whilst slowly but surely building up his record and getting ring time. Notably he has often gone rounds, but did score only his second stoppage win last time out, and as he matures we suspect his frame will fill out making him perhaps nasty puncher at range. Though he's certainly still a boy in the ring, and not yet a man.
Sadly recent footage of Kishida is hard to come by, however there is some video of him to work from to get a read of his style, and he really does look a gangly freak who hadn't filled out his frame at all when the fights took place. For a tall he he, unsurprisingly, has very long arms, a good sharp jab, albeit one he should use more. He's quick with both his hands and feet, but does seem to waste a lot of energy with some nervous movements. For such a tall guy who does have some lovely body shots in his arsenal, and can fight on the inside, but we suspect his team will try and train him not trade up close going forward, and the early footage may well not be reflective of his current style, which for his success needs to focus more around his jab and using his size.
Aged 22 Fukuda is the slightly younger man. He made his debut in 2019 and won his first 5, reaching the belated All Japan Rookie of the Year final in 2020 (which took place in February 2021), where he lost to Tsubasa Narai. Since then he has gone 1-1- but hasn't been matched softly and a loss last year to Yuna Hara over 8 rounds isn't a bad result. Interestingly Fukuda holds a win over Kazuki Higuchi, the man who beat Kishida early in his career. Sadly whilst his recent results haven't been good, it is worth noting he has gone 8 rounds, in the loss to Hara, which could serve him well here in a scheduled 8 rounder.
Thankfully there is a surprising amount of footage of Fukuda and he looks fun to watch, but very flawed. He comes forward behind a high guard, likes to get up close and let his hands go, especially with hooks. He is open when he throws, and leaves a lot of opportunities to counter, but he also makes action exciting and and fun to watch. Sadly he doesn't really have the make up for his style, he's not a big puncher or particularly quick, but he is fun to watch and will make for fun action fights at the lower levels of the sport. He sets a good tempo, he keeps coming forward and he likes to really let his hands go. But technically he is very, very flawed, and his lack of power is a major issue for someone who throws shots like he does.
We suspect that Fukuda will look to pressure, get close and try to make the fight a high tempo one. Sadly though we're not sure he'll be able to over-come the size of Kishida, who will look to keep things at range and will hold his own on the inside, when Fukuda gets up close. Fukuda will have moments, but his lack of power will be a major downfall here, in what should be a very entertaining little war between two well matched, but flawed, fighters.
Prediction - UD8 Kishida
This coming Tuesday fight fans at Korakuen Hall will get a very interesting Japanese Youth Super Bantamweight title fight, as defending champion Haruki Ishikawa (9-3, 7) takes on Ryuya Tsugawa (8-1, 4), in a brilliant match up, and a great example of the bouts we've been getting due to the Youth title in Japan.
Of the two men the more well known is Ishikawa. The 22 year old champion has been a professional since 2017, and reached the All Japan Rookie of the Year final in 2018, when he lost in the final to Yusei Fujikawa. He bounced back from that loss with a pair of wins, though then suffered back to back losses, losing in a 4 round thriller against Toshiya Ishii and a disappointing performance with Kai Chiba. After those losses it seemed he was faltering big time, before resurrecting his career last year with a big domestic win over Tom Mizokoshi for the Japanese youth title.
In the ring Ishikawa is somewhat crude, a little bit wild, but also naturally heavy handed, and when he lands he can really hurt people. He's also someone who has been developing his skills over the years. He can still be out boxed, and as we saw against Chiba, he can be put into his shell by someone who can box, moves and has some power themselves, but when he's on song he's very dangerous and not the type of fighter anyone at this level wants to get into a fire fight with.
In the opposite corner is a 21 year old challenger who debuted in 2018 as a Bantamweight and reached what is, essentially, the Rookie of the Year semi-final, losing to Yusei Fujikawa in the West Japan final. Since then he has bounced back with 4 wins, 3 by stoppage, and won the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2019. Along with his recent winning run he has shown impressive development, not just with his boxing skills but also his power and his physical strength, settling in as a very solid Super Bantamweight prospect. Not only has he been in good form, but also scoring solid wins, beating Takeshi Takehara, in the 2019 Rookie of the Year final, and Hikari Mineta in his last two bouts, though has sadly been out of the ring since late 2020.
In the ring Tsugawa is a relaxed fighter, who has lovely fluidity with his shots and soaks up pressure well with some crafty subtle movements and counter shots. He looks to keep things at mid range when he can, but has got skills to counter up close and hits hard enough to get respect when he lands. He also seems happy to have a war when he needs to. Notably he is better at boxing, than fighting, but can do both. The big worry for him however, is that his chin is something of an unknown and it will be very interesting to see how he fares against a big puncher, someone like Ishikawa.
We can't help but think this is going to be a fire fight. Ishikawa loves a war, and Tsugawa seems happy to be dragged into one. Tsugawa is the better from a technical stand point, but Ishikawa is the bigger puncher, and our feeling is that Ishikawa power could be a major issue. When he lands he hurts people and if Tsugawa can be dragged into a war here, he could be in all sorts of trouble.
We suspect this will be an intense, action war, but a short one, and after 4 rounds or so Ishikawa's power will prove to be the difference maker, breaking down Tsugawa in a genuine thriller.
Prediction - Ishikawa TKO4
This coming Saturday fight fans in Kobe will get the chance to see a new Japanese Youth Light Flyweight champion being crowned, as Yuga Inoue (11-2-1, 2) and Aoba Mori (7-2-1, 1) face off for the currently vacant title, which was vacated earlier this year by Yudai Shigeoka.
For Inoue this will be his second shot at a title, following a loss to Kai Ishizawa back in a 2018 clash for the Youth Minimumweight title, whilst Mori will be getting his first shot at a belt. For both men however this will be regarded as a great chance to put their name on the map and potentially open doors to bigger and better fights down the line. Given they are both young, they will both know a loss isn't the end of the road, but a win would be a huge boost to their standing in the sport.
Of the two men it's the 22 year old Inoue who is the more known. Despite the surname, he's not related to "Monster" Naoya Inoue, or the always fun to watch Takeshi Inoue, and unlike those men he's also not from a massive area, fighting out of Hyogo rather than Tokyo. Despite that he has managed to carve out a solid career for himself since debuting as a teenager in 2016. He went unbeaten in his first 8 bouts, won the 2017 All Japan Rookie of the Year and gave Kai Ishizawa fits back in 2018. Since the loss to Ishizawa Inoue has gone 4-1 with his sole loss being a competitive one to Daiki Tomita, whilst he has picked up good wins against Daiki Kameyama, Katsuya Murakami and Tetsuya Mimura.
In the ring Inoue is a very skilled boxer mover. He's light on his feet, has a very solid jab, uses upper body movement really well and despite not having much power he does put his shots together really well. Inoue's big problem is that he can't get respect of opponents, which is a real shame as he's an excellent boxer, with a lot of good technical skills, and an exciting style. At times he can look a bit deliberate with what he does, but he's certainly able to mix things up thanks to his fast, crisp shots, and lovely combinations.
Mori is 21 years old, and like Inoue debuted as a teenager, back in 2017. Unlike Inoue however his career didn't get off to a great start, losing in his debut against Kaito Takeshima. In fact Mori could easily have been 0-7 in his first 7 bouts, instead of 5-2, with all of his early wins being razor thin decisions that could easily have gone the other way. Since those early struggles however we have seen Mori begin to mature and last time out he scored his first stoppage win, taking out Keisuke Iwasaki. Now in his early 20's he seems to have matured from a young, light punching kid into a youngster with enough power to get the respect of his opponents, even if he will never be a KO artist.
In the ring Mori is flawed but a fun to watch youngster who brings pressure, and an exciting style. Sadly he really does lack power, and while he is maturing he doesn't look a physically imposing kid, or someone who's ever going to have true fight changing power. Instead he seems like someone who's going to be in fun fights, but has a style which will lead to him losing bots and taking punishment when he faces better fighters. The key to Mori's pressure is his upper body movement, and he is a fighter who is hard to catch clean, lets his hands go and fighters like someone who trusts his chin, when he needs to.
We expect to see Mori coming forward, pressing and trying to make this into a war, forcing the tempo and letting shots go. Sadly for him we don't think he'll get Inoue's respect, and instead we're expecting to see Inoue land a lot of clean jabs, slowly chipping away at Mori. As the rounds go on, the shots of Inoue will begin to break down Mori, who'll show his toughness and see out the final bell, but will finish the bout with a swollen face and battered looking face.
Related - UD8 Inoue
For a third day in a row we get title action in Japan as Japanese Youth Featherweight champion Kyonosuke Kameda (7-2-1, 6) defends his title, for the first time, and takes on Hiroki Hanabusa (8-2-3, 3) in an interesting looking match up.
Kameda won the title back in July, when he stopped the previously unbeaten Tsubasa Narai in 2 rounds to claim his first professional title. During that bout we saw a very polished performance from Kameda, who looked relaxed, calm, confident and heavy handed. He took the first round to see what Narai had in the longer, and then hurt, and stopped Narai with some huge head shots in the second round. That was the biggest win of his career, so far, and showed the improvements Kameda has made since signing with the Harada gym.
In the ring Kameda is an awkward fighter to go up again. He's long, he's rangy, heavy handed and although he's still raw around the edges, he's dangerous and tough to get to. He's improved significantly since his debut, which he lost, and although we doubt he'll ever go on to win world titles, he certainly has the potential to mix it up at domestic and regional level, and certainly has the power to be a nightmare at this Youth title level, especially against naturally smaller fighters, such as Hanabusa. Worryingly for the Japanese domestic scene, Kameda is only 23 and could have a few years to develop his skills at the Harada gym before needing to face the top dogs.
The 22 year old Hanabusa has been a professional since 2017, and began his career as a Super Flyweight, though went on to most of his notable success at Super Bantamweight, where he won the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2018. Heading in to 2019 it seemed Hanabusa was heading places, but a loss in 2020 to Toshiki Shimomachi and one in 2021 to Katsuya Fukui have really left him in desperate need of a good performance. Sadly those two losses have come in his last two bouts, and he has no momentum at all coming into this bout. Also he's moving up in weight, from Super Bantamweight to Featherweight, and isn't a naturally big, strong or powerful fighter.
In the ring Hanabusa is a talented boxer-mover. He lacks fight changing power, but uses the ring well, throws plenty of leather and comes to fight, but does so in a technical, efficient manner. Sadly for him he hasn't the natural size to compete at Featherweight, and although he has had solid results at Super Bantamweight, he's not really a naturally 122lb'der either. In fact he'd probably have more success at Bantamweight, though the 118lb weight class is stacked in Japan at the moment. He's a talented, aggressive, comes to win and should make for a fun dancer partner, but one without much threat.
Given Hanabusa likes to fight, he likes to throw punches and comes to fight, we expect him to bring pressure early on, try and force Kameda into a high tempo fight. Kameda on the other hand will be patient, look to create some space, relax, and then use his power, taking out Hanabusa in the first half of the fight. The size, power, and strength of the two men will be the difference maker here.
Prediction - TKO4 Kameda
Fuse and Tai battle for Youth title
This coming Wednesday we're going to see a new Japanese Youth champion being crowned at Bantamweight as the enigmatic and exciting Takahiro Tai (3-0, 3) takes on the talented but light punching Fumiya Fuse (10-1, 1) in a very interesting and well matched bout between two promising young fighters. Both men are 23 years old, both a very well regarded, both are seen as very promising fighters and they have very, very different styles.
Of the two men Fuse is the more experienced and the more technically well schooled fighter. The youngster from the Watanabe Gym made his professional debut in 2017 and by the end of the year had won the All Japan Rookie of the Year crown, beating 4 unbeaten fighters along the way. The following year he made his international debut, fighting in South Korea and stepped into 8 rounds in 2019, before losing to the brilliant Toshiya Ishii. Since that loss however he has gotten back on the right track, beating Melmark Dignos and Fuya Tomita.
In the ring Fuse is a wonderfully talented boxer, with nice hand speed, an aggressive mentality, but very light punches. Despite lacking power he is very fun to watch, lets his shots go in bunches, controls distance well with fast feet and very fast hands. Sadly Fuse's lack of power is his big downfall and he struggles to get respect of opponents, even when he lands clean, which he does a lot. He picks shots really well, switches things up well, but really can't hurt opponents and that is something that will be a major problem for him down the line. Defensively he's decent, he has a good guard and he moves well, but can be caught going in straight lines at times, thankfully it's not a common thing but it does happen.
Whilst Fuse is the more well known the more interesting fighter is Takahiro Tai, a switch hitting boxer-puncher who gets into the ring with the intention of putting on a show and increasing his profile. Unlike many impressive amateurs in Japan Tai decided to turn professional with his father's gym, and take more control over his career than had he joined a bigger gym. That has allowed him to be moved quickly and show what he can do without needing a slow build up. Although only 3 fights into his career he has already shown a real charisma in the ring, an exciting style, heavy hands and the mentality that suggests he wants to make fans sit up and pay attention. Sadly though he has also looked like a fighter who is flawed, and depends on his athletic ability, strength and power rather than his actual boxing ability.
Since turning professional, with his debut coming late last year, Tai has beaten some solid domestic level fighters, including Koichi Wakita and Joe Tanooka. He has looked flawed, open, and defensively flawed, but he's beaten the fight out of more technically capable fighters and has got the combination of speed, power, strength and aggression to go a long way domestically. He'll certainly need to polish up before thinking about international titles, and focus less on entertaining, but we dare say he has a more polished style in his locker for when he'll need it, and so far he's simply not needed it. Instead he's been happy to have fun, to entertain, and to get fans talking, even if it has resulted in him taking some extra shots as a result.
Coming in to this the speed and technical edges are both with Fuse, but the power, strength and physical side of things are all with Tai. Sadly for Fuse we think the physical side of things will be the difference maker here and that despite a good start, Fuse will be broken down in the middle rounds, with Tai going on to stop his man and win the title.
Prediction - Tai TKO6
This coming Wednesday fight fans in Kyoto will be watching out for a WBC world title fight, as Kenshiro Teraji defends against Masamichi Yabuki. That bout isn't the only title bout on the show however, as Aoba Mori (7-2-1, 1) takes on Yuga Inoue (11-2-1, 2) for the Japanese Youth Flyweight title. On paper this isn't a big bout, not by any stretch, but it's an interesting bout between two young men each looking to make a statement and begin to move their career's forward in a big way.
Of the two men it's Inoue who's the more well known having on the All Japan Rookie of the Year back in 20017, as well as having had a brilliant bout for the Japanese Minimumweight title in 2018, with Kai Ishizawa, and facing strong domestic competition since then. Aged 22 he is a promising fighter, even with a couple of losses to his name, but doesn't yet appear to be even close to the finish product, technically or physically.
Inoue is a very skilled boxer-mover. He's light on his feet, likes to fight behind his jab and unleash short but sharp combinations before getting out of harm. As he's grown he has developed more to his game, but still seems to lack in terms of his power game, and whilst he does look a lot stronger than he was when he faced Ishizawa he stills looks like he's a long way from reaching his physical prime and we might not see the best of him for a while still. Sadly his lack of power is an issue, and when he takes on better fighters they will try to walk him down, with a lack of respect for what's coming back. That is something he will need to work on before even dreaming of taking on the best in the country.
Whilst Inoue has been on the radar for a while the same can't be said of Aoba Mori who really isn't too well known, even by those who follow Japanese domestic boxing. The 21 year old He debuted in 2017, losing on debut up at Bantamweight, but has slowly slipped down the weights and has been fighting around Flyweight, or Super Flyweight in most of his recent bouts. Sadly his competition doesn't really stand out, and there's not really any recognisable opponents on there. On paper this is, his biggest fight so far, by a huge margin though he should come in to the ring as the bigger man, the stronger man, and trickier man, given he's a southpaw.
Whilst there isn't too much footage of Aoba out there there is enough to get a look into what he brings to the ring. He's a someone who fights very upright, uses a nice southpaw jab, though looks very inexperienced at times, and does look like someone who is a youngster at the formative years of his career. He's not sharp, his footwork is rough and he often throws his left hand whilst well out of range. Despite there there are some nice things he does and he does look aggressive, he looks like he comes to press and is improving fight by fight. Sadly, like Inoue, he lacks power and seems to slap rather than punch through the target.
Whilst we know Aoba will be the taller, bigger man, we do feel this is too much of a step up in class for him. He will have moments, but we feel that Inoue's more rounded boxing, more eye catching flurries and higher level of experience will prove to be the difference in a very competitive but drama free 8 rounder. Don't expect to see either man being all that hurt, or dropped, but that shouldn't take away from this being hotly contested, and both men having a chance to show what they can do at times.
Prediction - UD8 Inoue
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
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.