On November 21st we're set for a really good Dangan card live on Boxing Raise. Much of the talk going into the show will be for the attractive main event, up at 140lbs. That bout however isn't the only title bout on the card, and another is a Japanese Youth Super Flyweight title bout between defending champion Suzumi Takayama (3-0, 3) and Hiroto Yashiro (2-0, 2). Despite the lack of experience for both men this has the potential to be a legitimate show stealer, and potentially the hidden gem of the entire month.
Before we talk about the bout, we need to cover a little bit of history here. Neither man is the first in their family to be an active fighter. Takayama's uncle is former 2-time world title challenger Yuji Watanabe, a former Japanese and OPBF champion and one of the most exciting Japanese fighters of the 1990's. Yashiro on the other hand is is related to Yoshimitsu Yashiro, who's cousin is Hiroto Yashiro's father, a man who is best known for his reign as the Japanese Super Featherweight champion. This shows that boxing is in the blood of both men. Both were influenced by older members of their family, both turned to boxing as kids and both have strong amateur backgrounds.
Yes they might have 5 professional bouts between them, but both are a lot more experienced than those numbers suggest.
Aged 24 Takayama is the slightly older man, and also the reigning Japanese Youth Super Flyweight champion. He made his professional debut in February 2019 following a 51 fight amateur career and has been moved very quickly, as one would assume from a man winning a Japanese Youth title in just his third bout. He had a relatively easy introduction to the professional ranks before stopping Korean fighter In Soo Jang in his second bout then scoring a tremendous win over Tetsuro Ohashi in his third bout for the Youth title. It was really that win over Ohashi that saw Takayama answering all sorts of questions. He showed he can bounce back from adversity, being dropped at one point, he showed stamina, stopping Ohashi in round 8, and that he was a determined, tough, fighter who could dig deep. He also showed what we already knew, that he was fantastic fighter, a good boxer with solid power, and the ability to box, punch or fight with a pressure style. In just his third bout he ticked more boxes than many fighters tick in the first 20 fights of their careers.
Yashiro, 23, made his debut in September 2019 and did so away from the TV cameras, stopping an over-matched Thai in 2 rounds. Thankfully however his second bout, which took place in February this year, was shown on TV and showed Yashiro to be a very good boxer puncher. He's quick, he took center ring and gradually broke down Abdul Rauf without ever needing to move beyond second gear. That however was no surprise given that Yashiro was a stellar amateur, winning 75 of 94 bouts in the unpaid ranks. Those skills that had got him so many amateur wins show through when he's in the ring. He's a razor sharp boxer, with great balance, good hand speed, impressive power, good timing and fantastic anticipation. Sadly his competition in the professional ranks is too limited to take much away from, but in terms of skills, he's evidently very good.
Although we've been impressed by both, both also have a lot of questions to answer. For example was Takayama quite lucky that Ohashi was very much a feather fisted fighter? If he wasn't would have managed to gut it out? Was he also lucky that Ohashi began to run out of steam? Admittedly that was partially a result of the pace of their bout and body work, but it's still a fair question.
As for Yashiro what's he like under adversity? Can he dig deep like we've seen from Takayama? Have his previous bouts as a professional prepared him for a bout like this one? Are his skills, by themselves, going to be enough against someone as talented, skilled, tough and heavy handed as Takayama? What's his stamina like? What's his chin like?
With those questions hanging over them this is a really hard one to call. We'd favour Takayama, due to the fact we know he can fight 8 rounds and we know he can dig deep, but this is certainly not a foregone conclusion and we can't rule out any result. The only thing we are confident predicting is a fantastic bout between two young fighters who will both have very good futures.
If pushed, we'd pick a late Takayama win. His experience over the long distance, and his performance over Ohashi being the deciding factors.
Prediction - Ohashi TKO8
The Japanese Youth title scene is a really interesting one, with a number of promising youngsters breaking through and getting a chance to having meaningful bouts very early in their careers. Whilst not all Youth champions will go on to great success the youth title have certainly given us pretty interesting and well matched bouts at a lower level.
On April 14th we get a host of shows, with one in Tsu being headlined by a Japanese Youth Super Flyweight title bout. That bout will see heavy handed champion Yuto Nakamura (9-5, 7) make his first defense of the title, and take on little known challenger Toma Kondo (7-4, 1).
Nakamura won the title last December, when he took a razor thin decision win over Ryosuke Nasu, building on an impressive opening round win over Futa Akizuki just a few months earlier. Those two wins helped Nakamura rebuild from a series of set backs, and saw him put himself on the map, even if it was only at Japanese Youth title level.
Although unlikely to ever be a player at the top echelons of the domestic scene Nakamura is a solid boxer-puncher. He's exciting and a heavy handed but crude, a bit on the wild side but aggressive and pretty fan friendly. When his power comes into play it is genuinely fight changing, as Akizuki found out, but there is a real worry that his power won't carry up and it never really seemed to worry Nasu last time out. In fact if anything it was Nasu's shots that left Nakamura looking like a damaged fighter, with serious cuts and swelling around his face, and Nasu is not a puncher.
Whilst Nakamura put himself on the map last year it was a year to forget from Kondo, who lost 2 of his 3 bouts. In fact Kondo is 1-3 in his last 4 bouts and hasn't looked good since losing in the 2017 All Japan Rookie of the Year final to Joe Shiraishi. At 22 years old there is clearly time to rebuild, and get his career back on track, but at the moment his confidence isn't going to be high and there will be pressure on him to win here.
Despite Kondo's poor recent results his performances haven't actually been bad and he's looked like a really promising young fighter. Last time out he lost to Tsuyoshi Sato, by TKO in round 5, and he had really solid moments in the bout but was always under intense pressure from a very aggressive fighter. Kondo looks to be a solid pure boxer, with nice skills, a good jab and intelligent movement. Sadly though he has a total lack of power and he will always struggle to get the respect of his opponents.
Kondo has the skills to counter and frustrate Nakamura but the huge difference in power will be a massive difference here, and we suspect Kondo's inability to get respect from Nakamura will be a massive problem. Nakamura isn't as technically good as Kondo, or as quick or as sharp, but we expect he'll be successful here and retain his title.
The Japanese Youth titles will give future world champions their first chance to win a belt. That however isn't main focus of the belts, instead it's giving the youngsters a chance to fight meaningful fights for a physical reward before moving towards Japanese and OPBF title fight. On December 9th we see a bout that falls perfectly into that description, as Ryosuke Nasu (9-3-3, 2) and the hard hitting Yuto Nakamura (8-5, 7) battle for the Japanese Youth Super Flyweight title. The winner of this bout will become the new champion, and make a huge step towards getting a Japanese title fight down the line.
The 21 year old Nakamura is a serious puncher, but a flawed one. He began his career 2-2 (2), with two razor thin losses, and then reeled off 4 more wins before losing in a West Japan Rookie of the Year bout to Hibiki Jogo. Rather than step down a level after that loss we've seen Nakamura face stiff competition, suffering a stoppage loss to Matcha Nakagawa, a competitive decision loss to Tetsu Araki and score a huge win over Futa Akizuki, who lasted just 35 seconds.
Footage of Nakamura isn't massively easy to come by, though his fight with Nakagawa is on Boxingraise and that fight, given how recent it was, is a good reflection of Nakamura's style. He appears to be an aggressive fight who applies steady pressure, looking to make the most of his power. Sadly for him it's his defense that was an issue in that fight, with Nakagawa picking him apart with his southpaw jab and straight left hands. He looked like his desire to fight was there when the referee stepped in, but the reality is that he looked slow and open to being tagged. We suspect that his problem going forward will always be his defense and that needs to tighten up a lot for him to reach Japanese title level.
The 20 year old Nasu debuted just weeks before his 19th birthday and began 1-1-1 before reeling off a few wins and getting his career going. Thing then began to his another rough patch, with a draw to Joe Shiraishi and an opening round loss to Masamichi Yabuki. He put those results behind him with a huge win against Naoto Iwai but would again struggle to build on the win before losing this past February to Ricardo Sueno. That loss was followed by a win over Kenta Matsui but in reality he's been awfully inconsistent.
Despite being inconsistent Nasu is a talented fighter when he puts it all together. He showed that when he defeated the talented Iwai. He did that by keeping things simple, he marched forward behind an accurate jab, didn't waste energy and countered brilliantly. It wasn't a performance that will anyones socks off, but it was a technically solid display against a man who looked the more gifted fighter. The feeling we get from watching him is that he's a very technical fighter, but someone who doesn't have much power, speed or inventiveness to his work. Technical but basic if you will.
We suspect the power of Nakamura will be the difference and he will be able to stop Nasu, however he will have to take some clean shots on route. In the end it will be too much pressure and power from Nakamura for Nasu to survive 8 rounds with, something we feel confident on given how quickly Yabuki stopped Nasu down at Flyweight.
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.