Right now Japan has a lot of good amateurs turning professional and hunting professional titles as quickly as they can. They also have a second type of prospect, the ones who have come through the ranks in a way that's similar to how a prospect is developed in the West. One man who falls in to that secondary category is Junto Nakatani (19-0, 14), who has won the Rookie of the Year, the Japanese Youth title and the Japanese title on his rise through the ranks. As with many prospects who take the slower approach to the top they do need to take a step up, and on October 5th Nakatani has a big step up as he takes on former world champion Milan Melindo (37-4, 13).
For Nakatani this will be the first time he has faced an opponent that international fan will be aware of. This isn't a regional level opponent or a domestic opponent, but a former world champion. On the other hand it also serves as a must win for Melindo, who is 2 years removed from his last win and has lost his last 2 bouts, both in Japan. For both this is a serious match up.
Nakatani has been on the radar, for those who follow the Japanese scene at least, for a few years now. He won the Rookie of the Year in 2016 and since then has moved up slowly, winning the Japanese Youth title in 2017 and the main Japanese title this past February. Whilst he's yet to score a win over a big name, he has beaten the likes of Masamichi Yabuki, Shun Kosaka, Seigo Yuri Akui and Naoki Mochizuki. He has looked a real talent. he's a boxer-puncher who is huge at Flyweight, maturing into his body, a vicious body puncher and someone who is very much developing his craft. Notably he's likely to have out grown the Flyweight division before he gets a big bout, but Nakatani at Super Flyweight will certainly not be under-sized.
Whilst we have been impressed by Nakatani we do wonder what happens when he takes on someone who really knows their way around the ring. His best opponents so far have either been under-sized or technically limited, or both. We still feel Melindo will be clearly under-sized against Nakatani, but Nakatani will be up against someone who can box, move and knows his way around the ring. For the first time he will be tested in terms of his skills, and will be punished for his errors and mistakes.
The 31 year old Melindo is a true veteran, with a 14 year and 41 fight career behind him. That career has taken him all over the world with bouts in the Philippines, Dubai, Macao, Mexico and Japan and seen him share the ring with the likes of Muhammad Rachman, Juan Francisco Estrada, Javier Mendoza, Akira Yaegashi, Hekkie Budler, Ryoichi Taguchi and Kenshiro. The level of experience Melindo has is incredible, but has come at a cost and he has taken a lot of punishment through his career. He is also a natural Light Flyweight, and has spent much of his career at 108lbs, which will be a major issue against Nakatani.
Although Melindo's experience is his key advantage here he does have more to him than just a long career. He's technically an excellent fighter, with fantastic understanding of range, timing and counter punching. He's not the quickest, or the most heavy handed, but he can punch, as we saw in his opening round win against Yaegashi, but technically he's very good and with his experience that technical ability has been polished over the years.
If the men were the same weight this would be a really interesting match up, but in reality Melindo is a decent sized Light Flyweight taking on a huge Flyweight. Likewise if this was earlier in Melindo's career this would be a great fight, but the last 3 fights have been really damaging ones for the Filipino, who was stopped last time out for the first time in his career.
With the accumulative damage and size disadvantage we see what looks like a step up for Nakatani as being more of a showcase than it should be. Melindo has the skills to test Nakatani, but lacks the size, power, speed and youth to test the youngster. We suspect that within 4 or 5 rounds Melindo will be getting broken down, and will be stopped soon afterwards from accumulation.
Prediction- TKO6 Nakatani
On February 2nd we'll see a new Japanese Flyweight champion being crowned, as the unbeaten Junto Nakatani (17-0, 12) battles the underrated Naoki Mochizuki (15-3, 8). The bout is to fill a void left by former champion Masayuki Kuroda, who will be focusing on a world title fight. For Nakatani the bout is his first for a senior title, after having held the Japanese Youth Flyweight title, whilst Mochizuki will be hoping to put the disappointment of a loss in a regional title fight behind him. The bout will be held as the chief support bout for the upcoming Dynamic Glove show at the Korakuen Hall, and will share a card with the return of Kenichi Ogawa and the second professional bout of Mikito Nakano.
Over the last few years we've seen fans getting really excited about Nakatani, a hard hitting youngster who won the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2016 before winning the Japanese Youth title in 2017, when he stopped Seigo Yuri Akui.
At 21 years old Nakatani is seen as part of the future of Japanese boxing, and Japanese TV channel G+ have shown a number of his recent buts as they look to develop him into someone that fans are aware of, before he begins to fight at a higher level.
In the ring Nakatani is an aggressive boxer-puncher, who has shown and ability to box and move as well as being able to apply pressure and break opponents down on the inside. He's a very solid puncher, and his wiry frame is likely to out grow the Flyweight division in the years to come, however at the moment his body hasn't really matured and he still resembles a young kid, though a kid who can clearly punch. Added to his speed and power is the fact he's a southpaw, giving opponents extra problems and is very capable of fighting on the inside, and using his size up close.
Mochizuki on the other hand hasn't received the plaudits of Nakatani, but the 24 year old shouldn't be written on that basis. In fact if anything the Yokohama man is more likely to be out there with a point to prove, and he's been unlucky in a number of his defeats already.
Debuting in 2013 Mochizuki would compete in the Rookie of the Year in 2014, losing to Sonin Nihei in the East Japan semi-final. He would string together a number of low key wins after that before upsetting Yusuke Sakashita in late 2016. Sadly for Mochizuki that win was quickly forgotten when he lost 3 months later to Keisuke Nakayama, who would later go on to claim the OPBF Flyweight title. Since then he has gone 4-1, with his only loss being a very competitive one to Eaktwan BTU Ruaviking in a regional title bout.
As a fighter Mochizuki is aggressive, he comes forward, he throws a lot and applies a lot of pressure. That's not always educated pressure though and he does press the action in a way that a good fighter could counter, in fact that's what we saw when he struggled past domestic foe Hideyuki Watanabe last year.
It's fair to assume that Mochizuki's aggression will see him looking to take the fight to Nakatani early on, but Nakatani can handle that, and can fight on the inside, breaking Mochizuki down with the heavy shots. If he wants to box and move Nakatani has the skills to do that, but it seems more likely that he will go to war with Mochizuki and win an inside war, as he did against Akui.
We get the first of this year's Japanese title decider bouts on October 6th as Flyweight prospect Junto Nakatani (16-0, 12) takes on recent OPBF title challenger Shun Kosaka (15-4, 4), with the winner receiving a shot at the Japanese title next year, in the Champion Carnival.
Of the two fighters it's Nakatani who is the more promising and the one viewed as the favourite. He is unbeaten, big for the weight and has been very impressive through his career so far. Despite only making his professional debut in April 2015 he has already won the Rookie of the Year, in 2016, and the Japanese Youth Flyweight title, in 2017. He won both of those by scoring notable wins, defeating Masamichi Yabuki in the Rookie of the Year final and Seigo Yuri Akui in the Japanese Youth title fight. Nakatani hasn't just beaten notable domestic fighters but also some international fighters, beating Mario Andrade and Dexter Alimento in his last two bouts.
In the ring Nakatani is a busy, aggressive and heavy handed fighter. The 20 year, who is huge for a Flyweight, gets in the ring with the intention of beating up his opponents. He's a pressure fighter at heart but has shown the ability to box his way in, rather than charging at his opponents he uses his reach well to control the tempo then dominates on the inside, using his powerful hands and explosive shots.
The 23 year old Kosaka is the slightly older man and debuted back in December 2012. Notably he reached the 2014 Rookie of the Year final, where he lost to Kenya Yamashita. The following year he would suffer his second loss, to Tetsuya Hisada. Since then he has gone 6-2 (4), losing a close decision to to Akinori Hoshino last year and Jayr Raquinel back in May. In both of those bouts Kosaka had different flaws picked out, with Hoshino out boxing him and Raquinel out moving and out punching him. Given his record it's fair to say he has lost against his 4 most notable opponents but the man from the Shinsei gym will know that a win will give his career a sudden impetus.
In the ring Kosaka is a pretty basic fighter. He's doesn't do anything spectacularly well, he's got a nice jab, and knows his way around the ring but doesn't have much power in his shots, backs off a lot and despite having good timing in regards to his shots he often reaches when he punches, taking the snap of his punches. He won his first 9 bouts by decision, relying on his skills and jab, but as he's gone up in class and faced opponents who can box back he has struggled.
We suspect that Kosaka's jab and movement could give Nakatani some early problems, but before long Nakatani will have his own jab in the face of Kosaka, and will be following it up with body shots, which will break down Kosaka. The real question for Nakatani is whether he can stop Kosaka quicker than Raquinel did, which was mid way through round 4.
Interestingly we suspect that Nakatani may also have a secret weapon here, with Nakatani fighting out of the MT Gym, which also manage the same Akinori Hoshino who beat Kosaka last year.
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.