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
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.