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.
On January 11th we'll see the first Japanese title fight of 2022, as Kai Ishizawa (9-1, 8) and Katsuki Mori (9-0, 2) clash for the vacant Japanese Minimumweight title, which was given up last year by Masataka Taniguchi ahead of his WBO world title fight with Wilfredo Mendez. The match up will see two genuinely bright and promising young Minimumweights clashing, in what looks like a brilliant match up in paper, and one that is genuinely hard to call, with the two men involved having very, very different styles to each other. In one corner is a hard hitting pressure fighter, with heavy hands, flat feet, and who enjoys pressing forward, whilst the other contains a slick boxer, who lacks power but has very good foot work, movement and hand speed.
Of the two men the more proven is the 25 year old Ishizawa. He debuted in 2017 and won his first 6 bouts, all inside the distance, whilst claiming the Japanese Youth title. Sadly after running to 6-0 he then suffered sole defeat, losing in a Japanese title eliminator to Masataka Taniguchi. Thankfully for him however he bounced back quickly, and has won 3 in a row since then, including a Japanese Youth title defense, against Yuni Takada, and a win against Naoya Haruguchi in what was, essentially, a Japanese title eliminator. On paper his record doesn't scream quality, but wins against Tatsuro Nakashima, Yuga Inoue, Masashi Tada, Yuni Takada and Naoya Haruguchi are good domestic level wins.
In the ring Ishizawa is a freakishly heavy handed fighter who presses forward behind a high guard, has a stiff and hard jab, and brutal body shots on the inside. He's not the busiest of fighters, and a lot of what he does looks deliberate, even predictable, but with his heavy hands, physical strength and aggression, he makes fighters fight his fight. He applies constant pressure, and that, combined with his power, draws mistakes, which he often punishes. Notably his power has shown it's self to be completely genuine, as he dropped Taniguchi, who recently won the WBO title, and it's clear that if he wins here he will be hunting a rematch with Taniguchi.
Aged just 21 Mori is a youngster who debuted in 2018 and quickly made a name for himself, winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year just 16 months after his debut. Aged 19 at the time of his Rookie of the Year triumph he looked really promising, with lovely speed, movement and an excellent boxing brain. He looked very much like a future star of the Ohashi gym, but he also looked really young, physically immature and feather fisted. Those issues continued to show through into 2021, and after 8 bouts he was 8-0 (1). His lack of power was an issue, but he did manage to score a second stoppage last year, when he defeated Ren Kojima in 6 rounds, that was his first stoppage win since his debut win over Akira Ichihara.
In the ring Mori is a really aggressive fighter. He's not the strongest, the biggest, or the most powerful, but he's aggressive, exciting and likes to stand in front of opponents, finding gaps and letting shots go up close. He attacks the body really well, with both hands, he switches between head and body well, and has real belief in his work rate, hooks, and uppercuts. Despite being aggressive he's also a smart fighter, and he does find gaps with ease. One thing that he doesn't use very well, oddly, is his jab which is a shame as his jab is a very nice shot, but he often seems happy to use one or two whilst looking to get close, smothering opponents whilst somehow finding space for his own shots.
Interestingly the two men will both be looking to fight up close, both will be looking to let body shots go and both will be looking to break down the other. Usually when it comes to fights like this, the heavy puncher, and the more imposing gets the better of things. We suspect that will be the case again here. Ishizawa is just so much stronger and so much heavier with his shots. However we can see a route to victory for Mori, especially if he can use his under-rated defense up close, smothering the power of Ishizawa, preventing him from getting full leverage on his shots, whilst breaking down the body of the once beaten puncher.
We see Mori having success early on, and perhaps even being in the lead by round 5, but we also see him getting broken down by Ishizawa in the second half of the fight and being stopped late in the bout. He'll put in a great effort, but sadly for him we suspect Ishizawa's power will prove to be too much.
If we're wrong and Mori comes out on top here, put his name on your watch list, as he will be moved incredibly quickly if he becomes the second man to beat Ishizawa.
Prediction - TKO8 Ishizawa
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.