In December 2016 we finally saw Shuhei Tsuchiya (22-4, 18) fulfil some of his early promise and claim the Japanese Lightweight title, eventually building on his 2010 Rookie of the Year crown. This coming Saturday Tsuchiya will return to the ring as he attempts to make his first defense of his title, and takes on mandatory challenger Kazuhiro Nishitani (16-4-1, 8). Whilst the bout is Tsuchiya's first as a champion it will be the second time Nishitani will have challenged for the title, having previously come up short in December 2015 against Kota Tokunaga.
Tsuchiya made his debut in 2009 but really burst on to the Japanese scene the following year, when he claimed the All Japan Rookie of the Year crown. On route to that title he beta a number of unbeaten opponents, including Masanobu Nakazawa in the East Japan final and Yuki Miyoshi in the All Japan final. Not only did Tsuchiya claim the Rookie of the year title but he did so with a perfect record, and was 8-0 (8) following the win over Miyoshi. Tsuchiya's power saw him advancing his record to 12-0 (12) before finally being taken the distance by Indonesian Heri Andriyanto.
Sadly for Tsuchiya the win over Andriyanto was the start of some career issues for the heavy handed Japanese fighter, who would suffer a number of losses as his record fell to 16-4 (14). Whilst those 4 losses were genuine set backs, they all came to decent fighters in the form of Shoji Kawase, Masayoshi Nakatani, Leonardo Zappavigna and Ricky Sismundo. Those losses could have been the start of the end for Tsuchiya but instead they were the start of Tsuchiya's rebuilding process, which has since seen him go 6-0 and defeat Kazuki Matsuyama and Masashi Noguchi, with the win over Noguchi netting Tsuchiya the Japanese title.
In the ring Tsuchiya is an aggressive fighter who relies on his power. He's not a world class puncher, but he is heavy handed and on the domestic level not many will take his power. Whilst he is a big puncher he does has defensive flaws, which Nakatani really took advantage of, and he also has question marks over his own durability, with 3of his 4 losses being by stoppage. Although his limitations are known, and it's very unlikely that he will compete above domestic level, he a very solid Japanese level fighter and could potentially be a long term champion at this level.
The 29 year old Nishitani has also been a professional since 2009, though hasn't had the success of Tsuchiya and didn't manage to make a name for himself in the Rookie of the Year competition. Despite that he got off to a good career start, winning his first 7 bouts and there was some hope put on his shoulders. Sadly that winning run came to an end in 2011, losing to Tetsuya Nishinaga and then Yuhei Suzuki in 2012. An unbeaten 8 fight run, which saw Nishitani go 7-0-1, followed before Nishitani lost to Yusuke Tsukada in 2015. The loss to Tsukada wasn't a huge setback as Nishitani got a Japanese title fight just 6 months later, and gave a very good effort as he came up short against Kota Tokunaga.
Although Nishitani has suffered 4 defeats they have all been by decision, and they have all been pretty competitive in all honesty. Whilst he is beatable he is certainly not limited and can put up a good fight the top of the domestic level. He has respectable power, good work rate and decent skills. Nothing out standing, but certainly nothing terrible and he can certainly make life difficult for a fighter like Tsuchiya.
Notably Nishitani has fought just 2 rounds since his loss to Tokunaga, and is coming in to this bout as one of the least active fighters to be involved in the 2017 Champion Carnival bouts. He might enter this bout refreshed and hungry or rusty and with his inactivity showing through the bout.
Given his status at champion, as well as higher level experience and activity it's hard not to favour the champion, but we don't think it'll be easy for him. We do think Tsuchiya will be too good, but we think Nishitani will make it competitive through out with the bout really being an entertaining one for the fans in attendance, and those tuning in on G+.
This year has been a great one for boxing fans form Kyoto who have seen a number of fighters from their prefecture claim Japanese titles. One of those is Japanese Lightweight champion Kota Tokunaga (16-2, 11) who seeks the second defense of his title on December 16th when he faces first time challenger Kazuhiro Nishitani (15-3-1, 7). For Tokunaga it's a perfect way to cap off a career defining year whilst Nishitani could complete a remarkable 12 months of his own and announce himself a genuine name on the domestic scene.
Of the two men it's Tokunaga who impressed us the most. He first made a mark by stopping Yuki Miyoshi in 2 rounds back in 2012 and then, sadly, was stopped in a round by Ronald Pontillas in a result that saw Tokunaga really need to re-invent himself. Prior to the Pontillas fight Tokunaga was an aggressively minded boxer-puncher who looked for wins and looked for them early. Since then however he has been happy to go rounds whilst still being a boxer-puncher, and as a result has gone unbeaten running up 8 wins, with 4 stoppage.
Having started 8-2 (7) it would have been easy for Tokunaga to never develop his skills beyond being a puncher. Sadly for him the loss to Pontillas was his second opening round stoppage loss and whilst he could have remained a wild swinger he seemed to realise that he had to change if he was going to really progress to becoming a title holder. By developing he has become one of the stars of the WOZ gym and the Kyoto boxing scene.
Whilst he can be hurt Tokunaga has developed a style that tends to protect his weaknesses. He uses his long and lanky frame to fight at range, uses his jab excellently and allows himself to ease into bouts. He's not a quick starter but has made a habit, in recent bouts at least, of coming on strong, this has resulted in late stoppages in his last two bouts. Notably however he's not world class and was relatively lucky to retain his title last time out, when he scored a stoppage with just 70 seconds left whilst behind on the cards. On one hard he was lucky, on the other hand he showed a real will to win no matter how far behind he was.
It's fair to say that Nishitani is a much less well known fighter, despite having fought more times than the champion. The challenger, who debuted back in 2009, ran off a 7 fight winning streak before losing bouts to Tetsuya Nishinaga and Yuhei Suzuki, who was incidentally the last challenge to Tokunaga's throne. Since those losses Nishitani has gone 8-1-1 (5) whilst mixing in solid, but unspectacular domestic competition. Those bouts have seen fail to shine, despite being on a good run on paper.
Sadly for Nishitani his most recent set backs have come in recent bouts. Last December he was held to a draw by the limited Yushi Fujita whilst this past June he was beaten by Yusuke Tsukada. Since those set backs he has won once, claiming a narrow win over Junki Oura. Those results don't bode well for Nishitani given that they have all come against opponents much worse than Tokunaga, though the bouts will certainly have helped him develop as a fighter.
Whilst not a spectacular fighter Nishitani has shown an ability to go 10 rounds, he is tough and could well be a handful for Tokunaga, if the champion isn't completely on his game. Saying that however we do favour the champion to retain his title, despite some sticky moments.
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.