The bouts to decide who will be challenging for Japanese titles at next year's Champion Carnival are a mixed bag this year, with one of the most interesting on paper being the Lightweight bout between Kazuki Saito (7-1, 5) and Izuki Tomioka (6-2-1, 2). On paper both are novices, with less than 10 bouts each, but both fighters were capable amateurs, have proven to be talented professionals, and although both are flawed those flaws should make for a compelling match up.
Of the two we'd argue Saito is the more well known. The 27 year old from the Kadoebi gym, is an incredibly talented boxer-puncher, with one huge flaw. His chin.
Saito moves brilliantly around the ring has gorgeous sharp offense, wonderful combinations and looks like a natural in the ring, until he gets hit. When he gets tagged there's a real worry he'll go down, and he doesn't seem to recover quickly when he does get hurt. He's been down in several fights, and was stopped by Pharanpetch Tor Buamas after going down twice in round 2. Whilst having a poor chin hasn't prevented some fighters from reaching the top of the sport, we do see that as the big issue with Saito and what will likely prevent him from reaching the levels that his skills should have taken him too.
As an amateur Saito was really good, going 83-14, and you can see that amateur background when he fights. Unfortunately the smaller gloves have exposed his lack of durability and in some ways he's like a Japanese domestic level Jorge Linares. Talented, but lacking the toughness to back up his skills.
Tomioka on the other hand is very different. The 22 year old is a pure outside fighter, jabbing, moving, spoiling on the inside and getting back behind his long jab. He started his career at Super Featherweight but quickly moved up to Lightweight and in 2018 gave Masayoshi Nakatani a really competitive fight, before being stopped in the 11th round. Sadly he followed that up with a less than enthralling bout against Shuya Masaki, losing that by split decision. As with Saito it's fair to say that Tomioka is an incredible skilled fighter, and he really is, but like Saito he has a major flaw. Tomioka really lacks the physical side of the game, lacking power. The lack of power means that whilst he can win rounds on his he struggles to keep opponents at bay, and fighters will feel happy to take risks against him if they feel the need to.
Tomioka will be looking to keep this bout at range, moving and keeping up his effort for the scheduled 8 rounds. He's done 8 a number of times, and went into the 11th with Nakatani, but will likely need to be able to land a straight behind his jab to make Saito think twice. Whilst Tomioka is rather feather fisted he likely has got enough power to keep Saito honest, if he actually lets a power or two go.
We're expecting to see Tomioka attempt to set the tempo, and try to keep it at range, but due to a lack of activity and an unwillingness to let his bigger shots go we'll see Saito get into the bout, and after 8 rounds we suspect Saito will have done enough to earn the decision. This might not be pretty at times, but we expect a very close, competitive and intriguing match up, that is open to debate on the scoring.
Interestingly the winner of this may find themselves with a chance to become a triple champion next year, as current Japanese champion Shuichiro Yoshino holds not only the Japanese title but also the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles. There's a chance he vacates one, or two, of those belts but if not that would mean the winner of this will get a massive bout next year.
Prediction SD8 Saito.
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.