One of the more notable Japanese youngsters climbing through the ranks at the moment is the exciting Ken Shiro (8-0, 4), who in just 8 fights has claimed the WBC Youth, Japanese and OPBF Light Flyweight titles. Ken Shiro will make his first defense of the Oriental title this coming Thursday as he takes on Filipino challenger Lester Abutan (11-5-3, 5), who has mixed with good company but has come up short against the likes of Giemel Magramo and Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr.
Of the two it's the champion who is better known with his entire career having been fought under a microscope following the success of his father Hisashi Teraji. He has however answered all the questions asked of him and has impressed from his debut, which saw him out boxing Heri Amol, right through to unifying the Japanese and Oriental titles earlier this year, when he took a wide decision over Toshimasa Ouchi. Along the way he has scored notable wins over Katsunori Nagamine, Kenichi Horikawa and Atsushi Kakutani and become a world ranked fighter, with 3 of the 4 world title bodies ranking him in the top 10.
In the ring Ken Shiro has all the tools to go a long way. He has developed impressive stamina, hits harder than his record suggests, has all the punches in the book and is impressively with quick with both hands and feet. He does have defensive lapses, with them appearing to be his biggest flaw, but but those lapses re slowly disappearing from his game and he is plugging holes whilst preparing for world title fights, and improving some of his deficiencies.
Abutan on the other hand is less well known but has slowly moved through the ranks since debuting in 2013. To begin his career things were a struggle as he fell to 2-1-1 (1) after 4 fights, drawing with the then unbeaten Nino Valenzuela and losing to the very talented Giemel Magramo. Despite those set backs he got his career back on track scoring 3 wins before suffering another draw and a second loss, falling to 5-2-2. His career continued to struggle over the fights that came and earlier this year his record was 9-5-3 (5) following a narrow loss to Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr, thankfully though he has bounced back well with back-to-back wins over Renren Tesorio and Mateo Handig.
The Filipino has shown several things through his career so far. He has proven he's tough, and has never been stopped, although being dropped several times during his career he has always recovered to his feet and fought back hard, and he has shown real development in his skills since his early days. His loss to Fahlan was really unfortunate ans it was clear there that he had the talent to make a mark on the sport. He's aggressive,a bit of a terrier and although not the most skilled he's a real handful for fighters at 108lbs with his toughness and energy.
Although Abutan is a handful we see this as being a bout where Ken Shiro should be too good, too quick and too capable for the Filipino. Abutan will have his moments, especially early, but we think Ken Shiro will prove to be too sharp, and too smart for the marauding aggressiveness of the challenger, despite some success from Abutan through out the fight
One of the things we like about the Japanese boxing scene is the way the promoters don't hold back the young and hungry prospects. Instead of fighters wasting 4 or 5 years building up their reputation, record and name with mismatches they instead jump in to swim with sharks. We've seen it so often in the last few years with the likes of former WBO Minimumweight champion Kosei Tanaka and current WBO Super Flyweight champion Naoya Inoue, along with the newly crowned WBC Youth Bantamweight champion Hinata Maruta. It's almost a given now, that if you're hyped as a potential champion in Japan before your debut, you will be pushed hard.
Another such fighter is Ken Shiro (7-0, 4). He was thrown in with a veteran on his debut, put in with an unbeaten, and naturally bigger, fighter in his third bout, fought for his first title in his 5th bout, claimed the Japanese title in his 6th bout and took on a former world title challenger in his 7th bout. In bout number 8 he will be looking to unify the Japanese and OPBF titles as he faces Toshimasa Ouchi (20-8-3, 6).
For those who haven't followed Ken Shiro's career he's really shown a bit of every thing so far. He's looked like a controlled boxer against Katsunari Nagamine, a thinker against Rolly Sumalpong, a battler against Kenichi Horikawa and a street fighter against Atsushi Kakutani. It my be that he's not sure what type of fighter he is, or it may well be that he's just incredibly versatile. One thing is clear however, there is a lot of ability with the youngster who has already proven he can go out 8 and can physically bully more mature fighters.
Ken Shiro has been fast tracked, and is already talking about potential world title bouts before the end of 2016. The reason for that speed is partial his ability, which is genuine impressive, his amateur background, which again was impressive, and the team behind him, headed by former fighter Hisashi Teraji, Ken Shiro's father. As a fighter Teraji Sr went 20-1-3 (11) and claimed the JBC Middleweight and OPBF Light Heavyweight titles. It's fair to say his father know the game and knows how talented his son is.
Aged 30 and with more than 13 years or professional ring experience Ouchi has never been on the fast track to the top, in fact this is only his second title bout in a career that has already had more than 30 bouts. Like many fighters he began his career fighting in 4 rounders, with out the expectation of becoming a champion. Early in his career he suffered setbacks and was 3-2-1 (1) early on, and later 10-5-1 (2). Since then however he has rebuilt his career, matured into a man and became a solid, though unspectacular, fighter.
His only title bout so far came in 2012, when he fought to a split decision with the then Japanese national champion Masayuki Kuroda. That was a close bout but unfortunately Ouchi couldn't secure a rematch and subsequent defeats to Kenichi Horikawa and Atsushi Aburada slowed down his rise to a second shot at a belt.
Although Ouch does lack a big win he has been in with genuinely notable fighters. He has suffered loss to world title challengers like Shin Ono and Yasutaka Kuroki and another loss to current world champion Ryoichi Taguchi.
Unfortunately for Ouchi we see this as being another test that he simply isn't good enough for. Whilst he has lost to big names he has also suffered set backs to some very limited fighters and with 3 stoppage losses we wouldn't be surprised to see Ken Shiro go into the ring and man handle Ouchi, who will be one of the few Light Flyweights who makes Ken Shiro look big at the weight. If Ken Shiro does indeed win, he'll have claimed his third career title and will likely be a ring side viewer at the upcoming WBA world title fight between Ryoichi Taguchi and Ryo Miyazaki on August 31st.
A number of fighters spent 2015 impressing fight fans, one of whom was Japanese youngster Ken Shiro (6-0, 3) [拳 四朗], who claimed the WBC Youth and Japanese Light Flyweight titles in a year that saw him scoring 4 wins and really show serious development. He'll be looking to continue his progress through 2016, and begins the year by defending his Japanese title against former world title challenger Atsushi Kakutani (17-4-1, 10) [角谷 淳志], who is getting a long over due national title shot at his normal weight.
The 24 year old champion turned professional in August 2014 and was tipped for big things pretty much from the off. Now, less than 2 years after his debut, he has already impressed showing both a high level of ability and the skills to adapt if, and when, he needs to. His skills impressed on debut, when he out pointed the highly experienced Heri Amol, and again when he scored a 7th round TKO win over the then unbeaten Katsunori Nagamine, his ability to adapt saw him fight back from a poor start to take the unbeaten record of Rolly Sumalpong and his ability to step up saw him claim a win, in December, against Kenichi Horikawa to claim the Japanese title.
Although he's still a relative novice the young champion has impressed with independent rankings from the PBO, IBO and Boxrec all rating him in the top 25 Light Flyweights on the planet, in fact at the time of writing the IBO have the youngster #3 in the world!
Although not a KO artist the youngster is a sharp puncher, with great accuracy, surprising physical strength, impressive hand speed and very intelligent movement. His “inexperience” seems to be his one flaw at the moment, though it is worth noting that he had a very extensive amateur career and was a former standout Japanese amateur who is guided by his father, a former OPBF and Japanese title holder.
The challenging has been a professional for significantly longer than the champion, in fact Kakutani debuted more than 8 years ago, began his professional career with 3 straight KO wins. Sadly for him his winning run came to an end after 17 months, as he was stopped by Mamoru Honda. That was the first of 3 stoppage losses for Kakutani who has got question marks about his durability. The other stoppages suffered by Kakutani are an opening round loss to Warlito Parrenas, in 2011, and a 4th round loss to Adrian Hernandez in a WBC world title fight. Notably his only other loss was a split decision defeat in a Japanese Super Flyweight title fight against Teiru Kinoshita.
Whilst Kakutani has come up short in his most notable bouts to date he does hold some credible wins, including a narrow decision win over Rey Loreto, who at the time was an unknown though has since proven to be a very good fighter, a win over Katsuya Matsuura and a win over Yota Hori. Notably he also dropped both Parrenas and Hernandez before being stopped himself.
In the ring Kakutani is a talented boxer mover. In recent years he has been racking up stoppages, with his last 5 wins coming inside the distance, though the opposition in those 5 wins was questionable at best with all 5 stoppages coming against very poor imports. That's not to say he can't punch, given that he dropped both Parrenas and Hernandez, but he is certainly not a puncher, and is more of a speedy mover.
For Ken Shiro we see this being another solid test for the youngster, but another one that he will pass. We see Kakutani posing some real issues with his natural size, given that he is notably taller than Ken Shiro, but we think the youth and skills of Ken Shiro will be enough to see him to his first defense, possibly courtesy of a late stoppage.
This year three young and unbeaten Japanese prospects have left us wanting more and more. One of those is Flyweight destroyer Diago Higa, who has arguably ended the year looking like a star in the making, another is Bantamweight hopeful Hinata Maruta, who we cannot wait to see again, and the third is Ken Shiro (5-0, 3) who faces his most meaningful test on December 27th.
The test in question will see the unbeaten 23 year old go up against Japanese Light Flyweight champion Kenichi Horikawa (30-13-1, 7), in what will be Horikawa's first defense of the Japanese title, and a major bout for Kyoto, the home for both men. It's a bout that, on paper, has everything. The local rivalry, a friendship between the two fighters and youth vs experience.
The 35 year old Horikawa is expected to retire in the very near future. Despite his age however he is in arguably the form of his career. Last time out he scored his most significant win to date, stopping Shin Ono to claim the Japanese national title. That bout saw Horikawa, finally, claiming a title of note after having regularly come up short in “the big ones”.
Through his long career Horikawa has mixed with some of the best in Asia. He has come up short against the likes of Akira Yaegashi, Florante Condes, Ryuji Hara and Yu Kimura. Despite those set backs, and more, he has never looked like a fighter who was going to give up and instead has shown his character, toughness, both mental and physical, and his desire, time and time again. That desire however has been couple with under-rated skills and in another era he could well have been a real world title contender, rather than “merely” a Japanese champion.
Technically nothing stands out about Horikawa, but yet nothing is glaringly bad. He's a solid all rounder, with good skills, speed and toughness, and although his record doesn't show it, he also had and power to keep opponents honest and, as seen last time out, the work rate to simply grind down fighters who over-look him.
Whilst Horikawa is certainly coming to the end of his career the same cannot be said for Ken Shiro who debuted back in 2014 and has quickly made a name for himself. On debut he scored an impressive win against Heri Amol and has since racked up a series of more and more impressive wins, including a 7th round TKO against Katsunori Nagamine and, last time out, a win over Rolly Sumalpong.
So far in his career Ken Shiro has shown us he can do a bit of everything. At his core he's a boxer-mover, and it's that that mentality which is probably the one that suits him best, and is certainly the one he used to great effect against Nagamine. Despite being a boxer-puncher the youngster has shown the ability to be a counter puncher, an out boxer, a puncher and at times a brawler.
So far Ken Shiro has had almost everything his own way. The one scare was a flash, and we really do mean flash, knockdown against Sumalpong. Following that that knockdown, which came from a peach of a punch, the youngster was back within a 3 count and looked more embarrassed than hurt, before going off to win the bout with a clear decision. That bout showed that Ken Shiro could do 10 rounds, knew how to ride out a storm and knew how to adjust during a fight
For the youngster this is a huge step up but one that he will feel confident of making, in fact the way he's looked so far it seems almost certain that he will go on to win a world title down the line. That level of confidence could bite him in the backside, as it recently did with Shohei Omori, it could however help him buckle down and put in the work needed to continue his rise.
Coming in to this one we do need to admit we are very excited about the match up. We do however think it's a case of Ken Shiro being too young, smart and fast for the more worn champion. Our prediction is Ken Shiro to take a decision, albeit a very hard fought and competitive one.
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.