The Japanese Lightweight scene is a frustrating one at times. On paper it should be interesting, there's plenty of talent there, and lot of interesting match ups that could be made there in the coming years, but sadly we seem to be between waves of fighters. At the moment Japanese national champion Shuichiro Yoshino (11-0, 9) looks to be head and shoulders above the rest, having unified the Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles. Despite the fact Yoshino looks to be well ahead of the others he hasn't yet vacated, and will instead defend the national title on February 13th against mandatory challenger Izuki Tomioka (7-2-1, 2) as part of the 2020 Champion Carnival.
The 28 year old Yoshino has really been on a relative fast track right from the start of his professional career. The talented boxer-puncher had been an excellent amateur on the Japanese scene, going 104-20 (55), before beginning his professional career in late 2015. In just his 4th professional bout Yoshino had beaten Yoshitaka Kato. Just 6 months after that he had won the Japanese title, which he has now defended 4 times, and last year Yoshino unified the national title with the 2 regional thrones.
In the ring Yoshino is a real talent. He can box, he can brawl and boy can he punch, with his last 7 wins all coming inside the distance. We actually need to go all the way back to his Japanese title win to see the last time someone was even semi-competitive with him, and even then Yoshino stopped Spicy Matsushita in 7 rounds. The power of Yoshino really is brutal and his KO's against Kazumasa Kobayashi and Harmonito Dela Torre have shown that it takes only a single left hook for Yoshino to finish someone off. The fact he has scored 2 awesome KO's whilst on the back foot shows how dangerous he is and how brutal his left hook is.
The 22 year Tomioka has been a professional since late 2016, and has shown some promise and also been in some frustrating fights. He's a talent, but a frustrating one who is perhaps getting this shot a little too early in his career. He won his first 5 bouts, winning the Japanese Youth Lightweight title in just his 4th bout way back in August 2017. He would defend the belt twice, beating Taiju Shiratori and fighting to a technical draw against Kaiki Yuba. He then faced the then OPBF Lightweight champion Masayoshi Nakatani and was stopped in 11 rounds by Naktani, following a very close bout. Another loss to Shuya Masaki followed up and really frustrated as Tomioka refused to really let his hands go. Since then however he has picked up 2 straight wins and earned this title fight, thanks to a win over Kazuki Saito.
At his worst Tomioka is a frustrating mover who looks unconvinced by himself, moving more than puncher and ultra-negative, as we saw against Masaki. At his best however he is brilliant boxer, with a sharp jab, excellent speed, great ring IQ and a fantastic judge of distance and timing. He's tall and rangy, and dictates things really well whilst picking great shots. It was these traits that were all on show last time out, when he schooled Kazuki Saito in a career best win. Despite schooling Saito the youngster still showed touched of negativity, and also a lack of physical strength and punching power. He's skilled, but we do wonder about his physical maturity.
We think Tomioka has future national champion written all over him. He's such a natural talent and a pure outside boxer. A truly fantastic young boxer. Sadly for him however he's up against a strong, powerful, heavy handed fighter who can hold his own when boxing, and bang. We see Tomioka having success, but Yoshino's pressure will build and he will begin to find a home for his left hook and straight right hand. Sooner or later we see Tomioka being stopped, and having his good early work being undone.
If Yoshino is successful here, fingers crossed he moves on and begin to face fringe world class guys and move towards a world title fight. There is, after all, no point wasting time at domestic level. As for Tomioka he will come again, and will find himself in an interesting era of Japanese Lightweight fighters, along with Shu Utsuki, Masahiro Suzuki and Katsuya Yasuda.
Prediction - TKO8 Yoshino
We expect 2020 to he a year where young fighters really shine, as they look to kick off the decade and make their mark in a big way. One of the many young fighters who will be looking to shine through 2020 is is the unbeaten Kaiki Yuba (6-0-2, 4) who kicks off his year in late January as he battles Kanta Takenaka (7-4-1, 2) for the Japanese Youth Lightweight title, on January 28th. For Yuba this is a second at the title whilst Takenaka will be getting his most meaningful bout to date.
Of the two fighters it is Yuba who has the bigger expectations on his shoulders. Kaiki is the son of former Japanese domestic legend Tadashi Yuba, a 5-weight national champion, and has been earmarked for professional success from when he made the decision to turn pro. He looked good early in his career, following his 2017 debut, but his ascent was slowed in 2018 when he had a Youth title bout with Izuki Tomioka end in a technical draw. A second technical draw, just 14 months later, again slowed Yuba's rise but since then he has blown out two opponents and rebuilt momentum ahead of his second shot at a Japanese youth title.
In the ring Yuba is a talented boxer-puncher. The 21 year old Southpaw can box really well behind his jab, and knows that when he has his man hurt he can take them out. He lacks his father's truly frightening power, but when he puts his weight into a shot they are hurtful blows, and he's proven he can fire them off on the back and front foot. In reality he's better going forward, but when he is under pressure he has shown good composure and a sharp ability to counter.
The 23 year old Takenaka is much less well known than Yuba. He has been a professional since 2015 and had very mixed results, with the best of them being an opening round win over a then debuting Aso Ishiwaki who has since really impressed us. Despite mostly mixed results he has gone 4-1 (1) in his last 5 and seems to be finding his feet after once being 3-3-1 (1), despite that however there isn't really much buzz about him, and he did suffer his sole stoppage loss just under a year ago.
Watching Takenaka in action he doesn't really impress us. He's rather straight up, defensively quite open and wild with his offensive work. Worryingly he leaves his chin in the air and doesn't appear to be able to cope with southpaw very well, as seen when he was beaten last year by Masashi Wakita. Although technically flawed Takenaka does appear to a trier, and looks like he takes a good shot and gives a effort every time. Sadly though his stamina is questionable and whilst he does give a solid effort that doesn't make up for the defensive issues that we think will be a big problem here.
We expect to see Takenaka come to win, but the power, skills and speed of Yuba will be too much. Yuba will look to pick him apart with his jab, and have success with it, until he hurts Takenaka. When that happens we expect to see Yuba finish off Takenaka, forcing the referee to jump in and save the limited, but tough, Takenaka.
Prediction - TKO5 Yuba
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.
On October 10th we'll see a new regional unified champion being crowned, as unbeaten Japanese fighter Shuichiro Yoshino (10-0, 8) and twice beaten Filipino Harmonito Dela Torre (20-2, 12) battle for the vacant OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific Lightweight titles. If Yoshino wins he will not only hold the titles he's fighting for here, but will actually become a triple title holder, adding them to the Japanese title he already holds, whilst the Filipino will be looking to get his career back on track after some recent set backs.
The unbeaten Yoshino has been on a fast track since he began his professional career. As an amateur he was a stand out, though took his time to begin his professional. When he turned pro, in 2015, he wasted no time in rising through the ranks, and in just his 4th bout he defeated former Japanese and OPBF champion Yoshitaka Kato. Just 6 months after that Yoshino stopped Spicy Matsushita in 7 rounds to become the Japanese Lightweight champion, just 20 months after his debut. Since then he has defended the title 4 times, all by stoppage, and scored some frightening KO's, such as his 3rd round win over Kazumasa Kobayashi.
In the ring Yoshino is a confident boxer-puncher. He's aggressive but also defensively smart, with a good tight guard, he applies pressure but does so intelligently, and he can fight on both the inside and outside. He's not untouchable, but for an aggressive fighter he is much smarter than he is given credit for. Whilst technically he's solid it's power that is scary and every shot he lands is thrown with the intention of hurting an opponent. He is a very, very solid puncher, and this has been shown time and time again recently, with 6 straight stoppages, but does still have some question marks to answer going forward. The big question mark for Yoshino is his chin, and how he manages to cope with a 12 round bout, things we may find out here.
At 25 years old Harmonito Dela Torre should be hitting his stride now, especially given that he debuted more than 7 years ago. Sadly however his once promising career has began faltering. He began with 19 straight wins, getting those victories in the Philippines, Macau and the US. He looked on route for major success, and looking like someone to get excited about. In 2017 he suffered his first loss, but he was competitive through out an 8 round contest with Tugstsogt Nyambayar, dropping the Mongolian before losing a clear decision. That was his first loss but there no issue. Sadly though he would suffered his second loss in his very next bout, being stopped in 2 rounds by China's Yongqiang Yang. Since he he has only fought once, scoring a domestic win against Richard Betos.
In the ring Dela Torre is a pretty solid but basic fighter. There's nothing that jumps out as being spectacular about him, but lots of areas where he can improve. He applies pressure, but often throws shots from out of range, comes forward in relatively straight lines, and paws his jab from his hip. Given he's not amazingly quick or sharp his style really isn't great. He gave Nyambayar issues, but that was more down to the fact he is naturally 2 division's bigger than the Mongolian.
Dela Torre once promised so much, but really failed to develop. Had he developed as many had assumed he'd have made for an solid OPBF level fighter. Sadly however he's too open, too limited and too slow. Against Yoshino he will be made to pay for his flaws, with the his chin there to be hit. Given Yoshino's power and the limitations of Dela Torre we expect this one will finish early, and will be another brutal finish for the Japanese fighter.
Prediction KO4 Yoshino
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
Top lightweight contenders collide on July 19 as longtime OPBF champion Masayoshi Nakatani meets Honduran-American knockout artist Teofimo Lopez, in an IBF Lightweight World title eliminator.
Masayoshi Nakatani (18-0 / 12 KOs), after a successful amateur career, made his debut in 2011, at the age of 21, winning 6 fights in a row (5 stoppages), including a victory over future Japanese champion Shuhei Tsuchiya. Nakatani punished the veteran (Tsuchiya was 14-1 at the time) with left hooks and body blows to get the KO win, in just the third round.
In 2014, he went toe to toe with former Japanese and the then reigning OPBF champion, Yoshitaka Kato (30-8), for the strap. Despite again being the less experienced of the two, Nakatani took the champion to his limit for 12 rounds, earning a majority decision, thus winning the championship and the East Japan Boxing Association Monthly MVP Award.
Since then, Nakatani has defended his title 11 times, including wins over Ricky Sismundo (35-13), Thai heavy hitters Amphol Suriyo (23-4) and Krai Setthaphon (28-4) as well as former WBC Asia & IBF Pan Pacific champion Tosho Makoto Aoki (20-14), placing himself at the top of the division.
His most recent one was in December of 2018, against 15 year pro & the WBC International champion Hurricane Futa (25-8), who came out aggressively from the beginning of the match, dictating the pace early on. Eventually though, Nakatani utilized his reach advantage to pepper Futa with jabs, following them up with some fast hooks, which cut Futa’s left eyebrow, leading to the referee stoppage.
Nakatani is finally one breath away from competing for the World championship, but in order to do so, he has to go through a seriously tough opponent first.
Teofimo Lopez (13-0 / 11 KOs) has made quite an impact in the boxing scene rather fast, considering his young age. The 2015 Golden Gloves champion has finished 7 out of his 9 first pro fights, in impressive fashion.
He won his 1st championship last July when he faced William Silva (27-2) for the vacant WBC Continental Americas title. Lopez scored 3 knockdowns throughout the match, all courtesy of his powerful left hook. In December of the same year, he took out Mason Menard (35-4), stopping him in less than a minute, with a thunderous overhand right, to add the USBA, NABF & NABA titles to his collection.
2019 has already been a serious step up in competition for the undefeated prospect. On February 2nd, he defended his belts against 2 time world title challenger Diego Magdaleno (31-3). Lopez looked like the real veteran of the two, with his rival barely doing any damage, while he had him in trouble from the get go. By round 4, Magdaleno’s nose seemed to have been broken. El Brooklyn kept the pressure on, connecting with a few perfectly placed uppercuts as well. Lopez finally dropped him in the 6th with a nice right hook to the body/left to the face combination and sealed the deal in the next round, after landing two consecutive devastating left hooks.
Just 2 months later, Lopez fought again, this time against Edis Tatli (31-3). A former EBU European champion and also a world title contender, Tatli had never been stopped before in his entire career. That was about to change as Lopez “bullied” him around the ring, leaving him almost no room for an offense of his own. The end came in the 5th after a straight right to the body, which put the Finnish boxer down for the count.
Despite only being 21, Lopez has proven that he deserves to be considered amongst the most dangerous guys of the division. With dynamite in both of his hands and an 85% KO ratio, it’s no secret that he’s always looking for that knockout. Needless to say that Nakatani will need to dig deep into his bag of tricks, if he is to emerge victorious. The Japanese star’s agility and fast combinations have been the key factors to his success. Nakatani likes to use body shots and jabs in order to create openings and then strike with the hook. His long reach might have given him the edge in all of his previous encounters, but it will be a non issue here, since Magdaleno had the same reach and still got manhandled by Lopez. With a 9 year age difference, El Brooklyn is undoubtedly the younger, faster, stronger boxer and it’s almost guaranteed to give Nakatani his first loss as a pro.
On April 20th we'll see a potential FOTY candidate as teak tough Japanese veteran Nihito Arakawa (32-6-2, 18) makes his European debut, facing off with Ukrainian puncher Denys Berinchyk (10-0, 7) in Kyiv. The bout, for the WBO International Lightweight title, looks like it could be an all out war, and is a bout that bout men will see as their best opportunity of moving towards a world title fight.
The 37 year old Japanese fighter is a man coming to the end of his long career, which began more than 15 years ago. During his career he has had some very memorable nights, in both wins and defeats. His highs have included winning the Japanese Lightweight title in 2010, when he beat Akihiro Kondo in the first of two bouts between the men, or when he won the OPBF title in 2011, or his FOTY bout with Omar Figueroa in 2013, or when he became a 2-time Japanese champion in 2016, or when he won the WBO Asia Pacific title in 2017.
Despite all the highs Arakawa has had a hard career. Yes he's tough, as we saw against Figueroa, but at the age of 35 with 40 bouts and over 280 rounds under his belt it's hard to know how much he has left in the tank. We've seen other tough Japanese veterans, such as Hidenori Otake and Akihiro Kondo, suffer recent stoppage losses and it could well be Arakawa's turn following a very tough, hard and punishing career.
At his best Arakawa was a work horse. He was a bit slow, a bit clumsy, but full of energy, sharp with his left hand, set a good work rate, incessant and incredibly tough. His will to win made up for his technical limitations and he was always going to be bringing the fight in the later stages, no matter how the earlier rounds had been. In recent bouts, such as his 22018 draw with Rimar Metuda and his narrow win over Anthony Sabalde, there has been a clear sign of decline to Arakawa.
In Berinchyk we have a very highly regarded 30 year old who was a former amateur standout, but hasn't yet made his mark on the professional ranks. As an amateur he competed at the 2012 Olympics, where he won a Silver medal, and the 2011 World Amateur Championships, where he also picked up a silver medal. He was tipped to be a major star in the pros when he began his professional career back in 2015, but issues with activity and promotional backing have slowed his ascent, despite good wins over the likes of Lorenzo Parra, Allan Vallespin and Jose Luis Prieto. Since the start of 2016 he has fought just 7 times, horrific inactivity for an advanced prospect.
At his best Berinchyk is an aggressive pressure fighter with serious power, good technical skills and sharp, clean punching. Sadly with his inactivity, ring rust and the fact he is now 30, it's hard to know what he's actually got in the locker. Is he going to be able to shine when someone is in his face, like Arakawa, or is he going to come undone under pressure? Can he fight at a high work rate? If he's half the fighter he was an amateur he should be strongly favoured here but there is still a number of question marks over his head.
Despite Berinchyk so far failing to shine as a professional he'll know this is a major chance to make a mark for himself and will be really up for it. We suspect that Arakawa, even in his prime, would have struggled with the physicality and technical abilities of Berinchyk. We're expecting to see the fight start competitively, but as it goes on the younger legs and better skills of the Ukrainian will tell and he'll take a clear, yet competitive, decision victory.
Our prediction is a clear but hard fought, and incredibly exciting, unanimous decision win for Berinchyk here, as he looks to make a statement and become another Ukrainian mixing on the world stage.
The Champion Carnival comes to the fore again on April 11th when Japanese Lightweight champion Shuichiro Yoshino (9-0, 7) defends his belt against mandatory challenger Accel Sumiyoshi (11-4-3, 3). For Yoshino this will be his 4th defense, and he will be looking to extend his current stoppage run of 5 stoppages, whilst Sumiyoshi will be getting his second title fight, following a loss in an OPBF title fight back in 2015. On paper this looks like a rather weak mandatory defense for the unbeaten and highly talented champion, though the challenger is much better than his record suggests, and he could prove to be Yoshino's toughest challenge so far.
Yoshino was an excellent amateur before eventually deciding to turn professional in 2015, at Welterweight. He came down in weight, and his third bout was at Lightweight, where he has now settled and made a name for himself. As a professional Yoshino might only have 9 bouts to his name but he has already beaten the likes of Yoshitaka Kato, Spicy Matsushita, Masaski Saito and Genki Maeda. During his career so far he has looked like a special fighter, with all the tools to go much, much further than the Japanese title, but still to develop his experience before climbing too high too quickly.
As a boxer Yoshino is powerful, skilled, quick, and a sharp puncher. He's proven to be able to box for 8 rounds, as he did against Kato, battle on the inside when he needs to, and score really sensational KO's, as he did against Kazumasa Kobayashi last December. He's a really good all rounder, who will probably find himself fighting for a regional title later this year, with both the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles well within his grasp.
On paper Sumiyoshi looks a limited challenger, with 7 set backs in 18 fights and only 3 stoppage wins to his name. It should however be noted that Sumiyoshi has been matched insanely tough from the offer. His debut was against Yuya Okazaki, who would later challenge for an OPBF title, and he would suffer a decision loss in his third bout to the very experienced Kento Matsushita. He would then go 3-3-1 over his following 7 bouts, to fall to 5-4-1. That looks awful on paper but his losses not only came to Matsushita but also Yuhei Suzuki, Kota Tokunaga and Masayoshi Nakatani. To put those losses into perspective Suzuki was fighting for the first time since losing in a Japanese title fight, Tokunaga would become the Japanese champion 12 months after beating Sumiyoshi whilst Nakatani was defending his OPBF title against Sumiyoshi.
Since those setbacks Sumiyoshi has gone 6-0-2 scoring wins of note against the likes of Allan Tanada, Naotoshi Nakatani and Motoki Sasaki, whilst fighting to 2 draws with Tatsuya Yanagi.
In the ring Sumiyoshi is much better than his record would suggest. Sadly however he lacks power, and has found his bouts going long, and getting hard in the later stages. He's a solid boxer, but does nothing special. He's sharp and talented, but not amazingly quick, strong or powerful. Against fighters who he can jab and jab he can control fighters, but there's a big step up to doing that against someone as talented and rounded as Yoshino, who has himself a really good jab, one with more snap on it than Sumiyoshi does.
We do regarded Sumiyoshi's record as misleading, and we genuinely wouldn't be surprised if he won a Japanese title in the future. Against Yoshino however he would need a miracle, and we see this as either a late stoppage for the champion or a very wide decision for Yoshino. If Sumiyoshi wins it'll go down as a major domestic upset, though if Yoshino wins it will hopefully lead to a bout for an OPBF or WBO Asia PAcific title, which may well test the talented fighter from the Misako gym.
On October 28th we saw Accel Sumiyoshi and Tatsuya Yanagi, fight to a draw in a Japanese title eliminator at Lightweight. Despite being held to a draw Sumiyoshi became the mandatory, and now the next question is who will he be up against at the 2019 Champion Carnival, when he gets his shot at the belt.
We'll find out who Sumiyoshi's opponent will be on December 13th, when current Japanese Lightweight champion Shuichiro Yoshino (8-0, 6) makes his third defense and takes on the challenge of Kazumasa Kobayashi (10-7-1, 6). On paper this looks like a very straight forward defense for the talented champion, but sees him keeping a very good level of activity with a 4th bout in just 14 months.
Yoshino is a really classy fighter who was former amateur standout before making his professional debut in 2015. Ever since debuting Yoshino has been earmarked for success and has been matched hard as he and his team chase titles and accomplishments. In just his 4th professional bout he beat Yoshitaka Kato and he would claim the Japanese title in just his 6th bout, stopping veteran Spicy Matsushita. Since then he defended the belt with stoppage wins over Masaski Saito, in the 2018 Champion Carnival, and Genki Maeda. Not only has he been stopping opponents but he has been doing it early, and late, proving he has stamina to go with his power and skills.
Although Yoshino hasn't yet gone beyond Japanese level, we believe he's the best Japanese Lightweight out there. We feel he'd beat OPBF champion Masayoshi Nakatani and WBO Asia Pacific champion Nihito Arakawa. Hopefully in 2019 he gets those chances, as he is far too good to waste time on the domestic title scene.
The 35 year old challenger has had a relatively weird career, . He debuted almost 13 years ago, as a 22 year old, and has had a stop start career. He fought 4 times within 11 months to begin his career but suffered his first loss and spent over 30 months away from the ring. He would go on to have several more breaks over the years, including taking the entire of 2016 out of the ring. As well as the inactivity he has also had inconsistent results, though he has gone up against notable fighters, such as Takashi Inagaki, Masanobu Nakazawa, and Kota Tokunaga.
From his last performance Kobayashi looked like a huge Lightweight, who appeared to be tough, surprisingly fit for a 35 year old with a decent work rate and his knockout blow against Noriyoshi Taki looked really impressive. He's a weird looking fighter, who lacks a lot of technical ability, but is unorthodox, awkward and can clearly hit hard, if he can connect with a thunderbolt.
We suspect that Kobayashi will be dangerous and unpredictable, but will struggle to cope with the variety, speed and slickness of Yoshino, who we expect to continue his reign and do so in style. The challenger has only been stopped once, in 7 rounds by Tomoya Yamada, but we expect him to be stopped again here by the smart, talented and strong Yoshino.
Sadly in 2019 we suspect that Yoshino will deal with Accel Sumiyoshi as well, and prove that he really is a class above the Japanese domestic level fighters who will be challenging him whilst he continues to hold this title.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
A clash of top Japanese lightweight boxers will take place on December 9, at the EDION Arena in Osaka, as Masayoshi Nakatani defends the OPBF crown, for the 11th time, against the WBC International champion Hurricane Futa.
Masayoshi Nakatani (17-0 / 11 KOs) had an extensive career as an amateur, before turning pro, participating in 60 bouts. Finally made his debut in 2011, at the age of 21, winning 6 fights in a row (5 stoppages), including a victory over future Japanese champion Shuhei Tsuchiya. Nakatani punished the veteran (Tsuchiya was 14-1 at the time) with left hooks and body blows to get the KO win, in just the third round.
In 2014, he went face to face with former Japanese and the then reigning OPBF champion, Yoshitaka Kato, for the OPBF belt. Despite again being the less experienced of the two, Nakatani took the champion to his limit for 12 rounds, earning the majority decision, thus the championship and the East Japan Boxing Association Monthly MVP Award.
Since then, Nakatani has defended his title 10 times, including wins over Ricky Sismundo (35-11), Amphol Suriyo (23-3), Krai Setthaphon (27-4) and Ryan Sermona (20-9), placing himself at the top of the division, as he is ranked #5 by the IBF, #8 by the WBC and #12 by the WBO.
Hurricane Futa (25-7 / 15 KOs) is a fighter who has been around for a very long time. A 14 year professional, who has competed in over 30 matches and has faced competition from all over the world. His biggest fights to date have been against Will Tomlinson (25-3) and Vage Sarukhanyan (18-2).
Specifically, Futa stopped Tomlinson, a former IBO “world” & WBO Asia Pacific champion, in only 40 seconds of the first round, with a killer left hook, to win the interim WBA Oceania title. Also, this past February, he took on the WBC International champion Sarukhanyan, in a WBSS show, for the Russian’s title. Futa delivered a KOTY candidate in the 7th round, as he endured a plethora of punches before he caught the champion with a counter left hook, which knocked him out cold. Prior to the knockout, the Japanese fighter was controlling the entirety of the bout, even dropping Sarukhanyan with the same move in the 3rd. It’s worth mentioning that both title matches took place at his opponents’ home countries.
Despite having 7 losses on his record, it should be pointed that the majority of them are against high level boxers like Foijan Prawet (77-6), the reigning WBA International Featherweight champion & #2 WBA ranked Can Xu (15-2) as well as 2 division world champion Jhonny Gonzalez (66-11).
This is an important fight for both men. Nakatani may be only one or two fights away from challenging for a world championship, whereas this is Futa’s chance to break into the top 10 of the division. Moreover, their styles are very similar to each other. Nakatani’s agility and fast combinations have been the key factors to his success through out his career. He also likes to use body shots in order to create openings and then strike with the left hook, which is something we have seen him do in almost all of his fights. Futa is also a cracking boxer who packs a lot of power in his left hand, much like his opponent here. With 26 KOs combined between these two, it will be no surprise if this ends way before the 12th round.
Will Nakatani reach a perfect 18-0 record or Futa’s experience and power be proven too much for him to handle ? We will find out soon in Osaka !
On November 10th the Japanese Youth title gives us two interesting bouts, one of those will see Yuga Inoue and Kai Ishizawa battle for the Minimumweight title whilst the other is a Lightweight clash between the unbeaten Shawn Oda (9-0, 8) and the experienced Seiryu Toshikawa (10-4, 6). For both fighters it's their first chance to claim a title, and a great opportunity to move towards bigger and better fights.
It's fair to say that the more well known of the two fighters is Oda. The unbeaten man from Okinawa is a 20 year old who has been tipped for success for a while. He made his first mark in 2016, winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year in December. That was remarkable given he had only made his debut in May of that year and had won the Rookie of the Year after only 12 professional rounds at the age of 18. The big hope after that was that he would be fast tracked but with only a single fight in 2017 his rise was slowed, and he's had to catch up for lost time this year. He's done that quite well in fairness with good wins against the likes of Roldan Aldea and Masashi Wakita.
Watching Oda we see a raw but athletically gifted fighter, who is exciting, heavy handed, quick and promising. He's got fast and heavy hands, but can been seen over stretching, and taking some risks he doesn't need to take, though he has toned down those risks in recent fighters. He's still very young but very explosive and is someone who we suspect will become a staple at the upper echelons of the Japanese domestic scene in the years to come. To get to the very top he would need to really develop his skills, but we can't see any reason why he won't be fighting for senior titles in the years to come. In fact as he matures he could become a serious handful on the regional scene just due to his natural athletic traits, even if he doesn't develop the skills he currently has.
Despite being more experienced we've not seen as much of the 22 year old Toshikawa as we have of Oda. He's been a professional since 2014, making his debut at the age of 18. He would lose 3 of his first 6 bouts, losing to Jin Miura on debut, Teppei Kasyuuma in his third bout and to Daichi Kawabuchi in his sixth bout. Since then however he has gone 7-1 (4) with his only loss in coming in the 2016 East Japan Rookie of the Year final at Super Featherweight, a split decision loss to eventual All Japan Rookie of the Year Yuji Awata. Coming in to this bout he is riding a 4 fight winning run, including a big win in July over Ryuji Ikeda.
Toshikawa looks to be an educated and technically well schooled fighter with a long, sharp, quick jab which he uses to come forward behind. He seems to want to fight up close, though at times seems unsure what to do what he gets on the inside, as he waits for his opponent to throw. It's when he draws a lead that he's effective on the inside, countering well with both hands. He's surprisingly quick and has lovely shot selection, when he lets his hands go, but there is a sense that he doesn't have the natural power to go all the way, and will struggle to score stoppages as he moves through the levels.
Although we think Ishikawa is a very solid fighter with nice skills, we don't think he'll manage to get Oda's respect, and instead the unbeaten man will be too quick and too powerful, and will strike too many clean hurtful blows. We wouldn't be shocked to see Ishikawa go the distance, but we suspect he'll be the clear loser on the score cards.
Fore those wanting to read our preview of the Inoue Vs Ishizawa bout that's available here - Ishizawa and Inoue battle for Japanese youth title!
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.