This coming Tuesday we'll see Japanese Lightweight champion Shu Utsuki (10-0, 8) look to make his first defense, as he takes on the often under-rated Izuki Tomioka (7-5-1, 2), who will be getting his third shot at a title in just 14 bouts. On paper the bout is a total mismatch, pitting one of the few divisional standouts in Japan against a fighter who has come up short in two previous title bouts and is without a win in over 2 years, however we suspect the bout will be much more interesting than the numbers suggest.
For those who haven't seen much of Utsuki the Japanese champion is a feared boxer-puncher who has traits that are familiar with former Super Featherweight Takashi Uchiyama, who like Utsuki fought out of the Watanabe Gym. Prior to turning professional Utsuki had been a top Japanese amateur, and when he turned professional he was earmarked as one to watch immediately. Aged 23 when he debuted he looked impressive in his debut, before being pushed all the way in his second bout, by the unheralded Yoji Saito. Since then however he has typically had things mostly his own way, In fact he has gone 8-0 (7) since then, with the only fighter managing to see the final bell against him being the criminally under-rated Ryo Nakai, who really gave Utsuki a scare last year. Sadly his resume is lacking in terms of big wins, with the best of the bunch being a TKO9 win over Masahiro Suzuki this past February, but he's been beating decent fights in the form of Jerry Castroverde, Omrri Bolivar and Takayuki Sakai.
In the ring Utsuki is a boxer-puncher, who comes forward behind a stiff jab, with a slow and cautious approach. He press opponents backwards with his jab and takes the center of the ring. He looks to set up his right hand, which is dynamite and bully people when he needs to. Much like Uchiyama he is naturally heavy handed, imposing himself and his will with his power and the fear that power puts into opponents. Notably though he isn't flawless, he has been down already in his career, leaving question marks about his chin, and most notable he has slow feet. He can be out boxed, out manoeuvred and made to look slow and cumbersome at times. Also when hurt his defenses do fall apart, as we saw against Nakai. He does however recover quickly when hurt and every time he has gone down he has looked cleared headed by the time he's got to his feet.
The 25 year old Izuki Tomioka is someone who has promise a lot since turning professional, and someone who seems to have the tools to do a lot in the sport, but can't quite get over the line at times. He turned professional in 2016 and was matched well early in whilst winning his first 5 bouts. Sadly though he would see his winning run come to an end in 2018, when a clash of heads left him with a technical draw against Kaiki Yuba. That draw was then followed by an OPBF title fight with Masayoshi Nakatani, who he gave fits to for 10 rounds, before being stopped in round 11. His only other stoppage loss came in an other title fight, that time to Shuichiro Yoshino in 2020, when he was leading on two of the cards. His 3 other losses have all been by razor thin decisions, two split decisions, to Shuya Masaki and Yasutaka Fujita, a unanimous decision to Hiroki Okada, in a bout that saw all 3 judges score it 77-75 to Okada. Watching him shows us a fighter who is tricky, really tricky, sharp, and quick. He's an awkward fighter to look good against and one of the best natural boxers in Japan. Sadly though he lacks the power, strength and physicality to boss fights, and that has long been his major issue. He's talented and quick but lacks in other areas.
In the ring Tomioka likes to fight at range, picking and poking with his jab, using his feet and landing shots at range. He is quick, smart and an excellent outside fighter who's difficult to out box and really tough to catch clean in the early going. Sadly for him he does, as mentioned, lack power though his timing and control of range are excellent and his footwork is also really impressive. Defensively he's slippery, offensively he's smart, but physically he's just not particularly imposing and fighters can bully him up close. Getting close to him isn't easy, but when a fighter is close he does tend to feel the need to hold. Sadly for him he does appear to lack an inside game and against the top fighters you do need to be more than just be brilliant at a single style. He lacks a plan B and when fighters can cope with his plan A he does struggle to change things around.
For this bout we expect to see Tomioka's speed and movement cause Utsuki a lot of problems early on, using a tactic similar to the one Nakai used against Utsuki. That style will always give Utsuki problems, and will see Tomioka take an early lead. Sadly though as rounds go on and as Tomioka slows down he will begin to take heavy leather back. When that happens we expect to see Utsuki break him down, eventually stopping Tomioka, much like Yoshino did, somewhere in the middle rounds.
Prediction - TKO8 Utsuki
In the last few years Japanese fight Masayoshi Nakatani has flown the flag for Japanese Lightweights internationally. In the eyes of many outside of Japan he was the only Lightweight from the country worth being aware of, thanks to his fights with Teofimo Lopez, Felix Verdejo and Vasyl Lomachenko. There is however several other Japanese fighters at 135lbs who are worth being aware, including the deadly Shu Utsuki and the talented Shuichiro Yoshino (14-0, 11), who fans will be able to see in action this coming Saturday.
The unbeaten Yoshino, a former triple crown and the current WBO Asia Pacific and OPBF champion, will be defending his regional titles against former WBO Super Featherweight world champion Masayuki Ito (27-3-1, 15). For Yoshino the bout serves as his first chance to really show a Western audience what he can do in the ring, and boost his recognition from the regional scene, to a potential contender on the global scene. As for Ito, he'll see the bout as a chance to move towards establishing himself as a Lightweight, as he continues to rebuild following his world title loss to Jamel Herring in 2019. For both men, the bout will serve as a shop window of sorts, given the huge profile of the show they are clashing on, and the fact it's being streamed around the globe thanks to DAZN.
Of the two men the more well known is Ito. He's a former world champion who won the WBO Super Featherweight title in 2018, when he beat the previously unbeaten Christopher Diaz in the US on a DAZN show. He only defended the belt once before losing to Herring, and then abandoned the Super Featherweight division to begin a campaign at Lightweight. Since moving to 135lbs he has gone 2-1, taking a a rather low key win over Ruben Manakane, a close and controversial loss to Hironori Mishiro, and then a sensational TKO win over Valentine Hosokawa. That win over Hosokawa was one of the very best performances from Ito, who looked sensational from start to end.
Early in his career Ito was quite technical, but over the years he adapted a more aggressive style, creating space to line up his heavy right hands. That change saw him have his best success, beating Diaz with an excellent performance for the WBO world title, but also made him look really basic when he faced Jamel Herring, with Herring using a basic but effective game plan built around movement and his southpaw stance. Recent we have seen something of a change in Ito, who now looks crisper than he has in the past. Against Hosokawa he was busy, sharp, relaxed, accurate, and controlled the bout behind his jab and followed up well with his right hand. He countered well, he lead well, and he looked like he had a meaner side to him as he broke down the durable Hosokawa.
Whilst the 31 year old Ito has been at the top of the mountain, had opportunities abroad and made a name for himself, the same can't be said for Yoshino. The 30 year old has, however, managed to impress on the regional scene winning the Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles. Not only has he been a triple crown champion but he has also done so in impressive fashion, stopping 9 of his last 10 and beating the likes of Harmonito Dela Torre, Izuki Tomioka, Valentine Hosokawa and Shuma Nakazato. Despite impressing in terms of results, his performances have been, at times, under-whelming and there is a feeling that we've not seen the best of Yoshino. In fact we dare say that Yoshino will perform better when he's really being tested. Regardless of that he has proven himself a very solid boxer-puncher, capable of shutting out Valentine Hosokawa, or blasting out the likes Harmonito Dela Torre with a single shot.
In the ring Yoshino can do it all. He can pressure when he feels like it, he can box when he wants to, and he can punch. He has good variety, great timing with counters, a nice crisp jab, and under-rated foot speed. Sadly his real issue seems to be either a lack of confidence, or a willingness to over-look opponents. His worse performance have been against fighters everyone would have expected him to deal with easily, whilst his best performance have come against his most notable opponents. Although not a huge Lightweight Yoshino is a big guy, who fought much higher as an amateur and began his professional career at Welterweight before dropping down the weights. He's strong, powerful, and very dangerous.
Given his ability to step up his performance, we're expecting to see the very best of Yoshino here, and we expect to see him really show what he can do against Ito. Part of that will be Yoshino switching stances, getting Ito to throw when he's out of range and then countering. We suspect those counters will be the major difference maker here, especially down the stretch.
Ito will have success with his right hand, and maybe even buzz Yoshino at times, but as the bout goes on we suspect Yoshino will begin to find a home for his left hook and right hand, eventually getting to Ito, and maybe even forcing a late stoppage in an attempt to announce himself as a legitimate contender to a world title.
Prediction TKO11 Yoshino
The Lightweight division in Japan is an over-looked one, but right now it's as good as it's been in a really, really long time. The division might not be delivering all the match ups we want to see, but with the likes of Shuichiro Yoshino, Masayoshi Nakatani, Hironori Mishiro and Masayuki Ito it has a number of notable names, unbeaten fighters and promise. Below those top names there's also a really interesting scene developing at a lower level, with a number of fighters all looking to make their mark. Among those are two men set to fight for the vacant Japanese title this coming Tuesday, a title vacated by the aforementioned Yoshino who has his eyes on bigger things. The two men in question are former Japanese Light Welterweight champion Masahiro Suzuki (7-0, 4), who is moving back to his natural weight in search for a second national title, and the hard hitting Shu Utsuki (9-0, 7).
We can't help but think this is a great match up on many levels, firstly the obvious, it's a bout between two young fighters risking their unbeaten records in an attempt to claim a national title, and move their careers onwards and upwards, something we always love to see. But also because the styles of the fighters are very, very different, yet both are highly talented and use their tools really well, despite being being very different types of fighters. It's also a chance for the winner to move towards mixing the names we mentioned earlier, the likes of Yoshino, Mishiro and Ito, whilst the loser will be able to rebuild and bounce back down the line. This isn't going to be the end for the man who comes up short, and instead is a chance for both men to prove themselves.
Of the two fighters Masahiro Suzuki is the more proven. The 26 year old from the Kadoebi Gym went 64-26 (21) in the unpaid ranks before making his professional debut in 2018, where he put on an excellent performance to stop Antonio Siesmundo. He then impressed in a win over Kelven Tenorio, before showing some heart against Kosuke Arioka and battling hard against Hokuto Matsumoto. Within just 4 fights he had shown he could box, fight, punch and had determination to come through some tough patches. He then build on that with a very solid win over Takahiro Oda in 2020. His most notable win however came in June 2021, when he stopped Daishi Nagata to claim the Japanese Light Welterweight title, out boxing Nagata before closing the show with less than a minute, Rather strangely it appeared he had won the title with no intention of defending it, instead looking to make the most of an obscure rule within Japanese boxing. Essentially using the title to fast track himself to a title at a lower weight, his natural Lightweight. In October he fought for the first time since vacating the title, and he narrowly beat Seiryu Toshikawa, to become the mandatory challenger for the Japanese Lightweight title. At the time Yoshino held the title, but chose to vacate the belt to focus his attention on bigger fights, leaving Suzuki in line for the vacant title.
In the ring Suzuki is a brilliant all rounder. He showed he can box, move and think his way through a fight in his debut, one of the most under-rated debuts in recent years, and since then has really shown a bit of everything, despite regularly fighting above his best weight. He is a natural Lightweight who has often been fighting at 140lbs. Despite being under-sized he has been effective, using simple boxing, movement, a good jab and a solid work rate. At 140lbs he has lacked in terms of power, strength and size, but made ups for it in terms of skills, a good boxing brain, very sharp punching, solid footwork, an excellent jab, brilliant shot selection and understanding range. He has made opponents fall short, he has slipped inside, landed accurate shots and has neutralised bigger men with his skills. He might not be the biggest, and won't be at Lightweight either, but he is a very talented fighter with a lot of ring craft and tools in his arsenal.
Shu Utsuki, much like Suzuki, was a very accomplished amateur, going 81-27 in the unpaid ranks and was actually the captain of his University Boxing Team. He was very accomplished and polished when he turned professional and looked the real deal in his debut. In his second professional bout he struggled past Yoji Saito, who was making his debut, but since then has found his groove, and has proven to be a heavy handed monster in the Lightweight division, stopping 7 of his last 8 opponents. Notably though when he has failed to stop men, as he did against Saito and more recently Ryo Nakai, he has been forced to work really hard for his wins. When his power has done the job, he has typically been taking guys out in 2 or 3 rounds, but when that's not happened he has had to rely on his boxing skills. As a boxer, rather than a puncher, he's solid, but does look like someone who would much prefer to be a bully than a boxer.
In the ring Utsuki is a heavy, heavy handed fighter. He's also someone with good balance, a nice stiff jab, and someone who looks relaxed. When he puts his shots together he looks like a man who really means business. In many ways he almost seems like a less quality Takashi Uchiyama. Like Uchiyama he stalks his man, softens them up with the jab and looks to land the hammering power of his back hand. Notably though he's got slow feet, he likes his feet to before letting shots go and as a result he can often look very flat foot, which is why Nakai has success against him last time out, using lateral movement to make Utsuki look limited and slow at times. He also has a questionable chin, having been down twice already, and a defense that seems to come undone when he gets tagged cleanly. He recovers well from a knockdown, but it is still a worry for him longer term. Especially if he intends to progress to regional honours or something bigger.
Sadly for Utsuki we suspect the footwork will be the difference maker here, and Suzuki's footwork is so much more fluid, natural and light. We see him getting in and out, having success in a similar to how Nakai did, but being more polished overall than Nakai we suspect he'll have more sustained success, and make Utsuki struggle to land his big shots time after time. Utsuki will always be dangerous, his power will always be a threat, and if he hands he can hurt Suzuki, but we suspect his moments of success will be few and far between. If he hurts Suzuki he needs to jump on him, he needs to finish him. We, however, feel he'll struggle to do that, and in the end will come up short on the cards.
Prediction - UD10 Suzuki
Over the last 4 years or so Japanese had two notable Lightweights, one travelling for overseas fights against some of the biggest names in the sport and one staying at home, unifying domestic and regional titles whilst developing a reputation as a dangerous boxer puncher.
Of course the fighter who has been fighting internationally is Masayoshi Nakatani, who has faced the likes of Teofimo Lopez, Felix Verdejo and Vasyl Lomachenko in recent years. The other is the unbeaten Shuichiro Yoshino (13-0, 10), who has unified the Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles whilst remaining in the East and making a solid claim as the best Japanese Lightweight. This coming Thursday he'll be back in the ring, looking to defend his Japanese title as he takes on youngster Shuma Nakazato (10-1-3, 7). The focus for Yoshino is to win here and then advance into the types of bouts we've been seeing Nakatani enjoy, whilst Nakazato will be looking to claim his biggest win to date.
For those who haven't seen the two men Yoshino is someone who really should be on your radar. He was moved incredibly quickly through the Japanese domestic scene, winning the Japanese domestic title less than 2 years later his debut, with a TKO win against Spicy Matsushita. Since then he has really come into his own, making 6 defenses of the Japanese title and unifying it with the two regional titles to become a triple crown champion. Along the way he has shown a bit of every thing, with some brutal knockouts, including one against the once touted Harmonito Dela Torre, good boxing skills, as seen last year against Valentine Hosokawa, and desire to win, coming from behind against Izuki Tomioka in early 2020. He has however looked like someone who needs to face bigger, better, more testing opponents and is pretty in need of a major international test.
In the ring Yoshino is a genuine talent. He's dangerous, he's talented, he's gutsy and he's a man with a decent boxing brain, when he needs to use it. He has been genuinely tested on the Japanese scene, with Tomioka, Matsishita and Yoshitaka Kato all asking questions of him, but he has always come out on top thanks to his strong amateur background, very heavy hands, good timing, and the versatility that makes him a real all round. He can boxing, he can brawl, he can come forward and he can box as a counter puncher. Given those tools in his arsenal he is more multi-faceted than Nakatani, though lakes the awkward size and toughness of his countryman.
Aged 24 Shuma Nakazato is an unknown outside of Japan, though is someone who shouldn't be over-looked or ignored. He began his career at Featherweight, as a teenager, but since then he has matured in a solid Super Featherweight. At 130lbs he has given Hironori Mishiro a real test in 2018, before notching up wins over Kanta Fukui and Yuji Awata, as well as fighting to a draw with Yoshimitsu Kimura in a sensational 8 round bout last year. In those bouts we've seen a gutsy, talented, but flawed young fighter showing improvements with every fight, but very much looking like an inexperienced youngster who is still developing as a fighter.
In the ring Nakazato is a solid boxer-puncher, but sadly he's very much an average Super Featherweight moving up in weight here, which will not serve him well. He's quicker than Yoshino, he's younger, but he we don't feel he has fight changing power at 135lbs, or the the experience needed to really test Yoshino. Instead we see Nakazato making a good start, boxing well, having success with his speed and movement early on, but coming undone when Yoshino decides to turn things around, and has a read om his man.
We expect Nakazato to bee very competitive through 4 rounds but and up being stopping the second half of the fight.
Predoction - TKO8 Yoshino
After an increase in fights in July and August it does appears things in Japan are going to quieten down a little bit in September, sadly. Thankfully however we do kick the month off with a brilliant match up this coming Thursdays from Korakuen Hall, and it really does have the potential to be something very special.
That is the triple title bout between JBC, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific Lightweight champion Shuichiro Yoshino (12-0, 10) and former Japanese Light Welterweight champion Valentine Hosokawa (25-7-3, 12). On paper it may not look like a sensational bout, but in reality this has the potential to be something truly brilliant, between men with styles that should gel brilliantly to give us something special.
The talented and heavy handed Yoshino has has been moved very quickly since turning professional back in 2015. After debuting at Welterweight he has cut his weight and become the face of Japanese boxing at Lightweight. In his 4th professional bout he beat veteran Yoshitaka Kato and just 2 fights later he became the Japanese Lightweight champion. He added regional titles to his collection last year and will be hoping to keep all 3 bits of silverware here.
In the ring Yoshino really is a boxer-puncher, with some of the heaviest hands in Japanese boxing. He's a clean puncher, has under-rated movement, good hand speed and solid footwork. If we're looking for flaws he can be a slow starter at times, his defense isn't the tightest and he can be out jabbed, out moved and out worked. So far his power had worked as a neutraliser when he has been in trouble, as we saw against Izuki Tomioka in February, but there are areas to work on. He's not a complete fighter, but he is a damn good one, and one who does have the potential to mix with some of the fighters in the upper echelons of the division.
Aged 39 and sporting 7 losses in 35 bouts Valentine Hosokawa is a fighter who loves to defy numbers. He should be too old, he should be too battle worn, he should be on the way on the way out. In fact he should have been on the way out years ago. Like a fine wine however the warrior from the Kadoebi Gym has aged wonderfully and has had the best form of his career at an age where most fighters are retired. He had been putting in great performances, win or lose. He has dropped in weight recently and now looks more dangerous at 135lbs than he ever did at 140lbs, where he was always a nightmare to fight.
Hosokawa made his debut in 2006, and won Rookie of the Year in 2008. He came up short in his first two title fights, both in 2013, but won the Japanese in 2017, beating rival and friend Koichi Aso. After twice defending the title he was dethroned last year by Koki Inoue and then dropped in weight and destroyed Kosuke Arioka last November. He had planned a fight against Jacob Ng in Australia, but that fell through due to the on-going global situation but he's now landed this fight.
For those who hasn't seen Hosokawa he's a physically strong, aggressive, tough, hard working pressure fighter. He comes to win, he presses and lets his hands go. Although not a huge puncher he is a serious volume puncher and makes for real action fights.
Given Hosokawa's aggression and willingness to go forward we see him pressing from the off, and actually copying a gameplan that Harmonito Dela Torre tried to use against Yoshino. That gameplan did see Dela Torre get to Yoshino, before eating an absolute part way through the opening round. For Hosokawa he needs to keep up the pressure, use his strength and try to grind down Yoshino without taking too many risks. Despite moving down in weight worth noting that even at Lightweight he's a small fighter, and will be dwarfed by Yoshino here.
For Yoshino the focus will be on creating space, catching Hosokawa coming forward, and landing his power shots. He'll have to use his feet, he'll have to land very hard clean shots, and have to try and stop the forward march of the challenger. Although Yoshino is a hard puncher it's worth noting Hosokawa hasn't been stopped since back to back TKO defeats in 2013 to Shinya Iwabuchi and Min Wook Kim, and those losses both came at 140lbs.
We do favour Yoshino to take home the win here, we feel his youth, power, height and reach will be the difference, but he will have to work very hard for the win and we do not expect this one to be an easy one for the champion.
Prediction - UD12 Yoshino
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.
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.