It's not often we'll preview a 6 rounder but not all 6 rounders are made evenly and on December 10th we get a 6 rounder that stands out. That is a clash between Yudai Shigeoka (1-0, 1) and Lito Dante (16-10-4, 8). In one corner we have one of the most highly regarded prospects in Japan, having his second professional bout and taking on an OPBF champion. For Shigeoka it's a chance to put the Minimumweight on alert that he, like his brother Ginjiro Shigeoka, aren't in the professional boxing to play around but are wanting to be put on a serious fast track. For Dante however it's a chance to take an 0 of a touted Japanese fighter, following a career defining win over Tsubasa Koura earlier this year.
The 22 year old Shigeoka made his pro debut in October, stopping Manop Audomphanawari, and looked like a man who wasn't needing to get out of first gear. He showed some real touches of brilliance against Manop, but hardly broke a sweat as he took a 2nd round TKO win. That win says more about his amateur pedigree than his opponent, and he looked so calm and relaxed, so well schooled, so knowledgeable and such a sharp body puncher that it was clear he had come to the professional ranks following an excellent amateur career. That amateur career had seen him look like he was heading to the Olympics, but when the divisions being fought at in the 2020 Olympics were changed he decided to follow his younger brother to the professional ranks.
After winning 82 of 92 amateur bouts Shigeoka is a brilliant young fighter and he has been in the Watanabe Gym polishing his skill set and honing it for the professional ranks. Not only does the Watanabe gym have Yudai and his brother but it has some of the best talent in Japan, such as Hiroto Kyoguchi and Masataka Taniguchi, who will not only train with Shigeoka but also inspire him to make the most of his incredible skill set. In fact it was Taniguchi that Shigeoka had his pro-test bout with earlier this year, and Shigeoka really impressed with his skills and speed.
On paper Dante looks like a typical "opponent", a record with a lot of losses and a handful of draws. On paper he should be no threat for a fighter with the potential of Shigeoka. The reality however is totally different and Dante is a nightmare to fight. He's as tough as they come and can fight hard for 12 rounds. He's not an explosive puncher, but he's a solid puncher who has given fits to a who's who of the Asian scene. He has given tests to the likes of Vic Saludar, Takumi Sakai, Jesse Espinas, Tibo Monabesa and has also travelled to push Simpiwe Konkco and Siyabonga Siyo to12 round decisions. Notably however is the fact that he scores his biggest win back in March, when he upset Tsubasa Koura.
Dante is strong, tough and has under-rated technical abilities. He is the sort of fighter who you need to respect when facing him. Of course he's not world class, a monster puncher, or lightning quick, but he's a human boulder who keeps coming forward and a fighter needs to pick on his flaws, rather than go to war with him. To beat Dante a fighter needs to be disciplined, quick and light on their feet. They need to be up for the fight, but fight smartly, and if they try go toe to toe with him it will not end well.
We expect Shigeoka to have studied the Dante Vs Koura fight, and to build a game plan around his movement, his energy and his speed. He has the advantages in reach and speed and despite the lack of professional experience he has got the tools to win, especially in a 6 rounder, he just needs to make sure he uses them properly. If Dante can force the action to be fought up close, this could be a very painful night for Shigeoka who may not have the heart to survive the trouble that Dante could bring if this ends up a rough fight up close.
This is a high risk bout for Shigeoka, but it's fair to assume it's a calculated risk from the fighter and his team who will be looking to make a big splash in the sport in 2020. They'll know the key here is to win, and we suspect that is what they'll do, even if it's not a pretty win.
Prediction - UD6 Shigeoka
The Minimumweight division is a really strange one right now, that despite not being red hot has a lot of really interesting match ups that could be made, and a lot of interesting style match ups. One of the rising stars of the division is unbeaten Japanese fighter Tsubasa Koura (14-0, 9), the currnet OPBF champion and someone expected to be a future world champion. On March 31st he will make his 4th defense of the title as he takes on under-rated Filipino challenger Lito Dante (15-10-4, 7). On paper this looks a total mismatch, though in reality we suspect it will be a better than it looks on paper.
Looking at the records of the two men Dante will, clearly, be the under-dog. He's only won 15 bouts from 29 but the 29 year old should certainly shouldn't be ignored only because of his record. Since 2010 he has fought between Minimumweight and Flyweight and taken on a relative who's who of the lower weights. sharing the ring with the likes of Lester Abutan, Siyabonga Siyo, Vic Saludar, Takumi Sakai, Jessie Espinas, Simpiwe Konkco and Tibo Monabesa. No one has managed to stop Dante, who has proven to be tough and intelligent. He has also been able to score the occasional upsets, upsetting the likes of Lester Abutan, Jaysever Abcede, Jay Loto and Naoya Haruguchi.
As with most fighters who have got 30 fights under their belt Dante is a crafty fighter. He's not the sort of fighter who wow with flashy skills, but he will find holes, slip shots, and make things messy when he needs to. He lacks power but is accurate, intelligent and makes the most of what he has. His record might be that of a journeyman but he's not turning up to bouts to lose. He has taken rounds from the likes of Saludar, Espinas and Siyo through ring craft. He knows how to use the ropes to ride shots, knows how get his head involved when he needs to and really is a lot more frustrating than his record would suggest.
Of course the 24 year old Koura is expected to win, and we'd pick him despite feeling like Dante is being massively over-looked. We do however expect to see Koura being required to answer some questions that haven't been full answered yet. The champion, who is not only the OPBF champion but also a former Rookie of the Year win, is a fantastic fighter. Early in his career he looked to be a punch, but he has certainly developed into a more rounded boxer-puncher. He has started to realise he can't blast fighters out, and has instead gone 12 rounds twice, scoring wins over Masataka Taniguchi and Daiki Tomita, and showing real growth between those bouts. He's gone from being very aggressive early in his career to showing a sense of patience, countering, and adding more strings to his bow.
Through 14 fights Koura has beaten Jaffrey Galero, Masataka Taniguchi, Norihito Tanaka and Daiki Tomita and has really developed into a brilliant fighter, and is one of the leading contenders in the division. The fact he is still showing pretty clear improvements in fights is really exciting and a sign that he isn't sitting on his laurels, but is instead looking to fully prepare himself for a world title fight.
We don't expect the upset, it's not impossible but it would be a huge surprise. What we are expecting however is for Koura to show more than he's shown before. Dante is a frustrating fighter, he's an awkward fighter, he's a fighter who looks after himself. Koura will have to continue to show his patience, his mentality in the ring will be tested and how he breaks Dante down will be interesting. We're expecting a clear, and wide, decision to Koura, but he will have to work for it. Dante isn't unbeatable, but he is no walk in the park, despite his 10 losses.
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.