The Minimumweight division is often the most over-looked in the sport, but that doesn't mean the division isn't an exciting one, or has good fighters, or that it doesn't deliver great action. In fact the opposite is true and over the last few years the division has certainly delivered some great fights and we certainly have some great talent emerging in the division at the moment.
One of the most promising of the young talents in the division is 22 year old southpaw Ginjiro Shigeoka (7-0, 5), who will look to show what he's made of this coming Wednesday when he defends the Japanese Minimumweight title against veteran Naoya Haruguchi (18-12, 7), with the two men clashing in Kumamoto.
The excellent and explosive Shigeoka made a name for himself in the amateur ranks before turning professional in 2018, and from the off he looked like an exceptional talent, decimating Sanchai Yotboon and Gerttipong Kumsahwat in his first 2 bouts. He then stepped up and proved he his stamina as he took an 8 round decision over Joel Lino before claiming his first title just a few months layer, as he almost gutted Clyde Azarcon in just 72 seconds for the WBO Asia Pacific Minimumweight title. As the WBO regional champion he recorded 2 defenses, stopping Rey Loreto at the end of 2019, in a career bets win, before stopping Toshiki Kawamitsu 19 months later. He then vacated the title before winning the Japanese title this past March, with a 10 round win over Tatsuro Nakashima.
Since making his professional debut Shigeoka has looked incredible though sadly his rise through the ranks was curtailed, massively, by the pandemic, and he has only fought twice since the start of 2020, losing a lot of the momentum he had created in his first few bouts. That is a shame, but it doesn't take away from what an excellent young fighter he is.
In the ring Shigeoka is tiny, standing at just 5'0", but he's aggressive, powerful, quick, sharp and scary. He's diminutive but like Mike Tyson did in his prime, he makes opponents fear him. He takes the center of the ring, he makes himself the boss, and he forces opponents backwards. He cuts off the ring well, he works the body well, and he has a wonderfully stiff jab, brutal combinations and really good footwork. Unlike many smaller fighters it seems Shigeoka is happy to use his lack of size as an advantage and can often be seen fighting out of a crouch, making himself a smaller target. He also has excellent balance, composure and timing which means when he's up close, he is very happy to fight toe to toe, ans often sees shots coming. Just to add to the woes of his opponents not only is he quick, strong, sharp, powerful and technically well school, but he's also a southpaw, making him an absolute nightmare to go up against.
In Naoya Haruguchi we have a 32 year old veteran of the Japanese scene, who debuted in April 2012 and has had 30 bouts since then. He has, obviously, got a lot of losses with 12 defeats, but a lot of those have come to solid domestic fighters, such as Takumi Sakae, Keisuke Nakayama, Reiya Konishi, Seita Ogido, Riku Kano, Tatsuya Fukuhara, Norihito Tanaka and Kai Ishizawa. Whilst losses against top domestic competition, including a former world champion and several world title challengers, can be forgiven, sadly Haruguchi doesn't have many top domestic level victories. In fact his best wins to date have come against Norihito Tanaka, in the first of two bouts between the men, Jeffrey Galero and Shin Tomita. Despite those wins not being the best there is no doubting that Haruguchi is a battle hardened veteran, fighting in what will likely be his final title bout, following 2019 shot at the same title.
In the ring Haruguchi is a tall looking Minimumweight, with long arms, a busy jab and a fun style. He lacks single punch power, and despite having 7 stoppage wins he really is rather feather fisted, but does set a decent work rate and can break opponents down over time. He likes to pressure behind his busy jab, and can let nice looking combinations go, but he often comes over his front foot, lacks real balance in his footwork and as a result it takes a lot of sting off his shots. Defensively he's not very tight, and opponents can pick him apart with clean accurate shots. Despite being relatively easy to hit he is tough and has only been stopped twice in his 30 bout career, with those stoppages coming to the hands of Takumi Sakae in 2013 and Kai Ishizawa in 2021.
Whilst Haruguchi is tough, and has the size to give Shigeoka some awkward questions we expect to see Shigeoka really shine. The bout is taking place in Kuamamoto, the place he was born and raised, and he'll be fighting in front of school friends and family, who he will be wanting to impress, and sell himself to, especially if it could secure a world title bout there in the future. Also Shigeoka has a nice, big, long body to aim at here, and as we saw against Azarcon, he likes to bust the gut of opponents.
We suspect Haruguchi will have some success very early on with his jab, reach and size. But as soon as Shigeoka begins to go through the gears, things will change rapidly and he will begin to break down the challenger. Haruguchi's toughness will see him tough at some ugly moments, but sooner or later the pressure, tenacity and power of Shigeoka will break him down, and finish him off. Likely somewhere in the middle of the bout, from an accumulation of shots, particularly body shots.
Prediction - TKO6 Shigeoka
This coming Wednesday fight fans in Kumamoto get the chance to see two of their local boxing children return home, having made Tokyo their boxing home for the last few years. One of those two fighters is Japanese Minimumweight champion Ginjiro Shigeoka, and the other is his older brother Yudai Shigeoka (4-0, 2), who will be making his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Minimumweight title, as he takes on Cris Ganoza (19-3, 9).
Whilst less well known than his younger brother it's hard to deny that the 25 year old Yudai Shigeoka isn't an incredible talent, as we've seen since his professional debut in last 2019. Like his brother, Yudai was a stand out amateur, who proved himself in the unpaid ranks before following Ginjiro to the professional ranks. On his debut he looked calm, relaxed and composed whilst stopping Thai visitor Manop Audomphanawari, since then he has scored 3 genuinely notable wins, beating OPBF champion Lito Dante in just his second professional bout, then stopping Ryu Horikawa for the Japanese Ryu Horikawa and most recently Tsubasa Koura for the WBO Asia Pacific title. In just 4 bouts he has proven a lot, and quickly put himself in the mix for potential world title fights, and yet still has plenty of areas to improve on, with improvement likely to come with more ring time and experience.
In his most recent bout, his win over Koura, we saw that Shigeoka had a lot in his locker. He was, as we'd seen in the past, a talented, sharp, boxer puncher, but also someone who is defensively smart, incredibly quick, well schooled and good at finding holes in defenses. He isn't the most text book fighter out there, but he is a well schooled southpaw, who can box really well behind a jab and apply intelligent pressure. We also saw him being able to dig down and fight with Koura, digging deep when he needed to and taking the fight to Koura when he needed to. Notably he also show cased a good chin on the occasions that Koura caught him clean and the ability to counter. We do feel, at times, he was rushed by Koura, and didn't always look comfortable when that happened, but given he was stepping up massively in that bout and being pushed 12 rounds he did incredibly well and saw out the storms whilst also looking to get his own work off. Had that same fight come just a year or two later, with Shigeoka have 3 or 4 fights more, we suspect he would have won it quite easily, but still managed to see off a very, very good fighter, very early in his career.
As for Cris Ganoza, the Filipino is a 27 year old who made his debut in 2014 and has spent his entire career, so far, fighting in the Philippines. Despite never fighting outside of his homeland it should be noted he has shared the ring with some notable talent, including Edward Heno, who gave him his first loss back in 2017 unbeaten hopeful John Michael Zulueta, and former world title challenger ArAr Andales. Sadly he has lost to those 3 notable foes, and without trying to be too harsh he does lack in terms of notable wins, with the most notable coming against Donny Mabao back in 2018.
In the ring Ganoza looks like someone who could become a decent fighter, with the right training and mindset, but sadly as of his recent bouts, he looks very much like a work in progress and a very limited fighter, who makes a lot of mistakes. He has nice natural speed, but technically he's open, he's raw and he's worryingly reckless. He looks very much like a novice, who makes some very silly mistakes, and is seemingly trying to learn on the job. That's not to say he doesn't have nice handspeed and doesn't come to fight, more than he's very much a work in progress, and a bout at this level, against someone as skilled and polished as Shigeoka will not end well for him.
We know that Ganoza is fairly tough, but unfortunately he's also very open and we can't help but feel that his technical flaws and huge gaping defensive holes will be taken advantage of by Shigeoka, who will almost certainly see the gaps and punish Ganoza. The real question isn't who will win, but just how long can Ganoza survive against Shigeoka. We don't think it'll be all that long. We see the body shots taking the fight from Ganoza and breaking the Filipino down somewhere around the middle of the bout.
Prediction - TKO7 Shigeoka
On May 10th Japanese fight fans at Korakuen Hall will get a compelling Japanese Youth Minimumweight title fight, as defending champion Shunsuke Isa (9-3-1, 1) makes his first defense, taking on the highly regarded Katsuki Mori (9-1, 2) in what looks to be a brilliant match up between two talented young fighters each looking to progress their career, and move forward to bigger and better things.
Aged 24 Isa is the older man and the more experienced. The youngster from Kanagawa debuted way back in 2016 and won his first 4 bouts before losing in the East Japan Rookie of the Year to Retsu Akabane. He bounced back 9 months later with a pair of close wins before drawing with Masatora Okada and then losing to Yuni Takada in 2019, the man he would beat in 2021 for the Youth title. Although a talented fighter Takada has struggled with scoring stoppages, and his sole stoppage win was way back on his debut, meaning he has now gone 12 bouts with out a stoppage victory, and has started to come into his prime without developing much in terms of stopping power.
In the ring Isa is a fighter who likes to be on his toes, using a lot of quick movement and footwork to create space, using a busy jab and making opponents miss. Whilst he does lack power to begin with, he also in a way where he doesn't get much behind his shots, instead keeping things at range and using his speed and reach well. What Isa does well is box, move and dictate the tempo and range of the bout. Notably his style is very, very energy intensive, there is a lot of movement in his style, a lot of energy being burnt and it's a style that is certainly not suited to the longer distance of a 10 or 12 rounder, but in 6 and 8 round bouts his style is very effective. Notably he does appear the sort of fight who will do anything to avoid an inside fight, and a fighter targeting his body could end up taking his legs away, and taking the fight out of him, especially if his opponent doing it had a decent body attack and a decent bit of pop. Up top however he's a very tough guy to catch clean with head shots.
Aged 22 Katsuki Mori is the younger fighter, and he turned professional in 2018 before winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2019. Mori's Rookie of the Year triumph saw fans getting very excited about him and his style, which was fun to watch and saw him throwing a lot of leather and being an aggressive boxer-fighter, capable of fighting on the back foot, or overwhelming fellow novices on the front foot. Sadly in 2020 Covid19 slowed his ascent through the ranks, with Mori fighting just once, but he was more active in 2021, scoring two wins, before losing earlier this year to Kai Ishizawa in a Japanese title fight. A fight that he put up a good effort in, but was unprepared for and it was a massive step up against a very dangerous fighter. Rather than having a confidence boosting bout since that loss, he has jumped in here against Isa.
In the ring Mori is a genuinely fun to watch fighter, with fast hands, fast feet and a high work rate. He likes to fight up close, letting his shots go in flurries, and landing clean accurate blows. He can box and move, but it often seems like he would rather engage in a tear up, and let shots fly on the inside, than have the bout at range. Despite not being a puncher he seems to be someone who believes in his physical approach, his defense on the inside and his work rate, which often sees him simply out working and out swarming opponents. One thing that we do wonder however, is whether the loss to Ishizawa will see him change his style, and be less willing to take the fight to his opponents, and maybe consider boxing and moving more, and swarming less.
If Mori is the same fighter as he was before the loss to Ishizawa, and continues to be an aggressive, physical fighter, we see him genuinely getting to Isa early on, attacking the champions body, working away and chipping down his speed, stamina and movement. If he can do that we wouldn't be surprised at all if Isa was to be slowed almost to a halt as Mori presses later in the bout and takes a clear, but hard fought, decision. If however Mori has some worries following that loss, holds back a little bit and iasn't as aggressive as he once was, there is a chance the outside boxing, movement and awkward style of Isa could ease him to a decision. If we're being honest we suspect Mori and his team will plan to be aggressive, and will accept Ishizawa was too much whilst Isa doesn't have the thunderous power of Ishizawa, meaning they don't need to worry, and play safe.
Prediction - UD8 Mori.
In 2018 we saw a then 18 year old Ginjiro Shigeoka (6-0, 5) make his professional debut, and it seemed he was destined for the fast track. In just over 15 months of his debut he was 5-0 (4) with notable wins over Joel Lino, Clyde Azarcon and Rey Loreto , and was the WBO Asia Pacific Minimumweight champion. Heading in to 2020 he seemed destined for a world title fight and to get one sooner rather than later. Sadly though the Covid pandemic slowed his rise and since stopping Loreto he has fought just, blasting out Toshiki Kawamitsu last July, and has also vacated the WBO Asia Pacific title.
This coming Sunday Shigeoka gets a chance to claim his second title, as he takes on Tatsuro Nakashima (11-2-1, 7) for the vacant Japanese title, which would be a huge step in the right direction for him, and, for those wondering, gives him more world title options, due to the intricacies of domestic Japanese rules, than the WBO regional title did. On paper this is a big step backwards for Shigeoka, but in many ways, it's a fight that opens news doors for him, keep him busy, and sees him fighting for a title with a lot of history. For Nakashima it's a huge chance to face someone many are tipping to be a future world champion.
With that all said, how do we see this fight? And what do we think of the two fighters?
Of the two men Shigeoka is the one who has the expectation behind him. The now 22 year old had a stunning amateur career and since turning professional has looked like a future world champion in the making. He's a diminutive fighter, stood at just 5', but he uses his lack of size really well, pressing forward, making himself a small target. Not only is he small however, but he's also physically imposing, incredibly strong, amazingly quick, explosive, and scarily dangerous. He presses forward, using a hurtful jab to set up his attacks, backs opponents up and then unleashes right hooks and straight left hands, which are thrown brutal intentions. Worrying for all opponents is the fact that Shigeoka has fantastic punch placement, goes to the body extremely well, and judges distance fantastically and has great footwork and balance, which is a real problem for those who are looking at his size and thinking they are safe on the outside, not realising how easily and quickly he can sneak in and out.
As for Nakashima the 27 year old made his debut back in 2015 and really began to show what he could do in 2017, beating Mammoth Kazunori and reaching the East Japan Rookie of the Year final, fighting to a draw with Yuga Inoue. In 2018 he suffered his first loss, being stopped in 5 rounds by the hard hitting Kai Ishizawa. He bounced back from that loss with 4 straight wins, before losing last year when he challenged Masataka Taniguchi for the Japanese Minimumweight and was stopped in 5 rounds. Unfortunately with his two losses coming by stoppage there is a major worry for him here, as he takes on a really dangerous fighter, who will come in to this with a point to prove.
In the ring Nakashima is quite an upright fighter, who looks to box behind his jab and use his long reach. He does, to his credit, have a nice jab but unfortunately for him he doesn't like being under pressure, and whilst his jab is solid it really isn't busy enough for him to get respect from opponents. His footwork is usually quite negative, and he can find himself falling off balance, especially when he throws a right hand. He has a low work rate, and unfortunately for him does seem to struggle under pressure. He's not a bad boxer, but sadly for him the likes of Taniguchi and Ishizawa have shown his level, and he's comfortably below those two.
For Nakashima to win he needs to use his jab, a lot, he needs to create space, and punish Shigeoka when Shigeoka comes in. Sadly for him we don't think he'll have much success doing that. Instead we see Shigeoka taking a round to get a read on Nakashima, see what he has to offer, then begin to slip the jab, get inside and rip Nakashima apart with body shots. Taking him out in the first 4 rounds, at most. Afterwards we suspect that Shigeoka and his team will begin negotations with a world champion for a bout in late summer as he finally gets a chance to show how good he really is.
Prediction - KO3 Shigeoka
On January 11th we'll see the first Japanese title fight of 2022, as Kai Ishizawa (9-1, 8) and Katsuki Mori (9-0, 2) clash for the vacant Japanese Minimumweight title, which was given up last year by Masataka Taniguchi ahead of his WBO world title fight with Wilfredo Mendez. The match up will see two genuinely bright and promising young Minimumweights clashing, in what looks like a brilliant match up in paper, and one that is genuinely hard to call, with the two men involved having very, very different styles to each other. In one corner is a hard hitting pressure fighter, with heavy hands, flat feet, and who enjoys pressing forward, whilst the other contains a slick boxer, who lacks power but has very good foot work, movement and hand speed.
Of the two men the more proven is the 25 year old Ishizawa. He debuted in 2017 and won his first 6 bouts, all inside the distance, whilst claiming the Japanese Youth title. Sadly after running to 6-0 he then suffered sole defeat, losing in a Japanese title eliminator to Masataka Taniguchi. Thankfully for him however he bounced back quickly, and has won 3 in a row since then, including a Japanese Youth title defense, against Yuni Takada, and a win against Naoya Haruguchi in what was, essentially, a Japanese title eliminator. On paper his record doesn't scream quality, but wins against Tatsuro Nakashima, Yuga Inoue, Masashi Tada, Yuni Takada and Naoya Haruguchi are good domestic level wins.
In the ring Ishizawa is a freakishly heavy handed fighter who presses forward behind a high guard, has a stiff and hard jab, and brutal body shots on the inside. He's not the busiest of fighters, and a lot of what he does looks deliberate, even predictable, but with his heavy hands, physical strength and aggression, he makes fighters fight his fight. He applies constant pressure, and that, combined with his power, draws mistakes, which he often punishes. Notably his power has shown it's self to be completely genuine, as he dropped Taniguchi, who recently won the WBO title, and it's clear that if he wins here he will be hunting a rematch with Taniguchi.
Aged just 21 Mori is a youngster who debuted in 2018 and quickly made a name for himself, winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year just 16 months after his debut. Aged 19 at the time of his Rookie of the Year triumph he looked really promising, with lovely speed, movement and an excellent boxing brain. He looked very much like a future star of the Ohashi gym, but he also looked really young, physically immature and feather fisted. Those issues continued to show through into 2021, and after 8 bouts he was 8-0 (1). His lack of power was an issue, but he did manage to score a second stoppage last year, when he defeated Ren Kojima in 6 rounds, that was his first stoppage win since his debut win over Akira Ichihara.
In the ring Mori is a really aggressive fighter. He's not the strongest, the biggest, or the most powerful, but he's aggressive, exciting and likes to stand in front of opponents, finding gaps and letting shots go up close. He attacks the body really well, with both hands, he switches between head and body well, and has real belief in his work rate, hooks, and uppercuts. Despite being aggressive he's also a smart fighter, and he does find gaps with ease. One thing that he doesn't use very well, oddly, is his jab which is a shame as his jab is a very nice shot, but he often seems happy to use one or two whilst looking to get close, smothering opponents whilst somehow finding space for his own shots.
Interestingly the two men will both be looking to fight up close, both will be looking to let body shots go and both will be looking to break down the other. Usually when it comes to fights like this, the heavy puncher, and the more imposing gets the better of things. We suspect that will be the case again here. Ishizawa is just so much stronger and so much heavier with his shots. However we can see a route to victory for Mori, especially if he can use his under-rated defense up close, smothering the power of Ishizawa, preventing him from getting full leverage on his shots, whilst breaking down the body of the once beaten puncher.
We see Mori having success early on, and perhaps even being in the lead by round 5, but we also see him getting broken down by Ishizawa in the second half of the fight and being stopped late in the bout. He'll put in a great effort, but sadly for him we suspect Ishizawa's power will prove to be too much.
If we're wrong and Mori comes out on top here, put his name on your watch list, as he will be moved incredibly quickly if he becomes the second man to beat Ishizawa.
Prediction - TKO8 Ishizawa
On November 12th we'll see a really interesting Minimumweight bout, as Tsubasa Koura (15-1, 10) and Yudai Shigeoka (3-0, 2) face off for the WBO Asia Pacific title, which was vacated earlier this year by Yudai's younger brother Ginjiro Shigeoka. On paper this is a huge step up in class for Shigeoka, in his first 12 round bout, but it's one he and his team will go in to with a lot of confidence, whilst Koura will be looking to fight for the first time in well over a year, for only the third time since the start of 2019. In fact for Koura this is a really important bout and a loss here leaves his once promising career hanging by a thread.
Of the two men Koura is the more well established and was genuinely regarded as a prospect with a huge future ahead of him a few years ago. He began his career in 2014, and won the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2015, beating future Japanese national champion Yuto Takahashi along the way. In 2017 Koura announced himself on the Oriental level, stopping Jaysevera Abcede in 4 rounds, and then defended the belt against future world title challenger Masataka Taniguchi and Norihito Tanaka, as well as the then unbeaten Daiki Tomita. He seemed on the verge of a major bout before suffering a shock 12th round TKO loss in 2019 to Lito Dante. Since that loss Koura has fought just once, picking up a low key win over Ariston Aton in February 2020.
At his best Koura was a hart hitting boxer-puncher. He looked brutal in his early bouts, and whilst he was clearly flawed, he looked like he had the physical tools and the boxing skills to go a very, very long way. He just needed time, experience and a chance to develop his in ring style. Then the loss to Dante happened, and it was a massive one, that saw Dante failing in so many areas. He was out boxed by Dante, he was pressed and pressured and crumbled, both mentally and physically. It seemed he had over-looked Dante and never found a way into the bout against the Filipino, who has a very misleading record. Over 12 rounds Koura just simply didn't have what was needed. That fight was his last at title level, and one that showed a lot of problems that Koura had, back in 2019. The hope for him is that he has matured, physically and mentally, and has refound some hunger for the game here, or he could end up suffering another defeat.
Yudai Shigeoka is much less well known than Koura, but is the man coming in to this on the back of some impressive performance, and the one now regarded as a top prospect, with major potential He turned professional after his younger brother but quickly impressed, beating Manop Audomphanawari in late 2019 and then beating Lito Dante over 6 rounds, the same Dante who had stopped Koura. Sadly Covid19 derailed his rise through the ranks, but he did fight this past February and stopped the previously unbeaten Ryu Horikawa in 5 rounds to claim the Japanese Youth Light Flyweight title. That fight, for those who haven't seen it, is a tremendous contest, and saw Shigeoka needing to pass something of a gut check, before breaking down and stopping Horikawa in a great bout that showed the significance of the Japanese Youth title scene.
In the ring Shigeoka is a fantastic boxer-puncher, with brutal body shots, a nasty straight left hand, a brilliant array of punches.He moves around the ring really easily and looks like someone with the potential to do huge things. There is however a lot of work for him to do going forward, and we suspect he, and his team, know that his defensive work is a weak point, and something he will need to tighten up on going forward. Given he's fighting out of the Watanabe Gym, it's clear he will be sparring with top fighters, and will be working on defense, but it still a clear weakness from what we've seen of him so far. Another, potential issue, is his stamina and this is his first 12 rounds. In fact his first 3 bouts have been just a combined 13 rounds, and we do wonder if he can do 12 without many problems.
Coming in to this it's really had to know where the biggest issues lie. Is it Koura and his inactivity or Shigeoka and his lack of experience? Even with that question in mind there are then other questions, such as whether the speed and movement of Shigeoka will be too quick for Koura, or whether Koura's power will be too much for Shigeoka?
We suspect that Shigeoka will get off to a great start, against a rusty looking Koura. Get off to a big lead and fight to orders. Looking to avoid a tear up with Koura. As the rounds go on however Koura will begin to wake up, Shigeoka will get drawn into a fire fight, and realise that's not where he wants to be. After a few tough rounds for the younger man, we then expect him to be read the riot act, get back to his boxing, and to a close, but clear, decision victory.
Prediction - UD12 Shigeoka.
On August 2nd we'll see a new Japanese Youth Minimumweight champion being crowned as Shunsuke Isa (8-3-1, 1) clashes with Yuni Takada (8-7-2, 3) for a title recently vacated by Kai Ishizawa. On paper this is a clear mismatch, with Isa being the clear favourite, however as we all know records don't fight and we can't help but think that Isa may have bitten off more than they can chew here.
The 23 year old Isa, from Kawasaki, has been a professional since 2016, when he scored a TKO win over Dai Kamimachi. Despite scoring a stoppage in his debut he has shown no power at all since then, failing to register any stoppages in his 11 subsequent match ups. Early on in his career he showed some real promise, winning his first 4 bouts before losing to Retsu Akabane in the 2017 East Japan Rookie of the Year. Since then he has had very mixed results, going 4-2-1, and struggling in a number of those wins. More notable than the results however is the fact that in 2019 he was out pointed by Yuni Takada, the man he will be facing against here.
In the ring Isa is a fun fighter to watch. Despite his lack of power he lets shots go, he uses a lot of movement, and is a surprisingly aggressive fighter for someone with little to no stopping power. He's quick, he's full of energy and he's looks like someone who could develop into a decent fighter, one day. Sadly though he looks very much rough around the edges. His lack of physical maturity and power is one thing but he's also lacking in terms of accuracy, punch selection and at times composure. Things he will improve with experience and age, but for now there are clear flaws that fighters can take advantage of.
With just 8 wins in 17 bouts Yuni Takada has the record of a very, very limited fighter. What those numbers don't show however, is that the 23 year old is no push over and that he has faced some very, very good fighters over the years. His opponents include recent Japanese title challengers Tatsuro Nakashima and Huzuko Saso, recent WBO Asia Pacific title challenger Toshiki Kawamitsu, as well as former Japanese champion Norihito Tanaka and the hugely talented Kai Ishizawa. Not only that but he's actually managed to be competitive with some of those, earning a draw with Saso and taking rounds from Ishizawa and Tanaka. So whilst his record looks poor, Takada is certainly a better fighter than his record suggests.
In the ring Takada has a really some really nice tools in his aresenal. He has an excellent jab, good movement, good balance, and under-stands what he's doing in the ring. Like Isa he lacks power, but does seem much more polished, and is very quick. We'd like to see more from him in terms of work rate, but when he does pick up his pace he does look like a real prospect, despite his record. He's also pretty accurate when under pressure, which he used to great effect in the first bout with Isa in 2019. Since then he has had some of his toughest fights, best performance and learned so much.
With Takada having already beaten Isa, and having learned so much since then, we strongly favour him here. Isa has the tools to come good, and we think he will in the future, but right now we think he lacks the power needed to get Takada's respect, or hurt him. We think that whilst he will have moments, he will be out worked, out landed and out fought, in an entertaining, competitive but clear win for Takada.
Prediction - UD8 Takada
This coming Friday fight fans at the EDION Arena Osaka will get the chance to see 23 year old hopeful Riku Kano (17-4-1, 8) look to defend his WBO Asia Pacific Light Flyweight title for the first time, as he takes on the once touted Takumi Sakae (22-3-1, 16). On paper this really is a strange one. Both men are relatively young, with Kano being 23 and Sakae being 27, but neither man is in a position where they can afford a loss. At least not if they want to land a big fight in the next few years. They are two men who desperately need the regional title to remain relevant, and knowing that can often add a lot of excess pressure on to a fighter's back.
Of he two men the more well known is Riku Kano, the 23 year old champion who was once being groomed as the next Japanese wunderkind, though has sadly fallen well short of expectations. He debuted at the age of 16 in the Philippines, and despite losing on debut bounced back quickly and won the WBA Asia Minimumweight title just a year later. He then went on to win the OPBF "interim" title and fought Katsunari Takayama for the WBO world title in 2016, aged just 18! Sadly however Takayama out worked him on route to claiming a technical decision. Since that loss Kano has never really looked like a special talent, losing inside the distance to Jerry Tomogdan and Shin Ono, and struggling in other wins, including victories over Naoya Haruguchi, Tetsuya Mimura and, most recently, Ryoki Hirai.
Although once regarded as a genius prospect Kano's failings have become more and more apparent over the years. Against Takayama he was outworked by a man around twice his age, against Tomgodan he was broken and battered, against Ono we saw Kano pretty much fall apart and unravel after a cut, showing questionable heart, and in other bouts, even his wins, we've had to question his work rate and hunger. He pretty much comes across as a fighter missing a lot of the most vital tools for a star. Despite that there is still a lot to like about Kano, and you can understand why so many were excited about him at the age of 17. He's quick, he's sharp, he's light on his feet, has a good sense of distance and timing, and understands what he needs to do in the ring. He just sadly misses a lot of the physical traits needed to take that understanding and make it work in the ring. There's almost a sense that he thinks he's as good as he was told he was, and doesn't like it when fighters take it to him, and it almost offends him that fighters try to beat him. And rather than fighting with fire, he tends to crumble a little bit.
Takumi Sakae on the other hand turned professional in 2011 and ended up winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2013. He seemed to be moving towards success when he won the IBF Youth Light Flyweight title in 2015, but his rise through the ranks his a wall in 2016 when he lost to the then Japanese national champion Tatsuya Fukuhara. That was the start of a bad patch in his career as a technical draw to Lito Dante followed and a technical loss to Ryoki Hirai wasn't far behind. He had gone from a 22 year old with a 13-0 record to a 23 year old with a 14-2-1 record in the space of just 9 months. To rebuild he took on some very limited opponents, stropping 4 of his following 5, before losing against, this time to Norihito Tanaka in a Japanese title eliminator in 2018. Since then he has gone backwards, again, and faced very poor foes to try and rebuild some momentum.
On paper Sakae's record looks good, and not many fighters at 105lbs or 108lbs will have 16 stoppages in 22 wins. That makes him look like a legitimate puncher. In reality however his competition has been dreadful, and he's struggled when he's had to fight decent to good opposition. Sadly he's been stuck without a major promoter, fighting in Fukuoka, and not been able to develop his skills, and early potential has floundered, badly. He was also not helped but really never being able to get the fights he needed to prepare for his best opponents. Despite his flawed however Sakae isn't a bad fighter, he's just not one who has massively developed. He's got decent pop, a good work rate, he's tough, he comes to fight and, sadly, that can also lead to head clashes, and fights getting messy.
We feel that Kano is the better boxer, the more talented boxer, and the more technically skilled fighter. However we also know that skills aren't always the be all and end all, and sometimes the styles of the fighters involved is key and we actually think that will be the case here. We think that Kano's negativity will cause him a lot or problems against Sakai, who will trudge forward all day, and try to take the fight to the youngster. Kano won't have the power to get Sakae's respect and we actually see the challenger basing his game plan on that of Shin Ono. If he does that there is a very genuine chance he ends up stopping Kano here, at least if he comes with some real hunger.
We're picking the upset for this one, and going with a Sakae win, a career saving Sake win, by stoppage in the later stages of the fight.
Prediction - Sakae TKO11
On July 16th we'll see a new OPBF Minimumweight champion being crowned as Melvin Jerusalem (16-2, 10) clashes with Toto Landero (11-5-2, 2) for the vacant title, in a second bout between the two men who fought back in 2018. Although the bout isn't a huge bout for global boxing, it is a very, very interesting one between two former world title challengers each looking to move towards a second shot at the top.
Of the two men the more well known, and more proven, is Jerusalem. The 27 year old who is now based in Cebu City has been a professional since 2014 and quickly impressed with some displays of real power punching as he raced out to 8-0 (7) within 2 years of his debut. He then got his first gut check, taking on former world champion Florante Condes, and beat the heavy handed Condes by decision. That win put him in the mix for a world title fight and just 11 months later he challenged Wanheng Menayothin, giving the then WBC champion one of his toughest bouts. Sadly after a close decision to Wanheng we then saw Jerusalem lose to tricky compatriot Joey Canoy in July 2017.
Since losing to Wanheng and Canoy we've seen Jerusalem get his career back on track with 5 straight wins, including one over Philip Luise Cuerdo and one over his upcoming opponent Toto Landero.
In the ring Jerusalem is an aggressive fighter, who lets a lot of shots go. He sets a high work rate, has heavy hands and really does bring the fight to his opponent, wearing them down with tenacity and volume. Whilst he is usually ultra aggressive, he is also very flawed, throwing a lot of shots that don't land, and being open to counters. He's also very messy at times, fighting with a mentality of hitting anywhere, and he was actually deducted points in both of his losses. Notable without the point loss against Wanheng he'd have earned a majority draw! His wild and sloppy work is a real flaw and something that he tends to get away with, but can be a problem against his best opponents.
Although Jerusalem is the more well known that doesn't mean Landero is a total unknown himself. In fact the 25 year old has been a professional since 2013, and like Jerusalem he went on a decent unbeaten run to begin his career, going 8-0-2 (2) in his first 10. Whilst the names he beat in that early run aren't amazing he did manage to beat Rolly Sumalpong and scored two wins over Philip Luis Cuerdo. Interestingly his unbeaten run came to an end in 2016, when he lost to Joey Canoy, before bouncing back and scoring an excellent win over Vic Saludar, the best win of his career so far. Sadly in his 6 bouts since beating Saludar we've seen Landero going 2-4, however his losses have come to notable names including Knockout CP Freshmart, Simpiwe Konkco, Jerusalem himself and Tibo Monabesa. Whilst those are, understandable losses, they are still losses that have killed any momentum Landero had on the back of beating Saludar.
In the ring Landero is very much a pure boxer. He's quick on his toes, he throws lots of jabs, looks to fight at range and is relatively busy, though not as busy as Jerusalem. Sadly though everything for him depends on his jab, and it's not a shot with much pop on it. In fact it's very much a pawing jab, a stay away from me shot, rather than anything hurtful or meaningful. Against fighters with poor footwork, or limited work rate his style works, but against most others his lack of power is a real issue, and doesn't impress judges. In fact that's likely why he has been losing in his most notable bouts.
Sadly for Landero we suspect his lack of stopping power, and low work rate, will be an issue again here. Landero is the better boxer, by some margin, but Jerusalem is the better fighter, and we suspect the pressure, aggression and work rate of Jerusalem will be the key here. Landero will stick the jab in Jerusalem's face, and have success early on, but as Jerusalem's engine gets going he will out work and out fight Landero to take either a late stoppage or a clear, decision.
Prediction - UD12 Jerusalem
On July 14th we get another sensation regional title match up in Japan as the unbeaten pairing of Ginjiro Shigeoka (5-0, 4) and Toshiki Kawamitsu (6-0, 3) clash for the WBO Asia Pacific Minimumweight title, which Shigeoka will be trying to defend for the second time. The match up pits two touted youngsters against each other in a bout that not only looks good on paper, but should also be a stylistic joy to watch with the two men having very different styles, but styles that should gel really well.
The talented, yet diminutive, Ginjiro Shigeoka was a standout amateur in Japan, only losing a single bout in the unpaid ranks, before turning professional in 2018 with very high expectations on his shoulders. He quickly showed what he could do, as an aggressive, explosive, boxer-puncher. He raced through the ranks, winning his regional title less than 12 months after his debut and seemed on the verge of stardom at the end of 2019, when stopped former world title challenger Rey Loreto.
At that point in time Shigeoka was the hottest prospect in Japanese boxing and as we entered 2020 it seemed he was only a fight or two away from a world title shot. And then Covid hit and Shigeoka hasn't fought since the pandemic started, costing him a lot of momentum and around 19 months of his career. Thankfully however he is still only 21 years old.
Prior to his break from the ring Shigeoka looked like he had all the tools to go a very, very long way. He was quick, sharp, physically imposing, picked his shots well, with great power up top and to the body, and despite being a born puncher he was scary quick. He looked like the only thing he was lacking was a little bit of experience, and he was rushing things just a little bit at times, but for a novice he looked like a nailed on future world champion and like a future star of Japanese boxing. Sadly with such a long lay off, it's hard to know just what he'll look like here. Will he be as sharp as he used to be? Will he be as hungry as he once was?
Aged 25 Toshiki Kawamitsu is not someone many outside of Japanese would have been too aware of until left year. That's despite the fact he was a solid amateur himself, and looked good in his early bouts, showing good technical skills, a nice engine and a good work rate. It wasn't until 2020 however that he really made a mark on the sport, upsetting former amateur standout Kenshi Noda in what was a genuine gem of a clash in October. He then build on that by taking out Kosuke Ando in January 2021, when he was called as a late replacement. With those two wins, and 6th round TKO over Yuni Takada, he has 3 solid domestic wins, all by stoppage, coming into this bout.
In the ring Kawamitsu is a good technical fighter, who enjoys fighting up close, applying educated pressure, picking his shots well, taking counter shots on the arms, and breaking down opponents with his clean punching. Since moving beyond 4 rounders he has really impressed with his work rate, accuracy, and ability to find holes in defense whilst mentally and physically forcing fighters to crumble. He does, at times, look a little bit like he could be hurt by a big puncher, and Noda did seem to rock him at one point. Not only does he have a good style though, it also seems he'd comfortable moving up and down the scales, with his last 3 fighters taking place at Minimumweight, Light Flyweight and Flyweight, and the reality is that his frame could fill into a good sized Super Flyweight down the line.
Had this bout been taking place early to mid 2020 it would have been one where we would have been confidently picking Shigeoka. He looked like someone special whilst Kawamitsu looked like a capable, but inexperienced, novice. Now however the bouts is actually a trickier on to pick. Especially given how Kawamitsu has looked in his last few bouts. We would still favour Shigeoka, his power, speed and physicality are terrifying and his body shots are crippling. However this is not a foregone conclusion. There's a chance that Kawamitsu could survive the power of Shigeoka, and could begin to grind down the inactive and rusty champion. The size difference could be key, and Kawamitsu is significantly bigger than Shigeoka, and the styles of the bout could also play a major fact.
We suspect Shigeoka will want to get close to Kawamitsu, but at the same time that's actually Kawamitsu's wheel house, as we saw against Noda where he protected himself well up close, and landed a lot of shots, wearing down Noda. If he can do that against Shigeoka he could end up stopping the champion. But that is a big "if".
We're expecting Shigeoka to look rusty for a round or two, to be under pressure from Kawamitsu, and to genuinely struggle with the bigger man. But eventually the power of Shigeoka will get the break through he needs, likely with a body shot, and he'll take out Kawamitsu in the toughest bout of his career, so far.
Prediction - TKO7 Sheigoka
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.