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
Over the last year or so the Minimumweight division has been almost frozen in the wake of the pandemic. The world champions have been worryingly inactive, the regional champions have sat and twiddled their thumbs and even the Japanese domestic scene has been a victim of the time, with only a single Japanese title fight at the weight in the entire of 2020. That single title fight saw Masataka Taniguchi (13-3, 8) claiming the previously vacant title in December, when he stopped Hizuki Saso. This coming Monday he'll defend that title for the first time as he defends against the once beaten Tatsuro Nakashima (11-1-1, 7) at Korakuen Hall.
When Taniguchi turned professional there was huge expectation on his shoulders inside of Japan. Him, and close friend Hiroto Kyoguchi, were expected to be the leading forces at the Watanabe Gym and were supposed to be the stars to carry the gym's legacy after Takashi Uchiyama and Kohei Kono retired. Whilst we have seen Kyoguchi scale the highest heights in the sport, Taniguchi hasn't quite managed the same, though the belief is that he still has the tools to do that.
The 27 year old champion was moved aggressive in the early part of his career, and fought in his first title fight, a Japanese title fight, just a year after his debut, losing a razor thin decision to Reiya Konishi. He would also lose a razor thin decision to Tsubasa Koura in an OPBF title fight just 7 months later. Despite those setbacks he has rebuilt well, won the WBO Asia Pacific title, challenged the then WBO champion Vic Saludar and won the Japanese title. He has notched notable wins over Joel Lino, Kai Ishizawa and Hizuki Saso. Maybe they aren't world class names, but all three are solid fighters, with Lino and Ishizawa both being very good fighters.
In the ring Taniguchi is an undeniable talent. He's a highly skilled boxer, who knows his way around the ring, has solid work rate, spiteful power, good movement and good handspeed. He's a really solid all rounder, and when his combinations flow he's a joy to watch. He's not the most physically imposing fighter, and he's more a fighter who's "very good" at everything rather than "great" in any particular area. The one area he's genuinely lacked through his career has been luck, and 2 of his losses could very easily have gone his way. In fact there's a very strong argument that both should have gone his way, and both of those losses came very early in his career. He's the sort of fighter who can compete at world level, will likely win a world title, and has a record that is thoroughly misleading.
Nakashima on the other hand is a 26 year old set to get his biggest bout to date. His biggest bout, by far. He's been a professional since 2015 and despite a slow start to his career did manage to show some real promise in 2017, only just missing out on a place in the All Japan Rookie of the Year final, with a draw against Yuga Inoue. The following year he would end up losing to the aforementioned Ishizawa, but has since bounced back with 4 straight wins including a solid one last time out against Ariston Aton. On paper his record looks solid, but in reality there is a lot of weak opposition on his record, with his most notable wins being over Mammoth Kazunori, very early in their respective career's, and Ariston Aton. Hardly the fighters to prepare you for a Japanese title fight .
Although his competition has been poor Nakashima is a solid boxer. He has light feet, moves around the ring easy, a nice jab, and good composure. He looks well schooled, but like a fighter who still has work to do. He's schooled but not polished. His jab lacks the spitefulness he really needs and as we saw against Ishizawa, he can be broken down, and he can end up fighting the wrong fight. He's not the biggest puncher out there, and whilst he is composed under pressure, his defensive flaws are clear to see when fighters put shots together, as Ishizawa did. He can also get dragged into exchanges more often than he needs to, as his lack of experience shows.
Whilst Nakashima is a good boxer, we see the issues that cost him against Ishizawa coming in to play again here. He's a good boxer, but he still makes mistakes, he holds his feet too long, and he struggles to get respect from his better opponents. Taniguchi might be asked questions, especially early on when the light feet of Nakashima will create some space, but as the fight goes on the challenger will be broken down, the body shots of Taniguchi proving to be especially potent here.
Nakashima will put up a good fight, he won't be there to make up the numbers, and he will come into the fight as a very live challenger. However the edge in class, the more rounded and polished skills, and the firepower of Taniguchi will prove to be a series difference maker here.
Prediction - TKO8 Taniguchi
On April 21st we'll see Japanese Youth Minimumweight champion Kai Ishizawa (7-1, 7) returning to the ring for his first bout of 2021, and his first defense of that Youth title, that he has now held for well over 2 years. In the opposite corner to the exciting champion will be unheralded challenger Yuni Takada (8-6-2, 3), who really is a massive under-dog coming in to this.
For those who haven't seen Ishizawa you have been missing out on one of the most exciting and destructive Minimumweights on the planet. The 24 year old from Kanagawa is an all pressure fighter with seriously spiteful power, which will easily carry up to Flyweight without any issues. He's a come forward fighter, with under-rated defense, real hunger and a style that is developing fight by fight and he gets moulded by the folk at the MT Gym in Japan, who also guide the career of Junto Nakatani.
As an amateur Ishizawa went a rather under-whelming 28-14 but turned professional aged 20 and quickly caught the eye, winning his first 4 bouts in a combined 10 rounds, including a very good win over Tatsuro Nakashima. In November 2018 he showed his desire and toughness to break down Yuga Inoue in the 6th round, despite being out boxed for swathes of the fight, to claim the Japanese Youth title, though sadly really just sat on the title whilst chasing bigger things. He was on the verge of bigger things in 2019 when he competed in a Japanese eliminator against Masataka Taniguchi, and even dropped Taniguchi, but he was unable to defeat his countryman who took a clear decision over the youngster. Sadly Covid19 then delayed his ring return and he was inactive for 13 months as a result, before bouncing back last October with a win over veteran Masashi Tada.
Aged 24 Ishizawa is at the age where Youth champions are essentially forced to vacate the title and this will likely be his one and only defense before restarting his pursuit of the senior title later in the year. With a bit more maturity under his win and a few more bouts we suspect he will be ready for a rematch with Taniguchi sooner rather than later.
As for Takada he's had a very mixed career. The 22 year old debuted in 2015, winning his first 2 bouts before going 3-2-1 after 6 bouts. From there on he seemed to come undone every time he had any momentum going, in what has been a very blotchy 10 fight run. At his best he can be a very capable fighter and his win against Shunsuke Isa was good proof of that, as was his draw with Hizuki Saso. Sadly though his best is only that of a "capable" fighter, and at times he has been a lot less impressive than that. He has also never really tested any of his better opponents, including Toshiki Kawamitsu, who stopped him in 2019, and Norihito Tanaka, who took a decision over him last year.
Takada has got the tools to ask some questions. He has hunger, he has decent movement, under-rated toughness, and a very decent hand speed. Though the problem is he doesn't have anything that really stands out about him. He uses a lot of energy, lacks power and has been stopped in 3 of his 4 losses. Against Ishizawa they are major issues for a fighter.
Early on we expect to see Takada trying to establish his jab, and his jab is the quicker jab of the two men. Sadly though we suspect he'll struggle to really establish himself, and will instead find himself under pressure form Ishizawa. Ishizawa will back up Takada with his own stiff jab, eventually working his way inside and then breaking down the challenger, who will have no answer. Sadly for Takada we saw what Toshiki Kawamitsu's pressure and work rate did to him in 2019, where Takada had a good start but was broken down and saved by the referee. We expect something similar here. But quicker.
If Takada survives 4 rounds it'll be a moral victory for him.
Prediction - TKO4 Ishizawa
On December 3rd we'll see a new Japanese Minimumweight champion being crowned as Masataka Taniguchi (12-3, 7) gets his second shot at the domestic title, and faces the unheralded Hizuki Saso (12-6-2, 4), in what will be his first title bout of any kind. Amazingly the bout comes almost 11 months to the day since Norihito Tanaka vacated the belt, ahead of his world title bout with Knockout CP Freshmart, and more than 8 months after Taniguchi was supposed to face Lito Dante for the belt, back in March.
Despite the lengthy gap between bouts for the title we can't help but be excited about this one, as it really does look set to be much, much better than the record of the two men suggest.
Of the two fighters it's fair to see Taniguchi will be the clear favourite, and with good reason. The Watanabe gym fighter is a former amateur standout who seemed destined for success when he turned professional in 2016. In his early professional bouts he looked fantastic, with speed, power, skills and a good ring IQ, and in 2017 he got his first title bout, losing a razor thin majority decision to Reiya Konishi for the Japanese Minimumweight title. Due to how close that loss was, in Konishi backyard as well, Taniguchi's career didn't really suffer and just 7 months later he got his second title bout, facing Tsuabasa Koura for the OPBF Minimumweight title. Once against Taniguchi came up narrowly close, losing a majority decision to Koura.
Thankfully for Taniguchi things did fall in place for him in 2018 when he claimed the WBO Asia Pacific Miunimumweight title, with a unanimous decision win over Filipino Joel Lino in Thailand. That win was followed by some wrangling over Japanese rules before Taniguchi fought Vic Saludar for the WBO world title, losing a clear decision to the big punching Filipino. Since that loss we've only seen Taniguchi fighting once, though that was a notable win in a Japanese title eliminator against the big punching Kai Ishizawa, in what was a legitimate barn burner.
In the ring the 26 year old Tanigcuhi is a fantastic fighter. He's skilled, he knows how to keep things long, has solid power, he's tough and he has the amateur background to fall back on. Two of his 3 losses could easily have gone his way, and against Vic Saludar he found out he wasn't ready for world level, just yet. Sadly though he his record paints the picture of a limited fighter, with losses in 20% of his career bouts, not a number that's actually reflective of his talent and he's much better than his record suggests. He's probably the best 12-3 fighter in the sport, and could just as easily be 14-1 at this point. Despite being talented he's not someone who has responded well to power, and at times he seemed intimidated by Saludar, who's stiff shots made Taniguchi think twice, and he was dropped by Ishizawa in their amazing 2019 clash.
When it comes to Hizuki Saso it's fair to say a lot less is known about the 25 year old, despite the fact his professional career dates back to 2015 and he has more professional bouts than Taniguchi. The youngster from Kanagawa has been a professional since 2013 and suffered his first loss in 2014. Notably his second loss came in the East Japan Rookie of the Year final to Tsubasa Koura and that started a bad run for Saso who quickly fell from 6-1 to 6-4-1, going win-less for more than 2 years.
The bad run for Saso saw him struggle to find his place in the sport and dip his toes at Light Flyweight whilst rebuilding his career, winning 6 of his following 8 bouts to rebuild to 12-4-1, and open up the opportunity for a title fight.
In the ring Saso is a tidy little boxer with a speedy and sharp jab, nice light movement and good body shots. Sadly though he lacks power, his work rate leaves something to be desired. From a physical stand point he doesn't seem the strongest or the most powerful, and he seems like the type of guy that could be bullied around rather easily by a decent, strong fighter, like Taniguchi. He also has questionable defense and in his last bout, against Yuni Takada, took a lot of clean shots, often when bending at the waist. In fact if we're being honest Saso was incredibly lucky to take home the win in that bout. He has nice skills, but they seem very unpolished, and like they need a lot of work for him to be ready for a title bout.
From what we've seen of both men it's hard to see a route to victory for Saso. He lacks the power needed to get Taniguchi's respect, like Ishizawa and Saludar, he lacks the work rate to out work him, and he lacks the physicality to try and bull him. As for Taniguchi this really is his fight to lose. He has the skills to outbox Saso, he has the power to hurt him, and he has the physicality to boss him around.
What we're expecting to see is Saso to show a lot of respect to Taniguchi early on. By round 3 or 4 however Taniguchi will have gotten the motor going and will be lining Saso up regularly with powerful straight left hands. When that happens it'll become less a competitive contest and more a test of how tough Saso is, and how brave his corner is. Sooner or later however Saso will be stopped.
Prediction - Taniguchi TKO6
The Watanabe show to end 2019 is a huge stacked card, with 6 title bouts in total, including 2 regional title bouts. The most interesting of the two, will see WBO Asia Pacific Minimumweight champion Ginjiro Shigeoka (4-0, 3) taking a huge step up in class to take on Filipino challenger Rey Loreto (25-14, 17). For Shigeoka this will be his first defense, and a win will almost certainly see him being fast tracked to a world title fight in the new year. A win for the champion however, is not a given and Loreto has proven time and time again that he is not someone we should ever write off, despite his less than stellar record.
The 20 year old Japanese fighter is, along with his older brother Yudai, regarded as one of the best talented in Japan. He went 56-1 as an amateur, and has been fast tracked since turning professional, defeating Joel Lino in his third bout and Clyde Azarcon in his 4th bout, for the WBO Asia Pacific title. In the ring he's an aggressive, super sharp pressure fighter. He's one of the most naturally gifted young fighters in the sport today, and combines very high ring IQ, with brilliant balance, powerful punching and sensational movement. More problematic for opponents is that Shigeoka is a southpaw, adding yet another problem for every opponent to solve.
Of course there are questions that still need to be asked of Shigeoka before anointing him the next star of Japanese boxing. We don't know what his chin is like, we don't know what happens when he's under pressure, whether he can fight 12 rounds, and we don't know how he copes with a fellow southpaw, though we'll see that answered here against Loreto. For the first in his career Shigeoka is going up against someone who has proven himself as a a tough, thunder punching fighter, and we expect to see him being forced to answer a lot of questions, win or lose.
On paper Loreto has a journeyman's record, but in reality his record only tells a fraction of the story. The 29 year old Filipino began his career in 2008, as a teenager, and suffered 4 straight losses. He managed to turn things around, but struggled for consistency, and was 7-7 by the time he turned 20. From 7-7 Loreto struggled to get going, 4 of his following 5 to fall to 8-11 (4), but since then has been impressive, going 17-4 (13). Of course it's not all about the number, and Loreto has been scoring notable wins in recent years, beating the likes of Wisanu Por Nobnum, Pornsawan Porpramook and Nkosinathi Joyi, twice. That winning run lead Loreto to a world title fight in 2017, against WBA Minimumweight champion Knockout CP Freshmart. Sadly for Loreto he lost to Knockout and has only fought twice since then, against very limited opposition.
Through his career Loreto has always proven to be tough, a massive puncher, and very dangerous. Technically he's fair crude, but strong and bull like, giving himself a chance to land counters when opponents open up. He can be out boxed, but he only needs to really land one shot to turn the fight around, as we saw in the first Joyi fight. At his best Loreto is a threat for anyone aside from the divisional elite, however with inactivity it's unclear what he'll offer.
If Loreto is 75% the fighter he once was he will be a threat through out the bout. Anything less than that and we suspect Shigeoka will make a huge statement and stop the Filipino, likely from body shots. If Loreto is at his best however, he stands a real chance of getting the upset. We suspect it'll be clear early as to what sort of mentality Loreto is in, and he has been given a lot of time to prepare for this, so he should be up for it.
We expect to see Shigeoka showing a bit more patience than usual, trying to figure out Loreto's southpaw stance, and being cautious early on. He'll keep the pressure on but do so with a higher guard than usual, keeping his defense tight and slowly chipping away at Loreto. He'll have to avoid the heavy return fire, but his reflexes so far have looked impressive and we suspect they will allow him to get in, an out, safely. It may only take one clean shot from Loreto to change the fight, but he still needs to land it clean, and that doesn't look like it will be easy to do against Shigeoka.
Prediction - UD12 Shigeoka
The 2020 Champion Carnival is slowly starting to come together and at the end of August we saw the Japanese title challenger decision bouts being announced. Before that announcement there was several already on the docket, including a Minimumweight eliminator between former world title challenger Masataka Taniguchi (11-3, 7) and hard hitting youngster Kai Ishizawa (6-0, 6), with the winner to get a shot in early 2020.
Of the two fighters Taniguchi is the much more proven and established. He's a former Japanese, OPBF and world title challenger and a former WBO Asia Pacific champion and has mixed with the likes of Reiya Konishi, Vic Saludar, Tsubasa Koura and Joel Lino. Before turning professional he was a solid amateur and was tipped for major success, but that success hasn't yet come. Notably he is still only 25, and despite the set backs through his career he still has time on his side, if he's still hungry enough to make the most of his talent. That hunger is however a big question and there is a chance that his losses have killed some of that desire to be a champion.
In terms of skill and style Taniguchi is an highly skilled boxer-puncher. Fighting out of southpaw stance Taniguchi is an aggressive fighter who judges distance well, fights behind a sharp jab and has under-rated speed and movement. His work rate isn't the highest and he's not a KO puncher but he is a solid puncher with a decent work rate. In fact when we think about Taniguchi, he's solid in every area, without being excellent in any, which is what was shown when he faced off with Saludar earlier this year. He's never going to be one of the truly top fighters in the division, but will remain a constant threat in and around the regional title scene.
Ishizawa is a 22 year old who turned professional in 2017 without too much fan fare, following a rather uninspired 28-14 amateur record. Since turning professional however he has impressed, thanks to his heavy hands, aggressive styles and pressure fighting mentality. Early in his career there was questions about how he'd look when he stepped up, but he answered those questions with stoppage wins over Tatsuro Nakashima and Yuga Inoue in 2018. Those bouts both saw Ishizawa needing to answer questions about what happens when a fighter can take his power, and the Inoue bout in particular was a huge test against a stylistic nightmare, that he eventually broke down.
Despite impressive performances against the likes of Nakashima and Inoue this is still a massive step up for Ishizawa. He's a hard puncher with an exciting pressure style, but he's up against someone who is more experienced, has more to his game, hits hard himself and moves well. The key for Ishizawa is to get close and work inside, but against someone who controls distance like Taniguchi that is much easier said than done and he will have to take punishment to get inside.
We'd love to see Ishizawa win, due to loving his style and youth, but in reality we feel this bout may be coming a touch too early for him and his inexperience will be exposed. Taniguchi may have come up short in his biggest bouts but he is talented, and even in defeat he has shown a real gritty toughness and determination. We suspect that grit will see him through some tough moments against Ishizawa, before taking a clear win, possibly even a late stoppage.
Prediction - TKO8 Taniguchi
Earlier this year we saw Can Xu claim the WBA "regular" Featherweight title with a huge win over Jesus M Rojas. That win really put Xu on the map and gave Chinese boxing a massive shot in the arm. Since then he has defended the title once and kept momentum going in China, which has also seen see Wulan Tuolehazi put himself into the mix at Flyweight.
One other Chinese fighter looking to get a big break in the near future is Jing Xiang (16-4-2, 3), a talented fighter who has broke into the world rankings whilst making a name for himself at Light Flyweight. This coming Saturday he drops 3 lbs and heads to Minimumweight and takes on once beaten Filipino Jomar Caindog (10-1-1, 4) in a bout for the WBO International Minimumweight title, which will be held in Shenzhen.
The move to 105lbs is a smart one for Xiang, if he can make the weight comfortably. The 5'3" slickster is a natural talent, with incredible skills, but at Light Flyweight he was always going to be lost in the shuffle with so much depth in the division and even if he got a shot at a title, he would be a massive under-dog against fighters like Hiroto Kyoguchi and Kenshiro. At 105lbs however there is less talent, and he could certainly give the champions at the weight a run for their money, if not manage to dethrone them.
Looking at Xiang's record won't impress many, with just 16 wins in 22 bouts. It is worth noting however that he has turned around a 3-3 start to his professional career with a record of 13-1-2 in his last 16 bouts. It's also worth noting that his losses have come at Bantamweight, Super Flyweight and Flyweight, including a very early career loss to Jerwin Ancajas. In his last 16 he has scored notable wins over the likes of Ben Mananquil, Dexter Alimento, Merlito Sabillo and Kompayak Porpramook and certainly deserves a huge fight if he can continue this run of form.
During Xiang's current form we have been really impressed by his skills, and he doesn't fight like most Chinese fighters. He's a fighter who has a pure boxing style, he fights behind his, moves well, and counters brilliantly. His combinations are fantastic and whilst he lacks power he does find in defenses and lands a lot of shots. In terms of pure skills he is arguably the best in China.
Sadly not so much is known about Caindog, a Filipino who has almost no footage out there and has done little in his career far. Aged 24 he is coming into his physical prime but this is a massive step up in class for him. From his debut in June 2014 all his bout, so far, have been at home in the Philippines. Through his 12 bouts to date his competition hasn't been notable, at all, other than a then 2-0 Samuel Salva, who will fight for a world title in September. Salva beat Caindog over 6 rounds and the only other mark on Caindog's record was a 2018 draw with Lyster Jun Pronco.
Sadly, given the lack of footage,it's hard to say anything about Caindog's style but his competition so far suggests his team haven't got a lot of belief in him and a bout against Xiang looks like it's a case of "sink or swim" for him.
It can be hard to judge a fight without footage of one of the fighters. The reality here is that we know Xiang is very, very good, and if he can make 105lbs without any problems he's a handful for anyone in the division. We know about Xiang to suggest, confidently, that he'll be too good for a man who has been protected on the Filipino domestic scene.
There is a chance that Caindog is a diamond in the rough for the Filipino scene, but our guess is that he's not, and that he will be clearly beaten here by the skills and trickery of Xiang.
Prediction - TKO9 Xiang
In recent year's we've seen more and more Japanese fighters being put on the fast track to the top. The latest man to join the ever growing line of Japanese fighters to race to titles is highly regarded Watanabe prospect Ginjiro Shigeoka (3-0, 2), who returns to the ring this coming Saturday in an attempt to claim his first professional title, in just his 4th professional bout. The talented Japanese teenager won't be gifted a title, and instead will need to get through Filipino foe Clyde Azarcon (15-2-1, 5) as the two men battle for the currently vacant WBO Asia Pacific Minimumweight title.
Shigeoka is seen as the next star from the Watanabe Gym, which has given us a number of world champions in recent years like Takashi Uchiyama and Hiroto Kyoguchi. He was an excellent amateur, winning 5 high school crowns and losing just once in over 50 bouts, and even that loss was one that deserves an asterisks next to it. His amateur pedigree saw his debut becoming quite highly anticipated, and he lived up to the hype with an excellent win over Sanchai Yotboon last September. Since then he has added to his victories by beating Gerttipong Kumsahwat, who was really poor, and Joel Lino, a very decent Filipino.
Since turning professional Shigeoka really has had things almost all his own way. He's not had to work really hard, he's not been under any pressure from his opponents and instead he has been able to dictate everything. Whilst that does say something about his competition so far, it's worth noting that a win over Lino is genuinely impressive. His style, which is an aggressive one, is a calculated pressure style, he's strong, sharp, accurate, heavy handed and yet has a great boxing brain. He applies smart boxing, to an exciting style, and with Hiroto Kyoguchi in the same gym, he has an obvious mentor to try and replicate. On the subject of Kyoguchi, it's probably fair to say that Shigeoka is a better natural talent, and the key will be how he applies that natural ability. If he applies himself well, Shigeoka has the potential to be a major star of the future for Japan.
Of course a lot of the focus is on Shigeoka and his rise, but Azarcon is no push over. The 24 year old Filipino has been a professional for a little over 4 years and whilst he lost his second bout, losing a clear and wide decision to Junrel Jiemenz, he has since gone 14-1-1, with his only loss being a close one to the very talented Rene Mark Cuarto. Despite only suffering one loss in his last 16 there are a number of close bouts on his record, and it does seem very much like his lack of power is an issue at times, with Azarcon struggling to get opponents to respect him, despite often coming forward.
From the footage of Azarcon there he does look pretty aggressive and comes forward, but doesn't really have much sting on his shots or much crispness to his work. He's not bad, but seems to have a style that hasn't really been polished, and instead he looks rough around the edges, slapping his shots and not really fighting with a huge amount of intensity. It's likely his slapping style that has lead to his low stoppage rate, but there is possibly also a genuine lack of power, as well as the sloppy technique.
Although this is a step up for Shigeoka it's hard to imagine a fighter who lacks the pop to get Shigeoka's respect really testing him. Instead it seems more likely that Azarcon will start with some ambition, but it will be quickly beat out of him, and by the middle rounds the pressure and power of Shigeoka will begin to break him down. From there on it will be a case of "when" and not "if" Shigeoka can score an early win.
Prediction - Shigeoka TKO9
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.