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
After a really hectic and busy May, with big fights on a consistent basis, notable action drops off massively in June with the first Japanese title fight taking place on June 13th. That bout sees Japanese Minimumweight champion Norihito Tanaka (18-7, 10) make his first, following his title win in January, as he takes on Naoya Haruguchi (15-10, 6). On paper this isn't a hugely interesting fight, but does have history behind it, as we'll explain in a moment.
The 34 year old Tanaka is a true veteran of the Japanese ring. He debuted in 2005 and won his first 9 fights before suffering 3 defeats in 4 bouts. Whilst that sounds bout it is worth noting that those losses included a decision to Kenichi Horikawa, in 2007, and a DQ loss to Ryoichi Taguchi, two losses that on reflection are certainly aren't bad. He would bounce back with 3 wins before getting his first title fight, battling Akira Yaegashi for the Japanese Minimumweight title, and losing a wide decision. After that Tanaka fought twice, going 1-1, before taking a break of over 5 years. He resurfaced in 2017 and has since gone 4-2 (3) with notable wins against Takumi Sakai and Shin Ono in his last 2 bouts.
In the ring Tanaka had proven to be a smart, crafty, tough fighter with under-rated skills, a good boxing brain and respectable power. Tanaka isn't quick, by any stretch, but he has excellent time, lures opponents in and counters really well. Tanaka's smart boxing, accurate punching and experience makes him a very tricky fighter to look good against and beat. He's certainly not unbeatable, but is significantly better than his record suggests, and even in his 30's going to be hard to dethrone.
As mentioned Tanaka is 4-2 since his return in 2017. One of those losses was in an OPBF title fight to Tsubasa Koura in 2018, the other was in 2017 when he lost a majority decision to Naoya Hariguchi, the man he'll defend his title against. That loss came in the second bout of Tanaka's return and saw Tanaka losing a very close decision in Haruguchi's home city of Kagoshima City, this time the bout is Tanaka's home of Tokyo which could be a major factor.
Haruguchi is the younger man, at 29, but actually has just as many fights as Tanaka, with both having 25 contests to their name. His career began in 2012 and has been a rocky road. He lost on his debut, to Takumi Sakae, was 1--2 after 3 bouts and 3-4 after 7 contests. The inconsistent form of Haruguchi did look bad but it is worth noting that 2 of those losses came to Sakae, who would win the 2013 Rookie of the Year, and one was to Keisuke Nakayama, who later held the OPBF Flyweight title. As his career went on he would become a very clear "win some lose some" fighter, wiith his best run being a 6 fight winning streaking between 2016 and 2017. That winning run saw Haruguchi not only avenge one of his losses, to Jun Takigawa, but also score his win over Tanaka. Sadly however that run ended he has gone 1-3, with losses to Riku Kano, Tatsuya Fukuhara and Lito Dante, strange form for a man about to challenge for the Japanese title.
When it comes to watching Haruguchi footage is limited, partly due to him fighting mostly outside of the main Japanese boxing markets. What little footage is available of Haruguchi is several years old and comes from his 2015 loss to Reiya Konishi, where he was out worked by the then unbeaten Konishi. The take away from that footage is that Haruguchi was a crude fighter, who was easy to force back, defensively open and lacked any sort of sharpness in his punches.
Whilst Haruguchi beat Tanaka when they fought a couple of years ago we really don't see him being competitive here this time around. It certainly feels like he got the benefit of the doubt in their first bout, especially given he was dropped twice and still got the win, and won't be getting that in Tokyo. His form, with 3 losses in his last 4, also don't bode well coming into this bout.
We're expecting to see Tanaka finish off what he started, and this time we're expecting him to finish off Haruguchi, and retain his title in style.
Prediction - Tanaka 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.