In the last few years Japanese fight Masayoshi Nakatani has flown the flag for Japanese Lightweights internationally. In the eyes of many outside of Japan he was the only Lightweight from the country worth being aware of, thanks to his fights with Teofimo Lopez, Felix Verdejo and Vasyl Lomachenko. There is however several other Japanese fighters at 135lbs who are worth being aware, including the deadly Shu Utsuki and the talented Shuichiro Yoshino (14-0, 11), who fans will be able to see in action this coming Saturday.
The unbeaten Yoshino, a former triple crown and the current WBO Asia Pacific and OPBF champion, will be defending his regional titles against former WBO Super Featherweight world champion Masayuki Ito (27-3-1, 15). For Yoshino the bout serves as his first chance to really show a Western audience what he can do in the ring, and boost his recognition from the regional scene, to a potential contender on the global scene. As for Ito, he'll see the bout as a chance to move towards establishing himself as a Lightweight, as he continues to rebuild following his world title loss to Jamel Herring in 2019. For both men, the bout will serve as a shop window of sorts, given the huge profile of the show they are clashing on, and the fact it's being streamed around the globe thanks to DAZN.
Of the two men the more well known is Ito. He's a former world champion who won the WBO Super Featherweight title in 2018, when he beat the previously unbeaten Christopher Diaz in the US on a DAZN show. He only defended the belt once before losing to Herring, and then abandoned the Super Featherweight division to begin a campaign at Lightweight. Since moving to 135lbs he has gone 2-1, taking a a rather low key win over Ruben Manakane, a close and controversial loss to Hironori Mishiro, and then a sensational TKO win over Valentine Hosokawa. That win over Hosokawa was one of the very best performances from Ito, who looked sensational from start to end.
Early in his career Ito was quite technical, but over the years he adapted a more aggressive style, creating space to line up his heavy right hands. That change saw him have his best success, beating Diaz with an excellent performance for the WBO world title, but also made him look really basic when he faced Jamel Herring, with Herring using a basic but effective game plan built around movement and his southpaw stance. Recent we have seen something of a change in Ito, who now looks crisper than he has in the past. Against Hosokawa he was busy, sharp, relaxed, accurate, and controlled the bout behind his jab and followed up well with his right hand. He countered well, he lead well, and he looked like he had a meaner side to him as he broke down the durable Hosokawa.
Whilst the 31 year old Ito has been at the top of the mountain, had opportunities abroad and made a name for himself, the same can't be said for Yoshino. The 30 year old has, however, managed to impress on the regional scene winning the Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles. Not only has he been a triple crown champion but he has also done so in impressive fashion, stopping 9 of his last 10 and beating the likes of Harmonito Dela Torre, Izuki Tomioka, Valentine Hosokawa and Shuma Nakazato. Despite impressing in terms of results, his performances have been, at times, under-whelming and there is a feeling that we've not seen the best of Yoshino. In fact we dare say that Yoshino will perform better when he's really being tested. Regardless of that he has proven himself a very solid boxer-puncher, capable of shutting out Valentine Hosokawa, or blasting out the likes Harmonito Dela Torre with a single shot.
In the ring Yoshino can do it all. He can pressure when he feels like it, he can box when he wants to, and he can punch. He has good variety, great timing with counters, a nice crisp jab, and under-rated foot speed. Sadly his real issue seems to be either a lack of confidence, or a willingness to over-look opponents. His worse performance have been against fighters everyone would have expected him to deal with easily, whilst his best performance have come against his most notable opponents. Although not a huge Lightweight Yoshino is a big guy, who fought much higher as an amateur and began his professional career at Welterweight before dropping down the weights. He's strong, powerful, and very dangerous.
Given his ability to step up his performance, we're expecting to see the very best of Yoshino here, and we expect to see him really show what he can do against Ito. Part of that will be Yoshino switching stances, getting Ito to throw when he's out of range and then countering. We suspect those counters will be the major difference maker here, especially down the stretch.
Ito will have success with his right hand, and maybe even buzz Yoshino at times, but as the bout goes on we suspect Yoshino will begin to find a home for his left hook and right hand, eventually getting to Ito, and maybe even forcing a late stoppage in an attempt to announce himself as a legitimate contender to a world title.
Prediction TKO11 Yoshino
After an increase in fights in July and August it does appears things in Japan are going to quieten down a little bit in September, sadly. Thankfully however we do kick the month off with a brilliant match up this coming Thursdays from Korakuen Hall, and it really does have the potential to be something very special.
That is the triple title bout between JBC, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific Lightweight champion Shuichiro Yoshino (12-0, 10) and former Japanese Light Welterweight champion Valentine Hosokawa (25-7-3, 12). On paper it may not look like a sensational bout, but in reality this has the potential to be something truly brilliant, between men with styles that should gel brilliantly to give us something special.
The talented and heavy handed Yoshino has has been moved very quickly since turning professional back in 2015. After debuting at Welterweight he has cut his weight and become the face of Japanese boxing at Lightweight. In his 4th professional bout he beat veteran Yoshitaka Kato and just 2 fights later he became the Japanese Lightweight champion. He added regional titles to his collection last year and will be hoping to keep all 3 bits of silverware here.
In the ring Yoshino really is a boxer-puncher, with some of the heaviest hands in Japanese boxing. He's a clean puncher, has under-rated movement, good hand speed and solid footwork. If we're looking for flaws he can be a slow starter at times, his defense isn't the tightest and he can be out jabbed, out moved and out worked. So far his power had worked as a neutraliser when he has been in trouble, as we saw against Izuki Tomioka in February, but there are areas to work on. He's not a complete fighter, but he is a damn good one, and one who does have the potential to mix with some of the fighters in the upper echelons of the division.
Aged 39 and sporting 7 losses in 35 bouts Valentine Hosokawa is a fighter who loves to defy numbers. He should be too old, he should be too battle worn, he should be on the way on the way out. In fact he should have been on the way out years ago. Like a fine wine however the warrior from the Kadoebi Gym has aged wonderfully and has had the best form of his career at an age where most fighters are retired. He had been putting in great performances, win or lose. He has dropped in weight recently and now looks more dangerous at 135lbs than he ever did at 140lbs, where he was always a nightmare to fight.
Hosokawa made his debut in 2006, and won Rookie of the Year in 2008. He came up short in his first two title fights, both in 2013, but won the Japanese in 2017, beating rival and friend Koichi Aso. After twice defending the title he was dethroned last year by Koki Inoue and then dropped in weight and destroyed Kosuke Arioka last November. He had planned a fight against Jacob Ng in Australia, but that fell through due to the on-going global situation but he's now landed this fight.
For those who hasn't seen Hosokawa he's a physically strong, aggressive, tough, hard working pressure fighter. He comes to win, he presses and lets his hands go. Although not a huge puncher he is a serious volume puncher and makes for real action fights.
Given Hosokawa's aggression and willingness to go forward we see him pressing from the off, and actually copying a gameplan that Harmonito Dela Torre tried to use against Yoshino. That gameplan did see Dela Torre get to Yoshino, before eating an absolute part way through the opening round. For Hosokawa he needs to keep up the pressure, use his strength and try to grind down Yoshino without taking too many risks. Despite moving down in weight worth noting that even at Lightweight he's a small fighter, and will be dwarfed by Yoshino here.
For Yoshino the focus will be on creating space, catching Hosokawa coming forward, and landing his power shots. He'll have to use his feet, he'll have to land very hard clean shots, and have to try and stop the forward march of the challenger. Although Yoshino is a hard puncher it's worth noting Hosokawa hasn't been stopped since back to back TKO defeats in 2013 to Shinya Iwabuchi and Min Wook Kim, and those losses both came at 140lbs.
We do favour Yoshino to take home the win here, we feel his youth, power, height and reach will be the difference, but he will have to work very hard for the win and we do not expect this one to be an easy one for the champion.
Prediction - UD12 Yoshino
On October 10th we'll see a new regional unified champion being crowned, as unbeaten Japanese fighter Shuichiro Yoshino (10-0, 8) and twice beaten Filipino Harmonito Dela Torre (20-2, 12) battle for the vacant OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific Lightweight titles. If Yoshino wins he will not only hold the titles he's fighting for here, but will actually become a triple title holder, adding them to the Japanese title he already holds, whilst the Filipino will be looking to get his career back on track after some recent set backs.
The unbeaten Yoshino has been on a fast track since he began his professional career. As an amateur he was a stand out, though took his time to begin his professional. When he turned pro, in 2015, he wasted no time in rising through the ranks, and in just his 4th bout he defeated former Japanese and OPBF champion Yoshitaka Kato. Just 6 months after that Yoshino stopped Spicy Matsushita in 7 rounds to become the Japanese Lightweight champion, just 20 months after his debut. Since then he has defended the title 4 times, all by stoppage, and scored some frightening KO's, such as his 3rd round win over Kazumasa Kobayashi.
In the ring Yoshino is a confident boxer-puncher. He's aggressive but also defensively smart, with a good tight guard, he applies pressure but does so intelligently, and he can fight on both the inside and outside. He's not untouchable, but for an aggressive fighter he is much smarter than he is given credit for. Whilst technically he's solid it's power that is scary and every shot he lands is thrown with the intention of hurting an opponent. He is a very, very solid puncher, and this has been shown time and time again recently, with 6 straight stoppages, but does still have some question marks to answer going forward. The big question mark for Yoshino is his chin, and how he manages to cope with a 12 round bout, things we may find out here.
At 25 years old Harmonito Dela Torre should be hitting his stride now, especially given that he debuted more than 7 years ago. Sadly however his once promising career has began faltering. He began with 19 straight wins, getting those victories in the Philippines, Macau and the US. He looked on route for major success, and looking like someone to get excited about. In 2017 he suffered his first loss, but he was competitive through out an 8 round contest with Tugstsogt Nyambayar, dropping the Mongolian before losing a clear decision. That was his first loss but there no issue. Sadly though he would suffered his second loss in his very next bout, being stopped in 2 rounds by China's Yongqiang Yang. Since he he has only fought once, scoring a domestic win against Richard Betos.
In the ring Dela Torre is a pretty solid but basic fighter. There's nothing that jumps out as being spectacular about him, but lots of areas where he can improve. He applies pressure, but often throws shots from out of range, comes forward in relatively straight lines, and paws his jab from his hip. Given he's not amazingly quick or sharp his style really isn't great. He gave Nyambayar issues, but that was more down to the fact he is naturally 2 division's bigger than the Mongolian.
Dela Torre once promised so much, but really failed to develop. Had he developed as many had assumed he'd have made for an solid OPBF level fighter. Sadly however he's too open, too limited and too slow. Against Yoshino he will be made to pay for his flaws, with the his chin there to be hit. Given Yoshino's power and the limitations of Dela Torre we expect this one will finish early, and will be another brutal finish for the Japanese fighter.
Prediction KO4 Yoshino
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
A clash of top Japanese lightweight boxers will take place on December 9, at the EDION Arena in Osaka, as Masayoshi Nakatani defends the OPBF crown, for the 11th time, against the WBC International champion Hurricane Futa.
Masayoshi Nakatani (17-0 / 11 KOs) had an extensive career as an amateur, before turning pro, participating in 60 bouts. Finally made his debut in 2011, at the age of 21, winning 6 fights in a row (5 stoppages), including a victory over future Japanese champion Shuhei Tsuchiya. Nakatani punished the veteran (Tsuchiya was 14-1 at the time) with left hooks and body blows to get the KO win, in just the third round.
In 2014, he went face to face with former Japanese and the then reigning OPBF champion, Yoshitaka Kato, for the OPBF belt. Despite again being the less experienced of the two, Nakatani took the champion to his limit for 12 rounds, earning the majority decision, thus the championship and the East Japan Boxing Association Monthly MVP Award.
Since then, Nakatani has defended his title 10 times, including wins over Ricky Sismundo (35-11), Amphol Suriyo (23-3), Krai Setthaphon (27-4) and Ryan Sermona (20-9), placing himself at the top of the division, as he is ranked #5 by the IBF, #8 by the WBC and #12 by the WBO.
Hurricane Futa (25-7 / 15 KOs) is a fighter who has been around for a very long time. A 14 year professional, who has competed in over 30 matches and has faced competition from all over the world. His biggest fights to date have been against Will Tomlinson (25-3) and Vage Sarukhanyan (18-2).
Specifically, Futa stopped Tomlinson, a former IBO “world” & WBO Asia Pacific champion, in only 40 seconds of the first round, with a killer left hook, to win the interim WBA Oceania title. Also, this past February, he took on the WBC International champion Sarukhanyan, in a WBSS show, for the Russian’s title. Futa delivered a KOTY candidate in the 7th round, as he endured a plethora of punches before he caught the champion with a counter left hook, which knocked him out cold. Prior to the knockout, the Japanese fighter was controlling the entirety of the bout, even dropping Sarukhanyan with the same move in the 3rd. It’s worth mentioning that both title matches took place at his opponents’ home countries.
Despite having 7 losses on his record, it should be pointed that the majority of them are against high level boxers like Foijan Prawet (77-6), the reigning WBA International Featherweight champion & #2 WBA ranked Can Xu (15-2) as well as 2 division world champion Jhonny Gonzalez (66-11).
This is an important fight for both men. Nakatani may be only one or two fights away from challenging for a world championship, whereas this is Futa’s chance to break into the top 10 of the division. Moreover, their styles are very similar to each other. Nakatani’s agility and fast combinations have been the key factors to his success through out his career. He also likes to use body shots in order to create openings and then strike with the left hook, which is something we have seen him do in almost all of his fights. Futa is also a cracking boxer who packs a lot of power in his left hand, much like his opponent here. With 26 KOs combined between these two, it will be no surprise if this ends way before the 12th round.
Will Nakatani reach a perfect 18-0 record or Futa’s experience and power be proven too much for him to handle ? We will find out soon in Osaka !
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.