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
When you hear the name Nkosinathi Joyi (24-2-0-1, 17) you think real world class. The South African, who has previously held the IBF Minimumweight title, was, at one point, on some pound-for-pound lists and looked unbeatable. He was simply exceptional with the combination of speed, power, size, strength, skills it was a joy to watch him.
Unfortunately for the South African his best looks to be behind him. He might only be 31 but he's clearly not the fighter he once was. He's no longer the fighter who dominated Florante Condes or defeated Katsunari Takayama instead he's the man who ran out of gas against Mario Rodriguez and the guy who lost in a major domestic clash with Hekkie Budler. Of course Joyi may put those losses down to struggling to make weight though to us he's just not the same fighter.
On February 1st one man hoping that Joyi really has faded will be Filipino Rey Loreto (17-13, 9), a man who will be given next to no chance against Joyi when they meet in Monte Carlo for the IBO Light Flyweight title.
The 23 year old Loreto is, like many Filipino boxers, a man with more losses than his talent perhaps deserves. Unfortunately he picked up many of those losses very early in his career and since then has developed significantly from the fighter he once was.
Loreto debuted back in 2008 when he was just 17. Within a year of his debut he was 0-4 having dropped 4 decisions. Although things did get better for Loreto he wasn't well looked after by a promoter and by the summer of 2011 he was 8-11, his career looked like that of a career journeyman and he was treat like one being sent to Thailand to face Yodngoen Tor Chalermchai, Paipharob Kokietgym and Noknoi Sitthiprasert who between them were 51-4.
Surprisingly Loreto has really turned his career around with 9 wins in his last 11 bouts including a stoppage over Wisanu Kokietgym and a technical decision over Pornsawan Porpramook. The only losses in those 11 fights have come to Atsushi Kakutani and Benezer Alolod, both in very close decisions that Loreto could well have won.
Young, hungry, improving and maturing Loreto a lot more dangerous than his record would suggest. Sure he's not an exceptionally talented but he's a man who has improved so much over the last few years that both the WBA and WBC rank him as amongst the in the world.
For Joyi this bout is one that he's supposed to win. There is no way he's expecting to lose, though the same could be said for his bout with Rodriguez. He was supposed to go over Mexico and destroy an over-matched Mexican, instead however Joyi started well then imploded. The Rodriguez bout was Joyi's only previous bout outside of South Africa and he was unable to fight for 12 rounds he has been able to in the past. Yes the conditions in Monte Carlo and Mexico are different but those memories will haunt him and with Loreto managing to win his last 2 bouts outside of his homeland he'll be confident.
Joyi at his best would beat Loreto. We're confident of that. A man who can beat Condes and Takayama can beat Loreto. Joyi isn't at his best any more, he's 31, has had his confidence destroyed by 2 losses in his last 4 bouts and although still talented isn't the destructive fighter he once was. The South African will still be favoured, of course he will, but then again Loreto was also the under-dog against Pornsawan and Wisanu, he's a man who enjoys being the under-dog and will be hoping to prove, once again, that this dog bites.
This bout will be on the same card as Gennady Golovkin's upcoming WBA Middleweight title defense against Osumanu Adama.
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.