This coming Tuesday we'll see Japanese Lightweight champion Shu Utsuki (10-0, 8) look to make his first defense, as he takes on the often under-rated Izuki Tomioka (7-5-1, 2), who will be getting his third shot at a title in just 14 bouts. On paper the bout is a total mismatch, pitting one of the few divisional standouts in Japan against a fighter who has come up short in two previous title bouts and is without a win in over 2 years, however we suspect the bout will be much more interesting than the numbers suggest.
For those who haven't seen much of Utsuki the Japanese champion is a feared boxer-puncher who has traits that are familiar with former Super Featherweight Takashi Uchiyama, who like Utsuki fought out of the Watanabe Gym. Prior to turning professional Utsuki had been a top Japanese amateur, and when he turned professional he was earmarked as one to watch immediately. Aged 23 when he debuted he looked impressive in his debut, before being pushed all the way in his second bout, by the unheralded Yoji Saito. Since then however he has typically had things mostly his own way, In fact he has gone 8-0 (7) since then, with the only fighter managing to see the final bell against him being the criminally under-rated Ryo Nakai, who really gave Utsuki a scare last year. Sadly his resume is lacking in terms of big wins, with the best of the bunch being a TKO9 win over Masahiro Suzuki this past February, but he's been beating decent fights in the form of Jerry Castroverde, Omrri Bolivar and Takayuki Sakai.
In the ring Utsuki is a boxer-puncher, who comes forward behind a stiff jab, with a slow and cautious approach. He press opponents backwards with his jab and takes the center of the ring. He looks to set up his right hand, which is dynamite and bully people when he needs to. Much like Uchiyama he is naturally heavy handed, imposing himself and his will with his power and the fear that power puts into opponents. Notably though he isn't flawless, he has been down already in his career, leaving question marks about his chin, and most notable he has slow feet. He can be out boxed, out manoeuvred and made to look slow and cumbersome at times. Also when hurt his defenses do fall apart, as we saw against Nakai. He does however recover quickly when hurt and every time he has gone down he has looked cleared headed by the time he's got to his feet.
The 25 year old Izuki Tomioka is someone who has promise a lot since turning professional, and someone who seems to have the tools to do a lot in the sport, but can't quite get over the line at times. He turned professional in 2016 and was matched well early in whilst winning his first 5 bouts. Sadly though he would see his winning run come to an end in 2018, when a clash of heads left him with a technical draw against Kaiki Yuba. That draw was then followed by an OPBF title fight with Masayoshi Nakatani, who he gave fits to for 10 rounds, before being stopped in round 11. His only other stoppage loss came in an other title fight, that time to Shuichiro Yoshino in 2020, when he was leading on two of the cards. His 3 other losses have all been by razor thin decisions, two split decisions, to Shuya Masaki and Yasutaka Fujita, a unanimous decision to Hiroki Okada, in a bout that saw all 3 judges score it 77-75 to Okada. Watching him shows us a fighter who is tricky, really tricky, sharp, and quick. He's an awkward fighter to look good against and one of the best natural boxers in Japan. Sadly though he lacks the power, strength and physicality to boss fights, and that has long been his major issue. He's talented and quick but lacks in other areas.
In the ring Tomioka likes to fight at range, picking and poking with his jab, using his feet and landing shots at range. He is quick, smart and an excellent outside fighter who's difficult to out box and really tough to catch clean in the early going. Sadly for him he does, as mentioned, lack power though his timing and control of range are excellent and his footwork is also really impressive. Defensively he's slippery, offensively he's smart, but physically he's just not particularly imposing and fighters can bully him up close. Getting close to him isn't easy, but when a fighter is close he does tend to feel the need to hold. Sadly for him he does appear to lack an inside game and against the top fighters you do need to be more than just be brilliant at a single style. He lacks a plan B and when fighters can cope with his plan A he does struggle to change things around.
For this bout we expect to see Tomioka's speed and movement cause Utsuki a lot of problems early on, using a tactic similar to the one Nakai used against Utsuki. That style will always give Utsuki problems, and will see Tomioka take an early lead. Sadly though as rounds go on and as Tomioka slows down he will begin to take heavy leather back. When that happens we expect to see Utsuki break him down, eventually stopping Tomioka, much like Yoshino did, somewhere in the middle rounds.
Prediction - TKO8 Utsuki
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.