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
Over the last 4 years or so Japanese had two notable Lightweights, one travelling for overseas fights against some of the biggest names in the sport and one staying at home, unifying domestic and regional titles whilst developing a reputation as a dangerous boxer puncher.
Of course the fighter who has been fighting internationally is Masayoshi Nakatani, who has faced the likes of Teofimo Lopez, Felix Verdejo and Vasyl Lomachenko in recent years. The other is the unbeaten Shuichiro Yoshino (13-0, 10), who has unified the Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles whilst remaining in the East and making a solid claim as the best Japanese Lightweight. This coming Thursday he'll be back in the ring, looking to defend his Japanese title as he takes on youngster Shuma Nakazato (10-1-3, 7). The focus for Yoshino is to win here and then advance into the types of bouts we've been seeing Nakatani enjoy, whilst Nakazato will be looking to claim his biggest win to date.
For those who haven't seen the two men Yoshino is someone who really should be on your radar. He was moved incredibly quickly through the Japanese domestic scene, winning the Japanese domestic title less than 2 years later his debut, with a TKO win against Spicy Matsushita. Since then he has really come into his own, making 6 defenses of the Japanese title and unifying it with the two regional titles to become a triple crown champion. Along the way he has shown a bit of every thing, with some brutal knockouts, including one against the once touted Harmonito Dela Torre, good boxing skills, as seen last year against Valentine Hosokawa, and desire to win, coming from behind against Izuki Tomioka in early 2020. He has however looked like someone who needs to face bigger, better, more testing opponents and is pretty in need of a major international test.
In the ring Yoshino is a genuine talent. He's dangerous, he's talented, he's gutsy and he's a man with a decent boxing brain, when he needs to use it. He has been genuinely tested on the Japanese scene, with Tomioka, Matsishita and Yoshitaka Kato all asking questions of him, but he has always come out on top thanks to his strong amateur background, very heavy hands, good timing, and the versatility that makes him a real all round. He can boxing, he can brawl, he can come forward and he can box as a counter puncher. Given those tools in his arsenal he is more multi-faceted than Nakatani, though lakes the awkward size and toughness of his countryman.
Aged 24 Shuma Nakazato is an unknown outside of Japan, though is someone who shouldn't be over-looked or ignored. He began his career at Featherweight, as a teenager, but since then he has matured in a solid Super Featherweight. At 130lbs he has given Hironori Mishiro a real test in 2018, before notching up wins over Kanta Fukui and Yuji Awata, as well as fighting to a draw with Yoshimitsu Kimura in a sensational 8 round bout last year. In those bouts we've seen a gutsy, talented, but flawed young fighter showing improvements with every fight, but very much looking like an inexperienced youngster who is still developing as a fighter.
In the ring Nakazato is a solid boxer-puncher, but sadly he's very much an average Super Featherweight moving up in weight here, which will not serve him well. He's quicker than Yoshino, he's younger, but he we don't feel he has fight changing power at 135lbs, or the the experience needed to really test Yoshino. Instead we see Nakazato making a good start, boxing well, having success with his speed and movement early on, but coming undone when Yoshino decides to turn things around, and has a read om his man.
We expect Nakazato to bee very competitive through 4 rounds but and up being stopping the second half of the fight.
Predoction - TKO8 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
The Japanese Lightweight scene is a frustrating one at times. On paper it should be interesting, there's plenty of talent there, and lot of interesting match ups that could be made there in the coming years, but sadly we seem to be between waves of fighters. At the moment Japanese national champion Shuichiro Yoshino (11-0, 9) looks to be head and shoulders above the rest, having unified the Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles. Despite the fact Yoshino looks to be well ahead of the others he hasn't yet vacated, and will instead defend the national title on February 13th against mandatory challenger Izuki Tomioka (7-2-1, 2) as part of the 2020 Champion Carnival.
The 28 year old Yoshino has really been on a relative fast track right from the start of his professional career. The talented boxer-puncher had been an excellent amateur on the Japanese scene, going 104-20 (55), before beginning his professional career in late 2015. In just his 4th professional bout Yoshino had beaten Yoshitaka Kato. Just 6 months after that he had won the Japanese title, which he has now defended 4 times, and last year Yoshino unified the national title with the 2 regional thrones.
In the ring Yoshino is a real talent. He can box, he can brawl and boy can he punch, with his last 7 wins all coming inside the distance. We actually need to go all the way back to his Japanese title win to see the last time someone was even semi-competitive with him, and even then Yoshino stopped Spicy Matsushita in 7 rounds. The power of Yoshino really is brutal and his KO's against Kazumasa Kobayashi and Harmonito Dela Torre have shown that it takes only a single left hook for Yoshino to finish someone off. The fact he has scored 2 awesome KO's whilst on the back foot shows how dangerous he is and how brutal his left hook is.
The 22 year Tomioka has been a professional since late 2016, and has shown some promise and also been in some frustrating fights. He's a talent, but a frustrating one who is perhaps getting this shot a little too early in his career. He won his first 5 bouts, winning the Japanese Youth Lightweight title in just his 4th bout way back in August 2017. He would defend the belt twice, beating Taiju Shiratori and fighting to a technical draw against Kaiki Yuba. He then faced the then OPBF Lightweight champion Masayoshi Nakatani and was stopped in 11 rounds by Naktani, following a very close bout. Another loss to Shuya Masaki followed up and really frustrated as Tomioka refused to really let his hands go. Since then however he has picked up 2 straight wins and earned this title fight, thanks to a win over Kazuki Saito.
At his worst Tomioka is a frustrating mover who looks unconvinced by himself, moving more than puncher and ultra-negative, as we saw against Masaki. At his best however he is brilliant boxer, with a sharp jab, excellent speed, great ring IQ and a fantastic judge of distance and timing. He's tall and rangy, and dictates things really well whilst picking great shots. It was these traits that were all on show last time out, when he schooled Kazuki Saito in a career best win. Despite schooling Saito the youngster still showed touched of negativity, and also a lack of physical strength and punching power. He's skilled, but we do wonder about his physical maturity.
We think Tomioka has future national champion written all over him. He's such a natural talent and a pure outside boxer. A truly fantastic young boxer. Sadly for him however he's up against a strong, powerful, heavy handed fighter who can hold his own when boxing, and bang. We see Tomioka having success, but Yoshino's pressure will build and he will begin to find a home for his left hook and straight right hand. Sooner or later we see Tomioka being stopped, and having his good early work being undone.
If Yoshino is successful here, fingers crossed he moves on and begin to face fringe world class guys and move towards a world title fight. There is, after all, no point wasting time at domestic level. As for Tomioka he will come again, and will find himself in an interesting era of Japanese Lightweight fighters, along with Shu Utsuki, Masahiro Suzuki and Katsuya Yasuda.
Prediction - TKO8 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
The Champion Carnival comes to the fore again on April 11th when Japanese Lightweight champion Shuichiro Yoshino (9-0, 7) defends his belt against mandatory challenger Accel Sumiyoshi (11-4-3, 3). For Yoshino this will be his 4th defense, and he will be looking to extend his current stoppage run of 5 stoppages, whilst Sumiyoshi will be getting his second title fight, following a loss in an OPBF title fight back in 2015. On paper this looks like a rather weak mandatory defense for the unbeaten and highly talented champion, though the challenger is much better than his record suggests, and he could prove to be Yoshino's toughest challenge so far.
Yoshino was an excellent amateur before eventually deciding to turn professional in 2015, at Welterweight. He came down in weight, and his third bout was at Lightweight, where he has now settled and made a name for himself. As a professional Yoshino might only have 9 bouts to his name but he has already beaten the likes of Yoshitaka Kato, Spicy Matsushita, Masaski Saito and Genki Maeda. During his career so far he has looked like a special fighter, with all the tools to go much, much further than the Japanese title, but still to develop his experience before climbing too high too quickly.
As a boxer Yoshino is powerful, skilled, quick, and a sharp puncher. He's proven to be able to box for 8 rounds, as he did against Kato, battle on the inside when he needs to, and score really sensational KO's, as he did against Kazumasa Kobayashi last December. He's a really good all rounder, who will probably find himself fighting for a regional title later this year, with both the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles well within his grasp.
On paper Sumiyoshi looks a limited challenger, with 7 set backs in 18 fights and only 3 stoppage wins to his name. It should however be noted that Sumiyoshi has been matched insanely tough from the offer. His debut was against Yuya Okazaki, who would later challenge for an OPBF title, and he would suffer a decision loss in his third bout to the very experienced Kento Matsushita. He would then go 3-3-1 over his following 7 bouts, to fall to 5-4-1. That looks awful on paper but his losses not only came to Matsushita but also Yuhei Suzuki, Kota Tokunaga and Masayoshi Nakatani. To put those losses into perspective Suzuki was fighting for the first time since losing in a Japanese title fight, Tokunaga would become the Japanese champion 12 months after beating Sumiyoshi whilst Nakatani was defending his OPBF title against Sumiyoshi.
Since those setbacks Sumiyoshi has gone 6-0-2 scoring wins of note against the likes of Allan Tanada, Naotoshi Nakatani and Motoki Sasaki, whilst fighting to 2 draws with Tatsuya Yanagi.
In the ring Sumiyoshi is much better than his record would suggest. Sadly however he lacks power, and has found his bouts going long, and getting hard in the later stages. He's a solid boxer, but does nothing special. He's sharp and talented, but not amazingly quick, strong or powerful. Against fighters who he can jab and jab he can control fighters, but there's a big step up to doing that against someone as talented and rounded as Yoshino, who has himself a really good jab, one with more snap on it than Sumiyoshi does.
We do regarded Sumiyoshi's record as misleading, and we genuinely wouldn't be surprised if he won a Japanese title in the future. Against Yoshino however he would need a miracle, and we see this as either a late stoppage for the champion or a very wide decision for Yoshino. If Sumiyoshi wins it'll go down as a major domestic upset, though if Yoshino wins it will hopefully lead to a bout for an OPBF or WBO Asia PAcific title, which may well test the talented fighter from the Misako gym.
On October 28th we saw Accel Sumiyoshi and Tatsuya Yanagi, fight to a draw in a Japanese title eliminator at Lightweight. Despite being held to a draw Sumiyoshi became the mandatory, and now the next question is who will he be up against at the 2019 Champion Carnival, when he gets his shot at the belt.
We'll find out who Sumiyoshi's opponent will be on December 13th, when current Japanese Lightweight champion Shuichiro Yoshino (8-0, 6) makes his third defense and takes on the challenge of Kazumasa Kobayashi (10-7-1, 6). On paper this looks like a very straight forward defense for the talented champion, but sees him keeping a very good level of activity with a 4th bout in just 14 months.
Yoshino is a really classy fighter who was former amateur standout before making his professional debut in 2015. Ever since debuting Yoshino has been earmarked for success and has been matched hard as he and his team chase titles and accomplishments. In just his 4th professional bout he beat Yoshitaka Kato and he would claim the Japanese title in just his 6th bout, stopping veteran Spicy Matsushita. Since then he defended the belt with stoppage wins over Masaski Saito, in the 2018 Champion Carnival, and Genki Maeda. Not only has he been stopping opponents but he has been doing it early, and late, proving he has stamina to go with his power and skills.
Although Yoshino hasn't yet gone beyond Japanese level, we believe he's the best Japanese Lightweight out there. We feel he'd beat OPBF champion Masayoshi Nakatani and WBO Asia Pacific champion Nihito Arakawa. Hopefully in 2019 he gets those chances, as he is far too good to waste time on the domestic title scene.
The 35 year old challenger has had a relatively weird career, . He debuted almost 13 years ago, as a 22 year old, and has had a stop start career. He fought 4 times within 11 months to begin his career but suffered his first loss and spent over 30 months away from the ring. He would go on to have several more breaks over the years, including taking the entire of 2016 out of the ring. As well as the inactivity he has also had inconsistent results, though he has gone up against notable fighters, such as Takashi Inagaki, Masanobu Nakazawa, and Kota Tokunaga.
From his last performance Kobayashi looked like a huge Lightweight, who appeared to be tough, surprisingly fit for a 35 year old with a decent work rate and his knockout blow against Noriyoshi Taki looked really impressive. He's a weird looking fighter, who lacks a lot of technical ability, but is unorthodox, awkward and can clearly hit hard, if he can connect with a thunderbolt.
We suspect that Kobayashi will be dangerous and unpredictable, but will struggle to cope with the variety, speed and slickness of Yoshino, who we expect to continue his reign and do so in style. The challenger has only been stopped once, in 7 rounds by Tomoya Yamada, but we expect him to be stopped again here by the smart, talented and strong Yoshino.
Sadly in 2019 we suspect that Yoshino will deal with Accel Sumiyoshi as well, and prove that he really is a class above the Japanese domestic level fighters who will be challenging him whilst he continues to hold this title.
This coming Thursday fight fan sin Japan will be able to see national Lightweight champion Shuichiro Yoshino (7-0, 5) make his second defense, as he takes on fellow professional novice Genki Maeda (6-2-1, 2), who will be fighting in his first professional title fight. For the champion the bout looks to be another chance to get some more experience before moving up another level, whilst the challenger will be looking to make the most of an opportunity that he doesn't really deserve, given he's gone 2-1-1 in his last 4 bouts.
Yoshino had been a former amateur standout before making his professional debut back in December 2015. Given his amateur pedigree he was ear marked for success almost immediately and in just his second bout he took on highly experienced Thai Chaiyong Sithsaithong, showing he could out box the tough Thai. After a frustrating 2016 Yoshino showed his skills as he over-came Yoshitaka Kato in early 2017 and then stopped Spicy Matsuhsita in a bout for the vacant Japanese Lightweight title last October. Since then he has defended the title once, stopping Masaki Saito inside a round this past February.
In the ring Yoshino is a talented boxer, who can can punch hard enough to get the respect of anyone at domestic level. He's not someone who looks like he's going to have KO power at world level, but with stoppage wins against Kenta Onjo, Matsushita and Saito he can certainly punch at this level. He can also box, with wins over the teak the tough Chaiyong and Kato proving he can go rounds when he needs to, and rely on his skills. He is a fighter who lacks professional experience, which is arguably why he is facing a fighter like Maeda, but looks like a fighter with the potential to go a very long way, if his team manage him right, and develop him properly. That likely means keeping him away from the very best in Japan, such as OPBF champion Masayoshi Nakatani or WBO Asia Pacific king Nihito Arakawa, for now but maybe not for too much longer.
On paper it's easy to look at 25 year old Maeda and write him off for his record, which is far from flattering. He has however faced some stiff domestic competition so far, including Yoshimichi Matsumoto, Mitsuyoshi Fujita and Shogo Yamaguchi. Sadly the fact he has come up short against the level of competition that he has faced really says it all, and whilst talented Maeda is not ready for a title bout. He's solid at domestic level, but a good step down from the domestic elite. With his best win being a majority decision against Yamaguchi or a unanimous decision over Areji Kato, both of which are good wins, but neither should suggest he's ready for a title bout.
Whilst Maeda is a good fighter he does lack power, with his only stoppages coming against very limited Thai visitors. As an amateur he was a credible fighter, but was a long way from matching the achievements of Yoshino and it's not only a case of Maeda lacking the power of the champion but also the skills. We suspect he will have moments, certainly more so than Saito, and we think Maeda is tough enough to see out some rounds. But in the end we don't see how he will live with Yoshino when the champion picks up the pace. Instead we suspect the champion will retain his title, with a mid-to-late round stoppage.
Every year the Champion Carnival throws out some amazing fights, well worthy of being for a Japanese title. Sadly the Champion Carnival also gives us some relatively uninspired contests that struggle to get the hopes of fans up too much. One of those less than great bouts will be taking place this coming Thursday and will see Japanese Lightweight champion Shuichiro Yoshino (6-0, 4) defending his title against Masaki Saito (14-12-6, 5), in what appears to be a huge mismatch.
The talented Yoshino was highlighted as a potential star as soon as he announced his intention to turn professional, following a successful amateur career. He went on to make his debut back in December 2015 and progressed incredibly quickly with notable wins in 2016 against Chaiyong Sithsaithong and Kenta Onjo. Those wins helped him prepare for a break out bout against Yoshitaka Kato in March 2017 and after winning that he had proven that he had the potential to go a very long way.
In October last year Yoshino faced off with Spicy Matsuhsita in a bout that was originally part of the Strongest Korakuen but later became a Japanese title fight when Kazuhiro Nishitani vacated the title. Yoshino was too good for Matsushita and stopped him in the 7th round, despite Matsushita giving a very good account of himself.
In the ring Yoshino is a very talented boxer puncher with a very strong amateur background, solid skills, an understated composure and the stamina to pick up the pace after the first few rounds. He hasn't yet proven himself over the 10 round distance but with an 8 round decision over Kato and a7th round TKO over Matsushita it seems clear he can handle the longer stretches. There is still a few rough edges, given he's only been a professional for a little over 2 years, but his talent is undeniable and he he has the potential to go a very long way.
Aged 32 Saito is a 12 year veteran of the Japanese domestic scene and although his record isn't the greatest he does pose some interesting challenges at this level. He's a very tall Super Featherweight-come-Lightweight, and stands at 5'11”. He's not only a rangy and tall fighter but also a tough one and in his 32 fight career he has he has only been stopped once, way back in May 2006 by Kenta Kato up at Light Welterweight. Since then he has faced off with notable domestic fighters like Moon Hyon Yun, Daisuke Sakamoto, Masashi Noguchi, Tsuyoshi Tojo and Dai Iwai, without any of them stopping him.
Whilst Saito is a tough warrior he does lack in terms of notable wins. His best win to date is a 2015 win over former Japanese champion Seiichi Okada and he is 1-2-1 in his last 4 bouts, having been widely beaten by Masashi Noguchi in a Lightweight bout back in June 2016. He's not proven to be a nearly man of Japanese boxing, with this being his first title bout, and despite being better than his record suggests there is little to really make anyone think that he can hold his own with a talent like Yoshino.
We believe that Saito will ask questions of the champion, poke some holes in the inexperience man, but in the end Yoshino will take over, and claim a clear cut and wide decision, if not a late stoppage, over Saito. The challenger will be game for the most part, but in the end he will simply lack the skills and fire power to test the champion's chin, or heart.
This coming weekend is a huge one for Japanese boxing fans. There is, of course, a trio of world title fights taking place on Sunday but before that will be another big show, albeit at the domestic level, which takes place on Saturday. That card will decide a lot of mandatory challengers for the domestic titles next year, but also a Japanese Lightweight title fight, with the unbeaten Shuichiro Yoshino (5-0, 3) taking on veteran Spicy Matsushita (17-9-1, 2) for the vacant title.
Of the two men it's fair to say that Yoshino has been the one getting the the more attention during his career. He was a former amateur standout who has been on the fast track since beginning his professional career, which began in 2015, and has already seen him defeat the likes of Chaiyong Sithsaithong, Kenta Onjo and Yoshitaka Kato, three very good opponents for such a novice.
In the ring Yoshino is a fighter who has got amateur skills to rely on, but can also brawl and fight. When he's needed to box, such as against Kato, he's done that whilst he has also been able to brawl with the likes of Onjo. During his short career he has shown good stamina, having already gone 6 and 8 rounds, solid power, good speed and a very good boxing IQ. As with many novice professionals there is a lot left for him to prove before we begin to talk about world title bouts, but from what we've seen it's obvious that the potential is there for Yoshino to go very far, if his mind stays on the sport.
It is worth noting that the 26 year old did walk away from the boxing once before, long before turning professional, and he has questions to answer about his commitment to boxing. He also has to answer questions about hos serious he is, having began his career at Welterweight before dropping down the weights. He's gone about it properly, but there is perhaps a possibility that a fully committed Yoshino would be fighting at Super Featherweight and not Lightweight.
Aged 34 Matsushita is pretty much in a must win situation, as he's almost certainly not going to be getting another shot at a title, if he comes up short here. It is worth noting that this is actually his second title fight in less than a year, though he did come up very short in his previous title fight losing a decision to Chinese hopeful Can Xu. Notably that loss was the first clear fight, win or loss, that Matsushita has had since a 2013 stoppage loss to Jun Hamana.
The trouble with Matsushita is almost every fight he has had has been close. He lacks the power to stop opponents, with just two stoppages, and the skill that he possess have rarely been significantly better than those he has faced. Going through his record shows this with bizarre regularity, including 7 split decisions, in which he has won 3, lost 3 and drawn one, 2 majority decisions, both wins, and a further 9 bouts which could be considered razor thin either way. He's a battler at heart, and that will to battle, has kept him in bouts he should have lost by wider scores, but has also shown a reliance on fighting hard, rather than smart.
Given his age and frustrating career it's hard to see what Matsushita has to really challenge Yoshino, who we think will really shine here, and will see off the veteran, likely sending him into retirement, in the middle rounds here. Matsushita might have some early moments but his lack of power and limited skills are made to order for a fighter like Yoshino, who is going to be too quick, too strong, too hungry and simply too good.
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.