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
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.