On May 10th Japanese fight fans at Korakuen Hall will get a compelling Japanese Youth Minimumweight title fight, as defending champion Shunsuke Isa (9-3-1, 1) makes his first defense, taking on the highly regarded Katsuki Mori (9-1, 2) in what looks to be a brilliant match up between two talented young fighters each looking to progress their career, and move forward to bigger and better things.
Aged 24 Isa is the older man and the more experienced. The youngster from Kanagawa debuted way back in 2016 and won his first 4 bouts before losing in the East Japan Rookie of the Year to Retsu Akabane. He bounced back 9 months later with a pair of close wins before drawing with Masatora Okada and then losing to Yuni Takada in 2019, the man he would beat in 2021 for the Youth title. Although a talented fighter Takada has struggled with scoring stoppages, and his sole stoppage win was way back on his debut, meaning he has now gone 12 bouts with out a stoppage victory, and has started to come into his prime without developing much in terms of stopping power.
In the ring Isa is a fighter who likes to be on his toes, using a lot of quick movement and footwork to create space, using a busy jab and making opponents miss. Whilst he does lack power to begin with, he also in a way where he doesn't get much behind his shots, instead keeping things at range and using his speed and reach well. What Isa does well is box, move and dictate the tempo and range of the bout. Notably his style is very, very energy intensive, there is a lot of movement in his style, a lot of energy being burnt and it's a style that is certainly not suited to the longer distance of a 10 or 12 rounder, but in 6 and 8 round bouts his style is very effective. Notably he does appear the sort of fight who will do anything to avoid an inside fight, and a fighter targeting his body could end up taking his legs away, and taking the fight out of him, especially if his opponent doing it had a decent body attack and a decent bit of pop. Up top however he's a very tough guy to catch clean with head shots.
Aged 22 Katsuki Mori is the younger fighter, and he turned professional in 2018 before winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2019. Mori's Rookie of the Year triumph saw fans getting very excited about him and his style, which was fun to watch and saw him throwing a lot of leather and being an aggressive boxer-fighter, capable of fighting on the back foot, or overwhelming fellow novices on the front foot. Sadly in 2020 Covid19 slowed his ascent through the ranks, with Mori fighting just once, but he was more active in 2021, scoring two wins, before losing earlier this year to Kai Ishizawa in a Japanese title fight. A fight that he put up a good effort in, but was unprepared for and it was a massive step up against a very dangerous fighter. Rather than having a confidence boosting bout since that loss, he has jumped in here against Isa.
In the ring Mori is a genuinely fun to watch fighter, with fast hands, fast feet and a high work rate. He likes to fight up close, letting his shots go in flurries, and landing clean accurate blows. He can box and move, but it often seems like he would rather engage in a tear up, and let shots fly on the inside, than have the bout at range. Despite not being a puncher he seems to be someone who believes in his physical approach, his defense on the inside and his work rate, which often sees him simply out working and out swarming opponents. One thing that we do wonder however, is whether the loss to Ishizawa will see him change his style, and be less willing to take the fight to his opponents, and maybe consider boxing and moving more, and swarming less.
If Mori is the same fighter as he was before the loss to Ishizawa, and continues to be an aggressive, physical fighter, we see him genuinely getting to Isa early on, attacking the champions body, working away and chipping down his speed, stamina and movement. If he can do that we wouldn't be surprised at all if Isa was to be slowed almost to a halt as Mori presses later in the bout and takes a clear, but hard fought, decision. If however Mori has some worries following that loss, holds back a little bit and iasn't as aggressive as he once was, there is a chance the outside boxing, movement and awkward style of Isa could ease him to a decision. If we're being honest we suspect Mori and his team will plan to be aggressive, and will accept Ishizawa was too much whilst Isa doesn't have the thunderous power of Ishizawa, meaning they don't need to worry, and play safe.
Prediction - UD8 Mori.
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