Back in January we saw Japanese veteran Gakuya Furuhashi (27-8-1, 15) put in a career defining performance to break down Yusaku Kuga and claim the Japanese Super Bantamweight title, and in doing so gave us one of the very best fights of 2021. On August 2nd we see Furuhashi return to the ring to make his first defense of the Japanese title as he takes on 23 year old youngster Seigo Hanamori (7-3, 5), in what look like an easy first defense for the talented and all action champion. Whilst this looks like a mismatch, we do need to take a closer look and see if Hanamori can actually be a banana skin for Furuhashi, and whether, maybe, Furuhashi has had a career that is at it's peak, before a very, very sharp come down.
For those who haven't followed Furuhashi the 33 year old is a genuine fan favourite in Kanagawa and nearby Tokyo. He turned professional way back in 2007 and won the 2008 All Japan Rookie of the Year, winning his first 8 professional bouts along the way. Sadly however he started to pile up losses soon afterwards and went from 8-0 to 10-3 in just over 2 years. Just a few fights later he had fallen to 13-5 and it seemed like his career was going to be spent trying to fight his way out of the domestic mix. Since then however he has gone 15-3-1, fought for the Japanese title 3 times, winning it last year in his third shot, and held future world champion Yukinori Oguni to a majority draw in 2015. He has also maturing perfectly with age, winning his last 9 fights, the longest run of his career, including really good wins against Ryoichi Tamura, in 2019, and Kuga, earlier this year.
In the ring Furuhashi is a true blood and guts warrior. He gets in the ring, he wears his heart on his sleeve, and he fights. He's not a boxer, he's a fighter. He sets a high tempo, walks through fire when he needs to, sets a high pace, and really lets his shots go. He can be out boxed, he can be hurt, he can be beat, but at domestic level he's a real handful due to his incredible hunger and desire, toughness, work rate and refuse to lose attitude. It's those traits, rather than his boxing skills, that have seen him beating Tamura and Kuga in his last two bouts, and it's those traits that have made him such a huge fan favourite among the Japanese domestic fan base.
Whilst Furuhashi is a genuine name on the Japanese domestic scene the same cannot be said of Seigo Hanamora, who is, in fairness, a pretty obscure youngster, even for those who follow the Japanese scene in depth. He began his career in 2016 and had mixed success from the off, going 2-2 and 3-3 early in his days as a professional. Notably however he has won his last 4, all by stoppage, and has built some momentum coming into this fight. Sadly however his competition in those bouts has been very, very poor, and the one notable name on his record is Haruki Ishikawa, who stopped him in 2 rounds in 2018, and recently won a Japanese Youth title. Ishikawa is a very good fighter, but losing to him in 2 rounds is not a sign that someone is ready for a Japanese title fight. Especially not against a fighter like Furuhashi.
In the ring Hanamori is an aggressive fighter who throws everything with bad intentions. He's fun to watch, due to his aggressive nature, but he does leave himself open, he's very much there to be hit and he doesn't seem to hit as hard as he seems to think he does. He hammered away on John Yano in 2019 and took 5 rounds to stop him, and he had to put a lot into those 5 rounds before Yano ultimately wilted. Against someone like Furuhashi, who won't be bothered by his power, he's on to a hiding.
Hanamori might, one day, develop into a Japanese champion. It took Furuhashi over a decade and we might see the same for Hanamori. Here however we can't see anything but a loss for Hanamori. He'll come in confident, but be broken down, beaten up, and eventually stopped by a fighter who simply has too much of everything for him. Furushashi will take the fight to him, and will simply grind him down, likely within 5 or 6 rounds.
Prediction - Furuhashi TKO6
This coming Sunday we get the next in a long series of really interesting Japanese Youth title bouts. This one is at Super Bantamweight as the talented and skilled champion Tom Mizokoshi (8-2-1, 4) takes on the crude but heavy handed Haruki Ishikawa (8-3, 6), in what is very much a boxer against puncher match up. The champion is one of the best young pure boxers in the country whilst Ishikawa is a very big puncher, but someone who does lack in terms of his defensive skills. The combination of these styles should make for a genuinely excellent bout.
Aged 22 Mizokoshi is one of the young stars of the Midori Gym. He made his debut back in 2017, at the age of 18, and despite some early set backs, going 2-1-1 in his first 4 bouts Mizokoshi then found his groove and went on to win his next 5. That run of performances started to get people genuinely excited about the youngster but sadly a lot of that excitement was forgotten in August 2020 when he suffered an upset loss to Hiroyuki Takehara, who stopped Mizokoshi in 3 rounds and left him with a broken jaw. Thankfully Mizokoshi bounced back from the broken jaw, and this past March scored his most notable win to date, beating Satoru Hoshiba by 8 round decision to win his Youth title.
In the ring Mizokoshi is a defensively minded boxer, who moves around the ring wonderfully, he's light on his feet, uses very good straight punches and is very much a pure boxer. He wants to control the range, he wants to keep things long, and if an opponent makes a mistake he looks to land hurtful counters. On the whole he is risk adverse, and has a style that we actually see a lot of in the US, rather than Japan. He's someone who seems to appreciate that he's not the complete package, or a fully mature fighter, and fights in a style that hides the fact he's not a fully mature man quite well. Sadly however, as we saw against Takahara, when he's tagged he can be hurt, and he has been hurt in roother fights as well. One final thing worth noting is that although he's a boxer first, he does have respectable pop in his shots, and fighters shouldn't plan to walk through him. He lands often enough and clean enough to make that a bad idea.
Aged 21 at the time of writing Ishikawa is the slightly younger fighter, but is the more physically imposing, and the more wild swinging puncher of the two. He's the one who would be regarded as a genuinely dangerous fighter and he has been for a while. He began his career in 2017, whilst a teenage, and stopped his first 5 opponents in a combined 11 rounds. That explosiveness made fans sit up and take notice though sadly for him his unbeaten run would come to an end in the 2018 All Japan Rookie of the Year final, losing a very close decision to Yusei Fujikawa. Sadly since that loss he has gone 2-2, with the most notable bout being a TKO4 loss in a Japanese Youth Bantamweight title bout to Toshiya Ishii, in an instant classic. He also lost last time out, in December 2020, to Kai Chiba in a very underwhelming performance.
At his best Ishikawa is a very fun to watch fighter, who takes risks, has heavy hands, comes to fight and doesn't care too much about taking a shot or two, if he can land one of his own. Sadly though his loss to Ishii seemed to show up limited technical skills and against Kai Chiba he looked very passive, as if he felt he couldn't win. Those results do not bode well for him here, and if he's not in the right mindset coming in to this we really see him getting frustrated by the movement of Mizokoshi. If he can land clean however, this fight could turn in a moment, and he could go from being out boxed, to winning in spectacular come from behind fashion.
We feel Mizokoshi should be able to out box Ishikawa right through the fight, though we wouldn't be surprised, at all, if he had one or two scares along the way. He should be able to see out the storms, and he should be able to rely on his boxing skills, but Ishikawa's power will mean that the challenger is always a dangerous threat.
It wouldn't be out of the question to see Mizokoshi dropped, en route to a very wide decision win.
PRediction - Mizkoshi UD8
One of the most exciting things about Japanese boxing right now is the Japanese Youth title scene, which has provided so many great fights over the last few years. The title might not be a sign that someone is, or isn't, destined for greatness but it is a title that is giving us some fantastic action bouts between two youngsters who are happily putting it on the line to claim a belt. We saw this in February, with a great bout between Yudai Shigeoka and Ryu Horikawa, and in December, when Jin Sasaki stopped Aso Ishiwaki.
This coming Sunday we'll see another new Japanese Youth Champion being crowned as Tom Mizokoshi (7-2-1, 4) and Satoru Hoshiba (7-4, 2) clash for the vacant Japanese Youth Super Bantamweight title. Interestingly this will not be the first time the men will have clashed, with the two having fought in a short but thrilling clash in 2019, which we'll talk about in more detail a little later on.
The title might not have the longest of lines so far, with the first champion being Takuya Mizuno in 2017, but it's a title that helped people sit up and take note of it's second champion, the highly skilled Toshiki Shimomachi, who we suspect to see big things from the future. Despite that it's certainly a title that can be used as a launch pad, and right now Hoshiba and Mizokoshi will both be wanting to launch their careers forward by winning the belt.
Of the two men the 21 year old Mizokoshi is the more highly regarded and he's seen as one of the brightest hopes at the Midori gym. As an amateur he went 9-5 though didn't wait around in the unpaid ranks long and made his professional debut in 2017, as an 18 year old, winning his debut inside a round. A draw to the then unheralded Hiroki Hanabusa in 2018 slowed his rise and a loss later that same year to Kyonosuke Kamaeda saw him fall to 2-1-1. Despite those set backs Mizokoshi found his groove and won 4 in a row, from late 2018 to the end of 2019, and was building a lot of momentum before Covid19 put a stop on boxing in Japan for most of 2020.
Sadly for Mizokoshi when he returned to the ring in August 2020 he was upset by Hiroyuki Takahara, who stopped Mizokoshi in 3 rounds and left the youngster requiring a break from the ring due to fractured jaw. Sadly that injury forced him to cancel a scheduled bout with Mugicha Nakagawa, as well as giving him his second loss.
In the ring Mizokoshi is a fun fighter to watch. At times he can look a bit timid, staying on the outside, and moving a lot, but he's looking to draw and error to counter. When he spots those errors he often explodes with a huge flurry of shots. When those errors are less forth coming he makes sure to land good, solid, single shot counters, landing the eye catching blows and then getting away in and attempt to draw another mistake. He's quikc, he's sharp and yet he also look like he can be hit, in part due to his rather low guard. It's a style that we suspect will have limitations when he steps up in class, but is certainly a fun one to watch and it's clear he is trying to entertain and fight to his strengths, which are his speed and movement. Whilst there is a lot to like about him there are major worries about his defense and his chin, and they were both shown up against Takahara last August, when a single right hand crumpled him. We also worry about his single punch power, and he negative he can look at times.
The 23 year old Satoshi Hoshiba made his professional debut way back in 2015, in fact he did so on the same show that featured Kosei Tanaka Vs Vic Saludar. Sadly for Hoshiba he was stopped in the first round in his debut, and was then stopped again in his second bout. Impressively he rebuilt his career following his 0-2 start, winning 4 in a row to reach the West representative final of the 2017 Rookie of the Year, losing a razor thin decision to Toshiki Shimomachi. Since that loss he has gone 3-1, including a good win last year against Takayoshi Suzuki. Interestingly he was supposed to face Shimomachi in a rematch late last year, for the Japanese Youth title, but sadly that bout was cancelled due to Shimomachi being ill.
In the ring Hoshiba is very different to Mizokoshi, in terms of styles and mentalities. Instead of boxing and moving he comes to fight. He looks to out work, out battle, out fight and out hustle opponents. He comes into the ring to fight, to press the action and to make opponents work every minute of every round. This saw him really impress against Shimomachi, who was unable to dictate the pacing and distance of the bout, and has seen Hoshiba give real problems to naturally better fighters. Sadly however his chin has let him down several times and walking into the fire has seen him getting burned multiple times in the past. He's exciting, but with a lack of power he really does need to rely on work rate, a lot, and it's a style that will limit his longer term potential.
We mentioned earlier that these two have fought before. They did that in 2019 when Mizokoshi managed to stop Hoshiba in 2 rounds. It is worth noting, however, that Mizokoshi was in all sorts of problems before catching Hoshiba with a perfect counter that bailed him out, and left Hoshiba wobbling whilst Mizokoshi unloaded. It was proof that Mizokoshi had heart, but also warning signs that he could be hurt.
Coming in to this it's easy to suggest that Mizokoshi should get the job done again. He's beaten Hoshiba once, and should do it again, right? Whilst we would typically agree we don't think it's all that straight forward here. Mizokoshi was hurt by Hoshiba when the men first fought and since then Mizokoshi has been stopped, in brutal and dramatic fashion. We need to wonder how his jaw is, and how much he's recovered since that loss. We're going to assume he hasn't fully recovered, at least not mentally, and with that in mind we suspect Hoshiba, if he starts fast, can leave Mizokoshi asking questions of himself. If Hoshiba keeps that up, and avoid the big counters, there's a real chance he could end up stopping his man here.
Whilst Mizokoshi is going to come in to the bout as the favourite, we're predicting an upset here. The pressure and work rate of Hoshiba, added to the damaging loss for Mizokoshi last time out, resulting in a second stoppage loss for the exciting Mizokoshi.
Prediction - Hoshiba TKO6
In 2020 the boxing calendar got completely screwed up with Covid19 forcing bouts to be postponed and cancelled on a regular basis. One of the bouts that was postponed was a mandatory title fight for the Japanese Super Bantamweight title. That bout has now been rearranged for January 22nd and will see defending champion Yusaku Kuga (19-4-1, 13) taking on mandatory challenger Gakuya Furuhashi (26-8-1, 14), in what could be something a little bit special and very brutal.
Those who have been following the Japanese scene over the last few years will know all about the 30 year old Kuga who is now enjoying his second reign as the Japanese Super Bantamweight champion. For those who haven’t been following the scene Kuga is a very fan friendly fighter, who’s a puncher first, with an aggressive style and warmonger mentality in the ring. He came up short in his first title fight, back in 2015 when he lost a razor thin decision to Yasutaka Ishimoto but has gone 8-2 (6) since then, and managed to avenge his loss to Ishimoto in 2017 to claim the title, for the first time. In his first reign he made 2 defenses of the title before losing in 2018 to Shingo Wake, in what was really an undressing for Kuga, who had no answer to Wake’s movement and jab.
Despite losing to Wake it wasn’t long until Kuga reclaimed the title, winning it back from Ryoichi Tamura in 2019, in what was the second bout between the men and an all out war, one of the genuine hidden gems of 2019. After reclaiming the title he made a single defense before taking on Jhunriel Ramonal at the end of 2019, and being brutally taken out after just 84 seconds, in a genuine upset.
At his best Kuga is a really brutal fighter to go up against. For much of his career he has been a heavy handed, teak tough warrior, with a great engine and a really physical style. He can box, though often seems happier to have a war, and his two battles with Ryoichi Tamura were both brutal, punishing affairs for both men. Sadly though his toughness has been questioned in recent losses, with Shingo Wake breaking him down in 10 rounds and the loss to Ramonal being a clean KO. As well as those losses we do wonder what he’s like mentally coming into this bout. Had he been able to get a confidence easy win after his loss to Ramonal we’d feel better about his chance, but we do wonder if that loss is still playing on his mind more than a year after it. We also wonder if the wars with Tamura have taken something from him.
At his best Kuga is a nightmare. His power is destructive at this level, he’s very physical, his right cross is a concussion maker and his pressure and work rate is incessant. He’s not the quickest, the sharpest, and his jab is somewhat limited, but he’s a real bully in the ring. The most obvious way to beat him is to out box him, out maneuver him and refuse to have a tear up with him. Saying that however we do, genuinely, wonder what the Ramonal loss has done to him, and what shape his chin is going to be in, and what his confidence is going to be like.
Furuhashi is a 33 year old who fights out of the Nitta Gym in Kawasaki, and has been one of their most notable fighters for years. Sadly though he has had a long career and this will be his third, and potentially last, shot at a Japanese title. His desire is to become the first fighter born, raised and from a gym in Kawasaki, and it’s really been a driving force for him in recent months. He was supposed to get this shot, as previously mentioned, in 2020 but has had to wait a long time to get it, and will now know that this could be now or never for him.
Furuhashi, unlike Kuga, isn’t really a name we expect too many fight fans outside of Japan to be familiar with, even those that follow the Japanese scene from around the globe. Despite that he is a really fun fighter to watch and has been in and around the title scene since 2014, when he was supposed to fight Hidenori Otake who pulled out of the bout due to a rib injury. Following that he got a show at Yukinori Oguni in 2015, fighting to a draw with the future IBF world champion and then lost 3 of his following 4 bouts, including a title bout in 2016 to Yasutaka Ishimoto. That run, which saw him going 1-3-1 including the draw with Oguni, seemed to spell the end for him as he slipped to 18-8-1 (8). Surprisingly however he has rebuilt brilliantly, going 8-0 (6) since then, including wins against Yuta Horiika and Ryoichi Tamura, with the win over Tamura in September 2019 earning him this belated third title fight.
In the ring Furuhashi’s strength is his tenacity, work rate, energy and willingness to press forward. Technically he’s nothing special, he’s not quick, he’s not got massive amounts of power, but he’s got an abundance of energy, he’s physically strong and is sneaky on the inside, with some excellent hooks and uppercuts. When backed up he responds with solid combinations and makes an opponent walk through a lot of leather to get to him, and he knows how to make things scrappy. Like Kuga he’s tough, but he’s more of a gritty tough than an iron chinned tough guy. Sadly for him however he has taken a lot of punishment during his long career, and his willingness to have a war with anyone has almost certainly taken something of a toll on his body.
As mentioned, to beat Kuga a fighter needs to use their brain and out box him. Getting into a war with him is a painful gameplan, for anyone unless they have lights out power, like Ramonal. Furuhashi doesn’t have that, and if Kuga is half the fighter he was before the Ramonal loss he should be able to force his will against Furuhashi. If that happens the heavier shots of Kuga will be the difference maker, and will, sooner or later, break down the gutsy and determined Furuhashi.
For Furuhashi to win he needs to totally change his gameplan. He can’t try to go to war with Kuga. He can’t hold his feet and try to out-battle Kuga. Instead he needs to move, lure Kuga in, reel off some shoe shining combinations and get out of dodge. He has the energy for that, and his legs can certainly do it, but we’re not sure he has the mentality to do it. He’s one of those fighters who takes a shot and wants to respond immediately, rather than thinking “I’ll get you next time”.
Whilst Kuga’s confidence could be shot, and a quick start from Furuhashi would give Kuga a lot of questions to answer, we suspect his chin hasn’t become cracked from the losses to Wake and Ramonal. Instead we suspect he’ll be back to his usual rampaging self. We expect Furuhashi to try and respond, punch for punch, with Kuga, giving us a thrill a minute war, until Furuhashi comes undone from the repeated heavy shots of Kuga and the referee is forced to step in and save stop in the second half of a sensational fight.
Expect blood, bombs, thrilling exchanges and incredible action here!
Prediction - TKO8 Kuga
For fans wanting to watch this one, it will be shown live on streaming service Boxing Raise.
On December 27th we'll see Japanese Youth Super Bantamweight champion Toshiki Shimomachi (12-1-2, 8) make his final defense of the title, win or lose, as he takes on Satoru Hoshiba (7-4, 2), a man he previously faced over 3 years ago. On paper this is an intriguing match up, with out being a big one, and a great chance for the two men to end the year on a high, after what has been a frustrating 12 months for both the talented youngsters.
Of the two men it's Shimomachi that has really impressed us over the last few years and has quickly become one of the most under-rated prospects in all of Japan. He's also someone who has developed a style we don't see too much of in Japan, but is bringing him great success, and could, very easily, take him all the way in the coming years.
The 24 year old champion debuted all the way back in December 2015 and started his career 2-1-1 (1). That was his record at the end of 2016 before he kicked on and won the 2017 All Japan Rookie of the Year, beating Ryosei Hamaguchi, Satoru Hoshiba, yes the man he'll be facing again here, and Arashi Iimi en route to the All Japan crown. He then followed that up in 2018 with wins against Kiyohei Endo and Renan Portes before ending the year with a draw against Daisuke Watanabe, a draw that has aged very well.
It was in 2019 that Shimomachi won his title, stopping Kenta Nomura in August, but sadly it took more than a year for him to defend the belt, doing so this August against Hiroki Hanabusa in a very impressive performance.
Unlike most in Japan Shimomachi's style is much more like that of an American counter-puncher than a typical Japanese fighter. He dictates range and distance with smart, well educated feet, he uses the ring well, lines up his counters, and when an opponent makes a mistake he punishes them with sharp, powerful straight left hands. Not only is his straight left a potent weapon but so too is his right hook, and his control of distance, which really is brilliant, makes him an incredibly awkward opponent. Unlike many counter punchers Shimomachi actually tries to lure mistakes, his fighters with his hands low, and uses slippery movements to make opponents miss. He wants opponents to try to hit him, and this makes him an exciting fighter to watch, rather than someone who is overly negative.
Aged 23 Satoru Hoshiba is a bit of an unknown, and he hasn't had the same level of bouts or publicity as Shimomachi since they fought in 2017. In fact footage of Hoshiba is hard to find and, as a result, it's somewhat tricky to get a read on his style, however we do know plenty about his career.
He debuted in 2015 and was stopped in the opening round, he then returned to the ring 4 months later and was again stopped early, making it to round 2. Then he managed find something of a groove, winning 4 in a row to reach the penultimate stage of the 2017 Rookie of the Year, where he lost a majority decision to Shimomachi. That bout, one of the very few we have got footage of involving Hoshiba, saw him applying real pressure and taking the fight on the inside, where he managed to have genuine success.
Despite losing to Shimomachi we have seen Hoshiba bouncing back well winning 3 of his 4 subsequent bouts. The one loss during that stretch was another bout we've been lucky to get footage of, and saw Hoshiba being stopped in 2 rounds by Tom Mizokoshi. In that bout Hoshiba again showed a willingness to come forward, marching down Mizokoshi with intense pressure and even seemed to have rocked him at one point. That was until he was rocked himself, and Mizokoshi fired off bombs until the referee stepped in.
Given what we have seen of Hoshiba we suspect this to be a fun bout, with the challenging show casing his intense, pressure, pushing forward incessantly and showing no fear of Shimomachi's power and defensively skills. Sadly for Hoshiba however his lack of power, and the heavier hands of Shimomachi, are likely to be the difference here. We suspect that Hoshiba will come forward, and will make mistakes that Shimomachi will capitalise on, breaking down Hoshiba and stopping a tiring challenger in the later rounds.
Prediction - Shimomachi TKO7
On October 8th attention returns to Korakuen Hall for the next bout featuring the under-rated Hiroaki Teshigawara (21-2-2, 14), who looks to extend his reign as the OPBF Super Bantamweight champion as he takes on Shingo Kawamura (16-5-4, 8).
For Teshigawara the bout serves as his 4th defense of the title, which he has held since October 2018, and should move him one step closer to a potential world title bout.
For those those who haven't seen Teshigawara he's a talented, awkward boxer-puncher who is very much knocking on the door of a world title shot. He's ranked in the top 10 by both the WBC and the IBF, and has won his last 9 in a row, with 8 of those wins coming by T/KO. Of course it's not the numbers that matter but the opposition and he holds stoppage wins over the world ranked Keita Kurihara, and world title challengers Jetro Pabustan, Teiru Kinoshita and Shohei Omori.
In the ring Teshigawara is tough, heavy handed and can box or fight. When he needs to dig in and fight he can, and we've seen him do it more than once, but at his best he's a tricky, awkward boxer-puncher who sets an unusual rhythm, draws leads, counters them well and fights with a rather unique style. His hands are often down and he relies on herky jerky movement, applies pressure with his movement and is patient enough to wait for a mistake when he needs to. Although not a 1-punch KO artists he's heavy handed, every shot he lands has a good dose of pepper. Although he's not an elite level fighter he's the sort of fighter who will give anyone problems, and could, if he gets the right opportunity, win a world title.
Notably this will be Teshigawara's first bout since leaving the Koichi Wajima gym and joining the Misako Gym. Although a gym move like this can be an issue for some we suspect this will not be a problem at all for Teshigawara, who has long worked alongside Misako, who are expected to help open doors for the talented "Crush Boy".
As for Kawamura this is essentially him in the last chance saloon, after going win-less in his last 5 bouts. Those 5 bouts include 3 successive draws and losses to Satoshi Shimizu and Ryo Sagawa. He's dropping down in weight for this bout, and really does need a win. A good performance won't be enough to keep him relevant.
As a fighter Kawamura is an aggressive fighter but quite a limited one without much bang and without too much speed. He's not terrible, by any stretch, but he is very basic and at Featherweight fighters like Satoshi Shimizu and Ryo Sagawa have been able to walk through his shots and and manage to break him down. He's always been happy to let his hands go, but has never been a hard man to find, and to tag.
Although it's easy to write off Kawamura he has scored several wins of note. These include victories over Kyohei Tonomoto, Shingo Kusano, Kota Fukuoka and Tae Il Atsumi. They are however lower level fighters than Teshigawara, who we suspect will be too hard hitting, too smart, too strong and too good for Kawamura.
We expect to see Kawamura taking the fight to Teshigawara, and be made to pay as Teshigawara lands solid counters, and breaks down the challenger. Kawamura's toughness will see him survive a few rounds, but eventually he'll be broken down, and suffer his 5th stoppage loss.
Prediction - TKO6 Teshigawara
On August 9th we'll see Japanese Youth Super Bantamweight champion Toshiki Shimomachi (11-1-2, 7) make his first defense of the title title over a year after winning it. In the opposite corner to the champion will be fellow youngster Hiroki Hanabusa (8-0-3, 3), in what looks like a brilliant match up. We know not many fans will be aware of who these two are, but fans who do follow the Japanese Youth Scene will know that this is a bout to be very excited about.
The once beaten champion is a 23 year old who made his debut back in December 2015. His first 12 months or so were a struggle, as he went 2-1-1 (1) but since then he has rebuilt well, winning the 2017 All Japan Rookie of the Year, at Super Bantamweight and won the Japanese Youth title in 2019. Whilst he hasn't made too much noise he has notched decent wins over the likes of Arashi Iimi, Renan Portes and Kenta Nomura, and also has a very credible draw with Daisuke Watanabe to his name.
In the ring Shimomachi is a very talented southpaw boxer who creates space well, lines up his quick left hand but can increase the tempo when he needs to. His overall style is really relaxed, but he's also really sharp and accurate and when he lets his shots go they are thrown with bad intent. One big complaint is that he is too relaxed, and doesn't pick up the pace very often. He can look lazy, and too negative, but is very good at avoiding shots even in the middle of the ring. If, or maybe when, he can find his extra gear he looks like a man with the potential to go very far and his skills can't be questioned.
At 21 years old Hanabusa is the younger man and, on paper, he's also the man stepping up. Despite that he's actually been really impressive, winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2018 showing what he could on foreign soil, with a draw against Ayati Sailike in China last year. He impressed last December when he beat Baolin Kang and looks like a real prospect for the future. Despite that he is still a youngster and a real boxing baby.
Early in his career Hanabusa looked rather awkward, his balance was poor, his threw wild shots and was rather lucky at times that fellow novices didn't make him pay. In 2019 however he rounded off his skill set pretty impressively and now seems a much more rounded, polished fighter. There are areas to work on but the 21 year old has improved so much from his early bouts. He's still not totally polished, but is becoming a much better boxer-mover and has looked very good in recent bouts.
Whilst we do see Hanabusa as being an improving fighter, he's still not as polished, smooth or natural in the ring as Shimomachi. We could see Hanabusa out working Shimomachi at times, but we expect to see the champion's natural skills and class prove to be too much over the 8 round distance. There will be moments where Shimomachi makes life difficult for himself, by virtue of his low activity, but as the bout goes on and he settles down he will end up landing more and more accurate, eye catching, blows and take a clear decision over his compatriot.
Prediction - UD8 Shimomachi
The year is set to end with a bang thanks to a bumper show from Watanabe. Whilst much of the focus will be on the two main world title fights the card is an interesting one through out, and potentially the most explosive of the bouts will be at regional title level.
The bout in question will see Japan's Yusaku Kuga (19-3-1, 13) clash with Filipino Jhunriel Ramonal (16-8-6, 9) for the WBO Asia Pacific Super Bantamweight title. It's not a bout that will get much attention, or looks particularly competitive, but is one that could be very brutal, and very explosive.
The favourite going in will be Kuga, a big punching Japanese fighter who is the current Japanese national champion. Kuga is fairly basic, but very heavy handed, exciting and aggressive. He's someone who can be out boxed, as we saw last year when he was stopped by Shingo Wake, but is extremely dangerous and is able to have a toe to toe war with pretty much anyone in and around the regional scene, as we saw against Ryoichi Tamura.
After starting his career 6-1-1 (4) Kuga has gone 13-2 (9), avenging one of those losses and notching wins over the likes of Sukkasem Kietyongyuth, Yasutaka Ishimoto, Jonathan Baat and Ryoichi Tamura. Not only has he proven his ability against good domestic and regional level opponents he has also been scoring those wins early on, taking 10 of his wins in the first 4 rounds.
On paper Ramonal looks like a very limited fighter, with 8 losses in his 30 career bouts. In reality however he's a much better fighter than his record suggests. He's not a world beater, a long way from it, but given genuine preparation time, he's a dangerous opponent. Going through his record it is a real mess, an inconsistent mess. He has shown he can mix at the top of the regional scene, fighting to a narrow loss in an OPBF title fight in 2011, but then has lost to a number of domestic level fighters. When he's on point he's talented, but he can be made to look slow, sloppy and can be easily out boxed.
Coming in to this Ramonal is unbeaten in 4 bouts, going back to a 2014 decision loss to Sho Nakazawa. Since then he has fought to a draw with Jenel Lausa and most recently scored a stunning TKO in over Shingo Wake, a win that has essentially put him into this title fight. In that win over Wake Ramonal was cut, being out boxed, but remained a hungry and dangerous fighter, with that danger being realised in frighteningly graphic fashion.
Given that both fighters are heavy handed, both get in the ring to win and both are happy to fire off bombs, this has the potential to be very explosive. It's easy to back Kuga, and he is rightfully the favourite, but given how Ramonal's power took out Wake, it's clear that Kuga can't take a win for granted here. Instead Kuga will need fight smartly, but should manage to break down Ramonal, likely busting him up with his heavy hands and forcing the referee to step in.
We're anticipating a bout with a lot of tension here, some fun exchanges, but eventually the fight will be beat out of Ramonal.
Prediction TKO5 Kuga
One of the fighters who has really impressed in recent years is OPBF Super Bantamweight champion Hiroaki Teshigawara (20-2-2, 13) who has won his 8 in a row since losing a very close split decision to Ryo Akaho more than 3 years ago. On December 12th he looks to add another win as he takes on the talented Shohei Kawashima (18-3-2, 4). For Teshigawara the bout will serve as his third defense, as he looks to move one step closer to a world title fight, whilst Kawashima looks to claim his first title, after coming up short in a couple of previous title bouts.
Teshigawara wasn't really on the radar until October 2016 when he battled 2-time world title challenger Akaho and gave him a real run for his money, losing a close split decision. At that point Teshigawara had fallen to 12-2-1 (6) and despite how good his performance was few would have expected his current run, a run that has seen him Keita Kurihara, Jason Canoy, Teiru Kinoshita and Shohei Omori. He has moved from Bantamweight, where he won the WBO Asia Pacific title, to Super Bantamweight where he has claimed the OPBF title. He has looked destructively heavy handed, technically solid, with an impressive ability to take a shot, and fights with a lot of usual movement, putting fighters on the back foot and unable to time him.
Although Teshigawara is certainly not unbeatable, and we wouldn't fancy his chance against any of the top 10 in the world, he's an awkward nights work for most. He takes a shot so well that no on will blow through him, and offers enough power in his shots to make them pay if they over-look him and see him an easy out. The way he uses feints is also really smart, and despite being an aggressive fighter he's also a very cerebral one, who seems to have learned a lot from mentor Koichi Wajima, another man who was rather unpredictable at times.
The 27 year old Kawashima has been a professional since 2012 and made his first big mark in 2014, when he won the Rookie of the Year. He was unbeaten in his first 16 fights before travelling to Mexico and losing a razor thin decision to Cristian Mijares in October 2016, during an interesting run of wins for Mijares. Sadly since then Kawashima has struggled to get much momentum in his career. He suffered an upset loss in 2017, when he was surprisingly stopped in 6 rounds by Gaku Aikawa, who took him out with a single straight right hand on the button. Another loss, earlier this year, to Juan Miguel Elorde was another set back, though like the Mijares the bout was a close one on the road.
Had Kawashima been managed differently he would likely have been a fixture on the regional title scene. He's incredible skilled, a pure boxer with a good jab, nice movement and good shot selection. Where he really fails is his power, and he really struggles to get respect of opponents, despite how skilled he is. The loss to Aikawa wasn't a sign of a weak chin, far from it, but he was caught by a bomb. Still that doesn't fill us with confidence that he can handle a shot, and he hasn't faced any top punchers, though Teshigawara is certainly a banger.
Whilst Kawashima is a talent we see him being broken down and beaten up by Teshigawara here. Kawashima's movement and counter-punching may cause Teshigawara some problems, but the lack of power on Kawashima's shots is unlike to stop the champion in his tracks and instead we see Teshigawara walking him down in the middle rounds. Anyone who can box with Mijares is good, but we feel Kawashima lacks the tools to cope with physicality of Teshigawara.
Prediction - TKO7 Teshigawara
The past year or two we've seen the Super Bantamweight division in Japan being one of the highlights delivering great fighter after great fight. Those great fights included May's rematch between Ryoichi Tamura and Yusaku Kuga (18-3-1, 12), which saw Kuga become a 2-time Japanese Super Bantamweight champion thanks to an all 10 round war.
Kuga returns to the ring on September 21st to defend his title against 32 year old veteran Yosuke Fujihara (18-6, 5), who gets his second Japanese title fight just over 12 years after his professional debut. On paper this looks like an easy defense for Kuga, though in fairness he does deserve an easy one after May's war with Tamura, which really was a damaging bout for both men.
For those who haven't seen Kuga he is a nasty, nasty fighter in the ring. He's heavy handed, aggressive, incredibly strong and tough. Offensively he's a monster but he's also technically quite crude, defensively flawed and can be out boxed. We saw Shingo Wake really pick him apart last year, when he stopped Kuga in the 10th round, but it took a fighter of Wake's high skill level to clearly beat Kuga. Kuga's only other losses were a 2012 loss to Nobuhiro Hisano and a razor thin 2015 loss to Yasutaka Ishimoto, a loss that was avenged in 2018. Since his 2015 loss to Ishimoto Wake has gone 7-1 (5), with both of the decision wins coming in close fights with Tamura and the loss being the one to Wake.
At 28 years old Kuga is still improving, developing and adding to his experience. Though the tough bouts will catch up with him soon or later and wars against the likes of Tamura, Wake and Ishimoto, and we hope he gets a big bout before those wars take the best out of him. His aggressive style makes for wars, and his power, strength and toughness, means he tends to win them, but it's still not a style which will lead to a long and fruitful career.
The 32 year old Fujihara showed a lot of promise early in his career, following his 2007 debut. He won his first 13 bouts, and notable won the 2008 Rookie of the Year. He was unbeaten for more than 3 years before losing in May 2011 to Kentaro Masuda. He quickly went from 13-0 to 14-3 as his career began to fall apart, including stoppage losses to Mugicha Nakagawa and Ryuta Otsuka. In 2016 he got his first Japanese title fight, losing a wide decision to Yasutaka Ishimoto, and since then he has gone 2-2. To suggest that Fujihara is a limited challenger really doesn't say as much as stating he is 5-6 in the last 6 years.
At his best Fujihara was a legitimate domestic title challenger. Problem is that his best really didn't last very long, and is very much in the past. Even recent wins over Naoya Okamoto and Keita Nakano really don't suggest things are turning around for Fujihara. The biggest problem for Fujihara is the fact that he lacks anything that makes him really stand out as a threat. He lacks lighting speed, thunderous power, he's not physically imposing or able to set a high work rate.
Given that Kuga will impose himself, will set a high pace and will look to take Fujihara out early on, it's hard to see anything but an early win for the champion. Fujihara will have to rely on his toughness early on, and sooner or later that toughness will way and Kuga will break him down.
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.