On December 12th fight fans at the Korakuen Hall will see a new Japanese Youth Bantamweight champion being crowned as youngsters Toshiya Ishii (2-0, 1) and Haruki Ishikawa (8-1, 6) battle for the vacant title in a very interesting looking bout. In one corner is a former youth amateur standout, who is being fast tracked to the top, whilst the other corner houses a Rookie of the Year finalist, having his 10th professional bout. Notably both had to earn their right to fight for the title by winning bouts as part of a 4 man tournament held back in August at Korakuen Hall.
Of the two men it's the 18 year old Ishii who is probably the more interesting fighter. He went 30-14 (17) in the amateurs, coming runner up in the 2018 Interscholastic tournament and signed with the REBOOT IBA with a lot of expectation on his shoulders. His debut was standard, easy win over a limited foe, in Adam Wijayta, but in just his second bout he beat the then Japanese ranked Fumiya Fuse, a very skilled but light punching fighter. Although Fuse is quick and skilled Ishii out did him in both areas and although he wasn't flawless he looked a real natural talent.
In the ring Ishii is a composed, yet aggressive, fighter. He's skilful but aggressive, and confident and comes forward with very educated pressure, and you can see why REBOOT IBA aren't afraid of letting him in their with more established professionals.Of course there is work to be done, a lot of work, but for a fighter at this novice stage of his career he looks very talented and, if he wins, we see the Youth title being one of many belts he collects as his career develops.
Aged 20 Ishikawa is no old man either, and he only debuted in May 2017, though unlike Ishii he hasn't got the amateur pedigree, instead developing in the professional ranks. He began his career with 5 stoppages before claiming the 2018 East Japan Rookie of the Year crown with a decision win against Beverly Tsukada. That win saw him advance to the All Japan final where he lost a majority decision to Yusei Fujikawa. Since the 2018 Rookie of the Year we've seen him score 2 including his a win over Atsushi Takada, which netted him this title shot.
Watching Ishikawa we see a man who is very confident in not only his power but also his ability to take a shot. He comes forward, he launches bombs and he takes shots on his way in. He's certainly "crude" but he looks so strong and powerful that he seems like the fighter who, at least at this level, can get away with the "take one to land one" gameplan. Heck it's worked this much right? Sadly though we don't see that gameplan carrying up to the domestic level, and he certainly needs to tidy up his style before mounting a series challenge to Japanese ranked opponents.
Whilst we love seeing fighters with Ishikawa's mentality we don't think that is going to work against someone with the skills, movement and boxing brain of Ishii. Yes, there is a chance an Ishikawa bomb lands clean and takes out the youngster, but in reality we suspect that the gulf in skills will be the difference here. We don't think Ishii has the power to take Ishikawa out, but we do see him taking a clear decision, and the title.
Prediction UD8 - Ishii
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