This coming Wednesday fight fans in Kumamoto get the chance to see two of their local boxing children return home, having made Tokyo their boxing home for the last few years. One of those two fighters is Japanese Minimumweight champion Ginjiro Shigeoka, and the other is his older brother Yudai Shigeoka (4-0, 2), who will be making his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Minimumweight title, as he takes on Cris Ganoza (19-3, 9).
Whilst less well known than his younger brother it's hard to deny that the 25 year old Yudai Shigeoka isn't an incredible talent, as we've seen since his professional debut in last 2019. Like his brother, Yudai was a stand out amateur, who proved himself in the unpaid ranks before following Ginjiro to the professional ranks. On his debut he looked calm, relaxed and composed whilst stopping Thai visitor Manop Audomphanawari, since then he has scored 3 genuinely notable wins, beating OPBF champion Lito Dante in just his second professional bout, then stopping Ryu Horikawa for the Japanese Ryu Horikawa and most recently Tsubasa Koura for the WBO Asia Pacific title. In just 4 bouts he has proven a lot, and quickly put himself in the mix for potential world title fights, and yet still has plenty of areas to improve on, with improvement likely to come with more ring time and experience.
In his most recent bout, his win over Koura, we saw that Shigeoka had a lot in his locker. He was, as we'd seen in the past, a talented, sharp, boxer puncher, but also someone who is defensively smart, incredibly quick, well schooled and good at finding holes in defenses. He isn't the most text book fighter out there, but he is a well schooled southpaw, who can box really well behind a jab and apply intelligent pressure. We also saw him being able to dig down and fight with Koura, digging deep when he needed to and taking the fight to Koura when he needed to. Notably he also show cased a good chin on the occasions that Koura caught him clean and the ability to counter. We do feel, at times, he was rushed by Koura, and didn't always look comfortable when that happened, but given he was stepping up massively in that bout and being pushed 12 rounds he did incredibly well and saw out the storms whilst also looking to get his own work off. Had that same fight come just a year or two later, with Shigeoka have 3 or 4 fights more, we suspect he would have won it quite easily, but still managed to see off a very, very good fighter, very early in his career.
As for Cris Ganoza, the Filipino is a 27 year old who made his debut in 2014 and has spent his entire career, so far, fighting in the Philippines. Despite never fighting outside of his homeland it should be noted he has shared the ring with some notable talent, including Edward Heno, who gave him his first loss back in 2017 unbeaten hopeful John Michael Zulueta, and former world title challenger ArAr Andales. Sadly he has lost to those 3 notable foes, and without trying to be too harsh he does lack in terms of notable wins, with the most notable coming against Donny Mabao back in 2018.
In the ring Ganoza looks like someone who could become a decent fighter, with the right training and mindset, but sadly as of his recent bouts, he looks very much like a work in progress and a very limited fighter, who makes a lot of mistakes. He has nice natural speed, but technically he's open, he's raw and he's worryingly reckless. He looks very much like a novice, who makes some very silly mistakes, and is seemingly trying to learn on the job. That's not to say he doesn't have nice handspeed and doesn't come to fight, more than he's very much a work in progress, and a bout at this level, against someone as skilled and polished as Shigeoka will not end well for him.
We know that Ganoza is fairly tough, but unfortunately he's also very open and we can't help but feel that his technical flaws and huge gaping defensive holes will be taken advantage of by Shigeoka, who will almost certainly see the gaps and punish Ganoza. The real question isn't who will win, but just how long can Ganoza survive against Shigeoka. We don't think it'll be all that long. We see the body shots taking the fight from Ganoza and breaking the Filipino down somewhere around the middle of the bout.
Prediction - TKO7 Shigeoka
On November 12th we'll see a really interesting Minimumweight bout, as Tsubasa Koura (15-1, 10) and Yudai Shigeoka (3-0, 2) face off for the WBO Asia Pacific title, which was vacated earlier this year by Yudai's younger brother Ginjiro Shigeoka. On paper this is a huge step up in class for Shigeoka, in his first 12 round bout, but it's one he and his team will go in to with a lot of confidence, whilst Koura will be looking to fight for the first time in well over a year, for only the third time since the start of 2019. In fact for Koura this is a really important bout and a loss here leaves his once promising career hanging by a thread.
Of the two men Koura is the more well established and was genuinely regarded as a prospect with a huge future ahead of him a few years ago. He began his career in 2014, and won the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2015, beating future Japanese national champion Yuto Takahashi along the way. In 2017 Koura announced himself on the Oriental level, stopping Jaysevera Abcede in 4 rounds, and then defended the belt against future world title challenger Masataka Taniguchi and Norihito Tanaka, as well as the then unbeaten Daiki Tomita. He seemed on the verge of a major bout before suffering a shock 12th round TKO loss in 2019 to Lito Dante. Since that loss Koura has fought just once, picking up a low key win over Ariston Aton in February 2020.
At his best Koura was a hart hitting boxer-puncher. He looked brutal in his early bouts, and whilst he was clearly flawed, he looked like he had the physical tools and the boxing skills to go a very, very long way. He just needed time, experience and a chance to develop his in ring style. Then the loss to Dante happened, and it was a massive one, that saw Dante failing in so many areas. He was out boxed by Dante, he was pressed and pressured and crumbled, both mentally and physically. It seemed he had over-looked Dante and never found a way into the bout against the Filipino, who has a very misleading record. Over 12 rounds Koura just simply didn't have what was needed. That fight was his last at title level, and one that showed a lot of problems that Koura had, back in 2019. The hope for him is that he has matured, physically and mentally, and has refound some hunger for the game here, or he could end up suffering another defeat.
Yudai Shigeoka is much less well known than Koura, but is the man coming in to this on the back of some impressive performance, and the one now regarded as a top prospect, with major potential He turned professional after his younger brother but quickly impressed, beating Manop Audomphanawari in late 2019 and then beating Lito Dante over 6 rounds, the same Dante who had stopped Koura. Sadly Covid19 derailed his rise through the ranks, but he did fight this past February and stopped the previously unbeaten Ryu Horikawa in 5 rounds to claim the Japanese Youth Light Flyweight title. That fight, for those who haven't seen it, is a tremendous contest, and saw Shigeoka needing to pass something of a gut check, before breaking down and stopping Horikawa in a great bout that showed the significance of the Japanese Youth title scene.
In the ring Shigeoka is a fantastic boxer-puncher, with brutal body shots, a nasty straight left hand, a brilliant array of punches.He moves around the ring really easily and looks like someone with the potential to do huge things. There is however a lot of work for him to do going forward, and we suspect he, and his team, know that his defensive work is a weak point, and something he will need to tighten up on going forward. Given he's fighting out of the Watanabe Gym, it's clear he will be sparring with top fighters, and will be working on defense, but it still a clear weakness from what we've seen of him so far. Another, potential issue, is his stamina and this is his first 12 rounds. In fact his first 3 bouts have been just a combined 13 rounds, and we do wonder if he can do 12 without many problems.
Coming in to this it's really had to know where the biggest issues lie. Is it Koura and his inactivity or Shigeoka and his lack of experience? Even with that question in mind there are then other questions, such as whether the speed and movement of Shigeoka will be too quick for Koura, or whether Koura's power will be too much for Shigeoka?
We suspect that Shigeoka will get off to a great start, against a rusty looking Koura. Get off to a big lead and fight to orders. Looking to avoid a tear up with Koura. As the rounds go on however Koura will begin to wake up, Shigeoka will get drawn into a fire fight, and realise that's not where he wants to be. After a few tough rounds for the younger man, we then expect him to be read the riot act, get back to his boxing, and to a close, but clear, decision victory.
Prediction - UD12 Shigeoka.
As we entered 2021 one of the divisions that had us the most excited was the Light Flyweight division, which has an incredibly stacked top 10-15 on the global stage. As well as being one of the best divisions at the top it is also one of the best in terms of emerging youngsters looking to make their mark on the upper echelons of the sport.
This coming Thursday at Korakuen Hall we see two of the best prospects in the divisions clash, as Ryu Horikawa (3-0-1, 1) and Yudai Shigeoka (2-0, 1) battle for the vacant Japanese Youth title in a truly brilliant match up that will put the winner on the fast track to more senior titles and much bigger fights.
Of the two fighters the older man is Yudai Shigeoka, the older brother of the more well known Ginjiro Shigeoka. The 23 year old Shigeoka, who turns 24 in April, had a very successful amateur career before turning professional in 2019, following his brother to the professional ranks. He debuted in a low key bout, stopping Thai visitor Manop Audomphanawari in 2 rounds back in October 2019, before stepping up massively and out pointing OPBF champion Lito Dante over 6 rounds, in a much more polished performance. Sadly however he has been out of the ring since beating Dante, back in December 2019.
From his performances so far we know that Shigeoka is a talented southpaw, with good handspeed, fantastic accuracy and timing and a good judge of distance. Against Manop he showed some brutal body work, and looked very relaxed and natural against a man who really wasn't fit to face him. Against Dante however we saw Shigeoka show what he can do with an excellent boxing display, staying wary of Dante's strength and power. Rather than going to war with Dante he boxed, moved, and tied up when he needed to, showing fantastic maturity for a fighter in just his second professional bout.
In the eyes of many Yudai Shigeoka is just as promising as his younger brother, and potentially has more upside, being a little bit more of a boxer-puncher, rather than a puncher-pressure fighter, and being taller. A win here would certainly open the door for Watanabe to move him towards bigger fights later in the year.
At just 20 years old Ryu Horikawa is a boxing baby, but one who has shown a lot of potential already. Like Shigeoka he too debuted in 2019, albeit at the age of 19, and quickly caught the eye. His debut saw him score a 3rd round TKO win over Jun Ishimoto before he scored an excellent win over Yuki Nakajima, just weeks after his debut. He then squeezed in a third fight before the end of 2019, as he travelled to China and made his international debut, fighting to a much debated draw with Xiang Li in a 10 rounder for the WBO Oriental Light Flyweight title. That experience will serve him well here in a scheduled 8 rounder. In 2020 Horikawa managed to fight in a single fight, defeating Daiki Kameyama in a very close and competitive 6 rounder as he continued to build his record and experience.
In the ring Horikawa is a fantastic boxer-mover. He’s very quick, very sharp and almost glides around the ring. Although not the biggest or strongest fighter at 108lbs he has an excellent jab, understands range very well and can sneak inside very easily, before getting away. One of his biggest strengths is his reflexes, and he spots openings very quickly, both on the front foot and the back foot, often tagging opponents at the slightest of mistakes. Despite being very good, his inexperience does occasionally show and he is clearly not the strongest fighter, with Yuki Nakajima pushing him around up close in the later stages of their 2019 bout.
On paper this might not look like an amazing match up, but it is one we are expecting to be a fantastic high speed, chess bout between two quick, talented fighters, each looking to kick their career on to the next level. Sadly for Horikawa we think his physical immaturity will be an issue here. He is, arguably, the better pure boxer but sadly he’s in with a stronger, more powerful fighter and we suspect, over 8 rounds, that will grind him down. The key for Shigeoka is his potent body attack, and we suspect that will take the wheels form Horikawa in the middle rounds, and leave the younger man in real problems in the final stages.
We suspect Horikawa survives the 8 rounds, but does come up short in a competitive, but clear, decision.
Prediction - Shigeoka UD8
It's not often we'll preview a 6 rounder but not all 6 rounders are made evenly and on December 10th we get a 6 rounder that stands out. That is a clash between Yudai Shigeoka (1-0, 1) and Lito Dante (16-10-4, 8). In one corner we have one of the most highly regarded prospects in Japan, having his second professional bout and taking on an OPBF champion. For Shigeoka it's a chance to put the Minimumweight on alert that he, like his brother Ginjiro Shigeoka, aren't in the professional boxing to play around but are wanting to be put on a serious fast track. For Dante however it's a chance to take an 0 of a touted Japanese fighter, following a career defining win over Tsubasa Koura earlier this year.
The 22 year old Shigeoka made his pro debut in October, stopping Manop Audomphanawari, and looked like a man who wasn't needing to get out of first gear. He showed some real touches of brilliance against Manop, but hardly broke a sweat as he took a 2nd round TKO win. That win says more about his amateur pedigree than his opponent, and he looked so calm and relaxed, so well schooled, so knowledgeable and such a sharp body puncher that it was clear he had come to the professional ranks following an excellent amateur career. That amateur career had seen him look like he was heading to the Olympics, but when the divisions being fought at in the 2020 Olympics were changed he decided to follow his younger brother to the professional ranks.
After winning 82 of 92 amateur bouts Shigeoka is a brilliant young fighter and he has been in the Watanabe Gym polishing his skill set and honing it for the professional ranks. Not only does the Watanabe gym have Yudai and his brother but it has some of the best talent in Japan, such as Hiroto Kyoguchi and Masataka Taniguchi, who will not only train with Shigeoka but also inspire him to make the most of his incredible skill set. In fact it was Taniguchi that Shigeoka had his pro-test bout with earlier this year, and Shigeoka really impressed with his skills and speed.
On paper Dante looks like a typical "opponent", a record with a lot of losses and a handful of draws. On paper he should be no threat for a fighter with the potential of Shigeoka. The reality however is totally different and Dante is a nightmare to fight. He's as tough as they come and can fight hard for 12 rounds. He's not an explosive puncher, but he's a solid puncher who has given fits to a who's who of the Asian scene. He has given tests to the likes of Vic Saludar, Takumi Sakai, Jesse Espinas, Tibo Monabesa and has also travelled to push Simpiwe Konkco and Siyabonga Siyo to12 round decisions. Notably however is the fact that he scores his biggest win back in March, when he upset Tsubasa Koura.
Dante is strong, tough and has under-rated technical abilities. He is the sort of fighter who you need to respect when facing him. Of course he's not world class, a monster puncher, or lightning quick, but he's a human boulder who keeps coming forward and a fighter needs to pick on his flaws, rather than go to war with him. To beat Dante a fighter needs to be disciplined, quick and light on their feet. They need to be up for the fight, but fight smartly, and if they try go toe to toe with him it will not end well.
We expect Shigeoka to have studied the Dante Vs Koura fight, and to build a game plan around his movement, his energy and his speed. He has the advantages in reach and speed and despite the lack of professional experience he has got the tools to win, especially in a 6 rounder, he just needs to make sure he uses them properly. If Dante can force the action to be fought up close, this could be a very painful night for Shigeoka who may not have the heart to survive the trouble that Dante could bring if this ends up a rough fight up close.
This is a high risk bout for Shigeoka, but it's fair to assume it's a calculated risk from the fighter and his team who will be looking to make a big splash in the sport in 2020. They'll know the key here is to win, and we suspect that is what they'll do, even if it's not a pretty win.
Prediction - UD6 Shigeoka
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.