On September 3rd the EDION Arena Osaka, in Osaka will play host to a WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight title fight, as the world ranked Riku Kano (19-4-1, 10) faces Yuga Inoue (13-2-1, 2) for the vacant belt. The bout will push the winner to the verges of a WBO world title fight, against fellow Japanese fighter Junto Nakatani, whilst the loser will begin the arduous climb back to where they are, a task that could be a rather tricky one in a division with the emerging talent that Flyweight currently has.
Of the two men the more well known is 24 year old Kano, who debuted way back in 2013,as a 16 year old, and quickly earned attention by winning the WBA Asia Minimumweight title in 2014. At that point Kano was just 17 and wasn't old enough to even debut in Japan despite having a 5-1-1 (3) record. He made his long awaited Japanese debut the following year, winning the OPBF "interim" title in 2016 before fighting for the WBO title in an attempt to become the youngest ever Japanese world champion, a dream ended by Katsunari Takayama. Since that loss to Takayama we've seen Kano go 9-2 and show real development. He looked like an immature youngster against Shin Ono in 2018, boxing well until being cut and then bullied into submission, but has developed into a brave, tough young man, showing real determination and guts to defeat Tetsuya Mimura, Ryoki Hirai and Takuma Sakae in recent bouts. He's not longer the frail child who looks like he could be broken mentally, but instead looks like a genuine fighter, who has learned from his set backs, and physically matured as he's moved from Minimumweight, to Light Flyweight and now to Flyweight.
In the ring Kano has always been a rather technical fighter, who has a lot of speed, with hand and feet. He's never been a big puncher, but he's a clean accurate puncher, who lands and gets in and out. In his Flyweight debut we so a more physical side to him, as he stopped Sanchai Yotboon in 2 rounds, but that bout really doesn't tell us what he's going to be like as a Flyweight, given Yotboon's limitations and the fact he's a natural Miniumweight himself. We expect a Flyweight Kano to focus on his speed, his accuracy and his skills and movement, and not massively change his style, especially not here as he takes on a legitimate test at the weight. Sadly at 5'4" he's not a physical match for the top guys at the weight, and will struggle with the heavier handed fighters at 112lbs, though to his credit he is a tricky southpaw and he is genuinely talented, even if he's yet to live up to the potential he clearly has.
As for Inoue, no relation to Naoya, the 23 year old debuted in 2016 and got a lot of attention in 2017 when he won the All Japan Rookie of the Year at Minmumweight. Sadly for Inoue his unbeaten record came to an end less than 11 months after his Rookie of the Year triumph as he was broken down in a 6 round thriller against Kai Ishizawa, in what was a brilliant bout for the Japanese Youth Minimumweight title. Since then Inoue's body has filled out as he's matured and gone 6-1 (1) winning the Japanese Youth title along the way. He has, notably, faced solid domestic foes, including the likes of Daiki Kameyama, Katsuya Murakami, Daiki Tomita and Aoba Mori, but unfortunately for him his form belies a man who has regularly struggled at this level. Whilst his 6-1 record since the Ishizawa fight looks good, it should be noted that it includes 4 controversial decision wins and there is a feeling that he has had the benefit of the doubt in a number of bouts.
In the ring Inoue is a technically well polished fighter, with a lovely jab, good balance and quick feet. He moves around the ring well, he looks poised and polished, and his jab really is the key to his work. There are other weapons in his arsenal, but there's no denying his best work is either the jab it's self, or comes off the jab. Sadly though the lack of variation in what he does is really against him, and whilst his jab is polished his other punches don't look very natural to him and they seem like they need real work. The lack of power is also something that's against him, and although he's still young, at 23, it does appear that he isn't going to develop much in terms of punching power. A double issue given how forced and pushed his shots in general are. It's due to his lack of power and lack of variation that many of his bouts end up being really close, as fighters figure him out, work out his jab and then begin to rack up points. Here that will be a massive issue against someone as well rounded as Kano.
To beat Kano the main tactic has been to bully him, either with physicality or work rate. Set a tempo he doesn't like, keep it up and watch him crumble. Sadly for Inoue he doesn't look to be the type of fighter who can either set a high output for 12 rounds, which he'd need to given his lack of power, or hurt him with any single shot and get his respect that way. Instead we expect the rather back approach of Inoue, and the lack of pop in his shots, in general, to work to Kano's advantage. Kano will show his speed early on, maybe losing a battle of jabs for the first few rounds, but then begin to show more variation, changing things up, and simply out work and out fight Inoue en route to a clear decision win over 12 rounds.
Prediction - UD Kano
This coming Saturday fight fans in Kobe will get the chance to see a new Japanese Youth Light Flyweight champion being crowned, as Yuga Inoue (11-2-1, 2) and Aoba Mori (7-2-1, 1) face off for the currently vacant title, which was vacated earlier this year by Yudai Shigeoka.
For Inoue this will be his second shot at a title, following a loss to Kai Ishizawa back in a 2018 clash for the Youth Minimumweight title, whilst Mori will be getting his first shot at a belt. For both men however this will be regarded as a great chance to put their name on the map and potentially open doors to bigger and better fights down the line. Given they are both young, they will both know a loss isn't the end of the road, but a win would be a huge boost to their standing in the sport.
Of the two men it's the 22 year old Inoue who is the more known. Despite the surname, he's not related to "Monster" Naoya Inoue, or the always fun to watch Takeshi Inoue, and unlike those men he's also not from a massive area, fighting out of Hyogo rather than Tokyo. Despite that he has managed to carve out a solid career for himself since debuting as a teenager in 2016. He went unbeaten in his first 8 bouts, won the 2017 All Japan Rookie of the Year and gave Kai Ishizawa fits back in 2018. Since the loss to Ishizawa Inoue has gone 4-1 with his sole loss being a competitive one to Daiki Tomita, whilst he has picked up good wins against Daiki Kameyama, Katsuya Murakami and Tetsuya Mimura.
In the ring Inoue is a very skilled boxer mover. He's light on his feet, has a very solid jab, uses upper body movement really well and despite not having much power he does put his shots together really well. Inoue's big problem is that he can't get respect of opponents, which is a real shame as he's an excellent boxer, with a lot of good technical skills, and an exciting style. At times he can look a bit deliberate with what he does, but he's certainly able to mix things up thanks to his fast, crisp shots, and lovely combinations.
Mori is 21 years old, and like Inoue debuted as a teenager, back in 2017. Unlike Inoue however his career didn't get off to a great start, losing in his debut against Kaito Takeshima. In fact Mori could easily have been 0-7 in his first 7 bouts, instead of 5-2, with all of his early wins being razor thin decisions that could easily have gone the other way. Since those early struggles however we have seen Mori begin to mature and last time out he scored his first stoppage win, taking out Keisuke Iwasaki. Now in his early 20's he seems to have matured from a young, light punching kid into a youngster with enough power to get the respect of his opponents, even if he will never be a KO artist.
In the ring Mori is flawed but a fun to watch youngster who brings pressure, and an exciting style. Sadly he really does lack power, and while he is maturing he doesn't look a physically imposing kid, or someone who's ever going to have true fight changing power. Instead he seems like someone who's going to be in fun fights, but has a style which will lead to him losing bots and taking punishment when he faces better fighters. The key to Mori's pressure is his upper body movement, and he is a fighter who is hard to catch clean, lets his hands go and fighters like someone who trusts his chin, when he needs to.
We expect to see Mori coming forward, pressing and trying to make this into a war, forcing the tempo and letting shots go. Sadly for him we don't think he'll get Inoue's respect, and instead we're expecting to see Inoue land a lot of clean jabs, slowly chipping away at Mori. As the rounds go on, the shots of Inoue will begin to break down Mori, who'll show his toughness and see out the final bell, but will finish the bout with a swollen face and battered looking face.
Related - UD8 Inoue
This coming Wednesday fight fans in Kyoto will be watching out for a WBC world title fight, as Kenshiro Teraji defends against Masamichi Yabuki. That bout isn't the only title bout on the show however, as Aoba Mori (7-2-1, 1) takes on Yuga Inoue (11-2-1, 2) for the Japanese Youth Flyweight title. On paper this isn't a big bout, not by any stretch, but it's an interesting bout between two young men each looking to make a statement and begin to move their career's forward in a big way.
Of the two men it's Inoue who's the more well known having on the All Japan Rookie of the Year back in 20017, as well as having had a brilliant bout for the Japanese Minimumweight title in 2018, with Kai Ishizawa, and facing strong domestic competition since then. Aged 22 he is a promising fighter, even with a couple of losses to his name, but doesn't yet appear to be even close to the finish product, technically or physically.
Inoue is a very skilled boxer-mover. He's light on his feet, likes to fight behind his jab and unleash short but sharp combinations before getting out of harm. As he's grown he has developed more to his game, but still seems to lack in terms of his power game, and whilst he does look a lot stronger than he was when he faced Ishizawa he stills looks like he's a long way from reaching his physical prime and we might not see the best of him for a while still. Sadly his lack of power is an issue, and when he takes on better fighters they will try to walk him down, with a lack of respect for what's coming back. That is something he will need to work on before even dreaming of taking on the best in the country.
Whilst Inoue has been on the radar for a while the same can't be said of Aoba Mori who really isn't too well known, even by those who follow Japanese domestic boxing. The 21 year old He debuted in 2017, losing on debut up at Bantamweight, but has slowly slipped down the weights and has been fighting around Flyweight, or Super Flyweight in most of his recent bouts. Sadly his competition doesn't really stand out, and there's not really any recognisable opponents on there. On paper this is, his biggest fight so far, by a huge margin though he should come in to the ring as the bigger man, the stronger man, and trickier man, given he's a southpaw.
Whilst there isn't too much footage of Aoba out there there is enough to get a look into what he brings to the ring. He's a someone who fights very upright, uses a nice southpaw jab, though looks very inexperienced at times, and does look like someone who is a youngster at the formative years of his career. He's not sharp, his footwork is rough and he often throws his left hand whilst well out of range. Despite there there are some nice things he does and he does look aggressive, he looks like he comes to press and is improving fight by fight. Sadly, like Inoue, he lacks power and seems to slap rather than punch through the target.
Whilst we know Aoba will be the taller, bigger man, we do feel this is too much of a step up in class for him. He will have moments, but we feel that Inoue's more rounded boxing, more eye catching flurries and higher level of experience will prove to be the difference in a very competitive but drama free 8 rounder. Don't expect to see either man being all that hurt, or dropped, but that shouldn't take away from this being hotly contested, and both men having a chance to show what they can do at times.
Prediction - UD8 Inoue
Every so often we get a bout that just stands out to us as being worth a little extra interest, even if the don't have any title implications or long term significance. It's just, a bout, but an interesting one. This coming Saturday we get one such bout as former Rookie of the Year winners Yuga Inoue (7-1-1, 1) and Daiki Kameyama (7-3-1, 2) get it on in a 6 round bout in Hyogo.
To fans out side of Japan this bout has little real significance, and even for those in Japan it's not a major bout, but it is a compelling bout between two very talented young men, each looking to bounce back from a loss last time out and looking to get back on the right track. It's a bout that will put the winner on the verge of a Japanese ranking, and leave the loser with work to do, but a lot of time to do that work.
The younger of the two men is 20 year old Inoue. Despite his surname he is no relation to the Inoue brothers but he is an exceptionally talented young man. Hailing from Hyogo Inoue made his name in 2017, when he won the Minimumweight rookie of the year, moving his record to 5-0-1 along the way. Along the way to the Rookie crown he had beaten the likes of Daiki Yamanaka and Retsu Akabane and had taken a draw against Tatsuro Nakashima, himself a still promising hopeful.
With the Rookie tournament behind him Inoue entered 2018 with real expectation and towards the end of the year had his first title bout, taking on the hard hitting Kai Ishizawa. Through the first 4 rounds Inoue looked the much better boxer. He neutralised Ishizawa's power and offense with his smart boxing, sharp punching and ability to get in and out of range. Despite the success Inoue made some novice mistakes, standing and trading just a little too much, and after a cut in round 5 he was beaten into submission in round 6. He's not fought since then, but showed enough, in defeat, to remain hopeful about. What that loss showed was that the youngster, whilst talented, wasn't physically mature, and lacked not only power but also a physical strength, it was almost as if staying at 105lbs had taken it's toll, so moving up seemed logical and looks to be what he's done here, as he heads into the bout with Kameyama by moving up to Light Flyweight.
Kameyama took a year longer to make his mark on the sport, though his rise has been just as notable. He lost on debut, to Yuya Gunji in 2016 before suffering a pair of setbacks in 2017 to all action warrior Tsuyoshi Sato, who held him to a draw in early 2017 and then took a decision over him later in the year. In 2018 he went on to win the Rookie of the Year at Light Flyweight, beating Tetsuya Mimura in the final. Sadly his only bout since the Rookie triumph was a wide decision loss to Shokichi Iwata, in what was Iwata's Japanese debut. Despite the loss to Iwata, who is an sensational prospect, the 22 year old Kameyama cannot be written off and it's clear he can, and should, be able to come again.
What we saw when Kameyama took on Iwata was a really quick, fighter, who looked to do things, but was simply up against one of the best prospects in world boxing. There was so much talent on show here that the bout really didn't get the attention it deserved and it was obvious that Kameyama had the ability to go a long way, with a lovely southpaw jab and smart boxing. Just unfortunately for all his good work, it was just not even close to being enough against someone like Iwata.
With Inoue and Kameyama now facing off one thing we're sure about is that we're in for a treat as two highly skilled young fighters are taking each other on in a battle of skill. Both are very talented and both are very quick, so this should be a bout that flies by with real technical skills on show. Inoue will have to show how he looks at Light Flyweight, and how he copes with the southpaw stance, and Kameyama will have to deal with the sharp straight punching of Inoue. Both will have to answer questions as to how they are after losing last time out.
We favour Kameyama to take home the win, making the most of his southpaw stance, but the reality is this is a total toss up, and should be seen as one of the potential gems of the month. This is the sort of fight that should interest purists, and those who love watching competitive bouts and prospects. A genuinely excellent match up.
Prediction - SD6 Kameyama
One of the most exciting things to come out of Japan over the last couple of years has been the Japanese Youth titles. The titles were brought in to give young prospects a chance to gain a title before progressing onto senior titles, and as a domestic alternative to the WBC Youth titles. The belts haven't really got much attention since they were brought in, on what was essentially a trial period. Recently the JBC began to recognise them, and their potential positives effects on the domestic scene, and we'll be honest we genuinely do like them. They don't thin the talent pool like some of the other titles, as their market is so niche, but they do provide some very interesting match ups.
One such bout is a Japanese Youth Minimumweight title bout between 2017 All Japan Rookie of the Year Yuga Inoue (7-0-1, 1) and the big punching Kai Ishizawa (4-0, 4), set for November 10th. Had their been no Japanese youth title we don't think we'd be getting this bout, as both fighters would likely prefer to build towards a national or regional title bout, but with the Youth title up for grabs we're expecting a genuine treat.
Inoue, no relation to Naoya Inoue, made his debut in August 2016 as a 17 year old, scraping a decision over Kisei Takada. He would secure another win before the year, over Riki Kakazu before coming into his own in 2017. In November 2017 he won the West Japan Rookie of the Year, despite only earning a draw with the then 6-0 Tatsuro Nakashima in the final before winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year in December with a victory over fellow teenager Retsu Akbane. The win over Akbane was the one that really caught the eye with Inoue genuinely impressing through the bout. Since his big Rookie of the Year victory he has fought just once, scoring a stoppage win over Daisuke Sudo this past May, sadly failing to build on the Rookie triumph though would make up for lost time if he was to claim the Youth title.
In the ring Inoue is a very sharp puncher and educated fighter who can fight either on the front foot or the back foot. At his best he seems to be a very sharp counter puncher, and finds gaps where we wouldn't typically expect such a novice to see them. His body punching is crisp, and he looks to be a fighter who enjoys countering inside the pocket, showing real composure. The one major issue is his lack of power, having only scored a single stoppage, and he has been cut before, making us wonder about how his skin will hold up against a puncher.
Ishizawa on the other hand made his debut in June 2017, as a 20 year old, and was put into a 6 round bout straight away, beating an over-match Thai foe in the second round. He would follow that up with another second win over Yoshimitsu Kushibe and then an opening round win over another visiting Thai. It was however in his 4th bout that he really impressed, stopping the aforementioned Tatsuro Nakashima who had held Inoue to a draw last year. Sadly he was unable to build on that win when he had to pull out of a Japanese Youth title bout against Daiki Tomita due to a nose injury. That was a set back, but something he has recovered from, and like Inoue he will be wanting to make up for lost time as he looks to win his first title.
It was clear from the first minute of Ishizawa's debut that he was a very exciting fighter, who loved to bring the heat and put opponents under intense pressure straight away. He's a very powerfully built fighter and has serious belief in his power and physicality. There is a little bit of a crudeness to him, as we tend to expect in such a novice, but he looks calm, throws really spiteful body shots and looks to behead opponents. Given his physicality he's going to be a monster in the years to come, as he develops the know how to go with his power.
We believe that Inoue is the better boxer, he's technically better, sharper and more accurate. Sadly for him however his lack of power won't discourage Ishizawa who will apply his pressure and look to break down his foe. We suspect that pressure will pay off, and Ishizawa will grind down Inoue in 4 or 5 rounds of a great action fight. Inoue will certainly have moments, but the physical traits of Ishizawa will simply be too much for him to deal with.
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.