Tokunaga and Sugizaki, not the biggest names in Japan but one will become a champion on April 30th...
Although April ends with a trio of Japanese title title fights one really sticks out like a sore thumb. That's the Lightweight title bout between Kota Tokunaga (14-2, 9) and Yuya Sugizaki (20-9-1, 6), for a title that was vacated earlier this year by Yoshitaka Kato. This is, unfortunately, the one bout of the 3 that lacks any major interest and is one that is clearly between fighters who aren't the best in Japan. In fact it's hard to even describe them as being #3 and #4 in the country.
Saying that however it is a contest that will mean the world to both men who know that this is their chance to become a champion, their chance to make a name for themselves and their chance to get some attention.
Of the two men involved in the bout it's Tokunaga who enters as the JBC #1 ranked contender. It's a ranking that is hard to explain considering his competition which has been poor for much of his career. The one notable opponent that he has faced, Ronald Pontillas, has actually stopped him in just 154 seconds.
Admittedly part of the reason for Tokunaga's ranking is that a number of other fighters in Japan have decided to look elsewhere for bouts. That includes former champion Kato, who is said to be looking for a world title fight, Takahiro Ao, who has just signed for a world title fight, and Masayoshi Nakatani, the current OPBF champion. On the other hand however he is a very weak #1 ranked fighter based on his record.
What Tokunaga has going for him is “form”. He has won his last 6, following the loss to Pontillas, and 9 of his last 10. That sort of form has been helped by the level of his competition but it's something that few others in Japan at 135lbs can actually claim. Unfortunately for them a lot have come up short against former champion Kato in recent years. It's also worth noting that he's not 25 years old and coming into his prime and at 5'10” he's a giant for the weight.
Sadly footage of Tokunaga is scarce, other than his loss to Pontillas. In the little bit of footage we do have of Tokunaga he's a fighter who looks like he has promise. He seems to be able to use his reach and height and does show a nice jab and a good right hand. Sadly however he also shows his inexperience and a number of defensive issues that eventually forced his demise. If he can tighten up defensively he could well go on to win titles, though even there will always be questions hanging over him about his punch resistance.
Sugizaki is the #2 ranked contender for the title, and unlike his opponent he has been in with several notable fighters. The most notable of those was Jomthong Chuwatana who stopped him in 3 rounds back in 2011, prior to then he had also been stopped by Daiki Kaneko and had also lost to Koji Kawamura, who later went on to claim the OPBF Super Featherweight title. In more recent times we've seen Sugizaki come up short against Kentaro Yamada, Hiroyasu Matsuzaki and Keiichi Izumi, good but not outstanding fighters.
Whilst Sugizaki has, mostly, lost to the biggest names that he has fought he does have a couple of interesting wins on his ledger, the biggest of which came almost 3 years ago when he stopped Mitsuya Omura. This wins have come at a lower level than title level but we suspect that there some real talent there. Unfortunately footage of him is limited with the best being just a round of his bout with Keiichi Izumi. From that footage Sugizaki looked very poor and was out hustled and out fought with relative ease.
At 28 years old Sugizaki is experienced and mature though he's going to be much smaller than Tokunaga when the men get in the ring together. In fact Sugizaki is going to be giving away close to 5” in height and unless he cut the distance that is going to be very notable, especially given that Tokunaga is a very rangy and long fighter. Of course he has got experience against fighters with good jabs, such as Jomthong, but Tokunaga's is especially long and poses a host of different questions to Jomgthong's thudding and accurate one.
Looking at the little footage of both that we managed to get we have to go with Tokunaga to win. We don't think either “should” be fighting for a Japanese title on merit but given the size and style of Tokunaga he could well become a very difficult fighter to beat. If he uses his size and speed here he should be able to take a decision over Sugizaki. The one fear for the lanky youngster will be his defence though thankfully for him Sugizaki isn't likely to have the power to really bother him here.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
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.