This coming Saturday we'll see Japanese Youth Featherweight champion Hiroki Hanabusa (9-2-3, 3) attempt to make his first defense of the title, which he won last November when he upset Kyonosuke Kameda, as he takes on fellow youngster Toshiyuki Takahashi (7-4, 4).
The 23 year old Hanabusa, from Ishikawa, made his debut in 2017 and had good success early on, and even won the 2018 All Japan Rookie of the Year at Super Bantamweight. At that point the then 20 year old was 5-0-2 and looking like a genuine one to keep an eye in the always competitive Japanese Super Bantamweight scene. Sadly since that solid start he has had some mixed results, going 4-2-1, with a notable 2020 loss in a Japanese Super Bantamweight title fight against the slippery and skilled Toshiki Shimomachi, and a 2021 loss to fast rising Teiken hopeful Katsuya Fukui. More telling than his post-Rookie of the Year results however was his struggle to get a notable win, with his first 3 post Rookie of the Year wins coming against limited foreign opponents. It wasn't until late last year that things changed, with his notable win over Kameda for the title.
In the ring Hanabusa is something of an aggressive technical fighter. He comes forward a lot, throws a lot of busy, sharp jabs and keeps opponents working to either create space and keep him away, or to respect to his jabs. He's not a powerful fighter, or a physically imposing one, but he's busy, sharp, busy and awkward, with an educated lead hand. He can jab just as well to the body as he can to the had, and he comes out like a man who feels he can win on his jab alone. Despite the jab lead offense Hanabusa is also a pretty smart fighter, who can counter well when he needs to and to beat him you need to genuinely be a good fighter. Losses to Fukui and Shimomachi are not bad losses to have and both have come to top domestic prospects. One thing that is working against him however, is that he does look someone what lightweight, and when a fighter puts it on him, as we saw in the later rounds against Kameda.
As for Takahashi, the 22 year old from Kanagawa also debuted in 2017, but unlike Hanabusa he never really had much early career momentum. He lost in his debut and would later go on to lose 3 in a row, as he fell to 3-4. From then however he has really found his groove, winning his last 4 bouts. Sadly however his competition during that 4 fight run doesn't tell us much at all, and all of the opponents were limited, with none of them having wins in more than 50% of their bouts. Despite that he will have confidence coming in to this. Notably however he has been having his best success at Super Bantamweight and not Featherweight.
Footage of Takahashi isn't widely available, unfortunately, but there is enough out there to get a read on him. In the ring he looks quick, uses some nice footwork to get just out of range and also apply intelligent pressure. He's not a big puncher but he does look very quick and sharp. Sadly his punches aren't as crisp as his movement and footwork, though with some time to polish off we suspect that can be changed, and there is certainly a good prospect in him, though he's also very much a work in progress. Sadly he's defensively lacking in polish and looks like he doesn't enjoy being the one getting bullied, instead he wants to be on the front foot, exerting pressure with his footwork and not being backed up unless he wants to be.
Although footage of Takahashi is hard to come bye, from what there is out there, it's hard to see what he brings to the table to really test Hanabusa. Hanabusa looks sharper offensively, smarter, more accurate and busier. Takahashi doesn't belong alongside the likes of Fukui and Shimonachi, at least for now, and we can't help but feel he's been hand picked to help make Hanabusa look good, especially with his long, piercing jab.
The question, we feel, is not whether Hanabusa will win, but more whether or not he can break down his foe. We're not sure he can, but we are pretty sure he will retain his title here.
Prediction - UD8 Hanabusa
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.