When boxing resumed around the world various took different approaches to preventing boxing causing a wider spread of Covid19. One of the often seen approaches was not allowing fans in venues. This lead to some eerie venues but didn't prevent the in ring action from being great. As a result we ended up some amazing bouts that were in near empty arenas. Today, for our Treasure Trove bout, we share what was one of the best contests in Japan during their "no fan era".
Satoshi Shimizu (8-1, 8) vs Kyohei Tonomoto (9-2-1, 4)
In one corner was 2012 Olympic bronze medal winner Satoshi Shimizu, who had turned professional in 2016 and looked likely to go a long way, quickly. Within 13 months of his debut he had taken the OPBF Featherweight title and was becoming a must watch fighter. He was crude, he was exciting, he had dynamite hands and awkward, clumsy style. He was there to be hit, but he was also able to completely destroy opponents with a wide, looping shot.
After winning the OPBF title Shimizu made 4 defenses before dipping his toe at Super Featherweight in 2019, and he lost to Joe Noynay. This year he return to Featherweight in pursuit of his 5th title defense, taking on fellow Japanese fighter Kyohei Tonomoto.
Aged 25 Tonomoto wasn't much of a name fighter. His most notable results had been a loss to Reiya Abe in the 2014 All Japan Rookie of the Year and a win over Hikaru Matsuoka in 2019 for the Japanese Youth Featherweight title. Despite not achieving much as a professional he spoke confidently heading into this fight and seemed to feel his aggression and youth were going to be keys to defeating the 34 year old champion.
From the off Tonomoto backed up his words. He was aggressive and energetic, pressing forward and taking the fight to Shimizu, who looked shocked and defensively awkward under the pressure from Tonomoto, who used his head movement well to make Shimizu miss. And then half way through the round we saw the power of Shimizu as he scored his first knockdown. That seemed to spur Tonomoto on, as he got up and pinned Shimizu on the ropes, and unloaded on him. In his pursuit of the champion Tonomoto was dropped for the second time. Shimizu then went for the finish, we ended round one with the two men unloading bombs on each other.
Neither knockdown had hurt Tonomoto, but they had taken what would have been a 10-9 round in his favour to a 10-7 round to Shimizu.
Despite being down twice in the opening round Tonomoto showed no fear of his dangerous opponent. He went to him again, he took the fight to Shimizu once again, despite eating some huge shots from the champion. In the final minute of the round he seemed to shake Shimizu, who returned fire as the two men went to war once again. By the end of the round Tonomoto seemed to realise Shimizu hit too hard, and the following he tried to lure Shimizu in, countering the champion, who began to look unsure of himself. It made for an interesting shift in dynamic for the fight and saw Shimizu miss, a lot.
Following a really exciting start to the bout the pace slowed down in round 4 as Tonomoto continued to be more cautious than he had been in the early stages, though he still managed to catch Shimizu with some solid shots. Sadly for him however he couldn't hurt the champion, who's power was always a concern. That power also got Shimizu out of danger in round 5, when Tonomoto did begin to pile on the pressure again, early in the round. Sadly though the challenger began to look weary in round 6, he was still giving a genuine account of himself, but it seemed, at last, as if he was wondering whether he had the artillery needed to turn things around.
The following round Tonomoto went out like a man who had decided to go out swinging. He started fast, and seemed to hurt Shimizu in the first minute of the round. It seemed it was now or never for the challenger. Sadly however Shimizu gritted it out, and returned the punishment with interest, pinning Tonomoto on the ropes and landing heavy leather, forcing the referee to step in after 2 huge left hands.
The awkwardness of Shimizu along with the energy of Tonomoto really made this a fun fight, particularly in the first 2 rounds. It wasn't a fight of the Year contender, by any stretch, but it was a real fun war and well worth watching. The start was great, we had real fun back and forth through out, even in the quieter rounds. Despite the lack of fans the action spoke for it's self, and made this a truly enjoyable war.
We kicked the 2020 version of this series off with a dramatic and action packed bout from China, and we return to China for another thrilling action packed 4 rounder. In fact we actually return to the same show as the crazy bout between Zixiang Wang and Mukhammadiso Zokhidov for another entertaining, low level, Chinese bout.
Cheng Wang (3-2) vs Xin Liu (1-1, 1)
As is probably the case every time we include a Chinese rookie level bout in this series neither Cheng Wang or Xin Liu are likely to be fighter's you are too familiar with, and that's the great thing about this series. We get to share fights you probably haven't seen, including this little tear up from Rizhao.
Coming in to the bout Cheng Wang was a 20 year old Chinese fight who had 5 bouts under his belt, all of which had gone the distance. He had made his debut in 2017 and won his first 3 bouts in just over 2 months. By the end of 2017 he had amassed his 3-2 record before taking almost 3 years away from the ring, losing his final two bouts.
Xin Liu on the other hand was a teenager who had made his debut in October 2019, in a losing effort, then returned to the ring in early 2020, with a TKO win over a fellow novice. He had then been out of the ring for around 6 months whilst the sport was pretty much put on a global hiatus.
Despite both being boxing novices they both fought like there was some pent up frustration and anger and straight from the opening seconds they were unloading on each other. Wang Cheng, fighting out of the red corner, seemed to try setting the early pace and came forward but almost instantly Liu caught him clean and put his foot on the accelerator. From there on we saw the men take a short breather before they again traded, with Wang again applying the pressure and Liu trying to line something up for his volume.
After such a brilliant opening minute the action did slow down, though we had flash points, and back and forth exchanges through the round, as everything slowed down and both men managed to gain a sense of composure.
With the pace slowing down in round 2 we didn't expect them to pick it up at the start of round 2, but that's exactly what they did as we ended up with another brilliant start to a round. This time however the pace didn't really slow down in the same way. Some of the action was messy on the inside, but for the most part this was a brilliant 3 minutes of action with both men landing plenty of leather. The action, when it was clean, was intense and thrilling, and when the bout slowdown it seemed like the men were giving not just themselves but also us, the viewers, a chance to catch out breath before moving through the gears once again.
The action again started hot in round 3, with Wang pressing and pressuring on the front foot, trying to make his strength and physical maturity count. Liu on the hand looked to create space, use his hand speed and land the eye catch shots. This made for a great dynamic, as it had earlier in the bout, but this round, unlike the others, was mostly a clean round, with the men punching out of the clinches and working on the inside. This change helped limit the pauses in the action as we ended up with 3 brilliant minutes of violence.
Sadly we didn't quite see round 4 match the intensity and excitement of round 3, but it was another round that saw a lot of leather being traded, some amazing back and forth action, and Liu really testing Wang's chin. It also saw the referee trying to keep their hands out of the action and it mad for one or two strange moments as the two fighters tried to do enough to claim a victory in a very close bout.
Don't get us wrong this was messy at times, it was spoiled somewhat by holding and spoiling, but like a good roller coaster those moments just added to the anticipation of the bouts peaks, the wild and thrilling exchanges.
If you want fun little war to watch you could do a lot, lot worse than taking the 20 minutes or so to watch this little gem from the Antai Tennis Park in Rizhao!
It's fair to say that much of the Western world is looking forward to waking up on December 25th an unwrapping their gifts as we have Christmas celebrations and a day to look forward in a year that has brought so much frustration, sadness and anger. Thankfully for fight fans right around the world we'll be getting a second day of gifts as A-Sign Boxing give us a sensational show on December 26th, a day dubbed "boxing day" in some parts of the world. For this week's one to watch we're picking a bout from that December 26th show, and it's one that should be a brilliant technical war, pitting a former world champion against a current OPBF champion.
The One to Watch?
Masayuki Ito (26-2-1, 14) vs Hironori Mishiro (9-0-1, 3)
December 26th 2020 (Saturday)
On paper this is a truly fantastic match up, pitting two talented fighters against each other, both desperate for a win in what looks like the best non-title bout from the post-Christmas run. One man is a former world champion looking to bounce back from his title loss, and very frustrating 2020, whilst the other is an Oriental champion looking to claim a major scalp and move to within touching distance of a world title fight. Together they should make for a very, very high level match up and a very interesting mix of styles.
Of the two men it's Masayuki Ito who will be the more well known. The former WBO Super Featherweight champion made his biggest mark on the boxing world in July 2018, when he upset Christopher Diaz in the US to claim the previously vacant title. He would go on to make a single successful defense, stopping Evgeny Chuprakov, before losing the belt in an underwhelming performance against Jamel Herring. Since then he has fought just once, taking a win over Ruben Manakane, and had a number of issues, including surgery earlier this year.
In the ring Ito is a very capable fighter. Early in his career he was a good technical boxer, but as he developed physically he became more of a boxer-puncher and went from 15-0-1 (6) to 26-2-1 (8), scoring stoppages in 8 of his last 11 wins. There is a decent boxer inside him, but now a days he has been relying a lot more on his right hand than he used to. It has made him more fun to watch, but has also lead to a number of bad habits. Regardless, he's a very capable boxer, though does struggle with southpaws and can be made to look basic by fighters who move and neutralise his right hand. Despite being somewhat basic he has crafted a very good record for himself with wins against the likes of Diaz, Chuprakov, Takuya Watanabe, Ernie Sanchez, Masao Nakamura, Taiki Minamoto and Masaru Sueyoshi.
In the other corner will be the unbeaten Hironori Mishiro, a 26 year old who has been on the fast track since turning professional in 2017. After 3 rather low key bouts he began to take on, and beat, very good fighters like Shuma Nakazato and Shuya Masaki. In 2018, just 15 months after his debut, he became the OPBF champion outpointing Carlo Magali in a brilliant 12 bout before fighting to a draw with Masaru Sueyoshi, in an OPBF/JBC title unification bout. Since then he has recorded 3 more defenses of his Oriental title, beating Takuya Watanabe, Ryo Takenaka and most recently Yoshimitsu Kimura,
Although not well known in the west Mishiro has shown an ability to box and fight. He lacks power, but makes up for that in his skills, movement, boxing IQ and now how in the ring. When he needs to dig his toes in he can do just that, as we saw against Kimura, Sueyoshi and Magali, and we've also seen him look like an excellent boxer, with a quick jab, solid movement and a sharp right hand. Sadly his lack of power is 1 of 2 issues we have with him, the others being question marks about his chin and durability, as we have seen him hurt before, and his killer instinct. But in terms of skills he is a very, very good fighter.
What to expect?
Given that both men have been out of the ring for over a year we expect a very tense and tight start to the bout. Both men are talented, but will be rusty, and will be wary of taking a risk too earlier, especially Ito given his surgery earlier this year. Thankfully though we do expect the fight to warm up nicely in the middle rounds and by round 4 or 5 we expect this to be a very good, chess match.
We're expecting the fluid jab and movement of Mishiro to give Ito problems in the middle rounds, and make it hard for the former world champion to land his heavier shots, and essentially become rather frustrated with the movement of Mishiro when the two men are at range. He'll then need to change tactics, and follow the game plan that Kimura used to good effect against Mishiro, bullying. In the late part of the fight expect Ito to get up close, out muscle and out hustle Mishiro, reeling back the rounds that he lost in the middle portion of the fight, maybe even stunning or dropping Mishiro.
After 10 rounds we do not expect there to be much between the two men in a very close bout.
The bad news?
The real bad news here is one that will be a problem to Western fans specifically and that's the timing of this bout. The bout is part of an earlier than normal Japanese card, and to watch it Americans on the East coast will have to stay up after mid-night, whilst Europeans will need to get up very early on December 26th to see the bout live. It should be a great bout, but the day after Christmas might be one where fight fans from Europe and Africa could be nursing a sore head following a much needed Christmas celebration.
To us one of the most interesting things in boxing is watching a prospect develop, mature and, eventually, win world titles. Their story, from novice professional to top of the mountain, is one of the best and is something we truly love. With that in mind the early tests for a fighter are really important to us. For today's Treasure Trove we're going to look at one such bout for a Thai prospect, as he went in with a former world champion. The bout provided not just a real test for a great prospect, but also had some great action, and was certainly not and easy win for a touted youngster.
This Treasure Trove wasn't so much a thrilling fight, though it's certainly not a bad one, but is instead a brilliant performance by a man who came of age in a major step up.
Thananchai Charunphak (7-1, 5) vs Kompayak Porpramook (60-8, 41)
Of the two fighters it's probably fair to say that 19 year old Thananchai Charunphak is the less well known. He was a former Thai youth amateur who turned professional in 2017. Although he won his debut he did suffer an early career set back, to fellow talented youngster Phongsaphon Panyakum. Less than a month after his loss Thananchai was back in the ring, picking up his second win, and by the end of 2018 he was 6-1, with a very notable win over Samartlek Kokietgym. He was beginning to look like one of the hottest prospects in Thailand, and on to watch. He was only a teenager, but a damn good one.
Kompayak Porpramook on the other hand was a true veteran. The 37 year old was a former WBC Light Flyweight champion who had had 68 professional bouts. Win or lose few had an easy time with Porpramook who was a physically scary fighter, always pressing forward and always able to take a lot of punishment without backing down from a fighter. Sadly for Kompayak his hard career had began catching up with him in recent years, and he had lost 3 of his previous 4. Despite those loss he was regarded not as a journeyman but as a gatekeeper, and few were able to stop him. In fact his last stoppage loss had come all the way back in 2012, when he was stopped in 6 rounds by Adrian Hernandez.
Coming in we had talented, but some what untested, youngster against dogged veteran, who was looking to prove he was more than just a stepping stone.
From the opening moments Kompayak was pressing forward, cautious pressuring behind his guard. Thananchai, to his credit, looked to keep things long and at range, using his speed and movement to try and neutralise the pressure of the veteran. Kompayak however was never a fighter who was easily dissuaded from coming forward and by the end of the opening round he was forcing Thananchai to work hard to stay off the ropes. Kompayak wasn't having massive amounts of success with his own output but was starting press more and more intently as the round came to an end.
In round 2 we began to see Kompayak letting his hands go, following his pressure with work rate as he slowly looked to turn the fight into his type of fight. Sadly for Kompayak this began to force Thananchai to move up a gear, and he began to let combinations go, and show a more spiteful side as he hammered Kompayak with some heavy blows. The plan from Kompayak likely expected this though, and he managed get through with a few of his own solid shots whilst putting the teenager under intense pressure.
Part way through round 3 the heavy, clean, hurtful shots of Thananchai had left Kompayak with nasty swelling around his left eye. It was clear the shots that Thananchai was landing were taking a toll, but they weren't dissuading Kompayak, who continued marching forward in round 4, desperate to drag Thananchai into his fight, and make it a high intensity war on the inside. In round 4 we finally saw glimpses of a war forming, as Thananchai was occasionally caught and was forced to respond, but they were only glimpses as the youngster continued to shine, showing off his movement and ring craft.
As the rounds went on Kompayak continued to march forward, round after round the veteran came forward, his right eye swelling in round as Thananchai used his face for target practice. It was clear that Kompayak was being beaten up, but Thananchai remained composed, stuck to his gameplan and picked his moments, looking less like a teenage prospect and more like an experienced professional picking away at a hungry and determined foe.
Sadly for Kompayak the consistent, heavy shots he was taking continued to take a toll on his face, which had become more and more of a mess. In round 9 it simply became too much, forcing the doctor to wave off the bout.
Whilst this was certainly not an exciting or action packed back and forth, it's rare that we see a teenager completely undress a former world champion like Thananchai did here. It was among the very best performances from a teenager in 2020. It was the sort of break out performance that helps a prospect gets noticed, and was one of the best performance by any Thai in the first half of the year. A really brilliant performance.
For this weeks one to watch we're actually going to cover a bout that will take place this coming Sunday, but won't be shown live until a week later. Given the Christmas period however that might actually work out to be a good thing for the bout, meaning we can all rest watch it after stuffing our faces a few days earlier. The bout in question is an East Japan Rookie of the Year bout, and features someone we are very very high on going up against what should be his toughest test to date.
The One to Watch?
Kosuke Tomioka (4-0, 3) vs Shunpei Kubo (5-1-1, 3)
December 20th (Sunday)
Rookie of the Year action is always worth of attention, but this bout in particular promises a lot, with two young talented punchers both looking to do more than just win, both will be looking to make a statement. In one corner is one of biggest favourites to win the All Japan Rookie of the Year whilst the other corner will house a 23 year old with a point to prove and a chance to make a name for himself on the Japanese domestic scene.
The 18 year old Kosuke Tomioka is regarded by many in Japan as one of the best teenagers in the sport. He's a slippery, skilled southpaw with under-rated power, a confident and cocky air to him and a very fan friendly approach to the ring. His made his professional debut in July 2019, following a solid amateur career, and since then has looked nigh on untouchable. He has blown out opponents early, stopping Shinobu Wakagi and Yota Sato inside a round, shown he can go deeper in bouts when he needs to, stopping Asato Mori in the final second of a 4 rounder, and go the distance against an awkward and negative opponent, which he did against Shota Hara.
We've yet to see Tomioka in any real trouble at any point so far. He has been too quick, too sharp, too good and too heavy handed for any of his first 4 opponents. Sadly this has mean he's not really answered any key questions, such as how he takes a shot, what he's like under intense and prolonged pressure, and how he enjoys an opponent being able to take his power, or match him for speed. Sadly we don't think we'll see him answer those questions for a very long time, just due to how good he is, however they are things we do need to see him prove before getting too excited.
Shunpei Kubo is 23 years old and, like Tomioka, made his debut last year. He began his career with 3 straight wins before being stopped in 4 rounds by Rui Ikari. That could have caused his career to his the skids, but just 4 months later he was back in the ring and beat Shota Hara to get back to winning ways. He then picked up another win this past September, in the Rookie of the Year to progress to East Japan semi-final, where he fought to a draw with Aito Abe. Despite the draw he qualified for the East Japan final due to the rules regarding draws. That draw has earned this shot at Tomioka, and a potential place in the All Japan final next year.
Despite not being as well known as Tomioka there is actually a lot of footage of Kubo out there and he's a really exciting fighter to watch. He has a stiff jab, that looks a good weapon, but is more at home throwing heavy leather, notably his solid left hook and right cross. He looks very relaxed in the ring, and very confident, with a lot of self belief and trust in his power. Sadly however he is very open and when he lets his hands go does over-commit, a lot. So far he's been able to get away with it, with opponents not punishing him, but that day will come if he doesn't tighten up. He puts a lot into what he does, and he does seem like the sort of fighter who is going to struggle with a smart boxer-mover, but thankfully for him there isn't many of those around at this level.
What to expect?
We expect to see Kubo looking to make a fast start, pressing forward, letting his shots go. Sadly for him we do see him flailing at the air a lot, as he tries to pin down Tomioka, but fails to connect with any regularity on the faster, sharper, smarter southpaw. The misses from Kubo will take the gas out of his tires, but he will always look dangerous and if he can connect Tomioka could be in trouble. The left hook of Kubo's will be his big weapon against his southpaw foe.
Whilst Kubo is out there swinging and missing we see Tomioka getting a read on his man, using his legs, moving around Kubo whilst landing single shot counters. Eventually hurting a tired Kubo and then going in for the finish in round 3 or 4. He will, however, need to be cautious as one shot from Kubo might be enough to begin the unravelling process.
We do see this being entertaining, and we do expect to see Tomioka have to work for a victory, but we do see Tomioka, fighting off the pressure and taking a late stoppage victory here.
The bad news?
The only bad news here is that the bout will not be broadcast live. Instead it will be shown on G+ on tape delay. Thankfully though that's not actually too bad, and it'll be shown about 7 days after taking place, with a broadcast set for December 27th.
As part of the Treasure Trove series we have a few distinct things we want to showcase. They are fun fights, top prospects, brutal KO's and great action. Today we look at a bout featuring a top prospect, who was actually making his debut, and looked almost as good as he was hyped to be. Not only are we showing a top prospect but also a brutal KO in a fantastic 2-for-1 offering!
Rentaro Kimura (0-0) vs Yuya Azuma (5-3-1, 1)
Japan's Rentaro Kimura turned professional in 2020 with a fair bit of fanfare and expectation on his shoulders. Those in Japan were tipping him big time, and he himself seemed to have all the tools to be a star. He was a good looking kid, a former stand out amateur, and a man who knew his roots, signing professional with a small gym in Shizuoka rather than a big gym in Tokyo. Although he lacked an Olympic medal or success in the World Amateur Championships, he ticked a lot of boxes to be regarded as a prospect. He had a chance what he could do when he debuted in July in a bout later shown on Fuji TV.
In the opposite corner to Kimura was fellow Japanese fighter Yuya Azuma. On paper Azuma wasn't expected to be much of a test, though in reality his record could have been very different had he had some luck go his way. From his 9 bouts he had had a razor thin loss to the touted Tom Mizokoshi, losing a majority decision there, and a super close split decision loss to Kensuke Fujita. In another time line Azuma could easily have been 8-1 entering this bout. He had never been stopped, was a capable fighter and had enough about him to have fans expecting him to test Kimura.
To begin the bout, in an empty and eerie Korakuen Hall, we saw Kimura boxing boxing on the front foot, backing up Azuma who looked to find errors from Kimura and even tripped him in the opening minute. The trip seemed give Azuma some confidence as he began to get more aggressive, but Kimura began to land harder shots, following his jab with some very stiff left hands, both up top and to the body. With just 2 minutes gone Azuma's face was reddening as Kimura began to unload. By the end of the round it was less a case if "Would Kimura win?" and more "When would Kimura win?"
In round 2 we saw Azuma essentially come out knowing he was in with a special fighter, and he decided that he had to go for it. He put his foot on the gas and showed real hunger to try and turn things around. Kimura tried to put a stop that with a will timed, and truly brutal, low blow, though to his credit Azuma continued to be aggressive after getting a few moments to recover.
This aggressive mentality of Azuma, who had decided he wasn't going down without swinging, really elevated the action and made it more than just a slow and gradual beating. If Azuma had gone negative he'd have lasted longer, sure, but he'd have taken away his only possible route to to victory.
Sadly for Azuma about 70 seconds into round 2 Kimura went into killer mode and landed one of the best combinations we saw all year and totally destroyed Azuma who was laid out in spectacular fashion. This was a KO worthy of replaying over and over, and it was the type of KO that could have got the bout into the Treasure Trove by it's self. The fact it came from a super prospect in his debut made it even better.
If you like prospects this is one for you, if you like brutal finishes this is one for you and if you like both of those things you will love this little treasure from Korakuen Hall!
As we head towards Christmas we have a few interesting shows left, including one on December 14th from Kadoebi. For us that card is one with several intriguing match ups and features a bout we want to highlight in this series. Especially given that the show will be made available to watch on Boxing Raise. The bout isn't one that we suspect will be a FOTY contender, but it is a contest that should be genuinely fascinating to see unfold, and features a man who has thrice fought in the US.
The One to Watch?
Hiroki Okada (19-2, 13) vs Izuki Tomioka (7-3-1, 2)
December 14th (Monday)
Not every bout we talk about in this series will be promising fireworks and excitement, and this one is certainly more focused in intrigue rather than excitement. This match up is a really compelling one between a former national and regional champion, looking to get his career back on track following successive loses, and a rising youngster looking to score his biggest win so far, and secure another big fight in the new year.
The 31 year year old Hiroki Okada is the more well known of the two fighters, but very much the man who is now fighting for his career. Okada began his career 19-0, he had won the Japanese and WBO Asia Pacific titles and even made a successful US debut, beating Cristian Rafael Coria in 2018. And then things fell apart and he suffered back to back KO losses to Raymundo Beltran and Javier Molina, as his world title ambitions fell apart. Now Okada is set to fight for the first time since his two KO losses in 2019.
During his successful run Okada was a solid boxer-puncher, with good ring IQ, decent timing and counter puncher and solid power. He always seemed to lack that extra gear however, and often seemed to fight at quite a low tempo. He liked fights to be slow, controlled, and fought at a comfortable pace. In his losses however, and in a number of other bouts, we've seen him really struggle with a high tempo bout and with quick, sharp fighters. Which could be an issue here. Whilst he is flawed he will also be very wary that another loss he could spell the end of career. A loss to Beltran and Molina are one thing, but a loss on the domestic scene would be much, much harder to come back from.
It can be easy to write off a fighter with a 7-3-1 (2) record, like the 23 year old Izuki Tomioka, however records really aren't always what they seem and in Japan for instance a 7-3-1 type record can mean that the fighter isn't particularly good, or has been matched incredibly hard. Tomioka falls into that second category, his competition has been insane, and he's hard more than his share of success as well. In his short career he has run Masayoshi Nakatani incredibly close, losing by 11th round TKO in a bout that he was very much in, lost a debatable one against Shuya Masaski and was leading Shuichiro Yoshino after 8 rounds. He is perhaps the best 7-3-1 fighter on the planet today and, with a little bit of luck, could well have won titles and have a very different standing in the sport.
What makes Tomioka such a good fighter isn't just the fact he has been a real test for Nakatani, Sasaki and Yoshino, but also his skill set, his size and the tools he has at his arsenal. He's not a puncher or a brawler but instead he's a pretty pure boxer, one of the best in Japan, with an incredible reach and a frame made for boxing. He's tall, and rangy and has a sensational jab, in fact his jab neutralised that of Masayoshi Nakatani when the two men fought. He's quick, he's sharp, he maintains range, he lands and gets away. He is a brilliant boxer. Sadly he is lacking in physical strength and power, his stamina is questionable and he has been stopped in 2 of his 3 losses. But in a pure boxing bout he has the tools to be a nightmare on the Japanese and Oriental scenes. Notably this bout will see him testing the watter at 140lbs, but we really don't see that being an issue for him, he's a big kid, and he's still physically maturing.
What to expect?
We expect Okada to look determined, and the stronger, more powerful man. The one who will be physical when he needs to be. Sadly however we also see him being a man who will be questioning himself and will be real low on confidence. He'll know that another loss and it leaves him in an awful place.
We suspect that early on Okada will be more aggressive than we've seen from him in the past. He'll look to force his will and physicality on Tomioka. On paper it's a good gameplan, and one that really targets a weakness of Tomioka.
Sadly however we're not sure if it's actually going to be a viable tactic here for Okada, who is much slower, clumsier and doesn't have the crisp jab that Tomioka has. He has the heavier shots, but will need to be in range to deliver them against a taller, faster, sharper fighter. Whilst Okada will be trying to hurry and bully Tomioka the younger man will be staying at ranging, jabbing and moving, scoring points, and racking up the rounds.
Over 12, or even 10, rounds Okada may have stood a chance in breaking down Tomioka in the later stages. Over 8 rounds however it's hard to imagine Okada taking enough out of Tomioka's tank to close the show. With that in mind we expect a Tomioka decision win, in a bout that might get messy late on.
The bad news?
For those anticipating a war this isn't going to be that. This is very much a bout where the technical skills of both will be on show and one where Tomioka's speed, size, and jab will be the difference maker. Thankfully however the show will have wars on it, and Matcha Nakagawa Vs Ryo Suwa, Mikio Sakai Vs Toshihiro Kai and Ryoji Fukunaga Vs Kenta Nakagawa should be able to bring the fireworks to the event.
For this weeks one to watch we focus on a bout from the US as a Japanese fighter travels Stateside to take on a talented and touted Puerto Rican fighter in an interesting fight set to be shown on a Top Rank card. The bout isn't a massive one, but it is very much a must win for both men, if they are going to secure themselves a world title bout in the talented laden Lightweight division.
The One to Watch?
Masayoshi Nakatani (18-1, 12) Vs Felix Verdejo (27-1, 17)
December 12th (Saturday)
A former OPBF Lightweight champion looks to build on an impressive performance in a loss 17 months ago as he takes on one of the most highly regarded Puerto Rican hopefuls out there. If both men are 100%, or close to it, this will be a very interesting contest between two men who will likely see a win as their chance to set up a world title fight in the new year. On paper it's maybe not an A* bout, but it's certainly a solid B level match up between world level contenders.
Japan's Masayoshi Nakatani is a 31 year old who was making a name on the amateur scene before turning professional in 2011. After turning professional he was moved quickly and in his 7th bout he won the OPBF Lightweight title with a decision victory over Yoshitaka Kato. He would defend that title 11 times before making his international debut and take on the feared Teofimo Lopez in the US, giving Lopez his toughest bout to date. Although Nakatani lost to Lopez his performance drew positive reviews, with many expecting big things of the Japanese fighter.
Sadly following that loss Nakatani announced his retirement. Only to then un-retire for this bout.
In the ring Nakatani is a tall, awkward fighter, with incredibly long arms, a very solid jab, good straight punches and under-rated body work, as shown in his excellent early career win against Shuhei Tsuchiya. Although not a 1-punch KO artist he's a solid puncher and certainly has enough pop in his shots to get respect. He's a well schooled fighter though he's certainly not the quickest, sharpest, or most agile, and a speedy fighter can give him trouble, as we saw when Izuki Tomioka gave him fits.
Felix Verdejo is a 27 year old Puerto Rican who many expected to be the successor to Miguel Cotto as the next big thing in Puerto Rican boxing. He was an amateur standout, winning over 100 amateur bouts and reaching the quarter finals of the 2012 Olympics, where he lost to Vasyl Lomachenko. Soon after the Olympics he turned professional and it was assumed Top Rank would guide the youngster, who was just 19 when he debuted, to superstardom. Things seemed to be going perfect for Verdejo early on and he reached 22-0 (15) with no problems at all, whilst showing a star winning smile, an exciting and aggressive style and scarcely losing more than a round a fight. Then things crashed, literally, in 2016 as Verdejo was involved in a bike accident. Although he fought in early 2017 the year was pretty much a write off, and then in 2018 things came off the rails when he was stopped in a major upset.
Thankfully for Verdejo things have gotten back on track and he has won 4 in a row, including an eye catching win against the over-matched Will Madera back in July, and looks to be back to the point where is, once again, seen as a star in the making.
Verdejo is a very talented fighter, with a lot of promise, a good ring mind, a lot of amateur experience and good know how. He's not the biggest, strongest or most physically imposing, but he's quick, sharp and when he has a point to prove he fights like a man who is genuine world class. Sadly though he has been inconsistent, and has struggled to impose himself against his better opponents. It's also worth noting that his loss, to Antonio Lozada Torres, came to a man with similar proportions to Nakatani.
What to expect?
Whilst it's easy to look at the Lozada result and query how Verdejo will fare with Nakatani we need to begin this by suggesting that that result really isn't too relevant here. Nakatani is very much boxer, Lozada, despite being tall, is a more of a crude pressure fighter, applying pressure behind his jab and setting a high work rate. That's not to state that we ignore that result all together, as the length and straight shots of Lozada did give Verdejo fits, but Nakatani is a very different type of fighter to the Mexican giant.
We suspect Nakatani will have watched that bout though, and will be looking to have similar success with his jab to what Lozada had, and will also be looking to dig in body shots, another thing Lozada had success with. Sadly for Nakatani though we do wonder whether he has the intensity in him to do what Lozada did.
Given that result we expect to see Verdejo fighting cautiously. Although he's the smaller man he is a speedy fighter and if he uses his footwork well and his hand speed he could end up using a game plan similar to the one Tomioka used against Nakatani. Landing single shots and getting out of dodge. It could make for a boring fight, but he has got the speed for it. Whether he has the temperament is different question. One thing that is clear is that he can't be over-negative, as we've seen from him at times, if he is, and if he doesn't show enough offensively, he will be taking Nakatani's jab at range over, and over.
We expect Verdejo to be really fired up here, and looking to make a statement to Top Rank that deserves a shot at Teofimo Lopez. If he's on point we'll see him taking a decision over Nakatani, taking a step towards a world title fight. But he needs to be on point. We suspect he'll learn quickly that Nakatani is no joke, will take some early shots, then decide to box and move, picking off the Japanese fighter to take a clear, but competitive, decision win.
The bad news?
There is a worry that Nakatani will not be the fighter he once was. As mentioned he did announce his retirement from professional boxing in 2019, following his loss to Teofimo Stevenson, and there is a real worry that they have simply made him an offer here too good to refuse. At 31 however he's not an old fighter and it might just be us being cynical and expecting the worse, rather than Nakatani just going for a decent pay day. Other than that we really can't see any bad news here, and the bout should be one to look forward to. If both men are up for it, we should get a really intriguing bout.
I'll be the first one to admit that the 2019 Treasure Trove series went on long than I ever expected, and given what happened for much of 2020 that's probably a good thing as there was a genuine worry that I'd run out of fights to cover in that series before we had enough fights from 2020 to talk about. I needn't have feared as, even with a reduced schedule, 2020 has given us some brilliant hidden gems. To kick this series off we're going to talk about one of the most insane fights we saw take place in China during the year. It's not high level stuff, but it is thoroughly entertaining, wild and crazy. Just the sort of fight this series was set up to show case!
Zixiang Wang (1-1, 1) vs Mukhammadiso Zokhidov (0-0)
Let me start by saying that neither man is well known. In fact there's a good chance this is probably one of the first time you've seen the names of Zixiang Wang and Mukhammadiso Zokhidov. Don't let that put you off as together they made for something truly spectacular.
According to Boxrec Chinese Zixiang Wang was 18 at the time of this fight, at least they did when this was being written, though the on screen graphics says he was 25. Whatever his age it doesn't really matter, what does matter is that he was an inexperienced Chinese fighters, fighting in his third professional bout. Prior to this bout he only had two bouts recorded to his name, both of which occurred in 2017, winning a 4th round TKO on debut before losing a split decision in his second bout. There was then a 2 year break in his career before this bout.
In the opposite corner to Wang was 23 year old Uzbek debutant Mukhammadiso Zokhidov. Very little was known about Zokhidov but like every Uzbek fighter it was assumed that he knew what he was doing. He came into the ring looking confident and seemed very self assured in his corner before the bout. It was likely in his mind that he was going to rip through the baby faced Chinese local in an easy Lightweight bout.
Note before we talk about the contest. The sound for this is out of synch with the video, so it may be worth watching it on mute and just enjoying the action, which speaks for it's self.
From the opening seconds we saw Zokhidov swinging for the fences before being sent to the canvas. It was ruled a slip but it was clear, after just 20 seconds, that both men were tense, letting shots go and wildly reckless. Soon afterwards Wang landed a several solid counter shots as he began to test the chin of the Uzbek. Zokhidov wasn't there to make up the numbers though and he continued throwing huge shots and lunging in whilst tossing bombs at the local.
In round 2 we began to see some crazy action as we got the first big drama of the bout. After some messy action early on we saw Zokhidov dropping Wang with a huge sweeping left. He then seemed to tap Wang a couple of times when he was down. After the count the referee took a point from the Uzbek for the little taps, which really were taps. When the action resumed Zokhidov went for the finish before being dropped himself in one of the craziest minutes we've seen in a Chinese ring.
With two knockdowns and a point deduction in the final minute or so of round 2 we were expect level heads to show in rounds 3. We expected wrong as the two men continued to sloppily try to bomb the other out. This resulted in the Uzbek throwing hayemakers in some crazy moments before heading to the canvas, again. The referee then interjected himself and took a point form Wang, after Zokhidov seemed to suggest he had been pulled down by the head. The deduction hardly counted as a tired Zokhidov was dropped again, this time legally. He looked exhausted as Wang hunted him down, looking for a finish. His exhaustion saw him holding, spoiling, and fighting in desperation through the rest of the round, before being dumped over, again.
Sadly after the bell to start round 4 Zokhidov remained in his corner, conceding defeat. His cockiness from before the fight had been punched out of him after 3 crazy, wild rounds.
One again we need to say this was low level action, and the sound on the video is out of synch, sadly,but the bout had drama, excitement, insane back and forth and more than it's share of craziness. So with that said please enjoy our first Treasure Trove 2020 article. This is a bizarre fight, it's a low level fight, but it's an incredibly fun to watch and we think you'll really enjoy the crazy brawl the breaks out here.
We continue the 2020 love in with Thailand this week as we return to the Workpoint Studio for this week's One to Watch, and it's a really intriguing one, matching a once beaten prospect against a former world champion, who always brings the head. The prospect is looking to notch a third notable win in 16 months whilst the former world champion is someone who always makes for fun and entertaining bouts, win or lose.
The One to Watch?
Phongsaphon Panyakum (10-1, 5) vs Kompayak Porpramook (60-10, 41)
December 5th (Saturday)
We love seeing prospects step up and here we have a 20 year old hopeful stepping up to face someone who has previously held a world title. The youngster appears to be on his way through the ranks, has an exciting style and despite being flawed is very much a man who seems to know his strengths, and fights to them. The veteran, is one of the most aggressive, exciting fighters in Thailand, who always comes to win and despite having 10 losses never enters the ring for just a pay day. He always comes to fight. Given the styles of the two men this should be something of a thrilling war
Once beaten 20 year old Phongsaphon Panyakum isn't a name we expect many fans to be aware of. That's despite the fact he debuted in June 2017, against Kai Ishizawa, won a Work Point tournament, and holds two wins over former world title challengers. If you've seen him you'll know that he's a big, strong, aggressive, exciting, and relatively open fighter. He comes forward, he lets shots go and even his supposedly easy bouts end up being fun and exciting.
Despite being fun Phongsaphon is very much a work in prospect. He depends, a lot, on his size, toughness, strength and physical power. That power has seen him stopped 3 of his last 4, but his open defense and aggressive tactics have seen him eat a fair bit of leather from poor opposition. We suspect that, at least partly, is due to his belief in his chin, and his confidence, but he may well need to tidy up here against his most testing opponent to date.
Aged 38 Kompayak is a veteran of the ring and has one of the most crowd pleasing styles out there, based around all out pressure and aggression. During his long career he has faced Hussein Hussein, Adrian Hernandez, Jonathan Taconing, Koki Eto, Jing Xiang and Wenfeng Ge. In recent years he has been picking up a lot of losses, losing 5 of his last 6, but he has never been an easy man to beat and he always comes forward and comes in great shape with a lot of hunger and desire. Technically he's not the quickest, sharpest and more skilled, but he is among the most aggressive and exciting.
Given his aggression and style he has taken punishment through his career, though has surprisingly only been stopped 4 times during his long, 20 year, career. He's not just a come forward pressure fighter, but he's also a really tough guy and as a result he will ask serious questions of younger, less experienced opponents.
What to expect?
At his very best Kompayak was undeniable world class. His world title win over Adrian Hernandez was an amazing war that saw Kompayak show determination, power, work-rate, toughness and real will to win. Sadly however that was more than 9 years ago, and he has been in some real wars since then. There's still a lot of heart here, but at 38 he's not the same fighter he once was.
Saying that however Phongsaphon is taking a step up here, and will find an opponent in front of him who will be looking to march him down, break him up and press, press, press. The youngster will be given a real mental test here and it's going to be very interesting to see how he responds to the pressure that gets sent his way. Without a doubt Phongsaphon will be the bigger, faster, stronger man, but can he cope with the pressure and does he have the power to get Kopmpayak's respect?
We suspect the youngster will win here. We feel his natural size and youth will be the difference. But oh boy will he need to work for this win. It will not be easy. It'll be a fun tear up, with Kompayak pressing and Phongsaphon forced to respond with the two trading blows continually through the bout. This is certainly one to watch for those who like fun brawls!
The bad news?
It's worth noting that originally Phongsaphon was supposed to face Sarawut Thawornkham (21-3, 16), though he was injured in November and had to be replaced by Kompayak. This is a shame in some ways, as Sarawut would have been a more interesting test, however Kompayak is no push over and will be there to win.
For those tuning in, this bout will be shown for free, as part of WP Boxing, and we suspect it will be something very intriguing and pretty exciting, for as long as it lasts!
Takahiro Onaga is a regular contributor to Asian Boxing and will now be a featured writer in his own column where his takes his shot at various things in the boxing world.