This weekend we're all going to be focused on a show in Las Vegas right? So with that in mind we thought it would make sense to have our "One to Watch" be a bout from Las Vegas, after all you'll be watching anyway! So with that said let us shine a light on one of the under-card bouts from this weekend's big Top Rank card, and perhaps talk you in to tuning in for more than just the main event!
The One to Watch?
Andy Hiraoka (15-0, 10) Vs Rickey Edwards (12-4, 3)
October 31st (Saturday)
The bout features a rare Japanese prospect at 140lbs, fighting in the US for the second time. On paper it's his biggest bout to date, though probably not his toughest. The prospect in question has the tools to be a genuine player in the west as he understands English, has the size to fight in popular divisions, has an exciting style and, at just 24, has years of his career ahead. In the opposite corner is a unheralded American looking to be a banana skin to the touted Japanese hopeful.
Japanese fighter Andy Hiraoka is a 24 year old boxer-puncher form Yokohama. He's from the same Japanese stable as Naoya Inoue, who's headlining Saturday's show, and has long been tipped as one to watch. He is a natural athlete, having been a long distance running at one point, and has been guided through his career by his father. Despite only being 24 he has been a professional since 2013, and has been regarded as one to watch since 2014, when he won the East Japan Rookie of the Year.
Watching Hiraoka in recent bouts we see a fighter who is still learning his trade. He is still very much a work in progress, however he's got tools that could take very far in the sport. He's huge for a Japanese fighter, standing at close to 6', he's long and rangy, very athletic, and explosive, and has good straight punches as well as good movement. Technically he's still learning, he's still rough around the edges, and the lack of a strong amateur background is clear, but he's improving with every fight.
In Rickey Edwards we have a 30 year old American who has been faltering in recent bouts, but should make for a good opponent here. Edwards has lost 4 of his last 5, but they have included defeats to the then 10-0 Kent Cruz, the then 14-0 Mykquan Williams and the then 10-0 Jesus Alejandro Ramos. Sadly those recent results have made him look like a worse fighter than he is, and he is actually quite talented. He does however have no career momentum right now, and a style that shouldn't be much of an issue for Hiraoka.
Back in 2016 Edwards' bout with Cruz was shown on a PBC show, back when Edwards was 11-0. Although that bout is quite old there was plenty to take from it. He's a tall rangy guy himself, much like Hiraoka, and he has a lovely crisp jab, but he does lack power, and doesn't appear willing to commit to much behind that jab. When he throws combinations they are quick and sharp, but there's not enough of them. There's a good skill set there, but there was a lack of urgency and energy. He was also dropped in that fight from a single right hand, and has since been stopped.
What to expect?
To start this, we expect a win for Hiraoka, however we expect him to have to work for it. Edwards is good enough to ask questions, his jab is good enough to keep Hiraoka honest, and catch the Japanese fighter, despite the fact Hiraoka's a southpaw. The real difference makers however will be power and work rate. Sadly Edwards lacks in both areas.
We expect this to start slowly, both men feeling each other out. As the rounds go on however we expect to see the energy and youthful exuberance of Hiraoka play the big difference maker as he goes through the gears. When that happens we don't imagine Edwards will be able to get Hiraoka's respect, or back him off, and as a result Hiraoka will begin to chip away and break down the American.
We're not expecting a stoppage for the Japanese visitor, but there is a chance he could get one, late. He's a heavier puncher than Edwards, he's younger, busier, and more aggressive. All of that could lead to a stoppage, but we're actually expecting a wide decision for Hiraoka here.
The bad news?
Sadly the bout, however good it is, will be over-shadowed by the Inoue bout. Whilst it's understandable, it's still a shame that Hiraoka isn't getting much attention here, won't get much afterwards and, at the time of writing, this bout isn't even listed on BoxRec!
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.