As mentioned yesterday we've got two "Ones to Watch" this week, and here is the second of those bouts. This one takes places of the weekend and is expected to be made available to watch live on Boxing Raise. It's a match up that might not look amazing on paper but it should be a very interesting one and is a meaningful bout on the domestic stage
The One to Watch?
Daisuke Watanabe (10-4-2, 6) vs Shingo Kusano (13-8-1, 5)
August 22nd (Saturday)
We absolutely love tournaments and on Saturday we see the end of the Hajime No Ippo 30th Anniversary Featherweight tournament that began last November. The tournament, a 7 man competition, was supposed to finish back in May but due to the global situation was pushed back until August 22nd. The finalists are certainly not the two men we expected to see, and the tournament has legitimately been full of upsets, but we're here now with a bout between Daisuke Watanabe and Shingo Kusano.
The 29 year old Daisuke Watanabe is a man who has had a very odd career. His results are inconsistent, but he's been matched very tough pretty much from the off, leading to him sporting a 6-4 (3) record after 10 bouts. Despite his record he is much, much better than those numbers suggest and those results are, at least in part, down to the tough competition he's faced so far, including Sho Nakazawa, Gakuya Furuhashi, Reiya Abe, Toshiki Shimomachi, Dai Iwai and Richard Pumicpic. He's reached the final thanks to a semi-final victory over Richard Pumicpic and will almost certainly know a win here gets him right in the mix for a domestic title fight.
Defensively Watanabe has got work to do, he can be hit, he can be caught clean and he's not got an iron chin, having been stopped twice. He's also offensive, presses forward and can be countered. He is however not the type of fight you want to stand in front of too long, given his powerful right hand.
Aged 31 this could end up being the last bout of note for Shingo Kusano, who has been a professional since 2011 and has certainly had some mixed results himself. Prior to the tournament he had lost 4 in a row, and was without a win in over 3 years. His career looked over. The tournament has however seen that all change, thanks to a 5th round TKO win over Qiang Ma and a big upset over Jae Woo Lee in the semi-final. Although somewhat chinny he appears to be determined to make this tournament his and with two upsets already in the tournament it looks like he know it's win or bust for his career.
Kusano's style is that of a relaxed counter puncher. He looks to create range and land his southpaw left hands at range, backing off a lot and looking to make opponents over-reach and leave themselves open. He lacks lights out power, but is gritty, determined, and surprisingly swift for a 31 year old.
What to expect?
Neither of these men are high intensity fighters, however given he dynamic and styles of the two men this has the potential to be a compelling match up from the off.
Watanabe is a come forward boxer-puncher. He's got solid bang in his shots, looks to set things up at range. He counters nicely with his straight right hand, but often throws it in a looping fashion. His jab, whilst crisp, is often under-utilised, and whilst that can be a problem we don't see it playing into this fight too much.
Kusano is a southpaw who backs up a lot, almost invites pressure, and looks to counter on the back foot. That's a style that should gel well with Watanabe's come forward boxing, and should see both men finding a nice range to work at. Kusano style of creating range and boxing at distance could end up suiting Watanabe a bit too well and allow Watanabe to shoot off his heavy right hand regularly.
Unsurprisingly we expect to see Watanabe coming forward and Kusano back off, with Kusano trying to draw leads from Watanabe and counter them. This could work well for him, given Watanabe's loopier shots, or could end up going very badly for Kusano, given the power that Watanabe has.
This could be tactical, interesting, and although not a thrill a minute fight there could be real drama in any exchanges the two men have.
The bad news?
The only real bad news here is that we've waited so long for the bout. It was, as mentioned, supposed to be in May but got pushed back. We wonder if either man is up for it like they would have been had it been held in May, as scheduled. Also for those not subscribed to Boxing Raise this will, sadly, be one you miss out on.
On November 19th we see the start of a tournament in Japan being held in celebration of the 30th anniversary of Hajime No Ippo. The tournament had the potential to be a stinker, but in reality it looks like it could be a really, really tournament and the 7 men involved are certainly not slouches, with the likes of Richard Pumicpic and Tsuyoshi Tameda both being involved. The tournament will be made available on the Boxing Raise service and our One to Watch for this week will be one of the 3 quarter-final from the tournament. And what a potentially brilliant bout this is, so brilliant in fact that we're bringing you an early One to Watch to make sure you get the chance to catch it!
The One to Watch?
Koshin Takeshima (4-0, 3) Vs Daisuke Watanabe (9-4-1, 6)
November 19th (Tuesday)
We love seeing a lot of the things about this bout. We love tournament boxing, and wish we'd get a lot more of it, we love Japanese prospects being tested early and we love when fighters take risks. Neither Takeshima or Watanabe needed to be involved here, both are risking their rankings, with Takeshima having an OPBF ranking and Watanabe having a JBC ranking, but they both know the reward of winning the tournament is worth the risk and both want to prove what they can do.
Koshin Takeshima is a former amateur standout with an 82-19 amateur record, he was a regular in the final stages of national amateur competitions and is a very accomplished fighter who has been moved quickly in the professional ranks. Aged 24 he's a few years away from his physical prime but has shown pretty much everything he can, with a good boxing brain, the ability to do 8 rounds, a defensive awareness, good speed and solid power. There is obviously a lot for him to work on, still, but there's a lot that has been impressive about him at this early stage.
Aged 28 Daisuke Watanabe is a fully grown fighter who should be hitting his stride physically. His record is spotty to say the least, but that's been, in part, due to stiff competition including Sho Nakazawa, Reiya Abe and Toshiki Shimomachi. Despite the blotchy form he is now unbeaten in his last 4 including a notable win over former Japanese title challenger Dai Iwai. He's shown some flaws with his durability, but is a very talented fighter and his wins over the likes of Gakuya Furuhashi, Yosuke Fujihara and Dai Iwai have shown he can compete against Japanese title level contenders.
What to expect?
Unlike many bouts we talk in this weekly piece we don't expect this to be a war. Instead we're expecting a very high level boxing bout, with both men showing off their skills, and looking to keep the bout a high tempo chess match. They are both very good boxers, though we do feel like Takeshima has the edge in technique and toughness, though of course there are serious questions still over his head about how he reacts when he get caught. Watanabe might be beatable but he's got enough power in his hands to cause issues and if he can land his right hand he could have too much pepper on his shots for Takeshima.
This should be high level boxing, with a sense of danger from both, and a desire to shine in a tournament that really will help the winner put themselves on the boxing map. We wouldn't be surprised both men hurt, and both need to bit down down on their gum shields.
The bad news?
The fight is only a 6 rounder, the later stages of the tournament are 8 rounders. We would have loved to have seen these to go through an 8 rounder together and hopefully in the future that does happen
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.