With so few fights taking place during this month we’ve not been able to talk about too many solid matchups during this series. The reality is that the boxing calendar is still far, far too empty and the effects of Covid19 are still being felt on the fighters and the amount of fights we’re getting to enjoy. Despite that we do have a notable Japanese show this coming weekend, thanks to the annual All Japan Rookie of the Year final.
The One to Watch?
Eiki Kani (3-0-2, 1) vs Katsuhiro Nakata (5-0, 4)
February 21st (Sunday)
Although the Middleweight division in Japan has been notoriously thin on the ground the division has consistently given us some amazing bouts, thrilling wars, and brutal brawls. With that in mind we figure this year’s Middleweight Rookie of the Year final could end up providing us with some special. Especially given the men involved, who are both unbeaten, both typically fun to watch, and both have styles that should gel to give us one of the more exciting Rookie bouts from the finals on Sunday. Don’t get us wrong, we’re not expecting a high level boxing contest, but we are expecting an all action war.
Eiki Kani is a 19 year old fighter who’s tiny for a Middleweight, but also a pretty smart fighter, who uses his lack of size well and makes for a small target. His lack of stature also allows him to jump in and out of range, and he regularly unloads off on his way in, or way out. He can be kept at range, and will struggle against fighters with a good jab, however he’s aggressive, and when tagged he covers up very well. Up close he’s the sort of fighter who sets a higher pace, and picks his moments well. Technically he’s not the most polished, but he’s a strong fighter with real determination and some sneaky tricks in his arsenal.
Whilst Kani is a short, aggressive, teenager how opponent, Katsuhiro Nakata, is a 29 year old who will dwarf him when the two men get in the ring. Standing at 6’1” Nakata is what you expect a Middleweight to look like. In regards to Japanese fighters he’s big, tall, rangy and even a little bit awkward looking due to his height. For a Japanese fighter he really does look much bigger than many of his opponents. Despite being a tall and rangy guy Nakata doesn’t really fight like a big man. Instead he’s more of an inside fighter, who launches really ugly looking power shots and seems very adverse to throwing a real jab. He is very, very basic. But very heavy handed. Last time out he was was forced backwards by Norifumi Hayakawa, before his heavy power turned the fight around.
What to expect?
Looking at the two men, it would be fair to assume that Nakata would control the range behind his straight punches and dictate the tempo and range. In reality however, that is not Nakata’s style. Instead he wants to fight. He wants a war, a battle and a tear up. With that in mind Kani will likely find himself getting the fight he wants.
With both men wanting a tear up we expect an all out war. We expect to see Kani closing the distance, getting inside, and going to war with Nakata responding with his wild, looping, heavy heavy shots. This won’t look pretty, oh no this will be a mess at times, but it will be a thoroughly engaging mess, with bombs thrown by both men and all out excitement from the off.
We suspect the shorter, busier, Kani will have more success, however that success could be neutralised, rather easily, by the power of Nakata who certainly has enough on his shots to give Kani real issues, if he can land clean, and can land successively.
The bad news?
With this being a Rookie of the Year bout, it actually is somewhat tricky to predict what will happen with the men in the future. We suspect Kani will move down in weight, and fight at 154lbs which isn’t included in the Rookie of the Year. With that in mind there’s also a chance that Kani’s lack of stature will be an issue against the much bigger Nakata here. Saying that however we still expect this to be a barn burner from the offer!
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.