For the most part the Treasure Trove idea has been a chance to show off some of the best, and most well hidden bouts of 2019 from through out Asia. Sometimes we've taken a slight detour on that idea to show bouts that were less "the best" and more "a showcase". We did theta earlier in this series with Ginjiro Shigeoka's WBO Asia Pacific title win against Clyde Azarcon. Today we return to a Shigeoka bout, and one that did have more drama than the Azarcon bout. And it always had a sense of danger.
Ginjiro Shigeoka (4-0, 3) Vs Rey Loreto (25-14, 17)
After kicking off his career in 2018 Ginjiro Shigeoka was earmarked as a special fighter, with a very, very high ceiling. He had been a sensational amateur and was being groomed as one of the next stars of Japan. His victory over Clyde Azarcon had shown just how fantastic he was as a prospect, but now came something more serious, a bout with a former world title challenger. For Shigeoka the question was whether he really was as good as he had looked, and that his team thought he was? And was he ready for this level? Afterall we had seen other, very talented, young Japanese fighters suffer losses to people due to the fact they simply weren't ready for the men they were facing.
On paper Rey Loreto, a Filipino dubbed the "Hitman", didn't look anything of a test. If you look at his record along you probably shrug your shoulders and ask how he even got a world title fight. The reality however is that Loreto came through the sport the hard way, losing bouts early in his career and learning on the job, like many Filipino fighters do. He lost his first 4 bouts and was 8-11 after 19 professional contests. From that start however he had gone 17-3 with wins over the likes of Wissanu Kokietgym, Kompayak Porpramook, Nkosinathi Joyi, twice, and had challenged WBA Minimumweight champion Knockout CP Freshmart. Loreto was heavy handed, tough and whilst not the best boxer he was an absolute nightmare to fight, with only a single stoppage loss on his record, from early 2011. He wasn't a journeyman, as his record suggested, but a genuine contender.
From the off it was the speed of Shigeok that caught the eye, as he looked like he had much better hand and foot speed to the Filipino, though the power of Loreto was in to the bout early and he managed to land some solid body shots on Shigeoka midway through round 1. Despite the success of Loreto it was he who was dropped, close to the 2 minute mark of the round. Smartly Shigeoka knew it wasn't a serious knockdown and didn't jump on his man, who has proven to be dangerous when he's hurt.
The pace from both stepped up in round 2, as Loreto looked to get revenge for the knockdown. It wasn't a war, but with Loreto's power there was always a chance he was going to detonate with something big. He seemed to do that early in round 3, and for the first time we saw Shigeoka actually looking a bit shaken. He responded with fire and both men launched some huge shots before Shigeoka made the decision to retreat, trying to clear his head a little. Loreto knew he had an opening, and there was a sense of tension.
We won't more of the bout, but this was a genuinely over-looked gem from the very end of 2019 that saw a youngster being asked questions, and a veteran coming to the ring knowing he had a chance to upset someone seen as the next star of Japanese boxing.
This isn't a firefight, but it's a bout that is compelling through out, with a sense of drama and danger, and a nice mixing of styles. It was interesting, as opposed to exciting, but still well worthy of a watch.
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.