This is a bit of a weird week for Japanese boxing with two very good mid-week shows, one from Kadoebi and one from Teiken, as well as a great show at the weekend. Best thing is all 3 shows will be made available to watch, as Japanese boxing ends the month of March with a bang. Today we look at one of those mid-week bouts as we bring you the second "One to watch" for this week!
The One to Watch?
Gonte Lee (2-0-1, 1) vs Aso Ishiwaki (8-3-1, 6)
March 25th (Thursday)
This is a bout that really has excited us since first seeing it on the Japanese schedule websites. It's a match up that gives us a lot of reasons to be excited.
For one man this is a real step up, following a successful amateur career that saw him turn professional with lefty expectations on his shoulders. The man in questions was one of the more notable Japanese amateurs but has failed to set the world alight since turning professional a few years ago. The other man is a fighter we love watching, and someone who always brings the action, despite being a technically limited fighter. He desperately needs a win after a major set back in December.
Not only do we have two guys looking to prove a point, but we also have styles that should gel well, giving us something well worthy of our time and attention.
The 25 year old Gonte Lee, also spelled Kuntae Lee, was a sensational Japanese amateur who went 102-10 in the unpaid ranks and ran up more than 60 successive wins as an amateur. When he turned professional in 2018 there was huge expectations on his shoulders, and his February 2019 debut was hugely anticipated. Sadly his opponent seemed to be very wary of him and went down very softly following that debut win Lee won his second bout 5 months later and then had a technical draw near the end of 2019. Sadly since then he hasn't been seen in the ring as Covid19 slashed the opportunities for Japanese fighters to tick over.
Lee is an incredibly polished fighter, who looks the deal and has a very smooth technical style. He's quick, sharp, and understands the ring really well. Sadly however with 2020 beign a write off for him the 140lb hopeful really needs to begin motoring on with his career and can't waste any more time sitting and twiddling his thumbs. With that in mind we expect to see him being matched hard going forward and that's certainly the case here against Ishiwaki.
In 2018, at the age of 19, Aso Ishiwaki came runner up in the All Japan Rookie of the Year at Lightweight, and impressed with his come forward and aggressive style. In 2019 he built on that with notable and impressive performances against the likes of Yoji Saito, Takuya Matsusaka and Ryuji Ikeda, and heading into 2020 he was one of the fighters we were most excited about seeing again. Sadly though Covid19 essentially put his year on ice until December, when he fought his only bout of the year, and was destroyed by the sensational Jin Sasaki in a Japanese Youth title fight. We expected that to be a much, much more competitive bout than it was, though Sasaki looked absolutely incredible and out performed what we, any many others, expected. This will be his first but since that loss.
In the ring Ishiwaki is an aggressive boxer-fighter. He's generally shown to be sturdy, tough, strong and powerful, though the loss to Sasaki may have shown he wasn't quite as strong at 140lbs as he had been at Lightweight. Technically he is flawed, but has a fan friendly style and mentality and makes for fun bouts, win lose or draw, and he is certainly one of the most fun to watch fighters in Japan.
What to expect?
Given the styles of the two men are drastically different, with Ishiwaki being a pressure minded fighter and Lee being a pure boxer, this should be a compelling match up of styles. We suspect Lee will want to keep this at range, using his southpaw jab and find holes for his crisp straight left hand. Ishiwaki on the other hand will come forward, using a tight guard to try and force Lee on to the back foot.
Whilst we do like Ishiwaki, a lot, we do wonder whether the mental scars of the Sasaki bout will be on his mind, and whether he really has the size and strength to compete at 140lbs going forward. If he doesn't then his style, whilst exciting, could be a major issue against the stronger, more mature, 140lbs fighters, like Lee.
We're expecting Ishiwaki to press, pressure and come forward, barrelling forward and trying to get inside and work away on Lee. Sadly though we think he's going to take a lot of shots coming forward, Lee's understanding of the ring being too much for him.
Despite a good effort, a great deal of desire, we see Ishiwaki being stopped late into this 8 rounder. He'll have success, but on the whole he will be out worked, out fought, out boxed, and out landed by a very skilled man looking to make a statement.
The bad news?
There really isn't anything bad here, though if we're looking for niggles the bout will be aired on pay TV channel G+ during the middle of the week, so there might be something of a limited crowd and atmosphere. It's also a shame that Ishiwaki is coming into this on the back of a loss an Lee hasn't fought since November 2019, though we dare say those two "negatives" balance each other out a bit here.
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.