Seeing prospects blitz everyone they go in front of is a double edged sword. On one hand it allows the prospect to build up a fearsome reputation and a highlight reel of impressive looking finishes. On the other hand it leaves us with a lot of questions about the prospect, their heart, their will to win and their boxing IQ. As a result we love to see prospects getting tested, being forced to answer questions and digging deep. On August 24th we saw that happen in a big way with real hidden gem.
Kento Hatanaka (9-0, 9) vs Jaysever Abcede (19-8, 12)
The unbeaten Kento Hatanaka, dubbed the "Prince" had looked like a rising star though his first 9 bouts. He had pretty much blown away everyone he'd faced and only Thai hopeful Songsaeng Phoyaem had survived beyond the end of round 5 with the youngster from Nagoya. Hatanaka, like stable mate Kosei Tanaka, looked like he was going to be a major player over the coming years and no one was going to be surprised if he managed to match up with his father, Kiyoshi Hatanaka, in becoming a world champion. On paper he was supposed to 10-0 (10) here. Those watching who had no idea about his opponent were expecting a blow out, though even they would have accepted that this was a step up in class for the youngster.
Filipino fighter Jaysever Abcede was a real unknown for fans outside of Asia, but those followed the Asian scene knew enough about him to know he was a lot better than his record suggested. Through his 27 fights he had lost 8 but had only been stopped twice, by Tsubasa Koura and Lito Dante, and the 24 year old had certainly been finding his feet in bouts coming in to this. He had notched up 4 straight wins, including up sets against Stamp Kiatniwat and Seigo Yuri Akui, and had really found his groove as a Flyweight, out-growing the Minimumweight and Light Flyweight divisions that he had suffered most of his losses at.
What we ended up seeing, for the first time, was a fighter who could stand up to Hatanaka's power and tenacity, and fire back. Abcede had the experience, the toughness and the skills to test Hatanaka, and for the first time in his career we saw the youngster put in a sink or swim scenario. He had think about what he was doing, he had to grit out the storm, and despite scoring a knockdown, he had to realise fighters weren't always going to be overwhelmed by his pressure and aggression.
As a result of Abcede's determination we ended up getting a very special bout, a real gem of contest that tested a prospect in a way that we rarely see. This was great and this the sort of bout that every prospect needs to go through.
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.