We love watching Rookie of the Year bouts due to how intense they can be, how hungry the fighters involved can be and how much both men want to prove themselves. It's rare that we we see young and hungry fighters matched against each other in the West. More often we mismatches with one fighter heading in as the clear favourite and the other there to pad the other guy's record. In the Rookie of the Year that doesn't happen. Today we look at great 2019 Rookie of the Year bout as continue to thrust our arm into the 2019 Treasure Trove.
Jin Sasaki (6-0, 5) Vs Tetsuya Kondo (4-1, 3)
In one corner was 18 year old hopeful Jin Sasaki, an unbeaten fighter who had looked really impressive and exciting since making his debut in August 2018. He was still young, a bit raw around the edges but looked powerful, heavy handed and really exciting. He was showing real signs of promise and had proven that whilst he was heavy handed he could box a big, as we had seen in his previous bout against Hikaru Sato. Whilst he looked like he was lacking experience, and his amateur experience really wasn't much at all, there was a feeling that he was a natural for the pros with his physicality being highly impressive for such a youngster.
Tetsuya Kondo on the other hand was a 22 year old who had lost a close decision on debut, to Taichi Koide, but had bounced back well with 4 straight wins to get his career on track. Despite his winning run he had, for whatever reason, been out of the ring for 13 months coming in to this bout, and had lost much of the momentum his winning run had built. Like Sasaki he was aggressive, had a fun to watch style, and and lacked the polish of a solid amateur. Saying that however he had shown some nice defensive touches against Ryugo Yanagibori in 2018.
Going into this bout, which was an East Japan Rookie of the Year semi-final bout at Lightweight, we knew we had two men who liked to be aggressive, like to fight, and could put on fun action. What we weren't quite expecting was the action we got.
Within about 30 seconds we were seeing exchanges, with Kondo sticking his jab in Sasaki's face and Sasaki pressing the action. Kondo was use smart footwork and land combinations before getting out of range a the tempo quickly increased. The styles were giving us some brilliant back and forth in the second minute of the bout. The exciting exchanges made it seem clear this wasn't going to last long, and Kondo was dropped with about 40 seconds left. He beat the count and the action resumed.
We won't ruin what happens, as the bout didn't last too much longer, but this was intense, exciting, and a lot of fun. The sort of bout that we love featuring in this Treasure Trove series.
Looking for a short fight to watch this week? You could do a lot worse than this one!
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.