This week's one to watch is a bout between two novices, but two novices that you should make a note of, as both men have a lot of potential following good amateur careers. We that in mind we are thinking this could be a very high level bout, but also a somewhat entertaining one, with a skilled aggressive fighter against a talented and rangy outside boxer.
The One to Watch?
Junya Shimada (0-0) Vs Kotari Shigeotshi (2-0, 1)
May 6th (Thursday) (Note - This bout has now been postponed to May 20th due to the on going State of Emergency in Tokyo)
Unlike many countries Japanese boxing promoters don't like to molly coddle their top prospects, and rather than introducing them to the professional ranks with a series of mismatches they like to test their men early, and see what they have as soon as they can. With this bout we see a perfect example of that as a former amateur standout debuts against another former amateur standout in a match up that looks brilliant, despite the professional inexperience of the two men involved. This should be a compelling, high level, contest that really doesn't match up with the records of the two men involved.
It's fair to say that few, outside of those who follow the Japanese amateur boxing scene, will be familiar with Junya Shimada. That however will likely change very quickly with the former amateur standout expected to make a lot of noise in the professional ranks thanks to the backing of Teiken and his own, very accomplished, skillset. He's a 23 year old who went 58-23 in the amateurs and showed a style that was aggressive, exciting and seemed made for the professional scene.
Whilst this will be Shimada's debut the views from Japan are that he is a special talent, and he was unfortunate to regularly bump into very good fighters, several years older than himself, in the main Japanese tournaments. Hence picking up 23 losses in his 81 amateur bouts. Despite that he put in some excellent performances and showed a lot to like, with his speed, body punching, light footwork and combinations. The desire and belief he and his team have is clear, given how tough of a debut this is, and a win here would see him put on the fast track to titles.
At 24 years old Shigetoshi Kotari is slightly older than Shimada and has 2 professional bouts to his name, though he has yet to really shine as a professional, which is something rather surprising. When he turned professional there was huge hope on Kotari, who went 50-23 as an amateur and was sparring with some high profile Japanese fighters ahead of his 2019 debut. Sadly that debut told us very little as Indonesian opponent Lasben Sinaba was dire. Really dire. He Due to the Covid19 pandemic Kotari was out of the ring for around a year, but returned last October and put in an underwhelming performance as he defeat Motosuke Kimura via decision. In that bout Kotari was dropped and never looked comfortable with Kimura's negative style and counter punching. Whilst he has got 2 wins, it's really hard to give them too much weight.
Despite being underwhelmed by his performances so far Kotari is certainly not a bad boxer, just someone who doesn't yet look polished in a way we'd have expected someone with more than 70 amateur bouts. He's a very tall, rangy boxer, with lovely long levers, and he will have height and reach advantage over most opponents, but he looks like a nervous fighter and like someone who doesn't quite believe in their own body. He has the frame to be a brilliant outside boxer, but also the type of frame that looks fragile and given his knack of dropping his hands and over-reaching he could find himself in trouble quite regularly.
What to expect?
It's always hard to predict how a debutant will look. Likewise it's too early to know what Kotari can really do, and he could easily get over some of his jitters in the next fight or two. If that happens, then he could be a real handful.
Despite the issues with predicting this one, what we will say is that both men have a lot to like. Shimada really did look fantastic as amateur, and footage of him shows him to be a fighter who should be a very, very good professional. Should he have taken on an easier opponent for his debut? Sure, but we love the fact he's taking on someone with the ability and amateur track record of Kotari. Is Kotari flawed? Of course, but he's not going to be an easy fighter to beat.
Early on we expect this to be a slow bout. A very slow bout. As both men look to find their groove, both look to get a read on the other and both attempt to find out what exactly the other has to offer. After a quite start we expect to see both go through the fears, and when that happens we expect to see Shimada being the happier man, the more aggressive man and the crisper man. He needs to avoid the power of Kotari, but we think he has the tools needed to take a victory here, albeit a very close decision victory.
The bad news?
With both men being professional novices it's easy to miss out on this one, despite the fact both men were good amateurs. If you can look past their novice status however you're in for a treat with 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.