It's fair to say that much of the Western world is looking forward to waking up on December 25th an unwrapping their gifts as we have Christmas celebrations and a day to look forward in a year that has brought so much frustration, sadness and anger. Thankfully for fight fans right around the world we'll be getting a second day of gifts as A-Sign Boxing give us a sensational show on December 26th, a day dubbed "boxing day" in some parts of the world. For this week's one to watch we're picking a bout from that December 26th show, and it's one that should be a brilliant technical war, pitting a former world champion against a current OPBF champion.
The One to Watch?
Masayuki Ito (26-2-1, 14) vs Hironori Mishiro (9-0-1, 3)
December 26th 2020 (Saturday)
On paper this is a truly fantastic match up, pitting two talented fighters against each other, both desperate for a win in what looks like the best non-title bout from the post-Christmas run. One man is a former world champion looking to bounce back from his title loss, and very frustrating 2020, whilst the other is an Oriental champion looking to claim a major scalp and move to within touching distance of a world title fight. Together they should make for a very, very high level match up and a very interesting mix of styles.
Of the two men it's Masayuki Ito who will be the more well known. The former WBO Super Featherweight champion made his biggest mark on the boxing world in July 2018, when he upset Christopher Diaz in the US to claim the previously vacant title. He would go on to make a single successful defense, stopping Evgeny Chuprakov, before losing the belt in an underwhelming performance against Jamel Herring. Since then he has fought just once, taking a win over Ruben Manakane, and had a number of issues, including surgery earlier this year.
In the ring Ito is a very capable fighter. Early in his career he was a good technical boxer, but as he developed physically he became more of a boxer-puncher and went from 15-0-1 (6) to 26-2-1 (8), scoring stoppages in 8 of his last 11 wins. There is a decent boxer inside him, but now a days he has been relying a lot more on his right hand than he used to. It has made him more fun to watch, but has also lead to a number of bad habits. Regardless, he's a very capable boxer, though does struggle with southpaws and can be made to look basic by fighters who move and neutralise his right hand. Despite being somewhat basic he has crafted a very good record for himself with wins against the likes of Diaz, Chuprakov, Takuya Watanabe, Ernie Sanchez, Masao Nakamura, Taiki Minamoto and Masaru Sueyoshi.
In the other corner will be the unbeaten Hironori Mishiro, a 26 year old who has been on the fast track since turning professional in 2017. After 3 rather low key bouts he began to take on, and beat, very good fighters like Shuma Nakazato and Shuya Masaki. In 2018, just 15 months after his debut, he became the OPBF champion outpointing Carlo Magali in a brilliant 12 bout before fighting to a draw with Masaru Sueyoshi, in an OPBF/JBC title unification bout. Since then he has recorded 3 more defenses of his Oriental title, beating Takuya Watanabe, Ryo Takenaka and most recently Yoshimitsu Kimura,
Although not well known in the west Mishiro has shown an ability to box and fight. He lacks power, but makes up for that in his skills, movement, boxing IQ and now how in the ring. When he needs to dig his toes in he can do just that, as we saw against Kimura, Sueyoshi and Magali, and we've also seen him look like an excellent boxer, with a quick jab, solid movement and a sharp right hand. Sadly his lack of power is 1 of 2 issues we have with him, the others being question marks about his chin and durability, as we have seen him hurt before, and his killer instinct. But in terms of skills he is a very, very good fighter.
What to expect?
Given that both men have been out of the ring for over a year we expect a very tense and tight start to the bout. Both men are talented, but will be rusty, and will be wary of taking a risk too earlier, especially Ito given his surgery earlier this year. Thankfully though we do expect the fight to warm up nicely in the middle rounds and by round 4 or 5 we expect this to be a very good, chess match.
We're expecting the fluid jab and movement of Mishiro to give Ito problems in the middle rounds, and make it hard for the former world champion to land his heavier shots, and essentially become rather frustrated with the movement of Mishiro when the two men are at range. He'll then need to change tactics, and follow the game plan that Kimura used to good effect against Mishiro, bullying. In the late part of the fight expect Ito to get up close, out muscle and out hustle Mishiro, reeling back the rounds that he lost in the middle portion of the fight, maybe even stunning or dropping Mishiro.
After 10 rounds we do not expect there to be much between the two men in a very close bout.
The bad news?
The real bad news here is one that will be a problem to Western fans specifically and that's the timing of this bout. The bout is part of an earlier than normal Japanese card, and to watch it Americans on the East coast will have to stay up after mid-night, whilst Europeans will need to get up very early on December 26th to see the bout live. It should be a great bout, but the day after Christmas might be one where fight fans from Europe and Africa could be nursing a sore head following a much needed Christmas celebration.
The Super Featherweight division is a really interesting one right now, with a nice selection of fighters at the top. We have destructive punchers, a stylist and some really amazing possible match ups. We also, sadly, have massive amounts of politics with the WBA causing a mess, as we see all too often, and other niggling issues. We also sort of lack depth in the division, which may end up helping force the top fighters to fight each other sooner, rather than later.
So lets take a look at the champions, which as usual aren't in a set order, but we do group the WBA title holders together.
Masayuki Ito (25-1-1, 13) - WBO (1 defense)
Japan's Masayuki Ito has been a professional for almost 9 years, but has only just come to the public's attention in 2018, winning the WBO title in the US, by beating Christopher Diaz, and defending at the end of the year, stopping Evgeny Chuprakov. Despite taking a while to reach the top Ito has really done things in an impressive fashion. His first major triumph was in the 2012 Rookie of the Year, he would later go on to win a WBC Youth title, an OPBF title and a WBO Asia Pacific title. In the ring he's a boxer, though who has started to develop some spite, something we didn't earlier in his career. Early in his career he was a pretty pure boxer mover but has started to stand and hold his feet, scoring 10 stoppages in his last 15 fights and only 3 in his first 12. He's certainly not unbeatable, but he's going to be a hard man to dethrone.
Tevin Farmer (28-4-1-1, 6) - IBF (2 defenses)
Another fighter who has had a long battle to the top before getting recognition recently is American Tevin Farmer. He's been a professional since 2011 and actually lost on debut and was 4-3-1 (1) after 8 bouts. His career really has been a hard slog but he's really shown what he can do and he's one of the best pure boxers in the division, with fantastic natural boxing ability, great movement, sharp punching and a high ring IQ. He won his world title in August 2018 and managed to rack 2 defenses in the following 4 months, but they haven't come against the greatest of challengers and it's going to be interesting when he does step up in class. He's talented, without a doubt, but his bouts aren't the most exciting and he does lack real quality wins, with his best results coming against Ivan Redkach, Daulis Prescott and Billy Dib. Hopefully he slows his activity in 2019 and takes on better competition.
Miguel Berchelt (35-1, 31) - WBC (4 defenses)
One of the best boxer-punchers in the sport right now, and one of the most criminally over-looked, is Mexican Miguel Berchelt. Berchelt has held the WBC title since January 2017, when he stopped Francisco Vargas, and has scored 4 defenses. On paper he has the strongest record in the division with wins over Vargas, Takashi Miura, Miguel Roman, Cristobal Cruz, Oliver Flores and Jonathan Victor Barros. Berchelt can pretty much do it all, bang, box, brawl and fight. The one loss on his record is a real freak defeat to Venezuelan Luis Eduardo Florez, almost 5 years ago, and shouldn't really be considered when looking at his future bouts. He caught clean and failed to recover, but has since proven his chin. For us he's the most dangerous fighter in the division.
Gervonta Davis (20-0, 19) - WBA "super" (0 defenses)
Although we think Berchelt is the most dangerous man at 130lbs he does stiff competition in the form of Gervonta Davis. "Tank" is one of the many American fighters who are clearly talented, but simply lack the activity needed to show that talent, the exact opposite of Tevin Farmer. Davis won the IBF title in January 2017, stopping Jose Pedraza, to announce himself on the world stage and defended it once before being stripped for failing to make weight ahead of a bout with Francisco Fonseca. He has since won the WBA "Super" title, in what was clearly a WBA political decision to create a title to give Davis, rather than recognise their "regular" champion as their top guy. Davis is a fantastic boxer, with scary power, a fantastic ability to mix things up and a real attitude in the ring. Sadly he's also the worst managed and promoted fighter in the division, and only fought once in 2018. He's set to defend his title in February against Abner Mares, in a bout that has been widely criticised, and the worry is that he will again fail to be active enough to remain in the memories of fight fans.
Alberto Machado (21-0, 17) - WBA "regular" (2 defenses)
Puerto Rican punches Alberto Machado is another monster puncher at 130lbs, and has a very solid claim to being the WBA's most legitimate champion, despite only being the "regular" champion. Machado beat Jezreel Corrales, who was stripped on the scales before facing Machado. Corrales had ended the long reign of Takashi Uchiyama and should really have been regarded as the fighter with the strongest line at the time, but the WBA didn't really follow any logic, knowing the money that was behind Davis. Since beating Corrales Machado has defended his belt twice, beating both Rafael Mensah and Yuandale Evans. Although not the best boxer he is a dynamite puncher, and puts fighters on the back foot with that power.
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.