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.
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.