The month of March has seen a clear uptick in fights and action but things still aren't as busy as they usually are as countries continue to get on top of Covid19 and loosen their restrictions around sports and events. With that in mind our "one to watch" this week is a bit of a strange pick in some ways, but one we do suggest making the effort to see, especially if you already have a Boxing Raise subscription. That's because it features a very interesting fighter who will be looking to prove a point after missing out on years of his career.
The One to Watch?
Narumi Yukawa (0-0) Vs Yuya Azuma (5-4-1, 1)
March 18th (Thursday)
It's rare that we feature a debutant in our "One to Watch" but that's the case this week as we advise everyone to give a watch to young debutant Narumi Yukawa, who kicks off his career following some major out of the ring issues. In the opposite corner is Yuya Azuma, a solid lower level Japanese domestic fighter who famously took on the debuting Rentaro Kimura last year. Incidentally Kimura and Yukawa are stable mates at the gym run by Suruga Danji in Shizuoka.
The 25 year old Narumi Yukawa was an amateur standout at one point, and was being tipped for being things before ruining his amateur career when he got busted by the police for possession of drugs. This saw him being given a suspended sentence in Japan and as a result he spent several years out of the ring, not being allowed to fight until his sentence was over. He was however allowed to train and Danji Suruga did train him, helped him get his life back on track and made it clear that if people wanted to teach Yukawa about drugs and help in various ways that was something he was very open to.
Despite having now not fought in almost 5 years Yukawa has a lot of lost time, time he will want to make up for now. With that in mind we're expecting him to make an impression here, and repay the trust and belief he's had from Mr Suruga. We also get the feeling he will want to outshine the aforementioned Rentaro Kimura, who stopped Azuma in 2 rounds last July.
On paper the 21 year old Yuya Azuma has an under-whelming record, and has lost 54 of his last 7 bouts. He is however not a push over, and he asked some solid questions of Kimura in the opening round of their bout. He has also shown his ability with wins over decent fighters, like Ryo Tanimoto, and could easily have had wins in a number of his losses, with his loss to Tom Mizokoshi in 2018 being a razor thin one. His record might not show it, but Azuma is a good, technical boxer, though he does lack some pop on his shots.
Despite not being the best fight Azuma has the tools needed to test fighters, he has good movement, good understanding of the ring and nice accurate shots. He times things well and he boxes on the move. He also has experience on his side and he is certainly a lot more active than Yukawa, which he'll need to hope is a help here.
What to expect?
We're expecting to see Yukawa take a round or two to show what he can do, ease himself into the bout, and then spend time beating Azuma up. He will want to win, and win impressively. He could rely on his boxing skills and look to take a clear decision, but we suspect his intention is to make a statement, and to do so quickly.
We wouldn't be surprised to see Yukawa take 1 or 2 rounds to shake some ring rust, get a feel of professional boxing, and then, in round 3 begin to amp up his work rate and pressure. When he does that he'll begin to push Azuma back and then break him down, unloading huge bombs on him until the referee jumps in and saves him.
Expect the finish here to be brutal, and for Azuma to take a lot of punishment before the stoppage.
The bad news?
This will be tucked away on Boxing Raise, which we know not everyone has, and it's a shame Azuma hasn't managed to get a win following his loss to Kimura last year, in fact it seems like the lads from the Suruga Danji gym are picking on him a little bit. Despite that there is a lot to like here, and we're looking forward to Yukawa in the ring after all these years and.
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.