For this weeks one to watch we've got a bout that we don't expect will be a war, but it is one we expect will be a compelling chess match. Both men are very talented but negative, and focus more on fighting at range than we typically see in Japan, which can be quite jarring at times. Despite that the bout should be a hotly contested one and a very, very interesting one, even if the pace isn't what we typically see in Japan. The bout will also serve as the headline for the upcoming A-Sign show.
The One to Watch?
Reiya Abe (19-3-1, 9) vs Ren Sasaki (10-0, 6)
October 12th (Tuesday)
Here we get the chance to see a brilliant talented, though often over-looked, Japanese Featherweight taking on an unbeaten hopeful looking to prove what he can do. We have two talented fighters up against each other in what both will view as a must win bout. Although the bout is set to be shown for free on A-Sign boxing, so there's really no excuse to miss this one which has the ingredients of a technically enticing chess match.
World ranked Featherweight Reiya Abe is one of the many talented Japanese fighters at 126lbs that doesn't get much attention. Dubbed a "Genius" Abe is a brilliant boxer, with a fantastic boxing mind, fantastic counter punching and great control of range. Sadly for all his talent and ring craft he does lack killer instinct and the extra gear needed to reach the top level of the sport. In terms of skills there are few that can compare to him in Japan, but there are fighters who have shown more will, and that's the one thing he has been lacking at times.
Notably 2019 was a bad year for Abe, in which he went 1-1-1, and hopefully the set backs to Taiki Minamoto, who he drew with, and Ryo Sagawa, who he lost to, will help him add some fire to his boxing. If he can increase his output, use his jab more, and show more killer instinct in the ring there's no reason why he can't go much, much further in the sport, especially given he has really under-rated power in his left hand.
The unbeaten Ren Sasaki has been quietly making a name for himself but yet to really break through. His most notable performances came in 2017, when he won the All Japan Rookie of the Year but sadly since then he has failed to make much of a name for himself. That's despite wins over Kanehiro Nakagawa, Ge An Ma and Morihisa Iju. In fact last year he won the Knock Out Dynamite Tournament, though did so by default after Yuki Yamauchi was forced to pull out of the final before the bout took place.
In the ring Sasaki is a cagey fighter who looks to create distance, box off his jab and keep opponents at range. It's only really when he has someone hurt that he opens up, and when's done that in the past he has been clipped, with Ge An Ma wobbling him last year. Technically he is solid but as with Abe there is a feeling that he simply doesn't do enough at times, and as a result he has had some very close decision.
What to expect?
The first few rounds we expect to see both men cancelling each other out really well. Both are, at heart, counter punchers and neither enjoy leading off. Sadly this could make the bout feel like it's very slow to get going. Thankfully though we expect to see Abe take the advantage in these slow, almost tedious rounds, and force Sasaki to become more aggressive.
If Sasaki is forced to let his hands go more, chasing the fight, we see that playing right into Abe's game plan and giving the talented Abe counter opportunities. When that happens expect to see him draw leads from Sasaki, and counter them with thunder bolt left hands.
If Sasaki doesn't fall behind early on, and isn't forced to chase things, expect a very, very high level chess match. It might not be the most exciting or the most thrilling action war, but it will be very interesting and a bout fought with very high level skills on show by both men.
The bad news?
Not everyone likes a chess match, and this could end up being a stinker if both men feel they are in control. The styles of the two men are pretty similar, and both are rather risk-averse. This could be a very, very interesting bout, but could, just as easily, end up being horrific to watch.
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.