It’s fair to say that boxing action to begin 2021 is relatively limited and there are very, very few shows scheduled for the next few weeks. We hope that changes in February and March but for now it seems clear that the sport, as we know it and love it, is still pretty much hamstrung by the ongoing global issues that are affecting pretty much everyone on the planet right now. Despite that we are still getting some interesting bouts and today we’re going to take a quick look at one we think you should pay attention to, especially if you’re an active subscriber to Boxing Raise.
The One to Watch?
Shu Utsuki (7-0, 6) vs Masashi Wakita (10-10-2, 5)
January 22nd (Friday)
We’ll start by being honest, we do not think this is going to be a competitive bout, however it should be a showcase for one of the most exciting Japanese Lightweights, and the man he’s up against an experienced fighter himself, who can make things awkward. More than anything the focus here is on an unbeaten, heavy handed, and exciting prospect who is looking to score a 6th straight stoppage win and continue their climb towards their first title fight, which may well come later this year, or very early next year.
The 26 year old Shu Utsuki is one of the most promising fighters at the long established Watanabe Gym, though he’s also a man who has struggled to land big fights and to get notable opponents in the ring, which has sadly slowed his rise through the ranks. In the ring he’s aggressive, very heavy handed, well schooled and a natural boxer-puncher. Before turning professional he had a strong amateur background with over 80 amateur wins and more than 100 amateur bouts, and that amateur pedigree is shown pretty much any time he’s in the ring.
Although not as accomplished as stablemate Hironori Mishiro we would day suggest that Utsuki is the spiritual successor at the Watanabe Gym to former world champion Takashi Uchiyama. Like Uchiyama he’s a dynamite boxer puncher, with a strong amateur pedigree and the potential to make big waves, if, or when, he gets the chance to shine.
In the other corner to Utsuki will be 24 year old Masashi Wakita a “win some, lose some” type of fighter who’s a tall, rangy fighter at 135lbs, but also a fighter who can struggle to get going at times, is relatively inconsistent and does keep picking up early losses. On paper it’s easy to write him off following 10 defeats, 6 by stoppage, but Wakita isn’t as bad as his record suggests and on his day he can give fits to fighters with his size and awkward southpaw stance, as we’ve seen against Fumisuke Kimura and Kanta Takenaka.
With his size, his stance and his experience Wakita can be a problem for fighters. Though in recent years he has been taking punishment and has, sadly, been stopped in 5 of his last 7, with 3 of those losses coming in the first 3 rounds. He tends to give up his height easily when under pressure, and tries to fight fire with fire. In a boxing bout he’s decent, but in a fight he often looks lost and confused.
What to expect?
Although he’s not the best fighter out there Wakita is an honest fighter and he will always give a genuine account of himself. After being stopped by Yoji Saito last year he seemed to be genuinely angry at himself, and we suspect that sort of passionate drive can drag the best out of him. Sadly though we see this as being a match up against someone several levels better than himself. Even the best Wakita imaginable would struggle with the speed, skills and power of Utsuki.
With that in mind we expect to see a relatively quick win from the unbeaten man. The first round or two he may look to feel out Wakita, get used to the taller man, and the southpaw stance of his foe. That will be as much to do with shaking some cobwebs as seeing what Wakita has to offer.
From there on however we expect Utsuki to go into seek and destroy mode, applying educated pressure and stopping his man, potentially as early as late in round 2, but certainly before the end of round 4. Potentially in very, very brutal fashion.
The bad news?
The only real bad news here is that this is pretty much a showcase bout and not a legitimate even matchup where either man could potentially win. However given the lack of recent bouts we’ll happily take a fun mismatch this week, especially given the hot favourite is expected to face much, much bigger tests later this year and this should serve as a warm up for those bigger bouts.
Yu Che Li (5-1-2, 4) KO4 Waldo Sabu (13-15, 3) - This is Sabu's third loss since his surprise KO win Vs Ernesto Saulong last July
Ju Wu (7-0-2) UD8 Adones Aguelo (31-20-2, 21) - Career best win for Chinese teenager
Leshan Li (16-3-1, 9) MD6 Venson Delopere (6-5-4, 2) - Li scores third win since TKO loss to Takuya Watanabe, but is run very close by unheralded Filipino
Danrick Sumabong (9-2, 8) RTD3 John Rey Lauza (13-21-4, 6) - Young Filipino puncher continues to impress. Lauza now 0-10-1 in last 11
Elvin Gambarov (5-0, 4) UD6 Larry Smith (10-41-1, 7) - Azeri hopeful hears the final bell for the first time
David Drapac (7-1, 3) Pts6 Deok No Yun (3-1, 2) - Korean fight Yun suffers first defeat at hands of Drapac
Davao del Sur, Philippines
Ronald Johnson (16-1, 4) UD12 Saul Farah (69-23-3, 60) - In Heavyweight action Johnson dominates Farah over 12 in Davao City
Aries Buenavidez (13-3, 7) UD12 Roy Nagulman (8-1-1, 6) - Nagulman loses unbeaten record in 12 round defeat by Buenavidez
Joe Tejones (13-6, 7) SD12 KJ Natuplag (8-1-2, 7) - Unbeaten Natuplag loses narrow decision to under-rated Tejones
Orlie Silvestre (14-5-1, 8) UD8 Jenuel Lauza (5-7, 5) - Exciting Filipino warrior Silvestre takes decision win over limited Lauza
Metro Manila, Philippines
Bienvenido Ligas (10-1-1, 7) UD10 JC Francisco (8-15-6, 3) - Ligas claims PBF Super Flyweight title with wide win over Francisco
MJ Bo (8-2-2, 4) UD6 Powell Balaba (9-30-1, 5) - Bo recovers from opening round disaster, when he was down twice, to defeat Balaba
Floryvic Montero (5-7, 3) TKO1 Joan Ambalong (6-13-1, 3) - Limited fighter Montero wins GAB female Light Flyweight title inside a round
Yeoncheon, South Korea
Hyun Min Yang (8-2, 7) TKO5 Yihao Wang (5-4, 1) - Wang dropped twice in round 5 as Yang claims WBA Asia Middleweight crown
Dong Kwan Lee (11-2-2, 5) RTD5 Anthony Sabalde (13-9, 8) - Filipino Sabalde suffers 4th loss in 5, Lee scores third straight win
Jong Hwa Yoo (1-0-1, 1) KO1 Woong Hee Jung (0-1) - Yoo and Jun trade opening round knockdowns, Jung fails to see round 2
Bang Phli, Thailand
Thanongsak Simsri (9-0, 9) TKO2 Watcharaphon Chaisai (0-1) - "Srisaket II" picks up latest stoppage win. Simsri is now looking to train at the Green Tsuda gym in Japan and the 18 year old is building a fearsome reputation
Sukkasem Kietyongyuth (23-10, 15) TKO3 Anuch Noithong (0-6) - Sukkasem bounces back from May's loss to Yukinori Oguni with an easy win
Aso Ishiwaki (6-2-1, 4) TKO1 Sudtay Daungmala (0-1) - Excellent Japanese teenager Ishiwaki makes international debut and scores first win in 3
Artem Dalakian (19-0, 13) TKO10 Dennapa Kiatniwat (20-2, 15) - Thai southpaw comes up very short against WBA Flyweight champion Dalakian
Yuri Takemoto (7-1-1, 4) TKO1 Kiki Marciano (1-4) - Rookie of the Year king Takemoto blows out Marciano in a round
Retsu Kosaka (10-4, 4) TKO2 Anshori Anhar Pitulay (9-18-2, 6) - Inconsistent form continues for Kosaka who is now 4-4 in last 8
Shisui Kawabata (2-0, 2) TKO2 Mongkol Kamsommat (5-5, 4) - Japanese amateur standout picks up second win
Shu Utsuki (5-0, 4) KO3 Omrri Bolivar (8-2, 3) - Utsuki breaks down OPBF and JBC ranked Bolivar, in 3 rounds
Miyo Yoshida (13-1) UD10 Casey Morton (8-2-3, 1) - Miyo makes it look easy as she dominates Morton for WBO female Super Flyweight title
Hiroto Kyoguchi (13-0, 9) UD12 Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart (11-1, 5) - Kyoguchi retains WBA Light Flyweight title, Satanmuanglek puts up solid effort in loss
Kazuto Ioka (24-2, 14) TKO10 Aston Palicte (25-3-1, 21)- Ioka claims WBO Super Flyweight title to become 4-weight champion, stops Palicte in 10 rounds
Over the last few days we've covered the champions and contenders in the Super Featherweight division. Whilst there is plenty to be excited about in those 2 groups of fighters there is also a lot of frustration with them. The champions have been inactive and had politics play a major part in their titles and the challengers are, on the most part, under-whelming.
For those who want to know about the divisions champions we have covered those here - The state of the Division - Super Featherweight - The Champions and the contenders have been covered here The state of the Division - Super Featherweight - The Contenders
Thankfully, the prospects in the division are actually exciting, busy, active, charismatic and a great mix of fighters from across the globe.
Eduardo Hernandez (27-0, 24)
At the age of just 21 Eduardo "Nino Artillero" Hernandez has already had 27 fights. He turned professional at the age of just 16 and like many Mexican's he has developed his experience by being active at a young age. In 2018 he fought 3 times, stopping Drian Francisco, Marlyn Cabrera and Luis Diaz Pastrana in a combined 5 rounds, to extend his current KO streak to 21 straight stoppages. Whilst his competition is still only at fringe level he may well be the next fighter to follow Jamie Munguia and Emanuel Navarrete by jumping from notable Mexican prospect to world champion. He's aggressive, hard hitting, young, exciting and has all the hall marks of being a big hit when he leaves Mexico, which could well be in early 2019.
Ryan Garcia (17-0, 14)
Arguably the most marketable prospect in the division is American 20 year old Ryan Garcia, dubbed "King Ry" and "The Flash". He's already gotten huge media attention, a massive amount of followers on social media, and is being given opportunities to shine by promoter Goldn Boy. He's got the "pretty boy" looks which has helped interest female fans but has shown he can really fight, as shown in a recent win over Braulio Rodriguez. At times he has been a little bit lucky, but he recently changed his trainer and it now appears he's taking things more seriously than he was. With his personality, million dollar smile, good looks he has the potential to be a cross over star, like promoter Oscar De La Hoya, but will need to deliver in the ring to have that platform. His promoters are smart and know that they can't rush Garcia, but they also know they have a very marketable young man on their hands and need to protect him whilst he develops his skills and physical strength.
Abraham Nova (14-0, 10)
Aged 24 Abraham Nova, aka "El Super" is a Puerto Rican born American who is already filling his passport with various stamps. During his 14 fight career, that began in 2016, he has fought in the US, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Uruguay and Belgium, in fact 4 of his last 7 fights have been in Belgium. Although yet to really step up in class he has won the NABA USA Super Featherweight title, gone 10 rounds, and had been an accomplished amateur. He's probably best known for fighting on a PBC show early in his career, being trading knockdowns with Wilfredo Garriga, but since then has developed significantly and shouldn't be written off due to that performance.
Shakur Stevenson (9-0, 5)
American fighter Shakur Stevenson is one of the mostly regarded prospects in the division, if not in boxing. The 21 year old shined as a teenager at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, taking a silver medal, and has shown real promise as a professional, despite some problems when he first turned professional. He struggled to show real power in his first few bouts, but a sensational stoppage of Romanian veteran Viorel Simion in October showed that he can punch and is developing his man strength, as he matures from a boy to a man. With Top Rank behind him, an abundance of confidence, a fantastic and appealing look and a feel good story Stevenson looks like one of the biggest potential stars in American boxing, and he may well be fighting for a world title sooner rather than later. Potentially the best prospect in the division.
Akzhol Sulaimanbek Uulu (13-0, 6)
One of the few gems in the RCC stable is Russian based Kyrgyzstan fighter Akzhol Sulaimanbek Uulu, who had a solid 2018 with wins over the likes of Leonardo Padilla and Jon Jon Estrada. He's 28, so will need to make a move in 2019, but has been impressive without being spectacular and looks like he's learning with every fight. He has an exciting style, and a pretty unique look, but has been dropped a few times and does appear to be a bit on the reckless side. Uulu is unlikely to reach the very top, but his journey to an eventual world title fight will be exciting and well worth watching.
Michael Dutchover (12-0, 9)
"West Texas Warrior" Miichael Dutchover is a 21 year old American fighter who has been a professional for a little over 2 years and took some notable steps up in class during a busy 2018, which saw him fight 5 times. His biggest tests to date have seen him going the distance, but there is certainly power there, with multiple knockdowns in many of his wins. He's promoted by the excellent people at Thompson Boxing Promotions, who have helped guide Daniel Roman to a world title, and appears to be building a following in California. Even at the age of 21 there's a lot to like about Dutchover and with such a good team behind him we don't see any reason for him not to be moving towards contendership by the end of 2019. If he keeps his head on his shoulders then there is real promise for this young man.
Michel Rivera (14-0, 9)
Dominican 20 year old Michel Rivera began his career in early 2016 and has fought entirely on the domestic scene, where he has beaten the likes of Marco Acevedo, Manuel Botis and Yankiel Leon. His next bout is however set to take place in Uruguay as he looks to expand his name and his profile. Footage of him shows a pretty nice looking fighter, who's relaxed, composed and judges distance well. There are question marks, as there is always, about how he'll fight when he travels but from what we've seen we're really excited about his potential, his style and his flair. Like many Dominican fighters it does look like he wants to have fun in the ring as well as win and that is something we'd like to see a touch more of from fighters.
Robson Conceicao (10-0, 5)
At 30 years old Brazilian hopeful Robson Conceicao is on the old side for a prospect, but is a fighter who we suspect will be raced from "prospect" to "contender" in 2019, perhaps even ending the year in a world title fight. The unbeaten fighter from Salvador made his name in the amateurs, winning gold in the 2016 Rio Olympics after failing to shine in the 2008 and 2012 games. He turned professional after winning Olympic gold and has fought 10 pro bouts since November 2016. Fighting under the Top Rank banner Conceicao will be moved on to bigger and better fights and is scheduled to fight later this month. An old prospect, but someone worthy of some attention.
Sam Bowen (14-0, 10)
Englishman Sam Bowen is the current British and WBO Inter-Continental champion at 130 and he already has notable wins over Lorenzo Parra, Maxi Hughes and Horacio Alfredo Cabral. He's supposed to be back in the ring on February 23rd against the under-rated Ronnie Clark, in what should be a great test for the 24 year old "Bullet". He's tall and powerful at the weight but still needs to work on a few technical aspects, though has a lot of potential and has shown a great ability to fight on the inside with great body shots. He's certainly one to keep an on.
Shu Utsuki (3-0, 2)
Japan's Shu Utsuki was a former amateur standout who has been who debuted in March 2018 and notched 3 wins during the year, with the latest coming as the headline bout of a notable Japan Vs China card. He's proven to be highly skilled, very composed and has solid power. At the moment it's probably too soon to get too excited about him, but he's promoted by the Watanabe gym who fast tracked their former Super Featherweight star Takashi Uchiyama and look to have current hopeful Hironori Mishiro on a fast track as well. With that in mind we suspect Utsuki will be in notable bouts by the end of 2019.
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.