Due to the way that Christmas seems to split big shows only at the end of the year we have brought forward next week's "One to Watch" so as to talk about one more fight that deserves a light on it before we all tuck into our wonderful Christmas lunches, present and celebrate the best day of the year. Yeah we might be biased but Christmas is great! Thankfully there is a really notable show this coming Sunday that fits in perfectly with the ethos of "One to Watch" and this is the All Japan Rookie of the Year finals which take place at Korakuen Hall. We've picked a final that pits unbeaten youngsters against each other, and looks like a brilliant match up on paper!
The One to Watch?
Katsuki Mori (5-0, 1) vs Takumi Chono (5-0, 3)
December 22nd (Sunday)
Rookie of the Year launches some fighters on to big things in the years that follow, with fighters like Masayuki Ito, Ryoichi Taguchi, Daisuke Naito and Katsunari Takayama all turning Rookie success into world title success. The tournament is really a major competition and a proving ground for novices in Japan who use the tournament as a great way to kick start their careers. Here we have two young and unbeaten men looking to launch themselves towards a title fight in 2020, and this is a great platform to shine on.
In one corner is 19 year old Ohashi gym hopeful Katsuki Mori, who has progressed to the all Japan final on the back of his excellent boxing skills, lighting quick movements, a brilliant jab and smart footwork. For a 5 fight novice it's clear he is picking up a lot from being in a gym that has Noaya Inoue and Taku Kuwara in it. He does lack power, but in terms of boxing skills, body punching and clean punching technique he is leaps and bounds above move 5-0 prospects. Notably for someone who doesn't have power he is a strong kid and he easily backed up the supposedly bigger punching Shu Nawai in the East Japan final in November. Somethin that is well worth noting is that through his first 5 professional bouts he has only had 1 round, by 1 judge, go against him. That's the level of his ability, and how in control and dominant he has been so far.
Takumi Chono, on the other hand, is a 21 year old from the little known Chunichi Gym in Nagoya. The gym is a legitimately tiny one, and whilst Mori is getting time to bounce back world class fights Chono is essentially training with follow local novices. On one hand that limits the people he can train with and the progress he can make at the gym, though on the other hand it could give him more determination and fire to prove that he can win the Rookie of the Year with out a big team behind him. So far his career has been pretty hidden, but he's already given 4 men their first loss and has also made his international debut. In the ring he lacks the polish and the skills of Mori, but he makes up for it in some ways with heavy hands and aggression. He has a raw puncher look to him, and although he can be caught he does seem to take a shot well.
What to expect?
We'll not lie, we see Mori as the clear favourite. There just looks to be something very special about the teenager, who seems like the type of fighter who will go on to do big things down the line. He needs time to physically mature, but the foundations are there and he is naturally a very skilled young kid. Despite those skills Mori has shown no fear of fighting on the inside and that could, potentially, give Chono a chance to make the most of his power.
We suspect Chono will know he can't outbox Mori, but he can out punch him, and will look to invite Mori in and land counters. It's a risky strategy to give rounds away, especially in a short 5 round bout like this, but his best chance to win is use his power.
We expect a showcase from Mori, but Chono is certainly a live under dog and will go in with the belief that he has the power to win and as the bout goes on, and his desperation kicks in, we could end up having very exciting back and forth action.
The bad news?
There isn't really much bad to take away from this one! It's not a high profile bout by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a good bout, and as with all All-Japan Rookie of the Year bouts both men will be there to make an impression on the viewers tuning in live on G+.
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.