This weeks one to watch is not likely to be one on the radar for many fans, but it's one we think could provide both action, excitement and be a hotly contested bout. It's one that is easy to over-look, but could be very, very interesting.
The One to Watch?
Yoji Saito (1-1-2, 1) vs Masashi Wakita (10-9-2, 5)
October 14th (Wednesday)
Although it's not the highest profile bout we'll get this weekend we believe this could be a bit of a sleeper classic between two men each needing a big performance, and each capable of delivering it. One one hand we have a touted hopeful who has struggled to get going, and on the other we have a fighter who's career has stalled, but we've seen enough of him to know he can make a go of things. In both corners we have a man looking for a win, and we have men who's styles should gel fantastically.
Kadoebi promoted Yoji Saito turned professional with some pretty lofty expectations on his shoulders. Sadly a loss to Shu Utsuki on his debut prevented him from getting off to a winning start, despite the bout being a tremendous fight. Since then Saito has has gone unbeaten, but has only managed a single win, a stoppage of Tameji Ito. Despite his struggle to get victories he has consistently been in thrilling bouts, including his 2019 war with Aso Ishiwaki.
In the ring Saito is a strong, powerful lump. He's not the smoothest, he's got questionable stamina, but boy does he know how to fight. He's blessed with heavy, thudding hands, impressive physical strength, really gritty toughness and a fighters mentality.
On paper Masashi Wakita looks really limited, and has won less than half of his career bouts. Despite his record the man from the Mitsuki Gym shouldn't be written off. Wakita is a freakishly tall Super Featherweight, standing at 5'11" he's also a southpaw, with a nice jab, under-rated power and a questionable chin. He's got reach, skills, the ability to box at range and under-rated counter punching skills. He also has valuable expecerience against good domestic competition.
Sadly for Wakita his biggest issue isn't isn't his skills, it's his toughness, or rather the relative lack of it. During his 21 fight career he has been stopped 5 times, and he's actually been stopped 4 times in his last 6 bouts. Whilst that's not great he has been matched hard, with losses to the likes of Shawn Oda, Satoru Sugita and Ryusei Ishii. He has also given the likes of Spicy Matsushita and Yuichiro Kasuya very close contests.
What to expect?
We expect to see Saito coming forward, pressing, pressuring and trying to get to Wakita from the early going. Wakita on the other hand will box, move, and try to avoid a tear up. It question will be "how long before Wakita gets dragged into Saito's fight?"
If Saito can cut the distance from the off this could be short, explosive and brutally one sided with Saito stopping Wakita. The longer it goes however the better things are for Wakita, and his movement, clean accurate punching and reach will make live progressively tougher for Saito. If Wakita lasts more than 4 rounds he will give Saito absolute fits in what will becoming a very, very compelling and competitive contest.
The bad news?
Unfortunately this won't be shown live, and instead we'll need to be patient. Also the bout will be available first on Boxing Raise, limiting the viewership, though Kadoebi do tend to upload their bouts to YouTube in the weeks following. Alko if Saito gets his way this could be a very, very short bout.
The legendary Korakuen Hall is one of the sports best venues. It's an intimate little hall in Tokyo, combat sports are a near daily event and the venue consistently delivers great action. Today's Treasure Trove sees us picking one of those great bouts from the Korakuen Hall, and sharing that. It was, going in, not a bout we had high hopes for, but it delivered, in fact it massively over-delivered giving us a great fight that combined skills, power, physicality, action and drama. It lacked the up and down affairs of some great bouts, but it was still brilliant, and a real tough man's fight between two novices, each looking to break the other down and beat them into submission.
Yoji Saito (1-1, 1) vs Aso Ishiwaki (5-2, 3)
Going in the 23 year old Yoji Saito was favoured. He had turned professional with a decent amateur background, and had dropped Shu Utsuki on his debut before steam rolling rolling through Tameji Ito in his second bout. Although not the most technical of fighters Saito was a physically powerful guy, who his hard, and given his amateur background was expected to go through the ranks quickly under the guidance of the Kadoebi gym. He was seen as a bit of a bull and in going 6 rounds with Shu Utsuki in his debut he also showed he was tough, able to take shots from Utsuki and keep coming forward.
The 19 year old Aso Ishiwaki lacked the amateur background of Saito but had come through the Rookie of the Year reaching the All Japan final in 2018, where he lost a split decision to George Tachibana. On debut Ishiwaki was stopped in the first round, but following that loss he had developed into a brute, and shined in the Rookie of the Year tournament. This was his first bout of 2019, and with Nobuhiro Ishida behind him the youngster seemed full of desire and ambition. He was regarded as the under-dog, due to Saito's amateur reputation, but he really didn't seem to care about Saito's reputation.
From the opening round what we got was something, very, very special. We had two young men putting it all on the line. In the opening minute or so it seemed like the older man had got the better of it, pressing Ishiwaki back and making the teenager fight off the back foot. As the round went on however both men began to stand their ground more, launching huge head shots at each other on the inside. The intensity was amazing and only got better in round 2 as the fighters proceeded to try and shatter the other's will with one of the best rounds of the year. This was brutal, this was damaging and this was pure machismo on show. This was beautifully balanced brutality with both giving as good as they got.
We'll leave the rest of the bout to you, but if you love seeing bombs thrown, heavy hand traded and two men digging deep this is the bout for you!
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.