This week we've decided to do two different "Ones to Watch", in part due to the fact so many we've wanted to cover in this series recent being cancelled. So for the first of this weeks "Ones to Watch" we focus on the mid-week Kadoebi show, which will give us a WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight title in the main event, but an even more interesting looking support bout at Lightweight.
As a result of that, and the fact it's a mid-week bout, this is a day earlier than usual, but the second of the two "Ones of To Watch" this week will be up tomorrow as a result!
The One to Watch?
Yuichiro Kasuya (13-2-2, 4) vs Masanori Rikiishi (7-1, 4)
August 19th (Wednesday)
The men involved in this one both have something in the "L" column on their records, but that barely matters in Japan where unbeaten records are less important. What is key is this is a bout we expect to be very interesting and competitive. Both of these men can box, both are looking to go places and, on paper, it's a very evenly matched bout. It pits a light punching boxer mover against a heavy hitting boxer-puncher, which can provide an interesting in-ring dynamic. The bout should be a highly skilled affair, and the winner will almost certainly find themselves on the verge of a regional or domestic title bout. This is a compelling match up despite the fact neither man is well known outside of Japan.
The talented but light punching Yuichiro Kasuya is a Kadoebi promoted fighter who is in the top 10 of the JBC, OPBF and the WBO Asia Pacific rankings. He's a talented but frustrating fighter who promised a lot as a teenager but has failed to build on that promise in the way we, and others, had expected. At just 23 years old however time is still on his side. He came to our attention way back in 2014, when he won the All Japan Rookie of the Year, aged 18, but since then has gone 7-2-2 (3) and spent a full year out of the ring.
Masanori Rikiishi proved himself as a talented amateur, running up a 25-5 (15) record in the unpaid ranks, before turning professional in 2017. He would win his first two bouts but would then come up short against Kosuke Saka in 2018, in what was a case of trying to bite off too much too soon. Since then he has scored 6 wins, including a very good one last time out against Freddy Fonseca. Interestingly he's the younger brother of Japanese national Light Flyweight champion Masamichi Yabuki and at 26 years old he is tipped for big things on the Japanese and regional scene, following in the footsteps of his brother. He's a big big fighter at the weight and although not as destructive as Yabuki he is very much a talented boxer-puncher, as shown by his rankings with the OPBF and JBC and his performances against the likes of Fonseca.
What to expect?
On paper this looks really interesting and could end up being either a brilliant match up between two well matched fighters, as it looks on paper, or a frustrating mess of a fight.
We expect Kasuya to to try and keep the bout at range, he will move and box and try to stay safe, whilst using his jab to rack up points. It's something we've seen from him in the past and something that did lead to his early career success. In recent bouts he's shown more willingness to sit on his shots, and has stopped 3 of his last 5, but when he's stepped up to domestically ranked fighters he struggled and we expect to see him show a lot of respect to Rikiishi's power.
With Rikiishi we have a more aggressive boxer-puncher who can damage opponents, hit them hard and can also box to a game plan. For our money he's physically the stronger guy, as well as the bigger puncher here. He might be giving away a little bit in height and reach but his southpaw stance will help neutralise the jab of Kasuya, and he will look to land the hard shots, whilst pressing with intelligent pressure from center ring.
We see Kasuya starting well, but after a few rounds the power difference will prove to be a difference maker with Kasuya being backed up, holding, spoiling, and struggling to maintain his offense. In the end his good start will mean something, but not enough with Rikiishi taking a narrow decision.
The bad news?
This looks interesting but as mentioned it could become a frustrating mess. If Kasuya tastes the power of Rikiiishi and doesn't like it we could see him holding a lot, and spoiling. We hope that doesn't happen but it could. Also the southpaw-orthodox dynamic could result in headclashes and some really ugly moments. Hopefully we avoid those however and get a really engaging tactical bout at mid-range.
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.