Earlier in this series we looked at Yuki Nagano's Japanese Welterweight title win, which saw him stopping Ryota Yada in Osaka in April 2019. Around 5 months later he had a home coming defense, as he returned to Tokyo to defend the belt against 35 year old veteran Makoto Kawasaki. For Nagano this was his first defense, whilst Kawasaki was almost certainly going into the bout knowing a loss would be the end of his career.
Yuki Nagano (16-2, 12) vs Makoto Kawasaki (11-7-1, 2)
As mentioned Yuki Nagano was making his first defense of the Japanese Welterweight title. The 30 year old from the Teiken Gym had lost 2 of his first 4 bouts, but was almost 6 years removed from his previous loss and had won 14 bouts in a row. Those had seen him win the 2015 All Japan Rookie of the Year and score victories over Yuki Beppu and Ryota Yada. Nagano had proven that he was heavy handed and a relatively smart southpaw boxer-puncher. Rather than wading forward he laid traps, moved backwards and lined up his straight left hand, boxing to set up his power shots rather than forcing them.
As for Makoto Kawasaki he had managed to score a draw against Koki Tyson on his debut, in 2012, but struggled to make an impact on the sport. He had been beaten by the likes of Hironobu Matsuaga, Noriaki Sato and Ryota Yada. Despite the set backs Kawasaki continued trying and had come into this bout on the back of wins over the big punching Kentaro Endo and the experienced Yuichi Ideta. It seemed, coming in, that Kawasaki knew he needed to win. He wasn't going to get another chance. Sadly though everything was stacked against him. He lacked power, he was 35, he was going up against a new champion with momentum behind him and despite being tough there was few backing him for the upset.
To his credit Kawasaki went into the ring not caring what others thought. He was there to win, and quickly landed some eye catching blows, including a solid body shot about 15 seconds in. It was clear that whilst Kawasaki was cautious of the power of Nagano he wasn't afraid of it, and was happy to press the champion, something he did with genuine success. About 80 seconds into the round he seemed to shake Nagano, following up with combination, and he was the one making a fight of things. Nagano had success but it was a round to the challenger, who seemed to end the round finding range for several big right hands.
We won't ruin anything but the first round, but this was a short and dramatic little fight, well worthy of a 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.