As we head towards Christmas we have a few interesting shows left, including one on December 14th from Kadoebi. For us that card is one with several intriguing match ups and features a bout we want to highlight in this series. Especially given that the show will be made available to watch on Boxing Raise. The bout isn't one that we suspect will be a FOTY contender, but it is a contest that should be genuinely fascinating to see unfold, and features a man who has thrice fought in the US.
The One to Watch?
Hiroki Okada (19-2, 13) vs Izuki Tomioka (7-3-1, 2)
December 14th (Monday)
Not every bout we talk about in this series will be promising fireworks and excitement, and this one is certainly more focused in intrigue rather than excitement. This match up is a really compelling one between a former national and regional champion, looking to get his career back on track following successive loses, and a rising youngster looking to score his biggest win so far, and secure another big fight in the new year.
The 31 year year old Hiroki Okada is the more well known of the two fighters, but very much the man who is now fighting for his career. Okada began his career 19-0, he had won the Japanese and WBO Asia Pacific titles and even made a successful US debut, beating Cristian Rafael Coria in 2018. And then things fell apart and he suffered back to back KO losses to Raymundo Beltran and Javier Molina, as his world title ambitions fell apart. Now Okada is set to fight for the first time since his two KO losses in 2019.
During his successful run Okada was a solid boxer-puncher, with good ring IQ, decent timing and counter puncher and solid power. He always seemed to lack that extra gear however, and often seemed to fight at quite a low tempo. He liked fights to be slow, controlled, and fought at a comfortable pace. In his losses however, and in a number of other bouts, we've seen him really struggle with a high tempo bout and with quick, sharp fighters. Which could be an issue here. Whilst he is flawed he will also be very wary that another loss he could spell the end of career. A loss to Beltran and Molina are one thing, but a loss on the domestic scene would be much, much harder to come back from.
It can be easy to write off a fighter with a 7-3-1 (2) record, like the 23 year old Izuki Tomioka, however records really aren't always what they seem and in Japan for instance a 7-3-1 type record can mean that the fighter isn't particularly good, or has been matched incredibly hard. Tomioka falls into that second category, his competition has been insane, and he's hard more than his share of success as well. In his short career he has run Masayoshi Nakatani incredibly close, losing by 11th round TKO in a bout that he was very much in, lost a debatable one against Shuya Masaski and was leading Shuichiro Yoshino after 8 rounds. He is perhaps the best 7-3-1 fighter on the planet today and, with a little bit of luck, could well have won titles and have a very different standing in the sport.
What makes Tomioka such a good fighter isn't just the fact he has been a real test for Nakatani, Sasaki and Yoshino, but also his skill set, his size and the tools he has at his arsenal. He's not a puncher or a brawler but instead he's a pretty pure boxer, one of the best in Japan, with an incredible reach and a frame made for boxing. He's tall, and rangy and has a sensational jab, in fact his jab neutralised that of Masayoshi Nakatani when the two men fought. He's quick, he's sharp, he maintains range, he lands and gets away. He is a brilliant boxer. Sadly he is lacking in physical strength and power, his stamina is questionable and he has been stopped in 2 of his 3 losses. But in a pure boxing bout he has the tools to be a nightmare on the Japanese and Oriental scenes. Notably this bout will see him testing the watter at 140lbs, but we really don't see that being an issue for him, he's a big kid, and he's still physically maturing.
What to expect?
We expect Okada to look determined, and the stronger, more powerful man. The one who will be physical when he needs to be. Sadly however we also see him being a man who will be questioning himself and will be real low on confidence. He'll know that another loss and it leaves him in an awful place.
We suspect that early on Okada will be more aggressive than we've seen from him in the past. He'll look to force his will and physicality on Tomioka. On paper it's a good gameplan, and one that really targets a weakness of Tomioka.
Sadly however we're not sure if it's actually going to be a viable tactic here for Okada, who is much slower, clumsier and doesn't have the crisp jab that Tomioka has. He has the heavier shots, but will need to be in range to deliver them against a taller, faster, sharper fighter. Whilst Okada will be trying to hurry and bully Tomioka the younger man will be staying at ranging, jabbing and moving, scoring points, and racking up the rounds.
Over 12, or even 10, rounds Okada may have stood a chance in breaking down Tomioka in the later stages. Over 8 rounds however it's hard to imagine Okada taking enough out of Tomioka's tank to close the show. With that in mind we expect a Tomioka decision win, in a bout that might get messy late on.
The bad news?
For those anticipating a war this isn't going to be that. This is very much a bout where the technical skills of both will be on show and one where Tomioka's speed, size, and jab will be the difference maker. Thankfully however the show will have wars on it, and Matcha Nakagawa Vs Ryo Suwa, Mikio Sakai Vs Toshihiro Kai and Ryoji Fukunaga Vs Kenta Nakagawa should be able to bring the fireworks to the event.
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.