This coming Monday is an exciting day thanks to TV Osaka who will be showing a couple of small shows from Japan. It's from those that we pick our one to watch, and it has the potential to be something very exciting and very action packed. It's also going to be free thanks to TV Osaka who will be allowing fans to watch the bout live on their website, and have typically archived their bouts on YouTube!
The One to Watch?
Katsunari Takayama (31-8-0-1, 12) vs Reiya Konishi (17-2, 7)
November 23rd (Monday)
Every so often we get a bout between two men who, stylistically, should guarantee something very, very special and that's what we think we'll be getting here. Both of the men involved like to fight, like to let their hands go and like to dig their toes in. The bout also marks the ring return of one of our favourite little men, who will know that a loss here will almost certainly end their boxing career, which has been one of the most intriguing of any Japanese fighter in the 21st century.
In one corner we will have 37 year old veteran Katsunari Takayama, one of the good guys of Japanese boxing and one of the most fan friendly fighters the sport has had. He's really been a man who has been a trailblazer the sport for Japanese boxing and has always been in charge of his career, along with mentor Hiroaki Nakade. Takayama has previously handed in his JBC license to pursue the IBF and WBO titles, chasing the IBF around the world, then turned amateur to chase an Olympic place before coming back to the professional ranks after missing out on Olympic selection.
For fans who haven't seen Takayama we really need to say you've missed out on a legendary career. The Japanese warrior has won WBC, IBF and WBO world titles, and the WBA interim title, before they were being handed out like candy, and he has been in sensational wars with the likes of Yutaka Niida, Roman Gonzalez, Mario Rodriguez and, of course, his 2014 epic with Francisco Rodriguez Jr. Sadly however he's now 37 and hasn't fought as a professional in over 4 years, so there are real worries about what he has left in the tank.
Unlike Takayama we've never seen Reiya Konishi win a world title, but he has had two shots at world honours, coming up short in a close bout against Carlos Canizales and losing a pretty clear one to Felix Alvarado. Despite not yet winning a world title bout we have seen Konishi involved in some great bouts as his all action style is made for excitement. He's a come forward fighter who's strong, doesn't hit hard, but throws a lot of leather. He can be bullied, as Alvarado did, but he has shown no quit, and has become a cult favourite of sorts thanks to his toughness and tenacity. Sadly for him he is a slow starter, and it does take a few rounds for him to find his groove, and this could be a potential issue here.
At the age of 27 this is Konishi's big chance to bounce back from the loss to Alvarado and to plant his flag for another world title fight, potentially against a fellow Japanese fighter in 2021. A loss, however, would likely spell the end of any dreams he has to reach the top of the sport.
What to expect?
If these two men were in their primes we would have no problem in marking this down as a "potential FOTY candidate", sadly however there are a lot of questions over it, and it's only scheduled for 6 rounds. We expect a lot of action, a lot of excitement, but we don't expect it to be FOTY contender. Sadly.
We expect a fast start from Takayama. Whilst he has been away from professional boxing for 4 years he has been dabbling with amateur boxing, over the shorter distances, and we expect that will show here. He'll probably still look rusty, but will move around the ring, use his feet well, and rack up the first few rounds on his boxing skills. In rounds 3 and 4 however we expect to see Konishi getting closer, bulling in, and making things tough. We then expect Konishi to begin to take over by rounds 5 and 6.
We expect hoitly contested action, a lot of punches being thrown, and cuts. We almost expect to see Takayama's paper skin cut every time he fights, and we don't see this being any difference. The real question is "when will he be cut?" If the skin holds up for 4 rounds we see Takayama taking the razor thin decision, any earlier and we suspect Konishi takes home the win.
The bad news?
Obviously this is going to have a 37 year old, ring rusty Takayama, with damaged paper skin. It's not the Takayama of 2014, who went to war with Francisco Rodriguez Jr. There's also a very, very real chance that he will bust open early, especially with head clashes. We are, genuinely, looking forward to this, but there is a worry it could be a bloody, messy, bout with a very early, disappointing ending. Fingers crossed we avoid that!
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.