For this weeks one to watch we're actually going to cover a bout that will take place this coming Sunday, but won't be shown live until a week later. Given the Christmas period however that might actually work out to be a good thing for the bout, meaning we can all rest watch it after stuffing our faces a few days earlier. The bout in question is an East Japan Rookie of the Year bout, and features someone we are very very high on going up against what should be his toughest test to date.
The One to Watch?
Kosuke Tomioka (4-0, 3) vs Shunpei Kubo (5-1-1, 3)
December 20th (Sunday)
Rookie of the Year action is always worth of attention, but this bout in particular promises a lot, with two young talented punchers both looking to do more than just win, both will be looking to make a statement. In one corner is one of biggest favourites to win the All Japan Rookie of the Year whilst the other corner will house a 23 year old with a point to prove and a chance to make a name for himself on the Japanese domestic scene.
The 18 year old Kosuke Tomioka is regarded by many in Japan as one of the best teenagers in the sport. He's a slippery, skilled southpaw with under-rated power, a confident and cocky air to him and a very fan friendly approach to the ring. His made his professional debut in July 2019, following a solid amateur career, and since then has looked nigh on untouchable. He has blown out opponents early, stopping Shinobu Wakagi and Yota Sato inside a round, shown he can go deeper in bouts when he needs to, stopping Asato Mori in the final second of a 4 rounder, and go the distance against an awkward and negative opponent, which he did against Shota Hara.
We've yet to see Tomioka in any real trouble at any point so far. He has been too quick, too sharp, too good and too heavy handed for any of his first 4 opponents. Sadly this has mean he's not really answered any key questions, such as how he takes a shot, what he's like under intense and prolonged pressure, and how he enjoys an opponent being able to take his power, or match him for speed. Sadly we don't think we'll see him answer those questions for a very long time, just due to how good he is, however they are things we do need to see him prove before getting too excited.
Shunpei Kubo is 23 years old and, like Tomioka, made his debut last year. He began his career with 3 straight wins before being stopped in 4 rounds by Rui Ikari. That could have caused his career to his the skids, but just 4 months later he was back in the ring and beat Shota Hara to get back to winning ways. He then picked up another win this past September, in the Rookie of the Year to progress to East Japan semi-final, where he fought to a draw with Aito Abe. Despite the draw he qualified for the East Japan final due to the rules regarding draws. That draw has earned this shot at Tomioka, and a potential place in the All Japan final next year.
Despite not being as well known as Tomioka there is actually a lot of footage of Kubo out there and he's a really exciting fighter to watch. He has a stiff jab, that looks a good weapon, but is more at home throwing heavy leather, notably his solid left hook and right cross. He looks very relaxed in the ring, and very confident, with a lot of self belief and trust in his power. Sadly however he is very open and when he lets his hands go does over-commit, a lot. So far he's been able to get away with it, with opponents not punishing him, but that day will come if he doesn't tighten up. He puts a lot into what he does, and he does seem like the sort of fighter who is going to struggle with a smart boxer-mover, but thankfully for him there isn't many of those around at this level.
What to expect?
We expect to see Kubo looking to make a fast start, pressing forward, letting his shots go. Sadly for him we do see him flailing at the air a lot, as he tries to pin down Tomioka, but fails to connect with any regularity on the faster, sharper, smarter southpaw. The misses from Kubo will take the gas out of his tires, but he will always look dangerous and if he can connect Tomioka could be in trouble. The left hook of Kubo's will be his big weapon against his southpaw foe.
Whilst Kubo is out there swinging and missing we see Tomioka getting a read on his man, using his legs, moving around Kubo whilst landing single shot counters. Eventually hurting a tired Kubo and then going in for the finish in round 3 or 4. He will, however, need to be cautious as one shot from Kubo might be enough to begin the unravelling process.
We do see this being entertaining, and we do expect to see Tomioka have to work for a victory, but we do see Tomioka, fighting off the pressure and taking a late stoppage victory here.
The bad news?
The only bad news here is that the bout will not be broadcast live. Instead it will be shown on G+ on tape delay. Thankfully though that's not actually too bad, and it'll be shown about 7 days after taking place, with a broadcast set for December 27th.
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.