It’s fair to say that boxing action to begin 2021 is relatively limited and there are very, very few shows scheduled for the next few weeks. We hope that changes in February and March but for now it seems clear that the sport, as we know it and love it, is still pretty much hamstrung by the ongoing global issues that are affecting pretty much everyone on the planet right now. Despite that we are still getting some interesting bouts and today we’re going to take a quick look at one we think you should pay attention to, especially if you’re an active subscriber to Boxing Raise.
The One to Watch?
Shu Utsuki (7-0, 6) vs Masashi Wakita (10-10-2, 5)
January 22nd (Friday)
We’ll start by being honest, we do not think this is going to be a competitive bout, however it should be a showcase for one of the most exciting Japanese Lightweights, and the man he’s up against an experienced fighter himself, who can make things awkward. More than anything the focus here is on an unbeaten, heavy handed, and exciting prospect who is looking to score a 6th straight stoppage win and continue their climb towards their first title fight, which may well come later this year, or very early next year.
The 26 year old Shu Utsuki is one of the most promising fighters at the long established Watanabe Gym, though he’s also a man who has struggled to land big fights and to get notable opponents in the ring, which has sadly slowed his rise through the ranks. In the ring he’s aggressive, very heavy handed, well schooled and a natural boxer-puncher. Before turning professional he had a strong amateur background with over 80 amateur wins and more than 100 amateur bouts, and that amateur pedigree is shown pretty much any time he’s in the ring.
Although not as accomplished as stablemate Hironori Mishiro we would day suggest that Utsuki is the spiritual successor at the Watanabe Gym to former world champion Takashi Uchiyama. Like Uchiyama he’s a dynamite boxer puncher, with a strong amateur pedigree and the potential to make big waves, if, or when, he gets the chance to shine.
In the other corner to Utsuki will be 24 year old Masashi Wakita a “win some, lose some” type of fighter who’s a tall, rangy fighter at 135lbs, but also a fighter who can struggle to get going at times, is relatively inconsistent and does keep picking up early losses. On paper it’s easy to write him off following 10 defeats, 6 by stoppage, but Wakita isn’t as bad as his record suggests and on his day he can give fits to fighters with his size and awkward southpaw stance, as we’ve seen against Fumisuke Kimura and Kanta Takenaka.
With his size, his stance and his experience Wakita can be a problem for fighters. Though in recent years he has been taking punishment and has, sadly, been stopped in 5 of his last 7, with 3 of those losses coming in the first 3 rounds. He tends to give up his height easily when under pressure, and tries to fight fire with fire. In a boxing bout he’s decent, but in a fight he often looks lost and confused.
What to expect?
Although he’s not the best fighter out there Wakita is an honest fighter and he will always give a genuine account of himself. After being stopped by Yoji Saito last year he seemed to be genuinely angry at himself, and we suspect that sort of passionate drive can drag the best out of him. Sadly though we see this as being a match up against someone several levels better than himself. Even the best Wakita imaginable would struggle with the speed, skills and power of Utsuki.
With that in mind we expect to see a relatively quick win from the unbeaten man. The first round or two he may look to feel out Wakita, get used to the taller man, and the southpaw stance of his foe. That will be as much to do with shaking some cobwebs as seeing what Wakita has to offer.
From there on however we expect Utsuki to go into seek and destroy mode, applying educated pressure and stopping his man, potentially as early as late in round 2, but certainly before the end of round 4. Potentially in very, very brutal fashion.
The bad news?
The only real bad news here is that this is pretty much a showcase bout and not a legitimate even matchup where either man could potentially win. However given the lack of recent bouts we’ll happily take a fun mismatch this week, especially given the hot favourite is expected to face much, much bigger tests later this year and this should serve as a warm up for those bigger bouts.
Given the less than stable start to UFC, it has grown to be the market leader in the world of Mixed Martial Arts. Dana White is seen as the man that held the UFC together in the early days when its future was less than secure. White had a dream, or rather a vision, of exactly where he wanted the UFC to be. Guided by this vision, he brought on board the Fertitta brothers who paid $2 million to buy the UFC back in 2001. What has happened since may leave fans astounded by how much the UFC is now worth according to Betway Sports.
A hard days work for a decent days pay
Knowing how much the UFC is currently worth, it would be expected that the fighters are handsomely rewarded for their efforts: after all, it is their blood that spills, and their bones that break. Where White is a media machine, one thing he appears not to be is a fair boss: high profile fighters often leave the UFC over pay disputes. There are claims that fighters have been underpaid for years and many quit to receive better pay elsewhere. Given the worth of UFC, many would expect the fighters to be paid the right pay.
No job is safe despite the valuation
Lack of job security is an unfortunate way of modern life: it is rare to hold down the same job for the whole of your working life. This is the case as the economy can be unstable, companies struggle, and have to let staff go. The UFC, despite it's worth, provides no security for its fighters: with Yoel Romero being the first, there are 60 more jobs to go. White reports that serious cuts are needed, but given the worth of the UFC, the reasons for this are a mystery.
So what is the UFC actually worth?
The Fertitta brothers paid a mere $2 million for the UFC back in 2001. The word 'mere' is used as by 2016, the UFC was valued at a staggering $4 billion. The Fertitta brothers have no doubt had a decent return on investment, so it isn't overly clear where the fighters do not receive a decent wage (although to be fair to the UFC, would around $150,000 per year do for most people?), and why there are at least 60 job cuts on their way.
White and co have constantly battled to keep the UFC on the up and to keep the UFC at the top of the MMA world. This saw them being the last sport to cease before Covid-19 lockdowns, and the first to resume afterward. Why the push to keep the UFC going? Because, the more fights and the more publicity, the higher the value goes, especially when factoring in huge fights such as the one coming up between McGregor and Poirier on January 23rd.
So, to finally get to the point, what is the UFC actually worth? The answer is, we don't know. White has claimed in a recent interview that the UFC is now worth at least $9 billion. With poor pay and job cuts in sight, the value of the UFC has skyrocketed.
One thing about boxing in Korea is the mentality and mind set that many of the fighters have. Without trying to be too dismissive, the quality of skills many fighters in Korea have is quite low, but their heart, desire and energy is through the roof. If hunger, energy and will power were enough to create stars Korean boxing would be one of the best boxing scenes out. Back in January 2020 we had a really intriguing bout in Jeonju being one of the most gutsy youngsters in the country, and a former amateur standout, who bucked the trend, and had skills, rather than just heart. Together they made for something worthy of your time.
Han Bin Suh (5-0-3, 4) vs Dong Myung Shin (2-0)
Heading into this one Han Bin Suh was one of the most exciting men in world boxing. The baby faced youngster was all action. Win or lose you knew Suh was going to throw a lot of leather, get involved in a war up close, and simply try to grind his man down through volume, pressure, tenacity, and fire. That combination of work rate, toughness and desire had seen him win the KBM Super Bantamweight title in April 2019 and make 3 defenses before the year was over.
All 3 of Suh's title bouts had been must watch contests, with the then 19 year old quickly getting a reputation as a boxing steam train. Once he got going, there was no slowing him down.
His third challenger was 31 year old Dong Myung Shin, a former amateur stand out who had debuted in 2018, taking a 6 round decision, had then fought again in early 2019 before have an 11 month break between fights. He had looked very skilled in those two bouts, but they had come at a low level, against opponents he was supposed to beat. Those two bouts showed that whilst he was skilled he lacked power, and couldn't hurt the men he was up against.
Shin was dropping in weight to take on Suh in a bout that looked set to be really intriguing. Maybe not special, but certainly intriguing with aggressive monster taking on skilled mover.
Then we got to the bout and we were treat to something fantastic.
From the off Suh took the center of the ring, and looked to take the initiative early. He was backing Shin up, and Shin had to rely on his excellent boxing skills to neutralise the pressure of the hungry champion. The challenger did that well with some excellent footwork, clean counters and even held his own when the two men exchanged on the inside. It was clear Shin was far, far more skilled than the champion, but this wasn't first time Suh was the less skilled fighter in the ring, and he knew it. He knew his strength wasn't his skill, but his tenacity and work rate, and he tried to drown Shin activity in round 2. Once again however the challenger created space and picked him off, landing the cleaner blows.
Through 2 rounds it was clear that Shin's balance, poise, composure, timing and skills were all fantastic at this level, and he was starting to land clean and heavy blows consistently. That success however was coming at the expense of working really hard. Mentally and physically Shin was being asked a lot of questions, more than he had been asked in his first 2 professional bouts.
More was to come from Suh who seemed to start round 3 with success, his best of the fight up to this point. It suddenly seemed like maybe Suh's pressure youthful energy was getting to the challenger, who was still landing the better shots, but was under pressure for the first half of the round. And then Shin turned it around, and went on the offensive, giving us one of the rounds of the year, as Shin forced Suh backwards and we got 90 seconds of intense, brilliant, action. This was suddenly becoming Suh's type of fight, and was becoming thoroughly engrossing. That same engrossing action continued in round 4, with both men landing some huge shots. It was again Shin that was landing the better shots, but he simply couldn't discourage Suh from trying to march him down, not matter what he landed.
In round 5 it started to look a little bit like the pace had began to get to Shin, who's footwork was starting to slow and he was holding his ground with Suh in a way he hadn't earlier in the bout. But then in the final minute Shin went into a new gear and unloaded huge shots on Suh, just as it seemed Suh was starting to get some momentum.
Although Suh refuses to back off from Shin, and even had some pretty notable success, he seemed to have the play taken away from him by Shin every time he managed to build some success. Despite that Suh wasn't going to give his title up, and round after round he tried to go to war with Shin, giving us some spectacular 2-way action. Sadly for Suh however he was fighting on will alone, and his skills couldn't come close to keeping him competitive with Shin.
By the end of round 7 Suh's nose was bloodied, his will was beginning to be cracked. His usual tactic of "fight, fight, fight" was being neutralised by Shin's amateur experience and know how, his weak defense was being picked apart and he was unable to deal with the subtle things Shin was doing. This was even more obvious in round 8, as Suh struggled to close the space for the first time, Shin using his feet to create space and counter the champion.
Entering round 9 both were bloodied. Suh's nose, Shin's left eye. Both had taken a lot of shots, but neither had ever looked close to being stopped, and neither would be, as their toughness saw them through the final 2 scintillating rounds of action.
For those who like high intensity action, a nice mix of skills, and inside wars this is a must watch. It is up there with the very best battles we saw in Asia in 2020. It was relatively one sided, but thoroughly captivating. Round 3 is one of the most sensational rounds we had in Asia this year. The fight itself was an absolute joy, and from round 1 to round 10 we were treat by the perfect mix of skills, wills, desire and talent. This is the Korean domestic scene as it's best, and this is what happens when we see the desire of a Korean boxer take on someone with skills to use that heart against them.
If you want a war we have a war here!
Back in January 2020 the world was a difference place. We weren't all sat wondering when life would be back to normal, and "Covid19" wasn't even a thing. We were all sat waiting for the year to kick off, there was boxing scheduled for months and, up to this point, the issue seemed very much a Chinese-only issue, affecting Wuhan. Even then the number of people be affected was tiny, and we all assumed we could get on with things, and that whatever was happening there wasn't going to be an issue.
During that window G+ televised a show from Korakuen Hall with a mouth watering main event that we're going to feature as this week's Treasure Trove fight. On paper this one promised a lot, and whilst it may have under-delivered, sligthly, it was still a worthy watch.
Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa (12-4-1, 11) vs Kazuto Takesako (11-0-1, 11)
In one corner was OPBF Middleweight champion Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa, a hard hitting fighter who had taken the title 3 months earlier, when he broke down Koki Tyson in an 8 round war. Aged 35 at this point in time Hosokawa was a gritty fighter, with a solid work rate, a real hunger, and nasty heavy handed. He wasn't a 1-punch KO artist, but his shots were like being mashed by a hammer, over, and over, and over. Not only was he heavy handed, but he was also real tough and had under-rated stamina, often grinding opponents down in the latter stages of fighters.
In the opposite corner was Japanese national champion Kazuto Takesako. He was an explosive, power puncher, who had question marks over his chin, but real dynamite in his hands. He combined that explosive power with decent boxing skills, and a developing boxing brain, as well as physical strength. He was slow, and could be handcuffed, but in a shoot out he had the 1-punch KO power needed to destroy opponents. He wasn't putting his title on the line here, but was desperate to become a double champion and unify the Japanese OPBF titles.
Given the styles of the two men we knew this one could be a barn burner. Both men were heavy handed, both hand a point to prove and both came in looking to impress. Especially given that Hosokawa was risking his title, whilst Takesako's belt was essentially safe, regardless of the result.
From the off Takesako took the center of the ring, trying to force his will on Hosokawa, who looked happy to have space and tried to keep Takesako at range, behind his jab. Takesako made a mistake or two early, but Hosokawa couldn't capitalise on the first one, despite landing some heavy leather later in the round. Soon afterwards Takesako responded, and the two men were both quickly looking to establish that they were the boss. The lead to a full Korakuen Hall roaring with appreciation. They could tell that the two men were looking to hurt each other. Hosokawa looking to set things up and box, Takesako looking to get up close and let big bursts of power shots fly. It was a great opening round.
In round 2 we saw the intensity pick up as Takesako started to turning up the pressure just a touch. This left him in the position to be countered, but also saw him dig in some solid body shots shots, with Hosokawa being forced to respond. This gave us some thrilling exchanges, and it seemed clear that both men believed they had the power to hurt the other. Hosokawa also seemed to realise that up close he needed to spoil and he was often clinching and holding when Takesako got too close. It was messy at times, but utterly enthralling.
The action continued in a similar theme through out. Takesako pressing forward, looking to unleash, and Hosokawa taking shots well, riding them, and then looking to tie up, get some space to work and then box. By the end of round 3 Takesako's face was making up, but it was clear the crowd were well behind him, filling the hall with a chant of his name.
With Hosokawa on the wrong end of some big shots in round 4 he tried to make things messier, holding, spoiling and doing what he could to slow Takesako's charge down. The holding however kept him inside Takesako's range and the challenger hammered him when they were tied up. He was making Hosokawa pay for holding.
Coming out for round 5 Hosokawa seemed to realise he needed to let his hands go, and he did, starting the round faster and letting his shots go up close. It backfired however as Takesako continued to land the better shots, the stiffer blows, the more thudding leather.
Round after round things got rougher. Hosokawa desperately trying to limit Takesako's bursts of heavy shots and neutralise the challenger. Takesako happy to fight in short, effective bursts. It wasn't becoming pretty as they went on, but it was still rough with Hosokawa needing to show his toughness and hope that Takesako's steam was going to run low in the second half of the fight.
Sadly for Hosokawa the engine of Takesako didn't slow down in a notable fashion. When he did slow down he quickly pulled a burst of activity out, buoyed on by an exuberant crowd who seemed firmly on his side. Even when Hosokawa had moments it didn't take long for a response from the challenger, who looked like a man possessed.
It took real toughness for Hosokawa to take some of the bombs he took and keep trying. He really did have to take some hurt flurries to head, and body through out the bout and never looked like a man on the verge of quitting. Even when he was a long way down he gritted his teeth in the hope of getting a chance to change things. A chance that never came, and after 12 rounds he was the clear loser, though surving the distance was a moral victory of sorts here for a man who took real punishment through out.
This isn't a Fight of the Year contender, don't get us wrong, it was too one sided for that and it got ugly in the later stages. But it was a brutal, tough man fight, in front of a super hot crowd, with both men taking some heavy leather. It was a wonderful mix of styles with both men showing grit, determination and true belief that they had what was needed. How both men remained on their feet is a mystery, but that doesn't take away from the fact that this was thrilling action, huge bombs thrown both ways, and both men showing real resolve.
For those wanting a rough fight, in front of a rapturous crowd this is worth 50 minutes of your time, and well worthy of your enjoyment.
When boxing resumed around the world various took different approaches to preventing boxing causing a wider spread of Covid19. One of the often seen approaches was not allowing fans in venues. This lead to some eerie venues but didn't prevent the in ring action from being great. As a result we ended up some amazing bouts that were in near empty arenas. Today, for our Treasure Trove bout, we share what was one of the best contests in Japan during their "no fan era".
Satoshi Shimizu (8-1, 8) vs Kyohei Tonomoto (9-2-1, 4)
In one corner was 2012 Olympic bronze medal winner Satoshi Shimizu, who had turned professional in 2016 and looked likely to go a long way, quickly. Within 13 months of his debut he had taken the OPBF Featherweight title and was becoming a must watch fighter. He was crude, he was exciting, he had dynamite hands and awkward, clumsy style. He was there to be hit, but he was also able to completely destroy opponents with a wide, looping shot.
After winning the OPBF title Shimizu made 4 defenses before dipping his toe at Super Featherweight in 2019, and he lost to Joe Noynay. This year he return to Featherweight in pursuit of his 5th title defense, taking on fellow Japanese fighter Kyohei Tonomoto.
Aged 25 Tonomoto wasn't much of a name fighter. His most notable results had been a loss to Reiya Abe in the 2014 All Japan Rookie of the Year and a win over Hikaru Matsuoka in 2019 for the Japanese Youth Featherweight title. Despite not achieving much as a professional he spoke confidently heading into this fight and seemed to feel his aggression and youth were going to be keys to defeating the 34 year old champion.
From the off Tonomoto backed up his words. He was aggressive and energetic, pressing forward and taking the fight to Shimizu, who looked shocked and defensively awkward under the pressure from Tonomoto, who used his head movement well to make Shimizu miss. And then half way through the round we saw the power of Shimizu as he scored his first knockdown. That seemed to spur Tonomoto on, as he got up and pinned Shimizu on the ropes, and unloaded on him. In his pursuit of the champion Tonomoto was dropped for the second time. Shimizu then went for the finish, we ended round one with the two men unloading bombs on each other.
Neither knockdown had hurt Tonomoto, but they had taken what would have been a 10-9 round in his favour to a 10-7 round to Shimizu.
Despite being down twice in the opening round Tonomoto showed no fear of his dangerous opponent. He went to him again, he took the fight to Shimizu once again, despite eating some huge shots from the champion. In the final minute of the round he seemed to shake Shimizu, who returned fire as the two men went to war once again. By the end of the round Tonomoto seemed to realise Shimizu hit too hard, and the following he tried to lure Shimizu in, countering the champion, who began to look unsure of himself. It made for an interesting shift in dynamic for the fight and saw Shimizu miss, a lot.
Following a really exciting start to the bout the pace slowed down in round 4 as Tonomoto continued to be more cautious than he had been in the early stages, though he still managed to catch Shimizu with some solid shots. Sadly for him however he couldn't hurt the champion, who's power was always a concern. That power also got Shimizu out of danger in round 5, when Tonomoto did begin to pile on the pressure again, early in the round. Sadly though the challenger began to look weary in round 6, he was still giving a genuine account of himself, but it seemed, at last, as if he was wondering whether he had the artillery needed to turn things around.
The following round Tonomoto went out like a man who had decided to go out swinging. He started fast, and seemed to hurt Shimizu in the first minute of the round. It seemed it was now or never for the challenger. Sadly however Shimizu gritted it out, and returned the punishment with interest, pinning Tonomoto on the ropes and landing heavy leather, forcing the referee to step in after 2 huge left hands.
The awkwardness of Shimizu along with the energy of Tonomoto really made this a fun fight, particularly in the first 2 rounds. It wasn't a fight of the Year contender, by any stretch, but it was a real fun war and well worth watching. The start was great, we had real fun back and forth through out, even in the quieter rounds. Despite the lack of fans the action spoke for it's self, and made this a truly enjoyable war.
We kicked the 2020 version of this series off with a dramatic and action packed bout from China, and we return to China for another thrilling action packed 4 rounder. In fact we actually return to the same show as the crazy bout between Zixiang Wang and Mukhammadiso Zokhidov for another entertaining, low level, Chinese bout.
Cheng Wang (3-2) vs Xin Liu (1-1, 1)
As is probably the case every time we include a Chinese rookie level bout in this series neither Cheng Wang or Xin Liu are likely to be fighter's you are too familiar with, and that's the great thing about this series. We get to share fights you probably haven't seen, including this little tear up from Rizhao.
Coming in to the bout Cheng Wang was a 20 year old Chinese fight who had 5 bouts under his belt, all of which had gone the distance. He had made his debut in 2017 and won his first 3 bouts in just over 2 months. By the end of 2017 he had amassed his 3-2 record before taking almost 3 years away from the ring, losing his final two bouts.
Xin Liu on the other hand was a teenager who had made his debut in October 2019, in a losing effort, then returned to the ring in early 2020, with a TKO win over a fellow novice. He had then been out of the ring for around 6 months whilst the sport was pretty much put on a global hiatus.
Despite both being boxing novices they both fought like there was some pent up frustration and anger and straight from the opening seconds they were unloading on each other. Wang Cheng, fighting out of the red corner, seemed to try setting the early pace and came forward but almost instantly Liu caught him clean and put his foot on the accelerator. From there on we saw the men take a short breather before they again traded, with Wang again applying the pressure and Liu trying to line something up for his volume.
After such a brilliant opening minute the action did slow down, though we had flash points, and back and forth exchanges through the round, as everything slowed down and both men managed to gain a sense of composure.
With the pace slowing down in round 2 we didn't expect them to pick it up at the start of round 2, but that's exactly what they did as we ended up with another brilliant start to a round. This time however the pace didn't really slow down in the same way. Some of the action was messy on the inside, but for the most part this was a brilliant 3 minutes of action with both men landing plenty of leather. The action, when it was clean, was intense and thrilling, and when the bout slowdown it seemed like the men were giving not just themselves but also us, the viewers, a chance to catch out breath before moving through the gears once again.
The action again started hot in round 3, with Wang pressing and pressuring on the front foot, trying to make his strength and physical maturity count. Liu on the hand looked to create space, use his hand speed and land the eye catch shots. This made for a great dynamic, as it had earlier in the bout, but this round, unlike the others, was mostly a clean round, with the men punching out of the clinches and working on the inside. This change helped limit the pauses in the action as we ended up with 3 brilliant minutes of violence.
Sadly we didn't quite see round 4 match the intensity and excitement of round 3, but it was another round that saw a lot of leather being traded, some amazing back and forth action, and Liu really testing Wang's chin. It also saw the referee trying to keep their hands out of the action and it mad for one or two strange moments as the two fighters tried to do enough to claim a victory in a very close bout.
Don't get us wrong this was messy at times, it was spoiled somewhat by holding and spoiling, but like a good roller coaster those moments just added to the anticipation of the bouts peaks, the wild and thrilling exchanges.
If you want fun little war to watch you could do a lot, lot worse than taking the 20 minutes or so to watch this little gem from the Antai Tennis Park in Rizhao!
It's fair to say that much of the Western world is looking forward to waking up on December 25th an unwrapping their gifts as we have Christmas celebrations and a day to look forward in a year that has brought so much frustration, sadness and anger. Thankfully for fight fans right around the world we'll be getting a second day of gifts as A-Sign Boxing give us a sensational show on December 26th, a day dubbed "boxing day" in some parts of the world. For this week's one to watch we're picking a bout from that December 26th show, and it's one that should be a brilliant technical war, pitting a former world champion against a current OPBF champion.
The One to Watch?
Masayuki Ito (26-2-1, 14) vs Hironori Mishiro (9-0-1, 3)
December 26th 2020 (Saturday)
On paper this is a truly fantastic match up, pitting two talented fighters against each other, both desperate for a win in what looks like the best non-title bout from the post-Christmas run. One man is a former world champion looking to bounce back from his title loss, and very frustrating 2020, whilst the other is an Oriental champion looking to claim a major scalp and move to within touching distance of a world title fight. Together they should make for a very, very high level match up and a very interesting mix of styles.
Of the two men it's Masayuki Ito who will be the more well known. The former WBO Super Featherweight champion made his biggest mark on the boxing world in July 2018, when he upset Christopher Diaz in the US to claim the previously vacant title. He would go on to make a single successful defense, stopping Evgeny Chuprakov, before losing the belt in an underwhelming performance against Jamel Herring. Since then he has fought just once, taking a win over Ruben Manakane, and had a number of issues, including surgery earlier this year.
In the ring Ito is a very capable fighter. Early in his career he was a good technical boxer, but as he developed physically he became more of a boxer-puncher and went from 15-0-1 (6) to 26-2-1 (8), scoring stoppages in 8 of his last 11 wins. There is a decent boxer inside him, but now a days he has been relying a lot more on his right hand than he used to. It has made him more fun to watch, but has also lead to a number of bad habits. Regardless, he's a very capable boxer, though does struggle with southpaws and can be made to look basic by fighters who move and neutralise his right hand. Despite being somewhat basic he has crafted a very good record for himself with wins against the likes of Diaz, Chuprakov, Takuya Watanabe, Ernie Sanchez, Masao Nakamura, Taiki Minamoto and Masaru Sueyoshi.
In the other corner will be the unbeaten Hironori Mishiro, a 26 year old who has been on the fast track since turning professional in 2017. After 3 rather low key bouts he began to take on, and beat, very good fighters like Shuma Nakazato and Shuya Masaki. In 2018, just 15 months after his debut, he became the OPBF champion outpointing Carlo Magali in a brilliant 12 bout before fighting to a draw with Masaru Sueyoshi, in an OPBF/JBC title unification bout. Since then he has recorded 3 more defenses of his Oriental title, beating Takuya Watanabe, Ryo Takenaka and most recently Yoshimitsu Kimura,
Although not well known in the west Mishiro has shown an ability to box and fight. He lacks power, but makes up for that in his skills, movement, boxing IQ and now how in the ring. When he needs to dig his toes in he can do just that, as we saw against Kimura, Sueyoshi and Magali, and we've also seen him look like an excellent boxer, with a quick jab, solid movement and a sharp right hand. Sadly his lack of power is 1 of 2 issues we have with him, the others being question marks about his chin and durability, as we have seen him hurt before, and his killer instinct. But in terms of skills he is a very, very good fighter.
What to expect?
Given that both men have been out of the ring for over a year we expect a very tense and tight start to the bout. Both men are talented, but will be rusty, and will be wary of taking a risk too earlier, especially Ito given his surgery earlier this year. Thankfully though we do expect the fight to warm up nicely in the middle rounds and by round 4 or 5 we expect this to be a very good, chess match.
We're expecting the fluid jab and movement of Mishiro to give Ito problems in the middle rounds, and make it hard for the former world champion to land his heavier shots, and essentially become rather frustrated with the movement of Mishiro when the two men are at range. He'll then need to change tactics, and follow the game plan that Kimura used to good effect against Mishiro, bullying. In the late part of the fight expect Ito to get up close, out muscle and out hustle Mishiro, reeling back the rounds that he lost in the middle portion of the fight, maybe even stunning or dropping Mishiro.
After 10 rounds we do not expect there to be much between the two men in a very close bout.
The bad news?
The real bad news here is one that will be a problem to Western fans specifically and that's the timing of this bout. The bout is part of an earlier than normal Japanese card, and to watch it Americans on the East coast will have to stay up after mid-night, whilst Europeans will need to get up very early on December 26th to see the bout live. It should be a great bout, but the day after Christmas might be one where fight fans from Europe and Africa could be nursing a sore head following a much needed Christmas celebration.
To us one of the most interesting things in boxing is watching a prospect develop, mature and, eventually, win world titles. Their story, from novice professional to top of the mountain, is one of the best and is something we truly love. With that in mind the early tests for a fighter are really important to us. For today's Treasure Trove we're going to look at one such bout for a Thai prospect, as he went in with a former world champion. The bout provided not just a real test for a great prospect, but also had some great action, and was certainly not and easy win for a touted youngster.
This Treasure Trove wasn't so much a thrilling fight, though it's certainly not a bad one, but is instead a brilliant performance by a man who came of age in a major step up.
Thananchai Charunphak (7-1, 5) vs Kompayak Porpramook (60-8, 41)
Of the two fighters it's probably fair to say that 19 year old Thananchai Charunphak is the less well known. He was a former Thai youth amateur who turned professional in 2017. Although he won his debut he did suffer an early career set back, to fellow talented youngster Phongsaphon Panyakum. Less than a month after his loss Thananchai was back in the ring, picking up his second win, and by the end of 2018 he was 6-1, with a very notable win over Samartlek Kokietgym. He was beginning to look like one of the hottest prospects in Thailand, and on to watch. He was only a teenager, but a damn good one.
Kompayak Porpramook on the other hand was a true veteran. The 37 year old was a former WBC Light Flyweight champion who had had 68 professional bouts. Win or lose few had an easy time with Porpramook who was a physically scary fighter, always pressing forward and always able to take a lot of punishment without backing down from a fighter. Sadly for Kompayak his hard career had began catching up with him in recent years, and he had lost 3 of his previous 4. Despite those loss he was regarded not as a journeyman but as a gatekeeper, and few were able to stop him. In fact his last stoppage loss had come all the way back in 2012, when he was stopped in 6 rounds by Adrian Hernandez.
Coming in we had talented, but some what untested, youngster against dogged veteran, who was looking to prove he was more than just a stepping stone.
From the opening moments Kompayak was pressing forward, cautious pressuring behind his guard. Thananchai, to his credit, looked to keep things long and at range, using his speed and movement to try and neutralise the pressure of the veteran. Kompayak however was never a fighter who was easily dissuaded from coming forward and by the end of the opening round he was forcing Thananchai to work hard to stay off the ropes. Kompayak wasn't having massive amounts of success with his own output but was starting press more and more intently as the round came to an end.
In round 2 we began to see Kompayak letting his hands go, following his pressure with work rate as he slowly looked to turn the fight into his type of fight. Sadly for Kompayak this began to force Thananchai to move up a gear, and he began to let combinations go, and show a more spiteful side as he hammered Kompayak with some heavy blows. The plan from Kompayak likely expected this though, and he managed get through with a few of his own solid shots whilst putting the teenager under intense pressure.
Part way through round 3 the heavy, clean, hurtful shots of Thananchai had left Kompayak with nasty swelling around his left eye. It was clear the shots that Thananchai was landing were taking a toll, but they weren't dissuading Kompayak, who continued marching forward in round 4, desperate to drag Thananchai into his fight, and make it a high intensity war on the inside. In round 4 we finally saw glimpses of a war forming, as Thananchai was occasionally caught and was forced to respond, but they were only glimpses as the youngster continued to shine, showing off his movement and ring craft.
As the rounds went on Kompayak continued to march forward, round after round the veteran came forward, his right eye swelling in round as Thananchai used his face for target practice. It was clear that Kompayak was being beaten up, but Thananchai remained composed, stuck to his gameplan and picked his moments, looking less like a teenage prospect and more like an experienced professional picking away at a hungry and determined foe.
Sadly for Kompayak the consistent, heavy shots he was taking continued to take a toll on his face, which had become more and more of a mess. In round 9 it simply became too much, forcing the doctor to wave off the bout.
Whilst this was certainly not an exciting or action packed back and forth, it's rare that we see a teenager completely undress a former world champion like Thananchai did here. It was among the very best performances from a teenager in 2020. It was the sort of break out performance that helps a prospect gets noticed, and was one of the best performance by any Thai in the first half of the year. A really brilliant performance.
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.
As part of the Treasure Trove series we have a few distinct things we want to showcase. They are fun fights, top prospects, brutal KO's and great action. Today we look at a bout featuring a top prospect, who was actually making his debut, and looked almost as good as he was hyped to be. Not only are we showing a top prospect but also a brutal KO in a fantastic 2-for-1 offering!
Rentaro Kimura (0-0) vs Yuya Azuma (5-3-1, 1)
Japan's Rentaro Kimura turned professional in 2020 with a fair bit of fanfare and expectation on his shoulders. Those in Japan were tipping him big time, and he himself seemed to have all the tools to be a star. He was a good looking kid, a former stand out amateur, and a man who knew his roots, signing professional with a small gym in Shizuoka rather than a big gym in Tokyo. Although he lacked an Olympic medal or success in the World Amateur Championships, he ticked a lot of boxes to be regarded as a prospect. He had a chance what he could do when he debuted in July in a bout later shown on Fuji TV.
In the opposite corner to Kimura was fellow Japanese fighter Yuya Azuma. On paper Azuma wasn't expected to be much of a test, though in reality his record could have been very different had he had some luck go his way. From his 9 bouts he had had a razor thin loss to the touted Tom Mizokoshi, losing a majority decision there, and a super close split decision loss to Kensuke Fujita. In another time line Azuma could easily have been 8-1 entering this bout. He had never been stopped, was a capable fighter and had enough about him to have fans expecting him to test Kimura.
To begin the bout, in an empty and eerie Korakuen Hall, we saw Kimura boxing boxing on the front foot, backing up Azuma who looked to find errors from Kimura and even tripped him in the opening minute. The trip seemed give Azuma some confidence as he began to get more aggressive, but Kimura began to land harder shots, following his jab with some very stiff left hands, both up top and to the body. With just 2 minutes gone Azuma's face was reddening as Kimura began to unload. By the end of the round it was less a case if "Would Kimura win?" and more "When would Kimura win?"
In round 2 we saw Azuma essentially come out knowing he was in with a special fighter, and he decided that he had to go for it. He put his foot on the gas and showed real hunger to try and turn things around. Kimura tried to put a stop that with a will timed, and truly brutal, low blow, though to his credit Azuma continued to be aggressive after getting a few moments to recover.
This aggressive mentality of Azuma, who had decided he wasn't going down without swinging, really elevated the action and made it more than just a slow and gradual beating. If Azuma had gone negative he'd have lasted longer, sure, but he'd have taken away his only possible route to to victory.
Sadly for Azuma about 70 seconds into round 2 Kimura went into killer mode and landed one of the best combinations we saw all year and totally destroyed Azuma who was laid out in spectacular fashion. This was a KO worthy of replaying over and over, and it was the type of KO that could have got the bout into the Treasure Trove by it's self. The fact it came from a super prospect in his debut made it even better.
If you like prospects this is one for you, if you like brutal finishes this is one for you and if you like both of those things you will love this little treasure from Korakuen Hall!
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.