For this week's Treasure Trove fight we're looking at a November bout from Korakuen Hall that was shown on G+ and featured two relatively unknown fighters who ended up giving us a genuine treat in a bout that few would expected to deliver anything. That match didn't have any name value attached to it, in fact the show it was on was a pretty low key one, headlined by an 8 rounder after the originally planned main event was cancelled at short notice. For fans tuning in however, they were given something really exciting early on the show.
Shun Sekine (4-0, 3) vs Atsuyuki Sato (5-2-1, 3)
Coming in to the bout Shun Sekine was an unbeaten 23 year old Featherweight hopeful who had debuted in late 2018 and picked up 3 wins in 2019, including 2 in Thailand. On paper his record looked good at first glance, but his 4 opponents up to this point had a combined record of 1-10, and he had never faced a fighter with a winning record. He had looked powerful at times, but it was really hard to read much into his performances given how poor his competition had been. Having been out of the ring for 16 months it was clear he was going to want to make a statement here, and he was stepping up, not just in terms of opponent but also length of bout, with this being his first scheduled 6 rounder.
In the opposite corner to Sekine was fellow 23 year old Atsuyuki Sato. Sato's record was less eye catching than that of Sekine but in reality he had proven himself more than his foe. He had began his career in 2017, with a win, before going 1-1-1 in his next 3 fights to leave him with a 2-1-1 record. In 2019 he began a charge and managed to reach the East Japan Rookie of the Year final, losing a razor thin decision to eventual All Japan Rookie of the Year winner Hyoga Taniguchi in November 2019. He had been inactive since then, and like Sekine was desperate to get a win in his first 6 rounder. Interestingly his competition up to this point had a combined record of 15-20-4, significantly better than the competition of Sekine.
The fight started quickly, with both men looking to pump out their jabs and establish a range they were comfortable at. After about a minute of jostling for range the two men both upped their pace and tempo and during the second minute of the fight both men were standing their ground and letting their hands got up close. We had gone from a slightly fast start to the bout to a contest that was very exciting, very quickly. Neither man looked like they managed to hurt the other, but the round flew by and it was genuinely exciting, competitive and a great way to kick off the fight. It seemed Sato landed the better shots, but it was close either way.
The second round took off where the first ended and saw Sekine begin to find the range for his big right hand whilst Sato looked to walk him down and force a fight up close. This resulted in another fantastic round that saw a lot of work up close on the inside from both men. It seemed to be the fight Sato wanted but, in fairness, Sekine held his own and when there was space it was often Sekine having the better success.
The in fighting continued through round 3 as the tempo, some how, intensified. The two men spent less and less time at range, and although their work was slowly becoming sloppy, it was still incredibly enthralling, and it seemed, late in the round, that Sato was staggered, before he regrouped and fired back himself, showing his toughness and desire as the fans began to get far, far more than any of them would have expected.
Sadly with neither man having gone beyond 4 rounds prior to this fight, and the pace and tempo of the contest, both men began to show their flagging stamina in the second half of the fight. Whilst this impact the quality both men threw with, and seemed to limit their output in the later stages, they both continued to give their all, and the phonebooth exchanges continued time and time again. With the tempo slowing it seemed like Sekine was slowly getting more and more success, using his more refined boxing skills, but every time he seemed to be getting the upper hand Sato would come forward and will himself back into the contest.
The final round was one of the best we saw in 2020. The two men stood their ground and let shots fly, they traded bombs, and they threw everything they had in their arsenal, fighting right to the bell in 3 minutes of crazy, none stop action. If the bout had taken place before the covid19 rules limited fan behaviour, this would have resulted in fans on
For those who love in fighting, high tempo bouts, lots of uppercuts and body shots this is a great watch. It's well worth the 25 or so minutes needed to watch it. It really is a sensational fun, and action packed bout!
For this week’s Treasure Trove article we thought we’d go back to early 2020, a time before empty venues, and crowd less boxing, but . A time when the world was a different place and when it seemed like we were set for a brilliant year of fights. The fight in question was a match up that was easy to overlook internationally, but saw a Japanese fighter take on a Filipino in a contest that delivered sensational action and seemed like a platform for the winner to move on to bigger and better things. Sadly, however, the Pandemic essentially saw the winner left on the side for the rest of the year, and unable to build on the momentum from this barn burner.
Kento Hatanaka (10-0, 9) vs Roland Jay Biendima (15-5-1, 8)
The bout in question was a WBC Youth title fight that took place at the Aioi Hall in Kariya. It pitted two youngsters against each other, and delivered something genuinely thrilling, even if the result was never really in doubt.
Heading into the bout 21 year old Japanese fighter Kento Hatanaka was the WBC Youth Flyweight champion and was a second generation fighter, following in the footsteps of his father and former world champion Kiyoshi Hatanaka. Through his first 10 bouts he had quickly become a fan favourite with an exciting and explosive style that made for fun fights. He had also shown enough vulnerabilities to look beatable. With his power he always looked dangerous and his offense was always great to see but his defense was a major issue, and he had been dropped just 1 fight earlier by Jaysever Abcede. He was also very willing to go to war with opponents, as he had in his first defense of the WBC Youth title against Songsaeng Phoyaem in 2019.
His opponent was 23 year old Filipino challenger Roland Jay Biendima, a less well known fighter but a promising one himself. Coming in to this he had won 2 in a row, but was 3-3 in his previous 6 and had never won a bout on foreign soil. That sounds bad, but he was unlucky in a previous visit to Japan, losing a razor thin decision to Taiyo Inoue, and had lasted 9 rounds with Wulan Tuolehazi, who fought for a world title at the end of 2019. On paper there wasn’t much on his record to get too excited about, though he had run future world title challenger Samuel Salva close very early in his career, and had proven to be tough, with his only stoppage loss in 21 bouts coming to Tuolehazi.
On paper this looked like an easy second defense for Hatanaka against a tough, but limited, challenger. In reality however this ended up being anything other than easy for the unbeaten “Prince” Hatanaka.
The bout started quickly, with Hatanaka trying to establish his jab and use his explosive speed to keep Biendima at range. The Filipino, for the most part, took shots on the gloves whilst occasionally swinging for the moon. The opening round went pretty much as perfectly for Hatanaka as he could have hoped for and the pre-fight conception of this being an easy win for the Japanese local looked right. In round 2 however we began to see Biendima come to life, taking more chances and was being punished for his ambition. The fight was starting to warm up nicely, and the Filipino was the one starting to press the action, coming forward, and trying to turn the bout into a fight. His uncultured approach wasn’t netting him sustained success, but was starting to make things more exciting.
The pressure and work rate of the Filipino was making the fight exciting and in round 3 saw him have some major success as he left Hatanaka with a bloodied nose. The pressure of the Filipino saw him getting inside and the two men began to trade uppercuts, with Biendima getting the fight he wanted. That continued in round 4, when he began to land uppercuts with alarming regularity. The smooth movement, speed and explosiveness of Hatanaka was unable to shine as he was being cramped for space, limited in where he could go, and unable to force Biendima to respect him. For fans watching things were getting exciting, quickly, and for Hatanaka’s team things were getting just a touch nervous. He was fighting his opponent’s fight far too often. Whilst he was having success, this was not the type of fight he would have been wanting and not the type of fight that suited him against a less skilled, but gritty challenger.
Through middle rounds we continued to see the two men trading big headshots, trying to take each other out. The results of the headshots saw Hatanaka’s face being bloody and swollen as he continued to exchange shots up close, far too often. Biendima was taking the cleaner punches, being punished time and time again by the classier shots of Hatanaka, but wasn’t showing the damage in the same way as the local hero. In fact if anything the facial damage of Hatanaka was adding extra tension to a hotly competitive fight, with not just his nose bleeding, but also a nasty cut forming around his left eye.
As rounds went by it seemed to become harder and harder to score. A number of rounds were incredibly close, and could have gone either way. It felt like Hatanaka would get them, given he was pretty much fighting at home, but he was being pushed all the way and the blood and cuts were certainly making it look like he was coming off worse. He looked the more talented, but it became a case of will Vs skill and Biendima’s will was giving Hatanaka’s skill all it could handle.
The action never really slowed down in the later stages, as the two men looked to state a case for them deserving the win. Both had to battle like stubborn bulls at times, whilst the fight captivated with a mix of fantastic action and drama.
This wasn’t an all out war, at high intensity, but it was a captivating back and forth battle. A really, really good fight, and a bit of a forgotten gem. Sadly however it was marred by very wide scorecards in what felt like a clear but very competitive, bout. The judges barely gave Biendima anything, despite his effort and successes through the contest.
Sadly the Pandemic saw Hatanaka sit on the sidelines for the rest of 2020 after this contest whilst Biendima was out of the ring for 10 months, before returning in December and being stopped, in a round, by the world ranked Christian Araneta.
The Rookie of the Year tournament always throws some amazing fights our way and 2020 was no different, with a good number of really thrilling fights and excellent match ups. Today we share one of those bouts from the 2020 Rookie of the Year, with the bout in question being the East Japan Rookie of the Year final, pitting two unbeaten men against each other in a mouth watering match up.
Akira Hoshuyama (3-0, 2) vs Shugo Namura (4-0, 4)
In one corner was Akira Hoshuyama, a 24 year old fighter originally from the Shirai Gushiken Gym and a man who had once trained alongside Daigo Higa in the amateurs. Early in his career he was regarded as “Gushiken II”, due to being at the Gushiken gym and a similar style to the Light Flyweight legend, but had transferred to the Misako Gym when Yoko Gushiken closed his gym earlier in 2020. In September he had taken a 4 round decision over Shoji Matsumoto to book his place in the final and was looking to win here and move to a place in the All Japan final, in February.
Shugo Namura was a little bit more experienced and, at 26, a little bit older but had looked like a destructive fighter under the guidance of former multi-time world title challenger Hiroyuki Sakamoto. His first 4 opponents had lasted a combined 5 rounds, and he was destroying everything he hit. There was a crudeness to his style, but in many ways it was a style reminiscent of Sakamoto, who was a star back in the 1990’s and one of the most popular fighters in Japan when he was active.
Going in this hard everything. It had unbeaten men, it had men who could punch, fighters with exciting styles and it had the East Japan Rookie of the Year crown on the line. It ticked all the boxes we like to see for a fight. An even looking match up, with a really notable reward for the winner.
From the off it seemed clear that Hoshuyama was the more polished fighter, with his southpaw stance immediately giving Namura issues. Despite the stance advantage for Hoshuyama it seemed clear that Namura’s physical strength was a strength for him and Namura looked to tie up when the men were up close, rather than wanting to go to war with his man too early. After about 2 minutes of the bout a fight broke out with both having success, before Namura found himself on the canvas, giving Hoshuyama a huge 10-8 round to start the fight.
In round 2 the two men stood and traded bombs up close in what was a thrilling round of action. Despite the fact both were novices, it was clear both men were trained professionals, sadly for Namura however he was on the wrong end of many of the most telling shots. Despite taking more shots, Namura never backed down and always looked the more dangerous puncher, even if his defense was more open and letting him down. As a result of Namura’s flaws, his defense, and his dynamite power, the bout felt like we were walking a tight rope and that either man could end up being hurt, especially given how much leather was being thrown and how close the two men were.
Round 3 was much like round 2. It was another round fought up close, fought with bombs from both and with Namura always looking dangerous, but open, and Hsohuyama looking more polished, but like a fighter who needed to be careful, just in case Namura caught him clean. This made for a brilliant dynamic, and it was made even better by the fact both men were looking to score a stoppage, with neither wanting a decision. This ran over into round 4, as the two continued to box up close, with the cuter skills and better boxing of Hoshuyama neutralising the power, strength and hunger of Namura who refused to just sit and accept his loss.
For fans who haven’t seen this one, it’s great to watch. A really thrilling Rookie of the Year bout, and despite the scores being one sided, it was certainly a lot, lot better than the scorecards would suggest.
This week's one to watch is a bout between two novices, but two novices that you should make a note of, as both men have a lot of potential following good amateur careers. We that in mind we are thinking this could be a very high level bout, but also a somewhat entertaining one, with a skilled aggressive fighter against a talented and rangy outside boxer.
The One to Watch?
Junya Shimada (0-0) Vs Kotari Shigeotshi (2-0, 1)
May 6th (Thursday) (Note - This bout has now been postponed to May 20th due to the on going State of Emergency in Tokyo)
Unlike many countries Japanese boxing promoters don't like to molly coddle their top prospects, and rather than introducing them to the professional ranks with a series of mismatches they like to test their men early, and see what they have as soon as they can. With this bout we see a perfect example of that as a former amateur standout debuts against another former amateur standout in a match up that looks brilliant, despite the professional inexperience of the two men involved. This should be a compelling, high level, contest that really doesn't match up with the records of the two men involved.
It's fair to say that few, outside of those who follow the Japanese amateur boxing scene, will be familiar with Junya Shimada. That however will likely change very quickly with the former amateur standout expected to make a lot of noise in the professional ranks thanks to the backing of Teiken and his own, very accomplished, skillset. He's a 23 year old who went 58-23 in the amateurs and showed a style that was aggressive, exciting and seemed made for the professional scene.
Whilst this will be Shimada's debut the views from Japan are that he is a special talent, and he was unfortunate to regularly bump into very good fighters, several years older than himself, in the main Japanese tournaments. Hence picking up 23 losses in his 81 amateur bouts. Despite that he put in some excellent performances and showed a lot to like, with his speed, body punching, light footwork and combinations. The desire and belief he and his team have is clear, given how tough of a debut this is, and a win here would see him put on the fast track to titles.
At 24 years old Shigetoshi Kotari is slightly older than Shimada and has 2 professional bouts to his name, though he has yet to really shine as a professional, which is something rather surprising. When he turned professional there was huge hope on Kotari, who went 50-23 as an amateur and was sparring with some high profile Japanese fighters ahead of his 2019 debut. Sadly that debut told us very little as Indonesian opponent Lasben Sinaba was dire. Really dire. He Due to the Covid19 pandemic Kotari was out of the ring for around a year, but returned last October and put in an underwhelming performance as he defeat Motosuke Kimura via decision. In that bout Kotari was dropped and never looked comfortable with Kimura's negative style and counter punching. Whilst he has got 2 wins, it's really hard to give them too much weight.
Despite being underwhelmed by his performances so far Kotari is certainly not a bad boxer, just someone who doesn't yet look polished in a way we'd have expected someone with more than 70 amateur bouts. He's a very tall, rangy boxer, with lovely long levers, and he will have height and reach advantage over most opponents, but he looks like a nervous fighter and like someone who doesn't quite believe in their own body. He has the frame to be a brilliant outside boxer, but also the type of frame that looks fragile and given his knack of dropping his hands and over-reaching he could find himself in trouble quite regularly.
What to expect?
It's always hard to predict how a debutant will look. Likewise it's too early to know what Kotari can really do, and he could easily get over some of his jitters in the next fight or two. If that happens, then he could be a real handful.
Despite the issues with predicting this one, what we will say is that both men have a lot to like. Shimada really did look fantastic as amateur, and footage of him shows him to be a fighter who should be a very, very good professional. Should he have taken on an easier opponent for his debut? Sure, but we love the fact he's taking on someone with the ability and amateur track record of Kotari. Is Kotari flawed? Of course, but he's not going to be an easy fighter to beat.
Early on we expect this to be a slow bout. A very slow bout. As both men look to find their groove, both look to get a read on the other and both attempt to find out what exactly the other has to offer. After a quite start we expect to see both go through the fears, and when that happens we expect to see Shimada being the happier man, the more aggressive man and the crisper man. He needs to avoid the power of Kotari, but we think he has the tools needed to take a victory here, albeit a very close decision victory.
The bad news?
With both men being professional novices it's easy to miss out on this one, despite the fact both men were good amateurs. If you can look past their novice status however you're in for a treat with this one!
For this week’s Treasure Trove article we turn our attention to Russia for a bout that took on Christmas Eve. It was on a big Russian card, stacked with talent, but it was also a bout that we suspect many missed, due it being around Christmas, being in Russia and featuring fighters they may not have been too aware of. Despite how few people saw it, the bout was one of those gems that had people talking about it afterwards, yet still, somehow, remained under the radar. With that in mind it was a perfect bout for this series!
Bakhodur Usmonov (0-0) vs Vildan Minasov (4-0, 3)
In one corner was 23 year old Tajik debutant Bakhodur Usmonov, a former amateur standout who was one of the crowns in the jewel for Tajik boxing. As an amateur he had been very impressive, winning gold at the 2019 Asian Boxing Championships in Bangkok, and later qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics. He had impressed in the unpaid ranks and had signed professional papers with MTK Global, who seemed to see him as a potential long term success story. After all he was a proven fighter and still just 23. He was also from a country not known for professional boxers, Tajikistan, but a country that had good links to Russia where he could begin his career and begin to develop his professional skills.
In the opposite corner was the unbeaten Vildan Minasov from Russia. He was 24 years old and relatively unknown, though just 3 months earlier he had battered Kazakh teenager Dastan Saduuly in 2 rounds, really given Saduuly a lesson in a clear example of a boy fighting a man. That win aside there was nothing on Minasov’s record to suggest he was anything more than a can crusher. Despite that he was unbeaten, very early in his career and hungry to prove himself. A win here, against a touted prospect making his debut, could be the sort of result that would put him on the map and build on the momentum following his victory over Saduuly.
On paper this looked like a match up where Usmonov could get a win against an unbeaten fighter on debut. A win that that would look good on paper, but, on further inspection, not be as impressive as the numbers suggested. In reality however he got a lot, lot more than he, or MTK bargained for. He got a real test against a man who was determined to win. This gave us, fans, something brilliant to watch, with drama, action, excitement and controversy.
From the off Usmonov looked to box on the outside, use his polished amateur skills and fight long. Minasov on the other hand didn’t want to play that game and looked to apply pressure, coming forward and trying to bully Usmonov around the ring. This immediately gave us a thrilling opening round, with styles that were polar opposites, but gelled immediately and left Usmonov trying to box off the ropes. At times Minasov looked crude, wild and open, but he was the one pressing the fight and looked to be the much more dangerous man in there and not the patsy that Usmonov and his team may have been expecting. In fact with around 20 seconds of the opening round left Usmonov found out Minasov’s power was legit, as he got put on his backside.
It was a horror opening round for Usmonov in his pro debut and left him in a serious hole. A hole that Minasov was hoping to increase in round 2 as he applied more pressure, again pinning Usmonov on to the ropes and going to work on the Tajik hopeful, who looked skilled and showed some nice touches, but was taking some very clean shots upstairs.
By round 3 it was clear Usmonov was going to need to turn things around and he began the round by doing just that, and letting his hands fly. He was showing more aggression, more hunger and more output than he had earlier in the fight. He looked relatively feather fisted in comparison to Minasov, but was starting to turn the tide, and repel the Russian. He was starting to get respect from Minasov and starting, finally, to find his footing in the contest. It was great to see him turning around the tide and trying to hurt the heavier handed man, despite blood coming from his nose.
Despite his success in round 3 Usmonov couldn’t keep Minasov at bay in round 4 as the Russian got back on the offensive, giving us a brilliant round of action. We had Minasov, looking slightly slower and energetic than the first 2 rounds, trying to press and pressure as he had done earlier. We had Usmonov trying to unload and fight off his man, and we had some absolutely amazing back and forth action.
With Usmonov knowing he had to make a statement and build his momentum had let his hands go more often again in round 5, despite Minasov trying to walk him down. The tactics of the Russian seemed to be all about pressure, but he lacked the energy to let his hands go, walking forward and taking shots more often than landing his own. This allowed Usmonov to have some real success and he even wobbled Minasov at one point late in the round as the Russian began to run out of steam and have his face begin to look like he had been in a meat grinder.
Going into the final round the bout had been utterly compelling. Both men had taken a lot of leather, both men were showing clear signs of battle and both looked like they had been giving their all. They had been involved in something special, and we still had 3 minutes to go. 3 minutes that could decide the winner of the bout. It seemed Usmonov knew that. He knew he was flirting with a defeat on debut and he dug deep, again taking the fight to Minasov, who looked a little bit sorry for himself at times but still stood tall and dug deep himself. Usmonov was the man with the energy, the man letting his shots go more, but Minasov was conservative, picking his moments and landing the heavier shots through the round. A round that really was the deciding factor in a thrilling, and hugely over-looked, 6 round slobber knocker.
If you missed this one back in December make sure to give it a watch now. It is well worth 30 minutes of anyone’s time.
To kick off the month of May, WP Boxing are set to give us a treat, which will also be shown on DAZN for those outside of Thailand. The card is certainly not one which will turn heads or get much attention by default but the main event is something of a potential hidden gem, and could be one of the few fights that really helps kick start May, which promises so much later in the month.
The One to Watch?
Thananchai Charunphak (11-1, 9) Vs Adrian Lerasan (9-4, 2)
May 1st (Saturday) (Note - this bout has now been postponed to June 5th)
Here we have two men who aren't too well known, but should make for a really great match up. In one corner will be one of the top rising prospects in Thailand, and someone who regular viewers of the WP Boxing series should be familiar with. In the opposite corner is a hungry youngster looking to build on a career best win, which just so happened to be the last time he travelled over to Thailand and faced a highly regarded Thai hopeful!
We suspect those who have been following Thai boxing over the last two or three years will have some familiarity with Thananchai Charunphak. The talented and heavy handed youngster is one of the real emerging faces of Thailand and is quickly becoming one of the most promising prospects in the country. He's only 21 but already holds wins over Samartlek Kokietgym, Kompayak Porpramook and Pigmy Kokietgym and another win here would be a big over over a live, young, foe.
Whilst Thananchai is somewhat well known the same can't be said of Adrian Lerasan, who's biggest achievement so far is a shock win in 2020 over Tanes Ongjunta. Although not well known Lerasan has faced some solid names and has beaten the likes of MJ Bo, twice, and Jeny Boy Boca. He has also given Dave Apolinario a very solid test in 2019. Lerasan is less than polished, but is tough, he comes to win, and few can doubt his desire and his heart. At 22 years old he is still a young, ambitious fighter himself, despite having 4 losses to his name, and he will enter this bout showing no fear, at all, of Thananchai.
What to expect?
We expect this to be the hidden gem of a bout. Thananchai will look to dictate, take center ring and box. He is the more skilled and more polished fighter, but also the more deliberate fighter and it can sometimes be clear what he's doing and how he does things. Which could make this interesting as Lerasan is a bit unpredictable, a bit wild, and a bit crude. That crudeness could work in his favour here, and could end up catching Thananchai more often than the Thai would like.
Sadly we don't think Lerasan has the power to really bother Thananchai, but will certainly come to fight, have moments of real success and give Thananchai a lot to think about. We saw against Ongjunta that he's tough, gutsy, brave and doesn't come to roll over. Sadly however he is likely to be more of a "valiant loser" here than really come close to picking up the win.
The bad news?
The bout is unlike to get much attention given the other bouts taking place in early May, including Kazuto Takesako Vs Riku Kunimoto in Japan, Dereck Chisora Vs Joseph Parker in the UK and Erislandy Lara Vs Thomas Lamanna in the US. It's also not really one where we can see an upset as being likely, though we do imagine this will be a very, very fun fight to watch.
For this week's Treasure Trove we're digging a little bit deeper than usual as we get the rare chance to share a bout that was shown not on TV, or even a free stream, but on Boxing Raise! The bout was shown live on boxing Raise before the promoter of the event, Dangan, put the fight on their own YouTube for fans to enjoy and share.
Before we get into the bout we do need to talk a little bit about Boxing Raise, which is a premium Japanese service which combines a VOD service with a streaming service, showing boxing. The service is relatively cheap, has an insane amount of on demand content and is a service we do use. Sadly however so many of the best bouts on the service remain behind a paywall, which is why this fight being available to share is a little bit different. Thankfully it's not just one that's freely available, but it's also a very good fight, a controversial one and a hidden gem.
Kazuki Nakajima (8-0, 7) vs Seiya Tsutsumi (5-0, 4)
The bout in question saw the unbeaten pairing of Kazuki Nakajima and Seiya Tsutsumi clash in a scheduled 8 rounder back in January 2020. The bout wasn’t just a typical 8 rounder between two unbeaten prospects however. Instead this was a bout between two amateur standouts and was also a tournament final, serving as the final bout of the God’s Left Bantamweight tournament, which had begun in 2019.
The tournament had been a 7 man tournament. Tsutsumi had originally gotten a bye into the semi-finals, and then got a bye to the final when his semi-final opponent, Kenya Yamashita, was unable to compete. Nakajima on the other hand had had to fight twice to reach the final, stopping Kenichi Watanabe in the quarter finals and Jin Minamide in the semi final, blowing both out in the opening round, earning his place in the final.
For those who don’t follow Japanese domestic level boxing we will quickly talk about the two men before getting on to the fight.
Nakajima is an Ohashi promoter hopeful, fighting out of the same gym as Naoya Inoue. He’s a big, strong, powerful, Bantamweight, who has since moved up to Super Bantamweight, and although technically somewhat rigid, he is a very destructive fighter and when he lands clean he tends to hurt people. He’s not only big and powerful, but also a rangy southpaw, making him a true nightmare to get in the ring with.
Tsutsumi on the other hand is a smaller fighter, a natural Super Flyweight who has dipped his toes into the Bantamweight division a few times, and is best known for his bout with Daigo Higa that came after this. He’s also heavy handed, but is more of a rounded fighter who can move more and is more cerebral with his in ring work. Technically he is a lot more polished than Nakajima, but was giving away natural size and power. He had also fought just 112 seconds in the previous year due to the two bye’s he had had in the tournament.
Going in we had expected a war. We expected the styles of the two men to give us something of a tear up, and a short firefight. It seemed clear this was made to be a shoot out and was going to be short, but thrilling. Seemingly however no one told Tsutsumi that was the plan, and instead we ended up with a much, much more compelling bout, even if it wasn’t intense as expected.
Instead of tearing chunks out of each other from the off what we saw to open the bout was a smart boxing contest. Tsutsumi bucked the preconceived ideas and instead of standing and fighting with Nakajima he used his feet, moved, jabbed and try to prevent Nakajima from setting his rhythm. He also came out southpaw, not his usual orthodox stance. It was clear he had a gameplan and he wanted to fight to it, getting into Nakajima’s head immediately.
The unexpected tactics from Tsutsumi threw everyone, and saw him really leaving Nakajima looking bewildered to begin the fight. The smaller man continued to box and move through the early rounds, putting on a display that would have convinced many that he was a natural lefty. When Nakajima made a mistake he was punishment, when the fight was slow Tsutsumi was using the ring, using his jab and being incredibly smart.
As the bout went on the action began to pick up, with desperation from Nakajima forcing him to let his hands go more, especially given the large financial bonus set aside for the winner. This forced us to edge towards a shoot out, with Nakajima desperate to force his style of fight on the action. We never got a full on shoot out, but in the middle rounds it was clear Nakajima knew he had to do more, but even then he was still trying to solve a problem he didn’t expect, Tsutusmi as a southpaw.
By the final rounds Nakajima was starting to find his range and had was landing more regularly. He clearly closed the gap on the scorecards, though seemed to still be behind as we entered the final round and it seemed like Nakajima was either going to lose a decision or go all out in an attempt to win.
Given the controversy we don’t want to ruin the result of this one and instead let you watch it “as live”. What we will say is there was controversy and although it wasn’t the fire fight we expected it was a truly compelling bout. It always felt like Nakajima’s power could turn the tide, but Tsutsumi’s gameplan was near perfect. Despite a technical display from Tsutsumi it was a long way from being a “dull” performance, and was instead an exciting, technically smart showing from him against a very dangerous fighter.
This coming weekend is a pretty big one in Japan with two different shows, in two different regions, each featuring a genuinely big name of Japanese boxing. With that in mine we picked a bout from one of those shows that we think will be one to watch, and it's a bout we expect to be shown for free, via the Boxing Real Youtube channel. It's not a bout that will get many headlines heading in but should be an excellent bout between two men who are both looking to make a statement and progress their careers forward.
The One to Watch?
Ayumu Hanada (5-0 4) vs Mammoth Kazunori (6-3-1, 6)
April 24th (Sunday)
This bout really ticks a lot of boxes. It has two youngsters in action, both of whom have serious power, it has two men with a point to prove and its a bout between two fighters who are getting a big opportunity to show the world what they can do. This isn't just a typical novice bout in Japan, something we love, but is instead a high profile clash of youngsters, who look to be at a similar point in their careers. It has the potential to be one of the most exciting and explosive bouts of the month, and we could end up seeing the coming out party of a prospect with genuine world class potential. Likewise we could also see a brutal KO.
Of the two men the more interesting, and the one with the bigger upside, the Ayumu Hanada, who has been on the radar of hardcore fight fans for a few years now. Aged just 19 he's a baby in boxing, but has already proven himself as one to watch. He debuted as a kid in Mexico, when he was just 16, and racked up 4 wins in his adopted homeland whilst getting good training away from home. He took himself there, and he chased the opportunity to learn boxing in Mexico. He then return to Japan in 2019, fighting in a 10 round bout, which doesn't show on his record as it took place outside of the auspices of the JBC. Then he finally secured himself a JBC license and looked tremendous on his "JBC debut", destroying Ryuku Nagamine in just 104 seconds.
Dubbed "Flaco" Hanada appears to have a lot going for him. He has explosive power, frightening speed, a fantastic jab, impressive accuracy and a killer instinct. As well as that he's still incredibly young and he also has a mature, confident head on his shoulders. He backed himself to go to Mexico, he backed himself to join a gym which would let him have more control over his career, and he's now backing himself to climb rapidly through the ranks. He's almost certainly backing himself to become a special fighter. He's also someone who regards Ricardo Lopez as one of his favourites and there are some "Finito-esque" traits in his style.
In the opposite corner is 22 year old Mammoth Kazunori, a huge punching yet flawed southpaw, who debuted in 2016 and has had an interesting career so far. He has showed brutal power through his career, stopping his first 3, and 5 of his first 6, opponents. But he has also shown some rather flawed actual boxing. He's technically very limited, and very rough around the edges, but when he lands there is always the chance an opponent will be hurt, allowing him to follow up and take them out. Sadly for Kazunori when fighters have shown a bit of ring craft and know how he has struggled to close the distance and get his fearsome straight left hand into play. When that shots lands however it can be devastating, as we saw in late 2019 against Lerdchai Chaiyawed.
Although flawed and dangerous, Kazunori is also a man with a point to prove and it can be easy to over-look him coming into a bout like this. He's confident in himself, his power and whilst he is flawed as a fighter he's not actually a bad fighter. More an inexperienced one. There some really promising traits in his arsenal and he often looks relaxed in the ring, strong, tough and man that power. The areas he needs to work on are technical, and with experience and maturity those will come, he just needs to work hard in the gym and develop his skills. He needs to understand range better, and use his ram rod jab more often, using it to set up the big left hand.
What to expect?
We expect something really exciting, and somewhat tense here. With Kazunori's power there is always a chance he could land something fight changing if Hanada takes too many risks. In terms of boxing skills, the two men are on different levels, and Hanada is much quicker, sharper and cleaner with his work. But there will always be a risk that Kazunori could land something big on him. Something that Hanada will be aware of.
We expect to see lots of jabs from Hanada, maybe even a round or two where he looks to figure out exactly what Kazunori has to offer. After that we expect to see more aggression, more hunger and more combinations from the youngster, who will look to break Kazunori mentally and physically. It won't be an easy task but we do see Hanada getting to Kazunori late and going all out to put the cherry on the top of a good performance, and forcing a stoppage.
The bad news?
To be honest here there isn't much bad news at all. The bout will be over-looked, as it plays a role on the under-card of a world title fight,and it could end up being geo-locked in certain countries, if international TV picks up the main event, but in all honesty VPN's are a wonderful thing. The bout it's self should be fantastic and is one to genuinely look forward to.
The Rookie of the Year tournament in Japan is one of the annual highlights of the Japanese boxing calendar and something that often brings highlights throughout the entire tournament. From the preliminary bouts, to the regional finals and the All Japan finals we get so lucky with Rookie of the Year and the consistently fantastic bouts that it delivers. The competition really is a Treasure Trove on it’s own and is one of the key reasons why Japanese boxing is so much fun to follow. The match ups are, generally, competitive, well matched and evenly fought between novices. The tournament tends to develop prospects and unearth real talent, and fans usually get the chance to join a fighter early in their professional journey. It is a tournament format that really should be copied in other parts of the world and it would certainly help make under-cards more interesting in the West.
We’ve said all that to begin with as this week's Treasure Trove bout is one of the East Japan Rookie of the Year finals, which took place on December 20th at Korakuen Hall. And boy did this deliver. Big time.
Kenji Yoshino (1-2, 2) vs Eiki Kani (2-1-1) II
Before we talk the actual bout we need to go back a little bit to just lay down the foundations of the bout, but we’ll get there in a little bit.
In February 2019 Kenji Yoshino made his professional debut at the age of 18, losing in 4 rounds to Taigo Ito. Some 5 months later he suffered his second loss, being stopped in 4 rounds by Eiki Kani to end 2019 0-2. Like most fighters he ended up sitting out most of 2020 due to Covid19 but returned to the ring in November 2020 and stopped Taiga Ito in a rematch of his debut, to secure his place in the East Japan Rookie of the Year final around 6 weeks later.
Eiki Kani on the hand had debuted all the way back on December 30th 2018, at the age of 17, on the under-card of Masayuki Ito’s win over Evgeny Chuprakov. He had fought to a draw in his debut before fighting his second bout in July 2019, when he stopped Yoshino in 4 rounds. He then added a win over Daijo Kogo towards the end of 2019. He then scored a win in an East Japan Rookie of the Year bout against Tomohiro Ishida which should have led him to a clash in the semi finals with Masanori Iwai, who pulled out of their bout giving Kani a bye to the East Japan final.
So for those who followed that, Yoshino and Kani had fought back in 2019, when both men were fighting in their second professional bouts, with Kani stopping Yoshino in the 4th round. Despite that, the two men had fought their way to the finals of the East Japan Rookie of the Year in 2020, with Yoshino now out for revenge and Kani looking to do the double over Yoshino.
There was a lot on the line for the two youngsters, who were fighting for a place in the All Japan final, which will take place in February, the chance to call themselves the East Japan Rookie of the Year and to settle chapter 2 of their personal rivalry. This was more personal than pretty any of the other Rookie of the Year bouts from the year, and it was also among the most exciting.
The bout started relatively slowly but within a minute both men were starting to let their shots go, and both managed to find real success. Yoshino, who sported the Teiken shorts, looked the bigger man, and the heavier handed fighter, but was putting a lot into his shots, and he even wobbled Kani late in the round. Kani on the other hand seemed to be the smarter man, landing the better counters and covering up better. The dynamic of the two men made for an exciting first round, which got better and better as it went on, and the final 40 seconds or so of the round were tremendous as both men looked to make a statement for the judges.
Although the first round was great it was fought in bursts, from both. The second round however was a lot more consistent, with both men looking to go tit for tat. Again it was Yoshino who looked the bigger single shot puncher, but Kani was regularly finding excellent counter shots, punishing Yoshino for his wider shots. Almost the entire final 90 seconds of the round was thrilling back and forth up close with neither man wanting the other to have the final say. Both rounds were hard to score, but both were brilliant to watch.
The action continued to be enthralling through round 3. By now Yoshino’s pace was dropping. He was still throwing hard shots when he threw, but was throwing a lot less, and Kani was starting to land more. This felt like Kani was starting to finally break up a tiring Yoshino. That was until Yoshino got a second wind and started to connect with his bombs, forcing Kani to hold for a few moments until he came back trying to shine at the very end of the round. It was another compelling round, and it left the bout very finely balanced as we entered round 4.
In round 4 Kani began to look tired, backing off, letting Yoshino come to him, and then tried countering. It was a somewhat negative tactic, especially given how he’d fought earlier in the bout, but it was clear that he was feeling the pace of a hectic bout, and he was desperate not to be stopped by Yoshino in round 4, like he had been in their first bout. With just over a minute left Kani was rocked, but gritted it out, once again spoiling and trying to catch his breath. With that done the two men then exchanged some big shots as they each looked for a decisive blow to secure a win.
After 4 rounds both men had given their all, they had each taken a lot of heavy shots, and they had each battled through exhaustion. They had gone to a decision and amazingly the judges were unable to split them, leading to a majority decision draw in one of the best 4 rounders we saw in the entire of 2020.
Yes the action might be bitty, the quality of the fighters might not be the highest, and the fight itself might not be anywhere close to a Fight of the Year contender, but this was certainly a war and was a thoroughly enjoyable 4 round tear up.
One day, somewhere down the line, we hope these two youngsters clash again in a third bout. Given how good this was when both were novice we can only hope a third bout in 3 or 4 years, manages to be just as good!
Note - There are some minor issues with the signal for this video. They should only last a few seconds.
Although there are a lot of fights this month there are very few bouts featuring Asian fighters at Heavyweight, something that is almost always worth talking about. Especially when the Heavyweight in question is a former amateur standout and potentially the man to put his country on the boxing map. That is what we get this coming Saturday as we see an Azeri banger in the ring for his biggest test so far!
The One to Watch?
Mahammadrasul Majidov (3-0, 3) vs Andrey Fedosov (31-3, 25)
April 17th (Saturday)
The Heavyweight division can be a frustrating on to follow at times, especially when good fighters are essentially able to age themselves out of contention. This bout is a massive step up for a man who really needs to sink or swing very soon. We love big step ups and this is certainly one of those as a 34 year old novice professional takes on on someone who should be regarded, quite fairly, as a divisional gatekeeper.
In one corner is unbeaten 34 year old Azeri Mahammadrasul Majidov, a former amateur standout and one of the heaviest handed fighters in the sport. As an amateur Majidov was a true star, winning the World Amateur Championships twice and taking bronze at the Olympics. Sadly his best days as an amateur came early in the 2010's and he didn't turn professional until he was the wrong side of 30. Despite that he has the power and technical ability to still become a contender before he "ages out" of the sport.
Since turning professional in 2019 Majidov has shown continual development, and looked like a technically well schooled brute. Sadly though he competition has done little to test him, barring a knockdown on his debut. he has needed better tests, especially given his age. Instead he has had an easy win over Tom Little and a bout with the horribly out of shape Sahret Delgado, who shouldn't have passed a medical given how unfit he was.
In the opposite corner is 35 year old professional veteran Andrey Fedosov, a US based Russian fighter who has been a professional since 2003. Although never a world beater Fedoosov was the type of fighter who was always a credible foe and is one of the best wins on the record of Bryant Jennings, who stopped Fedosov in 2013. Since that loss Fedosov bounced back, winning 7 in a row and winning the 2015 Boxcino tournament. At his best Fedosov is a genuine test for any fighter coming through the ranks.
Sadly however Fedesov hasn't fought since scoring a win over Joey Dawejko in 2018, and has only fought 3 times since winning the Boxcino tournament in May 2015. That level of inactivity really could be a problem against someone as sharp and effective as Majidov. It's a shame in many ways that Fedosov could well have made a good living as a gatekeeper on the European scene, with bouts against the likes of Tony Yoka, Daniel Dubois and Derrick Chisora, where his tough nosed approach to the ring would have kept him busy.
What to expect?
We don't expect a war here. Neither man is known for fighting with a mega fast out put, and taking huge amounts of risks. Instead we expect something more akin to a showcase of power punching from Majidov, who is methodical, accurate and punches like he has a sledgehammer in his hands. We expect to see that power showing it's effects early against Fedosov who inactivity will be an issue..
If Fedosov can last more 4 than rounds then we suspect things could get very interesting as we finally see whether Majidov has got a gas tank, and can go rounds. The longer this goes the more interesting it'll be. But that's a big if and there is every chance that Majidov's power will simply be too much for an inactive and old Fedosov
The bad news?
The only real bad news is that Majidov is 34 already and Fedosov has been so inactive. It's a shame that we've not seen the Russian build on his Boxcino success, as he genuinely did deserve so much more on the back of that. Likewise it's a shame Majidov didn't turn professional 5 or 6 years earlier, and lost his prime years as a result.
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.