One thing Japan does that no other country seems to have quite the same ability to do, is the "well matched 4 rounder". Japan has given us so many great 4 round bouts in recent years due to the fact that their promoters don't aim to pad records left right and center. Instead the fighting comes first, at least for the most part, and the record doesn't matter in the same way. As a result we often see debutants thrown in against each other, and novices clashing. Heck that's the entire idea behind the Rookie of the Year, the C-class tournaments and the All round 4 shows that wee see in Japan regularly.
Today for the Treasure Trove we have one such bout that isn't just a very solid 4 rounder but also an all debutant bout. Although not unheard around the globe, these are less common than you'd have realised, and rarely are they are fun as they manage to be in Japan. As we see here!
Ryusei Sasanoike (0-0) Vs Masato Ichino (0-0)
In one corner was 35 year old Masato Ichino, from the Token Boxing Gym in Tokyo, a pretty small, low key one. He's stated that the boxers he likes include Edwin Valero and Takashi Miura, aggressive and big punching fighters, and his goal for the sport is to win the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2021. Debuting at the age of 35 it's clear his potential is limited, especially given Japan has essentially got a retirement age for fighters that isn't too much older than Ichino's age when he debuted, but his hunger to compete is a positive and it's great to see fighters like Ichino willing to put the gloves on and give the sport a go.
In the opposite corner was 17 year old Ryusei Sasanoike, who also fights out of a small gym, the Mt Fuji Nexus Gym. Despite being 17 he had fought a few amateur bouts, going 3-0 in amateur bouts at the Under 15's level and has set himself the goal of becoming a world champion. A lofty ambition for someone so inexperienced, but an ambition that shows the level he wants to get to, and how that is far above the aim of Ichino. Given his age there is a lot of time for him to develop, but he was quite literally a boy up against a man here.
Despite their vastly different targets in the sport the two were both debutants. Sure Ichino was twice the age of Sasanoike, but he was going to have his man strength and be more physically mature than the youngster. At 17 it was way too early to say anything much about Sasanoike, who had only turned 17 a few months earlier.
From the off both guys looked fast and hungry to pick up their first win, there there was some nervous energy from both men. It didn't take long however for Sasanoike to show that he did have that something else. He looked very sharp, and like a man who knew how to box, picking some nice shots and looking very calm and confident. He didn't look the complete product, not by any stretch, but there was something about him that did catch the eye. Ichino on the other hand looked raw, as we'd expect from a debutant, but someone who didn't want to lose to a kid half his age. Sadly for Ichino not wanting to lose didn't help him win, and the speed of Sasanoike was a major difference maker through the opening round.
In round 2 we saw real hunger from Ichino, he knew he had lost the opening round and that he had to turn things around, something he tried to do with a lot more offensive work than in the opening round. Sadly for him the extra energy didn't really pay off too well, and later in the round Ichino was put on the canvas, as Sasanoike scored the first knockdown of his professional career. By the end of round 2 Ichino, was clearly down on the scorecards and sporting a swelling under his right eye, but still hungry and still fighting like a man with a point to prove. He was still the aggressor, the one coming forward and the man who seemed to want to turn the fight around, something he showed again in round 3. Unfortunately for him he wasn't good enough, Sasanoike had settled into his groove, was picking some very nice shots and as round 3 ticked on he was really letting shots fly. Those shots forced some rather nasty swelling, that forced the doctor to take a look before allowing the bout to continue.
Down by a wide margin as we entered the final round Ichino had nothing to lost by going all out and trying to take out the young upstart, who had been embarrassing him at times. Sadly for him however Ichino was merely seeing his younger, more talented rival going through the gears and showing what he could do. The older man some success late in the round, but that merely forced a response from the youngster. By the final bell Ichino bloodied, beaten and bruised, a clear loser, but had been his part in the debut of a really promising youngster.
This is not a fight that will get FOTY talk, or even be considered in the top 1000 fights of 2020. It was however a fun 4 rounder and the first showcase of someone who looks like he has the potential to be a notable figure on the Japanese boxing scene. For those that haven't seen this one, it's about Sasanoike, a teenage prospect who looks like he has the tools and youth to reach some heady heights. It's a good solid bout every all, if somewhat one sided, but it's worth a watch to see the teen in action.
(Note - The first bell rings around the 8:50 mark of the below video)
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.