This past Friday we saw a young fighter score a win that has genuinely put him on the boxing map, and made him talk of the town in Japan. That was a win scored by Junto Nakatani (21-0, 16), who looked like a star he beat up, broke down, and stopped Filipino Giemel Magramo (24-2, 20) and claimed the vacant WBO Flyweight title. The bout was seen as a genuinely tough match up on paper, but Nakatani made it look easy and made Magramo look third rate, not something we had been expecting.
Having had a chance to go back and rewatch the fight again a few days later we've decided to talk about our take aways from the bout, and the performances of the two men. As well as touching, just slightly, on the future of the fighters involved.
1-It's fucking great to have world title bouts back in Japan!
Lets start this with a really, really obvious one. It is damn good to see a world title bout back in Japan after such a long wait. Other than a female title fight, in September between Mika Iwakawa and Nanae Suzuki, we've not seen any top level action in Japan this year! That's not just since boxing came back in the summer, but at all in 2020! So let us just say this was an amazing event. Especially after what had happened just a few days earlier with Hiroto Kyoguchi. Whether anyone wanted to admit it or not this was a really important event, and we can't help but thing Japanese boxing needed a big win.
2-Magramo had no plan B
So on to the actual fight. We had seen Magramo a few times prior to this bout and he had always seemed like a solid puncher with a boxer-puncher style. Here he looked absolutely clueless with no Plan B, and in fairness we're not even sure he had a Plan A! His game plan seemed to be based around getting close to Nakatani, but even when he got there he never seemed sure of what to do. It sure didn't help that Nakatani managed to hold his own up close, and landed the more solid, hurtful and clean shots, but we're still confused what Magramo and his team were thinking. We already knew Nakatani was good in a toe-to-toe war, he had broken down Seigo Yuri Akui in an inside war, a result that looks even better now, but surely there was some sort of logic and intelligence to Magramo's gameplan. What ever that idea was never seemed to show it's self.
3-Nakatani is still improving and has been moved perfectly
We've followed Junto Nakatani with some interest since he was in the Rookie of the Year in 2016, where he beat Masamichi Yabuki in the All Japan Final. Since then we've seen him grow, and grow, and grow. He's only had one genuinely close fight and that 3 and a half years ago, against Yuma Kudo. Since then he has matured, developed and become one of the best Flyweight, and best young, fighters on the planet and scored some very solid wins. He's broken down Seigo Yuri Akui, for the Japanese Youth title, battered Dexter Alimento, dominated Shun Kosaka, broken down Naoki Mochizuki, schooled Milan Melindo and now whooped Giemel Magramo. It was easy to get excited about Nakatani early in his career but credit to his team, Teiken and MT Gym for developing him well, and taking progressive steps forward with his career. He's moved Japanese Rookie of the Year, to Japanese Youth title, to Japanese title, to facing a former world champion to winning a world title. Every step of the way has been logical, it has been a step forward and it has made sense. Now he's a world champion we don't expect him to be having "developmental defenses". He's a champion and we expect MT Gym and Teiken will be looking to have him face world class opponents. Yes he's a young champion, but he's been developed properly.
4-Nobuto Ikehara deserves more opportunities
One thing we seen our selves really focusing on in this series has been the officials and we need to say that a Japanese referee has, once again, done everything to deserve praise! From what we could find this was seemingly Nobuto Ikehara's first world title fight as a referee and the world title contender did a really good job on the big stage. Like we typically see from Japanese referees he let them fight out of clinches, for the most part, didn't involve himself too much, despite needing to force some breaks, and let them fight when they had an arm free up close. He didn't get on either fighters case, and called it straight down the middle with no issues in telling either man to stop bending the rules. We have praised Japanese referees a lot in this series and once again we need to hold our hats up and say Ikehara did a great job.
We do need to note that was a former fighter, fighting in a world title fight during his career, and is still a young referee however he acquitted himself really well here, was clear, and didn't ever look phased by the occasion. Aged 44 we suspect he's going to be a very good official, for a very long time
5-The future is incredibly bright for Nakatani
At just 22 years old, and already looking like a star in the making we can't help but feel like Nakatani has the boxing world at his finger tips right now. He's done and said the right things, comes across as a very personable young man, and seems to want to be the new face of boxing on NTV. If he can get the trust and belief of the channel, and get their full backing he may end up being their replacement for the now retired pairing of Shinsuke Yamanaka and Hozumi Hasegawa. It's clear NTV want to get back into the boxing game, but haven't had a fighter who can carry a show. We dare say Nakatani is that guy, and he's done it organically. He's built his name and reputation properly, he's very fun to watch, he's still got strong links to local fans whilst also openly talking about wanting to fight on foreign soil, and building his international profile. He's learned bits of English, spent time in the US and has connections on both sides of the Pacific. He might not ooze the destructive power of Naoya Inoue, or have the charisma of a Joichiro Tatsuyoshi, but make no mistake he has everything needed to be a star, and one of the biggest faces in Japanese boxing over the next decade. We suspect NTV know this, and if he manages 2 or 3 title defenses next year, expect to see NTV building shows around him very soon.
With no fights currently taking place we've had a bit of time on our hands, and with that in mind we've decided to look at the sport in terms of how divisions sit, and do something that had previously been requested. The Asian divisional top 10's. We'll be starting this at Minimumweight and working our way through the divisions over the coming days and weeks. We know there will be some debate about some rankings and there is certainly some area for discussion, and that is certainly not a bad thing at all!
The third division in this series is the rather weird looking Flyweight division. Historically it's been a rich division, full of excellent Asian talent, but right now it's a division that is very much transitional in Asia and there is no recognised #1, like their is in most other divisions. Despite that it's not actually a poor division, in fact it's a deep one, just one lacking in terms of star power.
1-Junto Nakatani (20-0, 15)
Whilst we don't know who the true #1 is in the division it's probably fair to suggest that Junto Nakatani is one of the leading pack now that Kosei Tanaka has left the division. The 22 year old Japanese southpaw is regarded as one of the best youngsters in the sport and with wins over Dexter Alimentoo, Shun Kosaka, Naoki Mochizuki and Milan Melindo in recent bouts he's clearly among the very best in Asia, if not the best. Given his age, his style, his performances and his freakish size he's going to be a very, very hard man to beat. He was supposed to fight for the WBO Flyweight title earlier this year, but as of now, given everything going on, it's unclear when, and even if, that will end up happening.
2-Giemel Magramo (24-1, 20)
The man that Nakatani was supposed to fight for the WBO title was Filipino fighter Giemel Magramo. The once beaten 25 year old is a real talent, who was unfortunate in his only loss more than 3 years ago. Since suffering his sole loss he has scored 7 wins, all by stoppage. They have included victories over Richard Clavers, Petchchorhae Kokietgym and Wenfeng Ge. It's really the win over Ge that has strengthened Magramo's claim as a top Flyweight. Whilst Magramo's record suggests he's a pure puncher he's not, instead he's actually a very heavy handed boxer-puncher. He's aggressive, exciting, talented and has solid pop on his shots. There are area's for him to improve, and he can look a bit raw, but there is no doubting his ability and how much of a danger man he is in the division.
3-Sho Kimura (19-3-2, 12)
Despite being the only former world champion on this list it's hard to really know where to place Sho Kimura. In terms of achievement he's the number one, by some distance, but since losing the WBO Flyweight title to Kosei Tanaka he's not really shown much. Last year he made an ill fated move down in weight, where he was easily beaten by Carlos Canizales, and since then he has only beaten Merlito Sabillo, who suffered what looked like an horrific injury. If Kimura is still the same fighter he was against Zou Shiming, Toshiyuki Igarashi, Froilan Saludar and Kosei Tanaka he'd be the #1 in the division, but at the moment question marks do hangover him. Those questions are magnified by the fact he's also changed gyms, leaving the the Aoki gym that lead him to his success.
4-Muhammad Waseem (10-1, 7)
The most successful amateur on this list Pakistani fight Muhammad Waseem looked like a star in the making early on, when he was impressing in Korea. In his first 5 bouts he had not only won the South Korean Bantamweight title but also beaten Jether Oliva and Giemel Magramo. Sadly financial backing failed to materialise and he would struggle to build on that early success. More than 3 years on he has managed to have only 2 more bouts of note, a close decision loss in an IBF title bout against Moruti Mthalane and a close win over Ganigan Lopez last year. Although clearly talented the 32 is no spring chicken and will likely be 33 by the time he returns to the ring. A real example of why a financially strong backer is needed, even at the lower weights.
5-Jayr Raquinel (12-1-1, 9)
Filipino hopeful Jayr Raquinel is one of the hidden gems in the division. The 23 year old boxer-puncher has scored some very big wins over the last couple of years or so, stopping Keisuke Nakayama, Shun Kosaka and Takuya Kogawa in OPBF title bouts. Clearly a heavy handed fighter Raquinel still has work to do, and we saw him suffer a disappointing loss in China in 2018, when he seemed to be old manned by Wulan Tuolehazi. That loss hopefully serve as a turning point for Raquinel's training, and help him increase his activity in bouts, rather than sleep walking through portions of bouts. He's not yet ready for a world title fight, in our eyes, but is quickly moving towards one and could be ready in 2021 for a very big fight.
6-Wulan Tuolehazi (14-4-1, 7)
With wins over 2 fighters in the top 10 there will be an argument that Wulan Tuolehazi should be higher up the rankings, but in reality he's a hard man to judge. He beat Jayr Raquinel in 2018 but then squeaked some questionable decisions against Ryota Yamauchi and Ardin Diale in 2019, before being decimated by Kosei Tanaka at the end of last year. Had his bouts with Yamauchi and Diale not been in China we would be looking at a very different career for Tuolehazi, and there's a good chance he wouldn't have got the Tanaka fight. Although not a world beater he's proven himself a solid fighter, just maybe not as good as his results suggest. It's going to be very, very interesting to see what he does in his next few fights, as they could make or break him. At 27 he's in his physical prime, but it really is unclear as to how much further he can develop.
7-Masayuki Kuroda (30-8-3, 16)
Former 2-time world title challenger Masayuki Kuroda is one of the more well known names on this list and has certainly proven to be a legitimate fringe world level fight during his 41 fight career. He's been a professional since 2005 and whilst his career is definitely coming to an end, the 33 year old is looking for one more shot at the top. Last year he put on a brave effort against Moruti Mthalane en route to a clear decision loss. That defeat ended a 6 fight winning run for the Japanese veteran who had taken wins over Takuya Kogawa, Yuta Matsuo and Katsunori Nagamine. Given his age and wear and tear he'll not have long left in the sport, but could well have one more crack at the top before hanging them up.
8-Seigo Yuri Akui (14-2-1, 10)
Fast starter Seigo Yuri Akui should be regarded as one of the division's true danger men, though also someone who perhaps struggles if bouts don't finish early on. His 17 fight career has seen him scoring 9 opening round wins, but being stopped every time he has gone beyond 5 rounds. Akui is currently the Japanese champion and holds wins against Ryuto Oho, Masamichi Yabuki, Yoshi Minato and Shun Kosaka, but needs a solid international win to back up his ranking. Interestingly Akui could certainly see beat some of the man ranked higher up this list than himself, but also lose to some of the un-ranked fighters. That makes him very tricky to rank but also very exciting to watch.
9-Tetsuya Hisada (34-10-2, 20)
Another tricky man to rank is Japanese veteran Tetsuya Hisada, who announced that he was intending to compete as a Flyweight for the final few bouts of his career. The former Light Flyweight world title challenger had his best success at 108lbs, where his strength and physicality proved vital, and a move up could see him losing those assets. At 35 years old we can't begrudge Hisada's move up in weight, but he'll likely be 36 by the time he fights again and unless he can land a big fight at the weight we'll maybe never really know what he could do in the division. With 10 losses to his name he's unlikely to lure a big opponent in to the ring with him before calling a close on his career.
10-Ryota Yamauchi (6-1, 5)
One of the divisional stars of the future 25 year old Ryota Yamauchi looks like he could be unleashed back on a fast track when the sport resumes in Japan. He looked red hot early on but a controversial loss to Wulan Tuolehazi in China, in a great bout that saw both being dropped, and he followed that up with a disappointingly messy bout against Alphoe Dagayloan. Whilst he defeated Dagayloan he suffered a cut that prevented him from fighting in a Japanese title eliminator, and miss out on a bout with Akui. He did manage to return to the ring in February but it's hard to know when he'll be back out there and who he'll be against. A talented boxer who can brawl and fight he's one of the division's most interesting hopefuls.
On the bubble:
Wenfeng Ge, Jayson Mama, Taku Kuwahara, Kento Hatanaka, Jaysever Abcede, Alphoe Dagayloan and Dave Apolinatio
*Kosei Tanaka has signalled his intention is to move up and fight at Super Flyweight so isn't included here.
The action for November continues over the coming week or saw with 7 title bouts in the space of just 4 days, and whilst some of the bouts aren't great they do tend to feature at least one fighter of real note in every one of the bouts.
Of those 7 title bouts 5 come on November 23rd's show in Osaka, with the title number selling the show as being something special, though the reality is that the show just simply has some well matched, or interesting looking fights on it.
Dwight Ritchie (14-0-0-4, 1) v Koki Tyson (10-2-2, 10)
One of those title bouts will see the unbeaten Dwight Ritchie defending his OPBF Middleweight title against Japanese puncher Koki Tyson, with Ritchie looking for this first defense of the belt and Tyson looking to become an OPBF champion at the second time of asking. Ritchie impressed in Japan earlier this year, when he ripped the title form Hikaru Nishida but will be facing a totally different stylistic match up here against the crude but heavy handed Tyson, who has shown fragility but can certainly bang.
Takayuki Hosokawa (28-10-5, 9) v Yutaka Oishi (13-5, 7)
The other OPBF title bout on the card will see OPF Light Middleweight champion Takayuki Hosokawa defending his title against fellow Japanese fighter Yutaka Oishi. For Hosokawa the bout will be his second defense of the title and see him trying to put a very poor performance against Koshinmaru Saito behind him, with many feeling that Hosokawa was lucky to get the draw in that bout. For Oishi the bout is his first for an OPBF title, though he has previously fought for a regional title in Australia, and he could genuinely play a spoiler to Hosokawa's hopes of fighting for a world title in the future.
Hinata Maruta (3-0, 2) v Joe Tejones (6-1, 2)
In a WBC Youth title fight we'll see fast rising Japanese prospect Hinata Maruta take on Filipino southpaw Joe Tejones. For Maruta this will be his first title defense, and he will be looking to build on an excellent win over Wilbert Berondo. The bout will however be Maruta's first against a southpaw and the focus will be on getting some rounds against a lefty. For Tejones the the opportunity is a big one, but it's hard to imagine him living with a fighter as naturally talented as Maruta and it is the visitor taking a huge step up in class.
Hirofumi Mukai (12-4-3, 2) Vs Inthanon Sithchamuang (30-8-1, 18)
In a WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight title fight we'll former world title challengers collide as Hirofumi Mukai, a former 2-time world title challenger, faces Inthanon Sithchamuang in a really intriguing type of match up. Mukai is probably one of the least qualified 2-time world title challengers of recent times, having faced Pongsaklek Wonjojngkam and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, but is still talented and is a nice pure boxer. Inthanon challenged Kohei Kono earlier this year in a gutsy, but out gunned, performance and given the limitations of the two men this should prove to be a really interesting bout.
Masahiro Sakamoto (8-0, 4) v Sho Kimura (12-1-2, 6)
A second WBO Asia Pacific title bout comes at Flyweight where the unbeaten Masahiro Sakamoto takes on the once beaten Sho Kimura in a wonderfully well matched bout that should test the ability of both men and their potentials. Sakamoto is stepping up in a big way here but was impressive last time out, taking a wide win over Il Che, and was the 2015 Flyweight Rookie of the Year. Kimura hasn't really scored a win of any note, but does come in to this bout on a 14 fight unbeaten run following a knockout loss on debut.
Milan Melindo (34-2, 12) Vs Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr (31-4-1, 16)
On December 30th we'll see IBF Light Flyweight champion Akira Yaegashi return to the ring, his supposed opponent will be either Milan Melindo or Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr, who face off just 5 weeks earlier for the interim title. This bout will see Melindo getting a third shot at a “world title” and his first t home having had to travel to Macau and Mexico for his previous bit bouts. For Fahlan the bout is his second shot at a world title, after his controversial loss to Katsunari Takayama, and a win could see him return to Japan for another big bout, following bouts with Takuma Inoue, Ryo Miyazaki and the aforementioned Takayama. This bout will be a fun one and we wouldn't be shocked by any result.
Muhammad Waseem (4-0, 3) v Giemel Magramo (17-0, 13)
To end the month our attention turns to Korea where fast rising Pakistani fighter Muhammad Waseem takes on the unbeaten Giemel Magramo. Waseem, the most notable Pakistani born boxer since Hussain Shah, is looking to make his first defense of the WBC Silver Flyweight title and move towards a 2017 world title bout. For Magramo the bout is a huge step up and his first bout away from home, he's unbeaten but has never faced anyone with the pedigree or ability of Waseem, likewise Waseem has never faced anyone as hungry as Magramo.
Thinking Out East
With this site being pretty successful so far we've decided to open up about our own views and start what could be considered effectively an editorial style opinion column dubbed "Thinking Out East" (T.O.E).