It’s fair to say that 2020 was the year where Jin Sasaki (10-0, 9) became a name on the lips of everyone who follows Japanese boxing. The hard hitting 19 year old went 3-0 (3) for the year and ended 2020 with a sensational 3rd round TKO win over the tough Aso Ishiwaki (8-3-1, 6), claiming the Japanese Youth title at 140lbs in the process. It was a win that gave Sasaki a lot of momentum heading into the new year.
Before the bout dies from the memory however we’ve decided to look back on it and share our 5 take aways from the explosive bout.
1-Sasaki carries himself like a star
We’ve covered two other Jin Sasaki bouts in this series and it needs repeating, again, that Sasaki carries himself with the aura of a star. He might only be fighting at the Youth title level, but from the way he enters the ring to the way he fights he gives off an aura of a special, super confident star. He seems to realise fans are looking at him, paying him attention, and he wants to bask in that attention, and get more of it. For a 19 year old to be generating the buzz he has in 2020 is incredible, and he seems to be ticking a lot of boxes that will continue to generate a fan base, both domestically and internationally. He really does stand out in a way that few others in Japan do, and his calm, confident, demeanour is attention grabbing. He adds that natural charisma to sensational performance and stoppages like the one he got here will seriously help him make a mark on people. He and his team have done a great job in 2020, and he is quickly becoming a must watch fighter in Japan.
Also bonus points here for having One OK Rock as his walk out music!
2-This isn’t the end for Ishiwaki
For Aso Ishiwaki this was a painful loss. He wasn’t just beaten, but was absolutely battered. Down twice in round 1, on the verge of being stopped during the first 3 minutes, and then taken out all together in round 3. It was the type of loss that can be very hard to bounce back from, especially at the age of 21. Thankfully however it is not the end for him, and with Nobuhiro Ishida behind him we suspect the youngster will be given the time and fights to rebuild. He had had a solid 2019 before his career was put on pause during 2020 due to Covid19 sweeping across Japan and limiting events. It was unfortunate he didn’t have a tune of some sort before this bout. The youngster seems to be the type who is still hungry to impress and with that in mind he should bounce back fine in 2021.
3-The Japanese Youth Title scene is brilliant
Whilst most who follow Japanese boxing will be aware of the Rookie of the Year, the long standing novice tournament which is held annually and has been for decades, most probably aren’t too aware of the Japanese Youth title. These are a relatively new concept and have only been around for a few years, but are quickly proving to be a brilliant asset for Japanese boxing and helping entice youngsters to take risks with their careers. This is something that really does see Japan stand out. We don’t see top Japanese youngsters waiting until they have double digit wins to take on a real test. We also don’t see Japanese boxers chasing Inter-continental and International titles, neither of which are recognised by the JBC, which means we get exciting match ups like this instead. Other countries perhaps need to start considering something similar!
4-Sasaki answered some questions but has more to answer
There is no denying that this was a step up in class for Jin Sasaki, and that Aso Ishiwaki is a very solid fighter. That allowed Sasaki to prove a lot about himself. We now know that Sasaki’s power is legit, few in Japan will manage to dominate Ishiwaki like Sasaki did. We also saw Sasaki take one or two flush bombs himself, without any issues at all. In round 3 we also saw slight changes in his tactics, as he began to use more of a high guard and pressure Ishiwaki into making mistakes. We know he’s legit, he has a lot to like and can go a long, long way. However the bout also showed that at times he is in love with his power, and can end up looking for the home run punch a bit too much, he also leaves himself very open when throwing his hooks, as we saw a lot in round 2. Ishiwaki couldn’t capitalise, and even trying to do so would be a risk, but we suspect future opponents will be scouting the way he throws hooks and look to catch his exposed chin.
5-Akihiko Katsuragi did his job perfectly
We seem to celebrate Japanese referees in these articles consistently, and this was another example of the referee doing his job as he should. The experienced Akihiko Katsuragi stayed out of the action when he could, maintained a good view of the fighters, gave Ishiwaki every chance that he could, showed good patience and understanding of the fight and only intervened in the rare occasions that he had to. He also made the right decision in not even allowing Ishiwaki to try and beat the count from the third knockdown. There was no point. Credit to Ishiwaki on getting to his feet, but Katsuragi made it clear this was over. Very clear, decisive and well placed throughout. Bigger name referees around the world may want to what the job Katsuragi did during the fight.
On Monday A-Sign Boxing streamed the latest Hachioji Nakaya card, headlined by teenage sensation Jin Sasaki (9-0, 8) who took out Tatsuya Miyazaki (9-14-1, 9) in the final seconds of the opening round. The win saw Sasaki claim his third straight stoppage win and his second win this year. It also saw Miyazaki take his 11th stoppage loss, and likely sent the 36 year old into retirement.
On paper this wasn't great match up, no one will tell you otherwise. It was, potentially a chance to see whether Sasaki could take a shot, if Miyazaki landed, but the expected outcome was always an early win for Sasaki, and he continues to head towards bigger and better things. Given Miyazaki had already been stopped in the opening round twice before it was expected that he would be stopped very early here, and he was, at the 2:53 mark of round 1.
Despite the outcome being expected it was a bout worthy of a closer look and one that we felt deserved the Take Aways treatment.
1-Sasaki carries himself like a star
We said this last time we covered a Jin Sasaki bout and we'll say it again, the 19 year old exudes an aura of a star. He came into the ring with some high energy music, a huge robe, and the look of someone who was looking to turn heads. This is a young man who realises he's in the position to be something big in the boxing world, and he knows that to do that he needs to connect with fans, something he is doing every time he steps in the ring. From his entrance to his performance he gets it. He knows he needs to entertain and that's what he did through out the contest. Like a fighter who know he needs to shine, he finished the bout in style, and took the next step forward on his journey to stardom.
2-Miyazaki didn't come to lose
Despite a lengthy losing run and being seen as the very obvious under-dog Tatsuya Miyazaki didn't enter the ring to make up the numbers. He came forward, looked to use his experience and heavy hands and even backed up Sasaki at times. Whilst he did pay for trying to make a fight of things no one can say he came for a pay day. Had he been there to collect his purse he would have stayed down after being dropped may way through the round and not taken the heavy leather that came afterwards. He was gutsy, came to win and was simply up against someone better, stronger, quicker and more powerful.
3-The referee was in the right place through out
The ending here nearly got very ugly. With the clacker gone Miyazaki was in an awful position on the ropes and could have easily ended up taking a number of clean, unprotected shots. Credit, however, goes to Akihiko Katsuragi for being in the perfect position and stopping this one before that happened. It's easy to complain about referees, and then getting it wrong, but once again we were impressed by a referee. Through out the bout Katsuragi was scarcely needed, but when he had to act he did, and he was never out of position. Referees around the globe should be watching some of these Japanese fights and realising where the referees are standing. We recently watched a bout in the UK where the referee was almost constantly too far away, and had this situation happened with that referee in question Miyazaki would have ended up taking 3 or 4 shots too many.
4-Sasaki should fight at 140lbs
This was Sasaki's first bout as a Welterweight and if we're being honest we hope this is his last bout at the weight for a while. He's a natural 140lb fighter at the moment, and he will certainly grow into a 147lb fighter one day, but for now lets have him fighting at 140lbs, rather than carrying around the extra water weight. Thankfully it does seem like this was a one off and his next bout will be at 140lbs, when he returns on December 26th for a Japanese Youth title bout against Aso Ishiwaki.
5-Sasaki Vs Ishiwaki is gonna be awesome!
Having just mentioned Jin Sasaki Vs Aso Ishiwaki we really don't think we can explain just how excited we are about this one. The styles, mentalities, and toughness, power, aggression, strengths and flaws of both men should gel amazingly well here. It's not a given that we end up with a Fight of the Year contender, but our guess is that this is going to be something very, very special. The bout was rumoured earlier in the year, and now with the two men putting pen to paper we have a post-Christmas gift to look forward to. Interestingly both men have had trouble getting opponents, so facing off against each other is the perfect solution. They built this fight brilliant after Sasaki's win here and had the two men stare down on the entrance way to the ring, and this really does fill us with a sense of pure excitement.
Bonus Take Away - Ichitaro Ishii deserves real respect from the boxing world
The stream for this bout was put on by A-Sign Boxing and it was a fantastic stream with Junto Nakatani doing guest commentary and adding some star power to the show. The entire show only had 3 bouts and one of those was mismatch. Despite that we he left us feeling like it was really worth tuning in. Once again he has put together a product that was fantastic, and giving us the Sasaki Vs Ishiwaki announcement after Sasaki's win really added to the allure of that bout. It's easy to hate on promoters, but Ishii is proving that they aren't all bad. He's used a low profile card to build towards something big amd that is what promoters should be doing every show. Fingers crossed that one day Ishii gets the budget to run wild and do exactly what he wants to do, but until they we'll need to appreciate what he's doing with limited financials and a smart brain.
This past Monday we saw talented teenager Jin Sasaki (8-0, 7) score his biggest to date, blasting out Shun Akaiwa inside a minute to claim a JBC ranking at 140lbs. The win was incredibly impressive for the 19 year old and immediately sees him make up for the disappointment of his Rookie of the Year journey ending the way it did last year, where he was unable to compete in one of the bouts.
The win for Sasaki also opens up the big question of "What is next for Jin Sasaki?" To try and answer that we have decided to feature Sasaki in our latest "Five For..." article, looking at 5 potential domestic rivals for the talented and fast rising teenage prodigy.
1-Akihiro Kondo (32-9-1, 18)
We start with potentially the most interesting possible match up, and one that, on paper, should be relatively easy to make. That would put Sasaki against veteran tough guy Akihiro Kondo. This would be a serious test for Sasaki, who would go into the bout knowing that Kondo is teak tough, but also a great chance for the youngster to get some serious ring time and experience. The teams of the two fighters both work closely with those behind A-Sign, with Sasaki being an Hachioji Nakaya gym fighter and Kondo being from the Ichiriki, and it would be a brilliant main event for an A-Sign show, with a potential passing of the torch moment...or a potential chance for Kondo to put in one final great performance.
2-Ryuji Ikeda (14-7-3, 9)
Of course Kondo might be seen as a step too far, a step too much, and too much too soon. With that in mind Sasaki's team might want to find someone a little bit easier. If that's the case then a bout with Ryuji Ikeda might made a lot of sense. Ikeda fought for the title Japanese title last year, being stopped in 5 rounds by Koki Inoue, and despite that loss, and a subsequent one to Aso Ishiwaki, he has proven himself to be a fan friendly and aggressive fighter who comes to win. With that in mind we suspect Ikeda Vs Sasaki would be a lot of fun, and a very, very winnable bout for the teenager, who could potentially do the job much quicker than Inoue.
3-Cristiano Aoqui (15-8-2, 11)
Talking about fan friendly bouts a contest between Sasaki and Japanese-Brazilian puncher Cristiano Aoqui is one that oozes potential excitement. Aoqui isn't the most polished or talented fighter out there, but he's a wicked puncher, with an aggressive style and has a fighters mentality. He can be out boxed, but not many in Japan will be able to do that, and even fewer will be able to win a war with him. Given how Sasaki fights we suspect he'll be one of the very few who would fancy his chance in a war with the man from the Kadoebi Gym. This would be a great bout on either an A-Sign show or a Kadoebi promoted Slugfest show, and would be fit to be the chief support on an event from either team.
4-Kenta Endo (5-1-1, 4)
We stay on the idea of wanting to see Sasaki in fan friendly bouts with a contest against Teiken's Kenta Endo, with the added fact that this could well end up on a Dynamic Glove card, televised by G+. Endo was destroying fighters early in his career, with his power, aggression and physicality, but lost last time out to recent Sasaki victim Shun Akaiwa. For Endo a bout with the man who beat the man who beat him would certainly be an attractive proposition whilst Sasaki would be taking on a puncher and potentially getting some TV exposure. This would be a fun clash and a potentially very explosive one between two men who can really throw bombs.
5-Aso Ishiwaki (8-2-1, 6)
We end this with a fight that, from a fans perspective, would be great but a bout that really doesn't make a lot of sense from the fighters perspective. That is a clash between Sasaki and 21 year excitement machine Aso Ishiwaki. Unless the Japanese Youth title could be put on the line we don't see Sasaki and Ishiwaki meeting, though we do wish we could. Sasaki is of a hard hitting boxer-puncher with a very aggressive style and heavy hands. Ishiwaki on the other hand is a teak tough pressure fighter, with under-rated power and very over-looked boxing skills, putting them together would provide real fireworks, test both men and give us something truly memorable. At the moment though it's one we suspect will be left to the side, and could end up being one that builds for a few years. Both of these young men have the ability to win national titles and we would love to see them clash when the bout is worth more, even if it would be an amazing bout for the start of 2021.
Earlier this week we saw the latest show from A-Sign boxing and one of the most eye catching bouts on that card was the opening round win scored by 19 year old Jin Sasaki (8-0, 7) against Shun Akaiwa (5-2-1, 3). The bout lasted around 45 seconds, with Sasaki putting on arguably his best performance so far and stopping the JBC ranked Akaiwa in very, very impressive fashion.
With that bout now viewed, re-viewed, and viewed again we thought we'd share some of our take aways from the bout.
1-A-Sign Boxing's presentation is solid!
Okay we start this by talking about the presentation and not the fight, but bear with us as it's certainly relevant here. The whole event was presented very nice, despite being very dark. The lights weren't focused on the crowd but instead on the fighters, hiding the fact that there was only a small crowd, the commentary for the event worked nicely and added the occasion and the stream quality was clear and clean through out. This is the first time, to our knowledge, that A-Sign have live streamed one of their own events and the way they did it was really solid. Yes there are issues that can be picked at, such as reusing music for introductions through the show, but overall a very nice presentation with a multi-camera set up. The commentators didn't talk for the sake of talking, and the the focus was on the in ring action.
If, or rather when, A-Sign do this again we would like to see them add replays post-fight, maybe include some post fight interviews and tweak the onscreen graphics, but that's us being picky. This was very professional, and very nicely presented. Simple but very solid.
2-Power, speed and aggression...Sasaki has em!
It's hard to talk too much about a fight that lasts around 45 seconds, but even in that short glimpse of time we saw enough to say that Sasaki has some of the tools needed to go a long way. Straight from the opening bell he was aggressive, exciting, and throwing sharp, hard, fast punches. He looked incredibly quick, incredibly powerful and strong. Whilst there was some real crudeness to his work at times, there was also the brash confidence of "I can take you out". He did look very wild in the opening seconds, but he also showed a really nice jab and the finishing shot, a brilliant left hook, was brutal. Sasaki does need some polishing, but there is already a lot to like about him, and he looks like he has natural tools to have a successful career.
3-Akaiwa was beaten before a punch was thrown
With it being a short bout it's hard too read too much into what happened in the ring, but we can't help feeling that Akaiwa was a beaten man before he got into the ring. He looked nervous, was looking down a lot, and seemed to be a man who had accepted that he was going to get beat before a punch was thrown. This probably wasn't helped by Sasaki looking like a confident ball of machismo. Akaiwa seemed to be a fighter who had mentally crumbled in his ring walk. Maybe we are reading too much into things, but it very much felt like Akaiwa, despite being JBC ranked coming into the bout, didn't have the belief in himself that he could win here.
Whilst it's easy to look back on what happened and say that, it seemed like it was the case during the short fight as well. Akaiwa threw little more than arm punches, there was little conviction on what he threw and he didn't seem to complain at all at the referee stopping it, despite the fact he was up on his feet after being dropped.
4-Koji Tanaka's count was really weird..and isn't consistent.
We've just mentioned how Akaiwa was stood up right when the bout was stopped but that really doesn't explain the finish very well at all. Referee Koji Tanaka picked up the count after the knockdown at the count of 3 and seemed to be giving a consistent count up to the count of 8. Akaiwa had gotten up quickly and it seemed like we would go on. Then Tanaka made a Steve Smoger like decision to delay the "9" slightly and the "10", giving Akaiwa around and extra 2 or 3 seconds. Tanaka then waved off the bout.
On first viewing this may look very awkward and weird, and is perhaps unfair to the fighter scoring the knockdown. In reality however this actually gave Tanaka an extra second or two to decide to stop the bout. Making the right decision. It also gave Akaiwa that extra moment to decide if he wanted to continue. Too often we see a fighter "pretend" the wanted to go for it, getting up at 10. The style of count Tanaka gave was awkward but prevent any type of situation like that. We're not sure if it's a normal thing for him, but we liked it and would like to see more referees use that touch of discretion where needed. It's not like he let Akaiwa continue and turn the fight around, but it was an extra second or to decide whether or not Akaiwa needed to be stopped.
We'll be looking to see if this is a usual Koji Tanaka thing, or whether it was a case of "this fight hasn't gone long, lets see if I can give the fighter benefit of the doubt", but whatever it was we liked it and it was a good bit of common sense refereeing. Notably it doesn't appear to be a consistent thing with Tanaka, who didn't do the same on August 18th, for a bout between Yuichi Wakita and Kazunori Hirano, but it was very notable and clearly looked deliberate in this bout with Sasaki and Akaiwa so we will keep a close eye on how he issues counts going forward.
5-Boxing is a form of entertainment...and Sasaki gets it!
From his entrance and gown to his performance in the ring it was clear that Sasaki gets it! He walks confidently, he's naturally charismatic, catches the attention and oozes the "Come watch me" magnetism that stars need and knows he needs to entertain. This was seen through out his entrance but also the fight. After dropping Akaiwa he was making it clear he desperately wanted Akaiwa to get up so he could finish him in style. Had the referee now ruled Akaiwa was unfit to continue we would have almost certainly been left with a brutal finish. This is a young kid who knows that he needs to sell himself, he needs to entertain and he needs to excite. And he's doing a real good job at exactly that!
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).