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.
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).