Last Friday we saw 22 year old Japanese fighter Junto Nakatani (21-0, 16) announce himself on the world stage with a brilliant performance against Giemel Magramo in Tokyo to claim the WBO Flyweight title. The win took Nakatani from highly regarded young contender to world champion in brilliant fashion and showed that the youngster from the MT Gym really did have all the tools to be a star.
Admittedly Magramo didn't look great in the bout, though much of that was due to Nakatani neutralising him at range and proving himself to be surprisingly dominant on the inside, the range where Magramo was supposed to fare better. It was a performance that proved how talented the youngster was, and how good he can be. He shut down a legitimate contender, who had given Muhammad Waseem hell just a few years ago, the same Waseem that came close to stopping Moruti Mthalane, and launched himself into the mix for some great bouts over the coming years.
For this weeks Five For we're going to look at 5 potential bouts for Junto Nakatani
1-Angel Acosta (21-2, 21)
The first bout on this list is the most logical one, by far, and that's a defense of the WBO title between Nakatani and mandatory challenger Angel Acosta. It was known that Acosta was waiting in the wings for the winner of Nakatani Vs Magramo and he's first in line for a shot. On paper this is a really tough first defense for Nakatani, he's not being babied into a reign. Acosta is a dangerous, heavy handed, fighter who is known to Japanese audiences for his 2017 bout against Kosei Tanaka. Despite losing to Tanaka we saw Acosta's career continue to go forward and he quickly won the WBO Light Flyweight title before losing it in controversial fashion to Elwin Soto in 2019, and the deciding to move up. He's a legitimately dangerous contender and would be a baptism of fire for Nakatani, however Nakatani is the much bigger man and we suspect his size would be a huge advantage against Acosta. This is one we suspect we can really look forward to in the new year.
2-Julio Cesar Martinez (17-1-0-1, 13)
Lets be honest we all want unification bouts, and a contest between the WBO champion, Nakatani, and WBC champion, Julio Cesar Martinez, is a great match up and ticks a lot of boxes. Firstly and foremost it's a unification bout between two young champions, secondly it's between men who's styles should gel, and we should get a war on the inside, where Nakatani is surprisingly effective. Perhaps most importantly however it would give Nakatani the chance to fight on foreign soil, something he spoke about following his recent title win. Martinez has been making a name for himself with fans in the US, with 2 of his last 3 bouts being in US, and Nakatani has links in the US himself. Given that the bout shouldn't be a tricky one to make. It's one that makes sense, promises amazing action, would unify 2 titles and make the winner a genuine star on both sides of the Pacific. It's also a pretty damn close 50-50 match up, and a genuine argument could be made for either man to be the favourite.
3-Sho Kimura (19-3-2, 12)
Unlike some countries Japanese fighters do tend to fight world title fights against each other quite regularly, and for Nakatani that might be a great idea for next year. With that in mind we'd love to see the champion defending his title against former champion Sho Kimura, in what would be a potential war for the ages. Kimura, who turns 32 later this month, is known to be a tough, durable warrior and his bout with Kosei Tanaka in 2018 was a truly tremendous contest. He's aged a bit since then, and his 2019 bout with Carlos Canizales was certainly a damaging battle. For Nakatani a win over Kimura would legitimise is reign, and potentially earn him comparisons to Tanaka, who could be a 4 weight champion by the time Nakatani fights again. A win for Kimura would see him becoming a 2-time champion and getting one more run. For us, as fans, this would be an amazing war!
4-Sunny Edwards (15-0, 4)
One thing Nakatani will want to do is improve his international profile. One wat to do that would be to face unbeaten Englishman Sunny Edwards, the brother of former WBC Flyweight champion Charlie Edwards. Sunny is highly ranked with the WBO and is the sort of out spoken and brash fighter who would instantly generate attention for a bout with Nakatani through social media. This bout could take place in Japan, with the backing of G+ and NTV or could see Nakatani travel over to England and attempt to follow in the footsteps of Naoya Inoue, the only Japanese fighter so far to win a world title bout in Europe. A bout between these two would get attention on both sides of the globe and would be a great chance to help build Nakatani's profile in Europe. It would also help the 22 year old show the difference between European class and world class at 112lbs.
5-Artem Dalakian (20-0, 14)
We looked at one potential unification bout so we'll end this with another as a bout between Nakatani and WBA champion Artem Dalakian is also very interesting, though could be a hard one to make. For Nakatani we don't imagine he has any issues facing anyone in the division though don't think he, or any, top fighter will be rushing to Ukraine for a bout with Dalakian. Likewise we don't see Dalakian fighting on away soil unless there is a solid size purse for him. With that in mind we would love to see this bout on neutral soil, and Dalakian has fought in the US before. So maybe, just maybe, we could have this intriguing match up in the US! Dalakian is an awkward, tricky fighter who can be a thorn in the side of anyone in the division, but can also stink out the joint and his competition since winning the title, against Brian Viloria, has been disappointing. To say the least. Maybe if Dalakian was facign a top fighter he would have the ambition to show what he could do, and if Nakatani could get a fight in the US we'd expect him to look to impress. This would be a really interesting bout in terms of styles, and it would be one of the few times Dalakian would be up against someone with a better jab than himself. If a promoter is looking to put together a relatively cheap world title unification bout this would be ideal, and could fill out a good card. It's unlikely, but it is one we really would love to see.
Note - We haven't mentioned Moruti Mthalane as he has a bout set for December against Jayson Mama though the winner of that bout would also make for a very good opponent for Nakatani, as would Ryota Yamauchi.
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.
Following his win over Milan Melindo last Saturday Junto Nakatani (20-0, 15) took a huge step towards a potential world title fight. Despite that win we feel he still needs 1, or maybe 2, more bouts on the fringes of world class to be fully prepared to face best in the division, so we though who better to feature in this week's regular "Five For..."
1-Noknoi Sitthiprasert (71-5, 44)
To prepare for a world title fight we think the best idea for Nakatani is to face someone who has fought for a world title, and proven their toughness. With that in mind we see Noknoi Sitthiprasert as a perfect candidate for Nakatani's next fight. The Thai veteran is no world beater, a long way from it in fact, but his bout with Kazuto Ioka in 2017 proved he was tough and could take punishment. Since losing to Ioka the Thai has reeled off 9 more wins, all against very limited opposition, and is sniffing around a big fight. Nakatani, in a world title eliminator, could well be that big fight.
2-Maximino Flores (25-4-1, 17)
With Nakatani edging towards a world title fight, a good idea would be to take on a top fighter from outside of Asia, getting a chance to face someone with a different style to what he has typically seen. With that in mind Mexican fighter Maximo Flores would be an idea candidate. He's the type of fighter who has shown a willingness to travel, is aggressive, and despite being flawed does have a desire to win. Last time out he travelled to the Philippines and defeated Carlo Caesar Penalosa and if you put him in with Nakatani it would be a great chance to see what Nakatani does under pressure.
3-Ryoichi Taguchi (27-4-2, 12)
Passing of the torch fights are one of the key signs of a fighter moving from prospect to contender, and there may be no better option for Nakatani than facing fellow Japanese fighter Ryoichi Taguchi. The 32 year old Taguchi, like Melindo, is on the slide, but has recently gone 12 rounds in a world title fight with WBO champion Kosei Tanaka, he has the dimensions of a true Flyweight but lacks world class power and should be a safe option but yet a credible step in the right direction. For Taguchi it could be one final big fight, a loss would send him into retirement but a win would leave him in the world title mix.
4-McWilliams Arroyo (19-4, 14)
Staying with the idea that Nakatani should be knocking on the door of a world title fight with his next bout, there may be no better opponent than Puerto Rican fighter McWilliams Arroyo. The talented 33 year old Arroyo is a 2-time world title challenger and has a history against Japanese fighters, with 2 of his 4 losses coming to fighters from the Land of the Rising Sun. Arroyo is a known name in the west, and a win for Nakatani would give him an increase in western attention ahead of a world title bout. Arroyo is of no slouch, and his losses to the likes of Amnat Ruenroeng, Roman Gonzalez and Kazuto Ioka have shown he belongs at world level and he's tough. This would be a real test for Nakatani and is the perfect high risk type of opponent he needs to really see what he has.
5-Julio Cesar Martinez Aguilar (14-1, 11)
If Nakatani does want a world title fight the obvious option appears to be a crack at the vacant WBC title against Mexican puncher Julio Cesar Martinez Aguilar. The hard hitting Martinez is set to get a world title fight at the vacant WBC belt, a title that he would be holding had it not been for stupidity in August that lead to him hitting a downed Charlie Edwards. Martinez is an absolute monster at 112lbs, he's bull strong, a huge puncher and one of the few contenders who looks like he's actually coming into his peak. With recent wins over Martin Tecuapetla, Victor Ruiz and Andrew Selby he's in form a little wrecking ball. With the WBC title on the line this would be a fight with a high risk and high reward, and seems to be the bout Nakatani wants.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
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).