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.
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).