It's been a while since we've had some action worthy of breaking down into one of our Take Away articles, but last week we had several bouts of note. One of those was the latest win for unbeaten Japanese prospect Katsuki Mori (7-0, 1), who over-came Yuki Uchida (7-8, 1) in a 6 round bout at Korakuen Hall. The bout wasn't shown live, but was televised over the weekend on Fuji TV, giving us a chance to watch the contest, albeit on delay.
1-Mori Carries himself like a star
Watching Katsuki Mori in action leaves us feeling like we are watching a star in the making. He oozes charisma, know that he needs to come forward and take risks, and knows how to put on a show, which we saw in round 6. He's a lovely aggressive stylist who controls range very well, has a tight guard and really does have very quick hands. Not only has he got the skills and mentality to be a star but, at just 20, he already appears to be connecting with the Japanese fans, and it's clear that they too are buying into the Mori journey. His baby faced good looks will help appeal to female fans and it's hard to not see him becoming one of the more notable stars of the lower weights.
2-Mori's shorts were familiar
This is probably a coincidence more than anything but the shorts Mori wore, with the red design and gold trim, were very, very similar to the shorts Naoya Inoue wore against Yuki Sano. Whilst Mori and Inoue are obviously very, very different fighters the similarities in their shorts, and overall look, was starling. What this even more notable was that for both men it was the first time they were shown on Fuji TV. For Inoue the bout with Sano was shown live, and part of a major broadcast, whilst Mori had never had a bout shown in full on terrestrial TV, with G+ carrying some of his previous bouts. Maybe, just maybe, they view him as being the next special talent from the Ohashi gym and want to evoke these connections as soon as they can.
3-Uchida was the perfect foil
Although Yuki Uchida had a pretty poor looking record the selection of him as the opponent for Mori was perfect. Uchida was known as a flawed, slower fighter who's tough and will come to fight. That allowed Mori chances to counter, chances to box, and a chance to prove he can fight 6 rounds at a good pace. Don't get us wrong, Uchida didn't have much of a chance, but he always seemed to feel like he felt he had one, and he wasn't just accepting a loss. He came to win, he gave an honest effort, and he asked questions of Mori. This is what we want to see from fighters with losing records, not the survival mentality but someone giving it a go. These sorts of efforts actually help the prospects develop quickly, and do more than a string of meaningless wins, like we see in some countries.
4-Japanese referees continue to keep things simple
Whilst this wasn't a hard bout for an official, and one where he was rarely needed. However if you concentrate on Michiaki Someya, the referee for the bout, he was doing a lot of little things that were very notable. He was always maintaining a good distance from the action a good view of the two men, he, for the most part, remained out of camera shot and let the action go on the inside when he had to. Once again we can't help but be impressed by how well Japanese referees are letting the action flow.
5-Mori is still a work in progress
We are massive Katsuki Mori fans, and we do see him as a star in the making. He is however still "in the making" and is certainly a long, long way from being the complete product. He's high skilled, has star appeal but, fast hands and a good boxing brain. What he's missing is experience, man strength and power. Experience is guaranteed to come with time and as long as Ohashi keep him busy we'll see him building on that part of his game. The power and man strength issue is the thing that is still holding him back. He repeatedly caught Uchida clean and yet struggled to really hurt him. Against Uchida that wasn't too much of a problem, but as he steps up in class he will need to have some stopping power. It may never come, which would limit how far he can go, but we suspect it will, and as he matures we do see him having enough pop to get the attention of his opponents.
Back on December 22nd we saw the 2019 All Japan Rookie of the Year come to an end, and what a brilliant tournament it was! Today we take a look at some of the highs from that tournament and discussing some of the most notable action from through the tournament.
Boxer of the Tournament
Katsuki Mori (6-0, 1)
The 19 year old from the Ohashi Gym looks like a genuine special talent and officially only lost 1 round, in the eyes of 2 judges, in the entire tournament. Mori is an absolute joy to watch and we expect to see really big things from him going forward. The only issue, so far, is his lack of power, though we do get the feeling he punches harder than his record suggests, and he seemed to stagger Takumi Chono several times in their all-Japan final.
Fight of the Tournament
Kodai Honda (4-1, 3) vs Yasutaka Fujita (5-0, 5)
The best fight of Rookie of the Year, and one of the best fights of the year full stop, was a 4 knockdown thriller between Kodea Honda and Yasutaka Fujita. Fujita went for his man early, and threw the kitchen sink at him in the opening round, scoring 2 knockdowns. The incredible aggression and work rate of Fujita took a lot out of him as Honda came back into the fight, pressing and pressuring Fujita, dropping him later in the bout, in what was an incredible back and forth.
Round of the Tournament
Homare Yasui Vs Yuta Ashina (Round 5)
We had some amazing rounds through the Rookie of the Year tournament, but for us the round of the tournament was one of the very final rounds of the whole thing, as the All Japan Welterweight final saw Homare Yasui and Yuta Ashina just go to war for 3 minutes. This wasn't always the cleanest of action, but what we got was both men landing some dynamite, fighting on the inside with Ashina being unwilling to walk backwards. The better boxing of Yasui was eye catching but the desire and hunger of Ashina was incredible. A great 3 minutes that seemed to fly by.
Most Exciting fighter
Yasutaka Fujita (5-1, 5)
The hard hitting, all aggression Yasutaka Fujita may have come up short in his All Japan final, losing to Kodai Honda, but he showed, though out the tournament, that he was going to be a must watch fighter. Fujita seems to see himself as a boxer puncher but the reality is that he's a puncher first and foremost and win or lose he's going to be great fun to watch with his aggression, power, willingness to let his hands go and defensive problems. With a bit of polishing he could be the Yuki Beppu of the 2019 Rookie of the Year, and we certainly wouldn't write him off despite his loss in the final.
One to Follow
Yuta Ashina (4-2)
Although Welterweight fighter Yuta Ashina lost in the All Japan final he struck us as being a fighter who will be well and truly worth following over the coming years thanks to his exciting style, and fun bouts. His All Japan and East Japan finals were absolute fire crackers and he looks almost certain to be a man given TV exposure, though G+, next year. Sadly, for such a fun fighter to watch, he does appear to lack power. If he had that he would likely be able to develop into a title level fighter. Without it he's going to struggle to win things, but will be so much fun to follow.
Kodai Honda (5-1, 4)
Few fighters would have taken the punishment and damage that Light Welterweight war monger Kodai Honda took, and managed to go all the. We've spoken about his role in the fight of the tournament, but that wasn't the only bout where he took punishment, as Masaki Kobayashi also managed to land plenty on him in the East Japan final. Kobayashi never managed to put him down, like Yasutaka Fujita, but Honda still had to walk through some huge shots to get his win. Back to back wars against unbeaten punchers quickly made us fans of Honda, who is much fun to watch.
Most over-looked bout
Shu Nawai (2-1, 1) vs Yuichi Baba (3-4, 3)
Whilst the 2019 East Japan semi-final bout between Shu Nawai and Yuichi Baba won't get a lot of attention in any end of year review, it was a sensational bout, and well worth a watch, and a rewatch. Nawai brought the pressure before Baba began to find a lot of success with his straight right hand. Nawai dug his toes in and we ended up up with a fire fight. This was a thriller, and although not the bout of the tournament it is one of those bouts that fans should make sure they watch, as it was spectacular.
Kantaro Nakanishi (3-0-1)
Teenager Kentaro Nakanishi seemed to go about his tournament quietly impressing. He never seemed to make a lot of fuss whilst going through the tournament, but repeatedly put on excellent showcases of skills en route to winning the All Japan Bantamweight tournament. Like Katsuki Mori, Nakanishi is all about skills, counter punching, drawing mistakes, creating space and landing clean shots. There's no smoke and mirrors, no blistering power, but excellent timing, great accuracy and a lot to be excited about. As he develops physically he could seriously be one to watch, but given he's only 18 we hope his team don't feel the need to throw him in too deep in 2020. Like the kid develop, mature and improve, because he is an excellent young fighter who has so much potential and just needs that potential to be guided properly.
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).