Last week the highly touted Keisuke Matsumoto (1-0, 1) scored his debut win, stopping Hironori Miyake (9-10-2, 1) in the 4th round. The bout was then broadcast on Fuji TV this past weekend, in full, as part of Fuji's coverage of the "Phoenix Battle" shows, promoted by Ohashi.
We've rewatched the bout a few times now and have decided to share our take aways from the contest, which is well worthy of a watch if you've not yet seen it.
1-Fuji have gone in big on Matsumoto
This should come as no real surprise but Fuji TV and and Ohashi Gym have gone in big on Keisuke Matsumoto and his potential. Despite the fact he was only making his debut the bout was televised in full by Fuji TV, who spent several minutes before broadcasting his fight building him up, giving him time to talk and show training footage of him. The fact his bout got shown in full and the main event in from the card only got shown in digest form is a real sign that Fuji TV view him as a potential star. It should be noted that he featured numerous times on "Mirai Monsters" when he was an amateur, and we suspect that Fuji will continue to see him as a potential star for their channel over the coming years.
2-Miyake came to win
On paper a top prospect taking on a guy with a 9-9-2 record is a mismatch, and if this bout was happening in the UK we would typically expect the 9-9-2 guy to be there to fiddle and fidget his way through the bout. We would usually see him holding, spoiling, getting super negative and trying to survive rather than win. The idea of a fighter trying to actually beat a prospect in some countries is a novel concept. Miyake however came to win, and showed plenty of desire. Sadly for him that desire was beaten out of him but not before he dropped Matsumoto with a monstrous right hand. This was the sort of test that advances a prospect quickly, rather than just gets them an easy win.
3-Matsumoto took a while to settle
This is something that we noticed rewatching the fight a lot more than we did the first time we watched it. Matsumoto seemed to have a lot of nervous energy in the first two rounds. He was throwing some extremely silly shots in the first round, he failed to make the most of his jab, and he was caught several times with his hands down, including the knockdown. We're not sure whether this was an issue with learning on the job, or just not not settling very quickly. When he did settle, in round 3, boy did he look good. The issues we saw in the first 2 rounds were completely gone in rounds 3 and 4. This was really an impressive turn around and we dare say that if Matsumoto from rounds 3 and 4 turn up next time he's going to really shine. He showed some brilliant aggressive boxing, a fantastic jab and the tools to go a long, long way in the future.
4-Down but not a bad chin
The potential elephant in the room is the fact that Matsumoto was dropped by a guy with just a single stoppage in 20 bouts. On paper that is a concern. In reality however we need to look at the actual knockdown again. When we do that we see it wasn't so much a chin issue but more of a rookie mistake, with Matsumoto getting greedy offensively and showing some real naivety in terms of his defense. The knockdown came from a single shot, straight on the chin whilst pulling straight back with his guard completely open. He wasn't hurt, despite how clean the shot was, and he looked completely with it when the bout resumed. Yes he was down, but we don't think he has a bad chin. In fact if anything we link this back to #3, he hadn't settled and was making mistakes, rather than any sort of chin issue.
5-Miyake is a tough nut!
Despite some early success for Miyake the bout became a painful one for him, with Matsumoto landing hard shots to his head and body. Despite those shots Miyake never really looked badly hurt. He was having the fight beaten out of him, and taking shots clean, but never looked like a man who was going to go down. We've seen opponents for prospects go down the first time they were caught, and Miyake had chances to "go down bravely", but instead remained up right until the referee decided enough was enough. By that point Matsumoto was zoned in and landing at will, but even the clean power shots weren't enough to drop Miyake. A genuine tough guy who we think would be a good opponent for plenty of established domestic opponents.
Recently a poster on boxingforum24 asked a brilliant question that caught our eye. It was a simple question, but one with a lot of possible answers. “Good Asian Prospects?” It lead us to wondering what we could narrow it down to. As a result we've decided to do a few prospects features starting with this one which has interpreted the question as “Who are the best Japanese prospects with 5 or fewer fights?”
It was a way to limit the list but also give some exposure to some perhaps lesser known fighters. For those wondering these haven't been put into a particular order but all men featured here have had 5 or fewer fights at the time of writing.
At Welterweight Koki Koshikawa (4-0, 2) has been making waves and has been doing it quietly with out much fan fair. Part of why he's been doing it with out too much noise is his promoter, Celes Kobayashi, who doesn't have a huge TV and doesn't have the backing to give his man huge publicity. Despite that he has been very impressive, as seen in his debut win over Quaye Peter.
Koshikawa fights in a huge step up on June 8th when he battles former Japanese title challenger Koshimaru Saito. Saito will enter that bout as a ranked domestic contender though a win for Koshikawa would boost him from “prospect” to “contender”. Given how weak the Japanese domestic scene is at 147lbs there is every chance Koshikawa will be in the title mix by the middle of next year.
For fans from the west Koshikawa is likely to be the most notable due to his size and, like many others, he was a good amateur. We wouldn't say Koshikawa was an international star in the unpaid ranks but he was a very capable fighter. It was due to that amateur pedigree that he began his career in 6 rounders and why he is already being moved towards 8 round bouts. Given that he is now 24 he's a baby in the division but we do expect to see him matched very hard if he looks good in his clash against Saito.
Another man in, or around, the Bantamweight division is former amateur stand out Kazuki Tanaka (2-0, 2) who scored a genuinely outstanding win last time out, stopping Kaname Tabei in 4 rounds. The 22 year old Osakan is viewed as one of the best kept secrets in Japanese boxing and he's hoping to be moved towards a Japanese ranking later this year, a move that wouldn't be a shock at all despite his “novice” status in the pro game.
As an amateur Tanaka ran up a sensational 63-14 (14) record and it seems that the pro-style has suited him down to the ground already, especially when you consider the way he's been stopping opponents in the paid game. Unfortunately it may be a while until we manage to get footage of him in action but he's confident and talented.
With Green Tsuda backing him he's got a good gym with notable names, such as Nobuhiro Ishida and Yu Kawaguchi, there for him to talk to and get advice from the world really is his oyster. They key to Tanaka's future however seems to be just how much he can develop and how quickly he's moved. If he's given time at Japanese domestic level and the OPBF level to full mature then he really could go a very, very long way.
One more wildcard we'd like to mention is Keisuke Matsumoto (0-0) who isn't expected to turn professional until after the 2020 Olympics. The youngster has been featured in several TV segments, including this one here, and has trained alongside both Naoya Inoue and Akira Yaegashi, in fact Matsumoto's father and trainer is Koji Matsumoto who is also the trainer of Yaegashi.
It's really hard to say how good Matsumoto is, or will be, but the signs are that he could be another prodigy and may well be a real star of the future for Japanese boxing, even if we will need to wait a number of years to see how good he really is.
Images courtesy of-
Celes Gym and Green Tsuda
Note-Kosei Tanaka has not been included on here as he's advanced beyond the "prospect" stage despite still being a "novice".
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).