This past weekend Japanese youngster Ryosuke Nishida (4-0, 1) scored a brilliant win in just his 4th professional bout, beating former world champion Daigo Higa to become the new WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight champion. The win put Nishida on the map in the eyes of many, and saw him building on his fantastic December victory over Shohei Omori, in what was itself a massive step up in class.
With solid back to back wins on his record, and world rankings heading his way following the win over Higa, questions will now turn to what is next for Nishida, who stated that he'd like to face WBO world champion Johnriel Casimero in the future. Whilst that fight seems unlikely for the time being, with Casimero scheduled to face Cuban Guillermo Rigondeaux, there are still a lot of interesting options for Nishida for later this year. We'll take a look at 5 of those as we give Nishida the "Five for..." treatment.
1-Joseph Agbeko (38-5, 28)
We're not totally sure who, involved with the WBO's brain trust, are in charge of their world rankings, but we can only assume that Joseph Agebeko's mother has a say as somehow the 44 year old from Ghana is their current #1 ranked Bantamweight. That's despite the fact his last win of actual note came close to a decade ago. For any Bantamweight interested in securing a WBO world title fight the logical move is to beat their #1 contender, and with Agbeko, inexplicably, being ranked #1 he needs to be seen as a very serious target for Nishida and the Muto Gym. Agbeko, at his best, was a fantastic fighter, but his best came back around 2010, when he was more than holding his own with Yohnny Perez, Vic Darchinyan and Abner Mares. Not in 2021 after wins against Gabriel Ochieng and Albert Commey. We suspect a lot of fighters are chasing a fighter with Agbeko, but a good offer to fight the 4-0 Nishida may tempt him over to the Land of the Rising sun.
2-Paul Butler (32-2, 15)
Sticking with the idea of the WBO rankings a potential fight to make would see Nishida take on Englishman Paul Butler, who is currently ranked #3 in the WBO rankings. Strangely this could be a relatively easy bout to make, especially out in the middle east or in the UK, as both men have connections with MTK Global, who work with Butler and also work with Muto Gym via "MTK Japan". With both men set to be highly ranked in the next WBO rankings, this would, for all intents, be a world title eliminator and could see the winner securing a potential showdown for the WBO title later in the year, or in 2022. On paper this is also a match up that Nishida should feel super confident in winning as well. Butler is certainly not a bad boxer but he struggled with the height, reach and southpaw stance of Zolani Tete, and Nishida is also a tall, rangy southpaw. Butler is a highly skilled boxer, but lacks power and at 32 is also heading to the end of his career.
3-Takuma Inoue (14-1, 3)
At the moment getting international fighters into Japan is a major issue, and as a result we may need to look to Japan for a few potential opponents. The reality right now is that many of the top Japanese Bantamweights are already scheduled for bouts. This includes Naoya Inoue, pencilled in for June 19th, Kai Chiba, Ikuro Sadatsune, Kyosuke Sawada and Kazuki Nakajima. This leaves very few potential domestic opponents for Nishida with the most interesting being Takuma Inoue, the younger brother of Naoya Inoue. At the moment Takuma is also looking to move towards a world title fight and given Nishida's win it's fair to say a clash between the two would be regarded as a world title eliminator. On paper it wouldn't be the most explosive of bouts but would be a huge bout for Japan and one between two very technically skilled fighters. Maybe not the bout either man wants, but one that the two men could certainly make and one that would seriously enhance the winner's profile.
4-Sho Ishida (29-2, 15)
Another potential Japanese option for Nishida would be Sho Ishida, who has openly stated he's happy to fight at either Super Flyweight or Bantamweight, and is a former world title challenger. Ishida would be a very similar size to Nishida, and is a very accomplished fighter himself, with a very technical style, an excellent jab, good footwork and a rather frustrating style at times. The bout would be a test for Nishida, and a chance to see if he can work out the jab of Ishida, and it would also serve as a real test to see what Ishida's future in the sport really is. A win for Nishida would see him taking a step towards a world title fight, and be another respectable win at this early stage of his career, whilst a win for Ishida would revitalise his career after a few disappointing years.
And lets not ignore the fact it would be rather fun to see Ishida Vs Nishida being written out!
5-Lee McGregor (10-0, 8)
Whilst Nishida said he wanted Johnriel Casimero he also seemed open to fighting outside of Japan, and one of the absolute hotbeds of boxing right now is the UK. With that in mind a trip from Japan to the UK to face fellow unbeaten youngster Lee McGregor is a potentially interesting match up, one that could be made rather easily and one that would act as a potential eliminator for both the IBF and WBC titles, with Nishida expected to take Higa's rankings with those two bodies as well as the WBO. McGregor is very highly ranked by the IBF, and also in the top 15 with the WBC, making a win over a fellow ranked fighter would boost his career, whilst a win for Nishida would rocket him up the rankings. In terms of viability, both men have links to MTK, as with Paul Butler, and with fans set to return to the UK boxing scene sooner rather than later this would be a potential chance for Nishida to show what he can do on the international stage. It would be high risk, high reward for both men, and that is never a bad thing. Interestingly this would also see the EBU champion battle with the WBO Asia Pacific champion, in a legitimate clash between continental champions
This past weekend we saw professional novice Ryosuke Nishida (4-0, 1) [西田凌佑] score a career best victory as he defeated former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa (17-2-1, 17) [比 嘉 大吾], and claimed the WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight title, with a brilliant performance. The bout, which was aired live in Okinawa, then aired on tape delay in Tokyo a few days later, featured one of the best performances of 2021 so far, and it was something that is worth re-watching, and re-enjoying over and over.
Having watch the bout a few times, we're going to share some of what we took from the bout with the latest in our Five Takeaways series.
1-Nishida's composure is amazing
One thing that was apparent from the opening bell was that Nishida had absolutely no nerves coming into this bout. He was extremely confident and cocksure. Sometimes however we see confidence eroding when a fighter is under pressure, something we saw with Felix Verdejo last year against Masayoshi Nakatani and something we have seen thousands of times before. In this bout however that confidence never wavered and that was, in part, due to the excellent composure of Nishida.
Having only turned professional in 2019 it would have been easy for Muto gym to have given Nishida the kid glove treatment, but instead they put him in with a feared puncher, with an aggressive style, and sent him off on the road, from Osaka to Okinawa. On paper there was so many things that could have gotten to him. From the occasion to the pressure of Higa. Instead however he never seemed to show any cracks. In fact if anything he almost seemed to thrive at the idea of showing up Higa in front of his friends and family. Higa's pressure has forced fighters to crumble, but for Nishida that pressure was like water off a ducks back. To us a prospects composure under pressure is one of the key things to keep an eye on when judging potential and the way Nishida coped under pressure suggested, to us, that he really is an exceptional young fighter. It's also worth noting that that incredible composure helped him see counter opportunities and reserve energy, allowing him to be the man with gas in the tank in the later rounds.
2-Nishida fought to a brilliant game plan
Going in to this our view, as those who read our preview may have seen, was that natural size was going to be a major factor in this bout, and it proved to be one of the reasons why Nishida won. At range he was too long for Higa, and he used his reach really well, hammering both the head and body really well, but he also used his size up close, neutralising and smothering Higa, leaning his weight into Higa up close, and tying him up. He really showed how a bigger fighter should fight a smaller fighter and he bullied Higa around at times. He knew he was stronger than Higa and the bullying up close in the first half of the fight really paid off in the later rounds, when Higa looked about spent. Given this was the first time Nishida had been scheduled for more than 8 rounds he fought a really smart game plan.
The gameplan, created by Kosuke Takeichi, was perfect and it's worth giving real credit to Takeichi for coming up with the tactics that allowed his man to really hammer a tired Higa late on, even though Higa did try to turn things around early in 10 that was sniffed out and Nishida quickly resumed control of the action.
It's also worth noting here, that he essentially silenced the crowd for large swathes of the bout. He limited Higa's success so much that the small number of people who travelled from Osaka seemed to make far more noise than the locals.
For British fans, Osaka to Okinawa is a further distance than Land's End to John o'Groats.
3-Higa is too small for the Bantamweight division
In fairness this is something that has been obvious since his return to the ring in 2020, following a lengthy suspension for missing weight and being stripped of the WBC Flyweight title in 2018. Sadly though Higa, currently, isn't allowed to fight any lower than Bantamweight by the JBC and is in an awkward position. He's simply not big enough to compete at 118lbs, but isn't allowed to fight at 115lbs, which we suspect would be the best weight for him.
Higa has always been a very physical fighter. He's a come-forward steam roller who is strong, powerful, and has some brilliant combinations. But defensively he's raw and against opponents who are natural Bantamweights he'll always struggle to force his fight on people. He's small, short, and hasn't got the physical dimensions to be a force in the division. He landed enough good shots on Nishida to see his power really hasn't carried up, and he was pushed around way too easily here.
Sadly the warning signs for Higa have been here for a while. His draw with Seiya Tsutsumi last year, a natural Super Flyweight who is also very comfortable at Bantamweight, showed his power hasn't carried up and his recent exhibition with Naoya Inoue saw Inoue toying with him and showing him little respect. Sadly though it's really hard to see where goes from this, and he may well need to leave Japan to fight at his best weight, which would, in it's self, be a massive risk for his career.
4-Michiaki Someya continues his excellent form
The last few months we have seen some shocking refereeing but but Michiaki Someya once again showed himself to be among the very best referees in the sport. His positioning, clear instructions, and control of the action through out, is second to none. The bout certainly wasn't the dirtiest or the roughest bout ever but he was on top of things and when the fighters ended up in a situation that needed splitting he split them, the rest of the time he was happy for them to fight out of the clinches. His willingness to let them fight when they were up close, and only split them when he had to, helped this bout, and we'd like to see more referees letting fighters fight out of the clinch. Seriously for everyone considering becoming a referee in the sport, give a watch to Michiaki Someya, he is head and shoulders above many of the higher profile referees, and he certainly should get more big fighters.
5-No home town favors with the judging
To fans outside of Japan it's not always obvious just how big the country is, and how different various parts of Japan are. Most fights international fans see are from Tokyo, with Osaka coming in a distant second. Major fights taking place in Okinawa are very, very rare, and major fighters coming from Okinawa are few and far between. For boxing in the area to take off, they need local stars, and Higa, along with Toshiki Kawamitsu and Ryuto Owan are the regions 3 most notable fighters. It's also worth noting that at least 2 of the judges for the bout are either from, or based in, Okinawa and the crowd applauded almost any time Higa did anything. The judges however didn't even come close to scoring this in favour of the local star. They scored this deadly fair, and didn't even make an attempt to bail out the local star.
Given recent events judges in the UK and the US would have tried to have helped the local star, even though the bout was relatively one sided, but here they really didn't. They could have given Higa and extra round or two, been generous, and gone by the idea that it wouldn't have mattered. But they didn't. They scored the fight fairly, for all 12 rounds. Just as they are supposed to. Not as the promoter would have wanted. Not like the home fans wanted, and not like the local star wanted. We need more of that in the sport!
Back on December 19th we saw 24 year old youngster Ryosuke Nishida (3-0, 1) take a huge step up in class and over-come former world title challenger Shohei Omori (21-4, 16), in what was a massive win for Nishida. The talented fighter from the Mutoh Gym really showed what he could do here as he took a very clear decision over Omori and it left people wondering what the future may bring for both men.
Rather than guessing on the future, we’re going to take a look back over that bout and share our take aways from the contest.
1-Boxing Real streams are brilliant
The service showing this bout was Boxing Real, the YouTube which is essentially connected to the Shinsei Gym. The stream for this was genuinely brilliant with a crystal clear image throughout, multiple-camera angles, clear on screen graphics, good replays, and a good solid layout. The service does have a few minor areas to improve on, but if we’re being honest the quality of this is on par with, if not better than, some of the TV cards we get. We’re not huge fans of one of the camera angles used, and one of the commentary team sounded like they were talking through a muffled phone or something, but other than that this was fantastic throughout and we really hope the Boxing Real team continue to deliver streams in 2021.
2-Nishida fought like a man with a point to prove
In the opening seconds Nishida came out like a bundle of energy, and to begin with we assumed it could have been nervous energy in what was a massive step up fight. Instead however it seemed like he was trying to make an instant impression, get his foot in front and make Omori chase the bout. This worked brilliantly as a tactic from the youngster who took the early initiative and had his nose well in front before Omori could settle. It wasn’t really until round 3 that Omori had any sustained success. Even then it wasn’t long before Nishida resumed control and late on he came close to stopping Omori, who was hurt in each of the final 3 rounds. This was a performance by a young man who didn’t just want to win, but wanted to leave an impression on fans, and we’d love to see more fighters follow through with that mentality.
3-Omori looks to be on the slide...big time
At his best Shohei Omori looked like a star. He was a good looking fighter, with an exciting style, solid power and speed and he seemed to tick a lot of boxes. His 2015 win over Kentaro Masuda, when Omori was just 22 years old, seemed set to be a launchpad for a future champion. Sadly however losses to Marlon Tapales in 2015 and 2017 both seemed to take a lot out of Omori. He did score good wins in 2018, against Brian Lobetania and Takahiro Yamamoto, but now looks about spent. A loss in 2019 to Hiroaki Teshigawara arguably took the best out of him and he looked really under-whelming in December 2020 when he beat Danny Tampipi. He looked even worse against Nishida. Whilst there were certainly some issues in camp, and the bout did need re-arranging after Nishida started suffering dehydration, he still looked really poor here. We do wonder if he’s perhaps heading towards retirement, at the age of 27, or maybe needs some massive shake up in camp. He didn’t look himself at all here, and he knew it, hinting that he may retire. Given how he looked a few years ago, this would be a really sad way for him to end his career.
4-Nishida looks very experienced
Despite this being only his third professional bout Nishida looked like an experienced fighter in there, controlling the pace when he wanted. He fought smartly on the inside, controlled the range for the most part, and even showed some old man tactics, walking around the ring and making Omori come to him. Despite only being 24 he fought really intelligently and obviously used a lot of the experience he had from the amateurs to neutralise Omori and dictate the action. Yes Omori didn’t look great, but we can’t overlook Nishida’s work whilst was really intelligent. When he was caught clean he knew to hold, and mess things up, knew what to throw and when, and he smartly reserved some energy for a big finish. This is a young fighter, who has old man tricks up sleeve, and who will only get better. Do not be surprised at all if he fights for a title before the end of 2021 following this excellent win.
5-The venue was seemed awkward
It’s unfair to criticise the venue and how it’s set up for fights during this current era of boxing, with fans in masks and everything, though it does need to be said that everything looked a little bit awkward. Sadly the Second Stadium at the EDION Arena Osaka, where this was held, doesn’t really have some of the features that other venues have. It’s got a large flat flood with seats that need bringing in, unlike the benches at the Korakuen Hall, and everything is done on one layer. It also doesn’t really have the ability to use the lighting to black out the crowd like some of the other venues. As a result it was a little bit of an awkward view with the crowd being just a touch distracting to watch, especially with the main camera that was used focusing on the side of the ring where there was a lot of the crowd. It’s one of those things that can’t be helped, and if cheering and chanting was allowed we wouldn’t be mentioning the venue. But sadly we are in the non-cheering era of Japanese boxing, and it did feel just a touch weird to watch this one, especially during the exciting moments which deserved a road from the crowd, but only got mild applause.
The month of December was an incredibly busy one, with things like the Rookie of the Year, the New Year's Eve show, the Fuji show on the 23rd, and a host of other cards giving us a truly crazy month.
It was also a month that Boxing Raise actually didn't shine, with just 6 tape delay cards, and nothing live. It did however have some interesting, intriguing and exciting bouts hidden away on the service. And now we'll have a look at some of the highlights the services provided during the month.
Before we start however we will just make everyone aware that we are totally ignoring the Kadebi promoted "Slugfest 12" card. The reason for this is that the content featured on that show isn't exclusive to Boxing Raise, it's been uploaded to youtube by Kadoebi themselves giving all fans a chance to see all the action from the card without the need of a Boxing Raise subscription.
As with our previous "Best of Boxing Raise" article all the fights featured here can be accessed by subscribers by logging into Boxing Raise and adding the "movie/####" to "https://boxingraise.com/".
Compelling more than excelling - Musashi Mori (10-0, 6) vs Takuya Mizuno (17-1-1, 14) [movie/7134/]
The WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight title bout between the unbeaten champion Musashi Mori and the heavy handed Takuya Mizuno never really caught fire in the way we had hoped, but in terms of being compelling this was always interesting. Just sadly lacking true drama. Mori, who is just 20, was fighting for the second time under Ismael Salas and it's clear he is developing with every fight, but sadly the styles never really worked here. Still if you want to see one of the brightest Japanese youngsters you could do a lot worse than giving this a watch and getting a head up on Mori before he lands a big international fight. The youngster, is talking about moving into world title level later this year and he's certainly one to be aware of.
Boom goes the Dynamite - Mammoth Kazunori (5-2-1, 5) vs Lerdchai Chaiyawed (2-4, 1) [/movie/7188/]
We had a lot of brilliant knockouts in 2019 and one of the final ones came in mid-December, tucked away on a Japanese under-card bout. The fight saw big punching Japanese hopeful Mammoth Kazunori take on Thai tough guy Lerdchai Chaiyawed and, well, lets just say this ended in spectacular fashion. The bout hadn't been the most thrilling, but the ending makes it worth a watch. A seriously eye-catching KO!
A prospect to watch - Ryosuke Nishida (1-0, 1) vs Pablito Canada (7-17-4, 1) [movie/7219/]
The December 22nd show from Muto gym was a bad idea from the off, putting it on the same day as the All Japan Rookie of the Year, and having one of their brightest beaten in a round. Thankfully though it wasn't all bad news and it was a good chance to see what the hype was regarding Ryosuke Nishida. And in fairness to the 23 year old, he looked damned good. He was the less hyped of 3 Muto prospect and yet was the only one who really shined. If you get the chance give this a watch and keep a close eye on Nishida
A change in tactic proves vital - Yusuke Mine (2-0, 1) vs Ardin Diale (35-15-4, 17) [/movie/7221/]
Whilst we seriously think Muto will want to forget about their December 22nd show we suspect they will also be proud of the promising Yusuke Mine who showed a lot, both good and bad, in his third professional bout. Taking on Filipino veteran Ardin Diale we saw Mine being dropped in rounds 1 and 3, raising real questions about his chin, balance and durability. Then he bit down on his gum shield and pressured, in an attempt to turn the bout around. His change of tactics, and desire are real positives, but being dropped twice will be a worry. A very interesting bout that had genuine drama.
A debut to view - Kantaro Juri (0-0) Vs Makruf Bambali (0-4-1) [/movie/7233/]
Although many debuts are a mismatch they do give us a chance to see what a fighter can do, and we were genuinely impressed by what Kantaro Juri shows in his debut, against the horribly over-matched Makruf Bambali of Indonesia. Juri, who is a bit of a hidden gem, looked a natural in the ring with a very sharp jab, some nice picking and very fast hands. It'll be an interesting journey to follow with him, but we liked him a lot and the Nakazato gym might have someone a little bit special on their hands here. Polish needs to be done, but they have a genuine diamond in the rough.
Wild and even eliminator - Hiroyuki Kudaka (26-18-3, 11) vs Yuta Matsuo (15-4-1, 8) [/movie/7206/]
A Japanese title eliminator at Super Flyweight matched together Hiroyuki Kudaka and Yuta Matsuo in what proved to be, unsurprisingly, a really good fight. These two let their shots fly through out and provided plenty of action in a fun 8 rounder. With the men involved we always expected something special could be on the cards, and whilst this wasn't truly spectacular it was a very fun back and forth battle with some truly brilliant moments. The final round of this was truly excellent, as the two tired men put it on the line.
IBF eliminator provides action - Sho Ishida (28-1, 15) vs Israel Gonzalez (24-3, 11) [/movie/7242/]
The final bout of the month for the service was the best, as Sho Ishida and Israel Gonzalez battled in an IBF Super Flyweight world title eliminator. This was actually fantastic to watch, and it was most down to Gonzalez, who brought so much action and pressure through out. He let his hands go, he forced the fight and it wasn't until late on that Ishida managed to find a foot hold in what was a real gem. It's a shame this wasn't given some form of TV coverage in Osaka as it should have had a bigger viewing audience than it got, but still a very good fight and one that Boxing Raise subscribers should make an effort to watch whilst we're still lumbering through a quiet month of fights.
(Images courtesy of boxmob, and Boxingraise)
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).