Earlier this month we saw a new Japanese Youth Light Flyweight champion being crowned, as Yudai Shigeoka (3-0, 2) scored a TKO win over Ryu Horikawa (3-1-1, 1) to claim the previously vacant title. The bout was later aired on Fuji TV and gave us a chance to see an excellent match up between two youngsters. In fact it gave us a match up that, in many ways, is part of why Japanese boxing is so good right now. Youngsters are risking unbeaten records against each other to deliver great fights and prove themselves, rather than padding their records until they are ranked high enough for a world title fight.
The bout looked great on paper, it seemed to have all the ingredients of being something special in the ring, and matched stylish boxer-mover against a more mature and aggressive pressure-fighter-come-puncher. And when they got in the ring, the two men delivered something sensational.
With the bout having been watched and dissected, it's one we want to go back over and look at again, as we bring you a Five Take Aways article on the fight.
1-The Japanese Youth title is brilliant and unique to Japan
The main Japanese title is the most competitive domestic title on the planet by far. It might not have the same history as the British title, but in recent years the Japanese title has been one that Japanese fighters have gone for, and looked to defend against top domestic fighters adding value to the title. Sadly the British title has been devalued by fighters vacating the belt, and the split between the two top promoters, leading to a lot potentially brilliant match ups simply not taking place. As a result the Japanese title has over-taken the British title in some ways.
Regardless of which title is more meaningful, the idea of a domestic Youth title is something really unique to Japan and is one of the most amazing concepts. It gives youngsters a reason to face off. They get a belt and recognition for winning bouts like this one. They have a reason to risk their records, and a reward for winning. It's something only Japan, and maybe Mexico, could pull off right now, but it's something every major boxing country should be looking to replicate. It repeatedly gives us great bouts and allows young prospects to prove themselves very early on. It really is something truly brilliant.
2-High level skills from two youngsters!
Before the first bell we knew these weren't the typical 3-0-1 and 2-0 novices we see out there. Both men had been very accomplished amateur fighters and both came into this bout with reputations as talented youngsters. In the ring that talent was evident from the very start. Horikawa looked the better boxer, he judges range well, moved like a feather at times and showed impressive punch selection. He showed touches of genuis and is clearly a brilliant schooled young fighter. Shigeoka however looked the stronger, more powerful man and the bully in the clinches, he knew he was the more mature fighter and he made the most of that advantage. Regardless of the styles the two youngsters showed some fantastic ability, heart and determination. We don't tend to see the skills these two showed at this age, and with so few fights to their name, but the skills on show really made this something very special.
3-Shigeoka is a monster...but also a work in progress
We all know Ginjiro Shigeoka is a star in the making, and he was actually working the corner for Yudai, his older brother, but what this bout showed is that Yudai is also well on his way to being a star. The 23 year old looked like a monster at times. He was being outboxed at times by Horikawa early on, but never looked too phased, and instead believed in his power, his toughness and his skills. He was was left with a bloody nose in round 3, but that seemed to drag out the dog in him, drawing out the bed in him and when he felt Horikawa slowing down he really did turn the screw. He might lack the 1-punch power of his brother but his combinations are a thing of beauty, his counter punching is excellent and his huge left hand is going to be a major threat at world level. He is however some one who sill has work to do, and we suspect his team will be working on his defense and his footwork, and at times he looked a bit too stationary for our liking. With just 3 professional bouts behind him, mistakes were expected, but he was still hugely impressive.
4-Akihiko Katsuragi did a great job
Although this was certainly not a dirty fight, the dynamic of the southpaw vs orthodox fighter caused the fighters to fall into each a fair bit and there was more clinching than we typically see in Japanese fights. Despite that Akihiko Katsuragi did really well as the referee. He gave them chances to work inside, but also knew to split them when shots weren't being thrown. He kept out of the way when he wasn't needed and only involved himself when he needed to. He also had a great view of the fighters at all times, and was clear with his instructions. Most notably he was always in position to jump in when needed and Horikawa chance when he was hurt. He didn't jump in too late, nor did he let a youngster get ruined.
This was just good, solid refereeing from a man who has been there, seen it, got the post card and knows what he's doing in the ring. Referees can learn a lot from watching how Katsuragi officiated here.
5-Do not write Ryu Horikawa off!
We've raved about Horikawa's skills already though his problem was almost certainly the fact the bout came too early for him. He's a talented boxer, but he's a kid and his lack of physical maturity and man strength showed. He was out boxing Shigeoka at times, but he lacked the fire power to get Shigeoka's respect whilst Shigeoka was able to bully him around, hurt him and walk through shots when he needed to. Despite the loss we wouldn't write him off. In fact if anything the loss will do him the world of good, it will help his team focus on letting him mature, develop physically and work on that on that side of things. He is technically very good, but also very young and needs to be given time. If he matures, as we expect, by his mid 20's he will be a real force on domestic scene and a potential national champion.
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).