As one of the hottest hopefuls in Japan there is a lot expectations resting on the shoulders of the unbeaten Shokichi Iwata (5-0, 4). Last Friday he was in the ring for his 5th professional bout, and faced off with the tough Ryo Narizuka (9-10-1) in the first of two Dynamic Glove cards to take place Korakuen Hall.
Although this bout wasn't shown live it did managed to get aired on a relatively short tape delay, being shown on Monday after taking place the previous Friday. Having now watched it back a couple of times we've decided to share what we took from the bout, with the latest in our Take Aways series.
1-Iwata is great fun to watch
For many in Japan Shokichi Iwata's hype and potential comes from his days as an amateur, where he beat the likes of Kosei Tanaka. Whilst that's great we're actually a lot more excited about what we see of him in the ring. He's someone who can box and move, but also show an aggressive, exciting and offensive style when he wants to. At the end of this bout he really let his hands go, moved through the gears and put on a show to force a stoppage. Whilst he clearly has a good amateur fundamentals he's happy to not rely on them as a crutch and will instead be aggressive and be exciting when he wants to be. With that in mind we feel he's adapted to the professional ranks incredibly well and will likely become one of the must watch little men in the next few years, able to box, fight, brawl or bang.
2-A lack of power has held Ryo Narizuka back
Although Ryo Narizuka lacks in too many areas to ever have been a big star it needs to be said that his complete lack of power has been a major issue. During his 20 fight career he has never scored a stoppage, and his inability to get respect from his opponents has hamstrung his career pretty notably. It's a shame that he doesn't have more bang on his shots as his record would likely look very, very different if he had a bit of pop. He's tough, he can box, he can move, but he can't make opponents respect him and he can't make them think twice. In many ways this has really limited his potential to make a mark and almost certainly held him back from bigger and better things.
3-Iwata is thinking about the future
Although Iwata had to go 7 rounds here we suspect part of going later into the bout was a deliberate thing. He knows he will have harder bouts, he knows he'll face questions in regards to his stamina, and that he'll have to work hard. Instead of being super aggressive from the off he decided to test things, use his movement, attack in bursts and not try to finish off Narizuka too quickly. In some ways he was playing with his food, but did it in a way where he was trying new things, where he was fighting within himself to get ring time and experience. He had never been beyond 6 rounds prior to this bout and can now say he's done 7, he can now feel confident in his ability to do 8, and maybe even 10. Getting this type of ring time, this early, is really valuable for a young prospect.
4-It's time for Iwata to step up
Our last take away in regards to Shokichi Iwata is that it's now time he stepped up. He really does need to be given a serious test and we'd like to see him in with a top domestic level fighter next. He's proven his skills and stamina, and now we'd like to see him prove himself against someone like Tsuyoshi Sato, Ryuto Oho, Daiki Tomita or Takuma Sakae as he moves towards a title fight. This was a decent match up to see where Iwata's at, but he's a long, long way above the likes of Narizuka and it's time we see him in with better competition than Narizuka
5-Takahiro Ao looked a natural in the corner
We suspect most people missed this one, but this bout actually featured former Featherweight and Super Featherweight world champion Takahiro Ao working the corner for Iwata. It was the first time he'd worked as a chief second and whilst it's not a real he seemed eager to take on full time we thought he looked natural there, and with his excellent boxing brain he will likely prove a great asset for anyone able to get him in the corner. Fingers crossed he changes his mind and does become a regular chief second, as he we suspect he has the tools needed to really get the most out of his fighters going forward. Saying that however he is said to be a very good trainer, and that might be his calling if he doesn't choose to work the corner more often
Over the last few years Teiken's dominance of the Japanese scene has really under threat and as we right this they currently have no world champions at the gym and only a pair of domestic champions. It wasn't that long ago that fighters like Shinsuke Yamanaka, Roman Gonzalez, Jorge Linares, Takashi Miura, and Carlos Cuadras all holding, or in the mix for, world titles. Now their hopes at the top level essentially lie with Ryota Murata, who will know a loss in July ends his career, the beyond their best trio of Gonzalez, Linares and Cuadras, who are all still in the mix, but not the fighters they once were, and Kenichi Ogawa.
Worryingly all of the names so far mentioned are 30 or above, and most of them are seen as being on the slide.
It would be easy to suggest the Teiken gym is now longer a leading gym in Japan. The likes of the Watanabe Gym and the Ohashi Gym seem to have over-taken it in recent years, and the gym hasn't replaced their faded stars. That however would be partially wrong. The gym isn't done as a top gym, what has happened however is that their transitional stage to the next generation of top fighters, has been delayed some what.
What we mean by that is that instead of having ready made replacements for their faded stars the gym really missed out on a generation of talent. They failed to secure the youngsters who were part of the current generation of stars. The likes of Naoya Inoue and Kenshiro and Hiroto Kyoguchi and Kosei Tanaka took other options, and didn't ink deals with the Teiken gym. Sometimes the reason was obvious, such as location or gym owner, and other times it wasn't, but what is clear is that the top Japanese fighters of today saw other avenues, and went their own way.
That left Teiken needing to chase the next wave of fighters, and that's exactly what they've done, signing 3 top Japanese amateurs in the last 18 or so months, and developing some lesser talents as well. They have essentially had to play catch up with the rival gyms since Yamanaka retired, and they have done so in a manner that could end up having them back on top of the Japanese scene in the coming years.
Before we look at their top prospects it's worth looking at both of their current national champions. They are Super Featherweight Masaru Sueyoshi (19-1-1, 11) and Welterweight Yuki Nagano (16-2, 12). Interestingly neither of these were amateur standouts, Sueyoshi managed to go 21-8 in the amateurs before competing in the 2012 Rookie of the Year, losing to Masayuki Ito. Nagano on the other hand won the 2015 Rookie of the Year. Both have developed from Rookies to national champions, and that leads us to one of the top Teiken prospects, one who doesn't have a strong amateur backing but has excited fans.
Super Flyweight hopeful Hayate Kaji (12-0, 9), like Sueyoshi and Nagano, came through the Rookie of the Year. In fact Kaji won the Super Flyweight competition on the same day that Nagano won the Welterweight competition, in 2015, winning the final in just his 4th professional bout. Sadly since that Rookie triumph Kaji hasn't shone like many suspected, and despite maintaining his unbeaten record the 21 year old has shown signs of ill discipline, and disappointing performances, especially his 2017 clash with Jun Blazo. Those poor performances, added to blow outs against some horribly over-matched competition, has seen Kaji essentially put on the back burner, with his team clearly focused on getting him experience before getting him a title fight. That's a risky approach for the youngster, who needs to be tested, but he is a big hope for the gym, with an exciting style and vicious power, and time well and truly on his side.
Whilst Kaji is clearly a prospect to keep an eye on the more interesting thing about the Teiken gym is a trio of former amateur standouts, who are just beginning their professional careers but all 3 are marked, already, for something huge.
They are Mikito Nakano (2-0, 2), Kuntae Lee (1-0, 1) and Shokichi Iwata (2-0, 1) who only 5 pro fights between but can already be regarded as 3 of the brightest hopes in Japanese boxing, and at the time of writing all 3 are 23 years old.
The oldest of the 3, by a few months, is Nakano a southpaw competing in the Featherweight division. He ran up a tremendous 68-9 (48) record in the amateur ranks before turning professional last year and debuting in October. Despite being a fantastic talent his first two bouts were little more than show cases against Thai novices however we now know that his third bout, scheduled for July 6th, will come against Filipino Arvin Yurong (12-2, 3).
Yurong is a really test for Nakano, and he showed a lot of desire and hunger in his January loss to Xiang Li. If Yurong can show that same hunger here he could give Nakano real issues and ask very serious questions of the Teiken man. If Nakano slices through him we can already mark Nakano as someone who should be mixing for titles by the end of 2020.
On the same card as Nakano's bout with Yurong we'll see Lee have his second bout. Like Nakano Lee is a southpaw, and had a stellar amateur career, running up a reported 102-10 amateur record. He fights at 140lbs, a division which Japan hasn't had much international success at in recent years, and looks like a real natural. On his debut he hardly broke sweat, beating a Thai novice inside a round, but looked like every punch he threw was crisp, natural and sharp. He's someone with a lot of potential, strong amateur background, and a rather rare backstory, with North Korean blood in his veins. As an amateur he competed for North Korea in international competitions and clear has the ability to make a mark well above domestic level.
At the moment Lee's opponent for his July 6th bout hasn't been announced, though the bout will be scheduled for 6 rounds and we'd expected a limited opponent, before a stiffer test at the end of the year.
Nakano and Lee are both fighting on the same card leaving Iwata as the odd one out, however he will actually be in the ring on July 12th, as part of the under-card for Ryota Murata rematch with Rob Brant. Iwata made his professional debut in the US last year, after running up a 59-12 (16) amateur record, and then made his Japanese debut earlier this year against Rookie of the Year winner Daiki Kameyama. Unlike the other two he does spend plenty of time in the west and clearly is happy to fight on international soil early in his career, despite the fact he's a Light Flyweight and the best competition there is in Asia right now. On paper the's the least experienced in terms of amateur bouts, but his win over Kameyama is the best that the trio have and he seems the ost likley to be fast tracked.
We've not yet been told who Iwata will be debuting against but we're expecting it to be an international opponent, hopefully some one who will ask Iwata something new, and allow the speedy youngster to show more of what he can do.
Whilst the Teiken gym hasn't got any world champions, it appears they have 3, or 4 if we include Kaji, top prospects and the foundation is there for the next wave of Teiken success. It might be a few years away, and we may see Watanabe and Ohashi move further ahead in that time, but Teiken is not dead, it's merely transitioning to the next generation of fighters, and they are very exciting.
One more thing to add is the fact Teiken will be scouting the 2020 Olympics and will be expecting to pick up several of the top prospects from those games, so the next wave of Teiken fighters won't just be Kaji, Nakano, Lee and Iwata, but also some of the fighters who may well medal at Tokyo games. The gym has the money, the connections and the know how to secure big signatures, and we're really excited to see where those Olympians end up at the end of next year, along with those top amateurs who fail to qualify for the games. They are likely to have promoters, including Teiken, trying to get their signatures, and strengthen the stables for the future.
Teiken isn't dead, it's just a sleeping giant.
(All Images courtesy of Teiken.com)
Man what a crazy week we've had. We were expecting the WBSS semi finals to be announced, and although that hasn't happened, we have had some notable news across various part of Asian boxing from contract signings to announcements about up coming bouts, to a pretty notable legal case. Unlike last we've we've tried to break our stories in subsections this week, grouping similar stories together.
Srisaket inks deal with DAZN! Details of Feb 8th ring appearance confirmed!
During the week we saw Eddie Hearn announce that he, and Matchroom USA, had inked a deal with WBC and Ring Magazine Super Flyweight champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-4-1, 41) [ศรีสะเกษ นครหลวงโปรโมชั่น], making the Thai a DAZN exclusive fighter. This is a huge coup for DAZN who will be showing his rematch with Juan Francisco Estrada, with that bout being eyed for an early April date.
Before Srisaket fights his first bout on DAZN however he will be "fighting" in Thailand in an exhibition bout as part of a stacked February 8th card to raise money for a local hospital. The line up for that card was also announced this week, and more details on that show can be read here:
Muhammad Waseem signs with MTK Global, said to be targeting an April ring return
Another notable fighter signing a contract with a new team was Pakistani Flyweight Muhammad Waseem (8-1, 6) [محمد وسیم] who has now signed with MTK Global ahead of the next chapter of his career. He is best known for his 2018 bout with Moruti Mthalane, and his work with Korean promoter Andy Kim, but it seems like he is needing a promoter with big pockets, and that is what he has got here with MTK Global. Whilst this doesn't explicitly tie Waseem to a particular channel it does seem like it will land him some big fights in the UK, and we're really looking forward to seeing what he can do with MTK Global now guiding his career.
Ryosuke Iwasa to face Cesar Juarez in February!
Former IBF Super Bantamweight champion Ryosuke Iwasa (25-3, 16) [岩佐 亮佑] will be returning to the ring on February 16th to take on exciting Mexican Cesar Juarez (23-6, 17). This is a bout that was rumoured late last year, but was announced until this week, when Juarez let the cat out of the bag. It was later confirmed by the Iwasa team. The contest will be an IBF world title eliminator, and will also be Iwasa's US debut. The match up was announced at short notice, less than 4 weeks before taking place, but with both men being aware of the bout it's hard to imagine either man being ill prepared for what could be a sleeper FOTY contender.
Eri Matsuda and Nanae Suzuki to battle in unification bout!
We all want to see Champion Vs Champion bouts, fighters unifying titles and looking to prove who is the best. This week we saw the announcement that OPBF Atomweight champion Eri Matsuda (2-0) [松田恵里] would be facing Japanese female champion Nanae Suzuki (8-2-1, 1) [鈴木 菜々江], in a mouth watering unification bout. Matsuda looks to be one of the hottest prospects in female boxing, but will need to show what she can do against a more experienced and equally hungry opponent. This is likely to push the winner on to a world title fight, and should be seen as a very significant match up, at least for the fighters involved.
Musashi Mori Vs Richard Pumicpic II set for April 14th, Tsutsumi, Shigeoka and Takeda on undercard!
Last year we saw Musashi Mori (8-0, 5) [森 武蔵] defeat Filipino Richard Pumicpic (21-9-2, 6) to claim the WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight title, in what is clearly his best win to date.The first bout was curtailed due to a headclash, but the fact we're getting a rematch in mid April is certainly not a bad thing.
Not only was the rematch announced here but the under-card was also a lovely bonus, with Ginjiro Shigeoka (1-0, 1) [重岡銀次朗], Seiya Tsutsumi (4-0, 3) [堤聖也] and Rookie of the Year winner Sora Takeda (4-1) [竹田宙] all announced for the show. Sadly none of them have their opponents announced, but we would be very surprised if at least one of them does face a Japanese ranked opponent. A great main event with a potentially solid under-card.
Yuko Kuroki to face Nao Ikeyama in April!
On the same day as the previously mentioned Mori Vs Pumicpic rematch we'll get a mos win female bout, as WBO Atomweight champion Nao Ikeyama (18-5-3, 5) [森脇恵子], who is edging towards her 50th birthday, take on former WBC female Minimumweight champion Yuko Kuroki (17-6-1, 8) [黒木優子]. Female boxing might not be huge but that doesn't stop the sport giving us some huge female bouts, and a contest between Ikeyama, a legend who has competed with the best despite being well beyond the retirement age of most fighters, and Kuroki should be sensational. The loser really has no where to go, but the winner will be on the verge of another world title fight. A high risk, high reward bout between two recent world champions.
Kasumi Saeki to fight for a world title in April!
Staying with female boxing, unbeaten prospect Kasumi Saeki (3-0, 2) [佐伯霞] got informed, live at an event she was speaking at, that her team were pencilling her in for a world title fight on April 27th. The details are lacking, but the WBO Asia Pacific female Minimumweight champion, looks set for a huge step up in class as her team look to make her into a star. We're expecting more details to be announced in the coming weeks, but it's clear that w could see Saeki announce herself on the world stage in just a few weeks.
Notable the April 27th date is also being rumoured as the date for Reiya Konishi's bout with IBF Light Flyweight champion Felix Alvarado.
Suzumi Takayama passes B license test, set for debut on February 26th!
Former amateur standout Suzumi Takayama [高山 涼深] is pencilled in to fight on February 26, he has been for quite some time, but he didn't actually take his B license test until this past week. He has, as expected, passed all the tests and there isn't any issue with him being licensed, and joining the strong stable of hopefuls at the Watanabe Gym.
Shokichi Iwata takes part in B class pro-test
Japanese youngster Shokichi Iwata (1-0, 1) [岩田翔吉] may have made his professional debut last year, but he wasn't allowed to fight under a JBC license until this week, when he claimed a B class licensed and linked up with Teiken. It doesn't seem totally clear on what direction Iwata's career is going to take, but he has opened up doors to fight in Japan, as well as the USA.
Golovkin suing former managers
On a really serious issue, former unified Middleweight king Gennady Golovkin (38-1-1, 34) has began court action as he looks to sue former managers Maximilian and Oleg Hermann, who he claims owe him $3.5 million. The legal action has been filed with claims the Hermann's had their contract ended in 2017 but continued to make money off their relationship with Golovkin. It's going to be very interesting to see how this story develops in the coming months.
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).