Just over a week ago Japanese Featherweight Hinata Maruta (11-1-1, 9) scored the best win of his career, stopping Ryo Sagawa to claim the Japanese Featherweight title. It was, at last, Maruta living up to the early hype and expectation that had been put on his shoulders when he turned professional aged just 18. It was proof that Maruta was a special talent, and that things were, at last, starting to click for a man who was seemed to be groomed for success.
With the Japanese title now around his waist we've decided to look at 5 potential bouts for the 23 year old Maruta, who will be looking to build on his win over Sagawa and take huge strides towards a potential world title fight.
1-Reiya Abe (20-3-1, 9)
One man we would love to see Maruta in against is the highly skilled Reiya Abe, a talented southpaw counter puncher who would be a very interesting opponent for Maruta. The newly crowned champion would go in to the bout as the favourite, but he would be expected to have a real test here against a man who controls distance well, will look to neutralise the reach and speed of Maruta and is just as talented as the champion. Abe is regarded as a boxing genius in Japan, and it's hard to argue with that, though he can also be a lazy genius and at times cruises a bit too much, waiting for a mistake, rather than pressing the action himself. Against Maruta that would be an issue for Abe though it would also give Maruta a chance to get some experience against an incredibly skilled southpaw. This would be highly level stuff from the off and a compelling bout to view, even if it wouldn't be the most exciting.
2-Shun Kubo (14-2, 9)
Whilst we would absolutely love to see Maruta take on Abe we could under-stand if Maruta wanted to take on a bigger name and someone more well known. If that's the case than a bout against former WBA and OPBF Super Bantamweight champion Shun Kubo would be a smart match up for the Morioka Gym to pursue. Kubo, who faces Ruito Saeki in March, is a long, rangy, technical boxer, but also one who lacks in terms of durability. He's technically solid, and should ask questions of Maruta, but his questionable chin would be a major issue against someone with the power of Maruta. Despite that a win for Maruta against Kubo isn't meaningless. In fact it would be very meaningful. As mentioned Kubo is a former world champion, and he has also only been beaten by world class fighters, losing in 9 rounds to Daniel Roman and in 6 rounds to Can Xu. A win for Maruta over Kubo would see him earning comparisons to Xu and Roman and taking huge strides towards a world title fight of his own.
3-Daisuke Watanabe (12-4-2, 7)
Notably Maruta might not get much of a choice about his first defense and may well be forced to make a mandatory defense against the #1 ranked JBC fighter. If that's the case then he may be expected to take on Daisuke Watanabe, who's very much an under-rated and often over-looked fighter. Watanabe has been matched hard since making his debut in 2014 and was 2-2 after his first 4 bouts. Since then he has scored notable wins against the likes of Gakuya Furuhashi, the current Japanese Super Bantamweight champion, Dai Iwai, Richard Pumicpic and Shingo Kusano, who he beat in the Hajime No Ippo 30th Anniversary tournament last year. Watanabe's record might not look like that of a real threat to someone like Maruta, but his power, aggression and determination would see him asking questions of Maruta, and testing what the young champion has in his locker. Maruta would be a very clear favourite to win, but this would still be a solid match up and very good first defense.
4-Genesis Servania (34-2, 16)
Staying with Japanese ranked fighters, and looking at people who mean something on the world stage, a bout between Maruta and former world title challenger Genesis Servania would be a compelling match up, and a potentially huge opportunity for Maruta. Internationally Servania is known for one, his 2017 world title thriller with Oscar Valdez, that saw both men being dropped. Whilst Servania has done very, very, little since then his name does still man something and a win over him would almost certainly help Maruta leap towards a world title fight. Aged 29 Servania is still very much in his physical prime and isn't a shot fighter, despite how bad he looked against Carlos Castro in 2019. He is however a fairly predictable fighter, who fights behind a tight guard, and is somewhat slow, making for an easy target for someone quick and rangy, like Maruta. On paper this would be a step up for the newly crowned champion, but would also be a bout he'd be expected to win, dominantly.
5-Musashi Mori (12-0, 7) OR Satoshi Shimizu (9-1, 9)
We're cheating a little bit here, but for a good reason. We want to see Maruta face the winner of the May 13th clash between Musashi Mori, the WBO Asia Pacific champion, and Satoshi Shimizu, the OPBF champion, in a bout for the triple crown! Ths bout really sells it's self and would be a unification bout for the Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles. No matter who wins the May 13th bout between Mori and Shimizu they would make for the ideal dance partner for Maruta in the fall. Of the two Mori is the younger, more technically skilled fighter, and would pose some really interesting questions from a technical stand point for Maruta. Shimizu on the other hand is a crude, open, wild fighter, with lights out power, who would test Maruta's chin and and how Maruta copes with a fighter who is just as long and rangy as he is. Maruta against the winner of Shimizu Vs Mori is the bout that should be made as soon as possible, and the winner of that would be incredibly close to a world title fight in 2022!
Note the bout between Maruta and Sagawa was supposed to be aired last weekend on Fuji TV. Due to the earthquake that hit Japan on Saturday the broadcast was delayed and it will be aired on February 19th as a result
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).