Last Friday we saw 22 year old Japanese fighter Junto Nakatani (21-0, 16) announce himself on the world stage with a brilliant performance against Giemel Magramo in Tokyo to claim the WBO Flyweight title. The win took Nakatani from highly regarded young contender to world champion in brilliant fashion and showed that the youngster from the MT Gym really did have all the tools to be a star.
Admittedly Magramo didn't look great in the bout, though much of that was due to Nakatani neutralising him at range and proving himself to be surprisingly dominant on the inside, the range where Magramo was supposed to fare better. It was a performance that proved how talented the youngster was, and how good he can be. He shut down a legitimate contender, who had given Muhammad Waseem hell just a few years ago, the same Waseem that came close to stopping Moruti Mthalane, and launched himself into the mix for some great bouts over the coming years.
For this weeks Five For we're going to look at 5 potential bouts for Junto Nakatani
1-Angel Acosta (21-2, 21)
The first bout on this list is the most logical one, by far, and that's a defense of the WBO title between Nakatani and mandatory challenger Angel Acosta. It was known that Acosta was waiting in the wings for the winner of Nakatani Vs Magramo and he's first in line for a shot. On paper this is a really tough first defense for Nakatani, he's not being babied into a reign. Acosta is a dangerous, heavy handed, fighter who is known to Japanese audiences for his 2017 bout against Kosei Tanaka. Despite losing to Tanaka we saw Acosta's career continue to go forward and he quickly won the WBO Light Flyweight title before losing it in controversial fashion to Elwin Soto in 2019, and the deciding to move up. He's a legitimately dangerous contender and would be a baptism of fire for Nakatani, however Nakatani is the much bigger man and we suspect his size would be a huge advantage against Acosta. This is one we suspect we can really look forward to in the new year.
2-Julio Cesar Martinez (17-1-0-1, 13)
Lets be honest we all want unification bouts, and a contest between the WBO champion, Nakatani, and WBC champion, Julio Cesar Martinez, is a great match up and ticks a lot of boxes. Firstly and foremost it's a unification bout between two young champions, secondly it's between men who's styles should gel, and we should get a war on the inside, where Nakatani is surprisingly effective. Perhaps most importantly however it would give Nakatani the chance to fight on foreign soil, something he spoke about following his recent title win. Martinez has been making a name for himself with fans in the US, with 2 of his last 3 bouts being in US, and Nakatani has links in the US himself. Given that the bout shouldn't be a tricky one to make. It's one that makes sense, promises amazing action, would unify 2 titles and make the winner a genuine star on both sides of the Pacific. It's also a pretty damn close 50-50 match up, and a genuine argument could be made for either man to be the favourite.
3-Sho Kimura (19-3-2, 12)
Unlike some countries Japanese fighters do tend to fight world title fights against each other quite regularly, and for Nakatani that might be a great idea for next year. With that in mind we'd love to see the champion defending his title against former champion Sho Kimura, in what would be a potential war for the ages. Kimura, who turns 32 later this month, is known to be a tough, durable warrior and his bout with Kosei Tanaka in 2018 was a truly tremendous contest. He's aged a bit since then, and his 2019 bout with Carlos Canizales was certainly a damaging battle. For Nakatani a win over Kimura would legitimise is reign, and potentially earn him comparisons to Tanaka, who could be a 4 weight champion by the time Nakatani fights again. A win for Kimura would see him becoming a 2-time champion and getting one more run. For us, as fans, this would be an amazing war!
4-Sunny Edwards (15-0, 4)
One thing Nakatani will want to do is improve his international profile. One wat to do that would be to face unbeaten Englishman Sunny Edwards, the brother of former WBC Flyweight champion Charlie Edwards. Sunny is highly ranked with the WBO and is the sort of out spoken and brash fighter who would instantly generate attention for a bout with Nakatani through social media. This bout could take place in Japan, with the backing of G+ and NTV or could see Nakatani travel over to England and attempt to follow in the footsteps of Naoya Inoue, the only Japanese fighter so far to win a world title bout in Europe. A bout between these two would get attention on both sides of the globe and would be a great chance to help build Nakatani's profile in Europe. It would also help the 22 year old show the difference between European class and world class at 112lbs.
5-Artem Dalakian (20-0, 14)
We looked at one potential unification bout so we'll end this with another as a bout between Nakatani and WBA champion Artem Dalakian is also very interesting, though could be a hard one to make. For Nakatani we don't imagine he has any issues facing anyone in the division though don't think he, or any, top fighter will be rushing to Ukraine for a bout with Dalakian. Likewise we don't see Dalakian fighting on away soil unless there is a solid size purse for him. With that in mind we would love to see this bout on neutral soil, and Dalakian has fought in the US before. So maybe, just maybe, we could have this intriguing match up in the US! Dalakian is an awkward, tricky fighter who can be a thorn in the side of anyone in the division, but can also stink out the joint and his competition since winning the title, against Brian Viloria, has been disappointing. To say the least. Maybe if Dalakian was facign a top fighter he would have the ambition to show what he could do, and if Nakatani could get a fight in the US we'd expect him to look to impress. This would be a really interesting bout in terms of styles, and it would be one of the few times Dalakian would be up against someone with a better jab than himself. If a promoter is looking to put together a relatively cheap world title unification bout this would be ideal, and could fill out a good card. It's unlikely, but it is one we really would love to see.
Note - We haven't mentioned Moruti Mthalane as he has a bout set for December against Jayson Mama though the winner of that bout would also make for a very good opponent for Nakatani, as would Ryota Yamauchi.
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).