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
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).