Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
This main show for us this coming Thursday comes from Korakun Hall as the Ohashi Gym put on a solid show with an excellent Youth title bout, and some compelling under-card bouts.
The main event on this card is one of the very best contests on the boxing calendar right now and will see former amateur standout Ryutaro Nakagaki (2-0, 2) take on hard hitting youngster Ayumu Hanada (6-0, 4) in a bout for the Japanese Youth Super Flyweight title. As an amateur Nakagaki was among the very best in Japan and when he turned professional the expectations were high for him, though there was worries about his style and power. In just 2 fights he has gone a long way to answering those worries. Hanada on the other hand is an explosive fighter who cut his teeth in Mexico as a teenager before returning to Japan and impressing back at home. On paper this is a hard one to call, and if Hanada lands clean he can certainly hurt Nakagaki, though we suspect the amateur background of Nakagaki could prove to be the difference maker here. Our full, in depth, preview of this contest can be read here Unbeaten Youngsters Nakagaki and Hanada face off for Youth title!
The chief support bout is likely to be a genuine shoot out as the flawed but heavy handed Tsuyoshi Tameda (21-6-2, 19) takes on Soreike Taichi (7-4, 5). The hard hitting Tameda has lost his last two, both by stoppage, and is 2 years removed from his last win. However with his power he is always dangerous. Taichi, who has also lost his last two by TKO, is the naturally bigger man and will likely feel his size will be key. This won't be the highest level of boxing, but it will, almost certainly, see bombs traded and will not see the final bell. We are expecting a real shoot out here.
In a potentially competitive bout at Welterweight we'll see Takeru Kobata (9-5-1, 4) take on Tetsuya Kondo (6-2, 4). Neither of these two youngsters are expected to make a mark at the top of the domestic scene, but they should make for an exciting match up. Kobata is highly ranked by the JBC, and will be coming in to this bout on the back of an excellent win over Rikuto Adachi, but is a limited fighter who doesn't look like a Japanese champion in the making. Kondo on the other hand is a solid fighter, but was blown out in 2019 by Jin Sasaki, inside a round, and Kondo will also go in to this feeling like he can stop Kondo.
Despite being quite a bit down the show arguably the best supporting bout is a clash between Katsuki Mori (8-0, 1) and Ren Kojima (6-1-2), who fight at just over the Minimumweight limit. The 21 year old Mori has been consistently impressive since starting his career and since winning Rookie of the Year in 2019 he has become a fighter who belongs on the radar of every fan who follows the lower weight classes. Ren Kojima on the other hand won the Rookie of the Year in February and is looking to build on that triumph. Neither man has much power, and this will be expected to go the distance, but both are skilled, and both are busy in the ring. Expect this one to be a very, very compelling contest.
Shinjuku FACE, Tokyo, Japan
As well as the Korakuen Hall show there is also an East Japan Rookie of the Year card from the Shinjuku FACE. This isn't a particularly great Rookie of the Year event, with just 4 bouts actually taking place on the card, after two contests set for the show got cancelled.
Of the 4 bouts on the card the two we're expecting to be the most interesting are the two all debutant clashes. One of those will see Masato Shinoda (0-0) clash with Juki Kitabayashi (0-0) in a Super Flyweight bout. The Super Flyweight Rookie of the Year is always among the very best, due to the depth of talent, and this is an all debutant bout between two southpaws, which can get very wild. Whilst certainly not close to the quality of bouts on the Ohashi show we suspect this could be a great bout for fans in the venue.
The other all debutant bout comes in another strong division for the Rookie of the Year, with Masaki Banjo (0-0) and Koki Yamase (0-0) facing off in a Super Featherweight bout. Both of these men are teenagers and it could well be that one, if not both, of these youngsters go on to make a mark at a higher level over the next decade or so. The Super Featherweight division has long been one of the most interesting in Japan and top Rookies have regularly made a mark at higher levels in the sport, so this could well be the starting chapter of two very interesting stories.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
The first Japanese show of 2021 comes to us this coming Thursday thanks to Hideyuki Ohashi who puts on the next show under the Phoenix Battle series. This is a card that has a brilliant main event, but really the key part of the card are the bouts below it, which are all intriguing bouts for touted prospects.
We'll start with the main event, which will see OPBF Bantamweight champion Keita Kurihara (15-5, 13) defending his belt against former WBC "interim" Bantamweight champion Takuma Inoue (13-1, 3), in what is a puncher Vs Boxer bout. For the heavy handed Kurihara this will serve as his second defense, following his title win in late 2018 against Yuki Strong Kobayashi and a win here would likely see him taking huge strides towards a world title fight. As for Inoue this will be his first bout since losing to Nordine Oubaali in 2019. For Inoue a loss would be very hard to come back from, and he'll be incredibly focused here making for what should be an excellent match up. Our full, in depth, preview of this one can be read here Keita Kurihara Vs Takuma Inoue - The first big Japanese fight of 2021!
In an excellent looking 8 rounder we'll see the fast rising Katsuki Mori (7-0, 1) take on Sora Takeda (6-1, 1) in a battle between two Rookie of the Year winners. In 2018 Takeda won Rookie of the Year at 105lbs and since then has added two more wins to record, giving him a 6 fight winning streak since a loss on his 2017 debut. Mori won the Rookie of the Year in 2019, and has only fought once since then. Of the two men Mori seems to be the more promising man, who has shown more so far in his career, but this is certainly not a gimme either way.
One of two highly regarded novice prospects on this card is former Japanese amateur stand out Ryutaro Nakagaki (1-0, 1), who takes a huge step up in class from his debut to take on fellow southpaw Yuji Okinori (10-5-2, 3). The 21 year old Nakagaki is tipped as a future champion and was a stellar amateur on the Japanese scene before making his professional debut last year. When he turned professional the worry was about his power, but he showed he had plenty of pop on his debut. In Okinori we have we have a 27 year old who asks questions, and comes in with a bit of momentum following back to back TKO wins. We strongly favour Nakagaki, but this is a legitimate test.
The other highly regarded professional novice is Keisuke Matsumoto (1-0, 1), the son of former world title challenger Koji Matusmoto, who looks for his second win as he takes on Bejita Ishikawa (3-12-2, 1). Matsumoto was given a test on debut, and had to pull himself off the canvas to secure victory, though showed great composure and the mentality that should take him far in the sport. Ishikawa on the other hand is well known for his gimmick, of dressing up like Dragon Ball Z character Vegeta, hence his ring name of Bejita. Ishikawa is unlikely to provide much of a test, but it's going to be good to see Matsumoto back in the ring, as he is tipped as something special, despite the issues on his debut.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
A day after a number of Kazakh prospects make their debut we'll also see two touted Japanese prospects begin their professional careers, albeit in much lower profile action. As well as the prospects this card will also feature a former world title challenger in a very good looking domestic match up as boxing slowly begins to resume normality in Japan.
One of those debutants is Ryutaro Nakagaki (0-0), who picked up 8 national titles in the amateurs. Regarded as a brilliant technical Nakagaki views himself as someone who can be fast tracked based on his amateur pedigree. The one thing he needs to work on, according to those in Japan, is sitting on his punches and developing more power as he heads to the pros. We'll see whether he's done that here as he takes on the limited Shohei Horii (3-5-2, 2), who has been stopped in 4 of his 5 defeats. This should be an easy win for Nakagaki, but it'll be interesting to see how he wins.
The other amateur standout on this card is "Mirai Monster" Keisuke Matsumoto (0-0), who also won numerous amateur championships before heading to the pros. As well as his amateur success Matsumoto is a third generation fighter, following in the footsteps of his father, multi-time world title challenger Koji Matsumoto, and his grandfather. He had hoped to go to the Olympics but after missing out he took the advice of Naoya Inoue and turned professional. Matsumoto will be up against Hironori Miyake (9-9-2, 1), who has proven to be a tough fight, though one who lacks power, and this should be a decent test of what Matsumoto has in the locker, despite Miyake's record looking less than great.
In the main event of this card former world title challenger Ryo Matsumoto (23-3, 21), no relation to Keisuke, take on Takuya Mizuno (17-2-1, 14) in a mouth watering show down. Coming in both men will be looking to make a major statement and take home a stoppage. Of the two Matsumoto is the more talented, and despite having 3 losses he is still very much a fighter with the potential to reach the top, but there is pressure on his shoulders following back to back losses in 2018. As for Mizuno he was beaten last time out by Musashi Morui and will see this as a chance to get his career back on track following that loss. Although there is no title on the line here the bout is still a brilliant match up between two talented, young, skilled, Japanese punchers who are risking a lot at this stage in their careers.
Tynyshpayev Academy of Transport and Communications, Almaty, Kazakhstan
Also on Monday is a small card in Kazakhstan, for a second day running. This really is a small card that's hard to give too much attention to, though the main bout on the show does appear to be a minor regional title fight.
That title bout will see Mukhitdin Rajapbaev (12-7-1, 8) battle against the hard hitting Yedil Kozhamberdiyev (9-2, 9) in a 10 rounder for the WBC Asian Boxing Council Cruiserweight title. Coming in to the the 32 year old Rajapbaev, from Uzbekistan, has failed to win any of his last 6, and has been stopped 3 times in those 6 bouts. Aged 33 Kozhamberdiyev is stepping up, but has got momentum on his size having won his last 8, all within the first 3 rounds. Kozhamberdiyev has faced some god awful competition but is the naturally bigger man, and the fighter entering with form.