This coming Sunday is an interesting day for Japanese fight fans who get three shows across the country. The most notable show of the day is Shizuoka, packed with prospects, whilst the other two shows are both at Korakuen Hall as part of the East Japan Rookie of the Year.
FujisanMesse, Fuji, Shizuoka, Japan
The show we like the most of the three is the show from Shizuoka, which features a bunch of notable prospects, many of whom are tipped to win titles over the next few years.
The most notable of the prospects on the show is the brilliantly talented Rentaro Kimura (4-0, 3), who takes on a really tough bout foe here as he battles the heavy handed Yoji Saito (3-1-2, 3). We've loved watching Kimura so far, and he does look like a very, very special talent who can do it all in the ring, but he has been caught a few times in the past and we suspect his team have put this bout together to give him a genuine chin check, with Saito being a genuine brute in the ring. This will be a battle between Kimura's skills, speed and movement, and Saito's power, strength and aggression and it should make for a genuinely brilliant contest.
Another major prospect on this card is Kimura's stablemate Tsubasa Murachi (7-1, 3), who looks to continue to move his career forward as he takes on Yuto Nakamura (11-6-1, 8). The talented Murachi has been rebuilding well since a 2019 loss to Froilan Saludar, winning his last 3 by decision, and it certainly seems that that brutal KO loss has seen him fighting in a more safety first style that could end up really being a great change for his career, and longevity in the sport. Nakamura on the other hand is now world beater, but he is better than his record suggests and will looking to get his career back on track following a TKO loss in December to Ryo Akaho, in a bout that never really made much sense. At his best Nakamura is a good Super Flyweight and he should ask questions of Murachi, but not be a real threat to him.
Another very highly regarded prospect on this card is second generation fighter Kento Hatanaka (11-0, 9), the son of former world champion Kiyoshi Hatanaka, who looks to fight for the first time since beating Roland Jay Biendima in February 2020. Sadly Hantanaka's bout appears to be more of a tick over fight than a really competitive one as he takes on the limited Daisuke Sudo (7-7-3). Given lengthy break from action this is ideal to help Hatanaka shake some ring rust, but it really is a shame that his career has been on the back burner since the pandemic began to affect boxing in Japan.
One final touted prospect here is Narumi Yukawa (2-0, 1), a sparring partner of Kimura's and a man with a great story of redemption following an criminal issue before he got the chance to begin his professional career. He's in a really good match up on this show as he takes on Yuji Awata (12-8-1, 5), in what is arguably the most well balanced of the bouts with prospects, outside of Kimura's. Awata is no world beater but he's a very competent domestic level fighter and we suspect Yukawa will want to shine, but will have to work hard here.
It's also worth noting that Renataro Kimura's cousin Tentaro Kimura (6-0-2) is also on this card, as he takes on Satoru Hoshiba (7-5, 2). Kimura, although unbeaten, isn't regarded as a prospect in the same way that his cousin is, but is a talent and Danji Suruga, his promoter, does speak very highly of him, and his talent. Hoshiba's record is very misleading, but he's aggressive, he comes to fight, and he could be a real thorn in the side for Kimura here. Kimura is the favourite, but we suspect he will be asked real questions from the aggression and pressure of Hoshiba.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
The first of the Rookie of the Year cards starts at 11:30am and features a total of 8 bouts, all 4 rounders. We're not going to take a look at all of them but there are some have caught the eye.
One of those worthy of some attention will see Ryugo Yanagibori (4-2, 1) take on the amazingly named Scorpion Kintaro (2-0, 2), who we really do think might be a Mortal Kombat fan. The 27 year old Yanagibori made his debut in 2018 and and has been stopped in both of his losses, but is coming into this bout with a recent win over Yuki Aizawa, a win that secured his place in this stage of the Rookie if the Year. Kintaro on the other had debuted in April, and has scored two quick wins, but this will be the first time he's facing a fighter with some professional experience.
In a bout at Featherweight novice fighter Daisuke Yoshikawa (1-0) will take on heavy handed 32 year old Kiyoharu Nunozaki (4-0, 3), in what should be an explosive encounter. Interestingly Yoshikawa is just 5'6" and will be giving up 4" here to Nunozaki, who will be the bigger man, the more experienced man and the heavier handed.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
The second Rookie of the Year card, which will take place from 5:30PM, is a show with 6 bouts on it, including 3 at Welterweight. On this card there are a couple of debutants that we're going to be focusing on.
One of the debutants is 28 year old Sarimanu Suzuki (0-0), who takes on 29 year old Yusaku Minami (2-2, 2). Whilst we're interested to see how Suzuki fares it's worth noting that Minami has been a stop or be stopped fighter, with his bouts never getting past round 3. Suzuki will know about Minami's history, and will be looking to make the most of Minami's questionable chin, whilst looking to also avoid his power.
Another debutant we'll be interested in seeing is 22 year old Middleweight hopeful Ryuya Kusamura (0-0) who takes on the limited, but experienced, Kazuki Ikeya (1-4). Given how few Middleweights there are in Japan it's always good to see novice Middleweights and we're hoping that Kusamura can make a mark going forward.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
For hardcore of the Japanese scene we get a live card from Boxing Raise and Dangan Aoki this coming Friday, and it’s the one card that genuinely standsout for the month of January. It’s a small card, with just 4 bouts on it, but all 4 of those bouts are meaningful ones, including two brilliant looking Japanese title fights, and it’s a show that looks like it will be worth watching every second of.
The show will begin with a B Class Tournament final at Super Bantamweight as the once beaten Koki Mioya (8-1-2, 2) takes on the unbeaten Tentaro Kimura (5-0-2), the cousin of the highly regarded Rentaro Kimura. The 23 year old Mioya has gone unbeaten in 7 bouts, including a draw in the 2018 All Japan Rookie of the Year final, and has looked like an improving fighter in recent years, but is still very much a work in progress. Kimura, who will be overshadowed by his brother, is a relatively crude fighter, but a fun one to watch and his September battle with Wataru Yokoyama was certainly a treat from Suruga Boys. We don’t expect highly quality boxing here, but we do expect a really fun 5 round war here between two men with a will to win, and relatively little power.
In another 5 rounder we’ll see an A-Class tournament final as heavy handed Lightweight hopeful Shu Utsuki (7-0, 6) takes on the experienced Masashi Wakita (10-10-2, 5). Since turning professional Utsuki has been highly impressive, showcasing solid boxing skills, very heavy hands, and a fun aggressive style. He’s still a work in progress but the 26 year old is looking like a future star for the Watanabe gym. In the other corner is Wakita, a 24 year old who is very much a “win some, lose some” fighter, but generally makes for fun battles, and he could, if he can see out the first round or two, make for a fun war with Utsuki. Sadly however there’s a very real chance that Utsuki could make this look very, very easy.
The first of two title fights will see the heavy handed Kosuke Saka (20-5, 17) defending the Japanese Super Featherweight title against the teak tough Takuya Watanabe (37-9-1, 21), in what may well be an early contender for FOTY. Saka is a crude but aggressive and heavy handed fighter who, on his day, can be a nightmare for anyone on the regional and domestic scene. He looked fantastic in his title, though it should be noted he’s not fought since December 2019 and he has been inconsistent in his biggest bouts. Watanabe on the other hand is a true warrior, who appears to be made out of something they should be using to make tanks. His bouts are almost always action packed bouts and despite often relying on his toughness he is a solid boxer-fighter. He earned this show with his November 2019 win over Taiki Minamoto and despite being inactive for a year the break may well have done him a favour after a lot of very tough and punishing fights. Our in depth preview of this one can be found here Brutality awaits Saka and Watanabe in overdue Japanese title fight!
The other title fight on this show will see JBC Super Bantamweight champion Yusaku Kuga (19-4-1, 13) defending his belt against Gakuya Furuhashi (26-8-1, 14). Kuga, as with Saka, is a crude fighter but a monstrous puncher who can box a bit and bang a lot. Sadly for Kuga he will enter this bout after a lengthy break from the ring, and was last seen suffering a KO1 loss to Jhunriel Ramonal in December 2019. That loss will still be on his mind given he wasn’t able to get a confidence building win in 2020. Furuhashi will be getting his third shot at a Japanese title, having previously come up short against Yukinori Oguni and Yasutaka Ishimoto. At 33 years old Furuhashi is very much a veteran and he will know this could be his final shot at a Japanese title. As with the other title bout this could end up being a legitimately thrilling war, with Furuhashi setting a high tempo and Kuga looking to land bombs. Our in depth preview of this bout can be read here Warriors Kuga and Furuhashi battle for Japanese throne!