On September 10th we'll see WBO Flyweight champion Junto Nakatani (21-0, 16) return to the ring for his first defense, as he takes on Puerto Rican puncher Angel Acosta (22-2, 21) in Tucson, Arizona. The bout will not just serve as Nakatani's first world title defense but will also be his international debut, coming on the same show as Oscar Valdez's bout with Robson Conceicao, and a huge chance for him to show the world exactly what he can do. The bout is a really interesting one, and one that could help Nakatani make a major statement in the sport, or could see Acosta become a 2-weight world champion, with Acosta having previously held the WBO Light Flyweight title.
For those who haven't seen these two men before, or maybe have little interest in watching the little guys unless they are on a card like this, it's worth taking a look at who the two men are, how they fight, and what sort of fighters they are.
Stood at 5'7", and aged just 23, Nakatani is a long, rangy, tall Flyweight. In fact he's among the tallest and longest fighters in the division right now and he certainly has the frame to allow him to move up through the weights. In fact it wouldn't be a surprise to see him fighting as a Featherweight when he matures. He's a youngster who has come through the tough Japanese domestic scene, winning Rookie of the Year in 2016, beating the now world ranked Masamichi Yabuki in the final, before going on to beat the likes of Seigo Yuri Akui, Dexter Alimento and Shun Kosaka before winning the Japanese national title in 2019. Following his title win he has gone on to some solid fighters, including Milan Melindo and Giemel Magramo, who he stopped for the title last November.
Given his physical dimensions it should be no surprise to learn that Nakatani has an excellent jab, and his ability to box and move is fantastic. He mas managed to use his jab as a dominant tool in the past and he really took Milan Melindo apart with it. It's a table setter for him, along with a razor guided straight right hand, and with his good footwork it's a punch that can really control the range and tempo of a bout. Unlike many tall fighters however Nakatani isn't afraid of fighting on the inside when he needs to and has proven to be a fantastic up close, with his body shots in particular being deadly. We suspect he'll have to show that side of his boxing here, but will bee putting himself in harms way to do so. Defensively there is work to be done for Nakatani, but he's certainly not the easiest of guys to hit clean, especially not at range and when he has been tagged he's not looked particularly phased or troubled by anything. And that included going to war with Akui, a huge puncher.
Aged 30 Acosta is a veteran of the sport, and was a notable amateur before turning professional in 2012. Due to his amateur pedigree he was moved into 6 rounders early on, though he rarely needed rounds and stopped his first 16 opponents, including notable fighters like Luis Ceja, Victor Ruiz and Japhet Uutoni, who he beat in a world title eliminator. His winning run came to an end in 2017 when he clashed with Kosei Tanaka, who took a well earned decision over Acosta in a very good fight for the WBO Light Flyweight title. Despite losing to Tanaka we saw Acosta get a second shot at the title when Tanaka moved up to Flyweight and he took that chance, stopping Juan Alejo on the under-card of Miguel Cotto Vs Sadam Ali, and he went on to defend it 3 times, including bouts on DAZN, before losing in controversial fashion to Elwin Soto in 2019. There had been talks of a rematch but Acosta decided to move up in weight and quickly became the mandatory for the WBO Flyweight title, though sadly due to the Covid situation he was forced to wait for his shot, which comes here against Nakatani.
In the ring Acosta is is a heavy handed and aggressive fighter who's busy in the ring, throws plenty of leather but does so with intelligence. He's not a wild, reckless fighter but an intelligent and smart puncher. He mixes his shots up well, he throws solid combinations and is light on his feet. Although his record suggests he's a brutal puncher he isn't. He is however a very solid puncher, who lands a lot and breaks opponents down, and has fantastic finishing instincts. In recent bouts he has started to get more rounds than he did earlier in his career, and can certainly go rounds without any issues, which is always something that's important for a puncher. Notably he's not the hardest man to hit, and he does get sloppy when letting combinations go, but he has the power to make opponents think twice and not take too many risks against him.
We expect this to be a tense bout early on. Nakatani will want to feel out Acosta, see how hard he really hits, and whether Acosta's power really carries up to Flyweight. He'll also want to get the feel for fighting in front of an American crowd. For the first few rounds we expect to see Nakatani playing very safe, using his reach and heigh, and letting Acosta chase him, and do the heavy lifting. As the bout goes on and as Nakatani begins to feel more comfortable we expect this to grow into an inside battle, with the two men taking turns to let shots go up close. When that happens the natural size and youthfulness of Nakatani will begin to dominate and he will begin to grind down the challenger.
We suspect Acosta will give a great account, but will end up being stopped in the later rounds as the pressure and work rate of Nakatani gets too much, and he beats the fight out of the Puerto Rican.
Prediction - TKO10 Nakatani
At the end of 2016 Japanese youngster Kosei Tanaka (8-0, 5) became a 2-weight world champion, claiming the WBO Light Flyweight title in just his 8th bout, at the age of 21. The youngster returns to the ring this coming Saturday as he takes on monstrously hard hitting mandatory challenger Angel Acosta (16-0, 16), from Puerto Rico. A win for Tanaka would open doors, later in the year, to all Japanese world title unification bouts and would see him further enhance his already impressive standing in the sport. On the other hand however a win for Acosta would end the current barren run for Puerto Rico, which amazingly boasts no current world champions.
The Japanese youngster turned professional back in November 2013, aged 18, and had a lot of expectations on his shoulders, with his team talking about him as someone with the ability to race through the ranks. It turned out his team weren't all talk, and in just his 4th fight he took on the then 18-0 Ryuji Hara, stopping Hara for the OPBF Minimumweight title. Just a fight later he won the WBO Minimumweight title, setting a Japanese record and after one defense he jumped up in weight. After just 37 months as a professional Tanaka won his second world title, claiming the WBO Light Flyweight title.
In the ring Tanaka is a lighting quick fighter. His feet are incredibly quick and his hands are even quicker. It's those quick hands that allow him to throw some of the sweetest looking combinations in the sport and allows him to get his shots off before opponents can react. He can control the range with either his feet or hands and when he's on song he looks like a very special fighter.
At his best Tanaka is one of the best offensive fighters in the sport. Sadly what he lacks is a consistent defense and that was notable seen against both Hara and against Vic Saludar, in Tanaka's only world title defense. He was dropped, and bullied, by Saludar in what was the worst performance of his career so far. Although Tanaka was poor against Saludar he did seem to put that, at least partly, down to making weight and the move has seen him look much, much better with some added power as well as a more durable look.
Whilst the champion will be in his 4th world title bout the challenger will be in his first, and will be looking to continue his impressive stoppage run. That run began in November 2012, when the then then 22 year old Acosta stopped Alexis Diaz in 3 rounds, and has continued through to now, with the latest stoppage being a 10th round TKO over Japhet Uutoni in a world title eliminator.
Acosta has scored wins in Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and the USA. During those wins he has rarely gone more than 6 rounds and has faced mostly questionable opposition. Despite the poor competition Acosta has claimed the WBC FECARBOX and WBO Latino Light Flyweight titles. The most notable of his wins have been over Victor Ruiz, Juan Guzman, Luis Ceja and the aforementioned Uutoni.
Acosta is an out-and-out fighter with an aggressive mentality, despite that he can box on the back foot and has been seen landing some sensational counter shots, with his counter left hook looking particularly potent. He also seems to have nice speed, a wonderful variety of shots and they all seem to have nasty spite on them. It should be noted however that Acosta does look defensively open, and it looks like he makes a number of flaws, with his chin often in the air and he often leans straight backwards.
On paper this is a boxer against a puncher, but the reality is that both men are more than that. Tanaka is boxer-puncher, who can brawl when he needs to and has such incredible speed that his combinations are just a thing of beauty. Acosta is a puncher, but can also brawl, and has more than enough nous to his boxing to be able to box with good fighters. With that in mind this really is an intriguing match up, and one that could go either way. When put under pressure Tanaka looked comfortable, and Acosta will look to force himself on he Japanese fighter. Despite that we think Tanaka's speed will be the difference and he will counter, out manoeuvrer and out land Acosta, who will have real highlight moments, but not quite enough to wear down the Japanese youngster, who will do enough to take a very competitive decision.
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.