Over the last few years we have seen more and more Japanese fighters making their mark on the international scene. This has been, in part, due to the ease with which we can now watch Japanese fighters in action. Gone are the days of Key Hole TV and in are days of HD streaming and VOD services like Boxing Raise, which have allowed us to follow Japanese fighters from their early bouts right through to the point where they are world champions.
One such fighter has been Hiroto Kyoguchi (14-0, 9), who had much of his early career shown on Boxing Raise before becoming a staple on TV broadcasts, thanks to Watanabe's relationship with TBS. He is now set to take the next step in his professional career, following the likes of Naoya Inoue and Kazuto Ioka, and make his US debut. He does that this coming weekend when he defends his WBA "super" and Ring Magazine Light Flyweight titles against Mexican youngster Axel Aragon Vega (14-3-1, 8), in what should be a break out bout for the exciting Japanese fighter in front of a new audience on DAZN.
For those who have followed Kyoguchi over the year they'll know what to expect from the cheeky looking Japanese fighter. The 27 year old turned professional in 2016, following his brother Ryuto Kyoguchi to the professional ranks, and he raced through the rankings. Within a year of his debut Hiroto had already won the OPBF Minimumweight, the Asian equivalent to the European (EBU) title, and had looked like a mini-Mike Tyson with an aggressive, pressure fighter style that was based around his pressure and combinations. Just 5 months later he claimed his first world title, beating Jose Argumedo for the IBF Minimumweight belt. His reign was a short one, with only two defense, though they did include a notable TKO win over Carlos Buitrago who is still a relevant contender and recently gave Elwin Soto a competitive bout in 2020.
In 2018 Kyoguchi became a 2-weight champion, stopping Hekkie Budler in Macau for the WBA Light Flyweight "super" title, which he has defended twice, beating both Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart and Tetsuya Hisada by clear, though hard fought, unanimous decision. The latets of those defenses came in October 2019 and he has been out of the ring ever since. He was supposed to defend his title last year, though had two bouts fall through. The first of those was in May, which was cancelled due to Covid19 putting a freeze on boxing, and the other was in November, when Kyoguchi himself tested positive for Covid19 cancelling the bout at the 11th hour.
Early in his career Kyoguchi did look a really destructive force. He was a pressure fighter with a hyper aggressive style, a focus on pressure, combination punching and getting close, unleashing his power shots and breaking people down in eye catching, fan friendly fashion. The move to Light Flyweight has seen him face tougher, bigger, stronger men who haven't wilted under his pressure like his early opponents, but he is still a pressure fighter at heart. We have seen him show some development and patience, and develop his boxing skills, but at his best he is still a front foot pressure fighter, who cuts the ring off well, and loves to get to work up close. It's his work in the pocket that is his best and his body shots are brutal. Unlike some pressure fighters out there he set them up properly, coming forward behind a tight guard, good footwork and a stiff, hurtful, jab. He also starts fast with his pressure, rather than build it through the fight, draining opponents mentally from the first bell.
In the opposite corner to Kyoguchi will be 20 year old challenger Axel Aragon Vega, a Mexican fighter who debuted in 2016 and has built himself a solid looking record, but on which lacks in substance. His first 10 wins all came against fighters with little experience, or losing records, and his first bout of any note was actually a loss, in 2017 to Juan Toscano. He did bounce back from that, with 8 straight wins, but suffered back to back set backs, with a draw to Edvin Ramirez Contreras and loss to Wilfredo Mendez. He bounced back again, with 3 low key wins, before a rematch with Mendez, for the WBO Minimumweight title, saw Vega suffer his third loss, this time by split technical decision. Since that loss he has fought once, beating veteran Saul Juarez in August 2020.
In the ring Vega is a tiny fighter, standing at around 5', but he's also a quick, skilled and tough one. Against Saul Juarez he looked sharp with his punches, he looked light on his feet and drew mistakes from Juarez which he countered. Sadly however that botu really doesn't tell us too much given how past his best Juarez looked, and whilst it's easy to be impressed by Vega it does need to be noted that Juarez looked beyond shot with his movement. To credit to Vega he did look smooth, he knew his way around the ring and has got nice hand speed. Sadly other footage of Vega isn't of the best quality, though it is clear he's a talented fighter and really does have plenty of skills.
Whilst we think Vega is a very talented fighter he is also a very small fighter, he's a light puncher and he looks to be a natural Minimumweight who will be taking on a strong Light Flyweight here. It seems unlikely he will have the physicality to get Kyoguchi's respect and will need to burn a lot of energy to stay at a safe distance against the champion. A champion who is known as a strong, pressure fighter with good footwork and solid body shots.
If we were in charge of Kyoguchi, Vega is the type of fighter we would have loved to have matched him with on his US debut. He looks made to order. We suspect Vega will have some success in the early rounds, he'll use his speed well, box well, but come under intense and incessant pressure and by round 4 or 5 the pressure and body shots of Kyoguchi will be taking their toll. A stoppage will then come, eventually, from Vega just simply being ground down and broken up.
Prediction - Kyoguchi TKO8
The Light Flyweight division has been one of the most interesting in recent years thanks to the great match ups we've been getting, and the consistency of those match ups. Unlike many other division's we've seen very few "stay" busy fights from the top guys in the division, and instead we've seen champions defending against top-10 challengers on a regular basis. Adding to that is the fact the top 10 Light Flyweights are all consistently good fighters and aren't there to make up the numbers.
This coming Tuesday we see another notable world title bout at 108lbs, as WBA "super" and Ring magazine champion Hiroto Kyoguchi (13-0, 9) defends his title against mandatory challenger Tetsuya Hisada (34-9-2, 20). The bout is not only an all-Japanese world title bout but more specifically a bout between two men from Osaka, despite the fact Kyoguchi is currently fighting out of Tokyo.
Coming in to the bout the clear favourite will be the champion. The unbeaten Kyoguchi, who fights out of the Watanabe gym, has been a professional since April 2016, and is already a 2-weight world champion, having won the IBF Minimumweight title before moving up to the Light Flyweight division. Early in his career he looked like an aggressive monster, applying intense pressure on his opponents and breaking them down with hard, accurate, shots on the inside. Since then he has developed a more rounded boxer-puncher style, though still has the ability to pressure on the inside. His power and body shots have proven to be his key tools, and were invaluable in his title win back in December over Hekkie Budler. Since winning the title he has defended it once, beating Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart this past June, whilst angling for unification bouts later in the year.
At just 25 years old Kyoguchi is seen as one of the true faces of the future for Japanese boxing, along with the likes of the more well known Naoya Inoue and Kosei Tanaka and fellow Light Flyweight Kenshiro. He's proven to be fun to watch, but hasn't quite caught the imagination of the Japanese fans in the same was as Inoue, or shown the willingness to move through the weights the way Tanaka has. Also Kyoguchi's power, whilst still solid, hasn't really career up to world class. He was once 6-0 (6), but in world title bout he's 5-0 (2) and is 7-0 (3) since his destructive start to the professional ranks.
Whilst Kyoguchi is a rising star the same can't be said if Hisada, however the challenger has been on a rise of sorts the last few years. The 34 year old was once 8-4 in the pro ranks, and just 5 years ago he was 21-9-2 (11). Back then it seemed the best he would ever do would be to compete on the regional title scene. He has however turned his entire career around was a 13 fight winning run, claiming and defending the Japanese national title and scoring a number of solid wins. He avenged previous losses to Kenichi Horikawa, stopped former title challenger Atsushi Kakutani, and scored solid domestic wins over the likes of Shun Kosaka, Hayato Yamaguchi and Koki Ono. Of course those wins are well below world level, but they are still strong victories and evidence that Hisada has developed with age and is in great form.
In the ring Hisada is less of a destructive force than Kyoguchi, though has stopped 9 of his last 13, but is a fighter who hits solidly, knows his way around the ring and is a smart, crafty veteran. He's an aggressive fighter, who likes to apply pressure behind his footwork, has under-rated speed and movement, but is rather conservative in terms of output, realising it was more important to know when to punch rather than just punching.
When these two get in the ring we're expecting a great crowd reaction, sadly for Hisada that reaction won't help him cope with the pressure, power and physicality of Kyoguchi. Instead we suspect that Kyoguchi will get inside, will work the body of Hisada and will, eventually, wear down the challenger. Hisada can fight, and is very solid on the front foot, but if he gets pushed back, as we expect to see here, he tends to struggle. With Kyoguchi being a fantastic body puncher we think that it'll be the body work of the champion that does the damage and, eventually, leads to him stopping Hisada.
Prediction - TKO8 Kyoguchi
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.