On May 7th Japanese fans in Osaka city will get the chance to see one of the more over-looked prospects in the Land of the Rising Sun, Takuya Uehara (11-0, 6), who has often been ignored but has been quietly building himself a reputation as a solid puncher with real potential to be a future champion.
The youngster made his professional debut at the age of 18 back in August 2014, and he struggled to win his debut, sneaking past Ryo Sumiya with a razor thin split decision. Although only a 4-rounder, it was a tough debut for the teenager who was taking on a tall, unbeaten 25 year-old man up at lightweight. It didn’t take long for Uehara to realise lightweight wasn’t his division and just weeks later he returned to the ring as a Super Featherweight.
In his first bout at 130lbs Uehara stopped Kenti Osumi in 2 rounds, scoring his first stoppage and looking like a much better fighter than he had on his debut. The improvement continued in Uehara’s third bout, as he took a wide 4-round decision over Thai visitor San Saknarong, who was dropped in round 2 and never managed to battle his way back in to the contest, losing 40-35 on all 3 cards. The win over San was followed by Uehara’s last bout contracted for the 4 round distance; a contest with Fahkiangkrai Sithsaithong, another Thai visitor. Unlike San, Fahkiangkrai didn’t show much fight, and was stopped in just 108 seconds.
In his very next bout Uehara moved up through the levels and took part in his first 6 rounder, battling against the experienced and durable Fumio Yoshida. Although not a top fighter Yoshida was a perfect stamina test for Uehara, who was forced to go 6 rounds against the the 36 year-old Yoshida, who hadn’t been stopped in more than 5 years. Uehara was then put in a 5-rounder against Thai Vachara Soonkilabangmod, but only needed 2 rounds to see off the visitor.
Having passed a gut check over 6 rounds we saw Uehara advance to 8-rounders in September 2015, and despite stepping up in terms of his scheduled rounds his foe only lasted 4 rounds, with Sukkhi Sukkhi being saved by the referee. Although the bout ended in the 4th round the Thai had come to win and put a genuine effort despite being stopped. Uehara scored his third straight stoppage three months later as he took out Hiroki Yoshimura in 2 rounds to move to 8-0 (5). Uehara’s power continued to impress as he blasted out Indonesian Ramly Pasaribu in 2 rounds to extend his stoppage run to four bouts.
With his record at 9-0 (6) Uehara looked like a man with promise, but also like a fighter who had a lot of questions to answer. Some of those were answered in his 10th bout, as he took on the tough and experienced Katsuhiko Kanno, and was extended the 8-round distance. Kanno, who is a limited fighter but always comes to fight, held his own at times and really put Uehara in an uncomfortable situation. The youngster gritted it out, fought through a cut and found his rhythm later on as he took a clear, but very hard earned decision to extend his unbeaten record.
Having proven that he had the engine to go eight rounds Uehara was then stepped up again, and moved into his first title bout. That saw Uehara battle against Markquil Salvana in a 10-rounder for the then vacant WBC Youth Featherweight title, dropping down to the lowest weight of his career. Uehara was really pushed hard by Salvana, who was fighting on an even keel with the Japanese fighter through the first four rounds. Uehara then distanced himself and began to control the range and tempo, whilst Salvana was forced to hold and foul in the later stages as he looked to survive. The holding and fouling from Salvana resulted in his being deducted two points, giving Uehara a clear unanimous decision.
This coming Sunday Uehara will look for his first defense of the Youth title, as he takes on Thai for Nongdear Sor Bangkharu (1-14). The bout should be a a one-sided first defense for the Japanese youngster, however the southpaw has been moved quicker than he expected and it’s likely that this bout is to be more about getting Uehara time in the ring rather than having him really look to establish his title reign. At 21 years-old there is no need for Uehara to be rushed and instead Apollo gym probably want to know how good he is before they move him through the ranks. He’s still a boxing baby, but he seems fully aware that he needs to improve to get into the higher levels and into the bigger fights. Despite knowing that he also knows there is no immediate rush, and that he, and his team, have been making the right steps at the right time so far. His trust in the Apollo gym has worked so far, and will likely continue to work going forward.
Although a genuine talent, no one will have Uehara pegged as a future superstar, despite that he does have the potential to build a very good career. I would not be totally shocked if he competed on the world stage at some point in the next decade or so.
(Scott Graveson covers the Asian boxing scene for www.asianboxing.info)