This past week saw an announcement from the Misako gym, which announced that the next “Diamond Glove” card would be taking place on April 13th at the Korakuen Hall. The card had a number of notable bouts on tap, including a WBO Asia Pacific Super Featherweight title defense for Masayuki Ito and the ring return of former world title challenger Keita Obara.
Arguably the most interesting of the bouts announced for that card was one that went very over-looked but will be a massive gut check for a man touted as part of the new wave of Japanese fighters. That bout will see former Japanese and OPBF Lightweight champion Yoshitaka Kato (30-7-2, 9 KO’s) battle against 25-year-old former amateur standout Shuichiro Yoshino (3-0, 2 KO’s).
Whilst Kato is a faded veteran, who has won just once in his last 4 bouts, he was the Japanese Lightweight champion less than 3 years ago and is still a tough foe for anyone, or around, the Japanese domestic scene. For Yoshino to take him so early in his career tells just how confident Misako gym are in Yoshino being a future star.
Aged 25-year-old has turned professional with a lot of expectations on his shoulders. He’s not a fighter who went through the Rookie Tournaments, like some of the other fighters I’ve written about recently, but instead is a fighter who has been tipped for the top, following one of the more notable amateur careers of a Japanese fighter in recent years.
In the unpaid ranks Yoshino racked up an incredible record of 104-20 (55) and gained 4 national titles as well as international experience. The amateur talent saw a teenage Yoshino compete at the 2009 Vojvodanska Glove in Serbia, where he was beaten in the quarter finals by eventual winner Avak Uzlyan of Russia. He also gained more notable international experienced at a 2012 International Invitational Tournament in Taipei, where he finished the runner-up at 64KG’s.
Like many boxers Yoshino got into the sport following other family members, and both his uncle and father were good amateurs themselves, showing that the sport is flowing through his veins. Despite that, he did actually walk away from the sport when hopes of becoming an Olympian died. Thankfully though his hunger returned for boxing, and seeing the success of his friends and former buddies from school and university, including Rikki Naito and Ken Shiro, seemed to inspire him to give professional boxing a shot.
Having began training as a professional it seemed that the boxing bug firmly bit into Yoshino who gained a B license in 2015 before making his professional debut on December 14th 2015 as a welterweight. In his debut Yoshino scored a 3rd round win over Thai visitor Chartree Chararnsin, in a bout scheduled for 6 rounds.
Yoshino would continue his professional career a couple of months later when he dropped down to light welterweight to take on Thai veteran Chaiyong Chanthahong, who had scored an opening round win over the big punching Tosho Makoto Aoki just a few months earlier. Despite the Thai being a tough and solid puncher, Yoshino toyed with him en route to a wide 6-round decision win, which had highlights shown on Japanese TV as part of a Diamond Glove broadcast.
In his most recent bout to date Yoshino battled against Kenta Onjo, dropping down to lightweight for the bout. Onjo, like Yoshino was a former amateur standout with a 42-16 (12) record who had turned professional with a B license. Onjo had started his career well but come unstuck against veteran Jonathan Baat and against Tomoya Yamada, and was essentially fighting for his career against Yoshino. Although Onjo had to perform, it was instead Yoshino who shined.
The bout wasn’t the most exciting to start with but in round 2 Yoshino came alive, dropping Onjo early in the round before moving up a gear, putting the pressure on and really giving Onjo a bit of a beating. That beating continued into round 3 until Onjo was dropped for a second time, and then a third time, with the referee instantly waving the bout off.
From what little footage of Yoshino is available he is a talented fighter who looks suited to working on the inside. He’s not the quickest, or the smoothest and can look awkward at range, but with his pressure style and physicality it’s clear he’s going to be a handful on the domestic scene and will find his way inside time and time again, where he does his best work. It’s clear that whilst he is being fast tracked he is a long way from the finished product, and is learning with every fight.
If he can overcome Kato then Yoshino will be only a fight or two from a title fight. Whilst I wouldn’t back him against OPBF champion Masayoshi Nakatani, a stylistic nightmare for Yoshino, a bout with Kazuhiro Nishitani would make for a very interesting match up and one that he could, potentially, come out on top before the end of 2017.
(Scott Graveson covers the Asian boxing scene for www.asianboxing.info)