Toshiaki Nishioka and the Emerging Japanese Boxing SceneWritten by Mark Weber
On Saturday night, WBC Emeritus Jr Featherweight Champion Toshiaki Nishioka (39-4-3, 24 KO) of Japan will face Filipino rival and unified belt jr featherweight belt-holder Nonito Donaire (28-1, 18 KO) in what might be a fight for the ages.
And although Donaire looks to be the favorite, Nishioka still tops his Filipino foe in FightSaga and RING Magazine's exclusive Jr Featherweight/Super
Bantamweight rankings for October 2012.
The 36 year old Japanese ring terror won the interim WBC Jr Featherweight title in September 2008 and, with his win over Genaro Garcia (then 36-6) in January 2009, became the full-fledged WBC Champion.
Having faced world class opposition on and off for the better part of the last eleven years, Toshiaki Nishioka hasn't lost since March 2004 (UD 12 Veeraphol Sahaprom).
Donaire might get the acclaim but most fight aficionados will attest Toshiaki Nishioka is, in fact, the 'cream of the crop' in the Jr Featherweight division. The Japanese superstar has campaigned at 122lbs for four years, winning all eight of his contests with five coming via knockout.
But Toshiaki Nishioka is just one of many accomplished Japanese fighters to have graced the ring and is undoubtedly the premiere fighter in a country that's seemingly breaking loose with new talent.
Japan's deep-rooted passion for combat sports is arguably unmatched by any other country in the world and they've always produced high quality fighters capable of bringing a great deal of passion and excitement to the ring.
Perhaps the man to put Japanese pugilism on the scene was no other then Fighting Harada. He was essentially the "Manny Pacquiao" of the 1960's, capturing both the Flyweight and Bantamweight titles and is considered one of the all-time greats in those respective weight classes. Not only did he put Japan on the pugilistic map, some argue he helped draw more attention to the lighter weight classes.
Other greats who fought out of Japan include the "Afro" man Yoko Gushiken, Jiro Watanabe, and Masamori Tokuyama.
But enough of the history lesson!
Who are some of the top Japanese fighters in today's game?
Lets dive right in. To start off, here is a list of current champions that reign from the 'Land of the Rising Sun.'
Toshiaki Nishioka 39-4-3, 24 KO: WBC Emeritus Jr Featherweight Champion: Obviously Nishioka is the nation's top fighter and will undoubtedly place himself among the top 10 pound-for-pound with a win over Donaire.
Abnormally tall for his weight class, the 5'6½" Japanese southpaw possesses a monster left hand as well as excellent speed, timing and accuracy and has proven his mettle against some of the best in boxing.
At flyweight, he went 48 rounds Veeraphol Sahaprom, a potential hall of famer, and has impressive wins over top-tier Jr Featherweights including Rafael Marquez (then 40-6), Ivan Hernandez (then 24-3-1) and Jhonny Gonzalez (then 40-6).
Takashi Uchiyama: 18-0-1: WBA Super Featherweight Champion: Uchiyama, 32 is the current WBA Super Featherweight champion. Of his 18 victories, 15 have come way of KO earning him the nickname "KO Dynamite" in Japan. He won his title against then-undefeated Mexican champion Juan Carlos Salgado by way of TKO in early 2010. Since then, he'sdefended his title 5 times, most recently drawing with Michael Farenas. The champ has been publically asking for a showdown with Adrien Broner, although the fight seems unlikely with Broner planning on moving up to the lightweight division.
Takihiro Ao: 23-2-1: WBC Super Featherweight Champion: Ao, 28 was previously the WBC Featherweight champion before losing his belt Elio Rojas in 2009. Since, he has made the move to Super Featherweight where, in November, 2010, he defeated then champion Vitali Tajbert for the WBC Super Featherweight championship. He has since defended the titles 3 times. His fourth defense will come against Gamaliel Diaz on October 27.
Shinsuke Yamanaka: 16-0-2: WBC Bantamweight Champion: Yamanaka, 29, won the WBC Bantamweight title controversially! What is boxing without controversy, huh? But Yamanaka had earned his way to a title shot against future Hall-Of-Famer Vin Darchinyan. During their bout, there was an unfortunate clash of heads causing a severe cut over Darchinyan's eye, further severed by an illegally thrown elbow by Yamanaka that went unnoticed by the referee. Yamanaka went on to win the fight by decision. And although Darchinyan's protested the alleged fouls, the result was not overturned.
Yoto Sato: 24-2-1: WBC Super Flyweight Champion: Sato, 28 won the WBC title in March, 2012. He defended his title in July, beating Sylvester Lopez.
Toshiyuki Igarashi: 16-1-1: WBC & Ring Flyweight Champion: Igarashi, 28, won the WBC and Ring Flyweight championship via split decision against Sonny Boy Jaro in July, 2012. He next defends his titles next against Argentenian Flyweight Nestor Daniel Narvaes.
Kazuto Ioka: 10-0: Strawweight Champion Kazuto Ioka has vacated his WBA and WBC titles in an effort to move up into the Light Flyweight division. Ioka(10-0) unified the Strawweight titles when he defeated fellow countryman Akira Yaegashi. It's not surprising that Ioka has vacated the WBC title as they(WBC) have not exactly been fans of fighters holding multiple titles as of late; however it is very intriguing to see
Ioka moving up to the Light Flyweight division.
While many see this movement as nothing more then a flee or duck of Filipino fireball Denver Cuello, perhaps he has his eyes set on a potential showdown against the WBA Light Flyweight champion and Nicaragua native Roman Gonzalez (32-0.)
Non-Champions who you should keep an eye on:
Koki Kameda: 28-1: Bantamweight: Keep an eye on this fighter. He is currently the WBA (Regular) Champion and he is also the former Lineal and WBC Flyweight champion.
Ryo Akaho: 19-0-2: Super Flyweight: A strong contender.
Tomoki Kameda: 24-0: Bantamweight: If you are going to keep an eye on Koki, might as well pay attention to his brother, Tomoki, while you have the time. Tomoki is only 21 years old but already a force.
Nihito Arakawa: 23-1-1: Lightweight: Arakwawa is on a roll and could potentially put himself in the title picture at the heavily packed Lightweight division.
So if Nishioka defeats Donaire tomorrow night, it could be the beginning of a new era in Japanese boxing.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, I currently reside in South Jersey which is about 20 minutes away from Philly.
I'm a Communications major at Gloucester County College and lifelong fan of several sports, including Boxing, Mixed Martial Arts and Kickboxing.
I fell in love with Boxing during the era of the little giants... Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera, Manny Pacquiao, and Juan Manuel Marquez.