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Bad Left Hook Scouting Report: Kenshiro

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Radu takes a look at Japanese junior flyweight Kenshiro in the latest Scouting Report.

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Welcome, everybody, to our program! We are broadcasting live from the historic 'Recreation Centre for Railroad Workers' in Novosibirsk, Novosibirsk Oblast, Russia.

If you didn't catch it, you can watch a replay of our previous episode, guest starring Julian Williams.

We've got a great show for you tonight. We will be reading an essay by Sergey Pavlov entitled 'On Further Improving The Work To Better Instill Communist Moral Ideology In Sportsmen In Light Of The XXV CPSU And XVIII Komsomol Congresses' and our musical guest is Ke$ha! But first, a reminder: our 1st full season is available now for online viewing on badlefthookTunes, with episodes featuring:

For the first part of our show. today we head back over to the Land Of The Rising Sun to have a look at the World's most promising light flyweight, as eyed by our very own Scott Christ. Kenshiro is yet another Japanese prodigy who has stepped up to the pro level after a successful amateur career at the High School / Youth level. And just like his predecessors: Kazuto Ioka, Naoya Inoue, Kosei Tanaka and Takuma Inoue, he has been matched tough from the get-go. In about 18 months as a professional, he has amassed a record of 6-0 with 3 KOs, is already the Japanese light flyweight champion and WBC World 'Youth' Champion and is already ranked 8th in the World by Boxrec. He is scheduled to defend his Japanese title against Atsushi Kakutani on April 14th.

His fights on Youtube are quite difficult to come by, so I really had to get my Kanji on to track down these 3 fights:

Here is his 3rd professional bout, a very impressive and sudden step up against fellow Japanese prospect Katsunori Nagamine, who mind you fights two full weight classes above Kenshiro (they met in the middle at flyweight for this bout). Nagamine was 10-0 and not a single one of those wins was against a fighter with a losing record. Kenshiro stopped him in the 7th round on a cut, although the actual announcement of the cut stoppage is missing from the video.Here is his 5th professional bout, where he won the WBC 'Youth' light flyweight title (whatever the hell that is) against unbeaten Filipino prospect Rolly Sumalpong.

And here is a pretty poor film from the crowd of his latest bout, from this December. Kenshiro faced very experienced Japanese light flyweight champ Kenichi Horikawa in his backyard and earned a hard-fought 10-round decision in a good bout.

Let me just say... the films from the audience make it seem like there are plenty of babies in the crowd at Japanese boxing cards.

As usual, here is a list of things I noticed, divided into several categories:

The Very Best

1) Tight and quick footwork. Kenshiro uses his feet really well. He has very quick and precise steps that help him push with his feet on almost all of his punches, regardless of angle or speed and he also has very good ring movement.

The Good

2) Jab. Kenshiro uses the jab more than most fighters. He uses it to establish distance, keep his opponents at bay and set up combinations. It has great footwork behind it and it's accurate. It is slightly slow though.

3) Timing and counterpunching. The young man has excellent instincts regarding his opponents' time and angle of attack. He is profficient at both meeting them with a punch when they make their move but before they actually throw the punch, as well as countering them mid-combination.

4) Ring movement. Kenshiro glides well using his feet, closes distance fluidly and at the same time steps back and away from trouble well. He even moves sideways sometimes.

5) Punch accuracy. I don't have any statistics, but the eye test tells me that he is a very precise puncher.

6) Stamina. He's already been in a couple of 10-round wars and seemed to be able to go strong until the end.

The Decent

7) Size. The kid has pretty standard size for a light flyweight although he seems to have a slightly short reach for his height. He is also 24, which means he's already pretty settled at this weight and is unlikely to outgrow it overnight. His body probably could use some more toning or extra muscle. I bet with the correct workout program he could be a regular-looking flyweight, but if he's ever thinking of super-flyweight, the size disadvantage would already be a factor.

8) Punch technique. Kenshiro doesn't look like an awkward or unnatural puncher and doesn't generally arm-punch, but I don't think he puts his body into his punches as much as he should.

9) Work rate. If he weren't a 108-pounder, you could definitely say that he works a lot in the ring, but as it stands, the standard for punches thrown at light flyweight is higher. As such, he could perhaps stand to be more aggressive. I've noticed he throws less in the early rounds when still feeling his opponent out and also after getting tagged or buzzed, both of which are understandable and actually a sign of patience and maturity.

10) Hand speed. Surprisingly there have been visible improvements in each of the 3 fights in this area, which is unusual as hand speed is more of a natural gift than a trained skill, but this just goes to show that he is still in a developmental stage, even regarding some boxing basics.

The Not So Great But Improving

11) Head movement. 'Meh!' is all I can say. He sometimes moves his head when nothing is happening but then eats lead overhand rights launched from miles away that he should have seen coming.

12) Punch variation. There are several punches that he employs but not much beyond them: there's the jab, which he uses all the time, there's the jab - straight right hand combination, which is really good, there's a feint - lead overhand right and a decent array of counterpunches, but that's about it. No uppercuts, no alternating between jabs and hooks, no bodywork, no punch combination longer than 3 punches, and most notably very few right hooks, which is a shame.

13) Use of distance. Kenshiro's preferred gameplan is to work from the outside behind the jab and to use his excellent feet to move in to attack and out to avoid returning fire. But on the flipside, he does not seem to have any ability or inclination to fight on the inside. So far he has been successful at keeping bouts on the outside, but even there the crazy thing is that he is at a reach disadvantage and he has to work really hard to both attack and defend. So basically he has the technical abilities of an outside fighter but not the physical abilities.

The Bad

14) Guard. The young man's guard is all sorts of wrong. It frequently strays away from his chin, the back hand is often times too low or too far back, the elbows are too far away from the body... major work is needed in this area.

15) Power. Maybe my view is skewed by watching two consecutive 10-round decisions against decent but not good opposition, but I just don't see any power in his punches. Then again, this low on the weight scale most fighters have low KO ratios and most bouts go the distance, so it's not unusual.

16) Open to the overhand left. Kenshiro lowers his right hand away from his chin when attacking and is thus open to left hand counters. He got dropped assertively on this very sequence in the 2nd round against Sumalpong.

17) One-dimensional defensive plan. I see only one defensive tool in his plan: stepping away and out of range of punches (which often leads to him literally running around the ring or falling away off-balance). But I don't see any other intentional attempt to defend against opponents' offense: his guard is bad and not actively employed, he doesn't profficiently tie up an opponent if he gets in close and he doesn't successfully use head movement to avoid punches without giving up his position.

18) Chin? I think I saw him buzzed several times although none of his opponents seemed to have good power. But I may have misjudged how hurt he was.

The Downright Horrible

19) Body punching. Is Kenshiro even aware that you are allowed to punch the opponent's body?

Overall Impression

I have to admit, I was expecting better when I set out to watch Kenshiro highlights. I thought maybe he'd be the next Kazuto Ioka, but instead I saw many serious holes in his game. I guess he is a classic case of 'all offense, no defense' which to be honest seems to be the Japanese way these days between minimumweight and flyweight. But, if you rely this much on offense, you'd figure lack of power is really going to start being a factor at some point.

Anyway, on the one hand there is enough room at jr. flyweight right now for even less-than-stellar fighters to make a name for themselves. And also, there have been improvements in his game, for instance his inside fighting, his handspeed and his head movement have shown improvements. And many of his weaknesses like his guard, his body punching, his physique and his power are areas that frequently see improvement in young prospects. Theoretically, if he managed to improve all of these, he could definitely be a serious contender at the weight.

But until he does improve them, I would pick all three recent Japanese jr. flyweight titlists over him: Akira Yaegashi, Yu Kimura and the underrated Ryoichi Taguchi. And yes, in case you're wondering, the 108 pound weight class is red-hot in Japan right now. And fortunately Kenshiro is part of the low-profile BMB Gym in Kyoto, which means he is clear to fight any of the Japanese contenders (gym stablemates are not allowed to fight each other according to Japanese Boxing Commission rules).

Well, okay, now that we got that out of the way... Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together for Ke$ha Allison Williams.