Sunday, April 02, 2023  |



Junto Nakatani risks his flyweight belt against Ryota Yamauchi on Saturday

Junto Nakatani (right) cracked the flyweight top 10 and captured the vacant Japanese title by stopping Naoki Mochizuki in the ninth round. Photo by Naoki Fukuda
Fighters Network

Big-punching Junto Nakatani will put his WBO flyweight title on the line for the second time when he faces Ryota Yamauchi at the Super Arena, Saitama, Japan on Saturday.

Nakatani, who is rated No. 3 by The Ring at 112-pounds, is respectful of his countryman but expects to have the necessary answers to retain his title.

“This is a really important fight and I must concentrate on Yamauchi to move onto the next level,” Nakatani (22-0, 17 knockouts) told The Ring through Hank Hakoda. “Yamauchi is decent opposition. His style is not anything unusual. I do not think he is particularly tricky, and I think he is an overall well-balanced boxer.

“As his career record shows, there is no doubt that he is a hard-hitter. He throws body punches, so I have to be careful with his power punches, not to let him gain momentum. I am committed to throwing my jab more precisely than ever. As long as I keep the fight at distance with my long-range shots, it should get me easier to control him.”

The 24-year-old Japanese fighter is pleased to head up the undercard of the middleweight unification between Gennadiy Golovkin-Ryota Murata.

“I will deliver an exciting fight,” he promised. “I want to set the stage alight for the main event, with my energetic performance pumping up the fans.

“I am looking forward to feeling even greater atmosphere during my own showdown. You guys can expect a KO ending.”

Nakatani believes that being around a fight of this magnitude will be to his benefit as he looks to secure bigger fights domestically and internationally.

“I was greatly impressed by the way Murata behaved and spoke to the media at the press conference,” he said. “It was a valuable experience that I could not have elsewhere. I am 100 percent sure that all this experience will help me in the future when I become a main event fighter.”

The defending titleholder isn’t sure how much longer he can maintain the 112-pound flyweight limit before stepping up to junior bantamweight and has some of the champions in his crosshairs.

“It is getting tougher and tougher for me to make flyweight,” he admitted. “I want to move up to super flyweight in my next fight.

“The junior bantamweight division is full of talent. I am willing to engage in fierce competition with any of those top-quality opponents. There are things to consider, whether I can directly fight for a world title at junior bantamweight, or I need a non-title bout in between.

“I give Estrada the highest credit of all, I want to fight him eventually. Junior bantamweight is a dog-eat-dog division, with a dizzying turnover of top-level fighters. My countryman Kazuto Ioka is a WBO champion as I am, so I may have a higher chance to fight him than others.”

Nakatani’s trainer, Rudy Hernandez, believes his fighter will again showcase his vast talent.

“He is improving with every fight,” said the ace cornerman. “He is the best I’ve ever trained.

“I don’t think this fight will be easy but Junto is on another level and I trust him to win.”

Yamauchi turned professional in 2017. He won his first four fights before tasting defeat against Wulan Tuolehazi (UD 12). The 27-year-old has rebounded with four wins to earn his world title shot. Yamauchi, who is rated No. 10 by The Ring at 112-pounds, has a record of (8-1, 7 KOs).

The DAZN event will be headlined by Golovkin vs. Murata and feature Nakatani-Yamauchi and Shuichiro Yoshino-Masayuki Ito in lightweight action. The broadcast will begin at 5:10 a.m. ET/ 10:10 a.m. GMT. The main event ring walk (approximately) 8:10 a.m. ET/ 13:10 p.m. GMT.

Our correspondent Hank Hakoda coordinated and translated this feature.

Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected] and you can follow him on [email protected]