Home Boxing News Asian Faces: Yusaku Kuga

Asian Faces: Yusaku Kuga

Japanese fighters at Super Bantamweight had a rather interesting 2016. They saw some great highs at world level, with Hozumi Hasegawa stopping Hugo Ruiz and Yukinori Oguni shocking the boxing world with a win over Jonathan Guzman. They had some lows too, such as Shingo Wake’s loss to Guzman. Domestically they also had some great moments, with Yasutaka Ishimoto scoring very fan friendly wins against Yosuke Fujihara and Gakuya Furuhashi.

Ishimoto’s next defense, scheduled for February 4th, sees him taking on one of the rising hopes of the Watanabe gym and the man he actually beat for the Japanese title back in December 2015. That’s the heavy handed, and really fun to watch, Yusaku Kuga (13-2-1, 9) who will be looking to avenge the 2015 loss and make his mark at the top of the Japanese scene.

The 26 year old Kuga is a 6 pro, who debuted just a week after his 20th birthday. Unlike many notable fighters in Japan he hadn’t made a splash in the amateur ranks. In fact his entire amateur career is said to have consisted of just a single fight before his professional debut in November 2016.

Despite his lack of an amateur background Kuga quickly impressed winning his first 4 bouts, 3 by stoppage, before losing in an East Japan Rookie of the Year bout against Nobuhiro Hisano. The loss to Hisanao was a majority decision but seemed to drive Kuga on, rather than set him back, and just 4 months later he fought in his first 6 rounder, stopping Takumi Takahashi in 4 rounds.

It was in 2013 that Kuga really began to make a name for himself as he scored a win over touted amateur Yusuke Suzuki, who had won 54 amateur bouts and was 2-0 as a professional, and fought to a draw with former amateur standout Naoto Uebayashi, who had won 88 of 102 amateur bouts and had competed in major international tournaments. Those bouts saw Kuga win the B Class Super Bantamweight tournament and really cement himself as one to watch.

To end 2013 Kuga scored another win, a surprisingly competitive decision over Taishi Torimoto, before moving up into 8 rounders in 2014, a year that saw him pick up 3 more wins including a notable stoppage against Koji Aoki.

In 2015 Kuga battered Kojiro Takada, in 2 rounds as he moved into position to fight for the Japanese title. That title shot came just 6 months later, as Yukinori Oguni vacated the Japanese Super Bantamweight title and opened the door to Ishimoto and Kuga to face off. Sadly for Kuga a good start wasn’t enough as Ishimoto’s experience over the 10 round distance saw the veteran claim a razor thin win, with scores of 96-95, twice, and 96-94.

Although 2015 ended in disappointment, the loss to Ishimtoto, it seemed to fire the youngster on and he kicked off the following year with a stoppage against Thai Sukkasem Kietyongyuth. That was then followed by Kuga entering the Strongest Korakuen tournament where he was matched with veteran Jonathan Baat in a Japanese Super Bantamweight title eliminator. That bout looked like a great test on paper but Kuga just bullied Baat before securing a 4th round KO to earn a second Japanese title fight, one at Ishimoto in 2017.

We are now less than a week from that second Kuga Vs Ishimoto bout and if Kuga can win that one I wouldn’t be shocked to see him break into the world rankings, and potentially move towards a world title bout in 2018 or 2019. A second loss to Ishimoto however would likely relegate Kuga to remaining on the domestic stage for another few years.