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Santiago vs. Nakatani: Junto Returns Against Underrated Alexandro

On Saturday morning in the wee hours in America, Junto Nakatani goes up in weight to challenge Alexandro Santiago for his WBC 118-pound strap. This fight will be streaming live on ESPN+ and also features an interesting bout between Takuma Inoue and Jerwin Ancajas. This event takes place in Tokyo, Japan. Let’s begin this preview and prediction article with the headliner.

Many boxing fans and media members alike thought Junto Nakatani’s nasty stoppage over Andrew Moloney earned him the knockout of the year in 2023. Now Junto is back but not at super flyweight. The 3-pound jump shouldn’t cause too much concern for Nakatani. It should be noted Junto’s last 3 bouts came at 115. He’s fought above the 112 limit before winning a belt at junior bantamweight. Nakatani is a favorite coming into Saturday’s bout with his opponent Alexandro Santiago a live dog ranging from +400 all the way up to +500.

Santiago’s 28-3-5 record is very misleading and the average viewer shouldn’t assume this is a walkover matchup. Sure, we all know Nakatani has dynamite in his fists but overall Alexandro is a crafty and capable foe. Many of Santiago’s losses or draws have been poor scorecards. Plenty of dedicated observers thought he did enough to defeat Gary Antonio Russell. In his last two outings wins over Nonito Donaire and Antonio Nieves gives him some confidence to pull off what would be sizable upset.

At his best Santiago fights at range and does a good job of moving his head and blocking punches with his gloves. He loops his overhand right but does throw short hooks especially with his left hand. Alexandro tends to land two-punch combos then exit out of range. He’s fairly savvy in the pocket, has an active jab with a good punch rate, and solid footwork. Santiago can use timing to counter punch but leaves himself open for a left hook during exchanges specifically. On that note it’s a perfect segue to a brutal puncher with his left hand in Nakatani.

Nakanti is a rising star over in Japan and the U.S hardcore fight fans have fallen head-over-heels for him. Junto uses his jab with different speeds and will throw 2 or 3 at a time. Whatever Junto lands beyond his jab, in tends to be thudding yet still has an active punch output. Measuring at times with his jab then following it with the left hand is what you’ll likely see in the early rounds. Nakanti can land his left hand in a multitude of ways from wide to straight as an arrow. It also should be mentioned Junto doesn’t have high level defense adding a layer of intrigue, at least until he is able to time Santiago.

Skills pay the bills fits this title matchup. There’s no getting around the fact that Nakanti is the more talented and creative puncher. To my gambling degenerates there’s some value in betting both Nakatani by decision and stoppage. For example by decision is +140, KO is -140, and answering YES is -140 for a stoppage on mybookie. The first chunk of rounds will be competitive then Nakatani will begin to rule the day.

My Official Prediction is Junto Nakatani by late stoppage.

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The co-feature is much closer on paper compared to the main event. Takuma Inoue is a slight favorite versus veteran boxer Jerwin Ancajas, hovering as an underdog around a +160 to +200. Inoue’s only setback as a pro was all the way back in 2019 against Nordine Oubaali. 5 wins later now in his toughest fights since that first loss. Jerwin Ancajas has just four wins in his last 7 assignments. Here’s the deal, two of his losses were to Fernando Martinez, and his draw in 2018 was to Alexandro Santiago.

Oubaali was able to pressure Takuma forcing him to the ropes throughout the rounds. Takuma was dropped by a left hand and got hit by right upper cuts and Oubaali’s jab as well. Look for Inoue to bounce his way around the ring darting in then out. Jerwin has shown a track record to fighting in a similar manner. Inoue will use his jab a bunch along with left hooks. He will be patient looking to land strikes after Jerwin makes a mistake likely reaching with his punches.

The counter shots with both hands from Inoue will be the difference. This boxing podcaster isn’t sold Jerwin will bring effective pressure and punch in combination. Keep your eyes on the exchanges because both men can be hit with flush left hooks. That’s the spot Ancajas must excel at to get his hand raised, when these two fighters throw caution to the win and punch at the same time.

My Official Prediction is Takuma Inoue by Unanimous Decision.

Side Note: DAZN has card on Saturday topped by Berlanga vs. McCrory and Andy Cruz returns. However this boxing junkie is mostly looking forward to Antonio Vargas vs. Jonathan Rodriguez.

Written by Chris Carlson Host/Producer of The Rope A Dope Radio Podcast Available at Follow on Twitter @RopeADopeRadio

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Chris Carlson.

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