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Junto Nakatani Set For First Bantamweight Title Defense Against Vincent Astrolabio on July 20

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Unbeaten WBC bantamweight champion Junto Nakatani will make the first defense of his new belt July 20 at Tokyo’s Ariake Arena against top-ranked contender Vincent Astrolabio, manager Sean Gibbons told BoxingScene.

Japan’s three-division champion Nakatani (27-0, 20 KOs) has been a destructive force, following a highlight-reel knockout of Andrew Moloney one year ago with a successful super-flyweight title defense before scoring a sixth-round TKO over Alexander Santiago to capture the bantamweight belt in February.

In the Philippines’ Astrolabio (19-4, 14 KOs), Nakatani meets a Manny Pacquiao-promoted fighter who scored a knockdown-assisted unanimous decision over two-time Olympic gold medalist Guillermo Rigondeaux in 2022 before dropping a majority decision loss to then-WBO bantamweight champion Jason Moloney one year ago in Stockton, Calif.

Astrolabio recovered from that setback to defeat veteran Navapon Khaikanha of Thailand by a spectacular 11th-round TKO in an August eliminator.

“Vincent learned so much from his first title shot that he’s going to take into this fight,” Gibbons said. “He’s coming to Japan with heavy hands, looking at the big opportunity of winning a world title against a guy like this … being a champion around this weight class puts everyone in the (Naoya) Inoue sweepstakes.”

Before mentioning undisputed super-bantamweight champion Inoue, who earlier this month knocked out Mexico’s Luis Nery in the sixth round in front of 55,000 at the Tokyo Dome, Astrolabio first has to contend with Japan’s second-best fighter.

“We know Nakatani is considered a real beast right now and a possible opponent for Inoue next year,” Gibbons said. “Imagine if we whack the guy and look tremendous … plus, winning a WBC title is always the biggest and most prestigious accomplishment in the smaller weights.”

Gibbons envisions Astrolabio displaying what he calls “caveman-type” punches fired from “heavy, heavy hands.” 

“He put Rigondeaux on the deck, which got everyone to sit up and realize, ‘Hey, this guy’s a sleeper,’” Gibbons said. “He’s a late bloomer in that his early losses came at a time he was just learning and figuring things out. “This is a huge task, just like Luis Nery had a huge task before putting Inoue on the deck. Yes, he got stopped, but he showed these guys in Japan aren’t untouchable.

“Vincent comes with a winning mentality and that’s half the battle.”

Astrolabio originally comes from the same hometown as Pacquiao in General Santos City, as Pacquiao has aggressively pushed his fighters toward title shots.

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