On April 21st fight fans in Osaka will get a Japanese title double header. One of the bouts headlining that show will see Japanese Super Flyweight champion Takayuki Okumoto (21-8-4, 10) make his second defense, and take on mandatory challenger Yuta Matsuo (15-3-1, 8).
The 27 year old champion is a 12 year veteran of the sport. If that sounds mathematically strange it is, and that's because Okumoto started his career as a 15 year old, fighting in Thailand. He had mixed success, going 1-1 with the loss coming to former world champion Ratanapol Sor Vorapin, before waiting to mature and fight on Japanese soil, where he has fought all but 1 of his subsequent 31 bouts. Whilst he's no world beater Okumoto has proven to be a gutsy fighter, who is improving, has a good work rate and is certainly not a typical 21-8-4 fighter. His long career has seen him beat the likes of Shota Kawaguchi, Yuta Saito and Hiroyuki Kudaka, come up short against the likes of Ratanapol, Eaktwan BTU Ruaviking and Ryuichi Funai.
Okumoto is a southpaw with credible speed and power, a wealth of experience and under-rated skills. He's not heavy handed or lightening quick, but he is all round pretty solid with a good boxing brain a relative toughness and good patience. He can come forward, boxing on the back foot and fight as the counter puncher. Sadly whilst Okumoto is a good all rounder he isn't likely to make a mark above domestic level. He's not got any elite level quality, and that's typically needed for fighters to reach the top, but he will be a hard man to dethrone at this level and it will take a special domestic fighter to beat him.
The challenger, 29 year old Matsuo, is relatively unknown though has been in an around the title mix for a few years now. He did earn this shot last year, stopping veteran Rey Orais in 5 rounds to become the mandatory challenger, and this will be his second title fight. Matsuo has been a professional since 2012 and his most notable contests to date have been losses to Ardin Diale, in 2015, and Masayuki Kuroda, in 2017. Despite those losses it is worth noting that he has scored noteworthy wins over Yota Hori, Ryuto Oho and Ryoji Fukunaga, all of which are good domestic wins but there's little to suggest he will have much success above the domestic level.
Watching Matsuo we see a relatively active boxer with an aggressive mentality. He's not the quickest or the sharpest, but he does have a rather unique rhythm, bouncing at mid-distance with and getting in and our. he's quite quick, with both hands and feet, and has a slight jerkiness to his style. It's a more aggressive style than that of Okumoto, but also a less rounded style, and a much more energy intensive one, with a lot of excess movement.
This isn't the biggest title bout we'll see in Japan this year, but could end up being one of the most competitive, with two well matched, flawed, but promising fighters. Both are true domestic level fighters and both will put it all on the line here.
Being at home, and being the champion, Okumoto will have the crowd behind him and we think that could be a key factor here. The bout is a 50-50 one, though we suspect that the home advantage will be enough to help earn Okumoto the decision victory, in a very hotly contest bout.
The Japanese Welterweight scene is a pretty interesting one right now, without being one that gets much attention. The domestic scene features not only Keita Obara, who has progressed beyond Japanese title level, but up and comers like Kudura Kaneko and Rikuto Adachi as well as established fighters like Giraffe Kirin Kanda and Toshiro Tarumi. It's not a scene bustling with world class talent, but enough talent to make things interesting.
We get a great example of how interesting the division is this coming Sunday when Japanese national champion Ryota Yada (18-4, 15) defends his belt against mandatory challenger Yuki Nagano (15-2, 11). On paper this looks pretty evenly matched, pretty explosive and very exciting.
Yada won the title just over a year ago, stopping Toshio Arikawa in 8 rounds. Since then he has defended the belt twice, stopping Kazuyasu Okamoto and Shusaku Fujinaka. Those wins have seen Yada create a 6 fight winning run, since he was stopped in December 2016 by Jayar Inson and the 29 year old Osakan certainly seems to have developed since his last loss. He has not only developed his skills, but also his mentality, and he's seemingly become a lot more driven since that loss, with his win over Arikawa being an excellent performance based on desire, fitness and will to win.
Blessed with power Yada is a real dangerman on the domestic scene and it will take a tough fighter to see out the distance with him. He has good energy to go with his power, and as mentioned a real will to win. He does fall short in technical aspects but seems to be fully aware that his offense is his best defense and that he is much better off taking the fight to his opponents, or fighting as a controlled counter puncher at range, and chipping away at opponents. He's not going to out box many in a pure boxing sense, but he can hurt people and that is his key.
Nagano secured his shot at the title when he beat Yuki Beppu in October, in a title eliminator. That was the 29 year old southpaw's first bout outside of Tokyo and he rose to the occasion in Kurume to score his 13th straight professional victory. It wasn't just his biggest win to date, but one that saw him build on the early potential that had guided him to the 2015 Rookie of the Year crown. As a fighter the win over Beppu stands out along with his wins in the Rookie tournament against Giraffe Kirin Kanda, Toshio Tarumi, Masaharu Kaito and his 2018 win over Riku Nagahama.
In the ring Nagano is a pretty patient fighter, who is a very heavyhanded southpaw left hand, which he fires out with a real sense of purpose. Despite it being a dangerous punch he is patient with it, timing opponents, countering with it and draw them on to it well. He also had a very frustrating lead hand, that keeps opponents guessing, without actually being a potent weapon, more a neutralising tool. It should be noted he doesn't have a high work rate, but does have power.
Coming into this we see the fight as likely to be a cagey affair early, with both trying to feel out the other. We then expect Yada, the more accomplished and heavy handed fighter, to come on stronger when both settle, and go on to force a stoppage in the second half of the fight to retain his title. It wouldn't be a massive surprise if Nagano scored the win, especially when you consider that 2 of Yada's 4 losses have come to Southpaws, but it would be an upset.
On April 20th we'll see a potential FOTY candidate as teak tough Japanese veteran Nihito Arakawa (32-6-2, 18) makes his European debut, facing off with Ukrainian puncher Denys Berinchyk (10-0, 7) in Kyiv. The bout, for the WBO International Lightweight title, looks like it could be an all out war, and is a bout that bout men will see as their best opportunity of moving towards a world title fight.
The 37 year old Japanese fighter is a man coming to the end of his long career, which began more than 15 years ago. During his career he has had some very memorable nights, in both wins and defeats. His highs have included winning the Japanese Lightweight title in 2010, when he beat Akihiro Kondo in the first of two bouts between the men, or when he won the OPBF title in 2011, or his FOTY bout with Omar Figueroa in 2013, or when he became a 2-time Japanese champion in 2016, or when he won the WBO Asia Pacific title in 2017.
Despite all the highs Arakawa has had a hard career. Yes he's tough, as we saw against Figueroa, but at the age of 35 with 40 bouts and over 280 rounds under his belt it's hard to know how much he has left in the tank. We've seen other tough Japanese veterans, such as Hidenori Otake and Akihiro Kondo, suffer recent stoppage losses and it could well be Arakawa's turn following a very tough, hard and punishing career.
At his best Arakawa was a work horse. He was a bit slow, a bit clumsy, but full of energy, sharp with his left hand, set a good work rate, incessant and incredibly tough. His will to win made up for his technical limitations and he was always going to be bringing the fight in the later stages, no matter how the earlier rounds had been. In recent bouts, such as his 22018 draw with Rimar Metuda and his narrow win over Anthony Sabalde, there has been a clear sign of decline to Arakawa.
In Berinchyk we have a very highly regarded 30 year old who was a former amateur standout, but hasn't yet made his mark on the professional ranks. As an amateur he competed at the 2012 Olympics, where he won a Silver medal, and the 2011 World Amateur Championships, where he also picked up a silver medal. He was tipped to be a major star in the pros when he began his professional career back in 2015, but issues with activity and promotional backing have slowed his ascent, despite good wins over the likes of Lorenzo Parra, Allan Vallespin and Jose Luis Prieto. Since the start of 2016 he has fought just 7 times, horrific inactivity for an advanced prospect.
At his best Berinchyk is an aggressive pressure fighter with serious power, good technical skills and sharp, clean punching. Sadly with his inactivity, ring rust and the fact he is now 30, it's hard to know what he's actually got in the locker. Is he going to be able to shine when someone is in his face, like Arakawa, or is he going to come undone under pressure? Can he fight at a high work rate? If he's half the fighter he was an amateur he should be strongly favoured here but there is still a number of question marks over his head.
Despite Berinchyk so far failing to shine as a professional he'll know this is a major chance to make a mark for himself and will be really up for it. We suspect that Arakawa, even in his prime, would have struggled with the physicality and technical abilities of Berinchyk. We're expecting to see the fight start competitively, but as it goes on the younger legs and better skills of the Ukrainian will tell and he'll take a clear, yet competitive, decision victory.
Our prediction is a clear but hard fought, and incredibly exciting, unanimous decision win for Berinchyk here, as he looks to make a statement and become another Ukrainian mixing on the world stage.
This coming Saturday we'll see a new WBO Asia Pacific Super Featherweight champion being crowned as hard hitting Japanese fighter Kosuke Saka (18-4, 15) takes on talented Filipino southpaw Joe Noynay (16-2-1, 5), with the two men battling for a belt recently vacated by Masao Nakamura. For Saka it will be his first title bout at 130lbs, as he looks to claim his second professional title, whilst Noynay looks to claim the full version of the Asia Pacific title, following a reign as Youth champion.
At the age of 27 Saka is the much older man, and the much bigger puncher. The fighter from the Nakazato gym has been a professional since 2012 and he has had a really intriguing career. He was the runner up in the 2012 All Japan Rookie of the Year, losing in the final to Masayuki Ito. He would bounce back, scoring wins over Satoru Sugita and Katsuya Sato, before losing twice in a row, with the second of those losses coming to Hiroshige Osawa. Since then he has gone 10-1 (10), with notable wins over Ryuto Kyoguchi, Takafumi Nakajima, Shota Hayashi and Masanori Rikiishi. During that stretch he would win the Japanese Featherweight title. The sole loss was a weird one, losing the Japanese title to Takenori Ohashi when he mistook the 10 second clacker for the bell, and was subsequently knocked out.
Saka is a huge puncher, he has serious power, a nasty aggressive streak and seems to have actually become more devastating since losing the title, proving his power at Lightweight. He's crude, but offensive, heavy handed and very dangerous. There is also no real stamina questions as he has scored stoppages in the later rounds, though was stopped in 9 rounds by Osawa back in May 2014.
Filipino fighter Noynay is a 23 is a talented boxer, with good movement, good skills and a much, much smarter boxing brain than Saka. Despite being a better pure boxer he does have a relative lack of power, and he isn't likely to get Saka's respect with single shots. Instead, he will have to work hard, rely on his boxing skills and if we're being totally honest they are impressive skills, with Noynay having held his own with the excellent Reiya Abe back in early 2017. In fact both of Noynay's losses have been razor close decision defeats to notable regional fighters, Abe and Richard Pumicpic.
Although not well known outside of the Philippines Noynay is genuinely a brilliant prospect, and the losses on his record look worse than they are, losing close decisions to regional level fighters is nothing to be ashamed by. He's not the most exciting, and he's not got much power, but he is very talented, very smart, quick and sharp. He's defensively smart, has an educated jab and a very long straight left hand with quick body shots in his arsenal. Although a boxer by nature he can pick up the pressure and fight as an aggressive boxer, rather than relying on jack back foot work.
The result of this bout depends on a few really interesting questions. Can Saka cut the distance and get his power shots off? Can Noynay maintain the distance and use his southpaw jab to make space?
If Saka can get close, and if his power can affect Noynay, this could be over inside 3 or 4 rounds. If, however, Noynay boxes smart, stays on the move and stops Saka from unloading, then he can make this look easy, though he will have to work incredibly hard through out and have an incredible level of concentration. We expect Saka to come out on top, and for him to break down Noynay, though a decision win for the Filipino wouldn't be a huge surprise by any stretch.
On April 18th we see the Japanese Bantamweight title being unified, as regular champion Yuta Saito (11-9-3, 8) takes on interim champion Hayato Kimura (28-10, 19) in an interesting contest. The bout isn't the best of the 2019 Champion Carnival bouts, but is an intriguing one and one that could, finally, end the curse of the Japanese Bantamweight title.
The "curse" reared it's head last year, and struck a number of fighters. We saw Ryo Akaho vacate the title due to weight issues, Ryoichi Tamura suffer an injury before a title bout, Suguru Muranaka fail to make weight and Saito suffer an illness after winning the belt. It was Saito's illness which lead to an interim title being created, and has essentially lead to this bout.
Saito's title win, which came in September, was the biggest win of his career by far. The Hanagata Gym fighter won the title by stopping veteran Eita Kikuchi in 2 rounds. It was his first win in over 2 years, though he has been in and around the title mix for much of that time. He had fought to a draw with Tatsuya Takahashi in early 2017 and had also given Ryo Akaho a close bout in a title fight. Whilst the win over Kikcuhi was his best win Saito had shown good ability prior to the win, and had been incredibly close in a number of his losses. With some luck he could well have had 6 of his losses swing the other way, and things would look very, very different.
At 31, and now reportedly suffering from ulcerative colitis, we do wonder what Saito has left in him. He was never the quickest, or sharpest of fighters. He is heavy handed, tough, happy to bring pressure and force a fight, at a pretty exciting pace, be he's not quick and can certainly be out manoeuvered, out jabbed and outsped.
Kimura is a 29 year old who already has close to 40 bouts, an has been a professional for close to 14 years. He fought many of his early bouts outside of Japan, fighting numerous times in Thailand, Korea and the Philippines before really beginning to make a name for himself in Japan, from 2013 onwards. Whilst his success in Japan has been mixed he has fought stiff competition, losing to the likes of Michael Dasmarinas, Marlon Tapales, Sho Ishida, Kenta Nakagawa and Rene Dacquel, and has usually been competitive even in his losses.
As a fighter Kimura is a busier fighter than Saito, he's someone who can fight at range, but can also bring a war when he wants. At his best he sets a high work rate, brings pressure and lets his hands go, though can often fight a bit too much too orders, and can be rather tiresome to watch. A bit too reserved. When he shakes the shackles however he's a very good fighter and should be mixing on the regional scene, rather than just the domestic one.
Although Kimura can be in some pretty dull bouts we don't imagine this will be anything short of brilliant. The aggression of Saito will draw out the fighter in Kimura and we're expecting to see the two men meet in center ring, go to war, and give us some exhilarating action. We'd favour Kimura to come out on top, relying on his better speed, experience and youth. Saito is the puncher, but we've seen Kimura over-come punchers before and we expect to see him do the same again here.
The Japanese Youth title scene is a really interesting one, with a number of promising youngsters breaking through and getting a chance to having meaningful bouts very early in their careers. Whilst not all Youth champions will go on to great success the youth title have certainly given us pretty interesting and well matched bouts at a lower level.
On April 14th we get a host of shows, with one in Tsu being headlined by a Japanese Youth Super Flyweight title bout. That bout will see heavy handed champion Yuto Nakamura (9-5, 7) make his first defense of the title, and take on little known challenger Toma Kondo (7-4, 1).
Nakamura won the title last December, when he took a razor thin decision win over Ryosuke Nasu, building on an impressive opening round win over Futa Akizuki just a few months earlier. Those two wins helped Nakamura rebuild from a series of set backs, and saw him put himself on the map, even if it was only at Japanese Youth title level.
Although unlikely to ever be a player at the top echelons of the domestic scene Nakamura is a solid boxer-puncher. He's exciting and a heavy handed but crude, a bit on the wild side but aggressive and pretty fan friendly. When his power comes into play it is genuinely fight changing, as Akizuki found out, but there is a real worry that his power won't carry up and it never really seemed to worry Nasu last time out. In fact if anything it was Nasu's shots that left Nakamura looking like a damaged fighter, with serious cuts and swelling around his face, and Nasu is not a puncher.
Whilst Nakamura put himself on the map last year it was a year to forget from Kondo, who lost 2 of his 3 bouts. In fact Kondo is 1-3 in his last 4 bouts and hasn't looked good since losing in the 2017 All Japan Rookie of the Year final to Joe Shiraishi. At 22 years old there is clearly time to rebuild, and get his career back on track, but at the moment his confidence isn't going to be high and there will be pressure on him to win here.
Despite Kondo's poor recent results his performances haven't actually been bad and he's looked like a really promising young fighter. Last time out he lost to Tsuyoshi Sato, by TKO in round 5, and he had really solid moments in the bout but was always under intense pressure from a very aggressive fighter. Kondo looks to be a solid pure boxer, with nice skills, a good jab and intelligent movement. Sadly though he has a total lack of power and he will always struggle to get the respect of his opponents.
Kondo has the skills to counter and frustrate Nakamura but the huge difference in power will be a massive difference here, and we suspect Kondo's inability to get respect from Nakamura will be a massive problem. Nakamura isn't as technically good as Kondo, or as quick or as sharp, but we expect he'll be successful here and retain his title.
The Featherweight division is Asia is incredibly interesting right now, both at the domestic levels and on the Oriental level. Fighters like Satoshi Shimizu, the OPBF champion, and Reiya Abe, the in form future Japanese title challenger, have really impressed recently with excellent performances. Another Japanese fighter who is emerging as one to watch is teenage prospect Musashi Mori (8-0, 5), who faces off with Richard Pumicpic (21-9-2, 6) this coming Sunday. The bout will be a second meeting between the two, who fought last year, and will be the first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight title for Mori.
As mentioned this is the second meeting between the two men. They fought last November with Mori taking a split technical decision win over Pumicpic to take the WBO regional title. The bout ended in the 5th round, giving us a very inconclusive and disappointing conclusion, but one that has certainly left us all looking forward to their rematch.
At 19 years old Mori is one of the most accomplished teenagers in the sport. He made his debut in 2016, as a 17 year old and would win the 2017 Rookie of the Year at Super Featherweight. He build on that success in 2018 with 3 more wins, including the one over Pumicpic as he dropped down in weight. Notable Mori looked like a puncher to begin his career, stopping his first 4 opponents in a combined 6 rounds and 5 of his first 6 opponents. He has however struggled to make an impact with his power at a higher level, going 8 very close rounds with Allan Vallespin last Summer. There are also question marks about Mori's defense and stamina.
Mori impressed early in his career, when he seemed to take opponents out. As he's stepped up it's become clear that there are areas for improvement. He showed some of those against Pumicpic in their first bout, showing more to his defense than he had against Vallespin. That is however still an area for him to work on. Where he is strong is with his sharp punching, he has a very good jab, a quick straight left hand, an educated hook and he is physically strong. Although only 19 he is a strong fighter at Featherweight, and doesn't look like a fighter who is draining to make the weight. Given how their first fight went, with it being a rough and tough battle on the inside, that physical strength will likely be a key asset here for the youngster.
On paper Pumicpic has the record of a fringe regional contender, in reality however he is a genuine nightmare to fight. The 28 year old has been a professional since 2008 and has proven his ability to compete at a high level, giving fits to Ryosuke Iwasa and Cesar Juarez as well as defeating the likes of Hisashi Amagasa, Roli Gasca, Joe Noynay and Yoshimitsu Kimura. He has also claimed various titles through his career, often winning them as the under-dog.
Stylistically Pumicpic is a handful. He's in the face of his opponents, applying pressure and is happy to go to war. Despite not being heavy handed, he is accurate, and refuses to let fighters use their size or speed against him. He's also a very under-rated fighter defensively, slipping and sliding shots with smart movement whilst cutting the distance. Sadly there are two things holding him back from the top level. One is his lack of power, and he'll never get respect from the top fighters with his clean but relatively weak shots, and the other is his lack of size, even at Super Bantamweight he was relatively small. He's very talented, tough and has good stamina, but is on the small side for the division.
Given how messy and sloppy their first fight was we're not expecting a pretty fight here. We're expecting another messy battle. As with their first bout we're expecting the natural strength of Mori to be a key factor, especially early on. We're expecting to see Mori take an early lead though as the bout goes on we expect Pumicpic to claw back the difference. Unless headclashes again force an early conclusion we see this being a very close decision bout, with Mori again taking the decision.
The Champion Carnival comes to the fore again on April 11th when Japanese Lightweight champion Shuichiro Yoshino (9-0, 7) defends his belt against mandatory challenger Accel Sumiyoshi (11-4-3, 3). For Yoshino this will be his 4th defense, and he will be looking to extend his current stoppage run of 5 stoppages, whilst Sumiyoshi will be getting his second title fight, following a loss in an OPBF title fight back in 2015. On paper this looks like a rather weak mandatory defense for the unbeaten and highly talented champion, though the challenger is much better than his record suggests, and he could prove to be Yoshino's toughest challenge so far.
Yoshino was an excellent amateur before eventually deciding to turn professional in 2015, at Welterweight. He came down in weight, and his third bout was at Lightweight, where he has now settled and made a name for himself. As a professional Yoshino might only have 9 bouts to his name but he has already beaten the likes of Yoshitaka Kato, Spicy Matsushita, Masaski Saito and Genki Maeda. During his career so far he has looked like a special fighter, with all the tools to go much, much further than the Japanese title, but still to develop his experience before climbing too high too quickly.
As a boxer Yoshino is powerful, skilled, quick, and a sharp puncher. He's proven to be able to box for 8 rounds, as he did against Kato, battle on the inside when he needs to, and score really sensational KO's, as he did against Kazumasa Kobayashi last December. He's a really good all rounder, who will probably find himself fighting for a regional title later this year, with both the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles well within his grasp.
On paper Sumiyoshi looks a limited challenger, with 7 set backs in 18 fights and only 3 stoppage wins to his name. It should however be noted that Sumiyoshi has been matched insanely tough from the offer. His debut was against Yuya Okazaki, who would later challenge for an OPBF title, and he would suffer a decision loss in his third bout to the very experienced Kento Matsushita. He would then go 3-3-1 over his following 7 bouts, to fall to 5-4-1. That looks awful on paper but his losses not only came to Matsushita but also Yuhei Suzuki, Kota Tokunaga and Masayoshi Nakatani. To put those losses into perspective Suzuki was fighting for the first time since losing in a Japanese title fight, Tokunaga would become the Japanese champion 12 months after beating Sumiyoshi whilst Nakatani was defending his OPBF title against Sumiyoshi.
Since those setbacks Sumiyoshi has gone 6-0-2 scoring wins of note against the likes of Allan Tanada, Naotoshi Nakatani and Motoki Sasaki, whilst fighting to 2 draws with Tatsuya Yanagi.
In the ring Sumiyoshi is much better than his record would suggest. Sadly however he lacks power, and has found his bouts going long, and getting hard in the later stages. He's a solid boxer, but does nothing special. He's sharp and talented, but not amazingly quick, strong or powerful. Against fighters who he can jab and jab he can control fighters, but there's a big step up to doing that against someone as talented and rounded as Yoshino, who has himself a really good jab, one with more snap on it than Sumiyoshi does.
We do regarded Sumiyoshi's record as misleading, and we genuinely wouldn't be surprised if he won a Japanese title in the future. Against Yoshino however he would need a miracle, and we see this as either a late stoppage for the champion or a very wide decision for Yoshino. If Sumiyoshi wins it'll go down as a major domestic upset, though if Yoshino wins it will hopefully lead to a bout for an OPBF or WBO Asia PAcific title, which may well test the talented fighter from the Misako gym.
Seeing unbeaten fighters clash, with similar records, is something we don't see often enough, and it's a shame as it's quite exciting to see similarly matched fighters going up against each other in bouts that look like 50-50 contests. Both where both men having something to lose and both are taking a risk are always great.
On April 8th we get one such bout as Japan's Andy Hiraoka (13-0, 9), the Japanese Youth Light Welterweight champion, takes on Thai foe Atchariya Wirojanasunobol (12-0, 5). On paper this is a mouth watering bout, a real test for both men, and the winner could end up using their victory to move towards a regional title fight, and move onwards and upwards.
The 22 year old Hiraoka first made a mark back in 2014, as an 18 year old. The tall and rangy southpaw went on to make his way to the 2014 Rookie of the Year final at Lightweight, before needing to pull out due to illness. He would then take almost 2 years away from the ring before returning in late 2016 to score a couple of wins over Thai foes. That was followed by a sensational 2017 for the youngster, who would win the Japanese Light Welterweight title in November that year. Since then has had two more wins, scoring a single defense of the title in one of those bouts.
Hiraoka is a tall and rangy fighter, standing at 5'11". He's a southpaw with good speed, really solid power, and good boxing fundamentals. He's still a maturing young man, rather than a fully grown man, and there is a sense that he could certainly mature into a strong Welterweight in the future, adding muscle and meat to his bones as he develops physically. At the moment he does struggle when he's under pressure, and isn't a great inside fighter, but at range he is very good and if he can use jab and straight shots he does look very hard to beat.
Atchariya is a 29 year old Thai who debuted in late 2014 and has slowly gone about making a name for himself. A number of his early opponents were novices, though he did score some decent early wins over Heri Andriyanto and Stevie Ongen Ferdinandus. Despite the slow start to his career it was really in 2018 that he came into his own, scoring really solid wins over Kaewfah Tor Buamas and Taisho Ozawa, his two best wins by far and both came on WP Boxing shows in Bang Phun.
Atchariya is a pretty solid fighter himself. He's not a big puncher, but he does have nice variety to his shots, moves around the ring well and fights very confidently, with a lot of belief in ring IQ and how he controls distance. Despite his skills he doesn't have a great work rate, he's not hugely power or quick. He's certainly very confident in the ring, but he's not the most spectacular in any way. More a solid all rounder than a fighter who does anything amazingly well.
We suspect that the Ohashi team, who manage Hiraoka, will have selected the Thai for a reason and it's likely his work rather and lack of power. Despite that this isn't a given win for their guy and Atchariya has the ability to sneak the rounds, make Hiraoka miss and counter him. We favour Hiraoka to win, in what will perhaps be an ugly fight at times, but this is a very clear step up in class and by far his toughest bout to date.
The Japanese Light Welterweight scene has slowly developed into something quite interesting recently, with not only a handful of established fighters at the weight, but also a good crop of rising hopefuls. This coming Saturday we see a clash of established fighter and rising hopeful colliding for the Japanese national title.
The bout in question will see 37 year old champion Valentine Hosokawa (24-6-3, 11) attempt to make his third defense of the title as he takes on mandatory challenger Koki Inoue (12-0, 10), the cousin of Naoya and Takuma Inoue. For Hosokawa this will be his 34th career bout, in a career that began back in 2006, and his 7th bout at title level. For Inoue this will be his first title bout, and comes less than 42 months after his professional debut. Not only that but is a very clear step up for the challenger against a very experienced and talented champion.
Hosokawa, for those who haven't seen him or followed him through his career, is a real physical freak. At the age of 37 he has an insane work rate and engine, his style is that of an aggressive swarmer, who doesn't hit hard but hits often and typically our works opponents. Although he's had sme pretty decent unbeaten runs he is currently in the best form of his career, with wins over Quaye Peter, Koichi Aso, Vladimir Baez and Takashi Inagaki. Even his most recent losses, to Noriaki Sato and Hiroki Okada, were very competitive decisions, and he showed he was still a damn good fighter in both of those set backs.
Hosokawa has come through the ranks the hard way. Built his success on experience and not seen losses as a reason to give in. He's come a really long way since winning the 2008 Rookie of the Year, at Lightweight, and bounced back well from two stoppage losses in OPBF title bouts, to Shinya Iwabuchi and Min Wook Kim. Even in his stoppage losses he showed incredible toughness and determination, before eventually being ground down by heavier handed fighters. Sadly though, we do wonder what his body has left, and he turns 38 just days after this fight. It could be that Hosokawa will be the next victim of father time.
Inoue, like his cousins, is a product of Shingo Inoue's training and like Naoya he's a strong, powerful fighter with skills. His performances at times have been excellent, but at others he has not really shined, and sometimes that's not been his fault. For example his fight with Cristiano Aoqui ended due to an injury suffered by Aoqui. When he's looked good however he has looked sensational with great combinations, movement, and sharp punching. Sadly his last performance showed little of that, as he put in a tame effort in a Japanese title challenger decider bout against Marcus Smith. Inoue would beat Smith, but looked poor doing so, before revealing he had taken several injuries into the bout. Injuries that likely played a part in his poor performance.
At 26 years old Inoue is coming into his physical prime. He's a clear talent, despite not being on the same level as his better known cousins, but this is a huge step up in class. He's gone from fighting the likes of Aoqui and Smith to fighting the Japanese champion, a former OPBF title contender and a man who is a nightmare to fight with his experience and work rate. If he's still carrying niggling injuries as well this could be too much, at the wrong time.
Whilst he is stepping up, we do favour Inoue to win. We think he's the stronger and faster man, he's certainly not had the miles on the clock Hosokawa's had. However he will have to work harder for this bout than for anything other since he turned professional, he needs to focus on controlling the ring, landing body shots and tiring Hosokawa with smart boxing. If he gets into a war that will not bode well for the challenger, even if he does hit harder, as Hosokawa will rely on his experience of a war, and come out on top.
This is a major test for both men, and should tell us a lot about Inoue's potential and what Hosokawa has left in his legs. It's an interesting bout, and a real test for the third member of the Inoue clan. But a test that he has the ability to pass, with the right game plan.
Having canned the old "Full Schedule" of Asianboxing we have instead decided to concentrate more on the major bouts. This section, the "Preview" section will look at major bouts involving OPBF and national titles. Hopefully leading to a more informative style for, you the reader.