By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On August 24th, at the RCC supershow in Russia, top Cruiserweight contenders clash as the 2 time IBF International champion Aleksei Papin challenges boxing veteran Ilunga Makabu for the WBC Silver title.
Aleksei Papin (11-0 / 10 KOs) before starting his career as a boxer, he cut his teeth in the world of kickboxing. As an amateur, he won the European & World championships thrice each, while as a pro he held the prestigious ISKA title, amongst other belts. In his 7 years in the sport, Papin defeated numerous top kickboxers and world champions like Danyo Ilunga, Zinedine Hameur Lain, Igor Bugaenko and many more.
As a boxer, Papin boasts a 91% KO ratio, with most of his fights have ended in less than 5 rounds. During his short time here, he has stopped 2 world title challengers, in Rogelio Omar Rossi (20-8), with a short right hook in the second, as well as Ismayl Sillah (27-6), whom he finished in just one round after landing a crisp right straight and then connecting with 2 left uppercuts, as he was going down.
He earned his 1st championship when he met with Willbeforce Shihepo (25-11) in 2018, for the vacant IBF International title. Papin imposed himself on his opponent, overwhelming him with his impressive power and speed. After a year on inactivity, he reclaimed that same belt, by knocking out Alexandru Jur (18-4). He now goes for another title against a man, who’s possibly his biggest test yet.
Ilunga Makabu (25-2 / 24 KOs) despite suffering a loss on his pro debut, he made a shift comeback and finished all of his next 13 opponents, before facing Dmytro Kucher (24-3) for the vacant WBC Silver title. Kucher was undefeated at the time at 21-0. It was a close encounter from which the Congolese fighter came out on top, after putting together some good combinations, working both the head and the body.
He marked his inaugural title defense against Eric Fields (24-4) in 2013. Makabu weakened Fields with a plethora of uppercuts and finished him off in the 5th after a vicious left hook, which has proven to be his biggest weapon in the ring.
Makabu also broke Ruben Angel Mino’s (33-9) undefeated streak (20-0 at the time) in just 2 rounds, dropping him twice, once with the uppercut and then with a snap, short ranged left hook.
After 3 more knockouts, including one over former IBF World champion Glen Johnson (54-21), Makabu squared off with Tony Bellew (30-3) with the vacant WBC World title on the line. Even though he scored a huge knockdown in the opening round, after landing a straight left hand on Bellew’s face, dropping him hard on the canvas, the British boxer regained momentum and returned the favor in the 3rd to become the new champion.
Makabu went on to win 5 fights in a row, all stoppages, and remained undefeated in 2017 & 2018. This past June, he went face to face with former WBC Silver, WBA International & world title contender Dmitry Kudryashov (23-3). Makabu weathered the early onslaught of the Russian and put him down with a thunderous left hook, connecting clean on the chin in the 2nd and almost did it again at the end of the round, weren’t it for the ropes saving Kudryashov. Both men went back and forth, in what can be considered one of the best brawls of 2019. After 5 rounds on incredible action, Kudryashov was a bloody mess, taking unanswered shots which led the referee stopping the fight and crowning Makabu a 2 time Silver champion. He now returns to action, only 2 months later, to defend his strap against a fellow champion.
Papin versus Makabu has all the elements of being a fight of the year candidate. Both men are knockout artists. Papin has finished 10 out of his 11 matches, while Makabu 24 out of his 25 victories. The Russian likes to trap his opponents against the ropes and deliver the punishment, whilst the Congolese prefers to keep it in the middle of the ring, dismantling his opposition before going for the kill. It’s also interesting to consider how Papin has made short work of the previous world title challengers he has fought, but at the same time, we have to keep in mind that Makabu has a knack of ending unbeaten streaks. Either man has the ability to end this match in the blink of an eye, especially if Makabu lands his left hook. Both have a great momentum going into this one and a win here could very well brought them close to a world title opportunity. Do not blink, because this fight won’t last long.
August 24th is set to be one of the best days for fight fans of the lower weights. We not only have both Kosei Tanaka, John Riel Casimero and Vic Saludar defending their world title but also a number of other notable bouts in the lower weights. One of those other bouts is a show down between the fast rising Kento Hatanaka (9-0, 9) and world ranked Filipino Jaysever Abcede (19-8, 12). This bout, on the under-card of Tanaka's mandatory title defense against Jonathan Gonzalez, could end up being the most interesting bout of the day and is a clear step up for the destructive Hatanaka.
The 21 year old Hatanaka is seen by some in Japan as the next star of Chubu, following stable mate Kosei Tanaka. He's a second generation fighter, following in the footsteps of father Kiyoshi Hatanaka, a former world champion at Super Bantamweight, and has been guided so far by Hatanaka senior. He made his professional debut in late 2016 and has gradually built a reputation for himself as a hard hitting, exciting and really promising young fighter. He's already his first title, the WBC Youth Flyweight title, and is starting to get real traction thanks to wins over the likes of Kenta Matsui and Songsaeng Phoyaem.
In the ring Hatanaka is aggressive, heavy handed but also educated. He takes calculated risks, and brings his aggression being intelligent pressure. He backs opponents up behind good footwork, he fires off combinations between head and body and is very hard hitting for such a young fighter. Like many of the emerging Japanese youngsters he really uses body shots well and whilst he's still a long, long, way from a world title fight he is moving in the right direction.
On paper Abcede looks like a really poor opponent for a top prospect. With 8 losses from 27 bouts he's no world beater. However Abcede is going through a really good run of form. He's been unbeaten since suffering a decision loss to Ivan Soriano in December 2017, and has scored big wins on the road since then, stopping both Stamp Kiatniwat in Thailand and Seigo Yuri Akui in Japan. Those two wins are far better than anything on Hatanaka's record, and a win over Abcede would be huge for Hatanaka at this point,
Abcede isn't a world beater, but he's a tough, rugged and hungry fighter. His losses, typically, come to good fighters, like Panya Pradabsri, OPBF champion Lito Dante, former OPBF champion Tsubasa Koura and current world champion Wanheng Menayothin. He's not only notched the bit wins over Stamp and Akui but also holds wins over Pigmy Kokietgym and Orlie Silvestre. If we were to put Abcede into a pigeon hole, he's a gatekeeper, a really good regional gatekeeper. He has under-rated power, a lot of heart and brings intelligent pressure behind his southpaw stance. He's not the quickest, the biggest puncher or the best boxer out there, but he has become a very solid fighter who can be a genuine threat to a prospect, and their unbeaten records.
We expect to see Hatanaka entering the bout with clear instructions not to try and blast out Abcede. Instead Hatanaka will be told to box, and if the opening come he's to jump on them. If he takes risks there is a genuine danger that Abcede will punish him for them, likewise if Hatanaka looks to set a super high pace there's a risk of him gassing in the later stages.
If Hatanaka can boxing intelligently, use his brain and find openings he can certainly stop Abcede and continue his perfect KO run. Alternatively he can box safe, get 10 good rounds under his belt and prove his stamina. From the first round to the last Abcede will be dangerous and he will be tough, but Hatanaka should be good enough to take the win, and continue his rise. We expect to see the youngster being tested, hard, but do more than enough to take home the win.
Prediction- TKO9 Hatanaka
The Flyweight scene in Asia is a rather weird one right now. There are some amazing fighters there, like Kosei Tanaka, and some really fast rising hopefuls, like Junto Nakatani. Sadly though there is a really awkward gap between some of the regional level fighters and the world class fighters.
Among those stuck between the Oriental scene and world level is current OPBF champion Jayr Raquinel (10-1-1, 7), who travels to Japan later this month to make his second defense of the title. In the opposite corner to the champion is former world title challenger Takuya Kogawa (30-5-1, 13), who appears to have slipped significantly from his prime.
Aged 22 Raquinel has a lot of potential to make a mark at world level, much like the aforementioned Nakatani and fellow rising youngster Ryota Yamauchi, though his has a lot of questions over his head. He showed his ability to perform on the road in early 2018, when he stopped Keisuke Nakayama to claim the title and then again just months later when he stopped Shun Kosaka in his first defense. Sadly his rise hit the skids last year when he lost a competitive decision to Chinese foe Wulan Tuolehazi, in China, and he's not fought since that bout. Whilst his title wasn't on the line against Tuolehazi the bout did cost him momentum and his unbeaten record and it's almost a year since he last stepped in the ring.
At his best Raquinel is a solid boxer-puncher. He's got a hard hitting southpaw left, a good right hook, and smart movement. Sadly for all the positives about him he can often look lazy in the ring, too reserved and unwilling to let his shots go. Against Tuolehazi he looked great, when he threw his punches, but all too often looked happy to not do much, cruising and waiting, often waiting too long and letting Tuolehazi do enough to take the win. Given his age that loss could be a great learning experience, or could be a setback that he struggles to ever really rebuild from.
The 34 year old Kogawa has long been one of the most fun to watch fighters on the planet. Having debuted 14 years ago Kogawa has been one of the staples on the Flyweight scene much of that time. He began his career with a 17-1 (10) record, and won the OPBF Super Flyweight title, before getting a world title fight against Pongsaklek Wonjongkam in 2011. Kogawa lost to Wonjongkam but bounced back and won the Japanese Flyweight title just 6 months later. It's been the Japanese Flyweight title that has really been the focus for much of Kogawa's career over the last 8 years with title bouts against the likes of Shigetaka Ikehara, Suguru Muranaka, Hiroyuki Kudaka and Masayuki Kuroda.
Through his career Kogawa has been in some amazing bouts, his fights with Muranaka, Kudaka and Kuroda stand out.He has had a career from being a boxer-brawler, with a high tempo style, that has seen him take a lot of punishment. Sadly in the last few years Kogawa has started to show the damage of those battles, and looks to have slowed significantly from the star he was. Whilst some of that could be put down to lingering effect from a serious ear injury, which he suffered in 2016, it's fair to say that his warrior mentality, hard fights and really hard rounds, along with his age, has simply caught up with him.
At his best Kogawa would be strongly favoured over Raquinel, sadly though he's a long way removed from his best. This version of Kogawa has struggled with the likes of Naoto Fujimoto and Hideyuki Watanabe, limited domestic foes. Even with Raquinel having been out of the ring for a year we suspect his youth, freshness and speed will be the key. With Kogawa being aggressive we see Raquinel getting chances to sit back and counter, rather than in the Tuolehazi fight where the Chinese fighter didn't give Raquinel opportunities to counter.
We suspect Raquinel will come out on top here, and Kogawa will then end his long, and thrilling career.
Prediction- Raquinel UD12
In the west fight fans are often quick to write fighters off after a loss, especially one early in their career. In the east fans are a lot less harsh, with losses often being used to develop a fighters skills, and coming less from being exposed and more from being tested. If you test your guy and they come up short, they can rebuild and work on what has caused them to lose.
On August 23rd we see two men who have had their cherry's popped facing off in one of the most under-rated bouts of the week. In fact it goes down as one of, on paper at least, the most intriguing bouts of the month so far and will certainly push the winner towards a really significant contest. That bout in question is an 8 round contest between once beaten Japanese hopeful Ryota Yamauchi (4-1, 4) and in form Filipino Alphoe Dagayloan (13-2-5-1, 5). On paper this may not get attention from fans who are unfamiliar with the two, but the match up is set to be something very, very special.
The 24 year old Yamauchi made his debut in 2017 and quickly became one to watch, scoring wins over Lester Abutan and Yota Hori in his first 3 bouts. Sadly he was beaten, albeit somewhat controversially, when he took on world ranked Chinese fighter Wulan Tuolehazi in Shanghai. The two men traded knockdowns, in one of the most interesting bouts of 2019, but in the end the 3 Chinese judges all scored it to the local, with two of the judges only giving Yamauchi 2 rounds, including the one he dropped Tuolehazi in. Had the bout been anywhere else there's a really solid chance Yamauchi would be 5-0 (4).
Despite being unlucky against the awkward Chinese fighter Yamauchi really had some flaws shown up. His inability to defend against the unique right hand of Tuolehazi was a major issue, from the opening moments right through the bout. That was the shot that repeatedly landed on Yamauchi, and showed he had real work to do on his defense. Offensively however he was brilliant and he answered serious questions about his stamina, work rate and heart. We already knew he was heavy handed, exciting and had good shot selection, but he ticked other boxes, even in defeat.
The 27 year old Dagayloan, from the Philippines, is a really interesting example of a fighter developing after a less than amazing start to professional boxing. He made his debut at the age of 18, way back in 2010, and had the strange record of 4-2-4-1 after 11 bouts. Since then though he has "come good" and gone 8-0-1, with notable wins against Madiyar Zhanuzak, Danrick Sumabong and Esnth Domingo. He hasn't just improved, which he's done significantly since a 2016 loss to Jason Dogelio, but he's become a very good fighter and a very hard guy to beat.
From the footage of Dagaloan out there he is a smart, but aggressive fighter. He's a sharp puncher, pick his shots well and uses the southpaw stance well. He lines up fantastic left hands, to head and body. When he has his man hurt he really does know how to turn it on, but he's not someone who takes risks until he feels his man is ready to be taken out. What's particularly impressive is his body punching, and his inside work.
Coming in to this we do see the bout as a bit of a 50-50 clash, though we're swayed slightly in favour of Yamauchi, who will have a point to prove after the loss to Tuolehazi. He will have to over-come the southpaw trickery of Dagaloyan however, and that is not going to be easy. If Dagayloan can force his intelligent pressure on to the fight he could give Yamauchi real problems, especially with his straight left hand and his backhand uppercut at close range, which he does love throwing, though we're expecting the Japanese fighter to do enough and take home the victory.
Prediction - UD8 Yamauchi
Earlier this year we saw Can Xu claim the WBA "regular" Featherweight title with a huge win over Jesus M Rojas. That win really put Xu on the map and gave Chinese boxing a massive shot in the arm. Since then he has defended the title once and kept momentum going in China, which has also seen see Wulan Tuolehazi put himself into the mix at Flyweight.
One other Chinese fighter looking to get a big break in the near future is Jing Xiang (16-4-2, 3), a talented fighter who has broke into the world rankings whilst making a name for himself at Light Flyweight. This coming Saturday he drops 3 lbs and heads to Minimumweight and takes on once beaten Filipino Jomar Caindog (10-1-1, 4) in a bout for the WBO International Minimumweight title, which will be held in Shenzhen.
The move to 105lbs is a smart one for Xiang, if he can make the weight comfortably. The 5'3" slickster is a natural talent, with incredible skills, but at Light Flyweight he was always going to be lost in the shuffle with so much depth in the division and even if he got a shot at a title, he would be a massive under-dog against fighters like Hiroto Kyoguchi and Kenshiro. At 105lbs however there is less talent, and he could certainly give the champions at the weight a run for their money, if not manage to dethrone them.
Looking at Xiang's record won't impress many, with just 16 wins in 22 bouts. It is worth noting however that he has turned around a 3-3 start to his professional career with a record of 13-1-2 in his last 16 bouts. It's also worth noting that his losses have come at Bantamweight, Super Flyweight and Flyweight, including a very early career loss to Jerwin Ancajas. In his last 16 he has scored notable wins over the likes of Ben Mananquil, Dexter Alimento, Merlito Sabillo and Kompayak Porpramook and certainly deserves a huge fight if he can continue this run of form.
During Xiang's current form we have been really impressed by his skills, and he doesn't fight like most Chinese fighters. He's a fighter who has a pure boxing style, he fights behind his, moves well, and counters brilliantly. His combinations are fantastic and whilst he lacks power he does find in defenses and lands a lot of shots. In terms of pure skills he is arguably the best in China.
Sadly not so much is known about Caindog, a Filipino who has almost no footage out there and has done little in his career far. Aged 24 he is coming into his physical prime but this is a massive step up in class for him. From his debut in June 2014 all his bout, so far, have been at home in the Philippines. Through his 12 bouts to date his competition hasn't been notable, at all, other than a then 2-0 Samuel Salva, who will fight for a world title in September. Salva beat Caindog over 6 rounds and the only other mark on Caindog's record was a 2018 draw with Lyster Jun Pronco.
Sadly, given the lack of footage,it's hard to say anything about Caindog's style but his competition so far suggests his team haven't got a lot of belief in him and a bout against Xiang looks like it's a case of "sink or swim" for him.
It can be hard to judge a fight without footage of one of the fighters. The reality here is that we know Xiang is very, very good, and if he can make 105lbs without any problems he's a handful for anyone in the division. We know about Xiang to suggest, confidently, that he'll be too good for a man who has been protected on the Filipino domestic scene.
There is a chance that Caindog is a diamond in the rough for the Filipino scene, but our guess is that he's not, and that he will be clearly beaten here by the skills and trickery of Xiang.
Prediction - TKO9 Xiang
Earlier this year Korean fighter Jung Kyoung Lee (7-2-1, 3) scored a career best win, stopping Samuel Colomban to claim the OPBF Light Middleweight title. He returns to the ring later this month to make his first defense of that title, as he takes on Japanese veteran slugger Akinori Watanabe (37-7-1, 31) in what could be a really fan friendly contest, and the next step on the rebuilding process of Korean boxing.
Lee was a former martial artist who turned to boxing in 2017 and despite suffering a couple of early career setbacks, stumbling to 3-2-1 after 6 bouts, he has really come into his own with a 4 fight winning run. That winning run hasn't just had 1 good win over Colomban, but also includes a notable decision win over Tonghui Li, in what was a very oddly scored bout. Those two wins are two of the best of any active Korean boxer and shows that the man from Seoul is getting better.
Although improving Lee does still have a lot of areas that he needs to iron out. He's not the quickest, the biggest hitter or a particularly smooth fighter. He is improving, and rounding off, but there is a lot of work left for him to do. What he does have is a good tank, good physical strength and a gritty toughness. He'll never been a naturally smooth fighter, but he appears to be a hard worker, and as far as the Korean scene is concerned he actually comes across as a bit more intelligent than many Korean fighters, countering and using a bit of lateral movement. Whilst he does have some intelligent aspects he is very much a left hand happy type of fighter, who doesn't make the most of his southpaw stance.
Whilst Lee is on the way up it's hard to really know where Watanabe's career currently stands. The heavy handed Japanese fighters was long regarded as a glass cannon, but in recent years has shored up his defense and began to show some more durability, to go along with his attacking prowess. The 34 year old southpaw has been a professional for over 15 years and has gone on to achieve notable success. He has not only won the Japanese, OPBF and PABA titles at Welterweight but also claimed the Japanese "interim" title at Light Middleweight, a title he vacated to pursue this title bout.
Watanabe is a somewhat crude, but powerful, hard hitting and exciting fighter, willing to take one to land one. That mentality saw him suffering 3 straight stoppage losses in 2007-2008, but since then and another stoppage loss in 2010. Since then he has only really been stopped in wars, losing to Toshio Arikawa and Magomed Kurbanov, with that stoppage coming from facial swelling. His biggest issue is still his defense,
and in recent years his face has had a reputation for swelling badly, but seems to feel his offense is his best defense. Not always an effective tactic, as we saw when Takehi Inoue bullied him around the ring, but something that does see him playing to his strengths.
The experience and power edges both sit firmly with Watanabe, though he is the older man and is certainly the more damaged fighter. He's also on the road, fighting in Korea and the naturally smaller man. Although Watanabe is a live under-dog we do see him coming up short against the younger and hungrier Korean hopeful.
One thing to add is that this bout is taking place a rescheduled date. Originally it was supposed to take place much earlier in the year but Lee suffered a training injury forcing it be rescheduled for August 11th. This has seen Watanabe age a bit more, though we suspect there is still plenty of life in the veteran.
Prediction - UD12 Lee
Every so often we get a bout that just stands out to us as being worth a little extra interest, even if the don't have any title implications or long term significance. It's just, a bout, but an interesting one. This coming Saturday we get one such bout as former Rookie of the Year winners Yuga Inoue (7-1-1, 1) and Daiki Kameyama (7-3-1, 2) get it on in a 6 round bout in Hyogo.
To fans out side of Japan this bout has little real significance, and even for those in Japan it's not a major bout, but it is a compelling bout between two very talented young men, each looking to bounce back from a loss last time out and looking to get back on the right track. It's a bout that will put the winner on the verge of a Japanese ranking, and leave the loser with work to do, but a lot of time to do that work.
The younger of the two men is 20 year old Inoue. Despite his surname he is no relation to the Inoue brothers but he is an exceptionally talented young man. Hailing from Hyogo Inoue made his name in 2017, when he won the Minimumweight rookie of the year, moving his record to 5-0-1 along the way. Along the way to the Rookie crown he had beaten the likes of Daiki Yamanaka and Retsu Akabane and had taken a draw against Tatsuro Nakashima, himself a still promising hopeful.
With the Rookie tournament behind him Inoue entered 2018 with real expectation and towards the end of the year had his first title bout, taking on the hard hitting Kai Ishizawa. Through the first 4 rounds Inoue looked the much better boxer. He neutralised Ishizawa's power and offense with his smart boxing, sharp punching and ability to get in and out of range. Despite the success Inoue made some novice mistakes, standing and trading just a little too much, and after a cut in round 5 he was beaten into submission in round 6. He's not fought since then, but showed enough, in defeat, to remain hopeful about. What that loss showed was that the youngster, whilst talented, wasn't physically mature, and lacked not only power but also a physical strength, it was almost as if staying at 105lbs had taken it's toll, so moving up seemed logical and looks to be what he's done here, as he heads into the bout with Kameyama by moving up to Light Flyweight.
Kameyama took a year longer to make his mark on the sport, though his rise has been just as notable. He lost on debut, to Yuya Gunji in 2016 before suffering a pair of setbacks in 2017 to all action warrior Tsuyoshi Sato, who held him to a draw in early 2017 and then took a decision over him later in the year. In 2018 he went on to win the Rookie of the Year at Light Flyweight, beating Tetsuya Mimura in the final. Sadly his only bout since the Rookie triumph was a wide decision loss to Shokichi Iwata, in what was Iwata's Japanese debut. Despite the loss to Iwata, who is an sensational prospect, the 22 year old Kameyama cannot be written off and it's clear he can, and should, be able to come again.
What we saw when Kameyama took on Iwata was a really quick, fighter, who looked to do things, but was simply up against one of the best prospects in world boxing. There was so much talent on show here that the bout really didn't get the attention it deserved and it was obvious that Kameyama had the ability to go a long way, with a lovely southpaw jab and smart boxing. Just unfortunately for all his good work, it was just not even close to being enough against someone like Iwata.
With Inoue and Kameyama now facing off one thing we're sure about is that we're in for a treat as two highly skilled young fighters are taking each other on in a battle of skill. Both are very talented and both are very quick, so this should be a bout that flies by with real technical skills on show. Inoue will have to show how he looks at Light Flyweight, and how he copes with the southpaw stance, and Kameyama will have to deal with the sharp straight punching of Inoue. Both will have to answer questions as to how they are after losing last time out.
We favour Kameyama to take home the win, making the most of his southpaw stance, but the reality is this is a total toss up, and should be seen as one of the potential gems of the month. This is the sort of fight that should interest purists, and those who love watching competitive bouts and prospects. A genuinely excellent match up.
Prediction - SD6 Kameyama
Internationally the Light Flyweight division is one of the very best, with a very stacked top 8 or so and a brilliant mix of champions and challengers. In recent weeks we've had the pleasure of watching Hiroto Kyoguchi, Felix Alvarado, Kenshiro, Carlos Canizales and Edwin Soto showing what they can do, in a mix of impressive performances and exciting battles.
Below the world level the division continues to give compelling match ups at regional level and the rising crop of Japanese hopefuls in the division is amazing, with a handful of youngsters looking like future world champions. One of the few real veterans hanging around is Kenichi Horikawa (40-15-1, 13), the current Japanese Light Flyweight champion. The 56 fight veteran, now aged 39, has been a professional for more than 19 years, and is enjoying his second reign as the Japanese champion, having won the belt back in February. This coming Thursday he looks to make his third defense, as he takes on the much younger Ryuto Oho (12-5-1, 4), in what will be his first senior title fight.
The veteran has fought fought a who's who and has really managed to build a career by battling through set backs. After a career of ups and downs he won his first title in 2015, stopping Shin Ono for the belt. He lost it in his first defense, to Kenshiro, but bounced back winning the WBO Asia Pacific title in 2017 and then becoming a 2-time Japanese champion earlier this year. This will be his 13th title bout and his experience, at least at this level, cannot be doubted.
With so much experience under his belt Horikawa knows his way around the ring and inside it he's a very under-rated fighter. At heart he's a boxer-brawler, able to do either but wanting to turn bouts into brawls. A lot of his work comes from behind a good jab, he looks to back opponents up and force them into a fight. Even at 39 he has solid handspeed, good movement and an aggressive mentality with a high work rate. Technically he's not the sharpest, he's not the quickest and he lacks lights out power, but he does break fighters down and his will to win is very impressive.
Aged just 24 Oho is a relative novice. He was just 5 when Horikawa made his debut, despite his youth he has actually been around for quite a while, , debuting in late 2012. The following year he went on to win the Japanese Rookie of the Year crown, at Flyweight. His Rookie triumph was supposed to be a starting point to some solid success, but instead he went 0-2-1 in 2014 as he rise hit brick wall. He would then go 3-2 over his following 5 fights, falling from 6-0 when he won the Rookie crown to 9-4-1 (2) by the summer of 2017. Thankfully for Oho he has managed to rebuild a bit from all his set backs, winning 3 of his last 4, including the Japanese Youth Light Flyweight title last year and is actually unbeaten at 108lbs.
In the ring Oho is a smart, quick boxer-mover. He lacks in terms of power, despite scoring stoppages in 2 of his last 3, but does look very tidy in the ring and does a lot of pleasing things. Sadly Oho's lack of power isn't his only downfall and he also lacks in terms of durability and has been stopped twice in his 5 losses, albeit to heavy handed fighters like Seigo Yuri Akui and Masamichi Yabuki. He also has has a bit of a fragile, lightweight look to him, a look that doesn't bode well for a man fighting someone like Horikawa.
With Oho being the younger man, and the faster man, there will be opportunities for him, to stick and move and make Horikawa chase shadows. Sooner or later though the experience of the champion will kick in, and he will begin to grind down the challenger. When that happens we'll really see what Oho is made of. Our guess is that he comes undone under the pressure of Horikawa in the later stages, though he certainly won't go down without giving his all. He will look to do all he can to survive, before finally succumbing to the pressure of the grizzled veteran.
Prediction - Horikawa TKO10
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On August 8th, at the legendary Korakuen Hall, 2 of the most exciting Japanese boxers today will engage in a highly entertaining battle, as top ranked Super Bantamweight contender Hiroaki Teshigawara defends his OPBF championship against Shohei Omori.
Hiroaki Teshigawara (19-2 / 12 KOs) began boxing professionally at the age of 21, and for the next few years he would test himself against local competition, gaining some much needed experience.
His first real big match took place in October of 2016, when he met 2 time world title challenger Ryo Akaho (34-2). A former National, OPBF & WBO International champion, Akaho was clearly the favorite here, with Teshigawara coming in with only 12 wins under his belt, 1 decision loss and 2 draws. Surprisingly enough, this turned out to be an extremely competitive match. Teshigawara went toe to toe with the much more experienced Akaho, giving him a lot of trouble in almost every round. His power and aggressiveness stunned the veteran, throwing him out of his game and even out of the ring at one point. In the end, Akaho narrowly won a split decision, which only made the younger fighter look like a true warrior.
Teshigawara kicked off 2017 with a bang, making short work of Junny Salogaol (14-17) in April and then in June picking up another victory against Keita Kurihara (14-5) after a rather exciting brawl. The Japanese fighter would go on to challenge Jetro Pabustan (29-6) before the year was over, for the WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight championship. Teshigawara overwhelmed the former world title contender with his wild offense, eventually scoring a knockdown in round 9 and finishing the job in the 10th.
After marking his inaugural title defense over Jason Canoy (27-10) in February of 2018, he made his second one against 2 time world title challenger Teiru Kinoshita (26-3) 4 months later. Pretty much like the Pabustan fight, Teshigawara had his way with his opponent. The “Golden Yasha” kept landing one punch after the other, having him on the run from the opening bell. He finally dropped Kinoshita in the 3rd and again in the 5th, to get the TKO win. Teshigawara would then move up to Super Bantamweight, claiming the vacant OPBF crown after stopping Glenn Suminguit (21-4) and defended it once against Yuki Iriguchi (10-3). He now will lock horns yet again with another tough opponent this coming August.
Shohei Omori (20-2 / 15 KOs) took up the sport at an early age, since his father was also a boxer, and even competed at the 65th National Boxing Tournament during his high school years, reaching second place. He made his pro debut in 2011, amassing 11 consecutive victories, before facing former WBC Silver champion and world title contender Christian Esquivel (30-19). Omori controlled the fight from the beginning and eventually dropped the Mexican fighter with a perfectly timed uppercut in the 4th round, before scoring 2 more knockdowns to earn the stoppage.
In 2015, he fought for the Japanese Bantamweight title, taking on the reigning champion Kentaro Masuda (27-9). Omori quickly established himself as the dominant boxer, putting the champion down twice in the 1st. Masuda found himself defending against the challenger’s nonstop offense, offering almost no resistance. The beating continued for two rounds, until the referee decided to step in and stop the fight.
Omori successfully defended his crown 5 months later, against 2 time world title challenger Hirofumi Mukai (16-6), to continue climbing the rankings. However, that momentum came to an abrupt ending when he suffered his first loss at the hands of Marlon Tapales (33-2) in a WBO final eliminator. The following year, he picked up 3 back to back wins, all finishes, over Indonesian journeyman Espinos Sabu (16-14), Edgar Jimenez (23-15) and 2 time world title contender Rocky Fuentes (36-9), whom he slept with a vicious uppercut, putting himself back on track.
As fate would have it, Omori challenged the former champion Tapales for the vacant WBO World Bantamweight title in 2017. Unlike their first encounter, which was a one sided beatdown, this turned out quite differently. The bout started with both fighters going back and forth, with no one really gaining any advantage over the other. Business was about to pick up though, as Omori hurt the Filipino in the 5th with a series of body shots, much to the delight of the Japanese audience. Tapales woke up in the 6th, fighting more aggressively. In the beginning of round 7, Omori rocked him again, and while it looked like the match was almost over, Tapales fired back, gaining some much needed ground. Both warriors went on to have an exciting FOTYC, trading blows within the next rounds, with no man backing down. In the end, Tapales managed to score a knocked down during the last minute of the 10th, dazing Omori, and then again in the 11th, causing the referee to put an end to this contest. Even in defeat, Omori looked strong, putting on a valiant effort, earning the respect of his opponent as well as of the fans. It’s worth mentioning that Tapales entered the fight overweight by 900g.
After 15 months of inactivity, he finally returned to action, this time as a Super Bantamweight, scoring 2 early TKOs over Brian Lobetania (13-7) and Takahiro Yamamoto (21-6), looking as good as ever, with no signs of ring rust. Omori will look to continue his winning streak next week and possibly add another title to his collection.
The clash between Teshigawara and Omori has the potential of being the best pure Japanese boxing bout of 2019. Their styles are pretty similar. Teshigawara is a volume fighter. He likes to swing for the fences and possesses incredible hand speed.
He’s also quite aggressive, maybe even to a fault. The same can be said about Omori. An explosive competitor, who prefers to get things done as fast as possible. It’s no surprise that most of his matches have ended in less than 5 rounds. Omori throws fast and strong combinations, attacking both the head and the body, always looking for that knockout. A win here will bring Teshigawara closer to a world championship opportunity, while for Omori it’s a chance to put his name back in the top 10. It’s not easy to pick the victor here. Teshigawara might have the edge, given he has been undefeated since losing to Akaho in 2017, but you cannot disregard Omori’s toughness and willingness to prove himself worthy for another crack at the big one. All in all, this is a 50-50 situation with only one thing certain: No way this goes the distance.
Earlier this year we saw Osakan boxing star Kazuto Ioka become the first Japanese man to win world titles in 4 weight classes, picking up the WBO Super Flyweight title. This weekend attention in the Super Flyweight division against turns to an Osakan, in fact two Osakans as Japanese national champion Takayuki Okumoto (22-8-4, 10) defends against Dynamic Kenji (11-3, 7), in a battle between two men based in Osaka.
For the 27 year old champion this bout will be his third defense of the title he won just a year ago, when he narrowly squeaked by Hiroyuki Kudaka to take the belt. Since becoming the champion Okumoto hasn't yet looked the part as a champion, squeaking out two razor thin defenses, a draw with Masayoshi Hashizume and a narrow win over Yuta Matsuo. Sadly for Okumoto he doesn't appear to be a man who has won a title and become a champion, he is instead, to use a wrestling term, transitional champion until some rising star comes through. He's a man who has made the most of an opportunity and is likely to do enough to retain the title without ever shining.
Despite only being 27 Okumoto has been a professional since he was 15, fighting in Thailand. In just his second bout he faced former world champion Ratanapol Sor Vorapin. He would lose 2 of his first 3, though gritted his teeth, and has slowly made a career for himself, rebuilding from numerous setbacks along the way, including a KO loss in Thailand to Rusalee Samor in 2013 and a technical decision loss to Ryuichi Funaiin 2017. His record doesn't look greta overall, but he's gone 12-2-2 (5) in his last 16 and really has shown a lot of improvement, without becoming anything great.
Like Okumoto Kenji suffered set backs early his career, falling to 2-2 after 4 fights including a loss to Okumoto's former challenger Masayoshi Hashizume. In fact through 8 fights Kenji was 5-3 (2) and looked like his career was going nowhere. Since then however he has gond on a bit of a roll, with a 6-0 (5) record and notable wins over Futa Akizuki and Shota Kawaguchi. He has become a regular face at the L-Theatre in Osaka, and has rapidly rising from "no one" to "domestic contender". The only real issues with his 6 fight winning run actually came last time out, when he looked terrible in taking a razor thin win over Sophon Klachun, albeit well above the Super Flyweight limit.
Kenji is 28, and turns 29 in December. Although he's not old, by any stretch, there is a feeling that a loss here and he could become part of the who needs him club. He's heavy handed and dangerous, he's tough and comes to fight. Technically he's not the most polished but he is certainly a handful and his wins over Akizuki and Kawaguchi showed that.Being frozen out of the title picture for 18 months to 2 years, if he loses, would leave him in a very frustrating position, especially given he doesn't have a big promoter back him. In his eyes this might be his only big shot.
For all his limitations Okumoto is tough. Both of his stoppages losses came in Thailand to much more experienced fighters. For Kenji his only real way to take the title will be to stop Okumoto, who will have the crowd behind him despite both being based in Osaka. We genuinely believe Kenji has the power to rock, hurt and stop Okumoto, however Okumoto has the skills to outbox Kenji. Yes, Okumoto isn't some super slick sensation, but he's a solid enoiugh boxer, which is sometimes enough to hold a title at this level. We're expecting Okumoto's movement and jab to be a real issue for Kenji early with Kenji needing to preserve his energy and try to force a fight down the stretch. Sadly however we don't think Kenji will manage to catch him man cleanly enough to take him out, and take the title.
Prediction - Okumoto UD10
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.