Over the last few years the Bantamweight division has been a division with many top fighters coming from the East. Among those are current world champions Shinsuke Yamanaka, the WBC champion, and Tomoki Kameda, the current WBO champion. Another world class Japanese Bantamweight is Ryosuke Iwasa (18-1, 11) who will be looking to take a major step towards an IBF title fight later this week.
“Eagle Eye” Iwasa is one of Japanese boxing's most promising fighters and he has shown an ability to do it all, even if he's yet to step up to the top table. To get to the top Iwasa's will need to win an eliminator and take next step. To do that we will see him battling against American fighter Sergio Perales (24-2, 16) in an all southpaw eliminator.
Aged 25 and blessed with boxing ability, power, an understanding of the ring and a battle hardened mentality Iwasa is one of the next wave of Japanese fighters looking to rise to the top. His 19 fight career might not seem like a long one but it's already seen him in with with several notable fighters. The most notable of those was Shinsuke Yamanaka, with Yamanaka stopping the then fast rising Iwasa in the 10th round of a thriller for the Japanese Bantamweight title.
Since the loss to Yamanaka we've seen Iwasa re-establish himself and claim both the Japanese title and the OPBF title. Among his wins have been a stoppage of Kentaro Masuda, to defend the Japanese title, a shut out of David De La Mora, to show he belonged at the world level, and a stoppage of Hiroki Shiino, to claim the OPBF Bantamweight title.
Unlike many fighters Iwasa hasn't taken his loss and shown fear, instead the loss has driven him with desire. That desire has lead him to 10 straight wins, and made him hungrier than ever to reach the top. In his way is American 27 year old Perales, a man dubbed “Time to Shine”.
Perales has been a professional since 2007 though unlike Iwasa he has had a generally easy career with a lot of his wins coming against very limited and questionable opposition. Although a lot of his wins have been against poor opponents he has faced 2 or 3 notable opponents. One of those was a well beyond prime Lorenzo Trejo, best known for his exploits at Minimumweight as opposed to Bantamweight. Another was Stuart Hall, who Perales ran very close in an IBF minor title bout just 7 months before Hall won the IBF world title. His best win however came last time out against former 2-time IBF Super Flyweight title challenger Raul Martinez. On paper the Martinez win is his best, by some margin, though in reality Martinez wasn't as good as advertised and he has lost 2 of his previous 4, and 3 of his previous 9.
Against Hall it did seem like Perales was a talented fighter. He was sharp with his straight left, had a rhythm destroying destroying jab and intelligent movement with a lot of half steps that allowed him to draw in Hall and counter. In was a good performance however it showed Hall's limitations as much as Perales's strengths and Hall's slow feet allowed Perales to look good, despite the loss.
Whilst neither man has fought a slew of southpaws it's fair to say Iwasa is more proven against them, having gone 10 rounds with the best left in the division, if not one of the best in the world and also sparring with world ranked fighters Shingo Wake and Shohei Omori. We suspect that will be one of the deciding factors. Iwasa's experience with Yamanaka, the home advantage of fighting in Japan and his more testing opposition should all help the talented Japanese fighter find a way to over-come his American foe. We know Perales isn't travelling to lose however he is up against a very talented Japanese fighter who we have been impressed by a lot in the past and view as a nailed on future world champion
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
The Super Featherweight division in Japan is red hot right now. The country boasts two of the divisions best fighters in the former of WBA champion Takashi Uchiyama and WBC champion Takashi Miuira, as well as the highly regarded contender Daiki Kaneko. At the world level it's fair to say the country's talent is the best however the country also boasts a very strong domestic scene.
Currently at the top of the domestic ladder is the unbeaten Rikki Naito (11-0, 5) who really broke in Japan last year. It was in 2014 that Naito won the Japanese last year, when he stopped Hiroyasu Matsuzaki, and has since defended it twice, out pointing both Keno Matsushita and Shingo Eto. Naito looks for his third defence of his title later this week when he battles against fellow unbeaten fighter Masayuki Ito (16-0-1, 7). Like Naito we saw Ito break out last year with 3 wins, including a notable decision over Masao Nakamura and an opening round stoppage victory over Ryan Sermona.
The obvious thing, from looking at the records of both men, is that they are unbeaten and lack concussive power. It may seem harsh but it's true. What is also true is that both men are very highly skilled, both are very fast and both can box brilliantly on the move. Their ability and speed make up for their lack of power and although neither is tested at world level we suspect either of them, if not both, will eventually get to the top.
Where the fighters differ is in their experiences, the expectations on their shoulders and their development.
Naito turned professional aged 20 and although he was a child he was a man marked for success. His father, Cassius Naito, was a former OPBF and Japanese Middleweight champion and Rikki turned professional with the expectation of reaching a similar level of success. The expectation on Naito's shoulders saw him debut in 6 rounders and in just his 3rd bout he was already fighting in 8 round bouts. The fast tracking worked and in his 9th bout Naito completely outboxed Hiroyasu Matsuzaki, forcing his foe to retire after 8 rounds, to win the national title.
Whilst Naito was fast tracked the same cannot be said of Ito who turned professional with no expectation but has ground out a brilliant start to his career and become a man on the verges of genuine success. He turned professional at just 18 years old and began by fighting 4 rounders, in fact his first 8 bouts were all 4 rounders. Despite the slow start to his career he made a mark in 2012 by winning the Featherweight Rookie of the Year. Less than a year after winning the Rookie of the Year Ito would would claim the WBC Youth Lightweight title and began to make a small mark internationally. At the beginning of 2014, more than 5 years his debut, Ito was beginning to bubble and over the following year he really broke out with wins Kazuya Nakano, Masao Nakamura and Ryan Sermona. By the end of 2014 he had become a national contender and a man on he verges of a world ranking, a remarkable achievement considering where he was at the start of the year.
Although both men have got to where they are in very different ways the truth is that they are very similar in terms of style, total rounds, strengths, weaknesses and even size. What it'll come down to here which man can adapt to the other and which man can raise to the occasion better. So far both have risen when they have needed to, both have answered the questions which have been asked of them and both have managed to improve fight after fight.
What we're expecting to see is the best version of both men putting on a back-and-forth display of brilliant high speed boxing, the proverbial high speed chess with gloves. Due the the back and forth nature nobody will be able to call a winner until after the scores and even then we expect fans disputing the result. With that said we'd not be shocked if this one ended in a draw.
(Image courtesy of http://www.kadoebi.com)
Some bouts look like mismatches from the moment they are signed to the moment they end. Other bouts however look brilliant from the second they are made to the moment the winner has their hand raised. One bout we suspect will go in the second category is this Saturday's OPBF Super Featherweight title bout that looks like the first mouth watering fight of 2015 and potentially one of the best bouts of the year.
Going into the bout the champion is Thailand's unbeaten Jomthong Chuwatana (8-0, 4) a Muay Thai fighter who is also considered on of Thailand's best boxers. He is powerful, skilled, intelligent in the ring, tough and appears to be very aware of what is happening every moment he is in the ring. We won't pretend he is a KO artist or the fastest man in the division but he is a very complete fighter at both close range and at distance.
Whilst the champion is talented and strong so to is the challenger, Daiki Kaneko (21-3-3, 14), himself a former world title challenger and a former Japanese champion. Like the champion Kaneko isn't the fastest nor is the heaviest handed fighter in the division but he's built like a rock, brings action and pressure and is very highly skilled.
What we're expecting here is a battle between Jomthong's powerful boxing and his intelligent movement and the pressure and strength of Kaneko. Though even that is really simplifying what is likely to be a bout that has it's twists, turns and moments of magic.
Jomthong first won the title way back in May 2012 when he stopped South Korea's teak tough Dong-Hyuk Kim, who had a grotesquely swollen face. Since then he has defended it 3 times with decision wins over Ranel Suco, Ronald Pontills and Koseki Nakama. Although he hasn't scored a stoppage since he won the title has continued to show his impressive boxing which has seen scarcely losing a round, in fact the one clear round he lost came against Nakama, when the Thai was dropped.
Trying to box with Jomthong is typically a mistake. He's defensively very good, sharp with his punches and his jab is exceptional, in fact his jab is the key to a lot of his offense and allows him to both box and move or come inside and use his physical strength as well as crisp work on the inside.
Kaneko, like Jomthong, likes to work off the jab though often appears happier up close than at distance and has blistering shots up close even if he does look little bit slow when he tries to set some of his attacks up. The scary thing about Kaneko isn't his “boxing” ability however, instead it's his physicality and despite fighting at Super Featherweight he looks like a monster. It's that physicality that allowed him to give Takashi Uchiyama a really tough bout at the end of 2013 and it's the same trait that would give anyone in the division time.
Defensively Kaneko isn't as intelligent as Jomthong though he's every bit as talented, as strong as hurtful with his blows.
In many ways we suspect these two will look like a mirror image of each other. They will both be trying to use their jabs to open up the other man, they will both be looking to come inside following their sharp jabs and they will both be willing to let shots go on the inside. The only real differences between the two are minor. Jomthong is better defensively whilst Kaneko is more physical, Jomthong appears to be slightly quicker whilst Kaneko appears the more powerful. With that in mind we suspect this one will be a very close bout and wouldn't be surprised by a razor thin decision either way.
Although we can't pick a winner in this fantastic match we do suspect that whoever comes out on top will fight for a world title later this year. Amazingly we do give both fighters a real chance at world level and wouldn't be hugely surprised to see both men winning world titles in the future.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
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.