The Featherweight division is expected to heat up during 2019, after a truly frustrating year in 2018 with inactive champions and some less than stellar match ups at both title and contender level. Thankfully to begin 2019 we do have some interesting Featherweight bouts either lined up, or in the works.
One of the first of the great looking Featherweight bouts comes this Saturday when Mongolian puncher Tugstsogt Nyambayar (10-0, 9) takes on explosive Dominican Claudio Marrero (23-2, 17) in a really excellent match up that we can't see going the distance.
The bout was first mooted in late 2018, though was held off whilst Nyamabayar recovered from an injury to his hand. That injury is now fully healed and the Mongolian is looking to continue on a fast track to the top, a fast track that has only been slowed by that injury. The former Mongolian amateur stand out debuted in early 2015 and ended the year 4-0 (4) since then he has been less active, but very impressive, beating the likes of Jhon Gemino, Harmonito Dela Torre and Oscar Escandon in his last 3.
Nyambayar is a very heavy-handed boxer-puncher. Technically he's well schooled, does things properly and can fight at a high work rate, a high work rate that he has proven he can keep up for 10 rounds as he showed against Gemino. He has impressively shown an ability to move through gears when he wants. One thing that is a bit of a worry is the fact he has been dropped in his last 2 bouts, though they both seemed to come from balance issues rather than actually being hurt. That's perhaps his biggest issue, his balance and foot work, which isn't terrible, but looks to be his weakest aspect, whilst his power is clearly his strongest attribute. He's a true puncher.
Whilst Nyambayar is a true puncher we would describe Marrero as more of an athletic slugger, with a style we would describe as being "elastic" and explosive. A lot of what Marrero does is wrong, but he is incredibly quick, wiry and makes the most or his awkward southpaw stance. His fast left hand is a brutal weapon and he has scored amazing KO over the likes of Rico Ramos, Carlos Zambrano and Jorge Lara. Whilst he can score sensational KO's he has also been dropped a few times during his career, and was stopped himself from Jesus M Rojas in 2017.
Marrero, dubbed "the matrix", is a really exciting fighter who takes risks, punches hard, and looks for the stoppage. He's at worst however when he switches off or tries to work on the inside, somewhere he really shouldn't ever be. There's question marks about his stamina, as well as his chin, but with his power, speed he is a danger to almost anyone in the division.
This is a huge step up in class, and in terms of danger, for Nyambayar. He certainly has the power to stop Marrero, but will need to keep himself defensively tight early on, whilst Marrero's speed is at it's most blinding. If Nyambayar can see out the first 5 or 6 rounds we favour him to get a stoppage, but those early rounds will be tough for the Mongolian.
We're backing Nyambayar to get a late TKO, but we suspect he will have to go through hell to get it. Marrero is a massive step up in class for the Mongolian warrior, and a fantastic chance to see what Nyambayar really has. A win for Nyambayar opens the door to a world title fight later in 2019, whilst a loss would see the 26 year old really need to rebuild through the rest of the year.
We get the first OPBF title fight of the year on January 19th with Korea playing host to an OPBF Light Middleweight title bout, fill the void left by Takeshi Inoue, who fights Jamie Mungia for the WBO title a week later. The match up will see little known Korean fighter Jung Kyoung Lee (6-2-1, 2) [이중경] battling against Australian based Cameroonian fighter Samuel Colomban (25-10-1, 11), in the first ever event held under the "Annihilation" banner.
The Korean fighter has been a professional since early 2017 and has risen through the ranks rather quickly, a surprise given he lost on debut and was 3-2 when he had his first bout of note. His first big bout came in December 2017 when he fought to a technical draw with In Duck Seo, in a bout for the Korean Light Middleweight title. Prior to the bout with Seo being stopped we did get a chance to see Lee as an aggressive, exciting southpaw, who was technically crude but looked confident and like a solid puncher. Sadly for Lee that bout was stopped following a pretty brutal clash of heads, but since then he has won the Korean title, thanks to a very late stoppage over Se Ho Joo in April 2014.
Since beating Joo for the title Lee has fought twice, scoring a huge win over Chinese fighter Tonghui Li in October and Nakhon Muensa in November. In those bouts he did look more patient, less reckless and less open than he did against Seo. He was lucky to get the decision against the Chinese fighter, but showed his toughness and desire, taking the fight to Hui. He had developed his lead hand since the earlier fights, but was still pretty crude.
The 34 year old Colomban has been a professional since 2006 and has had a long and hard career, but has proven to be a genuinely tough fighter. He first made his mark in the amateurs, competing at the 2006 Commonwealth games, and would go on to face a who's who of the Australian scene, facing the likes of Ryan Waters, Wale Omotoso and Jeff Horn, who is the only man to have stopped him. His career has seen him travel to the UK, where he fought the then unbeaten Denton Vassell, and proved to be a handful at his very best. Sadly Colomban hasn't looked close to his best recently, and has gone 3-4-1 in his last 8 bouts.
Rugged, aggressive and powerful Colomban was a solid Welterweight and a decent regional Light Middleweight. With over a year-gone since his last bout however it's unclear what he has left in the tank. If he's half the fighter he once was it's hard to see anything but a win for Colomban, but he's clearly not the fighter he used to be, it's just unclear how much he has slipped.
We're guessing that the Korean and his team know that Colomban isn't the fighter he used to be, and that their man is the younger, fresher figfhter. They will assume that will be anough to take the win, and the OPBF title, and we think they are right...but Lee will certainly have to earn his victory and Colomban won't just give him it for free. This will be an interesting test of Lee's toughness, but a test we're expecting to see him pass en route to a wide decision win.
Over the last few years we've seen Reiya Abe (18-2, 9) develop from a 1-1 fighter to the 2014 Rookie of the Year to a a fighter on the fringe of a title shot, in fact he's set for a Japanese title fight on May 1st. On January 19th, prior to his title bout, Abe will be in the ring looking to score his 11th straight win, as he takes on former amateur stand out Daisuke Sugita (4-0, 3) at the Korakuen Hall. The bout hasn't really been put together to push the winner towards a title fight, but more because both men have been struggling to get good fights, and this is a very good fight to prepare both men for the year ahead.
Abe is a 25 year old southpaw who is a sharp punching boxer. His current run of form has been one of the most impressive on the Japanese domestic scene, with wins over the likes of Ryo Hino, Tsuyoshi Tameda, Joe Noynay, Satoshi Hosono and Daisuke Watanabe. He has proven to be a very smart boxer-mover, with a high ring IQ, good movement, under-rated power and a very sharp southpaw jab. Despite not being a huge puncher he is a sharp puncher, and those sharp shots do do damage, especially with the consistency he lands at.
Although really talented Abe has frustrated at times, and has often fought within himself. He's a sharp punching counter puncher, who looks to draw leads and mistakes to counter, but against someone unwilling to open up he really struggles to create chances. When up against a negative fighter, as we saw when he faced Masashi Noguchi, Abe's bouts can be hard to watch and can really become boxing. Against an aggressive fighter however, he is fantastic to watch.
Sugita, as mentioned, was a standout amateur and went 110-31 (47) in the unpaid ranks winning a number of domestic competitions. Sadly he didn't turn professional until he was 29, and even then did so whilst still working as a full time policemen. Due to his age he isn't really able to waste time fighting in low key bouts, and given his outside of the ring professional he doesn't even get to keep his purses. Instead he appears to be fighting for the love of the sport and his desire of competition. That desire is almost certainly the reason he's accepted a bout with Abe and has already faced Jun Blazo and Masaaki Serie.
Having only debuted in April 2018 Sugita has been impressive, with 2 very solid wins this early in his career. Sadly footage of him has been hard to come by, though some video has been made available through Boxingraise. From the footage that is out there Sugita is an aggressive fighter, with a good guard, an exciting style and good power. His amateur background shows through with his crisp punching, his sharp movement and his composure in the ring. Whilst he is mostly composed there is a sense that he gets over excited at times and can be wild when and attacking.
Given the extra professional experience, a natural size advantage and his counter punching skills we suspect that Abe will come out on top. However Sugita will not make things easy for him, and this should be an entertaining fight. We're expecting to see Sugita on the front foot, making this into a fight and Abe responding, en route to a clear, but hard fought, decision victory.
The Minimumweight division in Japan is really interesting right now, with great fighters across every level, from domestic Youth right up to world level. At the moment the domestic champion is Shin Ono (23-9-3, 6) and on January 12th he'll make a mandatory title defense, as he takes on veteran Norihito Tanaka (17-7, 9) in a very good match up that could well launch the winner into a world title fight later in the year.
Aged 36 Ono doesn't have long left in his career, in fact the Southpaw from the Watanabe gym has already had a career that is almost 18 years long. During his career he has faced a who's who including Xiong Zhao Zhong, Tatsuya Fukuhara, Masayuki Kuroda, Yu Kimura, Katsunari Takuyama, Knockout CP Freshmart, Reiya Konishi and Riku Kano, with wins against a number of those men. Through his career he has proven to be a gutsy fighter, with a good work rate, a real hunger and, even in his mid 30's, he's pulling out good results.
This is set to be Ono's second defense of the title, following his title win last year against Ryoki Hirai and his maiden defense against Riku Kano. Whilst he has proven to be a fantastic servant to Japanese boxing he has had a very hard career, his lack of power has made things even tougher and he has already had over 221 rounds of professional boxing. Those rounds have often been tough, with Ono getting embroiled in battles of attrition, rather than battles of skill, and that's despite being a pretty skilled fighter.
Tanaka is the slightly younger man at 33, though he turned 34 in February, but has also had a long career that began in 2005. Notable though Tanaka's career hasn't been as active as that of Ono, in fact Tanaka took a break of more than 5 years, between 2011 and 2017, and that gave his body time to rest. Since beginning his comeback he has gone 3-2 (2) and earned this shot on merit with an upset win over Takumi Sakae in late 2018, earning a mandatory title shot. Whiilst that's his biggest win of the comeback he did manage to give the touted Tsubasa Koura real problems in an OPBF title fight, before being stopped.
Through his career Tanaka has proven to be tough, smart and tricky. He has given problems to the likes of Koura, Takashi Kunishige and managed to go 10 rounds with Akira Yaegashi in a Japanese title fight, way back in 2011. Tanaka has under-rated power, a veteran's patience and a good ring IQ. Sadly he's not the quickest, his work rate isn't amazing and despite being skilled there are holes in his work that a quicker fighter can take advantage of.
We expect to see Ono being the one who comes forward, bringing the pressure and forcing Tanaka to respond. Strangely that'll actually be something that works in favour of Tanaka, who will be hoping to be able to counter Ono, bring his under-rated straight right hand into play. Despite Tanaka having the edge in power we suspect that Ono's work rate and toughness will see him over the line, albeit narrowly, in a very competitive contest. We do see Ono being rocked, at least once, but gutting it out for the win.
The Super Bantamweight division is one of the most top heavy division's in Japan, with a number of world class fighters, such as Tomoki Kameda, Ryosuke Iwasa, Yukinori Oguni and Shingo Wake all looking to make their mark at the very top level. Sadly with such a top heavy division is leaves the domestic level looking a little bit thin, and with Wake vacating the Japanese title late in 2018 it leaves us without a clear domestic divisional #1. On January 12th we'll see Mugicha Nakagawa (24-5-1, 14) and Ryoichi Tamura (11-3-1, 6) battle for the vacant title, and to fill the hole left by Wake.
Nakagawa earned his shot at the title back in Otober, when he defeated Naoya Okamoto in a Japanese title challenger decision bout. That was a close win but a well earned one for Nakagawa who had narrowly missed out on a mandatory title shot in 2018, when he lost in a Japanese title decider bout to Yasutaka Ishimoto in later 2017. His record looks a good one on paper, even more so when you consider he is 14-1-1 (8) in his last 16 bouts, but his competition hasn't been sensational during that run, sadly.
In the ring the 29 year old Nakagawa is good boxer, with good basic skills, a long winding jab and nice movement. There's nothing spectacular about him, but he does a lot of things really well, boxing off the jab, moving calmly around the ring and showing patience when he needs to. When he needs to pick up the pace he has shown that he can, and that he can also take a good shot when he needs to, as he did against Ishimoto. One thing that is perhaps under-rated about Nakagawa is his ability to find unusual angles for his shots, and he can can't people from unusual places due to his long reach, but again for the most part he pretty straight forward.
For Tamura this will be a second title fight, after having come up short against Yusaku Kuga last year. Since that loss Tamura has scored 3 wins, shown an improvement in his technical boxing but remains a crude, strong, forward foot fighter. In fact much of Tamura's success is based on his physicality. He began his career 3-2-1 (1) but has since gone 8-1 (5), with the sole being to Kuga last year. On paper his record doesn't look amazing but he does hold notable wins against the likes of Yusuke Suzuki, Renji Ichimura, Robert Udtohan and Jestoni Autida.
Tamura is defensively flawed, he's particularly quick or elusive. He is however a very heavy handed, his jab is incredibly hurtful, his right hand is dynamite and his willingness to take one to land one makes him very dangerous. He's one of the very few fighters who has made the aforementioned Kuga back up, and he managed to apply pretty effective pressure on Kuga in fact. Sadly for Tamura a lot of what he does is pretty predictable, pretty basic and there's little thought really put behind his pressure. He's powerful but doesn't really know how to use his power properly.
On paper this is a match up between the skills of Nakagawa and the power of Tamura. If Nakagawa can keep things basic, box and move and use his brains he should be able to rack up plenty of rounds. However, Tamura will be dangerous through the full fight and if Nakagawa slows down we could see the pressure and power of Tamura undo all Nakagawa's good work.
We're expecting Nakagawa to win, by decision, though it's far from a foregone conclusion, and Tamura only needs to land one or two clean shots to turn the bout on it's head.
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.