As we go through the divisions however we tend to find fewer and fewer OPBF champions managing to progress on to the world stage. The cut off, if we can use such a term, appears to be the Lightweight division from there up the best in Asia simply can't compete with the best in the world.
Whilst the significance of the OPBF belt above Lightweight does seem to fade on the world scene it is still a title that coveted through out Asia as it allows a fighter to declare that they are the best in Asia, the Asian champion if you will.
It's that honour that will drive Japanese Koji Numata (21-7-1, 16) and Takehiro Shimokawara (19-8-2, 6) when they meet on March 11th in a battle for the OPBF Light Middleweight title, a title recently vacated by Charlie Ota.
Of the two men it's Shimokawara who is venturing into new territory. Although he's had 29 fights, just like Numata, he has never before fought for a title, of any type. Unfortunately for him his lack of title fights has seen him never take part in a 10 rounder and he's only been scheduled to go 10 rounds twice, reaching the final bell in just one of those bouts.
With the same amount of fights Numata has become a fixture on the title scene. He has already been involved in 5 title fights, winning the Japanese Welterweight title in he process and has featured in 11 bouts scheduled for 10 or more rounds. Although Numata did lose his sole 12 rounder, being stopped by former OPBF Light Middleweight champion Ota, he has fought at that level.
This level of experience is arguably the key for Numata. He has shared the ring not only with Ota but also Tadashi Yuba and Daisuke Nakagawa and actually managed to stop Yuba almost 6 years ago. When comparing like for like Shimokawara's most notable opponents have been Akio Shibata, twice early in his career, Akinori Watanabe and Daisuke Nakagawa, with Shimokawara losing all 4 of those bouts.
As well as having an edge in quality of experience Numata also holds the edge in power having stopped significantly more opponents than Shimokawara and he's also younger.
As for Shimokawara he does himself have some notable advantages in his favour. He's notable taller than Numata, in fact he has a 4" height advantage, and he's also tougher. The only stoppage on Shimokawara's record was against the monstrously hard hitting Akinori Watanabe. He may have lost 8 bouts but he has 2 less stoppage losses than Numata who was stopped by Ota was also stopped by both Dan Nazareno Jr and Tomoyuki Shiotani in what must go down as major blips.
We're happy to put Numata's stoppages to both Nazareno and Shiotani down to his struggles with weight and with that in mind we do favour Numata to win. He has the experience at going 10 rounds and he has the experience of winning championship fight. We don't imagine Numata will manage to stop Shimokawara but we expect him to do enough to take home the OPBF title and to call himself the best Light Middleweight in Asia.