One of the very best things about Japanese boxing is the Champions Carnival which sees the domestic champions defending their titles against the top domestic challengers. This often leads to some brilliant match ups across the division which can help set the tone for the division for the following year. Sometimes we see the winner of the bout move on to a higher level, for example an OPBF or world title fight, whilst other times we see the winner taking the year to establish their position and develop experience before moving on.
One of the brilliant match ups that has been set for 2015 will see former world title challenger Satoshi Hosono (26-2-1, 20) defending his Japanese national title against former foe Rikiya Fukuhara (30-7-1, 22), himself a former Japanese Super Bantamweight champion, on March 5th. The men will be meeting for the second time though this time there will be a title, and potential world title fight on the line.
Hosono, who won the first meeting, will obviously be risking his national title though will also be risking world rankings with all 4 title bodies, including a #2 ranking with the WBA and a #9 ranking with the IBF. He will however enter as the clear favourite and will be expected to record the 2nd defence of the Japanese title that he re-won last year, when he stopped Yuki Ogata in the 10th round.
For those who recognise Hosono's name he has competed at the world level in the past, in fact all 3 of his career set backs have been at the tier of the sport. The first of those came more than 5 years ago when he narrowly lost a brilliant bout with Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym for the WBA Super Bantamweight title, that bout seemed to be very competitive though Poonsawat's brilliant stamina and experience helped him to record the win. In his second world title bout, in late 2011, Hosono was clearly beaten by elongated Panamanian fighter Celestino Caballero, in a fight for the WBA Featherweight title. More recently we saw Hosono fight to a 3rd round technical draw with WBA Featherweight super champion Chris John, in what would be John's final successful defence of the title.
Internationally Fukuhara is a relative nobody. That's not to be harsh to him but very few fans outside of Asia, and particularly Japan, will recognise his name. Despite that he is a former Japanese champion at 122lbs and holds notable wins over Shoji Kimura, Masaaki Serie and Yuji Gomez. Most telling however is the fact he is popular, exciting and comes to fight with the knockout often being his aim. Sadly it's not always worked for him, as seen in numerous losses including an upset loss to then little Allan Tanada of the Philippines.
Dubbed the “Bazooka” Hosono is a very heavy handed and tough fighter. He can, at times, be out boxed especially early in a fight, however he is tough, has solid stamina and is always dangerous. What makes him dangerous isn't just his power but is also his style which is built around pressure with slow but intelligent footwork, a tight defense and the knowledge that he can take a very solid punch if he needs to. When looking for flaws with Hosono we get the usual flaws we see with pressure fighters. He is relatively slow on his feet, his hands aren't the quickest and when he's come up against quick boxers or movers he can be made to look predictable and 1-dimensional as he follows his foe.
When we watch Fukuhara we see a man who can box and move and is a naturally explosive puncher. We won't pretend he's an elusive type of fighter but he can use his feet and box on the back foot, which he did early on against Hosono in their first meeting back 2012. Typically however he's struggled with fighters who have managed to take his power and fight back, as shown in his 5 stoppage losses. Another issue with Fukuhara is his defense which can get very sluggish under pressure and makes him seem like a bully who can't take it when the fight is turned on him.
Knowing what we know about both men we have to go with a repeat of their first bout. That saw Fukuhara winning the first few rounds as he used his feet to get in and out of range. As the fight progresses we'll see Hosono getting his shots off as the fight gradually becomes a slugfest with Fukuhara eventually getting ground down. This time however we'd be shocked to see Fukuhara lasting into round 7, as he did last time. Instead we suspect Hosono breaks him down inside 5 or 6 rounds to retain his title. Sadly at 36 we suspect a loss for Fukuhara will be his swansong in the sport before a retirement
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
The Super Bantamweight division has frustrated us immensely over the last few years on the international stage with a lot of fighters failing to meet chase the biggest and best fights available to them. Sadly what we've seen is champions regularly defending against sub-quality competition and this served as bit of a bottle neck at the top of the division with several interesting fighters now lining for an opportunity.
One of those fighters waiting for a shot at the big time is Japan's Shingo Wake (17-4-2, 10), the current OPBF champion and a man who is ranked by all 4 major title bodies. At the end of February we see Wake back in the ring as he attempts to record the 5th defence of the OPBF title and take another step towards getting a long awaited world title shot. The man trying to destroy Wake's dreams is Filipino fighter Jimmy Paypa (16-2-1, 6), a man who was actually supposed to fight wake at the end of 2014.
Wake's road to where he is has been a relatively long one. For the first 6 years of his career he toiling some what and compiled a relatively disappointing record of 12-4-2 (5). Up to that point his most notable win was a decision over Jonathan Baat and he wasn't expected to achieve what his team had once hoped. Suddenly in 2013 however things began to click for Wake who upset Yukinori Oguni to claim the OPBF title and since then he has been on a role with 4 successive defenses, all by stoppage, with the most recent of those coming against Jaesung Lee in July of last year.
Wake's development was unforeseen by many though has seen him become better and better as he's become more confident and shown more belief in both his skills and his power. In fact it's the development of Wake's power which has been key with the fighter stopping his last 5 opponents, the same amount that he had stopped in his first 18 bouts as a professional.
For those who haven't seen the champion in action he is a talented sharpshooter and although his power has improved he is still slippery and sharp fighter capable of throwing both power shots and flicky combinations with out telegraphing. More frustratingly for opponents he does it from the southpaw stance which makes him even more tricky than he would be anyway.
Although we've followed Wake for a while the same cannot be said of Paypa who is, at just 21 years old, a very promising young fighter himself. In fact in the eyes of those who have seen him he should be undefeated with both of his career defeats coming very early and controversially. Sadly for those of us who didn't get to see him live the footage of Paypa is limited with much of it coming from very early in his career.
Since starting 2-2 in his career Paypa has run up 15 bouts with out a loss. Those 15 bouts, including a technical draw, haven't come against the best but they do include a very impressive stoppage victory over the teak tough Eric Barcelona as well as decisions over Marvin Tampus and the then promising Jason Redondo. Sadly however there are negatives to take from Payapa's form. Notably he has been fighting at a very low level leaving us to be unsure how good he is. Second he has been dropped twice in his last 5 bouts with both Cristian Abila and Gadwin Tubigon dropping Paypa early in fights before he fought back to beat them. He was also, sadly, limited to a technical draw against Tsuyoshi Tameda in his only previous bout in Japan, last May.
From watching early footage of a very young Paypa it's clear he had a lot of potential. He was sharp and looked like a genuine diamond in the rough. Sadly however we haven't managed to track down much in terms of recent footage. To us it seems however that his competition says more about him than any footage could and his handlers know that this is a big step up. We suspect it will be too big of a step, however we think Paypa will be back in a few years time and possibly fighting at the OPBF level again in the future.
We suspect that this isn't going to be Paypa's time isn't now and Wake will do to Paypa what he did with Oguni and show the different between a talented and promising “boy” and a developed, and highly skilled, “man”. Like Oguni however we expect Paypa to take his loss well and to develop into a much better fighter down the line.
(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.