The Asian scene at Welterweight is a bit disappointing if we're being honest, and that's obvious when it comes to the upcoming OPBF “interim” title fight between Japan's Suyon Takayama (23-1, 7) and Filipino journeymen Joel Dela Cruz (19-23-3, 7).
Takayama, who vacated the Japanese title around the new year, is a talented and hard working fighter who is gritty, determined and has a great engine. Technique wise he does, perhaps, a lack a little but his will to win is extraordinary and it was that will that helped him win the Japanese title in 2012 and make 6 defenses of the title.
Although a really determined fighter Takayama has a genuine lack of power, with his last 7 bouts going the distance, and in fact 9 of his 11 bouts have gone the complete schedule. His work rate is high but there is no real venom or killer instinct with the work rate. He also appears to be relatively under-sized but so far that hasn't been an issue, and the only “monster” he has fought is Nobuyuki Shindo who he has beaten twice in very competitive bouts.
Technically Takayama isn't the best, he can be hit and often makes simple mistakes. At the level he's been fighting at however they've never really been an issue with his fitness and desire being enough to wins bouts.
Whilst Takayama has a solid and impressive record, the same thing cannot be said of Dela Cruz, who really does have a journeyman's record, and is amazingly 2-11-1 in his last 14 bouts. Whilst some of those losses have come to very credible fighters, like Leonardo Zappavigna and Cameron Hammond other have been to less impressive fighters, like Kurt Bahram and Ozan Craddock.
Aged 30 Dela Cruz has been around the block in an 11 year career that has featured 45 bouts and over 270 rounds. He has "only" been stopped 9 times but has got a lot of miles on the clock and we'd not be shocked to see those contribute to another stoppage here with Takayama simply breaking him down in the later stages of the bout.
The new year is really taking some time to throw a few good title bouts out, and sadly another less than exciting title bout takes place this coming Saturday as OPBF Flyweight champion Ardin Diale (30-9-3, 15) defends his title against the highly unfancied Jonathan Francisco (8-4-1, 2), in what looks to be a monstrous mismatch.
The champion has almost all the key advantages and is rightfully considered to be the favourite.
Aged 27 Diale is a fighter who can already be described as a veteran with more than 40 bouts on his record. Those bouts have seen him compete around the globe, with fights in Thailand, Japan and Mexico, and against notable names, such as Rodel Mayol, Johnriel Casimero, Wanheng Menayothin, Juan Francisco Estrada, Julio Cesar Miranda and Koki Eto. His career has seen him compete at world level and although he has come up short against the top fighters he has, generally, been a perfect gate keeper with fighters who beat him proving to be world class.
In the ring Diale is an aggressive fighter with under-rated power and an intelligent boxing head. He's not the most gifted, he's not lighting quick and he's not explosive, but he's an intelligent boxer who knows his way around the ring and is gutsy when he needs to be.
Since losing to Koki Eto in June 2014 Diale has gone a very impressive 7-0 (5) and looks to be a fighter who is still improving, despite having been a professional for close to 10 years.
Whilst Diale is a proven gate keeper less can be said of Francisco, who lacks any wins of note and has lost to almost every notable opponent that he's faced. His best result did come last time, though that was a technical draw with Toshiyuki Igarashi, and perhaps his best win is a narrow decision over Jonas Sultan, albeit when both were very inexperienced. He has suffered losses to Jhaleel Payao and to Masashi Tada, among others, and really lacks a defining victory.
Not only does Francisco lack a notable win but he also lacks experience and has never been beyond 8 rounds.
The most notable advantages that Francisco has are his youth, he's only 23, his southpaw stance and a slight natural size advantage. Whether he can make the most of those advantages is yet to be seen though we suspect he'll not have the experience needed to cope with Diale's intelligence, nor will he be able to cope with Diale's combination of accuracy and power. As a result we're predict a late Diale stoppage, with the champion recording the first defense of his title with the win.
The 140lb division goes by many names, including “Light Welterweight”, our preferred option, “Junior Welterweight” and “Super Lightweight”, it also has has a history of having great fights and some explosive fighters.
On February 11th we potentially get another great fight in the division as the OPBF title is put on the line for a fight between Japan's exciting Shinya Iwabuchi (26-5, 22) [岩渕 真也] and Filipino banger Al Rivera (14-2, 12), who trade blows for the vacant title. For Iwabuchi it'll be his third shot an OPBF title, having previously been a Japanese national champion, whilst Rivera will be fighting in his first OPBF title bout, though has previously held the PBF 135lb title.
From the records it's clear that both men can bang. Iwabuchi sports a 71% KO rate with stoppages against the likes of Romeo Jakosalem, Jimrex Jaca, Valentine Hosokawa, and Koichi Aso, who was stopped inside a round by Iwabuchi. Rivera on the other hand holds a 75% KO rate, including a notable but controversial KO win against countryman Adones Cabalquinto. Between them they have only heard the final bell on 9 occasions*.
Of the two men it's fair to describe Iwabuchi as the more proven. The 30 year old Japanese southpaw has shared the ring with the likes of countryman Keita Obara and South Korean slugger Min Wook Kim, who beat beat him in OPBF title fights, as well as the stoppage victims mentioned above. Rivera however is the younger man, at just 22, and will be riding high in confidence after his win over Cabalquinto last November.
Not only is Iwabuchi the more proven but he's also naturally the bigger and tougher. His only stoppage loss came to the monstrously hard hitting Obara, whilst he dug in for 12 rounds against Kim, whilst Rivera has been stopped twice, including an opening round defeat on his debut at 130lbs.
Given that both men like to throw heavy shots, and can be hurt, we really don't see this one going the distance. Instead we suspect we'll see a short but exciting fight, with the visitor being the early aggressor, Iwabuchi soaking up the aggression before firing back in rounds 4 and 5 eventually stopping a tiring Rivera in the middle rounds of a thrilling fight.
The exchanges will be violent and the action intense. Don't miss this one when it's shown on Fuji TV later in the month.
*Iwabuchi holds a technical decision win.
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.