The Super Featherweight division has been one of the most interesting in recent years with a number of great fights, exciting fighters breaking through and the potential for a lot of brilliant great match ups. One of the fighters who impressed us last year was Japan's Kenichi Ogawa (17-1, 14), who went 4-0 (3) in 2015 and claimed the Japanese title with an upset win against Rikki Naito.
In Ogawa's first defense of his title he will face mandatory challenger Satoru Sugita (11-2-1, 7) on April 2nd in a Champion Carnival bout that promises a lot.
For those who missed Ogawa's rise in 2015 it was built on a combination of his boxing skills, and his very heavy hands. Unlike most punchers he doesn't wade in looking for a fight but instead boxes and uses his power to keep opponents honest. When he gets a chance to land his venom he takes it, but he sets up his power shots behind his boxing skills and that's why he looks like a man who could become a genuine force on the world stage in the coming years.
Coming in to this bout Ogawa is on a 9 fight winning streak, with 8 of those wins by stoppage. Those wins have seen him avenge his sole defeat, a stoppage to Yuki Miyoshi, move in to the world rankings, with a notable win over Deivi Julio Bassa, and claim the Japanese title, with the aforementioned win over Naito.
Whilst it's clear that Ogawa isn't the most durable man in boxing, given his only loss was by stoppage, it should be noted that he's a significantly improved fighter to the man who was stopped in 5 rounds by Yuki Miyoshi way back in October 2012. He has improved in pretty much every way since that loss and now looks like a man who really could be set to make a mark on the global scene.
Whilst we have enjoyed watching Ogawa's rise we've got to admit that Sugita's career has been much less visible. To date the best win for the 26 year old fighter from Nara is a decision over veteran Ryota Kajiki, back in 2014, and stoppage over upcoming OPBF title challenger Akira Shono.
Despite having a less than stellar record Sugita has won his last 5 bouts, scoring many of his best wins during that run, and has turned his career around some what following a 1-2-1 run during a 20 month window in late 2011 to mid 2013.
Footage of Sugita has been relatively hard to come by though we know he's shown signs of struggling to take solid shots, with his first loss being a stoppage to Ryuto Kyoguchi, and his boxing isn't world class, as seen by a clear decision loss to Kosuke Saka and narrow wins over Kajiki and Yoshiyuki Takabayashi. He does however possess very solid power of his own and is a physically strong fighter who will look to make his strength count against Ogawa.
Whilst Sugita is a solid fighter we can't see him coping with the boxing of Ogawa, and although Sugita could land a “lucky punch” we suspect we'll instead see Ogawa boxing from on the onset, breaking down Sugita and eventually seeing off the challenge in the second half of he fight, to record his first defense.
One of the most interesting division right now, especially for Asian fight fans, is the 122lb Super Bantamweight division. At the world level fighters like Nonito Donaire rules the roost with the WBO, Shingo Wake looks set to get his long awaited shot at the IBF title whilst Albert Pagara and Ryo Matsumoto are both on the verge of getting world title fights before the year is over. Whilst the world scene is certainly interesting at 122lbs it's also a division that has really intriguing on the Asian regional and Japanese domestic scenes.
Part of that intrigue comes down to the prospects in and around the weight, like Kazuki Tanaka, Hinata Maruta and Daisuke Watanabe. Another part however is the great match ups that can be made at the top of the domestic scene.
The next bout at the top of the Japanese scene scenes Japanese champion Yasutaka Ishimoto (27-8, 7) defending his Japanese title, for the first time, against mandatory challenger Yosuke Fujihara (16-3, 4). For Ishimoto this is first defense of a title that took him 3 shots to win and it's a chance to strengthen his claim as the king of the Japanese domestic scene. For Fujihara the bout is a chance to continue his development as a fighter and record a third successive win of note.
Of the two men it's Ishimoto who is the better known fight. He's been a professional since 2002 and has mixed with several notable names. That has included Masaaki Serie, twice, Yota Sato, Shingo Wake, Yu Kawaguchi, Wilfredo Vazquez Jr, Chris Avalos and Yukinori Oguni. Whilst no one will act like Ishimoto is a world beater he's got a number of very good wins on his record, including victories over Wake, Kawaguchi, Vazquez Jr, Gakuya Furuhashi and Yusaku Kuga.
In the ring Ishimoto is a busy, well schooled fighter with a sharp jab, solid work on the inside and although he lacks power he is a real handful combining speed, heart and work rate. So far he only has one stoppage loss, to Avalos, and could well have had wins in a number of his losses. In fact in another world he'd have about 4 less losses.
When it comes to Fujihara much less is known with footage being scarce, though he has faced some notable fighters of his own. Sadly for him he has suffered losses to many of those notable fighters, including Kentaro Masuda and Ryuta Otsuka. He has however scored wins over Teppei Kikui, Kenji Kubo and Yukunoi Hisanaga. Interestingly he is 3-3 in his last 6, but the 4 most notable wins have come in his last 7 bouts and he has also looked good since moving to 122lbs, in fact his only losses have come at Bantamweight as opposed to Super Bantamweight.
Notably Fujihara went 8 rounds with Kentaro Masuda, back in 2011, before taking 2 years off. In his second bout back he was stopped inside a round by Yuta Nakagawa and was then stopped against by Ryuta Otsuka, before taking a year out and returning to score back-to-back wins. Although clearly not the busiest of fighters it's plausible that the breaks have helped him develop significantly as a fighter, both mentally and physically.
Although Fujihara is in good form it does seem like he's stepping up, in a big way, for this bout and we suspect that whilst he'll be game against Ishimoto he won't be able to keep it up for the 10 rounds and will either be broken down for a late stoppage, or suffer a clear, but competitive, decision loss to the talented champion.
We don't, and never have, supported “interim” title fights for the sake of it. Despite that we do, occasionally see interim title fights that either special, such as the WBA “interim” Flyweight title bout between Koki Eto and Kompayak Porpramook. Another possible “interim” thriller comes on April 1st when we get an OPBF “interim” Bantamweight title fight between the criminally under-rated Filipino parring of Rey Megrino (22-20-3, 19) and Jonathan Baat (30-7-4, 14).
On paper the bout might not look anything note worthy, in fact some may even be questioning why a fight fan should even care about these two fighting. The truth however is that both fighters are fringe world class and the owners of two of the most misleading records in the sport. On their day either could be a handful for very good fighters and in fact both are very deserving of bigger and better fights than they have been getting in recent years.
Of the two men the oldest is the 35 year old Baat, who has spent the last few years fighting out of Japan. He has been a professional since 2000 and fought a relative who's who in his 41 fight career. That has seen him share the ring with Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym, Kohei Oba, Shingo Wake, Qiu Xiao Jun, thrice in fact, Rodrigo Guerrero, Ma Yi Ming, Mike Tawatchai and Liborio Solis. He's certainly not unbeatable but he's a tough and tricky Southpaw who hits harder than his record suggests.
During his career Baat has claimed several minor titles, including the MinProBa Bantamweight and the WBO “interim” Oriental Bantamweight crown. Along with those to title wins he has also fought for PABA, WBC International Silver and the WBC Asian Boxing Council Continental titles.
On paper Baat would be favoured, given the records of the two men. Records however are made for DJ's and Megrino is one of the men who should never be over-looked due to the numbers attached to his name. If anything he's a fighters who has proven that a bad start to a career isn't the be all and end all and he has turned his career around drastically from a 6-8-1 start. In fact it was only 4 years ago that Megrino was 15-20-3 (13) and staring down the barrel of becoming a career journeyman. Since then however he has reeled off 7 wins, 6 inside the distance. Those wins have seen him beat the likes of Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, Myung Ho Lee and Ernesto Saulong.
Whilst Megrino is on a good run it's perhaps worth noting that the 29 year old has never been one to be matched softly. Of his 20 losses only 5 have come by stoppage, and a large number of his losses have come against notable fighters. They have included losses to Wonjongkam, twice, Denkaosan Kaovichit, Tepparith Kokietgym, Marlon Tapales, Paipharob Kokietgym, Sonny Boy Jaro, Nawaphon Por Chokchai, Arthur Villanueva and Pungluang Sor Singyu, and of course many of those losses have come in Thailand with some having questionable judging.
Whilst Megrino's current run has been impressive he has a number of other wins of note. They include stoppages over Denver Cuello and Ratanapol Sor Vorapin and the then hotly tipped pairing of Kenji Kubo and Fonluang KKP. It's fair to call him crude but given his toughness and god given power he's a real threat and seems to be a man just coming into his prime in recent years, though has sadly become a member of the “who needs him club?” and with his upset wins stacking up, it's clear why opponents aren't in a rush to face him.
With both men having upset mentalities, under-rated skills, over-looked toughness and a lot to win here we are expecting something very special. Sadly though we think the bout has come too late for Baat who at 35 has seen better days. Of course he may surprise but we think the 6 year age difference between the two, and the sheer hunger of the 29 year old Megrino, will be the difference between the two men.
Over the years the OPBF titles have been a major spring board for fighters going from Oriental level to World level. Sometimes the fighters have been unable to make the leap however many have managed it, such as current Super Flyweight world champion Kohei Kono and Naoya Inoue. Sadly the OPBF now seems to have taken the lead of the WBA and found it's self creating “interim” titles, with an OPBF “interim” Super Flyweight title bout set for April 1st.
The bout in question will see the talented, but flawed, Rene Dacquel (16-6-1, 5) take on the unbeaten, but completely untested, Lucky Tor Buamas (7-0, 7).
Whilst there are reasons for setting up “interim” title fights this bout isn't one that makes sense to us, especially given that Dacquel was beaten by current OPBF champion Takuma Inoue late last year and is actually in the ring himself in about 5 weeks time.
Although Dacquel was clearly beaten by Inoue the 25 year old is certainly not a bad fighter. In fact despite being 3-2 in his last 5 bouts Dacquel has beaten Melvin Gumban, Thembelani Nxoshe and Mateo Handig in recent bouts.
In the ring Dacquel is a good boxer, he lacks power at this level but he is highly skilled, knows his way around the ring and is tough. He lacks any “world class” trait but is a solid all rounder on the Oriental scene, and will pick up notable scalps before his career is over. Despite not being world class we do expect him to claim an OPBF title before his career is over, further suggesting that the “interim” title is a step that he doesn't really need to boost his career.
Whilst Dacquel has faced some opponents of note, like Gumban, Inoue and Go Sultan, the same cannot be said of the unbeaten Lucky Tor Buamas, who has yet to face anyone of any note at all. In fact his boxrec record suggests he has faced 4 debutants, and just a single fighter with a win, however it should be noted that boxrec are probably missing fights of Lucky's and his opponents.
In the ring Lucky looks to be a solid boxer puncher. His shots aren't the fastest but they all look very heavy and hard with his jab looking particularly stiff. He fights like a pressure fighter but is a very patient one who is methodical with his pressure rather than intense. There are a lot of holes in his work, both offensively and defensively, but against the level op opponents he has been facing those holes haven't been an issue as of yet.
Given the level that the two men have fought at, it's very hard to see anything but a Dacquel will, though it's likely that likely that Lucky will have his moments, albeit moments that are few and far between. Lucky may have the power to keep Dacquel honest but we can't see the Thai having the skills to make the most of that power against a fighter like Dacquel.
One of the problems with “interim” titles is they often come about for no real reason. “Real” champions can be busy, they can have defenses lined up but sometimes the powers that be feel an “interim” champion is needed as well, as if we need champions in the world of boxing. One such questionable case is the upcoming OPBF “interim” Super Featherweight title fight between Carlo Magali (19-7-3, 10) and Mark Gil Melligen (21-6-1, 12), in what will be their third bout together with the men currently 1-1.
The “real” champion is set to defend the title in the coming weeks, however before then we'll see Magali and Melligen trade shots for what is a very unneeded secondary title.
Of the two men the one with the better argument to be in a title fight is Magali who's record might not look great on paper but he is better than the numbers suggest, and holds notable wins over the likes of Mark John Yap, Ryuta Miyagi, Rey Perez and David Browne Jr, who sadly passed away after his fight with Magali.
Magali's nickname, “Ferocious”, sums up his style which is aggressive and although he's not the most skilled he is a fighter who brings the pressure, looks to lets his shots go and make a fight of things. His key weapon seems to be his long right hand, which whilst crude does seem to have a lot of bad intent behind it.
Whilst Magali is an offensive minded fighter he does appear to be slow for the weight, relatively small, doesn't fight at a high pace and isn't quite as quick on his feet as he needs to be to make the most of his style. He also appears to leave openings to his body.
When it comes to Melligen his opportunity for an “interim” OPBF title fight seems to be a rather undeserved, in fact coming in to this he has suffered back to back losses. One of those losses was a technical decision against Vinvin Rufino, for the OPBF Featherweight title, whilst the other was a split decision in Japan to Yudai Tamagawa. Not only has he lost his last couple of bouts by the is now almost 2 years from a win of note, a stoppage of the then unbeaten Bualang OnesingchaiGym.
Whilst Melligen has shown promise at times, and was once 9-2-1, it seems that promise has now petered out and he now seems unlikely to really have a memorable career, in fact it seems likely that the 28 year old is just 1 loss from fading into relative obscurity.
Early in his career Melligen looked like a promising boxing but the recent losses saw him looking like a fighter with self doubt, a questionable toughness and more and more flaws. The experience of his career hasn't helped him improve and instead it looks like he is regressing.
Whilst Melligen may get back to his best, we suspect that the pressure and “Ferociousness” of Magali will be too much for Melligen, who will likely fold in the second half of the fight.
Boxing sees another trilogy reach it's conclusion later this month as Japanese Featherweight Satoshi Hosono (30-2-1, 20) [細野 悟] faces Rikiya Fukuhara (31-8-1, 23) [福原 力也] in a mandatory defense of the title.
These two men first faced off back in 2012 when the two men clashed in a non-title affair. That bout saw Hosono over-come Fukuhara with a 7th round TKO, before going on to face Chris John in a WBA world title fight. The two men also clashed last year, with Hosono taking a well deserved decision win over Fukuhara.
Since their second bout Hosono has fought 3 times, with the 2 most recent bouts being very competitive and tough contests for the champion who has fought 30 rounds since beating Fukuhara for the second time, with 10 of those coming against Takuya Watanabe and 10 against Akifumi Shimoda. Fukuhara on the other hand has gone just 4 rounds, quickly seeing off Yusuke Nakagawa last September.
For those who don't follow the Japanese scene there is a chance you've still seen, or heard, of Hosono. He's a 3-time world title challenger who has suffered all 3 of his setbacks at the world level. They have included losses to Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym and Celestino Caballero and a technical draw against Chris John. Aside from those 3 bouts, the first of which came more than 6 years ago, he has been fighting against Japanese and Oriental scene where he has been one of the standouts at the weight.
In the ring Hosono is a pressure fighter. He's a bit of a slow starter but has a great engine, knows how to come on strong in the second half of fights and combines very solid power with a genuine toughness. Unfortunately he is a bit limited, his footwork is somewhat slow and in recent years we've seen fighters being able to really push him close with some suspicions being that Hosono is very much on the slide.
Whilst Hosono is fairly predictable pressure fighter Fukuhara is a boxer-puncher, who uses speed and movement to get his shots off, fights on the move and has the power to make any opponent at domestic level respect him. At his best he was an exciting fighter who combined excitement with flaws and wins over the likes of Yuji Gomez, Shoji Kimura and Toshimitsu Sakai are somewhat negated by losses to Kazunori Takayama, Allan Tanada and Seiichi Okada.
Aged 37 the challenger has seen better days but will be coming in to this one known that one more loss, especially to Hosono will likely be the end of his dreams to become a 2-weight Japanese champion. Sadly for the challenger we see this bout going much the same way as their last bout, with Fukuhara having his moments, particularly early on, but coming up short against the naturally bigger, and younger, Hosono. If we're right we suspect Fukuhara will retire in the wake of the bout.
Although Hosono has looked like a fighter coming to the end of his career recently he was very busy last year with 4 tough bouts in 9 months. The recent break will likely have helped him recover a bit and his desire to get one more world title fight.
The Minimumweight division has been one of the most over-looked in recent years with a number of really good fights, with fighters like Katusnari Takayama involved in a number of thrillers. The next possible thriller in the division comes on March 26th when Japanese Minimumweight champion Tatsuya Fukuhara (16-4-5, 6) [福原 辰弥] defends his title against the unbeaten Takumi Sakae (13-0, 8) [榮 拓海].
The champion won the title late last year, when he narrowly beat Hiroya Yamamoto. That was Fukuhara's first “big” win though he had mixed with good company in the past losing to the likes of Yu Kimura, Takuma Inoue and Takuya Mitamura and drawing with Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr, in Thailand.
Although Fukuhara doesn't have the best record he is going through a rich vein of form with a 6 fight unbeaten run, including 4 wins and 2 draws. The competition during that run may not be exceptional but they did include the win over Yamamoto and the draw with Fahlan the best results on Fukuhara's record.
In the ring Fukuhara is a gutsy fighter who has his limitations but has a great engine, a fantastic work rate and a fantastic will to win. He can certainly be out boxed, and isn't the most powerful or quickest, but he is a fighter who has the engine to really push people on the domestic scene. In fact he has taken a round from both Kimura and Inoue and must have taken 4 from Fahlan to earn the draw in their bout.
The unbeaten challenger is tipped by some as “one to watch” and is highly ranked by the world title bodies, with the WBO having him particularly high.
Sakae first made his mark on the sport in 2013, when he won the Rookie of the Year and advanced his record to a promising 7-0 (4). At the point he was 20 years old and had shown real promise beating the likes of Kenta Shimizu and Yoshinori Wakahara. Sadly since then his career has been mostly spent against limited opponents with a trio of poor Thai's and a pair of limited Indonesian's padding out his record. In fact the best wins since he won the Rookie of the Year have been decision victories over Boy Tanto and Japan's Munehito Kijima.
Watching Sakae it's clear he has a lot of potential and the 22 year old does appear to have respectable power, nice skills and a fun style. He has however been down, dropped in his last fight, and hasn't been able to really show how good he is. There is more promise here than perhaps proven ability. His team though do seem confident in their man and have already taken him on the road, for a bout last
On paper this is a huge step up for Sakae whilst Fukuhara is just going in again. Whilst that doesn't always tell the full story we suspect it will tell us a lot here with Sakae's youth and inexperience being both and advantage and a problem. We suspect that Sakae will start fast before Fukuhara comes back, with the big question being just how much of a lead Sakae builds up before the fight turns around.
When the 2016 Champion Carnival bouts were announced a number of bouts stood out as being particularly exciting. One of those bouts was the Flyweight title bout which will take place on March 18th and see reigning champion Takuya Kogawa (25-4, 13) [粉川 拓也] battle former world title challenger Masayuki Kuroda (24-6-3, 14) [黒田 雅之]. On paper the bout is brilliantly well matched and when the men get into the ring we're expecting something very special.
For those who haven't seen Kogawa he's really a fight fans dream. He's an all-action fighter who throws an insane amount of leather and is teak tough. There are plenty of flaws in his boxing, particularly his defense, but the reality is that he's so much fun to watch that those flaws are easy to forgive.
The 30 year old champion, from the Miyata gym, has been a professional since 2005 and has shared the ring with a number of notable opponents. This has seen Kogawa over-come Xiong Zhao Zhong, Shigetaka Ikehara, twice, Tetsuma Hayashi, twice, and Hiroyuki Hisataka. It has also seen him come up short against Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, Suguru Muranaka and Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep. In those losses only Wonjongkam managed to take a clear win over Kogawa.
Kogawa can certainly be out boxed, and he can be hurt, and perhaps lacks real power, but with his toughness, work rate, aggression, and will to win he's a genuine handful and a joy to watch.
Kuroda, the younger man at 29, is another exciting fighter though one who has seen better days. In fact much of Kuroda's most notable success came in the Light Flyweight division. He won the Japanese national title in 2011 and recorded 4 defenses of the title, included defenses against Yuki Sano and Ryoichi Taguchi. He only gave that title up in 2013 when he moved up to Flyweight to challenge Juan Carlos Reveco, the then WBA Flyweight champion.
Sadly since the loss to Reveco we've not seen Kuroda really shine, in fact he has since gone 3-2-1, and suffered his first stoppage loss to the aforementioned Suguru Muranaka in a Japanese Flyweight title bout.
At his best Kuroda was a gutsy fighter at 108lbs where he had enough power to keep opponents honest, enough skill to push them technically and the physical strength to engage in a war if needed. At 112lbs he's not had notable success, but he may well have grown into the weight now, with his last bout being a win over Yusuku Sakashita, a decent Japanese level contender.
Coming in to this one we are expecting a lot of intense action, we're expecting a fan friendly bout and one that could be described as a war. Sadly for Kuroda we don't see that style of fight doing him many favours here with Kogawa likely to be too strong and too powerful for Kuroda, who may have the edge in speed but won't be able to avoid a tear up.
Kuroda is tough be we suspect he'll be worn down in the later rounds with Kogawa scoring a very late stoppage of Kuroda in a brilliant fight.
For those who haven't seen the two men in action, we have featured both of their bouts with Muranaka below.
Last year the Champion Carnival featured a number of great fights, it also featured a relatively one sided beat down. That beat down saw Shohei Omori claim the Japanese Bantamweight title with a blow out win against the then champion Kentaro Masuda (23-7, 12). The win seemed to set Omori on the way to a world title, though of course he was himself blown away late last year by Marlon Tapales.
This year's Champion Carnival again sees Masuda in the Bantamweight title bout against an unbeaten fight, this time Yushi Tanaka (16-0-3, 10), with the men trading shots for the title that was vacated last year by Omori.
Although Masuda, now 33, was blown out by Omori he's actually a very good fighter, with under-rated skills, genuine heart, a real will to win and criminally under-rated power. His record might not be flattering but like a good wine he has improved with age and has become a much better fighter than he used to be.
Early in his career Masuda looked limited and started 1-3, and was in fact 3-3 after just over 2 years in the professional ranks. Since 2010 however Masuda has gone 16-3 with his 3 losses coming to notable opponents in the former of Hidenori Otake, Ryosuke Iwasa and Omori. On the other hand he has scored notable wins against the likes of Yosuke Fujihara, Yu Kawaguchi, Konosuke Tomiyama, Tatsuya Takahashi and, most recently, Hideo Sakamato.
Although not a monstrously hard hitting Masuda has stopped the likes of Tomiyama, who was stopped in 3 rounds, and Sakamoto, who was stopped in 7 rounds, whilst fans and the press were amazed that Takahashi managed to see the final bell against Masuda. In fact Masuda suggested that Takahashi was like a “zombie” following the bout.
Aged 24 Tanaka is the man stepping up in class, considerably, for this bout. He is however an unbeaten fighter with a lot of confidence and at 24 he is a fighter coming into his prime.
Although relatively untested Tanaka does hold some notable wins, including a 2012 stoppage victory over former world champion Wandee Singwancha, albeit a 32 year old Wandee who had lost 2 of his previous 3 and was well above his best fighting weight. Other notable wins on Tanaka's record include decisions victories over Vergel Nebran and Mako Matsuyama.
Although Tanaka has a better than 50% KO rate it should be noted that he doesn't seem to stop too many notable fighters. His best stoppage is over Wandee, a former Minimumweight champion, whilst whilst many of his other stoppages have come against very limited Thai's and Indonesians that have essentially boosted his KO rating. Incidentally he is 4-0-1 (3) in title fights, though all 5 of those bouts took place for the WBC Youth Bantamweight title.
Sadly footage of Tanaka has been hard to come by though from what we have seen of him he he is pretty well schooled with a nice jab and a quick, sharp, hook. He looks rather quick but not exceptionally saw and defensively he seems to be rather open, keeping his hands worryingly low. There is little that he has shown that is really exciting but given that he is in the Hatanaka gym it's clear he does get some high quality training and he has actually been sparring with Hinata Maruta ahead of this fight.
Given what is available of both men, it's hard to see Tanaka winning the bout, barring a career best performance. In fact from what we've seen we've got to strongly favour Masuda to actually stop Tanaka in the later stages, taking advantage of Tanaka's relative lack of top quality experience. Tanaka does have the edge in speed and natural size, but we don't think that will be enough to over-come the experienced and determined Masuda, who we suspect will reclaim the Japanese title.
In August 2013 we saw Japanese Olympic champion Ryota Murata make his professional debut, stopping OPBF Middleweight champion Akio Shibata (now 27-8-1, 13) [柴田 明雄] in 2 rounds. At the time Murata made Shibata look incredibly poor though since that bout Shibata has gone 6-0 (4) and unified the OPBF and Japanese titles whilst sitting on fringes of the world rankings, in fact the IBF currently ranked him #10 in the world.
Since the loss to Murata we have seen only two fighters go the distance with Shibata. The first of those was Daisuke Nakagawa, who retired following the loss to Shibata, and the other is the under-rated Hikaru Nishida (now 14-7-1, 6) [西田 光]. This coming Saturday Shibata and Nishida meet for the second time with Shibata trying to continue a 4 fight run whilst Nishida looks to avenge his only loss in the last 3 years, and one of only two defeats in his last 12 bouts.
Of the two men it's is Shibata who is the most well known. Much of his international recognition is from the loss to Murata but the 34 year old does have some genuinely solid wins of his own and has been one of the more notable “bigger” fighters in Japan for a number of years. Those wins including claiming the unified OPBF and JBC crown at 154lbs, beating Yuki Nonaka in 2009, beating Daisuke Nakagawa twice, in 2012 and 2014, beating Takatyuki Hosokawa in 2013, beating Makoto Fuchigami twice, in 2013 and 2015 and most recently beating Koki Tyson Maebara.
In the ring Shibata is a very clever boxer-mover, though one who has changed his style as he's gotten older. Originally he was very light on his feet, and some what defensively flawed, seemingly thinking his speed was his biggest asset. Not a days he's a more controlled fighter, he still uses his speed but has tightened up his defense and is happier to stand his ground, hence scoring 4 success stoppages in the last few years, compared to just 9 stoppages in his previous 32 bouts.
Although getting on in age Shibata does seem to still be getting better and is a very talented fighter who looks to have a number of years left in his career.
Whilst Shibata is well known the same cannot be said of Nishida, who is incredibly over-looked and under-rated. Part of the reason he's so over-looked is his record, which features less than 66% wins. The truth however is that he's better than his record, and has improved markedly since the early part of his career. He is no longer the fighter who was 4-5-1 (1) whilst fighting over 4 rounds, but is instead a fighter who has gone 10-2 and progressed into a very good fighter.
Part of why Nishida did so badly early as a professional is because he's a slow starter. He's a pressure fighter who needs time to make his physical advantages matter, and instead of starting fights fast he grinds down opponents as the fight goes on. That has seen him score very domestic level wins over the likes of Kazuhiko Hidaka, Makoto Fuchigami, twice, and Hideo Mikan.
Aged 28 Nishida is physical, tough, youthful and a real handful. He also managed to give Shibata a very tough time in their first bout, back in 2014, and has improved since then.
We think stylistically Shibata should be favoured, however we see this one being a very tough one for the champion, who will have to dig deep in the later stages against a very determined challenger.
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.