The Super Flyweight division is one of, if not the, deepest division in the sport right now with a genuinely impressive list of champions and top contenders. In fact the division is so good right now that it's easily to ignore everything but the world title scene. This coming Sunday however we het an Oriental title fight, as Rene Dacquel (18-6-1, 6) defends his title against Shota Kawaguchi (20-7-1, 8). For Dacquel the bout will be his second title defense whilst Kawaguchi will be getting his first crack at an Oriental title, despite that neither man will likely find themselves in the world title picture, win or lose here.
In 2015 Dacquel got his first OPBF title fight and came up short against Takuma Inoue. Just a few short months later he got a shot at the interim title, which he won. He was later upgraded and made the first defense of the title a few months later, defeating Go Onaga in Okinawa.
Although not a big name Dacquel is a talented pure boxer, he's not world class or even close to it, but he's a solid Oriental level fighter who will always be competitive against fighters below world class. Against the likes of Takuma Inoue we've seen Dacquel being exposed, but with wins against the likes of Yuki Nasu, Melvin Gumban, Thembelani Nxoshe, Lucky Tor Buamas and Go Onaga it's fair to say that Dacquel is a very solid fighter, and at his best he's probably a genuine gatekeeper.
Lacking in power and not the biggest at the weight Dacquel's power isn't going to put fighters away but his skills are impressive enough to keep a hold of the title until he comes up against a genuinely very good fighter, unfortunately there are a lot of them in division.
Talking about good fighters at Super Flyweight Japan is full of them right now, with the likes of Naoya Inoue, Kohei Kono, Koki Eto and Sho Ishida. It wouldn't be unfair to suggest that Kawaguchi is probably scraping the top 10. That's not to say Kawaguchi is a bad fighter but he's certainly nothing too great, and losses to the likes of Sonny Boy Jaro, Takayuki Okumoto, Ryuta Otsuka and Yoshihito Ishizaki sort of show his limitations. Things aren't helped by the fact he's not the toughest fighter and has been stopped 3 times, although one of those was on his debut almost 11 years ago.
Aged 32 Kawaguchi is really in need of a big win to give his career some real meaning. He did win the interim WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight title last time out, taking a technical decision over Rakniran Muadransarakam, but the reality is that he needs a bigger win. That will drive him here against Dacquel, but we don't think he'll have the skills to over-come the talented Filipino.
Whilst we do think Kawaguchi will have some moments against Dacquel, it's hard to imagine anything but a wide decision win for the Filipino. Dacquel will be too skilled, too smooth and too talented for the Japanese warrior, who is too open and too clumsy to defeat the talented Pinoy skillster.
Last year we saw Sho Ishida vacate the Japanese Super Flyweight title, resulting in a bout that saw Kenta Nakagawa (13-2-1, 9) over-come Hayato Kimura to become the new champion. The bout was a really good one that helped put the 31 year old Nakagawa on the boxing map, and build on wins over Joe Tanooka and Shuji Hamada. This coming Wednesday Nakagawa returns to the ring to defend the title for the first time, as he takes on veteran Ryuichi Funai (26-7, 18). For Funai the bout gives him a third title shot, and a chance to continue a brilliant run for the Watanabe gym.
Entering as the champion Nakagawa has a lot more to lose than to gain here, however the 31 year old won't be thinking about losing, but instead he'll be focused on defending his crown.
In the ring the champion is a bit of a crude slugger, he's not out and out wild, but he does have rough edges in terms of his boxing ability. Those rough edges will probably holding him back from becoming an OPBF champion, but they are are the typical edges you see at domestic level. They are, however, coupled with spiteful power which can shut down fighters offensively, or at least make them cautious enough to think twice about opening up.
Not only is Nakagawa a heavy handed fighter but he's also a tough fighter, who can take a solid shot to land his own. That was shown against Kimura, who landed a fair bit of his own leather but was put on the back foot frequently, and has been shown against other decent foes. It's also worth noting that since progressing beyond 4 rounders Nakagawa is unbeaten, going 9-0-1 (7) in bouts scheduled longer than 4 rounds. It is, however, worth noting he has only been beyond 4 rounds twice, going 2-0 in those bouts, with his power being particularly potent in the first 4 rounds.
Entering as the mandatory challenger Funai will be seeking his biggest win to date, though it will be his third shot at a title having previously fallen short in an OPBF title fight against Rolly Lunas and a Japanese title fight to Sho Ishida last year. One other notable loss on his record was a 7th round loss in 2009 to Shinsuke Yamanaka. It's also worth noting that 2 of Funai's other losses were in his first 4 bouts, when he was a real novice.
In the ring Funai is tougher than you'd expect, given he has been stopped 3 times, he's technically sound and has a good engine, in fact he gave Sho Ishida absolute fits late in their bout. With 18 stoppages in 26 wins he's a solid puncher, but isn't a massive puncher, and although he can hurt fighters his most notable stoppages have been against the likes of Ryuta Otsuka, Masafumi Otake and Teppei Kikui, though decisions over Gakuya Furuhashi and Akinori Hoshino are good decision wins.
It's also worth noting that the Watanabe gym, who manage Funai, are having a year to remember. They have seen Nihito Arakawa, Yusaku Kuga and Hiroto Kyoguchi win titles already this year and that type of success and bred more success, driving on the likes of Funai on to perform better.
Both men are over-looked domestically, but both are very solid domestic type fighters, and both will be fighting with a point to prove. For Nakagawa the point to prove is that he deserves the title whilst, and that he should be viewed as the best on the domestic scene. For Funai it's that he deserves to win a title before his career is over, it's that he deserved a third shot and that he is worthy of becoming a champion, rather than another also ran.
Sadly for Funai we don't think this will be his night. We think the power and aggression of the champion will be too much and that he will, eventually, wear down Funai in what will be an exciting, and action packed bout with plenty of exchanges, but with those exchanges ending in favour of Nakagawa, who we think will stop Funai in round 9 or 10.
In late 2014 Hidenori Otake (27-2-3, 12) came to the attention of the wider boxing world as he travelled to the UK to take on WBA Super Bantamweight champion Scott Quigg. The bout saw the Japanese fighter go from being a relative unknown outside of Tokyo, where he had fought all 26 of his previous bouts, to a man widely applauded for his toughness and stamina in going 12 tough rounds against Quigg.
Since losing to Quigg we've seen Otake score 5 wins, almost against less than notable competition, as he's moved back into title contention, and this coming Friday we'll see him return to title action to take on Filipino foe Jelbirt Gomera (12-1, 6). For Otake it's a chance to add an OPBF title to his collection, which also include a Japanese title from earlier in his career, whilst Gomera looks to announce himself on the Oriental scene.
The 35 year old Otake made his debut back in 2005 and was unbeaten in his first 8 bouts, going 6-0-2 (1) before suffering a loss to Manabu Koguchi in the 2007 East Japan Rookie of the Year final. That loss would be Otake's only defeat until his 2014 bout with Quigg. During the 7 years between losses Otake went on to score wins over the likes of Kentaro Masuda, Takafumi Nakajima, Mikihito Seto and Nobuhisa Coronita Doi as he won the Japanese Super Bantamweight title and recorded 4 defenses of the belt.
Sadly since losing to Quigg it does seem like Otake has slowed. Although he is 5-0 (3) since his bout with Quigg he did fail to shine when he took on Hernan Cortez and genuinely struggled past Alexander Espinoza. Although it might be unfair to say it but it does seem like Otake's body, at the age of 35, is slowing down and his once incredible stamina is wearing away. His toughness can't be question but there are cracks showing and his relative lack of power has seen him rack up close to 200 rounds of professional action in his 32 fight career, averaging a little over 6 rounds a fight. His stamina is undeniable but he lack of power has seen him stopping only 38% of his opponents so far.
Filipino fighter Gomera debuted back in April 2013 and has been a professional for close to 4 years. He won his first 4 bouts by stoppage and moved out to 10-0 (6), with a notable win over Ryan Rey Ponteras, before being stopped in 8 rounds by Mark Anthony Geraldo in November 2015. that has been Gomera's most notable bout to date but since that loss he has racked up two wins, with a win last time out over Eduardo Mancito to claim the Philippines Boxing Federation Featherweight title.
Other than his record little is really known about Gomera,though footage does suggest that he's a southpaw who likes to come forward, though isn't the most aggressive or the quickest. Although the footage is limited we have read fight reports suggesting that Gomera's last bout, against Mancito, was an exciting and bloody affair with Gomera getting up from a 2nd round knockdown to defeat Mancito. It's also worth noting that newspaper reports have given Gomera as being 19 when he lost to Geraldo, suggesting he is 20 or 21 at the moment, reports from that fight also suggest that Gomera is a gutsy fighter and pulled himself off the canvas a number of times against Geraldo.
Although he's the “unknown under-dog” Gomera is the youngster with a point to prove and we suspect he will give Otake a lot of problems here, especially with Otake showing his age in recent fights. Despite that we still think Otake's experience will be too much over the distance, but it will be a very close contest with Gomera proving himself as one to watch from the Philippines.
The Japanese scene at Bantamweight has been one that has combined excitement and promising fighters along with veteran and experience over the last few years. We've seen Ryosuke Iwasa, Kohei Oba, Kentaro Masuda and Shohei Omori hold the title over the last 5 years and we've seen challengers like Yu Kawaguchi, Konosuke Tomiyama, Hirofumi Mukai and Satoshi Niwa all come up short in challenged.
The 4 champions mentioned above have all set their sites on bigger and better things. Oba and Omori have fallen short in eliminators, Iwasa lost in a world title fight whilst Masuda recently stated his intent to chase a world title.
One fighter who has tried to win world titles but now finds himself back the domestic scene is veteran Ryo Akaho (29-2-2, 19), who looks to win the vacant Japanese Bantamweight title as he takes on Yushi Tanaka (19-1-3, 13), himself challenging for this title for the second time. For both men this will be seen as a must win, Akaho needing a win to keep alive his dreams of getting another world title fight and Tanaka looking to prove that he deserves to be title level fighter.
Of the two men it's Akaho who is more well known. The Yokohama Hikari fighter debuted back in 2005 and moved through the ranks relatively slowly before getting a shot at the Japanese Super Flyweight title in late 2009. In that title shot he fought to a draw with Daigo Nakahiro but remained in the title mix and won the OPBF Super Flyweight title 17 months later. As the OPBF champion Akaho would defend the title 3 times, scoring notable wins over Toyoto Shiraishi and Yohei Tobe, before getting his first world title bout.
In Akaho's first world title shot he came up short against Yota Sato, the then WBC Super Flyweight champion. That was to be Akaho's final bout at 115lbs before he moved up to Bantamweight and slowly moved towards a second world title bout, which came in August 2015 when he took on Pungluang Sor Singyu for the vacant WBO Bantamweight title. Sadly for Akaho he was bullied in round 2 by Pungluang who knocked him out in controversial fashion. Since that loss Akaho hasn't looked like a world class fighter, struggling past Shiraishi in a rematch and only narrowly over-coming Hiroaki Teshigawara last year, along with scoring a blow out of a terrible Thai foe.
In the ring Akaho is a strong and tough fighter, but one who is relatively basic, a little crude and raw and lacks in terms of speed and isn't the puncher his record may suggest. He can be out boxed, he can be out slugged and he can be out fought, but it takes a good fighter to do any of those things and he has the rugged toughness to make anyone below world level work for a win.
As mentioned this will be Tanaka's second shot at a Japanese title, and his chance to help add to the growing reputation of the Hatanaka gym which already features world champion Kosei Tanaka and Japanese Featherweight champion Shota Hayashi. His first shot at the title saw him being dominated, and stopped, by Kentaro Masuda a year ago. That was really Tanaka's only bout against a genuinely notable fighter in their prime and it showed that he was a long way from being Japanese title worthy. It is however worth nothing that Tanaka has held the WBC Youth Bantamweight title, winning that in July 2013 and making 3 defenses of the title.
Whilst Tanaka hasn't fought many good fights in their prime he has scored wins over Filipino journeyman Rey Laspinas, a good win, and a beyond shot Wandee Singwancha, who was well beyond his best and fighting significantly above his best fighting weight. Sadly much of his competition to date has been dire and lead to his record really not reflecting his skills. For example Tanaka isn't a big puncher, despite almost a 60% stoppage rate, and although he comes into this bout on a 3-0 (3) run following the loss to Masuda he's really not faced anyone to give him another gut check.
Stylistically there is little about Tanaka to be impressed by. He lacks the sensational skills and speed of Kosei Tanaka and the tenacity of Shota Hayashi. He's not terrible as such, but there is little about him that is actually impressive. He's just a very basic fighter who shouldn't really be getting a second shot so soon after being dominated in his previous shot. And with that in mind it'll be no surprise to hear that we're predicting a loss for Tanaka here, likely by stoppage in the middle rounds.
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.