The Minimumweight division is a really strange one right now, that despite not being red hot has a lot of really interesting match ups that could be made, and a lot of interesting style match ups. One of the rising stars of the division is unbeaten Japanese fighter Tsubasa Koura (14-0, 9), the currnet OPBF champion and someone expected to be a future world champion. On March 31st he will make his 4th defense of the title as he takes on under-rated Filipino challenger Lito Dante (15-10-4, 7). On paper this looks a total mismatch, though in reality we suspect it will be a better than it looks on paper.
Looking at the records of the two men Dante will, clearly, be the under-dog. He's only won 15 bouts from 29 but the 29 year old should certainly shouldn't be ignored only because of his record. Since 2010 he has fought between Minimumweight and Flyweight and taken on a relative who's who of the lower weights. sharing the ring with the likes of Lester Abutan, Siyabonga Siyo, Vic Saludar, Takumi Sakai, Jessie Espinas, Simpiwe Konkco and Tibo Monabesa. No one has managed to stop Dante, who has proven to be tough and intelligent. He has also been able to score the occasional upsets, upsetting the likes of Lester Abutan, Jaysever Abcede, Jay Loto and Naoya Haruguchi.
As with most fighters who have got 30 fights under their belt Dante is a crafty fighter. He's not the sort of fighter who wow with flashy skills, but he will find holes, slip shots, and make things messy when he needs to. He lacks power but is accurate, intelligent and makes the most of what he has. His record might be that of a journeyman but he's not turning up to bouts to lose. He has taken rounds from the likes of Saludar, Espinas and Siyo through ring craft. He knows how to use the ropes to ride shots, knows how get his head involved when he needs to and really is a lot more frustrating than his record would suggest.
Of course the 24 year old Koura is expected to win, and we'd pick him despite feeling like Dante is being massively over-looked. We do however expect to see Koura being required to answer some questions that haven't been full answered yet. The champion, who is not only the OPBF champion but also a former Rookie of the Year win, is a fantastic fighter. Early in his career he looked to be a punch, but he has certainly developed into a more rounded boxer-puncher. He has started to realise he can't blast fighters out, and has instead gone 12 rounds twice, scoring wins over Masataka Taniguchi and Daiki Tomita, and showing real growth between those bouts. He's gone from being very aggressive early in his career to showing a sense of patience, countering, and adding more strings to his bow.
Through 14 fights Koura has beaten Jaffrey Galero, Masataka Taniguchi, Norihito Tanaka and Daiki Tomita and has really developed into a brilliant fighter, and is one of the leading contenders in the division. The fact he is still showing pretty clear improvements in fights is really exciting and a sign that he isn't sitting on his laurels, but is instead looking to fully prepare himself for a world title fight.
We don't expect the upset, it's not impossible but it would be a huge surprise. What we are expecting however is for Koura to show more than he's shown before. Dante is a frustrating fighter, he's an awkward fighter, he's a fighter who looks after himself. Koura will have to continue to show his patience, his mentality in the ring will be tested and how he breaks Dante down will be interesting. We're expecting a clear, and wide, decision to Koura, but he will have to work for it. Dante isn't unbeatable, but he is no walk in the park, despite his 10 losses.
The Flyweight division is really interesting at the moment, with some great potential match ups and some great scheduled match ups. For us the best looking fight in the coming few weeks at the weight will see unbeaten Japanese prospect Ryota Yamauchi (4-0, 4) take on world ranked Chinese fighter Wulan Tuolehazi (10-3-1, 5). On paper this might not scream anything special, just another prospect taking a step up, but Yamauchi is a sensational prospect, and Tuolehazi is no push over, having beaten OPBF champion Jay-r Raquinel last year and being a in fantastic form at the moment.
Of the two fighters we've certainly focused more on Yamauchi's rise since his debut, than that or Tuolehazi. The unbeaten Kadoebi gym fighter is a 24 year who was a stellar amateur and has shown real potential since beginning his professional career in June 2017. He's not been hugely active, with just 2 bouts in 2017 and 2 in 2018, but he hasn't been given easy match ups. Through his first 4 bouts he has already beaten Lester Abutan and Yota Hori and has looked sensational at times. There is work to do, but he has looked like a real natural. He's quick, powerful, sharp and intelligent. He's perhaps a little bit on the wild side at times, but there is a feeling that that has come because of his confidence against lesser fighters, rather than genuine lack of ability.
Despite looking like a star in the making Yamauchi does have a number of question marks over his head. His 4 bouts have combined for just 16 rounds, and he has yet to enter the 6th round of a bout. His stamina is unlikely to be bad, given he's at the Kadoebi gym and they do tend to have very fit fighters, but we do wonder how he copes with a long distance bout. He has also not faced a puncher, or anyone with the skills to really hurt him, so there is of course a question mark about his chin as well. We expect to see those questions getting answer here, with Yamauchi not expected to blow the Chinese fighter away.
The bout will also answer more question about Yamauchi, how he is on the road, and this is his first bout away from Tokyo as a professional.
Chinese fighter Tuolehazi is a rugged fighter, a 26 year old with a crude style, an effective roughness if you will. He started his professional career with back to back losses and was 2-3 after his first 5 bouts, but he has since battled back, tuning things around with an 8-0-1 (5) record in his last 9. That unbeaten run has been pretty notable if we're being honest and has included not only the win over Raquinel but also victories over Kwanthai Sithmorseng, Yokthong KKP and Roland Jay Biendima. He has proven his stamina, dropping Raquinel in the 12th round to solidify a decision over the previous unbeaten Pinoy puncher, and has done 10 or more rounds 4 different times in his 14 bouts.
Watching Tuolehazi there's nothing that stands out as being "special". In fact he's quite slow if we're being honest, not a plodder as such but certainly not quick, he's a little clumsy, a and not very smooth. He is however consistent. He will let his jab go frequently, landing it at an impressive rate, he has a good straight right hand, he's tough and physically very strong. Few fighters will be able to push him and bully him around, and instead they will have to actually out box him. He can make things ugly, but isn't a dirty fighter, more a fighter who is not yet technically rounded.
This is an excellent match up and a great chance for a prospect to test themselves against an awkward, tough opponent. We do believe that Yamauchi is a special fighter, and could fight for, and win, a world title in his first 10 bouts. We suspect he'll show what he can do here, using his technical ability, speed and movement to be the difference, with Yamauchi taking a clear, but hard fought decision. Tuolehazi will not be an easy out for anyone, but we suspect his limitations will be an issue against someone as talented as Yamauchi, even with the crowd clearly supporting the Chinese fighter.
A big step up for Yamauchi, but a gret chance to crash the world rankings, a chance we think he will make the most of.
On March 30th we'll see an IBF Welterweight title eliminator take place in the US featuring two Asian fighters, with unbeaten Uzbek Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (15-0, 9) taking on Japanese puncher Keita Obara (20-3-1, 18). On paper this is a mouth watering match up, and we're genuinely excited to see the two men clashing.
Of the two men the more naturally talented boxer, by far, is the 25 year old Abdukakhorov. He's a fantastic boxer with good clean punching, a good work rate, lovely accuracy and ring craft. There is a lack of real power, despite a very notable stoppage win over Charles Manyuchi, but he hits solidly with every punch and fighters will certainly his shots even if they aren't concussive blows.
The Uzbek was a solid amateur before turning professional in 2015. His first few fights were at home in Uzbekistan but before long he had began fighting through Asia with bouts in Malaysia and Singapore. It was those bouts that really saw him building his reputation, scoring solid wins over Larry Siwu, Adones Cabalquinto and the aforementioned Manyuchi. As well as those wins he has also travelled to Russia, where he clearly out pointed Dmitry Mikhaylenko, in what is arguably his most impressive win to date. For the most part it's been his sharp technical boxing which has won him fights, and allowed him to become a top, if often over-looked, contender.
Whilst the Uzbek is the better boxer Obara is the bigger puncher, by far. In fact the Tokyo based 32 year old is one of the best pure punchers in Asia. Sadly he's a bit of a glass cannon and all 3 of his losses have come by stoppage. Whilst his first loss, on debut against Kazuyoshi Kumano, was down to stamina and pacing, subsequent losses to Eduard Troyanovsky and Alvin Lagumbay were KO losses and spectacular ones at that. We're not going to suggest he has no chin, but it does seem like he doesn't react well when caught cleanly.
Whilst Obara does have a questionable chin he is a solid boxer-puncher and clearly will know that another loss will be the end of his world title dreams. He can't afford another set back, he will be fully focused and sometimes that's not the best thing. That can cause extra tension and take a fighter out of their natural gameplan. We don't think that'll be the case here, it's a still possible.
What we're expecting here is a tactical contest, with Abdukakhorov looking to get in and out, controlling the tempo and distance, making the most of his footwork, his jab and his boxing brain. He'll be wanting to set the higher pace and stop Obara from getting behind his jab. Although not as good a boxer, Obara's skills shouldn't be under-rated and he can box to a high level, so the Uzbek will want to be the one setting the pace, and not let Obara get relaxed.
We suspect that Abdukakhorov will set a high pace and will outbox Obara, but will have some hairy moments along the way, when he does get caught, does feel the power of Obara and does get forced to retreat and recover. The Uzbek might get staggered, or even dropped, but we does feel he'll do more than enough to take home the win, by decision and move onto a world title fight later in the year.
The Super Featherweight division isn't the best out there at the moment, but is one where there is a nice amount of talent across the various levels of the sport, meaning there are some fantastic fights out there, even if they aren't at the very top level. The Oriental scene has a handful of fighters who could all share the ring and put on great fights. We get one such fight on March 27th when the unbeaten OPBF champion Hironori Mishiro (6-0-1, 2) takes on OPBF Silver champion Takuya Watanabe (35-8-1, 20) in a really mouth watering match up.
The champion is a former amateur stand out who made his pro debut in 2017 and was hotly tipped as a star in the making straight away. He would score 3 straight forward wins before going up against the then unbeaten Shuma Nakazato, taking a hard fought win over Nakazato. He would then add an upset win over Shuya Masaki before challenging OPBF champion Carlo Magali. The bout over Magali was a massive step up, but one that Mishiro made, just doing enough to take a split decision win over the Filipino veteran. Since then he has defended the belt once, fighting to a draw against Masaru Sueyoshi in an OPBF/JBC title unification bout. The Sueyoshi bout was Mishiro's most impressive performance, despite only earning a draw.
In the ring the 24 year old Mishiro is a very fluid fighter, able to box on the back foot, using his size and reach, or on the front foot, bringing the pressure and cutting the distance. He's strong, very quick, and looks incredibly relaxed in the ring. Although he has solid power, he's not a concussive puncher and despite being able to fight on the front foot, he does lack real killer instinct, something has shown it's self in the past. One thing that has really impressed about Mishiro is his stamina, and despite only having 7 fights he has already done 12 rounds twice. He's not a non-stop punching machine, but for someone so early in their career he has impressed, and he certainly paced himself better in his second 12 rounder than his first one.
The challenger isn't the natural boxer that Mishiro is, but is instead a 30 year old veteran who has been a professional for over 12 years and despite having 8 losses is a very good boxer-puncher with a gritty determination that makes him a hard man to beat. His career has also been different to most of his fellow Japanese fights. Not only has he been active, with 44 bouts in just over 12 years, but many of those have been on the road. He has right through South East Asia, with bouts in Thailand, South Korea, China, Hong Kong, and Taipei. On the road he has had some of his most memorable bouts, including his blood bath with Jaesung Lee in Korea his KO win against Leshan Li in Hong Kong and a very hard fought loss to Yongqiang Yang in China. As for bouts in Japan he has faced some pretty stiff competition, including Hisashi Amagasa, Satoshi Hosono and Masayuki Ito.
Watanabe is a tough, solid guy with solid power, solid all round skills, an incredible will to win, and brilliant stamina. Although a boxer-puncher he can get involved in a brawl and is pretty solid in every facet of his game. He's a touch slow, which Ito made the most of, and is slightly limited in terms of skill and timing, but very few will have an easy time with Watanabe, especially now he's a fully mature and experienced fighter.
This is clearly a bout that is designed to give Mishiro a tough defense, and further prepare him for the big time. It's a risk from him and his team, but a calculated one, and one we think they're confident of him passing. It's going to be a tough, 12 round test, but we do favour Mishiro to take the decision, albeit a close decision. If he does then we wouldn't be surprised at all to see his next bout come against a world ranked foe, possibly a rematch with Sueyoshi.
On March 25th fight fans in the Philippines will be able to see a WBO Asia Pacific title fight, as once beaten Filipino Juan Miguel Elorde (27-1, 15), the WBO #2 word ranked contender, defends his Super Bantamweight title against Japanese challenger Shohei Kawashima (17-2-2, 4). For the champion this will be his 4th defense, and would likely be one of his final bouts before a potential world title fight, whilst Kawashima would be getting a huge chance to gate crash the WBO world rankings, and claim his biggest win to date.
The 32 year old champion is the grandson of the legendary Flash Elorde, one of the most iconic names in Filipino boxing. His career, which began in 2008, has been a slow steady climb through the rankings. He would win his first 10 bouts, before suffering an upset loss to Jerry Guevara in 2011. Since that early career set back he has gone 17-0 (11). On paper that sounds really impressive, but in reality there are very few wins of note on his record with his best wins being against the likes of Yodsingdaeng Jor Chaijinda and Waldo Sabu.
Despite his competition being limited, especially for a now highly ranked fighter, Elorde is a talented fighter, with a lovely crisp jab, an educated boxing brain and a good straight right hand. Sadly watching him he just sort of ticks all the boxes for "good" and has nothing outstanding about him. He's pretty basic, not very rounded and doesn't really impress when watching him. The most impressive traits of Elorde is his jab, which is crisp and sharp, but that's perhaps not as impressive as it seems, and he may struggle to land it against fighters who above regional journeyman level.
Aged 27 Kawashima is a Japanese fighter who debuted in 2012 and rose through the ranks well, winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2014 before travelling in 2016, beating Jin Wook Lim in Korea and losing a razor thin decision to Cristian Mijares in 2016. Since losing to Mijares, in Mexico, Kawashima has gone 3-1 (1) suffering a surprise 6th round KO loss to Gaku Aikawa in 2017. The loss to Aikawa was a genuine surprise, and came from a truly brutal shot from Aikawa, in what was probably the shot of his career.
In the ring Kawashima is a talented boxer with good timing, good movement and solid stamina. He lacks power but is a very skilled fighter who uses range well, is smart and sharp. Sadly his lack of power will be a major issue when he steps up and he will struggle too get respect from opponents. He also has a few defensive flaws, often dropping his hands or having them too close together. Rarely do we see Kawashima actually have a solid guard to box behind, and although Aikawa's KO was a surprise it wouldn't be a huge shock if he was stopped by any top domestic foe.
On paper Elorde will be the favourite. He's got the better record, he's the bigger puncher, has the home advantage, will be fighting at home and has the title. He will however be forces to battle for the win and we wouldn't be surprised at all
The Minimumweight division recently saw a new IBF champion being crowned, as DeeJay Kriel scored a sensational last round KO win over Carlos Licona. Kriel will likely get the chance to make a voluntary defense next time out, though there are fighters sniffing around for a shot, and on March 23rd we'll get an eliminator between Filipino fighters Samuel Salva (16-0, 10) and Rene Mark Cuarto (16-1-1, 9). On paper this looks a really good bout, and with many of these all-Filipino eliminator level bouts it's worth a lot more attention that it will likely get.
On paper the more promising of the two fighters is the unbeaten Salva. He's unbeaten, appears to be the bigger puncher and has notable wins over Donny Mabao, twice, and Marco John Rementizo. Things however aren't that simple and overall it's Cuarto who has faced better competition, with his win over Clyde Azarcon being the best win either man has, and he also has a win over Ian Ligutan. It's also worth noting that Cuarto loss, and draw, both came to Jerald Paclar, who Cuarto stopped in their third and final meeting.
Footage of both men is available and Salva looks a powerful fighter, who throws nice, sharp hooks, good uppercuts and loads up on shots. Although Salva looks powerful he does seem somewhat inaccurate and there's an openness to his offensive work that could see him being countered right down the pipe but a skilled and confident fighter who sess the gaping holes when Salva throws. He's exciting but rough around the edges. The best quality footage of Cuarto is relatively old, but he does look a sharper, cleaner, more rounded fighter than Salva. There's less intensity to his work, but there is a more clean look to things from him and he certainly appears to set shots up better and have the more controlled footwork.
Both are young fighters, both are 22 years old, and whilst Minimumweights do mature quickly, often making their mark earlier than fighters in higher weight classes, both are very clearly developing as fighters and both have got years left of their careers.
A loss here isn't the end for either man. Cuarto knows that already, having gone 13-0-1 since losing more than 4 years ago, when he was just 18. Salva has never tasted defeat, but he is certainly not unbeatable and this will be a serious test for him. Cuarto has passed tough tests, he has built back from his loss, and we think that could be the key here. Salva has, for the most part, had things his own way, Cuarto has had to over-come a nemesis and we think that will have mentally solidified how Cuarto will deal with Salvo here, and he'll just do enough to take the decision and earn himself a future world title fight.
After years of not having an All-Filipino world title bout we had a couple last year, and it looks like we're going to get at least one this year. Just below world title bouts, in terms of significance, are world title eliminators and later this month we'll get an all-Filipino Bantamweight world title eliminator, as Michael Dasmarinas (28-2-1, 19) and Kenny Demecillo (14-4-2, 8) clash to decide the IBF mandatory challenger at Bantamweight. On paper the bout looks an easy one to pick, but in reality it may not be as easy to predict as it first seems.
The obvious pick for the win is Dasmarinas. On paper he has the better record and, if we're being honest, he is the much more well known fighter among those that follow the Asian boxing scene. During his 31 fight career, which began a little over 7 years ago, he has notched up a number of solid wins including victories over Hayato Kimura, Jhaleel Payao and Karim Guerfi. He has scored wins on the road and his only loss in the last 6 years was a very debateable one in South Africa, to Lwandile Sityatha. He has been incredibly active, for the most part, and shown himself to be a great all round fighter, with good skills and criminally under-rated power, as Guerfi found out in spectacular fashion around a year ago.
In the ring Dasmarinas has proven to be a very good boxer-puncher. He's a rangy southpaw with sneaky power, a great jab and a good boxing brain. He's not the quickest out there, but he's a sharp fighter and should certainly be regarded as a leading contender in the packed Bantamweight division. That is unless he's actually out grown the division, and his last outing, a very fortunate draw against Manyo Plange, would suggest that a move up to Super Bantamweight would help his career, and help him show what he can do more than draining those 4lbs.
Whilst Dasmarinas is pretty well known, at least among fans who follow the Asian scene, Demecillo isn't. In fact until recently Demecillo was a relative unknown even among hardcore Filipino fans. He began his career in 2012, like Dasmarinas, but struggled to get going and was 6-2-1 (3) following a 2014 loss to Eduardo Mancito. The following year he would suffer another loss, to Jetro Pabustan, to slide to 8-3-1 (5) and it would have been easy to write him off. Since then however he has gone 6-1-1 (3) and managed to shine against notable competition, scoring back to back stoppage wins against Daryl Basadre, as well as other victories over Jestoni Autida and Vyacheslav Mirzaev, with that win coming in Russia. The only set backs in his last 8 were a draw with Edrin Dapudong and a loss to Mark Anthony Geraldo, who got a WBC "silver" title fight off the back of that win.
Quality footage of Demecillo isn't the easiest to come by, though interesting the best we have is his fighter against Geraldo who is a southpaw, like Dasmarinas. Whilst Dasmarinas and Gerlado are different stylistically the footage does give us an indicator of how Demecillo will approach this bout. From what's out there Demecillo is a big, strong, powerful fighter at the weight, he's aggressive, brings a lot of pressure with his physicality and looks to get inside, though is technically quite limited and crude with his approach.
Whilst he is aggressive Demecillo doesn't have the best work rate and that is perhaps what cost him against Geraldo, in what was a close decision. If he can up the activity, and accuracy, whilst having the same approach against Dasmarinas.
Whilst we do agree with Dasmarinas being the favourite, as he will be in the eyes of many, we do believe that Demecillo can make this a very tough bout for his countryman and wouldn't be surprised by a very close decision in what could be one of the hidden gems of the month.
On March 8th we'll see a long awaited WBO Minimumweight world title eliminator, with the winner taking a huge step towards facing current world champion Vic Saludar. The men involved in that eliminator are Robert Paradero (17-0, 11), of the Philippines, and Wilfredo Mendez (11-1, 4), of Puerto Rico. On paper it's a brilliant matched bout with the Filipino holding the edge in experience and power whilst Mendez will be the man with the home advantage.
Note-Originally this bout had been arranged for December but various issues have seen it being delayed and rescheduled.
The 22 year old Filipino made his debut the month after his 18th birthday and has been progressed through the Filipino domestic scene. Sadly his biggest win to date was a domestic fight against Ronie Tanallon in 2016 to claim the WBO Asia Pacific Youth Minimumweight title, which he defended earlier this year against Royder Lloyd Borbon. If we're being honest there is very little about Paradero's record that stands out with his most experienced opponent being domestic loser Rodel Tejares and only a small number of his wins coming against fighters with winning records.
The footage of Paradero isn't the best, but from what there is he looks like a pretty exciting and aggressive fighter, with a slight crudeness to his punches but a lot of power and a lot of energy. He appears to have very solid power in both hands and be willing to engage in a brawl when he needs to. Sadly the big issue is really how much he can force the action against a better calibre of opposition.
Mendez, also 22, turned professional at the age of 19 and fought not only in his native Puerto Rico but also the Dominican Republic and Colombia, in fact most of his bouts have been in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic rather than his home land. As with Paradero his competition has also been somewhat lacking, in terms of quality.His best wins have come against coming against Juan Guzman, who has a padded record and has come up short every time he has stepped up, and Alex Aragon Vega, whilst he has also lost to Leyman Benavides, a man who is a long way from a world beater.
In his fight against Benevides it seemed like Mendez spent a lot of time spoiling and wrestling, in what was an awfully messy fight with neither man really showing anything of real quality. Mendez at times looked scared, wild, sloppy and offensively terrible. Sadly it's hard to find prolonged footage of him other than that bout, but if that's his usual style then it's hard to see what he really brings to the table.
With home advantage Mendez should be favoured, but on what we've seen of the two fighters neither really looks ready for a world title fight, or an eliminator. What we've seen suggests that Peradero should be the favourite. He's the bigger puncher and the more accurate of the two. But we suspect that Mendez gets the nod if both men are still standing at the final bell.
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.