At the beginning of 2014 Yoshitaka Kato (26-5-1, 7) was the unified Japanese and OPBF Lightweight champion. He went in to the year on an unbeaten run of 9 fights over the previous 3 years, a run that saw him not just unifying the titles but beating the likes of Akihiro Kondo-avenging an old defeat, Motoki Sasai and Rey Labao. He was in the form of his life.
Kato's solid run came to an end in January when he lost the OPBF title the very highly regarded Masayoshi Nakatani who really came of age in that bout. Although Kato lost his OPBF belt he managed to keep a hold of the Japanese title which wasn't on the line for the contest, though it will be on April 30th as he defends the nation title against former rival Yuhei Suzuki (14-3, 11).
The men first fought just over a year ago with Kato taking a very hard fought decision to defend the Japanese title. Since then the champion has gone 2-1 with the loss to Nakatani being the most recent. For Suzuki things have been a little bit better with the challenger going 3-0 (3), albeit against limited opposition.
On paper Kato holds a lot of advantages. He is more experienced than Suzuki, he has fought almost twice as many bouts, three times as many rounds and has mixed it in OPBF title bouts. For Suzuki, who lost to Kato in his only previous title fight of any kinda, this is a step back up from what he has been fighting in recent bouts.
Although Kato has the obvious edge in experience the power certainly lies with Suzuki who has stopped 4 of his last 5, the only man to see out the distance in that time is the defending champion. At 24 Suzuki is also younger than the 29 year old champion and is just beginning to mature fully, of course Kato isn't an old man but he is arguably getting to the point where a hard career can catch up with him.
Just as interestingly for Suzuki is the fact that, the loss to Kato aside, he hasn't been beaten since his was 21. His career since then has been 7-1 and he's certainly become a better fighter than he was.
Although an improved fighter Suzuki is still flawed and depends a lot on his power. If Kato, as he did last time, can take it then we see the champion taking another very tough decision victory. If however the miles on his clock are catching up with him, and he has plenty of miles having been in with Nakatani, Nihito Arakawa and Suzuki in the past, then Suzuki's punches might just have that bit of an extra effect and take their toll.
From where we're sat we think Kato retains, though has to dig very deep to keep his title on a bout that effectively serves as the co-feature to the very interest Heavyweight fight between Nobuhiro Ishida and Kyotaro Fujimoto, a bout that we think is a much more interesting contest. The Heavyweight bout may not have a title on the line but it certainly seems to have attracted the attention of fans around the world, something we can't imagine this national title fight managing to do despite it being a very interesting contest in it's own right.
(Image courtesy of www.kadoebi.com/boxing/)
It's fair to say that in boxing we have a number of "types" of interesting fights. The most interesting are those which pit elite fighters against each other in a unification contest, fights such as Kazuto Ioka's fight against Akira Yaegashi a few years ago. A step down from that are where we get to see an elite fighter in action, fighters like Floyd Mayweather Jr, Bernard Hopkins or Manny Pacquiao.
Several steps down from seeing the elite fighters in action are the domestic clashes that have fans eager to watch to see who is the best at a certain weight in a certain country.
Somewhere between the elite fights and the big domestic clashes are the "gimmick" fights if you will, the quirky bouts that get a lot more interest than a typical fight but not as much as a real super fighter.
In 2012 British fans saw a gimmick fight as Cricket player Freddie Flintoff fought in his one, and only, professional boxing contest. That fight got huge media attention in his homeland and although he was awful his bout seemed to get more headlines than most other bouts in Britain. In Japan we are on the verge of a similar "gimmick" bout as former Japanese and WBA interim Light Middleweight champion Nobuhiro Ishida (25-9-2, 10) moves from Light Middleweight/Middleweight all the way up to Heavyweight to challenger national Heavyweight champion Kyotaro Fujimoto (8-1, 5).
The bout may not be as "gimmicky" as the Flintoff one but it appears to have managed to capture the imagination of fans across the world and our own news pieces about the fight have been amongst our most popular pieces.
The bout, scheduled for just 8 rounds, hasn't got a title on the line, there is no world title fight at the end of it for the winner, there is no major award for winning. What there is is pride and honour combined with some risk, some danger and the possibility of either man being made to look incredibly poor.
For Ishida the risk is obvious. He's facing a much bigger, stronger and more powerful man. He's proven to be tough in the past and despite being wiped out by Gennady Golovkin he isn't a push over, as James Kirkland found out in Ishida's career defining victory over him.
Whilst the risk of being knocked out, bullied and battered is there for Ishida the reward for winning is huge. Despite their not being a title up for grabs a victory will make Ishida a legendary name in Japan, it will get him the acclaim and fame that any fighter wants and would help him to prove so many people wrong. It was also allow him to fight for the national title in his next fight, something the JBC refused to allow him to do here.
More importantly for Ishida however is the fact he can say "I tried it", something so many other fighters retire wishing they could have said. It's all well and good winning titles but to say you tried everything you wanted to do is equally as important, not leaving doubt or questions in your own mind.
For Ishida this bout is all about him trying to do the extreme, for his opponent, Fujimoto, this bout is equally as important.
Not only would Fujimoto lose his title if he lost this bout, despite Ishida being unable to win it, but his whole professional boxing career would become a joke, he would become a laughing stock and it would, in some ways, make a mockery of his reign as the Japanese Heavyweight champion. After all how could a Middleweight blow up and beat the Heavyweight champion?
Although stronger, younger, naturally bigger and more powerful Fujimoto knows that his boxing skills are limited. He's not awful but he's certainly nothing special. If he can be made to look like a being fool by Ishida that would almost certainly be a big hit to his pride and possibly be bad enough to force him into retirement or a return to Kick Boxing where he first made his name in fighting circles.
There is next to no risk of Fujimoto being stopped, Ishida wasn't a puncher at 154lbs or 160lbs, but being beaten by a more skilled and technically complete fighter over the distance can be just as bad for a fighter as being knocked out. Fighters beaten by, say Bernard Hopkins, never seen to look the same whilst those destroyed by Roman Gonzalez have managed to go on to achieve some notable success in their own right. A loss to Ishida could well be comparable to a loss to Hopkins.
As for the fight it really is a battle between a fighter with better skills, speed and experience and a fighter who is stronger, younger and more rugged. There are clear arguments to be made for either man winning and for either man losing.
For Ishida his experience and skills are a clear edge. He's also filled into his Heavyweight frame amazingly well and although we expected him to look awful with the weight he's been putting on he actually looks brilliant. Sure he won't be a thunderous puncher but the hope is clearly to help him with stand the shots of Fujimoto.
Although he has bulked up well a big question is whether or not Ishida will maintain his speed. His speed would be a huge advantage over the some what clumsy Fujimoto and if Ishida can fire off combinations and get in and out he'd almost certainly have enough in his locked to box at range to take home a decision.
As for Fujimoto his youth and presumably energy will be significant as will his natural size. In the clinch we'd expect Fujimoto to wrestle with Ishida, at range we'd expect him to walk through Ishida's shots and get inside to rough up the older man. The shots of Fujimoto are likely to be the heaviest that Ishida has ever felt and whilst they won't be as explosive as Golovkin's were they will all thud, even the jabs will be heavy.
Although we can see the argument for both men winning we can't help but feel that this is Fujimoto's to throw away. His lack of skills will be an issue early on, and he'll likely lose the first 2 or 3 rounds. After that however we imagine he'll find a way to slowly but surely grind down Ishida who think may just make it to the final bell but only just, and not before a few serious scares late on.
We genuinely do hope we're wrong. We would love it if Ishida was to win and even though we are technically "neutral" we do tend to love the bizarre, odd and risky and for Ishida this is certainly risky, hence the fight headlining "Kamikaze 3".
Is it a suicide mission for Ishida or is it a career defining opportunity for 38 year old? That's what we will find out in less than a week.
(Pictures courtesy of:
Nobuhiro Ishida's blog
Video courtesy of TUGmanBOX)
Prior to starting this site some of our team were involved in a website looking at the brightest and most exciting youngsters in the sport. That site spent a lot of time observing the development of prospects in various counties and one of those fighters was the then unbeaten Yohei Tobe (now 7-1-1, 4).
In his first handful of of fighters Tobe's match making was seen as exciting and adventurous. Within just 4 fights he had beaten Wandee Singwancha, Kohei Kono and Ryan Bito. He had the look of a man on the fast track to the top and although their was still a lot of flaws with him he seemed to have something special about him, something you couldn't help but admire.
Unfortunately it came crashing down for Tobe just a fight later as he was stopped by Ryo Akaho in an OPBF title challenge. From then on Tobe has been largely forgotten, not helped by his draw with the then unheralded Richard Pumicpic. Of course Pumicpic turned out to be rather good and a draw to the Filipino youngster now looks like a solid result, but it didn't at the time.
Those early fights of Tobe showed some great promise and some major flaws. Firstly he is talented, brave and has amazing heart. Unfortunately he's often too brave, too open and defensively he's naive to say the least. He's often been happy to take one to land one and against some opponents that's been fine against Akaho however it wasn't such a good idea and he was stopped as Akaho had too much power for him.
Since the setbacks to Akaho and Pumicpic we have thankfully, see Tobe get his career back on track with a trio of victories though he steps back this Monday as he fights for the Japanese Super Flyweight title against the big hitting Taiki Eto (12-2, 9).
Taiki Eto, the twin brother of former WBA interim Flyweight champion Koki Eto, is another fighter who was tipped for major success early in his career. The Eto trio, Taiki, Koki and younger brother Shingo Eto, were described early in their careers as the "Okinawa Kameda's".
Although the Eto's have failed to fulfil their tag of being the Okinawa Kameda's they have still got a lot of time left to improve and become genuine starts. That journey to stardom however will require some great victories and fantastic performance, such as a win here for Taiki.
Whilst Tobe has got wins over Kono, Bito and Wandee it's hard to ignore that Eto himself has some notable results including stoppages over Konosuke Tomiyama, Isaack Junior, Ali Rochmad and a very hard fought loss to Filipino Arthur Villanueva.
In those wins we've seen Taiki often throw boxing formalities out of the window and instead turn fights in battles trying to out man his opponents in all out wars which make for some great action fights even if they are likely to see Taiki have a somewhat shortened career.
Going in to this Tobe is the #1 ranked Japanese Super Flyweight whilst Eto is the #2 ranked fighter as they meet for the title recently vacated by Teiru Kinoshita. In theory the ranking would make Tobe the favourite though we're going to be favouring Eto in what promises to be a wild and crazy war. We expect both to have their defensive issues taken advantage of, we expect to see both throw a lot and take a lot, though the difference will be the power. Taiki simply hits too hard to take repeated shots from and for Tobe this is an issue. Unless Tobe has been working incredibly hard on defence we can't see him lasting out the storm that Taiki will rain down on him early on.
Expect this to be a thrilling and exciting battle but a short lived one before we have an OPBF Light Welterweight title clash between Keita Obara and Jay Solmiano in a bout that could be just as exciting.
(Poster courtesy of http://danganboxing.com/)
OPBF title fights seem to come in two varieties. They tend to either be total mismatches where one fighter, usually the champion, is an unbackable favourite or they are genuinely brilliant match ups with fighters on the verge of world rankings if not a world title a fighter. Whilst the mismatches, such as the recent bout between Yoshihiro Kamegai and Jung-Hoon Yang, are very much bouts to be missed and not thought too much off we get other bouts, like the recent contest between Jonathan Taconing and Vergilio Silvano, that are genuine FOTY contenders.
We get another potentially brilliant match on this coming Monday as former Japanese Light Welterweight champion Keita Obara (10-1, 9), one of the most fearsome punchets in Asia, battles Filipino Jay Solmiano (17-2-1, 13), a former OPBF Lightweight title challenger, for the vacant OPBF Light Welterweight title.
Of the two men it's fair to say that Obara has to be the favourite. He's not only fighting at home in Japan but he's also the naturally bigger man having fought his whole professional career at 140lbs or above and he's also the bigger puncher. Although he has lost that was back in August 2010, on his more than ambitious debut against the experienced Kazuyoshi Kumano, and since then he has been on a tear defeating opponents in double quick speed. Of his 10 victims so far they have survived a total of 50 rounds and none of them have really come close to beating him.
With vicious power Obara isn't someone you want to get hit cleanly by. He can sometimes be a slow starter though he knows he only needs to tag an opponent once to lay them out and he does tend to land the big, powerful, hurtful shot that either finishes and opponent or opens them up for the finish.
In Solmiano we have a fighter with a misleading record. Looking at it you see two losses though one of those came in Japan via split decision to Nihito Arakawa, a bout many felt Solmiano deserved to win, the other loss came inside a round to Rey Labao in a bout that Solmiano destroyed himself trying to make weight for. Since moving up from Lightweight, where he suffered both of those losses, Solmiano has gone 6-0 (6) and taken just 16 rounds to beat those 6 opponents. Although his record might not show it directly Solmiano is a big puncher himself.
Unfortunately for the 27 year old Solmiano he hasn't scored any win of real note and he has has lost both of his bouts with "name" fighters. Of course that doesn't mean he's bad but he's not proven himself to be at Obara's level. It's also worth noting that he wasn't the original opponent and instead he's a replacement for fellow Filipino Adones Cabalquinto. Sure he's been given plenty of time to prepare for the contest but Obara did get a few weeks preparation time. On the flip side of that point Obara was preparing for a different opponent.
As to the actual fight we're a very slow fight fought at a deliberate pace from both men early on. They both know they possess power and can almost certainly hurt the other man though can be badly hurt themselves. It'd be foolish for either man to get tagged in the opening round or two and be stopped. Instead they will ease themselves into the bout, maybe an occasional early exchange but only an occasional one. By round 4 or 5 however the pace will begin to quicken and this will leave us to eciting round or two before one man, we believe Obara, lands a bomb at some point. We're envisioning Obara tagging Solmiano hard and a follow up attack sends him down. We imagine the Filipino probably will get up but will be saved soon afterwards.
With both men capable of landing bombs it's not out of the question that Solmiano is the one who connects bit and that's why this one gets our pulses racing a little bit. Don't be surprised if this one starts pretty forgettably but ends up being something a little special before the end.
Interesting this title was vacated a while back by Korean Min Wook Kim. We'll be honest we would love to have seen a fight between Kim and the winner, it'd a very special fight between heavy handed fighters and it would be one of those fights where you couldn't take your eye off the action just in case one of them were to land a bomb. Hopefully the winner will get the chance to defend again Kim though it's looking very unlikely with the Korean having almost vanished off the face of the planet in recent months.
(Poster courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Less than 24 hours after Manny Pacquiao's rematch with Timothy Bradley Japanese fans get a title fight of their own as the vacant Japanese Bantamweight title is put up for grabs. The title, vacated by Kohei Oba ahead of his unsuccessful bout with with Randy Caballero, will see Yu Kawaguchi (20-5, 9) meeting Kentaro Masuda (18-6, 10) in an attempt to crown a new national champion.
According the JBC these two are the top two contenders in Japan. Going in to the fight Kawaguchi it the #1 ranked fighter and Masuda is the #2 ranked fighter though this says a lot more about the Japanese Bantamweight scene than anything else.
As we know the top Bantamweight in Japan is Shinsuke Yamanaka, the WBC champion, behind him is Tomoki Kameda, the WBO champion and closely behind them is Ryosuke Iwasa, the OPBF champion and around the same level is former world title challenger Ryo Akaho. Basically Japan has 4 world level Bantamweights domestically however they struggle as a result and the domestic scene is rather weak.
Of the two fighters actually involved here we tend to feel that the 31 year old Masuda is the slight favourite. Firstly he appears to have mixed in better company with fights against both Iwasa and current Super Bantamweight champion Hidenori Otake. Although he lost to both has has been fight on and around the top of the Japanese domestic level for a while.
Whilst Masuda has faced two really recognisable names it's fair to say that Kawaguchi has only faced one on the same level, Yasutaka Ishimoto. He has also faced Jerope Mercado, but it's certainly Ishimoto that stands out and he actually beat Kawaguchi.
Interestingly both of the men have dipped their toes at Super Bantamweight as well as Bantamweight and whilst neither man should struggle to make 118lbs it still needs to be a point of consideration, especially when you consider that Kawaguchi hasn't weight 118lbs or less since 2009. To make the weight again could take something out of him though we're not expecting it to.
With both guys having, at best, moderate power we expect to see this bout going to a decision and with what we know of both it's going to be a close one with neither guy having the skills to clearly dominate the other.
In all honesty we're unsure who will win but we don't expect more than a round a two will separate the men in what promises to be a very interesting encounter, even if the winner won't crown the best Bantamweight in Japan. We're a guessing a split decision with Masuda the winner but this bout really is a toss up.
(Poster courtesy of http://green-tsuda.com)
With last week being a hectic week in Japanese boxing we're glad to see that this week is a little less busy. Despite that we do still have a national title fight as Japanese Flyweight champion Suguru Muranaka (19-2-1, 5) makes the first defence of his title.
Muranaka, who beat Takuya Kogawa for the title late last year, may not be a big name on the world stage but he is a proven quality fighter and his win over Kogawa did prove that, even though it is his only real win of note. Interestingly that victory was Muranaka's 13th victory ina 14 fight unbeaten run and you now need to go back to 2006 to find his last loss, a majority decision to Tomoya Kaneshiro.
Notably both of Muranaka's losses have come in close contests. His loss to Kaneshiro was a majority decision whilst his only other loss, to Shigeo Saito, was a split decision back in 2005.
The first challenger to Muranaka's throne is former world title challenger and former Japanese Light Flyweight champion Masayuki Kuroda (21-4-3, 13).
Kuroda, who was used as the sparring partner in Naoya Inoue's test bout, has of course been out of form recently. He is without a win since November 2011 though has lost just 1 of his last 4 bouts. That's because Kuroda, who lost to the talented Juan Carlos Reveco, has had a trio of draws with Ryoichi Taguchi, Toshimasa Ouchi and, most recently, Hyobu Nakagama.
In terms of experience, both in fights and quality, Kuroda has a big advantage here. Fights with Taguchi, Reveco and Yuki Sano have all been valuable bouts in his development. Sure he's failed to beat Taguchi and Reveco but both of those men are good fighters and, at worst, are on par with the best win on Muranaka's record.
As well as the experience Kuroda also has the edge in power. Neither man is a big puncher but with 13 stoppages in 28 bouts Kuroda is certainly a hard hitting than Muranaka who has just 5 stoppages in 22 bouts.
Of course Kuroda has those two edges Muranaka himself has his advantages. Firstly he's a natural Flyweight. Kuroda, for his achievements at Light Flyweight, has never done anything as a Light Flyweight. In terms of results he is 1-1-1 above a contracted 110lbs and could well have been 0-3. Add that to his awful record in recent bouts and it's hard to favour the challenger.
In terms of the two men stylewise Muranaka is a hard worker. He lacks real pop though Kogawa he throws a lot and depends an awful lot on his stamina and engine. This can make for great fights but he tends to need to go the distance and has stopped just 1 of is last 7 inside the distance. He's unlikely to stop Kuroda and will know that he needs to out work the challenger to retain his title the hard way.
Kuroda on the other hand is a strong guy. His work isn't technically great but he tends to be happy to be involved in an inside battle and goes to the body pretty. With that in mind he'll likely view his best chance at winning coming from grinding down Muranaka in an action packed bout with his body attack being the key.
What we're expecting is a busy fight. There will be lots of leather thrown and we actually envision this as being tough for the judges. Muranaka doesn't have the power to keep Kuroda away though on the other hand Kuroda doesn't have the skills to really dictate the action. This will see both men have spells of control and spells where they struggle, though we think overall Muranaka will do just enough in enough rounds to take a competitive but hard fought decision over the scheduled 10 rounds.
(Poster 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.