Heavyweight boxing isn't typically big news in Japan, however some fights do get the attention of boxing fans and notably there was a fair bit of coverage in the Japanese boxing press about the recent WBC Heavyweight world title bout between Deontay Wilder and Bermane Stiverne.
Part of the reason why the division is so over-looked in Japan is the fact that very few fighters in the country are Heavyweights. Typically the Japanese fighters have made their names in the lower weights with only a handful of champions above Lightweight. The big international Heavyweights get attention but domestically there is little time for Japanese fighters in the weight class which have typically been few and far between.
On April 30th however there will be a Heavyweight bout in Japan that has the potential to attract a lot of attention, both domestically and internationally. That bout, will see Japanese Heavyweight champion Kyotaro Fujimoto (11-1, 6) defending his title against former WBA interim Light Middleweight champion Nobuhiro Ishida (27-10-2, 11), a man best known for his huge upset victory over James Kirkland.
Ishida's international reputation, not just from the Kirkland bout but also contests with Gennady Golovkin, Paul Williams and Dmitry Pirog, will of course grab the attention of fans in the west. That attention was seen last year when Ishida began a remarkable journey to the Heavyweight division which saw him losing a close decision to Fujimoto in a surprisingly competitive 8 round bout. That bout was Ishida's Heavyweight debut and showed that he could compete in the division, at least domestically. Now a year on we've seen Ishida given time to really adapt to the division, get used to the weight and win two subsequent bouts in the division. Not only has he gotten used to the weight but he has seemingly gotten better after every fight.
Of course it takes two to tango and Fujimoto has also been a fighter showing signs of improvement since the first bout with Ishida. The was seen when Fujimoto stopped Kotatsu Takehara in what was their second meeting. In that bout Fujimoto looks brilliant. He was fast, sharp and landed almost at will. It wasn't the somewhat clumsy Fujimoto we had seen early in his career instead it was whole different fighter and one who was exciting to watch.
For those who didn't see their first bout it was an intriguing contest to say the least. Ishida seemed the more skilled and the one with the know how however his stamina lacked, his power wasn't there and he certainly slowed the longer the bout went on. He was probably fortunate that the contest was only an 8 rounder as it seemed he was beginning to struggle with the pace. The bout showed flaws for both men. Fujimoto showed a relative lack of skills and seemed unable to really make his weight advantage count until late whilst Ishida's lack of stamina stopped him from taking the later rounds that he needed for the win.
This time around we're expecting to see both men to have worked on their flaws. We know Fujimoto isn't going to suddenly become Wladimir Klitschko and be able to jab and move whilst remaining light on his feet. Likewise we know that Ishida isn't going to become a 100-punch per round swarming fighter. Though both will have improved since their first meeting and we're expecting a better fight over-all than their first contest.
Whilst we would love to see an Ishida win we do feel he's probably going to come up short. We suspect he surprised Fujimoto in their first meeting but this time around Fujimoto will know what to expect and will have trained for Ishida. Unfortunately if that's the case then we suspect Fujimoto will take a hard fought win over the challenger. Fujimoto will need to put on his best performance to win, but that's what we're expecting to see against Ishida here.
(Image courtesy of http://www.kadoebi.com)
The Super Bantamweight division is a hugely frustrating one in recent years. The bouts the fans want aren't being made and the bout we're getting are typically mismatches with little to really offer in terms of competitive action. In 2014 we failed to see any of the champions face each other, we also failed to see fighters like Genesis Servania, Kid Galahad, Shingo Wake, Hugo Ruiz, Rey Vargas or Albert Pagara get a shot at the the champions.
Even at the Japanese domestic level the division frustrated us in 2014. The most notable part of that frustration came when Hidenori Otake injured a rib prior to a scheduled title defence. Soon afterwards Otake vacated title and, subsequently, got himself a world title shot at WBA “regular” champion Scott Quigg. Whilst the injury “benefited” Otake in some ways it did leave one man out in the cold, Gakuya Furuhashi (17-5, 7).
It was Furuhashi who was supposed to be get the shot at Otake prior to Otake's injury but unfortunately he was forced to wait for a shot.
Whilst Furuhashi was waiting the JBC did put up the vacant title for a fight last December. The understanding was that Furuhashi would get the first shot at the winner.
The fight in December saw Yukinori Oguni (14-1, 4) claim the title with a very, very close decision over Yasutaka Ishimoto in a very good match up. As a result of that win Oguni knew he would be fighting Furuhashi in what looks likely to be another very good fight involving Oguni.
Of the two men involved it's Oguni who is the most well known. Not only is he the defending champion here but he is also a former OPBF champion, who lost that title to Wake in his only loss to date. In the ring Oguni is a very talented boxer mover who has lovely fast hands, nice movement and a lot of ability. He does however lack power and still seems to have the strength of a boy and not a man. To his credit however he does hold notable wins over the likes of Roli Gasca-twice, Hiromasa Ohashi, Masaaki Serie and Ishimoto and they all been due to his skills as opposed to his power.
What Oguni does so well is use his speed, both with his feet and his hands. His combinations are sharp, even if they lack power, his movement is intelligent and it takes a very good fighter to beat him.
As for Furuhashi, who really has waited for his shot, this will be his first title fight and the challenger really has had some mixed fortunes. In 2008 he was the All-Japan Bantamweight Rookie of the year but followed that up by losing his first bout in 2009, dropping a split decision to Masayoshi Tachiki. Losses to Ryuichi Funai and Coach Hiroto aren't too damning however they've been joined by losses to Yuji Ota and Hajime Nagai, both of which are disappointing defeats.
Whilst Furuhashi does have a number of losses he also has a couple of stand out wins. The first of those was an opening round blow out over Nobuhisa Coronita Doi in 2011 whilst more recently a 7th round TKO against Toru Suzuki. The win over Suzuki has been followed by a trio of lesser level wins, including one over a Thai debut as he's continued to prepare for his shot at a title bout.
Whilst getting footage of Oguni is no problem it has been difficult to get “real” footage of Furuhasi with the most notable film of him coming from a public sparring session with Akihiko Katagiri last year. Of course sparring isn't a real fight but it did show that Furuhashi had nice speed, a sharp jab and could find holes against a talented and naturally bigger fighter. The spar also showed that he was a talented boxer-puncher with a lot of skill.
Given what we know about the two men we expect that this will be a very interesting bout and could be hard to score. With neither man having a big punch it will almost certainly go the distance and will inevitably go down to the judges. From the footage Oguni is the better boxer and the fast fighter. Furuhashi however does look like the type of fighter who will begin to time Oguni and land counter right hands frequently. The question is whether he will land enough enough the notably taller Oguni who think will have a significant reach advantage. If Furuhashi can't time him then Oguni should be able to do enough to take a comfortable win, if Furuhashi can however slip the leads of the champion and fire back then this could be one that goes down to the wire.
(Image courtesy of http://www.kadoebi.com)
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.