On July 18th Japanese fans get treat to a national title fight at Super Bantamweight between defending champion Hidenori Otake and domestic challenger Daisuke Furuhashi. For us Otake is the second best Super Bantamweight in Japan behind OPBF champion Shingo Wake (16-4-2, 9), a man we rate very highly.
Wake returns to the ring just days after the Otake/Furuhashi fight and defends his OPBF title against the #1 ranked OPBF challenger Jaesung Lee (17-3-2, 9) from South Korea. Like Otake, Wake is world ranked and is looking towards a world title fight, though will know that he needs a win, and better yet an impressive one, if he is to make that next step get a fight for world honours either at the end of this year or early next year.
Wake is a fighter we are huge fans of and despite his record he appears to be a genuinely class fighter who is combining his fantastic skills with experience and maturity. In fact in many ways he's a big like Hozumi Hasegawa, as far out as that sounds, who suffered early losses then developed into a sensational fighter.
Wake lost 3 of his first 10 bouts though has gone 10-1-1 in his last 12 contests whilst moving through the rankings and becoming a real force.
The first sign of Wake's potential was shown back in 2011 though he began finding his groove last year when he shocked the previously unbeaten Yukinori Oguni to claim the OPBF belt. Since then he has scored a trio of title defences, all by stoppage, and looked like a fighter who has really grown in confidence and self belief.
Although Wake has recorded 4 successive stoppages his real trait isn't his power but his frustrating trickery. Firstly he's a tall, rangy Super Bantamweight, add that to the fact he's a southpaw with quick reactions and sharp counter-punching and the fact he can take a shot without being troubled and you have a nightmare to fight. Sure he picked up losses early in his career but in recent fights he has been busier, more accurate and hard hitting than he was early on and it's shown in his results and his ever growing reputation as a potential world champion in one of boxing's more loaded divisions.
In the Korean challenger we have a man who will be determined to launch himself on to the world stage. Lee not only has a chance to claim an OPBF title here but also put himself immediately into the world title mix. That's a huge opportunity for a man who is one of the few active South Koreans to actually look like he's got something about him.
Lee is a fighter who, like Wake, suffered losses relatively early in his career. In fact Lee began his career 10-3-1 before going 7-0-1 in his last 8 bouts which have included wins over a number of Wake's compatriots, including Akihiro Matsumoto, Seigo Sato and Takuya Watanabe. Rather interestingly Lee is 3-0 (1) in Japan and is 4-0-1 (1) again Japanese opponents, a very impressive record for a South Korean right now. Further to that is that all 3 of Lee's losses have come in the US to Jesus Salvador Perez, Jorge Diaz and, most notably, world champion Mikey Garcia.
From what we've seen of Lee he has a lot of traits one has come to expect of Korean fighters. He's brave, he takes a good shot, despite having 2 stoppages on his record, and he's happy to take one if he's going to land one in return. Of course like many Korean's his defence isn't a strong point though he certainly looks after himself better than, for example, Ji Hoon Kim who fights like defence is a dirty word. One thing we did find very misleading about about his record is that on paper he's not a puncher, in reality it does look like he has some real sting in his right hand, he's not a concussive puncher obviously but he looks like a solid puncher.
Whilst we do enjoy watching Lee, and his fight with Watanabe from earlier this year was an amazing blood bath, we really don't see him posing any threat to Wake who we expect will be too sharp, too skilled, too fast and too good for Lee. Lee is what he is, an entertaining but crude action fighter unfortunately for him we don't see any way in which he can trouble Wake who is an exceptional sharp shooter. Hopefully however Lee will be invited back to Japan for a better stylistic match up for his next fight as he's someone who is made for TV.
As for Wake we think a win here will be followed by either a world title fight in early 2014 or a world title eliminator. Hopefully he'll get a major bout that is given international exposure so a fight with someone like Leo Santa Cruz, Carl Frampton or Scott Quigg would be really top of our list for Wake for next year.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Otake looks to take one more step towards a world title fight as he defends his Japanese title once again
The Super Bantamweight division is to be a busy on through out the month of July with numerous major bouts taking place in less than a week. In Macau fans will get the chance to see the exceptionally gifted Guillermo Ringondeaux defending his WBO and WBA titles against Thailand's Sod Kokietgym, in Peru fans will get to see Nehomar Cermeno defending his WBA interim title against the unbeaten Carlos Zambrano and in Japan fans will see OPBF champion Shingo Wake defending his title against Jeasung Lee.
Before any of those bouts however we get a Japanese title fight as the world ranked, IBF#3 and WBO #11, Hidenori Otake (22-1-3, 9) defends his national title for the 5th time in under 2 years and attempts to extend a 17 fight unbeaten run that dates all the way back to 2008.
Although Otake, for our money, isn't the best Super Bantamweight in Japan right now he is an accomplished fighter who has been stringing together credible wins on a regular basis in recent years. Those wins have included victories over Kentaro Masuda, Takfumi Nakajima and Mikihito Seto, though they have all proven that he's not a major puncher and has had to rely on his toughness and work rate which in turn has shown off his stamina and heart.
This time around Otake will be fighting against a real under-dog in the form of Japanese #6 ranked challenger Daisuke Furuhashi (16-5, 6). It's fair to say, considering how highly Otake is ranked by both the IBF and WBO as well as numerous independent ranking bodies, that this is widely viewed as a mismatch, however in our eyes it's more competitive than it looks on paper, though we do still favour Otake.
On paper Furuhashi's looks like a very limited fighter though one thing that needs noting is that his record is mostly marked up from fights that he had at Bantamweight, fights that were very close and fights fought before he began to reach his prime. If Furuhashi had had a bigger name backing him we'd suspect 3 of his losses would likely have been wins. In the last 12 months it's also worth noting that Furuhashi has started to find his boxing groove and has scored a trio of solid wins including a very notable stoppage over former Japanese Featherweight title contender Toru Suzuki.
From what we understand Furuhashi, who is the man pictured in the top right of the poster, is an aggressive fighter who can be out boxed but comes to win. He lacks power himself though has scored notable stoppages over both Suzuki, as mentioned above, and Nobuhisa Coronita Doi, who gave Otake some serious questions last year. If he can make the most of that power he could give Otake some real issues, especially when you consider that Otake isn't defensively the most sound.
Whilst we're not Otake's biggest fans he has been finding ways to win fights by gritting his teeth and toughing it out. For this fight he has even more reason to grit his teeth, as a chance for a world title fight is just around the corner and anything but a convincing win could see that chance vanishing. With that in mind we expect to see Otake trying not just to win but to make a statement taking the fight to Furuhashi from the off.
Of course Otake doesn't need to impress us but he will need to impress someone to get a chance at a world title and we imagine that this performance will be all about impressing his team, the title bodies, the JBC and the fans. To do that we think OTake will be hunting a stoppage and we acctully expect him to get it very late in the fight, though not without a struggle early in the bout.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
When we discuss the best Middleweight in Japan there is only one man who comes to mind, Ryota Murata. The Olympic champion isn't just the best Middleweight in Japan but probably the second best Middleweight from Asia right now behind Kazakhstan's Gennady Golvokin.
The general view is that Murata is so far more advanced than anyone in his homeland that his next fight in Japan, at the end of the year, is likely to be his last before he sets off to the US to move towards a world title fight.
Sadly the fact Murata is so much better than the others in his weight at home has perhaps hurt the domestic title scene but in fairness to the JBC and the OPBF they have both of their titles around the waist of the next best Middleweight in Japan, Akio Shibata (22-8-1, 9), one of the stars of the Watanabe Gym.
Shibata was the debut opponent of Murata back in August 2013 and was stopped in the second round by the Olympic champion. He bounced back well from that loss however and dominated the big punching Daisuke Nakagawa to unify the OPBF and Japanese titles whilst also expelling any lingering demons following the loss to Murata.
It's unfortunate in many ways that Shibata will be remembered by international fans as "the guy Murata beat on his debut" because he's actually a fantastically talented boxer-mover. He combines an intelligence in the ring with great hand speed and clever footwork. He may not be the most durable with 5 stoppage losses but he's worked on staying away from a tear up well and with reigns as unified champion at both 154lbs and 160lbs it's hard to discredit him.
Whilst Shibata is much better than many fans realise, especially those who only know of him for the Murata bout, his opponent in his up coming title defence is a lot better than his record indicates. His challenger Hikaru Nishida (10-6-1, 3) has the record of an extremely limited fighter, someone who is miles away from being being a potential threat to one of the best Middleweights in Asia. Nishida however posses a record that is nothing short of misleading.
The challenger lost 5 of his first 10 bouts beginning his career 4-5-1. Those losses were all close and, although on paper, it was an awful start to his career he did seem better than the records suggest and he also went 1-1 Sanosuke Sasaki, who later became the Japanese Middleweight champion.
Since his first 10 bouts Nishida has gone 6-1 scoring a string of notable wins including a stoppage over former multi-time title challenger Fukutaro Ujiie, a decision over former 2-weight OPBF champion Kazuhiko Hidaka and most recently a decision over former world title challenger Makoto Fuchigami. Whilst those wins may have been a little bit down to luck and timing on Nishida's part they are all very solid wins and the sort of wins that deserve to get someone a domestic title fighter.
At 26 years old Nishida is coming into his prime, he's battled hardened and, although not fully developed as a fighter or a man, he is a very credible challenger in the form of his life. Unfortunately him some would argue he's a small Middleweight, stood at 5'9, and should be competing at 154lbs if he can make that weight.
We are fans of fighters who battle through early career adversity like Nishida has. It's things like that that make us get behind fighters like Gerpaul Valero and Rey Loreto. Unfortunately for Nishida however we think Shibata's talent and speed will be too much to overcome and in the end Nishida will put up a brave effort but lose a clear cut decision to a talented and often over-looked fighter who deserves more respect than he seem to get.
(Image courtesy of Watanabe gym)
Although some what unknown on the international stage Hisashi Amagasa (26-4-2, 17) is a man who is starting to make his mark on the world stage. He's not only a former Japanese Featherweight champion but is the current OPBF champion at 126lbs and has managed to earn himself top 15 rankings with all 4 major title bodies. Western fans might not recognise his face or his name but he's a fighter who really beginning to prove himself and come in to his own as a potential world title challenger.
Part of why Amagasa is so highly ranked is his OPBF title, the belt tends to act as a huge booster towards a world ranking with the WBC, another part of why he is ranked is the fact he has scored 11 successive wins one though the biggest reason is that some of those wins have come against recognisable fighters including a decision over former WBA Super Bantamweight world champion Ryol Li Lee. The most significantly reason however is not that he has just won his last 11 fights but the fact that those wins were against mostly credible opponents, not just Lee, and good wins do help improve a fighters rankings.
Amagasa will be hoping to extend his winning run to 12 fights this week when he returns to defend his OPBF title for the second time. Unfortunately however this defence comes against a much more limited foe than a number of his recent fights. That's because Amagasa will be fighting the very limited Thai Maxsaisai Sithsaithong (14-4, 3) who really is a very questionable OPBF title challenger.
Aged 35 Maxsaisai is getting the biggest fight of his career and it could well be his last.
At the early stages of his career Maxsaisai looked very promising. He won his first 11 fights in under 3 years before being forced out of the ring in 2007. It took over 5 years before the fighter returned to the ring and unfortunately his return has been less than memorable with 3 wins and 4 losses including a decision loss to journeyman Jack Asis, a loss to Juan Martin Elorde and stoppages to Joel Brunker and Jun Doliguez. Those results, which make up 4 of the last 6 bouts for Maxsaisai suggest that he's not fit for an OPBF title fight.
From what we've seen of the Thai there is nothing that he has that should worry Amagasa, in fact he has nothing that should worry any OPBF ranked fighter at 126lbs. He's not a puncher, he's not ultra skilled, he's not fast, he's not going to break you down. In all honesty he's just very poor.
Amagasa, whilst not comparable to the likes of Shinsuke Yamanaka or Takashi Uchiyama is a very talented fighter. He combines skills, power and awkward size to make himself a very hard to beat fighter and despite having 4 losses on his record he's developed into a very good fighter and one we'd suggest could hold his own with some of the current world champions.
With all the tools at Amagasa's disposable we're expecting to see him stop Maxsaisai as he continues his march towards a world title fight. With the reach and height of the Japanese fighter we'd not be shocked at seeing him lining up powerful straight that eventually wear down the over-matched challenger who will be lucky to see out more than 6 rounds.
(Image courtesy of http://www.kadoebi.com)
A lot of good Asian fighters are hidden from the US audiences due to the weights they fight at and as a result the likes of Naoya Inoue and Akira Yaegashi are unlikely to ever be featured on US TV which is a real shame. Thankfully however not all Japanese fighters are kept away from American fans and this weekend sees the always fun to watch Yoshihiro Kamegai (24-1-1, 21) return to US TV for his 4th fight in front of the American TV cameras.
Kamegai is currently 1-1-1 on US TV having won his American debut with an eye catching and thoroughly exciting stoppage victory against Hector Munoz in 2011, he then returned to the US the following year and fought to a draw with Jorge Silva before losing, last year, to Johan Perez in what was a genuinely disappointing effort by Kamegai who was made to look slow, sluggish and completely off the pace by the fleet footed Venezuelan.
Since the loss to Perez we've seen Kamegai return to Japan and score back to back stoppage claim and defend the OPBF Welterweight title. He'll be hoping to keep that winning run going as he faces his most notable opponent to date, Robert "The Ghost" Guerrero (31-2-1-2, 18). Guerrero, a multi-weight former world champion, is coming back to the ring following a 13 month break from action after his loss last year to Floyd Mayweather Jr. That loss was then followed by Guerrero trying to free himself from a promotional contract with Golden Boy Promotions in the hope of securing a Manny Pacquiao fight. Unfortunately for Guerrero he failed to get the release he was wanting and instead ended up spending more time away from the ring before this bout was announced.
At his best Guerrero is very decent boxer-fighter who can box well and take a fight to someone. He's not a natural Welterweight by any stretch of the imagination but he's still strong at the weight, moves well and has a decent work rate as he showed in his bouts with Selcuk Aydin and Andre Berto back in 2012. Of course both of those fights are a long time ago and since then both Aydin and Berto have been shown to be at the end of the line. At 31 and with the long lay off some may also suggest that Guerrero is a fighter who is also on the verge of calling an end to his career.
Although 4 months older than Guerrero the Japanese fight is arguably the fresher man having not been in too many wars despite his relatively basic and straight ahead style. The reason Kamegai lacks the miles on the clock that Guerrero has is the fact that he has been given ridiculous power that has bailed him out on a fairly regular basis. This has allowed Kamegai not only to score 21 stoppages in 26 fights but keep his average fight length to just 5.26 rounds a fight, a round a fight less than Guerrero who has gone around 6.25 rounds a fight. It may not sound like a lot but Kamegai has been in 137 pro rounds to Guerrero's 225 rounds and Kamegai has also fought them at a lower level, not trading shots with the likes of Aydin, Katsidis, Salido, Casamayor and Klassen.
With his natural size advantage, power, hunger and desire to prove himself we actually give Kamegai a good chance here. He is, as mentioned earlier, facing a man coming to the ring after a long lay off and who is naturally smaller and, probably more importantly, enjoys a fight. If Guerrero gets involved in a fight with Kamegai, which we imagine he will, we can genuinely see the power and strength of the Japanese fighter taking it's toll on the American and we refuse to rule out the upset here from the Japanese fighter.
We know we're in the minority but we'll be putting money on Kamegai by stoppage in the late rounds with his heavy hands being the difference between the two men.
Incidentally Johan Perez, who beat Kamegai last year, will be defending his WBA interim Welterweight title in July against Mauricio Herrera who shares a nickname of "El Maestro" with Kamegai. This bout has been pencilled in for the same card as Tomoki Kameda Vs Pungluang Sor Singyu
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
If there is one Japanese fighter who has proven to be capable of holding his own with world champions though has yet to win a world title then that man is the huge punching Satoshi Hosono (25-2-1, 19) who has fallen short in 3 world title contests.
Although Hosono has come up short against Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym, Celestino Caballero and Chris John he is still one of the most feared punchers in the Featherweight division and is a man looking to earn another world title shot sooner rather than later, especially considering that he seemed to be getting on top of John before a clash of heads curtailed that bout.
Whilst Hosono is waiting for a world title opportunity he is staying active and earlier this year he won the Japanese Featherweight title for the second time when he stopped the previously unbeaten slickster Yuki Ogata. Prior to the stoppage in that bout Hosono seemed to be struggling with the movement and hand speed of Ogata though, as he has had through out his career, Hosono had the get out of jail card with his impressive and thunderous
For the second time in as many fights Hosono finds himself up against a speedy, slick and unbeaten fighter as he tales on Gosuke Seki (15-0-2, 3). Just like in the Ogata fight Hosono not only faces a man with speed and movement but also someone who lacks experience at this level ans also lacks any sort of "stay away" power. There are differences between this bout and the Ogata bout however.
Unlike Ogata, who was just over 5'7", Seki won't have a height advantage over Hosono, in fact it's Hosono who will have the height advantage here. That however will likely be neutralised a bit by the fact Seki is a southpaw giving him a slight edge over the experienced champion, despite the fact Hosono knocked out his last southpaw opponent inside a round.
Impressively this is Hosono's 13th title bout across the various levels. For Seki this is not just his first title bout but his first 10 round bout. Worst of all for Seki he has struggled in numerous 8 rounders with 4 of his 8 rounders being either split or majority decisions. In fact actually going through Seki's record we see a man who has been very fortunate to remain unbeaten with 3 of his first 5 bouts being incredibly close affairs as well as his recent 8 rounders.
These results tell us a lot of what we need to know about Seki. He's a capable fighter but nothing exceptional, he's unlikely to ever be a threat at a higher level and he's unlikely to really pose Hosono the sme issues as Ogata, despite the similarities that those two have.
What we're expecting here is for Hosono to try and leave a quick and lasting impression. The idea of Hosono getting a 4th world title fight later this year is something he seems likely to want and if he can see off Seki quickly he'll that opportunity and offer himself for a fighter with any of the champions for the end of the year. With Ohashi Gym behind him there is every chance they'll help guide him to a title as they try and develop more and more champions at their gym.
(Image courtesy of Ohashi Gym)
(Video below, courtesy of Ebibox, shows some of Seki's training for this fight)
When you have a champion like Amnat Ruenroeng who would make anyone look bad with his combination of skill, speed, experience and confidence, it's fair to say that there's not going to be a line of fighters queuing up to face him. Despite that the IBF won't allow their title to just sit on the side as it did when it was held by former champion Moruti Mthalane who defended it just 4 times in 3 years.
With that in mind they've already set up a very interesting an eliminator for June 19th between the unbeaten Froilan Saludar (19-0-1, 12) and former amateur world champion McWilliams Arroyo (14-1, 12), the winner of which is set to face Ruenroeng later this year in what promises to be yet another interesting fight for the outstanding Thai.
Of the two men the one we're more interested in is, of course, Saludar who is a Filipino fighter that has often been regarded as the best natural talent in the Philippines for a generation. With sharp counter punching, lightning speed and vicious delivery to both head and body Saludar deserves his very accurate moniker of "The Sniper" though at times he's had to shown more to his game than just powerful counter punching. He's sometimes, like compatriot Nonito Donaire, struggled to force the fight but like Donaire his potent shots really are fight ending when they land clean and he has that killer instinct that knows when to strike.
Sadly Saludar's career has fallen into the doldrums a bit in recent years and many were tipping him to become a star 3 or 4 years ago before he ran into issues and was forced to spend more than a year out of the ring. Those issues and difficulties however are now well behind him and he's managed to stack in 3 fights in the last 9 months giving him an opportunity to shake off any ring rust and get back into the swing of things. Although 2 of his 3 recent contests have gone the distance they seemed to be fought with the intention of trying new things against significantly bigger men rather than just trying to finish equally sized fighters off. As a result of those 3 bouts Saludar has racked up 22 of his career 87 rounds.
In Arroyo we have a man who was earned marked as a potential world champion as soon as he turned professional. He was viewed by many as the natural successor to Juan Manuel Lopez and Miguel Cotto as the future of Puerto Rican boxing, alongside his twin brother McJoe Arroyo. Unfortunately for him the hype didn't really help him and in his 4th professional fight he was upset by Japan's Takashi Okada.
Since the loss to Okada we've really seen McWilliams improve fight after fight. He has shown tremendous power stopping 9 of his subsequent 11 opponents, he has also shown a great level of maturity, as seen in his 10 round decision win over Luis Maldonado. Offensively he's great with speed, power and great punch selection. Defensively however there are real question marks over McWilliams. In the loss to Okada he was dropped in the second round and in fights since he has been caught with more shots than he should have been caught with.
Although both go about it differently they both have the same mentality of stopping opponents. Though for this bout they will be trying to do it against a significantly better opponent than either has faced so far. Being at home it may be that McWilliams has a slight edge though stylistically we do tend to favour the sharper Saludar who we think will make McWilliams pay for his some what loose defence. When Saludar catches an opponent clean it can be lights out and that needs to be on the mind of everyone going in to this bout.
One interesting thing to note about this bout is not just that both men are stepping up a class but it's easily being their biggest fight to date and a major stepping stone to a huge fight later this year. That of course brings pressure with it and the question as to who wins could well be a case of who ever manages to deal with the pressure the best, predicting who does that is always a very difficult call.
Note-This fight will be televised in the US on Fox Sports 1
(Image courtesy of http://www.tcpr.com)
All too often in boxing fans over-look the smaller fighters despite how exciting they can be. Last year so one such over-looked but brilliant fight in Thailand as Japan's Koki Eto (14-3-1, 10) went to Bangkok and won a war with Thailand's very own Kompayak Porpramook for the WBA interim Flyweight title. The bout was one our favourites from last year and one of the most scintillating bouts of recent years.
Eto's reign as interim world champion didn't last long and less than 4 months after his victory over Porpramook he was beaten himself by Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep in what was his first defence. Like the Porpramook bout it was a ard one and will have added considerable miles to the clock of the all action Japanese fighter.
Almost 7 months on from the loss to Yodmongkol we see Eto returning to the ring and fighting against experienced Filipino Ardin Diale (23-8-3, 10) in a bout for the vacant OPBF Flyweight title, a bout that promises to be an all out war.
From the fights we've seen of Eto he's never gong to be a talented boxer. He is a warrior through and through, he comes to fights and will either win or go out on his shield in exciting fashion. In all honesty he is a perfect "made for TV" fighter but sadly doesn't appear to be getting much TV time.
In Diale we have a more experience fighter who has seemingly been around forever but at just 25 years old he is younger than his Japanese and has already fought at a higher level. In fact in 34 fights the list of notable names Diale has faced include Rodel Mayol, Wanheng Menayothin, John Riel Casimero, Julio Cesar Miranda and Juan Francisco Estrada, a very impressive list of opponents.
Although Diale typically comes up short against the best opponents that he faces he has proven to be a very credible fighter who combines toughness, heart and action. Just like Eto he is a very TV friendly fighter who comes to the ring to fight. Sadly he has been stopped 3 times, though all of those stoppages have come to world class fighters and and they have all come with Diale having given a good account of himself against opponents who looked bigger than himself.
With a pair of warriors we are bound to have a fire cracker here and we're actually very split on who we think will come out on top. Eto has home field advantage, though has never previously fought in a title fight in Japan, and has had a slightly longer training camp. Diale, who was a replacement opponent, is in the form of his life and has won 6 of his last 8, all by KO.
We, as a team, couldn't make a guess on the winner though we all agreed that this has potential FOTY written all over it and is very unlikely to go the scheduled 10 rounds. It has a war written all over it and we hope that it lives up to that potential. The winner is unlikely to progress to winning world titles, especially in the insanely difficult Flyweight division, but the fans are certainly not going to be disappointed by following either man after this fight.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Over the last year or so we've seen a number of very exciting prospects emerge through the Japanese ranks. One of those is current Japanese Super Featherweight champion Rikki Naito (9-0, 5) who, at just 22 years old, looks like being one of the genuine stars of the future.
Although still a novice Naito dominated veteran Hiroyasu Matsuzaki in February to win the national title and really come of age with a performance that demonstrated why he is so highly regarded by the Japanese boxing press. It was this performance that caused fans to sit up and take not and accept that Naito was more than just the son of Cassius Naito, a former champion himself.
Naito will be making the first defence of that title this coming Monday as he battled one of the nearly men of the Japanese title scene, Kyohei Tamakoshi (32-8-6, 12).
With 46 fights on his ledger Tamakoshi has fought in more than 5 times as many professional bouts as Naito, he has more than 6 times as many rounds as the champion and has fallen short in 5 previous Japanese of OPBF title fights. Yet the 33 year old challenger knows that this could be not only his last chance at a major title but also his hardest with many tipping Naito as not just a future world champion but a future dominant force at 130lbs.
What makes Naito so highly regarded is his overall package. He's not a dynamite fisted fighter like compatriot Takashi Uchiyama, he's not an out-and-out aggressive machine like Takashi Miura and he's also not a physical monster like Daiki Kaneko. Instead he's a man who combines speed, stinging power and skills. He's never going to just through fighters but he's going to box them, use fast but powerful counters and break them both physically and mentally. Most worryingly for the boxing world isn't how good Naito is, but how quickly he's improving and we'd not be shocked by him continuing to get better for another few years whilst also maturing physically. To be bluntly honest he's only going to get better.
For Tamakoshi this really is his last chance and amazingly it falls almost 10 years to the day of his first title fight, a draw with the then Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Yoshikane Nakajima. Since then Tamakoshi has lost to a handful of of very good fighters, including the aforementioned Daiki Kaneko as well as Masaaki Serie and Mikihito Seto. Despite the losses he has proven to be tough with only Kaneko stopping him in recent years. Interestingly whilst Tamakoshi is best known for his losses he does actually hold a huge win over Dante Jardon in a fight that proved not only Tamakoshi's toughness but also his power as he dropped Jardon 4 times. Tamakoshi may not have the record of a banger but he certainly can hurt fighters when he lands solidly.
What Tamakoshi has is not just experience and toughness but he is also rather awkward. A lot of what he does doesn't look all that great but he makes life difficult for fighters who come at him. For this fight however we don't expect to see Naito going after Tamakoshi, instead we're expecting to see Naito the counter puncher in action, forcing Tamakoshi to lead off then using the speed to counter the challenger. It was a tactic that worked excellently when Naito won the title and we expect it to work again here.
Whilst we view Naito as the 4th best Super Featherweight in Japan we have no doubts that he's a future world champion and for us Tamakoshi is merely step on the journey of one of Japanese boxing's most exciting young talents. Depending on how much of a show Naito wants to put on we actually can see him looking for a stoppage late on if he intends to prove a point. Other wise this will be a clear decision for the champion.
At the moment the only men in Japan that Naito needs to avoid are the two Takashi's and Kaneko, they would all be too much for the youngster at this point. By the time Naito reaches his peak however Uchiyama will have retired and Kaneko will likely have moved to pastures new at Lightweight giving a huge opening to Naito to become a real national star. Thankfully for the youngster he combines talent with charisma, a natural story due to his father's success and a unique look that helps to make him very memorable. Those will all help him become one of the top names of the next 10 years in Japanese boxing.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
This year has seen numerous new Japanese champions crowned. The first of those new champions was speedy southpaw Go Odaira (9-3-3, 1) who won his title on January 17th when he defeated Masashi Tada via a clear decision to claim the Japanese Minimumweight title. Odaira was thoroughly impressive in his victory over Tada as he bounced shots off Tada's head then bounced himself out of range, effectively leaving Tada chasing shadows in a career defining performance.
Now, almost 5 months later, we see Odaira returning to the ring as he attempts to make the first defence of his title. In the opposite corner to the lightning quick Odaira will be another light hitting fighter in the form of Yuma Iwahashi (11-6-1, 1) who, although relatively unknown, has shared the ring with a number of credible fighters.
The most notable opponents that Iwahashi has faced are Atsushi Kakutani, Kenichi Horikawa, Ryuji Hara and Wanheng Menayothin, all of whom defeated, Iwahashi who is a little bit fortunate to be ranked #1 by the JBC. Despite those losses however we have been impressed at times with Iwahashi who has developed into a decent, though not outstanding, fighter and given that his reported amateur record was just 3-2 (1) he is still very inexperienced. From what we've seen he's tough, brave and has solid movement early in a bout though he's unfortunate not to be gifted with much power though does throw some good combinations, sadly his opponents do tend to walk through them and they are often too few.
Whilst Iwahashi is tough, and his only stoppage loss came way back in 2008 to Kakutani, he is very limited from what footage is available and unfortunately for him this will be a real issue against Odaira.
Odaira himself is one of 3 fighting brothers, easily the most successful of the trio despite a poor start. Odaira turned professional back in 2006 and began his career 3-3-1 with one of those losses coming to Ryuji Hara. There was obvious talent there and his losses, on the whole, were very close but there was something missing. Since then however things have started to click for Odaira who is unbeaten in 8 fights and has a trio of notable wins as he has over-come Takashi Kunishige, Kazuma Kitahara and most recently Masashi Tada.
What was missing for Odaira seems to have been found with a combination of experience and maturity and he has gone from being a nobody to being a Japanese champion and a man who looks very difficult to beat with a style similar to that of his handler Susumu Hanagata. Hanagata, like Odaira, was speedy, talented and light punching though had a great career that saw him beating Masao Oba and Chartchai Chionoi, defeating Chinoi for a world title.
We're expecting a distance bout, they happen when neither guy really sits on their punches, but we're also expecting a bit of a mismatch with Odaira having too much speed, to much guile and too much aggression for Iwahashi who we think will look like a second class citizen in there. We think Odaira will be too quick on his feet, make the most of his southpaw stance and generally be too quick with hands and feet for the challenger who will be game but outclassed en route to losing a wide decision.
We don't think Odaira will do as well as Hanagata did in his career but we'd be very shocked if he lost to Iwahashi here. Interestingly though there has been talk about Kosei Tanaka challenging the winner of this bout later this year.
For those interested in little details this will be the co-main event at Dangan 103 with the other main event being the Japanese Super Featherweight title fight between the unbeaten Rikki Naito and veteran Kyohei Tamakoshi. All 4 of the main event fighters are featured on the poster above.
(Image 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.