If we run through the names of the current Japanese champions one name that appears to stand out is Suyon Takayama (20-1, 7). Takayama, the Japanese Welterweight champion, is a fighter who really has been lost in the background and massively over-shadowed by Yoshihiro Kamegai, the only other Japanese Welterweight of note. It's a shame to admit this but Takayama is a fighter that even we over-look on a regular basis.
Although he's the "forgotten champion" on the Japanese domestic scene Takayama is very credible fighter and a man who has held his title for almost 2 years and already made 3 defences. Unfortunately he's over-shadowed not just be Kamegai in his division and the other champions across the various divisions and also his own stable mates, many of whom are simply more exciting, more engaging and more interesting than Takayama. Fighters like Shuhei Tsuchiya, Hiroki Okada and Kyotaro Fujimoto all steal the headlines whilst Takayama fades into the background.
Another thing that hurts Takayama is his competition. He's been facing the top contenders but they simply lack any recognition themselves and worst of all the fights are hard to find video of making it almost impossible for fight fans to spread the word about him. It's a shame but it's what's happened unfortunately.
The next challenger for Takayama's Welterweight title is Koshinmaru Saito (20-5-1, 11), who is actually the man he beat to win the title back in 2012.
In their first meeting Saito gave a good account of himself though came up short on the score cards in a battle for the then vacant title. Sadly for Saito that was his third title effort and his third title bid having previously lost, by stoppage, to Daisuke Nakagawa and Akinori Watanabe, both of whom are big punchers and exciting fighters to watch.
Unfortunately when you look through Saito's record there is nothing on there that stands out except for his title bids. No other opponents have any name value. On paper he looks good but in reality its difficult to say and his best result was the close loss to Takayama in their first bout.
Just like the first bout we're expecting to see Takayama winning. We suspect this will be a competitive bout but we only expect one man to win, and in fact we expect this to be scored wider than their first bout with Takayama having improved whilst Saito has aged. It may be Saito's last chance but it's probably come a bit too late.
Ranked #1 in the Japanese rankings Saito is the obvious challenger but he's an uninspiring opponent and in all honesty this fight should lead the way to the only fight that matters in the Japanese Welterweight scene. Takayama Vs Kamegai. Come on guys, lets have that one made for early next year!
(Image courtesy of http://www.kadoebi.com)
In boxing we sometimes have match ups that scream "exciting" and the upcoming Japanese Light Welterweight title fight between unbeaten champion Hiroki Okada (8-0, 7) and top ranked challenger Shamgar Koichi (18-5-1, 11) is certainly one such fight.
The champion, defending his title for the first time, is a heavy handed but crude fighter. There is a lot of work to do if Okada is ever going to get beyond the domestic level but whether he wins or loses he's going to be a lot of fun to follow as he attempts to behead his opponents.
Watching Okada early in his career he looked very flawed. He would often miss his opponents by a notable margin before eventually landing on them and staggering them or forcing the referee to step in mid-flurry, as was the case when he beat Jaypee Ignacio. He has managed to develop some skills to add to his power but at the moment his is still mainly a slugger though one who has gone 18 rounds in his last 2 fights.
As well as slugging and throwing wild shots Okada is a come forward fighter first and foremost. It may be harsh to say this but we don't think he was ever really taught how to box on the back foot or how to fight as a counter puncher.
Whilst Okada is an aggressive fighter so to is Koichi who always seems to be applying pressure, always tries to get on the inside and always tries to make the action exciting. Sometimes it works in his favour, as in his thrilling bout with Tomohiko Sakai back in 2012. Sometimes however it doesn't work and Koichi gets clipped then taken apart, as seen in his fight with Shinya Iwabuchi.
Koichi's pressure isn't the most controlled or intelligent but it is persistent and he comes comes at you from the first round to the last in the hope of beating you up or being stopped himself. Like Okada his flaws are clear and although he has a decent KO rate he lacks the power to really make the most of his in your face style. It's possibly however the "relative" lack of power that makes Koichi so much fun to watch, especially in the exchanges which can pretty relentless back-and-forth action.
When you get a crude but heavy handed guy and a pressure fighter in the ring together you tend to get excitement and fireworks and we're oing to be expecting both of those when the men get it on. As for a winner we need to go with the puncher. Koichi has been stopped in 3 of his 5 losses and with Okada's heavy hands we expect him to be stopped again though not before we get some really good action from both men.
(Image courtesy of http://www.kadoebi.com)
Kato takes on Saito, another big punching challenger, as he attempts to defence the Japanese title once again
It's hard to think of a title level fighter with a busier scheduled than Japanese Lightweight champion Yoshitaka Kato (27-5-1, 8). The shaven Kato has already fought twice this year and has actually fought thrice in the last 10 months but that isn't stopping him for looking another fight, and on July 23rd he returns to defend his national title for the 7th time in less than 3 years.
In the opposite corner to the tough and exciting Kato will be the big punching Tsukasa Saito (19-2, 14) who will be looking to score his most notable win to date and claim his second professional title, having previously been a WBC Youth champion.
Although the men are very different they do each share some trains, notably the excitement they bring to the ring. In Saito's case it's from his power and slight recklessness whilst with Kato the excitement comes from his toughness and his willingness to get into a war despite lacking single punch power. With that in mind the two men seem almost certain to deliver a thriller as they clash in the ring.
Kato is, by far, the more proven man having been a unified Japanese and OPBF champion, prior to losing the OPBF title to Masayoshi Nakatani, and having shared the ring with a relative who's who of Japanese opponents including Nihito Arakawa and Akihiro Honda, who fight in the main event on the same show, Shoji Kawase, Yuhei Suzuki, Motoko Sasaki and the aforementioned Nakatani. In his 33 fight career he has only been stopped once and has tested himself against the best Japan has to offer, often giving a fantastic account of himself.
As for Saito his competition has been much less testing though at just 24 years old he is younger, fresher, less damaged and slightly taller than Kato which could well neutralise the clear disadvantage in lack of experience.
Of the two men we're expecting Kato to be the more comfortable in the ring come fight night. He has proven that he enjoys fighting "punchers" and that they don't intimidate him, in fact if anything he shown an innate ability to turn their aggression back on them with clever counter-punching and timing. We're expecting to see him do just that on Saito who will come out, like so many others, with the intention of taking Kato out but finding him to be a very stubborn foe. The more Saito tries the more he'll get hit before eventually being broken down in the middle-to-late rounds. If the bout goes as we think it will we wouldn't be shocked to see Kato scoring a second successive 7th round TKO.
(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.