On July 31st Japanese fans will have a pair of title bouts in Osaka, at the Sumiyoshi Ward Center. The more notable of those bouts takes place up at Light Middleweight where OPBF champion Takayuki Hosokawa (28-10-4, 9) defends his title against Koshinmaru Saito (23-8-1, 13). For the champion it will be the first defense of the title, that he won last November from Dennis Laurente in a Split Decision, whilst the challenger will be having his 6th shot at a title belt, having gone 0-6 so far.
Aged 31 Hosokawa is having the run of his career with a 6-0-1 (2) streak against some solid names, like Patomsuk Pathompothong, Tadashi Yuba, Laurente and a draw with Yuki Nonaka. Given that he was, once, 11-6-3 (2) Hoskawa really has forged a solid career for himself and has claimed both the Japanese and the OPBF title at 154lbs.
The champion debuted back in 2002 and although he won his debut he quickly racked up losses falling to 2-3 within 18 months of his debut. Despite those setbacks, and others that left him with a record of 9-6 and later the 11-6-3 record mentioned above, he kept ploughing on, refusing to give up on his dreams. In 2011 he eventually got his first title bout, but was stopped by Makoto Fuchigami in a Japanese Middleweight title bout, before dropping back down to find his natural weight. Since losing to Fuchigami we've seen Hosokawa lose just once, and winning 10 of his 12 bouts. That loss, for those wondering, came to Akio Shibata who wasn't a bad fighter himself.
In the ring Hosokawa isn't anything special. We don't mean that in a harsh way either. He's not the fastest, the most powerful, the best mover or the strongest. What he is however is true worker and he will always give his all. It's that hard work that has seen him become the fighter he is today and it's that same hard work that sees him being such a frustrating fighter to face. He moves a lot, he throws a far bit, he stands up to opponents who want to try and impose themselves on him and given his southpaw stance he's also a bit extra awkward.
Whilst Hosokawa has built his resume following an awful start the same cannot be said for Saito. The worst the challenger's record has ever been was 5-2 (3) and whilst his record was never bad he has never been able to “get over the line” in a big one, with a 0-5 record in title bouts. The first of those title bout defeats came in 2009, when he was stopped by Daisuke Nakagawa whilst other defeats at that level have come to Akinori Watanabe, Suyon Takayama, twice, and Yuki Nonaka. He has also been stopped by the ever dangerous Arnel Tinampay back in December 2014.
Due to those losses Saito will be entering this bout 3-3 in his last 6, with defeats to Takayama, Tinampay and Nonaka and wins over Koki Koshikawa, Takehiro Shimokawara and a visiting Thai novice in what was just a stay busy bout.
In the ring Saito is another worker, but one who has shown durability issues in recent times. He has shown a perhaps questionable ability when he gets his big chances and we suspect we'll see that issue arise here,especially given that he's now 37. At his best he was a good title contender, but we suspect his best has been and gone, and whilst he could pose Hosokawa some problems we can't see him winning, even though this will almost certainly be his last big opportunity.
We suspect Hosokawa's relative freshness will be the difference and the champion will retain with a clear, but hard earned, decision in an engaging but not thrilling contest.
The Super Featherweight division has, over the last few years, provided come of the best bouts and some of the most notable upsets. It has also provided some brilliant lesser known bouts and developed some great contenders who are starting to break through the ranks. One of those is OPBF champion Masayuki Ito (18-1-1, 8), a 25 year old Japanese boxer who has developed into one of the divisions top prospects.
This coming Thursday Ito returns to the ring for his first bout of the year as he defends his OPBF title against Filipino fighter Ernie Sanchez (15-7-1, 6). The bout will be Ito's Second defense of the title and see him return to the ring for the first time since his impressive win against Shingo Eto last December. On the other hand it will be Sanchez's first bout since he was stopped by Oscar Valdez, also last December.
At his best Ito is an out-side fighter using great straight punches, movement and speed to out box opponents and occasionally break them down, as seen in recent wins against Dai Iwai, Jeffrey Arienza and Kazuya Nakano. Although he is showing an increase in power, after scoring just 3 stoppages in his first 12 bouts, he is still a pure boxer at heart and an incredibly talented one at that.
Ito may not be as recognisable as some of the other divisional prospects, like Valdez, Mario Barrios or Liam Walsh but he does hold notable wins over the likes of Arienza, Iwai, Eto and most notably Masao Nakamura. He does have a loss, unlike some of the other prospects in the division, but it was an incredibly close and controversial one to the then unbeaten Japanese champion Rikki Naito, with many feeling Naito got rather lucky on the score cards.
When it comes to Sanchez his record isn't particularly impressive. In fact he's gone 1-4-1 in his last 6. However he has mixed with a very high level of competition losing to the likes of Oscar Valdez, Sergey Lipinets, Rey Vargas and Andres Gutierrez, and has amazingly only been stopped by Valdez and Lipinets. Although limited he's tough and came and will feel like a win over Ito could help him kick start his career after 3 years of floundering against international hopefuls.
In his most recent bout Sanchez, dubbed the Rock, was cracked doubly quickly by Valdez who found his range quickly and seemed to have too much of everything for the Filipino who looked like a fighter that was too slow to really test the unbeaten man. Prior to that bout Sanchez had looked like a defensively tough fighter but it seems the tough fights have taken their toll on him. That's not to say he was especially talented but he was usually good value for rounds. Sadly his loss in 3 just made him look clumsy before by stopped by a monstrous left hook.
In this upcoming bout we're expecting to see the ultra-talented Ito take control quickly with his speed and movement before looking for a stoppage down the stretch. Given that Sanchez has been tough to crack in the past he may see out the distance but given the damage that his recent bouts have inflicted on him there is a genuine chance that Ito may well stop him in the final third of the bout through accumulation.
Sanchez might the distance, but if he does he's going to be losing a wide decision. We really don't see any way at all in which he over-comes the Japanese fighter
In Europe the traditional route to a world title was to win a national crown, for example the British, Italian or French title, then move towards winning a European title before progressing towards a world title. Whilst are other options, with British fighters often collecting a Commonwealth on their way up for example, the tradition route has always been to gradually step up, before moving towards a world title.
The same is true in parts of Asia. Traditionally fighters will win a national title, before a regional title and then on to world titles. It's true that fighters do often skip stages but many do go, or try to go, the traditional route using each level as a stepping stone.
One fighter trying to take that step up this week is former Japanese Welterweight champion, and current OPBF “interim” champion, Suyon Takayama (24-1, 8) who takes on the OPBF champion Jack Brubaker (10-1-1, 5) this coming Monday in a bout shown over the www.boxingraise.com website.
Aged 30 this is a step for the once beaten Takayama, who has won his last 12 in an unbeaten 6 year run. That run saw him claim the Japanese title in December 2012 and record an impressive 6 defenses. As the champion Takayama beat the likes of Koshinmaru Saito, Cobra Suwa, Moon Hyun Yun and Nobuyuki Shindo. Amazingly however he failed to stop any of the top Japanese fighters and went the distance in all 7 of his title bouts at Japanese level. Whilst that proved his stamina his also also show his lack of power.
At the turn of the year Takayama vacated the national title to focus on the OPBF title and claimed the interim belt in February, when he stopped Filipino fighter Joel De La Cruz. That was Takayama's first stoppage win since November 2012 and it said more about De la Cruz than Takayama, with the Filipino suffering his 10th stoppage loss.
In the ring Takayama has a great engine, a brilliant will to win a genuine grit. He lacks power, he lacks amazing speed and in fairness very little, other than his stamina, really impress. But he's hard to beat and will continue to be so at the level he's fighting. He will however never make a genuine mark on the world stage.
As for Brubaker the 24 year old Australian also has just a single loss to his name, coming in an Australian national title fight at 140lbs. Since then he has moved up in weight and strung together 5 straight wins, including his title winning effort against China's Xing Xin Yang and a single defense of the title against Paddy Murphy. Again Yang we were impress by Brubaker who looked like a promising fighter as he boxed carefully behind a good jab, found a range for his right hand and dropped Yang twice in the opening round before finishing him in the 4th. Although Brubaker impressed Yang did look terrible was out of his depth from the opening bell.
Although he has looked impressive in his last couple of bouts it's hard to really know how good he is given that his competition hasn't been great. He is however a fight who appears to be developing, appears to hit harder than his record suggests and comes to fight. There are a lot of holes in his defence but there is a lot to like about, and his jab is sharp with some crisps coming off of it.
When we see the men in the ring we're expecting to see Brubaker fight on the outside whilst Takayama will try and turn it into a fight. If Brubaker has the energy to avoid a fight and can pick off the challenger with his jab he should be able to take a clear win. If however Takayama can get inside and turn it into a fight then we'd favour Takayama to out work and out point Brubaker for the title over 12 compelling rounds.
The Japanese Light Welterweight scene is one that doesn't get a lot of attention, but is interesting at the moment with several fighters starting to break through the ranks, such as Daishi Nagata Noriaki Sato and Shuichiro Yoshino whilst at the top of the tree is future world title challenger Keita Obara.
One man looking to move in the same direction as Obara is current Japanese national champion Hiroki Okada (12-0, 10), who returns to the ring this coming Monday to seek the 5th defense of his title as he takes on Japanese-Brazilian Cristiano Aoqui (11-4-2, 7).
Okada has slowly but surely been making a name for himself among Japanese domestic fans, and with good reason. He's an exciting, talented and heavy handed fighter who seems like he could, potentially, go a very long way. Unlike many punchers Okada isn't at his best coming forward but, instead, fighting as a counter puncher with his boxing on the back foot being his strength. Saying that however he can fight on the front foot when he needs to.
The 26 year old from Tokyo has started to string together some genuinely notable wins including victories over Masayoshi Kotake, Koichi Aso, twice, Hayato Hokazono and Masanobu Nakazawa. Not only has he been putting together really good domestic wins but he has been scoring stoppages over good domestic fighters too, with Aso being stopped in 7 rounds earlier this and Nakazano lasting less than 3. At the moment he's the top guy domestically, though of course he's behind Obara who has progressed well beyond the Japanese domestic scene, however we suspect he'll be looking to move beyond the domestic scene and hunt an OPBF title in the near future and take on the top guys from the region.
Whilst we have seen plenty of Okada the same cannot be said of Aoqui who has most fought at the lower levels of the Japanese scene since making his debut almost a decade ago. On paper his record isn't great however he back his career 4-2-1 (3), with both of those losses coming by stoppage, however he has since gone 7-2-1 (4) with both of those recent losses being very narrow decision defeats. Whilst he has suffered defeats, in fact losing as recently as last December, Aoqui has been scored notable wins beating Koicho Ogawa, Quaye Peter and Ryosuke Takami in the last 2 years.
Although on on paper Aoqui doesn't look like a puncher the footage of him out there certainly shows a man who can whack, particularly with the uppercut which he used to devastating effect against Takafumi Yamada in a 58 second blow out win 3 years ago. The uppercut really is his danger punch though he does have heavy looking hooks and seems to be the aggressive sort of fighter than can make for an exciting type of fight. Saying that however he is flawed, technically his punches leave him open and his footwork is sloppy, and even slow at times
Given the aggressive and front foot nature of Aoqui we suspect he'll play right into the hands of Okada who we think will stop him in the middle rounds with a devastating counter punch.
Notably this bout will be streamed over the BoxingRaise website and for fans interested in watching that appears to be the only way of seeing the bout, unless you have a ticket to the Korakuen Hall for the show
On July 20th Japanese fans get a pair of world title fights, they also get an OPBF title fight and a Japanese title fight. Of those bouts it's fair to say the least attention will be given to the domestic title bout, not only because it's a domestic title bout, but also because it's the least interesting of the bouts on the show.
The bout in question will see Japanese Light Middleweight champion Yuki Nonaka (29-8-3, 9) defending his title against Ryosuke Maruki (12-3-1, 7). It's a veteran against a rising young contender, a wonderful to watch boxer against a fighter.
Nonaka really is a veteran. He's 38 years old and has been a professional since 1999. He may “only have” 40 bouts to his name but he's had close to 300 rounds and has been in 12 title bouts, with the first taking place in October 2007.
The veteran is one of the most pleasing to watch fighters out there. He's a man who fights like a boxer, and is totally dependent on skills. He's not particularly quick, he's not a massive puncher, he's not flashy but he's a wonderful fighter to watch and can either move or hold his feet, defend himself, and fight with a wonderful array of pure shots. There is nothing spectacular about Nonaka but there is very little wrong with him. That's why at the age of 38 he looks as good as he ever has.
Like many in Japan Nonaka learned his trade in the ring. He suffered 3 losses in his first 5 bouts, beginning 2-3, and was once 14-7-2 (5). In recent times however he has gone 15-1-1 losing only to Akio Shibata during that 17 fight run, dating back over 8 years. Not only do the numbers look good but so do the actual results which have included wins over Kazuhiko Hidaka, avenging a loss, Lee Ota, Charles Bellamy, Koshinmaru Saito and Yuto Shimizu. There was also a draw last year with current OPBF champion Takayuki Hosokawa.
Given how Nonaka has turned his career around it's hard to rule out any challenger, and the 25 year old Maruki shouldn't be ruled out because his own record. At one point he was 7-3-1 (5), with losses to the likes of Jaypee Ignacio and Petchsuriya Singwancha, but has bounced back well with 5 straight wins, including avenging the loss to Petchsuriya. Notable the two bouts with the Thai were WBC Youth title bouts and have helped give Maruki some title fight experience over the 10 round distance.
Once touted as an aggressive puncher, and at one point having 7 stoppages from 9 wins, Maruki has gone the distance in his last 3 bouts and has scored just 2 stoppages in his last 7 contests. Suggesting that he's not a puncher. He is however an aggressive and strong fighter and looks like there is potentially a very good fighter there, but one that needs a lot of polishing if he's to reach the heady heights expected of him.
Despite being flawed Maruki is young, hungry and a fighter who will be looking to prove himself. He'll need to have a career best performance to really give Nonaka problems, but there is certainly a lot that he could improve on, and if he uses his youthful energy, physical strength and power he could Nonaka serious problems, at least at times.
Although we think Maruki has the potential to cause problems for Nonaka we don't see him bringing anything to the table that Nonaka hasn't faced before and we suspect that'll show with Nonaka adapting when things get tricky. That adaptive quality will allow the champion to retain via clear, but competitive, decision.
On July 20th fans in Osaka will be getting a quadruple title show. Whilst the two world title fights will, rightfully, get the attention of most fans, the undercard title bouts, which will support the main contests, will almost certainly be interesting bouts themselves.
On paper the more exciting of those bouts will be the OPBF Bantamweight title bout between champion Takahiro Yamamoto (17-4, 14) and Filipino challenger Rex Wao (11-2, 9), both of whom are flawed fighters, powerful punchers and likely to come in to the ring with a point to prove. For Yamamoto the bout will serve as his second defense whilst Wao will be looking for a career best win following 2 losses in his last 3.
The champion won the title last year winning a bloody and exciting 7 round thriller with Yu Kawaguchi, who he had actually lost to 4 months earlier in a compelling split decision. The second bout between Kawaguchi and Yamamoto was rough, tumble and all action with the two men engaging in a genuine old fashioned brawl. Since then his only defense has been essentially a walk over against the woefully ill prepared Yuki Strong Kobayashi.
In the ring the champion is crude, but he can punch, he can take a shot and he looks like a terror at this level. It seems unlikely that he'll progress far beyond continental level but on the OPBF title scene it's going to take a good fighter to make him look bad and beat him cleanly.
Despite not having the best of records Yamamoto has improved markedly following a 6-3 (5) start and has run up 11 wins in his last 12 bouts, 9 by stoppage, including the stoppage of Kawaguchi. It's fair to say however that his record has got a lack of solid wins, other than the one over Kawaguchi last August. That's however shown he can step up and can win at a higher level than his records generally suggests.
As for the challenger the Filipino looked like a star in the making early on, moving to 10-0 (8) before suffering a 7th round KO loss to Silvester Lopez in late 2014. Since that loss Wao has gone 1-1, with his second loss being a decision loss to Xian Qian Wei in China last November.
Sadly when it comes to footage of Wao there is very little to go on and the only quality footage we've come across was his loss to Wei. From that footage Rex looked like a fun to watch, front foot boxer who is some what predictable but has the right mindset to be in some fun fights. He didn't, however, look like a man who should have been fighting at Featherweight. He also seemed to lack a little bit of activity, which he probably needed in China to beat a Chinese fighter.
Despite losing 2 of his last 3 Wao should make a decent challenger and a win over a then unbeaten Virden Rivera shows that there is something about Wao to be excited about, as does the footage. It is a worry however that Lopez took care of him as easily as he did and could suggest a lack of durability on behalf of the Filipino fighter.
When they get in the ring we expect to see these two meet in the center and have a war. Both like to fight, both will trust their power and both believe that the best way to win is to fight fire with fire. Unfortunately however for Wao we suspect his chin will let him down in the middle rounds of a total slugfest. Until he's stopped however this could be something very fun and a genuinely thrilling contest.
Earlier this month we saw Japan's Daigo Higa destroy Filipino veteran Ardin Diale to claim the OPBF Flyweight title. Higa however isn't the only notable Flyweight contender from Japan in action this month, and this coming Friday fans will see world ranked Japanese champion Takuya Kogawa (26-4, 13) [粉川 拓也] defending his title against Masafumi Otake (15-14-3, 7) [大嶽 正史].
Kogawa is probably best known for his two world title challenges, both in Thailand. The first of those saw the all action fighter lose a wide decision to Thai great Pongsaklek Wonjongkam whilst the second saw him lose a very controversial one to Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep, in a bout for the WBA “interim” title. Although known outside of Japan for those losses he is known at home for being a genuinely thrilling fighter, who is rarely in a bad fight.
The champion has been in thrilling wars with not only with Yodmongkol but also the likes of Suguru Muranaka, Masayuki Kuroda, Tetsuma Hayashi and Hiroyuki Hisataka. What makes him exciting is a combination of his weaknesses, including porous defense and limited power, along with his strengths, a great will to win, a lot of energy and a very solid chin. Given those traits it is little wonder that fans fans who have seen him describe him as being a true warrior.
Although very flawed Kogawa is a hard man to beat, and through his career he has only really been beaten clearly once, the loss to Wonjongkam way back in 2011.
When it comes to the challenger Otake's record does speak for it's self in many ways and as a result he is the clear under-dog. With just 15 wins in 32 bouts he has a sub 50% winning record and is actually 1-4 in his last 5 bouts, dating back more than 3 years. Saying that however the 37 year old is a man who knows this will be the end if he loses and will know that he needs to give this bout 100%, there is no point leaving anything in the locker.
Otake was, almost a decade ago, 11-4 (6) but since then has gone 4-10-3 with his career effectively imploding in the last decade. The losses, in some cases, have been to limited opponents however he has also faced some very good fighters such as Suguru Muranaka, Ryuichi Funai and Go Onaga, who all beat him.
We have, already this year in fact, seen upsets where we didn't expect the under-dog to put up much of an effort at all. On paper this is another massive mismatch, but it's hard to see what Otake has to lose and if he goes all out he could trouble Kogawa, if Kogawa has over-looked him. Saying that however the 37 year old shouldn't be much of a test if Kogawa has prepared properly.
Whilst the bout is, in all honesty, a mismatch it does serve a notable purpose. It will be the headline bout of the first Dangan card to be streamed live on www.boxingraise.com it's fair to say that is actually likely to be a bigger talking point than the actual bout, which we suspect will be a clear win for Kogawa, possibly by late stoppage.
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.