By - George Delis (@Delisketo )
Masayoshi Nakatani (16-0), along with Nihito Arakawa (31-6) and Kazuhiro Nishitani (19-4), is currently one of Japan’s top Lightweights.
While studying at the Kindai University, he participated in 60 amateur bouts. Turned pro on June of 2011, at the age of 21, winning 6 fights in a row (5 KOs), including a victory over future Japanese champion Shuhei Tsuchiya (14-1*).
Nakatani, on January of 2014, went face to face with former Japanese and the then reigning OPBF champion Yoshitaka Kato (26-4*) for the OPBF belt. Despite being the less experienced of the two, he took the champion to his limit for 12 rounds, earning the majority decision, thus the championship and the East Japan Boxing Association Monthly MVP Award.
Nakatani, since then, has defended his title 9 times, including wins over Ricky Sismundo (26-7*), Futoshi Usami (12-1*), Krai Setthaphon (23-1*), Ryan Sermona (20-8*), Amphol Suriyo (22-2*). A bonafide knock artist, having finished 10 out of his 16 bouts, most within the first five rounds, he has placed himself at the top of the division, as he is ranked #7 by the WBC, #13 by the WBO and #5 by the IBF.
His next opponent is Izuki Tomioka (5-0) an up comer, who’s building his name in the regional scene, having scored wins over Yuichiro Kasuya (9-1*) as well as Taiju Shiratori (8-2*) and has claimed the Japanese Youth Lightweight title.
Despite the fact that Nakatani is the clear favorite in this outing, on July 29th, we can’t dismiss the young lion, who in less than 2 years has made quite an impact in the Japanese scene (ranked #15).
It will be interesting to see how both these athletes will match each other. Nakatani needs just a few more significant victories before he can challenge for a world title, so it’s imperative he succeeds here, as a loss to a rookie will not look that good on his record.
*Fighter’s record prior to the fight.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo )
One of the most anticipated fights within the Asian boxing community will take place on July 27, as Yusaku Kuga defends his Japanese Super Bantamweight championship against Shingo Wake.
Yusaku Kuga (16-2 / 11 KOs) is a star on the rise. Burst into the scene in 2010, while still 19 years old, he started massing up victories one after the other. In just 3 years, he was already facing much more experienced boxers than himself, like Yuki Iwasaki (11-4*), Koji Aoki (16-7*), Kojiro Takada (13-8*), knocking out every single one of them. With a record of 11-1-1 he entered his first major championship bout on December of 2015, facing former WBO International champion Yasutaka Ishimoto (26-8*) for the vacant Japanese Super Bantamweight title. Both men went to war and in the end, Ishimoto got a very close decision to win the match and the belt. That loss, only motivated Kuga even more to try and capture the gold. In 2016 he dispatched Thai fighter Sukpraserd Ponpitak (13-5*) and Philippino standout Jonathan Baat (32-7*) to earn another shot at the Japanese crown. The rematch between Kuga and Ishimoto was set on February of 2017. Most fans expected this to be another back and forth affair, but that wasn’t the case this time around. Kuga blasted the champion early in the first round, knocking him down, to the surprise of everyone in attendance. In the second, Ishimoto endured a heavy beating which led to the referee stopping the fight and declaring Kuga the 39th Japanese Super Bantamweight champion. Just 5 months later, he earned his first successful title defense over Ryoichi Tamura (8-2*) and his second on March of 2018 when he KOed Ryo Kosaka (16-3*) within 2 minutes into the match. Kuga is currently ranked amongst the top of the division by the WBA, the WBC and the WBO.
Shingo Wake (24-5 / 16 KOs), not to be outdone by his upcoming opponent, has had quite a career thus far. Fighting close to 12 years, he has come face to face with some of the toughest boxers the Asian scene has to offer. In 2013, he locked horns with future IBF World champion Yukinori Oguni for the OPBF Super Bantamweight title. Oguni, undefeated at 10-0 at the time, was considered the massive favorite to win the scramble, having already defended the OPBF belt thrice against Hiromasa Ohashi (24-10*), Masaaki Serie (21-4*) and Roli Gasca (19-3*). Wake came determined and put on a clinic for 10 rounds, even knocking the champ down in the second. Oguni was rendered unable to continue and Wake won his first major title in the process. After earning 5 title defenses from 2013 to 2015, all finishes, he decisioned former IBF Asian champion Pipat Chaiporn (35-7*) in a World title eliminator bout. When the time came, Wake was overwhelmed by Jonathan Guzman’s (21-0*) power and got dropped numerous times throughout the match, suffering his only KO loss today. Despite coming short on his big opportunity, he displayed his fighting spirit by never surrendering and even giving Guzman some trouble, which made him more popular with the Japanese fans. Since then, he has been on a 4 fight winning streak, all KOs, including victories over Mikihito Seto (34-14) as well as former WBC International Silver champion and World title contender Boonsom Yamsiri (50-3).
Both fighters are looking to take that next step in their careers. For Kuga, it’s a chance to finally break in the World title picture whereas for Wake it’s time to step back up and regain his place amongst the top contenders.
Prediction: This is a pretty even fight. Kuga is 27 years old with a 58% KO ratio, while Wake is 31 with a 52% KO ratio. However, with 31 bouts under his belt, the experience factor definitely lies with Wake. At the same time, Kuga has never been stopped in his 19 fights, unlike Wake. Comparing recent performances, Kuga has faced better competition overall. Moreover, under the notion of “you are as good as your last fight”, Kuga finished Ryo Kosaka within the first round while Wake needed 4 rounds to put down a relatively inferior opponent in Roman Canto. All in all, Kuga maybe winning this on paper but you can never count out a veteran the caliber of Wake.
The Flyweight division has been going through a lot of changes over the last few years at the world level, and it's opened up the doors for fighters may have been locked when the division was at it's best. Gone are fighters like Roman Gonzalez, Kazuto Ioka, Juan Francisco Estrada and Donnie Nietes. The division isn't dead, but it's a long way removed from what it was just a few years ago.
Rather than lament the division's recent downfall it's nice to look at the changes at the top, and appreciate the success of fighters like Sho Kimura and Cristofer Rosales, who have both rebuilt from early career defeats. They will be an inspiration for other fighters, such as current Japanese Flyweight champion Masayuki Kuroda (29-7-3, 16) who will look to continue his journey towards a second world title fight on July 23rd, when he defends his national title against Akinori Hoshino (14-7-2, 9).
Kuroda is perhaps best known for his first world title fight, a loss in 2013 to Juan Carlos Reveco. Since then he has had mixed success in the ring, going 8-3-1 (3). Despite his form being mixed he is currently riding a 5 fight unbeaten run which has seen him claim the Japanese interim Flyweight title, the regular Japanese Flyweight title and make 2 defenses of the regular title. He's avenged one of his career defeats, by defeating Takuya Kogawa in rematch between the two men, and scored a notable win last time out against Katsunori Nagamine.
In the ring Kuroda doesn't do anything that special, he's not a monstrous puncher, he's not particularly slick or lightning quick. He is however an aggressive, tough fighter with a huge will to win. He's a battler, who will let his hands go and have a fight. He's very much a fighter who is in an opponents face, applies pressure and tries to apply strong and consistent pressure with a lot of leather being thrown. He can be out boxed, and he can be out fought, but at Japanese level not many will out fight him or out box him.
Hoshino on the other hand is a more crafty and frustrating fighter. He looks to box behind a long jab, leans just outside of range and uses rather awkward movement to his boxing. He doesn't have a very busy style, more of a cautious counter punching one, but it's one that works for him and has frustrated the likes of Nagamine, who he held to a draw, and helped him pick up notable wins over Kenya Yamashita and Shun Kosaka.
On paper this does look like a bit of a mismatch, but Hoshino really is better than his record suggests. The challenger was 4-3-1 (2) after 8 bouts but since then he has gone 10-4-1 and scored notable wins over Mako Matsuyama, Kenichi Watanabe, Kenya Yamashita and Shun Kosaka. Not has he scored those notable wins but he has also run the likes of Tatsuya Takahashi and Ryuichi Funai close whilst fighting well above his weight. At 11l2bs he's not giving away natural size as he has in losses to Funai, Gakuya Furuhashi and Yusuke Suzuki. Instead he'll be a big and strong fighter at Flyweight, able to use his strength to push back on Kuroda when he needs to.
Although we think Hoshino will be a very tricky opponent, we think Kuroda's experience, especially over the 10 round distance, will be his key advantage here as he takes a hard fought and narrow decision to move a step closer to a second world title fight. Hoshino will be a nightmare, but not one that Kuroda can't over-come.
This coming Monday Japanese fight fans in Osaka will get the chance to see national Light Flyweight champion Tetsuya Hisada (31-9-2, 19) make his 4th defense, as he takes on Koki Ono (12-4, 5). For Ono the bout is a huge opportunity to fight for his first title, a chance that looked like it had vanished when he lost in a Japanese title eliminator last year to Koji Itagaki, whilst Hisada will see the bout as a chance to continue his good form, and keep pressure on the world champions to give him a shot at a world title.
The champion won the title last year, after more than 13 years in the sport, as he took a decision victory over Kenichi Horikawa. The win over Horikawa saw Hisada over-come a man who had previously beaten him twice and score a career defining win at the age of 32. That career defining win has has since been followed by successful title defenses against Atsushi Kakutani, Takeru Kamikubo and Koji Itagaki as he's climbed up the world rankings and moved to within touching distance of a world title shot.
In the ring Hisada is an aggressive fighter who has a high output, under-rated power and impressive stamina. He desire to win is genuinely impressive and although he's not the most skilled fighter at 108lbs he is a hard man to beat. In fact his current winning run of 10 fights is impressive and he has developed a lot from the fight who was once 20-8 (10) and had been beaten in 4 of his previous 6 bouts. Talking about his losses is it worth quickly looking at those, with 2 having come to Horikawa and others coming to Hiroyuki Kudaka and Ryoichi Taguchi, and 4 of the other 5 have been by split decision. He's proven through his career that he's a very hard man to beat.
The challenger is a 27 year old who made his rebut in 2009, as an 18 year old. Despite making his debut more than 9 years ago his career has been a slow burner. He took more than a year out of the ring between his first 2 fights and failed to really have any career momentum until 2015, when he went 3-0, marking it as the busiest year of his career so far. That was then followed by a frustrating 2016, in which he fought just once, and a 2017 that saw him go 1-1, losing by split decision to Itagaki in an eliminator. Whilst Ono did lose to Iagaki he does hold notable wins over Aiki Koto, Yamato Uchinono and Ryoya Ikema, decent domestic fighter but unspectacular ones.
In the ring Ono isn't much of a puncher, with just 5 stoppage wins from 16 bouts, but he does have a solid out put and does enjoy unloading to the body, which he does in volume. That should make for a stylistically fun encounter with Hisada, who is also happy to let his shots fly. Given that he his only 27 Ono should have the edge in youthful energy but does lack in terms of experience, and that is something that could prove to be an issue here.
We're expecting these two to enjoy an all out war in the centre of the ring. Unfortunately for Ono we feel that that sort of fight will favour Hisada, who we think will wear down and stop Ono in the later rounds. The fight will be action packed, but with Hisada having the edge in experience and power we think that'll be the difference here, and will be what leads him to victory.
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.