They say good things come to those who wait and the return to boxing of Jomthong Chuwatana (7-0, 4) is certainly a good thing, and a thing we've certainly had to wait for. In fact we've waited significantly longer than we'd have expected due to several out of the ring problems, non of which have been due to Jomthong.
Jomthong, a great Muay Thai fighter-turn boxer, quickly rose to the OPBF Super Featherweight title, a title he won by stopping South Korea's Dong-Hyuk Kim way back in May 2005. At that point in time Jomthong looked like he was going to be the next Thai boxing superstar. Since then though he has fought just 3 times defending his title twice. Unfortunately that inactivity has seen him being out of the ring since March 2013 and the OPBF title has been on ice since February 2013 when Ronald Pontillas challenged Jomthonng.
Jomthong is a fight who really does a lot of tools to go a long way. Not only does he have a fighters mentality, something that clearly comes from a long term Muay Thai career, but he also skills, heavy hands and a very relaxed style. He's like many Thai's in some ways, he's strong and comes forward a lot, though unlike many Thai's he actually has very good head movement and most impressively the ability to fight inside or outside, something many fighters world wide seem unable to do. He's not quite a complete boxer but he'll be a nightmare for anyone at 130lbs.
Whilst we should all know a bit about Jomthong we need to admit we don't know a lot about his opponent Koseki Nakama (17-4, 8). At one point, early in his career, he looked to be a fighter going places and in just his 7th professional bout be he defeated Antonio Cermeno, unfortunately a year later Aozora Nishida knocked out Nakama to take his previously unbeaten record. Interestingly the loss to the big punching Nishida is the only time Nakama has been stopped.
Following his first loss Nakama won his following 5 bouts before suffering a trio of losses, including a notable one to Hero Bando who was, at best, a fringe domestic contender albeit a tough one.
To date the best wins scored by Nakama have been the Moreno one, one over Ikuto Kobayashi and most recently a stoppage of Jose Ocampo. That's not to say he's a bad fighter but he's not proven himself to be anything special and in many ways he appears to have little chance of over-coming his talented Thai foe. Ranked #4 by the OPBF however he is a high ranked challenger, though one that the OPBF really have over-rated in our estimation.
We expect this to be fun. Jomthong is usually fun to watch combining skills, power and a relaxed aggression, though with Nakama being a bit of an unknown to us. With Jomthong having been inactive for so long he may start slowly though by the mid rounds we expect him to be landing his southpaw left hands regularly and eventually do enough damage to Nakama to force a stoppage.
(Image courtesy Okinawa World Boxing Gym)
Earlier this year fans at the Korakuen Hall were treat to a special bout between former Japanese Welterweight champion Koji Numata (21-7-2, 16) and the hard working Takehiro Shimokawara (19-8-3, 6). The contest, which by all accounts was thrilling and action packed, saw no winner crowned with the men needing to accept that their heart and effort could only score them a split decision draw. Unfortunately whilst the men both received plaudits we didn't end up fill a title vacancy for the OPBF Light Middleweight.
The bout, which we unfortunately can't find a video for, was described in all the the same terms as any great fight. Unfortunately however the disappointment of not winning seemed to get to Numata who soon announced his retirement and left us all feeling a little disappointed in not getting a rematch like everyone else seemed to want. Thankfully Numata thought twice about retirement and quickly agreed to face Shimokawara for a second time with the two men now meeting just 5 months after their first bout.
For Numata this will be his third shot at the OPBF crown and could well be his last. He's not "old" by any stretch at just 30, but he's taken a lot of damage and from his reaction from the first fight his heart is probably not in boxing to just compete, he probably thinks it's about winning or walking away.
At his best Numata was never a practitioner of the "sweet science". He's also been more of a fan of rough destruction and watching him you see a man who comes to fight not to box, you see a man who feels his power is more telling than that of his foes. In fact Numata's power is pretty impressive and has seen him stop the likes of Tadashi Yuba, Yuichi Ideta, Fukutaro Ujiie, Yoshihisa Tonimura, Go Nakahori and most recently Ryo Okayama. Sadly when he's not been able to blow foes away he has really struggled to pick up wins, in fact he has gone 5-4-2 in distance bouts.
Dangerous but crude really does sum Numata who is popular on the Japanese domestic scene due to his style but is probably stuck between the domestic level and the OPBF level due to his relative lack of boxing ability.
Whilst Numata is well known to fans who follow the Japanese domestic scene the same cannot be said for Shimokawara who is difficult to find footage of and very hard to get a real read on. What we know that he has shard the ring with some decent fighters, such as Akio Shibata, Akinori Watanabe, Numata obviously, Sanosuke Sasaki and Daisuke Nakagawa . Unfortunately for Shimokawara he does tend to come up short against those better fighters.
Whilst he's not managed to get many notable wins Shimokawara has shown that he's very hard to stop, in fact only the very heavy handed Watanabe has stopped him, and Shimokawara was still on his feet when that was waved off. The fact Shimokawara is a tough, tough guy is a problem for Numata and the reason why Numata wasn't able to blow him away in their first meeting.
As well as being tough we also know that Shimokawara is tall, rangy and difficult to get to. Yet more issues for Numata who will be giving away notable size going into this one. Though at 32 years old and with almost 200 rounds under his belt he has likely taken quite a bit of accumulative damage of his career.
Going in to this bout we expect a bout very similar to the first contest between the two men. Numata will, as he always does, look for the stoppage, bring a lot of action and go for the KO and we think Shimokawara will meet him centre ring as we get 12 more rounds of none stop action between two warirors who have contrasting styles but styles that work well together to give fans a great fight.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
(Video below courtesy of fukumen11)
Sometimes we get over-excited about bouts and feel disappointed when they don't live up to our lofty expectations. This happens and we know we're to blame for expecting more of fighters and fights. Sometimes however we get a feeling that something special will happen, our expectations won't just be met but will be exceeded. What we expect will be a war will be something even more brutal and exciting that we could have dreamt of.
We think that on August 11th Japanese fans may get one of those super special bouts as two huge punching, aggressively minded young fighters collide in an opportunity to prove themselves as the best 140lb fighter in the Orient and even move into, or up the, world rankings.
Going in to the bout the current and defending champion will be Keita Obara (11-1, 10), a 27 year old fighter from the Misako Gym. Obara was a top amateur with 55 wins from 70 bouts and was tipped for success as soon as he turned pro. Unfortunately he was matched incredibly hard on his debut and suffered a 5th round stoppage loss to the very experienced Kazuyoshi Kumano. Since then however Obara has developed mentally to become one of the most destructive fighters on the Japanese fight scene.
Since his sole loss Obara has scythed through his opponents with 10 stoppages in 11 subsequent bouts. Those stoppages haven't just come against limited foes either and have included wins over the likes of the very heavy handed Kengo Nagashima, a very tough guy, and Tetsuya Hasunuma, the only man to survive beyond 8 rounds with Obara. Those string of wins have also seen him claim the Japanese title, which he defended twice, and the OPBF title which he will be hoping to defend for the first time.
Although not technically the most talented fighter, Obara's power is genuinely potent and he's a scary man to get in the ring with. He can box on the back, box on the move or take the fight straight to you and his sole loss was down to maturity as opposed to skills or a weak chin. He tired himself out against a man who brought a lot of pressure to him and crumbled. Since then he has improved remarkably.
Challenging for the belt is another big puncher, Shinya Iwabuchi (23-4, 19). Iwabuchi is a 29 year old who didn't have the notable amateur success that Obara did though like Obara he too lost on debut, in fact Iwabuchi lost his first 2 professional contests. Since then however he developed into a very talented fighter and only lost twice, once to Daiki Koide in a notable step up, and once to Min Wook Kim in an OPBF title fight.
Of his bouts so far it's the Kim fight that was most interesting. The two men traded shots in one of the most exciting battles of 2013. Both men, at times, looked tired but both bit down on their gum shields to take part in an amazing fight that really didn't deserve a loser. It proved both men could take shots as well as throw them and it proved what the OPBF title really meant to both men.
Iwabuchi is the slightly more cautious of the two men here, at least to begin with. Iwabuchi will happily move under pressure and then strike like a cobra to take his chance to unload when an opening appears, as shown in his brilliant opening round victory against Shamgar Koichi. It was in that fight in particular, a Strongest Korakuen Final, that Iwabuchi's handspeed and combinations really stood out as he drew Koichi in then unloaded a maelstrom of punches to send his foe down after hurting him. Soon afterwards the referee had to stop the action.
What we have is not just two powerful puncher but we also have contrasting styles behind their power. For Iwabuchi his power and speed in combinations is destructive though in parts of fights he can get lazy and possible draw an opponent in to him. For Obara we have a heavy handed fighter who appears to have better 1-punch power but does lack experience has question marks over his stamina due to the fact he's been blowing opponents out.
We also have 2 men looking for their biggest win. For Iwabuchi this is a chance to claim an OPBF title at the second time of asking whilst for Obara his reword is a probable top 15 world ranking with the WBO and possibly also the WBC. Both guys are hungry, but guys are young and both guys know what the other brings to the ring.
What we're expecting is a thriller and, unsurprisingly, we don't expect this to go the distance. It will be violent, explosive and we expect both guys will be hurt at some point. We're not sure who will win but we know the fans will enjoy this one for as long as it goes on. It really will be something very special and in fact it's likely to be one of those FOTY contenders that only the lucky few who get to see it live will really appreciate.
The bout will headline Dangan 110 and we expect that it will be worth the ticket price by it's self, amazingly however it has been coupled with a brilliant Japanese Super Flyweight title fight as well.
(Image courtesy of Dangan boxing)
It's not too often that we see world ranked fighters colliding in a national title fight but that's exactly what Japanese fans have to look forward to on August 11th when they get a brilliant Super Flyweight title bout between two highly skilled and very promising young fighters.
In one corner will be the defending champion Yohei Tobe (8-1-1, 5), a man making the first defence of the title he won in impressive fashion earlier this year. Tobe goes into his first defence ranked in the top 15 by the IBF and with a lot of confidence courtesy not just of his team at the Misako Gym but also his results so far which have included wins over Wandee Singwancha, Kohei Kono and Taiki Eto.
Talented with nice speed, developing skills and credible power Tobe has strangely become one of the forgotten men in the Japanese scene. He started his career with sensational results then floundered before rebuilding to where he is now and another win in his first defence would likely move him into more world rankings and possibly even send him on to an OPBF title fight.
In the opposite corner to Tobe will be the unbeaten Sho Ishida (16-0, 9) of Ioka Gym. Ishida will be competing in his first professional title bout though has shared a gym with various championship level fighters, such as Masayoshi Nakatani, Kazuto Ioka and Ryo Miyaaki. He has also scored a very notable and highly impressive victory over Petchbarngborn Kokietgym, easily the most impressive victory on his ledger thus far.
Like Tobe, Ishida is a very promising fighter who seems to still be developing his enviable skills. Aged just 22 he appears to be the rising star of the Ioka Gym and has shown great skills, fantastic speed, under-rated power and a very sharp jab. Those skills have helped Ishida to a high world ranking with the WBA and presumably a win over Tobe would move him into contention for a shot at their belt in the next year or so.
Going in to the fight there is a lot of questions for both men and a lot on the line. In fact it's fair to say that this is the most important bout either man has been in and, aside from Tobe's loss to Ryo Akaho, this is the toughest bout either man has been involved in, and that's including Tobe's tough assignment with Richard Pumicpic.
For Tobe the question is how will he cope with the jab of Ishida. It's sharp, powerful and a really amazing weapon that he uses to great effect time and time again. The unbeaten man not only has a fabulous jab but he works off it amazingly well, throws it on the move and has shown that he can vary it's power and speed, a trick many fighters should make full use of. Tobe himself has nice movement though it's not quite looked as good as Ishida's movement which as really been great.
Whilst Ishida looks to be a better mover this is a big step up for him and, for the first time, he's facing someone who is not just talented but is actually his equal in many ways. Tobe, like Ishida, can hit harder than his record indicates, can box and move and can actually apply very intelligent pressure. The question of how Ishida copes with someone who is just as skilled is a huge one and we expect this to be the first time he is asked really serious questions.
Going in to the bout we dare say Ishida is the more gifted fighter, however we believe that Tobe's bouts with tougher opponents, such as Taiki Eto, Richard Pumicpic, Ryo Akaho and Kohei Kono will be the difference. He will know what to do when things aren't going all his way, something that Ishida hasn't ever had to face. With that in mind we are picking Tobe to win with a very late stoppage in a very good, highly competitive contest that brings out the best in both men.
For those lucky few who can get to the venue for this bout, you will also get the OPBF Light Welterweight clash between Keita Obara and Shinya Iwabuchi. That one looks to be special.
(Image courtesy of Danganboxing)
One of the odd things about Asian boxing is that a number of fighters have a disproportionate number of losses. In Asia however a loss seems to mean a lot less than what it means in the west and losing early fights isn't something to be ashamed of, in fact it's often some thing to build on.
One man who is much, much better than his record indicates is former Japanese and OPBF Light Middleweight champion Yuki Nonaka (25-8-2, 9). If you looked at his record today you's probably think he was average at best, if you looked at his record after just 5 fights however you'd assume he was never going to be anything. In fact his record of 2-3 after 5 fights would have seen him all but written off in the west.
Nonaka has proven to be one of the sports great developers and have his troublesome start he really became a very talented fighter using boxing mentality to out landed opponents and make them miss. We won't pretend he's a world class Light Middleweight but he is certainly a fighter who's record is deceiving.
As a boxer Nonake fighters well on the move from his southpaw stance and links punches together excellently when an opponent makes a mistake against him. He lacks a bit of power but more than makes up for it with skill, speed and movement, all of which are the key tools to his game and all were on show when he put on a master class against Takao Onda in one of his early title defences.
Another man with a deceiving record is the heavy handed Kengo Nagashima (14-10-2, 13) who will be fighting Nonaka on August 10th for the vacant Japanese Light Middleweight title.
If you took Nagashima's record at face value you'd think heavy handed journeyman but he's much more than that and in fact he's a very tough, durable and hard hitting fighter who is a real danger with his pressure, power and heart. In fact even in bouts where he is outboxed, such as he was against Tadashi Yuba, he refuses to just give up and will keep coming in an attempt to wear down or beat down his foes.
Not only does Nagashima have heart by the bucket load but he's also very, very difficult to stop in his tracks. From his 26 fights he has only been stopped thrice. Two of those stoppages came in his first 3 bouts whilst the most recent, more than 2 years ago, came against Keita Obara and lets not forget Obara is a monster puncher when he unloads.
Although Nagashima isn't an amazing boxer his shots hurt and with his pressure he does tend to land, even if he's not quite the skills needed to set his punches up properly or close the distance. With his power it only takes one shot to start the unravelling process of a fighter.
One thing Nagashima has going against him somewhat is that he's had less preparation time. Originally Nonaka was to fight champion Takayuki Hosokawa though unfortunately Hosokawa has had to vacate the belt due to ill health and Nagashima was given the call with just a few weeks until fight time. We don't suspect that Nagashima will struggle to make the weight but his preparation certainly won't have been perfect given the situation.
What we do really like about the fight isn't necessarily the fighters but the styles. Nagashima is heavy handed, tough and brings pressure, doesn't matter who he fights he will apply pressure. Nonaka on the other hand is a boxer who will move, punch and move again. Pressure fighters against boxers can give us some of the best bouts as one fighter tries to wear the other down whilst the boxer tries to pick up the rounds. It's usually a case of who can enforce their tactics on to the other and who can control the distance. For this bout we do think Nonaka's footwork is too good, but at 36 years old he's not as fleet footed as he once was and he may find that Nagashima can cut the distance somewhat regularly.
(Image courtesy of Boxmob.jp and shows Nonaka and Hosokawa on the poster, sadly it wasn't changed to accommodate Hosokawa giving up the belt)
Some domestic title fights get a little bit more attention than others and we think the upcoming Japanese Bantamweight title fight might be one such contest. That's not because of reigning champion Kentaro Masuda (19-6, 10) who is genuinely an unknown outside of Japan but instead it's because of the challenger, the memorable and charismatic Konosuke Tomiyama (24-6-1, 8).
You might all remember Tomiyama for his Macau battle with Filipino Genesis Servania. That bout, fought last year, was thrilling with a contender for round of the year and also an outside runner for fight of the year. That bout saw 4 knock downs and genuinely stole the show.
If you have a better memory you may also remember Tomiyama gave the then WBA Super Flyweight champion Nobuo Nashiro a real scare, twice dropping Nashiro in another action packed bout.
Although Tomiyama has come up short in his two most notable bouts he has been involved in other notable bouts, including a very good win over Kuniyuki Aizawa and another win over Masamichi Nozaki. He will, however, be known for his losses which have generally come when he's faced the more notable opponents in his career.
Whilst not the greatest fighter on the planet Tomiyama is a lot of things a fight fan wants to see. He is interesting, charismatic, memorable, hits harder than his record indicates and is also enigmatic. He could go from pushing a world level fighter all the way in one fight to struggling over a limited Thai journeyman. This unpredictability must frustrating for his team but will always draw in fans interested in seeing what Tomiyama turns up for any given fight.
Masuda strikes us a more serious fighter. His record is sketchy with a handful of losses though he did suffer 3 of his 6 losses in his first 6 professional bouts. Since then he has knuckled down and developed into a very good little fighter winning 12 of his last 14. On paper that sounds good but it's even more impressive when you note that his those two losses came to Hidenori Otake and Ryosuke Iwasa, with the Iwasa bout being Masuda's first title bout.
In his last 5 fights Masuda has strung together a quintet of wins, including a title winning effort against Yu Kawaguchi last time. That bout was the most impressive we've seen from Masuda who boxed well against a competent opponent and, although he wasn't amazing, showed his skills and just how much they had improved over the years.
Masuda will be defending his belt for the first time and he will almost certainly be the under-dog against the more well known and taller Tomiyama. He will however go into the bout with real confidence of retaining his title and proving himself as one of the best Japanese Bantamweights out there, though admittedly he is a long way behind Shinsuke Yamanaka and Tomoki Kameda who are both world champions.
For us this is an incredibly hard bout to call. Masuda is certainly in great form, that can't be denied, however Tomiyama when he's on form is very difficult to beat. It really does depend on which Tomiyama turns up and if he's on song he's likely to take the title back to the Watanabe Gym with him. Odds are though that Tomiyama doesn't turn up for the fight and Masuda manages to continue his great run.
Whilst this is for the Japanese title it's also effectively an OPBF title eliminator. Masuda enters as the #1 OPBF ranked Bantamweight whilst Tomiyama is #5. With murmurs suggesting Iwasa is set to give up the OPBF belt the winner here is likely to get a sot at the vacant title next year, or, if Iwasa doesn't vacate, a shot at Iwasa next year. It's clear there is a big reward for a win here.
(Image courtesy of Watanabe Gym/Dangan boxing)
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.