The first title fight of a new month takes place as the month kicks off and as we suspect fight fans will be in for a major treat. The bout in question sees Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Yasutaka Ishimoto (28-8, 7) looking to defend his belt against the limited but exciting Gakuya Furuhashi (18-7-1, 8), in a second bout between the two men.
These two fought last year, fighting in an 8 rounder, with Ishimoto winning a close but thrilling decision in a bout that was a bit of a hidden gem from 2015. Despite being under-watched it was streamed online for free and has got a cult following with hard-core Japanese fans who saw a really engaging and high tempo domestic level contest.
Since their first meeting we've seen Ishimoto go 2-0, winning the Japanese title in Decemeber 2015, out pointing Yusaku Kuga,and defending the belt once, with a wide decision against Yosuke Fujihara. Both of those bouts were tough bouts for the Teiken fighter but both were enjoyable for fans, and it's clear that whilst Ishimoto isn't a “star” he is very popular for a domestic level fighter.
As for Furuhashi he has gone 1-1 since losing to Ishimoto almost 14 months ago. He lost to the under-rated Daisuke Watanabe and defeated Rokuhei Suzuki. Neither of those bouts were at the top of the domestic level, and neither really saw Furuhashi impress, but Furuhashi has proven himself in the past fighting to a draw with Yukinori Oguni.
Of the two men the men the champion is the better known. Not only is he the champion but he has also fought on a pair of the Top Rank Macau cards, where he scored a career defining victory over Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. In those Macau bouts we saw Ishimoto prove to be a technically solid guy, and he has proven since that he has a high tempo in the ring. Sadly against Chris Avalos, in a bout Ishimoto was stopped in, we also saw that Ishimoto lacks the power and physical strength to cut it at the world level, though of course that's nothing to be hugely ashamed of.
In the ring Ishimoto's style is very fan friendly. He's a high tempo boxer who uses movement well, has a high output and is a tough guy who enjoys a fight. Yes he lacks power but makes up for it in terms out output and that makes him so much fun to watch in action. Aged 34 there is a chance that his energetic style will desert him, but he's looked great in recent wins and has a very strong and vocal support base willing him on every time he's in a Japanese ring.
Whilst Ishimoto has fought a few bouts against international names of note the same cannot be said of Furuhashi,who is really an unknown outside of Japan. Even in Japan he's relatively unknown, despite his title fight, though those who do follow the domestic scene know that with Furuhashi they get action and excitement. Like Ishimoto he lacks big power but fights with a high tempo, albeit not quite as high as the champion, and gets in the ring for a fight. Technically he's limited but he has the determination and style to be very exciting.
Sadly for Furuhashi he has gone 1-2-1 in his last 4 and is more than 3 years removed from his last notable win, a victory over veteran Toru Suzuki. That's not to say he's bad but he's not quite been able to get over the line in his biggest bouts, including the Oguni bout or a 2011 clash with Ryuichi Funai. He will however come in to this one with the mentality that a loss could be the end of his career, despite the fact he's only 28. He can't avoid another set back and is perhaps already looking like an old fighter.
With both men knowing their days are numbered, Ishimoto due to age and Furuhashi due to recent performances, we suspect we'll see both put it on the line here in an absolute tear up for the ages. The bout will be action packed but unfortunately it'll be career shortening and we don't think either will be the same man afterwards. We do however think the champion will retain his title, and move on to face the winner of the Strongest Korakuen next year, showing the lingering effects of this bout, and other tough ones, in that one.
This coming Saturday is a hectic day for fight fans with bouts all over the place, ranging from low level nothing bouts all the way up to world title bouts. One of the bouts, somewhere in the middle of all the contests, is a Japanese Lightweight title bout between defending champion Nihito Arakawa (27-6-1, 16) and little known challenger Yusuke Tsukada (8-5, 3). For Arakawa the bout will be his first defense, of his his second reign, whilst Tsukada will be fighting in his first title bout.
The exciting and teak tough Arakawa came to the attention of international fans back back in 2013 when he engaged in a memorable FOTY style bout with Omar Figueroa Jr. On that occasional Arakawa impressed less with his skills and more with his determination and toughness, walking through hell to try and break down the then destructive American. Following that loss Arakawa went 1-3 and it seemed like his career was over.
In the last 2 years we have seen a resurgent Arakawa transfer to the Watanabe gym and claim the Japanese Lightweight title, with a notable win over the then champion Kota Tokunaga.
As we all know Arakawa is as tough as they come. The loss to Figueroa would have finished off most other fighters but Arakawa, at the age of 34, appears to be having an Indian summer. He is also a man with the desire to not only win the title, for the second time, but now to retain it and move towards exciting fights in 2017, potentially with slugger Shuhei Tsuchiya.
Whilst Arakawa is known, to some degree, by pretty much every fight fan the same cannot be said of Tsukada who is really unknown outside of the hardcore Japanese fans. Those hardcore fans however will remember him from multiple Dangan shows at the Korakuen Hall in recent years.
Having been a professional for close to 6 years Tsukada has had mixed results. He was 3-3 after bouts, having suffered two stoppage losses. In those early bouts Tsukada looked uncoordinated, and under-trained. He was defensively very open and offensively his work was wild, open and crude. Whilst he has tempered his wildness in recent years he is unable to take a good shot and has now suffered 5 stoppage losses, including a defeat last year to Ribo Takahata. That loss ended a 3 fight winning run, including a good decision win over Kazuhiro Nishitani in June 2015.
Unfortunately for Tsukada his inability to take a shot is likely to be a major issue here. Arakawa isn't a big puncher but he is a steady puncher who will land a lot on Tsukada and force a stoppage, likely with the referee needing to save the challenger in the middle rounds. Hopefully, with a win, Arakawa will move on to the anticipated bout with Tsuchiya in early 2017.
This coming Saturday we get two Japanese title fights, one of those is the relatively one sided looking Lightweight title fight between Nihito Arakawa and Yusuke Tsukada in Tokyo. The other is a more interesting bout in Aichi which will see Shota Hayashi (27-5-1, 17) face veteran Noriyuki Ueno (18-13-5, 5) in a bout for the vacant Japanese Featherweight title.
The title was vacated earlier this year by Satoshi Hosono and left a scramble of fighters trying to get a shot at the belt. The scramble resulted in Hayashi Vs Ueno, with the winner to face former world champion Akifumi Shimoda in their first defense.
On paper the favourite here will be Hayashi. The Hatanaka man has his promoter in charge of the show, he has the better record, he's the younger man and he's also the #1 Japanese ranked contender.
Hayashi debuted back in September 2005 and reeled off 9 straight wins before beginning to struggle with his career and quickly fell to 11-3, going 2-3 in a 5 fight run over the space of 19 months. Since those setbacks Hayashi has got his career back on track, going 16-2-1, and more pertinently he's on an 11 fight winning run. It's fair to say that none of those wins are huge however there are some notable ones including wins over Koji Umetsu, Ryosei Arai and Zuri Kannan.
In the ring Hayashi is full of confidence, confidence that is built from a long run of wins. In the ring however he looks pretty unremarkable. There's no sense of any fantastic trait., he's not hugely explosive or super sharp defensively. He is however solid on the whole and has a nice intensity in the ring, particularly with his body shots. He is a bit one paced and comes forward in a relatively predictable manner but could be in exciting fights if matched with a decent opponent. Sadly though his lack of a second gear will likely hold him back from ever progressing much beyond domestic level.
Aged 34 the future of Ueno's career pretty much depends on his upcoming bout. The bout is also set to be the biggest of his 15 year career, and it's been a career of real ups and downs. It started on an up with an opening rounds KO win, but then seemed mostly down as he fell to 1-2 and then 2-6-1 (1). A string of positive results saw Ueno climb to 9-7-3 (3) and resulted in him getting his first title fight,which he lost to Takahiro Ao. He would go on to have two other Japanese title bouts, losing to Naoki Matsuda and Hisashi Amagasa, and an OPBF title fight, which he drew against Hiroshige Osawa.
Despite his less than stellar looking record, with only a 50% win rate, Ueno has mixed at a high level with bouts against Osawa, Ao, Amagasa. He has also scored notable wins over the likes of Yuki Ogata, Manabu Fukushima, Tomoki Kanazawa and Motokazu Abe. He has the mindset of a fighter who has been written off and will be coming in to this one hungry to prove a point.
Although Hayashi is the favourite, clearly, we suspect we might see a shock with Ueno putting it all on the line in an attempt to claim a title at his fifth time of asking. Whether he manages to pull it off or not is unclear but he will certainly go all out in pursuit of a victory, and as a result we think this bout will be very, very close and hotly contested with not a lot to separate the two fighters at the final bout. Hayashi may well get the result but their won't be much between the two men and a split or majority decision certainly wouldn't be a shock.
This coming Monday fight fans in Kumamoto get the chance to see burgeoning local star Tatsuya Fukuhara (17-4-5, 6) return to the ring to seek the second defense of his Japanese Minimumweight title. In his ring return he will also be looking to secure his career best win as he shares the ring with former OPBF champion Shin Ono (19-7-2, 3), a former world title challenger.
Despite being the Japanese champion and a genuine emerging fighter at 105lbs, not many people will know much about Fukuhara. The 27 year old from Kumamoto first made a mark in 2009 when he came runner up in the All Japan Rookie of the Year, losing to future Japanese champion Takuya Mitamura. In 2012 he scored a notable win over Koki Ono though suffered back to back losses in 2013, losing to future world champion Yu Kimura and a then debuting Takuma Inoue.
Since the losses to Kimura and Inoue we've seen Fukuhara really make a name for himself with a 5-0-2 run. That run has seen him hold Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr to a draw in Thailand and score notable wins over Hiroya Yamamoto, to claim the title last November, and a then unbeaten Takumi Sakae, to record his first defense.
In the ring Fukuhara is a hard working fighter. He's not the quickest or the most powerful but he's tough, comes to fight and knows when to bite down on the gum shield. That attitude helped him earn the draw with Fahlan and saw him defeat a spirited Yamamoto. He can however be out boxed, as Inoue and Kimura did so with relative ease, and if a fighter can avoid trading with him the odds are they will be able to have real success against him.
Whilst Fukuhara is a relatively little known fighter, outside of Kumamoto, Ono is much more well known. The 33 year old Watanabe gym fighter has really been around the block and then some. He suffered a couple of losses early in his career before stringing together a number of wins and over-coming the likes of Toshimasa Ouchi and Yu Kimura, inflicting the first to the future world champion. He has also scored notable wins over the likes of Xiong Chao Zhong and Omari Kimweri. Despite those wins he suffered notable losses losing to Masayuki Kuroda, Myung Ho Lee, Katsunari Takayama and, most recently, Kenichi Horikawa.
At his best he's an outside fighter and can look a little bit skittish with a lot of movement. He makes the most of his southpaw stance and avoided a tear up. In recent bouts however his legs have started to show their age and Horikawa managed to drag him into a war and drown him in a tempo war that eventually saw Ono being stopped. At 33 he can't use his legs like he used to and may not be able to avoid a tear up with Fukuhara.
Although Ono is a former OPBF Light Flyweight champion he has seemed more suited to the Minimumweight class, where he returns here. Sadly even with this bout at his better weight he's facing a guy who always seems bigger than he is and we suspect that Ono will be broken down, likely after making a good start.
With Ono turning 34 later this year we can under-stand him putting it all on the line here but we suspect he'll come up short against a hungry Fukuhara who will be wanting to leave an impression and move himself towards a world title fight in 2017
This coming Wednesday Japanese fans get the chance to see the third meeting between Japanese Middleweight champion Hikaru Nishida (15-8-1,7) and former world title challenger Makoto Fuchigami (23-11, 14). Not only with the Japanese title be on he line but so too will be the WBO Asia Pacific title, making it the third bout for the WBO's regional title to be fought for in Japan. The bout sees Nishida looking to over-come the more experienced man for the third time whilst Fuchigami is looking to avenge his losses and become relevant once again.
These two first met in March 2014. At the point Nishida was a struggling fighter with a record of 9-6-1 (3) and was looking to build on notable wins over Fukutaro Ujiie, Kazuhika Hidaka and Go Nakahori. Fuchigami on the other hand looked like a man coming to the end of his career with losses to Gennady Golovkin and Akio Shibata. That bout ended with Nishida taking a decision win. A rematch last year saw the then 12-7-1 (4) Nishida force a 5th round TKO against the then 21-10 (12) Fuchigami, in what was Fuchigami's 4th loss in 5 bouts. Really that have been the end of the rivalry.
Now we're heading into a third bout with the champion clearly being favoured over the challenger.
Aged 29 Nishida is a man coming into his prime and he's tough, rough and has a great engine allowing him to bring the pressure and break down his opponents. He'
slow, rather predictable and can be out boxed, as we saw earlier this year against Dwight Ritchie, but against fighters who can't keep on their toes for 12 rounds he's a nightmare, as seen when he stopped Akio Shibata back in March.
Nishida does nothing special. He's a flat footed and relatively slow. What he does though is effective, especially against older fighters who lack the energy to bounce about for 12 rounds.
At his best Fuchigami was a very solid fighter. Yes he was stopped by Golovkin but he was a good, solid and gutsy fighter. In fact his bout in 2011 with Koji Sato was phenomenal with Fuchigami proving his heart and slowly breaking down the feared Sato despite taking some nasty shots of his own. That bout was Fuchigami at his best, and was part of a 9-0 (8) run that also included wins against Tetsuya Suzuki, Takayuki Hosokawa and Fukutaro Ujiie.
Sadly since fighting Golovkin we've seen Fuchigami really struggle and he has subsequently gone 4-4 (4) with two losses to both Akio Shibata and Nishida. He has shown some lovely skills, and was out boxing Nishida in their second bout, but his punch resistance seems to be completely gone and he can't fight hard for 12 rounds any more at the age of 33.
Given how the last bouts between these two went it's hard to imagine Fuchigami win this one, in fact it'd be one of the biggest shocks of the year if Fuchigami was to over-come Nishida. We suspect Fuchigami will start well but be broken down in the middle rounds with Nishida scoring a stoppage after 7 or 8 rounds.
Last year we saw several fighters break out. One of those was Super Featherweight slugger Kenichi Ogawa (18-1, 15) who racked up 4 wins last year, 3 by stoppage, and claimed the Japanese title. Prior to last year Ogawa was a relative unknown, best known for winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2011, but by the end of the year he was a national champion and a world ranked fighter.
This coming Saturday we see Ogawa return to the ring to face his second challenger, veteran Kento Matsushita (34-9-7, 13), who has also fought under the name Kyohei Tamakoshi, and it's fair to say that the champion will be hoping for a better performance than he had last time out.
The 28 year old champion claimed his title last December, when he claimed a technical decision win over the previously unbeaten Rikki Naito. That was the break out win that Ogawa's team likely needed from him. Earlier this year he defended the title with a 9th round KO win against Satoru Sugita, however despite the win the champion looked less than great and seemed to be out boxed for swathes of the bout by Sugita.
At his best Ogawa is a big puncher who boxes on the move and has under-rated boxing ability. At his worst, and we think we saw his worst last time out, he's a crude and slow fighter who can't fight up close and can't adapt as a fight goes on.
Physically Ogawa is strong, powerful, fast and is improving. He's currently on a 10 fight winning run, he's avenged his sole loss, and has stopped 9 of his last 10 foes. His one loss, more than 4 years ago, was a major learning experience and since then he really has improved.
Aged 35 the challenger has been around the scene for a long time, debuting way back in 1999. His career has been up and down but he's become a staple of the Japanese rankings in recent years, despite once being 6-4-3 (4). His career turn around, of 28-5-4 has been genuinely impressive and has seen him mix with various notable names including Daiko Kaneko, Rikki Naito, Masaaki Serie and Wethya Sakmuangklang.
Matsushita's first title fight came in 2004, when he faced Yoshikane Nakajima for the Japanese Super Bantamweight title, that ended in a technical draw. Since then he has fought for the OPBF Super Bantamweight title, Japanese Super Bantamweight, the “interim” Japanese Super Bantamweight title, the WBC Youth World Super Featherweight title and the Japanese Super Featherweight title, twice.
Whilst we have typically seen Matsushita come up short we have seen him score some notable wins through his career. They have included victories over Nobuto Ikehara, Satoshi Niwa and most notably Dante Jardon.
Given his age this will probably be Matsushita's last title fight. Sadly for the challenger we suspect it end in the way many of his title fights have done, with him coming up short. We suspect a brave effect but Ogawa's youth, power and speed will be the difference maker in the end and the veteran probably won't see the final bell.
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.