This coming Saturday Japanese fans will get the chance to see the countries best known Heavyweight attempt to continue his pursuit of a world title fight, as he defends a pair of regional titles against a challenger taking a huge step up in class.
The bout in question sees Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific champion Kyotaro Fujimoto (17-1, 9) battle against the relatively unknown Randall Rayment (8-3, 3). On paper the bout is a bit of a mismatch but as we're all too aware fights don't take place on paper.
Kyotaro is a former K1 kick boxer who took to boxing a few years ago and helped kick start a mini Japanese Heavyweight scene. Sadly the scene has died in the country in the last 2 or 3 years but Fujimoto did naturally out grow it, and beat almost all he worth while challengers whilst continuing his development. That development later lead to him claiming the OPBF title, with a win over the big punching Willie Nasio and then added the WBO Asia Pacific title with a stoppage win over Herman Ene Purcell.
In the ring Kyotaro fights differently to most Heavyweights. He doesn't go into the ring with the intention of blasting foes out, or going to war. Instead he's one of the divisions more notable boxer-movers, who fights on his toes, picks his spots and relies on speed as opposed to power. It's interesting to see him fight the way he does, especially in a Heavyweight scene that is often sold on it's exciting power punchers, but it works for Kyotaro. It needs to be noted that Kyotaro is very much an under-sized Heavyweight, which is why he uses the tactics he uses, and he also has question marks about his durability, but by moving like he does he can avoid the damaging blows and strike when an opponent is tiring.
Footage of Rayment as a boxer isn't too widely available but what is out there shows a fighter with a rather sloppy style. He he's a tall rangy guy but he struggles to create distance, he slaps when he punches and really doesn't look like he does much right at all. There is some good athletic fundamentals there but the reality is that he looks like someone who has converted to boxing and is very hittable and very limited looking. Up close he fights like a brawler, and gets dragged into wars very easily, on the outside he looks like someone who arm punches on a regular basis and there is no natural snap or power there.
Whilst not an offensive or defensive genius Rayment does appear to be hungry and tough. He has yet to be stopped and has won his last 6, after a 2-3 start. Those wins have include a victory over Herman Ene Purcell, in what was Purcell's first bout after the Kyotaro one. Aged 31 he's likely peaked and this is a huge step up, with it being Rayment's first 12 rounder and he has to go beyond 6 rounds.
Given the ability of the two men it's hard to imagine anything but a straight forward win for Fujimoto, who will likely look to out box the clumsy Rayment early on, before putting his foot on the gas in the middle rounds and stopping the challenger. Sadly though Fujimoto's journey to a world title does look like it will have to go on a bit longer, with Joseph Parker said to have abandon plans to take on Fujimoto in December.
This coming weekend is a huge one for Japanese boxing fans. There is, of course, a trio of world title fights taking place on Sunday but before that will be another big show, albeit at the domestic level, which takes place on Saturday. That card will decide a lot of mandatory challengers for the domestic titles next year, but also a Japanese Lightweight title fight, with the unbeaten Shuichiro Yoshino (5-0, 3) taking on veteran Spicy Matsushita (17-9-1, 2) for the vacant title.
Of the two men it's fair to say that Yoshino has been the one getting the the more attention during his career. He was a former amateur standout who has been on the fast track since beginning his professional career, which began in 2015, and has already seen him defeat the likes of Chaiyong Sithsaithong, Kenta Onjo and Yoshitaka Kato, three very good opponents for such a novice.
In the ring Yoshino is a fighter who has got amateur skills to rely on, but can also brawl and fight. When he's needed to box, such as against Kato, he's done that whilst he has also been able to brawl with the likes of Onjo. During his short career he has shown good stamina, having already gone 6 and 8 rounds, solid power, good speed and a very good boxing IQ. As with many novice professionals there is a lot left for him to prove before we begin to talk about world title bouts, but from what we've seen it's obvious that the potential is there for Yoshino to go very far, if his mind stays on the sport.
It is worth noting that the 26 year old did walk away from the boxing once before, long before turning professional, and he has questions to answer about his commitment to boxing. He also has to answer questions about hos serious he is, having began his career at Welterweight before dropping down the weights. He's gone about it properly, but there is perhaps a possibility that a fully committed Yoshino would be fighting at Super Featherweight and not Lightweight.
Aged 34 Matsushita is pretty much in a must win situation, as he's almost certainly not going to be getting another shot at a title, if he comes up short here. It is worth noting that this is actually his second title fight in less than a year, though he did come up very short in his previous title fight losing a decision to Chinese hopeful Can Xu. Notably that loss was the first clear fight, win or loss, that Matsushita has had since a 2013 stoppage loss to Jun Hamana.
The trouble with Matsushita is almost every fight he has had has been close. He lacks the power to stop opponents, with just two stoppages, and the skill that he possess have rarely been significantly better than those he has faced. Going through his record shows this with bizarre regularity, including 7 split decisions, in which he has won 3, lost 3 and drawn one, 2 majority decisions, both wins, and a further 9 bouts which could be considered razor thin either way. He's a battler at heart, and that will to battle, has kept him in bouts he should have lost by wider scores, but has also shown a reliance on fighting hard, rather than smart.
Given his age and frustrating career it's hard to see what Matsushita has to really challenge Yoshino, who we think will really shine here, and will see off the veteran, likely sending him into retirement, in the middle rounds here. Matsushita might have some early moments but his lack of power and limited skills are made to order for a fighter like Yoshino, who is going to be too quick, too strong, too hungry and simply too good.
On October 13th fight fans at the Korakuen Hall get two OPBF title fights. The “lesser” of those will see Keisuke Nakayama (10-2-1, 4) make his first defense of the OPBF Flyweight title as he takes on the once touted Filipino Jobert Alvarez (17-2-1, 7). For both men this is a huge bout, and could potentially move the winner towards a world title fight in 2018.
The champion won the title last time out, narrowly defeating the heavy handed Richard Claveras, and prior to that win he hadn't really been too well known. In fact his only other win of note was a decision over Naoki Mochizuki and his most notable other bout was a lop-sided decision loss to Hiroyuki Kudaka back in 2015. Despite being so unknown prior to his win over Claveras it does need to be said that Nakayama is an improving fighter, and at 29 years old is probably just starting to see everything click into place.
Coming into this bout Nakayama has won his last 4, he's in good form and seems to have realised he's a Flyweight, not a Super Flyweight. He can box, move and if dragged into a brawl at this level he can hold his own on the inside.
Whilst Nakayama has only just started to get on the radar of fight fans the same can't be said for Alvarez, who has fought several notable foes. Early in his career he was touted as a potential star of the future, and wins against Renren Tesorio and Jerry Tomgodan did help him with some early notoriety. In 2014 he twice fought in Mexico, beating former “world” title challenger Julian Rivera and then putting in a very good showing against Juan Francisco Estrada. The Estrada bout should have launched Alvarez into true contender status, but he would be out of the ring for over a year, wasting his chance to build on the win.
Since losing to Estrada we've seen Alvarez score an amazing win over Jonathan Gonzalez in Puerto Rico, suffer a surprising stoppage loss to Miguel Cartagena, inside a round. Since then he has scored two simple decisions in the Philippines and rebuilt some of his confidence.
In the ring Alvarez is a really talented boxer, out boxing Estrada at times, but he can be dragged into wars, as he was against Gonzalez and Cartagena, and can be dropped, as he has been in a number of bouts. If he gets into a war here there is a good chance he'll come up short, and that's despite the fact Nakayama isn't much of a puncher.
We're expecting the two men to show a bit of everything here. They will look to fight on the outside, and the bout will start slowly, but as it goes on, and as they get used to the other man's power, it will gradually build into a war. The second half of the fight will be thrilling, with rounds that are all action. Though we do favour Nakayama to come out on top, being cheered by his local fans which will just get him over the line for his first defense.
In recent years Japanese prospects have been fast tracked with alarming regularity. It's become almost the done thing in Japan, with promoters knowing that if a fighter can fight against good fighter's there no point in keep them busy and padding their records for years. The latest Japanese youngster to be headed on the fast track to the top is Hinata Maruta (5-0, 4), who was long tipped to be a star for the Morioka gym. This coming Friday Maruta will take a huge step up in class and look to prove that he belongs to be regarded as the next in the line of super talents, like Naoya Inoue and Kosei Tanaka, as he takes on OPBF Super Bantamweight champion Hidenori Otake (29-2-3, 13).
Of the two men it's probably Otake who is better known. He is a former Japanese national champion, the current OPBF champion and a former world title challenger, who showed his toughness in a wide loss to the then WBA champion Scott Quigg in the UK. Aged 36 he is in the twilight of his career, but has looked good recently whilst running up a 7 fight winning run, following the loss to Quigg. Those wins have included his OPBF title victory over Jelbirt Gomera and a stoppage win over Kinshiro Usui in his first defense.
At his best Otake was a teak tough fighter who was insanely tough and had incredible energy. He's now likely on the slide, but still appears to be incredibly tough, and know how to bring the relentless assault that can cause fighters to mentally crumble. Over 12 rounds very few fighters will look to have a toe-to-toe war with him. On the other hand Otake is technically flawed, crude around the edges. He's not a very accurate fighter, or a very heavy handed one, but he's very physically strong and fighters to his strengths, making fights a trench war and simply breaking down opponents with his relentlessness.
It should be noted that some cracks have appeared in Otake's toughness recently. He was cut a few fights back by the little known Alexander Espinoza, and he also struggled with Gomera, who has subsequently lost two more bouts. The Japanese warrior does like to set his feet before throwing, and against a mover, or a fighter with high ring IQ he can have his flaws taken advantage of.
Whilst Otake is probably the better known it's fair to say that fans in Japan do see Maruta as a star of the future. He's a handsome and fresh faced youngster, who has the looks to become a crossover star, he has the frame to move through a number of weights and more importantly he has the skills to go to the top. Aged 20 he is a prodigious talent, but one who has been known about long before his professional debut, with a solid amateur background and a team who regularly take him over to the US for training camps, building on his skills and experiences. Although still a boxing baby he won the WBC Youth Bantamweight title, and defended it twice, whilst also making a statement on debut by beating the then world ranked Jason Canoy.
In the ring Maruta is a slick, boxer-mover who has solid power, enough so to drop the teak tough Jason Canoy, one of the best jabs in the sport, a lovely ability to switch between head and body, good footwork and a very high ring IQ. He has been shown to turn off at time, but it often seems like he's doing so to get more experience and learn more about the sport and his opponents, rather than truly switching off. As a result he has lost a few rounds, but never come close to losing a fight.
One place where Maruta is perhaps a little “weak” is his experience. He has only had 26 professional rounds, compared to Otake's 219, but as mentioned he has held a number of training camps in the US, and that has seen him take part in long sessions, and share the ring with a number of other styles. Those training camps will help him fight over the longer distance, but we're still interested in how he will fair in the later rounds, especially with Otake's relentless forward march. Interestingly he has already been chin checked, taking some bombs from Canoy, and appears to have a very sturdy chin, but hasn't been tagged when he's tired yet.
We have seen Murata answer more questions in his first 5 bouts than most fighters, but it's clear that this bout has been made to allow him to prove even more. It's a chance for him to prove his stamina, and to prove his power, if he stops Otake it would be a huge statement, whilst a decision win would “just” be a big statement. This is certainly dangerous match making, but that seems to be the way they go with the top young talents in Japan, and it's part of what is making the Japanese scene so exciting right now. Young fighters are told to prove themselves, almost straight away.
We can see how Otake could win. We can see him just refusing to go away, taking Maruta in the deep water and drowning him, with either a late stoppage or a close decision. But our view is that Maruta's speed, skills and movement will be too much for Otake, and we even go as far as to say that a stoppage for Maruta isn't out of the question. The old adage “speed kills” is likely to play a factor here, and Maruta will be too quick and too sharp for the veteran, who will be made to look his 36 years of age, and will be finished off late into the bout.
The Super Featherweight division has been one of the most significant ones in Japan in recent years. Not only have they had two world champions, Takashi Uchiyama and Takashi Miura, but they have also had a number of notable prospects and hopefuls, as the new generations starts to come through, with the likes of Masayuki Ito and Kenichi Ogawa.
This coming Saturday we are going to see a new national champion being crowned as Teiken's Masaru Sueyoshi (15-1, 10) takes on veteran Ribo Takahata (13-7-1, 5) for the title vacated by Ogawa. It's a battle between rising youngster and a hard luck veteran, who are both looking to secure their biggest career win, and put themselves on the proverbial boxing map.
Of the two men it's the 26 year old Sueyoshi who should be favoured, and is certainly the man flying high, in good form and with a lot of confidence. He debuted in 2011 and suffered his sole defeat the following year in a split decision loss to Masayuki Ito, of whom there is no shame in losing to. Since then he has reeled off 12 straight wins and climbed up the Japanese rankings in pretty impressive fashion.
Sueyoshi's career isn't full of big wins, but he has seen off the likes of Yuta Nagai, Kazumi Sanpei, Shingo Eto and come through the aggressive Allan Vallespin. They are wins won't mean much outside of Asia, but they were solid wins on the domestic, and even regional, scene.
In the ring Sueyoshi is a genuine talent. He's a solid boxer with nice text book skills, who has been allowed to develop under the TV cameras due to regular appearances on the G+ “Dynamic Glove” shows. Those appearances have shown that Sueyoshi is a composed fighter, especially under pressure, and that he knows how to move, how to box and how to counter. Saying that however he has shown holes in his defense, and has been backed up a bit too easily by aggressive fighters. There is a good fighter here, but one who is clearly a work in progress, and isn't an obvious air apparent to the two Takashi's.
Whilst Sueyoshi is a rising star the same can't be said for the 38 year old Takahata, who has a “win-loss-win-loss” record going back to September 2010, winning 8 and losing 7 of his last 15, and if the pattern continues he's set for another loss. On one hand that's poor form, on the other hand he has faced good fighters, losing to the likes of Rikki Naito, Shingo Eto, Kenichi Ogawa and Daiki Kaneko, and has scored notable wins over Johnrieil Maligro and Yusuke Tsukada.
Takahata isn't a fighter who has shown incredible skills or power but his will to win is credible and his ability to come back from set backs is impressive. He has developed a tougher mentality in the ring in recent times, and took Daiki Kaneko 10 rounds not too long ago. Despite that he has been stopped twice and isn't the sturdiest, even if he has developed a more survival mentality. In the ring he has a rather peculiar style, with very flat feet and footwork that constantly looks wrong. Although not a puncher his recent win over Tsukada did come from a dynamite short right hand, so we know when he connects clean he can take them out.
Coming into this Takahata will know this is going to be his only shot at a title, a loss here and retirement looms. A win on the other hand could see him extending his career, making a defense of the title and keeping his career alive. Sadly for Takahata we can't see him coping with the movement, youthfulness and energy of Sueyoshi. We aren't expecting a thrilling fight, but we do imagine that Sueyoshi will win with either a wide decision or a 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.