The Featherweight division right now is a very interesting one, with a mix of contenders, champions, prospects and others. In Asia the division is also an interesting one with a host of notable names in the mix for world title fights, and the leader among those is OPBF champion Satoshi Shimizu (4-0, 4), who appears to be the latest Japanese fighter on the fast track to the top.
Shimizu won the OPBF title back in October, claiming his first professional title following a very successful amateur career. This coming Saturday he'll be looking for his first defense, as he takes on Filipino challenger Eduardo Mancito (15-7-2, 9), and looks to make a statement on route to a potential world title fight.
The 31 year old Japanese fighter had major success in the unpaid ranks before turning professional with Ohashi in 2016, debuting in September. His first 3 bouts were impressive stoppages but it wasn't until October's win over Sa Myung Noh that fans really began to sit up and take notice, with Shimizu battering the the tough but outclassed Korea.
In the ring Shimizu is a bit of an enigma. As an amateur he was a well schooled fighter, and those skills have been seen at times in his short professional career. Despite those skills Shimizu often looks like a weirdly uncoordinated, long and lanky fighter, with arms that look too long for his body and as a result has a very peculiar style where his shots come from really unusual angles. Although watching him doesn't suggest he's a big puncher he really does appear to bang and is a great finisher at this level, as Noh found out. He has power, speed, determination and the ability to adapt, though does have questions left to answer about his stamina, durability and defense, which will hopefully be answered here.
Filipino fighter Mancito looks like an over-matched challenger on paper,but for a first defense, on a relatively short turn around, he's not a terrible foe. He's 25 year old and has only been stopped once in his 24 fight career, with that stoppage coming to the world class Tomas Rojas. He certainly looks durable, and did go 10 rounds against Rey Vargas, but there is question marks as to how much his hard bouts have taken from him.
In the ring Mancito is a decent level of fighter. He was dominated by Rey Vargas but was competitive with the likes of Alberto Guevara, Jelbirt Gomera, Thong Sithluangphophun and Vergil Puton and has shown he comes to fight, even when he is out classed. His aggression will allow him to have some success against most fighters, but we suspect it will be his downfall here.
Mancito will come to fight, but against someone as heavy handed and skilled as Shimizu that aggression will be used against him. Mancito will be giving up significant height and reach and will be picked off, being worn down and stopped, likely in the first half of the fight, by the very talented Shimizu.
On Monday we get Christmas, and it's fair to say we're in for some treats away from the world of boxing. Just a day later however action returns to the ring and our attention turns to Kobe for a Japanese Minimumweight title fight. On paper the match up, between defending champion Reiya Konishi (14-0, 5) and challenger Kenta Matsui (8-6, 1), looks likes a mismatch but the reality is that it could very well be an incredibly competitive contest between two men looking to prove themselves.
The unbeaten champion won the belt in April, with a razor thin decision win over Masataka Taniguchi, and made his only defense in September, when he took a majority decision over Shin Ono. Together those two wins are less than amazing and suggest that Konishi, whilst unbeaten, isn't an elite fighter in the making. Instead the 24 year old looks like a talented fighter who could mix at world level, but is unlikely to become a long term champion.
In the ring Konishi is a decent boxer-fighter who has a good engine, nice technique but really lacks power, even at this domestic level. He doesn't mind having a war but no one is going to be afraid of his power, and he has scored just 1 stoppage in his last 9 bouts, and that came against a very limited Thai. Whilst going the distance with Ono and Taniguchi isn't a bad thing there is just a general feeling that he doesn't have the physicality to go to the top, or the power to make domestic type of fighters really respect him.
Aged 22 Matsui is a proverbial boxing baby but is also a man who has had more than 5 years professional experience and has also mixed with good company. His early career saw him having very mixed results, including a close loss to Jun Takigawa in November 2013 and a loss in a rematch in 2015. That mixed form would later lead to Matsui fighting Riku Kano in 2015, losing to the then fast rising Kano. In his last 3 bouts he has gone 2-1, with his only loss coming to current Japanese Light Flyweight champion Tetsuya Hisada and scoring wins over Rikito Hattori and Genki Hanai.
Having scored big upsets over Hattori and Hanai we've seen that Matsui is a very upset minded fighter, who fights with the intention of beating better fighters. It's a nice mentality and one that needs to be applauded, rather than seeing him come in to pick up more losses. He'll be fully aware that no one is giving him a chance, given his record, but he'll know that he has the ability to shock opponents, and will also know that Konishi isn't as good as his record suggests.
On paper it's easy to feel like Konishi will win, with little problems. The reality however is that whilst we do believe that Konishi will win, we think he'll be forced to work very hard for the victory. Matsui will be there to win, he's tough enough to take the shots of Konishi and will be in his face. Matsui's ability will make things very tough for Konishi, but we think Konishi will again retain his title.
This coming Thursday Japanese fight fans get an early Christmas present with a potentially thrilling bout at Light Welterweight, as domestic champion Koichi Aso (22-7-1, 15) makes his second defense of the title, and takes on the exciting Valentine Hosokawa (21-6-3, 9). The bout combines two aggressive and exciting fighters with both looking to make a statement, and both going in to the ring with a point to prove. It may not make marks on the international stage, but domestically this bout is sure to be an all-out fire-fight and comes between men with some history.
The history between the two men is now 9 years old, with the two men having fought to a split decision draw back in 2008. That draw was in the East Japan Rookie of the Year final, and saw Hosokawa advance to the final on the “Dominant Point” rule. That result was followed by Hosokawa winning in the All Japan Rookie of the Year final, claiming the crown as the Lightweight Rookie of the Year. It's fair to say that Aso will be seeking revenge here.
Aged 31 Aso won the title in his third shot at it, following two losses in title fights against Hiroki Okada. Those losses to Okada are the most recent ones Aso has suffered, but he has also come up short against the likes of Shinya Iwabuchi and Jung Hoon Yang. Along with those losses are wins over the likes of Kazuyoshi Kumano, Moon Hyun Yun, Kazuki Matsuyama and Yusuke Konno. Through his career he has proven to be an ultra-aggressive and exciting pressure fighter fighter, who brings the action behind a tight guard and looks for a fight. Although Aso can be out fought, and out boxed, he does tend to make fights exciting and his title defense against Konno is a front runner for the best Japanese fight of 2017.
Aso's style has taken atoll on his body, and with 4 stoppage losses against his name he isn't the most durable. Despite that he seems to fight like a man who believes he can take bombs and that's part of what makes him dangerous. He heavy handed, aggressive and willing to take risks to stop opponents. He's not going to just back off because he gets caught and will instead fight fire with fire, and can be very hard to time when he's hurt.
Whilst Aso is a fighter with a tight guard and hurtful power the same cannot be said of Hosokawa, despite the fact he too is an aggressive fighter who enjoys fighting off the front foot. Hosokawa will instead march forward and let his hands fly, with a very high work rate, a great energy and a belief in simply out working and swarming his opponents. He can certainly be out boxed, and and he has been stopped in previous title bouts by the heavy handed pairing of Shinya Iwabuchi and Min Wook Kim, but even in his losses he has given opponents absolute hell. In recent years he has notched up notable wins against the likes of Jumbo Oda Nobunaga Shoten Petagine, Cristiano Aoqui and Quaye Peter and no one will begrudge him his 4th title bout here.
Aged 36 Hosokawa's huge energy reserves don't last much longer and he is certainly in the latter stages of his career. Having come up short in previous title bouts he probably knows that this will be his final shot, and it's hard to imagine him leaving anything in the tank. He may not have the power to hurt Aso, but he has the work rate to defeat him and the will to win to really give Aso hell.
What we're expecting is for the men to meet in center ring and for a 10 round, balls to the wall war. The guard of Aso will be hard for Hosokawa to break through, but he could end up handcuffing the champion with his out put. Aso's power could be the difference, and he may be able to make Hosokawa think twice about wildly working up close. Either way this is going to be a nail biting, violent and brutal contest that will have fans captivated from start to end.
Right now the Super Flyweight division is widely regarded as one of the most interesting, most talent laden and most exciting, with a list of great fighters like Naoya Inoue, Jerwin Ancajas, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Kal Yafai, Juan Francisco Estrada, Roman Gonzalez, Carlos Cuadras and Rex Tso, just to name a few. Understandably with so much talent in the division it's easy to overlook some of the fighters looking to become contenders, one of whom is Japanese domestic champion Ryuichi Funai (28-7, 19), who will be looking for his second defense this coming Monday. In the opposite corner to Funai will be 33 year old Shota Kawaguchi (21-8-1, 9), who will know that this bout could be his final title bout of note, if he loses again.
The 32 year old Funai is one of a number of fighters looking for a shot at a big bout at 115lbs. Despite his record he is a very credible fighter and well deserving of the world rankings he has, but at 32 time is running out on the Watanabe man, who only won the Japanese title earlier this year after more than 12 years as a professional. Funai began his career in February 2005, and lost 2 of his first 4. He managed to find some form, and even fought future world champion Shinsuke Yamanaka way back in 2009, suffering a 7th round TKO loss.
Early stumbles were put behind Funai who has gone 15-2 in recent years, losing only to Rolly Lunas and Sho Ishida, both in title fights. That 17 fight run has seen Funai really show his worth and score notable wins over talented fighters, like Gakuya Furuhashi, Akinori Hoshino, Ryuta Otsuka, Ryan Bito and most notably Kenta Nakagawa, who he stopped in 7 rounds for the Japanese title back in March.
In the ring Funai is a pretty solid boxer puncher. He's not got any “outstanding” attributes, but he's a solid all rounder, with much better skills than his record suggests, a steely determinedness, good stamina and under-rated power, which has seen him score stoppages in 9 of his last 15 wins. He's a front foot fighter, though one who is best at mid-range, who believes in his toughness and isn't scared of taking a shot if he feels he's going to land one of his own. It's also worth noting that when he has his man hurt, he doesn't mind taking a gamble to try and finish them off.
Kawaguchi is some way outside of the world rankings, though is aware a win here could push him into them, but has actually mixed with a number of notable names. Sadly during his 11 year career we've seen Kawaguchi suffer defeats to the likes of Sonny Boy Jaro and Rene Dacquel, and his best win are over the likes of Yodgoen Tor Chalermchai, Jonathan Francisco and Rakniran Muadransarakam.
Kawaguchi is a respectable domestic level, and possibly even continental level, fighter at best, but with a questionable chin and less than great power he really is dependent on his skills and a bit of luck, and luck doesn't tend to strike your career when you're 33 and are 4-4 in your last 8. In all honest it's that sort of form which is damning to Kawaguchi's hopes. He's not a bad fighter, but can be bullied, can be out boxed, out fought and hurt and he's yet to really prove that he much for Funai to be afraid of.
We think Kawaguchi will actually start quite well, as the champion takes a couple of rounds to work his way into the bout. As soon as he does he will likely take over, and we're expecting Funai to stop his man in the middle to late rounds, and secure his second defense. He could then begin trying to lure a world champion into the ring for a fight, but the reality is that he's really going to have to earn a shot, and that's unlikely to be easy given his age, and the depth in the division. Instead we suspect he'll hang around at domestic level and try and rack up a few more defenses before being dethroned by a younger, fresher and hungrier man.
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.