With some many world title bouts taking place on December 31st in Japan it can be easy to over-look the domestic action also taking place on the same day, that's despite a brilliant Japanese Featherweight title bout between reigning champion Shota Hayashi (28-5-1, 17) and former WBA Super Bantamweight champion Akifumi Shimoda (31-5-2, 14). On a typical day in the boxing calendar this would be an attention grabbing domestic headliner but here it's a bout relegated to being just a supporting bout.
For Hayashi the bout serves as his first defense of the title, a title he won back in September when he defeated Noriyuki Ueno for the then vacant title. The performance against Ueno was one of Hayashi's best so far and showed the Hatanaka man had developed into a very strong fighter capable of moving into the world rankings in the future and it seems now, in his late 20's, he's coming into his own.
The win over Ueno wasn't just a bout that saw Hayashi claim the title but also saw him extending an unbeaten run that now sits are 14 fights unbeaten, dating back more than 5 years, and features 13 wins and a draw. That has included victories not only over Ueno but also over the likes of good Japanese contenders like Ryosei Arai, Zuri Kannan, Yoshiyuki Takabayashi and Koji Umetsu and has given real legitimacy to his status as one of the rising men on the Japanese scene.
Although on the rise Hayashi is still a flawed fighter who has a lot to improve on and he can be out worked and out boxed. It's not happened recently but it has happened before and he will know that he needs to keep improve if he's to make the cross over from Japanese champion to world title contender. His out put needs to improve and he needs to start sitting more on his shots, though every bout has seen an improvement recently.
Aged 32 Shimoda is a man probably best known for suffering two KO of the year type defeats. One of those happened back in 2011 to Rico Ramos, in a bout he was comfortably winning, and the other in 2014 to Marvin Sonsona. Despite those losses Shimoda is a talented fighter who has won Japanese, OPBF and world titles at 122lbs with wins against the likes of Daisuke Yamanaka, Hidenori Kobayashi, Hiromasa Ohashi, Ryol Li Lee, Alejandro Gonzalez and Gosuke Seki.
In the ring Shimoda is a talented boxer from the southpaw stance who has under-rated power, lovely counter punching and can force the fight when he needs to. He judges distance well, has under-rated movement and really solid technical ability. Sadly though his KO losses will forever haunt him and give any opponent belief that they too can catch him and render him unconscious.
Given his age and the wear on his body Shimoda will know that this could be his last chance to fight in a title bout. A win could, potentially, put him in the world rankings and get him one more chance at the top but a loss will almost certainly be the end of his career,
With the bout being a real must win for both men, for Shimoda to have much of a career and for Hayashi to establish his reign as a genuine one, we're expecting a very good, but yet tense bout. Hayashi will look for the KO and will try to break down and out work Shimoda, who has fought only 12 rounds in the last 14 months, Shimoda however will believe his more rounded skills and power will be the key. Sadly for the former world champion we think his age will be a problem here and Hayashi will just do enough to claim a decision win and retain his title, before potentially moving on to bigger things next year.
Japanese fight fans have it really lucky this year with so many great bouts to end the year. The most under-rated of those fights however is domestic title clash that sees former 3-time world title challenger Satoshi Hosono (29-2-1, 20) defends his Featherweight title against former WBA Super Bantamweight champion Akifumi Shimoda (30-4-2, 13). The bout, which is regarded by their promoters as an unofficial world title eliminator, is regarded as an under-card bout on a show that is genuinely stacked.
For the 32 year old Hosono this will be the 5th defense of the title that he won in April 2014, when he defeated Yuki Ogata with a 10th round TKO. Whilst his reign has seen him go unbeaten since winning the title he has, arguable, under-performed whilst claiming wins over Gosuke Seki, Rikiya Fukuhara, Tatsuya Otsubo and Takuya Watanabe, with the Watanabe fight being a particularly competitive bout.
Although he is the current Japanese champion Hosono is probably best known internationally for his title shots. They have seen him come up against 3 very talented fighters with the first being a narrow loss to Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym, almost 6 years ago, the second was a very wide loss to Celestino Caballero, who had the sort of style that Hosono was never going to look against, whilst the third saw Hosono fight to a technical draw against Chris John, in what would be John's final successful defense.
In the ring Hosono is the sort of guy who has the traits to make exciting fights. He also has the traits to be out boxed. He's very strong, physically very tough, heavy handed, hence his nickname “Bazooka”, and is an out and out pressure fighter who looks to make the most of his toughness and power. Sadly for him his footwork is slow, he's very deliberate and can be made to look very limited by opponents with some speed and movement. It's also fair to say that Hosono has slowed his output in recent years and is a notoriously slow starter which can often see him losing the first 3 rounds without mounting much offense. The longer bouts go the better he becomes, but giving away early rounds can be a genuine issue.
Whilst Hosono has failed in his attempts to become a world champion the same cannot be said for Shimoda who shocked the world slightly when he took the WBA Super Bantamweight title from Ryol Li Lee back in January 2011. That was an up-and-down affair with Lee being dropped 3 times and Shiomoda himself being dropped once. Sadly however Shimoda's reign lasted just over 5 months before he was the victim of a KO of the Year contender against Rico Ramos, in a bout that Shimoda was winning with ease. That loss was to be Shimoda's third as a professional, but his first stoppage defeat.
Following the loss to Ramos in 2011 Shimoda has gone 7-1-1 (3) with the most notable win coming against Bantamweight contender Alejandro Hernandez, who struggled to win more than a couple of rounds against Shimoda. Whilst the win over Hernandez is a solid one the most notable result from those 9 bouts was actually a staggering KO loss to Marvin Sonsona, who iced Shimoda with a single breath taking uppercutt. That KO by Sonsona, arguably the KO of the year for 2014, was followed by 16 months of inactivity but Shimods has since notched up back-to-back wins over Gosuke Seki and Jerry Nardo.
At his best Shimoda is a fast boxer with accurate shots, good movement and intelligent southpaw straight. In terms of pure boxing ability he is very solid and can really show up many other, more well known fighters. Sadly however he lacks real fire power to make good opponents respect him and, worryingly, lacks the chin to seemingly take a real shot. His KO losses have both been spectacular and it does seem that a move to Featherweight may not be a good move for him.
Stylistically this is a really compelling bout. Hosono's weakness is movement and Shimoda can certainly move Shimoda's weakness is, clearly his chin and Hosono can punch. Over 10 rounds the bout is a question of whether Shimoda can avoid being caught by one of Hosono's bombs. If he can then it's likely the title will change hands with Shimoda fighting a safety first bout to take home a decision. The odds are, however, that Hosono's pressure catches up with the challenger in the second half and he finally lands one on the button to down Shimoda for the 10 count.
When "Ring of Gold" was announced we had expected two world title fights. One of those was a WBA Featherweight super title fight between Simipiwe Vetyeka, the man who ended the legendary career of Chris John, and Japan's Akifumi Shimoda (28-3-2, 12). Unfortunately that bout got pulled by the WBA who demanded that Vetyeka took on WBA regular champion Nicholas Walters rather than Shimoda, who is a top contender.
It seemed at that point that Shimoda wouldn't be on the card and was unfortunately going to miss out a major opportunity.
Thankfully Bob Arum, of Top Rank, and Teiken have managed to do a great job and kept Shimoda on the card and in a title fight, albeit "just" a WBO international Featherweight title fight. Not only have they kept Shimoda on the card but also got him a fight with a former world champion as he meets once-beaten Filipino Marvin Sonsona (17-1-1, 14).
Shimoda, a former WBA Super Bantamweight champion, is currently on a 6 fight unbeaten run following his shocking KO loss at the hands of Rico Ramos. The loss to Ramos saw Shimoda losing his world title and soon afterwards he moved up in weight filling out to a Featherweight.
Although Shimoda's last 6 fights have come at a "sub-world" level he is still clearly a talented fighter. Not exceptional but still solid with good skills, good movement a decent engine and plenty of experience under his belt. The one thing he genuinely lacks is power and although he was stopped by Ramos that said more about Ramos's power than Shimoda's chin.
At his best Shimoda is a world level fighter, there is no debating that at all. The question about him going in to this bout and future Featherweight bouts is whether or not he's a Featherweight. He's been fighting there but comfortably making the weight and one would assume that if he was offered a Super Bantamweight world title fight he'd be able to make 122lbs with out any problem.
Whether Shimoda is a natural Featherweight or not is unlikely to make a huge difference here as he takes on former WBO Super Flyweight champion Sonsona.
As with Shimoda, Sonsona is a world level fighter when he's on song. He's fast, aggressive, powerful and genuinely fun to watch. He's not the most technically proficient of fighters but he does have enough about him to make life difficult for most fighters when his head is on boxing. Unfortunately Sonsona is a play boy outside of the ring and you can tell that boxing isn't always his focus which is a real shame considering his prodigious talent.
Aged 23 and fighting from the Southpaw stance the expectation on Sonsona is "IF" he can commit himself to boxing he can easily reclaim another world title somewhere down the line. On the other side of that is that if his out of the ring issues rear their head again his career could very easily be over.
In regards to this fight Shimoda seems to be the naturally bigger man, though there isn't much between them in all honesty, he's certainly the more experienced and older man. Unfortunately for Shimoda his relative lack of power and the fact he's "stepping" down after thinking he was fighting for a world title may work against him. We've seen it in the past where a fighter thinks he's fighting one guy, then it's gets changed to a lesser opponent and he just doesn't turn up.
Shimoda could try to use his natural skills to keep Sonsona off balance and neutralise his dynamite left hand. Unfortunately for Shimoda that could be a problem with Sonsona being very fast himself and being capable of throwing whilst taking one.
With aggression and power on his side Sonsona is a man who is hard to bet against here. Shimoda's the more complete fighter but something tells us that Sonsona will manage to land a huge left hand at some point. If Rico Ramos can knock you senseless then Sonsona can do the same.
Unfortunately for the winner of this fight, we don't think they will have much of a chance with the WBO world champion and may need to wait their turn for a title fight in the hope that a weaker champion comes around in 12-18 months. We suspect that Vasyl Lomachenko will beat Orlando Salido in the coming weeks and without trying to sound harsh Lomachenko would have an easy time with either Shimoda or Sonsona. Below Lomachenko though are plenty of beatable opponents and these two will favour their chances against a number of other top challengers.
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.