The Japanese Welterweight title has been one of the most over-looked domestic titles in recent years. A lot of that is due to the relatively weak domestic scene. Whilst globally the Welterweight division has been among the best in recent years it hasn't shone in Japan, where the division really lacks name value and real stand out talents. Strangely however it's the lack of stand out talent the makes the division so interesting, and makes the November 7th Japanese Welterweight title unification bout so intriguing, with both fighters coming in as “champion” and both believing they will walk away the winner.
In one corner is “regular” champion Toshio Arikawa (14-4, 12), a huge puncher who claimed the title in April 2016 when he stopped Nobuyuki Shindo. He has recorded just one defence of the title, stopping Yasuhiro Okawa last November, though has sadly seen his reign put on ice this year with a nasty injury. That injury actually forced him to pull out of a Champion Carnival bout, which would have seen him face off with Daisuke Sakamoto (14-8-3, 8). Due to the injury to Arikawa fans saw Sakamoto battle against Makoto Kawasaki for the interim title, with Sakamoto claiming a decision win for the interim crown.
Now, almost 7 months after the original date for the bout we'll see the two fighters finally facing off, and just like the first time around there is a lot of back stories running though this bout. These include the unification status of the bout, the delaying of the bout and the fact that this is a rematch are all interesting threads to the contest.
We've already explained the delay and unification, of the interim and regular titles here, but it's worth mentioning the first fight between these two men before looking at either man in much detail. These two fought back in April 2014, and surprisingly Sakamoto blew away Arikawa in just 69 seconds. Since then however both men have been unbeaten, with Sakamoto going 7-0-2 (5) and Arikawa going 6-0 (5), and both showing real improvements from their first contest.
Of the two men it's Arikawa who enters in the more impressive form. His last 6 bouts have included stoppage wins over Akinori Watanabe, Shindo and Okawa as well as a technical decision win over the pretty decent, though now forgotten Yoshihisa Tonimura. He has really turned his career around after an 8-4 (7) start, which included 3 stoppage losses, and has not only kept his power but improved his overall boxing ability. The naturally heavy hands of Arikawa are sledgehammer like and every shot he lands looks damaging, especially at this level.
Whilst Arikawa has turned his career around brilliantly it should be noted that Sakamoto has done something similar himself. He was 7-8-1 (3) prior to beating Arikawa, having lost 4 of his previous 5, but has genuinely turned his career around and was a well deserving winner over Kawasaki for the interim title. Sadly aside from the win over Arikawa little really stands out for him in terms of quality wins, and it did sort of seem like he shook Arikawa and never let him off the hook until the referee had to stop the bout.
Given the result of their first bout it's obvious that Sakamoto will be full of confidence, and certainly has activity in his favour, having fought as recently as June. We however feel a determined and focused Arikawa will be too much for Sakamoto, and will break down Sakamoto late, though may need to pull himself off the canvas to score a victory here.
To begin 2017 we had expected to see Japanese Welterweight champion Toshio Arikawa (14-4, 12) to defend his title at the Champion Carnival against mandatory challenger Daisuke Sakamoto (13-8-3, 8). Sadly in the run up to that fight the champion suffered a training injury, breaking his jaw, and forced that bout to be cancelled. Rather than leaving the title on ice the JBC ordered Sakamoto to face off with Makoto Kawasaki (9-4-1, 2) in a bout for the interim title. That bout closes out the relatively quiet month of June and gives fans at the Korakuen Hall another potentially thrilling contest.
On paper the bout might not look great. After all between them they have a combined record of 22-12-4 (10) and neither has made an impact above domestic level. The reality however is that they are are well matched, both are hungry and both men are looking to make the most of their opportunity here. It's a bout that has real intrigue and has a genuine reward for the winner.
Of the two fighters it's Sakamoto who comes in to the bout with genuine form. The 35 year old veteran has gone 6-0-2 since losing a very narrow decision to Nobuyuki Shindo back in December 2013. That 8 fight unbeaten run has seen him score a now huge opening round win over Toshio Arikawa, a little more than 3 years ago,claim a decision over Ryoji Tanaka and fight to a technical draw with Takashi Inagaki. Whilst his last 3 wins have been against poor Thai's he hasn't been allowing ring rust to build up, and has instead been keeping his eyes focused on the Japanese title.
Although Sakamoto is in the form of his career, and has turned a 7-8-1 (3) record around, he is much better than the numbers suggest. He has lost close ones to the likes of Shindo, Kazuyoshi Kumano, Yasuhiro Okawa, and Yoshitaka Katabami and has been matched hard on the domestic level, fighting the likes of Yuji Wauke and Daichi Sakoda very early in his career. Like many he has been matched hard and had to develop the hard way, which is why he is now reaping the rewards of such a poor looking record.
Aged 33 Kawasaki is a man who is really a bit of an unknown outside of the most hardcore of Japanese fans, and really doesn't have the time to suffer another set back. His most notable result is a draw, on debut, with Koki Tyson, who was also debuting. Since then he has fought some notable names, but has come up short against the likes of Hironobu Matsunaga, Noriaki Sato and Ryota Yada. That's not to say he doesn't have any good wins, but victories over Mazuya Murata, Takeshi Goda and Koji Iida are scarcely amazing.
With a lack of power Kawasaki will depend on his work rate and stamina here. He has shown both at at the 5 and 6 round distance but has only gone beyond 6 rounds twice, being stopped in one of those bouts and taking a decision in the other. He has never shown that he can comfortable go 8, never mind more, and he lacks the experience to really know what to do when fatigue sets in.
The bout probably won't be a memorable bout that transcends Japanese boxing, but we do expect the bout to be a lot of fun, and high octane and we expect to see Sakamoto just being that bit too good, too experienced and too hungry for his long awaited rematch with Arikawa to come up short here.
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.