It's not often that you'll see a national champion, who is making their second defense and on a 6 fight unbeaten run being regarded at the under-dog in a mandatory Japanese title defense. This coming Wednesday however we see just that, as Japanese Featherweight champion Taiki Minamoto (16-5, 13) defends his title against Reiya Abe (19-2, 9) in a truly mouth watering clash at Korakuen Hall. On one hand you have an explosive, and hard hitting champion, who has lost just once in the last 4 years, on the other a challenger who has won his last 11 and at times has looked untouchable.
This is one of the most interesting looking Japanese title bouts of 2019.
The 28 year old Minamoto is promoted by the Watanabe gym and has been a pro for a little over 8 years.His career showed early promise, though also showed him to be a bit of a glass cannon, going 9-3 (8) in his first 12 bouts. From his 3 early losses 3 were stoppages, whilst the other came to future world champion Masayuki Ito. Since that start he has gone 7-2 (5), beating the likes of Eita Kikuchi, Seizo Kono, Dai Iwai, Takenori Ohashi and Tatsuya Otsubo, whilst his last loss came in 2015 to Yukinori Oguni. It was the win over Iwai that set up his rise to the title, which he took from Ohashi and defended against Osubo. During those bouts we saw the best of Minamoto, who looked amazing against Ohashi, using his boxing skills, speed, accurate punching and heavy hands to dismantle, beat up and stop the then defending champion. Against Otsubo however we saw Minamoto struggling, and needing to dig incredibly deep to over-come the then challenger.
At his best Minamoto is a real talent. He's an excellent boxer-puncher, and his performance against Ohashi saw everything click for him, he dominated the then champion, using movement, speed, skills, power, and ring IQ. It was a relative mismatch with Minamoto never looking in any trouble and Ohahsi being made to look like a rank novice. When he fights like that he is going to be a very, very, very hard man to beat at domestic level. Sadly though his performance after the winning the title saw him ignoring his boxing skills and becoming more of a brawler, fighting Otsubo's fight. It was a stupid tactical move and showed a bit of arrogance in a bout where he was strongly favoured to win. If he fights like that against Abe he'll be made to look silly, and he'll know he needs to stick rigidly to a game plan, and not make errors.
In Abe we have a 26 year old who has really come into his own and improved so much from his early days in the ring. Had he been with a big promoter he may well have a 21-0 record, with both of his losses being razor thin decision, though his losses have helped shaped the fighter he is today. His first loss came in his second professional bout, when he was 20, he would bounce back the following year to win the Rookie of the Year before a loss in 2015 to Shingo Kusano. That loss saw Abe's record fall to 8-1 (4) but since then he has gone on a tear. Look at Abe's record since his second loss is impressive, taking the unbeaten records of Ryo Hino, Hikaru Marugame and Daisuke Sugita, whilst adding notable wins over Shingo Kusano, avenging his loss, Tsuyoshi Tameda, Joe Noynay and Satoshi Hosono. His record is as good as anyone who hasn't yet fought for some form of a title.
In terms of his style Abe is a relaxed counter punching southpaw. He looked to establish a long distance on his bouts, pecking away with accurate clean punching, landing solid straight left hands and using his right jab and footwork to neutralise opponents. It's not always an exciting style to watch, but it is almost always very effective, and fighters are finding it very hard to cut him off, to change the fight or even have success against him. He has hardly lost a round in his last 5 bouts, and no one, since Noynay more than 2 years ago, has managed to run him close. He's slippery, skilled and will make opponents pay for rushing in. He is, arguably, the best counter puncher on the Japanese domestic scene right now.
Whilst we think Minamoto will need to box to win, he will also have to be smart about it. Boxing with Abe holds a lot of risks, most obvious of which is the fact Abe is the better pure boxer. Brawling and coming out swinging would cost Minamoto heavily, with Abe being given serious countering chances. If Minamoto can box smartly, not give Abe chances and control the fight with his harder punching, he has a chance. Otherwise we see Abe continuing his surge and taking a relatively clear decision, and the Japan title.
Prediction UD10 Abe.
The Featherweight division is Asia is incredibly interesting right now, both at the domestic levels and on the Oriental level. Fighters like Satoshi Shimizu, the OPBF champion, and Reiya Abe, the in form future Japanese title challenger, have really impressed recently with excellent performances. Another Japanese fighter who is emerging as one to watch is teenage prospect Musashi Mori (8-0, 5), who faces off with Richard Pumicpic (21-9-2, 6) this coming Sunday. The bout will be a second meeting between the two, who fought last year, and will be the first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight title for Mori.
As mentioned this is the second meeting between the two men. They fought last November with Mori taking a split technical decision win over Pumicpic to take the WBO regional title. The bout ended in the 5th round, giving us a very inconclusive and disappointing conclusion, but one that has certainly left us all looking forward to their rematch.
At 19 years old Mori is one of the most accomplished teenagers in the sport. He made his debut in 2016, as a 17 year old and would win the 2017 Rookie of the Year at Super Featherweight. He build on that success in 2018 with 3 more wins, including the one over Pumicpic as he dropped down in weight. Notable Mori looked like a puncher to begin his career, stopping his first 4 opponents in a combined 6 rounds and 5 of his first 6 opponents. He has however struggled to make an impact with his power at a higher level, going 8 very close rounds with Allan Vallespin last Summer. There are also question marks about Mori's defense and stamina.
Mori impressed early in his career, when he seemed to take opponents out. As he's stepped up it's become clear that there are areas for improvement. He showed some of those against Pumicpic in their first bout, showing more to his defense than he had against Vallespin. That is however still an area for him to work on. Where he is strong is with his sharp punching, he has a very good jab, a quick straight left hand, an educated hook and he is physically strong. Although only 19 he is a strong fighter at Featherweight, and doesn't look like a fighter who is draining to make the weight. Given how their first fight went, with it being a rough and tough battle on the inside, that physical strength will likely be a key asset here for the youngster.
On paper Pumicpic has the record of a fringe regional contender, in reality however he is a genuine nightmare to fight. The 28 year old has been a professional since 2008 and has proven his ability to compete at a high level, giving fits to Ryosuke Iwasa and Cesar Juarez as well as defeating the likes of Hisashi Amagasa, Roli Gasca, Joe Noynay and Yoshimitsu Kimura. He has also claimed various titles through his career, often winning them as the under-dog.
Stylistically Pumicpic is a handful. He's in the face of his opponents, applying pressure and is happy to go to war. Despite not being heavy handed, he is accurate, and refuses to let fighters use their size or speed against him. He's also a very under-rated fighter defensively, slipping and sliding shots with smart movement whilst cutting the distance. Sadly there are two things holding him back from the top level. One is his lack of power, and he'll never get respect from the top fighters with his clean but relatively weak shots, and the other is his lack of size, even at Super Bantamweight he was relatively small. He's very talented, tough and has good stamina, but is on the small side for the division.
Given how messy and sloppy their first fight was we're not expecting a pretty fight here. We're expecting another messy battle. As with their first bout we're expecting the natural strength of Mori to be a key factor, especially early on. We're expecting to see Mori take an early lead though as the bout goes on we expect Pumicpic to claw back the difference. Unless headclashes again force an early conclusion we see this being a very close decision bout, with Mori again taking the decision.
The Featherweight division is expected to heat up during 2019, after a truly frustrating year in 2018 with inactive champions and some less than stellar match ups at both title and contender level. Thankfully to begin 2019 we do have some interesting Featherweight bouts either lined up, or in the works.
One of the first of the great looking Featherweight bouts comes this Saturday when Mongolian puncher Tugstsogt Nyambayar (10-0, 9) takes on explosive Dominican Claudio Marrero (23-2, 17) in a really excellent match up that we can't see going the distance.
The bout was first mooted in late 2018, though was held off whilst Nyamabayar recovered from an injury to his hand. That injury is now fully healed and the Mongolian is looking to continue on a fast track to the top, a fast track that has only been slowed by that injury. The former Mongolian amateur stand out debuted in early 2015 and ended the year 4-0 (4) since then he has been less active, but very impressive, beating the likes of Jhon Gemino, Harmonito Dela Torre and Oscar Escandon in his last 3.
Nyambayar is a very heavy-handed boxer-puncher. Technically he's well schooled, does things properly and can fight at a high work rate, a high work rate that he has proven he can keep up for 10 rounds as he showed against Gemino. He has impressively shown an ability to move through gears when he wants. One thing that is a bit of a worry is the fact he has been dropped in his last 2 bouts, though they both seemed to come from balance issues rather than actually being hurt. That's perhaps his biggest issue, his balance and foot work, which isn't terrible, but looks to be his weakest aspect, whilst his power is clearly his strongest attribute. He's a true puncher.
Whilst Nyambayar is a true puncher we would describe Marrero as more of an athletic slugger, with a style we would describe as being "elastic" and explosive. A lot of what Marrero does is wrong, but he is incredibly quick, wiry and makes the most or his awkward southpaw stance. His fast left hand is a brutal weapon and he has scored amazing KO over the likes of Rico Ramos, Carlos Zambrano and Jorge Lara. Whilst he can score sensational KO's he has also been dropped a few times during his career, and was stopped himself from Jesus M Rojas in 2017.
Marrero, dubbed "the matrix", is a really exciting fighter who takes risks, punches hard, and looks for the stoppage. He's at worst however when he switches off or tries to work on the inside, somewhere he really shouldn't ever be. There's question marks about his stamina, as well as his chin, but with his power, speed he is a danger to almost anyone in the division.
This is a huge step up in class, and in terms of danger, for Nyambayar. He certainly has the power to stop Marrero, but will need to keep himself defensively tight early on, whilst Marrero's speed is at it's most blinding. If Nyambayar can see out the first 5 or 6 rounds we favour him to get a stoppage, but those early rounds will be tough for the Mongolian.
We're backing Nyambayar to get a late TKO, but we suspect he will have to go through hell to get it. Marrero is a massive step up in class for the Mongolian warrior, and a fantastic chance to see what Nyambayar really has. A win for Nyambayar opens the door to a world title fight later in 2019, whilst a loss would see the 26 year old really need to rebuild through the rest of the year.
Over the last few years we've seen Reiya Abe (18-2, 9) develop from a 1-1 fighter to the 2014 Rookie of the Year to a a fighter on the fringe of a title shot, in fact he's set for a Japanese title fight on May 1st. On January 19th, prior to his title bout, Abe will be in the ring looking to score his 11th straight win, as he takes on former amateur stand out Daisuke Sugita (4-0, 3) at the Korakuen Hall. The bout hasn't really been put together to push the winner towards a title fight, but more because both men have been struggling to get good fights, and this is a very good fight to prepare both men for the year ahead.
Abe is a 25 year old southpaw who is a sharp punching boxer. His current run of form has been one of the most impressive on the Japanese domestic scene, with wins over the likes of Ryo Hino, Tsuyoshi Tameda, Joe Noynay, Satoshi Hosono and Daisuke Watanabe. He has proven to be a very smart boxer-mover, with a high ring IQ, good movement, under-rated power and a very sharp southpaw jab. Despite not being a huge puncher he is a sharp puncher, and those sharp shots do do damage, especially with the consistency he lands at.
Although really talented Abe has frustrated at times, and has often fought within himself. He's a sharp punching counter puncher, who looks to draw leads and mistakes to counter, but against someone unwilling to open up he really struggles to create chances. When up against a negative fighter, as we saw when he faced Masashi Noguchi, Abe's bouts can be hard to watch and can really become boxing. Against an aggressive fighter however, he is fantastic to watch.
Sugita, as mentioned, was a standout amateur and went 110-31 (47) in the unpaid ranks winning a number of domestic competitions. Sadly he didn't turn professional until he was 29, and even then did so whilst still working as a full time policemen. Due to his age he isn't really able to waste time fighting in low key bouts, and given his outside of the ring professional he doesn't even get to keep his purses. Instead he appears to be fighting for the love of the sport and his desire of competition. That desire is almost certainly the reason he's accepted a bout with Abe and has already faced Jun Blazo and Masaaki Serie.
Having only debuted in April 2018 Sugita has been impressive, with 2 very solid wins this early in his career. Sadly footage of him has been hard to come by, though some video has been made available through Boxingraise. From the footage that is out there Sugita is an aggressive fighter, with a good guard, an exciting style and good power. His amateur background shows through with his crisp punching, his sharp movement and his composure in the ring. Whilst he is mostly composed there is a sense that he gets over excited at times and can be wild when and attacking.
Given the extra professional experience, a natural size advantage and his counter punching skills we suspect that Abe will come out on top. However Sugita will not make things easy for him, and this should be an entertaining fight. We're expecting to see Sugita on the front foot, making this into a fight and Abe responding, en route to a clear, but hard fought, decision victory.
On December 22nd we see a former world title challenger look to keep his career alive as he takes on a world ranked opponent in Osaka. A loss for either man will be a major set back at the moment, and in fact could end their dreams of winning a world title before their career is over.
The former world title challenger in question is Hiroshige Osawa (33-5-4, 19), who is best known for challenging Oscar Valdez in 2016. In the opposite corner to the 33 year old Osakan is once beaten Colombian fighter Belmar Preciado (18-1-1, 11), who enters the bout with a WBA #9 ranking at Super Bantamweight.
Prior to facing Valdez in a WBO Featherweight title fight many fans hadn't heard of Osawa, who was obscure even by typical Japanese standards. As a fighter based in Osaka he lacked the press that fighters in Tokyo get, and in many ways he was best known for angering the JBC rather than any achievements in the ring. He'd angered the JBC in 2012 when he had defended a title the JBC hadn't yet recognised, with his team misleading the JBC in regards to the bout, and giving Osawa a 12 month ban. That ban essentially cost Osawa the OPBF Featherweight title and a potential shot at a world title when he was much younger. Since that ban he has gone 10-2 (7), with notable domestic wins over Kosuke Saka and Shota Yamaguchi, as well as wins over international opponents like Julio Cortez and Alexander Meija. Sadly for him however he has suffered losses to Oscar Valdez and, more recently, Shun Kubo.
Whilst Osawa was an unknown until recently it's fair to say that Preciado is still an unknown, despite his WBA ranking. Boxrec ranking him a long behind the WBA, and even their rankings appears to be high given his competition so far. His 20 career bouts have all taken place in Colombia so far and his competition has been terrible, with his most notable opponent being Venezuelan puncher Franklin Manzanilla, who he narrowly beat via split decision last December. His sole loss came in 2016, when he was upset by chinny domestic foe Mauricio Martinez and his only other result of real note on Preciado's record was a draw against Hugo Berrio back in 2014. What is worth noting about him however is that he's a training partner of former world title challenger Miguel Marriaga.
Footage of Preciado doesn't show a typical power punching Colombian. That's not to say he's not aggressive, he is, but just that he lacks the stereotypical bang seen in Colombian fighters like Marriaga, Edison Miranda and Breidis Prescott. Instead of being an explosive puncher he looks more like a solid puncher more technical grounding, a heavy jab and a solid work rate. It is however easier to dictate the tempo against the competition he's been facing than someone like Osawa. As for the Japanese fighter he's a tough and busy fighter, who has some clear technical flaws but is actually a lot better than he looked against Valdez, who was too quick, too strong and too powerful for Osawa. One of Osawa's problems is his age and another is his relative lack of power, but he's a busy fighter and with the Osakan crowd behind him we suspect he will have that extra bit of energy needed to get over the line.
Preciado certainly looks like he could be dangerous, but we're struggling to see him beating Osawa, who looks the more versatile and more proven fighter coming in to this bout.
December 1st and 2nd are incredibly busy for Japanese fight fans, with notable shows in Tokyo, Osaka and Hyogo. The action however flows over the weekend and on to Monday as OPBF Featherweight champion Satoshi Shimizu (7-0, 7) defends his belt against fellow unbeaten Takuya Uehara (16-0, 10), in what will be Shimizu's 4th defense and Uehara's first bout at this level. On paper it's a mouth watering match up between two unbeaten fighters, facing off for the most prestigious title in the regional. Not only is the belt up for grabs, but also a potential world title fight, with Shimizu holding a #3 IBF ranking at the moment. There is a lot to play for here, and the bout can open up a lot of doors for the winner.
With a perfect KO record Shimizu, on paper, looks brilliant. He's a 2-time Olympian, won an Olympic bronze medal at the London 2012 games, won around 150 amateur fights and is now 7-0 (7) as a professional. On paper the one gripe is his age, and at 32 we do how long he's going to remain in the sport. Sadly for Shimizu paper only tells half the story, and he comes up worryingly badly when we do the "eye test". Although clearly talented Shimizu doesn't have the flowing skills we tend to see in such established amateurs, in fact his boxing style represents a video game character who has a strong chin, vicious power and very limited movement. He can jab and box but he tends to stand his ground too much, slug his shots and fight with a very wide loopy style. He's not a fighter who has many traits of being a very accomplished amateur boxer.
Although technically very crude Shimizu does have really frightening power. His KO of Carlo Demecillo in late 2013 was scary and the way he simply broke Shingo Kawamura up this past August, despite being on the back foot for stretches of the fight, was impressive as his heavy hands just bust up Kawamura. It's clear that having a war with Shimizu is a bad idea. He's awkward, a tall and rangy southpaw and he throws from some very weird angles. Boxing with him however could be a smart idea, and he does make mistakes that fighters can certainly take advantage of.
Whilst Shimizu is a man believed to be going places fast the 23 year old Uehara has been really going about things quietly, whilst fighting out of the Apollo gym. He has spent much of his career away from the main boxing venues of Japan, frequenting the Yodogawa Ward Center and the Mielparque Hall in Osaka rather the EDION Arena and has only fought once at the Koarkuen Hall, but that has allowed him to develop rather carefully, away from the eyes of critics and harsh fan comments. He made his debut at the age of 19 and has slowly made his mark, claiming his best win in December 2016 when he beat Markquil Salvana for the WBC Youth Featherweight title.
Footage of Uehara show him to be a very confident young man, with a lovely technical boxing style. He has a fleet feet, a very sharp jab, which he's busy with, he spots opening well, and moves brilliantly whilst putting punches together. Defensively there are questions to be had about his guard, especially when he's letting his own shots go. One of the few issues that is clear from watching him is that he's not a lights out fighter, his stoppages come from accumulation, and that can be an issue as he steps up in class. We're also unsure how good his chin is, and how he'll take a shot.
If both men were equal, in terms of power, strength and chin, it would be hard to go against Uehara, who has looked like a classy prospect. Unfortunately however power is a big difference maker here, and Shimizu's power really is a game change, and we suspect that Uehara will find out the hard way just how powerful Shimizu's punches are. We wouldn't be surprised to see Uehara have a good start, but like Shimizu's previous opponents they'll taste his power and be broken down, likely in the middle rounds.
A win here for Uehara would genuinely send shockwaves through the Japanese scene. However a win for Shimizu is expected and will move him one step closer to a world title fight in 2019.
Every so often there's a bout with no title and no status attached to it that just stands out as a special type of bout. On December 3rd we get one of those as two youngsters clash in a truly excellent match up. That bout sees the highly regarded Hinata Maruta (7-1-1, 6) take on the hard hitting Tsuyoshi Tameda (18-3-2, 16) in a 10 round Featherweight clash, in what is nothing short of an amazing bout on paper.
Maruta was the highly regarded wunderkind, who was supposed to put the Morioka boxing gym on the map. He looked sensational early on, beating Jason Canoy on debut and winning the WBC Youth Bantamweight title in his third bout. There was touches of genius in his early performances, but he would come up short as he took on the then OPBF Super Bantamweight champion Hidenori Otake, losing a clear but competitive decision to the veteran. He bounced back from his sole loss with a couple of easy wins before being held to a controversial split decision draw in the Philippines against Ben Mananquil, in a bout that Maruta deserved to get the win from.
In the ring Maruta is a natural talent. He may not have had the recent big wins his talent deserves but he is a special fighter to watch. Everything he does in the ring looks fluid, natural and smooth. He's quick, he moves well, he takes a shot well, he has under-rated stamina and a really high boxing IQ. Sometimes however he can be seen to be lazy, waiting too long to strike, and hoping that an opponent makes a mistake, rather than forcing the fight. That's doubled by the fact that when he does force things he can look clumsy, and it doesn't seem like he's as sharp when he's the aggressor as he is when he's the one fighting on the counter. He also, maybe, lacks in terms of experience and maturity, and despite an incredible talent, hasn't quite put things together yet to put on an amazing performance on a regular basis.
Whilst Maruta is a boxer-puncher we would describe Tameda as being more a pure puncher. The Ohashi gym fighter was one of the last notable men from the Yonekura gym, before it closed in 2017, and whilst there he proved himself a really heavy handed boxer-puncher, scoring notable wins over the likes of Takenori Ohashi, Mark Bernaldez and Retsu Kosaka. He's also got an early career draw with Masayuki Ito, from the 2011 Rookie of the Year. With 3 losses to his name it'd be easier to cast him aside but those losses include a narrow Rookie of the Year loss, a defeat to Simpiwe Vetyeka and one to Reiya Abe, who is the only man to stop Tameda. As well as being heavy handed he's also tough, with the Abe stoppage coming from accumulation. Those losses really show the level he can fight out, but since being Kosaka for a Japanese Youth title he has been matched very softly.
Although blessed with power Tameda is actually a solid boxer. He's a tad slow, defensively a little open but other wise technically pretty solid. He has shown a problem when up against a fighter who gives him angles, a sharp jab and movement, but if a fighter stands in front of him he is incredible dangerous. He's also got a good engine and can mentally break fighters, if they give him half a chance to just apply constant pressure. If a fighter feels they can out box him they will have to do for a prolonged period, and not just a few rounds. That is where he could be at his most dangerous here, if Maruta slows down at some point in the second half of the fight.
We have a puncher against an incredibly slick fighter. If Maruta fights to his potential he should take the win here, possibly even by breaking down Tameda in the later rounds, but he will have to box smartly for 10 rounds and avoid being caught by one of Tameda's bombs. We suspect Maruta can, and will, come out on top, but he will have to be smart and really make Tameda pay for his mistakes.
This coming Sunday in Hyogo fans will see both of the Matsuoka twins fighting for Japanese Youth titles. One bout will see Arata Matsuoka for the Japanese Youth Flyweight title against Hikaru Ota whilst his brother, Hikaru Matsuoka (14-4-3, 2) fights for the Japanese Youth Featherweight title, in a relatively interesting look match against Noboru Osato (10-6-4, 2). Of the two bouts it's certainly the Featherweight one that looks the most interesting and the one where the winner has actually got real upside, as the Flyweight bout is pitting two limited fighters against each other.
Hikaru Matsuoka debuted at the age of 17, at just over the Super Flyweight limit. Since then his frame has filled out and he has moved up in weight to naturally become a Featherweight. Early in his career he struggled to really build momentum, drawing 2 of his first 3 bouts and moving to 3-1-3 after 7 contests. That hard start seemed to build a resolve in Matsuoka who would then go on a good run to move to 8-1-3, with a notable win over Richard Pumicpic. Sadly such a big win was followed by back to back stoppage losses to Yuki Strong Kobayashi and Seizo Kono, with his chin instantly becoming an issue. The chin issues would again be seen in his most recent loss, another stoppage loss to Tenmei Serizawa in 2016. That loss was followed by over a year out of the ring but since returning he has picked up a couple of low key wins on the domestic scene.
Sadly footage of Matsuoka is hard to find, though from what we have seen he is a sharp boxer, who has good stamina, good movement, and crisp counter punching. Sadly though whilst he is a very good fighter to watch his complete lack of fire power is a major issue and he will struggle to get respect of fighters who come forward and hunt him down. He will be a hard one to hunt down, but if you can trap him he appears to lack the power to make a good fighter back off.
Interestingly Osato is also 23, and made his debut at the age of 17 and his career also struggled early on with Osato going 2-2-3 after his first 7 bouts. Sadly Osato has never really managed to build his forum up, never managing to spring up more than 2 wins before being held to a draw or losing. Whilst that sounds terrible he has actually fought really stiff competition, earning a draw with Yuki Iriguchi in 2016 and losing to the touted Takuya Mizuno and Yuki Strong Kobayashi the following year. Sadly it does seem like Ota can't get over the line when he needs to, and despite being competitive again most of his foes he falls just a tad short when he needs to put it together.
Osato looks like an intelligent fighter, he uses a good jab and remains on his toes, using a lot of movement. Sadly though he looks like his body hasn't yet filled out and that he hasn't yet developed his man strength or power. He did survive 8 rounds with Yuki Strong Kobayashi, and was competitive, but fought like a man who knew not to get involved or stand still too much. It was a tactic that almost earned him a win, but one that showed he's not confident in his power or physicality.
Whilst footage of both was hard to come by we were more impressed by Matsuoka, though both looked very talented boxer-movers, both looked smooth in the ring and both had the same flaw, a lack of power. That should make for an interesting contest, and should give us some really good technical boxing. We suspect Matsuoka will do enough to earn the win, but this will certainly be a very competitive and compelling contest.
We love fighters misleading records, and we love fighters who want to be fast tracked and chase glory earlier in their career. This coming Sunday we see those two things clash, as Richard Pumicpic (21-8-2, 6) defends his WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight title against unbeaten 18 year old Musashi Mori (7-0, 5) at Aioi Hall in Kariya. Pumicpic boasts one of the most misleading records in the sport today whilst Mori is looking to punch himself into the fringes of the world rankings in a bout that looks nothing short of brilliant on paper.
The 28 year old champion seems like he's been around for an eternity, having debuted back in March 2008 as a fresh faced 17 year old. He would lose on his debut and would pick up quite a few early career set backs, falling to 9-5-1 (3) after 16 bouts on the Filipino domestic scene. Since then however he has gone 12-2-1 (3) and proven to be a total nightmare on the regional scene with a draw against Yohei Tobe, a razor thin loss to Ryosuke Iwasa, a win over Joe Noynay, a competitive loss to Cesar Juarez, and recent wins over Hisashi Amagasa and Yoshimitsu Kimura. The win over Amagasa, in 2017 saw Pumicpic claim the title and send Amagasa into retirement, whilst his win over Kimura saw him notch his first defense of the title.
In the ring Pumicpic has made a reputation for being a nightmare to fight. He's aggressive, tough, surprisingly intelligent in terms of his defense, brings a lot of smart pressure and although not a puncher he hits hard enough to get the respect of his opponents. He finds a way to make his lack of stature, he's 5'4", work for well for him and there's very few fighters who will enjoy getting in the ring with him, even if he's not likely to knock people out.
The exciting Mori began his career in late 2016, stopping Kazuya Fukai in just 41 seconds. The follow year he rose to prominence by winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year at Super Featherweight, stopping all of his opponents on route to the final, before taking a decision win over fellow puncher Zirolian Riku in the final in December. So far in 2018 he has faced two international opponents, stopping a Thai novice inside a round in April before stepping up in class and taking a narrow decision win over Filipino Allan Vallespin, back in July. The struggles with Vallespin seemed to show that Mori was a work in prospect, and perhaps also not a natural Super Featherweight, hence him dropping down in weight for this bout with Pumicpic.
When you watch Mori it's easy to forget he's an 18 year old who debuted back in late 2016. He looks composed, quick, sharp and really confident in the ring. Fighting out of the southpaw stance he's quick with his jab, gets in and out of range well and has a nice variety of shots. From his career so far however it does seem like he has questionable stamina, and against Vallespin he spend the last few rounds looking worn out and tired. He showed maturity, in spoiling, holding and making life difficult in the later rounds, whilst he tried to get his second wind.
We do think that Mori has a really bright future ahead of, sadly though we suspect this will be too much too soon and he'll come up short against Pumicpic. The Filipino will apply pressure through out and will prove to be too active, too aggressive and too experienced for the Japanese youngster. A loss at this point however is not the end of Mori and we'd expect to see the talented Southpaw comeback in the future. For Pumicpic a win here is expected and will continue his run in Japan, potentially leading to more good bouts on the road. For example a potential WBO Asia Pacific / OPBF unification bout with Satoshi Shimizu would certainly be a great bout and a world title eliminator, and we'd love to see that in the new year.
This coming Thursday Japanese fight fans at the Korakuen Hall will see 2012 Olympic Bronze medal winner Satoshi Shimizu (6-0, 6) make his third defense of the OPBF Featherweight title, as he takes on fellow Japanese southpaw Shingo Kawamura (16-3-1, 8). Interestingly this will be Shimizu's second professional bout against a domestic foe, with his last being a 109 second blow out win against Takuya Yamamoto in May 2017.
Coming in to this there is a lot of expectation on the champion who not only rides high as an Olympic medal winner or as the OPBF champion but also as a man tipped for huge success and a fighter with a perfect record. He's also entering the bout as a world ranked fighter and someone who is on the fast track to a world title fight, and given he's now 32 he can ill afford a set back if he wishes to fight at the top level of the professional ranks.
Despite being a top level amateur fighter Shimizu has a rather unique and unorthodox fighting style which sees him really rely on his freakish amateur traits. He's a 5'10” southpaw fighting at Featherweight, not many fighters at 126lbs have ever been his size and he uses his height and reach to get away with a pretty free swinging fighting style. Although he has got a jab he does seem much happier to go bombs away and look to head hunt with wide arching hooks at range. It's a style that doesn't look like it should be effective but it is, and he's looked totally dominant so far, having barely if ever lost a round since he made his professional debut in September 2016.
Blessed with not only size but also freakish power, impressive stamina and the team at the Ohashi gym behind him Shimizyu is a real nightmare to fight against.
Kawamura on the other hand has got the amateur pedigree, the world ranking, the regional title or the hype of Shimizu. Instead the 28 year old Osakan has got 6 years of professional experience behind him, the development of a hard career and the experience of needing to build himself up from the ground. He actually lost by stoppage on his debut in side the opening round, much like current world champion Sho Kimura, but has bounced back from that loss. He bounced hack so impressively that the following year he was the Rookie of the Year at Featherweight sadly for Kawamura his rise through the ranks was slowed in 2014 when he suffered a surprise loss to Thai visitor Attanon Kunlawong / Kongthara KKP.
Despite a loss on the road in 2016, to Mike Tawatchai, we've seen a real surge of success from Kawamura over the last 24 months with 5 straight wins including a massive one over Tae Il Atsumi last December, slowing the Japanese based Korean's ascent to a title fight. With his experience and confidence it's clear that he will be coming into this bout riding a bit of a high and he appears to be wary of Shimizu's low guard and his own advantages. Saying that however this is a massive step up in class for the challenger who will be looking to negate the reach and size advantages of Shimizu to land his straight left hand.
We know Shimizu is flawed, very flawed, but there is something about his awkward style that seems to leave opponents both dumb founded and on the canvas. We expect the same unorthodox approach to work well here and for him to stop Kawamura, who has been taken out inside the distance in 2 of his 3 losses. Kawamura might be confident going into the bout, and see it as a fun experience, but the reality is that this is a very different test to what he's used to.
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.