On May 26th we'll see former world title challenger Masahiro Sakamoto (13-2, 9) return to the ring following his 2018 loss to IBF Flyweight king Moruti Mthalane. The 28 year old Osakan will be dropping down from world level, but will look to remain a title level fighter, and will be up against fellow Japanese fighter Yusuke Sakashita (17-8-3, 12) in a bout for the WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight title. A win for either man should secure them a WBO world ranking and potentially move them into the mix for a potential world title fight down the line.
The bout, as mentioned, will be Sakamoto's first since losing to Mthalane in an IBF title fight at the very end of 2018 That bout was Sakamoto's first shot at the big time, though he had had a decent career prior to fighting for a world title. He had won the Rookie of the Year in 2015, had given Sho Kimura problems in 2016 and won the WBO Asia Pacific title in 2017, stopping Kwanthai Sithmoreseng for the title. Sadly whilst he did win the regional title in 2017 he only defended it once, stopping veteran Pigmy Kokietgym in a less than taxing bout. He gave up the regional title to challenge Mthalane and will be looking to recapture it here, in what is set to be one of his toughest bouts.
Although Sakashita has more bouts to his name he is less notable than Sakamoto. He would struggle badly early in his career, falling to 2-2-1 after 5 bouts, though rebuilt by winning the 2011 Rookie of the Year. Some mixed success at domestic level eventually saw him getting a shot at Suguru Muranaka for the Japanese Flyweight title in 2014, and being knocked out by Muranaka, who landed a thunderbolt right hand to take out Sakashita in round 8. Since the loss to Muranaka Sakashita has been inconsistent to say the least, going 5-3-1, though is riding a 4 fight unbeaten rung including a TKO win last time out against former OPBF champion Keisuke Nakayama.
Whilst we did see Sakamoto look really limited against Mthalane one that we couldn't fault was his effort, his hunger and his drive. Technically he was poor, though in fairness Mthalane makes very good fighters look poor, but his work rate was impressive and his toughness also shone through. That will often be enough to win at this level, and we wouldn't be surprised to see him mixing at regional level for the rest of his career. It is worth noting however that Sakamoto is a smart guy and is, or at least was, studying at a high level suggesting he has an exit for the sport. Another damaging loss and it could well be the end of his career, walking away to participate in a safer occupation.
Sakamoto is open, aggressive, exciting and hard working. He's not got masses of power, he's not slick or particularly sharp, but at this type of level being able to bring a fight for 12 rounds is often enough.
Sakashita is also quite limited, but also makes for good fights. He's very much a a puncher, and in recent years has shown more and more belief in his power. He's never going to have the power to take him up to world level, but at domestic and regional level he hits hard enough really ask questions of opponents. Defensively he is open and he will take shots. He drops his guard a lot and is open to a good straight right hand, a solid left cross due to his defensive flaws. However he will also look to take opponents out and does have fun domestic fighters, win or lose.
When we have technically flawed but aggressive fighters facing off we do tend to expect fun action and we're expecting these two to put on a low key thriller. Both guys have edges they will look to make the most of, Sakamoto has the work rate and engine whilst Sakashita has the power. With that in mind we expect to see Sakamoto press the action, and eat counters as a result, but eventually break down Sakashita in the later rounds of a nail biting contest.
Peduction - Sakamoto TKO11
Flyweights in Japan have real momentum right now. Not only do you have Kosei Tanaka at the top but fighters like Masayuki Kuroda and Junto Nakatani are both having really good runs, with Kuroda set for a world title fight and Nakatani set to make his first national title defense.
Sadly the youth level Japanese scene isn't as hot as it is at senior level, and this coming Sunday we'll see that being exemplified pretty well, when Japanese Youth Champion Arata Matsuoka (7-6, 4) makes his first defense. The champion, who won his title last December, will be taking on little known Jukiya Washio (7-2-1, 2), in a bout that doesn't really get the juices going. The champion has a less than stellar record, whilst the challenger is unknown and isn't much of a puncher.
Whilst it may not be something special on paper, we do actually expect a pretty decent fight here, and one that's much more competitive than the records suggest.
There isn't a huge amount of footage of the 24 year old champion, though rather kindly his last bout, his title win, was shared by TV channel Osaka TV. That bout was a clear decision win over Hikaru Ota, in what was one of the worst Japanese Youth title bouts on paper. In that bout Matsuoka showed what he was able to do. He was a much more skilled fighter than his record suggested, he had a really nice southpaw jab, picked his shots better than you'd expect of someone who's lost such a high percentage of his fights, and almost moved well, using the ring well to neutralise Ota before firing off his own counters. Not all his shots are crisp, and his defense could certainly do with some work, but there is a pretty talented fighter there, something his record doesn't show.
Despite looking pretty good against Ota we can't ignore Matsuoka's losses. The most recent of those came last September, when Shunji Nagata stopped him in 4 rounds. That ended a 4 fight winning streak, a streak that had followed up 4 losses in 5 bouts. In fact Ota started his career 2-5 so has turned things around really well. There is clearly a lot for him to do, but he does have some momentum here.
Sadly it's not just Matsuoka who is lacking in terms of footage but also Washio, and the only fight of his we've seen in full was his 2016 clash with Junichi Itoga. Washio, who is now 21, was just 19 when that bout took place, and it lasted just 156 second, so what we can really read into that bout is unclear. However he did look like a confident youngster, finding holes in Itoga's limited defense, and landing at will. He looked good, but Itoga looked awful and it really is hard to take too much from this bout.
Since the fight with Itoga the youngster has gone 4-2, though both of his losses were razor thin defeats. What needs to be noted is the level he's been fighting at, and that's a concern. He has really never faced anyone with real promise, and arguably his best win came in April 2017, when he beat Naoki Tanaka.
Whilst this bout isn't appealing on paper we do expect it to be hotly contest, with Matsuoka's experience, southpaw stance, and level of competition, being the difference. Whilat the bout isn't going to get much attention, it should be a solid and competitive bout, where the styles of both gel well. Neither, from what we've managed to see, like to make things messy, and although the southpaw vs orthordox stances could cause some issues, we're expecting a clean contest here.
Preduction - Matsuoka SD8
The Flyweight division is really interesting at the moment, with some great potential match ups and some great scheduled match ups. For us the best looking fight in the coming few weeks at the weight will see unbeaten Japanese prospect Ryota Yamauchi (4-0, 4) take on world ranked Chinese fighter Wulan Tuolehazi (10-3-1, 5). On paper this might not scream anything special, just another prospect taking a step up, but Yamauchi is a sensational prospect, and Tuolehazi is no push over, having beaten OPBF champion Jay-r Raquinel last year and being a in fantastic form at the moment.
Of the two fighters we've certainly focused more on Yamauchi's rise since his debut, than that or Tuolehazi. The unbeaten Kadoebi gym fighter is a 24 year who was a stellar amateur and has shown real potential since beginning his professional career in June 2017. He's not been hugely active, with just 2 bouts in 2017 and 2 in 2018, but he hasn't been given easy match ups. Through his first 4 bouts he has already beaten Lester Abutan and Yota Hori and has looked sensational at times. There is work to do, but he has looked like a real natural. He's quick, powerful, sharp and intelligent. He's perhaps a little bit on the wild side at times, but there is a feeling that that has come because of his confidence against lesser fighters, rather than genuine lack of ability.
Despite looking like a star in the making Yamauchi does have a number of question marks over his head. His 4 bouts have combined for just 16 rounds, and he has yet to enter the 6th round of a bout. His stamina is unlikely to be bad, given he's at the Kadoebi gym and they do tend to have very fit fighters, but we do wonder how he copes with a long distance bout. He has also not faced a puncher, or anyone with the skills to really hurt him, so there is of course a question mark about his chin as well. We expect to see those questions getting answer here, with Yamauchi not expected to blow the Chinese fighter away.
The bout will also answer more question about Yamauchi, how he is on the road, and this is his first bout away from Tokyo as a professional.
Chinese fighter Tuolehazi is a rugged fighter, a 26 year old with a crude style, an effective roughness if you will. He started his professional career with back to back losses and was 2-3 after his first 5 bouts, but he has since battled back, tuning things around with an 8-0-1 (5) record in his last 9. That unbeaten run has been pretty notable if we're being honest and has included not only the win over Raquinel but also victories over Kwanthai Sithmorseng, Yokthong KKP and Roland Jay Biendima. He has proven his stamina, dropping Raquinel in the 12th round to solidify a decision over the previous unbeaten Pinoy puncher, and has done 10 or more rounds 4 different times in his 14 bouts.
Watching Tuolehazi there's nothing that stands out as being "special". In fact he's quite slow if we're being honest, not a plodder as such but certainly not quick, he's a little clumsy, a and not very smooth. He is however consistent. He will let his jab go frequently, landing it at an impressive rate, he has a good straight right hand, he's tough and physically very strong. Few fighters will be able to push him and bully him around, and instead they will have to actually out box him. He can make things ugly, but isn't a dirty fighter, more a fighter who is not yet technically rounded.
This is an excellent match up and a great chance for a prospect to test themselves against an awkward, tough opponent. We do believe that Yamauchi is a special fighter, and could fight for, and win, a world title in his first 10 bouts. We suspect he'll show what he can do here, using his technical ability, speed and movement to be the difference, with Yamauchi taking a clear, but hard fought decision. Tuolehazi will not be an easy out for anyone, but we suspect his limitations will be an issue against someone as talented as Yamauchi, even with the crowd clearly supporting the Chinese fighter.
A big step up for Yamauchi, but a gret chance to crash the world rankings, a chance we think he will make the most of.
On February 2nd we'll see a new Japanese Flyweight champion being crowned, as the unbeaten Junto Nakatani (17-0, 12) battles the underrated Naoki Mochizuki (15-3, 8). The bout is to fill a void left by former champion Masayuki Kuroda, who will be focusing on a world title fight. For Nakatani the bout is his first for a senior title, after having held the Japanese Youth Flyweight title, whilst Mochizuki will be hoping to put the disappointment of a loss in a regional title fight behind him. The bout will be held as the chief support bout for the upcoming Dynamic Glove show at the Korakuen Hall, and will share a card with the return of Kenichi Ogawa and the second professional bout of Mikito Nakano.
Over the last few years we've seen fans getting really excited about Nakatani, a hard hitting youngster who won the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2016 before winning the Japanese Youth title in 2017, when he stopped Seigo Yuri Akui.
At 21 years old Nakatani is seen as part of the future of Japanese boxing, and Japanese TV channel G+ have shown a number of his recent buts as they look to develop him into someone that fans are aware of, before he begins to fight at a higher level.
In the ring Nakatani is an aggressive boxer-puncher, who has shown and ability to box and move as well as being able to apply pressure and break opponents down on the inside. He's a very solid puncher, and his wiry frame is likely to out grow the Flyweight division in the years to come, however at the moment his body hasn't really matured and he still resembles a young kid, though a kid who can clearly punch. Added to his speed and power is the fact he's a southpaw, giving opponents extra problems and is very capable of fighting on the inside, and using his size up close.
Mochizuki on the other hand hasn't received the plaudits of Nakatani, but the 24 year old shouldn't be written on that basis. In fact if anything the Yokohama man is more likely to be out there with a point to prove, and he's been unlucky in a number of his defeats already.
Debuting in 2013 Mochizuki would compete in the Rookie of the Year in 2014, losing to Sonin Nihei in the East Japan semi-final. He would string together a number of low key wins after that before upsetting Yusuke Sakashita in late 2016. Sadly for Mochizuki that win was quickly forgotten when he lost 3 months later to Keisuke Nakayama, who would later go on to claim the OPBF Flyweight title. Since then he has gone 4-1, with his only loss being a very competitive one to Eaktwan BTU Ruaviking in a regional title bout.
As a fighter Mochizuki is aggressive, he comes forward, he throws a lot and applies a lot of pressure. That's not always educated pressure though and he does press the action in a way that a good fighter could counter, in fact that's what we saw when he struggled past domestic foe Hideyuki Watanabe last year.
It's fair to assume that Mochizuki's aggression will see him looking to take the fight to Nakatani early on, but Nakatani can handle that, and can fight on the inside, breaking Mochizuki down with the heavy shots. If he wants to box and move Nakatani has the skills to do that, but it seems more likely that he will go to war with Mochizuki and win an inside war, as he did against Akui.
In 2018 we saw the Flyweight division change a lot, with new champions being crowned through the year and really very little stability in the division. It's fair to say that the champion's won't be wanting the same in 2019, they'll be wanting solid and lengthy reigns instead. The contenders however will be jostling for position and trying to secure themselves a world title fight as soon as they can.
On January 5th we'll see two talented contenders facing off, with both seeing the bout as a potential stepping stone towards a world title bout.
The men in question are Chinese fighter Wenfeng Ge (11-0, 6) and Filipino Giemel Magramo (22-1, 18) who will battle for the WBO International Flyweight title and a potential world title fight.
Of the two men it's fair to say that Ge is the man who needs the win more. He turns 32 in April, and that's pretty old for a Flyweight, and really can't afford a set back. So far in his career he has been moved quickly, likely know that there's not much time to waste. He made his debut in late 2015 and in just his second bout he faced off with Joseph Omana, then 12-3-1. A fighter later he claimed his first title, a minor WBO one, before adding another title the following month. Within 2 years of his debut Ge had raced out to 8-0 (6) and has since added notable wins over Amnat Ruenroeng and Ivan Soriano, with both those wins coming in clear 12 round decisions.
Watching Ge we see a rather baic but very strong fighter. There's a few tricks up his sleeve but the reality is that he doesn't look special, however he is rangy, long, strong and applies good pressure. He has shown an ability to go 12 rounds, at a date if unspectacular tempo. Despite not being anything special he does have an awkwardness to him, and gets away with making mistakes due to how physically imposing he is and he appears to be a fighter who is very confident in his toughness.
At 24 years old Magramo is a man who is probably a year or two away from his prime, he is however a man who looks like a future world champion. His sole loss was a very close one in Korea to Muhammad Waseem in November 2016, and since then he has gone 5-0 (5) and looked sensational. Despite only being 24 Magramo is already a young veteran with 23 bouts to his name, and he debuted almost 7 years ago, in March 2012. During his career he has scored wins over Lester Abutan, Renz Rosia, Benezer Alolod, John Mark Apolinario and Petchchorhae Kokietgym.
Whilst Ge looks awkward but basic the same can't be said of Magramo, who looks like a very special boxer-puncher. He's very heavy-handed, but combines that power with a real sharpness to his punching, a tight defense, impressive ring craft and a brilliant boxing IQ. On the inside he finds room for excellent shots whilst on the outside he controls range and tempo. There are some flaws, and he does sometimes let his guard slip and seems too willing to let his hands go, but he really does look like a special talent.
Getting a win in China is never easy and Magramo will know that, however we feel he is the better fighter, the more rounded fighter and should be the favourite. He will have to win clearly to get the decision, but we suspect he'll be too sharp, too quick and too powerful for Ge. The Chinese fighter certainly can get the win, but will need to put on his best performance, by far, to over-come the very talented Filipino.
On neutral soil Magramo would be the clear favourite, but here we see Magramo as the slight favourite. Magramo will clearly have to work incredibly hard to get the decision, but suspect he can do what's needed to get the nod on foreign soil.
Some Japanese Youth title fights look amazing on paper, sadly others don't and when Junto Nakatani vacated the Flyweight title there wasn't a great deal of suitable fighters to fill the vacancy. Sadly that has lead to a less than appealing match up between Arata Matsuoka (6-6, 4) and Hikaru Ota (9-8, 5). On paper this looks like a joke, given the previous title fight had Nakatani fighting against Seigo Yuri Akui in what was a match watering match up, however it does look competitive and in our eyes that's better than a mismatch for the title.
The 23 year old Matsuoka, who's twin brother Hikaru Matsuoka will also be fighting for a youth title on the same show, made his debut in 2014, as a 19 year old made his debut in 2014, as a 19 year old and went 2-5 through his first 7 contests. He then, finally, found his footing in the sport with 4 wins though that winning run came to an end in September when he was stopped in 4 rounds by Shunji Nagata. The fight with Nagata was a big step up in class and resulted in Matsuoka suffering his first stoppage loss, though we suspect more will come in the future.
Ota is also 23 and he debuted at a 17 year old, back in 2012. Like Matsuoka his career also struggled going 3-3 after 6 bouts before stringing together a few wins. Sadly however he has gone from 6-3 to 9-8. What he has done however is faced notable fighters, losing to the likes of Kenji Ono, Naoki Mochizuki, Seiya Fujikita and going 1-1 with Ganbare Shota. His win over Shota is the best of his career, and is better than anything Matsuoka has, but still does suggest that he's a particularly promising fighter, going places.
With neither having made a name for themselves yet this bout gives both fighters a chance to claim their first title and put themselves on the map. We suspect both will fight like they have something to gain, and will really put it on the line, but sadly it's an underwhelming contest and we don't expect the holder to have a long reign, with several fighters now likely eyeing up the potential winner.
It's an even fight on paper, but we suspect Matsuoka's slightly better durability, southpaw stance and power will be the difference, and he'll take the victory in the second half of the fight.
The Flyweight division has been going through a lot of changes over the last few years at the world level, and it's opened up the doors for fighters may have been locked when the division was at it's best. Gone are fighters like Roman Gonzalez, Kazuto Ioka, Juan Francisco Estrada and Donnie Nietes. The division isn't dead, but it's a long way removed from what it was just a few years ago.
Rather than lament the division's recent downfall it's nice to look at the changes at the top, and appreciate the success of fighters like Sho Kimura and Cristofer Rosales, who have both rebuilt from early career defeats. They will be an inspiration for other fighters, such as current Japanese Flyweight champion Masayuki Kuroda (29-7-3, 16) who will look to continue his journey towards a second world title fight on July 23rd, when he defends his national title against Akinori Hoshino (14-7-2, 9).
Kuroda is perhaps best known for his first world title fight, a loss in 2013 to Juan Carlos Reveco. Since then he has had mixed success in the ring, going 8-3-1 (3). Despite his form being mixed he is currently riding a 5 fight unbeaten run which has seen him claim the Japanese interim Flyweight title, the regular Japanese Flyweight title and make 2 defenses of the regular title. He's avenged one of his career defeats, by defeating Takuya Kogawa in rematch between the two men, and scored a notable win last time out against Katsunori Nagamine.
In the ring Kuroda doesn't do anything that special, he's not a monstrous puncher, he's not particularly slick or lightning quick. He is however an aggressive, tough fighter with a huge will to win. He's a battler, who will let his hands go and have a fight. He's very much a fighter who is in an opponents face, applies pressure and tries to apply strong and consistent pressure with a lot of leather being thrown. He can be out boxed, and he can be out fought, but at Japanese level not many will out fight him or out box him.
Hoshino on the other hand is a more crafty and frustrating fighter. He looks to box behind a long jab, leans just outside of range and uses rather awkward movement to his boxing. He doesn't have a very busy style, more of a cautious counter punching one, but it's one that works for him and has frustrated the likes of Nagamine, who he held to a draw, and helped him pick up notable wins over Kenya Yamashita and Shun Kosaka.
On paper this does look like a bit of a mismatch, but Hoshino really is better than his record suggests. The challenger was 4-3-1 (2) after 8 bouts but since then he has gone 10-4-1 and scored notable wins over Mako Matsuyama, Kenichi Watanabe, Kenya Yamashita and Shun Kosaka. Not has he scored those notable wins but he has also run the likes of Tatsuya Takahashi and Ryuichi Funai close whilst fighting well above his weight. At 11l2bs he's not giving away natural size as he has in losses to Funai, Gakuya Furuhashi and Yusuke Suzuki. Instead he'll be a big and strong fighter at Flyweight, able to use his strength to push back on Kuroda when he needs to.
Although we think Hoshino will be a very tricky opponent, we think Kuroda's experience, especially over the 10 round distance, will be his key advantage here as he takes a hard fought and narrow decision to move a step closer to a second world title fight. Hoshino will be a nightmare, but not one that Kuroda can't over-come.
Earlier this year Filipino youngster Jayr Raquinel (9-0-1, 6) announced himself as one to watch, ripping the OPBF Flyweight title from Keisuke Nakayama at the Korakuen Hall. This week the 21 year old southpaw returns to Japan to defend that title against Shun Kosaka (15-3, 4) in another bout that could help Raquinel enhance his reputation as Filipino prospect with the potential to go all the way.
In his title win Raquinel showed no fear of Nakayama, or of fighting in Tokyo. Instead he went about his business with the intention of scoring the biggest win of his career, stopping Nakayama in the 9th round of their bout, whilst up on all 3 cards. Other than his win over Nakayama there wasn't too much else on his record, a DQ win over Jimboy Haya, a split decision draw with Glenne Calacar and a majority decision win over Richard Rosales being the only things were even mentioning. Despite his thin record he has impressed, and he has risen to the challenges put in front of him and for such a youngster he looks like he has the ability to go a very long way.
As with many Filipino youngsters, though obviously not all with Mark Anthony Barriga being a notable exception, Rqauinel is a bit crude, a rough around the edges fighter who has heavy hands, a good engine and a second of toughness. He looks like he's a fighter who really could be moulded into an excellent fighter if he got the right training. There is a lot of natural gifts that he appears to have, and really just needs the right training to develop the skills to go with those gifts.
The challenger made his debut back in 2012 and reached the Flyweight Rookie of the Year final in 2014, losing a decision to the then unbeaten Kenya Yamashita. In 2015 he would suffer his second loss, being stopped by Tetsuya Hisada, who has since gone on the claim the Japanese Light Flyweight title. Since losing to Hisada we've seen Kosaka rebuild his career, going 6-1 (4) with a notable win against Yota Hori last time out, and a very close loss to Akinori Hoshino. Sadly the other wins were against most limited opponents, and it's hard to know how good he really is. A win over Hori is decent, but given that Hori had lost 3 of his previous 4, and was stopped last time out by Ryota Yamauchi, it's hard to put too much value on the win.
At 23 years old there is potential for Kosaka to become a really good fighter. He has got some skills and appears to be developing in terms of his power and physical strength. Sadly, though similarly to Raquinel, he really needs to be taken under the guidance of a top trainer if he's to reach his potential, which is likely to be below that of Raquinel. He doesn't seem to hard, have the speed or the experience to cope at title level, and has yet to go beyond 8 rounds. He might see this bout as a chance to prove himself, but it would take a career best performance to even test the challenger.
Given that Kosaka looks to lack in terms of power and top tier experience we are expecting to see him being stopped by the champion. Kosaka has got a chance of springing the upset, but needs to put everything together to defeat the impressive Filipino, and we'd be very surprised to see Kosaka see the final bell, never mind spring the upset win.
The Flyweight division is an Asian dominated one right now, with two world champions from Japan and one from the Philippines, with the other actually being a Ukrainian based fighter born in Azerbaijan. Despite the Asian domination at the top it does seem like the OPBF title scene is a little bit disappointing Keisuke Nakayama (10-2-2, 4) being viewed as a weak champion as he goes into his second defense this coming Tuesday, against Filipino Jayr Raquinel (8-0-1, 5).
Nakayama is regarded as a weak champion because of his career so far. He was 6-2-1 (3) after his first 9 bouts, and since then he has gone 4-0-1 (1) with 3 razor decision wins and he could easily have gone 1-4 in that recent 5 fight run. In another world his record could easily read 6-6-1 (4), and whilst close fights aren't a bad thing by themselves, the consistency of close for Nakayama, at the level he's fighting at, does suggest he's not a world beater in the making. In fact he's a somewhat lucky Oriental champion.
In his title win Nakayama took a split decision over Richard Claveras whilst his first defense saw him take a controversial split decision draw over Joebert Alvarez. In both of those fights Nakayama was unconvincing and had they not both taken place in Tokyo he would have likely lost both. He lacks power, he lacks world class speed and although he can grit his teeth and fight there is little really that stands out about Nakayama, or his future and given he's 30 this year it's hard to imagine him even holding this title for long.
It seems weird to say of an OPBF champion, but Nakayama likely isn't even in the top 5 Japanese fighters at his own weight. He's clearly some distance behind Daigo Higa and Sho Kimura, we'd fancy Masayuki Kuroda and Katsunori Nagamine to beat him, Junto Nakatani would likely be favoured over him, and we'd not be surprised if Ryota Yamauchi, Seigo Yuri Akui or Akinori Hoshino would dethrone him, if they got a shot at him.
Aged 21 Raquinel is a bit of a boxing baby, but already has close to 4 years of experience under his belt. Sadly so far Raquinel has only fought at the domestic level, though has gone unbeaten and last time out claimed the OPBF interim title by out pointing Richard Rosales. That win over Rosales is the best win for Raquinel, but he also has a victory over Jimboy Haya, a very good win for such a novice.
Sadly there isn't a huge amount of footage of Raquinel, though from the footage available he does look a very promising young southpaw. He has a very sharp straight left hand, a snappy jab and looks to go to the body with his left hand. There's power there and great speed, as well as a very confident bounce in his step. Of course his competition hasn't been the best, and he has never fought away from home before, but he does look like a talent, and if managed well there is a lot of upside for Raquinel.
The big question here isn't whether ot not Raquinel is a better boxer, he certainly appears to be better, but more whether he's ready for a fight at this level. The bout might be a touch too early for him, and he may have been better off waiting a year to physically mature and develop more experience. However he is certainly a very under-dog here, and we'd not be surprised by his youthfulness and speed being too much for the flawed and uninspiring Nakayama. However with it being so early in Raquinel's career we do feel that Nakayama's experience, especially in longer bouts, will be the difference as he records another razor thin and debatable defense.
This coming Saturday fight fans in Kanagawa get the chance to see a brilliant Japanese title double header. The headline bout from the show is bout for the national Flyweight title and will see defending champion Masayuki Kuroda (28-7-3, 16) takes on the heavy handed Katsunori Nagamine (14-1-1, 10) in a mandatory defense, as part of the Champion Carnival.
The champion won the title last June, when he defeated Takuya Kogawa and unified the Japanese interim and regular titles. Since then he has defended the belt once, taking a 7th round TKO win over the limited but exciting Mako Matsuyama, in a mismatch. Those wins have seen Kuroda extend his current unbeaten run to 4 fights, following a bit rough patch in his career, where he went 3-4-3 in a 10 bout run. It was during that run that many felt Kuroda had seen his best days, but his current run of form looks like it's a bit of an Indian summer for his career, and he is moving up the world rankings, with top 15 rankings with all 4 world title bodies.
Kuroda had first made a name for himself fighting at Light Flyweight, where he won the Japanese title back in 2011 with a win over Yuki Sano. He would defend that title 3 times, including a defense against Ryoichi Taguchi, before losing in a world title fight to Juan Carlos Reveco at Flyweight. The move up in weight caused problems for Kuroda who never really seemed to settle at Flyweight until 2016, in which time he has gone 5-1 with his only loss being avenge last year.
In the ring Kuroda is a well schooled boxer with nice combinations, a good work rate, sharp speed and good skills. He's not the biggest puncher, but he's a solid fighter, who has has only been stopped once, by Suguru Muranaka, and is a handful for fighters on the Japanese scene. There is a clear gap between him and the elite Japanese fighters at Flyweight, world champions Daigo Higa and Sho Kimura, but there's no other Japanese fighter who would have an easy time with him. That include his upcoming foe Nagamine, the touted Junto Naaktani or OPF champion Keisuke Nakayama.
Aged 26 Nagamine is much younger than the champion and a more pure puncher, though is a man who has a couple of nagging issues over his head.
He debuted in 2011 and the following year he was crowned the Rookie of the Year at Flyweight and looked set for a big future. Sadly however he suffered an eye injury in 2013 that kept him out of the ring for almost 17 months. His return to the ring was a successful one in late 2014, but the following year was re-injured as he was stopped by Ken Shiro, in what was an excellent performance by the future WBC Light Flyweight cahampion. Nagamine would then spend almost a year re-healing his injury before returning to stop Kenya Yamashita in a 3 round thriller. Since then he has gone 3-0-1 (3) earning this title fight in the process.
Although a little rough around the edges, and a little bit slower than some of his opponents, Nagamine has proven to be a tough and heavy handed fighter, with good skills and a real will to win. His bout with Yamashita was a special shoot out, where he had to climb off the canvas to stop his foe, whilst a win over Mako Matsuyama showed he enjoys a war just as much fans watching. Sadly however he was totally out boxed by Ken Shiro, who used speed, movement and a jab to dominate. Those same tools are in Kuroda's arsenal and Nagamine will have to find a way to deal with them.
Although not the best boxer Nagamine has nasty power. His last 4 wins have stoppages, and he has shown he carries legitimate power in both hands, and whilst the shots might not always be the sharpest when he lands he is dangerous. Even his jab looks a very damaging shot. He will have a height advantage over Kuroda and will look to use that to his advantage, boxing at range and using his power. If he gets up close and manages to force a war he has a chance, but he needs to make it into a fight, and take away the edge in skills and speed that Kuroda has.
We favour the skills of Kuroda here, but not by much. Kuroda's extra experience at title level, slightly more rounded skills and slightly more refined know how are what swings us in his direction, it's not by much, and we know Nagamine has the power to stop Kuroda if he lands clean, but we do favour the champion to retain his title in a really compelling affair.
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.