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.
This coming Friday is an interesting day in Japan with several title fights. One of those is a Japanese Flyweight title fight which will see defending champion Masayuki Kuroda (27-7-3, 15) take on Mako Matsuyama (8-12-2, 3) in what looks like an easy first defense for Kuroda, and a chance for the fans to get a fan friendly, but likely one sided, bout.
Of the two men it's fair to say that Kuroda is significantly more established fighter. He is a former Japanese Light Flyweight champion and a former Flyweight world title challenger, who has fought the likes of Shin Ono, Ryoichi Taguchi, Juan Carlos Reveco, Suguru Muranaka and Takuya Kogawa, who is now enjoying his second reign as a Japanese champion. Although a long way behind the elite Japanese fighters at 112lbs, like Kazuto Ioka and Daigo Higa, he is still avery accomplished fighter, with good speed, good skills and under-rated power.
Although talented Kuroda's career has been a rocky road in the last few years. He claimed the Japanese title at 108lbs back in May 2011 and although he made 4 defenses 2 of them were draws, and the other two were split decision wins. They were followed by a 0-2-1 run, including lossese to Reveco and Muranaka and a further set backs in 2015 to Mario Andrade and 2016 to Kogawa. Recently though he has spun off 3 wins, including a revenge win over Kogawa, and he finally seems to be recovering the form that lead to his world title bout.
Although less well known and less established Matsuyama is actually a fighter who may have caught the eye of a number of international fans, thanks to his tremendous 2014 clash in Macau against Rex Tso. That is one of a number of action bouts Matsuyama has been involved in, with others including his 2015 bouts against Yushi Tanaka and Joe Tanooka and his amazing 2016 clash with Katsunori Nagamine. Those bouts have lead to Matsuyama building a reputation for thrilling performances in losses, but the fact he has failed to score a win of real note in his almost 11 year career suggests that his role is just to be an exciting loser.
Aged 28 Matsuyama is coming into his physical peak and is backed by the powerful Watanabe gym, who have had a great 2017. He will be riding the high that the gym have and will know that he has the style to force Kuroda into a high tempo war. He'll come out firing and will almost certainly have a fight. Sadly his lack of skills and reliance on his toughness, energy and heart will not be enough to over-come Kuroda.
We're are expecting a very fun contest, but sadly for Matsuyama he will again be the exciting loser, a role that he seems to fill regularly. He'll likely be stopped in the middle rounds by Kuroda who will likely be hoping to move towards a second world title fight in 2018.
On October 13th fight fans at the Korakuen Hall get two OPBF title fights. The “lesser” of those will see Keisuke Nakayama (10-2-1, 4) make his first defense of the OPBF Flyweight title as he takes on the once touted Filipino Jobert Alvarez (17-2-1, 7). For both men this is a huge bout, and could potentially move the winner towards a world title fight in 2018.
The champion won the title last time out, narrowly defeating the heavy handed Richard Claveras, and prior to that win he hadn't really been too well known. In fact his only other win of note was a decision over Naoki Mochizuki and his most notable other bout was a lop-sided decision loss to Hiroyuki Kudaka back in 2015. Despite being so unknown prior to his win over Claveras it does need to be said that Nakayama is an improving fighter, and at 29 years old is probably just starting to see everything click into place.
Coming into this bout Nakayama has won his last 4, he's in good form and seems to have realised he's a Flyweight, not a Super Flyweight. He can box, move and if dragged into a brawl at this level he can hold his own on the inside.
Whilst Nakayama has only just started to get on the radar of fight fans the same can't be said for Alvarez, who has fought several notable foes. Early in his career he was touted as a potential star of the future, and wins against Renren Tesorio and Jerry Tomgodan did help him with some early notoriety. In 2014 he twice fought in Mexico, beating former “world” title challenger Julian Rivera and then putting in a very good showing against Juan Francisco Estrada. The Estrada bout should have launched Alvarez into true contender status, but he would be out of the ring for over a year, wasting his chance to build on the win.
Since losing to Estrada we've seen Alvarez score an amazing win over Jonathan Gonzalez in Puerto Rico, suffer a surprising stoppage loss to Miguel Cartagena, inside a round. Since then he has scored two simple decisions in the Philippines and rebuilt some of his confidence.
In the ring Alvarez is a really talented boxer, out boxing Estrada at times, but he can be dragged into wars, as he was against Gonzalez and Cartagena, and can be dropped, as he has been in a number of bouts. If he gets into a war here there is a good chance he'll come up short, and that's despite the fact Nakayama isn't much of a puncher.
We're expecting the two men to show a bit of everything here. They will look to fight on the outside, and the bout will start slowly, but as it goes on, and as they get used to the other man's power, it will gradually build into a war. The second half of the fight will be thrilling, with rounds that are all action. Though we do favour Nakayama to come out on top, being cheered by his local fans which will just get him over the line for his first defense.
The Flyweight division is one of the most interesting in Asia with so many top fighters coming from the region, and all 4 current world champions are from the region with Kazuto Ioka, Zou Shiming, Donnie Nietes and Daigo Higa holding the four world titles. As well as all 4 world champions the region also boasts a number of top contenders, like Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep, Toshiyuki Igarashi and Muhamad Waseem.
Due to all the top heavy talent there is a bit of a void on the Oriental title scene, and that's being seen this coming Tuesday when former world title challenger Richard Claveras (17-2-2, 14) battled against little known Japanese fighter Keisuke Nakayama (9-2-1, 4) for the OPBF title.
Of the two fighters Claveras is the more well known. As mentioned he is a former world title challenger, having fought Pedro Guevara for the WBC Light Flyweight title back in 2015. Since then he has gone 5-1 (2) and shown a developing skillset and less of a dependency on his power. Whilst we have seen him lose since the Guevara bout, suffering a decision defeat to Jonathan Refugio, he has also scored a number of notable wins on the domestic scene. Those wins have included victories over Jerry Tomogdan and Jeronil Borres and have shown that he's one of the best in the Philippines at the weight, even if he is a long way behind the aforementioned Nietes.
Early in his career Claveras looked like little more than a wild slugger, the type of fighter who is talented, but relied on power and lacked the skills to match. That was shown against Guevara, who stopped him inside a round showing just how unprepared the Filipino was for a world title fight. Since then however it seems like Claveras has taken the loss as a learning experience and is moving onwards and upwards, bouncing back in a really good fashion. He's still flawed, and still looks rough around the edges, but he's certainly better than he was just a few years ago.
Whilst Claveras is somewhat known, due to his bout against Guevara, the same cannot be said of Nakayama who has never fought out of Japan and has only shared the ring with a few men of note. Of those he has suffered losses to Kenichi Miyazaki and Hiroyuki Hisataka, and narrowly over-come Naoki Mochizuki. Although he does lack much in terms of notable wins he has won his last 3,and has rebuilt well following the loss to Hisataka just over 2 years ago.
Aged 28 it's fair to say that Nakayama may have some developing left, but the reality is that the southpaw is about as good as he's likely to get. That's not a shameful thing, but it's likely summing up that he's below title level. He's gutsy but has been ran close a number of times and could easily have had 2, if not 3, more losses on his record. He's talented, but lacks any outstanding quality and doesn't actually hits as hard as his record suggests.
Although home advantage will certainly help Nakayama, and could essentially help him win close rounds, it's really hard to see him defeating the Filipino puncher, who we suspect will win a clear and wide decision. Claveras' edge in experience and power will simply be too much for the Japanese fighter.
The Flyweight division in Japan is red hot right now with WBA champion Kazuto Ioka leading a group of fighters that also includes WBC champion Daigo Higa. Below those two world champions are the likes of Japanese champion Takuya Kogawa (28-4, 13) and interim Japanese champion Masayuki Kuroda (26-7-3, 15), who will meet this coming Tuesday in a potential FOTY contender, to unify the titles. Not only is the bout a potential thriller, but it will be a rematch of a bout fought in early 2016 and will see one man looking to avenge a loss, and the other looking to prove domestic dominance over their foe.
In their first bout, in March 2016, Kogawa came out on top, defending the Japanese title in a mandatory defense. That was the the exciting veteran's first defense of his second reign and saw him over-come Kuroda with a clear decision, but an exciting one with both men really letting their shots go in some thrilling back and force action.
Although relatively unknown outside of Asia Kogawa has been a staple on the regional since 2010. He won the OPBF Super Flyweight title in 2010 and then moved down in weight to take on the then WBC Flyweight champion Pongsaklek Wonjongkam. Although Kogawa came up short against Wonjongkam he has since stuck around, for the most part, at Flyweight where he is now a 2-time Japanese champion and has also fought for the WBA interim title, losing a close decision to Yogmondkol Vor Saengthep.
During his career Kogawa has faced a relative who's who. As mentioned he has faced Wongjonkam and Yodmongkol, he's also fought Zhao Zhong Xiong, Shigetaka Ikehara, Tetsuma Hayashi, Suguru Muranaka, Hiroyuki Hisataka, Kuroda. Through those bouts Kogawa has shown a warrior mentality, willing to have a tear up, he has shown a gritty toughness, under-rated power and a fantastic engine. Sadly however he comes into this bout on the back of a nasty ear injury and an 8 month lay off. He is also a fighter who has gone the distance in his last 8 bouts, coming for 80 rounds!
We've long been Kogawa fans, but the reality is that the 32 year old has had an incredibly tough career, with 210 rounds, many of which have been damaging and action packed, which are partly to blame for his injury last time out, and subsequent lay off.
Interestingly the 30 year old Kuroda has had a similar career to Kogawa, and has slightly more rounds under his belt at 217 career rounds. His career saw him really come to the fore at Light Flyweight, where he claimed a Japanese title back in 2011. As a champion he defended the belt 4 times, including notable defenses against Yuki Sano and current world champion Ryoichi Taguchi. His reign ended when he vacated, choosing to challenge WBA Flyweight champion Juan Carlos Reveco in 2013. Sadly Kuroda came up short against Reveco and the suffered a stoppage loss to Muranaka just a couple of fights later. Since then he has gone 5-2 and got his career back on track.
Although Kuroda's record is blotchy he has, like Kogawa,mixed with good company. He's fought Shigetaka Ikehara, Shin Ono, Taguchi, Reveco, Muranaka, and Kogawa. He was last seen scoring an exciting decision win over Yuta Matsuo for the Japanese interim title, and will be seeing this bout as a chance to become a 2-weight Japanese champion.
In the ring Kuroda is a tough and gutsy fighter, he's flawed, and is naturally smaller than Kogawa, but appears to have found the second wind of his career, after a bizarre 0-2-3 run in 2012-2014. He's still going to be the under-dog here, but he's hungry, he's going to be looking to make a statement and likely knows this will be his last chance at a Japanese title, and it's going to be now or never.
In the ring we're expecting a real war. The styles of both men is aggressive, energetic and exciting. Both men are tough, defensively flawed and open, but aggressive, exciting and most importantly well matched.
Although we think Kogawa is on he slide, we do favour him here, but only just in a close, competitive, exciting brawl between two fighter who will look to give fans a treat. We wouldn't be hugely surprised by a Kuroda win, but we do think Kogawa will come out on top.
It's fair to say that the 2017 Champion Carnival was somewhat under-whelming, despite some really good looking bouts. There was a number of rematches and a number of bouts that just failed to spark the emotions. Not all bouts were bad, and the Super Bantamweight title bout between Yasutaka Ishimoto and Yusaku Kuga certainly proved rematches weren't a bad thing by default, but there was an under-whelming feeling over-all.
One of the divisions with that under-whelming feeling was the Flyweight division, where champion Takuya Kogawa is inactive, due to an injury, and as a result we have a bout between the top two ranked fighters, Yuta Matsuo (12-2-1, 6) and Masayuki Kuroda (27-5-3, 15). As an eliminator for a title fight this would be fine, but for a title fight it's self it's certainly a bit disappointing.
Unfortunately for fans in Japan the division is very top heavy and the likes of Kazuto Ioka and Diago Higa have gone well past Japanese domestic level and left a bit of a vacuum between the top in the country and the domestic level fighters. Although there are a number of rising contenders, such as Junto Nakatanii there is a lack at the domestic level.
Of the two men here Matsuo is the #1 contender, and on paper he is 7-1 (3) in his last 8, with his only loss in that run being a razor thin one to Ardin Diale. The reality however is that Matsuo has struggled to over-come a number of his opponents, including Yota Hori, Seiya Fujikita and Ryuto Oho, who was rather unlucky on the score-cards.
In the ring Matsuo is well skilled but, as we saw against Oho, he can be made to look lazy, isn't a big puncher and although he can hurt his opponents there is certainly not much too be too excited about. He seems happy to have a war, but hasn't yet proven that that's his type of fight, in fact it's fair to say he's probably best off avoiding them in future.
Although ranked #2 by the JBC Kuroda is the much better known fighter. He was the man Naoya Inoue shared the ring with in his test bout, he was the Japanese Light Flyweight champion in 2011 and 2012, defending the belt 4 times, and challenged the then WBA Flyweight champion Juan Carlos Reveco in 2013. In terms of his results he has wins over Shin Ono, Katsuhiko Iezumi, Hayato Yamaguchi and Yuki Sano as well as draws with Ryoichi Taguchi and Hayato Yamaguchi. Despite those notable results Kuroda has come up short in two recent Japanese Flyweight title bouts, losing to Suguru Muranaka and Takuya Kogawa in 2014 and 2016 respectively.
Whilst Kuroda was one a very good fighter he has gone 4-4-3 in his last 11, dating back almost 5 years and lacks in terms of notable recent wins. In fact over the last 24 months his only wins have been against Yusuke Sakashita and Masashi Odaira, hardly something to have earned Kuroda back-to-back Champion Carnival contests.
With Kuroda being a faded force and Matsuo failing to impress it's hard to be too excited for this one. We'll admit it should be fun, and both guys have been in entertaining fights in the past, but we can't help feel that this is less than title worthy. Both guys are flawed enough to be in a war, and we expect that will, happen with Kuroda doing enough to take the win, but it does feel like a bout that shows how badly the Japanese Flyweight scene needs some new blood rising through the rankings.
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.