The first title fight of a new month takes place as the month kicks off and as we suspect fight fans will be in for a major treat. The bout in question sees Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Yasutaka Ishimoto (28-8, 7) looking to defend his belt against the limited but exciting Gakuya Furuhashi (18-7-1, 8), in a second bout between the two men.
These two fought last year, fighting in an 8 rounder, with Ishimoto winning a close but thrilling decision in a bout that was a bit of a hidden gem from 2015. Despite being under-watched it was streamed online for free and has got a cult following with hard-core Japanese fans who saw a really engaging and high tempo domestic level contest.
Since their first meeting we've seen Ishimoto go 2-0, winning the Japanese title in Decemeber 2015, out pointing Yusaku Kuga,and defending the belt once, with a wide decision against Yosuke Fujihara. Both of those bouts were tough bouts for the Teiken fighter but both were enjoyable for fans, and it's clear that whilst Ishimoto isn't a “star” he is very popular for a domestic level fighter.
As for Furuhashi he has gone 1-1 since losing to Ishimoto almost 14 months ago. He lost to the under-rated Daisuke Watanabe and defeated Rokuhei Suzuki. Neither of those bouts were at the top of the domestic level, and neither really saw Furuhashi impress, but Furuhashi has proven himself in the past fighting to a draw with Yukinori Oguni.
Of the two men the men the champion is the better known. Not only is he the champion but he has also fought on a pair of the Top Rank Macau cards, where he scored a career defining victory over Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. In those Macau bouts we saw Ishimoto prove to be a technically solid guy, and he has proven since that he has a high tempo in the ring. Sadly against Chris Avalos, in a bout Ishimoto was stopped in, we also saw that Ishimoto lacks the power and physical strength to cut it at the world level, though of course that's nothing to be hugely ashamed of.
In the ring Ishimoto's style is very fan friendly. He's a high tempo boxer who uses movement well, has a high output and is a tough guy who enjoys a fight. Yes he lacks power but makes up for it in terms out output and that makes him so much fun to watch in action. Aged 34 there is a chance that his energetic style will desert him, but he's looked great in recent wins and has a very strong and vocal support base willing him on every time he's in a Japanese ring.
Whilst Ishimoto has fought a few bouts against international names of note the same cannot be said of Furuhashi,who is really an unknown outside of Japan. Even in Japan he's relatively unknown, despite his title fight, though those who do follow the domestic scene know that with Furuhashi they get action and excitement. Like Ishimoto he lacks big power but fights with a high tempo, albeit not quite as high as the champion, and gets in the ring for a fight. Technically he's limited but he has the determination and style to be very exciting.
Sadly for Furuhashi he has gone 1-2-1 in his last 4 and is more than 3 years removed from his last notable win, a victory over veteran Toru Suzuki. That's not to say he's bad but he's not quite been able to get over the line in his biggest bouts, including the Oguni bout or a 2011 clash with Ryuichi Funai. He will however come in to this one with the mentality that a loss could be the end of his career, despite the fact he's only 28. He can't avoid another set back and is perhaps already looking like an old fighter.
With both men knowing their days are numbered, Ishimoto due to age and Furuhashi due to recent performances, we suspect we'll see both put it on the line here in an absolute tear up for the ages. The bout will be action packed but unfortunately it'll be career shortening and we don't think either will be the same man afterwards. We do however think the champion will retain his title, and move on to face the winner of the Strongest Korakuen next year, showing the lingering effects of this bout, and other tough ones, in that one.
The Super Bantamweight division is a hugely frustrating one in recent years. The bouts the fans want aren't being made and the bout we're getting are typically mismatches with little to really offer in terms of competitive action. In 2014 we failed to see any of the champions face each other, we also failed to see fighters like Genesis Servania, Kid Galahad, Shingo Wake, Hugo Ruiz, Rey Vargas or Albert Pagara get a shot at the the champions.
Even at the Japanese domestic level the division frustrated us in 2014. The most notable part of that frustration came when Hidenori Otake injured a rib prior to a scheduled title defence. Soon afterwards Otake vacated title and, subsequently, got himself a world title shot at WBA “regular” champion Scott Quigg. Whilst the injury “benefited” Otake in some ways it did leave one man out in the cold, Gakuya Furuhashi (17-5, 7).
It was Furuhashi who was supposed to be get the shot at Otake prior to Otake's injury but unfortunately he was forced to wait for a shot.
Whilst Furuhashi was waiting the JBC did put up the vacant title for a fight last December. The understanding was that Furuhashi would get the first shot at the winner.
The fight in December saw Yukinori Oguni (14-1, 4) claim the title with a very, very close decision over Yasutaka Ishimoto in a very good match up. As a result of that win Oguni knew he would be fighting Furuhashi in what looks likely to be another very good fight involving Oguni.
Of the two men involved it's Oguni who is the most well known. Not only is he the defending champion here but he is also a former OPBF champion, who lost that title to Wake in his only loss to date. In the ring Oguni is a very talented boxer mover who has lovely fast hands, nice movement and a lot of ability. He does however lack power and still seems to have the strength of a boy and not a man. To his credit however he does hold notable wins over the likes of Roli Gasca-twice, Hiromasa Ohashi, Masaaki Serie and Ishimoto and they all been due to his skills as opposed to his power.
What Oguni does so well is use his speed, both with his feet and his hands. His combinations are sharp, even if they lack power, his movement is intelligent and it takes a very good fighter to beat him.
As for Furuhashi, who really has waited for his shot, this will be his first title fight and the challenger really has had some mixed fortunes. In 2008 he was the All-Japan Bantamweight Rookie of the year but followed that up by losing his first bout in 2009, dropping a split decision to Masayoshi Tachiki. Losses to Ryuichi Funai and Coach Hiroto aren't too damning however they've been joined by losses to Yuji Ota and Hajime Nagai, both of which are disappointing defeats.
Whilst Furuhashi does have a number of losses he also has a couple of stand out wins. The first of those was an opening round blow out over Nobuhisa Coronita Doi in 2011 whilst more recently a 7th round TKO against Toru Suzuki. The win over Suzuki has been followed by a trio of lesser level wins, including one over a Thai debut as he's continued to prepare for his shot at a title bout.
Whilst getting footage of Oguni is no problem it has been difficult to get “real” footage of Furuhasi with the most notable film of him coming from a public sparring session with Akihiko Katagiri last year. Of course sparring isn't a real fight but it did show that Furuhashi had nice speed, a sharp jab and could find holes against a talented and naturally bigger fighter. The spar also showed that he was a talented boxer-puncher with a lot of skill.
Given what we know about the two men we expect that this will be a very interesting bout and could be hard to score. With neither man having a big punch it will almost certainly go the distance and will inevitably go down to the judges. From the footage Oguni is the better boxer and the fast fighter. Furuhashi however does look like the type of fighter who will begin to time Oguni and land counter right hands frequently. The question is whether he will land enough enough the notably taller Oguni who think will have a significant reach advantage. If Furuhashi can't time him then Oguni should be able to do enough to take a comfortable win, if Furuhashi can however slip the leads of the champion and fire back then this could be one that goes down to the wire.
(Image courtesy of http://www.kadoebi.com)
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.