This coming Monday fights fans in Japan will get the chance to unified Heavyweight champion Kyotaro Fujimoto (18-1, 10) defending both of his regional titles, the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles, against Australian challenger Aaron Russell (11-4, 4). For the champion, who also holds the Japanese national title, the bout will be his third defense of the OPBF title and the second of the WBO regional belt, whilst Russell will be fighting at this level for the first time in his career.
The Japanese 31 year old turned professional following a career in K1 and has had more success than many would have expected. He turned professional back in late 2011 and after winning his first 5 bouts was stopped by Solomon Haumono in a bout for the OPBF title, on the 1 year anniversary of Fujimoto's debut. At the point many fans wrote him off for a negative style, being under-sized and a perceived weak chin. Since then however he has reeled off 13 straight wins, 7 by stoppage, claimed the triple crown of domestic and regional titles and put himself in the world rankings.
As a fighter Fujimoto doesn't fight like a typical Heavyweight. He's not in there using his power and strength and instead fights in a pretty none-physical manner, relying on his speed, movement and timing. It's a small Heavyweight and uses that to his advantage by using his legs, making opponents look slow and tagging them with counters as well as speedy single shots when he leads. Rarely will we see him look to exchange blows of throw combinations, but what he does do works for him.
Despite not being a puncher Fujimoto does enough bang to keep opponents at this level wary. His speed on the counter has dropped opponents in the past and it will be something he'll look to make the most of again here.
In Russell we have a pretty underwhelming challenger. In fact it's hard to see what Russell has done to earn a shot at an OPBF title. He debuted in 2010 and after winning his first 3 bouts would fall to 4-3, losing a trio of bouts by stoppage. He's done well to rebuild since then, but his durability has always remained an issue, and he was stopped last year by Lancy Bryan after being dropped several times in the second round of their bout.
Whilst Russell clearly lacks in terms of durability he is also lacking in natural fighting size, having made his debut at Light Heavyweight and having never fought above 20llbs before. This will be one of the few times that Kyotaro is the naturally bigger man and that could again be a problem for the challenger, who is moving up in weight have not shown much punch resistance at Light Heavyweight or Cruiserweight.
Footage of Russell is mostly old but it doesn't show a very good fighter. We know he will have improved with experience but in the footage we've managed to get out hands on he looks slow, clumsy and unsure of himself. He looked like a fighter who really looked like he wasn't sure why he was in the ring. Again we accept that was old footage, but we don't suspect he's become a fringe world class fighter since that footage was shot.
We expect Russell to be stopped by Fujimoto in the middle rounds of their bout. He'll lack any tools needed to deal with the champion and his inability to take a shot will be a major issue here.
This coming Saturday Japanese fans will get the chance to see the countries best known Heavyweight attempt to continue his pursuit of a world title fight, as he defends a pair of regional titles against a challenger taking a huge step up in class.
The bout in question sees Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific champion Kyotaro Fujimoto (17-1, 9) battle against the relatively unknown Randall Rayment (8-3, 3). On paper the bout is a bit of a mismatch but as we're all too aware fights don't take place on paper.
Kyotaro is a former K1 kick boxer who took to boxing a few years ago and helped kick start a mini Japanese Heavyweight scene. Sadly the scene has died in the country in the last 2 or 3 years but Fujimoto did naturally out grow it, and beat almost all he worth while challengers whilst continuing his development. That development later lead to him claiming the OPBF title, with a win over the big punching Willie Nasio and then added the WBO Asia Pacific title with a stoppage win over Herman Ene Purcell.
In the ring Kyotaro fights differently to most Heavyweights. He doesn't go into the ring with the intention of blasting foes out, or going to war. Instead he's one of the divisions more notable boxer-movers, who fights on his toes, picks his spots and relies on speed as opposed to power. It's interesting to see him fight the way he does, especially in a Heavyweight scene that is often sold on it's exciting power punchers, but it works for Kyotaro. It needs to be noted that Kyotaro is very much an under-sized Heavyweight, which is why he uses the tactics he uses, and he also has question marks about his durability, but by moving like he does he can avoid the damaging blows and strike when an opponent is tiring.
Footage of Rayment as a boxer isn't too widely available but what is out there shows a fighter with a rather sloppy style. He he's a tall rangy guy but he struggles to create distance, he slaps when he punches and really doesn't look like he does much right at all. There is some good athletic fundamentals there but the reality is that he looks like someone who has converted to boxing and is very hittable and very limited looking. Up close he fights like a brawler, and gets dragged into wars very easily, on the outside he looks like someone who arm punches on a regular basis and there is no natural snap or power there.
Whilst not an offensive or defensive genius Rayment does appear to be hungry and tough. He has yet to be stopped and has won his last 6, after a 2-3 start. Those wins have include a victory over Herman Ene Purcell, in what was Purcell's first bout after the Kyotaro one. Aged 31 he's likely peaked and this is a huge step up, with it being Rayment's first 12 rounder and he has to go beyond 6 rounds.
Given the ability of the two men it's hard to imagine anything but a straight forward win for Fujimoto, who will likely look to out box the clumsy Rayment early on, before putting his foot on the gas in the middle rounds and stopping the challenger. Sadly though Fujimoto's journey to a world title does look like it will have to go on a bit longer, with Joseph Parker said to have abandon plans to take on Fujimoto in December.
Back on December 14th we saw Japan's Kyotaro Fujimoto (16-1, 8) create a little slice of Japanese boxing history, as he became the first ever Japanese born fighter to claim the OPBF Heavyweight title, essentially unifying it with the Japanese title which he has held since July 2013. He claimed that title with a clear decision against the big punching Willie Nasio, who struggled to tie down the brightly haired Japanese mover.
This coming Monday Fujimoto looks to establish another little bit of history, as he looks to become the first Japanese fighter to defend the OPBF Heavyweight title, as he takes on Samoan born Australian based Herman Ene Purcell (12-5, 6). The bout doesn't look amazing on paper, but for a first defense it's certainly not a horrible match up for Fujimoto to attempt to establish his title reign and begin his climb from Oriental champion to a world title contender.
Unlike most Heavyweights the Japanese fighter doesn't really fight like a Heavyweight. There is little physicality to his work, and instead he fights as a boxer-mover. It's unusual in the division to see someone move as much as Fujimoto does, but he uses the movement well, looking to pick his spots, land counters and strike when an opponent makes a mistake. It seems like his style has come from from his K1 back ground but has been rounded off in recent bouts.
Although a mover Kyotaro has got good stamina and continue moving through the 12 rounds, and he does have under-rated power, having dropped Nasio during their fight. Notably the movement disguises some of Kyotaro's weakest points, his poor punch resistance and his lack of physical strength. He might be speedy but when a fighter gets him in the clinch he really struggles to hold his own, and they will neutralise his speed by doing something like that.
On paper Purcell looks limited, with 5 losses in 17 bouts. It's worth noting however that he started his career 2-3 and was 5-4 before having a 7-1 run and getting his career back on track. Those wins haven't come against top level fighters but have helped Purcell get some career moment going and has seen him score wins on the road, in China.
In the ring Purcell originally looked like a wild, crude and crazy brawler. He has however tidied up his boxing. He's certainly not a natural boxer, but he does look like a natural fighter and is looking to swing for the finish from the first moments to the last. Despite still being wild he has shown decent stamina over the 6 round distance, though will be fighting in his first 12 rounder and could well pay the price for a lack of experience over the longer course. Notably his power has seen him stop 6 of his foes in the opening round, it does however lead to questions about whether his power really is only effective for 3 minutes or not.
Given Purcell's free swinging style he will likely struggle to pin down Fujimoto, but if he connects early the Japanese fighter could be in trouble. Sadly though it does seem like Purcell's window of opportunity is going to be the first round or two. After that, he'll slow and Fujimoto will have a field day with his counters. The champions movement and speed will allow him to tire out the challenger and the drop the hammer in the later rounds, taking a mid-to-late stoppage over the challenger.
The first OPBF title fight of 2017 takes place up at Heavyweight and sees Japanese Heavyweight champion Kyotaro Fujimoto (15-1, 8) takes on big punching Australian Willie Nasio (10-1, 9), himself a national champion in Australia. The two men are trading blows for a title vacated by current WBO world champion Joseph Parker and are looking to take a step towards a potential world title.
Fujimoto made history in 2013 when he became the first Japanese Heavyweight champion in more than 50 years. As the champion he defended the belt 3 times, defeating Kotatsu Takehara in two of those defenses and Nobuhiro Ishida in the other, and has won a trio of non-title bouts since a 2015 win against Ishida.
Although a bit of a novelty, with Fujimoto being a very rare Japanese Heavyweight, he has had plenty of attention for his actual ability. Originally that ability saw him make a name for himself in Kick boxing before he turned his attention to professional boxing at the end of 2011. Since then he has amassed a solid looking record and scored notable wins against the likes of Ishida and Clarence Tillman, though was stopped in 5 rounds back in late 2012 when he faced the big punching Solomon Haumono for the OPBF title.
At his best Fujimoto is a solid “smaller” Heavyweight. He is 225-230lbs in the ring but at 6'0” he is a very short Heavyweight and isn't the biggest. In the ring he's got respectable power on the domestic scene, but is more dependent on his speed and skills. He's light on his feet and has made a success out of his boxing, rather than punching. He does however questionable punch resistance, less than impressive stamina and he's certainly not got much in terms of “world class” potential, especially given he's now 30. Dreams of becoming Japan's first Heavyweight world champion are unlikely to come true, but he could become the first Japanese fighter to challenger for a Heavyweight world title, if he wins here.
The big punching Nasio has yet to fight outside of Australia but has impressed domestically with notable wins against Clarence Tillman and Hunter Sam. Despite impressive power he has been stopped in the past, losing to Tai Tuivasa inside a round in part of a small 1-night Heavyweight tournament.
Stood at 6'2” and weighing around 250lbs Nasio is a much bigger Heavyweight than Fujimoto, though footage suggests he's slow, a little clumsy and very upright. He hits hard but the footage suggests that he can be out boxed and with an opening round defeat to his name there will be questions about his chin. The biggest question for him coming in to this bout is however about his ability to fight on the road, and that will be something he will have to prove if he's to come out on top here.
On paper this match up will be a case of Fujimoto's movement and speed against Nasio's size and power. If Nasio lands his clubbing shots he could break down the Japanese fighter, especially in the later rounds, though we can't help but think that Fujimoto will move, frustrate and counter the visitor on route to a wide decision, though one won with a few wobbles.
Heavyweight boxing isn't typically big news in Japan, however some fights do get the attention of boxing fans and notably there was a fair bit of coverage in the Japanese boxing press about the recent WBC Heavyweight world title bout between Deontay Wilder and Bermane Stiverne.
Part of the reason why the division is so over-looked in Japan is the fact that very few fighters in the country are Heavyweights. Typically the Japanese fighters have made their names in the lower weights with only a handful of champions above Lightweight. The big international Heavyweights get attention but domestically there is little time for Japanese fighters in the weight class which have typically been few and far between.
On April 30th however there will be a Heavyweight bout in Japan that has the potential to attract a lot of attention, both domestically and internationally. That bout, will see Japanese Heavyweight champion Kyotaro Fujimoto (11-1, 6) defending his title against former WBA interim Light Middleweight champion Nobuhiro Ishida (27-10-2, 11), a man best known for his huge upset victory over James Kirkland.
Ishida's international reputation, not just from the Kirkland bout but also contests with Gennady Golovkin, Paul Williams and Dmitry Pirog, will of course grab the attention of fans in the west. That attention was seen last year when Ishida began a remarkable journey to the Heavyweight division which saw him losing a close decision to Fujimoto in a surprisingly competitive 8 round bout. That bout was Ishida's Heavyweight debut and showed that he could compete in the division, at least domestically. Now a year on we've seen Ishida given time to really adapt to the division, get used to the weight and win two subsequent bouts in the division. Not only has he gotten used to the weight but he has seemingly gotten better after every fight.
Of course it takes two to tango and Fujimoto has also been a fighter showing signs of improvement since the first bout with Ishida. The was seen when Fujimoto stopped Kotatsu Takehara in what was their second meeting. In that bout Fujimoto looks brilliant. He was fast, sharp and landed almost at will. It wasn't the somewhat clumsy Fujimoto we had seen early in his career instead it was whole different fighter and one who was exciting to watch.
For those who didn't see their first bout it was an intriguing contest to say the least. Ishida seemed the more skilled and the one with the know how however his stamina lacked, his power wasn't there and he certainly slowed the longer the bout went on. He was probably fortunate that the contest was only an 8 rounder as it seemed he was beginning to struggle with the pace. The bout showed flaws for both men. Fujimoto showed a relative lack of skills and seemed unable to really make his weight advantage count until late whilst Ishida's lack of stamina stopped him from taking the later rounds that he needed for the win.
This time around we're expecting to see both men to have worked on their flaws. We know Fujimoto isn't going to suddenly become Wladimir Klitschko and be able to jab and move whilst remaining light on his feet. Likewise we know that Ishida isn't going to become a 100-punch per round swarming fighter. Though both will have improved since their first meeting and we're expecting a better fight over-all than their first contest.
Whilst we would love to see an Ishida win we do feel he's probably going to come up short. We suspect he surprised Fujimoto in their first meeting but this time around Fujimoto will know what to expect and will have trained for Ishida. Unfortunately if that's the case then we suspect Fujimoto will take a hard fought win over the challenger. Fujimoto will need to put on his best performance to win, but that's what we're expecting to see against Ishida here.
(Image courtesy of http://www.kadoebi.com)
The Japanese Heavyweight scene has certainly been lacking in action through out history though in recent years things have heated up a bit with the arrival to boxing of Kyotaro Fujimoto (9-1, 5) a former K1 fighter who turned to boxing a few years back and brought immediate attention to the Heavyweight division. That attention has seen the reinvention of the Japanese Heavyweight title a title that sat vacant for more than 50 years until Fujimoto won it last year.
It seems that with Fujimoto now the champion every fighter in Japan, who feels like they can make Heavyweights, ants a piece of the pie, or more precisely the Heavyweight title. The queue of the contenders might not be huge but it has seen Nobuhiro Ishida for one jump up through the weight to try and claim the title.
Another man after the belt is 36 year old Kotatsu Takehara (10-9-3, 4), who has already had one shot at the title and managed to give Fujimoto hell despite losing a narrow decision last November. He gets another shot on September 10th at a show dubbed "Kamikaze 4".
In the first meeting between the two men, which can be seen here, Fujimoto started brilliantly and used his speed to great effect in the early running. By the mid rounds however he was slowing notably and as the bout went on Fujimoto became more tired with his shots looking like slaps and his his general work becoming laboured. In those rounds Takehara really made an exhausted Fujimoto work not to win them but to actually survive.
At the end of the first bout the judges all felt Fujimoto had won with scores of 97-93, 97-94 and 96-94 though neither man looked much like a winner. Fujimoto looked too tired to celebrate whilst Takehara looked disappointed in himself, as if to suggest he felt he could have won.
This time around we're expecting more from both men. Their advantage will still be what they were. Fujimoto will still be the faster man and the younger man, he'll still be able to rattle off combinations but he'll still struggle to hurt Takehara who is tougher than his record indicates. Likewise Takehara will struggle to catch Fujimoto early on but will come on strong in the middle rounds when Fujimoto's footspeed begins to slow. It really is a case of who can adjust most from their first bout.
For the defending champion he needs to have been working on his stamina. If he tires in the middle then he may not be so lucky this time around. He needs to make sure that his footspeed doesn't slow and he really should fire off singles as opposed to combos. If he fights conservatively rather than trying to stop Takehara we do feel he will take another decision victory, this time without the worries that he had last time around.
As for Takehara he is the naturally stronger fighter and for him to win he'll need to use not juts his strength but also his weight and experience. From the opening round he needs grab, hold and wrestle with Fujimoto. He needs to burn up Fujimoto's gas tank quicker than last time and if he can lean his weight on the younger man he could easily tire him out and leave him open for shots later on.
For us the bout is a tough one to call though one we think Fujimoto should win there is no certainty. He's certainly not a great champion and he is beatable. Whether it's Takehara that beats him here or not is the question, though we really don't imagine Fujimoto holding the title for long even if he over-comes Takehara.
An interesting side note to this bout is that the winner is likely to face Nobuhiro Ishida on December 31st. That bout would be the biggest in Japanese Heavyweight history.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
It's fair to say that in boxing we have a number of "types" of interesting fights. The most interesting are those which pit elite fighters against each other in a unification contest, fights such as Kazuto Ioka's fight against Akira Yaegashi a few years ago. A step down from that are where we get to see an elite fighter in action, fighters like Floyd Mayweather Jr, Bernard Hopkins or Manny Pacquiao.
Several steps down from seeing the elite fighters in action are the domestic clashes that have fans eager to watch to see who is the best at a certain weight in a certain country.
Somewhere between the elite fights and the big domestic clashes are the "gimmick" fights if you will, the quirky bouts that get a lot more interest than a typical fight but not as much as a real super fighter.
In 2012 British fans saw a gimmick fight as Cricket player Freddie Flintoff fought in his one, and only, professional boxing contest. That fight got huge media attention in his homeland and although he was awful his bout seemed to get more headlines than most other bouts in Britain. In Japan we are on the verge of a similar "gimmick" bout as former Japanese and WBA interim Light Middleweight champion Nobuhiro Ishida (25-9-2, 10) moves from Light Middleweight/Middleweight all the way up to Heavyweight to challenger national Heavyweight champion Kyotaro Fujimoto (8-1, 5).
The bout may not be as "gimmicky" as the Flintoff one but it appears to have managed to capture the imagination of fans across the world and our own news pieces about the fight have been amongst our most popular pieces.
The bout, scheduled for just 8 rounds, hasn't got a title on the line, there is no world title fight at the end of it for the winner, there is no major award for winning. What there is is pride and honour combined with some risk, some danger and the possibility of either man being made to look incredibly poor.
For Ishida the risk is obvious. He's facing a much bigger, stronger and more powerful man. He's proven to be tough in the past and despite being wiped out by Gennady Golovkin he isn't a push over, as James Kirkland found out in Ishida's career defining victory over him.
Whilst the risk of being knocked out, bullied and battered is there for Ishida the reward for winning is huge. Despite their not being a title up for grabs a victory will make Ishida a legendary name in Japan, it will get him the acclaim and fame that any fighter wants and would help him to prove so many people wrong. It was also allow him to fight for the national title in his next fight, something the JBC refused to allow him to do here.
More importantly for Ishida however is the fact he can say "I tried it", something so many other fighters retire wishing they could have said. It's all well and good winning titles but to say you tried everything you wanted to do is equally as important, not leaving doubt or questions in your own mind.
For Ishida this bout is all about him trying to do the extreme, for his opponent, Fujimoto, this bout is equally as important.
Not only would Fujimoto lose his title if he lost this bout, despite Ishida being unable to win it, but his whole professional boxing career would become a joke, he would become a laughing stock and it would, in some ways, make a mockery of his reign as the Japanese Heavyweight champion. After all how could a Middleweight blow up and beat the Heavyweight champion?
Although stronger, younger, naturally bigger and more powerful Fujimoto knows that his boxing skills are limited. He's not awful but he's certainly nothing special. If he can be made to look like a being fool by Ishida that would almost certainly be a big hit to his pride and possibly be bad enough to force him into retirement or a return to Kick Boxing where he first made his name in fighting circles.
There is next to no risk of Fujimoto being stopped, Ishida wasn't a puncher at 154lbs or 160lbs, but being beaten by a more skilled and technically complete fighter over the distance can be just as bad for a fighter as being knocked out. Fighters beaten by, say Bernard Hopkins, never seen to look the same whilst those destroyed by Roman Gonzalez have managed to go on to achieve some notable success in their own right. A loss to Ishida could well be comparable to a loss to Hopkins.
As for the fight it really is a battle between a fighter with better skills, speed and experience and a fighter who is stronger, younger and more rugged. There are clear arguments to be made for either man winning and for either man losing.
For Ishida his experience and skills are a clear edge. He's also filled into his Heavyweight frame amazingly well and although we expected him to look awful with the weight he's been putting on he actually looks brilliant. Sure he won't be a thunderous puncher but the hope is clearly to help him with stand the shots of Fujimoto.
Although he has bulked up well a big question is whether or not Ishida will maintain his speed. His speed would be a huge advantage over the some what clumsy Fujimoto and if Ishida can fire off combinations and get in and out he'd almost certainly have enough in his locked to box at range to take home a decision.
As for Fujimoto his youth and presumably energy will be significant as will his natural size. In the clinch we'd expect Fujimoto to wrestle with Ishida, at range we'd expect him to walk through Ishida's shots and get inside to rough up the older man. The shots of Fujimoto are likely to be the heaviest that Ishida has ever felt and whilst they won't be as explosive as Golovkin's were they will all thud, even the jabs will be heavy.
Although we can see the argument for both men winning we can't help but feel that this is Fujimoto's to throw away. His lack of skills will be an issue early on, and he'll likely lose the first 2 or 3 rounds. After that however we imagine he'll find a way to slowly but surely grind down Ishida who think may just make it to the final bell but only just, and not before a few serious scares late on.
We genuinely do hope we're wrong. We would love it if Ishida was to win and even though we are technically "neutral" we do tend to love the bizarre, odd and risky and for Ishida this is certainly risky, hence the fight headlining "Kamikaze 3".
Is it a suicide mission for Ishida or is it a career defining opportunity for 38 year old? That's what we will find out in less than a week.
(Pictures courtesy of:
Nobuhiro Ishida's blog
Video courtesy of TUGmanBOX)
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.