Japan has a number of really exciting young fighters. Some of those are, of course, known world wide, such as Naoya Inoue, others however are still quietly making a name for themselves without too much fuss or fanfare. One such fighter is Japanese Bantamweight champion Shohei Omori (14-0, 9), who will defend his belt for the first time on September 16th as he takes on former world title challenger Hirofumi Mukai (11-3-2, 1).
Unlike many touted Japanese fighters Omori doesn't have an extensive amateur grounding. Instead he turned professional with only a handful of amateur bouts on his ledger. Rather than develop as an amateur Omori developed as a pro, and he developed very quickly. In fact just 20 months after his debut he had claimed the All Japan Rookie of the Year, at Bantamweight, and raced to 7-0 (3).
Whilst those in Hyogo have followed Omori's development with excitement many didn't really take note of the youngster until May 2014 when he stopped former contender Christian Esquiviel in 4 rounds. That win caught the eye of many, including our selves, and just 11 months later he blitzed Kentaro Masuda in 3 rounds to claim the Japanese title.
Now world ranked by all 4 major title bodies Omori is quickly racing towards a world title bout, though of course will need to retain his unbeaten record and his Japanese title when he faces Mukai.
In the ring Omori is a strong and big Bantamweight. He combines very well polished skills, as shown against Equivel, with explosive aggression, spiteful power and under-rated hand speed. As well those skills he's a growing young man at just 22 and he's a southpaw which really just adds to the difficulty of opponents facing him. There are still questions for him to answer, such as what his stamina is like over the 10 and 12 round distances, and what his chin is like, however he looks like a genuinely exciting contender ready to make a statement on the world stage.
Of course the 29 year old Mukai was himself once tipped as a future star. Unlike Omori he was an accomplished amateur with 77 bouts in the unpaid ranks, including 51 wins. That amateur experience saw him being moved quickly and by fight 3 he was already participating in 8 round bouts. His 5th bout saw him over-come Sonny Boy Jaro, who would become the WBC Flyweight champion just 13 months later, and his 6th bout saw him challenge for the OPBF Flyweight title.
Unfortunately for Mukai that ambitious start to his career lead him to defeat at the hands of Rocky Fuentes in fight #6 before a technical draw in a world title bout against Pongsaklek Wonjongkam. That Wonjongkam bout ended after just 47 seconds with Mukai suffering a very bad cut. Sadly those results have been followed by further disappointments, including an opening round KO loss to Mark Anthony Geraldo, a 9th round TKO loss to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, in a WBC Super Flyweight title fight, and a draw with Myung Ho Lee.
The set backs have, clearly, been frustrating for Mukai though he has gone unbeaten in his last 3 bouts and scored notable wins over Mark John Yap and Konosuke Tomiyama, with those wins leading him to the show down with Omori.
Like the champion Mukai is a southpaw though stylistically that's almost all they have in common. Mukai is a gutsy fighter but one who prefer to use his jab, his legs and his movement to avoid a “real” fight. His lack of power, which has seen him score just a single stoppage, and lack of commitment behind his shots has been a problem and he's often had work incredibly hard to score his wins. Although a “baby” in terms of fights, with just 16, he has already fought 111 rounds, more than twice as many as Omori. Has has also taken serious damage with the Srisaket bout being a particularly painful beating.
We admit we are big fans of Omori, and may be slightly over-egging how good he is, but we really don't see him being tested by Mukai here. Omori will simply be too strong, too big, too aggressive, too powerful and too good for the challenger who will be very lucky to see the second half of the fight. The worrying thing for the rest of the division is that Omori is just getting better and a blow out against Mukai may well serve as a warning to the rest of the Bantamweight division.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
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.