The rise of Hiroto Kyoguchi (6-0, 6) has been something special to watch and this coming Tuesday we get the chance to see it continue as he looks to make his first defense of the OPBF Minimumweight title, a title he won in just his 13th professional round! In the opposite corner to the destructive Watanabe gym prospect will be Filipino southpaw Jonathan Refugio (16-5-5, 4), the third successive southpaw foe for Kyoguchi.
Kyoguchi turned professional last year to some notable fan fare and expectation with many in Japan tipping the youngster as a special talent. His first two bouts however were low key, and a little bit under-whelming as he despatched hapless Thai's in a combined 3 rounds. In his third bout however he shone, stopping the capable Kenichi Miyazaki in 3 rounds,then blowing away Michael Camelion in just 33 seconds before ending 2016 with a 3rd round KO win over Junuel Lacar. To begin 2017 he claimed the OPBF title by stopping veteran Armando De La Cruz in 3 rounds.
Despite being a novice professional Kyoguchi has been nothing less than sensational so far and looks like another top Japanese pressure fighter, like Daigo Higa. He uses a lot of educated pressure, under-rated defensive work, frightening combinations and some of the best body work in the sport. He's a pure offensive machine, and fans of Roman Gonzalez should be following Kyoguchi's rise through the ranks, with Kyoguchi's style being similar to that of the Nicaraguan star.
Whilst Kyoguchi has looked amazing so far he has still got a lot of questions to answer. He's not been hit cleanly much, with De la Cruz having tagged him clean once and then being given a battering in the moments that followed. He has also never proven his stamina, with his longest fight to date not lasting more than 3 rounds. That's likely to change in the future, but we really don't know how well his style and stamina hold out in the later rounds.
Filipino fighter Refugio has been a professional for close to 7 years and has mixed with a number of top class opponents. Those opponents include current world champions Wanheng Menayothin and Knockout CP Freshmart, as well as former world champion Merlito Sabillo and world title contender Melvin Jerusalem. He may have lost to those notable names but only Menayothin and Sabillo have managed to stop him so far, and he does hold a notable win over Richard Claveras.
In the ring Refugio is a well schooled fighter. He moves well, has good technical ability and plenty of heart, having pulled himself off the canvas to fight on in the past. He's show a good attitude and a will to work hard to avoid a loss, but he lacks power and will struggle to force his will on good regional level fighters, despite his solid skills and work rate. If he can't make top fighters then he's set for problems here when he's taking on the likes of Kyoguchi.
Although Refugio is a quality operator it's hard to see anything but a win for Kyoguchi. We think he will have to prove his stamina, but will eventually break down Refugio with body shots to retain his title and his 100% stoppage record, before looking towards a potential world title fight later in the year.
In 2016 we saw the Watanabe gym have a year to forget with both Takashi Uchiyama and Kohei Kono losing world titles, whilst other notable names like Shin Ono, Akio Shibata, Ayaka Miyao, Sansosuke Sasaki and Hayato Kimura all suffered notable defeats. Despite last year being an horrific one for Watanabe it's fair to say that 2017 has started with some promise for the gym with title wins already this year for Nihito Arakawa and Yusaku Kuga.
Looking to extend that success for Watanabe will be fast rising youngster Hiroto Kyoguchi (5-0, 5), who looks to claim his first title at the end of the month, when he takes on Filipino veteran Armando Dela Cruz (25-14-3, 11) in a bout for the vacant OPBF Minimumweight title.
Kyoguchi turned professional last year, following a solid amateur career, and was quickly on the road to success. His first two wins, in April and May, were against obscure Thai foes but in August he stepped up to take on Kenichi Miyazaki, who he dismantled in 3 impressive rounds go claim his first notable scale. In November Kyoguchi scored an excellent KO against Filipino Michael Camelion and in December followed that win with a win over Junel Lacar.
In the ring Kyoguchi is an aggressively minded fighter who can counter punch, as the win over Camelion showed, but call also go on a seem and destroy mission, as he did against Miyazaki and Lacar. His combinations are some of the most beautiful in Japanese boxing and his shots just flow together. Sometimes those combinations, and flowing shots, do end up making him look a bit wild and reckless but he never looks worried and appears to be full of confidence. Worryingly for opponents he appears to be improving every fight and is genuinely looking like a world champion in the making.
Although Kyoguchi is a novice,with just 5 fights and a total of just 10 rounds, the same cannot be said of Dela Cruz who has 42 bouts under his belt and an impressive 282 rounds of experience. Not only has the 32 year old Dela Cruz got experience, from a career that dates back to 2001, but he has also shared the ring with a who's who of the lower weight classes. That's seen him battle the likes of Oleydong Sithsamerchai, Florante Contes, Denver Cuello, Wanheng Menayothin, Marlon Tapales, Sonny Boy Jaro and Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr.
Although highly experienced it should be noted that Dela Cruz is very fortunate to have an OPBF ranking, never mind the bizarre #2 ranking he has coming in to this bout. He has gone 2-4 in his last 6, dating back 7 years, and has scored just 2 wins in the last 6 years. Through his 42 fight career he has been stopped 4 times, showing that he was tough, and he has been the distance with Marlon Tapales among other. However with his inactivity one could question his toughness, and whether could with stand the blistering assaults of Kyoguchi.
Whilst Dela Cruz did have a fun, almost warrior like, style it's not a style that will work work well against Kyoguchi who we suspect will be too quick, too sharp and too powerful for the Filipino veteran. Dela Cruz might have some moments but we really don't see him lasting long with the exceptionally talented Kyoguchi. We might be surprised, and Dela Cruz might put in a great showing, but we suspect the body shots of Kyoguchi will help take their toll on the Filipino and he'll be put away within 5 rounds.
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.