One of two title fights taking place in Japan this weekend will come at the Japanese domestic level where Tatsuya Fukuhara (15-4-5, 6) takes on Hiroya Yamamoto (9-3, 3) in a bout for the currently vacant Japanese Minimumweight title, which was recently given up by Go Odaira.
Of the two fights it's fair to say that Fukuhara is the more well known. He has faced the better competition, achieved more and been involved in the more notable bouts. Those bouts have included the 2009 Rookie of the Year final, an 8 round bout with future world title challenger Yu Kimura, the then debuting Takuma Inoue and a contest with Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr, in fact he held Fahlan to a draw. Notably since losing to Inoue, almost 2 years ago, Fukuhara has gone 3-0-2.
In the ring Fukuhara is a solid fighter. He's not a sensational one but he's certainly a capable one and has shown that with his draw against Fahlan, a draw with Koji Itagaki and a win over Koki Ono.
Although Fukuhara is probably the more well known it's certainly fair to say that Yamamoto isn't a “nobody”, in fact he will be fighting in his second Japanese title fight and his third title fight overall. In his previous Japanese title fight he was widely beaten by Go Odaira whilst he has also lost in a WBC International title fight against Xiong Zhao Zhong. Despite those losses he has actually shown enough talent to prove he can go places and at 24 years old he is improving drastically and now seems to believe in his himself. Although best known for his two high profile losses, he has also won the Rookie of the Year back in 2012.
For both fighters this is a great opportunity to claim their first title and should be a great fight. Although neither is a big name, and neither is viewed as a potential world champion, it is a well matched bout.
From what we've seen both men are well matched. Neither is world class, but neither has shamed themselves when they have stepped up in class and against each other we're expecting a very close one, in fact don't be surprised if this ends in a draw.
When we talk about Minimumweight fighters we do typically expect to see fast fighters, right now however there are very few who rival the speed of Go Odaira (10-3-3, 1) the Japanese champion at 105lbs. Although a light puncher he really is like Speedy Gonzales in the ring throwing lightning quick punches, moving in and out of range and, when he's in rhythm, he strikes before an opponent gets a chance to return fire. It's a thing of beauty watching him in action at full pace even if you know a knockout isn't likely to come.
On September 24th Odaira will be making the second defence of his title as he defends his belt against the little known Hiroya Yamamoto (8-1, 3). The bout is almost certain to go the distance, especially when you consider that between them they have 4 KO wins from 25 combined fights with just a sole stoppage loss, though who will win, and how?
Odaira, as mentioned, is fast. He has been compared to his promoter Susumu Hanagata, a former WBA Flyweight champion and one of just 2 men to beat the great Masao Oba, and in many ways his style is based around that of Hanagata who also lacked power but had serious speed. Amongst his notable wins are decisions over former world title challenger Takashi Kunishige and Japanese challenger Yuma Iwahashi, neither was a dominant win though he was the deserving winner in both bouts. Saying that however his most impressive performance was his title winning effort against Masashi Tada in January this year, that was dominant.
Due to his lack of power Odaira isn't going to force an opponent to back off though he has got solid movement and energy. He will move and punch, make an opponent miss then punch again. Though he will never prevent a fighter from going to him.
In Yamamoto we have a man stepping up to title level for the first time, though at 22 we would expect him to be back at this level in a few years time. Unfortunately for Yamamoto his record is somewhat revealing. He won the 2012 All-Japan Rookie of the Year though since then he has done little of note and in all honesty the 2012 Rookie of the Year in the Minimumweight division was poor. In all he has gone 2-1 (1) since winning the Rookie of the Year with a stoppage loss to Hayato Yamaguchi, himself a former Japanese title challenger, and a narrow win over Kazuhiro Nakamura.
Ranked #7 by the JBC Yamamoto is going to be a clear under-dog and he's well behind a number of domestic rivals, in fact there is a massive difference between Yamamoto and #1 challenger Kosei Tanaka, who we believe will be heading straight to the OPBF title as opposed to facing the winner of this bout. The #7 ranking makes it sound like Yamamoto has a chance but we don't see it
With Odaira proven ability, notable wins and speedy trickery it's hard to see what Yamamoto brings to the table to beat Odaira. The challenger does have, on paper, a power edge though we don't see that mattering here, instead we can only see a clear and dominant win for Odaira via a wide decision as he makes the most of his speed, skills, and experience to take a clear win.
(Image courtesy of http://www.hanagata-gym.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.