By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
Top lightweight contenders collide on July 19 as longtime OPBF champion Masayoshi Nakatani meets Honduran-American knockout artist Teofimo Lopez, in an IBF Lightweight World title eliminator.
Masayoshi Nakatani (18-0 / 12 KOs), after a successful amateur career, made his debut in 2011, at the age of 21, winning 6 fights in a row (5 stoppages), including a victory over future Japanese champion Shuhei Tsuchiya. Nakatani punished the veteran (Tsuchiya was 14-1 at the time) with left hooks and body blows to get the KO win, in just the third round.
In 2014, he went toe to toe with former Japanese and the then reigning OPBF champion, Yoshitaka Kato (30-8), for the strap. Despite again being the less experienced of the two, Nakatani took the champion to his limit for 12 rounds, earning a majority decision, thus winning the championship and the East Japan Boxing Association Monthly MVP Award.
Since then, Nakatani has defended his title 11 times, including wins over Ricky Sismundo (35-13), Thai heavy hitters Amphol Suriyo (23-4) and Krai Setthaphon (28-4) as well as former WBC Asia & IBF Pan Pacific champion Tosho Makoto Aoki (20-14), placing himself at the top of the division.
His most recent one was in December of 2018, against 15 year pro & the WBC International champion Hurricane Futa (25-8), who came out aggressively from the beginning of the match, dictating the pace early on. Eventually though, Nakatani utilized his reach advantage to pepper Futa with jabs, following them up with some fast hooks, which cut Futa’s left eyebrow, leading to the referee stoppage.
Nakatani is finally one breath away from competing for the World championship, but in order to do so, he has to go through a seriously tough opponent first.
Teofimo Lopez (13-0 / 11 KOs) has made quite an impact in the boxing scene rather fast, considering his young age. The 2015 Golden Gloves champion has finished 7 out of his 9 first pro fights, in impressive fashion.
He won his 1st championship last July when he faced William Silva (27-2) for the vacant WBC Continental Americas title. Lopez scored 3 knockdowns throughout the match, all courtesy of his powerful left hook. In December of the same year, he took out Mason Menard (35-4), stopping him in less than a minute, with a thunderous overhand right, to add the USBA, NABF & NABA titles to his collection.
2019 has already been a serious step up in competition for the undefeated prospect. On February 2nd, he defended his belts against 2 time world title challenger Diego Magdaleno (31-3). Lopez looked like the real veteran of the two, with his rival barely doing any damage, while he had him in trouble from the get go. By round 4, Magdaleno’s nose seemed to have been broken. El Brooklyn kept the pressure on, connecting with a few perfectly placed uppercuts as well. Lopez finally dropped him in the 6th with a nice right hook to the body/left to the face combination and sealed the deal in the next round, after landing two consecutive devastating left hooks.
Just 2 months later, Lopez fought again, this time against Edis Tatli (31-3). A former EBU European champion and also a world title contender, Tatli had never been stopped before in his entire career. That was about to change as Lopez “bullied” him around the ring, leaving him almost no room for an offense of his own. The end came in the 5th after a straight right to the body, which put the Finnish boxer down for the count.
Despite only being 21, Lopez has proven that he deserves to be considered amongst the most dangerous guys of the division. With dynamite in both of his hands and an 85% KO ratio, it’s no secret that he’s always looking for that knockout. Needless to say that Nakatani will need to dig deep into his bag of tricks, if he is to emerge victorious. The Japanese star’s agility and fast combinations have been the key factors to his success. Nakatani likes to use body shots and jabs in order to create openings and then strike with the hook. His long reach might have given him the edge in all of his previous encounters, but it will be a non issue here, since Magdaleno had the same reach and still got manhandled by Lopez. With a 9 year age difference, El Brooklyn is undoubtedly the younger, faster, stronger boxer and it’s almost guaranteed to give Nakatani his first loss as a pro.
On March 30th we'll see an IBF Welterweight title eliminator take place in the US featuring two Asian fighters, with unbeaten Uzbek Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (15-0, 9) taking on Japanese puncher Keita Obara (20-3-1, 18). On paper this is a mouth watering match up, and we're genuinely excited to see the two men clashing.
Of the two men the more naturally talented boxer, by far, is the 25 year old Abdukakhorov. He's a fantastic boxer with good clean punching, a good work rate, lovely accuracy and ring craft. There is a lack of real power, despite a very notable stoppage win over Charles Manyuchi, but he hits solidly with every punch and fighters will certainly his shots even if they aren't concussive blows.
The Uzbek was a solid amateur before turning professional in 2015. His first few fights were at home in Uzbekistan but before long he had began fighting through Asia with bouts in Malaysia and Singapore. It was those bouts that really saw him building his reputation, scoring solid wins over Larry Siwu, Adones Cabalquinto and the aforementioned Manyuchi. As well as those wins he has also travelled to Russia, where he clearly out pointed Dmitry Mikhaylenko, in what is arguably his most impressive win to date. For the most part it's been his sharp technical boxing which has won him fights, and allowed him to become a top, if often over-looked, contender.
Whilst the Uzbek is the better boxer Obara is the bigger puncher, by far. In fact the Tokyo based 32 year old is one of the best pure punchers in Asia. Sadly he's a bit of a glass cannon and all 3 of his losses have come by stoppage. Whilst his first loss, on debut against Kazuyoshi Kumano, was down to stamina and pacing, subsequent losses to Eduard Troyanovsky and Alvin Lagumbay were KO losses and spectacular ones at that. We're not going to suggest he has no chin, but it does seem like he doesn't react well when caught cleanly.
Whilst Obara does have a questionable chin he is a solid boxer-puncher and clearly will know that another loss will be the end of his world title dreams. He can't afford another set back, he will be fully focused and sometimes that's not the best thing. That can cause extra tension and take a fighter out of their natural gameplan. We don't think that'll be the case here, it's a still possible.
What we're expecting here is a tactical contest, with Abdukakhorov looking to get in and out, controlling the tempo and distance, making the most of his footwork, his jab and his boxing brain. He'll be wanting to set the higher pace and stop Obara from getting behind his jab. Although not as good a boxer, Obara's skills shouldn't be under-rated and he can box to a high level, so the Uzbek will want to be the one setting the pace, and not let Obara get relaxed.
We suspect that Abdukakhorov will set a high pace and will outbox Obara, but will have some hairy moments along the way, when he does get caught, does feel the power of Obara and does get forced to retreat and recover. The Uzbek might get staggered, or even dropped, but we does feel he'll do more than enough to take home the win, by decision and move onto a world title fight later in the year.
On February 18th we'll see an IBF Light Welterweight world title eliminator, as Japan's insanely tough Akihiro Kondo (31-7-1, 18) takes on rising Thai hopeful Downua Ruawaiking (14-0, 11), also known as Apinun Khongsong. The bout, will take place at the Korakuen Hall as the headline bout of an "A-Sign Bee" show, and promises a lot.
Kondo is best known outside of Japan for one bout, his 2017 contest with Sergey Lipinets for the IBF title. That bout saw Kondo take Lipinets the distance, and surprisingly actually fight pretty evenly with the Kazakh born American based Russian. What fans perhaps weren't aware of is that before that bout Kondo was a notable name on the Japanese scene, having debuted back in 2006. He had won the 2007 Rookie of the Year at Lightweight, claimed the Japanese Lightweight in 2009 and had been a featuring in the national title scene until 2013. He then had a short retirement before bouncing back and rebuilding his career to the point where he won the WBO Asia Pacific Light Welterweight title and earned an IBF title fight.
Against Lipinets we saw Kondo prove his was tough, had good stamina and under-rated boxing skills. He took solid blows from Lipinets and never looked hurt, whilst managing to put pressure on to the highly fancied Lipinets. That toughness is something we've seen right through his career, a career that has had ups and downs but certainly appears to have contributed to a solid fighter. In the ring Kondo is consistent, he's someone who will typically fight at a good pace, and will pressure through out, mixing up the pressure with intelligent punching. Although not a puncher he's gone 7-1 (7) in his last 8, and has certainly developed more belief in his power in recent years.
At the age of 22 Downua looks like he is one of the next rising stars of the Thai scene. He made his debut in June 2016 and moved his way up the regional scene, beating Heri Andriyanto in December 2016 Adam Diu Abdulhamid in August 2017 and most recently Sonny Katiandagho in December 2018. Although still a relative novice in professional boxing it's clear he's a very talented fighter, with heavy hands and impressive composure, having taken almost invited pressure from Katiandagho so that he could counter. He looks a more natural fighter than someone like Teerachai Kratingdaenggym, but this is by far his biggest test.
Although fighting at 140lbs Downua looks a big fight. He's not far off being 6' tall and has a long reach, which likely helps him generate his power. He's a blunt puncher with heavy hands, but a sharp puncher, with scything shots that catch opponents clean. He's also a relaxed looking fighter, with nice movement, under-rated speed and real accuracy. He's the sort of fighter you would see typically Thai team padding the record of, letting him develop slowly and building a good record, but for some reason he's being taken a different direction, potentially from a team that has learned that fighters can regress with too many mismatches. Saying that there are mistakes, especially when it comes to his defense and the way he drops his hands, but it seems likely that as he takes on better competition those mistakes will be tidied up, and against Kondo we expect him to be fighting smartly.
The big question here is whether the bout is coming too soon for Downua. At the age of 22 he is still a boxing baby and has only had 14 fights, accounting for 55 rounds. If Downua has got the stamina for 12 rounds, can keep his fluidity and speed through out then he has a real chance to upset the Japanese veteran. The reality however isn't that simple and we suspect the experience and determination of Kondo will prove to be too much, at this early stage, for the Thai.
We're predicting a late stoppage win for Kondo, perhaps even whilst he's down on the cards.
One of the best looking bouts in February is set for February 16th and will see former world champion Ryosuke Iwasa (25-3, 16) take on Mexican brawler Cesar Juarez (23-6, 17) in what is a must win for both men. The bout, an IBF Super Bantamweight world title eliminator, will be Iwasa's first bout since losing the IBF title last year to TJ Doheny whilst Juarez will be looking to score his 4th win since losing to Isaac Dogboe in January 2018.
The 29 year old Iwasa was tipped as one to watch from the moment he turned professional, back in August 2008. He raced towards a title fight and less than 3 after his debut he fought for the Japanese Bantamweight title, losing in the 10th round to Shinsuke Yamanaka. He would win the title 8 months later, beating Jerope Mercado for the then vacant title. He would defend that belt until winning the OPFB Bantamweight title and moving onto a world fight. Sadly for Iwasa he would lose in his first world title fight, being stopped in 6 rounds by Lee Haskins. That loss saw Iwasa move up in weight and in 2017 he claimed the IBF Super Bantamweight title in impressive fashion, stopping Yukinori Oguni in 6 rounds.
Holding a title usually brings out the best in a fighter, but that wasn't the case for Iwasa, who defended the belt once, in a poor performance against Ernesto Saulong, before losing the title to Doheny in August 2018.
At his best Iwasa is a hard hitting boxer-puncher, with a venomous straight left hand. Sadly however he is one paced, inconsistent and really struggles with fellow southpaws, with all 3 of his losses coming against other lefties. We've rarely seen Iwasa at his best, and that's a shame. He's also lacking in terms of speed and rarely shows full intensity in the ring. Whe things click however he is fantastic and we'd love to see more of Iwasa at his best.
Aged 27 Juarez is a Mexican warrior who should be in his physical prime. Sadly however he has had a very hard career and he may well be on the slide just a touch earlier than he should be. He won 12 of his first 13, 11 by stoppage, with his sole early defeat being a disqualification to Edgar Lozano. A close loss to Hugo Partida hardly slowed him down and in 2015 he would score back to back wins over Cesar Seda and Juan Carlos Sanchez to earn a shot at the vacant WBO Super Bantamweight title. At the time only in Mexico knew who Juarez was but his title fight, against Nonito Donaire, opened the boxing world to the stubborn, aggressive, tough and rugged Juarez. The Mexican was dropped twice in round 4, but went on to push Donaire all the way in what ended up being a really tough test for the Filipino.
The loss to Donaire was followed by a surprise decision loss to Giovanni Delgado before he strung together 3 notable wins over Filipino fighters, including an 8th round KO over Albert Pagara and a thrilling decision win over Richard Pumicpic. That winning run lead to a fight with Isaac Dogboe, who stopped Juarez in 5 rounds, and since then he has scored 3 wins.
In the ring Juarez is a rugged, heavy handed, come forward fighter. He's not the most highly skilled, or physically imposing, but he is an exciting and aggressive fighter, who really does take a great shot and has real grit. He also seems to get stronger in the later rounds of the fight, which is a worry for most fighters, as Donaire found out.
If Iwasa can put it on, fight to his best, and make the most of his damaging left hand, he can win this, and make a success US debut. He is however 0-1 outside of Japan, and 1-1 outside of Tokyo, and will be coming into this after 6 months away and with question marks about whether he even wants to box any more. Juarez's style is a nightmare for a puncher, unless they can really take him out. Sadly for Iwasa we actually see Juarez being in his face, crushing the distance and breaking him down up close.
We'd love to see Iwasa win and earn another world title fight, but we see this as an horrific style match up for Iwasa, who will need to land, and land hard, when Juarez comes in. It's not impossible for Iwasa to take the victory, but it will be a very big ask of the Japanese fighter, who should be considered the under-dog here.
On November 10th the Korakuen Hall plays host to an IBF Super Flyweight world title eliminator. The men involved are Japanese veteran Ryuichi Funai (30-7, 21) and Mexican youngster Victor Emanuel Olivo (15-2-1, 7), with the reward for the winner being a potential shot at Jerwin Ancajas in 2019. For Funai the bout is a must win, given he's 33 and he doesn't have time to rebuild his career, whilst Olivo will be looking to put himself on the map at the age of 22.
The Japanese fighter, from the Watanabe gym, has been a professional since 2005 and has carved out a really respectable career, especially when you consider he was 202 after 4 professional contests. In 2012 he got his first shot at a title, but was stopped in 9 rounds by the then OPBF Bantamweight champion Rolly Lunas. That loss to Lunas saw a then 27 year old Funai fall to 17-6 (11) but since then he has gone an impressive 14-1 (10) with his only loss being a razor thin one to Sho Ishida, in a Japanese Super Flyweight title bout.
Although Funai had lost in his first couple of title bouts he has since claimed the Japanese national title, winning that last year from childhood friend Kenta Nakagawa, and the WBO Asia Pacific title, which he won this year by stopping Warlito Parrenas. Since going 0-2 in title bouts Funai has since 4-0 (3) and has edged his way towards a world title fight. Another win when he faces Olivo will secure him that shot and open up the door for a career defining contest.
In the ring Funai is an accomplished boxer-puncher, who has lovely variety in his shots, boxes well behind a solid jab to control the distance. Although not a pure puncher Funai does have very respectable power in his right hand, and not many fighters will be wanting to eat his straight right, with is very straight and very hurtful.
The 22 year old Olivo made his debut at the age of 17 on the Mexican domestic scene. He would win his first 9 bouts, including a good domestic win over Jonathan Sanchez Cantu, before suffering a narrow loss to Milan Melindo in November 2015. Since then Olivo hasn't really faced anyone of any note, whilst going 6-1-1 (3). His sole loss during that time was a narrow decision loss to Jose Briegel Quirino whilst he would fight to a draw with Angel Aviles. Sadly there is little else to comment on from his record, and it's a real mystery as to why the IBF have him in their top 15 ranked fighters.
We've not been able to see much of Olivo, as footage of the Mexican is scarce. What we have seen however is that he's a very capable fighter with the ability to counter punch, as he did brilliantly at times against Melindo, and has the ability to pick up the pace as well. Sadly for him he does look to be a light puncher and it seems like he's also very under-sized for a Super Flyweight, having been no bigger than Melindo, a natural Light Flyweight.
We suspect the size difference could be a key difference here, and whilst we expect Olivo to have success, especially with his counters, we think Funai's size, strength and power will be the key to him taking home the victory and setting up a 2019 clash for the IBF title. If Olivo does manage to score the upset then he'll certainly have his best career win, and would make a bigger statement with a win here than his previous 15 combined. For Funai however a win here wouldn't actually be his most impressive, despite being among his most significant.
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.