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.
Over the last few years the Bantamweight division has been a division with many top fighters coming from the East. Among those are current world champions Shinsuke Yamanaka, the WBC champion, and Tomoki Kameda, the current WBO champion. Another world class Japanese Bantamweight is Ryosuke Iwasa (18-1, 11) who will be looking to take a major step towards an IBF title fight later this week.
“Eagle Eye” Iwasa is one of Japanese boxing's most promising fighters and he has shown an ability to do it all, even if he's yet to step up to the top table. To get to the top Iwasa's will need to win an eliminator and take next step. To do that we will see him battling against American fighter Sergio Perales (24-2, 16) in an all southpaw eliminator.
Aged 25 and blessed with boxing ability, power, an understanding of the ring and a battle hardened mentality Iwasa is one of the next wave of Japanese fighters looking to rise to the top. His 19 fight career might not seem like a long one but it's already seen him in with with several notable fighters. The most notable of those was Shinsuke Yamanaka, with Yamanaka stopping the then fast rising Iwasa in the 10th round of a thriller for the Japanese Bantamweight title.
Since the loss to Yamanaka we've seen Iwasa re-establish himself and claim both the Japanese title and the OPBF title. Among his wins have been a stoppage of Kentaro Masuda, to defend the Japanese title, a shut out of David De La Mora, to show he belonged at the world level, and a stoppage of Hiroki Shiino, to claim the OPBF Bantamweight title.
Unlike many fighters Iwasa hasn't taken his loss and shown fear, instead the loss has driven him with desire. That desire has lead him to 10 straight wins, and made him hungrier than ever to reach the top. In his way is American 27 year old Perales, a man dubbed “Time to Shine”.
Perales has been a professional since 2007 though unlike Iwasa he has had a generally easy career with a lot of his wins coming against very limited and questionable opposition. Although a lot of his wins have been against poor opponents he has faced 2 or 3 notable opponents. One of those was a well beyond prime Lorenzo Trejo, best known for his exploits at Minimumweight as opposed to Bantamweight. Another was Stuart Hall, who Perales ran very close in an IBF minor title bout just 7 months before Hall won the IBF world title. His best win however came last time out against former 2-time IBF Super Flyweight title challenger Raul Martinez. On paper the Martinez win is his best, by some margin, though in reality Martinez wasn't as good as advertised and he has lost 2 of his previous 4, and 3 of his previous 9.
Against Hall it did seem like Perales was a talented fighter. He was sharp with his straight left, had a rhythm destroying destroying jab and intelligent movement with a lot of half steps that allowed him to draw in Hall and counter. In was a good performance however it showed Hall's limitations as much as Perales's strengths and Hall's slow feet allowed Perales to look good, despite the loss.
Whilst neither man has fought a slew of southpaws it's fair to say Iwasa is more proven against them, having gone 10 rounds with the best left in the division, if not one of the best in the world and also sparring with world ranked fighters Shingo Wake and Shohei Omori. We suspect that will be one of the deciding factors. Iwasa's experience with Yamanaka, the home advantage of fighting in Japan and his more testing opposition should all help the talented Japanese fighter find a way to over-come his American foe. We know Perales isn't travelling to lose however he is up against a very talented Japanese fighter who we have been impressed by a lot in the past and view as a nailed on future world champion
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
It wasn't long ago that the IBF and Japanese boxing had no real connection. If you wanted to be a Japanese fighter with an IBF title you had to be a renegade, you had to cast aside your JBC license and do it on the road, like Katsunari Takayama did. Now a days however the JBC do recognise the IBF and it seems that Japanese fighters have began a growing trend towards the IBF titles with fighters like Hozumi Hasegawa and Kazuto Ioka both set to fight for IBF titles in coming weeks.
Whilst Ioka and Hasegawa have both got their fights lined up another Japanese fighter, Kohei Oba (35-2-1, 14) hasn't yet managed to get his. Instead Oba will be fighting for the right to fight for the IBF Bantamweight title on April 4th as he battles in an IBF eliminator in the first big first in April.
Oba, a former 2-time Japanese Bantamweight champion and former 2-time OPBF title challenger, will be in his highest profile bout as he battles unbeaten Nicaraguan-American Randy Caballero (20-0, 12), a former US amateur champion.
For Oba this clearly the biggest fight of his career though the same too could be said for Caballero who despite showing a lot of early promise hasn't yet taken that next step, the step he'll be taking here in his first bout outside of the US.
For those who don't know much about Oba he's a 29 year old who has been a professional since 2002 and his three set backs have all come at the OPBF level. These have included a draw and a decision loss to Malcolm Tunacao and a stoppage loss to Rolly Matsushita/Rolly Lunas.
Although dubbed the "Nagoya Mayweather" Oba doesn't really look all that much like Mayweather in the ring. He's talented and skilled but posses none of those exceptional traits that Mayweather has, such as his lightning speed, cat like reflexes or once in a generation boxing brain. Instead he's just a very good counter puncher who likes to load up on his right uppercuts up top and his left hooks to the body. Unfortunately though Oba puts a lot into his work and he doesn't appear to be a big puncher. As a result his style is pretty draining and he could find himself drag into a battle of attrition at times especially when he's forced to lead.
In Caballero we have a 23 year old who was, early in his career, ear marked as a potential Golden Boy Promotions star in the making. Unfortunately for the youngster he's not risen as expected and now, 4 years on from his debut, he's being sent over to Japan rather than having Golden Boy's financial backing to bring the fight to the US. As we all know home advantage can be a big factor in fights and a fight like this could see home field playing a major role in the outcome.
Caballero is a lot Oba. Both have a good high guard when they need to use it, both look to dig to the body though Caballero is probably the quicker man with slightly more crispness on his shots though he is unproven near the level that Oba has been fighting. Sure Oba has come away with out a win in his 3 biggest contests but he does have the better wins, such as a decision over Nobuto Ikehara.
What we're expecting is a tactical encounter early on with both men looking to prove their speed and power over the other. On speed it'll be Caballero who marginally comes out on top but on poser we're expecting it to be pretty even, despite the relative KO % of the two men, and this will likely see neither man having the single punch power to bother the other. As a result we're expecting to see both men happy to take a risk or two and a really fun fight to break out with both throwing plenty.
With Caballero being the away fighter we expect him to know that he needs to fight at a higher gear than usual. This will likely bring out the best in Oba, who is a huge fan favourite in Kobe, and could see both men putting it on the line in a very close and competitive affair. With the home advantage though we do need to favour Oba who we think will just come out on top with the decision and should, in theory, get a world title fight with Stuart Hall later this year. Hall is clearly the weakest of the Bantamweight champions and we'd favour the winner of this bout to beat Hall.
Of course when the other champions at Bantamweight are Shinsuke Yamanaka, Anselmo Moreno and Tomoki Kameda it does make a lot of sense to target Hall. Whether you like the 4 title system or not you can't really blame the fighters for looking for an easy route to a belt, especially when you look at the champions in a division like the Bantamweight division where two of the top fighters are arguably on the fringes of the top 10 pound-for-pound fighters on the planet.
(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.