Internationally the Light Flyweight division is one of the very best, with a very stacked top 8 or so and a brilliant mix of champions and challengers. In recent weeks we've had the pleasure of watching Hiroto Kyoguchi, Felix Alvarado, Kenshiro, Carlos Canizales and Edwin Soto showing what they can do, in a mix of impressive performances and exciting battles.
Below the world level the division continues to give compelling match ups at regional level and the rising crop of Japanese hopefuls in the division is amazing, with a handful of youngsters looking like future world champions. One of the few real veterans hanging around is Kenichi Horikawa (40-15-1, 13), the current Japanese Light Flyweight champion. The 56 fight veteran, now aged 39, has been a professional for more than 19 years, and is enjoying his second reign as the Japanese champion, having won the belt back in February. This coming Thursday he looks to make his third defense, as he takes on the much younger Ryuto Oho (12-5-1, 4), in what will be his first senior title fight.
The veteran has fought fought a who's who and has really managed to build a career by battling through set backs. After a career of ups and downs he won his first title in 2015, stopping Shin Ono for the belt. He lost it in his first defense, to Kenshiro, but bounced back winning the WBO Asia Pacific title in 2017 and then becoming a 2-time Japanese champion earlier this year. This will be his 13th title bout and his experience, at least at this level, cannot be doubted.
With so much experience under his belt Horikawa knows his way around the ring and inside it he's a very under-rated fighter. At heart he's a boxer-brawler, able to do either but wanting to turn bouts into brawls. A lot of his work comes from behind a good jab, he looks to back opponents up and force them into a fight. Even at 39 he has solid handspeed, good movement and an aggressive mentality with a high work rate. Technically he's not the sharpest, he's not the quickest and he lacks lights out power, but he does break fighters down and his will to win is very impressive.
Aged just 24 Oho is a relative novice. He was just 5 when Horikawa made his debut, despite his youth he has actually been around for quite a while, , debuting in late 2012. The following year he went on to win the Japanese Rookie of the Year crown, at Flyweight. His Rookie triumph was supposed to be a starting point to some solid success, but instead he went 0-2-1 in 2014 as he rise hit brick wall. He would then go 3-2 over his following 5 fights, falling from 6-0 when he won the Rookie crown to 9-4-1 (2) by the summer of 2017. Thankfully for Oho he has managed to rebuild a bit from all his set backs, winning 3 of his last 4, including the Japanese Youth Light Flyweight title last year and is actually unbeaten at 108lbs.
In the ring Oho is a smart, quick boxer-mover. He lacks in terms of power, despite scoring stoppages in 2 of his last 3, but does look very tidy in the ring and does a lot of pleasing things. Sadly Oho's lack of power isn't his only downfall and he also lacks in terms of durability and has been stopped twice in his 5 losses, albeit to heavy handed fighters like Seigo Yuri Akui and Masamichi Yabuki. He also has has a bit of a fragile, lightweight look to him, a look that doesn't bode well for a man fighting someone like Horikawa.
With Oho being the younger man, and the faster man, there will be opportunities for him, to stick and move and make Horikawa chase shadows. Sooner or later though the experience of the champion will kick in, and he will begin to grind down the challenger. When that happens we'll really see what Oho is made of. Our guess is that he comes undone under the pressure of Horikawa in the later stages, though he certainly won't go down without giving his all. He will look to do all he can to survive, before finally succumbing to the pressure of the grizzled veteran.
Prediction - Horikawa TKO10
This coming weekend is a crazy one, with 4 notable bouts involving Asian fighters taking place in the space of about 24 hours. The least interesting of those is a Japanese Light Flyweight title fight, which will pit defending champion Kenichi Horikawa (39-15-1, 13) against challenger Masashi Tada (13-5-3, 8), in what will be Horikawa's first defense, of his second reign, of the title.
The 39 year old Horikawa is an oddity in Japanese boxing. He's not only a true veteran at 39 years old but also has 55 bouts, an insane amount for a fighter in Japan, and 39 wins. He's been a professional for 19 years and despite a number of ups and downs his career really has been quite remarkable. When you think of 39 year old fighters, especially in the lower weights, you tend to think of them slowing down, having less success, and doing less, but Horikawa has bloomed in his 30's, twice claiming a national title after his 35th birthday and also claiming the WBO Asia Pacific title in the later stages of his career. It's also interesting to note the competition that Horikawa has faced during his career, sharing the ring with Akira Yaegashi, Florante Condes, Edgar Sosa, Tetsuya Hisada, 3 times in fact, Ryuji Hara, Noknoi Sitthiprasert, Yu Kimura, Shin Ono and Kenshiro. He's a veteran, but he's a veteran who has shared the ring with a true who's who.
Horikawa is a true battler. He's not the most skilled or smooth fighter, but he's aggressive, exciting, full of energy and really does know how to fight. He's crude, and could even be described as having a style that's a bit agricultural, but he does have some under-rated technical ability and speed. Horikawa looks to box his way inside, he looks to use his jab and footwork to get close, and that's usually where he works best with his hooks. He's crafty as well, and although he's had points deducted for it in the past, he knows how to use his head and how to wrestle on the inside.
Tada is no spring chicken himself, and turns 30 just days before the fight, but he doesn't have the miles that Horikawa has. In fact he only has 21 bouts to his name, with 101 rounds. He's been a professional for just over 10 years, and unlike Horikawa hasn't really made a name for himself. He's only had 1 previous title fight, losing in a Japanese Minimumweight title fight to Go Odaira way back in 2014. He followed that loss with a 3 year break, before going 2-1-2 since returning, including an opening round blow out loss to Masamichi Yabuki in late 2017. Not exactly the form of a title challenger.
Footage of Tada is relatively hard to come by, though thankfully we have his full bout with Kenji Ono from just over a year ago. The bout ended in a draw and, if we're being honest, neither man really shone. Ono seemed to still be feeling the effects from tough bouts with Jun Takigawa, Seigo Yuri Akui and Hanto Tsukada, and would lose his next bout after facing Tada. Tadda on the other hand seemed cautious, fighting with a reserved style, not wanting to take damage or risks. Tada was dragged into a war up close later in the bout, as Ono began to close the distance, and Tada struggled to really respond. It was those later rounds against Ono that probably give us the best sign of his this fight with Horikwa will go.
Horikawa will press, he will get close, he will work the hooks in the pocket, he will wrestle and he will throw a lot of leather. That leather will be thrown with bad intent and Horikawa will be giving Tada a real challenge, throwing down the gauntlet to fight. We think Tada will try to fight fire with fire, but will come up short, and will be out worked through out, with his toughness being relied up in the later stage, before he finally wilts.
Prediction TKO9 Horikawa
The Light Flyweight division is one of the most interesting, with so many amazing fighters at the top of the division. It's perhaps not got the huge amounts of attention of some other divisions, but it is a brilliant weight class, for us the best in the sport right now.
At the end of 2018 Tetsuya Hisada vacated the Japanese title, to pursue a world title fight, and is expected to face Carlos Canizales later this year. With Hisada vacating, rather than face mandatory challenger Kenichi Horikawa (38-15-1, 12), we'll see Horikawa battle against Satoru Todaka (9-2-4, 3) to crown a new champion, with that bout taking place on February 14th at the Korakuen Hall.
Horikawa earned his shot by winning an eliminator back in October, stopping Koji Itagaki. On paper that win over Itagaki had set up a 4th clash with Hisada, before Hisada chose to vacate and chase a world title fight, giving Horikawa a shot at the vacant title. The 38 year old Horikawa, who debuted way back in 2000, is a true veteran of the ring with 54 fights. Despite suffering 15 losses in his 54 bouts Horikawa has truly fought a who's who, including Akira Yaegashi, Florante Condes, Edgar Sosa, Ryuji Hara, Noknoi CP Freshmart, Yu Kimura, Shin Ono, Kenshiro and the aforementioned Hisada. He typically comes up short against the top tier fighters, but did stop Shin Ono, holds 2 wins over Hisada and gave hell to Kimura and Kenshiro.
Despite being 38 Horikawa has a really good energy and work rate. He comes forward a lot, uses decent upper body movement to apply pressure and looks to force a fight. Despite being an offensively minded fighter Horikawa is smart with his pressure and limits his output at times, trying to draw mistakes and get inside. His jab and hook are not what they once were in terms of speed, but he does have good timing and does enjoy having a fight. If, or when, he gets inside he can make things violent and rough, and that's when he's at his best, picking up the work rate and grinding people down.
Todaka is a bit more of an unknown. The 29 year old made his debut back in 2014, losing to Yukiya Hanabusa, and hasn't really scored any wins of note. What he has done however is proven very tricky to beat, with only Hikaru Ota stopping Todaka. The loss to Ota actually tells us quite a lot about Todaka, who has adjusted his style since that defeat. Against Ota we saw Totaka get into a war, standing and trading and looking to go blow for blow with a pretty underrated fighter. Those blows resulted in a nasty cut that forced the doctor to stop the bout.
Although Todaka's style has changed slightly he is still, for all intents, an aggressive fighter, who comes forward and throws a pretty decent volume of shots. He's not particularly heavy handed, quick or accurate, but he's aggressive, looks strong and pressures opponents on to the back fighter behind his guard and footwork.
Sadly for Todaka it looks like his style is made to order for Horikawa, who very much a better version of Todaka. Both press the action both enjoy a war up close and both let their hands in range. Sadly for Todaka we can't see how he wins a war with Horikawa, who hits harder, is more experienced in that type of bout and physically stronger. If Todaka can instead use his younger legs, move in and out more and not try to march Horikawa down he has a chance, but the reality is that we see Todaka fighting Horikawa's fight, and losing.
If we're right it would see Horikawa become a 2-time national champion, and potentially put himself in the mix for a bigger bout down the line. If Todaka can however shock us, he'll have a number of domestic fighters snapping at his heels for a title shot later in the year, such as Ryuto Oho or Taku Kuwahara.
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.