This coming Friday is an interesting day in Japan with several title fights. One of those is a Japanese Flyweight title fight which will see defending champion Masayuki Kuroda (27-7-3, 15) take on Mako Matsuyama (8-12-2, 3) in what looks like an easy first defense for Kuroda, and a chance for the fans to get a fan friendly, but likely one sided, bout.
Of the two men it's fair to say that Kuroda is significantly more established fighter. He is a former Japanese Light Flyweight champion and a former Flyweight world title challenger, who has fought the likes of Shin Ono, Ryoichi Taguchi, Juan Carlos Reveco, Suguru Muranaka and Takuya Kogawa, who is now enjoying his second reign as a Japanese champion. Although a long way behind the elite Japanese fighters at 112lbs, like Kazuto Ioka and Daigo Higa, he is still avery accomplished fighter, with good speed, good skills and under-rated power.
Although talented Kuroda's career has been a rocky road in the last few years. He claimed the Japanese title at 108lbs back in May 2011 and although he made 4 defenses 2 of them were draws, and the other two were split decision wins. They were followed by a 0-2-1 run, including lossese to Reveco and Muranaka and a further set backs in 2015 to Mario Andrade and 2016 to Kogawa. Recently though he has spun off 3 wins, including a revenge win over Kogawa, and he finally seems to be recovering the form that lead to his world title bout.
Although less well known and less established Matsuyama is actually a fighter who may have caught the eye of a number of international fans, thanks to his tremendous 2014 clash in Macau against Rex Tso. That is one of a number of action bouts Matsuyama has been involved in, with others including his 2015 bouts against Yushi Tanaka and Joe Tanooka and his amazing 2016 clash with Katsunori Nagamine. Those bouts have lead to Matsuyama building a reputation for thrilling performances in losses, but the fact he has failed to score a win of real note in his almost 11 year career suggests that his role is just to be an exciting loser.
Aged 28 Matsuyama is coming into his physical peak and is backed by the powerful Watanabe gym, who have had a great 2017. He will be riding the high that the gym have and will know that he has the style to force Kuroda into a high tempo war. He'll come out firing and will almost certainly have a fight. Sadly his lack of skills and reliance on his toughness, energy and heart will not be enough to over-come Kuroda.
We're are expecting a very fun contest, but sadly for Matsuyama he will again be the exciting loser, a role that he seems to fill regularly. He'll likely be stopped in the middle rounds by Kuroda who will likely be hoping to move towards a second world title fight in 2018.
On February 9th Japanese fight fans get a title double at the Korakuen Hall, as part of a Diamond Glove card to be televised on delay on Fuji TV. The lesser of those two fights is a Japanese title fight at 140lbs, and it will see the top two ranked Japanese fighters trade blows for the currently vacant title.
The match up will see former 2-time title challenger Koichi Aso (20-7-1, 13), the #1 ranked contender, take on first time title challenger Kazuki Matsuyama (13-7-1, 7), the #2 ranked fighter.
Of the two men it's Aso who is more well known. He's been a professional since June 2006 and has shared the ring with a who's who of domestic talent. He has fought to a draw with Valentine Hosokawa, suffered loss to Taisho Ozawa, twice, Shinya Iwabuchi and Hiroki Okada, twice, and holds wins over Yusuke Kikuchi, Kazuyoshi Kumano, Yoshitaka Katabami and Moon Hyun Yun.
Although those names might not resonate globally they do feature almost every notable Japanese Light Welterweight of the last decade, barring Yoshihiro Kamegai and Aso's Misako gym stablemate mate Keita Obara.
In the ring Aso is a rough around the edges pressure fighter, who brings the heat from early on and always looks to engage in a fan friendly battle. Sometimes that has cost him, as it in the opening round against Iwabuchi, other times it's kept him competitive in fights against more talented fighters, such as in the first Okada fight. Although not the most skilled, or the biggest puncher, few will double Aso's fighting mentality and he always comes to win whilst having a style that will always excite fans.
As for Matsuyama he's been a professional for a little over 7 years and has a very mixed record. He began with back-to-back losses before stringing together 6 wins to get his career off the ground. Sadly Matsuyama had another slide as he ended that run and suffered a trio of losses, including a notable set back to Masanobu Nakazawa in 2012. The streaky fighter bounced back again, winning 6 in a row, including a win over Masayoshi Kotake. That run ended in late 2015, when he was stopped by Shuhei Tsuchiya and he has since gone 1-1-1 with a loss to Daishi Nagata and a draw with Kentaro Endo.
At his best Matsuyama is quite limited. His poor recent form, with just 1 win in his last 4, would suggest he shouldn't be getting a title fight here, and although he can spring an upset it does seem like he's getting this fight more because no one else is seen as being quite ready for a title fight at the moment.
Aso might not be a huge puncher but with his style you'd have to favour him to over-whelm and break down Matsuyama. The style of Aso will give Matsuyama chances, but we don't think Matsuyama will be good enough to make the most of the openings he will be given, and will instead be stopped in the middle 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.