They often say that winning a title brings a fighter up to a new level, with the fighter showing a new hunger to go further and claim more gold. A taste of silverware never being enough to fully satisfy anyone in sport and the hunger grows. Sadly though it seems like the Japanese Super Featherweight champion Kenichi Ogawa (21-1, 16) [尾川 堅一] has hit a bit of a wall since winning the title, and instead of progressing and building to the next level he has struggled and faltered past opponents he was expected to defeat. This coming Saturday Ogawa looks to return to his best as he defends his belt against 33 year old veteran Hirotsugu Yamamoto (20-13-3, 4) [山元 浩嗣], with the champion seeking his 5th defense.
In the ring Ogawa has shown real touches of being a world class fighter. He has spiteful power, good boxing and and the ability to really go along way. There are holes in his game, and he's not the most natural boxer or the quickest fighter, but he's a brute of a puncher, and sometimes that's more than enough to make a name for yourself.
On his rise to the title Ogawa went 15-1 (13), avenging his only loss which came to Yuki Miyoshi in 2012, and stopping good opponents like Ribo Takahata, Raymond Sermona and Deivi Julio Bassa. He would then win the title by bullying the then unbeaten Rikki Naito on route to a 5th round Technical Decision. That should have been the start of a huge rise by Ogawa but instead he has struggled to shine, scoring late stoppages against Satoru Sugita and Kento Matsushita in bouts where here looked like a weak champion and then taking ultra close decisions against Rikki Naito and Satoru Sugita in rematches.
Since winning the title it has looked like the hunger has left Ogawa a bit. It looks like he has accomplished what he's wanted and that he's happy to remain fighting at the top of the domestic tree. It's a shame, but it does look like he has taken a step backwards, and if he can't find the hunger he had on his way up the title may well slip away in a bout that he's expected to win. The firepower might not be enough to bail him out late, and he may well find himself pushed down the pecking order if he does suffer another defeat.
Aged 33 Yamamoto has been a professional for almost 12 years and has, if we're being honest, gotten this fight as a reward for his hard work in Japanese boxing rather than as about earned on merit and results. In fact in terms of results he has gone 6-8-1 in his last 15 bouts dating back more than 5 years. Not only has has been losing more than winning recently but he has been doing so to domestic foes such as Satoshi Hosono, Hitoshi Ichiba, Dai Iwai, Yuhei Suzuki, Tsukasa Saito and Tsuyoshi Tojo, as well as international fighters like Juan Martin Elorde and Jhonny Gonzalez.
Whilst he is better than his record suggests, and has a number of very closes losses including the one to Tojo and one to Elorde, he has also suffered 7 stoppage losses and hasn't shown the best of durability, with Gonzalez stopping him in a round last September. That will likely prove to be his problem here. He can box well, but soon or later he will be caught by Ogawa, even a rather lacklustre Ogawa.
We suspect that Yamamoto will have success, at times, but sooner or later Ogawa will take him out, with the eventual stoppage covering over the cracks we've already spoken about. It may well be that a good win here could kick start Ogawa's rise to a world title, and be the confidence builder he needs, but we can't help but think his real hunger is gone and that a win here won't actually help him push on.
The 2017 Champion Carnival has a number of rematches taking place. The first of those was in February, when Yusaku Kuga stopped Yasutaka Ishimoto in 2 rounds and announced himself as a serious threat, the second will take place on March 2nd when we see Ishimoto's stable mate Kenichi Ogawa (20-1, 16) defends his Japanese Super Featherweight title against Satoru Sugita (12-3-1, 7). The two fought last year, with Ogawa recording a 9th round KO win against Sugita, but failing to really shine, with Sugita making the champion look clumsy and awkward.
Since their first bout Ogawa has again failed to really shine. He's defended the title twice since beating Sugita but those defenses were a very late stoppage win against against Kento Matsushita, in what was a very close bout, and a narrow decision win over Rikki Naito. Neither of those bouts showed that Ogawa could become a world champion, and perhaps they both showed that Ogawa is actually on the slide.
At his best the 29 year old Ogawa is a solid boxer-puncher. He's not the quickest but he can move, he can box and he can certainly punch, and he has also shown he carries his power late, with 10th round stoppages over Matsushita and Deivi Julio Bassa. Those stoppages have been part of a 12 fight unbeaten run from Ogawa, who scored 10 stoppages in those 12 bouts. Unfortunately his flaws have become more apparent in recent bouts and he does leave openings opponents to counter, his punchers are relatively slow and he's not the quickest on his feet, giving opponents a lot of chances to get him out of position.
For Ogawa the bout could be his final stepping stone before a potential world, or OPBF, title fight but he will need to impress here. Just winning won't be enough and hopefully that sort of potential reward will get the best out of the champion.
Sugita has been frustrating inactive since losing to Ogawa last April, with just a single bout since then. That sole contest saw Sugita claim an 8 round decision win over Tsuyoshi Tojo to earn himself a second title fight. In the ring Sugita is a well school boxer, more technically able than Ogawa, but he's lacking in terms of big wins and his notable victory to date is a split decision over Ryota Kajiki. That win is over-shadowed however by losses to Ryuto Kyoguchi and Kosuke Saka, which sort of suggest that Sugita is only in the middle of the domestic mix, as opposed to being one of the top domestic fighters in the division.
With good skills Sugita's major problems aren't actually his abilities. Instead he has serious question marks about his durability, with 2 stoppage loses, his work rate and his stamina. To date he has never never completed a 10 round, and has only gone 8 or more rounds 4 times, winning 3 of those bouts including 2 split decisions. It's fair to say that whilst he can box he has shown his flaws and those flaws will likely be openings for Ogawa, who will try to make Sugita work at a high pace and take advantage of his lacking durability.
Although Ogawa hasn't looked great recently it's hard to see him losing here, in fact we're expecting the champion to see off Sugita in the middle rounds, and really look like a totally different fighter to the one who struggled with Sugita 11 months ago. Sugita will show up some of Ogawa's flaws, again, but in the end the power and physicality of Ogawa will be too much for the challenger.
The Super Featherweight division is one of the most interesting in Japanese boxing right now with world class fighters, like former world champions Takashi Uchiyama and Takashi Miura, along with contenders like Masayuki Ito and Daiki Kaneko. The depth in the country is huge, and varied with rising prospect Takuya Uehara looking to make a mark in the division in the years to come.
The next major Super Featherweight bout to feature Japanese fighters will take place this coming Saturday and see Japanese national champion Kenichi Ogawa (19-1, 16) take on former champion Rikki Naito (15-1, 5), in a rematch of the bout that saw Ogawa originally winning the title back in 2015.
When the two men first met Ogawa dropped Naito before securing a 5th round technical decision. That saw Naito suffer his first loss, ending a 13 fight winning streak, and saw Ogawa score an 8th straight win as he began to surge. Sadly though neither man has looked particularly good since that bout.
Ogawa, a boxer-puncher, has twice defended his title but looked poor in wins over Satoru Sugita and Kento Matsushito. He stopped both of those men in the later rounds but showed limited boxing ability and left some to wonder whether he had peaked and was now on the downside of his career. As for Naito, a speedy boxer, he has won two bouts at Lightweight, though was very fortunate against Filipino domestic fighter Argie Toquero.
At his best Ogawa is a heavy handed boxer who is strong, powerful and can steam roll opponents. Sadly we've not seen that Ogawa recently, instead we've seen Ogawa the boxer, who is a limited fighter who is very lucky to have extremely heavy hands. When he boxes he looks like a fighter who is caught between thoughts and can easily be outboxed, as Sugita did despite the judges not agreeing.
Naito on the other hand is a really solid boxer, but one who lacks power to get the respect of his opponents and has struggled against every decent fighter he has faced. That's included a tough struggle with Shingo Eto, controversial wins over Masayuki Ito and Nihito Arakawa and a loss to Ogawa. When he uses his speed he is talented, but there is question marks now about his toughness, his power and his confidence.
Whilst Ogawa can be out boxed we can't help but think he bullies Naito again here to retain his title and record his third defense. A second loss for Naito will likely end his dreams of becoming a world champion, and that sort of issue could get the best out of him here, however we still can't see him holding his own with Ogawa and the Teiken fighter's physicality and power.
Last year we saw several fighters break out. One of those was Super Featherweight slugger Kenichi Ogawa (18-1, 15) who racked up 4 wins last year, 3 by stoppage, and claimed the Japanese title. Prior to last year Ogawa was a relative unknown, best known for winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2011, but by the end of the year he was a national champion and a world ranked fighter.
This coming Saturday we see Ogawa return to the ring to face his second challenger, veteran Kento Matsushita (34-9-7, 13), who has also fought under the name Kyohei Tamakoshi, and it's fair to say that the champion will be hoping for a better performance than he had last time out.
The 28 year old champion claimed his title last December, when he claimed a technical decision win over the previously unbeaten Rikki Naito. That was the break out win that Ogawa's team likely needed from him. Earlier this year he defended the title with a 9th round KO win against Satoru Sugita, however despite the win the champion looked less than great and seemed to be out boxed for swathes of the bout by Sugita.
At his best Ogawa is a big puncher who boxes on the move and has under-rated boxing ability. At his worst, and we think we saw his worst last time out, he's a crude and slow fighter who can't fight up close and can't adapt as a fight goes on.
Physically Ogawa is strong, powerful, fast and is improving. He's currently on a 10 fight winning run, he's avenged his sole loss, and has stopped 9 of his last 10 foes. His one loss, more than 4 years ago, was a major learning experience and since then he really has improved.
Aged 35 the challenger has been around the scene for a long time, debuting way back in 1999. His career has been up and down but he's become a staple of the Japanese rankings in recent years, despite once being 6-4-3 (4). His career turn around, of 28-5-4 has been genuinely impressive and has seen him mix with various notable names including Daiko Kaneko, Rikki Naito, Masaaki Serie and Wethya Sakmuangklang.
Matsushita's first title fight came in 2004, when he faced Yoshikane Nakajima for the Japanese Super Bantamweight title, that ended in a technical draw. Since then he has fought for the OPBF Super Bantamweight title, Japanese Super Bantamweight, the “interim” Japanese Super Bantamweight title, the WBC Youth World Super Featherweight title and the Japanese Super Featherweight title, twice.
Whilst we have typically seen Matsushita come up short we have seen him score some notable wins through his career. They have included victories over Nobuto Ikehara, Satoshi Niwa and most notably Dante Jardon.
Given his age this will probably be Matsushita's last title fight. Sadly for the challenger we suspect it end in the way many of his title fights have done, with him coming up short. We suspect a brave effect but Ogawa's youth, power and speed will be the difference maker in the end and the veteran probably won't see the final bell.
The Super Featherweight division has been one of the most interesting in recent years with a number of great fights, exciting fighters breaking through and the potential for a lot of brilliant great match ups. One of the fighters who impressed us last year was Japan's Kenichi Ogawa (17-1, 14), who went 4-0 (3) in 2015 and claimed the Japanese title with an upset win against Rikki Naito.
In Ogawa's first defense of his title he will face mandatory challenger Satoru Sugita (11-2-1, 7) on April 2nd in a Champion Carnival bout that promises a lot.
For those who missed Ogawa's rise in 2015 it was built on a combination of his boxing skills, and his very heavy hands. Unlike most punchers he doesn't wade in looking for a fight but instead boxes and uses his power to keep opponents honest. When he gets a chance to land his venom he takes it, but he sets up his power shots behind his boxing skills and that's why he looks like a man who could become a genuine force on the world stage in the coming years.
Coming in to this bout Ogawa is on a 9 fight winning streak, with 8 of those wins by stoppage. Those wins have seen him avenge his sole defeat, a stoppage to Yuki Miyoshi, move in to the world rankings, with a notable win over Deivi Julio Bassa, and claim the Japanese title, with the aforementioned win over Naito.
Whilst it's clear that Ogawa isn't the most durable man in boxing, given his only loss was by stoppage, it should be noted that he's a significantly improved fighter to the man who was stopped in 5 rounds by Yuki Miyoshi way back in October 2012. He has improved in pretty much every way since that loss and now looks like a man who really could be set to make a mark on the global scene.
Whilst we have enjoyed watching Ogawa's rise we've got to admit that Sugita's career has been much less visible. To date the best win for the 26 year old fighter from Nara is a decision over veteran Ryota Kajiki, back in 2014, and stoppage over upcoming OPBF title challenger Akira Shono.
Despite having a less than stellar record Sugita has won his last 5 bouts, scoring many of his best wins during that run, and has turned his career around some what following a 1-2-1 run during a 20 month window in late 2011 to mid 2013.
Footage of Sugita has been relatively hard to come by though we know he's shown signs of struggling to take solid shots, with his first loss being a stoppage to Ryuto Kyoguchi, and his boxing isn't world class, as seen by a clear decision loss to Kosuke Saka and narrow wins over Kajiki and Yoshiyuki Takabayashi. He does however possess very solid power of his own and is a physically strong fighter who will look to make his strength count against Ogawa.
Whilst Sugita is a solid fighter we can't see him coping with the boxing of Ogawa, and although Sugita could land a “lucky punch” we suspect we'll instead see Ogawa boxing from on the onset, breaking down Sugita and eventually seeing off the challenge in the second half of he fight, to record his first defense.
If you follow the Japanese boxing scene it's hard to not be at least a little bit excited about the Super Featherweight division. The country boasts current world champion Takashi Uchiyama, former champion Takashi Miura, rising contenders like Masayuki Ito and action fighters like Masao Nakamura. It also features some great match ups.
On December 14th we get two such match ups. One of those sees Ito defending his OPBF title against Shingo Eto whilst another sees Japanese national champion Rikki Naito (13-0, 5) defending his belt against the big punching Kenichi Ogawa (16-1, 14). The bout will help shape the domestic scene for 2016 with the winner expected to face either Nakamura or the winner of the Ito/Eto bout.
On paper the favourite will be the champion. He's an unbeaten fighter who has risen quickly through the ranks under the guidance of his father, Cassius Naito. Cassius, a former champion himself, has helped developed the ability of his son and draw attention to Rikki's ability as the youngster has forged a solid career of his own. Not only is Naito the unbeaten Japanese champion but he's a man who has compiled a genuinely impressive list of names on his record, including Shingo Eto, Masayuki Ito and Nihito Arakawa, who has he beaten in back-to-back fights.
Despite the good string of wins Naito has looked somewhat fortunate with the win over Ito being razor thin and the decisions against Arakawa and Eto being closer than the cards suggested. Saying that however he has proven he can do enough in a close fight to impress the judges and get the win.
At his best Naito is a talented and technically sound boxer with great speed, both foot and hand, a sharp hook and a good understanding of the ring. Whilst those are positive traits he has shown issues with stamina in longer bouts and has got a clear lack of power, with his last stoppage coming in his Japanese title victory against Hiroyasu Matsuzaki, 5 fights back. That wasn't a hugely impressive stoppage given that Matsuzaki had been stopped in 3 previous losses. Although his power won't stop many his movement, timing and speed will trouble many fighters and will need to be neutralised by anyone looking to beat him.
Ogawa, the challenger, is the older man at 27 years old and although he's more experienced in terms of fights he hasn't actually got a lot of experienced with his bouts rarely lasting more than 4 rounds. That has been due to his biggest weapon, his striking and hurtful power. That power has stopped 14 opponents in total with 11 stoppages coming in 4 or fewer rounds. Notable however he has proven that his power does stay later in fights as well, scoring a 7th round stoppage of Ribo Takahata late last year and a 10th round stoppage of Deivi Julio Bassa back in September.
Although Ogawa has a loss, a 5th round TKO loss to Yuki Miyoshi, he has since avenged iut, taking out Miyoshi in a rematch in just 134 seconds. Since the loss he has gone 8-0 (8) and taken just a combined 35 rounds. It's fair to say that his competition hasn't been incredible but wins over Takahata, Raymond Sermona and Bassa are solid wins and will have prepared him well for a title bout.
In the ring Ogawa's power is his key, though like a number of more notable power punchers he's actually got some skills to go with his power and can boxer as well punch. That was shown to good effect against Bassa, who he boxed and broke down, and it seems clear that every punch he throws is solid in terms of his power, even his jabs. He has also shown a development in terms of how he fights and seems to understand how to use the ring to his advantage.
On paper it is hard to go against Naito however we're actually picking the upset here with Ogawa having the power to really trouble Naito and having the over-looked traits to make the most of his power. We don't think the challenger will have things all his own way, but will take home the title with a late stoppage of the unbeaten man.
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.