This coming Sunday fight fans in Osaka should be in for a thrilling OPBF Bantamweight title fight, as under-rated champion Mark John Yap (26-12, 12) takes on former 2-time Japanese champion Kentaro Masuda (27-7, 15). On paper the bout might might not look amazing, especially given the relatively poor records of both fighters, however the styles of the men should make for something special, and both fighters are far better than the numbers suggest.
Japanese based Filipino Yap is a true veteran, despite only being 28. He debuted way back in 2007 and had some early success before his career started stumbling. He went from 8-0 (2) to 17-7 (8) and later 19-12 (10). At that point it looked like Yap's career was going to swirl down the drain and go nowhere, with the fighter being written off despite only being 26.
Instead of fading away Yap has been on a charge over the last two years, having some of the best performances of his career. They have included a shock win over the then unbeaten Tatsuya Ikemizu, a pair of wins over former world title challenger Hiroyuki Hisataka, a win over Juan Jose Landaeta and, most notably, a win over Takahiro Yamamoto for the OPBF title last November, in which he showed surprising power.
Like many Filipino's in recent years, such as Rey Loreto, Sonny Boy Jaro and Rey Megrino, we've seen Yap learn a lot from his losses before finding his groove in the sport. Now he's find it it's leading to a snowball effect of better performances and better results, and of course the OPBF title.
In the ring Yap isn't a fighter that stands out as “world class” in any area, however he is tough, strong, heavy handed, has a good engine and is incredibly determined. He can be out boxed, he can be out slugged, but he has solid all-round skills and is real nightmare for fighters, especially though who just look at his record, and over-look him. He's developed some great skills and has 261 rounds of professional experience to rely on in the ring, which has clearly helped him develop into a very good Oriental level fighter.
Masuda has been like a fine wine, developing into a very good fighter whilst getting older and older. He's now 34, so probably in the twilight of his career, but is riding a good 6 fight winning run, including stoppages over Hideo Sakamoto and Yushi Tanaka and a decision over Yu Kawaguchi. Not only is he on a 6-0 run but he's actually gone 13-1 (7) over the last 5 years, with his only loss being to Shohei Omori.
In the ring Masuda is a solid battler, who can box, hits harder than his record suggests and can brawl. He's a little on the small side for a top Bantamweight, at 5'5”, but often uses that lack of size to his advantage, making him a harder target and getting on the inside with out taking too much damage on the way in, then darting out. It's something that has got him a lot of success, and will likely continue to do so.
Whilst Masuda did suffer a number of early career losses they included defeats to the likes of Akihiko Katagiri, Hidenori Otake and Ryosuke Iwasa. Experience at that level will mean a lot and it's fair to say that Masuda has learned from his set backs. That's likely to show again here, but there is also the toll father time takes and it could be that Masuda has got wear and tear on his body that could show against a strong and powerful guy like Yap.
Given that both men enjoy a fight, both are criminally under-rated, both can punch and both are physically strong this is likely to be a gruelling and tough war. Don't expect this to be a beautifully boxed contest, but do expect it to be exciting, and a real hard scrap.
When it comes to a hard scrap like this we have to favour the younger man, and feel that Yap's freshness and lack of miles will be the difference, but this will be an incredible fight, with both men dealing out some incredible punishment. Masuda's older legs will likely hold him back in the later stages, and that will be the difference, but we can never write the old dog off and an upset certainly isn't off the cards.
Japanese Bantamweight champion Kentaro Masuda (25-7, 13) returns to the ring this coming Thursday to defend his title for the second time as he takes on first time title challenger Satoshi Ozawa (13-6-1, 2). Whilst this is Masuda's second defense of his current reign it is part of his second reign, with his first seeing him successfully defend the title twice before being blitzed by Shohei Omori in 2015.
Of the two men it's the 33 year old champion who will be the favourite. He's much more experienced with 32 fights under his belt, including 7 Japanese title bouts of which he has won 5. Whilst he's not been perfect in them he has only lost to fringe world class guys in the form of Omori and Ryosuke Iwasa, which scoring wins against the likes of Yu Kawaguchi, Konosuke Tomiyama, Yushi Tanaka and Tatsuya Takahashi.
In the ring Masuda is a fighter who has developed in front of our eyes. He began his career 1-2, and was 3-3 after 6 fights before falling to 14-6 in 2012 following his loss to Iwasa. Since then he has turned things around, going 11-1 in the last 4 years and really made him self a staple of the Japanese title scene. In the ring he's rugged, has solid stamina and comes to fight with an exciting aggressive style. Although not the biggest puncher he hits harder than his record suggests and his shots sting, with surprising effect, as Konosuke Tomiyama found out back in 2014. He is however 33 and has had a long hard career with some suggesting that he may be on the slide now following a number of tough wars.
Whilst plenty is known, and a lot of footage of Masuda is available, the same cannot be said of Ozawa who is an 8 year professional at the age of 29, but hasn't yet fought many fights of name value, and has next to no big name wins. Like Masuda he had an early career struggle, falling to 2-3 and later being 4-3-1. He has however rebuilt going 9-3 since the start of 2012. That might not sound great but it has included notable wins over Yuki Strong Kobayashi Yoshihiko Matsuo, twice, as he's emerged as a contender for the Japanese throne.
Ozawa is technically a decent fighter, he has nice skills and nice speed, but he has a clear lack of power having only scored 2 stoppages in 20 fights, and his toughness is also there to be questioned with the challenger having suffered 4 stoppage losses. His lack of durability will be a real issue against a fighter like Masuda who is marauding and aggressive, and although Ozawa is a decent fighter he will struggle to keep the champion off him.
Whilst Ozawa is a live under-dog here it's hard to see anything but a Masuda win, likely by stoppage in the middle section of the fight
Over the last few years things have been really interesting for Japanese fighters in, and around, the Bantamweight division. We won't pretend it's all been good news, in fact losses for the likes of Ryo Akaho, Shohei Omori, Tomoki Kameda and Ryo Matsumoto have all be very depressing for fans of the Japanese scene, however it has been brilliantly fun to follow. Some of the best bouts at the weight have been fights like the exciting 10 round bware between Kentaro Masuda and Tatsuya Takahashi and the up and down rematch between Yu Kawaguchi and Takahiro Yamamoto.
This coming Thursday we get the chance to see another potential war as Masuda (24-7, 13) faces off against Kawaguchi (25-7, 12) in a bout for Masuda's Japanese Bantamweight title. It will be the second time the two men face off, and will see Kawaguchi seeking revenge for a 10th technical decision loss to Masuda.
Back in 2014 these two men traded blows in a rough and tough bout for the then vacant Japanese title. Although it was rough it was a fight that Masuda was a comfortably winner of, with the bout going to the score cards more than 2 minutes early. Since then both men have been stopped, both have been in tough bouts and both have shown vulnerabilities.
Since their first bout Kawaguchi has gone 5-1, with his only loss being a thrilling cut stoppage loss to Takahiro Yamamoto. The loss to Yamamoto, in their second meeting, saw Kawaguchi lose the OPBF title, a title he had won in their first meeting, but now it seems like he's hungry for revenge against Masuda.
Interestingly Masuda has also gone 5-1 since their first meeting, with his only loss being a 1-sided blow out against Shohei Omori. Despite that loss Masuda has scored notable recent wins over Konosuke Tomiyama, Tatsuya Takahashi, Hideo Sakamoto and most recently Yushi Tanaka.
In the ring Kawaguchi can be dragged into a war. He's not the most technical, nor the most defensive, but his openness does lead to some very fun action and he's the sort of fighter that fans like watching as he will always give his all, and his limitations can lead to great wars. At 5'5” he's not a tall Bantamweight and at 29 he is a fighter who is older than his actual age, but he's still got a fair bit left in him and will be coming to the ring for a real fight.
Much like Kawaguchi it's fair to describe Masuda as a flawed warrior. He struggled to get his career off the ground, losing 6 of his first 20 bouts, but turned things around to become the Japanese champion, and to become a man who really has shown that hard work and dedication can turn a career around. He's won 10 of his last 11 bouts and has proven to be a dangerous puncher who can fight hard for 10 rounds. We're going to say he'll be a world champion, but the 33 year old has been like a fine wine and aged wonderfully.
When the men get in the ring on Thursday we're expecting a sloppy, yet enjoyable war. Masuda is probably the better boxer, but the two men will simple want a fight and we wouldn't be shocked to see this one be very closer over the 10 rounds, with Masuda just doing enough to retain his title.
Last year the Champion Carnival featured a number of great fights, it also featured a relatively one sided beat down. That beat down saw Shohei Omori claim the Japanese Bantamweight title with a blow out win against the then champion Kentaro Masuda (23-7, 12). The win seemed to set Omori on the way to a world title, though of course he was himself blown away late last year by Marlon Tapales.
This year's Champion Carnival again sees Masuda in the Bantamweight title bout against an unbeaten fight, this time Yushi Tanaka (16-0-3, 10), with the men trading shots for the title that was vacated last year by Omori.
Although Masuda, now 33, was blown out by Omori he's actually a very good fighter, with under-rated skills, genuine heart, a real will to win and criminally under-rated power. His record might not be flattering but like a good wine he has improved with age and has become a much better fighter than he used to be.
Early in his career Masuda looked limited and started 1-3, and was in fact 3-3 after just over 2 years in the professional ranks. Since 2010 however Masuda has gone 16-3 with his 3 losses coming to notable opponents in the former of Hidenori Otake, Ryosuke Iwasa and Omori. On the other hand he has scored notable wins against the likes of Yosuke Fujihara, Yu Kawaguchi, Konosuke Tomiyama, Tatsuya Takahashi and, most recently, Hideo Sakamato.
Although not a monstrously hard hitting Masuda has stopped the likes of Tomiyama, who was stopped in 3 rounds, and Sakamoto, who was stopped in 7 rounds, whilst fans and the press were amazed that Takahashi managed to see the final bell against Masuda. In fact Masuda suggested that Takahashi was like a “zombie” following the bout.
Aged 24 Tanaka is the man stepping up in class, considerably, for this bout. He is however an unbeaten fighter with a lot of confidence and at 24 he is a fighter coming into his prime.
Although relatively untested Tanaka does hold some notable wins, including a 2012 stoppage victory over former world champion Wandee Singwancha, albeit a 32 year old Wandee who had lost 2 of his previous 3 and was well above his best fighting weight. Other notable wins on Tanaka's record include decisions victories over Vergel Nebran and Mako Matsuyama.
Although Tanaka has a better than 50% KO rate it should be noted that he doesn't seem to stop too many notable fighters. His best stoppage is over Wandee, a former Minimumweight champion, whilst whilst many of his other stoppages have come against very limited Thai's and Indonesians that have essentially boosted his KO rating. Incidentally he is 4-0-1 (3) in title fights, though all 5 of those bouts took place for the WBC Youth Bantamweight title.
Sadly footage of Tanaka has been hard to come by though from what we have seen of him he he is pretty well schooled with a nice jab and a quick, sharp, hook. He looks rather quick but not exceptionally saw and defensively he seems to be rather open, keeping his hands worryingly low. There is little that he has shown that is really exciting but given that he is in the Hatanaka gym it's clear he does get some high quality training and he has actually been sparring with Hinata Maruta ahead of this fight.
Given what is available of both men, it's hard to see Tanaka winning the bout, barring a career best performance. In fact from what we've seen we've got to strongly favour Masuda to actually stop Tanaka in the later stages, taking advantage of Tanaka's relative lack of top quality experience. Tanaka does have the edge in speed and natural size, but we don't think that will be enough to over-come the experienced and determined Masuda, who we suspect will reclaim the Japanese title.
When the 2015 Champion Carnival bouts were announced one bout really stood out to us despite the fact it didn't feature a big name. The champion in question had numerous loses on his record and the challenger was little more than and advanced prospect. There was, however, something especially intriguing about the bout with the division being a major one in Japan.
The bout in question is the Bantamweight title bout which will pit the massively under-rated champion Kentaro Masuda (21-6, 11) against fast rising prospect Shohei Omori (13-0, 8). Unless you actively follow the Japanese scene the odds are you won't know much about either man, if you follow the scene however you will know just how good these two are what a brilliant match up this is.
On first glance international fans will write off Masuda. They'll state the obvious, “he's got 6 losses in 27 fights”. What they won't realise is how many of those losses are some what misleading. He was 3-3 (2) after his first 6 bouts, with 2 of those losses being razor thin decisions and the third being very competitive. Since that start Masuda has gone 18-3 (9) with his two of his losses coming to highly established fighters in the form of Hidenori Otake and Ryosuke Iwasa.
Whilst it'd be wrong to write off Masuda for his record it'd also be neigh on criminal to over-look his current form which has been sensational since his 7th round TKO loss to Iwasa back in July 2012. What we've seen is a 7-0 run from Masuda which has included his title winning bout, a 10th round technical decision win over Yu Kawaguchi last April, a sensational first defence which saw him destroy Konosuke Tomiyama in the 3rd round of their bout, and an enthralling 10 round war with “Zombie” Tatsuya Takahashi.
Aged 32 now Masuda knows another loss will derail any hopes he has of getting his hands on OPBF title or even getting a world title fight. In fact a world title fight, as amazing as it might seem, really isn't out of the question considering Masuda is #14 with the WBC and #12 with the IBF.
In the ring the champion is an aggressive fighter who hits significantly harder than his record suggests, can fight well behind his jab and is really tough. In regards to his footwork it is smarter than it looks and he can get in and out relatively well though it's not sensational and later in fights he can become very basic in his movements. Technically there is still some places to polish, especially when he's throwing his right hand, and he's short for the weight at just 5'5”, though he does appear to be able to use his feet to negate that relatively well. Also he does manage to use his lack of size well and has a tight guard that protects his head whilst his body is typically out of reach behind his elbows as he makes himself appear smaller than he is.
One thing that is a little bit questionable is Masuda's stamina. It's looked really good at times though he did seem to be running on fumes at times against Takahashi. That wasn't particularly shocking, given that Takahashi took more clean shots than a fighter is expected to take, though it could be an issue in future bouts.
Now on to the challenger. Omori is a fighter we are huge fans of and we see a very, very bright future for, either at Bantamweight or at Super Bantamweight. Like the premier Bantamweight on the planet, Shinsuke Yamanaka, the youngster is a Southpaw though he looks a lot more polished than “The God of Left”. In fact Omori looks incredibly polished and looks a much more rounded fighter than Yamanaka, despite the fact he's only 22 and has only fought in 13 bouts, consisting of just 42 rounds.
Omori came to the attention of many in Japan back in 2012 when he was crowned the All Japan Rookie of the Year at Bantamweight. The following year he scored notable wins over Kiron Omura and Albert Alcoy, both opening round KO's, and then built further on his reputation with a punch perfect performance against Christian Esquivel last year. It was really the fight against Esquivel that put him on the radar of some fans and it really was a sensational performance that saw the youngster using his speed, accuracy, power, timing, movement and boxing brain to beat the experienced Mexican. It was that win that put Omori in to the world rankings and it's because of that win that he is currently the WBC #13 ranked fighter.
Watching Omori is like watching a very, very good prospect who is only a few fights away from being world class. There is still improvements he can make, there are still tweaks that need to be done, there are still little things he can do a bit better than he already does. For a fighter with so little experience however those faults will of course still be there. That brings us to the big question marks however, what is Omori's stamina like? What is his heart like? Is he experienced enough? At the moment we've never seen Omori go beyond 8 rounds, though he did score a clear 8 round decision victory over Yubon Kaneyama last year. We also know that he has been in with Esquivel and he's sparred with Iwasa, among others, suggesting he's got a good level of experience even if the quantity is lacking.
We're expecting to see a lot of answers about Omori and how good he actually is. We're expecting to see him being given a “chin check” for the first time. If Omori can take the right hand bombs of Masuda then we're expecting to see Omori given a gut check. If he can pass both of those checks and come out with flying colours then he should end the bout as the new champion and as the biggest revelation of the year, so far.
If Omori can't take the power of the champion and can't cope with Masuda's pressure than Masuda will retain and will do so by stoppage. Our suspicion however is that Omori will take this opportunity and shine with an outstanding performance and gets a win that will help him get bigger fights later in the year.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
About 3 years ago Kentaro Masuda (now 20-6, 11) was beaten by Hidenori Otake, it was a loss that saw Masuda's record falling to 13-5(8) and it seemed that his career was never going to progress beyond being a ranked contender on the Japanese domestic scene. Just 2 fights later things didn't look any better for Masuda who had then been beaten, in 7 rounds, by the excellent Ryosuke Iwasa in a Japanese Bantamweight title fight.
Aged 29 when he lost to Iwasa it seemed like Masuda was going to be a fighter who mixed with domestic level fighters looking to get a second title fight one day. What no one expected was that his career would really begin at at 30, though that's exactly what has happened and he has completely turned things around with 6 straight wins. Those wins have seen Masuda move into the IBF world rankings and claim the Japanese Bantamweight title, courtesy of an excellent technical decision win over Yu Kawaguchi, and defend it once, with a very impressive destruction of former world title challenger Konosuke Tomiyama, who lasted less than 3 rounds.
The late career revival of Masuda has been very impressive and he'll be hoping to keep his current run of form going when he returns to the ring on December 8th to defend his Japanese title against the heavy handed Tatsuya Takahashi (18-5-3, 12), the #13 ranked Japanese Bantamweight.
In regards to current form this should be a mismatch. Masuda enters the bout 6-0 (3) since losing to the world class Iwasa more than 2 years ago and has gone 8-2 (4) in his last 10. On the other hand Takahashi has gone 3-1-2 (3) in his last 6 and 5-3-2 (4) in has last 10 bouts, including a stoppage loss to Filipino fighter Rey Vargas. That is however ignoring the fact that Takahashi is a hungry 25 year old looking for his own break out win, something Masuda scored himself, earlier this year.
If you've not seen Masuda in action you may now know what to expect. He's a tough fighter, with solid work rate, real grit, and skills that have developed massively in recent years. Those skills might not be world class but they are solid as is his power. In many ways he is very much an all-rounder though when he steps on the gas he can be a very good finisher, as he showed against Tomiyama who never got the chance to recover after being hurt. As well as his developing skills he has also developed a lot of confidence in the ring and he knows that a win here takes a step closer to getting a rematch with Iwasa, something he has said he wants. If things go well for both Iwasa and Masuda over the next 12 months he may get that rematch with an IBF world title being up for grabs.
Whilst we have managed to get footage of Masuda we unfortunately haven't been able to do the same with Takahashi. What we do know about him is that he managed to go the better part of 10 rounds with Rey Perez in his most notable bout to date. That's actually a telling result given that Perez isn't a puncher and that Perez was dominating the bout anyway prior to the stoppage. We also know that Takahashi lacks a notable win, with his last 3 victories being quick stoppages over limited foes. Given his competition so far it's very hard to know really how good he is, or rather how bad he is as some of his losses have been to very limited opposition.
With what we know about the two men, their opposition and their form this really only looks like it's going to go one way, Masuda's way. The champion may not be world class but he's certainly on the fringes of it and we suspect we'll see the gulf in class between the two men here and Masuda will almost certainly be the better fighter from start to end.
(Image courtesy of danganboxing.com)
Some domestic title fights get a little bit more attention than others and we think the upcoming Japanese Bantamweight title fight might be one such contest. That's not because of reigning champion Kentaro Masuda (19-6, 10) who is genuinely an unknown outside of Japan but instead it's because of the challenger, the memorable and charismatic Konosuke Tomiyama (24-6-1, 8).
You might all remember Tomiyama for his Macau battle with Filipino Genesis Servania. That bout, fought last year, was thrilling with a contender for round of the year and also an outside runner for fight of the year. That bout saw 4 knock downs and genuinely stole the show.
If you have a better memory you may also remember Tomiyama gave the then WBA Super Flyweight champion Nobuo Nashiro a real scare, twice dropping Nashiro in another action packed bout.
Although Tomiyama has come up short in his two most notable bouts he has been involved in other notable bouts, including a very good win over Kuniyuki Aizawa and another win over Masamichi Nozaki. He will, however, be known for his losses which have generally come when he's faced the more notable opponents in his career.
Whilst not the greatest fighter on the planet Tomiyama is a lot of things a fight fan wants to see. He is interesting, charismatic, memorable, hits harder than his record indicates and is also enigmatic. He could go from pushing a world level fighter all the way in one fight to struggling over a limited Thai journeyman. This unpredictability must frustrating for his team but will always draw in fans interested in seeing what Tomiyama turns up for any given fight.
Masuda strikes us a more serious fighter. His record is sketchy with a handful of losses though he did suffer 3 of his 6 losses in his first 6 professional bouts. Since then he has knuckled down and developed into a very good little fighter winning 12 of his last 14. On paper that sounds good but it's even more impressive when you note that his those two losses came to Hidenori Otake and Ryosuke Iwasa, with the Iwasa bout being Masuda's first title bout.
In his last 5 fights Masuda has strung together a quintet of wins, including a title winning effort against Yu Kawaguchi last time. That bout was the most impressive we've seen from Masuda who boxed well against a competent opponent and, although he wasn't amazing, showed his skills and just how much they had improved over the years.
Masuda will be defending his belt for the first time and he will almost certainly be the under-dog against the more well known and taller Tomiyama. He will however go into the bout with real confidence of retaining his title and proving himself as one of the best Japanese Bantamweights out there, though admittedly he is a long way behind Shinsuke Yamanaka and Tomoki Kameda who are both world champions.
For us this is an incredibly hard bout to call. Masuda is certainly in great form, that can't be denied, however Tomiyama when he's on form is very difficult to beat. It really does depend on which Tomiyama turns up and if he's on song he's likely to take the title back to the Watanabe Gym with him. Odds are though that Tomiyama doesn't turn up for the fight and Masuda manages to continue his great run.
Whilst this is for the Japanese title it's also effectively an OPBF title eliminator. Masuda enters as the #1 OPBF ranked Bantamweight whilst Tomiyama is #5. With murmurs suggesting Iwasa is set to give up the OPBF belt the winner here is likely to get a sot at the vacant title next year, or, if Iwasa doesn't vacate, a shot at Iwasa next year. It's clear there is a big reward for a win here.
(Image courtesy of Watanabe Gym/Dangan boxing)
Less than 24 hours after Manny Pacquiao's rematch with Timothy Bradley Japanese fans get a title fight of their own as the vacant Japanese Bantamweight title is put up for grabs. The title, vacated by Kohei Oba ahead of his unsuccessful bout with with Randy Caballero, will see Yu Kawaguchi (20-5, 9) meeting Kentaro Masuda (18-6, 10) in an attempt to crown a new national champion.
According the JBC these two are the top two contenders in Japan. Going in to the fight Kawaguchi it the #1 ranked fighter and Masuda is the #2 ranked fighter though this says a lot more about the Japanese Bantamweight scene than anything else.
As we know the top Bantamweight in Japan is Shinsuke Yamanaka, the WBC champion, behind him is Tomoki Kameda, the WBO champion and closely behind them is Ryosuke Iwasa, the OPBF champion and around the same level is former world title challenger Ryo Akaho. Basically Japan has 4 world level Bantamweights domestically however they struggle as a result and the domestic scene is rather weak.
Of the two fighters actually involved here we tend to feel that the 31 year old Masuda is the slight favourite. Firstly he appears to have mixed in better company with fights against both Iwasa and current Super Bantamweight champion Hidenori Otake. Although he lost to both has has been fight on and around the top of the Japanese domestic level for a while.
Whilst Masuda has faced two really recognisable names it's fair to say that Kawaguchi has only faced one on the same level, Yasutaka Ishimoto. He has also faced Jerope Mercado, but it's certainly Ishimoto that stands out and he actually beat Kawaguchi.
Interestingly both of the men have dipped their toes at Super Bantamweight as well as Bantamweight and whilst neither man should struggle to make 118lbs it still needs to be a point of consideration, especially when you consider that Kawaguchi hasn't weight 118lbs or less since 2009. To make the weight again could take something out of him though we're not expecting it to.
With both guys having, at best, moderate power we expect to see this bout going to a decision and with what we know of both it's going to be a close one with neither guy having the skills to clearly dominate the other.
In all honesty we're unsure who will win but we don't expect more than a round a two will separate the men in what promises to be a very interesting encounter, even if the winner won't crown the best Bantamweight in Japan. We're a guessing a split decision with Masuda the winner but this bout really is a toss up.
(Poster courtesy of http://green-tsuda.com)
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.