The Middleweight division in Japan is potentially as it's most interesting. Not only does the country have a rare star at 160lbs, in the form of WBA “regular” champion Ryota Murata, but also an all action fan friendly national champion in Hikaru Nishida, the exciting domestic contender Kazuto Takesako and the huge punching OPBF champion Koki Tyson (13-2-2, 11)
This coming Sunday Tyson looks to further strengthen his claim over the regional scene as he attempts to add the WBO Asia Pacific title to his collection, as he takes on fellow Japanese fighter Yasuyuki Akiyama (11-7-1, 8). On paper the bout isn't incredible, but the reality is that the bout could help open the door to Tyson getting a bigger and better fight down the line, and should help him move into the world rankings, potentially closing in on a bout with Murata down the line.
Tyson's climb through the ranks has been an interesting one. He drew on his debut and suffered a stoppage loss in just his 4th bout, falling to 2-1-1 (2), but then went on to claim the 2013 Rookie of the Year crown and begin his climb towards a title fight. That first title fight came in 2015, when his inexperience was exposed by Akio Shibata, who stopped the then 22 year old in the 7th round. In 2016 Tyson claimed his first title, the WBC Youth Middleweight title, then added the OPBF title with an upset win over the then unbeaten Dwight Ritchie, who had actually claimed the title in Japan with a win over the previously mentioned Nishida.
Since winning the title last year Tyson has made two defenses, stopping Korean challenger Sung Jae Ahn in 4 rounds and beating Brandon Lockhart Shane with a 12 round decision. In those bouts Tyson has proven he can bang, which wasn't really questioned given his record, but can also box and move when he needs to. He's a tall, long and rangy fighter at Middleweight and uses his frame well, though does at times look a little under-developed and certainly looks like a young man filling into his frame. It's that under-development that potentially explains why the Osakan southpaw has questionable durability and toughness, and is going to need to take time “beef up” before really chasing a world title fight.
Aged 38 Akiyama is a man at the end of his career and he'll know it's now or never if he's to become a champion. He came up short in his only other title fight, losing to Shibata for the OPBF and JBC titles back in 2015, and struggled to get his career going again with 2 subsequent defeats. His career has however had a small shot in the arm earlier this year, with a win over Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa.
In the ring Akiyama is a heavy handed fighter, but one who has long struggled in really landing with his power, and given his age landing his biggest shots isn't going to be getting any easier for him. Also with his age is another problem, durability. In the last few years he has suffered 2 stoppage losses, and going in with Tyson will likely cause another, with the veteran being too slow to react to the speed and strength of the defending champion.
We suspect Akiyama can cause some early problems for Tyson, but as soon as the champion is settled into his fight the end will only be a matter of time.
This coming Sunday we'll see a trio of OPBF title fights in Osaka. On paper the biggest mismatch of those bouts will see Middleweight champion Koki Tyson (12-2-2, 11) make his second defense of the title and take on Japanese based American Brandon Lockhart Shane (8-5-1, 7). The bout really is a straight forward, looking, second defense for Tyson but it's fair to say the challenger will be fired up knowing this could be his only title bout, and at the age of 36 this actually could be the final bout of his career.
Tyson won the title last year year, when he upset the previously unbeaten Dwight Ritchie. In that bout Tyson proved he was more than just a puncher, as he out boxed, out fought and out slugged the Australian, en route to a clear yet competitive decision. It was a win that showed Tyson was improving as a fighter, and although he was still rough around the edges there was a genuine talent in there.
Prior to winning the title Tyson had had flaws exposed. He had been easily out boxed by Akio Shibata, before being stopped by the then Oriental and Japan champion, and prior to that he had been stopped Keisuke Kanazawa was back in 2013, in a result that now looks pretty irrelevant to Tyson as fighter today. The one big recent blemish however is a lucky draw against Korean journeyman Joon Yong Lee, in a bout that many including ourselves felt he was not to lose.
In the ring Tyson is a boxer-puncher who, at 6'3”, is a huge Middleweight and as a southpaw is a tricky, rangy fighter. He's only 24, and is certainly still improving, but looks like the type of fighter who could dominate on the domestic and regional scene for years to come. It's hard to see him mixing globally, but regionally he's likely to lead the pack at 160lbs and in the future 168lbs.
The challenger is one of the nice guys of boxing, and we have interviewed him and he really did seem like a person. Sadly though he's giving away pretty much every everything here. As mentioned he's 36, he's 9” shorter than the champion, has the shorter reach, he's a natural Light Middleweight and he lacks the power and speed of Tyson.
Don't get us wrong, Lockhart can fight, he can punch, and he can take a shot. But the truth is that he's not proven to be on the same level as Tyson. His most notable bout was a 3rd round loss to Makoto Fuchigami last year, in which he dropped Fuchigami several time, and other than that he's faced other novices and hopefuls, pushing Riku Nagahama close in one of his best performances. He's aggressive and fun to watch, with nasty power, but we can't see him getting close enough for long enough to land his power on Tyson.
We suspect Tyson will show a lot of respect to Lockhart early on, break him down from range with his spiteful jabs and then pick it up when Lockhart begins to slow down, stopping the challenger in the middle rounds.
This coming Sunday Japanese fight fans in Osaka will see OPBF Middleweight champion Koki Tyson (11-2-2, 10) make his first defence of the title, as he takes on Korean challenger Sung-Jae Ahn (6-3, 1). On paper this is an easy defense for the heavy handed Japanese fighter, tough he did win the title with a relative upset last year when he over-came Dwight Ritchie.
Tyson is one of the few Japanese Middleweights who actually looks like a Middleweight. He's 6'3”, a heavy handed southpaw and a fighter with decent boxing skills. At 24 he is still a boxing baby, but has already achieved a fair bit and looks to be maturing into a decent fighter, though he is still a flawed fighter.
Aged 19 when he made his debut Tyson actually had a draw on debut, before notching two stoppage wins. Then however disaster struck as he suffered an unexpected 3rd round TKO loss to the previously win-less Keisuke Kanazawa. That loss seemed to force Tyson to change and he took a 7 month break from the ring. By the end of 2013 improvements were clear and he won the All-Japan Rookie of the Year Crown. That was followed by a good run in 2014 and 2015 that earned Tyson a show at the then Japanese and OPBF champion Akio Shibata. Sadly against Shibata we saw Tyson up against a talented fighter who broke him down with relative ease, it was too much, too soon for Tyson.
The loss to Shibata could have broken Tyson's confidence but the follow year was a career definer as he claimed the WBC Youth Middleweight title and later the OPBF Middleweight title, out pointing Ritchie in a genuine upset in November.
Blessed with heavy hands Tyson is a real threat at Oriental level just because he hits so damned hard. He is however a fighter who doesn't like to be backed up, and can be out boxed. He also has a questionable chin. If a fighter can use the ring and either back him up, as Joon Yong Lee did last year, then they can out work him, out battle him and really give him fits. Likewise if an opponent uses a lot of movement, a sharp jab and can counter, like Akio Shibata did, then Tyson will struggle to impose himself and will, eventually, break down.
Aged 26 the Korean struggled to really get his career going. He won his first two fights but went on to lose his following three, falling to 2-3. That saw him suffer an understandable loss to Yong Sung Kim but more questionable losses to Woo Sung Yuh and Hyun Joong Kim. Since those 3 losses however Ahn has gone 4-0 (1) and claimed the KBF Middleweight title, whilst finally getting his career on track.
Ahn's career has not only been a bit streaky but also very stop-start, an issue with many Korean fighters due to the slow implosion of the Korean boxing scene. As a result he has two periods of 2 years + with out a fight, and hasn't fought since May 2015. In fact over the last 7 years he has fought just 4 times. If he'd been outside of Korea, and say fighting in Japan or the Philippines, it would be easy to know more about Ahn but the inactivity has been a real problem with knowing how good he is, and how sharp he will be.
Another issue with scouting Ahn is the footage available of him. Whilst there is plenty of footage it's not in the best of quality. The footage that is out there shows Ahn to be a rather crude fighter, he's a bit basic and like many Korean's he's not the most well schooled. He likes to come forward, he likes to apply pressure and he likes to try and force opponents backwards, but he's not incredibly quick on his feet and his out put isn't the highest.
Although using pressure is a way to beat the Tyson that we've seen, Ahn simply lacks the tools to do anything with that pressure and made a difference. He'll struggle to get inside, he'll struggle to land anything whilst up close. With that in mind we've got to back Tyson to retain, likely by stoppage, icing the Korean as he comes forward in the second half of the fight.
The OPBF Middleweight title has been a strange title in recent years. The best Middleweights in the Orient and Pacific region, such as Daniel Geale, Ryota Murata and Sam Soliman, have all ignored the belt to focus on world title aspirations and it has, at times, become more of a secondary Japanese title with unification bouts between the OPBF and JBC belts happening several times in recent years. Whilst that sounds bad it has lead to things like the brilliant Makoto Fuchigami vs Koji Sato bout, from 2012, and the 2014 clash between Akio Shibata and Daisuke Nakagawa.
Earlier this year we saw Dwight Ritchie (14-0-0-4, 1) become the first non-Japanese champion since Indian born Australian based Pradeep Singh back in 2006, almost a decade earlier. Ritchie easily out boxed, out moved and out sped the rugged but limited Hikaru Nishida to claim the title but will be heading back to Japan for his first defense, taking on the big hitting Koki Tyson (10-2-2, 10).
The 24 year old Ritchie is one of the rising hopes of Australian boxing and is one of the more pure boxers coming out of the country. He's not the strongest, the biggest puncher or the most dangerous but he's the sort of fighter who has bucket loads of skill, is slick, high talented and a really good pure boxer. His skills likely won't carry him to the top of the sport, unless he can add some serious power to his game, but he does have wins over the likes of Kiatchai Singwancha, Ryan Waters and Nishida with a lot of promise that he can develop into becoming a more notable figure on the international stage.
When it comes to Tyson there's a frustrating fighter in there. The 23 year old Japanese fighter is a pretty heavy handed fighter, but has shown real flaws through out his career. His debut ended in a draw, he was stopped in 3 rounds in just his 4th bout and looked like a fighter who was going to either blow opponents out, or be stopped himself. His first title bout came last year when he was easily beaten by the then JBC/OPBF champion Akio Shibata, who schooled Tyson until scoring a 7th round stoppage, and although he won the Youth title earlier this year he did little to impress last time out, fighting to a very lucky draw with Joon Yong Lee.
On paper this looks like a puncher against a boxer, and when that tends to happen the logical feeling is that the boxer will win a decision or the puncher will win by stoppage. Here however we have to favour Ritchie to actually stop Tyson, who will chipped away at round by round, and broken down in a similar way to how he was against Akio Shibata. Ritchie has proven his stamina and ability to go 12 rounds, Tyson however hasn't and has never been beyond 8 rounds, so we suspect he'll be stopped in the later rounds
Bouts that pit boxer vs puncher are among the most interesting stylistically. The questions that arise from having a skilled fighter up against someone who lacks the finesse but has fight changing power are some of the most intriguing questions. Can the boxer neutralise the power-puncher? Can the puncher find a way to land their bombs? Will the fight be a game of cat and mouse or will it represent a steamroller flattening a piece of grass with ease?
We get one such bout on November 9th as OPBF and Japanese Middleweight champion Akio Shibata (26-8-1, 12) defends his titles against Koki Tyson Maebara (9-1-1, 9).
Shibata goes into the bout as the boxer, a jab first and move fighter who is in great form with a 10-1 (4) record over the last 4 years. His sole loss during that run was to 2012 Olympic champion Ryota Murata whilst wins have come against the likes of Daisuke Nakagawa, Takayuki Hosokawa, Makoto Fuchigami and Hikaru Nishida.
In the ring Shibata is a pretty pure boxer who likes to use his speed, jab, movement and the ring. He has shown an improvement in power, stopping his last 3 foes, though he has remained a boxer who likes to control the distance and tempo of the fight, using his jab to establish his rhythm.
Sadly for the champion he is heading towards his 34th birthday, he has shown frailties with 5 stoppage losses and may well know that the next loss could be the end of his career. Also coming in to this bout he's 11 years older than his foe and, for once, the smaller man giving away around 2” in height.
The challenger is a pure puncher. He seems to like to view himself as a boxer but at the end of the day he's a true puncher, as shown by the fact that all 9 of his wins have come inside the distance and his 11 total bouts have added up to just 33 combined rounds. It is worth noting however that 19 of those 33 rounds have come in his last 4 bouts, including a 7th round TKO win against former Japanese title holder Sanosuke Sasaki, who was the test opponent for the aforementioned Murata, and Petchsuriya Singwancha, a former WBC Youth champion.
Aged 22 Maebara is a fighter who boasts youthful confidence. It was that confidence, or rather over-confidence, that saw him suffer his sole defeat, at the hands of the previously win-less Keisuke Kanazawa back in 2013. Since that loss however he has run off 7 win and claimed the All Japan Rookie of the Year, doing so with an opening round KO over Wataru Seino.
Whilst Maebara's power is legitimate and his skills are improving this is still a huge step up in class and for the first time he'll be facing a fighter who is confident that they can win. For the first time he is likely to be really asked questions when his first plan fails. If Maebara does have plan B and plan C in his locker however there is a good chance that the Osaka man may be able to over-come the huge gulf in experience.
This is a hard one to really predict. With power overcome skill? Will experience over-come youth? With the champion defeat the challenger? It's a 50-50 though we're leaning, slightly, to the challenger who we think may get lucky early on. The longer it goes however the more the bout favours Shibata who certainly has the experience over the longer distance
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.