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 fate of a prospect can vary massively. Many get marked for the top and some of them reach the stars, become the fighters that their team, and themselves believed they could be. We've seen it recently with a who's who of Japanese youngsters like Naoya Inoue and Kosei Tanaka, among others.
Sadly not all touted youngsters go on to be a star, and instead of world titles they are battling to remain relevant, to make something of their career. That, unfortunately, appears to be the case with Riku Kano (14-4-1, 7), who debuted as a very young fighter in the Philippines, and would win a regional title aged 17, in Thailand. At the age of 18 he made his Japanese debut and in August 2016 he attempted to set a Japanese record as the youngster ever Japanese world champion. Unfortunately he lost that world title bout, being beaten by veteran Katsunari Takayama by technical decision. Since losing to Takayama Kano has gone 4-2, losing the two times he has stepped up in class.
This weekend Kano, at the age of just 21, is essentially fighting to get his career back on track, taking on Indonesian journeyman Mektison Marganti (5-10-1, 3) for the WBC Youth Light Flyweight title. Another setback for Kano and his hopes of ever being a major success will be hanging by a thread, whilst a win gives his career a shot in the arm, and gives him his third title following reigns as the WBA Asia and OPBF interim champion.
Whilst the loss to Takayama is completely understandable, especially at the age of 18, Kano has since gone on to suffer stoppage losses to Jerry Tomogdan and Shin Ono. Whilst he was competitive, in the early parts, for both of those bouts he came undone when the pressure picked up. Tomogdan broke him with body shots, dropping him in rounds 4 and 6, whilst Ono put pressure on him, and broke him down in 8 rounds, following a headbutt that Kano never seemed to recover from.
Despite not liking pressure Kano is talented, he's a skilled youngster and that skill just hasn't managed to turn into the big results that his team, headed by former OPBF champion Taisei Marumoto, would have wanted. If he can put those skills to use he can go a long way, but if he keeps crumbling under-pressure he will, saldy, be regarded as a major under-achiever.
We've focused a lot on Kano for what is a preview, and part of the reason for that is the fact Marganti doesn't bring a lot to the table. In fact we suspect that most wouldn't recognise his name at all. That's despite the fact he has shared the ring with some notable fighters, such as Wanheng Menayothin and Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart, twice. Like many Indonesian fighters he has been picked to play the role of a designated loser on Thai cards, and Australian cards, with a record of 0-5 outside of Indonesia.
At the age of 23 Marganti, also known as Tyson Lahagu, seems to have found a role in boxing that suits him. Travelling, losing, but making the home fighters go rounds. We expect him to continue that role here. He's not as bad as a 5-10-1 record would suggest, but he's also not a fighter who has the tools move on to the next level. That is, unless, he can get a team around him who can really build his skills, and turn him into more than someone who puts in a sparring type effort.
Given how Marganti goes rounds with good fighters we're not expecting an stoppag here from Kano, but we are expecting Kano's skills to be too much for the Indonesian. We're predicting a clear decision for Kano, who will hopefully show the skills that made him such a prospect early in his career. A win could help him build his confidence here, and hopefully help him rebuild his career going forward.
Prediction UD10 Kano.
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.
On February 11th fight fans in Hiroshima will get the chance to see a popular local fighter challenger for an OPBF title, in what is a real must win for the local, and the next stepping stone in the career of the champion.
The champion in question is 26 year old Filipino Edward Heno (13-0-5, 5), the current OPBF Light Flyweight champion who will be taking on 35 year old challenger Koji Itagaki (18-13-3, 7). Another loss for Itagaki almost certainly ends his career, which began in 2005, whilst a win would be his defining achievement, and a huge upset. A win for Heno however would enhance his reputation and move him one more step towards a world title fight, in one of the sports most packed divisions.
Heno won the title in September 2017, travelling to Japan and stopping Seita Ogido. Prior to winning the belt he had stopped the then 12-0 Cris Ganoza and been held to a very controversial draw with Ogido, having originally been announced as the winner before a scoring error was discovered. Since winning the title he has defended it against Merlito Sabillo and Jesse Espinas.
In recent years Heno has proven to be a very talented boxer, with underrated power, a lot of confidence and a willingness to travel to prove himself, having travelled for both the bouts with Ogido and the bout with Sabillo. In the ring he's an accurate, sharp puncher, with smart defense and the ability to pick some fantastic counters. There's definitely areas to improve and work, but on the whole he's a fantastic young fighter who is hungry to prove himself, before getting a world title fight. It's clear he doesn't just expect a title shot, but feels the need to earn it.
Itagaki has had a number of notable chances in the last few years. In 2017 he lost to Kenichi Horikawa, in a bout for the WBO Asia Pacific Light Flyweight title, and in 2018 he lost to the then Japanese champion Tetsuya Hisada, before at the end of the year to Horikawa in a Japanese title eliminator. In fact coming into this bout he is 2-4-1 in his last 7, going back more than 3 years. Unfortunately for Itagaki his record is reflective of his career, and he is a "win some lose some" fighter, who has mixed with good fighters, losing to the likes of Horikawa, Hisada, Rey Loreto, Suguru Munraka, and Warlito Parrenas, but unfortunately come up short against almost everyone of note.
Despite his failings against decent fighters Itagaki isn't actually a bad fighter. For an older fighter he's light on his feet and has good a lovely quick jab. Sadly though he's a light puncher, he has to work incredibly hard for success and struggles to get respect from opponents. He certainly has the skills to make life difficult for opponents, but if a fighter can cut the ring off, they can really get to him. Likewise against a young, talented fighter, like Heno, we suspect that Itagaki's lack of physicality will be his down fall.
We rate Heno incredibly highly and we're expecting him to show why he is so well regarded in the sport. We're expecting to see him show his speed,timing and variety to neutralise the movement of Itagaki, and force a late stoppage over the veteran. Yes Itagaki will be awkward early on, but as the pressure comes from Heno he'll slow down, and eventually be broken down.
We don't expect to see Heno just look win, but instead we expect him to win in a way that makes a statement and begins to open the door to potential world title fights in Japan against WBA "super" champion Hiroto Kyoguchi or WBC champion Kenshiro.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On January 5th, 2019, Thai veteran Suriyan Satorn returns to the ring and challenges Chinese rising star Jing Xiang for the WBC Silver Light Flyweight Championship.
Suriyan Satorn (59-6/40 KOs), (Ed's note - Satorn is also known as Kompayak Porpramook) has been around the sport for most of his life. Began boxing at the age of 10, he made his pro debut before even turning 18 and within a year, he won Lumpinee Stadium’s Minimumweight title.
Satorn is a boxer who likes to, as they say, fight inside a phone booth. He’s at his best when he comes head to head with his opponents and starts throwing body shots, picking them apart round by round. A perfect example of this was his match with Adrian Hernandez (30-5) for the WBC Light Flyweight World Championship in 2011. In what was an action packed affair, the Thai fighter kept working on the body of Hernandez, creating openings to land heavy blows to the head. During the tenth round, he had the champion hurt and proceeded to finish him of with an overhand left/right hook combination. After 11 years of fighting, Satorn was finally a World Champion. He marked one successful title defense against WBC International Champion Jonathan Taconing (28-3) before eventually losing the belt back to Hernandez.
Kompayak Porpramook (as he’s also known) became a 2 division World Champion when he beat Jean Piero Perez (21-9) for the interim WBA Flyweight title in 2013. Much like his match with Hernandez, he kept punishing the body until he got him boxed in a corner and started peppering him repeatedly, forcing the referee to jump in and stop the fight.
A few often changes in gyms and managers, forced him to be less active in the past 5 years and more focused on training other fighters, like Karoon Jarupianlerd (42-8) and Wittawas Basapean (33-8), both top ranked Thai boxers. Satorn made his definite comeback this past March against Siridech Deebook (17-6), this time for the WBC Light Flyweight Asia title. Despite some ring-rust and the fact that his rival was younger and way faster, he still managed to win the match. Deebook was attacking with reckless abandon and got dropped in the tenth round with a massive right hand, much to the joy of the Thai fans in attendance. In the end, Porpramook got the split decision and the belt. In their rematch however, 3 months later, Deebook was the one that got his hand raised.
Satorn gets another opportunity at championship glory, this time against an even better opponent, in Jing Xiang (15-4/3 KOs). 2018 has been a quite successful year for the Chinese star as he, not only captured the vacant WBO Intercontinental title in January, but also earned a huge victory this past September, after outclassing former WBO Minimumweight World titlist Merlito Sabillo (27-6), to become the WBC Light Flyweight Silver champion, winning a very wide decision. Xiang likes to keep his distance (unlike Satorn) while throwing bombs, making every fight into a brawl, despite his luck of KO power.
This fight will probably determine the future of both men. For the 36 year old Satorn, to win the WBC Silver title means finding himself once again in the world rankings. For Xiang, to defeat a 2 division champion, means one step closer to a world title opportunity. The Thai veteran clearly has the experience on his side, as well as the power advantage (Satorn has finished 62% of his fights, while Xiang only 14% of them). What he doesn’t have anymore though is that ferocity that he used to display during his big championship matches. That belongs to Xiang now. As we saw in his bouts with Deebook, Satorn has significantly slowed down and had trouble getting his game started. If he doesn’t shake that ring-rust off, Xiang (WBO Top 10/WBC Top 15) will walk right through him. So what will be the key factor here ? Experience ? Ferocity ? Power ? Speed ? We will get our answer this Saturday in China.
There are some fighters we watch because they are world class fighters and have skills that few can match. There are also fighters we watch because we know they will provide an excite contest, no matter what. One fighter from that second group is in action on December 1st in what is supposedly a world title prelude, and his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Light Flyweight title.
That man is Reiya Konishi (16-1, 6), who faces off with Filipino foe Richard Rosales (13-7-2, 7) in a bout that we suspect will be a lot more interesting than the records of the men suggest. In fact we're expecting this to be a thrilling, fun and somewhat competitive bout between men who are likely to match each other well.
So far in 2018 Konishi has been involved in a couple of great bouts. The first saw him losing in a bout for the WBA "regular" Light Flyweight title against Carlos Canizales whilst the second saw him claim his WBO regional title, stopping Orlie Silvestre in the final round. For those who haven't seen Konishi before, those bouts are well worth a watch. They show Konishi's flaws, which are that he's easy to hit, doesn't hit particularly hard and gets involved in gruelling wars, along with his strengths, which are his great work rate, high levels of stamina, great heart, and fantastic body attack.
We don't see Konishi having a long career near the top, or even at the top if he can go all the way, but we do expect to always enjoy his bouts, which are fought at a thrilling intensity. They can get messy, due to head clashes and some mauling, but they are really dull and often both men know they have been in a fight, and fans know they've seen something a bit brutal.
Rosales on the other hand has had a year to forget, suffering losses to Vietnam's Tran Van Thao in January and to Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr in August, both in Thailand. Those losses have sandwiched a low key win against Delfin de Asis from May. Sadly for Roales his form on the road has been poor, going 0-3 in fights outside of the Philippines, and 13-4-2 (7) at home. Whether at home or away he lacks in terms of notable wins, and has suffered losses to every notable fighter he has faced, including Fahlan, Jayr Raquinel, Kwanpichit OngsongChaigym and Jake Bornea, likely explaining why Konishi's team have brought him to Japan for this bout.
At his best Rosales can be a nightmare, and he did legitimately make Fahlan and Raquinel earn their wins, but he's not a fighter who gets over the winning line against decent competition. We're expecting to see him come to fight, but lack the fire power to get Konishi's respect. Instead we think Konishi will drag Rosales into a war and come out with a clear win, likely a wide decision or late stoppage. Konishi will likely end up cut, he usually does, but will well deserving of the win.
On November 19th we'll see Ryuto Oho (11-4-1, 3) make his first defense of the Japanse Youth Light Flyweight title, as he takes on once beaten challenger Yuta Nakayama (6-1-1, 3) at the Korakuen Hall. For the champion it's a chance to build on recent wins over Hideyuki Watanabe and Tetsuya Tomioka, as well as recording his first defense, whilst Nakayama will be getting his first title fight and a chance to claim his first career silverware of any kind.
The 23 year old champion has been around the Japanese scene for a while already, having debuted more than 6 years ago. His early career was full of promise and in 2013 he went on to claim the Japanese Rookie of the Year crown at Flyweight, picking up impressive wins against the then 6-0 Yuji Okinori in the East Japan final and the then 5-1-1 Yukiya Hanabusa in the All Japan final. Sadly that early promise faltered in 2014 when he suffered defeats to Joe Tanooka and Katsunori Nagamine, with a draw to Shuji Hamada being sandwiched between those two losses. A string of wins in 2015 and 2016 ended when he was out pointed by Yuta Matsuo and then, in 2017, he was stopped in a round by Seigo Yuri Akui. Thankfully his career has gotten back on track with his last two bouts both being wins, including his Youth title triumph.
Oho is an aggressive fighter, who comes forward, looks to attack behind his jab and moves well. Sadly when he lets his bigger shots go he looks very open and wild, dropping his left hand when he throws his looping right over the top. Although he's quick he does look easy to time and his power doesn't look like it's hugely intimidating at this level. Whilst not massively powerful his aggression is exciting and he will break fighters down, though will need to hope he doesn't get caught before they wilt to his pressure.
Nakayama turns 23 just days before this fight, but he'll know that this is a great chance to make his mark on the domestic scene at such an early stage in his career. He debuted in July 201 and went 1-1-1 through his first 3 bouts, but has rebuilt brilliantly with 5 straight wins. Those wins include a decision victory over Tatsuhiro Toguchi and a stoppage victory over Filipino Powell Balaba. Not only has he reeled off a string of wins, but he has stopped 3 of those 5 opponents, suggesting that he's finding some power in his shots too, and it's likely that he's starting to develop his man strength and correct his punching technique. This is however a step up in class, and we'll have to see how he copes with a fighter as talented and as skilled as Oho.
Nakayama is a good mover, who is light on his feet, protects himself well and is able to make opponents miss, and make them pay. He is a little loopy with some of his punches but they still have a crispness to them that look like they would pick holes in a defensively flawed fighter, or a fighter who falls short when attacking him. His movement is really his key strength and impressively he appears to be able to stay on his toes pretty well, even if an opponent is pressing him hard.
Oho is the more well known fighter but stylistically we suspect he will be in trouble here. His pressure is made to order for Nakayama, who we suspect will pick him apart when he comes forward and will counter him regularly before forcing a stoppage in the later stages. Oho will have some real moments early on, but we see him tiring and being stopped, with Nakayama taking control as soon as Oho slows down a touch.
On November 16th we'll see Japanese Light Flyweight champion Tetsuya Hisada (32-9-2, 19) return to the ring for his next defense, as he takes on the unheralded Akihiro Toya (8-4, 1). On paper this is a mismatch, but the pressure is on the 34 year old champion to continue his reign and make a successful 5th defense as he hunts a world title fight in 2019. For Toya on the other hand the bout is an unexpected at a belt, and a great chance to him to instantly gain notoriety after a career that has faltered, despite Rookie of the Year success in 2016.
The champion is rightfully the favourite. He is a world class fighter, with top 4 world rankings from the IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO, and is in great forum with 11 straight wins following a 2015 loss at Flyweight to Kenta Sugimoto. At the age of 34 however he will know that he cannot afford any sort of slip up, and he will also know that father time is against him, after all a 34 year old Light Flyweight who has been a professional since 2003 is ancient in boxing terms. Despite the age he is an experienced fighter with a very misleading record and has really aged like a fine win, with recent wins against the likes of Kenichi Horikawa, Atsushi Kakutani and Koki Ono.
In the ring Hisada is a fighter with a great engine, he comes forward with a lot of activity, really lets his hands go and is surprisingly heavy handed. Despite only scoring 19 stoppages in 43 career bouts he has stopped 8 of his last 11 and has certainly developed more belief in his boxing, his power and his strength.
At just 23 years old Toya is a relative boxing baby compared to the champion. Despite his youth he hasn't had an easy career and actually lost 2 of his first 3 bouts, before finding his groove and reeling off 6 straight wins. Those wins saw him claim the All Japanese Rookie of the Year at Light Flyweight but he has since gone 2-2, with a notable loss last time out to Takumi Sakae.
The challenger is a long way from a puncher, having only scored 1 stoppage so far, but he is a quick with smart upper body movement, sharp footwork and good hand speed. Sadly whilst he's quicker he lacks the ability to get respect from his opponents, and lacks in terms of both power and physicality, with fighters not likely to back off from him. Rather worryingly for Toya is the fact he can often be seen with his hands down, and against a fighter like Hisada that is going to be a major problem, as is the fact that Hisada will be able to walk him down and go to work up close.
This is a huge chance for Toya, but we can't help feeling like he has nothing to offer against Hisada who will be too energetic, too sharp, too heavy handed, too good and too busy for the challenger. Toya might have moments, particularly early on, but he'll be very lucky to last the distance with the champion.
If Hisada wins, as expected, we wouldn't be surprised to see him dropping the title to fight for a world title in the new year.
The Japanese scene today is very much one focused on young fighters and prospects, with many of the old guard having retired. The are however some of the old guard continuing their careers, two of whom are set to face off on October 12th in a Japanese Light Flyweight title eliminator, with the winner to get a shot at the title next year.
The fighters in question are 38 year old Kenichi Horikawa (37-15-1, 11) and 35 year old Koji Itagaki (18-12-3, 7). Between them they are 73 years old with a combined record of 55-27-4 (18) and 566 career rounds, and both know that this really could be their last notable bout if they lose. If they win however they open up the door to another big fight in the first half of 2019. Not only are they experienced but they know each other, having had a great battle against each other in early 2017.
Of the two men Horikawa is the older, more experienced man and the one who has hit the higher highs. He is a former Japanese Light Flyweight champion, having won the title in September 2015 when he beat Shin Ono, and actually beat Itagaki in February 2017 to claim the WBO Asia Pacific title. As well those wins he has mixed against great competition, losing to the likes of Akira Yaegashi, Florante Condes, Edgar Sosa, Kenshiro, Noknoi Sitthiprasert and Tetsuya Hisada, who he is 2-1 against.
In the ring Horikawa is a rough around the edge fighter who can box but often elects to fight, biting down on the gum shield and going toe-to-toe. This can make his bouts exciting, but they can also become sloppy and messy, and his third bout with Hisada became a bit of a bloody mess after several hard head clashes.
Itagaki's record looks dire, he has won just over 50% of his bouts and at 35 is getting no better. The reality however is that he too has been matched hard. He would fight to a draw with future world champions Yu Kimura and Tatsuya Fukuhara and suffer losses to Suguru Muranaka, Warlito Parrenas, Rey Loreto, Horikawa and the aforementioned Hisada, in a Japanese title fight earlier this year. It's worth noting that he has also scored some notable wins, including a stoppage over a then debuting Rangsan Chayanram, aka Palangpol CP Freshmart, and wins over Benezer Alolod and Koki Ono.
Like Horikawa we tend to see Itagaki getting dragged into brawls. He's a better boxer than Horikawa, has good foot work and speed, even at his age, and uses a busy jab whilst on the move. He showed against Hisada that even in his mid-30's he's a bundle of energy. However he can be made to stand his ground and fight fire with fire. It makes for great action but his lack of power is an issue when that happens.
When these two get in the ring on Thursday we suspect we'll see an energetic display from Itagaki, who will use his movement and try to avoid getting involved up close with Horikawa. Eventually however the fresh feet of Itagaki will slow and allow Horikawa his inside fight. When that happens the crowd will be given some thrilling action. The real question however is how long can Itagaki bounce around the ring. If he can do it for more than 4 rounds he should take the decision, but if Horikawa can cause a fire fight early on then he has a real chance of doing enough to take decision.
We suspect Itagaki should be able to take the decision, and avenge his previous defeat to Horikawa, but he will have to work incredibly hard for it.
*Please note this super early preview is due to the fact that the October 12th card has a staggering 6 different Japanese title eliminators so we are posting them a little earlier than usual.
The Light Flyweight division is arguable the best in the sport right now, with so much fantastic talent and so much depth. It may not have the allure of the Welterweight division, the Lightweight division, the Middleweight division or the Heavyweight division, but for hardcore fans it's a division with a lot of intrigue and interest right now. Below the world level there are a number of rising contenders, hopefuls and prospects. One of those is OPBF champion Edward Heno (12-0-5, 5) who looks to make his second defense this coming weekend. Heno's challenger will be fellow rising contender Jesse Espinas (19-2, 11), in what looks like another in a growing line of brilliant all-Filipino match ups.
The champion won the title last September, stopping Seita Ogido in their second meeting, though he was very unlucky not to have won the belt May that year when he was judges to have been held to a draw against Ogido after a tabulation error originally had him announced as the winner. Prior to winning the title Heno's best win had been a stoppage over Chris Ganoza. Since winning the belt he successfully defended the belt once, defeating former world champion Merlito Sabillo.
In the ring Heno is speedy yet hard hitting fight, who certainly hits a lot harder than his record suggests. At the age of 25 he's moving into his physical prime, and has filled out his frame into that of a powerful Light Flyweight, rather than a small one. His career began with 3 straight draws and he was 6-0-4 (1) but has really turned that around with 4 stoppages in his last 6 wins. That sort of form is impressive and he has shown he can step up to the plate, as he did in his win over Sabillo, and can perform on the road, as he did twice against Ogido. This however will be one more solid test for Heno, and if he wins he really will be deserving of a world title fight.
Espinas made his debut at 19 years old and he won his first 3 bouts before being upset by Ronelle Ferreras. A second winning run saw Espinas reel off 8 wins before losing by stoppage in a very tough match up against the unbeaten and hard hitting Christian Araneta, also a rising Filipino prospect at Light Flyweight. Since that loss Espinas has gone 8-0 (4) scoring notable wins over the likes of Joey Canoy, Paipharob Kokietgym, Elias Joaquino and Lester Abutan. Those wins have have made Espinas a fixture in the world rankings, and he is moving his way towards a world title fight.
Although somewhat unknown outside of Asia Espinas is an accurate straight punching fighter who is sharp with his shots, defensively aware and fights like a confident fighter with a lot of self belief. There is a bit of a “strong but basic” look to him at times but that's getting results and there is tools in his arsenal that he doesn't always show, because of how accurate and heavy handed he is. It also helps that he has a solid chin and good work rate, able to turn up the pace when he has his man hurt.
We're expecting to see Espinas try and keep Heno at the end of his straight shots, sadly for Espinas we suspect the power, self belief and speed of Heno will be the difference and the champion will out box the challenger en route to a decision win. Espinas will certainly have moments, but we think the quality of Heno will be too much over the 12 round distance, and the champion will take up a close, but clear, decision win.
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.