Next year we'll see Koki Inoue look to increase the Inoue clan's hoard of titles, following his recent win over Marcus Smith in a Japanese title eliminator.
Whilst we know that Inoue has a Japanese title shot set for the 2019 Champion Carnival, we're not yet sure who he will be facing for that title in the new year. We will however find out on December 1st, when current champion Valentine Hosokawa (23-6-3, 10) defends his title for the second time, and faces off with fellow veteran Takashi Inagaki (20-17-2, 9). The winner of that will be the man that Inoue challenges.
At 37 Hosokawa's career has been like a fine wine, and he's really become an excellent fighter following a less than spectacular start to his career. He began fighting professionally in 2006, fighting to a draw with fellow debutant Yoshinori Kanazaki, and would suffer his first defeat the following year to Akihiro Kondo. After 10 bouts he was 6-1-3 (3) but would go on to win the 2008 Rookie of the Year at Lightweight, showing his potential. That potential would drive him to getting a shot at the Japanese Light Welterweight title in 2013, losing to Shinya Iwabuchi, and an OPBF title shot, losing to Min Wook Kim. Those losses were damaging, painful beatings, but they showed Hosokawa's drive, determination, heart and toughness. Those traits kep him in the sport, and saw him give Hiroki Okada problems in 2016, when Hosokawa got his third title fight. He came up short again there, but would go on to claim the Japanese title in 2017, winning a brilliant war with Koichi Aso. His only defense since then saw him pulling himself off the canvas to stop Vladimir Baez, in another thrilling contest.
In the ring Hosokawa is a man who defies all logic. He's a 37 year old with an insane engine, he seems to throw more punches as a fight goes on. He's not a huge puncher, by any stretch, but his output is grinding, both physically and mentally, and he will look to break opponents down through sheer attrition. Not only does he have an incredible work rate but he's also incredible tough, taking real beatings to Iwabuchi and Kim before being stopped. His determination and will to win are probably his key traits and are certainly responsible for him going as far and having a career that has peaked in his mid 30's.
Inagaki is a veteran himself, at 33 years old, and is getting his third Japanese title fight, after coming up short to Takashi Miura in a Super Featherweight shot in 2010 and Yoshitaka Kato in a Lightweight title fight 2011. As you can assume from that he's hs been a around a while, and debuted way back in July 2003, losing in the first round of his debut to fellow debutant Tatsuya Ishii. Inagaki's career has been a patchwork of wins and losses, though there are very few real highs from his career, other than his losses in title fights. Hios best wins are over the likes of Kazunori Fujita back in 2008, Joel Dela Cruz in 2009, Kazuma Kobayashi in 2012 and Yuya Okazaki last year and he does hold a notable draw with Daisuke Sakamoto. Sadly those results are easily outweighed by notable losses to the likes of Miura, Kato, Koichi Aso, Shusaku Fujinaka, Daishi Nagata and Yusuke Konno, with the losses to Nagata and Konno coming earlier this year.
The veteran challenger is a relatively slow fighter. He looks at his best when he's the man applying pressure, through much of his work is slow, and he looks like he's moving, and punching, through treacle. He looks strong and powerful, but isn't a puncher, doesn't have high output, and isn't swift.
Given the style of Hosokawa is to make everything into an intense, and massively entertaining, war we can't help but feel that he will simply out work and break down the challenger. Inagaki has been stopped 6 times during his career, and we suspect there will be another stoppage loss here for the challenger. If we're right and he is stopped he may well think about hanging up the gloves and retiring from the sport, ending his long career.
On October 11th fight fans at the Korakuen Hall will get the chance to see OPBF Light Welterweight champion Rikki Naito (20-2, 7) make his second defense, as he faces off with Daishi Nagata (11-1-1, 5). On paper this looks really competitive, though some in Japan have downplayed the bout feeling that Nagata has next to no chance. We however like the bout, a lot, and feel it could be a hotly contested tactical bout between two men in need of a big performance and two men who will be looking to shine.
The 27 year old champion has long been in the eye of the press due to being the son of Cassius Naito, a former OPBF and Japanese champion. Sadly that pressure, and his father's name, has over-shadowed the man from Yokohama who has already had an accomplished career on the domestic and regional scene. He debuted a little over 7 years ago and would win his first 13 bouts whilst fighting primarily as a Super Featherweight. That unbeaten start would see him claim the Japanese Super Featherweight title in 2014, when he stopped Hiroyasu Matsuzaki, and make 3 defenses, including a notable win over Masayuki Ito. It would also include a win over Nihito Arakawa. Sadly for Naito his unbeaten run would come to an end in 2015, when he lost the title to Kenichi Ogawa and in 2016 he would lose again to Ogawa. Since then Naito has moved up in weight and settled at Light Welterweight, where he has won and defended the OPBF title.
At 140lbs Naito has already scored noteworthy wins over Baishanbo Nasiyiwula, Jeffrey Arienza and Jhertiz Chavez. On paper that's pretty solid, but the reality is that he got pushed all the way by both Baishanbo and Chavez, with Naito lucky to make it to the final bell against Chavez. He has proven that whilst talented and swift at 140lbs he's not much of a puncher, he's not physically imposing and he'll struggle to get fighters to back off. He can out box people, but will struggle to out fight them. Despite being OPBF champion there's a good argument to make that he might only be the fourth or fifth best fighter at the weight in Japan right now.
At 28 years old Nagata is 18 months older than Naito, and is also a natural Light Welterweight, having fought at the weight through much of his career. Like Naito he did have some attention when he turned professional, though that was from hardcore fans who knew that Nagata was an accomplished amateur, who went 41-21 (11) and won a major national title in 2012. On debut he was matched hard, fighting to a draw with Takeshi Inoue, and has hardly had an easy fight since. In fact he has already shared the ring with the likes of Jeffrey Arienza, Kazuki Matsuyama, Vladimir Baez and Takashi Inagaki. He's not gone through murderers row, but he hasn't had an easy career either. Sadly he has come undone in one of those bouts, losing in 7 rounds to Baez last year, but since then has strung together 3 wins to secure this fight.
In the ring Nagata is a well schooled fighter, he's a rather quick and accurate boxer who fights out of the southpaw stance, knows his way around the ring and manages to lure opponents to lung at him before he counters. He's a technically solid, smart fighter. Unfortunately he's a small Light Welterweight and that was shown when he was beaten by the crude but powerful Baez. He couldn't get Baez's respect and the Japanese based Dominican ended up walking him down and forcing his corner to save him in 7 rounds. The fear of being stopped by Naito is less than it was against Baez and instead we'd expected both men to put their skills to the test, and not their physicality.
We're not anticipating a classic brawl here. Instead we're suspect high speed chess, from the opening round to the final bell. Both men will take a round or two to try and figure the other out, and from then on we're going to see speed, skills and traps a plenty, with each man looking to lure the other in to range, slip and counter. This could be a complex, yet dull affair between well matched fighters, or it could be action packed with both pitching their ring IQ's against each other.
We're expecting action, counters, speed and we're going to actually pick against the grain and go with Nagata, albeit in a razor thin 12 round decision. There won't be much to pick between them, but we favour Nagata's extra physical strength to take him over the finishing line.
When we look at the 2018 Japanese Title Challenger Bouts there's one that looks particularly explosive, and that's the Light Welterweight bout. That bout will see the unbeaten pairing of Koki Inoue (11-0, 10) and Marcus Smith (6-0-1, 6) battle for the right to fight for the national title at the 2019 Champion Carnival. Sadly whilst this is a potentially explosive clash between two unbeaten men it is also likely to be one of the most one-sided of Japanese title eliminator bouts, with one man being very heavily favoured over the other.
The clear favourite here is Koki Inoue, the cousin of Japanese sensation Naoya Inoue and world ranked Takuma Inoue. Like his cousins he was a top amateur and has looked a level above his competition since turning professional at the end of 2015. Proof of how outclassed his competition has been is the fact that only 1 of his 11 opponents has managed to last more than 5 rounds, and that was Hyun Woo Yuh who took a 6 round beating to Inoue more than 2 years ago. Inoue has been taking out notable domestic fighters, such as Futoshi Usami and Cristiano Aoqui, and looking close to untouchable at domestic level. He has been calling for a title fight for a while and seems to be an avoided fighter, something that makes a lot of sense given the trail of beaten men he has left in his wake.
In the ring Inoue is an offensive monster, much like Naoya. He cuts the distance behind a strong and powerful jab, throws sensational combinations on the inside and beats people into submission. So far fighters have really struggled to stand up to his power. Whilst it's easy to rave about how hurtful his shots are it's actually the variation and technique behind them that's so impressive. Inoue has every shot in the book, with some particularly brutal body shots in his arsenal. The one perhaps clear flaw is that he can leave himself open when throwing his combinations and his hands do drop occasionally when he comes forward behind jab. The reality however is that a fighter like him can get away with that at this level.
Japanese based American born fighter Smith is a 33 year old who has been a professional for less than 3 years but was crowned the Rookie of the Year last year and and stopped 6 of his 7 opponents in 4 rounds, in fact he's stopped men in the first 2 rounds. He is aggressive, heavy handed and like many Japanese based American fighters, has a real physicality about him that a lot of Japanese national don't quite have at 140lbs or higher. Physically he's a very strong looking fighter and given his age it really is now or never.
Whilst Smnith is strong and heavy handed on the lower level of the domestic level this is a massive step up in class and whilst he's a puncher lacks the fluidity that we tend to see in Inoue. He looks more ponderous, crude and clumsy, and that could be a major problem against Inoue. He also won't find that his southpaw stance will be much of a help here, given that Inoue is also a southpaw. Instead he's going to have to put on a career best performance to just fight on an even keel with the unbeaten man from Kanagawa.
It should be no surprise that we're predicting an Inoue win, in fact a win for Smith would be one of the biggest on the Japanese domestic scene this year. Smith isn't ready for a fight against one of the best in the country, whether that's Inoue, Valentine Hosokawa, Akihiro Kondo or Hiroki Okada. Inoue on the other hand is ready to face anyone on the domestic scene, and we see him viciously stopping Smith as he takes a huge step towards getting an over-due Japanese title fight.
Earlier this year Japan's Rikki Naito (19-2, 7) became a 2-weight champion, adding the OPBF Light Welterweight title to a previous reign as the Japanese Super Featherweight king courtesy of a 9th round TKO win against Jeffrey Arienza. This coming Tuesday Naito looks to make his first defense of that title as he faces off with the tough and hard hitting Jheritz Chavez (8-2-2, 6). It's a tough first defense for Naito and a great chance for Chavez to pick up a major regional title, to add to some minor title reigns and a GAB title.
For those who haven't seen Naito the Japanese fighter began his career as a somewhat hyped hopeful, courtesy of being the son of Cassius Naito. The potential was quickly shown and in just 29 months Naito had gone from debutant to Japanese Super Featherweight champion. At that point he was just 22, tipped for huge things and looking like a real one to watch, despite only being 9-0 (5). Sadly since then things have never really come together like Naito would have wanted, despite scoring 3 defenses of the title and notching wins against Masayuki Ito and Nihito Arakawa.
In December 2015 Naito lost the Japanese Super Featherweight title, via technical decision, to Kenichi Ogawa, and would lose a rematch a year later before deciding to abandon the division and has since grown into a solid Light Welterweight and gone 3-0 (2) with a notable win over Baishanbo Nasiyiwula.
In the ring Naito is a speedy fighter, though has began to slow down more in the ring as he's gone up in weight and become more physical. He's not a brawler but certainly holds his feet more at 140lbs than he typically did at 130lbs. On paper that sounds like it could be a problem, however in his case it really does simply seem like a case of maturing into a bigger and stronger fighter. Rather than peaking early he has developed into a strong young man, and become a potential fixture in the fringes of the world rankings.
Aged 27 Chavez has been a man who has made marks domestically but failed to come out on top when he's gone outside of the Philippines, losing to Vage Sarukhanyan in Russia and Hiroki Okada in Japan. Despite those losses he has looked very comfortable in and around the Filipino domestic following a 2-0-2 start to his professional career. That faltering start has been followed by notable wins over Tatsuya Yanagi, Al Sabaupan and Reymond Yanong. Not only has he been notching up wins but also been flipping between divisions, picking up regional titles at Lightweight and Welterweight and a domestic title at Light Welterweight.
Chavez looks like a fighter who is powerful, tough and strong, but fights like a man who wants to use his skills, his jab and his footwork to win bouts. Sadly that seems to leave him looking like he's a fighter who is just half a step behind the likes of Okada and Sarukhanyan, who took advantage of Chavez's slow feet and unwillingness to truly commit to an attack. Chavez does have a nice jab, but lacks the speed to really fight the way he does against a higher level of competition, who will stick their jab in his face as he trudges forward.
Given Naito's edge in speed we strongly favour him here on a stylistic basis. Chavez won't go away, and will follow Naito round after round, but Naito will always be a step or two ahead of the Filipino. Given that Okada couldn't stop Chavez we don't image Naito will, but we would be surprised if this was particularly competitive as a bout.
On May 7th Japanese fight fans are in for a treat, as Japanese Light Welterweight champion Valentine Hosokawa (22-6-3, 9) defends his title against the huge punching Vladimir Baez (24-3-2, 22), a Japanese based Dominican slugger. For the 37 year old old Hosokawa this will be his first defense, following a career defining victory over Koichi Aso last December, whilst Baez will be looking to record a 4th straight stoppage win and claim his second domestic title, following a previous reign as the Dominican Republic champion.
The champion is a 12 year veteran who debuted in May 2006 and despite some ups and downs has been a stalwart of the Japanese scene for much of that time. In fact he would get his first Japanese title fight more than 5 years ago, when he took on the hard hitting Shinya Iwabuchi, and despite a loss he remained very relevant. Just a fight later he took on the then OPBF champion Min Wook Kim in an incredible bout in Korea. Following those losses Hosokawa has been fighting on the domestic level and scored wins over Takeshi Goda, Jumbo Oda Nobunaga Shoten Petagine and Cristiano Aoqui en route to getting his second Japanese title fight in 2016. As with his first shot Hosokawa lost, though put up a fantastic effort against Hiroki Okada and seemed to have much of his work ignored by the judges.
Although Hosokawa is getting on for a fighter he has an incredible engine, he throws a lot of leather and whilst he's not a big puncher he does make for great fights on the domestic level. He tenacity and energy is brilliant and sees him over whelming opponents with aggression and work rate. Sadly it does mean that his fights are draining and damaging but they are thrilling, exciting and great to watch. His fight with Aso last year was a Japanese FOTY contender and his 2013 bout in Korea with Min Wook Kim was genuinely thrilling. Sadly those exciting fights will take a toll on Hosokawa and his career won't have a lot longer to go, even if he is successful here against Baez.
The challenger arrived in Japan a couple of years ago to be managed from the country. The change began with an easy win in Thailand before he suffered a loss to Teerachai Kratingdaenggym at Welterweight. Since then however he hasn't looked back scoring wins over Daishi Nagata, Ryusei Nakajima and Kazuyasu Okamoto all by stoppage last year. Those wins showed that Baez's power is legitimate, he's a brutally nasty power puncher, who swarms on opponents, and lets his shots fly. He might not be the most technically impressive but he is a strong, powerful, heavy handed and energetic monster at this level.
Aged 34 Baez is no spring chicken, but his 29 career bouts have averaged just 4 rounds a bout. They have been mostly short with his power being the key. He's not avoided damage all together but is a relatively young 34 year old and someone who can clearly have a few more years on the Japanese domestic scene. That's not to suggest he's the best in the country at 140lbs, but there's very few fighters in Japan who would be favoured over him, perhaps only Hiroki Okada and Koki Inoue.
Given his edge in power, aggression and sheer brutal physicality it's hard to bet against Baez here. We know Hosokawa is tough but unfortunately we suspect that will be his downfall. He will be there to fight against Baez but will take a lot of heavy shots, and we suspect he will be worn out in the middle to late rounds, as Beaz claims his biggest career and becomes a national champion in a second division.
This coming Saturday fight fans at the Korakeun Hall will get the chance to see 2 OPBF title fights. One of those will see former Japanese Super Featherweight champion Rikki Naito (18-2, 6) take on Filipino Jeffrey Arienza (16-6-1, 10) for the vacant Light Welterweight title. For Naito the bout will be his first OPBF title bout, whilst Arienza will be getting his second shot at the title, having come up short against Darragh Foley last year.
Of the two men it's been Naito who has been on our radar the longest. In 2014 he became the Japanese champion at 130lbs, stopping Hiroyasu Matsuzaki, and at the time it seemed like the then 22 year old was on his way to huge success. His title reign would see him successfully defending the title against talented fighters, like Kento Mastushita, Shingo Eto and most notably Masayuki Ito. He would also score a win at Lightweight against Nihito Arakawa.
In late 2015 Naito's reign came to an end, as he was beaten by Kenichi Ogawa and since then his career hasn't really gotten going again. He scored a clear win over Chaiyong Sithsaithong, struggled past Argie Toquero and then suffered a second loss to Kenichi Ogawa. He seemed to put that loss down to making weight and has since dipped his toes at Lightweight before finally moving up to Light Welterweight, where he scored a notable split decision win over China's Baishanbo Nasiyiwula.
At his best Naito is a talented boxer-mover. At times he's ignored his strengths to fight as a brawler, and he can hold his own at brawling, but does lack some of the physicality that he may need to make a real mark at 140lbs. He doesn't hard, and has scored just 2 stoppages in his last 15 fights! When he boxes however he can look very good, as he did when he comfortably out boxed Nihito Arakawa and Chaiyong Sitsaithong.
Filipino fighter Arienza has been a professional since 2008 and went 9-0-1 to begin his career. Sadly though he would then suffer back to back losses, including one to future Naito opponent Masayuki Ito. A short run of stoppages was then ended back back to back losses to Daishi Nagata and Dante Jardon. Another small run of wins followed before he losses in a WBO Asia Pacific title bout to Akihiro Kondo and since then he has gone 1-1 with the loss coming to Foley.
Interestingly coming in to this bout Arienza has gone 0-3 in Japan, 0-5 outside of the Philippines. He's a decent fighter on the domestic level, but the reality is that his record is a very padded one with very few wins of any real worth. That's not to say he couldn't score a decent win, but he hasn't yet, and in fact he's often shown to be relatively easy to out box. He has struggled to even win rounds against the likes of Ito and Kondo and despite pushing Nagata hard it was just Nagata's 2nd bout at the time.
There are much better 140lb fighters in both Japan and the Philippines than these two. Out of these two however it's hard to see anything but a clear win for Naito, who should be able to take either a very wide decision or a late stoppage to claim the title. Unfortunately for Naito however a win here will put a huge bullseye on his back for fighters like Koki Inoue, who are going to be actively chasing titles through the rest of the year.
This coming Thursday Japanese fight fans get an early Christmas present with a potentially thrilling bout at Light Welterweight, as domestic champion Koichi Aso (22-7-1, 15) makes his second defense of the title, and takes on the exciting Valentine Hosokawa (21-6-3, 9). The bout combines two aggressive and exciting fighters with both looking to make a statement, and both going in to the ring with a point to prove. It may not make marks on the international stage, but domestically this bout is sure to be an all-out fire-fight and comes between men with some history.
The history between the two men is now 9 years old, with the two men having fought to a split decision draw back in 2008. That draw was in the East Japan Rookie of the Year final, and saw Hosokawa advance to the final on the “Dominant Point” rule. That result was followed by Hosokawa winning in the All Japan Rookie of the Year final, claiming the crown as the Lightweight Rookie of the Year. It's fair to say that Aso will be seeking revenge here.
Aged 31 Aso won the title in his third shot at it, following two losses in title fights against Hiroki Okada. Those losses to Okada are the most recent ones Aso has suffered, but he has also come up short against the likes of Shinya Iwabuchi and Jung Hoon Yang. Along with those losses are wins over the likes of Kazuyoshi Kumano, Moon Hyun Yun, Kazuki Matsuyama and Yusuke Konno. Through his career he has proven to be an ultra-aggressive and exciting pressure fighter fighter, who brings the action behind a tight guard and looks for a fight. Although Aso can be out fought, and out boxed, he does tend to make fights exciting and his title defense against Konno is a front runner for the best Japanese fight of 2017.
Aso's style has taken atoll on his body, and with 4 stoppage losses against his name he isn't the most durable. Despite that he seems to fight like a man who believes he can take bombs and that's part of what makes him dangerous. He heavy handed, aggressive and willing to take risks to stop opponents. He's not going to just back off because he gets caught and will instead fight fire with fire, and can be very hard to time when he's hurt.
Whilst Aso is a fighter with a tight guard and hurtful power the same cannot be said of Hosokawa, despite the fact he too is an aggressive fighter who enjoys fighting off the front foot. Hosokawa will instead march forward and let his hands fly, with a very high work rate, a great energy and a belief in simply out working and swarming his opponents. He can certainly be out boxed, and and he has been stopped in previous title bouts by the heavy handed pairing of Shinya Iwabuchi and Min Wook Kim, but even in his losses he has given opponents absolute hell. In recent years he has notched up notable wins against the likes of Jumbo Oda Nobunaga Shoten Petagine, Cristiano Aoqui and Quaye Peter and no one will begrudge him his 4th title bout here.
Aged 36 Hosokawa's huge energy reserves don't last much longer and he is certainly in the latter stages of his career. Having come up short in previous title bouts he probably knows that this will be his final shot, and it's hard to imagine him leaving anything in the tank. He may not have the power to hurt Aso, but he has the work rate to defeat him and the will to win to really give Aso hell.
What we're expecting is for the men to meet in center ring and for a 10 round, balls to the wall war. The guard of Aso will be hard for Hosokawa to break through, but he could end up handcuffing the champion with his out put. Aso's power could be the difference, and he may be able to make Hosokawa think twice about wildly working up close. Either way this is going to be a nail biting, violent and brutal contest that will have fans captivated from start to end.
Earlier this year Japanese warrior Koichi Aso (21-7-1, 14) claimed the biggest win of his career, stopping Kazuki Matsuyama in a bout for the vacant Japanese Light Welterweight title. It was Aso's third shot the title, and saw him finally win a big one. He returns this coming Friday to make his first defense of the title, as he takes on little known challenger Yusuke Konno (11-3, 5), who will be fighting in his first title bout, and looking to end Aso's reign.
For those who haven't seen Aso his style is the typical Japanese warrior style. He comes to fight, presses the action and always looks to have a fight. Sometimes that costs him, such as in his 2011 bout with Shinya Iwabuchi, but other times it sees him out battling and breaking fighters down, as he did against Matsuyama. It's a style, and mentality, that makes for fun action fights but has taken it's toll on him and his body isn't as tough and durable as it perhaps needs to be if he's to have a long career.
Although not a huge puncher Aso can bang, but often finds himself being dragged into wars of attrition, which is partly why he has been such a popular fixture at the Korakuen Hall over the last 11 years or so. During that 11 year career he really has faced almost everyone of note at the domestic level, including Valentine Hosokawa, Taisho Ozawa, Shinya Iwabuchi, Jung Hoon Yang, Moon Hyun Yun and Hiroki Okada, twice. He's generally struggled against the best domestic level foes, but has shown he belongs in there, and he has developed with experience.
Although Aso is well known and experienced at the top of the domestic tree the same cannot be said of Konno. In fact Konno's most notable bouts to date have all resulted in losses, with defeats coming to the likes of Hisao Narita and Kazuyoshi Kumano. To date his best wins have been over the likes of Kazuya Soma and Shusaku Fujinaka, which are decent wins but nothing outstanding.
Footage of Konno as easy to get as it is for Aso, and as a result it's harder to get a read on his style, but he's yet to be stopped, and has shown an ability to fight over 8 rounds at a good rate. This will however be a marked step up in class, and be his first over 10 rounds. Those two things alone will be a huge challenge for the 32 year old Kanagawa born fighter.
It's likely going to be a fun fight, and one fought at a high pace, but we suspect that Aso's extra experience will be the difference, with the champion coming out on top with a late stoppage, in a very fun and competitive bout.
On February 9th Japanese fight fans get a title double at the Korakuen Hall, as part of a Diamond Glove card to be televised on delay on Fuji TV. The lesser of those two fights is a Japanese title fight at 140lbs, and it will see the top two ranked Japanese fighters trade blows for the currently vacant title.
The match up will see former 2-time title challenger Koichi Aso (20-7-1, 13), the #1 ranked contender, take on first time title challenger Kazuki Matsuyama (13-7-1, 7), the #2 ranked fighter.
Of the two men it's Aso who is more well known. He's been a professional since June 2006 and has shared the ring with a who's who of domestic talent. He has fought to a draw with Valentine Hosokawa, suffered loss to Taisho Ozawa, twice, Shinya Iwabuchi and Hiroki Okada, twice, and holds wins over Yusuke Kikuchi, Kazuyoshi Kumano, Yoshitaka Katabami and Moon Hyun Yun.
Although those names might not resonate globally they do feature almost every notable Japanese Light Welterweight of the last decade, barring Yoshihiro Kamegai and Aso's Misako gym stablemate mate Keita Obara.
In the ring Aso is a rough around the edges pressure fighter, who brings the heat from early on and always looks to engage in a fan friendly battle. Sometimes that has cost him, as it in the opening round against Iwabuchi, other times it's kept him competitive in fights against more talented fighters, such as in the first Okada fight. Although not the most skilled, or the biggest puncher, few will double Aso's fighting mentality and he always comes to win whilst having a style that will always excite fans.
As for Matsuyama he's been a professional for a little over 7 years and has a very mixed record. He began with back-to-back losses before stringing together 6 wins to get his career off the ground. Sadly Matsuyama had another slide as he ended that run and suffered a trio of losses, including a notable set back to Masanobu Nakazawa in 2012. The streaky fighter bounced back again, winning 6 in a row, including a win over Masayoshi Kotake. That run ended in late 2015, when he was stopped by Shuhei Tsuchiya and he has since gone 1-1-1 with a loss to Daishi Nagata and a draw with Kentaro Endo.
At his best Matsuyama is quite limited. His poor recent form, with just 1 win in his last 4, would suggest he shouldn't be getting a title fight here, and although he can spring an upset it does seem like he's getting this fight more because no one else is seen as being quite ready for a title fight at the moment.
Aso might not be a huge puncher but with his style you'd have to favour him to over-whelm and break down Matsuyama. The style of Aso will give Matsuyama chances, but we don't think Matsuyama will be good enough to make the most of the openings he will be given, and will instead be stopped in the middle rounds.
We have mentioned the sub stories involved in this fight, the key one of which is the fact that this is a rematch. It was Rivera, in 2015, who took the unbeaten record of Cabalquinto in a notable domestic upset. That upset saw Rivera putting himself on the boxing map, as he iced Cabalquinto with a devastating left hook, and left Cabalquinto's career in tatters. There was some debate that a headclash lead to the KO but the ruling was that left hand did the fight ending damage in what was a wild fight. For Cabalquinto the bout is a chance to avenge that loss whilst Rivera will be hoping to prove the win wasn't a fluke.
Since their first bout Cabalquinto has struggled to get much going in terms of career momentum. he scored two wins over limited opponents earlier this year but was beaten in July in Singapore by Qudratillo Abduqaxorov. Prior to the loss to Rivera it seemed almost nailed on that Cabalquinto was just a fight or two away from a major title fight, and was likely moving towards a vacant OPBF title fight, likely with Iwabuchi.
In the ring Cabalquinto has shown some promise with nice hand speed and a fun aggressive mentality that sees him letting his hands go happily. Sadly his defense has been flawed through his career and his footwork looks very plodding, in fact at times it looks like he totally forgets to even use his feet and just lets his punches go whilst standing still. That footwork seems to limit his power and although he has a 60% KO rate he doesn't appear to be much of a puncher. His flaws haven't been a major problem against domestic level opponents on the whole, but the lack of defense did prove to be his undoing against Rivera.
As for Rivera he has gone from beating Cabalquinto back in November 2015 to becoming the Oriental champion and looking like a genuine monster in the process. Whilst the win over his countryman was his first big win his February victory over Shinya Iwabuchi was an eye opening beat down in which he bullied Iwabuchi like no one before him, and forced Iwabuchi into retirement after a 7th round TKO. That performance was nothing short of impress from Rivera who really made a statement, and likely scared off invites back to Japan for a while.
In the ring Rivera is a bully. He's an all action, aggressive machine who gets in the ring and looks for a war with his power having been the telling factor in his last 6 bouts, all stoppages in a combined 17 rounds! Interestingly however he has been stopped twice, though both of those bouts were below the Light Welterweight limit, with one of those coming on his debut back in 2011 against Jeffrey Dumaguit. Those losses could mean Rivera hasn't a great chin or, alternatively, that he was simply a kid who hadn't developed into the man he is now, or maybe even that he was weight drained.
Whilst Cabalquinto might feel the first bout was a fluke for Rivera we have been convinced by recent results that Rivera is a monster with power and a really physical style. That will again be his key here and we simply feel that his strength and power will be too much for Cabalquinto, though we would be surprised if Rivera could finish off his countryman as quickly here as he did in their first meeting.
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.