On October 28th we saw Accel Sumiyoshi and Tatsuya Yanagi, fight to a draw in a Japanese title eliminator at Lightweight. Despite being held to a draw Sumiyoshi became the mandatory, and now the next question is who will he be up against at the 2019 Champion Carnival, when he gets his shot at the belt.
We'll find out who Sumiyoshi's opponent will be on December 13th, when current Japanese Lightweight champion Shuichiro Yoshino (8-0, 6) makes his third defense and takes on the challenge of Kazumasa Kobayashi (10-7-1, 6). On paper this looks like a very straight forward defense for the talented champion, but sees him keeping a very good level of activity with a 4th bout in just 14 months.
Yoshino is a really classy fighter who was former amateur standout before making his professional debut in 2015. Ever since debuting Yoshino has been earmarked for success and has been matched hard as he and his team chase titles and accomplishments. In just his 4th professional bout he beat Yoshitaka Kato and he would claim the Japanese title in just his 6th bout, stopping veteran Spicy Matsushita. Since then he defended the belt with stoppage wins over Masaski Saito, in the 2018 Champion Carnival, and Genki Maeda. Not only has he been stopping opponents but he has been doing it early, and late, proving he has stamina to go with his power and skills.
Although Yoshino hasn't yet gone beyond Japanese level, we believe he's the best Japanese Lightweight out there. We feel he'd beat OPBF champion Masayoshi Nakatani and WBO Asia Pacific champion Nihito Arakawa. Hopefully in 2019 he gets those chances, as he is far too good to waste time on the domestic title scene.
The 35 year old challenger has had a relatively weird career, . He debuted almost 13 years ago, as a 22 year old, and has had a stop start career. He fought 4 times within 11 months to begin his career but suffered his first loss and spent over 30 months away from the ring. He would go on to have several more breaks over the years, including taking the entire of 2016 out of the ring. As well as the inactivity he has also had inconsistent results, though he has gone up against notable fighters, such as Takashi Inagaki, Masanobu Nakazawa, and Kota Tokunaga.
From his last performance Kobayashi looked like a huge Lightweight, who appeared to be tough, surprisingly fit for a 35 year old with a decent work rate and his knockout blow against Noriyoshi Taki looked really impressive. He's a weird looking fighter, who lacks a lot of technical ability, but is unorthodox, awkward and can clearly hit hard, if he can connect with a thunderbolt.
We suspect that Kobayashi will be dangerous and unpredictable, but will struggle to cope with the variety, speed and slickness of Yoshino, who we expect to continue his reign and do so in style. The challenger has only been stopped once, in 7 rounds by Tomoya Yamada, but we expect him to be stopped again here by the smart, talented and strong Yoshino.
Sadly in 2019 we suspect that Yoshino will deal with Accel Sumiyoshi as well, and prove that he really is a class above the Japanese domestic level fighters who will be challenging him whilst he continues to hold this title.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
A clash of top Japanese lightweight boxers will take place on December 9, at the EDION Arena in Osaka, as Masayoshi Nakatani defends the OPBF crown, for the 11th time, against the WBC International champion Hurricane Futa.
Masayoshi Nakatani (17-0 / 11 KOs) had an extensive career as an amateur, before turning pro, participating in 60 bouts. Finally made his debut in 2011, at the age of 21, winning 6 fights in a row (5 stoppages), including a victory over future Japanese champion Shuhei Tsuchiya. Nakatani punished the veteran (Tsuchiya was 14-1 at the time) with left hooks and body blows to get the KO win, in just the third round.
In 2014, he went face to face with former Japanese and the then reigning OPBF champion, Yoshitaka Kato, for the OPBF belt. Despite again being the less experienced of the two, Nakatani took the champion to his limit for 12 rounds, earning the majority decision, thus the championship and the East Japan Boxing Association Monthly MVP Award.
Since then, Nakatani has defended his title 10 times, including wins over Ricky Sismundo (35-11), Amphol Suriyo (23-3), Krai Setthaphon (27-4) and Ryan Sermona (20-9), placing himself at the top of the division, as he is ranked #5 by the IBF, #8 by the WBC and #12 by the WBO.
Hurricane Futa (25-7 / 15 KOs) is a fighter who has been around for a very long time. A 14 year professional, who has competed in over 30 matches and has faced competition from all over the world. His biggest fights to date have been against Will Tomlinson (25-3) and Vage Sarukhanyan (18-2).
Specifically, Futa stopped Tomlinson, a former IBO “world” & WBO Asia Pacific champion, in only 40 seconds of the first round, with a killer left hook, to win the interim WBA Oceania title. Also, this past February, he took on the WBC International champion Sarukhanyan, in a WBSS show, for the Russian’s title. Futa delivered a KOTY candidate in the 7th round, as he endured a plethora of punches before he caught the champion with a counter left hook, which knocked him out cold. Prior to the knockout, the Japanese fighter was controlling the entirety of the bout, even dropping Sarukhanyan with the same move in the 3rd. It’s worth mentioning that both title matches took place at his opponents’ home countries.
Despite having 7 losses on his record, it should be pointed that the majority of them are against high level boxers like Foijan Prawet (77-6), the reigning WBA International Featherweight champion & #2 WBA ranked Can Xu (15-2) as well as 2 division world champion Jhonny Gonzalez (66-11).
This is an important fight for both men. Nakatani may be only one or two fights away from challenging for a world championship, whereas this is Futa’s chance to break into the top 10 of the division. Moreover, their styles are very similar to each other. Nakatani’s agility and fast combinations have been the key factors to his success through out his career. He also likes to use body shots in order to create openings and then strike with the left hook, which is something we have seen him do in almost all of his fights. Futa is also a cracking boxer who packs a lot of power in his left hand, much like his opponent here. With 26 KOs combined between these two, it will be no surprise if this ends way before the 12th round.
Will Nakatani reach a perfect 18-0 record or Futa’s experience and power be proven too much for him to handle ? We will find out soon in Osaka !
On November 10th the Japanese Youth title gives us two interesting bouts, one of those will see Yuga Inoue and Kai Ishizawa battle for the Minimumweight title whilst the other is a Lightweight clash between the unbeaten Shawn Oda (9-0, 8) and the experienced Seiryu Toshikawa (10-4, 6). For both fighters it's their first chance to claim a title, and a great opportunity to move towards bigger and better fights.
It's fair to say that the more well known of the two fighters is Oda. The unbeaten man from Okinawa is a 20 year old who has been tipped for success for a while. He made his first mark in 2016, winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year in December. That was remarkable given he had only made his debut in May of that year and had won the Rookie of the Year after only 12 professional rounds at the age of 18. The big hope after that was that he would be fast tracked but with only a single fight in 2017 his rise was slowed, and he's had to catch up for lost time this year. He's done that quite well in fairness with good wins against the likes of Roldan Aldea and Masashi Wakita.
Watching Oda we see a raw but athletically gifted fighter, who is exciting, heavy handed, quick and promising. He's got fast and heavy hands, but can been seen over stretching, and taking some risks he doesn't need to take, though he has toned down those risks in recent fighters. He's still very young but very explosive and is someone who we suspect will become a staple at the upper echelons of the Japanese domestic scene in the years to come. To get to the very top he would need to really develop his skills, but we can't see any reason why he won't be fighting for senior titles in the years to come. In fact as he matures he could become a serious handful on the regional scene just due to his natural athletic traits, even if he doesn't develop the skills he currently has.
Despite being more experienced we've not seen as much of the 22 year old Toshikawa as we have of Oda. He's been a professional since 2014, making his debut at the age of 18. He would lose 3 of his first 6 bouts, losing to Jin Miura on debut, Teppei Kasyuuma in his third bout and to Daichi Kawabuchi in his sixth bout. Since then however he has gone 7-1 (4) with his only loss in coming in the 2016 East Japan Rookie of the Year final at Super Featherweight, a split decision loss to eventual All Japan Rookie of the Year Yuji Awata. Coming in to this bout he is riding a 4 fight winning run, including a big win in July over Ryuji Ikeda.
Toshikawa looks to be an educated and technically well schooled fighter with a long, sharp, quick jab which he uses to come forward behind. He seems to want to fight up close, though at times seems unsure what to do what he gets on the inside, as he waits for his opponent to throw. It's when he draws a lead that he's effective on the inside, countering well with both hands. He's surprisingly quick and has lovely shot selection, when he lets his hands go, but there is a sense that he doesn't have the natural power to go all the way, and will struggle to score stoppages as he moves through the levels.
Although we think Ishikawa is a very solid fighter with nice skills, we don't think he'll manage to get Oda's respect, and instead the unbeaten man will be too quick and too powerful, and will strike too many clean hurtful blows. We wouldn't be shocked to see Ishikawa go the distance, but we suspect he'll be the clear loser on the score cards.
Fore those wanting to read our preview of the Inoue Vs Ishizawa bout that's available here - Ishizawa and Inoue battle for Japanese youth title!
At the moment the Lightweight division is one of the most frustrating divison's in the sport. It had two elite level fighters, Vasyl Lomachenko and Mikey Garcia, though they never looked likely to face off. Then it had a huge number of interesting, solid but unspectacular contenders, all looking to get into the mix at the top of the division. It's not that it's a bad division by any stretch, but one that feels a little bit like it's lacking in star power and real top talent with a lot of evenly matched contenders behind the sensational Lomachenko.
Thankfully with so many evenly matched contenders there are a lot of bouts that could be put together and be very interesting. One such bout takes place on November 10th, and is a WBA world title eliminator, as Indonesian fighter Daud Yordan (38-3-0-1, 26) takes on former world champion Anthony Crolla (33-6-3, 13). On paper this could be a genuinely thrilling match up between two men who like to let their hands fly, and typically find themselves in gruelling wars. Neither man is a big puncher, though both have respectable power, and both have a gritty toughness to them.
Of the two men Crolla is the more well known. He is a very well liked fighter who had a really hard luck career that saw him suffer a number of early losses, including a defeat to Youssef al-Hamidi in 2008 and losses to Gary Sykes in 2009 and 2012. Despite those set backs he has really worked hard, and in 2015 he became the WBA Lightweight champion thanks to a tremendous body shot KO. That title win came in Crolla's 38th bout and had followed a controversial draw to Perez 4 months earlier. Sadly though his reign was a short one, losing in his first defense to Jorge Linares the following year. A loss in a rematch to Linares seemed to show Crolla's level, but he has bounced back with a couple of wins, including a victory over Ricky Burns.
It should be noted that not only was Crolla a hard luck story in the ring, but also a hero out of it, breaking up a burglary in late 2014, before being attacked by one of the burglars and suffering a broken ankle and a fractured skull. Thankfully he has bounced back from that with no lasting issues, and even scored his biggest win following that injury.
Yordan isn't as well known as Crolla, but is without a doubt the most well known Indonesian currently active in the sport, by a long way, and is a fighter with a cult following. His career has been an easier one than Crolla's, but he has mixed with a relative who's who facing off with the likes of Robert Guerrero, Celestino Caballero, countryman Chris John and Simpiwe Vetyeka. At his best he's a little warrior, who comes to fight, and applies a lot of pressure. He can be out boxed, has somewhat flawed defense but really does put on a show, as he showed earlier this year in a huge win in Russia against Pavel Malikov in what was an real all action bout.
Yordan is a fun fighter to watch, but he's very much a basic, rough around the edges pressure fighter, and we can't help but think that Crolla will be too sharp, too quick and too smart for him. The Indonesian will have moments, but we suspect he'll struggle to have them on a consistent basis against Crolla. If, however, Yordan can drag the Englishman into his fight he does have a chance, but we see that as a moderately slim chance.
Unfortunately no matter who wins this they really wouldn't stand a chance against the pheonomal Lomachenko.
Between now and the end of this year we'll see a number of Japanese title eliminators. Among those bouts are a number of rematches, including the recent bouts between Kenichi Horikawa and Koji Itagaki, and Ken Osato and Satoru Sugita. We get another rematch this coming Sunday when Accel Sumiyoshi (11-4-2, 3) and Tatsuya Yanagi (15-5-1, 6) meet in a Japanese Lightweight title eliminator. The bout will be the third between the two men and will clearly be the most significant between the two men.
The two men first fought back in December 2015 when a then 5-4-1 (1) Sumiyoshi held a then 11-3 (4) Yanagi to a 10 round draw. The following year the two men would have an immediate rematch and Sumiyoshi would stop Yanagi in 3 rounds, in what was a short but exciting encounter.
Since their second bout Sumiyoshi has won his last 5, scoring notable wins over Allan Tanada, Naotoshi Nakatani and Motoki Sasaki. Yanagi on the other hand has gone 4-1, winning his last 4 bouts following a razor thin loss to former Japanese champion Seiichi Okada. The success of both men since their back to back bouts has lead to both being highly ranked by the JBC and their bout will decide who challenges either Shuichiro Yoshino (8-0, 6) or Kazumasa Kobayashi (10-7-1, 6), who fight in December.
Given he is leading the series with a win it's clear that Sumiyoshi will be the favouring coming into this bout. The 33 year old hasn't got an excellent record though he has actually turned things around well following a bizarre 4-4-1 start to professional boxing. In his first 9 bouts he was matched insanely hard, taking on the likes of Kento Matsushita, Yuhei Suzuki, Kota Tokunaga and Masayoshi Nakatani. Since that baptism of fire however he has found his groove and gone 7-0-1, avenging the draw with the win over Yanagi in their second bout. He has done that whilst not getting much attention due to his bouts being mostly in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi, one of Japanese boxing's smaller markets. Had he been fighting regularly in Tokyo there is a good chance he'd have been a staple on the Dangan cards.
In the ring Sumiyoshi is a pretty sharp fighter and you can see by watching him that he was a pretty experienced amateur. He's comfortable in the ring, with a very good jab, nice variety and confidence in his skills. Defensively he's open, and fights with his lead hand rather low, and does lack power, but we know he can hurt Yanagi as we saw in the second bout, where he actually got backed up a lot. In that second fight Sumiyoshi allowed Yanagi to come at him, countered wonderfully and then made the most of Yanagi's tiring arms as he crashed some gorgeous headshots on to his man who was dropped 3 times in round 3.
At 28 years old Yanagi is the younger man though technically he's the more experienced man, with 21 fights under his belt compared to the 17 of Sumiyoshi. He hasn't however got the amateur background of Sumiyoshi, and instead came through the Japanese rookie service, taking the Rookie of the Year crown in 2012. His record would advance to 10-0 before he went through a real rough patch and slid to 11-5-1, with his sole win during that run being a narrow decision over Toru Suzuki who retired afterwards. Now however he has turned his career around and won his last 4, including 2 wins over Masashi Noguchi.
In the ring Yanagi doesn't really do anything amazingly, but has has a solid jab, can move around the ring well and appears to hit harder than his record suggests. He's loose and relaxed in the ring and does seem to avoid plenty of shots thrown in his direction. Sadly though for Yanagi his chin does seem suspect and he gets wild and wide when he looks for the finish.
We're expecting Yanagi to be more cautious than he was in the second bout with Sumiyoshi, but we don't expect to see him get revenge here. Instead we're expecting a another stoppage for Sumiyoshi, albeit much later in the fight than round 3. Sadly neither Sumiyoshi or Yanagi will be expected to put up a serious challenge against Yoshino in the new year.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo )
Masayoshi Nakatani (16-0), along with Nihito Arakawa (31-6) and Kazuhiro Nishitani (19-4), is currently one of Japan’s top Lightweights.
While studying at the Kindai University, he participated in 60 amateur bouts. Turned pro on June of 2011, at the age of 21, winning 6 fights in a row (5 KOs), including a victory over future Japanese champion Shuhei Tsuchiya (14-1*).
Nakatani, on January of 2014, went face to face with former Japanese and the then reigning OPBF champion Yoshitaka Kato (26-4*) for the OPBF belt. Despite being the less experienced of the two, he took the champion to his limit for 12 rounds, earning the majority decision, thus the championship and the East Japan Boxing Association Monthly MVP Award.
Nakatani, since then, has defended his title 9 times, including wins over Ricky Sismundo (26-7*), Futoshi Usami (12-1*), Krai Setthaphon (23-1*), Ryan Sermona (20-8*), Amphol Suriyo (22-2*). A bonafide knock artist, having finished 10 out of his 16 bouts, most within the first five rounds, he has placed himself at the top of the division, as he is ranked #7 by the WBC, #13 by the WBO and #5 by the IBF.
His next opponent is Izuki Tomioka (5-0) an up comer, who’s building his name in the regional scene, having scored wins over Yuichiro Kasuya (9-1*) as well as Taiju Shiratori (8-2*) and has claimed the Japanese Youth Lightweight title.
Despite the fact that Nakatani is the clear favorite in this outing, on July 29th, we can’t dismiss the young lion, who in less than 2 years has made quite an impact in the Japanese scene (ranked #15).
It will be interesting to see how both these athletes will match each other. Nakatani needs just a few more significant victories before he can challenge for a world title, so it’s imperative he succeeds here, as a loss to a rookie will not look that good on his record.
*Fighter’s record prior to the fight.
This coming Thursday fight fan sin Japan will be able to see national Lightweight champion Shuichiro Yoshino (7-0, 5) make his second defense, as he takes on fellow professional novice Genki Maeda (6-2-1, 2), who will be fighting in his first professional title fight. For the champion the bout looks to be another chance to get some more experience before moving up another level, whilst the challenger will be looking to make the most of an opportunity that he doesn't really deserve, given he's gone 2-1-1 in his last 4 bouts.
Yoshino had been a former amateur standout before making his professional debut back in December 2015. Given his amateur pedigree he was ear marked for success almost immediately and in just his second bout he took on highly experienced Thai Chaiyong Sithsaithong, showing he could out box the tough Thai. After a frustrating 2016 Yoshino showed his skills as he over-came Yoshitaka Kato in early 2017 and then stopped Spicy Matsuhsita in a bout for the vacant Japanese Lightweight title last October. Since then he has defended the title once, stopping Masaki Saito inside a round this past February.
In the ring Yoshino is a talented boxer, who can can punch hard enough to get the respect of anyone at domestic level. He's not someone who looks like he's going to have KO power at world level, but with stoppage wins against Kenta Onjo, Matsushita and Saito he can certainly punch at this level. He can also box, with wins over the teak the tough Chaiyong and Kato proving he can go rounds when he needs to, and rely on his skills. He is a fighter who lacks professional experience, which is arguably why he is facing a fighter like Maeda, but looks like a fighter with the potential to go a very long way, if his team manage him right, and develop him properly. That likely means keeping him away from the very best in Japan, such as OPBF champion Masayoshi Nakatani or WBO Asia Pacific king Nihito Arakawa, for now but maybe not for too much longer.
On paper it's easy to look at 25 year old Maeda and write him off for his record, which is far from flattering. He has however faced some stiff domestic competition so far, including Yoshimichi Matsumoto, Mitsuyoshi Fujita and Shogo Yamaguchi. Sadly the fact he has come up short against the level of competition that he has faced really says it all, and whilst talented Maeda is not ready for a title bout. He's solid at domestic level, but a good step down from the domestic elite. With his best win being a majority decision against Yamaguchi or a unanimous decision over Areji Kato, both of which are good wins, but neither should suggest he's ready for a title bout.
Whilst Maeda is a good fighter he does lack power, with his only stoppages coming against very limited Thai visitors. As an amateur he was a credible fighter, but was a long way from matching the achievements of Yoshino and it's not only a case of Maeda lacking the power of the champion but also the skills. We suspect he will have moments, certainly more so than Saito, and we think Maeda is tough enough to see out some rounds. But in the end we don't see how he will live with Yoshino when the champion picks up the pace. Instead we suspect the champion will retain his title, with a mid-to-late round stoppage.
One of two OPBF title fights taking place this coming Saturday will be at Lightweight as long reigning champion Masayoshi Nakatani (15-0, 9) makes his 9th defence of the title, for the 9th time, against Thai puncher Pharanpetch Tor Buamas (22-2, 18).
The champion won the title way back in January 2014 when he out pointed Yoshitaka Kato for the title. At that point it seemed like Nakatani was on the fast line to the top, something that seemed to be backed up when he made his first defense against Ricky Sismundo. Sadly however he has since floundered, taking on rather limited challenger ans not really being tested as his team has, in some ways, failed him as a fighter. Rather than continuing to test him Nakatani's team have had him defending his title against the likes of Kazuya Murata, Tosho Makoto Aoki and Ryan Sermona. That level of competition suggests that Ioka can't secure better opponents, Nakatani doesn't want a test or that Ioka aren't convinced that Nakatani can beat better opponents. Knowing what we do about Nakatani it seems like Ioka simply can't afford to get the fighter top opponents, or push him towards a world title fight.
In the ring Nakatani is an smart boxer-puncher. He's huge for a Lightweight, standing at close to 6', and uses his long arms to keep opponents at range, box on the outside. On the inside he has surprisingly ability, and his first big win show cased that as he broke down Shuhei Tsuchiya with body shots way back in 2013. When he's at his best he's fighting at range, making the most of his jab and keeping opponents at a safe range range, picking away with his activity and then lowering the boom when he's comfortable. We've seen him prove his ability to go 12 rounds, doing so 5 times, and show that he's dangerous through out bouts.
The Thai challenger has an impressive looking record, but like many Thai's it's a very padded one and one that has been exposed several times already. He debuted back in May 2011 and raced out to a 17-0 (13) record with the best win during that run being a close and competitive decision over the under-rated Rey Laspinas. There was some potential there, but it seemed like his handlers were unsure really how much potential there was. In 2016 we finally saw the Thai step up, and suffer a wide loss Billy Dib. A loss to a prime Dib wouldn't have been too bad, but Dib from 2016 had slipped and been stopped by Takashi Miura in 2015 and Evgeny Gradovich in 2013, and seemed to be clearly on the slide, so a loss to Dib was a concern. Just a few months later Pharanpetch suffered 6th round TKO loss to Brandon Ogilvie, in what was his only other bout of note.
In 2017 the Thai began to rebuild, claiming 4 very low level wins, which has helped him earn this title, though also suggest he really is a bit of a bully, padding his record and not really developing the skills needed to compete at title level. the footage of him he looks like a pretty basic come forward fighter, with a high guard, basic foot work and some nice combinations. On paper he has power, but it is hard to know how genuine that power is, given the level of competition.
We believe the basic work of the Thai will be toyed with by Nakatani who will pick, poke and eventually stop the challenger, and hopefully move on to bigger and better fights now, rather than continue to treat water at this level.
Every year the Champion Carnival throws out some amazing fights, well worthy of being for a Japanese title. Sadly the Champion Carnival also gives us some relatively uninspired contests that struggle to get the hopes of fans up too much. One of those less than great bouts will be taking place this coming Thursday and will see Japanese Lightweight champion Shuichiro Yoshino (6-0, 4) defending his title against Masaki Saito (14-12-6, 5), in what appears to be a huge mismatch.
The talented Yoshino was highlighted as a potential star as soon as he announced his intention to turn professional, following a successful amateur career. He went on to make his debut back in December 2015 and progressed incredibly quickly with notable wins in 2016 against Chaiyong Sithsaithong and Kenta Onjo. Those wins helped him prepare for a break out bout against Yoshitaka Kato in March 2017 and after winning that he had proven that he had the potential to go a very long way.
In October last year Yoshino faced off with Spicy Matsuhsita in a bout that was originally part of the Strongest Korakuen but later became a Japanese title fight when Kazuhiro Nishitani vacated the title. Yoshino was too good for Matsushita and stopped him in the 7th round, despite Matsushita giving a very good account of himself.
In the ring Yoshino is a very talented boxer puncher with a very strong amateur background, solid skills, an understated composure and the stamina to pick up the pace after the first few rounds. He hasn't yet proven himself over the 10 round distance but with an 8 round decision over Kato and a7th round TKO over Matsushita it seems clear he can handle the longer stretches. There is still a few rough edges, given he's only been a professional for a little over 2 years, but his talent is undeniable and he he has the potential to go a very long way.
Aged 32 Saito is a 12 year veteran of the Japanese domestic scene and although his record isn't the greatest he does pose some interesting challenges at this level. He's a very tall Super Featherweight-come-Lightweight, and stands at 5'11”. He's not only a rangy and tall fighter but also a tough one and in his 32 fight career he has he has only been stopped once, way back in May 2006 by Kenta Kato up at Light Welterweight. Since then he has faced off with notable domestic fighters like Moon Hyon Yun, Daisuke Sakamoto, Masashi Noguchi, Tsuyoshi Tojo and Dai Iwai, without any of them stopping him.
Whilst Saito is a tough warrior he does lack in terms of notable wins. His best win to date is a 2015 win over former Japanese champion Seiichi Okada and he is 1-2-1 in his last 4 bouts, having been widely beaten by Masashi Noguchi in a Lightweight bout back in June 2016. He's not proven to be a nearly man of Japanese boxing, with this being his first title bout, and despite being better than his record suggests there is little to really make anyone think that he can hold his own with a talent like Yoshino.
We believe that Saito will ask questions of the champion, poke some holes in the inexperience man, but in the end Yoshino will take over, and claim a clear cut and wide decision, if not a late stoppage, over Saito. The challenger will be game for the most part, but in the end he will simply lack the skills and fire power to test the champion's chin, or heart.
This coming weekend is a huge one for Japanese boxing fans. There is, of course, a trio of world title fights taking place on Sunday but before that will be another big show, albeit at the domestic level, which takes place on Saturday. That card will decide a lot of mandatory challengers for the domestic titles next year, but also a Japanese Lightweight title fight, with the unbeaten Shuichiro Yoshino (5-0, 3) taking on veteran Spicy Matsushita (17-9-1, 2) for the vacant title.
Of the two men it's fair to say that Yoshino has been the one getting the the more attention during his career. He was a former amateur standout who has been on the fast track since beginning his professional career, which began in 2015, and has already seen him defeat the likes of Chaiyong Sithsaithong, Kenta Onjo and Yoshitaka Kato, three very good opponents for such a novice.
In the ring Yoshino is a fighter who has got amateur skills to rely on, but can also brawl and fight. When he's needed to box, such as against Kato, he's done that whilst he has also been able to brawl with the likes of Onjo. During his short career he has shown good stamina, having already gone 6 and 8 rounds, solid power, good speed and a very good boxing IQ. As with many novice professionals there is a lot left for him to prove before we begin to talk about world title bouts, but from what we've seen it's obvious that the potential is there for Yoshino to go very far, if his mind stays on the sport.
It is worth noting that the 26 year old did walk away from the boxing once before, long before turning professional, and he has questions to answer about his commitment to boxing. He also has to answer questions about hos serious he is, having began his career at Welterweight before dropping down the weights. He's gone about it properly, but there is perhaps a possibility that a fully committed Yoshino would be fighting at Super Featherweight and not Lightweight.
Aged 34 Matsushita is pretty much in a must win situation, as he's almost certainly not going to be getting another shot at a title, if he comes up short here. It is worth noting that this is actually his second title fight in less than a year, though he did come up very short in his previous title fight losing a decision to Chinese hopeful Can Xu. Notably that loss was the first clear fight, win or loss, that Matsushita has had since a 2013 stoppage loss to Jun Hamana.
The trouble with Matsushita is almost every fight he has had has been close. He lacks the power to stop opponents, with just two stoppages, and the skill that he possess have rarely been significantly better than those he has faced. Going through his record shows this with bizarre regularity, including 7 split decisions, in which he has won 3, lost 3 and drawn one, 2 majority decisions, both wins, and a further 9 bouts which could be considered razor thin either way. He's a battler at heart, and that will to battle, has kept him in bouts he should have lost by wider scores, but has also shown a reliance on fighting hard, rather than smart.
Given his age and frustrating career it's hard to see what Matsushita has to really challenge Yoshino, who we think will really shine here, and will see off the veteran, likely sending him into retirement, in the middle rounds here. Matsushita might have some early moments but his lack of power and limited skills are made to order for a fighter like Yoshino, who is going to be too quick, too strong, too hungry and simply too good.
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.