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 first Japanese fight of the new year comes just days after the first OPBF title fight.
Whilst the OPBF fight, between Yoshitaka Kato and Masayoshi Nakatani looks like something special, we're unfortunately left with some less exciting for the Japanese title fight which sees the #2 and #3 ranked Japanese Minimumweights fighting for the vacant title.
The belt, vacated late last year by Ryuji Hara, will see the light hitting Go Odaira (8-3-3, 1) fighting against the much harder hitting Masashi Tada (11-3-1, 7). We've got to admit that whilst both men are highly ranked it's not a bout that is setting our pulses racing.
Of the two men it's Odaira, pictured above, that has been more impressive so far. Although he's not blown the world away with great performances he has been scoring the occasional note worthy victory, including a 6 round decision 2 fights back against former world title challenger Takashi Kunishige. What's notable about the victory over Kunishige is that he himself gave Hara a real scare just a few weeks back.
As well as the victory over Kunishige it's worth noting that Odaira is on a 7 fight unbeaten run going back to his own narrow loss to Ryuji Hara. Other than the Kunishige win there is little of note on his record but the light hitting southpaw at least has that one notable victory.
Whilst Odaira's victory over Kunishge is the most impressive between the two fighters it's hard not to be impressed by Tada's reputation as a puncher.
Tada, pictured opposite, has yet to score a really notable victory, in fact it's hard to even come up with a semi-notable victory on his record. Despite that he has been fighting above the 105lb Minimumweight limit as he's searched for suitable opponents.
Unfortunately despite the move to 108lbs and even 112lbs it's hard to say much about Tada's opponents. In all honesty the most noteworthy thing about them is that Tada was beaten by Junior Salvador, a very limited but tough Filipino. Albeit that bout was controversial and in the Philippines.
Worryingly neither of these two men have been scheduled to go 10 rounds before. That may not sound like an issue but we believe it could well be with both likely to go into uncharted water. This may well favour Odaira, the boxer, who would be more likely to be to control his stamina for 10 rounds. Of course it's not out of the question however that he could be stopped by Tada.
On paper it's not a bout that looks great but it is one that looks competitive. Not much more you could want in a bout. We do favour Tada, but only just. His power is likely to leave the more telling effect at least in the early rounds which we believe will see him building up a small but notable lead before Odaira comes back in to it.
As well as the Odaira/Tada bout we expect a number of other contests on this show.
These other bouts include seeing Takaomi Abe (15-2-2, 1), pictured opposite, fighting the big hitting Kazuya Nakano (6-2, 6) in a very good looking contest, Hiroaki Teshigawara (8-1-1, 4) battling Yuta Nakagawa (11-4-1, 7) and a potentially brilliant clash between Kohei Kubo (16-4-1, 11) and Hayato Kimura (20-5, 15).
We really wouldn't be shocked if the Kubo/Kimura bout ended up being the show stealer as it looks really good on paper.
This show will be held at the Korakuen Hall on January 14th. At the moment we're unsure who the promoter is though as mentioned above it will be the first Japanese title fight of the year. This is also the first of the "Champions Carnival" bouts and will hopefully kick off a great of Japanese domestic action.
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.