The Flyweight division has been going through a lot of changes over the last few years at the world level, and it's opened up the doors for fighters may have been locked when the division was at it's best. Gone are fighters like Roman Gonzalez, Kazuto Ioka, Juan Francisco Estrada and Donnie Nietes. The division isn't dead, but it's a long way removed from what it was just a few years ago.
Rather than lament the division's recent downfall it's nice to look at the changes at the top, and appreciate the success of fighters like Sho Kimura and Cristofer Rosales, who have both rebuilt from early career defeats. They will be an inspiration for other fighters, such as current Japanese Flyweight champion Masayuki Kuroda (29-7-3, 16) who will look to continue his journey towards a second world title fight on July 23rd, when he defends his national title against Akinori Hoshino (14-7-2, 9).
Kuroda is perhaps best known for his first world title fight, a loss in 2013 to Juan Carlos Reveco. Since then he has had mixed success in the ring, going 8-3-1 (3). Despite his form being mixed he is currently riding a 5 fight unbeaten run which has seen him claim the Japanese interim Flyweight title, the regular Japanese Flyweight title and make 2 defenses of the regular title. He's avenged one of his career defeats, by defeating Takuya Kogawa in rematch between the two men, and scored a notable win last time out against Katsunori Nagamine.
In the ring Kuroda doesn't do anything that special, he's not a monstrous puncher, he's not particularly slick or lightning quick. He is however an aggressive, tough fighter with a huge will to win. He's a battler, who will let his hands go and have a fight. He's very much a fighter who is in an opponents face, applies pressure and tries to apply strong and consistent pressure with a lot of leather being thrown. He can be out boxed, and he can be out fought, but at Japanese level not many will out fight him or out box him.
Hoshino on the other hand is a more crafty and frustrating fighter. He looks to box behind a long jab, leans just outside of range and uses rather awkward movement to his boxing. He doesn't have a very busy style, more of a cautious counter punching one, but it's one that works for him and has frustrated the likes of Nagamine, who he held to a draw, and helped him pick up notable wins over Kenya Yamashita and Shun Kosaka.
On paper this does look like a bit of a mismatch, but Hoshino really is better than his record suggests. The challenger was 4-3-1 (2) after 8 bouts but since then he has gone 10-4-1 and scored notable wins over Mako Matsuyama, Kenichi Watanabe, Kenya Yamashita and Shun Kosaka. Not has he scored those notable wins but he has also run the likes of Tatsuya Takahashi and Ryuichi Funai close whilst fighting well above his weight. At 11l2bs he's not giving away natural size as he has in losses to Funai, Gakuya Furuhashi and Yusuke Suzuki. Instead he'll be a big and strong fighter at Flyweight, able to use his strength to push back on Kuroda when he needs to.
Although we think Hoshino will be a very tricky opponent, we think Kuroda's experience, especially over the 10 round distance, will be his key advantage here as he takes a hard fought and narrow decision to move a step closer to a second world title fight. Hoshino will be a nightmare, but not one that Kuroda can't over-come.
This coming Saturday fight fans in Kanagawa get the chance to see a brilliant Japanese title double header. The headline bout from the show is bout for the national Flyweight title and will see defending champion Masayuki Kuroda (28-7-3, 16) takes on the heavy handed Katsunori Nagamine (14-1-1, 10) in a mandatory defense, as part of the Champion Carnival.
The champion won the title last June, when he defeated Takuya Kogawa and unified the Japanese interim and regular titles. Since then he has defended the belt once, taking a 7th round TKO win over the limited but exciting Mako Matsuyama, in a mismatch. Those wins have seen Kuroda extend his current unbeaten run to 4 fights, following a bit rough patch in his career, where he went 3-4-3 in a 10 bout run. It was during that run that many felt Kuroda had seen his best days, but his current run of form looks like it's a bit of an Indian summer for his career, and he is moving up the world rankings, with top 15 rankings with all 4 world title bodies.
Kuroda had first made a name for himself fighting at Light Flyweight, where he won the Japanese title back in 2011 with a win over Yuki Sano. He would defend that title 3 times, including a defense against Ryoichi Taguchi, before losing in a world title fight to Juan Carlos Reveco at Flyweight. The move up in weight caused problems for Kuroda who never really seemed to settle at Flyweight until 2016, in which time he has gone 5-1 with his only loss being avenge last year.
In the ring Kuroda is a well schooled boxer with nice combinations, a good work rate, sharp speed and good skills. He's not the biggest puncher, but he's a solid fighter, who has has only been stopped once, by Suguru Muranaka, and is a handful for fighters on the Japanese scene. There is a clear gap between him and the elite Japanese fighters at Flyweight, world champions Daigo Higa and Sho Kimura, but there's no other Japanese fighter who would have an easy time with him. That include his upcoming foe Nagamine, the touted Junto Naaktani or OPF champion Keisuke Nakayama.
Aged 26 Nagamine is much younger than the champion and a more pure puncher, though is a man who has a couple of nagging issues over his head.
He debuted in 2011 and the following year he was crowned the Rookie of the Year at Flyweight and looked set for a big future. Sadly however he suffered an eye injury in 2013 that kept him out of the ring for almost 17 months. His return to the ring was a successful one in late 2014, but the following year was re-injured as he was stopped by Ken Shiro, in what was an excellent performance by the future WBC Light Flyweight cahampion. Nagamine would then spend almost a year re-healing his injury before returning to stop Kenya Yamashita in a 3 round thriller. Since then he has gone 3-0-1 (3) earning this title fight in the process.
Although a little rough around the edges, and a little bit slower than some of his opponents, Nagamine has proven to be a tough and heavy handed fighter, with good skills and a real will to win. His bout with Yamashita was a special shoot out, where he had to climb off the canvas to stop his foe, whilst a win over Mako Matsuyama showed he enjoys a war just as much fans watching. Sadly however he was totally out boxed by Ken Shiro, who used speed, movement and a jab to dominate. Those same tools are in Kuroda's arsenal and Nagamine will have to find a way to deal with them.
Although not the best boxer Nagamine has nasty power. His last 4 wins have stoppages, and he has shown he carries legitimate power in both hands, and whilst the shots might not always be the sharpest when he lands he is dangerous. Even his jab looks a very damaging shot. He will have a height advantage over Kuroda and will look to use that to his advantage, boxing at range and using his power. If he gets up close and manages to force a war he has a chance, but he needs to make it into a fight, and take away the edge in skills and speed that Kuroda has.
We favour the skills of Kuroda here, but not by much. Kuroda's extra experience at title level, slightly more rounded skills and slightly more refined know how are what swings us in his direction, it's not by much, and we know Nagamine has the power to stop Kuroda if he lands clean, but we do favour the champion to retain his title in a really compelling affair.
This coming Friday is an interesting day in Japan with several title fights. One of those is a Japanese Flyweight title fight which will see defending champion Masayuki Kuroda (27-7-3, 15) take on Mako Matsuyama (8-12-2, 3) in what looks like an easy first defense for Kuroda, and a chance for the fans to get a fan friendly, but likely one sided, bout.
Of the two men it's fair to say that Kuroda is significantly more established fighter. He is a former Japanese Light Flyweight champion and a former Flyweight world title challenger, who has fought the likes of Shin Ono, Ryoichi Taguchi, Juan Carlos Reveco, Suguru Muranaka and Takuya Kogawa, who is now enjoying his second reign as a Japanese champion. Although a long way behind the elite Japanese fighters at 112lbs, like Kazuto Ioka and Daigo Higa, he is still avery accomplished fighter, with good speed, good skills and under-rated power.
Although talented Kuroda's career has been a rocky road in the last few years. He claimed the Japanese title at 108lbs back in May 2011 and although he made 4 defenses 2 of them were draws, and the other two were split decision wins. They were followed by a 0-2-1 run, including lossese to Reveco and Muranaka and a further set backs in 2015 to Mario Andrade and 2016 to Kogawa. Recently though he has spun off 3 wins, including a revenge win over Kogawa, and he finally seems to be recovering the form that lead to his world title bout.
Although less well known and less established Matsuyama is actually a fighter who may have caught the eye of a number of international fans, thanks to his tremendous 2014 clash in Macau against Rex Tso. That is one of a number of action bouts Matsuyama has been involved in, with others including his 2015 bouts against Yushi Tanaka and Joe Tanooka and his amazing 2016 clash with Katsunori Nagamine. Those bouts have lead to Matsuyama building a reputation for thrilling performances in losses, but the fact he has failed to score a win of real note in his almost 11 year career suggests that his role is just to be an exciting loser.
Aged 28 Matsuyama is coming into his physical peak and is backed by the powerful Watanabe gym, who have had a great 2017. He will be riding the high that the gym have and will know that he has the style to force Kuroda into a high tempo war. He'll come out firing and will almost certainly have a fight. Sadly his lack of skills and reliance on his toughness, energy and heart will not be enough to over-come Kuroda.
We're are expecting a very fun contest, but sadly for Matsuyama he will again be the exciting loser, a role that he seems to fill regularly. He'll likely be stopped in the middle rounds by Kuroda who will likely be hoping to move towards a second world title fight in 2018.
The Flyweight division in Japan is red hot right now with WBA champion Kazuto Ioka leading a group of fighters that also includes WBC champion Daigo Higa. Below those two world champions are the likes of Japanese champion Takuya Kogawa (28-4, 13) and interim Japanese champion Masayuki Kuroda (26-7-3, 15), who will meet this coming Tuesday in a potential FOTY contender, to unify the titles. Not only is the bout a potential thriller, but it will be a rematch of a bout fought in early 2016 and will see one man looking to avenge a loss, and the other looking to prove domestic dominance over their foe.
In their first bout, in March 2016, Kogawa came out on top, defending the Japanese title in a mandatory defense. That was the the exciting veteran's first defense of his second reign and saw him over-come Kuroda with a clear decision, but an exciting one with both men really letting their shots go in some thrilling back and force action.
Although relatively unknown outside of Asia Kogawa has been a staple on the regional since 2010. He won the OPBF Super Flyweight title in 2010 and then moved down in weight to take on the then WBC Flyweight champion Pongsaklek Wonjongkam. Although Kogawa came up short against Wonjongkam he has since stuck around, for the most part, at Flyweight where he is now a 2-time Japanese champion and has also fought for the WBA interim title, losing a close decision to Yogmondkol Vor Saengthep.
During his career Kogawa has faced a relative who's who. As mentioned he has faced Wongjonkam and Yodmongkol, he's also fought Zhao Zhong Xiong, Shigetaka Ikehara, Tetsuma Hayashi, Suguru Muranaka, Hiroyuki Hisataka, Kuroda. Through those bouts Kogawa has shown a warrior mentality, willing to have a tear up, he has shown a gritty toughness, under-rated power and a fantastic engine. Sadly however he comes into this bout on the back of a nasty ear injury and an 8 month lay off. He is also a fighter who has gone the distance in his last 8 bouts, coming for 80 rounds!
We've long been Kogawa fans, but the reality is that the 32 year old has had an incredibly tough career, with 210 rounds, many of which have been damaging and action packed, which are partly to blame for his injury last time out, and subsequent lay off.
Interestingly the 30 year old Kuroda has had a similar career to Kogawa, and has slightly more rounds under his belt at 217 career rounds. His career saw him really come to the fore at Light Flyweight, where he claimed a Japanese title back in 2011. As a champion he defended the belt 4 times, including notable defenses against Yuki Sano and current world champion Ryoichi Taguchi. His reign ended when he vacated, choosing to challenge WBA Flyweight champion Juan Carlos Reveco in 2013. Sadly Kuroda came up short against Reveco and the suffered a stoppage loss to Muranaka just a couple of fights later. Since then he has gone 5-2 and got his career back on track.
Although Kuroda's record is blotchy he has, like Kogawa,mixed with good company. He's fought Shigetaka Ikehara, Shin Ono, Taguchi, Reveco, Muranaka, and Kogawa. He was last seen scoring an exciting decision win over Yuta Matsuo for the Japanese interim title, and will be seeing this bout as a chance to become a 2-weight Japanese champion.
In the ring Kuroda is a tough and gutsy fighter, he's flawed, and is naturally smaller than Kogawa, but appears to have found the second wind of his career, after a bizarre 0-2-3 run in 2012-2014. He's still going to be the under-dog here, but he's hungry, he's going to be looking to make a statement and likely knows this will be his last chance at a Japanese title, and it's going to be now or never.
In the ring we're expecting a real war. The styles of both men is aggressive, energetic and exciting. Both men are tough, defensively flawed and open, but aggressive, exciting and most importantly well matched.
Although we think Kogawa is on he slide, we do favour him here, but only just in a close, competitive, exciting brawl between two fighter who will look to give fans a treat. We wouldn't be hugely surprised by a Kuroda win, but we do think Kogawa will come out on top.
It's fair to say that the 2017 Champion Carnival was somewhat under-whelming, despite some really good looking bouts. There was a number of rematches and a number of bouts that just failed to spark the emotions. Not all bouts were bad, and the Super Bantamweight title bout between Yasutaka Ishimoto and Yusaku Kuga certainly proved rematches weren't a bad thing by default, but there was an under-whelming feeling over-all.
One of the divisions with that under-whelming feeling was the Flyweight division, where champion Takuya Kogawa is inactive, due to an injury, and as a result we have a bout between the top two ranked fighters, Yuta Matsuo (12-2-1, 6) and Masayuki Kuroda (27-5-3, 15). As an eliminator for a title fight this would be fine, but for a title fight it's self it's certainly a bit disappointing.
Unfortunately for fans in Japan the division is very top heavy and the likes of Kazuto Ioka and Diago Higa have gone well past Japanese domestic level and left a bit of a vacuum between the top in the country and the domestic level fighters. Although there are a number of rising contenders, such as Junto Nakatanii there is a lack at the domestic level.
Of the two men here Matsuo is the #1 contender, and on paper he is 7-1 (3) in his last 8, with his only loss in that run being a razor thin one to Ardin Diale. The reality however is that Matsuo has struggled to over-come a number of his opponents, including Yota Hori, Seiya Fujikita and Ryuto Oho, who was rather unlucky on the score-cards.
In the ring Matsuo is well skilled but, as we saw against Oho, he can be made to look lazy, isn't a big puncher and although he can hurt his opponents there is certainly not much too be too excited about. He seems happy to have a war, but hasn't yet proven that that's his type of fight, in fact it's fair to say he's probably best off avoiding them in future.
Although ranked #2 by the JBC Kuroda is the much better known fighter. He was the man Naoya Inoue shared the ring with in his test bout, he was the Japanese Light Flyweight champion in 2011 and 2012, defending the belt 4 times, and challenged the then WBA Flyweight champion Juan Carlos Reveco in 2013. In terms of his results he has wins over Shin Ono, Katsuhiko Iezumi, Hayato Yamaguchi and Yuki Sano as well as draws with Ryoichi Taguchi and Hayato Yamaguchi. Despite those notable results Kuroda has come up short in two recent Japanese Flyweight title bouts, losing to Suguru Muranaka and Takuya Kogawa in 2014 and 2016 respectively.
Whilst Kuroda was one a very good fighter he has gone 4-4-3 in his last 11, dating back almost 5 years and lacks in terms of notable recent wins. In fact over the last 24 months his only wins have been against Yusuke Sakashita and Masashi Odaira, hardly something to have earned Kuroda back-to-back Champion Carnival contests.
With Kuroda being a faded force and Matsuo failing to impress it's hard to be too excited for this one. We'll admit it should be fun, and both guys have been in entertaining fights in the past, but we can't help feel that this is less than title worthy. Both guys are flawed enough to be in a war, and we expect that will, happen with Kuroda doing enough to take the win, but it does feel like a bout that shows how badly the Japanese Flyweight scene needs some new blood rising through the rankings.
When the 2016 Champion Carnival bouts were announced a number of bouts stood out as being particularly exciting. One of those bouts was the Flyweight title bout which will take place on March 18th and see reigning champion Takuya Kogawa (25-4, 13) [粉川 拓也] battle former world title challenger Masayuki Kuroda (24-6-3, 14) [黒田 雅之]. On paper the bout is brilliantly well matched and when the men get into the ring we're expecting something very special.
For those who haven't seen Kogawa he's really a fight fans dream. He's an all-action fighter who throws an insane amount of leather and is teak tough. There are plenty of flaws in his boxing, particularly his defense, but the reality is that he's so much fun to watch that those flaws are easy to forgive.
The 30 year old champion, from the Miyata gym, has been a professional since 2005 and has shared the ring with a number of notable opponents. This has seen Kogawa over-come Xiong Zhao Zhong, Shigetaka Ikehara, twice, Tetsuma Hayashi, twice, and Hiroyuki Hisataka. It has also seen him come up short against Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, Suguru Muranaka and Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep. In those losses only Wonjongkam managed to take a clear win over Kogawa.
Kogawa can certainly be out boxed, and he can be hurt, and perhaps lacks real power, but with his toughness, work rate, aggression, and will to win he's a genuine handful and a joy to watch.
Kuroda, the younger man at 29, is another exciting fighter though one who has seen better days. In fact much of Kuroda's most notable success came in the Light Flyweight division. He won the Japanese national title in 2011 and recorded 4 defenses of the title, included defenses against Yuki Sano and Ryoichi Taguchi. He only gave that title up in 2013 when he moved up to Flyweight to challenge Juan Carlos Reveco, the then WBA Flyweight champion.
Sadly since the loss to Reveco we've not seen Kuroda really shine, in fact he has since gone 3-2-1, and suffered his first stoppage loss to the aforementioned Suguru Muranaka in a Japanese Flyweight title bout.
At his best Kuroda was a gutsy fighter at 108lbs where he had enough power to keep opponents honest, enough skill to push them technically and the physical strength to engage in a war if needed. At 112lbs he's not had notable success, but he may well have grown into the weight now, with his last bout being a win over Yusuku Sakashita, a decent Japanese level contender.
Coming in to this one we are expecting a lot of intense action, we're expecting a fan friendly bout and one that could be described as a war. Sadly for Kuroda we don't see that style of fight doing him many favours here with Kogawa likely to be too strong and too powerful for Kuroda, who may have the edge in speed but won't be able to avoid a tear up.
Kuroda is tough be we suspect he'll be worn down in the later rounds with Kogawa scoring a very late stoppage of Kuroda in a brilliant fight.
For those who haven't seen the two men in action, we have featured both of their bouts with Muranaka below.
With last week being a hectic week in Japanese boxing we're glad to see that this week is a little less busy. Despite that we do still have a national title fight as Japanese Flyweight champion Suguru Muranaka (19-2-1, 5) makes the first defence of his title.
Muranaka, who beat Takuya Kogawa for the title late last year, may not be a big name on the world stage but he is a proven quality fighter and his win over Kogawa did prove that, even though it is his only real win of note. Interestingly that victory was Muranaka's 13th victory ina 14 fight unbeaten run and you now need to go back to 2006 to find his last loss, a majority decision to Tomoya Kaneshiro.
Notably both of Muranaka's losses have come in close contests. His loss to Kaneshiro was a majority decision whilst his only other loss, to Shigeo Saito, was a split decision back in 2005.
The first challenger to Muranaka's throne is former world title challenger and former Japanese Light Flyweight champion Masayuki Kuroda (21-4-3, 13).
Kuroda, who was used as the sparring partner in Naoya Inoue's test bout, has of course been out of form recently. He is without a win since November 2011 though has lost just 1 of his last 4 bouts. That's because Kuroda, who lost to the talented Juan Carlos Reveco, has had a trio of draws with Ryoichi Taguchi, Toshimasa Ouchi and, most recently, Hyobu Nakagama.
In terms of experience, both in fights and quality, Kuroda has a big advantage here. Fights with Taguchi, Reveco and Yuki Sano have all been valuable bouts in his development. Sure he's failed to beat Taguchi and Reveco but both of those men are good fighters and, at worst, are on par with the best win on Muranaka's record.
As well as the experience Kuroda also has the edge in power. Neither man is a big puncher but with 13 stoppages in 28 bouts Kuroda is certainly a hard hitting than Muranaka who has just 5 stoppages in 22 bouts.
Of course Kuroda has those two edges Muranaka himself has his advantages. Firstly he's a natural Flyweight. Kuroda, for his achievements at Light Flyweight, has never done anything as a Light Flyweight. In terms of results he is 1-1-1 above a contracted 110lbs and could well have been 0-3. Add that to his awful record in recent bouts and it's hard to favour the challenger.
In terms of the two men stylewise Muranaka is a hard worker. He lacks real pop though Kogawa he throws a lot and depends an awful lot on his stamina and engine. This can make for great fights but he tends to need to go the distance and has stopped just 1 of is last 7 inside the distance. He's unlikely to stop Kuroda and will know that he needs to out work the challenger to retain his title the hard way.
Kuroda on the other hand is a strong guy. His work isn't technically great but he tends to be happy to be involved in an inside battle and goes to the body pretty. With that in mind he'll likely view his best chance at winning coming from grinding down Muranaka in an action packed bout with his body attack being the key.
What we're expecting is a busy fight. There will be lots of leather thrown and we actually envision this as being tough for the judges. Muranaka doesn't have the power to keep Kuroda away though on the other hand Kuroda doesn't have the skills to really dictate the action. This will see both men have spells of control and spells where they struggle, though we think overall Muranaka will do just enough in enough rounds to take a competitive but hard fought decision over the scheduled 10 rounds.
(Poster courtesy of Boxmob.jp)
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.