The Japanese Middleweight scene isn't known as something too exciting, but right now it's probably as interesting as it's ever been. There's a relative lack of depth, and very few really interesting bouts to be made, but those top domestic level bouts are really interesting match ups.
One of the fighters that really does standout as a must watch fighter on the domestic scene is national Middleweight champion Kazuto Takesako (10-0, 10), who will be looking to make his second defense on March 2nd, when he takes on mandatory challenger Shuji Kato (10-1-1, 6). For Kato this will be his first title fight, but also a huge step up in class for him.
Takesako is from the World of Sport Boxing Gym, the same gym as the recent world title challenger Takeshi Inoue. He turned professional back in 2015 and rose through the ranks quickly, whilst leaving destruction behind him. His first 6 bouts took place over 21 months and saw him need just 12 rounds to stop all 6 foes. Those wins lead to him getting a Japanese title eliminator in late 2017, and he made the most of his opportunity as he blasted out Shoma Fukumoto in the opening round. That win lead to him facing Japanese champion Hikaru Nishida in early 2018, and Nishida was also blasted out inside a round.
Since the winning Takesako has fought twice. His first opponent following his title win was tough Thai Chaiwat Mueanphong, who managed to survive into the 7th round with Takesako before eventually succumbing to his power. He then defended his title against a game and aggressive Sanosuke Sasaki, who came to win but was stopped in the second round.
Takesako is, as he record suggests, a big puncher. His power is legitimate and when he lands clean he hurts fighters. He has devastating blows to both head and body and surprising hand speed for such a puncher. Where he perhaps looks limited is in terms of his naturally size, he's only about 5'10" which is tiny for a Middleweight, and in his recklessness. When he feels he has his man hurt he can leave himself a little bit too open. Another issue is his defense is quite basic. He's essentially a puncher-boxer, who appears to be able to take a shot as well as landing his own dynamite leather.
Whilst Takesako has been on our radar for a while the same can't really be said of the 28 year old challenger. Kato, a southpaw from Tokyo, made his debut in December 2014 fighting just above the Super Middleweight limit, stopping his foe inside a round. He would drop down in weight for his second bout, in July 2015, and take a decision win. After having won his first 2 bouts Kato would suffer his first loss, being taken out by Altin Pepa in September 2015. His return to the ring would also end in disappointment as he was held to a draw by Agoo Masaru. Since that draw however, Kato has built himself a decent record, winning his last 8 bouts. Those 8 bouts have sene him being crowed the 2017 Middleweight Rookie of the Year, and becoming the mandatory for the Japanese title, following a split decision win over Hikaru Nishida last November, in what is by far and away his best win to date.
Watching footage of Kato we see a rangy fighter, who uses his lead hand to control distance, pawing at his opponent, moving backwards and trying to lure opponents in. It's not a pretty style, but it is an effective one at the lower levels. When he comes forward he doesn't appear to have much power on his shots, but they are thrown from some awkward angles. His technique often looks really poor, bug his size seems to allow him to get a real amount of weight behind his blows, which do do damage.
Whilst Kato has been having success, and will tower over Takesako, we really don't see what he has to offer when he goes up against Takesako. We suspect that Kato will manage to frustrate and annoy the champion, but won't be able to get Takesako's respect. We expect to see the champion begin to slip the lead hand of Kato and then pound away on the inside, stopping the challenger in the first 3 or 4 rounds, depending on how tough Kato is, and how well he can survive the power of the champion.
The Middleweight scene is not one that we tend to think of too much when we discuss Japanese fighters, even with the recent success of Ryota Murata. Strangely however the Japanese scene at 160lbs is probably as good as it's ever been, with several exciting fighters making their mark. Those include Japanese Middleweight champion Kazuto Takesako as well as the unified OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific champion Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa (11-3, 10).
Hosokawa won the unified title last year in a Japanese Fight of the Year candidate against Yasuyuki Akiyama, avenging one of his losses in the process, and will be making his first defense this coming Sunday against skilled veteran Yuki Nonaka (32-10-3, 10), on February 24th. The bout will be pitting Hosokawa's aggression, power and tenacity, against Nonaka's skills, experience and toughness, in what could be the surprise bout of the week.
Aged 34 the hard hitting Hosokawa, who is the brother of Japanese Light Welterweight champion Valentine Hosokawa, made his debut in 2014, at the age of 29. He would lose on his debut and would actually lose 2 of his first 4 bout, both by razor thin decisions. Following those set backs he reeled off 4 straight stoppage wins before losing another close contest, that time to Yasuyuki Akiyama, the man he would later rip the two regional titles from. Following the loss to Akiyama we saw Hosokawa improve, showing his stamina with an 8th round TKO over Kazuyuki Fukuyama and a 7th round TKO over Hisao Narita, and earn a second bout with Akiyama last September.
After beating Hososkawa, by majority decision, Akiyama had shocked the regional scene with a TKO win over Koki Tyson for the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles. Hosokawa would end that reign by winning a war with Akiyama last year, stopping Akiyama in the 11th round. The fight started slowly but warmed into a real action packed contest, as Hosokawa began to march Akiyama down and broke him down with powerful shots. The performance showed the good, and the bad, of Hosokawa. He's aggressive, heavy handed, has a high work rate and is a very powerful and strong fighter. Defensively however he is open, he is predictable and he's not quick. He often marches forward looking to cut the distance usually comes forward in straight lines, something that someone with the skills and experience of Nonaka may be able to expose. Despite being predictable he doesn't seem to know how to take a backwards step and has proven to be almost impossible to dissuade from coming forward.
The 41 year old Nonaka is an old school veteran, having made his debut way back in 1999 as a Welterweight. He would fight as low as Light Welterweight before really settling on Light Middleweight. Early in his career he struggled to find his place and his style in the sport, losing 2 of his first 3, 3 of his first 5 and 4 of his first 9, including a KO loss to Masahiro Muroya. Amazingly after that stoppage loss, back in 2002, Nonaka has never been stopped in 36 subsequent contests!
Despite settling at Light Middleweight Nonaka would struggle to have major success, losing in his first title fight in 20078, when he was out pointed by Kazuhiko Hidaka in an OPBF Light Middleweight title fight. The following year he would take the Japanese Light Middleweight title with a win over Akihiro Furukawa. He would later go on to unify the Japanese and OPBF titles before losing both belts to Akio Shibata in 2009. That loss was a temporary set back and in 2014 he would become a 2-time Japanese champion, schooling Kengo Nagashima for the national title, which he held until 2017 and made 6 defenses of. Sadly since vacating the belt Nonaka has gone 1-2, with losses to Dennis Hogan and Takeshi Inoue in world title eliminators.
Despite his age Nonaka is a criminally under-rated fighter. He lacks power but is surprisingly quick, an ultra sharp fighter who uses his jab to spear fighters, at range, lays traps with intelligent footwork and varies his shots amazingly well. His uppercut seems to find the target far too easily at times and he always looks so comfortable and relaxed in the ring. He's the sort of fighter that any young kid picking up the sport should take a look at. Sadly, for him, his lack of work rate, and his counter punching tendencies can see him fail to get the respect of fighters and being out worked by hungrier fighters. Also, notably for this fight, he will be in with a dangerous and natural Middleweight, something he hasn't typically faced, having fought mostly at Light Middleweight. He has dipped his toe at Middleweight, but not against someone with the power and physicality of Hosokawa.
Whilst we know this bout will go under the radar, especially coming just days before the mouth watering WBO Minimumweight title bout between Vic Saludar and Masataka Taniguchi, this has the potentially to be brilliant. Hosokawa's head first aggression should play into Nonaka's hands, and give the veteran a lot of openings. Nonaka however won't have the power to get Hosokawa's respect and we'd expect him to be willing to take 3 to land 1 as a result. This should result in a brilliant, mid range war with Nonaka easily out landing his man but being tagged by the bigger shots. If Nonaka's chin can hold up he probably takes the win, but that is a huge if, and we wouldn't be surprised by Hosokawa getting to him late to force a stoppage. Either way we are in for a treat!
On November 7th we'll see the next mandatory challenger for the Japanese Middleweight title being decided, as former champion Hikaru Nishida (17-9-1, 8) battles against 2017 Middleweight Rookie of the Year Shuji Kato (9-1-1, 6) at the Korakuen Hall. The winner will get their shot at the title in 2019 at the Champion Carnival, taking on either Kazuto Takesako or Sanosuke Sasaki who clash at the start of the month. In many ways this is a much better match up that the recent title bout, which was always seen as a mismatch between a rampant and destructive champion and an under-whelming challenger.
Of the two fighters it's Nishida who is the more recognisable by far, having been a former unified Japanese and OPBF champion. The 31 year old has mixed with the best domestically over the last few years and is a fighter who proves that hard work can achieve results. He began his career in 2008 and was 6-6-1 (1) after 13 fights, with his only early career win of note coming against the aforementioned Sasaki who would win a rematch just a few months later. He has however battled back and gone 11-3 since then, notching up wins against Fukutaro Ujiie, Kazuhiko Hidaka, Makoto Fuchigami, Ratchasai Sithsaithong, Akio Shibata and Tomohiro Ebisu.
In the ring Nishida is known as a basic but effective pressure fighter, coming forward behind a high guard and pressing his opponents before breaking them down up close. He has often shown that he can be out boxed, losing the OPBF title to Dwight Ritchie via a wide decision in 2016, and he's had to come from behind to break opponents down in the past. One of his biggest strengths has been his physicality, and he is an imposing fighter on the domestic scene. Another strong point for Nishida is his durability, but was blasted out in his title loss to Takesako earlier this year and we do wonder what that has taken out of him.
Kato is the younger, less known man who at 28 years old has real promise but hasn't really shown what he can do against notable domestic competition. He debuted way back in December 2014 but had a pretty inactive start to his career, ending 2016 with a record of 3-1-1 (2). In 2017 however he had a break out year, going 4-0 (3) to become the All-Japan Rookie of the Year at Middleweight. As with all Rookie tournaments his opponents were novices, so it's hard to say how impressive the Rookie win was, but it was certainly something and immediately put him on the right path. Since that rookie win he has scored a couple of wins this year, both against low level domestic foes.
From the footage we've seen of Kato he looks like a talented southpaw boxer with an educated lead right hand. He has an active style, applying pressure behind his jab and can move through the gears surprisingly quickly. Sadly he is a touch on the crude side, and whilst he can step up the tempo he can also be made to look slow and clumsy, with his shots typically having a lethargic appearance. Despite looking like he pushes his punches he must hit hard, at least at the level he's been fighting at, as he's managed to hurt pretty much everyone he's fought, and his straight left hand is clearly a heavy shot.
Whilst Kato has been on a good run, it's hard to imagine him stepping up this much in class and over-coming the flawed but rugged Nishida, who we suspect will walk down Kato and stop him in the later rounds of this scheduled 8 round contest. We know that Nishida was demolished by Takesako but Takesako appears to be several levels above Kato, and we think that Nishida will still have more than enough to deal with Kato.
The first major Japanese fight of November takes place this coming Saturday as Japanese Middleweight champion Kazuto Takesako (9-0, 9) defends his belt against Sanosuke Sasaki (12-6, 6) at the Korakuen Hall, live on G+.
The champion, defending the belt for the first time, has been tipped for success since making the decision to turn professional back in 2015. He had been a solid amateur on the domestic scene, running up a 30-11 record whilst having a pro-ready style, and was put on the fast track to the top by World Sports Boxing gym, with fights against good domestic opponents Tomoyuki Yokota and Elfelos Vega to begin his career, neither of whom could take Takesako's power. His team began to look outside of Japan for tough foes, but the likes of Kyung Joon Ahn and Singdet Sithsaithong also succumbed to the heavy hands of the powerful hopeful.
In last 2017 Takesako would stamp his mark on the Japanese domestic scene by blasting away Shoma Fukumoto to secure his place as the mandatory challenger for the Japanese Middleweight title. Takesako would make the most of that opportunity earlier this year, when he ripped the belt from Hikaru Nishida inside a round in March. Sadly his first defense was pushed backwards due to a lack of suitable challengers, and his only bout aside from his title win was a victory over Chaiwat Mueanphong, who surprisingly lasted 7 rounds with the Japanese puncher.
In the ring Takesako is an educated fighter who applies intelligent pressure on his opponents, gets close and breaks them down with his heavy artillery. There is a slightly raw edge to him in the ring, though that appears to be more based on his confidence than a desire to take extra risks, and his belief in his own toughness and power, at this level, is good to see. Hopefully, if he fights against notable international foes he tidies up his work defensively but at the moment the need to do that is minimal, and his aggression is making his fights very fun to watch and we're hoping to see him involved in bigger and better fights in the near future, if he over-comes Sasaki as expected. A bout with Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa, the current OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific champion, seems the most attractive though we suspect that Takesako will look to keep his national title beyond the 2019 Champion Carnival and that would mean that he'd have t make a mandatory defense in the new year.
The 31 year old Sasaki is a former champion himself, having win the title in 2012 when he upset popular puncher Tadashi Yuba at the Korakuen Hall. Sadly his reign would last just 4 months until he was stopped himself by Tomohiro Ebisu. His win over Yuba saw him notch his record to 11-1 (5), and saw him adding the Japanese title to his 2011 Rookie of the Year crown, which he got by defeating Yutaka Oishi. In fact by the time he had won the Rookie of the Year crown Sasaki had scored wins over Hikaru Nishida, Yasuyuki Akiyama and Yutaka Oishi, all of whom managed to win titles of their own in the years that followed. Sadly since his title win Sasaki has gone 1-5 (1) as his career has fallen apart, with his only win coming last time out over Hisao Narita. Those 5 losses have seen him mixing with good company, losing to Ebisu, Takehiro Shimokawara, Koki Tyson, Hironobu Matsunaga and Nobuyuki Shindo, but it's clear that he hasn't shown anything to suggest he will be any sort of a threat for Takesako.
Despite his poor recent form Sasaki isn't actually a bad fighter. He's technical pretty decent, with good movement and nice variety to his shots. Sadly though he's a bit too open, he lacks durability, isn't particularly quick and despite having some thudding power on his shots isn't a banger, more a respectable puncher.
We're expecting to see Takesako steam roll through Sasaki within 3 rounds. Sasaki is a former champion but his recent form says it all and Takesako is a monster at domestic level. We suspect the champion will press early on and just beat Sasaki into submission very early on. The only chance Sasaki has is to land a bomb as Takesako comes in for the finish, but we'd be hugely surprised if that happens.
Interestingly the winner of this will be expected to defend the title against either Hikaru Nishida or Shuji Kato, who fight in an eliminator on November 7th.
If we're being honest the Middleweight scene in Japan is a bit of a strange one. Ryota Murata is the standout, by a long way, with Kazuto Takesako a distant second. Below Takesako however the division is actually quite interesting with several fighters all around the same level, two of whom are set to fight this coming Wednesday in a double title bout.
The bout in question will see OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific Middleweight champion Yasuyuki Akiyama (12-7-1, 9) defending his titles against the hard hitting Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa (10-3, 9), in what will be the second bout between the two men.
These two fought in early 2017, with Akiyama narrowly taking a decision. Since then Akiyama has fought just once, scoring a massive upset win against Koki Tyson to claim the two unified titles, whilst Hosokawa has gone on a tear, stopping 4 domestic foes to get into the title mix.
At 38, soon to be 39, Akiyama is certainly coming to the end of his career. His win over Tyson was, by far, the biggest of his career, and the back-to-back wins over Tyson and Hosokawa came after Akiyama suffered a trio of losses, to Akio Shibata, Shoma Fukumoto and Tomohiro Ebisu. Those losses seemed to end his career but he's bounced back well with his recent wins and seems to be fighting like a man who simply can't afford another set back. He knows his career is hanging by a thread and won't want to suffer a loss.
In saying that it does seem Akiyama has had a bit of luck in recent fights. His win over Hosokawa was a razor thin decision whilst the win over Tyson was shrouded in controversy due to a shot after the bell in round 2, which Tyson never seemed to recover from. It wasn't a KO shot but was something that seemed to play on his mind, and he never looked as sharp afterwards. Despite the luck he's had he has shown a real desire to win. Ploughing forward, throwing bombs and looking to land big power shots, even when his face is a swollen mess.
Hosokawa isn't a spring chicken either, at the age of 34, though he's only been a professional for about 4 years. He would lose 2 of his first 4, by razor thin decision, before finding his groove with 4 straight wins. That run would only come to an end when he suffered the close loss to Akiyama last year. Since then he has developed a lot, working on his stamina and skills to add to his power. That has seen him scoring 7th and 8th round stoppages in his last 2 bouts. There is still a crude, diamond in the rough look to him, but with his power, ability to take a shot and relentless aggression he's now a genuine danger man at this type of level. We suspect Takesako would blow him away, and Murata obviously would, but pretty much anyone else on the domestic scene would have a very hard time with him.
Whilst Akiyama has had some good luck the same can't be said for Hosokawa who's losses have all been in razor thin decisions. He seems to fight like a man who doesn't trust the judges, and with losses in 3 of his 4 distance bouts who can blame him. We suspect that mentality to be on show here given his history with Akiyama. He will have to take some shots from the heavy hands of Akiyama but he will likely fight like a man who refuses to back off.
We're expecting a war here. Early on we expect to see both fighters try to get center ring, but Hosokawa will likely win that battle. Then we'll see Akiyama fighting off the back foot, where he's less effective in what will be a drawn out battle of wills. Sadly for Akiyama his age, and inactivity, will be a problem for him here and we expect to see him getting stopped in the middle to late rounds.
Through out history the Japanese Middleweight division has really lacked in terms of quality fighters,interesting match ups and real history. There have been a few talented fighters make their mark, and some really entertaining fights, but on the whole those have been few and far between. Thankfully however they have become more frequent in recent years, and we seem to be having a generation of exciting Japanese Middleweights, lead by Ryota Murata on the world stage.
On the domestic level the last decade has had thrillers like Tadashi Yuba's war with Carlos Linares, Makoto Fuchigami's win over Koji Sato, Fuchigami's loss to Tomohiro Ebisu, Ebisu's loss to current Japanese champion Hikaru Nishida (17-8-1, 8). We believe we're set for another thriller this coming Saturday as Nishida defends his title against hard hitting Kazuto Takesako (7-0, 7), who's 1-round win over Shoma Fukumoto last year was another all-action Japanese Middleweight bout.
Of the two men it's the 30 year old Nishida who is the more established fighter. He made his almost a decade ago, and certainly struggled to find his footing in the sport, in fact he was 4-5-1 (1) after his first 10 bouts. Since that poor start he has gone 13-3 (7), and avenged one of those losses. That 16 bout run has seen him defeat the likes of Kazuhiro Hidaka, Makoto Fuchigami, Ratchasi Sithsaithong, Akio Shibata and Tomohiro Ebisu. He might not be anywhere close to a world title fight, but in the last 3 years he has beaten 3 fighters who have held Oriental honours, and 3 who have held Japanese titles. A solid set of wins that really does show how much his career has turned around and why he was once the unified Japanese and OPBF champion.
In the ring Nishida has a style that makes for good fights. He trusts his toughness, his chin and his work rate. He brings a lot of pressure, using his high guard to cut the distance, before going to work big time up close. He's not the smoothest, the most powerful or the quickest, but he's an absolute handful with his constant pressure and his refusal to back off. At domestic level he is a handful and he hits harder than his record suggests, with solid hands, as opposed to explosive ones. Every shot he lands is solid, hurtful and chips away at a fighter, whilst his style is mentally draining on every opponent as he comes forward relentlessly.
The challenger is a 26 year old who only turned professional in the summer of 2015, following a 41 fight amateur career. He was ear marked for success from the off, and impressed with quick blow outs against domestic fighters like Tomoyuki Yokota and Elfelos Vega. In 2016 Takesako fought 3 times, for a combined 7 rounds as he blasted out Thai Tiendaen Chaiyonggym, Japanese fighter Hiroshi Ohashi and Korean visitor Kyung Joon Ahn. He was impressing, but doing so in way that seemed to be expected of him. It wasn't until last November that he really showed what he was capable of, as he stopped Fukumoto in a Japanese title eliminator.
Defensively Takesako has been shown to be less than fantastic, but offensively he is a machine. He's naturally heavy handed, not needing to put significant wind up into his shots, his footwork enables him to get into position excellently, and he switches between head and body brilliantly. Despite being an ultra offensive fighter he has great composure in the pocket,seems able to find holes in opponents defenses and measures distance really well. It should be noted that we have seen him rocked, with Ahn almost dropping him in their 2016 bout, but other than that he has looked physically solid.
Given that both men bring pressure, look to have a fight and have aggressive styles we can't see how this bout can be anything but thrilling. We favour Takesako's power and youth over Nishida's tight guard and more proven stamina, but the only thing that is clear about this contest is that the action will be intense, hard hitting and fought up close, with both men letting their hands go at will. Nishida is tough, but we see him cracking against the power and relentlessness of the challenger in an all action war.
The Middleweight division in Japan is potentially as it's most interesting. Not only does the country have a rare star at 160lbs, in the form of WBA “regular” champion Ryota Murata, but also an all action fan friendly national champion in Hikaru Nishida, the exciting domestic contender Kazuto Takesako and the huge punching OPBF champion Koki Tyson (13-2-2, 11)
This coming Sunday Tyson looks to further strengthen his claim over the regional scene as he attempts to add the WBO Asia Pacific title to his collection, as he takes on fellow Japanese fighter Yasuyuki Akiyama (11-7-1, 8). On paper the bout isn't incredible, but the reality is that the bout could help open the door to Tyson getting a bigger and better fight down the line, and should help him move into the world rankings, potentially closing in on a bout with Murata down the line.
Tyson's climb through the ranks has been an interesting one. He drew on his debut and suffered a stoppage loss in just his 4th bout, falling to 2-1-1 (2), but then went on to claim the 2013 Rookie of the Year crown and begin his climb towards a title fight. That first title fight came in 2015, when his inexperience was exposed by Akio Shibata, who stopped the then 22 year old in the 7th round. In 2016 Tyson claimed his first title, the WBC Youth Middleweight title, then added the OPBF title with an upset win over the then unbeaten Dwight Ritchie, who had actually claimed the title in Japan with a win over the previously mentioned Nishida.
Since winning the title last year Tyson has made two defenses, stopping Korean challenger Sung Jae Ahn in 4 rounds and beating Brandon Lockhart Shane with a 12 round decision. In those bouts Tyson has proven he can bang, which wasn't really questioned given his record, but can also box and move when he needs to. He's a tall, long and rangy fighter at Middleweight and uses his frame well, though does at times look a little under-developed and certainly looks like a young man filling into his frame. It's that under-development that potentially explains why the Osakan southpaw has questionable durability and toughness, and is going to need to take time “beef up” before really chasing a world title fight.
Aged 38 Akiyama is a man at the end of his career and he'll know it's now or never if he's to become a champion. He came up short in his only other title fight, losing to Shibata for the OPBF and JBC titles back in 2015, and struggled to get his career going again with 2 subsequent defeats. His career has however had a small shot in the arm earlier this year, with a win over Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa.
In the ring Akiyama is a heavy handed fighter, but one who has long struggled in really landing with his power, and given his age landing his biggest shots isn't going to be getting any easier for him. Also with his age is another problem, durability. In the last few years he has suffered 2 stoppage losses, and going in with Tyson will likely cause another, with the veteran being too slow to react to the speed and strength of the defending champion.
We suspect Akiyama can cause some early problems for Tyson, but as soon as the champion is settled into his fight the end will only be a matter of time.
This coming Sunday we'll see a trio of OPBF title fights in Osaka. On paper the biggest mismatch of those bouts will see Middleweight champion Koki Tyson (12-2-2, 11) make his second defense of the title and take on Japanese based American Brandon Lockhart Shane (8-5-1, 7). The bout really is a straight forward, looking, second defense for Tyson but it's fair to say the challenger will be fired up knowing this could be his only title bout, and at the age of 36 this actually could be the final bout of his career.
Tyson won the title last year year, when he upset the previously unbeaten Dwight Ritchie. In that bout Tyson proved he was more than just a puncher, as he out boxed, out fought and out slugged the Australian, en route to a clear yet competitive decision. It was a win that showed Tyson was improving as a fighter, and although he was still rough around the edges there was a genuine talent in there.
Prior to winning the title Tyson had had flaws exposed. He had been easily out boxed by Akio Shibata, before being stopped by the then Oriental and Japan champion, and prior to that he had been stopped Keisuke Kanazawa was back in 2013, in a result that now looks pretty irrelevant to Tyson as fighter today. The one big recent blemish however is a lucky draw against Korean journeyman Joon Yong Lee, in a bout that many including ourselves felt he was not to lose.
In the ring Tyson is a boxer-puncher who, at 6'3”, is a huge Middleweight and as a southpaw is a tricky, rangy fighter. He's only 24, and is certainly still improving, but looks like the type of fighter who could dominate on the domestic and regional scene for years to come. It's hard to see him mixing globally, but regionally he's likely to lead the pack at 160lbs and in the future 168lbs.
The challenger is one of the nice guys of boxing, and we have interviewed him and he really did seem like a person. Sadly though he's giving away pretty much every everything here. As mentioned he's 36, he's 9” shorter than the champion, has the shorter reach, he's a natural Light Middleweight and he lacks the power and speed of Tyson.
Don't get us wrong, Lockhart can fight, he can punch, and he can take a shot. But the truth is that he's not proven to be on the same level as Tyson. His most notable bout was a 3rd round loss to Makoto Fuchigami last year, in which he dropped Fuchigami several time, and other than that he's faced other novices and hopefuls, pushing Riku Nagahama close in one of his best performances. He's aggressive and fun to watch, with nasty power, but we can't see him getting close enough for long enough to land his power on Tyson.
We suspect Tyson will show a lot of respect to Lockhart early on, break him down from range with his spiteful jabs and then pick it up when Lockhart begins to slow down, stopping the challenger in the middle rounds.
The Japanese Middleweight picture has been an interesting one in some ways over the last few years. It's been fair to say that Ryoto Murata is the single shining star of the division domestically, and in all frank honesty no one else in Japan comes close to matching him in terms of ability or attention. Below him however we've had some interesting fighters mix it up in some really good fights.
On May 1st two of those fighters face off as we see the Japanese title and Japanese interim title getting unified in what could be a real classic for Japanese fight fans. We're not saying that to try and build up the bout, but more because we're excited about the styles of the two men involved. In one corner is Japanese “regular” champion Hikaru Nishida (15-8-1, 7), a rough and tough in your face pressure fighter, whilst the other corner has interim champion Tomohiro Ebisu (17-4, 17), a glass cannon who has never been beyond 8 rounds.
Going in to the bout we should explain why there are two Japanese champions at the moment. The situation has come about following an injury that Nishida suffered out of the ring last year. He was supposed to defend his title against Makoto Fuchigami, before fell down some stairs just days before the fight, forcing it to be cancelled with Nishida needing to receive medical attention for a head injury. As a result Fuchigami fought Ebisu last December in a late contender for Japanese FOTY, with Ebisu stopping Fuchigami in the 8th round of a real thriller.
Since Ebisu won the title Nishida has been given clearance to fight, with this being his comeback bout, ending a 10 month break from the ring, with his last bout being a loss to Dwight Ritchie in a bout for the OPBF title. We now need to go back more than a year to find Nishida's last win, a 3rd round TKO victory over Akio Shibata for the then unified Japanese and OPBF titles.
As mentioned Nishida is a pressure fighter. At 5'9” he's tiny for a Middleweight but he's built like a freak and is as strong as an ox. He uses that physical strength to bull more technically sound fighters around, before breaking them down. He's done to great effect in the last 5 years, turning around a 4-5-1 (1) record to his current 15-8-1 (7) record. On paper that might not seem amazing but he has scored notable wins over the likes of Yasuyuki Akiyama, Fukutaro Ujiie, Kazuhiko Hidaka, Makoto Fuchigami and the aforementioned Shibata. He has shown real grit and toughness and under-rated skills, whilst making the most of what he's been blessed with.
Ebisu has been inactive since his win over Fuchigami, a good thing given how damaging it was for both men, and is now seeking to become a 2-time Japanese champion. Having said that it's worth noting that Ebisu's first reign was a short one. He the title in February 2013, stopping Sanosuke Sasaki in 6 rounds, and lost it less than 6 months later to Daisuke Nakagawa in 7 rounds. That was Ebisu's 3rd stoppage loss and saw his record fall to 11-3 (11), it wasn't long for him to be 12-3 (12) with a loss and a draw in 2014.
In the ring Ebisu is a monster puncher, a real spiteful banger, but unfortunately he can't take a great deal in return and has either scored a stoppage or been stopped in every bout of his 21 fight career. The combination of power and suspect chin has made him great fun to watch over the years, not knowing what will happen at any moment. In recent times he has started to show more savvy in his boxing but at heart he's still a puncher, and brutish one at that.
One of the big questions coming into this bout is whether Nishida will have any knock on effects following his injury. If he's the fighter he was before his fall this bout has the potential to be something very special, as he looks to walk through Ebisu's rocket fire in an attempt to drag him into a war and break him down. If Nishida has lost some of his punch resistance as a result of a very nasty fall then he could well find himself being broken down by the power of Ebisu, and quickly as his shots are thunderous.
We think Ebisu has to be favoured here, given the possible issues with Nishida and the fact he's been inactive recently, but we're hoping that this bout delivers on action and that Nishida is fighting fit for it.
This coming Sunday Japanese fight fans in Osaka will see OPBF Middleweight champion Koki Tyson (11-2-2, 10) make his first defence of the title, as he takes on Korean challenger Sung-Jae Ahn (6-3, 1). On paper this is an easy defense for the heavy handed Japanese fighter, tough he did win the title with a relative upset last year when he over-came Dwight Ritchie.
Tyson is one of the few Japanese Middleweights who actually looks like a Middleweight. He's 6'3”, a heavy handed southpaw and a fighter with decent boxing skills. At 24 he is still a boxing baby, but has already achieved a fair bit and looks to be maturing into a decent fighter, though he is still a flawed fighter.
Aged 19 when he made his debut Tyson actually had a draw on debut, before notching two stoppage wins. Then however disaster struck as he suffered an unexpected 3rd round TKO loss to the previously win-less Keisuke Kanazawa. That loss seemed to force Tyson to change and he took a 7 month break from the ring. By the end of 2013 improvements were clear and he won the All-Japan Rookie of the Year Crown. That was followed by a good run in 2014 and 2015 that earned Tyson a show at the then Japanese and OPBF champion Akio Shibata. Sadly against Shibata we saw Tyson up against a talented fighter who broke him down with relative ease, it was too much, too soon for Tyson.
The loss to Shibata could have broken Tyson's confidence but the follow year was a career definer as he claimed the WBC Youth Middleweight title and later the OPBF Middleweight title, out pointing Ritchie in a genuine upset in November.
Blessed with heavy hands Tyson is a real threat at Oriental level just because he hits so damned hard. He is however a fighter who doesn't like to be backed up, and can be out boxed. He also has a questionable chin. If a fighter can use the ring and either back him up, as Joon Yong Lee did last year, then they can out work him, out battle him and really give him fits. Likewise if an opponent uses a lot of movement, a sharp jab and can counter, like Akio Shibata did, then Tyson will struggle to impose himself and will, eventually, break down.
Aged 26 the Korean struggled to really get his career going. He won his first two fights but went on to lose his following three, falling to 2-3. That saw him suffer an understandable loss to Yong Sung Kim but more questionable losses to Woo Sung Yuh and Hyun Joong Kim. Since those 3 losses however Ahn has gone 4-0 (1) and claimed the KBF Middleweight title, whilst finally getting his career on track.
Ahn's career has not only been a bit streaky but also very stop-start, an issue with many Korean fighters due to the slow implosion of the Korean boxing scene. As a result he has two periods of 2 years + with out a fight, and hasn't fought since May 2015. In fact over the last 7 years he has fought just 4 times. If he'd been outside of Korea, and say fighting in Japan or the Philippines, it would be easy to know more about Ahn but the inactivity has been a real problem with knowing how good he is, and how sharp he will be.
Another issue with scouting Ahn is the footage available of him. Whilst there is plenty of footage it's not in the best of quality. The footage that is out there shows Ahn to be a rather crude fighter, he's a bit basic and like many Korean's he's not the most well schooled. He likes to come forward, he likes to apply pressure and he likes to try and force opponents backwards, but he's not incredibly quick on his feet and his out put isn't the highest.
Although using pressure is a way to beat the Tyson that we've seen, Ahn simply lacks the tools to do anything with that pressure and made a difference. He'll struggle to get inside, he'll struggle to land anything whilst up close. With that in mind we've got to back Tyson to retain, likely by stoppage, icing the Korean as he comes forward in the second half of the fight.
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.