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 !
December 1st and 2nd are incredibly busy for Japanese fight fans, with notable shows in Tokyo, Osaka and Hyogo. The action however flows over the weekend and on to Monday as OPBF Featherweight champion Satoshi Shimizu (7-0, 7) defends his belt against fellow unbeaten Takuya Uehara (16-0, 10), in what will be Shimizu's 4th defense and Uehara's first bout at this level. On paper it's a mouth watering match up between two unbeaten fighters, facing off for the most prestigious title in the regional. Not only is the belt up for grabs, but also a potential world title fight, with Shimizu holding a #3 IBF ranking at the moment. There is a lot to play for here, and the bout can open up a lot of doors for the winner.
With a perfect KO record Shimizu, on paper, looks brilliant. He's a 2-time Olympian, won an Olympic bronze medal at the London 2012 games, won around 150 amateur fights and is now 7-0 (7) as a professional. On paper the one gripe is his age, and at 32 we do how long he's going to remain in the sport. Sadly for Shimizu paper only tells half the story, and he comes up worryingly badly when we do the "eye test". Although clearly talented Shimizu doesn't have the flowing skills we tend to see in such established amateurs, in fact his boxing style represents a video game character who has a strong chin, vicious power and very limited movement. He can jab and box but he tends to stand his ground too much, slug his shots and fight with a very wide loopy style. He's not a fighter who has many traits of being a very accomplished amateur boxer.
Although technically very crude Shimizu does have really frightening power. His KO of Carlo Demecillo in late 2013 was scary and the way he simply broke Shingo Kawamura up this past August, despite being on the back foot for stretches of the fight, was impressive as his heavy hands just bust up Kawamura. It's clear that having a war with Shimizu is a bad idea. He's awkward, a tall and rangy southpaw and he throws from some very weird angles. Boxing with him however could be a smart idea, and he does make mistakes that fighters can certainly take advantage of.
Whilst Shimizu is a man believed to be going places fast the 23 year old Uehara has been really going about things quietly, whilst fighting out of the Apollo gym. He has spent much of his career away from the main boxing venues of Japan, frequenting the Yodogawa Ward Center and the Mielparque Hall in Osaka rather the EDION Arena and has only fought once at the Koarkuen Hall, but that has allowed him to develop rather carefully, away from the eyes of critics and harsh fan comments. He made his debut at the age of 19 and has slowly made his mark, claiming his best win in December 2016 when he beat Markquil Salvana for the WBC Youth Featherweight title.
Footage of Uehara show him to be a very confident young man, with a lovely technical boxing style. He has a fleet feet, a very sharp jab, which he's busy with, he spots opening well, and moves brilliantly whilst putting punches together. Defensively there are questions to be had about his guard, especially when he's letting his own shots go. One of the few issues that is clear from watching him is that he's not a lights out fighter, his stoppages come from accumulation, and that can be an issue as he steps up in class. We're also unsure how good his chin is, and how he'll take a shot.
If both men were equal, in terms of power, strength and chin, it would be hard to go against Uehara, who has looked like a classy prospect. Unfortunately however power is a big difference maker here, and Shimizu's power really is a game change, and we suspect that Uehara will find out the hard way just how powerful Shimizu's punches are. We wouldn't be surprised to see Uehara have a good start, but like Shimizu's previous opponents they'll taste his power and be broken down, likely in the middle rounds.
A win here for Uehara would genuinely send shockwaves through the Japanese scene. However a win for Shimizu is expected and will move him one step closer to a world title fight in 2019.
This coming Thursday we get the chance to see the always fun to watch Hiroaki Teshigawara (17-2-2, 10) move up in weight to take on Filipino Glenn Suminguit (21-3, 11) in a bout for the vacant OPBF Super Bantamweight title. On paper this is expected to be a very exciting and tough bout which could open the door for the winner to move onto a potential world title fight, in one of the more over-looked and under-rated divisions.
The 28 year old Teshigawara has really impressed us over the last 2 years. In October 2016 he came up narrowly short in a thriller against Ryo Akaho but since then he has gone 5-0 (4) with notable wins over Keita Kurihara, Jetro Pabustan, Jason Canoy and Teiru Kinoshita. In those wins he has proven he's tough, taking bombs from Kurihara and Canoy, aggressive and exciting. He has also proven that he can compete at title level, having won and defended the WBO Asia Pacific Super Bantamweight title. He's very much a flawed fighter, and he can certainly be outboxed, but with his relentless pressure, heavy hands and solid chin he is a real handful to fight.
Moving up in weight can be an issue but Teshigawara is a big Bantamweight and may well find that a move up to Super Bantamweight will just ease some of the issues of boiling down and could well make him a little bit more spiteful, stronger and give his gas tank a bit of a boost. Sadly for him the move up in weight may delay a potential world title fight, given the other top Japanese names at 122lbs including Shingo Wake, Tomoki Kameda, Yusaku Kuga and the returning Yukinori Oguni. At Bantamweight there may be issues getting a world title shot due to the WBSS, but he could well have himself in a leading position come the end of the World Boxing Super Series next year, whilst the Super Bantamweight division is just stacked with men jostling for a shot.
Filipino fighter Suminguit is a 29 year old southpaw who has fought as high as Super Featherweight, despite only being listed at 5'4”. Whilst he has fought up at 130lbs in the past he does seem to be more of a natural Bantamweight. It's been at Bantamweight that he's scored some of his best wins, including a 2017 victory over Renoel Pael and Alvin Bais. Notably he has only been beaten once in the last 6 years, a close decision loss to Jason Egara last year. If you scroll through his record there is a stoppage loss to Rodel Quilaton almost 7 years ago, and a decision to Fernando Lumacad. Give that those losses were so long ago it's hard to read too much into them, especially given he has since gone 9-1 (3) since then.
In terms of his style Suminguit is a tricky speed fighter who counters well, moves smartly, and shows a variety of angles. He's not a powerful fighter or a hard hitting one, but technically he is sharp, accurate and pretty well schooled. There's a lot of movement with him, though he how does with a strong aggressive and naturally imposing fighter is yet to be seen. We mentioned Teshigawara moving up in weight though Suminguit is still very small as a Super Bantamweight, and is likely to be the smaller man, despite having fought at a higher weight to the Japanese.
We're expecting to see Teshigawara press the action early on, and despite some early problems with the movement and skills of Suminguit, we expect to see the pressure get too much and or him to break down the Filipino in the mid to late rounds to claim a stoppage win, and the title.
On October 11th fight fans at the Korakuen Hall will get the chance to see OPBF Light Welterweight champion Rikki Naito (20-2, 7) make his second defense, as he faces off with Daishi Nagata (11-1-1, 5). On paper this looks really competitive, though some in Japan have downplayed the bout feeling that Nagata has next to no chance. We however like the bout, a lot, and feel it could be a hotly contested tactical bout between two men in need of a big performance and two men who will be looking to shine.
The 27 year old champion has long been in the eye of the press due to being the son of Cassius Naito, a former OPBF and Japanese champion. Sadly that pressure, and his father's name, has over-shadowed the man from Yokohama who has already had an accomplished career on the domestic and regional scene. He debuted a little over 7 years ago and would win his first 13 bouts whilst fighting primarily as a Super Featherweight. That unbeaten start would see him claim the Japanese Super Featherweight title in 2014, when he stopped Hiroyasu Matsuzaki, and make 3 defenses, including a notable win over Masayuki Ito. It would also include a win over Nihito Arakawa. Sadly for Naito his unbeaten run would come to an end in 2015, when he lost the title to Kenichi Ogawa and in 2016 he would lose again to Ogawa. Since then Naito has moved up in weight and settled at Light Welterweight, where he has won and defended the OPBF title.
At 140lbs Naito has already scored noteworthy wins over Baishanbo Nasiyiwula, Jeffrey Arienza and Jhertiz Chavez. On paper that's pretty solid, but the reality is that he got pushed all the way by both Baishanbo and Chavez, with Naito lucky to make it to the final bell against Chavez. He has proven that whilst talented and swift at 140lbs he's not much of a puncher, he's not physically imposing and he'll struggle to get fighters to back off. He can out box people, but will struggle to out fight them. Despite being OPBF champion there's a good argument to make that he might only be the fourth or fifth best fighter at the weight in Japan right now.
At 28 years old Nagata is 18 months older than Naito, and is also a natural Light Welterweight, having fought at the weight through much of his career. Like Naito he did have some attention when he turned professional, though that was from hardcore fans who knew that Nagata was an accomplished amateur, who went 41-21 (11) and won a major national title in 2012. On debut he was matched hard, fighting to a draw with Takeshi Inoue, and has hardly had an easy fight since. In fact he has already shared the ring with the likes of Jeffrey Arienza, Kazuki Matsuyama, Vladimir Baez and Takashi Inagaki. He's not gone through murderers row, but he hasn't had an easy career either. Sadly he has come undone in one of those bouts, losing in 7 rounds to Baez last year, but since then has strung together 3 wins to secure this fight.
In the ring Nagata is a well schooled fighter, he's a rather quick and accurate boxer who fights out of the southpaw stance, knows his way around the ring and manages to lure opponents to lung at him before he counters. He's a technically solid, smart fighter. Unfortunately he's a small Light Welterweight and that was shown when he was beaten by the crude but powerful Baez. He couldn't get Baez's respect and the Japanese based Dominican ended up walking him down and forcing his corner to save him in 7 rounds. The fear of being stopped by Naito is less than it was against Baez and instead we'd expected both men to put their skills to the test, and not their physicality.
We're not anticipating a classic brawl here. Instead we're suspect high speed chess, from the opening round to the final bell. Both men will take a round or two to try and figure the other out, and from then on we're going to see speed, skills and traps a plenty, with each man looking to lure the other in to range, slip and counter. This could be a complex, yet dull affair between well matched fighters, or it could be action packed with both pitching their ring IQ's against each other.
We're expecting action, counters, speed and we're going to actually pick against the grain and go with Nagata, albeit in a razor thin 12 round decision. There won't be much to pick between them, but we favour Nagata's extra physical strength to take him over the finishing line.
This coming Saturday we'll see titles being unified as OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro (6-0, 2) takes on Japanese champion Masaru Sueyoshi (18-1, 11), with the winner becoming the de facto #2 in Japan behind WBO champion Masayuki Ito, and moving towards a world title fight of their own.
Although the less experienced of the two men Mishiro is the holder of the high level title, a title he won back in June when he out pointed Filipino Carlo Magali in a very close bout. Prior to that win he had scored notable domestic victories over Shuya Masaki and Shuma Nakazato, and was a former amateur standout. Despite his success he often been a frustrating fighter, showing little killer instinct and being dragged into longer and tough bouts than he probably wanted to have. At his best he is a wonderful fighter to watch, boxing at range and dictating the tempo is something he looks brilliant at. Up close however he can be made to look defensively flawed, open and easy to tag, and we do have questions about his chin and durability as well as his stamina.
If Mishiro can dictate the tempo and range of a fight he's going to be a very hard man to beat, but when he slows down he does look beatable, and this something he will have to work hard to improve as his career develops. After just 6 fights, and aged just 23, we don't expect him to be a complete fighter and in fact his flaws being so numerous make it clear just how much he has to work with already. He's quick, smart, rangy and very promising.
With 19 bouts under his belt Sueyoshi is far more experienced than Mishiro and at 27 he is more mature as a fighter. Not only that but he has been a professional for more than 7 years, and has faced several notable foes, including Masayuki Ito, Shingo Eto, Allan Vallespin and Ribo Takahata. He actually won the title by beating Takahata last October and has made two defenses, beating Ken Osato and Tsuyoshi Tojo.
Like Mishiro we see Sueyoshi as a frustrating fighter. He creates awkward distance and angles, and fighters very well off the back foot, in a rather unusual manner. He's not a puncher by any means, but when he lands clean he can score spectacular KO's, as he did against Vallespin. Instead he chips away at people, breaks them down mentally as well as physically and draws mistakes out of them. He's technically very good, and makes people pay for their mistakes, but has been dropped and hurt before and it's clear that whilst talented he may struggle against the bigger punchers if, or when, he mixes at world level.
We're expecting a bit of an awkward bout here. Both fighters set unusual distances and tempos. Of the two Mishiro is the more aggressive and Sueyoshi the more defensively minded, and given that polarity we do expect this to be a pretty fun bout. We favour Sueyoshi's experience over 10 rounds to get him to victory, but we wouldn't be surprised by a close decision either way in what could be a bout that frustrates at times but is very competitive through out.
This coming Saturday we'll see a really looking OPBF Minimumweight title bout, as the hard hitting Tsubasa Koura (13-0, 9) takes on Daiki Tomita (12-0, 4), with Koura looking to make his third defense of the title and Tomita fighting for his first title. Of the two fighters it's the champion who is the more well and more touted, but the challenger is a touted 20 year old with a point to prove and opportunity to make a name for himself against a very highly regarded fighter.
Aged 23 Koura is a real wild card in the Minmumweight division, and someone who has eyes on world title fighters. He debuted at the age of 19 in August 2014 and the following year he was crowned the All-Japan Rookie of the Year. The following year he showed his explosiveness and scored a notable win against Jeffrey Galero before defeating Jaysevera Abcede in 2017 for the OPBF title. Since winning the belt Koura has been tested, narrowly over-coming Masataka Taniguchi in his first defense then pulling himself off the canvas to defeat Norihito Tanaka in his second defense.
In the early stages of his career Koura showed his explosiveness. It was a exciting yet dangerous and sometimes crude. Since then however he has shown he can box, holding his own in a boxing contest with Taniguchi. He's still showed he was heavy handed, but also that he wasn't a one-trick pony, instead being more of a boxer-puncher. The boxing skills were on show again when he defeated Tanaka, showing lovely speed, nice movement and a good jab and some lovely counter shots. There was however a moment in the opening round when he went for the finish and was dropped from a big counter shot. That didn't really leave question marks about his chin, but more about the risks he takes, and he did bounce up almost immediately. If he takes too many risks there is a chance it will come back to bite him. Though we suspect as he matures he'll become less risky and know when to unload and when to be patient.
At 20 years old Tomita is a bit of a boxing baby though has also won the Rookie of the Year, claiming the crown in 2016. Sadly since claiming the Rookie of the Year his career hasn't really developed significantly, and his best win was a decision over the tough but limited Desierto Nagaike. Despite Nagaike being limited the bout did serve as a chance for Tomita to prove his stamina, and he did so by winning 10 round decision. Through his career he has proven to be technically solid, with smart movement, quick on his feet and sharp with his punches. Notably he also looks big for the weight and looks like he will probably out grow the division sooner rather than later.
Although not as well known as the champion Tomita does look like a real prospect with a lot of potential. His body shots are particularly good and although there is a long way for him to go he looks like someone who will step up in terms of his performances when he faces stiffer competition. His style could well give Koura real problems, and it seems like if he can establish his jab, and control the distance. If he can manage that he really could see more questions being asked of Koura than ever before.
We're expecting to see Koura look to use his speed and power and Tomita boxing smartly on the back foot. The style of Tomita could give Koura problems, but we fancy Koura's power to be the difference and to bail him out in the middle rounds of the contest. Possibly with Tomita leading on the score cards. Hopefully a win here will lead to Koura getting a world title fight, though it does feel like we've been talking about that for a while and yet he is still defending the OPBF title against domestic challengers, no the regional elite.
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.
This coming Tuesday we'll see Japanese Heavyweight Kyotaro Fujimoto (19-1, 11) defending his two regional titles. He'll be making the 4th defense of the OPBF Heavyweight title and the third defense of the WBO Asia Pacific title, as he takes on limited Thai puncher Suthat Kalalek (12-9, 11). For the Japanese fighter it's another opportunity to advance his career and to rack up an extra defense of his two titles, whilst the Thai gets a second OPBF title fight, after having come up short in a Super Middleweight title bout back in 2015.
Of the two men it's Kyotaro who is the more well known, by a long way. The Japanese Heavyweight is a former K1 fighter who has shaken up the Japanese boxing scene by being a notable Heavyweight, the first notable Japanese born fighter in the division's history. His success has seen him become only the second ever Japanese Heavyweight champion, resurrecting a title which had been dead for more than 50 years, and going on to defend the belt 3 times before unifying it with the OPBF and the WBO Asia Pacific titles.
In the ring Kyotaro doesn't really fight like a typical Heavyweight. He's a small fighter for the division, standing at just 6'0 and weighing around 228lbs. Instead of being someone who will bring the fight to an opponent he's often a fighter who uses his speed and movement to out box and counter punch bigger, stronger, slower fighters. Early on in his career that saw him having mixed success, with a notable loss in his 6th professional bout against Solomon Haumono. In more recent times however it's been a tactic which has worked well and allowed him to keep his suspect chin safe whilst tiring out, and then stopping, lesser foes.
The Thai on the other hand isn't really anyone of any major note. He's better known as Kajornsak Sithsaithong or Kajornsak Saikaew Boxing Camp, and the 23 year old is one of the few men who will make Kyotaro look big. Stood at 5'7” Suthat is a blown up Middleweight who has lost to every notable name he has faced. That include Shintaro Matsumoto, Yuzo Kiyota and Vikas Singh. In fact his only win of any note came against the over-weight and out of shape Yamata Fujinaka, who came in at a career high 248.5lbs for his bout with the Thai.
Although limited the visitor can bang, and did drop Kiyota, but that power isn't going to carry up to Heavyweight. Instead it's going to be clear he's not suited to Heavyweight. In a way he could give Kyotaro fits by using his own speed and using his lack of natural lack of size to his advantage. The reality however is that he's unlikely to have the power, strength or style to test the champion. Instead we suspect that Kyotaro will look to make a statement and see off the Thai fighter within 6 or 7 rounds, maximum, in what is a very clear mismatch.
Fingers crossed that if Kyotaro wins his next defense will be against a more compelling foe, such as Zhang Zhilei or Zhang Junlong.
On September 21st Japan's Shintaro Matsumoto (14-6, 10) will get a chance to become am 2-weight OPBF champion, as he takes on hard hitting Australian Aaron Lai (10-4, 9), the current OPBF Light Heavyweight champion. On paper the bout looks very competitive, with neither man being a world beater, but how do we see the bout?
Of the two men the one we know best is Matsumoto. The 33 year old, currently fighting out of the Watanabe Gym though previously of the Yonekura Gym, is one of the few Japanese fighters to have made a bit of a name at Super Middleweight. Sadly though his career at 168lbs was over-shadowed by hard hitting contemporary Yuzo Kiyota, who would defend he OPBF title against Matsumoto in 2012 then claim the vacant title with a second win over Matsumoto in 2013. It wasn't until 2016 that Matsumoto got some revenge by taking the regional title off his shop worn nemesis with a technical decision. By then Kiyota was looking very much a washed up fighter. Sadly for Matsumoto his reign was short, losing the title to Jayde Mitchell in his first defense.
Since losing to Mitchell Matsumoto has fought twice. Defeating a limited Thai and losing to Reagan Dessaix. At his best Matsumoto wasn't really the best in Japan. He had respectable power, and was accurate enough, but lacked durability, lacked vicious power and lacked speed. With 4 stoppage losses from his 20 career bouts we know he doesn't take a show well, and with his lack of speed that is a double problem. He can be hurt, and usually can't escape from the follow up attacks.
At 35 years old Lai is likely coming to the end of his career, a career that only started in 2011. He would win his first 6 bouts, 5 by stoppage, before suffering a drop in form, losing 3 in a row and 4 out of 5. Those losses weren't the most humiliating, losing to Jayde Mitchell and Peng Qu among others, but they did show up his flaws and saw him being dropped a number of times. It seemed that whilst he could hurt opponents he could also be hurt himself. Since those losses he has bounced back with 3 wins, all by stoppage, including his OPBF title win last year and his first victory.
Although a puncher Lai has been down in a number of fights. He's yet to be stopped, but with all the times he's been knockdown it's obvious that he's not that durable and a stoppage loss is just around the corner. He's very much a flawed fighter, and it's going to take a very good match maker on his side to let him have a lengthy reign as the champion.
We know both guys are limited. Both are very flawed. When that happens it's hard not to favour the one with the more bang. As a result we fancy Lai to come out on top and score a stoppage, though we wouldn't be surprised to see him needing to pull himself off the canvas to stop Matsumoto in what could be an entertaining, if low skilled, contest.
This coming Thursday Japanese fight fans at the Korakuen Hall will see 2012 Olympic Bronze medal winner Satoshi Shimizu (6-0, 6) make his third defense of the OPBF Featherweight title, as he takes on fellow Japanese southpaw Shingo Kawamura (16-3-1, 8). Interestingly this will be Shimizu's second professional bout against a domestic foe, with his last being a 109 second blow out win against Takuya Yamamoto in May 2017.
Coming in to this there is a lot of expectation on the champion who not only rides high as an Olympic medal winner or as the OPBF champion but also as a man tipped for huge success and a fighter with a perfect record. He's also entering the bout as a world ranked fighter and someone who is on the fast track to a world title fight, and given he's now 32 he can ill afford a set back if he wishes to fight at the top level of the professional ranks.
Despite being a top level amateur fighter Shimizu has a rather unique and unorthodox fighting style which sees him really rely on his freakish amateur traits. He's a 5'10” southpaw fighting at Featherweight, not many fighters at 126lbs have ever been his size and he uses his height and reach to get away with a pretty free swinging fighting style. Although he has got a jab he does seem much happier to go bombs away and look to head hunt with wide arching hooks at range. It's a style that doesn't look like it should be effective but it is, and he's looked totally dominant so far, having barely if ever lost a round since he made his professional debut in September 2016.
Blessed with not only size but also freakish power, impressive stamina and the team at the Ohashi gym behind him Shimizyu is a real nightmare to fight against.
Kawamura on the other hand has got the amateur pedigree, the world ranking, the regional title or the hype of Shimizu. Instead the 28 year old Osakan has got 6 years of professional experience behind him, the development of a hard career and the experience of needing to build himself up from the ground. He actually lost by stoppage on his debut in side the opening round, much like current world champion Sho Kimura, but has bounced back from that loss. He bounced hack so impressively that the following year he was the Rookie of the Year at Featherweight sadly for Kawamura his rise through the ranks was slowed in 2014 when he suffered a surprise loss to Thai visitor Attanon Kunlawong / Kongthara KKP.
Despite a loss on the road in 2016, to Mike Tawatchai, we've seen a real surge of success from Kawamura over the last 24 months with 5 straight wins including a massive one over Tae Il Atsumi last December, slowing the Japanese based Korean's ascent to a title fight. With his experience and confidence it's clear that he will be coming into this bout riding a bit of a high and he appears to be wary of Shimizu's low guard and his own advantages. Saying that however this is a massive step up in class for the challenger who will be looking to negate the reach and size advantages of Shimizu to land his straight left hand.
We know Shimizu is flawed, very flawed, but there is something about his awkward style that seems to leave opponents both dumb founded and on the canvas. We expect the same unorthodox approach to work well here and for him to stop Kawamura, who has been taken out inside the distance in 2 of his 3 losses. Kawamura might be confident going into the bout, and see it as a fun experience, but the reality is that this is a very different test to what he's used to.
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.