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 February 14th we'll get the chance to see OPBF Super Bantamweight champion Hiroaki Teshigawara (18-2-2, 11) battle against Yuki Iriguchi (10-2-1, 4), in what will be Teshigawara's first defense of the title that he won in October 2018. The bout could, potentially, push Teshigawara into a world title shot, following the likes of Ryohei Takahashi who lost recently to TJ Doheny, or could put Iriguchi on the boxing map. Incidentally Iriguchi does actually hold a win over the aforementioned Takahashi.
Over the last 2 years we've seen Teshigawara become one of the must watch Japanese fighters at 122lbs. In late 2016 he gave Ryo Akaho a really close bout, putting himself on the map, and since then he has gone 6-0 (5), claiming the WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight title and the OPBF Super Bantamweight title. On paper that's pretty impressive, but when you consider that his wins have come against the likes of Keita Kurihara, Jason Canoy and Teiru Kinoshita you see it's more than just record padding from Teshigawara. In fact he has been facing top domestic and regional talent and showing that he's an excellent, exciting and aggressive fighter.
In the ring Teshigawara is more a brawler than a boxer. There are boxing fundamentals there but he does seem to enjoy a war, believing in his power and toughness to break opponents down. That has been working, against power puncher, speedy fighters and tough fighters, though it didn't against Canoy who managed to survive Teshigawara's power to give us a brilliant 12 round war. He's tough, strong and powerful, a real nightmare for most at this level, though he will need to develop his boxing skills if he's to beat top 10 competition.
At 21 years old Iriguchi is a relative boxing baby, and is 7 years younger than the champion, though debuted just weeks after his 17th birthday. He would win his first 6 bouts before suffering back to back setbacks with a loss to Hibiki Jogo and a draw against Noboru Osato. Since then he has proven to be a thorn in the side of more highly regarded domestic opponents. He would be the touted Kenshin Oshima in 2016, add Takahashi's scalp in 2017 and defeat Takafumi Nakajima in 2018. His only loss, other than the one to Jogo, was a razor thin split decision to the big hitting Takuya Mizuno in late 2017 in what was a Japanese Youth title fight in Mizuno's backyard.
Iriguchi is much less of a puncher than Teshigawara and is much more a boxer, with a volume punching style. He's got a solid right hand, a good work rate and applies good pressure. Sadly though he is defensively very open, not the quickest fighter out there and he looks pretty 1-handed, often launching right hands without setting things up with a jab.
Watching what is available of Iriguchi shows him to be almost the sort of fighter that a fan would want to see Teshigawara to face off with. He's aggressive, flawed and comes forward. Against Teshigawara that should make for a very exciting, back and forth brawl. Sadly for Iriguchi however it seems like the significant edge in power will be the difference and Teshigawara will eventually break down the challenger, likely in the later rounds of an all out thriller!
On February 11th fight fans in Hiroshima will get the chance to see a popular local fighter challenger for an OPBF title, in what is a real must win for the local, and the next stepping stone in the career of the champion.
The champion in question is 26 year old Filipino Edward Heno (13-0-5, 5), the current OPBF Light Flyweight champion who will be taking on 35 year old challenger Koji Itagaki (18-13-3, 7). Another loss for Itagaki almost certainly ends his career, which began in 2005, whilst a win would be his defining achievement, and a huge upset. A win for Heno however would enhance his reputation and move him one more step towards a world title fight, in one of the sports most packed divisions.
Heno won the title in September 2017, travelling to Japan and stopping Seita Ogido. Prior to winning the belt he had stopped the then 12-0 Cris Ganoza and been held to a very controversial draw with Ogido, having originally been announced as the winner before a scoring error was discovered. Since winning the title he has defended it against Merlito Sabillo and Jesse Espinas.
In recent years Heno has proven to be a very talented boxer, with underrated power, a lot of confidence and a willingness to travel to prove himself, having travelled for both the bouts with Ogido and the bout with Sabillo. In the ring he's an accurate, sharp puncher, with smart defense and the ability to pick some fantastic counters. There's definitely areas to improve and work, but on the whole he's a fantastic young fighter who is hungry to prove himself, before getting a world title fight. It's clear he doesn't just expect a title shot, but feels the need to earn it.
Itagaki has had a number of notable chances in the last few years. In 2017 he lost to Kenichi Horikawa, in a bout for the WBO Asia Pacific Light Flyweight title, and in 2018 he lost to the then Japanese champion Tetsuya Hisada, before at the end of the year to Horikawa in a Japanese title eliminator. In fact coming into this bout he is 2-4-1 in his last 7, going back more than 3 years. Unfortunately for Itagaki his record is reflective of his career, and he is a "win some lose some" fighter, who has mixed with good fighters, losing to the likes of Horikawa, Hisada, Rey Loreto, Suguru Munraka, and Warlito Parrenas, but unfortunately come up short against almost everyone of note.
Despite his failings against decent fighters Itagaki isn't actually a bad fighter. For an older fighter he's light on his feet and has good a lovely quick jab. Sadly though he's a light puncher, he has to work incredibly hard for success and struggles to get respect from opponents. He certainly has the skills to make life difficult for opponents, but if a fighter can cut the ring off, they can really get to him. Likewise against a young, talented fighter, like Heno, we suspect that Itagaki's lack of physicality will be his down fall.
We rate Heno incredibly highly and we're expecting him to show why he is so well regarded in the sport. We're expecting to see him show his speed,timing and variety to neutralise the movement of Itagaki, and force a late stoppage over the veteran. Yes Itagaki will be awkward early on, but as the pressure comes from Heno he'll slow down, and eventually be broken down.
We don't expect to see Heno just look win, but instead we expect him to win in a way that makes a statement and begins to open the door to potential world title fights in Japan against WBA "super" champion Hiroto Kyoguchi or WBC champion Kenshiro.
We get the first OPBF title fight of the year on January 19th with Korea playing host to an OPBF Light Middleweight title bout, fill the void left by Takeshi Inoue, who fights Jamie Mungia for the WBO title a week later. The match up will see little known Korean fighter Jung Kyoung Lee (6-2-1, 2) [이중경] battling against Australian based Cameroonian fighter Samuel Colomban (25-10-1, 11), in the first ever event held under the "Annihilation" banner.
The Korean fighter has been a professional since early 2017 and has risen through the ranks rather quickly, a surprise given he lost on debut and was 3-2 when he had his first bout of note. His first big bout came in December 2017 when he fought to a technical draw with In Duck Seo, in a bout for the Korean Light Middleweight title. Prior to the bout with Seo being stopped we did get a chance to see Lee as an aggressive, exciting southpaw, who was technically crude but looked confident and like a solid puncher. Sadly for Lee that bout was stopped following a pretty brutal clash of heads, but since then he has won the Korean title, thanks to a very late stoppage over Se Ho Joo in April 2014.
Since beating Joo for the title Lee has fought twice, scoring a huge win over Chinese fighter Tonghui Li in October and Nakhon Muensa in November. In those bouts he did look more patient, less reckless and less open than he did against Seo. He was lucky to get the decision against the Chinese fighter, but showed his toughness and desire, taking the fight to Hui. He had developed his lead hand since the earlier fights, but was still pretty crude.
The 34 year old Colomban has been a professional since 2006 and has had a long and hard career, but has proven to be a genuinely tough fighter. He first made his mark in the amateurs, competing at the 2006 Commonwealth games, and would go on to face a who's who of the Australian scene, facing the likes of Ryan Waters, Wale Omotoso and Jeff Horn, who is the only man to have stopped him. His career has seen him travel to the UK, where he fought the then unbeaten Denton Vassell, and proved to be a handful at his very best. Sadly Colomban hasn't looked close to his best recently, and has gone 3-4-1 in his last 8 bouts.
Rugged, aggressive and powerful Colomban was a solid Welterweight and a decent regional Light Middleweight. With over a year-gone since his last bout however it's unclear what he has left in the tank. If he's half the fighter he once was it's hard to see anything but a win for Colomban, but he's clearly not the fighter he used to be, it's just unclear how much he has slipped.
We're guessing that the Korean and his team know that Colomban isn't the fighter he used to be, and that their man is the younger, fresher figfhter. They will assume that will be anough to take the win, and the OPBF title, and we think they are right...but Lee will certainly have to earn his victory and Colomban won't just give him it for free. This will be an interesting test of Lee's toughness, but a test we're expecting to see him pass en route to a wide decision win.
The Japanese boxing scene gives us a pre-Christmas treat on December 24th as Keita Kurihara (12-5, 11) and Yuki Strong Kobayashi (14-7, 8) face off in Osaka for the vacant OPBF Bantamweight title. On paper this may not look like anything special, but in reality it's a brilliant match up, that again shows records really don't tell us everything.
Of the two men the more impressive has been the 25 year old Kurihara, who has really impressed in recent years with his power, aggression and wonderfully exciting style. His record is a total mess due to a less than great start to his career, losing 4 of his first 7 bouts to record a 3-4 (3) record. Since then however he has gone 9-1 (8) with his sole loss during that 10 fight stretching coming in a war to Hiroaki Teshigawara. On the other his wins during that run have included stoppages against Sonin Nihei, Ryan Lumacad, Tetsuya Watanabe and Kazuki Tanaka.
Blessed with power, heart and grit Kurihara is a nightmare to face at this level. His skills probably won't take him to the top, unless he works on his technical flaws, especially his defense and how he sets up offensive work, but on the Oriental scene there's not many who will defeat him. Many may feel they can, but they'll end up in a war that really won't do them well. To beat him either a fighter needs to be insanely tough themselves, like Teshigawara, or be a very sharp boxer-mover who can counter him and make him pay for his aggression. Fortunately for him there's not too many of either those on the Oriental level at the moment.
Kobayashi is the slightly older man at 27 and has had 21 fights, to Kurihara's 17, but in terms of rounds fought is much more experienced, with 109 rounds to Kurihara's 53. Despite that he is also a heavy handed fighter, who has stopped fighters like Hikaru Matsuoka, Satoshi Ozawa and touted Filipino Vincent Astrolabio. Unfortunately for him he has been matched hard, and has lost 3 of his last 8, with stoppage losses to Takahiro Yamamoto and Rey Megrino, as well as a decision loss to Ye Joon Kim. Against Megrino and Yamamoto there was simply too much of a difference in power, whilst Kim out boxed and out moved Kobayashi.
Kobayashi is also an aggressive fighter, who likes to stand just inside range and launch hard right hands up top, and short hooks. His ability to close distance is one of his weakest points from a technical; stand point, with his slow feet and weak looking jab being an issue, but he is sharp with his power shots. Sadly he is relatively flat footed, and looks to be someone who sets him self a bit too much, with a lack of fluidity to his overall work, and is a bit of an "offense or defense" fighter, rather than someone who can switch between the two on a whim.
Give that both like to let their hands go, both are relatively slow of foot and neither likes to back down we're expecting the two to meet centre ring and have a tear up. And we mean a tear up. In a war we favour the hard hitting and more aggressive Kurihara, but he will certainly give Kobayashi openings for his right hand, and we're expecting him to land plenty of those.
As a prediction we're going with a Kurihara stoppage in the middle rounds. Given that this is on Kobayashi's home turf Kurihara may fight like a man who feels he needs a KO and will fight like that's his only way to win in what we're expecting to be a Christmas cracker!
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.
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.