By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On August 8th, at the legendary Korakuen Hall, 2 of the most exciting Japanese boxers today will engage in a highly entertaining battle, as top ranked Super Bantamweight contender Hiroaki Teshigawara defends his OPBF championship against Shohei Omori.
Hiroaki Teshigawara (19-2 / 12 KOs) began boxing professionally at the age of 21, and for the next few years he would test himself against local competition, gaining some much needed experience.
His first real big match took place in October of 2016, when he met 2 time world title challenger Ryo Akaho (34-2). A former National, OPBF & WBO International champion, Akaho was clearly the favorite here, with Teshigawara coming in with only 12 wins under his belt, 1 decision loss and 2 draws. Surprisingly enough, this turned out to be an extremely competitive match. Teshigawara went toe to toe with the much more experienced Akaho, giving him a lot of trouble in almost every round. His power and aggressiveness stunned the veteran, throwing him out of his game and even out of the ring at one point. In the end, Akaho narrowly won a split decision, which only made the younger fighter look like a true warrior.
Teshigawara kicked off 2017 with a bang, making short work of Junny Salogaol (14-17) in April and then in June picking up another victory against Keita Kurihara (14-5) after a rather exciting brawl. The Japanese fighter would go on to challenge Jetro Pabustan (29-6) before the year was over, for the WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight championship. Teshigawara overwhelmed the former world title contender with his wild offense, eventually scoring a knockdown in round 9 and finishing the job in the 10th.
After marking his inaugural title defense over Jason Canoy (27-10) in February of 2018, he made his second one against 2 time world title challenger Teiru Kinoshita (26-3) 4 months later. Pretty much like the Pabustan fight, Teshigawara had his way with his opponent. The “Golden Yasha” kept landing one punch after the other, having him on the run from the opening bell. He finally dropped Kinoshita in the 3rd and again in the 5th, to get the TKO win. Teshigawara would then move up to Super Bantamweight, claiming the vacant OPBF crown after stopping Glenn Suminguit (21-4) and defended it once against Yuki Iriguchi (10-3). He now will lock horns yet again with another tough opponent this coming August.
Shohei Omori (20-2 / 15 KOs) took up the sport at an early age, since his father was also a boxer, and even competed at the 65th National Boxing Tournament during his high school years, reaching second place. He made his pro debut in 2011, amassing 11 consecutive victories, before facing former WBC Silver champion and world title contender Christian Esquivel (30-19). Omori controlled the fight from the beginning and eventually dropped the Mexican fighter with a perfectly timed uppercut in the 4th round, before scoring 2 more knockdowns to earn the stoppage.
In 2015, he fought for the Japanese Bantamweight title, taking on the reigning champion Kentaro Masuda (27-9). Omori quickly established himself as the dominant boxer, putting the champion down twice in the 1st. Masuda found himself defending against the challenger’s nonstop offense, offering almost no resistance. The beating continued for two rounds, until the referee decided to step in and stop the fight.
Omori successfully defended his crown 5 months later, against 2 time world title challenger Hirofumi Mukai (16-6), to continue climbing the rankings. However, that momentum came to an abrupt ending when he suffered his first loss at the hands of Marlon Tapales (33-2) in a WBO final eliminator. The following year, he picked up 3 back to back wins, all finishes, over Indonesian journeyman Espinos Sabu (16-14), Edgar Jimenez (23-15) and 2 time world title contender Rocky Fuentes (36-9), whom he slept with a vicious uppercut, putting himself back on track.
As fate would have it, Omori challenged the former champion Tapales for the vacant WBO World Bantamweight title in 2017. Unlike their first encounter, which was a one sided beatdown, this turned out quite differently. The bout started with both fighters going back and forth, with no one really gaining any advantage over the other. Business was about to pick up though, as Omori hurt the Filipino in the 5th with a series of body shots, much to the delight of the Japanese audience. Tapales woke up in the 6th, fighting more aggressively. In the beginning of round 7, Omori rocked him again, and while it looked like the match was almost over, Tapales fired back, gaining some much needed ground. Both warriors went on to have an exciting FOTYC, trading blows within the next rounds, with no man backing down. In the end, Tapales managed to score a knocked down during the last minute of the 10th, dazing Omori, and then again in the 11th, causing the referee to put an end to this contest. Even in defeat, Omori looked strong, putting on a valiant effort, earning the respect of his opponent as well as of the fans. It’s worth mentioning that Tapales entered the fight overweight by 900g.
After 15 months of inactivity, he finally returned to action, this time as a Super Bantamweight, scoring 2 early TKOs over Brian Lobetania (13-7) and Takahiro Yamamoto (21-6), looking as good as ever, with no signs of ring rust. Omori will look to continue his winning streak next week and possibly add another title to his collection.
The clash between Teshigawara and Omori has the potential of being the best pure Japanese boxing bout of 2019. Their styles are pretty similar. Teshigawara is a volume fighter. He likes to swing for the fences and possesses incredible hand speed.
He’s also quite aggressive, maybe even to a fault. The same can be said about Omori. An explosive competitor, who prefers to get things done as fast as possible. It’s no surprise that most of his matches have ended in less than 5 rounds. Omori throws fast and strong combinations, attacking both the head and the body, always looking for that knockout. A win here will bring Teshigawara closer to a world championship opportunity, while for Omori it’s a chance to put his name back in the top 10. It’s not easy to pick the victor here. Teshigawara might have the edge, given he has been undefeated since losing to Akaho in 2017, but you cannot disregard Omori’s toughness and willingness to prove himself worthy for another crack at the big one. All in all, this is a 50-50 situation with only one thing certain: No way this goes the distance.
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!
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.