It's not often that you'll see a national champion, who is making their second defense and on a 6 fight unbeaten run being regarded at the under-dog in a mandatory Japanese title defense. This coming Wednesday however we see just that, as Japanese Featherweight champion Taiki Minamoto (16-5, 13) defends his title against Reiya Abe (19-2, 9) in a truly mouth watering clash at Korakuen Hall. On one hand you have an explosive, and hard hitting champion, who has lost just once in the last 4 years, on the other a challenger who has won his last 11 and at times has looked untouchable.
This is one of the most interesting looking Japanese title bouts of 2019.
The 28 year old Minamoto is promoted by the Watanabe gym and has been a pro for a little over 8 years.His career showed early promise, though also showed him to be a bit of a glass cannon, going 9-3 (8) in his first 12 bouts. From his 3 early losses 3 were stoppages, whilst the other came to future world champion Masayuki Ito. Since that start he has gone 7-2 (5), beating the likes of Eita Kikuchi, Seizo Kono, Dai Iwai, Takenori Ohashi and Tatsuya Otsubo, whilst his last loss came in 2015 to Yukinori Oguni. It was the win over Iwai that set up his rise to the title, which he took from Ohashi and defended against Osubo. During those bouts we saw the best of Minamoto, who looked amazing against Ohashi, using his boxing skills, speed, accurate punching and heavy hands to dismantle, beat up and stop the then defending champion. Against Otsubo however we saw Minamoto struggling, and needing to dig incredibly deep to over-come the then challenger.
At his best Minamoto is a real talent. He's an excellent boxer-puncher, and his performance against Ohashi saw everything click for him, he dominated the then champion, using movement, speed, skills, power, and ring IQ. It was a relative mismatch with Minamoto never looking in any trouble and Ohahsi being made to look like a rank novice. When he fights like that he is going to be a very, very, very hard man to beat at domestic level. Sadly though his performance after the winning the title saw him ignoring his boxing skills and becoming more of a brawler, fighting Otsubo's fight. It was a stupid tactical move and showed a bit of arrogance in a bout where he was strongly favoured to win. If he fights like that against Abe he'll be made to look silly, and he'll know he needs to stick rigidly to a game plan, and not make errors.
In Abe we have a 26 year old who has really come into his own and improved so much from his early days in the ring. Had he been with a big promoter he may well have a 21-0 record, with both of his losses being razor thin decision, though his losses have helped shaped the fighter he is today. His first loss came in his second professional bout, when he was 20, he would bounce back the following year to win the Rookie of the Year before a loss in 2015 to Shingo Kusano. That loss saw Abe's record fall to 8-1 (4) but since then he has gone on a tear. Look at Abe's record since his second loss is impressive, taking the unbeaten records of Ryo Hino, Hikaru Marugame and Daisuke Sugita, whilst adding notable wins over Shingo Kusano, avenging his loss, Tsuyoshi Tameda, Joe Noynay and Satoshi Hosono. His record is as good as anyone who hasn't yet fought for some form of a title.
In terms of his style Abe is a relaxed counter punching southpaw. He looked to establish a long distance on his bouts, pecking away with accurate clean punching, landing solid straight left hands and using his right jab and footwork to neutralise opponents. It's not always an exciting style to watch, but it is almost always very effective, and fighters are finding it very hard to cut him off, to change the fight or even have success against him. He has hardly lost a round in his last 5 bouts, and no one, since Noynay more than 2 years ago, has managed to run him close. He's slippery, skilled and will make opponents pay for rushing in. He is, arguably, the best counter puncher on the Japanese domestic scene right now.
Whilst we think Minamoto will need to box to win, he will also have to be smart about it. Boxing with Abe holds a lot of risks, most obvious of which is the fact Abe is the better pure boxer. Brawling and coming out swinging would cost Minamoto heavily, with Abe being given serious countering chances. If Minamoto can box smartly, not give Abe chances and control the fight with his harder punching, he has a chance. Otherwise we see Abe continuing his surge and taking a relatively clear decision, and the Japan title.
Prediction UD10 Abe.
Over the last few years we've seen Reiya Abe (18-2, 9) develop from a 1-1 fighter to the 2014 Rookie of the Year to a a fighter on the fringe of a title shot, in fact he's set for a Japanese title fight on May 1st. On January 19th, prior to his title bout, Abe will be in the ring looking to score his 11th straight win, as he takes on former amateur stand out Daisuke Sugita (4-0, 3) at the Korakuen Hall. The bout hasn't really been put together to push the winner towards a title fight, but more because both men have been struggling to get good fights, and this is a very good fight to prepare both men for the year ahead.
Abe is a 25 year old southpaw who is a sharp punching boxer. His current run of form has been one of the most impressive on the Japanese domestic scene, with wins over the likes of Ryo Hino, Tsuyoshi Tameda, Joe Noynay, Satoshi Hosono and Daisuke Watanabe. He has proven to be a very smart boxer-mover, with a high ring IQ, good movement, under-rated power and a very sharp southpaw jab. Despite not being a huge puncher he is a sharp puncher, and those sharp shots do do damage, especially with the consistency he lands at.
Although really talented Abe has frustrated at times, and has often fought within himself. He's a sharp punching counter puncher, who looks to draw leads and mistakes to counter, but against someone unwilling to open up he really struggles to create chances. When up against a negative fighter, as we saw when he faced Masashi Noguchi, Abe's bouts can be hard to watch and can really become boxing. Against an aggressive fighter however, he is fantastic to watch.
Sugita, as mentioned, was a standout amateur and went 110-31 (47) in the unpaid ranks winning a number of domestic competitions. Sadly he didn't turn professional until he was 29, and even then did so whilst still working as a full time policemen. Due to his age he isn't really able to waste time fighting in low key bouts, and given his outside of the ring professional he doesn't even get to keep his purses. Instead he appears to be fighting for the love of the sport and his desire of competition. That desire is almost certainly the reason he's accepted a bout with Abe and has already faced Jun Blazo and Masaaki Serie.
Having only debuted in April 2018 Sugita has been impressive, with 2 very solid wins this early in his career. Sadly footage of him has been hard to come by, though some video has been made available through Boxingraise. From the footage that is out there Sugita is an aggressive fighter, with a good guard, an exciting style and good power. His amateur background shows through with his crisp punching, his sharp movement and his composure in the ring. Whilst he is mostly composed there is a sense that he gets over excited at times and can be wild when and attacking.
Given the extra professional experience, a natural size advantage and his counter punching skills we suspect that Abe will come out on top. However Sugita will not make things easy for him, and this should be an entertaining fight. We're expecting to see Sugita on the front foot, making this into a fight and Abe responding, en route to a clear, but hard fought, decision victory.
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.