For many fighters the OPBF title is a gateway to a potential world title fight. The belt might not always lead to biggest fights, but for many it is a gateway, and at the very least it tends to get the holders a world rankings. This coming Thursday we'll see one man hoping to use the OPBF title as a stepping stone, whilst another man will be looking to snatch the title away, and score their biggest win.
The bout in question will see world ranked OPBF Featherweight champion Ryo Takenaka (16-3-1,9) defending his title, for the 4th time, and battling against little known Korean challenger Sa Myung Noh (10-3, 3), who looks to secure a career defining victory.
Coming in to the bout Takenaka is one of the more proven Japanese Featherweights, he's faced a bit of a regional who's who, splitting a series with Ryol Li Lee losing to Hisashi Amagasa and scoring wins over Vinvin Rufino, Randy Braga and Ryuto Araya. During his career, which began in 2008, he has shown constant improvement and is a genuinely well schooled fighter with under-rated power, solid skills and he had developed his survival skills, following 2 stoppage losses including a 2014 bout to Amagasa.
Takenaka might not be a world champion in the making, especially given he is now 32, but he's a solid technical fighter who knows how to box, and can bang, as he showed against Rufino with a beautiful KO back in August 2015. That was a KO set up by his skills, but his power at Oriental level cannot be ignored.
Whilst Takeneke is seeking to extend his reign it's fair to say that Noh is looking to prove he's more than just a Korean domestic level fighter. Noh is a Korean Featherweight champion, but given the fractured Korean scene that doesn't say much, and given he lost last time out to Nam Joon Lee his limitations may have already been seen. It's worth noting that he was dropped last year by Min Suk Choi and hasn't really impressed, despite being a champion, on the Korean scene. In fact to date his biggest win has been a controversial one against Jaymart Toyco.
For the challenger the bout is massive step up. He's a good fighter, but he's not shown his ability above Korean domestic level, and although, like all Koreans, he doesn't know how to quit, he's not going to have the skills to hand with Takenaka, who should retain his title with real ease, by either wide decision or stoppage.
On February 9th Japanese fight fans in Tokyo get a title double header at the Korakuen Hall. The show isn't a big one, but it does feature one of the first OPBF title fights to take place in 2017, and sees a world ranked fighter defending his regional title.
That world ranked fighter is OPBF Featherweight champion Ryo Takenaka (15-3-1, 8), who is seeking his 3rd defense of the title, and extending a 4 fight winning run. In the opposite corner will be the the hungry Ryuto Araya (11-4-1, 3), who will be getting his first title fight.
Of the two men the most notable is Takenaka. He was a talented amateur, running up an excellent 73-13 (38) record in the unpaid ranks and was matched pretty hard from the off when he turned professional in 2008. After going 7-0-1 (4) early in his career Takenaka took on Masayuki Wakimoto and suffered his first loss, before suffering a second straight setback as he came undone against former world champion Ryol Li Lee. A 4-fight winning run followed before Takenaka was beaten in an OPBF title fight by Hisashi Amagasa, being stopped in the final round whilst ahead on all 3 cards.
Since suffering such a heart breaking loss to Amagasa we've seen Takenaka really build a a nice little run. He beat Junki Sasaki in his ring return before stopping Filipino veteran Vinvin Rufino for the OPBF title and has defended it against Akira Shino and Randy Braga, easily out boxing Braga.
In the ring Takenaka is a talented boxer with under-rated sting on his shots. He's not a puncher, but his KO of Rufino was genuinely brilliant and he's a good all rounder. His weakness seems to be his somewhat suspect chin, and that will likely hold him from being world class, but stoppage losses to Amagasa and Lee are nothing to be ashamed of. At 31, he turns 32 in May, he is probably in the final stages of his career but he will know that if he keeps defending his Oriental title a major international fight might be on the horizon in the future.
Whilst plenty is known about Takenaka not much is really known about Araya, with the Kanagawa man not really making much of a splash so far. Like Takenaka he had an unbeaten run early in his career before suffering back-to-back defeats, falling from 4-0-1 to 4-2-1. Since then however things have been rather stop-start with Araya suffering stoppage losses to both Daisuke Watanabe and Takuya Yamaguchi, though the Yamaguchi loss was avenged last year. To date his best win is actually sandwiched between those loss, an upset win over Kazunori Takayama in July 2015.
Coming in to this bout Araya is riding a 3 fight winning streak, and appears to have found some belief in his punching ability with 2 stoppages in his last 3, as opposed to just 1 stoppage win in his previous 13 bouts. Despite showing that power this is a monstrous step up for him and it's hard to see him having the boxing skill, or punching power, to keep Takenaka on his toes.
We can't help but see this as another straight forward win for Takenaka, much like his defense against Shono. The two men are on totally different levels, and although Araya has shown some promise recently this is still a massive leap up in class. We wouldn't be surprised it Takenaka did however defend his title at this level for a little whilst whilst looking to move himself into a world title eliminator, rather than risk his ranking and title before being able to get a big bout.
At it's best the OPBF title scene is one of the most interesting with a lot of great fighters winning the Oriental title before progressing into world title bouts. Fighters like Kosei Tanaka and Naoya Inoue both used the Oriental title as a stepping stone in recent years en route to proving themselves at world level. Other times they are at a slightly lower level, but usually a more competitive level. That's the case this coming Thursday when OPBF Featherweight champion Ryo Takenaka (14-3-1, 8) defends his belt against once beaten Filipino Randy Braga (19-1-1, 5).
Takenaka, a talented fighters from the Misako gym, won the title last year when he scored an eye catching KO win over former champion Vinvin Rufino. Since then he has defended the title just once, stopping the over-matched Akira Shono in 6 rounds.
Prior to winning the title Takenaka had had a career that had promised a lot but delivered little. He had turned professional with a lot of promise and was moved into 8 rounders in just his third bout. Sadly a technical draw against Nobuhisa Coronita Doi slowed Takenaka's progress before a disappointing 2012 saw him suffer losses to Masayuki Wakimoto and Ryol Li Lee. A winning run following those losses was ended in 2014 when he lost to the then OPBF champion Hisashi Amagasa, though came incredibly close to upsetting Amagasa.
Since the loss to Amagasa we've seen Takenaka go 3-0 (2) and prove that he's both a solid and well rounded boxer, as well as someone who hits harder than his record indicates. He's not world class, in any way, but he's a solid all rounder who shouldn't be ignored based on his losses. He's solid and whilst he's too old to really improve, given he's 31, he's still a very credible fighter and genuinely one of the top Featherweights in the Orient.
The once beaten Braga debuted back in 2006 though took a lengthy break after his debut bout, leaving the ring for more than 4 years. Since returning to the ring in 2011 he's been busy and built an impressive looking record. His competition hasn't been murderer's row but wins against Vergil Puton, Carlo Magali and Neil John Tabanao are all solid victories, and his only loss was a controversial one in South Africa to the big punching Macbute Sinyabi.
Although footage of Braga is rare and hard to hard we have seen him being dropped, with Danilo Pena dropping him with huge southpaw left hand. He recovered from that knockdown to defeat Pena but there are question marks about his chin, at least against decent Featherweights, and he'll be looking to avoid the under-rated power of Takenaka. If he can do that, and use his own skills, there is a good chance that he could out box Takenaka, or out work him up close.
Although the bout should be competitive we do imagine the champion has to be favoured here, and will probably make the second defense of his title, though should have to bit down and prove himself on route to a win
In 2015 we saw Japan's Ryo Takenaka (13-3-1, 7) [竹中 良] claim the OPBF Featherweight title and score his most notable win so far, whilst also bouncing back from a 2014 that ended with disappointment. To begin 2016 he'll be looking to continue on the success that saw him score an eye catching KO over Vinvin Rufino and retain his title as he battles Akira Shono (9-7-2, 5) [正野 晃], a man looking to secure a defining win.
Aged 30 Takenaka has got a few years left in the sport and given how he fought last year it seems like he's a man who is still improving, despite having been a professional for more than 7 years, and having been a touted prospect when he began his professional journey. Like many prospects in Japan Takenaka began his career as a 6 round fighter, and quickly progressed to 8 round bouts.
Although touted as a novice Takenaka's career failed to go as expected and after 10 bouts he was 7-2-1 (4) with his career in the balance. Since then he has gone 6-1, losing only a 12th round TKO to Hisashi Amagasa in a bout he was winning prior to the stoppage. Those 6 wins have all come against opponents with winning records, and have included wins over Rufino, Rene Bestudio and Vergel Nebran.
In the ring Takenaka is a talented boxer-mover though, as seen against Rufino, he also has very solid power with perhaps his biggest issue being his relative lack of durability, with 2 of his losses being by stoppage. Notably though those losses came to Amagasa and former world Ryol Li Lee, two very good fighters.
When it comes to Shono there is very little footage available of him, though one thing that can't be denied is that at 35 years old Shono really is unlikely to get another opportunity if he fails to make the most of this one.
Shono debuted almost 9 years ago, and struggled at times to get going. He began his career 2-2 (2), and other times was 5-4-2 (3) and even 7-7-2 (4), he is however on a 2 fight winning streak and has shown his ability by mixing with good fighters, though he was beaten by the likes of Ryota Kajiki and Satoru Sugita.
With a 9-7-2 (5) record Shono certainly doesn't look like a great challenger, especially given that he has suffered a pair of stoppage losses, and has never gone beyond 8 rounds, with this bout being a 12 rounder. Whilst we don't know a lot about Shono we do know that he will be the major under-dog against Takenaka and we can't really see how the challenger will win, as a result we're predicting a stoppage win for the champion, likely inside 6 rounds.
For around a year Hisashi Amagasa held the OPBF Featherweight title, prior to his fight with Guillermo Rigondeaux. During his reign he made 3 defenses of the title, stopping all 3 challengers, Vinvin Rufino, Maxsaisai Sithsaithong and Ryo Takenaka.
Since the Amagasa Vs Rigondeaux fight we've seen one of the men stopped by Amagasa claim the title. That's current champion Vinvin Rufino (37-16-3, 16), a veteran from the Philippines who made his debut more than 13 years ago and, only earlier this year, scored what is arguably his defining victory. That was his win over Mark Gil Melligen to claim the OPBF title back in May.
For Rufino's first defense he'll be facing another of Amagasa's former victims, Ryo Takenaka (12-3-1, 6). Whilst Rufino was comfortably beaten by Amagasa, sitting several rounds down on the scorecards before being finished off in round 8, Takenaka was actually up on the score cards before being stopped with less than 2 minutes of the fight left.
For Rufino, 33, his loss to Amagasa has helped him revive his career with a trio of wins back home in the Philippines. The most notable of those was his win over Melligen. Interestingly the loss to Amagasa was Rugino's only defeat in his last 8 bouts, though he has, notably, had very mixed fortunes on the road with a record of 2-2 in Japan, 5-6-2 in Indonesian and 7-13-2 on the road in total.
In the ring Rufino is a handful. He's in an opponents face through out the fight and although he lacks concussive power he can hit hard enough to drop, or buzz, opponents, as he did with Melligen. Whilst he's not a big hitter he is the sort of guy who always brings a fight and will be looking to out work Takenaka here.
At 30 years old Takenaka is the younger man, but certainly isn't “young” as such and in many ways is looking towards the end of his career if he loses again here. The Misako gym fighter is a very talented boxer, as shown in his bout with Amagasa, but has been stopped in 2 of his 3 defeats and has sometimes struggled with opponents that he should really have breezed past. Notably he has also only fought once since being stopped by Amagasa and was relatively fortunate to pick up a win in that bout.
Although talented Takenaka lacks the power needed to make the most of his skill and at times has shown enough flaws for fighters to adapt to him. Interestingly, coming in to this bout, Takenaka is unbeaten against Filipino fighters, with whom he has a 2-0 record. They have however come against fighters less experienced and less proven that Rufino.
Coming in to this bout we really know that neither can afford a loss. Unfortunately for Rufino we suspect he's gonna come up short on the cards unless he can stop Takenaka. We know scoring in boxing is subjective but it often goes with the home fighter and we suspect that will be the case again here with a debatable victory for the Japanese fighter.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
The 126lb Featherweight division is one of the sports deepest. Unfortunately due to it's depth it leaves a number of notable, talented and exciting fighters on it's periphery rather than really in the mix. One of those sat on the outside looking in is OPBF champion Hisashi Amagasa (27-4-2, 18) who holds world rankings with all 4 bodies though is very unlikely to get a world title shot, at least for now.
Amagasa has held the OPBF title for around a year, in fact when he returns to the ring this coming Wednesday he'll have held the title just over a year, and has already defended it twice. He now looks for the third defence of the belt as he takes on fellow Japanese fighter Ryo Takenaka (11-2-1, 6), a man written off as little more than an easy challenger for the interesting champion.
Whilst Amagasa is the champion he is also a fighter that really confuses us at times. He's a long and rangy fighter with solid power, great work rate and fantastic reach for a Featherweight. Yet he fights as if he's an untrained and under-skilled brawler giving up his height all too often whilst swinging some very loose and wild looking shots. This seems to work for him with some major wins though when he actually thinks about what he's doing he can land some of the most beautiful and thudding shots we've seen, such as the finishing uppercut in his bout with Koji Nagata, you'll be hard pushed to find a better uppercut KO. On the whole however his wins have have often been messy and down to grinding effect of his wild hooks as opposed to crisp and clean shots.
Although a flawed fighter Amagasa is a fighter who does show signs of improvement and has reeled off a 12 fight winning streak since losing a decision back in 2012 to Ryol Li Lee, a loss that was avenged in Amagasa's OPBF winning title bout last year.
As for Takenaka he's a challenger we don't know a lot about. 29 year old has been a professional since 2008 and although he showed early promise with some solid wins early on his career was derailed back-to-back set backs in 2012 as he lost a decision so Masayuki Wakimoto and was stopped in 5 by Ryol Li Lee.
Whilst those set backs were hurtful for Takenaka's rise he has since strung together 4 straight wins with those some of those wins coming over the likes of Vergel Nebran and Rene Bestudio and helped him climb into the OPBF rankings. Sadly however the leap from Bestudio and Nebran to OPBF level is huge, especially when you consider that Takenaka has never fought in a bout scheduled for more than 8 rounds. The step up from 8 rounders to OPBF title bouts is huge and that alone tells what we need to know here. Takenaka isn't ready for this fight.
Whilst we accept Amagasa is flawed he has the ability to challenge for a world title and make a good account of himself. Against someone like Takenaka it's hard to see anything but an easy win for the champion who probably scores a mid round stoppage with out too many problems. That's not to say it won't be fun to watch, we love watching Amagasa, but it will be relatively one-sided.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
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.