The Japanese Welterweight scene is a pretty interesting one right now, without being one that gets much attention. The domestic scene features not only Keita Obara, who has progressed beyond Japanese title level, but up and comers like Kudura Kaneko and Rikuto Adachi as well as established fighters like Giraffe Kirin Kanda and Toshiro Tarumi. It's not a scene bustling with world class talent, but enough talent to make things interesting.
We get a great example of how interesting the division is this coming Sunday when Japanese national champion Ryota Yada (18-4, 15) defends his belt against mandatory challenger Yuki Nagano (15-2, 11). On paper this looks pretty evenly matched, pretty explosive and very exciting.
Yada won the title just over a year ago, stopping Toshio Arikawa in 8 rounds. Since then he has defended the belt twice, stopping Kazuyasu Okamoto and Shusaku Fujinaka. Those wins have seen Yada create a 6 fight winning run, since he was stopped in December 2016 by Jayar Inson and the 29 year old Osakan certainly seems to have developed since his last loss. He has not only developed his skills, but also his mentality, and he's seemingly become a lot more driven since that loss, with his win over Arikawa being an excellent performance based on desire, fitness and will to win.
Blessed with power Yada is a real dangerman on the domestic scene and it will take a tough fighter to see out the distance with him. He has good energy to go with his power, and as mentioned a real will to win. He does fall short in technical aspects but seems to be fully aware that his offense is his best defense and that he is much better off taking the fight to his opponents, or fighting as a controlled counter puncher at range, and chipping away at opponents. He's not going to out box many in a pure boxing sense, but he can hurt people and that is his key.
Nagano secured his shot at the title when he beat Yuki Beppu in October, in a title eliminator. That was the 29 year old southpaw's first bout outside of Tokyo and he rose to the occasion in Kurume to score his 13th straight professional victory. It wasn't just his biggest win to date, but one that saw him build on the early potential that had guided him to the 2015 Rookie of the Year crown. As a fighter the win over Beppu stands out along with his wins in the Rookie tournament against Giraffe Kirin Kanda, Toshio Tarumi, Masaharu Kaito and his 2018 win over Riku Nagahama.
In the ring Nagano is a pretty patient fighter, who is a very heavyhanded southpaw left hand, which he fires out with a real sense of purpose. Despite it being a dangerous punch he is patient with it, timing opponents, countering with it and draw them on to it well. He also had a very frustrating lead hand, that keeps opponents guessing, without actually being a potent weapon, more a neutralising tool. It should be noted he doesn't have a high work rate, but does have power.
Coming into this we see the fight as likely to be a cagey affair early, with both trying to feel out the other. We then expect Yada, the more accomplished and heavy handed fighter, to come on stronger when both settle, and go on to force a stoppage in the second half of the fight to retain his title. It wouldn't be a massive surprise if Nagano scored the win, especially when you consider that 2 of Yada's 4 losses have come to Southpaws, but it would be an upset.
On December 9th fight fans in Osaka will see Japanese Welterweight champion Ryota Yada (17-4, 14) make his second defense as he takes on Shusaku Fujinaka (16-9-2, 10) in what looks set to be a really fun and exciting contest.
Yada won the title this past April, when he stopped Toshio Arikawa in a war at the Champion Carnival. Yada's win was a really excellent performance against a dangerous and feared champion, who he neutralised well for the most part and broke down. The bout was his second at title level, following a loss to Jayar Inson in a WBO Asia Pacific title bout, and he really did look like a totally different fighter against Arikawa. Between those bouts he learned a lot, especially from an hellacious Japanese title eliminator against Moon Hyun Yun in 2017. That win over Yun seemed to change how Yada fought and committed himself, and that was again seen in Yada's recent defense against Kazuyasu Okamoto, who was stopped in the 7th round.
Yada is a boxer-puncher, blessed with genuinely nasty power at this level. He seems to struggle with fighters who use distance well, and make him over-commit and also against southpaws, like Inson. Despite the struggles he is an improving fighter and certainly has added a lot more polish to his boxing in recent bouts. He's still not a razor sharp fighter, but is a lot more accurate and crisp than he once was. It's going to take a very good domestic fighter to dethrone him, and we're not sure really is there's anyone, Keita Obara aside, we'd favour over him in Japan right now.
For Fujinaka this will be his third shot at a title, having been stopped by Randall Bailey and Keita Obara in bouts for the WBO Asia Pacific Welterweight title. Sadly for Fujinaka those losses been among the bout that have shown his limitations and he is 7-7 in his last 14 bouts, dating back more than 5 years. Not only has he lost at title level, but also domestic level, losing to the likes of Koshinmaru Saito, Kengo Nagashima, Moon Hyon Yun and Toshio Tarumi. He tends to put in a good effort in his losses, but still comes up short and now, at the age of 32 and with a hard career behind him we do wonder what his body has left ot give.
Fujinaka's style is that of a high tempo, grinding fighter, who comes to fight. He can struggle to judge the distance, and can rush in wildly at times, but on the inside he loves letting his shots go in volume. It makes him an exciting fighter to watch, but he's a man who is open to eating counter shots, something we saw in spectacular fashion in his bout with Randall Bailey. His openess will be a major issue here against Yada, who is a very solid puncher and will eventually land a clean show as Fujinaka rushes in.
We love watching Fujinaka, who does fight like someone who wants to give fans value for money. Sadly that style will take a toll on a fighter, and we suspect that toll has already been taken and that Yada will catch him, and finish him at some point here.
The Welterweight scene in Japan is one of the weakest domestic scenes in the country, with very little depth in the division. Despite the lack of depth there are interesting match ups to be made, such as the recent Japanese title fight that saw Ryota Yada (16-4, 13) defeat Toshio Arikawa. This coming Saturday will make his first defence of the title as he takes on Kazuyasu Okamoto (14-5, 4) in Hirakata. For Yada the bout sees him getting a home coming coming defense, as he returns to the city of his birth whilst Okamoto gets a surprise opportunity following a loss last time out to Vladimir Baez.
The champion has has a bit of an up-and-down career, though is certainly in the form of his career with 4 solid wins coming into this bout, including a career defining win over Arikawa. Whilst the first two of those wins were relatively meaningless the last two have seen him over-come the teak tough Moon Hyon Yun and score the win over Arikawa. Those wins have seen him bounce back brilliantly from a painful defeat to under-rated Filipino Jayar Inson as he's got his career back on track. Those recent wins help shore up a record which does lack other wins of major note, with Yada's next best wins coming over Makoto Kawasaki and Yuta Maruoka. What is notable however about Yada's record is that he's turned a 3-3 start around to a 16-4 record by going 13-1 and really putting those early losses behind him.
In the ring Yada is a rough around the edges boxer-puncher, or rather more a puncher-boxer. He's not smooth, he's not fluent and he's not the most relaxed fighter, but he does have surprising speed, very decent size and reach and when he gets his full weight behind a shot fighters at this level really feel it, as Arikawa did. He doesn't seem to cope with pressure well, and fighters who can get inside can give him real issues, and his chin isn't the most solid, but his heart isn't to be questioned and he had to dig deep against Arikawa.
Okamoto first came to the attention of Japanese fight fans back in 2010, when he reached the All Japan Rookie of the Year final, losing in the final to the more experienced Tomoya Yamada. Following the to Yamada it seemed like Okamoto's career struggled a little, as he went 3-3 in his next 6 bouts, including losses to So Takenaka and a stoppage loss to Kazuya Murata. That bad run was then followed by Okamoto's best career run of 5 straight wins before Vladimir Baez stopped him in 8 rounds to secure himself a Japanese title fight at 140lbs.
To date Okamoto has only fought twice as a fully fledged Welterweight, going 1-1 in those two bouts. He's pretty tall for a Light Welterweight, but he'll be shorter than Yada here and hasn't shown the power or durability to live with Yada. That however shouldn't take away from the fact that Okamoto likes to press the fight, force a bout to be fought up close and bring a lot of pressure. It gave him real moments against Baez and we expect to see him rush Yada as well, especially given that that was something that worked for Inson against Yada.
Sadly for Okamoto we think his lack of power will be a major issue and Yada has the power to hurt him coming in. Okamoto could cause some problems for the champion but we expect to see Yada land clean too often and take him out in in the second half of the fight, after Okamoto's feet start to slow and begins to struggle to cut the distance.
The Japanese Welterweight scene has never been the most exciting or the deepest. Despite that it can be an interesting one at times, and right now with heavy handed, but some some what fragile, Toshio Arikawa (15-4, 13) it really interesting to follow. With Arikawa as the champion you assume there's a stoppage coming, you're just unsure if it'll be the champion scoring it, or being stopped himself. This coming Monday Arikawa will make his third defense of that title, and take on fellow puncher Ryota Yada (15-4, 12).
The 33 year old champion struggled early in his career, suffering an opening round loss on his debut, and then another 2 years later for have a record of 3-2 (3) after 5 bouts, amazing only one of those 5 bouts actually lasted more than a round. Since then he has gone 12-2 (9), suffering a third opening round loss along the way. With 3 opening round losses Arikawa certainly isn't the toughest fighter out there, but he is currently riding an impressive 7 fight winning run, with 6 straight stoppages. That current 7 fight run includes notable victories over Akinori Watanabe, Nobuyuki Shindo, Yasuhiro Okawa and Daisuke Sakamoto, avenging 2 of his career losses with those wins.
Arikawa really is a brutal puncher. His last 6 fights have all ended early and come a combined 30 rounds, with Shindo last 10 of those. His punches don't to score clean knockouts, but they do destroy opponents. That was seen last time out when he left Sakamoto a bloodied mess, with a huge cut around his left eye, and has been seen numerous other times where his heavy hands have simply broken opponents down. His hands are just that pure heaviness that hurt when any shot connects and at this level that is incredibly dangerous for his opponents.
Aged 28 Yada is the younger man, and is the less known of the two fighters taking part in this bout. Like Arikawa his early career was less than spectacular, losing 3 of his first 6 whilst bulking up from a Featherweight to a Light Welterweight. Despite that 3-3 start to his professional career Yada has since gone 12-1 (10). Sadly however his most notable win was a razor thin one last time out against Moon Hyon Yun, which sort of shows the level that Yada is fighting out. That win over Yun was Yada's third straight victory following his 2016 loss to Jayar Inson, who genuinely hammered Yada in a bout for a WBO Asia Pacific title bout.
In the ring Yada is a decent fighter at domestic level, but much of his record is padded with Thai visitors who have fallen over in the first 3 rounds. In fact 4 of his 12 stoppages have come against Thai's and a total of 6 wins have come against fighters with losing records, including 2 of his last 3. Yada can clearly punch at domestic level, as wins over Ryota Itoyama and Makoto Kawasaki show, but fighting against Arikawa is a huge step up in class.
We're expecting a fun fight here. Arikawa can obviously be hurt, and Yada has got power, but unless Yada can jump on his man and take him out early on we suspect Arikawa's power and consistency will be too much, breaking down the challenger toe secure his third successful defense.
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.