Over the last few years we have seen a lot of attention in Japanese boxing focus on the very lowest weights, and with good reason given their wealth of talent at the lower weights. The domestic scene has however been interesting in some of the heavier weights with the 140lb Light Welterweight division being a particularly interesting one.
The star is, of course, Keita Obara who looks set to fight for a world title this summer. Below him however is a really fascinating division with numerous notable, exciting, talented and promising fighters, such as the promising trio of Koki Inoue, Shuichiro Yoshino and Yuki Konami, the exciting but flawed contenders like Shinya Iwabuchi and Shuhei Tsuchiya and the heavy handed Yoshimichi Matsumoto.
On April 19th we see two of the most notable Japanese domestic fighters at the weight collide, for the second time, in a mandatory title defense that could, potentially, be the fight of the week.
The bout in question sees unbeaten champion Hiroki Okada (11-0, 9) [岡田 博喜] defend his belt against the ultra-aggressive Koichi Aso (20-6-1, 13) [麻生 興一], with the bout being Okada's 4th defense of the title and Aso's second shot at the belt.
In their first bout Okada narrowly over-came Aso, with a 10 round decision that saw all 3 judges score the bout 96-94 to the champion. Since then both fighters hack racked up a pair of stoppage wins, with Okada defending his title twice and looking like a fighter who is making great strides in his development.
Aged 26 the champion really is a fighter with a lot of potential. That potential has helped him gain a WBO world ranking and score several wins of note, including his first win over Aso and recent stoppages over Hayato Nakazano and Masanobu Nakazawa. He may not have major wins on the international stage but we suspect that that's where he will be heading later in the year with an OPBF title shot likely to come in the next 12-18 months. Sadly his development was slowed last year, due to a hand injury, but he looked better than ever when he stopped Nakazawa back in January.
Okada is heavy handed but appears to be a fighter who simply has heavy hands, rather than a fighter who throws with bad intentions. As a result he has shown he can box, he move and looks to be a natural counter puncher, making him even more dangerous than just his power.
In Aso we have a man who really is flawed but yet has a box office style with a lot of aggression, plenty of power and a somewhat questionable chin. He has been stopped in half of his losses, including an opening round defeat to Shinya Iwabuchi though strangely suffered all 3 of those stoppages in his first 3 defeats. Since then it appears his defense, as opposed to his chin, has improved yet he is still an “in your face” fighter with an aggressive, pressure style that is incredibly fun to watch.
Since the loss to Okada back in 2014 Aso hasn't been massively active, with 15 combined rounds, but at 30 years old, and with his style, the inactivity has likely helped him rather than hindered him coming in to this bout. He's not been taking damage, he's been giving his body time to relax and he's been able to plan for another big fight.
Given the styles of the men we are expecting this one to be very fun. Aso will, as always, come forward and whilst we suspect he will have some success we can't help but think that Okada's clean counters, especially from his uppercutts, will take their toll on the challenger who will eventually succumb to the champion. We could see Aso grinding down Okada but we suspect Okada will retain his title in style and score a more impressive win over Aso than he did in their first meeting.
In boxing we sometimes have match ups that scream "exciting" and the upcoming Japanese Light Welterweight title fight between unbeaten champion Hiroki Okada (8-0, 7) and top ranked challenger Shamgar Koichi (18-5-1, 11) is certainly one such fight.
The champion, defending his title for the first time, is a heavy handed but crude fighter. There is a lot of work to do if Okada is ever going to get beyond the domestic level but whether he wins or loses he's going to be a lot of fun to follow as he attempts to behead his opponents.
Watching Okada early in his career he looked very flawed. He would often miss his opponents by a notable margin before eventually landing on them and staggering them or forcing the referee to step in mid-flurry, as was the case when he beat Jaypee Ignacio. He has managed to develop some skills to add to his power but at the moment his is still mainly a slugger though one who has gone 18 rounds in his last 2 fights.
As well as slugging and throwing wild shots Okada is a come forward fighter first and foremost. It may be harsh to say this but we don't think he was ever really taught how to box on the back foot or how to fight as a counter puncher.
Whilst Okada is an aggressive fighter so to is Koichi who always seems to be applying pressure, always tries to get on the inside and always tries to make the action exciting. Sometimes it works in his favour, as in his thrilling bout with Tomohiko Sakai back in 2012. Sometimes however it doesn't work and Koichi gets clipped then taken apart, as seen in his fight with Shinya Iwabuchi.
Koichi's pressure isn't the most controlled or intelligent but it is persistent and he comes comes at you from the first round to the last in the hope of beating you up or being stopped himself. Like Okada his flaws are clear and although he has a decent KO rate he lacks the power to really make the most of his in your face style. It's possibly however the "relative" lack of power that makes Koichi so much fun to watch, especially in the exchanges which can pretty relentless back-and-forth action.
When you get a crude but heavy handed guy and a pressure fighter in the ring together you tend to get excitement and fireworks and we're oing to be expecting both of those when the men get it on. As for a winner we need to go with the puncher. Koichi has been stopped in 3 of his 5 losses and with Okada's heavy hands we expect him to be stopped again though not before we get some really good action from both men.
(Image courtesy of http://www.kadoebi.com)
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.