On September 21st Japan's Shintaro Matsumoto (14-6, 10) will get a chance to become am 2-weight OPBF champion, as he takes on hard hitting Australian Aaron Lai (10-4, 9), the current OPBF Light Heavyweight champion. On paper the bout looks very competitive, with neither man being a world beater, but how do we see the bout?
Of the two men the one we know best is Matsumoto. The 33 year old, currently fighting out of the Watanabe Gym though previously of the Yonekura Gym, is one of the few Japanese fighters to have made a bit of a name at Super Middleweight. Sadly though his career at 168lbs was over-shadowed by hard hitting contemporary Yuzo Kiyota, who would defend he OPBF title against Matsumoto in 2012 then claim the vacant title with a second win over Matsumoto in 2013. It wasn't until 2016 that Matsumoto got some revenge by taking the regional title off his shop worn nemesis with a technical decision. By then Kiyota was looking very much a washed up fighter. Sadly for Matsumoto his reign was short, losing the title to Jayde Mitchell in his first defense.
Since losing to Mitchell Matsumoto has fought twice. Defeating a limited Thai and losing to Reagan Dessaix. At his best Matsumoto wasn't really the best in Japan. He had respectable power, and was accurate enough, but lacked durability, lacked vicious power and lacked speed. With 4 stoppage losses from his 20 career bouts we know he doesn't take a show well, and with his lack of speed that is a double problem. He can be hurt, and usually can't escape from the follow up attacks.
At 35 years old Lai is likely coming to the end of his career, a career that only started in 2011. He would win his first 6 bouts, 5 by stoppage, before suffering a drop in form, losing 3 in a row and 4 out of 5. Those losses weren't the most humiliating, losing to Jayde Mitchell and Peng Qu among others, but they did show up his flaws and saw him being dropped a number of times. It seemed that whilst he could hurt opponents he could also be hurt himself. Since those losses he has bounced back with 3 wins, all by stoppage, including his OPBF title win last year and his first victory.
Although a puncher Lai has been down in a number of fights. He's yet to be stopped, but with all the times he's been knockdown it's obvious that he's not that durable and a stoppage loss is just around the corner. He's very much a flawed fighter, and it's going to take a very good match maker on his side to let him have a lengthy reign as the champion.
We know both guys are limited. Both are very flawed. When that happens it's hard not to favour the one with the more bang. As a result we fancy Lai to come out on top and score a stoppage, though we wouldn't be surprised to see him needing to pull himself off the canvas to stop Matsumoto in what could be an entertaining, if low skilled, contest.
Earlier this year the Oriental boxing scene was shocked as the much unfancied Shintaro Matsumoto (13-4, 9) claimed the OPBF Super Middleweight title, upsetting former world title challenger Yuzo Kiyota. Part of the surprise was that Matsumoto managed to even see the final bell given he had been stopped twice previously by Kiyota, who had previously challenged for a world title.
This coming Monday Matsumoto looks to make the first defense of his title as he takes on once beaten Australian challenger Jayde Mitchell (9-1, 4) in one growing number of Japan Vs Australia bouts from this year.
The champion isn't anything special. Although he has 17 bouts not many of them are openly available to watch, but what there is out there certainly doesn't make him look anything particularly outstanding. He began his career back in 2008 and has suffered losses to Hiromitsu Miura, Robert Berridge and two defeats to Kiyota. Despite that he has improved in recent years and his win over Kiyota in April was, by far, his best win.
Matsumoto isn't the toughest, nor is he a big puncher, but he seems like the type of fighter who has started to bite down on his gum shield and refuse to go away quietly. He likely knows that another loss will be the end of his career and that could end either bring the best out of him going forward, or, potentially, see him essentially being happy to retire having claimed the OPBF title and gone further than almost anyone would have expected. That's not to say the title can't fill him with confidence and get the best out of him, but it could just mean that he's happy with what he's done and may be “happy” to know he's done more than most fighters.
Whilst footage of the champion is sparse there is plenty of footage of the visitor with the Australian having many of his fights currently available on youtube. Those include his opening round in over Gabor Farkas, who looked completely clueless in the ring. From the footage available Mitchell looks composed and patient. He's not the quickest, or most powerful, but comes into the ring with plenty of skill and nice timing. It is worth noting that he does look like a small Super Middleweight, almost a blown up Middleweight, but does have a lovely variety of shot, with his left hook to the body being very nice.
The footage of Mitchell makes him look like a pure boxer and we have seen him hurt before, with Francisco Benitez dropping him with a cuffing shot, even though the referee missed the call. He has however improved and matured from that bout, and at his best he looks really promising. There is however a lot between his promise and what he's delivered and this bout is a step up for the Aussie, who is fighting away from home for the first time.
Without trying to be mean to either fighter neither is exceptional, however that's part of the appeal here in what should be a really competitive bout. We think Michell is the better boxer, but he's a smaller Super Middleweight and is fighting in his opponents back yard, both of which may hinder him here. On neutral soil we'd favour Mitchell to get a close decision but in Japan though could be very, very close on the cards.
The OPBF Super Middleweight title is one of the many titles in boxing that lacks credible fighters, well at least ones willing to fight for it. Sadly that has lead to some very matches in recent years, and it seems we're set to get another on April 12th when reigning champion Yuzo Kiyota (29-4-1, 27) [清田 祐三] faces Shintaro Matsumoto (12-4, 9) [松本 晋太郎], for the third time.
The two men first met back in in 2012, during Kiyota's first reign as the champion, when Kiyota won in 7 rounds. The men then rematched the following year, with Kiyota winning in 4 rounds to become a 2-time champion.
Since their second bout Kiyota has gone 5-0 (5), defending the title thrice against weak opponents and fighting twice about the limit in stay busy bouts. The champion hasn't looked great, and was dropped a couple of fights back by Kajornsak Sithsaithong, but has found a way to see off his limited opposition. Matsumoto on the other hand has gone 2-0 (1) though has been fighting at Light Heavyweight, and facing some dire Thai opponents.
It's fair to say, that like their first two bouts, Kiyota will be the favourite and should be much fancied to win.
In the ring the champion is a limited fighter, with spiteful power. He can box, a bit, but isn't a practitioner in the sweet science and is instead a puncher, as seen by his record. Whilst his skills aren't the best the biggest issue is his lack of speed which will hold him back from ever really moving to the top level, despite having fought for a world title in 2013 against Robert Stieglitz.
Whilst the champion is limited he does have that power and aggression to turn bouts around and see off opponents, as shown by an impressive 79% stoppage rate. That power isn't something the challenger has and he's also rather limited. In fact Matsumoto is very limited and lacks the toughness to go to the top, in fact he has been stopped in 3 of his 4 losses, and was exposed as being very fragile to the body in one of those losses.
Whilst Kiyota has shown some issues with over-looking opponents in recent times we can't see him over-looking Matsumoto here, and instead we suspect Kiyota will see off his foe inside 6 rounds to retain his title. Hopefully next time out Kiyota will face a more testing opponent than a man he has already stopped, twice.
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.