All too often boxing gives us fights we don't want, we have little interest in and we don't really understand the point of them. Every so often however we get a fight we didn't really think we wanted, until it was made and then we think, "that's a really good match up". On December 1st we get one of those "really good match ups" as Japan's Masao Nakamura (24-3, 23) faces off with Filipino Carlo Magali (23-10-3, 12) for the vacant WBO Asia Pacific Super Featherweight. It's a bout we hadn't really thought about, but as soon as it was announced it was hard not to be excited about, given the styles of the two men.
Japan's Nakamura is a 30 year old boxer-puncher, who has shown a sense of fragility through his career but also very heavy hands and explosive KO power. He debuted back in 2006 and reeled off 12 straight wins inside the distance to win the OPBF Super Featherweight title, pulling himself off the canvas to take the belt from Allan Tanada. Sadly his reign was a short one, losing the belt in his first defense against Ronald Pontillas. Another stoppage run saw him race away to 18-1 (18) before being upset by the then unheralded Masayuki Ito. The loss to Ito was followed by another upset loss to Rey Labao in late 2014. That seemed like the start of the end for Nakamura but he since battled back, and scored a career best win over Daiki Kaneko in a brilliant 2015 clash as he began to move towards a world title fight. Sadly however Nakamura would retire in 2016, citing a mental and physical decline. Thankfully however he ended his retirement earlier this year and looked rejuvenated with 2 stoppages since his ring return.
Nakamura is, as mentioned, a boxer-puncher. He's a very heavy handed fighter who has good boxing skills, surprising speed and movement and a good boxing brain. Sadly however he has questionable durability, with a chin that could let him down if he's caught cleanly on it. He can be out boxed, as we saw against Ito, and he's not great when fighters get inside and work him up close. If he can control the range, and get his thundering shots off, he's hard to beat, but up close and when he's smothered he will always struggle.
On paper Magali doesn't look like any thing special, however the 32 year old Filipino is a nightmare to fight, having learned from his defeats and really developing a style that is hard to look good against. He's not quick, he's not a massive puncher, and he's not the toughest fighter, but he's a short, aggressive type who looks to cut distance and wailing in shots up close, with heavy clubbing hands, and a good engine. Through his career he has been stopped 3 times, once early in his career and twice on the road against Lightweights, with those two losses coming late in the bout. During his long career he has scored wins over Mark John Yap, Mark Gil Melligen, Ryuta Miyagi, David Browne Jnr and Masatoshi Kotani.
If you can keep Magali at range you can have great success against him however Magali's desire and toughness will see him looking to cut the distance, march down his man and wear them out mentally as well as physically. That is his real threat to Nakamura, as he's not going to collapse when caught, instead he will march forward and get into Nakamura's head, whilst looking to land with his thudding power.
We suspect Nakamura will have the edge in speed, power and movement, and will likely control much of the bout, but Magali will always be a threat and if he lands clean he could, very easily, drop Nakamura. That'd be when things get interesting. Although Magali has a chance, we suspect that Nakamura will take the win, either by decision or a stoppage, if he can intelligent jump on Magali when he has him hurt. If he takes too many risks however Nakamura could find himself staring up at the lights, wonder what he go caught by, so he does need to box smartly and not get dragged into a war.
Many of the 2018 Japanese title decider bouts are ones where there is a clear favourite and a clear under-dog. One of the exceptions to that is the Super Featherweight contest where Ken Osato (14-2-1, 4) will face Satoru Sugita (14-5-1, 9) in a second meeting between the two men. In fact it's not only their second bout, but also their second bout to decide who gets a domestic title fight. Last time out it was Osato who narrowly over-come Sugita, claiming a split decision last December but Sugita will certainly be looking for revenge. If Sugita does manage to get revenge he will secure his third title shot, whilst Osato will be looking to get his second.
Aged 24 Osato is younger fighter and he's had mixed success since his 2012 debut. He would begin his career 4-0 (3) before losing in a round to Shohei Fujimoto, suggesting that he wasn't the toughest out there. Since that loss however he has gone 10-1-1 (1) with his only defeat coming to Masaru Sueyoshi earlier this year in a Japanese title fight. That bout saw Osato losing in 8 rounds to the champion after dropping Sueyoshi earlier in the bout. In terms of notable results he has not only got the win over Sugita but also victories over Retsu Kosaka, Sho Nagata, and a draw with veteran Kento Matsushita.
Osato has impressed in his performances against the most notable names he's faced. He's technically good, accurate, fast and sharp. His lack of power is an issue, but he's never going to be a puncher and has developed a style that is based around his jab, controlling distance with smart footwork and creating angles to land both his jab and his right hand. He's very much an outside fighter who plays safety first, but does manage to come in well when he doubles up the jab. He's solid, and go on to win a title down the line, but he really does need to develop some extra bang in his shots. If, or when, he does that he could be very hard to beat at Japanese domestic level.
Although unknown outside of Japan Sugita is pretty well known in the country and has genuinely faced a number of notable fighters. His first loss was in 2011, when he was stopped by Ryuto Kyoguchi the older brother of Hiroto Kyoguchi, his second loss was in 2013 to future Japanese champion Kosuke Saka, with his following two losses both coming to the then Japanese king Kenichi Ogawa. His most recent defeat was the loss to Osato. As for wins he holds notable victories over Ryota Kajiki and Tsuyoshi Tojo. In the ring Sugita is a technically solid boxer-puncher. He's got a sharp jab, follows it up with a good straight and applies pressure behind his jab. He also hits hard enough to get respect from his opponents, which Osato can't do.
At his best Sugita is a match for pretty much any current Japanese Super Featherweight. He gave Ogawa fits in both of their bouts. His jab is a nightmare to defend against and his timing on the right hand is brilliant, especially when he throws it as a counter. Given his loss last year to Osato we expect him to be busier than he was, to start faster and not let Osato get a foothold to build off. He has the power and the better competition and will be determined to get revenge over Osato.
This has the potential to be a frustrating bout though we suspect both men will want to put on a show, and will do so in a high speed chess match. There's unlikely to be much inside fighter, neither seem to be that willing to fight on the inside in general, but we could well see a lot of jabs with both looking to follow the jab with a right hand. Sugita has the edge in power but Osato has the faster feet and it could be that foot work will be the differenc. We however suspect that Sugita's heavier hands will help him land the more eye catching shots as he takes a close decision over Osato and secures a shot at the Japanese belt during the 2019 Champion Carnival.
This coming Saturday we'll see titles being unified as OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro (6-0, 2) takes on Japanese champion Masaru Sueyoshi (18-1, 11), with the winner becoming the de facto #2 in Japan behind WBO champion Masayuki Ito, and moving towards a world title fight of their own.
Although the less experienced of the two men Mishiro is the holder of the high level title, a title he won back in June when he out pointed Filipino Carlo Magali in a very close bout. Prior to that win he had scored notable domestic victories over Shuya Masaki and Shuma Nakazato, and was a former amateur standout. Despite his success he often been a frustrating fighter, showing little killer instinct and being dragged into longer and tough bouts than he probably wanted to have. At his best he is a wonderful fighter to watch, boxing at range and dictating the tempo is something he looks brilliant at. Up close however he can be made to look defensively flawed, open and easy to tag, and we do have questions about his chin and durability as well as his stamina.
If Mishiro can dictate the tempo and range of a fight he's going to be a very hard man to beat, but when he slows down he does look beatable, and this something he will have to work hard to improve as his career develops. After just 6 fights, and aged just 23, we don't expect him to be a complete fighter and in fact his flaws being so numerous make it clear just how much he has to work with already. He's quick, smart, rangy and very promising.
With 19 bouts under his belt Sueyoshi is far more experienced than Mishiro and at 27 he is more mature as a fighter. Not only that but he has been a professional for more than 7 years, and has faced several notable foes, including Masayuki Ito, Shingo Eto, Allan Vallespin and Ribo Takahata. He actually won the title by beating Takahata last October and has made two defenses, beating Ken Osato and Tsuyoshi Tojo.
Like Mishiro we see Sueyoshi as a frustrating fighter. He creates awkward distance and angles, and fighters very well off the back foot, in a rather unusual manner. He's not a puncher by any means, but when he lands clean he can score spectacular KO's, as he did against Vallespin. Instead he chips away at people, breaks them down mentally as well as physically and draws mistakes out of them. He's technically very good, and makes people pay for their mistakes, but has been dropped and hurt before and it's clear that whilst talented he may struggle against the bigger punchers if, or when, he mixes at world level.
We're expecting a bit of an awkward bout here. Both fighters set unusual distances and tempos. Of the two Mishiro is the more aggressive and Sueyoshi the more defensively minded, and given that polarity we do expect this to be a pretty fun bout. We favour Sueyoshi's experience over 10 rounds to get him to victory, but we wouldn't be surprised by a close decision either way in what could be a bout that frustrates at times but is very competitive through out.
This coming Wednesday fight fan at the Korakuen Hall will see OPBF Super Featherweight champion Carlo Magali (23-9-3, 12) defending his title against against fast rising Japanese youngster Hironori Mishiro (5-0, 2). On paper this looks likely to either be a mismatch in favour of the veteran or a coming out party for Mishiro, who would suddenly find himself as one of the hottest prospects at 130lbs if he were to win. A win for Magali would however help him vent some frustrations after two other bouts have fallen through in recent months, and he has clearly had a few months which have seen him messed about and forced to miss out on some big opportunities.
The 31 year old Magali has been a professional for 12 years and had really mixed fortunes in the professional ranks. He began by scoring 5 straight wins, all back in 2016, though his career began to falter as he dropped to 9-4. Since then he has gone 14-5-3 and scored notable wins, including two against Mark John Yap as well as victories over the tragic David Browne Jr, Mark Gil Melligen and, most recently, Masatoshi Kotani. With those wins he claimed a number of minor titles before becoming the OPBF Super Featherweight champion last year, with his first defense coming this past January against Kotani.
After the win against Kotani on January 13th this year Magali was offered a fight with WBC champion Miguel Berchelt, he would accept that fight before the GAB refused to let him fight so soon after the Kotani bout. He would then later have a bout against Yoon Sung Kim being announced, before that too was cancelled, this time due to Kim suffering health issues. Those bouts falling through have prevented Magali from building on the Kotani win, but he may well have used those set backs to further his desire to make a point when he fights here.
In the ring Magali is a short Super Featherweight, though like many Filipino fighters he's a strong, powerful guy in the ring. He's not a huge puncher but he's got solid and consistent power, and carries that power later, with his last 2 wins both being 10th round TKO's. Added to that he is tough, with only 3 stoppages losses against his name, and the only recent ones have come at Lightweight against Emmanuel Tagoe and Pavel Malikov.
Aged 23 Mishiro is another in the ever growing production line of Japanese prospects tipped for success following a successful amateur career. As an amateur he went 41-16 (4), notched up a number of honours and was tipped for big things when he signed with Watanabe Gym. As a professional he's not blown us away, yet, but has impressed with notable wins over Shuma Nakazato and Shuya Masaki in his last 2 bouts. Those wins saw him take the unbeaten records of both men and progressing from 6 rounders to 8 rounders. There is however a big gap between a domestic level win over 8 rounds and OPBF title fight over 12 rounds, as Mishiro is going into here.
In the ring Mishiro is a talented boxer, who looks a little bit raw as a professional, but is developing very quickly, in part due to being at the Watanabe gym and training alongside world class fighters like Hiroto Kyoguchi, Ryoichi Taguchi and Kohei Kono. He has good fundamentals, though they still need work, very good size for a Super Featherweight and nice speed. It's worth noting that he has been hurt, and dropped, but showed good composure to get off the canvas and go on to beat his foe. Sadly for all the good there is a real worry they are rushing him slightly here. It can work, as it did with Kyoguchi, but it does feel like this is a bigger risk than it needs to be for the youngster, at this point in his career.
We think that Mishiro has got the skills to beat Magali, but the question is really whether he has the physical maturity, the experience or the know how. He has fought just 24 professional rounds, he has had just 5 professional bouts and has never gone beyond 8 rounds. He's stepping up massively here against an experienced, tough and strong fighter who is used to being the smaller man. It''s a huge ask for Mishiro to come out on top, and coming in we do consider him the under-dog, but if he pulls it off it will be very impressive. For Magali this is a chance to move to 4-0 (4) in Japan and become a bit of a Japanese Killer, which would certainly open the door to bigger fights in the Land of the Rising Sun.
To end the month of May Japanese fight fans get the chance to see the rescheduled Japanese Super Featherweight title bout, between defending champion Masaru Sueyoshi (17-1, 11) and 37 year old veteran Tsuyoshi Tojo (14-15-5, 3), who gets his first title shot.
The champion won the belt last year, beating Ribo Takahata for the title, which had been vacated by Kenichi Ogawa ahead of Ogawa's bout with Tevin Farmer. He would make his first defense this past February when he pulled himself off the canvas to stop Ken Osato in 8 rounds, with that win being Sueyoshi's 14th straight following a 2012 loss to Masayuki Ito. In the ring the champion is a pretty peculiar boxer, with a very unique style and awkward, almost frustrating sense of distance. He seems to fight a rather odd distance and timing and uses that to set up some unusual angles for counter punches. It often sees him look lazy on the back foot, until his opponent makes a mistake and he opens up.
Although awkward Sueyoshi is a really talented boxer-mover. He keeps fights at range, uses his impressive speed to counter and gets outside of his opponents range. He doesn't look like a puncher but does get the respect of most opponents, and when he lands cleanly he can turn the lights off on a fighter, with his KO win against Allan Vallespin last year being one of the best KO's in Japan in 2017. The power has also stopped the likes of Kazuma Sanpei, Nelson Tinampay and the aforementioned Osato.
We'll admit we feel frustrated watching Sueyoshi, as he seems to have a lot more in his arsenal than he sometimes shows and his use of distance and his patience is rather un-fan friendly, but when he's in full flow he looks a special fighter and would make for interesting bouts against the likes of Reiya Abe or Masao Nakamura down the line, both of whom would be interesting stylistic bouts for the champion.
Tojo, who made his debut back in 2003, has been a real servant to Japanese boxing and faced a relative who's who of the Japanese domestic scene. He has gone in there with Zuri Kanana, Hisashi Amagasa, Yuki Ogata, Hirotsugu Yamamoto, Rikiya Fukuhara, Koji Umetsu, Masaki Saito, Satoru Sugita and Daiki Kaneko. Sadly though he has struggled against the Japanese title level fighters and with father time battling against him too it's hard to imagine him giving the speedy Sueyoshi many problems.
Tojo is better than his record suggests, and many of his losses have come to good, solid fighters in often competitive bouts. He's also a very tough fighter, with only Daiki Kaneko actually stopping him, and even that took the heavy handed Kaneko 7 rounds. Despite being better than the numbers suggest he is still 37 years old and has gone 2-2-2 in the last 4 years, showing he's not in good form, he's old and whilst still a very busy fight in between the ropes his lack of power is a major issue against a counter puncher like Sueyoshi.
We're expecting a pretty straight forward win for the champion. Sueyoshi will be too quick and too smart for Tojo. Sadly though we're not expecting a particularly enjoyable bout, with the styles not likely to gel brilliantly, and Sueyoshi playing it safe early on before moving up a gear later in the fight to take a straight forward win. Tojo's toughness will likely carry him to the final bell, but we don't see him doing enough to make this a close or competitive bout with the younger, fresher, smart man.
The 2018 Champion Carnival is a real mixed bag of fights. It was officially supposed to begin back on January 20th, with Ryo Akaho defending the Japanese Bantamweight title, but ill health forced him to vacate the title instead and as a result we'll have to wait until this coming Saturday to the see the first bout. Thankfully the wait seems to be worth it and we'll see Masaru Sueyoshi (16-1, 10) defending the Japanese Super Featherweight title against Ken Osato (13-1-1, 4). The bout looks really even on paper, features a fighter making his first defense against a fighter in his first title bout, and is a solid headliner for a Dynamic Glove card on G+.
Of the two men it's the champion who is the more well known. He has been on a number of G+ shows and faced several fighters of note. One of those was Masayuki Ito, who gave Sueyoshi his sole loss back in 2012, in what was Sueyoshi's 4th professional bout, whilst others have included Kazuma Sanpei, Shingo Eto, Allan Vallespin and Ribo Takahata.
In the ring Sueyoshi can be a frustrating fighter who sometimes seems to set a peculiar range and tempo. Whilst that clearly gives opponents headaches it can also be annoying for fans and it often seems like Sueyoshi is a touch too negative and too busy looking to fight on the back foot. It's something that has worked for him, and sometimes in eye catching fashion like his eye catching KO win over Vallespin last year, but can be very awkward to watch.
In his title win Sueyoshi impressively out boxed Takahata. It wasn't a performance without frustrations, but it was one that proved Seuyoshi can go 10 rounds at a good tempo, can take a shot and win in a battle against a hardened veteran. It wasn't an eye opening and outstanding win, but it was a very solid performance from the Teiken man, who turned 27 the day after the win.
The 23 year old Osato earned his shot at the title last December, when he took a split decision over 2-time title challenger Satoru Sugita, in what was a very competitive and interesting fight in Osaka. The win saw Osato extend his current unbeaten run to 10 fights, following an opening round KO defeat to Shohei Fujimoto in September 2013. His current 10 fight unbeaten run includes notable domestic wins over Retsu Kosaka, Sho Nagata and Sugita, as well as a draw with Kento Matsushita.
Against Sugita we saw Osato look sharp, aggressive and accurate in the early stages, with a busy snappy jab and a snappy right hand. He seemed to outbox the talented Sugita in the early stages and clearly build his confidence. His problem in the bout was that he slowed down as we went into the later rounds and Sugita's experience allowed him back into the bout. The shots that were landing clean in the early stages were missing and he was being countered regularly, whilst showing an inability to to adapt.
At times Osato has looked great, as he did early on against Sugita, but the question for him is whether he can do it for 10 rounds against someone as tricky and awkward as Sueyoshi. If he can then we could see a new champion. Our feeling however is that Sueyoshi's extra experience at a higher level, and training at the Teiken gym, will be enough for him to take home the win in a hotly contested battle.
The Super Featherweight division has been one of the most interesting for Asian fighters in recent years. We've seen fighters like Manny Pacquiao, Takashi Uchiyama and Takashi Miura all take part in some amazing fight at 130lbs and help establish their legacies. Even now the division is a notable one for Asian fighters, with Kenichi Ogawa holding the IBF title and Masayuki Ito being one of a number of leading Asian contenders.
Last year the aforementioned Ito vacated the OPBF title, which has since ended up in the hands of Filipino fighter Carlo Magali (22-9-3, 11), who will be defending this title this coming Saturday against Masatoshi Kotani (22-2, 15).
The 31 year old Filipino made his debut in 2006 and has had a bit of a sow burning career. Despite that he did mix wit good opponents early on, losing Mark Gil Melligen in 2008 before scoring back to back wins over Mark John Yap and avenging the loss to Melligen. Back to back wins in Japan in 2009 began to build Magali's momentum but losses to Vicent Palicte and Randy Braga did slow his rise.
Magali scored his most significant win last July, when he stopped Sandeep Balhara in 10 rounds to claim the OPBF "interim" Super Featherweight title, but was subsequently upgraded when Ito vacated the full title. The win over the previously unbeaten Balhara was a second straight win for Magali, who is 6-2-1 in his last 9. Sadly that 9 fight run includes a tragic victory over Australian David Browne Jr.
Footage of Magali shows a pretty basic aggressive fighter, but one who looks physically strong,imposing and defensively tight. He's not going to win any awards for his slickness but he applies pretty intense pressure and comes to fight, with a high guard and aggressive, but somewhat plodding, footwork. Sadly for Magali he is pretty one-paced and and can be out boxed by a fighter who can keep the bout at range.
The Japanese challenger has been a professional since April 2007 but this will be is first title fight. He started his career looking destructive as he went 10-1 (9). A stoppage loss to Cirilo Espino seemed to change him and since that loss he has gone 12-0 (5) with his most notable wins voming against the likes of Edgar Gabejan, Rey Laspinas and Jason Egara, with both Gaebjan and Laspinas running him incredibly close.
Footage of Kotani isn't too widely available and the reality is that he looks pretty decent as a boxer-puncher. But pretty decent is usually a long way from OPBF title quality and he's not a huge puncher, he's not proven to be mega tough, or hugely skilled. He's just a pretty basic fighter who would likely be easily outboxed by the likes of Masayuki Ito or Reiya Abe. He has shown nice touches, but little to get too excited about about.
Although fighting in his first title fight Kotani does have 100 rounds of experience under his belt, he's been in 3 bouts scheduled for 10 rounds and has gone 8 or more rounds on 5 occasions, going 4-1 in those bouts. He can do rounds when he needs to and has proven he has decent stamina, even if he's not yet proven he can go the 12 rounds scheduled here.
With both fighters really failing to shine in the eye test it would be easy to be disappointed by the contest. The reality, however, is the limitations of both men should make for a fun and decent fight, at a very competitive level. We favour the slightly more proven and battle hardened champion, but the bout is a very, very even one.
The Super Featherweight division has been one of the most significant ones in Japan in recent years. Not only have they had two world champions, Takashi Uchiyama and Takashi Miura, but they have also had a number of notable prospects and hopefuls, as the new generations starts to come through, with the likes of Masayuki Ito and Kenichi Ogawa.
This coming Saturday we are going to see a new national champion being crowned as Teiken's Masaru Sueyoshi (15-1, 10) takes on veteran Ribo Takahata (13-7-1, 5) for the title vacated by Ogawa. It's a battle between rising youngster and a hard luck veteran, who are both looking to secure their biggest career win, and put themselves on the proverbial boxing map.
Of the two men it's the 26 year old Sueyoshi who should be favoured, and is certainly the man flying high, in good form and with a lot of confidence. He debuted in 2011 and suffered his sole defeat the following year in a split decision loss to Masayuki Ito, of whom there is no shame in losing to. Since then he has reeled off 12 straight wins and climbed up the Japanese rankings in pretty impressive fashion.
Sueyoshi's career isn't full of big wins, but he has seen off the likes of Yuta Nagai, Kazumi Sanpei, Shingo Eto and come through the aggressive Allan Vallespin. They are wins won't mean much outside of Asia, but they were solid wins on the domestic, and even regional, scene.
In the ring Sueyoshi is a genuine talent. He's a solid boxer with nice text book skills, who has been allowed to develop under the TV cameras due to regular appearances on the G+ “Dynamic Glove” shows. Those appearances have shown that Sueyoshi is a composed fighter, especially under pressure, and that he knows how to move, how to box and how to counter. Saying that however he has shown holes in his defense, and has been backed up a bit too easily by aggressive fighters. There is a good fighter here, but one who is clearly a work in progress, and isn't an obvious air apparent to the two Takashi's.
Whilst Sueyoshi is a rising star the same can't be said for the 38 year old Takahata, who has a “win-loss-win-loss” record going back to September 2010, winning 8 and losing 7 of his last 15, and if the pattern continues he's set for another loss. On one hand that's poor form, on the other hand he has faced good fighters, losing to the likes of Rikki Naito, Shingo Eto, Kenichi Ogawa and Daiki Kaneko, and has scored notable wins over Johnrieil Maligro and Yusuke Tsukada.
Takahata isn't a fighter who has shown incredible skills or power but his will to win is credible and his ability to come back from set backs is impressive. He has developed a tougher mentality in the ring in recent times, and took Daiki Kaneko 10 rounds not too long ago. Despite that he has been stopped twice and isn't the sturdiest, even if he has developed a more survival mentality. In the ring he has a rather peculiar style, with very flat feet and footwork that constantly looks wrong. Although not a puncher his recent win over Tsukada did come from a dynamite short right hand, so we know when he connects clean he can take them out.
Coming into this Takahata will know this is going to be his only shot at a title, a loss here and retirement looms. A win on the other hand could see him extending his career, making a defense of the title and keeping his career alive. Sadly for Takahata we can't see him coping with the movement, youthfulness and energy of Sueyoshi. We aren't expecting a thrilling fight, but we do imagine that Sueyoshi will win with either a wide decision or a late stoppage.
They often say that winning a title brings a fighter up to a new level, with the fighter showing a new hunger to go further and claim more gold. A taste of silverware never being enough to fully satisfy anyone in sport and the hunger grows. Sadly though it seems like the Japanese Super Featherweight champion Kenichi Ogawa (21-1, 16) [尾川 堅一] has hit a bit of a wall since winning the title, and instead of progressing and building to the next level he has struggled and faltered past opponents he was expected to defeat. This coming Saturday Ogawa looks to return to his best as he defends his belt against 33 year old veteran Hirotsugu Yamamoto (20-13-3, 4) [山元 浩嗣], with the champion seeking his 5th defense.
In the ring Ogawa has shown real touches of being a world class fighter. He has spiteful power, good boxing and and the ability to really go along way. There are holes in his game, and he's not the most natural boxer or the quickest fighter, but he's a brute of a puncher, and sometimes that's more than enough to make a name for yourself.
On his rise to the title Ogawa went 15-1 (13), avenging his only loss which came to Yuki Miyoshi in 2012, and stopping good opponents like Ribo Takahata, Raymond Sermona and Deivi Julio Bassa. He would then win the title by bullying the then unbeaten Rikki Naito on route to a 5th round Technical Decision. That should have been the start of a huge rise by Ogawa but instead he has struggled to shine, scoring late stoppages against Satoru Sugita and Kento Matsushita in bouts where here looked like a weak champion and then taking ultra close decisions against Rikki Naito and Satoru Sugita in rematches.
Since winning the title it has looked like the hunger has left Ogawa a bit. It looks like he has accomplished what he's wanted and that he's happy to remain fighting at the top of the domestic tree. It's a shame, but it does look like he has taken a step backwards, and if he can't find the hunger he had on his way up the title may well slip away in a bout that he's expected to win. The firepower might not be enough to bail him out late, and he may well find himself pushed down the pecking order if he does suffer another defeat.
Aged 33 Yamamoto has been a professional for almost 12 years and has, if we're being honest, gotten this fight as a reward for his hard work in Japanese boxing rather than as about earned on merit and results. In fact in terms of results he has gone 6-8-1 in his last 15 bouts dating back more than 5 years. Not only has has been losing more than winning recently but he has been doing so to domestic foes such as Satoshi Hosono, Hitoshi Ichiba, Dai Iwai, Yuhei Suzuki, Tsukasa Saito and Tsuyoshi Tojo, as well as international fighters like Juan Martin Elorde and Jhonny Gonzalez.
Whilst he is better than his record suggests, and has a number of very closes losses including the one to Tojo and one to Elorde, he has also suffered 7 stoppage losses and hasn't shown the best of durability, with Gonzalez stopping him in a round last September. That will likely prove to be his problem here. He can box well, but soon or later he will be caught by Ogawa, even a rather lacklustre Ogawa.
We suspect that Yamamoto will have success, at times, but sooner or later Ogawa will take him out, with the eventual stoppage covering over the cracks we've already spoken about. It may well be that a good win here could kick start Ogawa's rise to a world title, and be the confidence builder he needs, but we can't help but think his real hunger is gone and that a win here won't actually help him push on.
The 2017 Champion Carnival has a number of rematches taking place. The first of those was in February, when Yusaku Kuga stopped Yasutaka Ishimoto in 2 rounds and announced himself as a serious threat, the second will take place on March 2nd when we see Ishimoto's stable mate Kenichi Ogawa (20-1, 16) defends his Japanese Super Featherweight title against Satoru Sugita (12-3-1, 7). The two fought last year, with Ogawa recording a 9th round KO win against Sugita, but failing to really shine, with Sugita making the champion look clumsy and awkward.
Since their first bout Ogawa has again failed to really shine. He's defended the title twice since beating Sugita but those defenses were a very late stoppage win against against Kento Matsushita, in what was a very close bout, and a narrow decision win over Rikki Naito. Neither of those bouts showed that Ogawa could become a world champion, and perhaps they both showed that Ogawa is actually on the slide.
At his best the 29 year old Ogawa is a solid boxer-puncher. He's not the quickest but he can move, he can box and he can certainly punch, and he has also shown he carries his power late, with 10th round stoppages over Matsushita and Deivi Julio Bassa. Those stoppages have been part of a 12 fight unbeaten run from Ogawa, who scored 10 stoppages in those 12 bouts. Unfortunately his flaws have become more apparent in recent bouts and he does leave openings opponents to counter, his punchers are relatively slow and he's not the quickest on his feet, giving opponents a lot of chances to get him out of position.
For Ogawa the bout could be his final stepping stone before a potential world, or OPBF, title fight but he will need to impress here. Just winning won't be enough and hopefully that sort of potential reward will get the best out of the champion.
Sugita has been frustrating inactive since losing to Ogawa last April, with just a single bout since then. That sole contest saw Sugita claim an 8 round decision win over Tsuyoshi Tojo to earn himself a second title fight. In the ring Sugita is a well school boxer, more technically able than Ogawa, but he's lacking in terms of big wins and his notable victory to date is a split decision over Ryota Kajiki. That win is over-shadowed however by losses to Ryuto Kyoguchi and Kosuke Saka, which sort of suggest that Sugita is only in the middle of the domestic mix, as opposed to being one of the top domestic fighters in the division.
With good skills Sugita's major problems aren't actually his abilities. Instead he has serious question marks about his durability, with 2 stoppage loses, his work rate and his stamina. To date he has never never completed a 10 round, and has only gone 8 or more rounds 4 times, winning 3 of those bouts including 2 split decisions. It's fair to say that whilst he can box he has shown his flaws and those flaws will likely be openings for Ogawa, who will try to make Sugita work at a high pace and take advantage of his lacking durability.
Although Ogawa hasn't looked great recently it's hard to see him losing here, in fact we're expecting the champion to see off Sugita in the middle rounds, and really look like a totally different fighter to the one who struggled with Sugita 11 months ago. Sugita will show up some of Ogawa's flaws, again, but in the end the power and physicality of Ogawa will be too much for the challenger.
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.