The Super Featherweight division is an interesting state right now. It lacks a real star, especially with Gervonta Davis leaving the division, but has a lot of interesting contenders chasing world title bouts. Among those contenders are Tajik born Russian based Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (14-0, 11) and South African Azinga Fuzile (14-0, 8), who will face off in an IBF world title eliminator on September 29th in South Africa. Although both men are risking their unbeaten records the reward is big, as the winner will get a shot at the IBF title, currently held by Tevin Farmer.
Originally Fuzile had been scheduled to face Kenichi Ogawa earlier in the year, though visa issues derailed that fight and the IBF then ordered Fuzile to face Rakhimov, whilst Ogawa went a different route. On paper Fuzile Vs Ogawa was a really good fight, however we actually prefer the look of this one, which looks more even on paper, and should be a more intriguing bout in terms of styles.
For those who have seen Rakhimov they will know what to expect. He's a technically solid, heavy handed and aggressive boxer-puncher. In some way's he's comparable to Sergey Kovalev, with naturally heavy hands and a very solid boxing mentality, though he's more willing to work on the inside than Kovalev and obviously smaller and quicker. There's nothing amazingly flashy with Rakhimov, but he's very solid, finds gaps and uses his straight power shots to back opponents up. When he has his man hurt he goes for the finish, and has very combinations and upper body movement.
Although very promising so far Rakhimov has fought his entire career his entire career in Russia and this could prove to be his biggest issues here. He's having to enter enemy territory for the first time, with the bout taking place in East London, South Africa. Of course there's a worry that being the away fighter will be an issue here, however if he can put the location and fans to the back of his mind, it would a big positive for him.
Watching Fuzile we see a talented and big looking Super Featherweight with really nice handspeed sharp punching and impressive composure. He's a defensively smart fighter, but also a very sharp punching one, and his jab is a great table setter, backing up opponents and allowing him to apply his pressure. He's the type of fighter who looks like he has fun in the ring, and enjoys fighting, showing off his skills and out thinking opponents. Despite the obvious talent we do wonder how his style will hold up when he's under real pressure from a puncher.
We see a real talent in Fuzile, be we also see a young man who needs time to develop the experience needed to get the most from his skills. His competition so far hasn't been the best, and wins over Macolm Klassen and Romulo Koasicha really are his most notable wins. Maybe this fight is coming a touch too soon for him, and he could have done with another couple of decent tests before facing a guy like Rakhimov.
We always worry when a fighter travels to South Africa, it's a really hard country to get a decision in. Saying that however we don't see Rakhimov leaving this in the hands of the judges. Fuzile needs to keep the bout in the center of the ring, he needs to avoid being backed up by Rakhimov's jab and needs to move, a lot. If Fuzile can keep range, dictate behind his jab and avoid being backed up, he should win. Sadly for him however Rakhimov isn't going to be a willing dancer partner, and instead the Tajik visitor will be applying pressure, and sooner or later he will trap Fuzile, bang him to the body and begin to take his wheels away.
We see Fuzile posing Rakhimov real questions, but we suspect the power difference will prove to be too much.
Prediction - TKO9 Rakhimov
On July 27th Japanese fight fans at Korakuen Hall hey a stacked card that really is worth getting excited about. The main event of the card is an excellent match up for the OPBF Super Featherweight title, as unbeaten champion Hironori Mishiro (7-0-1, 2) looks to make his third defense, and over-come veteran Ryo Takenaka (18-5-1, 11), who is himself looking to become a 2-weight OPBF champion.
The 24 year old Mishiro debuted in early 2017, after a notable stint in the amateur ranks, and raced quickly into good bouts. In just his 5th bout he faced off with the then 9-0 Shuya Masaki, taking a competitive decision, before defeating Carlo Magali for the OPBF title, after just 15 months in the pro-ranks. He failed to take home a win in a unification bout with Japanese champion Masaru Sueyoshi, though retained his title with a draw and has since notched a win over veteran tough guy Takuya Watanabe.
In the ring Mishiro has shown himself to be an excellent boxer, with sharp punching, a good boxing brain and smart movement. He has also shown an ability to adapt, turning into a pressure fighter against Sueyoshi when he was behind and needed to drag the bout out. There are issues that Mishiro has shown, a lack of power for example and suspect defense, but he's only had 7 bouts and already looks to be a real hopeful for the 130lbs division. He's a hopeful, but one who clearly needs seasoning, and developing, and that's obviously part of why he's facing Takenaka here.
At the age of 34 Takenaka has seen better days. His early career promises a lot, and he turned professional in 2008 with pretty big expectations on his shoulders. In just his third bout he was fighting in 8 rounders. Sadly for all his early promise he didn't get a chance to fight for a title until 2014, when he challenged Hisashi Amagasa for the OPBF Featherweight title. Takenaka would box out of his skin to be in the lead going in to the final round, but was stopped with less than 2 minutes left to suffer his 3rd loss in 15 bouts. The following year however Takenaka won the OPBF title in his second shot, stopping Vinvin Rufino.
Sadly for Takenaka his reign wasn't a hugely memorable one, until his loss in 2017 against Sa Myung Noh, which was most memorable due to the fact Takenaka's lip was a bloody mess. Since then he has gone 2-1 (2) but his competition has most been poor, with a loss to Heorhii Lashko earlier this year being his most notable result since losing the title.
In the ring Takenaka is a solid boxer-puncher but at 34, fighting above his natural and with real question marks about his durability it's hard to see him coming out on top here. At Featherweight he had good stopping power, to go with his skills. At 130lbs however we haven't seen that power carry up
On July 12th Asian fight fans have a packed day with several notable cards, including 2 big ones in Japan. With so many notable fights taking place it's easy for some to get forgotten in the shuffle, and one possible bout that could get lost is a very interesting match up between Joe Noynay (17-2-1, 6) and Satoshi Shimizu (8-0, 8). The bout will see Noynay attempting to make his first defense WBO Asia Pacific Super Featherweight title whilst Shimizu will be flirting with the Super Featherweight division for his first bout at 130lbs.
Noynay won the belt last time out, when he surprisingly stopped Kosuke Saka in 2 rounds, to record his 6th straight win. That win was his first in Japan, following a 2017 loss in Tokyo to Reiya Abe, and his second win on foreign soil, coming after a decision win against Jinxiang Pan in December 2017. Other than the win over Saka last time out Noynay holds no other wins of major note, but the 23 year old has shown great skills, pushing Abe close and losing a razor thin technical decision to Richard Pumicpic.
The talented Filipino is improving fight on fight and is maturing into a really good fighter. As we saw against Saka he can punch, much harder than his record suggests, and he combines that with a very good boxing brain, good movement and good rounded skills, picking the right punches at the right time. Sadly his competition hasn't really allowed him to show what he can do, but it's clear that he is a very good hopeful, and one of the many hidden gems of the Filipino boxing scene. There is still work he needs to do, but in his biggest fights to date he has shown a lot of potential and the foundation to develop into a fantastic young fighter.
The unbeaten Shimizu is the OPBF Featherweight champion and is a former amateur standout, who famously won a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics in London. As a professional Shimizu hasn't really shown much of the skills he developed in the amateur ranks, but has proven himself to be a very heavy handed southpaw slugger. During his short career he has already won a regional title and recorded 4 defenses, scoring stoppages over the likes of Shingo Kawamura and Takuya Uehara, but at the age of 33 he can't waste any more time with meaningless bouts.
Shimizu's move to Super Featherweight for this bout is seen as being a one off, with the fighter expected to drop back to Featherweight for a world title shot next time out. Despite that their are questions for him to answer here, like whether his power holds up at 130lbs, or whether eh can take a shot, whether he's physically imposing or whether he still has the size advantages he's enjoyed at Featherweight .At 126lbs he's a physical freak, with a huge frame and a massive wingspan. Add those physical traits to his bludgeoning power and he's an awkward yet effective fighter and now we can see whether he's as effective at the new weight.
Technically Noynay is the better boxer, but he hasn't shown the power to turn many fights around, despite his blow out of Saka. If Noynay can box, use his technical ability, and his boxing brain he could well upset the Japanese fighter, and make Shimizu pay for his wild and open style. On the other hand Shimizu certainly has the power to hurt regional level guys, and if he tags Noynay clean he will look to go for the finish, and undo any early success that Noynay may have had.
This is a compelling match up, and a hard on to call, though we believe that sooner of later Shimizu's "Diamond Left" will land, and that he will get to, and stop, Noynay.
Prediction - TKO9 Shimizu
This coming month is littered with huge bouts, but we're actually excited about a number of the "lesser" bouts. One of the ones that has really gotten us a bit excited is the May 4th clash between WBC Asian Boxing Council Silver Super Featherweight champion Al Toyogon (10-2-1, 6) and Japanese challenger Ryo Sagawa (6-1, 4). On paper this is a bout that is very, very, easy to over-look. Especially given how packed the weekend is, even in Asia alone with a Japanese card set to be shown on the same day, but could end up delivering in a big way.
The 21 year old Filipino is the current champion and will be seeking his second defense of the title. He won the belt last September, when he stopped Nathan Bolcio in 6 rounds and retained it with a 12 round win over Ryusei Ishii. Those wins saw Toyogon extend his current winning run to 5 bouts, with 4 stoppages during that run, 3 of which came in the opening round. That sort of form has really helped him kick start a career that was floundering following a 4th round TKO loss to John Ray Logatiman in May 2017, when he was still a teenager.
Although Toyogon hasn't gone through a who's who he does hold wins against Naotoshi Nakatani and Jason Tinampay, both stopped in the opening round, as well wins against the aforementioned Bolcio and Ishii. He has certainly improved as he's gotten old and hits harder than his record suggests. Sadly there's not a lot of quality footage of him available, but what there is out there does make him look pretty promising. He's aggressive, has heavy hooks and looks a pretty fun fighter. Whilst he's fun he is also pretty raw and his punches do appear to travel around the houses, with a lack of real crispness to his shots. Although not a crisp puncher as such, he is heavy heavy handed and throws pretty unorthodox shots. Although wild and unorthodoxy he is a pretty good finisher and when he has his man hurt he really does go for the kill.
With just 7 bouts to his name it would be easy to suggest that Sagawa is just a typical novice. The reality however is that he was a very well established amateur on the Japanese scene, going 62-22 as an amateur, and since turning professional he has been matched hard. Being matched hard saw him lose his second bout, being stopped by Retsu Kosaka, but he has bounced back with 5 straight wins, including victories over Junki Sasaki, Ryo Matsumoto and Shingo Kawamura. During those wins he has shown fantastic boxing skills, a great control of the ring, and has shown that he has learned from his loss to Kosaka. There are still question marks over Sagawa, especially his chain and general durability, but in terms of skills he's genuinely fantastic.
Sagawa uses good footwork to control bouts, keeps them at range when he can and uses sharp start shots to chip away at opponents. When he has his man hurt he can close the show, but seems to realise that due to his own questionable chin he's best off taking very few risks and keeping things disciplined. Strangely, for someone who is typically making sure bouts are fought at range, he does drop his hands a lot and is certainly not an amazing defensive fighter.
If Toyogon can get close, unload at range and catch Sagawa there is a real chance of the Filipino taking Sagawa out, and scoring his best win to date. In reality however Sagawa's boxing skills, ring craft and crisp punching should be too much for the crude Filipino fighter.
Prediction - TKO7 Sagawa
The Super Featherweight division in Japan is a really interesting one. Not only is there Masayuki Ito, who defends the WBO world title later this month against Jamel Herring, but also the likes of Hironori Mishiro, Kosuke Saka, Takuya Watanabe and, of course, Japanese national champion Masaru Sueyoshi (18-1-1, 11).
This coming weekend Sueyoshi looks returns to the ring to defend his title against mandatory challenger Ken Osato (15-2-1, 4). This will be a rematch from a 2018 clash that saw Sueyoshi being dropped before battling back to stop Osato in the 8th round of a very interesting match up. That first bout, despite being a win for Sueyoshi, did leave enough doubt that a rematch, down the line, would remain intriguing. If they fought again could Osato finish off Sueyoshi? Or would Sueyoshi manage to control the bout better if they fought a second time and avoid the trouble he was in first time around?
For those who haven't seen Sueyoshi before he's a talented, though frustrating, boxer. He's an excellent judge of distance with good movement, sharp punching and good ring control. He's often seen on the back foot, dictating the tempo of the bout with smart half steps. He doesn't have amazing power, but that's slightly misleading, as he does hit hard when he sits on his shots, something that he rarely does. If he sat on shots more he could do real damage, but instead he relies on his foot work, and is regularly shifting his weight backwards, relying more on speed than power.
At 28 years old we're not expecting Sueyoshi to reinvent himself. He can tweak his style but will never reinvent the wheel. He will always be a fighter with a good technical brain, but a fighter who relies on his speed, accuracy and counter punching, rather than his power and aggression. It can make his bouts frustrating to watch at times, but has seen him going unbeaten for well over 6 years, since losing a split decision to Masayuki Ito back in his 4th bout.
If we're being honest Osato isn't a fighter who looks like he will progress beyond Japanese level, however at just 24 he is likely to have a long and credible career in the domestic title scene. He's proven to be a more aggressive fighter than Sueyoshi, with some a style that has plenty of aggression to it. Despite that he's not the crispest of punchers often firing shots with a slappy style, and although he does have a solid hook it does look like it could be tightened up significantly, and would be much more potent if hee did shorten it. He's a lot more rigid than Sueyoshi, and not only suffers in terms of general movement but also in stamina, often fighting with a tense style, rather than relaxing in the ring. That was certainly shown the first time he fought Sueyoshi, where the tension seemed to sap his energy, and he really struggled in the second half of the fight, if he can change that he does have a chance.
Although we don't imagine Osato moving beyond domestic level that isn't an insult and he could well surprise Sueytoshi. He does hit hard enough to hurt the champion, he's talented enough to land, and to land regularly on Sueyoshi, but it's hard to imagine him winning against someone like Sueyoshi on a regular basis. He's too tense, too likely to drain himself and not the type of fighter who has shown that he can clearly put on 10 good rounds. A lot of his bouts have been close and it's to imagine him putting on 8 or 10 really good rounds one after the other.
We know Osato can hurt Sueyoshi, and can be dangerous, but we can't imagine Sueysohi will be too good, too smart and too tricky for Osato. We suspect Osato will have success early, as he did the first time around, but we expect to see the same winner as last time. We'd be very surprised if Osato scored the win here. The real question is whether he does better than last time, and we suspect he probably will. We're still expecting him to lose, but we're not expecting him to get stopped.
Prediction UD10 Sueyoshi
This coming Saturday we'll see a new WBO Asia Pacific Super Featherweight champion being crowned as hard hitting Japanese fighter Kosuke Saka (18-4, 15) takes on talented Filipino southpaw Joe Noynay (16-2-1, 5), with the two men battling for a belt recently vacated by Masao Nakamura. For Saka it will be his first title bout at 130lbs, as he looks to claim his second professional title, whilst Noynay looks to claim the full version of the Asia Pacific title, following a reign as Youth champion.
At the age of 27 Saka is the much older man, and the much bigger puncher. The fighter from the Nakazato gym has been a professional since 2012 and he has had a really intriguing career. He was the runner up in the 2012 All Japan Rookie of the Year, losing in the final to Masayuki Ito. He would bounce back, scoring wins over Satoru Sugita and Katsuya Sato, before losing twice in a row, with the second of those losses coming to Hiroshige Osawa. Since then he has gone 10-1 (10), with notable wins over Ryuto Kyoguchi, Takafumi Nakajima, Shota Hayashi and Masanori Rikiishi. During that stretch he would win the Japanese Featherweight title. The sole loss was a weird one, losing the Japanese title to Takenori Ohashi when he mistook the 10 second clacker for the bell, and was subsequently knocked out.
Saka is a huge puncher, he has serious power, a nasty aggressive streak and seems to have actually become more devastating since losing the title, proving his power at Lightweight. He's crude, but offensive, heavy handed and very dangerous. There is also no real stamina questions as he has scored stoppages in the later rounds, though was stopped in 9 rounds by Osawa back in May 2014.
Filipino fighter Noynay is a 23 is a talented boxer, with good movement, good skills and a much, much smarter boxing brain than Saka. Despite being a better pure boxer he does have a relative lack of power, and he isn't likely to get Saka's respect with single shots. Instead, he will have to work hard, rely on his boxing skills and if we're being totally honest they are impressive skills, with Noynay having held his own with the excellent Reiya Abe back in early 2017. In fact both of Noynay's losses have been razor close decision defeats to notable regional fighters, Abe and Richard Pumicpic.
Although not well known outside of the Philippines Noynay is genuinely a brilliant prospect, and the losses on his record look worse than they are, losing close decisions to regional level fighters is nothing to be ashamed by. He's not the most exciting, and he's not got much power, but he is very talented, very smart, quick and sharp. He's defensively smart, has an educated jab and a very long straight left hand with quick body shots in his arsenal. Although a boxer by nature he can pick up the pressure and fight as an aggressive boxer, rather than relying on jack back foot work.
The result of this bout depends on a few really interesting questions. Can Saka cut the distance and get his power shots off? Can Noynay maintain the distance and use his southpaw jab to make space?
If Saka can get close, and if his power can affect Noynay, this could be over inside 3 or 4 rounds. If, however, Noynay boxes smart, stays on the move and stops Saka from unloading, then he can make this look easy, though he will have to work incredibly hard through out and have an incredible level of concentration. We expect Saka to come out on top, and for him to break down Noynay, though a decision win for the Filipino wouldn't be a huge surprise by any stretch.
The Super Featherweight division isn't the best out there at the moment, but is one where there is a nice amount of talent across the various levels of the sport, meaning there are some fantastic fights out there, even if they aren't at the very top level. The Oriental scene has a handful of fighters who could all share the ring and put on great fights. We get one such fight on March 27th when the unbeaten OPBF champion Hironori Mishiro (6-0-1, 2) takes on OPBF Silver champion Takuya Watanabe (35-8-1, 20) in a really mouth watering match up.
The champion is a former amateur stand out who made his pro debut in 2017 and was hotly tipped as a star in the making straight away. He would score 3 straight forward wins before going up against the then unbeaten Shuma Nakazato, taking a hard fought win over Nakazato. He would then add an upset win over Shuya Masaki before challenging OPBF champion Carlo Magali. The bout over Magali was a massive step up, but one that Mishiro made, just doing enough to take a split decision win over the Filipino veteran. Since then he has defended the belt once, fighting to a draw against Masaru Sueyoshi in an OPBF/JBC title unification bout. The Sueyoshi bout was Mishiro's most impressive performance, despite only earning a draw.
In the ring the 24 year old Mishiro is a very fluid fighter, able to box on the back foot, using his size and reach, or on the front foot, bringing the pressure and cutting the distance. He's strong, very quick, and looks incredibly relaxed in the ring. Although he has solid power, he's not a concussive puncher and despite being able to fight on the front foot, he does lack real killer instinct, something has shown it's self in the past. One thing that has really impressed about Mishiro is his stamina, and despite only having 7 fights he has already done 12 rounds twice. He's not a non-stop punching machine, but for someone so early in their career he has impressed, and he certainly paced himself better in his second 12 rounder than his first one.
The challenger isn't the natural boxer that Mishiro is, but is instead a 30 year old veteran who has been a professional for over 12 years and despite having 8 losses is a very good boxer-puncher with a gritty determination that makes him a hard man to beat. His career has also been different to most of his fellow Japanese fights. Not only has he been active, with 44 bouts in just over 12 years, but many of those have been on the road. He has right through South East Asia, with bouts in Thailand, South Korea, China, Hong Kong, and Taipei. On the road he has had some of his most memorable bouts, including his blood bath with Jaesung Lee in Korea his KO win against Leshan Li in Hong Kong and a very hard fought loss to Yongqiang Yang in China. As for bouts in Japan he has faced some pretty stiff competition, including Hisashi Amagasa, Satoshi Hosono and Masayuki Ito.
Watanabe is a tough, solid guy with solid power, solid all round skills, an incredible will to win, and brilliant stamina. Although a boxer-puncher he can get involved in a brawl and is pretty solid in every facet of his game. He's a touch slow, which Ito made the most of, and is slightly limited in terms of skill and timing, but very few will have an easy time with Watanabe, especially now he's a fully mature and experienced fighter.
This is clearly a bout that is designed to give Mishiro a tough defense, and further prepare him for the big time. It's a risk from him and his team, but a calculated one, and one we think they're confident of him passing. It's going to be a tough, 12 round test, but we do favour Mishiro to take the decision, albeit a close decision. If he does then we wouldn't be surprised at all to see his next bout come against a world ranked foe, possibly a rematch with Sueyoshi.
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.
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.