This coming Thursday we get the chance to see the always fun to watch Hiroaki Teshigawara (17-2-2, 10) move up in weight to take on Filipino Glenn Suminguit (21-3, 11) in a bout for the vacant OPBF Super Bantamweight title. On paper this is expected to be a very exciting and tough bout which could open the door for the winner to move onto a potential world title fight, in one of the more over-looked and under-rated divisions.
The 28 year old Teshigawara has really impressed us over the last 2 years. In October 2016 he came up narrowly short in a thriller against Ryo Akaho but since then he has gone 5-0 (4) with notable wins over Keita Kurihara, Jetro Pabustan, Jason Canoy and Teiru Kinoshita. In those wins he has proven he's tough, taking bombs from Kurihara and Canoy, aggressive and exciting. He has also proven that he can compete at title level, having won and defended the WBO Asia Pacific Super Bantamweight title. He's very much a flawed fighter, and he can certainly be outboxed, but with his relentless pressure, heavy hands and solid chin he is a real handful to fight.
Moving up in weight can be an issue but Teshigawara is a big Bantamweight and may well find that a move up to Super Bantamweight will just ease some of the issues of boiling down and could well make him a little bit more spiteful, stronger and give his gas tank a bit of a boost. Sadly for him the move up in weight may delay a potential world title fight, given the other top Japanese names at 122lbs including Shingo Wake, Tomoki Kameda, Yusaku Kuga and the returning Yukinori Oguni. At Bantamweight there may be issues getting a world title shot due to the WBSS, but he could well have himself in a leading position come the end of the World Boxing Super Series next year, whilst the Super Bantamweight division is just stacked with men jostling for a shot.
Filipino fighter Suminguit is a 29 year old southpaw who has fought as high as Super Featherweight, despite only being listed at 5'4”. Whilst he has fought up at 130lbs in the past he does seem to be more of a natural Bantamweight. It's been at Bantamweight that he's scored some of his best wins, including a 2017 victory over Renoel Pael and Alvin Bais. Notably he has only been beaten once in the last 6 years, a close decision loss to Jason Egara last year. If you scroll through his record there is a stoppage loss to Rodel Quilaton almost 7 years ago, and a decision to Fernando Lumacad. Give that those losses were so long ago it's hard to read too much into them, especially given he has since gone 9-1 (3) since then.
In terms of his style Suminguit is a tricky speed fighter who counters well, moves smartly, and shows a variety of angles. He's not a powerful fighter or a hard hitting one, but technically he is sharp, accurate and pretty well schooled. There's a lot of movement with him, though he how does with a strong aggressive and naturally imposing fighter is yet to be seen. We mentioned Teshigawara moving up in weight though Suminguit is still very small as a Super Bantamweight, and is likely to be the smaller man, despite having fought at a higher weight to the Japanese.
We're expecting to see Teshigawara press the action early on, and despite some early problems with the movement and skills of Suminguit, we expect to see the pressure get too much and or him to break down the Filipino in the mid to late rounds to claim a stoppage win, and the title.
The Super Bantamweight division is one of the more interesting ones in Japan, with a host of talented fighters from prospect level all the way up to the world level. With so much talent in the division it leads to some great possible match ups, such as the Japanese title fight earlier this year between Shingo Wake and Yusaku Kuga.
On October 12th we get a bout to decide the next Japanese title challenger as Mugicha Nakagawa (23-5-1, 14) takes on Naoya Okamoto (13-6-1, 6) at the Korakuen Hall. On paper this looks like a mismatch in favour of Nakagawa, but the two men are ranked #1 and #2 by the Japanese Boxing Commission and they should be better matched than their records suggest.
Nagakawa is the more proven fighter and the 29 year old really has impressed in the last few years. Going into July 2013 Nakagawa, then 24, was 10-4 (6) but since then he has gone 13-1-1 and scored notable wins over Yusuke Fujihara, Yuta Saito, Dado Cabintoy, and Markquil Salvana, with his only loss in that run of 15 fights being against Yasutaka Ishimoto last November, in another Japanese title challenger decider bout, or an eliminator for those in the west.
In the ring Nakagawa is an exciting fighter with under-rated power, which has seen him stop 8 of his last 15, and a good work rate. He started brilliantly against Ishimoto in their bout last year but seemed to tire in the later rounds and it does look like he's worked on that in recent bouts by becoming less aggressive and boxing more within himself, keeping some energy in reserve for when he has his man hurt. Technically he's flawed, open and often fights with his hands down, but tends to get away with it and finds ways to lure opponents in to counter. It's also worth noting that he is a very rangy fighter who can land shots from unusual angles and sometimes further away than opponents expect.
At 30 Okamoto is the slightly older man, but the less experienced and the less impressive looking on paper. However he's a man in good form, with 3 impressive wins coming into this and other good showings through his career, including a razor thin loss to Ryoichi Tamura in 2014. Coming into this he has scored wins over Gaku Aikawa, Daisuke Watanabe and current Japanese Bantamweight champion Yuta Saito. Those wins have helped him turn around a record that was once 8-5 and put him on the verge of a title shot.
Of his recent wins it was the one over Watanabe that really boosted his reputation. Watanabe was dangerous fighter but a brutal right hand left him flat on his face in the opening round. Despite that being the best win on his record he's not a puncher. Instead he's a pretty basic fighter, with a good stiff jab, a solid right hand, good movement and consistent output. He never looks like a fighter who's going to win a world title but with his consistency and accuracy he's someone who will stick around at domestic level, picking up the occasional win of note along the way.
We're expecting a pretty interesting tactical bout here though we suspect that Nakagawa will just do enough to over-come Okamoto. We suspect that the counters and extra little bit of zip in Nakagawa's shots will be the difference, but Okamoto will certainly have his moments and his jab could be a problem for Nakagawa, though we think he's a little one paced and under-powered to pick up the victory here.
Muhamad Ridhwan 11-0 (8 KOs) vs Paulus Ambunda 26-2 (11 KOs)
29 September, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
“The Chosen Wan” vs “The Rock”
By Gerald Hartup Jnr
The iconic Marina Bay Sands in Singapore will play host to a bout between local fighter Muhamad Ridhwan and Namibia’s Paulus Ambunda for the IBO Super Bantamweight World title. Last month when the fighters met face to face in Singapore for their media work there were some colourful verbal exchanges between the two men and both were brimming with confidence on their chances of getting the win. 30 year old Ridhwan has youth and home advantage on his side but the 38 year old former world champion Ambunda is confident that his experience will make the difference.
Rock, paper, scissors. How do the styles match up?
Stylistically Ambunda is a fan-friendly and fun boxer to watch. He really brings the action, forces a quick pace and comes to fight. He is a come forward, maximum pressure, high volume fighter who likes to walk his opponent down and get to work on the inside. He brings intensity through constant aggression and has a huge cardio engine. He works behind a solid defence utilising a high guard and is hard to hit cleanly. His work rate is impressive and he has gone the full 12 round championship distance a staggering 13 times. A style like his almost guarantees action in a bout.
The Namibian is a former WBO and IBO world champion and will not be fazed by a big event like this. He had a very successful amateur career and was an Olympian in 2004. He calls himself a warrior and frankly that’s a fair description, he is as tough as they come and has not been stopped in 28 professional fights.
Ridhwan is much more of a skilled and traditional technician. He is a boxer puncher whose best work is when he is operating behind his slick jab. He uses the jab effectively to score, damage, disrupt, control distance, distract and set up attacks. He is a very thoughtful fighter who boxes to a game plan and is often looking to lead his opponent into traps or to counter them. He too was a very successful amateur and has the fundamental skills to show for it. He is more than capable of mixing it on the inside as well, displaying a commitment to working the body throughout his career. His last outing was a win by uppercut KO and he throws a vicious liver shot.
This will be the Yishun boxers first outing at the 122lb Super bantamweight limit. He has fought most of his pro career at 130lb with his last bout at 126lbs. It will be interesting to see how his power and stamina transfer down to this weight category.
Ambunda is not known for his knockout power having only stopped one opponent in the past seven years. Ridhwan is much more of a banger having stopped eight of his eleven opponents and should be the heavier handed man on fight night.
A family affair
In an interesting twist to the fights narrative it has emerged that Ambunda is the cousin of previous Ridhwan opponent Nataneal Sebastian. Sebastian went the full twelve rounds and lost his unbeaten record to TCW on points last year. Ambunda is promising to exact revenge for his younger cousin.
Between a rock and a hard place
As a professional, Ambunda has been there, done it and got the T shirt. A WBO world title win being the peak of his impressive achievements. His two losses were against very respectable high level opponents Moises Flores and Tomoki Kameda both in world championship bouts. He is a boxer who has seen it all.
Ridhwans career is on an upwards trajectory and he is starting to hit his stride in the paid ranks. He has been a professional for less than three years progressing from an exciting prospect to now establishing himself as a serious world contender.
It’s the time of the season
If a boxing career were measured by Seasons in a year, Ridhwan is in early Summer and Ambunda is in late Autumn. Ambunda is a fantastic athlete and a very youthful 38 year old but he is undoubtedly near the end of his career and Father Time will catch up to him at some point. There will not be many more big nights fighting under the bright lights for him and this could be the final chance at glory.
Cebu style. The ALA connection
Ridhwan has been training hard in camp for this bout and along with his coach Rey Caitom Jnr they have been working with some high level sparring partners. The dangerous knockout artist Michael Romarate 11-1-1 (8 KOs) has been working as chief sparring partner and the elite world level contender Arthur Villanueva 32-3 (18 KOs) joined the final part of camp to provide some further tough preparation work.
What do all these men have in common? It is the famed ALA boxing gym in Cebu, Philippines. Cebu isn’t just famous for its beautiful beaches and diving, boxing fans know it for ALA which is an institution that has produced numerous world champions. Ridhwan trained and stayed there when he turned professional. Rey Caitom Jnr was a multi time national amateur champion and undefeated professional boxing out of there. Romarate and Villanueva are also both products of ALA.
High stakes at the Marina Bay Sands
The IBO world title is on the line. This is already a major belt to be competing for but beyond that the implications of this fight are very different for both men.
A win for Ridhwan would propel him into the top 15 in the world and put him in a real position to work towards challenging the best Super bantamweights on the planet. A loss would be a setback and he would have to get on a potentially long and slow road of rebuilding to get back to this level.
A win for Ambunda would mean he gets to extend his story a bit longer at the highest level. Perhaps he could have a couple more glory fights to finish a decorated career. Realistically though, this could be his last chance to have a big fight for a belt. A loss could even mean it is the end of the line on his impressive career as a prizefighter.
And my crystal ball says...
How do I see this fight panning out? The battle will be won and lost by who can dictate the terms of the fight. Ambunda will work to turn it into a real scrap, ideally turning it into a war trading shots on the inside. Ridhwan will want to control the distance and box from the outside getting in and out and inflicting damage from middle distance. Ambunda will take some rounds by virtue of volumetric output, aggression and high workrate while Ridhwan will get off the cleaner, crisper and more damaging shots. I see it going the full twelve rounds. Ambunda with his excellent endurance will be most dangerous in the final third of the fight. Ridhwans stamina will need to be good as he will not be given any time to get a breather. It could well be tricky to score with a classic subjective boxing scoring situation - do the judges reward aggression or finesse? My final call - an entertaining bout where Ridhwan takes it on points, something like 117-111.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo )
One of the most anticipated fights within the Asian boxing community will take place on July 27, as Yusaku Kuga defends his Japanese Super Bantamweight championship against Shingo Wake.
Yusaku Kuga (16-2 / 11 KOs) is a star on the rise. Burst into the scene in 2010, while still 19 years old, he started massing up victories one after the other. In just 3 years, he was already facing much more experienced boxers than himself, like Yuki Iwasaki (11-4*), Koji Aoki (16-7*), Kojiro Takada (13-8*), knocking out every single one of them. With a record of 11-1-1 he entered his first major championship bout on December of 2015, facing former WBO International champion Yasutaka Ishimoto (26-8*) for the vacant Japanese Super Bantamweight title. Both men went to war and in the end, Ishimoto got a very close decision to win the match and the belt. That loss, only motivated Kuga even more to try and capture the gold. In 2016 he dispatched Thai fighter Sukpraserd Ponpitak (13-5*) and Philippino standout Jonathan Baat (32-7*) to earn another shot at the Japanese crown. The rematch between Kuga and Ishimoto was set on February of 2017. Most fans expected this to be another back and forth affair, but that wasn’t the case this time around. Kuga blasted the champion early in the first round, knocking him down, to the surprise of everyone in attendance. In the second, Ishimoto endured a heavy beating which led to the referee stopping the fight and declaring Kuga the 39th Japanese Super Bantamweight champion. Just 5 months later, he earned his first successful title defense over Ryoichi Tamura (8-2*) and his second on March of 2018 when he KOed Ryo Kosaka (16-3*) within 2 minutes into the match. Kuga is currently ranked amongst the top of the division by the WBA, the WBC and the WBO.
Shingo Wake (24-5 / 16 KOs), not to be outdone by his upcoming opponent, has had quite a career thus far. Fighting close to 12 years, he has come face to face with some of the toughest boxers the Asian scene has to offer. In 2013, he locked horns with future IBF World champion Yukinori Oguni for the OPBF Super Bantamweight title. Oguni, undefeated at 10-0 at the time, was considered the massive favorite to win the scramble, having already defended the OPBF belt thrice against Hiromasa Ohashi (24-10*), Masaaki Serie (21-4*) and Roli Gasca (19-3*). Wake came determined and put on a clinic for 10 rounds, even knocking the champ down in the second. Oguni was rendered unable to continue and Wake won his first major title in the process. After earning 5 title defenses from 2013 to 2015, all finishes, he decisioned former IBF Asian champion Pipat Chaiporn (35-7*) in a World title eliminator bout. When the time came, Wake was overwhelmed by Jonathan Guzman’s (21-0*) power and got dropped numerous times throughout the match, suffering his only KO loss today. Despite coming short on his big opportunity, he displayed his fighting spirit by never surrendering and even giving Guzman some trouble, which made him more popular with the Japanese fans. Since then, he has been on a 4 fight winning streak, all KOs, including victories over Mikihito Seto (34-14) as well as former WBC International Silver champion and World title contender Boonsom Yamsiri (50-3).
Both fighters are looking to take that next step in their careers. For Kuga, it’s a chance to finally break in the World title picture whereas for Wake it’s time to step back up and regain his place amongst the top contenders.
Prediction: This is a pretty even fight. Kuga is 27 years old with a 58% KO ratio, while Wake is 31 with a 52% KO ratio. However, with 31 bouts under his belt, the experience factor definitely lies with Wake. At the same time, Kuga has never been stopped in his 19 fights, unlike Wake. Comparing recent performances, Kuga has faced better competition overall. Moreover, under the notion of “you are as good as your last fight”, Kuga finished Ryo Kosaka within the first round while Wake needed 4 rounds to put down a relatively inferior opponent in Roman Canto. All in all, Kuga maybe winning this on paper but you can never count out a veteran the caliber of Wake.
One of the most interesting divisions right now is the Super Bantamweight division. It's not red hot in terms of big names or money making stars but in terms of quality and interesting match up it's a fantastic division. We recently saw both Daniel Roman and Ryosuke Iwasa retain the WBA and IBF title respectively and with contenders like Tomoki Kameda, Hidenori Otake, Diego De la Hoya, Shingo Wake and Marlon Tapales all chasing world title fights the division really is bubbling over nicely.
One other notable contender in the division is current Japanese national champion Yusaku Kuga (15-2-1, 10) who returns to the ring this coming Tuesday to defend his title against mandatory challenger Ryo Kosaka (16-3-1, 8). For the champion this bout will be his second defense, following his title win in February 2017, whilst Kosaka will be getting his first title shot.
The champion is one of the many exciting Japanese fighters who has been quietly making waves over the last few years. He debuted in 2010 and in 2012 he competed in the Rookie of he year, losing to Nobuhiro Hisano in June of that year. That could have been a major set back but Kuga saw the loss as inspiration and went unbeaten in his next 8 bouts, defeating Yusuke Suzuki, Koji Aoki and Yuki Iwasaki, whilst fighting the then touted Naoto Uebayashi to a draw. It was clear that he had major potential back then and worked his way towards his first Japanese title fight. Sadly for Kuga he would lose in his first shot, coming up just short against Yasutaka Ishimoto. In 2016 Kuga would stop Jonathan Baat to earn his second shot at the title, and he would gain revenge over Ishimoto in 2 rounds to claim the title.
Since winning the belt Kuga has defended it just once, narrowly over-coming the aggressive and hard hitting Ryoichi Tamura, in a bout that saw both men forced eat some huge bombs. In that bout Kuga showed he had a chin to go with his power, though left question marks about his stamina and how well he can fight when backed up. On the front foot he's devastating, with nasty power, but on the back foot that power is much less potent.
Whilst we've followed Kuga with interest since early in his career the same can't be said of Kosaka, sadly. That is something that tends to happen when fighters don't fight much in Tokyo, and with Kosaka being based with the Shinsei Gym on Kobe he really has gone somewhat under the radar, despite climbing up both the JBC and OPBF rankings.
The challenger debuted in 2011 and despite 3 stoppage wins to begin his career he began to falter, losing a pair of technical decisions then having a draw to slide to 3-2-1 (3). His third, and most recent, loss came in December 2013 when he was stopped in 7 rounds by Yuta Yasumoto. Since that loss we've seen Kosaka go 9-0 (5) defeating a combination of poor Thai imports and low key domestic foes, such as Satoshi Niwa and Morihisa Iju. Whilst he is the mandatory for the title show there is a feeling that he lacks a really good domestic win, and did actually only get this shot after Yasutaka Ishimoto announced his retirement. The reality is that there are much proven domestic contenders out there than Kosaka, despite his relatively nice run.
Although Talented Kosaka isn't looking like a fighter ready for a title shot, especially not against a danger man like Kuga. Whilst Kuga did look like he was beatable last time out he is unlikely to struggle here. Kosaka may have the edge in technical boxing ability, but Kuga has the power, the aggression and the strength to walk through the challenger's best shots and take him out, likely in the second half, when Kosaka begins to feel the pace. We suspect the challenger will start well, but Kuga will turn it around and record his second defense, and begin his advance towards a world title fight, which he may well get later this year.
This coming Tuesday fight fans in Japan are in for a little bit of a treat, as the teak tough Hidenori Otake (30-2-3, 13) defends the OPBF Super Bantamweight title against the big punching Brian Lobetania (13-4-3, 11). The bout is likely to be one of the hidden gems of 2018 and could be one of those rare fights that really goes under the radar yet gives the hardcore fans something really memorable.
Otake is best known for his 2014 loss to the then WBA Super Bantamweight champion Scott Quigg. Since then however Otake has gone 8-0 (4) and claimed the OPBF title, as he's began a charge towards a second world title fight. He's not just gone unbeaten but has done so against good competition, beating the likes of Jelbirt Gomera, Kinshiro Usui and the very talented Hinata Maruta. Those bouts have all shown that Otake, at 36 years old now, has an amazing engine still and is just as teak tough as he showed against Quigg.
Although not the most technically gifted fighter out there Otake has so many things going for him. As mentioned he is incredibly tough, he was pounded by Scott Quigg but never took a backwards step and kept coming, even getting stronger the longer the bout went on. He has an incredible work ethic and can fight 12 rounds at a great tempo, often picking up the pace later in fights. He also has a lot of experience, with 231 rounds under his belt and 9 title bouts, in which he has gone 8-1 and has under-rated skills, with a nice jab, a solid right hand and great body work.
Looking at flaws with Otake he's not very quick, not a big puncher and pretty much a 1-trick pony, however it's a very good single trick. He will bring insane amounts of pressure, from round 1 to round 12 he will come forward, marching behind his jab, and look to out work opponents. It's not enough to win him a world title, against smarter, quicker opponents who move and take advantage of his slow feet, but against anyone below world level he's a nightmare.
Whilst fans in the west have seen Otake odds are they won't have seen the challenger, whilst fans in Japan have seen him, with his last bout being a mild upset win against the promising Kai Chiba. That bout showed that Lobetania is pretty limited, and like Otake is a one trick pony. Thankfully for Lobetania that one trick is pretty potent, and is a brutal overhand right hand. Against Chiba we saw Lobetania essentially spam his right hand, like a video game character, he missed with a lot of them, but every time it connected Chiba felt it, and wobbled hard in round 3 before being stopped the following round.
Aside from the win over Chiba it's easy to question Lobetania's record. He has 4 to his name, with only one of those coming against a really notable name, and that was against Jonas Sultan. Against Chiba however Lobetania proved not only that he has power, but also toughness, taking some bombs from the Japanese fighter. It should be noted he has only been stopped once, a surprise given his relatively open defense. Lobetania can punch, and take a shot, though interestingly he has got questions about his stamina, and he is 0-3 in bouts that have gone beyond 6 rounds.
What we're expecting here is for Otake to look to control the bout fighting at mid range early on and letting Lobetania tire himself out with the wild swings, before returning fire with busy combinations. In the second half of the fight, as the challenger slows down, Otake will be coming on strong and potentially even breaking down Lobetania in the second half for a TKO. If Otake can't stop the Filipino, we still expect him to take a clear and wide decision, in what will be an exciting war, until Lobetania starts to slow and fade.
In recent years Japanese prospects have been fast tracked with alarming regularity. It's become almost the done thing in Japan, with promoters knowing that if a fighter can fight against good fighter's there no point in keep them busy and padding their records for years. The latest Japanese youngster to be headed on the fast track to the top is Hinata Maruta (5-0, 4), who was long tipped to be a star for the Morioka gym. This coming Friday Maruta will take a huge step up in class and look to prove that he belongs to be regarded as the next in the line of super talents, like Naoya Inoue and Kosei Tanaka, as he takes on OPBF Super Bantamweight champion Hidenori Otake (29-2-3, 13).
Of the two men it's probably Otake who is better known. He is a former Japanese national champion, the current OPBF champion and a former world title challenger, who showed his toughness in a wide loss to the then WBA champion Scott Quigg in the UK. Aged 36 he is in the twilight of his career, but has looked good recently whilst running up a 7 fight winning run, following the loss to Quigg. Those wins have included his OPBF title victory over Jelbirt Gomera and a stoppage win over Kinshiro Usui in his first defense.
At his best Otake was a teak tough fighter who was insanely tough and had incredible energy. He's now likely on the slide, but still appears to be incredibly tough, and know how to bring the relentless assault that can cause fighters to mentally crumble. Over 12 rounds very few fighters will look to have a toe-to-toe war with him. On the other hand Otake is technically flawed, crude around the edges. He's not a very accurate fighter, or a very heavy handed one, but he's very physically strong and fighters to his strengths, making fights a trench war and simply breaking down opponents with his relentlessness.
It should be noted that some cracks have appeared in Otake's toughness recently. He was cut a few fights back by the little known Alexander Espinoza, and he also struggled with Gomera, who has subsequently lost two more bouts. The Japanese warrior does like to set his feet before throwing, and against a mover, or a fighter with high ring IQ he can have his flaws taken advantage of.
Whilst Otake is probably the better known it's fair to say that fans in Japan do see Maruta as a star of the future. He's a handsome and fresh faced youngster, who has the looks to become a crossover star, he has the frame to move through a number of weights and more importantly he has the skills to go to the top. Aged 20 he is a prodigious talent, but one who has been known about long before his professional debut, with a solid amateur background and a team who regularly take him over to the US for training camps, building on his skills and experiences. Although still a boxing baby he won the WBC Youth Bantamweight title, and defended it twice, whilst also making a statement on debut by beating the then world ranked Jason Canoy.
In the ring Maruta is a slick, boxer-mover who has solid power, enough so to drop the teak tough Jason Canoy, one of the best jabs in the sport, a lovely ability to switch between head and body, good footwork and a very high ring IQ. He has been shown to turn off at time, but it often seems like he's doing so to get more experience and learn more about the sport and his opponents, rather than truly switching off. As a result he has lost a few rounds, but never come close to losing a fight.
One place where Maruta is perhaps a little “weak” is his experience. He has only had 26 professional rounds, compared to Otake's 219, but as mentioned he has held a number of training camps in the US, and that has seen him take part in long sessions, and share the ring with a number of other styles. Those training camps will help him fight over the longer distance, but we're still interested in how he will fair in the later rounds, especially with Otake's relentless forward march. Interestingly he has already been chin checked, taking some bombs from Canoy, and appears to have a very sturdy chin, but hasn't been tagged when he's tired yet.
We have seen Murata answer more questions in his first 5 bouts than most fighters, but it's clear that this bout has been made to allow him to prove even more. It's a chance for him to prove his stamina, and to prove his power, if he stops Otake it would be a huge statement, whilst a decision win would “just” be a big statement. This is certainly dangerous match making, but that seems to be the way they go with the top young talents in Japan, and it's part of what is making the Japanese scene so exciting right now. Young fighters are told to prove themselves, almost straight away.
We can see how Otake could win. We can see him just refusing to go away, taking Maruta in the deep water and drowning him, with either a late stoppage or a close decision. But our view is that Maruta's speed, skills and movement will be too much for Otake, and we even go as far as to say that a stoppage for Maruta isn't out of the question. The old adage “speed kills” is likely to play a factor here, and Maruta will be too quick and too sharp for the veteran, who will be made to look his 36 years of age, and will be finished off late into the bout.
The Super Bantamweight division is one of the most interesting around Asia, with Japan in particular having a very strong base for fighters. At the moment the country boasts two world champions, Shun Kubo and Yukinori Oguni, along with a host of contenders, like Ryosuke Iwasa, Tomoki Kameda, Hidenori Otake and Shingo Wake. Below those men are a number of rising fighters, looking to make their mark and move themselves into global contention.
Among those rising fighters is heavy handed Japanese champion Yusaku Kuga (14-2-1, 10) who looks to make his first defense of the title this coming Saturday, as he takes on the under-rated Ryoichi Tamura (8-2-1, 5). On paper the bout is “just” a Japanese title defense for Kuga, but an impressive win could see him jumping into the fringes of the world rankings, whilst Tamura will be looking to score a career best win and get his career rolling with a big win.
Earlier this year Kuga won the Japanese title stopping the popular Yasutaka Ishimoto in 2 rounds, announcing himself as a real dangerman. Prior to that he had been on the radar for a while. For most that was due to a loss to Ishimoto in 2015, though for others it was back in 2013 that he started to capture the imagination with a good win over former amateur standout Yusuke Suzuki and an unfortunate draw against Naoto Uebayashi. Those bouts began a run of solid performances that lead to Kuga getting his first bout with Ishimoto, which he lost narrowly.
The rematch with Ishimoto came after an impressive stoppage win over Jonathan Baat in 2016 and saw a more mature and more aggressive Kuga fight with the intention of taking Ishimoto out early, and he did drop him very quickly. With that aggression and power Kuga is a handful for many, and although he's flawed, with rough edges, he's a really dangerous fighter and not someone to have a war with.
Tamura made his debut back in May 2013 and lost to Wataru Miyasaka in a very competitive debut bout. That loss could have been it but instead Tamura's team showed their belief in him and kept putting him in hard fights. That resulted in a few early set backs, with Tamura being 3-2-1 (1) after 6 bouts, but developing massively into a solid professional during those early set backs. The tough love and hard development paid off and in 2015 Tamura beat Yusuke Suzuki, before following it up with stoppages against domestic foes like Yuki Matsuda, Ryoji Okahata, and Renji Ichimura. Those wins saw Tamura shoot up the rankings, and earn a shot at the title.
Although not the smoothest fighter Tamura is a strong and powerful fighter, with a very heavy right hand which he constantly looks to set up. Like Kuga he's more on the “crude” side of the spectrum, more so than Kuga in fact, and he can certainly be out boxed, but he does have some nice boxing skills and knows how to use his jab well, even if he under utilises it. Although he can jab and move he does seem to prefer fighting at close to mid range, and often looks like a fighter looking for a war.
With both fighters being crude, heavy handed sluggers this really could be a fire fight, and we'll admit that's what we're hoping for. If it is a fire fight we do suspect that Kuga will come out on top, making the most of his edge in speed and better accuracy and timing, , but with Tamura's power there is danger there that Kuga himself will be hurt. We don't see anyway this one can go the scheduled 10 rounds, but we also have no idea how this one can be anything but explosive given the two men involved.
The Super Bantamweight division is one of the most interesting in Japan right now, with two world champion, a really exciting national champion, a number of rising prospects and some top class contenders. This coming Wednesday we'll see two Japanese Super Bantamweights trading blows for the OPBF title, and the potential to meet one of the world's best prospects.
The bout in question will see OPBF Super Bantamweight Hidenori Otake (28-2-3, 12) defending the title for the first time, as he defends the crown against veteran Kinshiro Usui (27-5, 11) in a well matched all-Japanese bout. Whilst it's clear neither man is a spring chicken, with a combined age of 73, it's also clear that neither fighter can really afford a loss at this point in their career.
Of the two men Otake is the more well known. In 2012 he claimed the Japanese title, beating Takafumi Nakajima, and he went on to defend that title 4 times before vacating it in 2014, as he got a crack at Scott Quigg and the WBA world title. Although Otake came up short against Quigg, scarcely winning a round, he proved his toughness and his incredible engine going 12 rounds against the Englishman and rarely taking a backwards step.
Since losing to Quigg we've seen Otake go 6-0 (3), with a win over Jelbirt Gomera last time out for the OPBF title. During his 6 fight winning run that was the only win of real note, and the only bout at Super Bantamweight, following a short flirtation at Featherweight.
At his best Otake is a tough, rough and energetic fighter. He's not the quickest, the heaviest handed or the most skilled, but his will to win is second to none and it will take something very special to slow his charge forward.
Aged 37 Kinshiro Usui is a name many won't be familiar with, at all, despite the fact he's had a 15 year career and holds wins of note against the likes of Mike Tawatchai, Nobuhisa Coronito Doi, Masaaki Serie and Hikaru Marugame. He fought regularly between 2002 and 2011 before walking away from the ring for more than 3 years. In 2014 he began an unexpected comeback and reeled off 6 straight wins before losing last time out in a razor thin decision to Hisashi Amagasa, in a bout many felt he deserved.
Talented, and with a steely toughness, Usui is a solid boxer. Sadly at 37 his time is running out, and it's a shame it's taken more than 8 years for him to get his second shot at a title. He's got under-rated skills, decent speed for someone his age and real hunger, with it being clear that this could be his final shot at silverware.
On paper it's really against Usui here. He's older, smaller, less proven, less experienced and the lighter puncher. However he's coming in with little pressure on his shoulders and he will clearly be the under-dog.
We'd love to see Usui win here, it'd be a great way for him to end his career. Saying that however it's hard to bet against Otake, who has proven his title ability and will likely be too busy and too physical for the smaller, Usui.
Interestingly the winner of this is booked in to defend the title later in the year, against the very highly regarded Hinata Maruta in what could be the coming out party of the next Japanese boxing superstar.
In late 2014 Hidenori Otake (27-2-3, 12) came to the attention of the wider boxing world as he travelled to the UK to take on WBA Super Bantamweight champion Scott Quigg. The bout saw the Japanese fighter go from being a relative unknown outside of Tokyo, where he had fought all 26 of his previous bouts, to a man widely applauded for his toughness and stamina in going 12 tough rounds against Quigg.
Since losing to Quigg we've seen Otake score 5 wins, almost against less than notable competition, as he's moved back into title contention, and this coming Friday we'll see him return to title action to take on Filipino foe Jelbirt Gomera (12-1, 6). For Otake it's a chance to add an OPBF title to his collection, which also include a Japanese title from earlier in his career, whilst Gomera looks to announce himself on the Oriental scene.
The 35 year old Otake made his debut back in 2005 and was unbeaten in his first 8 bouts, going 6-0-2 (1) before suffering a loss to Manabu Koguchi in the 2007 East Japan Rookie of the Year final. That loss would be Otake's only defeat until his 2014 bout with Quigg. During the 7 years between losses Otake went on to score wins over the likes of Kentaro Masuda, Takafumi Nakajima, Mikihito Seto and Nobuhisa Coronita Doi as he won the Japanese Super Bantamweight title and recorded 4 defenses of the belt.
Sadly since losing to Quigg it does seem like Otake has slowed. Although he is 5-0 (3) since his bout with Quigg he did fail to shine when he took on Hernan Cortez and genuinely struggled past Alexander Espinoza. Although it might be unfair to say it but it does seem like Otake's body, at the age of 35, is slowing down and his once incredible stamina is wearing away. His toughness can't be question but there are cracks showing and his relative lack of power has seen him rack up close to 200 rounds of professional action in his 32 fight career, averaging a little over 6 rounds a fight. His stamina is undeniable but he lack of power has seen him stopping only 38% of his opponents so far.
Filipino fighter Gomera debuted back in April 2013 and has been a professional for close to 4 years. He won his first 4 bouts by stoppage and moved out to 10-0 (6), with a notable win over Ryan Rey Ponteras, before being stopped in 8 rounds by Mark Anthony Geraldo in November 2015. that has been Gomera's most notable bout to date but since that loss he has racked up two wins, with a win last time out over Eduardo Mancito to claim the Philippines Boxing Federation Featherweight title.
Other than his record little is really known about Gomera,though footage does suggest that he's a southpaw who likes to come forward, though isn't the most aggressive or the quickest. Although the footage is limited we have read fight reports suggesting that Gomera's last bout, against Mancito, was an exciting and bloody affair with Gomera getting up from a 2nd round knockdown to defeat Mancito. It's also worth noting that newspaper reports have given Gomera as being 19 when he lost to Geraldo, suggesting he is 20 or 21 at the moment, reports from that fight also suggest that Gomera is a gutsy fighter and pulled himself off the canvas a number of times against Geraldo.
Although he's the “unknown under-dog” Gomera is the youngster with a point to prove and we suspect he will give Otake a lot of problems here, especially with Otake showing his age in recent fights. Despite that we still think Otake's experience will be too much over the distance, but it will be a very close contest with Gomera proving himself as one to watch from the Philippines.
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.