The last bout of Asian interest for the month of January comes at the very end of the month as Filipino fighter Aston Palicte (24-2-1, 20) takes on unbeaten Puerto Rican Jose Martinez (20-0-2, 13) in a WBO Super Flyweight world title eliminator in California. The winner will become the mandatory challenger for the WBO title currently held by Donnie Nietes, who won the belt on December 31st in Macau when he defeated Kazuto Ioka. It's worth noting that a win for Palicte would set up a rematch with Nietes, after the two fought to a draw in 2018, whilst a win for Martinez would see the Puerto Rican getting his first world title fight.
The 27 year "Mightly" Palicte is a boxer-puncher who is huge for a Super Flyweight, standing at 5'8" with 68" reach. He's a strong and powerful fighter, who has technical holes to pick at, but does have underrated boxing ability, a very hard right hand and a stiff jab. Where he lacks most is in terms of speed, and he can be seen to be quite a bit slower and less sharp than the other top Super Flyweights. He used his size and timing well to neutralise that difference, but it is still clear than he's a split-second behind the top guys with his hands and feet.
During his career Palicte has mostly fought at home in the Philippines, but has travelled to Macau, Mexico and the USA, where he has linked up with Roy Jones Jr and his promotional company.
Palicte's key to winning is using his physicality, size and power, things that really are big advantages too him. He needs to look to get Martinez's respect, and keep him at the end of his hard straight punches. If he can do that he can chip away at Martinez before unloading powerful combinations at the Puerto Rican slows down.
Martinez is a 26 year old who is a more...regular sized Super Flyweight at 5'4" and with a 64" reach. His career began back in late 2011 and saw him reel off 18 wins, 11 by stoppage, before taking on the then 20 year old Alejandro Santiago Barrios. Barrios entered the bout as a bit of an unknown but was very unfortunate not to give Martinez his first defeat, in an 8 round bout. That win slowed Martinez's rise and a rematch in 2018 ended up pushing Barrios into an IBF title fight with Jerwin Ancajas, who was lucky to get a draw against the diminutive Mexican. Aside from the two bouts with Barrios there is little of major value on Martinez's record, with most notable wins being a win against an old, out of shape Juan Palacios and a win against Jesus Martinez, who has been stopped in 2 of his 3 subsequent bouts.
In the ring Martinez is a pretty unspectacular looking fighter. He appears to fight off the back foot a lot, throws arm punches, and has little in terms of crispness to his work, he looks defensively very liable and rushes a lot of what he does. We're not saying he's terrible, but to get such a big opportunity and to have shown so little actual skill is a worry. He's shown a willingness to bite down on his gum shield, he let his hands go, and he does seem to have power behind his shots, but looks pretty poor if we're being honest. In fact it does seem like someone likes him given the two very suspect draws with Barrios and his high ranking.
We suspect Martinez will have the confidence of an unbeaten fighter, but it's hard to imagine his wide and open style will work against Palicte. We suspect the Filipino will use his reach to counter the Puerto Rican before taking him out in the second half of the fight. If not, and if we get a surprise win for Martinez we can't see him posing any questions, at all, of Donnie Nietes in an eventual mandatory title fight.
Earlier this year we saw Takayuki Okumoto (21-8-3, 10) claim the Japanese Super Flyweight title, ending a short reign of Hiroyuki Kudaka. This coming Sunday he will make his first defense of the title, facing off with the unbeaten Masayoshi Hashizume (16-0-1, 10) in a bout between two Osaka based fighters each looking to end the year as a national champion and begin 2019 looking forward to a mandatory defense at the Champion Carnival.
The 26 year old champion won the title in his second shot at the belt, having come up short in his Japanese title challenge against Ryuichi Funai, via a 7th round technical decision. Despite losing to Funai he had been competitive and was certainly not embarrassing himself. In fact in many ways Okumoto's career is built up with solid efforts and peculiar match ups. They include taking on former world champion Ratanapol Sor Vorapin as a 15 year old in Thailand, something that just seems crazy now, and then returning to Thailand 6 years later and losing to Rusalee Samor. In recent years Okumoto has proven to be a very capable having scored wins over the likes of Yuta Saito, Sonin Nihei and the aforementioned Kudaka. In fact since losing to Samor in October 2013 Okumoto has gone 11-2-1 with the loses coming to Funai and Eaktwan BTU Ruaviking.
Okumoto is a southpaw fighter who brings the pressure straight away. He's relatively quick on his feet, and although he doesn't set a mega work rate he does seem to look for a higher tempo than perhaps would like. He has under-rated footwork, and can regularly be seen turning on his opponents, in a similar but much less effective way to Vasyl Lomachenko. Watching him you can see he's a student of the sport and does know how to do things. Sadly why he shows touches of brilliance he is still a very flawed fighter who lacks real power, doesn't have real crispness to his work and can get involved in messy bouts far too easily, something that happened against Kudaka with the two men falling in on each other regularly.
Hashizume is getting his first title shot at the age of 24 though the Ioka gym fighter has long been tipped for success, with fans and fighter himself likely frustrated at the progress of his career. He turned professional in 2013 and went on to win the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2014. It was then assumed he would be moved aggressively towards a title fight, and build on his 7-0 record with solid competition. Sadly however Hashizume's rise through the ranks stalled massively as he faced off with 7 inept Thai imports who were all stopped in a combined 21 rounds He had gone from a hot property to someone who was frustrating fans. Fans were further frustrated late last year when he did step up and could only just manage a draw with Kota Fujimoto. Thankfully since that draw the youngster has scored two decent wins over Takahiro Murai and Marjun Pantilgan.
We've been impressed by Hashizume on the most part. He looks the part, he's sharp, crisp, aggressive and looks like the short of fighter who is doing things instinctively. His southpaw jab is a huge weapon, his straight left hand is excellent and his movement is very confident. Sadly though he does look like a fighter who is very used to having things his own way and has all sorts of poor habits which have been allowed to build from his low level of competition. If he shows those flaws here, he could come up short against a less gifted but more skilled champion.
We think Hashizume is the more natural talent, but sometimes natural ability isn't the key and instead the will to win is. We suspect that that will be the case here, with Okumoto grinding out a messy decision win, likely having been behind in the early part of the fight.
The Japanese Youth titles will give future world champions their first chance to win a belt. That however isn't main focus of the belts, instead it's giving the youngsters a chance to fight meaningful fights for a physical reward before moving towards Japanese and OPBF title fight. On December 9th we see a bout that falls perfectly into that description, as Ryosuke Nasu (9-3-3, 2) and the hard hitting Yuto Nakamura (8-5, 7) battle for the Japanese Youth Super Flyweight title. The winner of this bout will become the new champion, and make a huge step towards getting a Japanese title fight down the line.
The 21 year old Nakamura is a serious puncher, but a flawed one. He began his career 2-2 (2), with two razor thin losses, and then reeled off 4 more wins before losing in a West Japan Rookie of the Year bout to Hibiki Jogo. Rather than step down a level after that loss we've seen Nakamura face stiff competition, suffering a stoppage loss to Matcha Nakagawa, a competitive decision loss to Tetsu Araki and score a huge win over Futa Akizuki, who lasted just 35 seconds.
Footage of Nakamura isn't massively easy to come by, though his fight with Nakagawa is on Boxingraise and that fight, given how recent it was, is a good reflection of Nakamura's style. He appears to be an aggressive fight who applies steady pressure, looking to make the most of his power. Sadly for him it's his defense that was an issue in that fight, with Nakagawa picking him apart with his southpaw jab and straight left hands. He looked like his desire to fight was there when the referee stepped in, but the reality is that he looked slow and open to being tagged. We suspect that his problem going forward will always be his defense and that needs to tighten up a lot for him to reach Japanese title level.
The 20 year old Nasu debuted just weeks before his 19th birthday and began 1-1-1 before reeling off a few wins and getting his career going. Thing then began to his another rough patch, with a draw to Joe Shiraishi and an opening round loss to Masamichi Yabuki. He put those results behind him with a huge win against Naoto Iwai but would again struggle to build on the win before losing this past February to Ricardo Sueno. That loss was followed by a win over Kenta Matsui but in reality he's been awfully inconsistent.
Despite being inconsistent Nasu is a talented fighter when he puts it all together. He showed that when he defeated the talented Iwai. He did that by keeping things simple, he marched forward behind an accurate jab, didn't waste energy and countered brilliantly. It wasn't a performance that will anyones socks off, but it was a technically solid display against a man who looked the more gifted fighter. The feeling we get from watching him is that he's a very technical fighter, but someone who doesn't have much power, speed or inventiveness to his work. Technical but basic if you will.
We suspect the power of Nakamura will be the difference and he will be able to stop Nasu, however he will have to take some clean shots on route. In the end it will be too much pressure and power from Nakamura for Nasu to survive 8 rounds with, something we feel confident on given how quickly Yabuki stopped Nasu down at Flyweight.
On November 10th the Korakuen Hall plays host to an IBF Super Flyweight world title eliminator. The men involved are Japanese veteran Ryuichi Funai (30-7, 21) and Mexican youngster Victor Emanuel Olivo (15-2-1, 7), with the reward for the winner being a potential shot at Jerwin Ancajas in 2019. For Funai the bout is a must win, given he's 33 and he doesn't have time to rebuild his career, whilst Olivo will be looking to put himself on the map at the age of 22.
The Japanese fighter, from the Watanabe gym, has been a professional since 2005 and has carved out a really respectable career, especially when you consider he was 202 after 4 professional contests. In 2012 he got his first shot at a title, but was stopped in 9 rounds by the then OPBF Bantamweight champion Rolly Lunas. That loss to Lunas saw a then 27 year old Funai fall to 17-6 (11) but since then he has gone an impressive 14-1 (10) with his only loss being a razor thin one to Sho Ishida, in a Japanese Super Flyweight title bout.
Although Funai had lost in his first couple of title bouts he has since claimed the Japanese national title, winning that last year from childhood friend Kenta Nakagawa, and the WBO Asia Pacific title, which he won this year by stopping Warlito Parrenas. Since going 0-2 in title bouts Funai has since 4-0 (3) and has edged his way towards a world title fight. Another win when he faces Olivo will secure him that shot and open up the door for a career defining contest.
In the ring Funai is an accomplished boxer-puncher, who has lovely variety in his shots, boxes well behind a solid jab to control the distance. Although not a pure puncher Funai does have very respectable power in his right hand, and not many fighters will be wanting to eat his straight right, with is very straight and very hurtful.
The 22 year old Olivo made his debut at the age of 17 on the Mexican domestic scene. He would win his first 9 bouts, including a good domestic win over Jonathan Sanchez Cantu, before suffering a narrow loss to Milan Melindo in November 2015. Since then Olivo hasn't really faced anyone of any note, whilst going 6-1-1 (3). His sole loss during that time was a narrow decision loss to Jose Briegel Quirino whilst he would fight to a draw with Angel Aviles. Sadly there is little else to comment on from his record, and it's a real mystery as to why the IBF have him in their top 15 ranked fighters.
We've not been able to see much of Olivo, as footage of the Mexican is scarce. What we have seen however is that he's a very capable fighter with the ability to counter punch, as he did brilliantly at times against Melindo, and has the ability to pick up the pace as well. Sadly for him he does look to be a light puncher and it seems like he's also very under-sized for a Super Flyweight, having been no bigger than Melindo, a natural Light Flyweight.
We suspect the size difference could be a key difference here, and whilst we expect Olivo to have success, especially with his counters, we think Funai's size, strength and power will be the key to him taking home the victory and setting up a 2019 clash for the IBF title. If Olivo does manage to score the upset then he'll certainly have his best career win, and would make a bigger statement with a win here than his previous 15 combined. For Funai however a win here wouldn't actually be his most impressive, despite being among his most significant.
Despite the fact there is still a lot of boxing left in 2018 we are heading to the end of the year. That means that we get to see the Japanese boxing scene decide it's title contenders for the next Champion Carnival. The Super Flyweight bout at the next Champion Carnival will feature either Yuta Matsuo (14-3-1, 7) or Rey Orais (20-17-2, 5) challenging for the title, with the two men meeting on October 12th decide who will be getting a shot at the gold.
Of the two men Matsuo is the one who has been active and mixing at Japanese domestic domestic level for a while. In fact the 29 year old from the World Sport Boxing gym fought for the interim Japanese Flyweight title last year, and pushed Masayuki Kuroda hard in tough 10 round loss. Since then he has bounced back with 2 notable domestic wins, over-coming Kazuto Nakane and Ryoji Fukunaga, whilst moving up in weight. Notably the loss to Kuroda is Matsuo's only defeat since a split decision loss to Ardian Diale in May 2015.
Entering the bout Matsuo is #1 ranked JBC fighter and although the ranking is high, given how stiff the division is. Despite that he is a capable fighter. He's defensively solid, technically sound and is an intelligent fighter who applies pressure behind his guard and smart footwork. Sadly he's not that most active in the ring or the hardest hitter, but he is consistent through the fight. He's a bit 1-paced and 1 dimensional but at this level have a good single dimension can be enough to be a domestic contender.
Orais is a Japanese based Filipino fighter who, at the age of 34, is in the twilight of his in ring career and is currently a trainer at the Flare Yamagami gym. He fought regularly between 2000 and 2008, facing the likes of Oleydong Sithsamerchai, Bert Batawang and Denkaosan Kaovichit before taking a 10 year break from fighting that ended this year, with a win over Ken Achiwa. That win helped secure Orais a #2 ranking with the JBC, but is does mean that he has fought just 6 rounds in the 10 years coming into this bout. In his prime he certainly had mixed results, with a less than stellar record. Despite his record he did mix at a good level, and his win over Achiwa showed their was still life in the old dog.
Despite Orais being inactive for a decade prior to the bout with Achiwa he really impressed, showing no signs of ring rust and instead looking sharp, quick and confident. He wasn't particularly accurate but out worked, out fought and out boxed Achiwa whilst showing good movement and intelligent boxing, as well as a sense of flare and charisma. That flare can be seen in some of his more wild shots, but it's obvious that Orais can still fight, and do so at a good pace.
In some ways this is the textbook boxing of Matsuo against the wild and exciting Orais. We expect those styles to be a mess together, but an interesting mess. Matsuo should have the youth, size and hunger to out box Orais, but he will almost certainly be caught by some of the unpredictable shots of Orais.
Although Orais will have moments it's hard to see anything but a decision win for Matsuo, who's intelligent and consistency will be enough to secure the win and his place in the 2019 Champion Carnival.
The Super Flyweight division is one of the most talent laden division's in the sport today with fighters like Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Jerwin Ancajas, Juan Francisco Estrada, Donnie Nietes and Kazuto Ioka all being among the notable names competing at 115lbs. Sadly the division is a bit of a top heavy one right now, with a lot of world level talent and not much really making their mark on the Japanese domestic scene. At the moment the Japanese national champion is veteran Hiroyuki Kudaka (26-17-2, 11), who claimed the title earlier this year when he over-came Go Onaga to claim his second professional title almost 8 years after he claimed the WBC International Silver Flyweight title.
This coming Friday Kudaka looks to make his first defense of the Japanese Super Flyweight title as he takes on 26 year old southpaw challenger Takayuki Okumoto (20-8-3, 10) at the EDION Arena Osaka.
Although Kudaka is a relatively limited champion he has long been a must watch fighter. Win or lose Kudaka is a fun to watch fighter and despite being 33 years old he is still a fighter gets involved in wars, is durable enough to go the distance and has the stamina to lets his hands go in every round. At his very best, around a decade ago, he was a very good fighter who gave hell to the likes of Denkaosan Kaovichit, Takefumi Sakata, Panomroonglek Kaiyanghadaogym, Tetsuya Hisada, Oleydong Sithsamerchai and Sonny Boy Jaro, taking several wins from the fighters in that group. Over the last few years however he has picked up more losses than wins, coming up short against the likes of Ryo Matsumoto, Omar Andres Narvaez, Takuya Kogawa, Mark John Yap and Takuma Inoue.
The Osakan champion began his career back in 2002 when he was stopped inside a round. Since then however he has proven a tough nut with only Narvaez stopping him in the subsequent 44 bouts. He can be dropped, he can be hurt but his fighting heart is hard to break and he will always look to come forward and break down opponents, especially at this domestic level. He lacks the power to take them out with one shot, but will look to grind them down and secure the wins on the scorecards. He can do that at domestic level, but above Japanese level he does seem to lack the skills to match his desire.
The challenger made his debut in 2007, as a 15 year old in Thailand. Despite winning his debut he would be stopped in his second bout, also in Thailand. He would then be out of the ring for close to 2 years before making his Japanese debut and would lose his first bout in Japan. Following that loss he would go on an 8 fight unbeaten run, going 7-0-1 whilst defeating novice Japanese and Thai opponents. That winning run would come to an end when Okumoto stepped up in class, losing back to back bouts to Myung Ho Lee and Kohei Kubo, then being held to a draw by Akiyoshi Kanazawa, who would go on to beat Okumuto in a rematch between the two men. Even a return to Thailand failed to help Okumoto rebuild his career momentum as Rusalee Samor stopped him in 2 rounds.
Despite the struggles Okumoto continued his career and actually managed to reel off 6 straight wins, including victories over Shota Kawaguchi and Yuta Saito, before losing a close decision to Thailand's Komgrich Nantapetch, aka Eaktwan BTU Ruaviking. That loss to the Thai was a set back but it was one that Okumoto bounced back from with a pair of stoppage wins before a technical draw with Eranio Semillano slowed his rise once again. It was only a temporary slowdown however as his next fight would see him getting a Japanese title fight with Ryuichi Funai, who took a technical decision over Okumoto.
In the ring Okumoto really doesn't do anything special. He's gritty and can make fights ugly, but really isn't that powerful, that strong or that quick. His flaws however should lead to a fun fight here with Kudaka pressing the action and forcing both men to unload shots up close. We suspect the flaws of Okumoto will be his downfall, and Kudaka will be too be experienced, too tough and too busy for the challenger, in what will be a fun and entertaining contest, but one that Kudaka comes out on top of.
The 2017 Champion Carnival had a number of rematches, across the weight classes. This year however was a bit different and there hasn't been the same feeling of “seen this one before”. The one real exception is the 2018 Champion Carnival bout fort Super Flyweight title, with the bout pitting Go Onaga (28-3-4, 19) and Hiroyuki Kudaka (25-17-2,11) in their second bout, in the space of just over 4 months.
The two men battled last December in a bout to decide who would be facing Ryoichi Funai for the Japanese Super Flyweight title. That bout resulted in a very disappointing and frustrating 3rd round technical draw, due to a nasty headclash, with Kudaka being assured a shot at the title. Funai would then vacate the title, and turn his attention to fighting for a world title, and as a result we not get this rematch between the two veterans.
Of the two men it's Kudaka, who previously fought as Hiroyuki Hisataka, who is the more well known. He is a 4-time world title challenger, who has challenged Takefumi Sakata, Denkaosan Kaovichit, Hugo Fidel Cazares and Omar Andres Narvaez. As well as that world title experience he has also shared the ring with a genuine who's who of the lower weights, including Tomonobu Shimizu, Hussein Hussein, Panomroonglek Kaiyanghadaogym, Oleydong Sithsamerchai, Sonny Boy Jaro, Ryo Matsumoto, Takuya Kogawa, Keisuke Nakayama, Tetsuya Hisada, Mark John Yap, and Takuma Inoue.
Kudaka hasn't just mixed who's a who's who but often held his own thanks to his under-rated skill set, which is something his record really doesn't reflect. Kudaka's record suggests he's a bum, if we're being honest, but he has suffered losses due to the very tough competition he has been up against. Even against the best of that competition he has shown impressive toughness, stamina, work rate and aggression. He marches forward, sometimes quite crudely, throws a lot of leather and looks to make for exciting, fan friendly bouts. He's not the biggest puncher, mostly due to his flawed technique, but he is an imposing Super Flyweight who will take a lot of damage in in the hope of wearing down his opponent, or out working them, which makes him so tricky fighter.
At 32, and given his style, Kudaka doesn't have long left in his career. He already has over 300 rounds since debuting in 2002, but he will know this will probably be his final title fight, if he loses. Through his career so far he has come up short in bouts for the Interim Japanese title, WBC Youth title, WBA and WBO world titles, and WBC International title. In fact from his 8 previous title bouts, he has gone 1-7 winning only the WBC International Silver Flyweight Title.
Aged 37 Onaga is a man who has had a very frustrating career, and has become one of the forgotten fighters of the now top level Ohashi gym. He, like Kudaka, debuted back in 2003 and he was unbeaten in his first 16 bouts. That unbeaten run came to an end in a bout for a Japanese interim title, as he was stopped by future world champion Yota Sato. A second loss would come less than 2 years later, when he was beaten by Teiru Kinoshita in a bout for the Japanese Super Flyweight title. Interestingly that loss came following a technical draw with Kinoshita in a bout at the Strongest Korakuen, before the title was vacated by Sato for a world title fight. A little bit of history repeating here for Onaga.
The loss to Kinoshita was followed by a 10 fight winning run from Onaga, with wins over Reyan Rey Ponteras, Breilor Teran, Masafumi Otake, Jonas Sultan and Renoel Pael. Sadly for Onaga that run came to an end in 2016, when he was beaten by Rene Dacquel, and since then he has gone 1-0-2, though could well have lost a 2017 bout to Ryan Lumacad. In recent bouts Onaga hasn't good, and despite having a very good win over Jonas Sultan less than 3 years ago, there was a feeling that Onaga got a bit of luck from the judges.
We know Onaga wants to win a title before he retires. He has never managed to hide that desire, but we feel this shot has come several years too late. He has a chance, but we feel that his 37 year old legs won't be ale to keep up with the aggression or pressure of Kudaka. Both will be cautious not to have another head clash early in the bout, but Kudaka will still be the busier, more aggressive amn and the one who impresses the judges to take the win and the title.
One of the lesser title bouts this coming weekend, and a bout that could easily be over-looked given the quality of little men in action Stateside, will see OPBF Super Flyweight champion Rene Dacquel (20-6-1, 6) defending his title against Andrew Moloney (15-0, 10). The Filipino will be hunting his 4th defense of the title, all of which have been on the road, whilst Moloney will be seeking his biggest win as a professional and both men will be looking to take a huge step step towards a world title fight.
The Filipino 27 year old has been a great servant on the regional scene with bouts in both his homeland and in Japan since his August 2011 debut. Unlike many Filipino's he has had great success in Japan with a 4-2-1 record in the country,including wins over Go Onaga,Yuki Nasu and Hayato Kimura and is 1-0 in South Africa. Not only has he scored big wins on the road but also at home with wins over Lucky Tor Buamas and Melvin Gumban.
Although not a puncher Dacquel is a talented boxer with respectable power, good rounded skills and a good boxing brain. He couples those traits with good stamina, a lot of good experience and confidence. He has completed the 12 round schedule 7 times in his 27 fight career and despite only one stoppage in the last 36 months he has dropped a number of opponents. During that same 36 month period his only losses have been to quality operators in the form of Jonas Sultan and Takuma Inoue, both of who are genuine world class fighters.
The unbeaten Moloney is also 27 and before he made his debut, back in 2014, he had been a stand out amateur, winning Gold at the 2014 Commonwealth games and competing at 3 World Amateur Championships. That amateur experience allowed Moloney to be put on a bit of a fast track and he claimed his first title in just his second bout. Subsequent titles have been won since with Moloney claiming national and Continental titles early in his career. Despite his good record and title wins he has got questions about his competition, with his best win likely a decision over Ryohei Takahashi or Renoel Pael. Although he does have a win over world title challenger Jether Oliva it's fair to say that Oliva had seen better days down at Light Flyweight and seemed to have given up as a professional by the time Moloney fought him.
The Australian isn't just a talented fighter but also a solid puncher. He has stopped his last 3 foes, in a combined 11 rounds, and has stopped 6 of his last 7. Interestingly however he's never scored a stoppage after round 6 and it's possible that his power does go down in the later rounds. On the same theme he has only done 8 or more rounds 3 times, and has never gone the 12 round distance, perhaps giving Dacquel a gameplan of coming on strong.
Right now the Super Flyweight division is widely regarded as one of the most interesting, most talent laden and most exciting, with a list of great fighters like Naoya Inoue, Jerwin Ancajas, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Kal Yafai, Juan Francisco Estrada, Roman Gonzalez, Carlos Cuadras and Rex Tso, just to name a few. Understandably with so much talent in the division it's easy to overlook some of the fighters looking to become contenders, one of whom is Japanese domestic champion Ryuichi Funai (28-7, 19), who will be looking for his second defense this coming Monday. In the opposite corner to Funai will be 33 year old Shota Kawaguchi (21-8-1, 9), who will know that this bout could be his final title bout of note, if he loses again.
The 32 year old Funai is one of a number of fighters looking for a shot at a big bout at 115lbs. Despite his record he is a very credible fighter and well deserving of the world rankings he has, but at 32 time is running out on the Watanabe man, who only won the Japanese title earlier this year after more than 12 years as a professional. Funai began his career in February 2005, and lost 2 of his first 4. He managed to find some form, and even fought future world champion Shinsuke Yamanaka way back in 2009, suffering a 7th round TKO loss.
Early stumbles were put behind Funai who has gone 15-2 in recent years, losing only to Rolly Lunas and Sho Ishida, both in title fights. That 17 fight run has seen Funai really show his worth and score notable wins over talented fighters, like Gakuya Furuhashi, Akinori Hoshino, Ryuta Otsuka, Ryan Bito and most notably Kenta Nakagawa, who he stopped in 7 rounds for the Japanese title back in March.
In the ring Funai is a pretty solid boxer puncher. He's not got any “outstanding” attributes, but he's a solid all rounder, with much better skills than his record suggests, a steely determinedness, good stamina and under-rated power, which has seen him score stoppages in 9 of his last 15 wins. He's a front foot fighter, though one who is best at mid-range, who believes in his toughness and isn't scared of taking a shot if he feels he's going to land one of his own. It's also worth noting that when he has his man hurt, he doesn't mind taking a gamble to try and finish them off.
Kawaguchi is some way outside of the world rankings, though is aware a win here could push him into them, but has actually mixed with a number of notable names. Sadly during his 11 year career we've seen Kawaguchi suffer defeats to the likes of Sonny Boy Jaro and Rene Dacquel, and his best win are over the likes of Yodgoen Tor Chalermchai, Jonathan Francisco and Rakniran Muadransarakam.
Kawaguchi is a respectable domestic level, and possibly even continental level, fighter at best, but with a questionable chin and less than great power he really is dependent on his skills and a bit of luck, and luck doesn't tend to strike your career when you're 33 and are 4-4 in your last 8. In all honest it's that sort of form which is damning to Kawaguchi's hopes. He's not a bad fighter, but can be bullied, can be out boxed, out fought and hurt and he's yet to really prove that he much for Funai to be afraid of.
We think Kawaguchi will actually start quite well, as the champion takes a couple of rounds to work his way into the bout. As soon as he does he will likely take over, and we're expecting Funai to stop his man in the middle to late rounds, and secure his second defense. He could then begin trying to lure a world champion into the ring for a fight, but the reality is that he's really going to have to earn a shot, and that's unlikely to be easy given his age, and the depth in the division. Instead we suspect he'll hang around at domestic level and try and rack up a few more defenses before being dethroned by a younger, fresher and hungrier man.
The Super Flyweight division is one of, if not the, best in the sport right now with so many top fighters making waves whilst fighting at 115lbs. That's top talent fighters like Naoya Inoue and Roman Gonzalez, as well as top entertainment fighters, like Rex Tso and Jamie Conlan.
This coming Sunday we get the chance to see a huge show in Japan with two world title bouts, one at Minimumweight and one at Light Flyweight. In the chief supporting to those to world title fights we'll see Japanese Super Flyweight champion Ryuichi Funai (27-7,19) look to make his first defense as he takes on Takayuki Okumoto (18-7-3, 8), in yet another really interesting bout at 115lbs.
Funai won the title earlier this year, when he beat old friend Kenta Nakagawa with a 7th round KO. That win has been the defining one of his career, which had seen him come up short in previous title bouts to Sho Ishida and Rolly Lunas, as well in a notable bout against Shinsuke Yamanaka. An early career dogged by set backs, with Funai being 2-2 and later 8-4, could have spelled the end but he has gritted it out, been determined and forged a notable career whilst scoring wins over Hiroki Shiino, Gakiya Furuhashi, Ryuta Otsuka and course Nakagawa.
Aged 31 Funai is a real ring veteran, having debuted back in 2005, despite that he is still a quick fighter and combines ring experience with natural ability, a gritty determination and under-rated toughness, with his only stoppages in the last decade coming at Bantamweight. In fact his loss in his last 11 bouts has been a razor thin one to Sho Ishida in a Japanese title fight back in 2016.
Funai isn't going to be looking to mix with Inoue, Gonzalez and the truly top fighter at the pinnacle of the division, but he's got the ability to be a challenger of a world title in the future, and has a team who can push for that opportunity in the future. He's a good all rounder, but has nothing that stand out as being truly world class, at the moment, about him.
Aged 25 Okumoto is the much younger fighter here, yet is himself a bit of a veteran having debuted back in 2007 as a 15 year old in Thailand. He had mixed success, going 1-1, before maturing out of the ring for a bit and resurfacing in 2009 in Japan. Like Funai we saw Okumoto struggle early in his career, going 1-2 in his first 3 and 3-2-1 in his first 6 bouts. Despite those early struggles he kept going, and started to show clear signs of improvement, running his record up to 8-2-1 (4) before coming up just short against Myung Ho Lee in late 2011.
Okumoto's good run was then following by a bad one, and from 8-2-1 he slipped to 10-6-2 (5) and it seemed like his career was coming to a screaming halt. Amazingly though he has turned things around, scoring notable domestic wins over Yuki Yonaha, Shota Kawaguchi, Yuta Saito and Sonin Nihei, as well as a good win over Filipino Romel Oliveros. He hasn't been perfect in his recent run, but he has looked like a young fighter finding his groove, with his only loss being a split decision to Eaktwan BTU Ruaviking and his only other set back being a technical draw with Eranio Semillano.
Okumoto has under-rated power and is tougher than you'd expect, given he has a couple of stoppage losses but hasn't shown that he belongs in the same company as the likes of Funai. With that in mind we do see him losing this one, but in the long term another loss won't be a big problem for the youngster, who will be able to take positives from another defeat and develop further.
We see a close start here, before Funai takes over and stops the challenger in the later rounds, following a good effort from Okumoto, who is stepping up too much too fast here.
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.