The Super Flyweight division is a really interesting one at the moment, with the division full of talent and interesting match ups. We, of course, have a WBO world title fight later in the year between Kazuto Ioka and Aston Palicte, but before that we'll actually see a WBO world title eliminator, as unbeaten Puerto Rican Jeyvier Cintron (10-0, 5) takes on Japan's Koki Eto (24-4-1, 19), with the winner assured a world title fight against the Ioka Vs Palicte winner.
Those who have followed the Asian scene over the last few years will likely have seen Eto in action, and will likely be aware that he is incredibly entertaining. He's not the best boxer out there, he's not the most technically skilled, or the most naturally talented, but he is a true warrior with a style that really does lead to exciting fights. Early in his career he was one of 3 fighting brothers, along with Taiki and Shingo Eto. Despite their being 3 brothers Koki was the only one to really have success, with Shingo and Taiki both losing in OPBF and JBC title bouts.
Koki's biggest claim to fame was his memorable WBA "interim" Flyweight title win in Thailand, beating Kompayak Porpramook in 2013 in a FOTY candidate. He would lose the belt in his first defense, being stopped by Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep, but bounce back by winning the OPBF Flyweight title in a war with Ardin Diale. The following year he moved up in weight and was relatively competitive with Carlos Cuadras in a WBC Super Flyweight title bout. Since that loss Eto has gone 7-0 (6), albeit at a low level with his best wins coming against Filipino domestic level fighters.
Although Eto isn't the most skilled he does have great energy, an incredible will to win, under-rated power and real desire. Sadly he is flawed, he is open, he does lack in terms of skills, and has questionable concentration levels. Also he's had an incredibly tough career and taken a lot of damage. Whilst we have joked in the past that Eto would trade knockdowns with himself whilst shadow boxing, there is air of truth to it, as he really is that wild at times and could be dropped any time, despite having a decent chin.
Whilst Eto is relatively well known for his exciting fights Cintron is probably better known for amateur exploits than his professional career. He is a 2-time Olympian, competing at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, and a former standout of the Puerto Rican boxing scene. Although he failed to medal at the Olympics he did win a Silver medal at the 2012 Youth World Championships and a bronze at the 2014 Central American and Caribbean Games. He would also compete in the WSB before eventually signing with Top Rank and turning professional in 2017. His early bouts were, as we typically see in the west, nothing to talk about, but in his 7th bout he took a WBO Youth title, then quickly added the WBO Latino title to his collection. Cintron has since defended the Latino title twice, and raced up the WBO world rankings, leading to this bout.
With 10 bouts to his name it's fair to assume that Cintron hasn't faced many fighters of note, but his last 4 foes have a combined record of 70-13-3 and he has looked good in those bouts. Cintron has a style that clearly has good amateur foundations. His movement is light and looks natural, his punching is crisp, and his combinations look hurtful. He has a very nasty looking straight left hand, and gauges distances really with it.
We're expecting t0 see Eto be his usual aggressive self. He has a chance of catching Cintron early on and causing the Puerto Rican some issues in the first round or two. Sadly for Eto he's going to struggle as soon as Cintron gets his timing down, and from then on the Puerto Rican will land at will, really testing the bravery and resilience of Eto. Sadly we suspect the long and hard career of Eto will come back to bite him here.
Prediction TKO7 Cintron
On April 21st fight fans in Osaka will get a Japanese title double header. One of the bouts headlining that show will see Japanese Super Flyweight champion Takayuki Okumoto (21-8-4, 10) make his second defense, and take on mandatory challenger Yuta Matsuo (15-3-1, 8).
The 27 year old champion is a 12 year veteran of the sport. If that sounds mathematically strange it is, and that's because Okumoto started his career as a 15 year old, fighting in Thailand. He had mixed success, going 1-1 with the loss coming to former world champion Ratanapol Sor Vorapin, before waiting to mature and fight on Japanese soil, where he has fought all but 1 of his subsequent 31 bouts. Whilst he's no world beater Okumoto has proven to be a gutsy fighter, who is improving, has a good work rate and is certainly not a typical 21-8-4 fighter. His long career has seen him beat the likes of Shota Kawaguchi, Yuta Saito and Hiroyuki Kudaka, come up short against the likes of Ratanapol, Eaktwan BTU Ruaviking and Ryuichi Funai.
Okumoto is a southpaw with credible speed and power, a wealth of experience and under-rated skills. He's not heavy handed or lightening quick, but he is all round pretty solid with a good boxing brain a relative toughness and good patience. He can come forward, boxing on the back foot and fight as the counter puncher. Sadly whilst Okumoto is a good all rounder he isn't likely to make a mark above domestic level. He's not got any elite level quality, and that's typically needed for fighters to reach the top, but he will be a hard man to dethrone at this level and it will take a special domestic fighter to beat him.
The challenger, 29 year old Matsuo, is relatively unknown though has been in an around the title mix for a few years now. He did earn this shot last year, stopping veteran Rey Orais in 5 rounds to become the mandatory challenger, and this will be his second title fight. Matsuo has been a professional since 2012 and his most notable contests to date have been losses to Ardin Diale, in 2015, and Masayuki Kuroda, in 2017. Despite those losses it is worth noting that he has scored noteworthy wins over Yota Hori, Ryuto Oho and Ryoji Fukunaga, all of which are good domestic wins but there's little to suggest he will have much success above the domestic level.
Watching Matsuo we see a relatively active boxer with an aggressive mentality. He's not the quickest or the sharpest, but he does have a rather unique rhythm, bouncing at mid-distance with and getting in and our. he's quite quick, with both hands and feet, and has a slight jerkiness to his style. It's a more aggressive style than that of Okumoto, but also a less rounded style, and a much more energy intensive one, with a lot of excess movement.
This isn't the biggest title bout we'll see in Japan this year, but could end up being one of the most competitive, with two well matched, flawed, but promising fighters. Both are true domestic level fighters and both will put it all on the line here.
Being at home, and being the champion, Okumoto will have the crowd behind him and we think that could be a key factor here. The bout is a 50-50 one, though we suspect that the home advantage will be enough to help earn Okumoto the decision victory, in a very hotly contest bout.
The Japanese Youth title scene is a really interesting one, with a number of promising youngsters breaking through and getting a chance to having meaningful bouts very early in their careers. Whilst not all Youth champions will go on to great success the youth title have certainly given us pretty interesting and well matched bouts at a lower level.
On April 14th we get a host of shows, with one in Tsu being headlined by a Japanese Youth Super Flyweight title bout. That bout will see heavy handed champion Yuto Nakamura (9-5, 7) make his first defense of the title, and take on little known challenger Toma Kondo (7-4, 1).
Nakamura won the title last December, when he took a razor thin decision win over Ryosuke Nasu, building on an impressive opening round win over Futa Akizuki just a few months earlier. Those two wins helped Nakamura rebuild from a series of set backs, and saw him put himself on the map, even if it was only at Japanese Youth title level.
Although unlikely to ever be a player at the top echelons of the domestic scene Nakamura is a solid boxer-puncher. He's exciting and a heavy handed but crude, a bit on the wild side but aggressive and pretty fan friendly. When his power comes into play it is genuinely fight changing, as Akizuki found out, but there is a real worry that his power won't carry up and it never really seemed to worry Nasu last time out. In fact if anything it was Nasu's shots that left Nakamura looking like a damaged fighter, with serious cuts and swelling around his face, and Nasu is not a puncher.
Whilst Nakamura put himself on the map last year it was a year to forget from Kondo, who lost 2 of his 3 bouts. In fact Kondo is 1-3 in his last 4 bouts and hasn't looked good since losing in the 2017 All Japan Rookie of the Year final to Joe Shiraishi. At 22 years old there is clearly time to rebuild, and get his career back on track, but at the moment his confidence isn't going to be high and there will be pressure on him to win here.
Despite Kondo's poor recent results his performances haven't actually been bad and he's looked like a really promising young fighter. Last time out he lost to Tsuyoshi Sato, by TKO in round 5, and he had really solid moments in the bout but was always under intense pressure from a very aggressive fighter. Kondo looks to be a solid pure boxer, with nice skills, a good jab and intelligent movement. Sadly though he has a total lack of power and he will always struggle to get the respect of his opponents.
Kondo has the skills to counter and frustrate Nakamura but the huge difference in power will be a massive difference here, and we suspect Kondo's inability to get respect from Nakamura will be a massive problem. Nakamura isn't as technically good as Kondo, or as quick or as sharp, but we expect he'll be successful here and retain his title.
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.
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.