The Light Middleweight division is certainly one where Asian fighters have failed, at least in recent years, to make their make internationally. Long gone are the days of Ki Soon Kim, Koichi Wajima, Jae Doo Yuh and Masashi Kudo. Despite that the OPBF Light Middleweight title is a treasured title with a rich history that dates back to the 1960's and has been by held fighters like Tadashi Mihara, In Chul Baek, Yung-Kil Chung, Daniel Geale and Charlie Ota, who have used it to gain and establish world rankings.
At the moment the title is vacant though that is expected to change this coming Thursday when Japan's heavy handed Tadashi Yuba (46-9-2, 33) battles against Filipino Dennis Laurente (48-5-5, 29) in what promises to be an incredibly exciting contest between two men looking to add one more big win to their long records.
Of the two men it's Yuba who is better known and the easier man to get footage of. In fact in some ways Yuba is genuinely a celebrated fighter in Japan, having managed to win national titles in 5 weight divisions, from Lightweight to Middleweight, something no one else has done on the Japanese scene. Part of that success is his insane power whilst another part is his freakish size which has helped him climb through the weights.
Stood at 6” Yuba was a relative beanpole when he won the Japanese Lightweight title in the early part of the century. Since then he has filled out and although he still looks freakishly thin he still manages to hit with genuinely nasty power. As well as being heavy handed and freakishly rangy and tall Yuba is also a southpaw making him a nightmare to fight in yet another way.
Although a nightmare in many ways Yuba is also an incredibly flawed fighter who is offensively wild, defensively open and doesn't have the greatest of chins. We're not saying he's “chinny” per se but he's not made of granite and with his defensive liabilities this is a major issue, as seen in a number of his losses. Another issue is that he can be bullied around by a strong fighter and although he often has success on the back foot he can be made to look negative at times as he backs up looking for his powerful left hand. If a fighter can push back Yuba and prevent him from landing the left hand then Yuba is often in trouble,. Saying that however Yuba can fire back in a slugfest and win, as he did in a thriller with Carlos Linares.
There is a lot out there on Yuba and he has genuinely been in with a who's who of the Japanese boxing scene including the likes of Takayuki Hosokawa, Charlie Ota, Akinori Watanabe, Koji Watanabe and Motoki Sasaki. On the other hand Laurente isn't as well known, hasn't faced a similar level of competition and, although he is world ranked, he hasn't scored many wins that have really caught our attention.
Laurente's first break out win saw him claiming the OPBF Lightweight title when he beat the then unbeaten Yosuke Otsuka in Japan. His reign as the OPBF champion was long but lacked any real substance and it wasn't until 2006 that he scored another win of note, beating Rustam Nugaev. His next wins of note came against Zaid Zavaleta and Ben Tackie, both of whom are better known for their losses than their wins.
In recent years Laurente has seemed happier to pick up wins that genuinely achieve anything. As a result only 1 of his last 5 opponents, Khomkaew Sithsaithong, has actually had a winning record. Unsurprisingly he has stopped all 5 of them, with the last 3 ending via body shots, and you now need to go back more than 2 years to find his last notable opponent, Kenny Abril, who actually beat him with an 8 round split decision in the US.
At his absolute best Laurente was a good fighter, as seen in his narrow win over Chikashi Inada. However aged 37, the same age as Yuba, it's fair to say Laurente isn't what he once was and now a days his wins over weak foes see him fighting like a wild man confident that his over-matched foes have nothing to threaten him. It's hard to say if he will fight the same way against Yuba though we suspect he won't. Sadly though we think his recent level of competition will end up biting him in the backside when Yuba starts to find the range for his powerful straight lefts. We think Yuba will fight as a counter puncher and have real success on the back foot as Laurente comes in and is forced to eat clean shots as he neglects his own defence.
This could become a really entertaining war though at the end of it we think Laurente will suffer his first stoppage loss. It'll be fun until the end though we can only see the Japanese fighter winning this one. Unfortunately for Laurente his ambition seems to have waned to the point where we think he'll lack the fire needed to over-come Yuba.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
When we talk about the Japanese domestic scene it's almost impossible no to mention Tadashi Yuba (45-8-2, 32) the current Japanese Light Middleweight champion.
Yuba's Light Middleweight title reign began in the middle of 2013 when he stopped Yosuke Kirima inside a round. Whilst on paper that was relatively small domestic title victory it was actually a record setting victory that saw Yuba becoming the first ever Japanese fighter to win national titles in 5 divisions.
Yuba's domination of the domestic title scene began back in 2000 when he claimed the interim Japanese Lightweight title. The following year Yuba was upgraded to the regular Japanese Lightweight champion. In 2002 he moved and claimed the Japanese Light Welterweight title before adding the Welterweight title in 2005. Although his original reign as Welterweight champion was short lived he did reclaim the title in 2007.
After several years without a title Yuba would claim the Japanese Middleweight title in 2012, stopping Carlos Linares. His reign as Middleweight champion, like many of his reigns, was short lived and after he lost that title he dropped down to 154lbs to claim that title.
Since winning the Light Middleweight title Yuba has already defended it once, taking a razor thin split decision over Yoshihisa Tonimura. He now looks for the second defense of that title as he takes on mandatory challenger Takayuki Hosokawa (24-10-3, 8). This bout will be the second meeting between the two men, who first fought back in 2011 with Yuba narrowly over-coming Hosokawa in a an 8 round contest.
Whilst Yuba has been able to move the weights with real success Hosokawa hasn't been able to do the same. Hosokawa has, like Yuba, been able to fight across a variety of weights though, unfortunately, has failed to find any real success in any of them. Despite that he has been willing and able to fight between Welterweight and Middleweight and amazingly started his career as a Lightweight.
Hosokawa's willingness to move between divisions has helped open up opportunities for him including a Middleweight title bout with Makoto Fuchigami and a Light Middleweight title bout with Akio Shibata. Unfortunately for Hosokawa however he was stopped in both of those bouts and was shown not to have the durability of a fighter who was genuinely made to be in either of those divisions. In fact, with 6 stoppage losses on his record Hosokawa isn't the most durable full stop and his lack of fire power can be a real issue. Against Yuba he's facing a tough but crude puncher and it would be no shock at all if Yuba could take the best shots from Hosokawa whilst Hosokawa wouldn't be able to take the best of Yuba's shots.
Although the punchers edge is certainly with Yuba his age could be an issue and the champion is now 37, notably older than his challenger who is only in his 20's. If we accept Yuba as the puncher then it's fair to suggest that Hosokawa is probably the faster man and the most able to use his feet to get in and out, something he will have to use to his advantage here to claim the title.
Since the first meeting between the two men Hosokawa has gone 7-2 (4). He has been stopped in both of his losses and struggled to narrow decisions in 2 of his distance wins. Rather surprisingly Yuba has also gone 7-2 (4) since the first meeting. Like Hosokawa both of Yuba's losses have come by stoppage and 2 of his distance wins were narrow decisions. We've got to admit that is a remarkable statistical oddity though Yuba has been fighting at a higher level over-all.
Although we can see reasons for favouring each man. We do tend to think that this is Yuba's bout to lose. The champion is far more experienced, won their first meeting, is the much bigger puncher and is also the taller and rangier fighter than the challenger. Sure Yuba is getting old and may be considering retirement, but for now it's hard to see him losing to Hosokawa who is limited and lacks the fire power to see off Yuba.
Although Yuba has been stopped 5 times in his 8 losses he's a very tough guy who took bombs from Carlos Linares in their bout and refused to be stopped. He's crude to say the least but has real venom in his shots, especially his straight left hand, and we think sooner or later that power will see off Hosokawa who may actually be winning the fight until he's stopped.
One thing we're sure of, is that we expect this to be a brutal and hard fought contest that could well end up being one of the Japanese fight of the year contenders.
The fight will be the main event of "Dangan 94", a show that features a fantastic looking contest between Hiroki Okada and Masayoshi Kotake for the vacant Japanese Light Welterweight 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.