The Japanese Welterweight scene has never been the most exciting or the deepest. Despite that it can be an interesting one at times, and right now with heavy handed, but some some what fragile, Toshio Arikawa (15-4, 13) it really interesting to follow. With Arikawa as the champion you assume there's a stoppage coming, you're just unsure if it'll be the champion scoring it, or being stopped himself. This coming Monday Arikawa will make his third defense of that title, and take on fellow puncher Ryota Yada (15-4, 12).
The 33 year old champion struggled early in his career, suffering an opening round loss on his debut, and then another 2 years later for have a record of 3-2 (3) after 5 bouts, amazing only one of those 5 bouts actually lasted more than a round. Since then he has gone 12-2 (9), suffering a third opening round loss along the way. With 3 opening round losses Arikawa certainly isn't the toughest fighter out there, but he is currently riding an impressive 7 fight winning run, with 6 straight stoppages. That current 7 fight run includes notable victories over Akinori Watanabe, Nobuyuki Shindo, Yasuhiro Okawa and Daisuke Sakamoto, avenging 2 of his career losses with those wins.
Arikawa really is a brutal puncher. His last 6 fights have all ended early and come a combined 30 rounds, with Shindo last 10 of those. His punches don't to score clean knockouts, but they do destroy opponents. That was seen last time out when he left Sakamoto a bloodied mess, with a huge cut around his left eye, and has been seen numerous other times where his heavy hands have simply broken opponents down. His hands are just that pure heaviness that hurt when any shot connects and at this level that is incredibly dangerous for his opponents.
Aged 28 Yada is the younger man, and is the less known of the two fighters taking part in this bout. Like Arikawa his early career was less than spectacular, losing 3 of his first 6 whilst bulking up from a Featherweight to a Light Welterweight. Despite that 3-3 start to his professional career Yada has since gone 12-1 (10). Sadly however his most notable win was a razor thin one last time out against Moon Hyon Yun, which sort of shows the level that Yada is fighting out. That win over Yun was Yada's third straight victory following his 2016 loss to Jayar Inson, who genuinely hammered Yada in a bout for a WBO Asia Pacific title bout.
In the ring Yada is a decent fighter at domestic level, but much of his record is padded with Thai visitors who have fallen over in the first 3 rounds. In fact 4 of his 12 stoppages have come against Thai's and a total of 6 wins have come against fighters with losing records, including 2 of his last 3. Yada can clearly punch at domestic level, as wins over Ryota Itoyama and Makoto Kawasaki show, but fighting against Arikawa is a huge step up in class.
We're expecting a fun fight here. Arikawa can obviously be hurt, and Yada has got power, but unless Yada can jump on his man and take him out early on we suspect Arikawa's power and consistency will be too much, breaking down the challenger toe secure his third successful defense.
The Japanese Welterweight title has been one of the most over-looked domestic titles in recent years. A lot of that is due to the relatively weak domestic scene. Whilst globally the Welterweight division has been among the best in recent years it hasn't shone in Japan, where the division really lacks name value and real stand out talents. Strangely however it's the lack of stand out talent the makes the division so interesting, and makes the November 7th Japanese Welterweight title unification bout so intriguing, with both fighters coming in as “champion” and both believing they will walk away the winner.
In one corner is “regular” champion Toshio Arikawa (14-4, 12), a huge puncher who claimed the title in April 2016 when he stopped Nobuyuki Shindo. He has recorded just one defence of the title, stopping Yasuhiro Okawa last November, though has sadly seen his reign put on ice this year with a nasty injury. That injury actually forced him to pull out of a Champion Carnival bout, which would have seen him face off with Daisuke Sakamoto (14-8-3, 8). Due to the injury to Arikawa fans saw Sakamoto battle against Makoto Kawasaki for the interim title, with Sakamoto claiming a decision win for the interim crown.
Now, almost 7 months after the original date for the bout we'll see the two fighters finally facing off, and just like the first time around there is a lot of back stories running though this bout. These include the unification status of the bout, the delaying of the bout and the fact that this is a rematch are all interesting threads to the contest.
We've already explained the delay and unification, of the interim and regular titles here, but it's worth mentioning the first fight between these two men before looking at either man in much detail. These two fought back in April 2014, and surprisingly Sakamoto blew away Arikawa in just 69 seconds. Since then however both men have been unbeaten, with Sakamoto going 7-0-2 (5) and Arikawa going 6-0 (5), and both showing real improvements from their first contest.
Of the two men it's Arikawa who enters in the more impressive form. His last 6 bouts have included stoppage wins over Akinori Watanabe, Shindo and Okawa as well as a technical decision win over the pretty decent, though now forgotten Yoshihisa Tonimura. He has really turned his career around after an 8-4 (7) start, which included 3 stoppage losses, and has not only kept his power but improved his overall boxing ability. The naturally heavy hands of Arikawa are sledgehammer like and every shot he lands looks damaging, especially at this level.
Whilst Arikawa has turned his career around brilliantly it should be noted that Sakamoto has done something similar himself. He was 7-8-1 (3) prior to beating Arikawa, having lost 4 of his previous 5, but has genuinely turned his career around and was a well deserving winner over Kawasaki for the interim title. Sadly aside from the win over Arikawa little really stands out for him in terms of quality wins, and it did sort of seem like he shook Arikawa and never let him off the hook until the referee had to stop the bout.
Given the result of their first bout it's obvious that Sakamoto will be full of confidence, and certainly has activity in his favour, having fought as recently as June. We however feel a determined and focused Arikawa will be too much for Sakamoto, and will break down Sakamoto late, though may need to pull himself off the canvas to score a victory here.
The Japanese Welterweight scene isn't the most interesting or notable at the moment but that doesn't mean the division doesn't have some intrigue involved in it, with several interesting fighters rising through the ranks and numerous small stories running through the division. Over the last few years one of the most interesting stories is the rise of the heavy handed Toshio Arikawa (13-4, 11), who has gone from an 8-4 (7) struggling puncher to the Japanese national champion who is set to make his first defense of the title. Another is the story of Arikawa's upcoming challenger Yasuhiro Okawa (14-12-3, 5), who turned a 9-11-3 (3) career around to get a second shot a Japanese title this year. Amazingly this will be the second time the two men have had their stories cross, with Okawa having beaten Arikawa back in 2013.
Since his loss to Okawa back in 2013 we've seen Arikawa 5-1 (4), bouncing back from a 69 second blow out to Daisuke Sakamoto to claim notable wins over Yoshihisa Tonimura, Akinori Watanabe and Nobuyuki Shindo. In those bouts Arikawa has been pretty basic, but he's also shown scary power, with every shot being a thudding, damaging shot. He's not the most skills, or the quickest but what he hits he hurts and that was seen particularly well against Shindo, where a bloodied and beaten Shindo was saved by his corner.
Whilst it's hard to say how much Arikawa has developed in recent years he is certainly a better fighter than he once was, and with the power he has he will always be able to hurt opponents. The big question however is how he copes with being hurt, and he has been stopped 3 times in his 17 fight career. This possibly suggests he's a glass cannon, like former foe Akinori Watanabe, however it could also mean that he's a much improved fighter and the title may well fill his with extra confidence.
Although not an amazing fighter Arikawa has the air of a man who feels unbeatable, and that sort of air can carry a fighter far. That is likely to be seen again here and it's going to take an excellent performance from anyone at Japanese domestic level to beat him
Okawa's win over Arikawa kick started his rise through the ranks with 4 subsequent wins leading to his first title shot, a narrow and competitive loss to Nobuyuki Shindo in a bout for the then vacant title. That was Okawa's first loss in almost 5 years and ended a 5 fight unbeaten run, that also included a win over Tomoyuki Omura.
In the ring Okawa isn't a special fighter, but he is better than his record suggests and he holds notable results on his record, like wins over Daisuke Sakamoto and Hidekazu Matsunobu, along with a draw against Hayato Hokazono, as well as the win over Arikawa. Unfortunately for Okawa he has been inconsistent, losing to fighters like Shinta Kintamura and Tomoyuki Shiotani. There is no shame in some of his losses, such as defeats to Takehiro Shimokawara, Koshinmaru Saito and Nobuyuki Shindo, but the inconsistency has been an issue until recently.
Although not the biggest puncher, or the most physically strong Okawa is a hard working fighter with good stamina and a willingness to fight up in an opponents face. It's not always done him well but he's significantly better than his record suggests and knows that he can beat Arikawa.
Although Okawa has scored a win over Arikawa, we can't help but think the champion, who had an injury earlier this year, will avenge that loss and claim his first defense whilst looking to make a mark on the wider boxing scene, possibly moving towards an OPBF title fight in 2017.
This year we've seen a number of Japanese national titles end up in new hands. The first of those new champions to be crowned in 2016 was elongated Welterweight Nobuyuki Shindo (17-3-1, 6) [新藤 寛之], who won the tile on January 12th when he out pointed Yasuhiro Okawa, in what was Shindo's second shot at the title. This coming Thursday Shindo makes the first defense of that title, against mandatory challenger Toshio Arikawa (12-4, 10) [有川 稔男], a big punching dangerman.
On paper the champion doesn't look dangerous. He's scored just 6 stoppages in 21 bouts and has come up short of winning in 4 of his contests. He is however a tricky fighter with a freakish height for a Welterweight, at 6'1”, and a southpaw stance. He also hits harder than his record suggests, as seen when he dropped the then champion Suyon Takayama last year.
Although freakishly tall Shindo is actually a very credible fighter and boxes on the outside very well. He has a sharp jab, a stinging straight, good movement and a good, though not incredible, engine. He is flawed, and can be beaten up close, but will do his best to keep the fight at range and use his long levers as his key weapons.
Whilst the champion is somewhat well known, considering bouts with Takayama and Moon Hyun Yun, the same can't really be said of the challenger, who scored his first win of note late last year, when he shocked former champion Akinori Watanabe in 6 rounds. The win saw Arikawa become the mandatory challenger.
Other than the win over Watanabe there is little to really be excited on his record, though he does hold a win over Shusaku Fujinaka. In the ring he is crude, he has been stopped, 3 times, but he can bang and that power is a genuine issue for anyone in the division on the domestic scene, as we suspect Shindo will find out about.
Whilst Arikawa is a puncher he needs to land clean to really do damage and for this he needs to be close. Given that Shindo has the reach and height advantage we can see Arikawa struggling to get close. If he manages to cut the distance he will give the champion real issues, but we suspect that those issues will be few and far between with Shindo moving and staying away from a fight, rather than going up against Arikawa in a full on fight.
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.