The Minimumweight division is a really strange one right now, that despite not being red hot has a lot of really interesting match ups that could be made, and a lot of interesting style match ups. One of the rising stars of the division is unbeaten Japanese fighter Tsubasa Koura (14-0, 9), the currnet OPBF champion and someone expected to be a future world champion. On March 31st he will make his 4th defense of the title as he takes on under-rated Filipino challenger Lito Dante (15-10-4, 7). On paper this looks a total mismatch, though in reality we suspect it will be a better than it looks on paper.
Looking at the records of the two men Dante will, clearly, be the under-dog. He's only won 15 bouts from 29 but the 29 year old should certainly shouldn't be ignored only because of his record. Since 2010 he has fought between Minimumweight and Flyweight and taken on a relative who's who of the lower weights. sharing the ring with the likes of Lester Abutan, Siyabonga Siyo, Vic Saludar, Takumi Sakai, Jessie Espinas, Simpiwe Konkco and Tibo Monabesa. No one has managed to stop Dante, who has proven to be tough and intelligent. He has also been able to score the occasional upsets, upsetting the likes of Lester Abutan, Jaysever Abcede, Jay Loto and Naoya Haruguchi.
As with most fighters who have got 30 fights under their belt Dante is a crafty fighter. He's not the sort of fighter who wow with flashy skills, but he will find holes, slip shots, and make things messy when he needs to. He lacks power but is accurate, intelligent and makes the most of what he has. His record might be that of a journeyman but he's not turning up to bouts to lose. He has taken rounds from the likes of Saludar, Espinas and Siyo through ring craft. He knows how to use the ropes to ride shots, knows how get his head involved when he needs to and really is a lot more frustrating than his record would suggest.
Of course the 24 year old Koura is expected to win, and we'd pick him despite feeling like Dante is being massively over-looked. We do however expect to see Koura being required to answer some questions that haven't been full answered yet. The champion, who is not only the OPBF champion but also a former Rookie of the Year win, is a fantastic fighter. Early in his career he looked to be a punch, but he has certainly developed into a more rounded boxer-puncher. He has started to realise he can't blast fighters out, and has instead gone 12 rounds twice, scoring wins over Masataka Taniguchi and Daiki Tomita, and showing real growth between those bouts. He's gone from being very aggressive early in his career to showing a sense of patience, countering, and adding more strings to his bow.
Through 14 fights Koura has beaten Jaffrey Galero, Masataka Taniguchi, Norihito Tanaka and Daiki Tomita and has really developed into a brilliant fighter, and is one of the leading contenders in the division. The fact he is still showing pretty clear improvements in fights is really exciting and a sign that he isn't sitting on his laurels, but is instead looking to fully prepare himself for a world title fight.
We don't expect the upset, it's not impossible but it would be a huge surprise. What we are expecting however is for Koura to show more than he's shown before. Dante is a frustrating fighter, he's an awkward fighter, he's a fighter who looks after himself. Koura will have to continue to show his patience, his mentality in the ring will be tested and how he breaks Dante down will be interesting. We're expecting a clear, and wide, decision to Koura, but he will have to work for it. Dante isn't unbeatable, but he is no walk in the park, despite his 10 losses.
This coming Saturday we'll see a really looking OPBF Minimumweight title bout, as the hard hitting Tsubasa Koura (13-0, 9) takes on Daiki Tomita (12-0, 4), with Koura looking to make his third defense of the title and Tomita fighting for his first title. Of the two fighters it's the champion who is the more well and more touted, but the challenger is a touted 20 year old with a point to prove and opportunity to make a name for himself against a very highly regarded fighter.
Aged 23 Koura is a real wild card in the Minmumweight division, and someone who has eyes on world title fighters. He debuted at the age of 19 in August 2014 and the following year he was crowned the All-Japan Rookie of the Year. The following year he showed his explosiveness and scored a notable win against Jeffrey Galero before defeating Jaysevera Abcede in 2017 for the OPBF title. Since winning the belt Koura has been tested, narrowly over-coming Masataka Taniguchi in his first defense then pulling himself off the canvas to defeat Norihito Tanaka in his second defense.
In the early stages of his career Koura showed his explosiveness. It was a exciting yet dangerous and sometimes crude. Since then however he has shown he can box, holding his own in a boxing contest with Taniguchi. He's still showed he was heavy handed, but also that he wasn't a one-trick pony, instead being more of a boxer-puncher. The boxing skills were on show again when he defeated Tanaka, showing lovely speed, nice movement and a good jab and some lovely counter shots. There was however a moment in the opening round when he went for the finish and was dropped from a big counter shot. That didn't really leave question marks about his chin, but more about the risks he takes, and he did bounce up almost immediately. If he takes too many risks there is a chance it will come back to bite him. Though we suspect as he matures he'll become less risky and know when to unload and when to be patient.
At 20 years old Tomita is a bit of a boxing baby though has also won the Rookie of the Year, claiming the crown in 2016. Sadly since claiming the Rookie of the Year his career hasn't really developed significantly, and his best win was a decision over the tough but limited Desierto Nagaike. Despite Nagaike being limited the bout did serve as a chance for Tomita to prove his stamina, and he did so by winning 10 round decision. Through his career he has proven to be technically solid, with smart movement, quick on his feet and sharp with his punches. Notably he also looks big for the weight and looks like he will probably out grow the division sooner rather than later.
Although not as well known as the champion Tomita does look like a real prospect with a lot of potential. His body shots are particularly good and although there is a long way for him to go he looks like someone who will step up in terms of his performances when he faces stiffer competition. His style could well give Koura real problems, and it seems like if he can establish his jab, and control the distance. If he can manage that he really could see more questions being asked of Koura than ever before.
We're expecting to see Koura look to use his speed and power and Tomita boxing smartly on the back foot. The style of Tomita could give Koura problems, but we fancy Koura's power to be the difference and to bail him out in the middle rounds of the contest. Possibly with Tomita leading on the score cards. Hopefully a win here will lead to Koura getting a world title fight, though it does feel like we've been talking about that for a while and yet he is still defending the OPBF title against domestic challengers, no the regional elite.
On April 17th fight fans at the Korakuen Hall will see OPBF Minimumweight champion Tsubasa Koura (12-0, 8) return to the ring the make the second defense of his title, as he goes up against veteran Norihito Tanaka (16-6, 9). For Koura the bout will act as his next step towards a potential world title fight, a chance to shine on the global stage, whilst Tanaka will be looking to claim his first professional title more than 13 years after his debut!
Aged 23 Koura is one of the rising stars of Japanese boxing. He made his debut in August 2014 in a low key 4 rounder but the following year he announced himself as a key prospect in Japanese boxing by being crowned the Minimumweight Rookie of the Year. That Rookie of the year win, which saw him defeat Ryusei Kitamura in the final, saw Koura catch the attention of a number of fans going into 2016.
In 2016 we saw the youngster go from strength to strength, adding 3 more wins to his record including an excellent 2nd round TKO win over former world title challenger Jeffrey Galero, who had gone the championship distance with Wanheng Menayothin. In 2017 he further enhanced his reputation by stopping Jaysever Abcede in 4 rounds for the OPBF title, which he defended with a razor thin win against the talented Masataka Taniguchi.
In the ring Koura is an aggressive, hard hitting youngster who has impressed fight after fight. He's only got 48 rounds under his belt though has already gone 12 rounds at a high pace and shown his grit and determination to over-come Taniguchi. Despite being a puncher he does have under-rated skills, and those skills will have been kept in check by the Taniguchi fight, which will have done Koura the world of good, especially given that he had stopped his previous 6 opponents in a combined 14 rounds. He's far from flawless, and certainly has some rough edges, particularly defensively, but he's young, talented and improving fight on fight.
Most fight fans won't be familiar at all with Norihito Tanaka, despite the 33 year old being a genuine veteran of the Japanese scene. As previously mentioned he debuted back in 2005 and had a good winning run to begin his career, winning his first 9 fights and being crowned the East Japan Rookie of the Year in 2006. Sadly though that great start was followed by 3 losses in 4 fights, including defeats to Kenichi Horikawa and Ryoichi Taguchi, which seriously slowed his rise. A short winning run saw him claim the Strongest Korakuen in 2010 before losing in a Japanese title fight to Akira Yaegashi back in 2011, a loss that was then followed by defeat to Takashi Kunishige.
With a record of 14-5 (7) Tanaka stepped away from the ring for over 5 years, before returning in 2017, and since then he has gone 2-1 (2), with the only loss being a razor thin one to Naoya Hariguchi. It's worth noting that given his long break from the ring Tanaka is a very young 33, and his only loss not to have gone the distance was a DQ loss to Taguchi, who he hit on the break. He has never been stopped, and went the distance with two future world champions and a former world title challenger. His toughness really can't be questioned.
Whilst it's clear that Tanaka is tough he does lack experience against real punchers, like Koura, and at 33 the question really is whether or not his body can handle not only the power but the high energy offense of Koura. When Koura has a man hurt he doesn't really let off and instead lets the punches fly, which will be a major problem if Tanaka can't get his respect. Taniguchi could get Koura's respect, and had the skills to really push Koura, we don't think that'll be the case here with Tanaka who we see being stopped in the middle rounds as Koura takes a huge step towards getting a shot at a world title.
Although widely over-looked in the West the Minimumweight division is one of the more interesting right now, with a lot of good looking match ups that could be made, and could be made very easily given the promotional situation of many of the divisions top fighters. It's funny that the division has been so over-looked despite 3 unbeaten world champions, including the 48-0 Wanheng Menayothin. Not does it have unbeaten champions but also a number of unbeaten contenders, including OPBF champion Tsubasa Koura (11-0, 8), who looks to make his first defense of the title this coming Saturday. In the opposite corner to the unbeaten champion will be once beaten challenger Masataka Taniguchi (8-1, 6), with both men looking to secure a world title in 2018.
Of the two men it's been Koura who has been the most impressive. He turned professional in 2014, as a 19 year old, following a 29 fight amateur career that saw him going 19-10 (6). Given his lack of amateur success Koura turned professional with a C class licence and entered the 2015 Rookie of the Year, which he would win with a decision victory over Ryusei Kitamura in the final.
Since winning the Rookie of the Year we've seen Koura go 5-0 (5) with wins over the likes of former world title challenger Jeffrey Galero and the upset minded Jaysever Abcede. He has shown raw power, good boxing and an aggressive mentality that makes for fan friendly bouts. There are flaws with Koura, who can be reckless and open at times, but he has that type of power which is rarely seen at 105lbs. That power of Koura's has caused one or two problems, and although an OPBF champion, and Rookie of the Year winner, he has only had 35 combined career rounds and has never been beyond round 5. That may well be hiding issues with stamina or pacing, though at the moment it's not yet been a problem.
The challenger turned professional in early 2016, passing his B grade test on the same day as current IBF world champion and fellow Watanabe gym fighter Hiroto Kyoguchi. He took that exam following a notable amateur career in which he went 55-19 (16) and had captained his University team whilst fighting at a consistently high level. In the professional ranks he took 4 quick blow out victories before battling hard to over-come the talented Dexter Alimento with a split decision. In 2017 we've seen him come up just short against Reiya Konishi, in a bout for the Japanese title, and follow that loss up with two blow out wins.
In the ring Taniguchi is a technical but aggressive fighter. His power is probably not as good as his record suggests, but is still very good, with issues regarding potential stamina problems also possible. Taniguchi has done 10 rounds once, in his loss and perhaps needs a little bit more seasoning before a potential world title fight, if he over-comes Koura. The problem with the youngster is that too many of his bouts have come against hapless foes's and he already has 4 opening round stoppages, and has scored no wins over fellow Japanese fighters. That's not to say he can't, but he really should have faced some domestic opponents rather than so many limited Thai's and Filipino's.
Although both men are aggressive, heavy handed, flawed and both are 23, there is a lot of differences. Taniguchi is the more well schooled from an amateur perspective and is a southpaw, whilst Koura is arguably the more impressive with his wins over Galero and Abcede over shadowing Taniguchi's wins, and Koura is also the man with the confidence of being a champion.
It's a 50-50 type of fight, and at the time of writing that is a view shared by a members poll on boxmob who have Taniguchi narrowly ahead 51-49. We do favour Koura, but it's likely to be either a very close decision, or a bout decided on a single moment of genius. We feel that Koura's power makes him the more likely to do something magical, but really there is very little to split the guys here.
The Minimumweight division has long been one of the most over-looked in weight classes in the sport, and we suspect it will remain that way going forward despite the division having some of the most exciting fighters of the last decade, such as Katsunari Takayama and Akira Yaegashi both feature in some simply amazing fights at 105lbs.
This coming Saturday we see a bout to crown a new OPBF champion champion at the weight as Tsubasa Koura (10-0, 7) takes on unheralded Filipino Jaysever Abcede (14-6, 9) for the currently vacant title, which was vacated by current world champion Hiroto Kyoguchi prior to his bout with Jose Argumedo. The bout may not set pulses going around the boxing world, but for fans who have seen the two men in action, this really looks like something that could be very enjoyable, and a potential coming our party for Koura. That however isn't a given, as Abcede has the potential to spring the upset, which he's done in the past, notably against Pigmy Kokietgym.
Of the two fighters it's Koura with the most upside. He's unbeaten, good looking and developing a fan base which has grown since he won the 2015 Rookie of the Year tournament. Since then he had gone 4-0 (4) including a big stoppage win over former world title challenger Jeffrey Galero. That win over Galero is his best to date, and came less than 2 years after Galero had challenged WBC champion Wanheng Menayothin.
Blessed with natural power Koura looks like a puncher on the rise, and couples that with good development out of the ring, at the E&J Cassius Gym. In the ring he's blasting away opponents at a lightning quick speed, taking just 10 rounds to stop his last 4 opponents, but he has shown the stamina to go 5 rounds before and is likely able to go deep in to the bout. The question does remain in regards to “how far?” but so far he's not shown any issues with stamina, and at 22 years old we're not expecting him to have issues in regards to going 10 or 12 rounds.
Filipino road warrior Abcede is also 22 and is a talented southpaw with an upset based mentality. That mentality was seen most notably against Pigmy Kokietgym, who Abecede stopped in 11 rounds back in 2015 in Thailand. That win is Abecede's only win on the road, but he has shared the ring with Petchmanee Kokietgym and Wanheng Menayothin, and didn't look dire against either of those unbeaten men. His record looks marked up, but he did begin 3-3, including a loss to the talented Dexter Alimento, since then there was the losses to Petchmanee and Wanheng as well as a surprise stoppage loss to Lito Dante. They aren't bad losses to have on your record, and really show that he has just been matched hard, rather than carefully developed.
Whilst Abecede has been matched hard he has proven a number of things. He has shown he can fight well on international soil, with his win over Pigmy essentially costing Pigmy a world title fight, he can go the distance, stopping Pigmy in round 11 and going 12 with Petchmanee just 2 months later. Those could be significant coming into this 12 round bout with Koura, and will leave him feeling that if he can see out Koura's early surge he can come on strong and take the Japanese fighter into deep water late on.
This bout really could be a very interesting one. It'll test Koura's power for sure,and potentially check his stamina and heart, and if he goes on to win late he could end up answering a lot of questions fan have of him. However it's not a foregone conclusion and Abecede will not turn up to just roll over. Instead he will look to see out the early power of Koura and take the fight to him late, likely making for a fun fight, especially in the middle and later rounds.
We suspect Koura will win, but he will be forced to really prove himself to come out on top here, in a really good match up.
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.