The Japanese Light Welterweight scene has slowly developed into something quite interesting recently, with not only a handful of established fighters at the weight, but also a good crop of rising hopefuls. This coming Saturday we see a clash of established fighter and rising hopeful colliding for the Japanese national title.
The bout in question will see 37 year old champion Valentine Hosokawa (24-6-3, 11) attempt to make his third defense of the title as he takes on mandatory challenger Koki Inoue (12-0, 10), the cousin of Naoya and Takuma Inoue. For Hosokawa this will be his 34th career bout, in a career that began back in 2006, and his 7th bout at title level. For Inoue this will be his first title bout, and comes less than 42 months after his professional debut. Not only that but is a very clear step up for the challenger against a very experienced and talented champion.
Hosokawa, for those who haven't seen him or followed him through his career, is a real physical freak. At the age of 37 he has an insane work rate and engine, his style is that of an aggressive swarmer, who doesn't hit hard but hits often and typically our works opponents. Although he's had sme pretty decent unbeaten runs he is currently in the best form of his career, with wins over Quaye Peter, Koichi Aso, Vladimir Baez and Takashi Inagaki. Even his most recent losses, to Noriaki Sato and Hiroki Okada, were very competitive decisions, and he showed he was still a damn good fighter in both of those set backs.
Hosokawa has come through the ranks the hard way. Built his success on experience and not seen losses as a reason to give in. He's come a really long way since winning the 2008 Rookie of the Year, at Lightweight, and bounced back well from two stoppage losses in OPBF title bouts, to Shinya Iwabuchi and Min Wook Kim. Even in his stoppage losses he showed incredible toughness and determination, before eventually being ground down by heavier handed fighters. Sadly though, we do wonder what his body has left, and he turns 38 just days after this fight. It could be that Hosokawa will be the next victim of father time.
Inoue, like his cousins, is a product of Shingo Inoue's training and like Naoya he's a strong, powerful fighter with skills. His performances at times have been excellent, but at others he has not really shined, and sometimes that's not been his fault. For example his fight with Cristiano Aoqui ended due to an injury suffered by Aoqui. When he's looked good however he has looked sensational with great combinations, movement, and sharp punching. Sadly his last performance showed little of that, as he put in a tame effort in a Japanese title challenger decider bout against Marcus Smith. Inoue would beat Smith, but looked poor doing so, before revealing he had taken several injuries into the bout. Injuries that likely played a part in his poor performance.
At 26 years old Inoue is coming into his physical prime. He's a clear talent, despite not being on the same level as his better known cousins, but this is a huge step up in class. He's gone from fighting the likes of Aoqui and Smith to fighting the Japanese champion, a former OPBF title contender and a man who is a nightmare to fight with his experience and work rate. If he's still carrying niggling injuries as well this could be too much, at the wrong time.
Whilst he is stepping up, we do favour Inoue to win. We think he's the stronger and faster man, he's certainly not had the miles on the clock Hosokawa's had. However he will have to work harder for this bout than for anything other since he turned professional, he needs to focus on controlling the ring, landing body shots and tiring Hosokawa with smart boxing. If he gets into a war that will not bode well for the challenger, even if he does hit harder, as Hosokawa will rely on his experience of a war, and come out on top.
This is a major test for both men, and should tell us a lot about Inoue's potential and what Hosokawa has left in his legs. It's an interesting bout, and a real test for the third member of the Inoue clan. But a test that he has the ability to pass, with the right game plan.
Next year we'll see Koki Inoue look to increase the Inoue clan's hoard of titles, following his recent win over Marcus Smith in a Japanese title eliminator.
Whilst we know that Inoue has a Japanese title shot set for the 2019 Champion Carnival, we're not yet sure who he will be facing for that title in the new year. We will however find out on December 1st, when current champion Valentine Hosokawa (23-6-3, 10) defends his title for the second time, and faces off with fellow veteran Takashi Inagaki (20-17-2, 9). The winner of that will be the man that Inoue challenges.
At 37 Hosokawa's career has been like a fine wine, and he's really become an excellent fighter following a less than spectacular start to his career. He began fighting professionally in 2006, fighting to a draw with fellow debutant Yoshinori Kanazaki, and would suffer his first defeat the following year to Akihiro Kondo. After 10 bouts he was 6-1-3 (3) but would go on to win the 2008 Rookie of the Year at Lightweight, showing his potential. That potential would drive him to getting a shot at the Japanese Light Welterweight title in 2013, losing to Shinya Iwabuchi, and an OPBF title shot, losing to Min Wook Kim. Those losses were damaging, painful beatings, but they showed Hosokawa's drive, determination, heart and toughness. Those traits kep him in the sport, and saw him give Hiroki Okada problems in 2016, when Hosokawa got his third title fight. He came up short again there, but would go on to claim the Japanese title in 2017, winning a brilliant war with Koichi Aso. His only defense since then saw him pulling himself off the canvas to stop Vladimir Baez, in another thrilling contest.
In the ring Hosokawa is a man who defies all logic. He's a 37 year old with an insane engine, he seems to throw more punches as a fight goes on. He's not a huge puncher, by any stretch, but his output is grinding, both physically and mentally, and he will look to break opponents down through sheer attrition. Not only does he have an incredible work rate but he's also incredible tough, taking real beatings to Iwabuchi and Kim before being stopped. His determination and will to win are probably his key traits and are certainly responsible for him going as far and having a career that has peaked in his mid 30's.
Inagaki is a veteran himself, at 33 years old, and is getting his third Japanese title fight, after coming up short to Takashi Miura in a Super Featherweight shot in 2010 and Yoshitaka Kato in a Lightweight title fight 2011. As you can assume from that he's hs been a around a while, and debuted way back in July 2003, losing in the first round of his debut to fellow debutant Tatsuya Ishii. Inagaki's career has been a patchwork of wins and losses, though there are very few real highs from his career, other than his losses in title fights. Hios best wins are over the likes of Kazunori Fujita back in 2008, Joel Dela Cruz in 2009, Kazuma Kobayashi in 2012 and Yuya Okazaki last year and he does hold a notable draw with Daisuke Sakamoto. Sadly those results are easily outweighed by notable losses to the likes of Miura, Kato, Koichi Aso, Shusaku Fujinaka, Daishi Nagata and Yusuke Konno, with the losses to Nagata and Konno coming earlier this year.
The veteran challenger is a relatively slow fighter. He looks at his best when he's the man applying pressure, through much of his work is slow, and he looks like he's moving, and punching, through treacle. He looks strong and powerful, but isn't a puncher, doesn't have high output, and isn't swift.
Given the style of Hosokawa is to make everything into an intense, and massively entertaining, war we can't help but feel that he will simply out work and break down the challenger. Inagaki has been stopped 6 times during his career, and we suspect there will be another stoppage loss here for the challenger. If we're right and he is stopped he may well think about hanging up the gloves and retiring from the sport, ending his long career.
On May 7th Japanese fight fans are in for a treat, as Japanese Light Welterweight champion Valentine Hosokawa (22-6-3, 9) defends his title against the huge punching Vladimir Baez (24-3-2, 22), a Japanese based Dominican slugger. For the 37 year old old Hosokawa this will be his first defense, following a career defining victory over Koichi Aso last December, whilst Baez will be looking to record a 4th straight stoppage win and claim his second domestic title, following a previous reign as the Dominican Republic champion.
The champion is a 12 year veteran who debuted in May 2006 and despite some ups and downs has been a stalwart of the Japanese scene for much of that time. In fact he would get his first Japanese title fight more than 5 years ago, when he took on the hard hitting Shinya Iwabuchi, and despite a loss he remained very relevant. Just a fight later he took on the then OPBF champion Min Wook Kim in an incredible bout in Korea. Following those losses Hosokawa has been fighting on the domestic level and scored wins over Takeshi Goda, Jumbo Oda Nobunaga Shoten Petagine and Cristiano Aoqui en route to getting his second Japanese title fight in 2016. As with his first shot Hosokawa lost, though put up a fantastic effort against Hiroki Okada and seemed to have much of his work ignored by the judges.
Although Hosokawa is getting on for a fighter he has an incredible engine, he throws a lot of leather and whilst he's not a big puncher he does make for great fights on the domestic level. He tenacity and energy is brilliant and sees him over whelming opponents with aggression and work rate. Sadly it does mean that his fights are draining and damaging but they are thrilling, exciting and great to watch. His fight with Aso last year was a Japanese FOTY contender and his 2013 bout in Korea with Min Wook Kim was genuinely thrilling. Sadly those exciting fights will take a toll on Hosokawa and his career won't have a lot longer to go, even if he is successful here against Baez.
The challenger arrived in Japan a couple of years ago to be managed from the country. The change began with an easy win in Thailand before he suffered a loss to Teerachai Kratingdaenggym at Welterweight. Since then however he hasn't looked back scoring wins over Daishi Nagata, Ryusei Nakajima and Kazuyasu Okamoto all by stoppage last year. Those wins showed that Baez's power is legitimate, he's a brutally nasty power puncher, who swarms on opponents, and lets his shots fly. He might not be the most technically impressive but he is a strong, powerful, heavy handed and energetic monster at this level.
Aged 34 Baez is no spring chicken, but his 29 career bouts have averaged just 4 rounds a bout. They have been mostly short with his power being the key. He's not avoided damage all together but is a relatively young 34 year old and someone who can clearly have a few more years on the Japanese domestic scene. That's not to suggest he's the best in the country at 140lbs, but there's very few fighters in Japan who would be favoured over him, perhaps only Hiroki Okada and Koki Inoue.
Given his edge in power, aggression and sheer brutal physicality it's hard to bet against Baez here. We know Hosokawa is tough but unfortunately we suspect that will be his downfall. He will be there to fight against Baez but will take a lot of heavy shots, and we suspect he will be worn out in the middle to late rounds, as Beaz claims his biggest career and becomes a national champion in a second division.
This coming Thursday Japanese fight fans get an early Christmas present with a potentially thrilling bout at Light Welterweight, as domestic champion Koichi Aso (22-7-1, 15) makes his second defense of the title, and takes on the exciting Valentine Hosokawa (21-6-3, 9). The bout combines two aggressive and exciting fighters with both looking to make a statement, and both going in to the ring with a point to prove. It may not make marks on the international stage, but domestically this bout is sure to be an all-out fire-fight and comes between men with some history.
The history between the two men is now 9 years old, with the two men having fought to a split decision draw back in 2008. That draw was in the East Japan Rookie of the Year final, and saw Hosokawa advance to the final on the “Dominant Point” rule. That result was followed by Hosokawa winning in the All Japan Rookie of the Year final, claiming the crown as the Lightweight Rookie of the Year. It's fair to say that Aso will be seeking revenge here.
Aged 31 Aso won the title in his third shot at it, following two losses in title fights against Hiroki Okada. Those losses to Okada are the most recent ones Aso has suffered, but he has also come up short against the likes of Shinya Iwabuchi and Jung Hoon Yang. Along with those losses are wins over the likes of Kazuyoshi Kumano, Moon Hyun Yun, Kazuki Matsuyama and Yusuke Konno. Through his career he has proven to be an ultra-aggressive and exciting pressure fighter fighter, who brings the action behind a tight guard and looks for a fight. Although Aso can be out fought, and out boxed, he does tend to make fights exciting and his title defense against Konno is a front runner for the best Japanese fight of 2017.
Aso's style has taken atoll on his body, and with 4 stoppage losses against his name he isn't the most durable. Despite that he seems to fight like a man who believes he can take bombs and that's part of what makes him dangerous. He heavy handed, aggressive and willing to take risks to stop opponents. He's not going to just back off because he gets caught and will instead fight fire with fire, and can be very hard to time when he's hurt.
Whilst Aso is a fighter with a tight guard and hurtful power the same cannot be said of Hosokawa, despite the fact he too is an aggressive fighter who enjoys fighting off the front foot. Hosokawa will instead march forward and let his hands fly, with a very high work rate, a great energy and a belief in simply out working and swarming his opponents. He can certainly be out boxed, and and he has been stopped in previous title bouts by the heavy handed pairing of Shinya Iwabuchi and Min Wook Kim, but even in his losses he has given opponents absolute hell. In recent years he has notched up notable wins against the likes of Jumbo Oda Nobunaga Shoten Petagine, Cristiano Aoqui and Quaye Peter and no one will begrudge him his 4th title bout here.
Aged 36 Hosokawa's huge energy reserves don't last much longer and he is certainly in the latter stages of his career. Having come up short in previous title bouts he probably knows that this will be his final shot, and it's hard to imagine him leaving anything in the tank. He may not have the power to hurt Aso, but he has the work rate to defeat him and the will to win to really give Aso hell.
What we're expecting is for the men to meet in center ring and for a 10 round, balls to the wall war. The guard of Aso will be hard for Hosokawa to break through, but he could end up handcuffing the champion with his out put. Aso's power could be the difference, and he may be able to make Hosokawa think twice about wildly working up close. Either way this is going to be a nail biting, violent and brutal contest that will have fans captivated from start to end.
Although not one of Japan's deepest divisions the Light Welterweight division is slowly warming up, with a domestic scene being lead by current champion Hiroki Okada (13-0, 10), given that Keita Obara has out done the domestic picture with an OPBF reign and a world title fight. As the champion Okada has already notched 5 defenses and scored notable wins over the likes of Hayato Hokazono, Masanobu Nakazawa and Koichi Aso. On November 1st he looks to extend that reign and secure his 6th defense, as he battled veteran Valentine Hosokawa (20-5-3, 9), in what will impressively be the champion's 4th defense of 2016.
Okada won the Japanese title back in March 2014, when he took a wide and clear decision win over Masayoshi Kotake. Since then his career has really been on an upward trajectory, despite a lay off in 2015 when he broke his hand in sparring Yoshitaka Kato. That rise has seen him not only record 5 defenses of the Japanese title but also break into the world rankings, with the WBO listing him in their top 15, and receive some genuine international interest.
In the ring Okada isn't a hugely frightening proposition and he won't attempt to steam roll opponents, however that certainly doesn't mean he's not a good fighter. Unlike many fighters with real power Okada doesn't chase a stoppage, in fact quite often he fights as a counter puncher, with devastating shots off the backfoot, as fighters like Nakazawa and Aso can attest to. On the backfoot his uppercutt is something special. Although naturally a counter-puncher he can also fight going forward, but is very much a basic fighter going forward, using his straight punches to break down fighters.
Blessed with heavy hands, a good boxing brain and nice hand speed Okada is a handful, despite being flawed and not the quickest mover in the ring. On the Japanese domestic scene he is the king but now has fighters chasing him, like Daishi Nagata, and we could be on the verge of a really exciting period at 140lbs in Japan, something we've not really had in recent years.
At 35 years old the challenger will be coming into his third, and potentially final, title bout. His previous two both came back in 2013 when he was stopped in a Japanese title fight by Shinya Iwabuchi and then in OPBF title fight by Min Wook Kim, with both fights being damaging contests for Hosokawa. Since those defeats he has gone 4- (1) with a win over recent title challenger Cristiano Aoqui and a narrow loss to Noriaki Sato.
At his very best Hosokawa was a really tough, solid and game fighter. He however wasn't a top fighter and lacked any really outstanding quality. He wasn't a big puncher, he wasn't the quickest and he didn't have exceptional skills. He was though a grinder, with a good engine, a fantastic will to win and a never say die attitude. His two losses in title bouts showed his flaws, and took some of his prime, but also showed that he wasn't going to ever just lie down in the ring, even when a bout looked like a lost caused.
Sadly Hosokawa is several years removed from his best, he's a 10 year professional with serious mileage on the clock and we think that mileage will be added to here before he suffers his third career stoppage, likely quicker than his previous two given that he's now 3 years older than he was back then. Hopefully for Okada a win here will actually end with him dropping the title and hunting OPBF title bouts in 2017, rather than face a third bout with Aso.
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.