On April 20th we'll see a potential FOTY candidate as teak tough Japanese veteran Nihito Arakawa (32-6-2, 18) makes his European debut, facing off with Ukrainian puncher Denys Berinchyk (10-0, 7) in Kyiv. The bout, for the WBO International Lightweight title, looks like it could be an all out war, and is a bout that bout men will see as their best opportunity of moving towards a world title fight.
The 37 year old Japanese fighter is a man coming to the end of his long career, which began more than 15 years ago. During his career he has had some very memorable nights, in both wins and defeats. His highs have included winning the Japanese Lightweight title in 2010, when he beat Akihiro Kondo in the first of two bouts between the men, or when he won the OPBF title in 2011, or his FOTY bout with Omar Figueroa in 2013, or when he became a 2-time Japanese champion in 2016, or when he won the WBO Asia Pacific title in 2017.
Despite all the highs Arakawa has had a hard career. Yes he's tough, as we saw against Figueroa, but at the age of 35 with 40 bouts and over 280 rounds under his belt it's hard to know how much he has left in the tank. We've seen other tough Japanese veterans, such as Hidenori Otake and Akihiro Kondo, suffer recent stoppage losses and it could well be Arakawa's turn following a very tough, hard and punishing career.
At his best Arakawa was a work horse. He was a bit slow, a bit clumsy, but full of energy, sharp with his left hand, set a good work rate, incessant and incredibly tough. His will to win made up for his technical limitations and he was always going to be bringing the fight in the later stages, no matter how the earlier rounds had been. In recent bouts, such as his 22018 draw with Rimar Metuda and his narrow win over Anthony Sabalde, there has been a clear sign of decline to Arakawa.
In Berinchyk we have a very highly regarded 30 year old who was a former amateur standout, but hasn't yet made his mark on the professional ranks. As an amateur he competed at the 2012 Olympics, where he won a Silver medal, and the 2011 World Amateur Championships, where he also picked up a silver medal. He was tipped to be a major star in the pros when he began his professional career back in 2015, but issues with activity and promotional backing have slowed his ascent, despite good wins over the likes of Lorenzo Parra, Allan Vallespin and Jose Luis Prieto. Since the start of 2016 he has fought just 7 times, horrific inactivity for an advanced prospect.
At his best Berinchyk is an aggressive pressure fighter with serious power, good technical skills and sharp, clean punching. Sadly with his inactivity, ring rust and the fact he is now 30, it's hard to know what he's actually got in the locker. Is he going to be able to shine when someone is in his face, like Arakawa, or is he going to come undone under pressure? Can he fight at a high work rate? If he's half the fighter he was an amateur he should be strongly favoured here but there is still a number of question marks over his head.
Despite Berinchyk so far failing to shine as a professional he'll know this is a major chance to make a mark for himself and will be really up for it. We suspect that Arakawa, even in his prime, would have struggled with the physicality and technical abilities of Berinchyk. We're expecting to see the fight start competitively, but as it goes on the younger legs and better skills of the Ukrainian will tell and he'll take a clear, yet competitive, decision victory.
Our prediction is a clear but hard fought, and incredibly exciting, unanimous decision win for Berinchyk here, as he looks to make a statement and become another Ukrainian mixing on the world stage.
When "Ring of Gold" was announced we had expected two world title fights. One of those was a WBA Featherweight super title fight between Simipiwe Vetyeka, the man who ended the legendary career of Chris John, and Japan's Akifumi Shimoda (28-3-2, 12). Unfortunately that bout got pulled by the WBA who demanded that Vetyeka took on WBA regular champion Nicholas Walters rather than Shimoda, who is a top contender.
It seemed at that point that Shimoda wouldn't be on the card and was unfortunately going to miss out a major opportunity.
Thankfully Bob Arum, of Top Rank, and Teiken have managed to do a great job and kept Shimoda on the card and in a title fight, albeit "just" a WBO international Featherweight title fight. Not only have they kept Shimoda on the card but also got him a fight with a former world champion as he meets once-beaten Filipino Marvin Sonsona (17-1-1, 14).
Shimoda, a former WBA Super Bantamweight champion, is currently on a 6 fight unbeaten run following his shocking KO loss at the hands of Rico Ramos. The loss to Ramos saw Shimoda losing his world title and soon afterwards he moved up in weight filling out to a Featherweight.
Although Shimoda's last 6 fights have come at a "sub-world" level he is still clearly a talented fighter. Not exceptional but still solid with good skills, good movement a decent engine and plenty of experience under his belt. The one thing he genuinely lacks is power and although he was stopped by Ramos that said more about Ramos's power than Shimoda's chin.
At his best Shimoda is a world level fighter, there is no debating that at all. The question about him going in to this bout and future Featherweight bouts is whether or not he's a Featherweight. He's been fighting there but comfortably making the weight and one would assume that if he was offered a Super Bantamweight world title fight he'd be able to make 122lbs with out any problem.
Whether Shimoda is a natural Featherweight or not is unlikely to make a huge difference here as he takes on former WBO Super Flyweight champion Sonsona.
As with Shimoda, Sonsona is a world level fighter when he's on song. He's fast, aggressive, powerful and genuinely fun to watch. He's not the most technically proficient of fighters but he does have enough about him to make life difficult for most fighters when his head is on boxing. Unfortunately Sonsona is a play boy outside of the ring and you can tell that boxing isn't always his focus which is a real shame considering his prodigious talent.
Aged 23 and fighting from the Southpaw stance the expectation on Sonsona is "IF" he can commit himself to boxing he can easily reclaim another world title somewhere down the line. On the other side of that is that if his out of the ring issues rear their head again his career could very easily be over.
In regards to this fight Shimoda seems to be the naturally bigger man, though there isn't much between them in all honesty, he's certainly the more experienced and older man. Unfortunately for Shimoda his relative lack of power and the fact he's "stepping" down after thinking he was fighting for a world title may work against him. We've seen it in the past where a fighter thinks he's fighting one guy, then it's gets changed to a lesser opponent and he just doesn't turn up.
Shimoda could try to use his natural skills to keep Sonsona off balance and neutralise his dynamite left hand. Unfortunately for Shimoda that could be a problem with Sonsona being very fast himself and being capable of throwing whilst taking one.
With aggression and power on his side Sonsona is a man who is hard to bet against here. Shimoda's the more complete fighter but something tells us that Sonsona will manage to land a huge left hand at some point. If Rico Ramos can knock you senseless then Sonsona can do the same.
Unfortunately for the winner of this fight, we don't think they will have much of a chance with the WBO world champion and may need to wait their turn for a title fight in the hope that a weaker champion comes around in 12-18 months. We suspect that Vasyl Lomachenko will beat Orlando Salido in the coming weeks and without trying to sound harsh Lomachenko would have an easy time with either Shimoda or Sonsona. Below Lomachenko though are plenty of beatable opponents and these two will favour their chances against a number of other top challengers.
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.