Whilst many of the Japanese title eliminator bouts this year look like good bouts, even if few look great, the odd one does look like a mismatch, where we feel confident who know who will be the challenger for the Champion Carnival next year. One bout that looks like a mismatch is the Welterweight bout, which will see former world title challenger Keita Obara (21-4-1, 19) taking on Toshiro Tarumi (12-3-3, 6).
Obara is, of course, the more well known fighter. He is a former Japanese Light Welterweight champion, a former OPBF Light Welterweight champion and a former WBO Asia Pacific Welterweight champion. He has fought outside of Japan 3 times, fighting to a controversial draw in 2015 with Walter Castillo, being knocked out of the ring in a world title fight against Eduard Troyanovsky and being beaten by Kudratillo Abdukakhorov earlier this year. He also went somewhat viral thanks to his first bout with Alvin Lagumbay, which featured a dramatic double knockdown.
In the ring Obara is a talented fighter. He's a good boxer puncher, and although he's not world class he is a very capable fighter. He's really solid in terms of his boxing and his power is nasty at the regional level. Sadly his issue is his chin, and 3 of his 4 losses have seen him being stopped, including dramatic and very visual losses to Troyanovsky and Lagumbay. He's also not the quickest, which allowed Abdukakhorov to out box him relatively easily back in March. Despite his flaws it does take a good fighter to over-come him, and the general feeling is that he's still the best Welterweight in Japan, despite the recent rise of domestic champion Yuki Nagano.
At 25 years old Tarumi is someone who is relatively unknown outside of those who actively follow the Japanese scene, and even then he's still got a relatively limited profile. He debuted in 2014 and fought to 3 draws in his first 4 bouts. Worse yet he was 3-2-3 after 8 fights, an odd record to say the least. Since then however he has gone 9-1, with his only loss coming to the current national champion Yuki Nagano, as part of Nagano's current 15 fight winning run. In those 9 wins he has scored some solid domestic victories, with wins over the likes of Noriaki Sato, Takashi Inagaki and Shusaku Fujinaka, twice.
From the footage of Tarumi that's out there he looks a genuinely capable fighter, who has has plenty to like about him. He moves well around the ring, has a decent jab and throws some solid combinations. Where he lacks though is in terms of that extra something. He's not the most aggressive, he's not razor sharp with his punches and he's not got serious power. He's good, and he's likely to be a future fixture on the domestic title picture, but there's little there to really challenge someone like Obara.
We expect to see Tarumi coming out to fight, but lacking the tools needed to really test Obara who will get behind his jab, dial in his straights and slowly, but surely, break down Tarumi. Tarumi will be there to win, but will be broken down and stopped in the later rounds from the heavy hands of Obara.
Prediction - TKO7 Obara
The Welterweight scene is a rather frustrating one right now with the top fighters in the division being split by promotional divides. Whilst the PBC certainly have most of the big names in the division Top Rank has arguably the best boxer in the division, Terence Crawford. Sadly for Crawford he's lacking noteworthy challengers and Top Rank will need to provide better for him than the likes of Amir Khan if they intend to test their man.
One potential future foe for Crawford is talented Uzbek fighter Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (16-0, 9), who returns to the ring on October 18th to take on former WBA world champion Luis Collazo (39-7, 20). The two fighters will both be looking to put in an impressive performance and secure themselves a big fight, but just how do we see this going? Can the Uzbek continue his unbeaten run or will the veteran of Collazo prove to be to much for him?
For those who haven't seen Abdukakhorov the 26 year old Uzbek is a genuine talent, who has mostly fought outside of the eye of the Western fans. His early bouts were mostly in Uzbekitan before he started moving around, picking up wins in Singapore, Malaysia and Russia before making his US debut this past March. During his unbeaten run he has scored a lot of solid, though unspectacular, wins, beating the likes of Charles Manyuchi, Dmitry Mikhaylenko, Laszlo Toth and Keita Obara, with the win over Obara coming in his US debut earlier this year.
In recent years we've seen a number of explosive Uzbek fighters turning professional with really exciting and powerful styles. Abdukakhorov however isn't that style of fighter. He's not the Welterweight version of Bektemir Melikuziev or Israil Madrimov, instead he's a solid technical boxer, with good work rate and smart ring control. He's not exciting, he's not explosive and he's spectacular to watch, but he's solid, accurate, consistent and smart. He can vary his output and tempo well, but in reality he's not a fighter to take undue risks, and will instead look to simply win the rounds rather than to destroy his opponents. Given his hard to spell, and pronounce, name, and his uninspiring style Abdukakhorov is unlikely to ever become a fan favourite, but he's a fighter who will never be easy to beat and has the tools to give anyone, outside of the very best in the division, a very, very tough night.
Collazo is a true veteran, who debuted back in 2000, and with 46 pro bouts under his belt it's fair to say he's seen a lot during his career. He's faced a genuine who's who, including Ricky Hatton, Shane Mosley, Andre Berto, Victor Ortiz, Amir Khan and Keith Thuman. On paper Collazo's record doesn't look great, but given his competition there was always going to be losses, and several of those were rather unfortunate, including his losses to Hatton and Berto. Through his career Collazo has always been a very smart southpaw fighter, with slippery movement, under-rated power and very smart ring IQ. He's never been the busiest fighter, but he's a crafty one who is defensively smart and lands good counter shots, and even as he's gotten older he's remained a composed and smart fighter who controls the tempo of fights well.
Although a very good fighter, still, Collazo is notably behind the top fighters in the division. and loses to Khan, in 204, and Thurman, in 2015, did show he was on the slide. He's prolonged his career by not being hugely active, and he's fought only 5 bouts in the last 5 years, but he is still 38 with almost 300 pro rounds under his belt, and a lot of his bouts have been gruelling, hard ones, win or lose.
We expect Collazo to ask genuine questions of Abdukakhorov, he has the skills to really test the Uzbek. The difference however will be the stage of the career's the two men are in. Collazo is coming to the end whilst Abdukakhorov is just about hitting his prime. We suspect that that will the difference, and in the later stages of the fight Abdukakhorov's youth will win out, and he'll take the decision in a hard fought but fair win.
We have a feeling that Collazo is the perfect opponent to test Abdukakhorov, and to make the Uzbek earn a win, but it will be a well earned win for Abdukakhorov.
Prediction UD10 Abdukakhorov
Since suffering an opening round TKO loss in 2013 we've seen Yuki Nagano (16-2, 12) go on a fantastic run of 14 straight wins, against some of the most notable Welterweights in Japan. the latest of those wins as in April when he travelled to Osaka and defeated Ryota Yada to become the Japanese Welterweight champion. This coming Saturday he returns to the ring seeking his first defense of the title, as he takes on veteran foe Makoto Kawasaki (11-7-1, 2).
The talented Nagano really has turned his career around after a 2-2 start to life in the professional ring and wins over the likes of Giraffe Kirin Kanda, in the 2015 Rookie of the Year final, Riku Nagahama, Yuki Beppu and most recently Ryota Yada really have been impressive. Now aged 30 he has a great combination of experience, skill, power and is still young enough to have not really lost any of the physical traits. He's also helped out by being a southpaw, and being backed by one of the most notable Japanese promoters, Teiken.
Although on a great domestic run it's hard to imagine Nagano mixing on the world level. There's a fair argument to suggest he's one of the best fighters at Welterweight in the Asia Pacific region, but he's a long, long way behind the likes of Manny Pacquiao, Errol Spence Jr and Terence Crawford. He's pretty basic, but heavy handed, patient, accurate and has good time. He has also shown a real will to win, though of course he has question marks about his chin and after winning the title does he still have the desire that lead him there?
Kawasaki is a proper veteran, he's 35 years old and has been a professional for over 7 years, yet hasn't really managed to have consistency in his biggest fights, despite facing several notable names. His debut came against Koki Tyson, and ended in a draw, and since then he has been a win some lose some fighter through his career, losing to the likes of Hironobu Matsunaga, Ryota Yada, Daisuke Sakamoto and Xingxin Yang. Although he has picked up losses he has shown an ability to score upsets, beating the likes of Kazuya Murata and Yuichi Ideta. During his 19 fight career he has only been stopped once, being taken out in 7 rounds by Yada back in 2016.
In the ring Kawasaki is a pretty tough fighter, but lacks real power, and boxes mostly off the jab. He has struggled to get respect of fighters in the past and, when he's been backed up, he has been unable to force opponents to respect him. His first 3 losses, all in 4 or 5 round bouts, were close, but his last 4 have all been much clearer defeats and it really does seem like he's struggled as he's stepped up in levels and has had his jab neutralised.
We're struggling to see how Kawasaki can pull it off here. He's the big under-dog and although a veteran appears to have been selected as an easy first defense for Nagano, who we see taking a dominant and clear win. The winner isn't in much doubt, here, and it would be a huge surprise to see Kawasaki upset the in form, younger, stronger, hard hitting champion.
Prediction - TKO9 Nagano
Despite a number of interesting fighters, and a lot of potentially intriguing match ups, the Japanese Welterweight division doesn't get much attention. That's despite fighters like Ryota Yada, Yuki Beppu, Yuki Nagano and Giraffe Kirin Kanda all being worthy contenders on the domestic scene.
Arguably the most interesting Japanese Welterweight bout we'll see this year isn't actually at the top of the table, so to speak, but will instead be this Sunday's Japanese Youth title fight. The bout will pit unbeaten champion Kudura Kaneko (9-0, 6) against once beaten Ioka protege Rikuto Adachi (12-1, 9). Both men have just turned 21, and could have waited years to face each other, but instead want to face off, knowing a win will instantly put them on the verge of a bout for the full version of the Japanese title.
Kaneko is a Japanese based Afghan born boxer-puncher. He left Afghanistan as a child and has really built himself a life in Japan whilst getting plaudits for his attitude, and his dreams are certainly positive ones, with the fighter hoping to help get things built back in Afghanistan. Whilst his backstory is genuinely amazingly amazing, we can't help but be impressed by his actual boxing career as well.
Kaneko made his debut all the way back in 2015, as a 17 year old, and showed real ability early on as a punching, scoring stoppages in 4 of his first 5. Since then he has gone 5-0 (3) and shown more and more to his. He has taken 2 decision wins over Change Hamashima, claiming the Japanese youth title in the second win. The biggest win of his career however came last November, when he stopped former Japanese champion Toshio Arikawain 3 rounds. That was a performance to be proud of, neutralising the power of Arikawa and then taking him out in very impressive fashion. Whilst Arikawa is no world beater, he's a very dangerous fighter and for Kaneko to take him out this early in his career was a huge statement. He's shown he can box, he can punch, he can bang. He's not the quickest, but he is very, very talented and very promising.
Adachi, like Kaneko, debuted in 2015 as a 17 year old but has gone a very different route to Kaneko. He would actually take decisions wins in his first 3 bouts, before growing into his strength and reeling off 5 straight stoppages to advance to the All Japan Rookie of the Year final in 2017. He would lose in the Rookie of the Year final to Hironori Shigeta, a very talented fighter himself, by a single round on 2 cards, and many felt he deserved the win. Since then he has reeled off 3 more stoppages, including a stoppage over Jonel Dapidran. Impressively he went 4-0 (4) in 2018, showing great activity, and has gone 9-1 (9) in his last 10 bouts, impressive given his first 3 went the distance.
In the ring Adachi is a fighter who looks naturally big, yet doesn't look like he fills out his frame, in fact it looks clear that he will be fighting at Light Middleweight, if not Middleweight, in the future. He's got decent hand speed and good movement, but is a little bit naive defensively. He doesn't have much of an inside game, though given his freakish looking size that's not much of a surprise. His jab is a razor sharp, a really nice punch that he varies, from snapping opponents with it, to touching them and controlling range. Watching him there's a lot to like, but a lot of areas where clear improvements can be made. If he added some boxing on the inside and tweaked his defense than there would be a lot to get very excited by.
If Kaneko hadn't impressed so much against Arikawa this would be a fight that Adachi would be the favourite. Problem us that Kaneko looked fantastic against Arikawa, and that maybe enough to swing the odds in his favour. Adachi looks like he's going to be very good, with some key areas to work on. If he uses his brain, fights to a gameplan that focuses on his speed, he should come out on top.
Kaneko is no push over, and is a more rounded fighter. He lacks the speed of Adachi, but looks to be the more natural fighter. If he can make this a fight we suspect he'll win.
This is a hard one to call, and a very, very interesting match up. If pushed for a prediction, we suspect Adachi gets the win in a very close decision. The bout is in Osaka, and he's the local prospect. We wouldn't be surprised by any result at all here though. It's one of those bouts that really could go any which way.
The Japanese Welterweight scene is a pretty interesting one right now, without being one that gets much attention. The domestic scene features not only Keita Obara, who has progressed beyond Japanese title level, but up and comers like Kudura Kaneko and Rikuto Adachi as well as established fighters like Giraffe Kirin Kanda and Toshiro Tarumi. It's not a scene bustling with world class talent, but enough talent to make things interesting.
We get a great example of how interesting the division is this coming Sunday when Japanese national champion Ryota Yada (18-4, 15) defends his belt against mandatory challenger Yuki Nagano (15-2, 11). On paper this looks pretty evenly matched, pretty explosive and very exciting.
Yada won the title just over a year ago, stopping Toshio Arikawa in 8 rounds. Since then he has defended the belt twice, stopping Kazuyasu Okamoto and Shusaku Fujinaka. Those wins have seen Yada create a 6 fight winning run, since he was stopped in December 2016 by Jayar Inson and the 29 year old Osakan certainly seems to have developed since his last loss. He has not only developed his skills, but also his mentality, and he's seemingly become a lot more driven since that loss, with his win over Arikawa being an excellent performance based on desire, fitness and will to win.
Blessed with power Yada is a real dangerman on the domestic scene and it will take a tough fighter to see out the distance with him. He has good energy to go with his power, and as mentioned a real will to win. He does fall short in technical aspects but seems to be fully aware that his offense is his best defense and that he is much better off taking the fight to his opponents, or fighting as a controlled counter puncher at range, and chipping away at opponents. He's not going to out box many in a pure boxing sense, but he can hurt people and that is his key.
Nagano secured his shot at the title when he beat Yuki Beppu in October, in a title eliminator. That was the 29 year old southpaw's first bout outside of Tokyo and he rose to the occasion in Kurume to score his 13th straight professional victory. It wasn't just his biggest win to date, but one that saw him build on the early potential that had guided him to the 2015 Rookie of the Year crown. As a fighter the win over Beppu stands out along with his wins in the Rookie tournament against Giraffe Kirin Kanda, Toshio Tarumi, Masaharu Kaito and his 2018 win over Riku Nagahama.
In the ring Nagano is a pretty patient fighter, who is a very heavyhanded southpaw left hand, which he fires out with a real sense of purpose. Despite it being a dangerous punch he is patient with it, timing opponents, countering with it and draw them on to it well. He also had a very frustrating lead hand, that keeps opponents guessing, without actually being a potent weapon, more a neutralising tool. It should be noted he doesn't have a high work rate, but does have power.
Coming into this we see the fight as likely to be a cagey affair early, with both trying to feel out the other. We then expect Yada, the more accomplished and heavy handed fighter, to come on stronger when both settle, and go on to force a stoppage in the second half of the fight to retain his title. It wouldn't be a massive surprise if Nagano scored the win, especially when you consider that 2 of Yada's 4 losses have come to Southpaws, but it would be an upset.
On March 30th we'll see an IBF Welterweight title eliminator take place in the US featuring two Asian fighters, with unbeaten Uzbek Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (15-0, 9) taking on Japanese puncher Keita Obara (20-3-1, 18). On paper this is a mouth watering match up, and we're genuinely excited to see the two men clashing.
Of the two men the more naturally talented boxer, by far, is the 25 year old Abdukakhorov. He's a fantastic boxer with good clean punching, a good work rate, lovely accuracy and ring craft. There is a lack of real power, despite a very notable stoppage win over Charles Manyuchi, but he hits solidly with every punch and fighters will certainly his shots even if they aren't concussive blows.
The Uzbek was a solid amateur before turning professional in 2015. His first few fights were at home in Uzbekistan but before long he had began fighting through Asia with bouts in Malaysia and Singapore. It was those bouts that really saw him building his reputation, scoring solid wins over Larry Siwu, Adones Cabalquinto and the aforementioned Manyuchi. As well as those wins he has also travelled to Russia, where he clearly out pointed Dmitry Mikhaylenko, in what is arguably his most impressive win to date. For the most part it's been his sharp technical boxing which has won him fights, and allowed him to become a top, if often over-looked, contender.
Whilst the Uzbek is the better boxer Obara is the bigger puncher, by far. In fact the Tokyo based 32 year old is one of the best pure punchers in Asia. Sadly he's a bit of a glass cannon and all 3 of his losses have come by stoppage. Whilst his first loss, on debut against Kazuyoshi Kumano, was down to stamina and pacing, subsequent losses to Eduard Troyanovsky and Alvin Lagumbay were KO losses and spectacular ones at that. We're not going to suggest he has no chin, but it does seem like he doesn't react well when caught cleanly.
Whilst Obara does have a questionable chin he is a solid boxer-puncher and clearly will know that another loss will be the end of his world title dreams. He can't afford another set back, he will be fully focused and sometimes that's not the best thing. That can cause extra tension and take a fighter out of their natural gameplan. We don't think that'll be the case here, it's a still possible.
What we're expecting here is a tactical contest, with Abdukakhorov looking to get in and out, controlling the tempo and distance, making the most of his footwork, his jab and his boxing brain. He'll be wanting to set the higher pace and stop Obara from getting behind his jab. Although not as good a boxer, Obara's skills shouldn't be under-rated and he can box to a high level, so the Uzbek will want to be the one setting the pace, and not let Obara get relaxed.
We suspect that Abdukakhorov will set a high pace and will outbox Obara, but will have some hairy moments along the way, when he does get caught, does feel the power of Obara and does get forced to retreat and recover. The Uzbek might get staggered, or even dropped, but we does feel he'll do more than enough to take home the win, by decision and move onto a world title fight later in the year.
On December 9th fight fans in Osaka will see Japanese Welterweight champion Ryota Yada (17-4, 14) make his second defense as he takes on Shusaku Fujinaka (16-9-2, 10) in what looks set to be a really fun and exciting contest.
Yada won the title this past April, when he stopped Toshio Arikawa in a war at the Champion Carnival. Yada's win was a really excellent performance against a dangerous and feared champion, who he neutralised well for the most part and broke down. The bout was his second at title level, following a loss to Jayar Inson in a WBO Asia Pacific title bout, and he really did look like a totally different fighter against Arikawa. Between those bouts he learned a lot, especially from an hellacious Japanese title eliminator against Moon Hyun Yun in 2017. That win over Yun seemed to change how Yada fought and committed himself, and that was again seen in Yada's recent defense against Kazuyasu Okamoto, who was stopped in the 7th round.
Yada is a boxer-puncher, blessed with genuinely nasty power at this level. He seems to struggle with fighters who use distance well, and make him over-commit and also against southpaws, like Inson. Despite the struggles he is an improving fighter and certainly has added a lot more polish to his boxing in recent bouts. He's still not a razor sharp fighter, but is a lot more accurate and crisp than he once was. It's going to take a very good domestic fighter to dethrone him, and we're not sure really is there's anyone, Keita Obara aside, we'd favour over him in Japan right now.
For Fujinaka this will be his third shot at a title, having been stopped by Randall Bailey and Keita Obara in bouts for the WBO Asia Pacific Welterweight title. Sadly for Fujinaka those losses been among the bout that have shown his limitations and he is 7-7 in his last 14 bouts, dating back more than 5 years. Not only has he lost at title level, but also domestic level, losing to the likes of Koshinmaru Saito, Kengo Nagashima, Moon Hyon Yun and Toshio Tarumi. He tends to put in a good effort in his losses, but still comes up short and now, at the age of 32 and with a hard career behind him we do wonder what his body has left ot give.
Fujinaka's style is that of a high tempo, grinding fighter, who comes to fight. He can struggle to judge the distance, and can rush in wildly at times, but on the inside he loves letting his shots go in volume. It makes him an exciting fighter to watch, but he's a man who is open to eating counter shots, something we saw in spectacular fashion in his bout with Randall Bailey. His openess will be a major issue here against Yada, who is a very solid puncher and will eventually land a clean show as Fujinaka rushes in.
We love watching Fujinaka, who does fight like someone who wants to give fans value for money. Sadly that style will take a toll on a fighter, and we suspect that toll has already been taken and that Yada will catch him, and finish him at some point here.
The Welterweight scene in Japan is one of the country's weakest in terms of depth, yet it does give us some strangely compelling match ups due to the flaws, and strengths, of the fighters at the top. That includes the flawed but hard hitting champion Ryota Yada, and the explosive but shaky chinned pairing of Keita Obara and Toshio Arikawa.
On October 21st we'll see two of the best Welterweights on the Japanese domestic scene face off, with the two men fighting for a place at the 2019 Champion Carnival, and a shot at the Japanese title. The men involved in that eliminator are the heavy handed Yuki Beppu (18-0-1, 18) and the in form Yuki Nagano (14-2, 11), who are expected to put on an explosive clash in Fukuoka to get a shot at the national title.
Of the two men it's clearly Beppu who has the better looking record. He's unbeaten in 19 fights with 18 wins, all by stoppage. The 27 year old has been dubbed the “Tyson of Kyushu”, in relation to his stoppages the region where he's based. His power is legitimate and would lead him to begin his career 14-0 (14), before fighting to a draw with Charles Bellamy in early 2017. Those first 4 wins included Beppu taking the All Japan Rookie of the Year title in 2014, scoring a notable win in the final against Hironobu Matsunaga. Sadly the results against Matsunaga and Beppu aside there is very little of note on Beppu's record. The numbers hide the distinct lack of competition that he's faced with a record padded with poor Thai and Indonesian imports who rarely lasted more than 2 rounds.
Although Beppu's competition is poor his power does look to be legitimate. He's really hurting fighters when he lands, and the win over Matsunaga certainly backs up the idea he's a solid puncher. His ability to go 8 rounds against Bellamy showed he has stamina and can take a shot, and he seemed to be the one finishing that bout by looking like the stronger man.
Nagano is a 29 year old fighter from the Teiken gym who is based in Tokyo, and this will be his first fight outside of the Korakuen Hall. He debuted in 2012 and despite losing 2 of his first 4 bouts he has now rebuilt with 12 straight wins, 9 of those by stoppage. Included in his successes is the 2015 Rookie of the Year crown, which saw him defeat Masaharu Kaito and Giraffa Kirin Kanda,and notable wins over Dai Taoka and Riku Nagahama since then. Notably coming in to this he is riding a 5 fight stoppage run.
In the ring Nagano is an accurate fighter who boxes well on either the front foot or the back foot. He's a southpaw with a sharp left hand, who finds holes and has good timing. He's not particularly quick and in his biggest fights he's not been amazingly offensive, but does look like a man who understand how to box smartly and lure opponents in. His win over Nagahama saw him really unloading the left hand, bursting the eye of Nagahama and forcing the referee in. The finish however showed that he's no a big 1-punch hitter and whilst he has got finishing instincts he does leave himself open.
The edge in power and home advantage are both with Beppu and we suspect that will be the difference here in what will be a shoot out. Nagano has got the better boxing brain, but we suspect he'll be dragged into a free swinging battle, with Beppu's power landing being the difference. It's worth noting that Nagano's southpaw stance my trouble Beppu, but even then we favour the “Kyushu Tyson” to land the big right hand and take his man out.
The Welterweight scene in Japan is one of the weakest domestic scenes in the country, with very little depth in the division. Despite the lack of depth there are interesting match ups to be made, such as the recent Japanese title fight that saw Ryota Yada (16-4, 13) defeat Toshio Arikawa. This coming Saturday will make his first defence of the title as he takes on Kazuyasu Okamoto (14-5, 4) in Hirakata. For Yada the bout sees him getting a home coming coming defense, as he returns to the city of his birth whilst Okamoto gets a surprise opportunity following a loss last time out to Vladimir Baez.
The champion has has a bit of an up-and-down career, though is certainly in the form of his career with 4 solid wins coming into this bout, including a career defining win over Arikawa. Whilst the first two of those wins were relatively meaningless the last two have seen him over-come the teak tough Moon Hyon Yun and score the win over Arikawa. Those wins have seen him bounce back brilliantly from a painful defeat to under-rated Filipino Jayar Inson as he's got his career back on track. Those recent wins help shore up a record which does lack other wins of major note, with Yada's next best wins coming over Makoto Kawasaki and Yuta Maruoka. What is notable however about Yada's record is that he's turned a 3-3 start around to a 16-4 record by going 13-1 and really putting those early losses behind him.
In the ring Yada is a rough around the edges boxer-puncher, or rather more a puncher-boxer. He's not smooth, he's not fluent and he's not the most relaxed fighter, but he does have surprising speed, very decent size and reach and when he gets his full weight behind a shot fighters at this level really feel it, as Arikawa did. He doesn't seem to cope with pressure well, and fighters who can get inside can give him real issues, and his chin isn't the most solid, but his heart isn't to be questioned and he had to dig deep against Arikawa.
Okamoto first came to the attention of Japanese fight fans back in 2010, when he reached the All Japan Rookie of the Year final, losing in the final to the more experienced Tomoya Yamada. Following the to Yamada it seemed like Okamoto's career struggled a little, as he went 3-3 in his next 6 bouts, including losses to So Takenaka and a stoppage loss to Kazuya Murata. That bad run was then followed by Okamoto's best career run of 5 straight wins before Vladimir Baez stopped him in 8 rounds to secure himself a Japanese title fight at 140lbs.
To date Okamoto has only fought twice as a fully fledged Welterweight, going 1-1 in those two bouts. He's pretty tall for a Light Welterweight, but he'll be shorter than Yada here and hasn't shown the power or durability to live with Yada. That however shouldn't take away from the fact that Okamoto likes to press the fight, force a bout to be fought up close and bring a lot of pressure. It gave him real moments against Baez and we expect to see him rush Yada as well, especially given that that was something that worked for Inson against Yada.
Sadly for Okamoto we think his lack of power will be a major issue and Yada has the power to hurt him coming in. Okamoto could cause some problems for the champion but we expect to see Yada land clean too often and take him out in in the second half of the fight, after Okamoto's feet start to slow and begins to struggle to cut the distance.
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.
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