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.
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.
To begin 2017 we had expected to see Japanese Welterweight champion Toshio Arikawa (14-4, 12) to defend his title at the Champion Carnival against mandatory challenger Daisuke Sakamoto (13-8-3, 8). Sadly in the run up to that fight the champion suffered a training injury, breaking his jaw, and forced that bout to be cancelled. Rather than leaving the title on ice the JBC ordered Sakamoto to face off with Makoto Kawasaki (9-4-1, 2) in a bout for the interim title. That bout closes out the relatively quiet month of June and gives fans at the Korakuen Hall another potentially thrilling contest.
On paper the bout might not look great. After all between them they have a combined record of 22-12-4 (10) and neither has made an impact above domestic level. The reality however is that they are are well matched, both are hungry and both men are looking to make the most of their opportunity here. It's a bout that has real intrigue and has a genuine reward for the winner.
Of the two fighters it's Sakamoto who comes in to the bout with genuine form. The 35 year old veteran has gone 6-0-2 since losing a very narrow decision to Nobuyuki Shindo back in December 2013. That 8 fight unbeaten run has seen him score a now huge opening round win over Toshio Arikawa, a little more than 3 years ago,claim a decision over Ryoji Tanaka and fight to a technical draw with Takashi Inagaki. Whilst his last 3 wins have been against poor Thai's he hasn't been allowing ring rust to build up, and has instead been keeping his eyes focused on the Japanese title.
Although Sakamoto is in the form of his career, and has turned a 7-8-1 (3) record around, he is much better than the numbers suggest. He has lost close ones to the likes of Shindo, Kazuyoshi Kumano, Yasuhiro Okawa, and Yoshitaka Katabami and has been matched hard on the domestic level, fighting the likes of Yuji Wauke and Daichi Sakoda very early in his career. Like many he has been matched hard and had to develop the hard way, which is why he is now reaping the rewards of such a poor looking record.
Aged 33 Kawasaki is a man who is really a bit of an unknown outside of the most hardcore of Japanese fans, and really doesn't have the time to suffer another set back. His most notable result is a draw, on debut, with Koki Tyson, who was also debuting. Since then he has fought some notable names, but has come up short against the likes of Hironobu Matsunaga, Noriaki Sato and Ryota Yada. That's not to say he doesn't have any good wins, but victories over Mazuya Murata, Takeshi Goda and Koji Iida are scarcely amazing.
With a lack of power Kawasaki will depend on his work rate and stamina here. He has shown both at at the 5 and 6 round distance but has only gone beyond 6 rounds twice, being stopped in one of those bouts and taking a decision in the other. He has never shown that he can comfortable go 8, never mind more, and he lacks the experience to really know what to do when fatigue sets in.
The bout probably won't be a memorable bout that transcends Japanese boxing, but we do expect the bout to be a lot of fun, and high octane and we expect to see Sakamoto just being that bit too good, too experienced and too hungry for his long awaited rematch with Arikawa to come up short here.
In recent times the OPBF title has given us some amazing bouts, and some less than great bouts. Sometimes we've seen fights we expected to be good, but ended up being mismatches like Daigo Higa's win over Ardin, and other times we've had bouts surprise and be much better than expected. Sadly though we can't see any way in which the upcoming OPBF Welterweight title bout will be anything but a disappointment.
The bout in question will see once beaten 25 year old champion Jack Brubaker (12-1-1, 6) battle against 35 year old Filipino journeyman Mark Sales (22-40-4, 8). We're sorry if we sound like we're being harsh, but this is little more than a sham defense for the very talented Brubaker.
The champion won the title back in 2015, when he stopped China's Xing Xin Yang in 4 rounds. He has since defended the belt twice, stopping Paddy Murphy in 6 rounds and taking a split decision win over Suyon Takayama in what was a genuine classic last July.
Brubaker is a million miles away from becoming a world champion, but he's a really good fighter, with good stamina, genuine grit and under-rated power. He's far from a puncher but has stopped 3 of his last 4, having only been forced to go the 12 round distance by the tough Takayama.
With two defenses under his belt we could really have Brubaker looking to either establish himself as a real champion and face some other top Oriental contenders, such as Czar Amonsot, Cammeron Hammond, or even a promising prospect like Yuki Beppu or Takeshi Inoue, though not fighting Inoue is fair enough given he will himself be fighting for a Japanese title later this month. Instead however he's up against Sale, who is at best a journeyman.
The 35 year old Sale has been a professional since 1997 , when he fought way down at Light Flyweight, and remarkably he picked up his first win as Minimumweight! Since then however Sale has filled into a bigger fighter, fighting all the way up the weights to Light Welterweight, where he has fought the last few years. During his long career he has faced a who's who of the Oriental scene. That has seen him face the likes of Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, Fahlan Sakkreerin, Nonito Donaire, Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo, Terdsak Kokietgym, Allan Tanada, Romeo Jakosalem and Al Rivera. Sadly for Sale he has lost to almost every notable name he has ever faced.
It's worth noting that Sale does have some good wins on his record, the last of which came in 2005, when he beat Bernabe Concepcion. Interestingly that win was the last time Sale beat an opponent with a winning record. That bout, fought around the Bantamweight limit, should tell you why we think this is such a horrible mismatch. Sale hasn't beaten a fighter with a winning record in over a decade, he hasn't scored a notable win above Super Bantamweight and isn't fit for an OPBF title fight, especially not at Welterweight, which he has never fought at.
Given Sales recent results it's hard to see him having any success here. He's proven his durability, with just 6 stoppages losses in 66 bouts, but it's hard to see him lasting the distance with Brubaker, who has shown respectable power in recent fights.
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.