Internationally we don't tend to see many Japanese Lightweights make a name for themselves, however one man has done just that, Nihito Arakawa (26-6-1, 16) [荒川 仁人]. Arakawa did so by putting on an incredibly gutsy display against the then touted Omar Figueroa. Since that bout however he has faded somewhat from the attention of boxing fans and gone 2-3 in subsequent bouts, whilst also returning to Japan. Despite his current form he is still regarded as a top Japanese Lightweight and he will be looking to reclaim his seat atop the domestic table on April 16th when he faces incumbent Japanese champion Kota Tokunaga (17-2, 11) [徳永 幸大].
When it comes to Arakawa we all remember his performance against Figueroa. It was gutsy, brave and exciting. He wasn't technically the most sound fighter, the quickest, the most defensively intelligent or the biggest puncher but his heart was incredible and his toughness was off the charts. Even the bout was, in all honesty, a lost cause he refused to back down and continued to bring the fight in the later rounds, trying to secure a remarkable turn around.
Arakawa will be hoping to use that energy and toughness later this week against Tokunaga, as he attempts to become a 2-time Japanese champion, at the age of 34. He first held the national title in 2010 and vacated it in 2011 as he chased a world title.
As we all know Arakawa can be out boxed. It happened against Figueroa, it happened against Jorge Linares and more recently it happened against Rikki Naito. He does however seem like the sort of fighter who will only be beaten against men capable of going to the final bell and have the energy to stay out of a fire fight. Going to war with Arakawa is often a mistake.
The 26 year old champion comes in to the bout as on of the more questionable Japanese domestic title holders. He won the belt a year ago, stopping Yuya Sugizaki in 8 rounds, and subsequently defended it twice, scoring a come from behind stoppage win over Yuhei Suzuki and a thin decision win over Kazuhiro Nishitani, both relatively limited challengers.
The champion is a fun to watch fighter. He has very respectable power at the domestic level, throws some lovely combinations and can use his height, 5'10”, very well. Sadly for all that goes in his favour he is a seriously flawed fighter and has been stopped twice, suggesting a poor chin, and has been rather fortunate in some ways that his challengers have been poor so far. They have worn themselves out whilst Tokunaga has been patient and used his energy reserves in the second half of bouts.
With questionable toughness, a low work rate and a lack of higher level experience Tokunaga has a lot of question marks over him. He is a much improved fighter to what he once was, but he has yet to prove he's anything like the best Lightweight in Japan.
We suspect that Tokunaga will start the bout cautiously, boxing on the back foot and using his reach. Arakawa however will have the know how to slip the jab, get in Tokunaga's face and make life very difficult for the champion. As the rounds go on Arakawa's will to win will over-come Tokunaga who we think will be stopped in the second half of the bout. Tokunaga will likely show signs of being a good fighter, but simply won't be able to handle Arakawa's pressure or toughness.
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.