The Super Flyweight division is one of the most talent laden division's in the sport today with fighters like Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Jerwin Ancajas, Juan Francisco Estrada, Donnie Nietes and Kazuto Ioka all being among the notable names competing at 115lbs. Sadly the division is a bit of a top heavy one right now, with a lot of world level talent and not much really making their mark on the Japanese domestic scene. At the moment the Japanese national champion is veteran Hiroyuki Kudaka (26-17-2, 11), who claimed the title earlier this year when he over-came Go Onaga to claim his second professional title almost 8 years after he claimed the WBC International Silver Flyweight title.
This coming Friday Kudaka looks to make his first defense of the Japanese Super Flyweight title as he takes on 26 year old southpaw challenger Takayuki Okumoto (20-8-3, 10) at the EDION Arena Osaka.
Although Kudaka is a relatively limited champion he has long been a must watch fighter. Win or lose Kudaka is a fun to watch fighter and despite being 33 years old he is still a fighter gets involved in wars, is durable enough to go the distance and has the stamina to lets his hands go in every round. At his very best, around a decade ago, he was a very good fighter who gave hell to the likes of Denkaosan Kaovichit, Takefumi Sakata, Panomroonglek Kaiyanghadaogym, Tetsuya Hisada, Oleydong Sithsamerchai and Sonny Boy Jaro, taking several wins from the fighters in that group. Over the last few years however he has picked up more losses than wins, coming up short against the likes of Ryo Matsumoto, Omar Andres Narvaez, Takuya Kogawa, Mark John Yap and Takuma Inoue.
The Osakan champion began his career back in 2002 when he was stopped inside a round. Since then however he has proven a tough nut with only Narvaez stopping him in the subsequent 44 bouts. He can be dropped, he can be hurt but his fighting heart is hard to break and he will always look to come forward and break down opponents, especially at this domestic level. He lacks the power to take them out with one shot, but will look to grind them down and secure the wins on the scorecards. He can do that at domestic level, but above Japanese level he does seem to lack the skills to match his desire.
The challenger made his debut in 2007, as a 15 year old in Thailand. Despite winning his debut he would be stopped in his second bout, also in Thailand. He would then be out of the ring for close to 2 years before making his Japanese debut and would lose his first bout in Japan. Following that loss he would go on an 8 fight unbeaten run, going 7-0-1 whilst defeating novice Japanese and Thai opponents. That winning run would come to an end when Okumoto stepped up in class, losing back to back bouts to Myung Ho Lee and Kohei Kubo, then being held to a draw by Akiyoshi Kanazawa, who would go on to beat Okumuto in a rematch between the two men. Even a return to Thailand failed to help Okumoto rebuild his career momentum as Rusalee Samor stopped him in 2 rounds.
Despite the struggles Okumoto continued his career and actually managed to reel off 6 straight wins, including victories over Shota Kawaguchi and Yuta Saito, before losing a close decision to Thailand's Komgrich Nantapetch, aka Eaktwan BTU Ruaviking. That loss to the Thai was a set back but it was one that Okumoto bounced back from with a pair of stoppage wins before a technical draw with Eranio Semillano slowed his rise once again. It was only a temporary slowdown however as his next fight would see him getting a Japanese title fight with Ryuichi Funai, who took a technical decision over Okumoto.
In the ring Okumoto really doesn't do anything special. He's gritty and can make fights ugly, but really isn't that powerful, that strong or that quick. His flaws however should lead to a fun fight here with Kudaka pressing the action and forcing both men to unload shots up close. We suspect the flaws of Okumoto will be his downfall, and Kudaka will be too be experienced, too tough and too busy for the challenger, in what will be a fun and entertaining contest, but one that Kudaka comes out on top of.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On the undercard of the upcoming Obara x Lagumbay “Revenge Fight”, Taiki Minamoto defends his Japanese Featherweight championship against Tatsuya Otsubo.
Taiki Minamoto (15-5/12 KOs) began his pro-career in 2011, just 2 weeks after turning 20. Unlike most fighters who face opponents with losing records, in order to gain experience in their early years, Minamoto’s road was different, a path that led to a few losses, including one to future world champion Masayuki Ito. However, these encounters only made him more determined to come back stronger and defeat well-versed boxers like Eita Kikuchi (14-3*) and Seizo Kono (14-5*), even earning an opportunity at the Japanese Super Bantamweight champion and future IBF world title holder Yukinori Oguni (14-1*), a match that went the distance. Since then, Minamoto is on a 5 fight winning streak, with wins over the likes of Ryota Kajiki (28-9*) and Dai Iwai (21-4*) as well as Takenori Ohashi (15-4*), who he TKOed in order to become the Japanese Featherweight champion for the first time.
Tatsuya Otsubo (12-8/4 KOs) will be Minamoto’s inaugural title defense. Otsubo, despite struggling through out his 11-year career, has won all of his last 4 bouts, since resurfacing from his hiatus in 2015, including victories over Ryuto Araya (twice) and Indonesian champion Musa Andy Letding. It’s worth mentioning that Otsubo holds a win over Akihiko Katagiri, the man who knocked Minamoto out on his 9th pro fight.
On paper, Minamoto is the favourite to leave Korakuen Hall with the strap, as he’s currently ranked the #1 featherweight in Japan and has bested better fighters than his opponent. On the other hand, Otsubo seems to have turned a new page of his career and has vastly improved over the course of these last 2 years, so it wouldn’t be unthinkable if he can pull off the upset once again, this time with the gold on the line.
*Fighter’s record before the fight.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo )
Masayoshi Nakatani (16-0), along with Nihito Arakawa (31-6) and Kazuhiro Nishitani (19-4), is currently one of Japan’s top Lightweights.
While studying at the Kindai University, he participated in 60 amateur bouts. Turned pro on June of 2011, at the age of 21, winning 6 fights in a row (5 KOs), including a victory over future Japanese champion Shuhei Tsuchiya (14-1*).
Nakatani, on January of 2014, went face to face with former Japanese and the then reigning OPBF champion Yoshitaka Kato (26-4*) for the OPBF belt. Despite being the less experienced of the two, he took the champion to his limit for 12 rounds, earning the majority decision, thus the championship and the East Japan Boxing Association Monthly MVP Award.
Nakatani, since then, has defended his title 9 times, including wins over Ricky Sismundo (26-7*), Futoshi Usami (12-1*), Krai Setthaphon (23-1*), Ryan Sermona (20-8*), Amphol Suriyo (22-2*). A bonafide knock artist, having finished 10 out of his 16 bouts, most within the first five rounds, he has placed himself at the top of the division, as he is ranked #7 by the WBC, #13 by the WBO and #5 by the IBF.
His next opponent is Izuki Tomioka (5-0) an up comer, who’s building his name in the regional scene, having scored wins over Yuichiro Kasuya (9-1*) as well as Taiju Shiratori (8-2*) and has claimed the Japanese Youth Lightweight title.
Despite the fact that Nakatani is the clear favorite in this outing, on July 29th, we can’t dismiss the young lion, who in less than 2 years has made quite an impact in the Japanese scene (ranked #15).
It will be interesting to see how both these athletes will match each other. Nakatani needs just a few more significant victories before he can challenge for a world title, so it’s imperative he succeeds here, as a loss to a rookie will not look that good on his record.
*Fighter’s record prior to the fight.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo )
One of the most anticipated fights within the Asian boxing community will take place on July 27, as Yusaku Kuga defends his Japanese Super Bantamweight championship against Shingo Wake.
Yusaku Kuga (16-2 / 11 KOs) is a star on the rise. Burst into the scene in 2010, while still 19 years old, he started massing up victories one after the other. In just 3 years, he was already facing much more experienced boxers than himself, like Yuki Iwasaki (11-4*), Koji Aoki (16-7*), Kojiro Takada (13-8*), knocking out every single one of them. With a record of 11-1-1 he entered his first major championship bout on December of 2015, facing former WBO International champion Yasutaka Ishimoto (26-8*) for the vacant Japanese Super Bantamweight title. Both men went to war and in the end, Ishimoto got a very close decision to win the match and the belt. That loss, only motivated Kuga even more to try and capture the gold. In 2016 he dispatched Thai fighter Sukpraserd Ponpitak (13-5*) and Philippino standout Jonathan Baat (32-7*) to earn another shot at the Japanese crown. The rematch between Kuga and Ishimoto was set on February of 2017. Most fans expected this to be another back and forth affair, but that wasn’t the case this time around. Kuga blasted the champion early in the first round, knocking him down, to the surprise of everyone in attendance. In the second, Ishimoto endured a heavy beating which led to the referee stopping the fight and declaring Kuga the 39th Japanese Super Bantamweight champion. Just 5 months later, he earned his first successful title defense over Ryoichi Tamura (8-2*) and his second on March of 2018 when he KOed Ryo Kosaka (16-3*) within 2 minutes into the match. Kuga is currently ranked amongst the top of the division by the WBA, the WBC and the WBO.
Shingo Wake (24-5 / 16 KOs), not to be outdone by his upcoming opponent, has had quite a career thus far. Fighting close to 12 years, he has come face to face with some of the toughest boxers the Asian scene has to offer. In 2013, he locked horns with future IBF World champion Yukinori Oguni for the OPBF Super Bantamweight title. Oguni, undefeated at 10-0 at the time, was considered the massive favorite to win the scramble, having already defended the OPBF belt thrice against Hiromasa Ohashi (24-10*), Masaaki Serie (21-4*) and Roli Gasca (19-3*). Wake came determined and put on a clinic for 10 rounds, even knocking the champ down in the second. Oguni was rendered unable to continue and Wake won his first major title in the process. After earning 5 title defenses from 2013 to 2015, all finishes, he decisioned former IBF Asian champion Pipat Chaiporn (35-7*) in a World title eliminator bout. When the time came, Wake was overwhelmed by Jonathan Guzman’s (21-0*) power and got dropped numerous times throughout the match, suffering his only KO loss today. Despite coming short on his big opportunity, he displayed his fighting spirit by never surrendering and even giving Guzman some trouble, which made him more popular with the Japanese fans. Since then, he has been on a 4 fight winning streak, all KOs, including victories over Mikihito Seto (34-14) as well as former WBC International Silver champion and World title contender Boonsom Yamsiri (50-3).
Both fighters are looking to take that next step in their careers. For Kuga, it’s a chance to finally break in the World title picture whereas for Wake it’s time to step back up and regain his place amongst the top contenders.
Prediction: This is a pretty even fight. Kuga is 27 years old with a 58% KO ratio, while Wake is 31 with a 52% KO ratio. However, with 31 bouts under his belt, the experience factor definitely lies with Wake. At the same time, Kuga has never been stopped in his 19 fights, unlike Wake. Comparing recent performances, Kuga has faced better competition overall. Moreover, under the notion of “you are as good as your last fight”, Kuga finished Ryo Kosaka within the first round while Wake needed 4 rounds to put down a relatively inferior opponent in Roman Canto. All in all, Kuga maybe winning this on paper but you can never count out a veteran the caliber of Wake.
The Flyweight division has been going through a lot of changes over the last few years at the world level, and it's opened up the doors for fighters may have been locked when the division was at it's best. Gone are fighters like Roman Gonzalez, Kazuto Ioka, Juan Francisco Estrada and Donnie Nietes. The division isn't dead, but it's a long way removed from what it was just a few years ago.
Rather than lament the division's recent downfall it's nice to look at the changes at the top, and appreciate the success of fighters like Sho Kimura and Cristofer Rosales, who have both rebuilt from early career defeats. They will be an inspiration for other fighters, such as current Japanese Flyweight champion Masayuki Kuroda (29-7-3, 16) who will look to continue his journey towards a second world title fight on July 23rd, when he defends his national title against Akinori Hoshino (14-7-2, 9).
Kuroda is perhaps best known for his first world title fight, a loss in 2013 to Juan Carlos Reveco. Since then he has had mixed success in the ring, going 8-3-1 (3). Despite his form being mixed he is currently riding a 5 fight unbeaten run which has seen him claim the Japanese interim Flyweight title, the regular Japanese Flyweight title and make 2 defenses of the regular title. He's avenged one of his career defeats, by defeating Takuya Kogawa in rematch between the two men, and scored a notable win last time out against Katsunori Nagamine.
In the ring Kuroda doesn't do anything that special, he's not a monstrous puncher, he's not particularly slick or lightning quick. He is however an aggressive, tough fighter with a huge will to win. He's a battler, who will let his hands go and have a fight. He's very much a fighter who is in an opponents face, applies pressure and tries to apply strong and consistent pressure with a lot of leather being thrown. He can be out boxed, and he can be out fought, but at Japanese level not many will out fight him or out box him.
Hoshino on the other hand is a more crafty and frustrating fighter. He looks to box behind a long jab, leans just outside of range and uses rather awkward movement to his boxing. He doesn't have a very busy style, more of a cautious counter punching one, but it's one that works for him and has frustrated the likes of Nagamine, who he held to a draw, and helped him pick up notable wins over Kenya Yamashita and Shun Kosaka.
On paper this does look like a bit of a mismatch, but Hoshino really is better than his record suggests. The challenger was 4-3-1 (2) after 8 bouts but since then he has gone 10-4-1 and scored notable wins over Mako Matsuyama, Kenichi Watanabe, Kenya Yamashita and Shun Kosaka. Not has he scored those notable wins but he has also run the likes of Tatsuya Takahashi and Ryuichi Funai close whilst fighting well above his weight. At 11l2bs he's not giving away natural size as he has in losses to Funai, Gakuya Furuhashi and Yusuke Suzuki. Instead he'll be a big and strong fighter at Flyweight, able to use his strength to push back on Kuroda when he needs to.
Although we think Hoshino will be a very tricky opponent, we think Kuroda's experience, especially over the 10 round distance, will be his key advantage here as he takes a hard fought and narrow decision to move a step closer to a second world title fight. Hoshino will be a nightmare, but not one that Kuroda can't over-come.
This coming Monday Japanese fight fans in Osaka will get the chance to see national Light Flyweight champion Tetsuya Hisada (31-9-2, 19) make his 4th defense, as he takes on Koki Ono (12-4, 5). For Ono the bout is a huge opportunity to fight for his first title, a chance that looked like it had vanished when he lost in a Japanese title eliminator last year to Koji Itagaki, whilst Hisada will see the bout as a chance to continue his good form, and keep pressure on the world champions to give him a shot at a world title.
The champion won the title last year, after more than 13 years in the sport, as he took a decision victory over Kenichi Horikawa. The win over Horikawa saw Hisada over-come a man who had previously beaten him twice and score a career defining win at the age of 32. That career defining win has has since been followed by successful title defenses against Atsushi Kakutani, Takeru Kamikubo and Koji Itagaki as he's climbed up the world rankings and moved to within touching distance of a world title shot.
In the ring Hisada is an aggressive fighter who has a high output, under-rated power and impressive stamina. He desire to win is genuinely impressive and although he's not the most skilled fighter at 108lbs he is a hard man to beat. In fact his current winning run of 10 fights is impressive and he has developed a lot from the fight who was once 20-8 (10) and had been beaten in 4 of his previous 6 bouts. Talking about his losses is it worth quickly looking at those, with 2 having come to Horikawa and others coming to Hiroyuki Kudaka and Ryoichi Taguchi, and 4 of the other 5 have been by split decision. He's proven through his career that he's a very hard man to beat.
The challenger is a 27 year old who made his rebut in 2009, as an 18 year old. Despite making his debut more than 9 years ago his career has been a slow burner. He took more than a year out of the ring between his first 2 fights and failed to really have any career momentum until 2015, when he went 3-0, marking it as the busiest year of his career so far. That was then followed by a frustrating 2016, in which he fought just once, and a 2017 that saw him go 1-1, losing by split decision to Itagaki in an eliminator. Whilst Ono did lose to Iagaki he does hold notable wins over Aiki Koto, Yamato Uchinono and Ryoya Ikema, decent domestic fighter but unspectacular ones.
In the ring Ono isn't much of a puncher, with just 5 stoppage wins from 16 bouts, but he does have a solid out put and does enjoy unloading to the body, which he does in volume. That should make for a stylistically fun encounter with Hisada, who is also happy to let his shots fly. Given that he his only 27 Ono should have the edge in youthful energy but does lack in terms of experience, and that is something that could prove to be an issue here.
We're expecting these two to enjoy an all out war in the centre of the ring. Unfortunately for Ono we feel that that sort of fight will favour Hisada, who we think will wear down and stop Ono in the later rounds. The fight will be action packed, but with Hisada having the edge in experience and power we think that'll be the difference here, and will be what leads him to victory.
This coming Friday Japanese fight fans are set for a treat as former Japanese Flyweight champion Suguru Muranaka (26-3-1, 8) takes on Yuta Saito (10-9-3, 7) in a bout for the vacant Japanese Bantamweight title. On paper the bout may not look particularly special, but the reality is that this could turn out to be one of the sleeper bouts of the year, and, given the styles of the two men, really could be an action packed war or attrition. On paper we can all see it looks like a mismatch, but for Muranaka it's his first real bout as a fully fledged Bantamweight, whilst Saito is a natural Bantamweight who has dipped his toes at Super Bantamweight in recent years.
Muranaka is by far the more well known. He challenged for the WBA Super Flyweight title last year, when he came up short against Kal Yafai, and prior to that had been the Japanese Flyweight champion, holding that title from December 2013 to April 2014, when he was stripped of the belt for failing to make weight. As a Flyweight Muranaka was a really good domestic level fighter, and could well have made a mark at Oriental or even world level. It was at that weight that he scored really good wins over Takuya Kogawa and Masayuki Kuroda, and scored a sensational 1-punch KO of Yusuke Sakashita.
At Flyweight Muranaka was an all action fighter, able to walk forward, use his physicality and fight at an incredibly high tempo. As he's gone up in weight he's found it harder to have the same success, opponents haven't been hurt by his shots, they've been able to take his pressure easier and have more success up close. This has been seen in narrow wins against Hiroyuki Kudaka and Ken Achiwa, as well as his loss to Khalid Yafai. Muranaka is still tough and has a great engine, but hs can no longer back fighters up in the same way, and fighters he's been fighting at Super Flyweight are now his physical equals.
On paper Saito doesn't look like he's fit to be fighting for a title, especially not one as highly regarded as the Japanese Bantamweight title which has been held by fighters like Shinsuke Yamanaka, Toshiaki Nishioka, Ryosuke Iwasa, Yasuei Yakushiji, Joichiro Tatsuyoshi and Yoshio Shirai. Despite that he's ranked #4 by the JBC and is a genuine contender on the domestic scene and also has one of the most misleading records in Japan. His 22 fight career saw him begin 2-3 before winning the 2012 Rookie of the Year, whilst fighting as a Super Flyweight. In the years since he has filled out his frame, been matched hard, and become a notable fighter on the fringes of the Japanese title scene whilst moving between Bantamweight and Super Bantamweight.
As mentioned Saito lost 2 of his first 3 bouts, since then he has gone 9-7-3 with losses coming to very good domestic fighters, such as Mugicha Nakagawa, Takayuki Okumoto, Yushi Tanaka, Naoya Okamoto and Ryo Akaho, in what was also a Japanese Bantamweight title fight. His team have matched him hard, and even in those losses he has been competitive, with Nakagawa the only one to take a clear decision over him and even against Akaho he was very competitive being being stopped in round 9. With that in mind it's fair to say he deserves to be in the mix, especially given that the top fighters in the country have progressed beyond domestic level already.
Coming in to this Saito will be the under-dog, but we genuinely think he'll be a handful, and although he should be regarded as the under-dog he is a very live under-dog, and we wouldn't be surprised by the naturally bigger man picking up a narrow decision win.
Unfortunately the Japanese Bantamweight division, at least domestically, is a big lacking right now, but with the likes of Kai Chiba, Fumiya Fuse, Ryuto Owan and Kazuki Nakajima, among others the division is maybe only a year or two away from being red hot, like it usually is.
This coming Wednesday fight fan at the Korakuen Hall will see OPBF Super Featherweight champion Carlo Magali (23-9-3, 12) defending his title against against fast rising Japanese youngster Hironori Mishiro (5-0, 2). On paper this looks likely to either be a mismatch in favour of the veteran or a coming out party for Mishiro, who would suddenly find himself as one of the hottest prospects at 130lbs if he were to win. A win for Magali would however help him vent some frustrations after two other bouts have fallen through in recent months, and he has clearly had a few months which have seen him messed about and forced to miss out on some big opportunities.
The 31 year old Magali has been a professional for 12 years and had really mixed fortunes in the professional ranks. He began by scoring 5 straight wins, all back in 2016, though his career began to falter as he dropped to 9-4. Since then he has gone 14-5-3 and scored notable wins, including two against Mark John Yap as well as victories over the tragic David Browne Jr, Mark Gil Melligen and, most recently, Masatoshi Kotani. With those wins he claimed a number of minor titles before becoming the OPBF Super Featherweight champion last year, with his first defense coming this past January against Kotani.
After the win against Kotani on January 13th this year Magali was offered a fight with WBC champion Miguel Berchelt, he would accept that fight before the GAB refused to let him fight so soon after the Kotani bout. He would then later have a bout against Yoon Sung Kim being announced, before that too was cancelled, this time due to Kim suffering health issues. Those bouts falling through have prevented Magali from building on the Kotani win, but he may well have used those set backs to further his desire to make a point when he fights here.
In the ring Magali is a short Super Featherweight, though like many Filipino fighters he's a strong, powerful guy in the ring. He's not a huge puncher but he's got solid and consistent power, and carries that power later, with his last 2 wins both being 10th round TKO's. Added to that he is tough, with only 3 stoppages losses against his name, and the only recent ones have come at Lightweight against Emmanuel Tagoe and Pavel Malikov.
Aged 23 Mishiro is another in the ever growing production line of Japanese prospects tipped for success following a successful amateur career. As an amateur he went 41-16 (4), notched up a number of honours and was tipped for big things when he signed with Watanabe Gym. As a professional he's not blown us away, yet, but has impressed with notable wins over Shuma Nakazato and Shuya Masaki in his last 2 bouts. Those wins saw him take the unbeaten records of both men and progressing from 6 rounders to 8 rounders. There is however a big gap between a domestic level win over 8 rounds and OPBF title fight over 12 rounds, as Mishiro is going into here.
In the ring Mishiro is a talented boxer, who looks a little bit raw as a professional, but is developing very quickly, in part due to being at the Watanabe gym and training alongside world class fighters like Hiroto Kyoguchi, Ryoichi Taguchi and Kohei Kono. He has good fundamentals, though they still need work, very good size for a Super Featherweight and nice speed. It's worth noting that he has been hurt, and dropped, but showed good composure to get off the canvas and go on to beat his foe. Sadly for all the good there is a real worry they are rushing him slightly here. It can work, as it did with Kyoguchi, but it does feel like this is a bigger risk than it needs to be for the youngster, at this point in his career.
We think that Mishiro has got the skills to beat Magali, but the question is really whether he has the physical maturity, the experience or the know how. He has fought just 24 professional rounds, he has had just 5 professional bouts and has never gone beyond 8 rounds. He's stepping up massively here against an experienced, tough and strong fighter who is used to being the smaller man. It''s a huge ask for Mishiro to come out on top, and coming in we do consider him the under-dog, but if he pulls it off it will be very impressive. For Magali this is a chance to move to 4-0 (4) in Japan and become a bit of a Japanese Killer, which would certainly open the door to bigger fights in the Land of the Rising Sun.
This coming Thursday fight fan sin Japan will be able to see national Lightweight champion Shuichiro Yoshino (7-0, 5) make his second defense, as he takes on fellow professional novice Genki Maeda (6-2-1, 2), who will be fighting in his first professional title fight. For the champion the bout looks to be another chance to get some more experience before moving up another level, whilst the challenger will be looking to make the most of an opportunity that he doesn't really deserve, given he's gone 2-1-1 in his last 4 bouts.
Yoshino had been a former amateur standout before making his professional debut back in December 2015. Given his amateur pedigree he was ear marked for success almost immediately and in just his second bout he took on highly experienced Thai Chaiyong Sithsaithong, showing he could out box the tough Thai. After a frustrating 2016 Yoshino showed his skills as he over-came Yoshitaka Kato in early 2017 and then stopped Spicy Matsuhsita in a bout for the vacant Japanese Lightweight title last October. Since then he has defended the title once, stopping Masaki Saito inside a round this past February.
In the ring Yoshino is a talented boxer, who can can punch hard enough to get the respect of anyone at domestic level. He's not someone who looks like he's going to have KO power at world level, but with stoppage wins against Kenta Onjo, Matsushita and Saito he can certainly punch at this level. He can also box, with wins over the teak the tough Chaiyong and Kato proving he can go rounds when he needs to, and rely on his skills. He is a fighter who lacks professional experience, which is arguably why he is facing a fighter like Maeda, but looks like a fighter with the potential to go a very long way, if his team manage him right, and develop him properly. That likely means keeping him away from the very best in Japan, such as OPBF champion Masayoshi Nakatani or WBO Asia Pacific king Nihito Arakawa, for now but maybe not for too much longer.
On paper it's easy to look at 25 year old Maeda and write him off for his record, which is far from flattering. He has however faced some stiff domestic competition so far, including Yoshimichi Matsumoto, Mitsuyoshi Fujita and Shogo Yamaguchi. Sadly the fact he has come up short against the level of competition that he has faced really says it all, and whilst talented Maeda is not ready for a title bout. He's solid at domestic level, but a good step down from the domestic elite. With his best win being a majority decision against Yamaguchi or a unanimous decision over Areji Kato, both of which are good wins, but neither should suggest he's ready for a title bout.
Whilst Maeda is a good fighter he does lack power, with his only stoppages coming against very limited Thai visitors. As an amateur he was a credible fighter, but was a long way from matching the achievements of Yoshino and it's not only a case of Maeda lacking the power of the champion but also the skills. We suspect he will have moments, certainly more so than Saito, and we think Maeda is tough enough to see out some rounds. But in the end we don't see how he will live with Yoshino when the champion picks up the pace. Instead we suspect the champion will retain his title, with a mid-to-late round stoppage.
To end the month of May Japanese fight fans get the chance to see the rescheduled Japanese Super Featherweight title bout, between defending champion Masaru Sueyoshi (17-1, 11) and 37 year old veteran Tsuyoshi Tojo (14-15-5, 3), who gets his first title shot.
The champion won the belt last year, beating Ribo Takahata for the title, which had been vacated by Kenichi Ogawa ahead of Ogawa's bout with Tevin Farmer. He would make his first defense this past February when he pulled himself off the canvas to stop Ken Osato in 8 rounds, with that win being Sueyoshi's 14th straight following a 2012 loss to Masayuki Ito. In the ring the champion is a pretty peculiar boxer, with a very unique style and awkward, almost frustrating sense of distance. He seems to fight a rather odd distance and timing and uses that to set up some unusual angles for counter punches. It often sees him look lazy on the back foot, until his opponent makes a mistake and he opens up.
Although awkward Sueyoshi is a really talented boxer-mover. He keeps fights at range, uses his impressive speed to counter and gets outside of his opponents range. He doesn't look like a puncher but does get the respect of most opponents, and when he lands cleanly he can turn the lights off on a fighter, with his KO win against Allan Vallespin last year being one of the best KO's in Japan in 2017. The power has also stopped the likes of Kazuma Sanpei, Nelson Tinampay and the aforementioned Osato.
We'll admit we feel frustrated watching Sueyoshi, as he seems to have a lot more in his arsenal than he sometimes shows and his use of distance and his patience is rather un-fan friendly, but when he's in full flow he looks a special fighter and would make for interesting bouts against the likes of Reiya Abe or Masao Nakamura down the line, both of whom would be interesting stylistic bouts for the champion.
Tojo, who made his debut back in 2003, has been a real servant to Japanese boxing and faced a relative who's who of the Japanese domestic scene. He has gone in there with Zuri Kanana, Hisashi Amagasa, Yuki Ogata, Hirotsugu Yamamoto, Rikiya Fukuhara, Koji Umetsu, Masaki Saito, Satoru Sugita and Daiki Kaneko. Sadly though he has struggled against the Japanese title level fighters and with father time battling against him too it's hard to imagine him giving the speedy Sueyoshi many problems.
Tojo is better than his record suggests, and many of his losses have come to good, solid fighters in often competitive bouts. He's also a very tough fighter, with only Daiki Kaneko actually stopping him, and even that took the heavy handed Kaneko 7 rounds. Despite being better than the numbers suggest he is still 37 years old and has gone 2-2-2 in the last 4 years, showing he's not in good form, he's old and whilst still a very busy fight in between the ropes his lack of power is a major issue against a counter puncher like Sueyoshi.
We're expecting a pretty straight forward win for the champion. Sueyoshi will be too quick and too smart for Tojo. Sadly though we're not expecting a particularly enjoyable bout, with the styles not likely to gel brilliantly, and Sueyoshi playing it safe early on before moving up a gear later in the fight to take a straight forward win. Tojo's toughness will likely carry him to the final bell, but we don't see him doing enough to make this a close or competitive bout with the younger, fresher, smart man.
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.