The Champion Carnival comes to the fore again on April 11th when Japanese Lightweight champion Shuichiro Yoshino (9-0, 7) defends his belt against mandatory challenger Accel Sumiyoshi (11-4-3, 3). For Yoshino this will be his 4th defense, and he will be looking to extend his current stoppage run of 5 stoppages, whilst Sumiyoshi will be getting his second title fight, following a loss in an OPBF title fight back in 2015. On paper this looks like a rather weak mandatory defense for the unbeaten and highly talented champion, though the challenger is much better than his record suggests, and he could prove to be Yoshino's toughest challenge so far.
Yoshino was an excellent amateur before eventually deciding to turn professional in 2015, at Welterweight. He came down in weight, and his third bout was at Lightweight, where he has now settled and made a name for himself. As a professional Yoshino might only have 9 bouts to his name but he has already beaten the likes of Yoshitaka Kato, Spicy Matsushita, Masaski Saito and Genki Maeda. During his career so far he has looked like a special fighter, with all the tools to go much, much further than the Japanese title, but still to develop his experience before climbing too high too quickly.
As a boxer Yoshino is powerful, skilled, quick, and a sharp puncher. He's proven to be able to box for 8 rounds, as he did against Kato, battle on the inside when he needs to, and score really sensational KO's, as he did against Kazumasa Kobayashi last December. He's a really good all rounder, who will probably find himself fighting for a regional title later this year, with both the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles well within his grasp.
On paper Sumiyoshi looks a limited challenger, with 7 set backs in 18 fights and only 3 stoppage wins to his name. It should however be noted that Sumiyoshi has been matched insanely tough from the offer. His debut was against Yuya Okazaki, who would later challenge for an OPBF title, and he would suffer a decision loss in his third bout to the very experienced Kento Matsushita. He would then go 3-3-1 over his following 7 bouts, to fall to 5-4-1. That looks awful on paper but his losses not only came to Matsushita but also Yuhei Suzuki, Kota Tokunaga and Masayoshi Nakatani. To put those losses into perspective Suzuki was fighting for the first time since losing in a Japanese title fight, Tokunaga would become the Japanese champion 12 months after beating Sumiyoshi whilst Nakatani was defending his OPBF title against Sumiyoshi.
Since those setbacks Sumiyoshi has gone 6-0-2 scoring wins of note against the likes of Allan Tanada, Naotoshi Nakatani and Motoki Sasaki, whilst fighting to 2 draws with Tatsuya Yanagi.
In the ring Sumiyoshi is much better than his record would suggest. Sadly however he lacks power, and has found his bouts going long, and getting hard in the later stages. He's a solid boxer, but does nothing special. He's sharp and talented, but not amazingly quick, strong or powerful. Against fighters who he can jab and jab he can control fighters, but there's a big step up to doing that against someone as talented and rounded as Yoshino, who has himself a really good jab, one with more snap on it than Sumiyoshi does.
We do regarded Sumiyoshi's record as misleading, and we genuinely wouldn't be surprised if he won a Japanese title in the future. Against Yoshino however he would need a miracle, and we see this as either a late stoppage for the champion or a very wide decision for Yoshino. If Sumiyoshi wins it'll go down as a major domestic upset, though if Yoshino wins it will hopefully lead to a bout for an OPBF or WBO Asia PAcific title, which may well test the talented fighter from the Misako gym.
Seeing unbeaten fighters clash, with similar records, is something we don't see often enough, and it's a shame as it's quite exciting to see similarly matched fighters going up against each other in bouts that look like 50-50 contests. Both where both men having something to lose and both are taking a risk are always great.
On April 8th we get one such bout as Japan's Andy Hiraoka (13-0, 9), the Japanese Youth Light Welterweight champion, takes on Thai foe Atchariya Wirojanasunobol (12-0, 5). On paper this is a mouth watering bout, a real test for both men, and the winner could end up using their victory to move towards a regional title fight, and move onwards and upwards.
The 22 year old Hiraoka first made a mark back in 2014, as an 18 year old. The tall and rangy southpaw went on to make his way to the 2014 Rookie of the Year final at Lightweight, before needing to pull out due to illness. He would then take almost 2 years away from the ring before returning in late 2016 to score a couple of wins over Thai foes. That was followed by a sensational 2017 for the youngster, who would win the Japanese Light Welterweight title in November that year. Since then has had two more wins, scoring a single defense of the title in one of those bouts.
Hiraoka is a tall and rangy fighter, standing at 5'11". He's a southpaw with good speed, really solid power, and good boxing fundamentals. He's still a maturing young man, rather than a fully grown man, and there is a sense that he could certainly mature into a strong Welterweight in the future, adding muscle and meat to his bones as he develops physically. At the moment he does struggle when he's under pressure, and isn't a great inside fighter, but at range he is very good and if he can use jab and straight shots he does look very hard to beat.
Atchariya is a 29 year old Thai who debuted in late 2014 and has slowly gone about making a name for himself. A number of his early opponents were novices, though he did score some decent early wins over Heri Andriyanto and Stevie Ongen Ferdinandus. Despite the slow start to his career it was really in 2018 that he came into his own, scoring really solid wins over Kaewfah Tor Buamas and Taisho Ozawa, his two best wins by far and both came on WP Boxing shows in Bang Phun.
Atchariya is a pretty solid fighter himself. He's not a big puncher, but he does have nice variety to his shots, moves around the ring well and fights very confidently, with a lot of belief in ring IQ and how he controls distance. Despite his skills he doesn't have a great work rate, he's not hugely power or quick. He's certainly very confident in the ring, but he's not the most spectacular in any way. More a solid all rounder than a fighter who does anything amazingly well.
We suspect that the Ohashi team, who manage Hiraoka, will have selected the Thai for a reason and it's likely his work rather and lack of power. Despite that this isn't a given win for their guy and Atchariya has the ability to sneak the rounds, make Hiraoka miss and counter him. We favour Hiraoka to win, in what will perhaps be an ugly fight at times, but this is a very clear step up in class and by far his toughest bout to date.
The Japanese Light Welterweight scene has slowly developed into something quite interesting recently, with not only a handful of established fighters at the weight, but also a good crop of rising hopefuls. This coming Saturday we see a clash of established fighter and rising hopeful colliding for the Japanese national title.
The bout in question will see 37 year old champion Valentine Hosokawa (24-6-3, 11) attempt to make his third defense of the title as he takes on mandatory challenger Koki Inoue (12-0, 10), the cousin of Naoya and Takuma Inoue. For Hosokawa this will be his 34th career bout, in a career that began back in 2006, and his 7th bout at title level. For Inoue this will be his first title bout, and comes less than 42 months after his professional debut. Not only that but is a very clear step up for the challenger against a very experienced and talented champion.
Hosokawa, for those who haven't seen him or followed him through his career, is a real physical freak. At the age of 37 he has an insane work rate and engine, his style is that of an aggressive swarmer, who doesn't hit hard but hits often and typically our works opponents. Although he's had sme pretty decent unbeaten runs he is currently in the best form of his career, with wins over Quaye Peter, Koichi Aso, Vladimir Baez and Takashi Inagaki. Even his most recent losses, to Noriaki Sato and Hiroki Okada, were very competitive decisions, and he showed he was still a damn good fighter in both of those set backs.
Hosokawa has come through the ranks the hard way. Built his success on experience and not seen losses as a reason to give in. He's come a really long way since winning the 2008 Rookie of the Year, at Lightweight, and bounced back well from two stoppage losses in OPBF title bouts, to Shinya Iwabuchi and Min Wook Kim. Even in his stoppage losses he showed incredible toughness and determination, before eventually being ground down by heavier handed fighters. Sadly though, we do wonder what his body has left, and he turns 38 just days after this fight. It could be that Hosokawa will be the next victim of father time.
Inoue, like his cousins, is a product of Shingo Inoue's training and like Naoya he's a strong, powerful fighter with skills. His performances at times have been excellent, but at others he has not really shined, and sometimes that's not been his fault. For example his fight with Cristiano Aoqui ended due to an injury suffered by Aoqui. When he's looked good however he has looked sensational with great combinations, movement, and sharp punching. Sadly his last performance showed little of that, as he put in a tame effort in a Japanese title challenger decider bout against Marcus Smith. Inoue would beat Smith, but looked poor doing so, before revealing he had taken several injuries into the bout. Injuries that likely played a part in his poor performance.
At 26 years old Inoue is coming into his physical prime. He's a clear talent, despite not being on the same level as his better known cousins, but this is a huge step up in class. He's gone from fighting the likes of Aoqui and Smith to fighting the Japanese champion, a former OPBF title contender and a man who is a nightmare to fight with his experience and work rate. If he's still carrying niggling injuries as well this could be too much, at the wrong time.
Whilst he is stepping up, we do favour Inoue to win. We think he's the stronger and faster man, he's certainly not had the miles on the clock Hosokawa's had. However he will have to work harder for this bout than for anything other since he turned professional, he needs to focus on controlling the ring, landing body shots and tiring Hosokawa with smart boxing. If he gets into a war that will not bode well for the challenger, even if he does hit harder, as Hosokawa will rely on his experience of a war, and come out on top.
This is a major test for both men, and should tell us a lot about Inoue's potential and what Hosokawa has left in his legs. It's an interesting bout, and a real test for the third member of the Inoue clan. But a test that he has the ability to pass, with the right game plan.
One thing we absolutely love about the Japanese scene is the willingness of their prospects to step up in class and risk their unbeaten records early on. Sometimes it works brilliantly, whilst other times it does fail to develop a hopeful in the way their team would hope.
On April 5th we see talented Japanese Middleweight prospect Riku Kunimoto (3-0, 1) taking a huge step up in class to take on the heavy handed Shoma Fukumoto (12-3, 10), in what could be the best bout on the card, and is certainly the most interesting on paper give the risk that Kunimoto is taking against a hard hitting and relatively seasoned campaigner, who can ill afford another set back.
The 21 year old Kunimoto was a notable amateur before heading to the professional ranks last year with Mutoh Gym, as one of their big new hopes. On debut, last August, he looked really sharp, taking a wide decision over Korean Kyung Wook Kwon. There was a lack of power from him at times, but he was quick, accurate, able to find holes to head and body and showed some really nice flashes of offensive brilliance, as well as good defensive fundamentals. His style was very much that of a pressure boxer, bringing the heat with his footwork and high guard, then countering as Kwon tried to create space. Just a few months after his debut he would take on domestic foe Toshihiro Kai, and show a little more spite on his shots, and a few more wrinkles to his game before forcing the referee to save Kai in the neutral corner.
At just 21 it's clear that Kunimoto is not the complete product. Looking at him it appears he's carrying a little bit of "puppy fat", he hasn't matured into a fully grown man yet, but technically he's very talented, a very quick and exciting fighter. If he can develop his "man strength" in the next year or two he could quickly become a notable player on the often over-looked Japanese Middleweight scene. A big question here however is whether he's ready for Fukumoto.
Aged 28 Fukumoto is a 6 year pro, a brutal puncher and someone's who has shown some real touches of class. Sadly he has also shown a lack of durability, with all 3 of his losses coming by stoppage. Whilst a loss to Kazuto Takesako is totally understandable, he has twice been stopped by tough Filipino journeyman Arnel Tinampay, which is less understandable despite Tinampay's record against Japanese fighters being an impressive one. Fukumoto is a strong, powerful fighter, who has a solid jab but relatively slow hands and feet. He's a tall and rangy fighter but often tries to get inside, rather than using his reach and size properly. If he was to fight at range and make the most of his size he would likely be a lot more successful and find it easier to avoid big shots on the chin.
Whilst the chin of Fukumoto is one of his key problems he doesn't really do a huge amount to help himself. He's open defensively, drops his hands when hurt and doesn't seem to hold on to survive. His hands drop when he throws and there are gaps when his guard is up. He fights like a fighter who believes his power will scare opponents into not throwing at him, but unfortunately his defensive issues actually make fighters more willing to let shots go and this is an issue when facing an opponent who knows what they are doing, as Takesako and Tinampay did.
Coming in to this we do feel Kunimoto has the skills to take home a clear win over Fukumoto, and to do so by decision. There is however always a risk that Fukumoto could land a bomb, and change everything with one shot. We think Kunimoto will be wary of the power of Fukumoto, and fight smart to avoid exchanges, but there is always a risk here, and that should make for an edge of your seat bout, as most Fukumoto fights tend to be.
For fans interested in watching footage of Kunimoto ahead of this contest, his first and third bouts are available on Boxing Raise.
The Minimumweight division is a really strange one right now, that despite not being red hot has a lot of really interesting match ups that could be made, and a lot of interesting style match ups. One of the rising stars of the division is unbeaten Japanese fighter Tsubasa Koura (14-0, 9), the currnet OPBF champion and someone expected to be a future world champion. On March 31st he will make his 4th defense of the title as he takes on under-rated Filipino challenger Lito Dante (15-10-4, 7). On paper this looks a total mismatch, though in reality we suspect it will be a better than it looks on paper.
Looking at the records of the two men Dante will, clearly, be the under-dog. He's only won 15 bouts from 29 but the 29 year old should certainly shouldn't be ignored only because of his record. Since 2010 he has fought between Minimumweight and Flyweight and taken on a relative who's who of the lower weights. sharing the ring with the likes of Lester Abutan, Siyabonga Siyo, Vic Saludar, Takumi Sakai, Jessie Espinas, Simpiwe Konkco and Tibo Monabesa. No one has managed to stop Dante, who has proven to be tough and intelligent. He has also been able to score the occasional upsets, upsetting the likes of Lester Abutan, Jaysever Abcede, Jay Loto and Naoya Haruguchi.
As with most fighters who have got 30 fights under their belt Dante is a crafty fighter. He's not the sort of fighter who wow with flashy skills, but he will find holes, slip shots, and make things messy when he needs to. He lacks power but is accurate, intelligent and makes the most of what he has. His record might be that of a journeyman but he's not turning up to bouts to lose. He has taken rounds from the likes of Saludar, Espinas and Siyo through ring craft. He knows how to use the ropes to ride shots, knows how get his head involved when he needs to and really is a lot more frustrating than his record would suggest.
Of course the 24 year old Koura is expected to win, and we'd pick him despite feeling like Dante is being massively over-looked. We do however expect to see Koura being required to answer some questions that haven't been full answered yet. The champion, who is not only the OPBF champion but also a former Rookie of the Year win, is a fantastic fighter. Early in his career he looked to be a punch, but he has certainly developed into a more rounded boxer-puncher. He has started to realise he can't blast fighters out, and has instead gone 12 rounds twice, scoring wins over Masataka Taniguchi and Daiki Tomita, and showing real growth between those bouts. He's gone from being very aggressive early in his career to showing a sense of patience, countering, and adding more strings to his bow.
Through 14 fights Koura has beaten Jaffrey Galero, Masataka Taniguchi, Norihito Tanaka and Daiki Tomita and has really developed into a brilliant fighter, and is one of the leading contenders in the division. The fact he is still showing pretty clear improvements in fights is really exciting and a sign that he isn't sitting on his laurels, but is instead looking to fully prepare himself for a world title fight.
We don't expect the upset, it's not impossible but it would be a huge surprise. What we are expecting however is for Koura to show more than he's shown before. Dante is a frustrating fighter, he's an awkward fighter, he's a fighter who looks after himself. Koura will have to continue to show his patience, his mentality in the ring will be tested and how he breaks Dante down will be interesting. We're expecting a clear, and wide, decision to Koura, but he will have to work for it. Dante isn't unbeatable, but he is no walk in the park, despite his 10 losses.
The Flyweight division is really interesting at the moment, with some great potential match ups and some great scheduled match ups. For us the best looking fight in the coming few weeks at the weight will see unbeaten Japanese prospect Ryota Yamauchi (4-0, 4) take on world ranked Chinese fighter Wulan Tuolehazi (10-3-1, 5). On paper this might not scream anything special, just another prospect taking a step up, but Yamauchi is a sensational prospect, and Tuolehazi is no push over, having beaten OPBF champion Jay-r Raquinel last year and being a in fantastic form at the moment.
Of the two fighters we've certainly focused more on Yamauchi's rise since his debut, than that or Tuolehazi. The unbeaten Kadoebi gym fighter is a 24 year who was a stellar amateur and has shown real potential since beginning his professional career in June 2017. He's not been hugely active, with just 2 bouts in 2017 and 2 in 2018, but he hasn't been given easy match ups. Through his first 4 bouts he has already beaten Lester Abutan and Yota Hori and has looked sensational at times. There is work to do, but he has looked like a real natural. He's quick, powerful, sharp and intelligent. He's perhaps a little bit on the wild side at times, but there is a feeling that that has come because of his confidence against lesser fighters, rather than genuine lack of ability.
Despite looking like a star in the making Yamauchi does have a number of question marks over his head. His 4 bouts have combined for just 16 rounds, and he has yet to enter the 6th round of a bout. His stamina is unlikely to be bad, given he's at the Kadoebi gym and they do tend to have very fit fighters, but we do wonder how he copes with a long distance bout. He has also not faced a puncher, or anyone with the skills to really hurt him, so there is of course a question mark about his chin as well. We expect to see those questions getting answer here, with Yamauchi not expected to blow the Chinese fighter away.
The bout will also answer more question about Yamauchi, how he is on the road, and this is his first bout away from Tokyo as a professional.
Chinese fighter Tuolehazi is a rugged fighter, a 26 year old with a crude style, an effective roughness if you will. He started his professional career with back to back losses and was 2-3 after his first 5 bouts, but he has since battled back, tuning things around with an 8-0-1 (5) record in his last 9. That unbeaten run has been pretty notable if we're being honest and has included not only the win over Raquinel but also victories over Kwanthai Sithmorseng, Yokthong KKP and Roland Jay Biendima. He has proven his stamina, dropping Raquinel in the 12th round to solidify a decision over the previous unbeaten Pinoy puncher, and has done 10 or more rounds 4 different times in his 14 bouts.
Watching Tuolehazi there's nothing that stands out as being "special". In fact he's quite slow if we're being honest, not a plodder as such but certainly not quick, he's a little clumsy, a and not very smooth. He is however consistent. He will let his jab go frequently, landing it at an impressive rate, he has a good straight right hand, he's tough and physically very strong. Few fighters will be able to push him and bully him around, and instead they will have to actually out box him. He can make things ugly, but isn't a dirty fighter, more a fighter who is not yet technically rounded.
This is an excellent match up and a great chance for a prospect to test themselves against an awkward, tough opponent. We do believe that Yamauchi is a special fighter, and could fight for, and win, a world title in his first 10 bouts. We suspect he'll show what he can do here, using his technical ability, speed and movement to be the difference, with Yamauchi taking a clear, but hard fought decision. Tuolehazi will not be an easy out for anyone, but we suspect his limitations will be an issue against someone as talented as Yamauchi, even with the crowd clearly supporting the Chinese fighter.
A big step up for Yamauchi, but a gret chance to crash the world rankings, a chance we think he will make the most of.
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.
The Super Featherweight division isn't the best out there at the moment, but is one where there is a nice amount of talent across the various levels of the sport, meaning there are some fantastic fights out there, even if they aren't at the very top level. The Oriental scene has a handful of fighters who could all share the ring and put on great fights. We get one such fight on March 27th when the unbeaten OPBF champion Hironori Mishiro (6-0-1, 2) takes on OPBF Silver champion Takuya Watanabe (35-8-1, 20) in a really mouth watering match up.
The champion is a former amateur stand out who made his pro debut in 2017 and was hotly tipped as a star in the making straight away. He would score 3 straight forward wins before going up against the then unbeaten Shuma Nakazato, taking a hard fought win over Nakazato. He would then add an upset win over Shuya Masaki before challenging OPBF champion Carlo Magali. The bout over Magali was a massive step up, but one that Mishiro made, just doing enough to take a split decision win over the Filipino veteran. Since then he has defended the belt once, fighting to a draw against Masaru Sueyoshi in an OPBF/JBC title unification bout. The Sueyoshi bout was Mishiro's most impressive performance, despite only earning a draw.
In the ring the 24 year old Mishiro is a very fluid fighter, able to box on the back foot, using his size and reach, or on the front foot, bringing the pressure and cutting the distance. He's strong, very quick, and looks incredibly relaxed in the ring. Although he has solid power, he's not a concussive puncher and despite being able to fight on the front foot, he does lack real killer instinct, something has shown it's self in the past. One thing that has really impressed about Mishiro is his stamina, and despite only having 7 fights he has already done 12 rounds twice. He's not a non-stop punching machine, but for someone so early in their career he has impressed, and he certainly paced himself better in his second 12 rounder than his first one.
The challenger isn't the natural boxer that Mishiro is, but is instead a 30 year old veteran who has been a professional for over 12 years and despite having 8 losses is a very good boxer-puncher with a gritty determination that makes him a hard man to beat. His career has also been different to most of his fellow Japanese fights. Not only has he been active, with 44 bouts in just over 12 years, but many of those have been on the road. He has right through South East Asia, with bouts in Thailand, South Korea, China, Hong Kong, and Taipei. On the road he has had some of his most memorable bouts, including his blood bath with Jaesung Lee in Korea his KO win against Leshan Li in Hong Kong and a very hard fought loss to Yongqiang Yang in China. As for bouts in Japan he has faced some pretty stiff competition, including Hisashi Amagasa, Satoshi Hosono and Masayuki Ito.
Watanabe is a tough, solid guy with solid power, solid all round skills, an incredible will to win, and brilliant stamina. Although a boxer-puncher he can get involved in a brawl and is pretty solid in every facet of his game. He's a touch slow, which Ito made the most of, and is slightly limited in terms of skill and timing, but very few will have an easy time with Watanabe, especially now he's a fully mature and experienced fighter.
This is clearly a bout that is designed to give Mishiro a tough defense, and further prepare him for the big time. It's a risk from him and his team, but a calculated one, and one we think they're confident of him passing. It's going to be a tough, 12 round test, but we do favour Mishiro to take the decision, albeit a close decision. If he does then we wouldn't be surprised at all to see his next bout come against a world ranked foe, possibly a rematch with Sueyoshi.
On March 25th fight fans in the Philippines will be able to see a WBO Asia Pacific title fight, as once beaten Filipino Juan Miguel Elorde (27-1, 15), the WBO #2 word ranked contender, defends his Super Bantamweight title against Japanese challenger Shohei Kawashima (17-2-2, 4). For the champion this will be his 4th defense, and would likely be one of his final bouts before a potential world title fight, whilst Kawashima would be getting a huge chance to gate crash the WBO world rankings, and claim his biggest win to date.
The 32 year old champion is the grandson of the legendary Flash Elorde, one of the most iconic names in Filipino boxing. His career, which began in 2008, has been a slow steady climb through the rankings. He would win his first 10 bouts, before suffering an upset loss to Jerry Guevara in 2011. Since that early career set back he has gone 17-0 (11). On paper that sounds really impressive, but in reality there are very few wins of note on his record with his best wins being against the likes of Yodsingdaeng Jor Chaijinda and Waldo Sabu.
Despite his competition being limited, especially for a now highly ranked fighter, Elorde is a talented fighter, with a lovely crisp jab, an educated boxing brain and a good straight right hand. Sadly watching him he just sort of ticks all the boxes for "good" and has nothing outstanding about him. He's pretty basic, not very rounded and doesn't really impress when watching him. The most impressive traits of Elorde is his jab, which is crisp and sharp, but that's perhaps not as impressive as it seems, and he may struggle to land it against fighters who above regional journeyman level.
Aged 27 Kawashima is a Japanese fighter who debuted in 2012 and rose through the ranks well, winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2014 before travelling in 2016, beating Jin Wook Lim in Korea and losing a razor thin decision to Cristian Mijares in 2016. Since losing to Mijares, in Mexico, Kawashima has gone 3-1 (1) suffering a surprise 6th round KO loss to Gaku Aikawa in 2017. The loss to Aikawa was a genuine surprise, and came from a truly brutal shot from Aikawa, in what was probably the shot of his career.
In the ring Kawashima is a talented boxer with good timing, good movement and solid stamina. He lacks power but is a very skilled fighter who uses range well, is smart and sharp. Sadly his lack of power will be a major issue when he steps up and he will struggle too get respect from opponents. He also has a few defensive flaws, often dropping his hands or having them too close together. Rarely do we see Kawashima actually have a solid guard to box behind, and although Aikawa's KO was a surprise it wouldn't be a huge shock if he was stopped by any top domestic foe.
On paper Elorde will be the favourite. He's got the better record, he's the bigger puncher, has the home advantage, will be fighting at home and has the title. He will however be forces to battle for the win and we wouldn't be surprised at all
The Minimumweight division recently saw a new IBF champion being crowned, as DeeJay Kriel scored a sensational last round KO win over Carlos Licona. Kriel will likely get the chance to make a voluntary defense next time out, though there are fighters sniffing around for a shot, and on March 23rd we'll get an eliminator between Filipino fighters Samuel Salva (16-0, 10) and Rene Mark Cuarto (16-1-1, 9). On paper this looks a really good bout, and with many of these all-Filipino eliminator level bouts it's worth a lot more attention that it will likely get.
On paper the more promising of the two fighters is the unbeaten Salva. He's unbeaten, appears to be the bigger puncher and has notable wins over Donny Mabao, twice, and Marco John Rementizo. Things however aren't that simple and overall it's Cuarto who has faced better competition, with his win over Clyde Azarcon being the best win either man has, and he also has a win over Ian Ligutan. It's also worth noting that Cuarto loss, and draw, both came to Jerald Paclar, who Cuarto stopped in their third and final meeting.
Footage of both men is available and Salva looks a powerful fighter, who throws nice, sharp hooks, good uppercuts and loads up on shots. Although Salva looks powerful he does seem somewhat inaccurate and there's an openness to his offensive work that could see him being countered right down the pipe but a skilled and confident fighter who sess the gaping holes when Salva throws. He's exciting but rough around the edges. The best quality footage of Cuarto is relatively old, but he does look a sharper, cleaner, more rounded fighter than Salva. There's less intensity to his work, but there is a more clean look to things from him and he certainly appears to set shots up better and have the more controlled footwork.
Both are young fighters, both are 22 years old, and whilst Minimumweights do mature quickly, often making their mark earlier than fighters in higher weight classes, both are very clearly developing as fighters and both have got years left of their careers.
A loss here isn't the end for either man. Cuarto knows that already, having gone 13-0-1 since losing more than 4 years ago, when he was just 18. Salva has never tasted defeat, but he is certainly not unbeatable and this will be a serious test for him. Cuarto has passed tough tests, he has built back from his loss, and we think that could be the key here. Salva has, for the most part, had things his own way, Cuarto has had to over-come a nemesis and we think that will have mentally solidified how Cuarto will deal with Salvo here, and he'll just do enough to take the decision and earn himself a future world title fight.
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.