By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On July 13, Tomoki Kameda returns to the US, after 4 years, to clash with Rey Vargas for the WBC Super Bantamweight World Championship.
The younger brother of Koki and Daiki Kameda, Tomoki belongs in one of the most successful families in the history of boxing, with all 3 siblings eventually winning the big one. Unlike most Japanese fighters who stay and train in Japan, Tomoki moved to Mexico when he was just 15 years old, in order to learn more about the sport and to hone his craft. He managed to reach the finals of the Guantes de Oro Tournament (Mexican for Golden Gloves) but lost, ironically enough, to Rey Vargas. Because of his young age, he wasn’t allowed to compete in the 2008 Olympic Games, so instead of waiting, Tomoki decided to turn pro.
Tomoki (36-2 / 20 KOs) became quite popular in Mexico, since he spent the vast majority of his career there, earning the nickname El Mexicanito. His style of fighting used to be quite aggressive, which was evident by his KO ratio. Prior to winning the world title, he finished 18 of his 27 pro bouts. Some of his early career big victories included numerous world title contenders like Eduardo Garcia, Marlon Marquez and Noldi Manakane, plus securing the WBC Silver Bantamweight title.
On August 1st 2013, Tomoki made history on multiple fronts when he defeated Paulus Ambunda, who was 20-0 at the time, for the WBO Bantamweight World championship, in the Philippines. Not only did he become the first ever Japanese boxer to hold a WBO World title, but also after Daiki’s world title victory in September of the same year, the Kamedas earned a place at the Guinness World Records for “most siblings to win boxing world titles”.
As World champion, he adapted a more technical style, a “safer” style, in comparison to his former much wilder approach. El Mexicanito marked 3 successful title defenses, against Immanuel Naidjala, interim champion Alejandro Hernandez as well as former World champion Panya Uthok. Out of all 3, his bout with Uthok was the toughest. With 46 wins on his record and only 2 decision losses, the Thai boxer kept rocking Tomoki in every round, stunning him on multiple occasions throughout the match. The tide turned during the 7th round, when Kameda started nailing Uthok with a couple of uppercuts, thus creating an opening to throw a devastating liver shot that dropped the former champ down for the count. That was the first time Uthok has been stopped in his career. Tomoki was declared “fighter of the month” (July 2014) by the WBO, after that performance.
In May of 2015, Tomoki was scheduled to face the WBA (Regular) Bantamweight Champion Jamie McDonnell, in a unification bout. However, since the WBO wouldn’t sanction the fight, he relinquished his belt so he could compete for the WBA championship. Despite dropping McDonnell in the 3rd, the Japanese challenger didn’t do much in the rest of the fight, thus failing to capture the gold. Their rematch in September saw both men in a very close encounter, going back and forth, in an exciting affair. Tomoki could have been crowned the new champion but McDonnell made sure he was leaving Texas with his belt when he scored a knockdown in the last round, swaying the judges in his favor.
When Tomoki returned to action, after a 13 month hiatus, he decided to move up to Super Bantamweight. In his match with Daniel Noriega (May 2018) we saw glimpses of the old Mexicanito, fighting in a much more aggressive pace, even dropping Noriega in the 5th round. After going 4-0 at this new weight class, he was involved in an interim WBC title fight, this past November, with the EBU European champion Abigail Medina. Kameda controlled the pace from the get go, punishing his rival with fasts jabs, strong hooks and some perfectly placed body shots. In the end, Tomoki earned himself a unanimous decision victory and the interim WBC strap. Now he will finally have the opportunity to meet Vargas in the ring again, for a shot at the gold.
Rey Vargas (33-0 / 22 KOs) has spent the majority of his life boxing. During his amateur days, he accumulated 7 national titles as well as the 2009 Pan-American championship. A year later, he made his pro debut. He was still 19 at the time.
Much like Tomoki, he used to be much more tenacious in the ring. Up until 2016, he had finished 22 out of his 28 fights, including stoppages over former world title challengers like Silvester Lopez, Christian Esquivel, Cecilio Santos and Juanito Rubillar. His speed and reach advantage were enough to give him the edge over most of his opponents.
Vargas’ 1st major win was against former 2 time WBA Super Flyweight World champion Alexander Munoz, in September of 2016. The young Mexican star dropped the veteran four times within five rounds, twice with the right hook, once with an uppercut and finished the job in the 5th with a straight right to secure the WBC International Silver title and the #1 contendership.
In 2017, he fought Gavin McDonnell for the vacant WBC Super Bantamweight crown. Despite taking a lot of damage in the later rounds, he managed to survive that and come out with the World championship. Since then, Vargas has defended his title 4 times against Ronny Rios, Oscar Negrete, Azat Hovhannisyan and Franklin Manzanilla. Even though his speed and head movement were still there, his aggressiveness wasn’t. In all of these last 5 bouts, he was content to keep his competition at bay and to just win on the judges scorecards. No doubt this will be the strategy for his upcoming fight too.
All in all, it’s safe to assume that Tomoki vs. Vargas will not be a crowd pleaser. Yes, we are talking about 2 really skilled boxers, with a lot of finesse and technique, but both lack the explosiveness that once made them popular. Vargas is most likely to walk out of California the victor as he’s going to use his reach and prohibit Tomoki from coming near him but if somehow El Mexicanito manages to close the distance, he might have a chance at officially becoming a 2 division world champion. We will find out for sure this Saturday night.
It's taken less than 3 weeks for boxing to throw us the first curve ball of the year, with the announcement of an IBF Super Bantamweight title bout pitting unbeaten champion TJ Doheny (20-0, 14) against little known Japanese challenger Ryohei Takahashi (15-3-1, 6) [高橋竜平] on January 18th. The bout was put together on short notice, with Takahashi's team struggling to get him a visa on short notice for a bout he simply couldn't turn down. As we write this, it's still unclear if a visa has been granted, things are being cut that fine!
So, let's just accept a visa has been given and that the bout is on, lets now look into the bout, and what we're going to be seeing for Doheny's DAZN debut, and his first bout under Eddie Hearn.
The unbeaten 32 year old champion won the title last year, travelling to Tokyo and dethroning Ryosuke Iwasa. That bout, shown in Japan and the US, was supposed to set the winner up for a bout with the then WBO champion Isaac Dogboe. Instead of facing Dogboe in a unification bout the Australian based Irish man saw had to recover from serious facial injuries and in December Dogboe was himself dethroned. That seemed to leave Doheny with plenty of options on the table, including potential Japanese returns for some of their big names like Shingo Wake. Instead, however, he signed with Eddie Hearn, and that deal was announced on January 8th with his first bout under Hearn announced for just 10 days later.
Dubbed "The Power" Doheny is actually not an out and out puncher. He can bang, and he certainly does have power, but as he showed against Iwasa he's a talented mover, a sharp puncher, an intelligent fighter and not someone who look to just bang with a banger. He made Iwasa look slow and clumsy by stopping "Eagle Eye" from setting his feet, and for the most part out worked and out manoeuvered the Japanese fighter. Other than the win over Iwasa Doheny's record is a bit thin, with his best wins coming against the likes of Mike Oliver, Denkaosan Kaovichit, Marco Demecillo and Mike Tawatchai. That however isn't a sign that he's a bad fighter, just one who hasn't been able to really prove what he can do, often enough.
As mentioned Takahashi is a little known fighter, and if you don't follow the Asian or Oceanic scene you almost certainly won't have seen him at all. Almost all of his bouts have been in his native Japan, and most haven't been televised. His early career wasn't great, losing his debut in 96 seconds to Shogo Sumitomo in December 2012, before fighting to a draw with Matcha Nakagawa in his second bout. It wasn't until January 2014 that he scored his first win, but he really came of age during that year and went on to win the All Japan Bantamweight Rookie of the Year whilst advancing his record to 5-1-1. In 2015 he notched 3 more wins before leaving Japan for the first time and losing a wide decision to a then 5-0 Andrew Moloney, then a prospect but now a leading Super Flyweight contender. Since that loss Takahashi has gone 8-1 with notable domestic wins over Matcha Nakagawa, Kazuki Tanaka and Shingo Kusano as well as a big win over Thailand's Mike Tawatchai in Thailand.
Takahashi is an aggressive fighter, he looks to set a high work rate and fights like someone who is confident in himself. That confidence has grown in the last few years, really booming since he stopped the then touted Kazuki Tanaka back in May 2017, with what was sheer determination and pressure. That was a tactic he used well against Mike Tawatchai as well, to take a clear decision in Thailand. Sadly however Takahashi is defensively open, and in his bout against Shingo Kusano he was being caught bu southpaw left hands time and time again, looking like he really wasn't sure how to fight a southpaw, though had the energy and desire to take the narrow decision. That is the bout that should worry those picking the upset. Even against orthodox fighter Takahashi's defense doesn't look the best, but against southpaws he really is open.
Although we would suggest Doheny would win anyway Takahashi also to issues with his visa, the late notice and the time zone change. Any one of those issues would be a problem, but all 2 really do show the card is stacked against him, we don't blame Doheny for that but do wonder if Eddie Hearn has had problems putting together an attractive card due to over stretching his resources and time. He's got a lot on his plate right now and giving fighters like Takahashi the opportunity of a life time on short notice might work, but it's a reputation he won't want to build.
As a prediction we suspect Doheny's speed, power and southpaw stance will pick apart a game challenger and Takahashi, whilst brave, will be stopped in the middle rounds by the champion, who is looking to unify with WBA champion Daniel Roman later in the year.
(Image courtesy of Yokohama Hikari)
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On November 12, in the legendary Korakuen Hall, Tomoki Kameda will try to become a 2 division world champion as he takes on Abigail Medina for the interim WBC Super Bantamweight World Championship.
The younger brother of Koki and Daiki Kameda, Tomoki belongs in one of the most successful families in the history of boxing, will all 3 siblings eventually winning the big one. Unlike most Japanese fighters who stay and train in Japan, he moved to Mexico when he was just 15 years old, in order to learn more about the sport and to hone his craft. Tomoki managed to reach the finals of the Guantes de Oro Tournament (Mexican for Golden Gloves) and only lost to the current WBC Super Bantamweight World Champion, Rey Vargas. Because of his young age, he wasn’t allowed to compete in the 2008 Olympic Games, so instead of waiting, Tomoki decided to turn pro.
Tomoki (35-2 / 20 KOs) became quite popular in Mexico, since he spent the vast majority of his career in that country, earning the nickname El Mexicanito. His style of fighting used to be very aggressive, which was evident by his KO ratio. Prior to winning the world title, he finished 18 of his 27 pro bouts. Some of his early career big victories included numerous world title contenders like Eduardo Garcia, Marlon Marquez and Noldi Manakane, plus securing the WBC Silver Bantamweight championship.
On August 1st 2013, Tomoki made history on multiple fronts when he defeated Paulus Ambunda, who was 20-0 at the time, for the WBO Bantamweight World Championship, in the Philippines. Not only did he become the first ever Japanese boxer to hold a WBO World title, but also after Daiki’s world title victory in September of the same year, the Kamedas earned a place at the Guinness World Records for “most siblings to win boxing world titles”.
As World champion, he adapted a more technical style, a “safer” style, in comparison to his former much wilder approach. El Mexicanito marked 3 successful title defenses, against Immanuel Naidjala, interim champion Alejandro Hernandez as well as former World champion Panya Uthok. Out of all 3, his bout with Uthok was the toughest. With 46 wins on his record and only 2 decision loses, the Thai boxer kept rocking Tomoki in every round, stunning him on multiple occasions throughout the match. The tide turned during the 7th round, when Kameda started nailing Uthok with a couple of uppercuts, thus creating an opening to throw a devastating liver shot that dropped the former champ down for the count. That was the first time Uthok has been stopped in his career. Tomoki was declared “fighter of the month” (July 2014) by the WBO, after that performance.
In May of 2015, Tomoki was scheduled to face the WBA Bantamweight World Champion Jamie McDonnell, in a unification bout. However, the WBO wouldn’t sanction the fight so Tomoki relinquished his belt so he could compete for the WBA championship. Despite dropping McDonnell in the 3rd round, the Japanese challenger didn’t do much in the rest of the fight, thus failing to capture the gold. Their rematch in September saw both men in a very close encounter, going back and forth, in an exciting affair. Tomoki could have been crowned the new champion but McDonnell made sure he was leaving Texas with his belt when he scored a knockdown in the last round, swaying the judges in his favour.
When Tomoki returned to the ring after a 13 month hiatus, he moved up a weight class and has been undefeated in his last 4 matches. In his most recent bout against Daniel Noriega, this past May, we saw glimpses of the old Mexicanito, fighting in a much more aggressive pace, even dropping Noriega in the 5th round. Now three years removed from his previous world title contest, Tomoki will try and capture another division’s grand prize, but in order to do so, he must go through first the EBU European champion Abigail Medina (19-3 / 10 KOs).
Medina has also been a pro for 10 years, but unlike Tomoki, he doesn’t have the same level of experience or success. His biggest victories are against fellow European champions Jeremy Parodi (42-4), Anthony Settoul (23-7) and one time world title contender Martin Ward (26-4). Specifically, he stopped Settoul in the first round with body punches, a weapon that Tomoki also uses frequently in his matches, while he stopped Ward, in just 2 rounds, after repeatedly kept knocking him down with a vicious right punch to the head. His style of fighting actually resembles Kameda’s old “Mexican style” a lot.
Comparing these 2 boxers, Tomoki certainly has the advantage here. He’s the younger, much more experienced competitor and with a better record. Medina however is way more hungry at this stage of his career. He knows this will probably be his one and only shot at the World Championship. Moreover, Medina’s been undefeated since 2014, with 10 wins and 5 stoppages, proving he’s an aggressive striker. On the other hand, if we see the Tomoki of old, on November 12, we are almost guaranteed that Japan will have another World champion, before the year is over. For Mexicanito, winning the interim WBC title, it will be the perfect opportunity to set a future collision with the man that defeated him 10 plus years ago, Rey Vargas, avenging his only amateur loss. So who will it be? We will find out in a week’s time, in Tokyo, Japan!
This coming Saturday in Glendale, Arizona, we get the chance to see one of boxing best young champions take on one of the toughest old fighters in the sport as WBO Super Bantamweight champion Isaac Dogboe (19-0, 13) faces off with Japanese challenger Hidenori Otake (31-2-3, 14). The bout will be the first defense by the 23 year old from Ghana whilst the 37 year old Otake will be getting his second world title fight. Not only is there a 14 year age gap between the two men but there is also significant differences in natural size, experience and amateur pedigree, which helps to make this match up as interesting as it is.
Dogboe, known as “Brave Son”, competed at the 2012 Olympics in London, where he was living at the time, and was one of the youngest fighters at the tournament. Interestingly he would lose in his only fight at the games to Japanese foe Satoshi Shimizu, the current OPBF Featherweight champion. He made his professional debut the following year, in Switzerland of all places, before picking up early career wins in the Northern Ireland and then the USA before beginning to make a name in Ghana from September 2015.
Although fighting in what was relative boxing obscurity Dogboe was getting some quality opponents, such was Neil John Tabanao and Javier Nicholas Chacon, as he continued his development leading into 2018. To begin this year Dogboe took a huge step up in class, and rose to the occasion, stopping Mexican tough guy Cesar Juarez to claim the WBO “interim” Super Bantamweight title. Less than 4 months later he travelled to the US and scored an excellent 11th round KO of the then unbeaten Jessie Magdaleno to claim the full WBO title. Despite being dropped in the opening round Dogboe was in the lead on all 3 cards at the time of the stoppage and, despite some flaws, he had looked very impressive.
Stood at just over 5'2” Dogboe is a diminutive fighter, even at Super Bantamweight. He is however an unpredictable, explosive, fast and powerful fighter. There are a number of flaws with his boxing, which wouldn't be expected of someone with his amateur background, but he manages to use them to his advantage rather than them really costing him. It could be a case that a big, strong, accurate fighter could make him pay for his wilder style, but there is also a good chance he'll be able to use his lack of size and explosiveness to get in and work away on opponents, drag them into a war and use his supposed disadvantages to his advantage.
Otake is the next in a long line of insanely tough Japanese fighters, who can walk through shots that would leave others on the floor in agony. Saying that however he is more technically skilled than the likes of Nihito Arakawa, Yoshihiro Kamegai and Akihiro Kondo and has got solid, yet basic, boxing skills. He comes forward behind a busy long jab, he uses the ring well and looks to back up opponents behind his boxing, and not behind his physicality. Despite being 37 he has an incredible engine, with his work ethic being one of the best in Japan. All that was shown when he had his first world title fight, back in 2014 losing to Scott Quigg in a WBA title fight.
Since losing to Quigg we've seen Otake go on an excellent run of 9 straight wins, including wins over Jelbirt Gomera, Kinshiro Usui, Hinata Maruta and the hard hitting Brian Lobetania. Those wins have seen him win the OPBF title and make 3 successful defenses of the title. He has shown power late, stopping two of his last 4 opponents in the 10th round, but has also shown an ability to go 12 rounds with no real issue. He has however shown some struggles in his 9 fight winning run, notably struggling past the hard hitting Alexander Espinoza in November 2016.
At the age of 37 Otake is looking to set the Japanese record for the oldest man to win a world title, a record currently held by Hozumi Hasegawa when he claimed the WBC Super Bantamweight title. Despite being 37 he's a young 37, an amazing thing to say about someone who debuted back in December 2005 and has had more than 240 professional rounds. His toughness and physical strength however do explain, perhaps, why he has had such longevity. Notably he will have around 5” of height advantage over Dogboe, as well ad the huge gulf in experience.
Dogboe is, rightfully, the betting favourite. He's the young upstart who has been stopping world class fighters like Juarez and Dogboe and is the defending champion. This is, however a very different test for Dogboe than anything he's faced so far. He's going to be punching upwards against an insanely tough fighter, he's going to be in with a technically solid, though slow, fighter and going to have an opponent who won't back off. Otake has the ability to give Dogboe real problems, especially if Dogboe looks to take him out early and finds the Japanese fighter to be a bit of an immoveable object.
Otake has got a chance, he's the under-dog for a reason, but has the ability to keep Dogboe on the back foot and at range, frustrate him with his long right hand and look to “old man” Dogboe out of rounds. We don't know if he'll be able to do that for 12 rounds against someone as unpredictable as Dogboe, but we certainly see him having some real moments here. Sadly though we think those moments for Otake will be too few and far between, with Dogboe taking a wide decision, but one he will really have to earn.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On August 16, at the legendary Korakuen Hall, Ryosuke Iwasa will defend the IBF Super Bantamweight World Championship against Irish-Australian contender TJ Doheny.
Ryosuke Iwasa (25-2 / 16 KOs) had a successful amateur career, amassing a record of 60 wins and 16 losses, while winning various national titles. He made his pro debut on August of 2008, at the age of 18, going undefeated for 2 years, 8-0, beating much more experienced foes like Marvin Tampus (21-10*) and Kinshiro Usui (19-2*).
Iwasa’s first big test came on March 5th, 2011 when he challenged Shinsuke Yamanaka (13-0*) for the Japanese Bantamweight title. Yamanaka was another accomplished amateur boxer (34-13), holding many notable victories, including one over future world champion Takahiro Ao. Neither of the 2 had lost a single fight since turning pro, nor were they ready to spoil their perfect record. In what it was undoubtedly one of the best Japanese title fights of all time, Iwasa and Yamanaka went to war that night, fighting for gold as well as to prove who was the best Bantamweight fighter in Japan. Iwasa dominated early, stunning the champion on numerous occasions, while Yamanaka started making a comeback in the later rounds. Both men were rocking each other hard, going back and forth, bringing the Japanese fans to their feet. Chants for Iwasa and Yamanaka were heard all over the arena as neither was planning on giving up. At the very last round, Yamanaka went on a rampage, almost knocking Iwasa out while still standing, forcing the referee to step in and put an end to this amazing bout. That fight put Yamanaka in world title contention and 8 months later, he became the WBC world champion. Iwasa, even in defeat, he displayed his Bushido spirit, making him a fan favorite amongst the Japanese faithful.
Only a couple of months later, he came back stronger and more determined than ever before, winning 11 fights in a row, against Kentaro Masuda (14-5*), 2 time world title contender David De La Mora (24-2*), Mark John Yap (18-8*), former WBC International champion Hiroki Shino (10-2*) and more, as well as earning both the Japanese and OPBF titles in the process.
In 2015, after a failed attempt at the interim IBF Bantamweight belt, Iwasa decided to move up a weight class and switch his focus at the Super Bantamweights. It didn’t take long for the Japanese star to reach the top of the division and challenge Yukinori Oguni (19-1*) for the IBF World Championship on September of 2017, at the EDION Arena in Osaka. Iwasa came out like a house on fire, knocking the champion down in the opening round once and twice in the next one. It was a very one-sided match, up until the forth round when Oguni began firing back at the challenger, finally turning this into a big world title bout. After 3 more action packed rounds, the fight was stopped, as Oguni was bleeding profusely, thus marking the beginning of Iwasa’s first ever world title reign.
Already with one title defense under his belt, over Philippino standout Ernesto Saulong (21-2*), Iwasa will look for V2 this August, against TJ Doheny (19-0 / 14 KOs).
Doheny has already made quite an impression in the division, winning the PABA Super Bantamweight title, just 15 months after his debut. A certified knock out artist, with the majority of his finishes coming within the first five rounds. His most impressive performance must be against former interim WBA Super Flyweight World Champion Sutep Wangmuk (63-5*) in 2015, which ended via 5th round KO.
This fight will mark Iwasa’s 10th Anniversary as a pro boxer and what better way to celebrate it but with another huge win over a hungry contender.
*Denotes record going in to the fight.
This coming Thursday we'll get the chance to see Ryosuke Iwasa (24-2, 16) make his first defense of the IBF Super Bantamweight title, which he won in impressive fashion last September. The hard hitting Japanese world champion will be defending the belt against the little known Filipino challenger Ernesto Saulong (21-2-1, 8).
Iwasa was a former amateur stand out before turning professional in 2008, with many in Japan expecting big things of the Southpaw from Chiba. The talent, and power, of Iwasa was clear from very early on, and in a little over 25 months he had raced out to an impressive 8-0 (6) record, and a shot at the Japanese Bantamweight title. Whilst he would go on to lose in his first title fight, coming up short to Shinsuke Yamanaka, he did show a lot of potential, and would subsequently go on to win both the Japanese and OPBF Bantamweight titles whilst climbing up the world rankings. Sadly Iwasa would suffer his second stoppage loss in his first world title bout, losing to Lee Haskins, but would then move up in weight, and he has since looked a much better fighter whilst going 5-0 (4).
Last time out we saw Iwasa really put everything together as he scored a career defining win and stopped Yukimori Oguni in 6 rounds to claim the IBF Super Bantamweight title. He dropped Iwasa numerous times before forcing Wayne Hedgpeth to take a bloodied Oguni to the ringside doctor, and eventually stop the bout.
Early in his career Iwasa looked like a relatively predictable, 1-paced slugger. He had some technical nous, but there was a real feeling that he was a bit too basic to test the best, though had the brutal power that would always make him dangerous, if he could land. Since moving up win weight however he has looked a bit smoother, a bit more relaxed, and just as dangerous when he lands. There is a still a feeling he could be out boxed by a smart mover, but he is very dangerous and if he lands clean he will do damage.
Whilst Iwasa has had his career followed closely by those who follow the Japanese domestic scene there wasn't ever the same following for Saulong in his homeland. Instead the 28 year old has had to develop with out much fan fare or expectation since his 2010 debut. Despite the lack of expectation Saulong has managed to prove himself as a solid competitor on the domestic scene, and has scored notable wins over the likes of Alie Laurel, twice, and Jestoni Austida. Sadly those wins aside there is little of real value on his record, other than losses to Rey Megrino and Lwandile Sityatha.
In the ring Saulong isn't a particularly big puncher, and he has scored only an single stoppage win in his last 5 bouts, with that coming against Arnel Baconaje, He is a solid fighter technically with a nice pressure style using a lot of head movement to slip shots. He's nice to watch but has an unfortunate knack of throwing shots that are quite wide and not having anything razor sharp in his arsenal. Defensively he makes for a very tough target, but offensively he doesn't appear too troublesome with his output.
Given the footage available of the the challenger it's possible he could give Iwasa some problems with his head movement. However it's hard to imagine Saulong avoiding everything Iwasa has to offer, especially the body shots. With that in mind we are expecting the champion to hurt, and later stop the Filipino. Saulong has the potential to be a stubborn opponent, but we really don't think he has the toughness to withstand Iwasa's power, or enough power of his own to hurt the champion, who we suspect will close the show in the middle rounds.
Last September American Daniel Roman (23-2-1, 9) announced himself on the world stage with a stoppage win over Shun Kubo to claim the WBA Super Bantamweight title in Kyoto. The win saw Roman score his 15th straight win and step up massively from victories over the likes of Christopher Martin, Christian Esquivel and Adam Lopez. This coming Wednesday he'll return to a Japanese ring, this time as a champion as he faces off with touted Ohashi gym fighter Ryo Matsumoto (21-1, 19).
The American had been a solid amateur amateur before turning professional at the age of 20. As a professional he struggled early on, with a draw and a defeat in his first 4 bouts. After 11 bouts he was 8-2-1 but since then he has matured into a real handful. He's a skilled fighter, with a high activity rate, good body punching and a smart pressure style. It's not the intense pressure we see from the like of Gennady Golovkin or Srisaket Sor Rungvisai but more of a constant and intelligent pressure that takes a mental toll and comes from his jab and timing. There's nothing “blunt force” about Roman, and he's not going to KO people with with one shot, but he's going to mentally break them and wear them down.
Although not a power puncher, and with just 9 stoppages in 26 fights no one would argue other wise, Roman is a solid puncher and has stopped 4 of his last 6. Notably he has stopped his last 2 foes both in round 9 and seems to be showing more self belief in his power, with his work rate being a huge asset in those stoppages. It's unclear how good his chin is, and he's not the quickest, but he knows what works for him and is using his tools to get outcomes.
At 27 years old Roman is reaching his physical peak and as he continues to mature he will almost certainly add to his physical strength and power. He will never become a KO guy but with his pressure style the physical development he makes will make him tougher to defeat and even harder to try and force backwards. It's also worth noting that despite looking like a solid Super Bantamweight it does seem like he does make the weight quite easily, and could beef up just a touch to really push the divisional limit and fill out his frame a tiny bit more.
Aged 24 Matsumoto is a young gun, but appears to have been around for a very long time. That's because he actually debuted at the very end of 2011, aged 17, and has slowly been developed into a world class fighter. And by slowly we really do mean slowly. He looked ready to be let off the leash in 2015, following wins over Hiroyuki Kudaka, Denkaosan Kaovichit and Rusalee Samor the previous year, but was held back. Sadly for Matsumoto his rise hit the wall in 2016 when he suffered a shock loss to Victor Uriel Lopez. That loss was a major hit to Matsumoto's rise, but was a blessing in disguise with the youngster later receiving treatment for a medical issue that affected him in the contest. Since then he has looked better than even, avenging his loss, and noticing a significant growth spurt.
In the ring Matsumoto is a joy to watch. He combines silky smooth skills with brilliant speed, brutal power, and lovely shot selection. He's not a brawler but when he has an opponent hurt he lets his hands go very freely whilst at range he boxes well behind a razor sharp jab,with some blazing straight right hands. There is defensive flaws with Matsumoto but offensively he is a machine and his blow out against Hideo Sakamoto last year was truly impressive. Not only has he got the skills but he also has the team, with the Ohashi team being one of the best in Japan, if not the world, and will have seen him training with Naoya Inoue and Takuma Inoue as well as Akira Yaegashi and Satoshi Shimizu, all of whom are excellent fighters. Like so many young Japanese fighters he looks natural in the ring and has an incredible amount of composure and understanding in the ring.
Stylistically the Japanese fighter is a boxer-puncher. Despite being 24 he looks like a fighter who is still filling out his frame and maturing. When he completely develops into his body he'll likely be fighting at Featherweight, but for now he's just got the look of a boy, still, and not a man. That hasn't been an issue yet, but could be in the future.
Sadly for Matsumoto this is looking like a really test for the once beaten Japanese fighter. His style is somewhat made to order for Roman, with the American likely to apply his pressure and look to break down the Japanese fighter. What Matsumoto does have, that Kubo didn't, is the heavy hands that could stop Roman in his tracks, and the body punching to go with it. We're expecting to see Roman start slowly, box behind his jab and the speed of Matsumoto will give him a lot to think about. Eventually though Roman will drag Matsumoto into a war, and we suspect Roman will come out on top, but will be given a much, much harder bout than he was against Kubo. Matsumoto has long deserved a shot against a world class fighter, but this feels like a stylistically bad fight for him. He has the chance to shine, but we think Roman will have the tools to deal with him.
The Super Bantamweight division is a bit of a strange one globally, with the division lacking big money super fights and being a very fragmented division, with a lot of talent but no out-and-out stand out star and even the biggest name in the division looks set to abandon it in pursuit of big money bouts. Despite the lack of big names Japan is stacked with fantastic fighters in the division, and this coming Wednesday we see two of those clash, as IBF champion Yukinori Oguni (19-1-1, 7) [小國 以載] make his first defense of the belt and takes on mandatory challenger Ryosuke Iwasa (23-2, 15) [岩佐 亮佑].
For those who can't remember Oguni actually won the title in a major upset last December when he shocked big punching Dominican Johnthan Guzman, and actually dropped Guzman en route to his upset win. That victory showed how well Oguni can box to a game plan, how resilient he is and how smart he is in the ring, avoiding fighting Guzman's fight and instead controlling the contest with his movement and jab.
Prior to beating Guzman we had seen Oguni claim both the OPBF and Japanese titles and score a number of notable wins. They had included victories over the likes of Roli Gasca, Masaaki Serie, Yasutaka Ishimoto and Mike Tawatchai with his only loss coming way back in 2013 to Shingo Wake. Since the loss to Wake it's obvious that Oguni has developed and is now a much stronger, more powerful and confident fighter than he'd been previously.
In the ring Oguni is a light punching fighter, but his much harder than his record suggests, he's skilled, he's an intelligent mover and he's quick. Technically there are flaws with Oguni, but fight after fight he is tidying them up, developing his physical power and building on his ring IQ. He's no longer the fighter who lost to Wake, instead he's the guy who beat Guzman, he's the champion of the world and he's the man looking to make his first of the title.
Oguni's challenger will be the once highly touted, former amateur standout Iwasa, a hard hitting southpaw who will be getting his second world title fight, and his first at his more natural Super Bantamweight division. Iwasa debuted as a teenager following a 60-6 (42) amateur career that saw him becoming a triple crown High School winner and rose quickly through the ranks, becoming the Strongest Korakuen in 2010 thanks to a stoppage win over Kinshiro Usui. A loss in a Japanese title fight to Shinsuke Yamanaka was a set back, but one that saw Iwasa get a lot of credit from as he rocked Yamanaka and was pushing him all the way.
Less than a year after the loss to Yamanaka fans saw Iwasa claim the Japanese Bantamweight title and in 2013 claim the OPBF title. That run helped him climb up the IBF world rankings and getting a fight for the interim IBF Bantamweight title against Lee Haskins. Sadly for Iwasa the movement and trickery of Haskins was too much for him, and a slightly drained Iwasa was stopped in 6 by the Englishman. That was then followed by a move up to Super Bantamweight, where he has now gone 4-0 (3) and shown a more fluid style than he had had down at Bantamweight.
Blessed with heavy hands and an explosive style Iwasa is a nightmare if connects clean. Sadly though he likes to set his feet before throwing, it a bit predictable and even a little on the slow side. His limited movement could well play into the hands of any top mover-boxer and that maybe a huge problem here against Oguni.
Oguni sees himself as the under-dog coming into this bout, but we really think he has the style to beat Iwasa, much like Haskins did. If Oguni can box and move, avoid the heavy power of Iwasa, and strike whilst moving he could make life very easy for himself. He just needs to do all he can to stop Iwasa from setting his feet an unloading. If he can he should take a clear decision in his first defense of the title.
Currently the Super Bantamweight division is one of the most fractured in the sport, and as a result it's a bit of a frustrating mess to follow. Guillermo Rigondeaux, the WBA “super” champion looks set to jump to Super Featherweight for his next bout, WBO champion Jessie Magdaleno has yet to make his first defense, IBF champion Yukinori Oguni makes his first defense later this month, WBC champion Rey Vargas recently made his first defense and this weekend we see WBA “regular” champion Shun Kubo (12-0, 9) make his first defense.
Whilst the division is a mess, it's one which is thoroughly brilliant at the moment, with a nice mixture of veterans, Nonito Donaire and Rigondeaux, as well as fresh blood, like Kubo and Oguni, and almost every style. We have pure boxers, sluggers, bangers and hybrids making up the stacked top 20 in what, potentially, is the most interesting,yet frustrating, division in the sport right now.
Kubo's first defense, this coming Sunday, will see the Hyogo man defending his belt against mandatory challenger Daniel Roman (22-2-1, 8) in what is a really interesting looking match up, that pits two fighters with a lot of questions to answer, against each other on.
Aged 27 Kubo is one of a number of Japanese fighters who has moved through the ranks swiftly. As an amateur he was less than spectacular, running up a 30-18 record, but beat veteran Monico Laurente in his third bout and the world ranked Luis May in his 6th bout to announce himself as one to watch. An OPBF title win in 2015 opened doors for Kubo to progress his career and after just two defenses his team paid to bring tricky veteran Nehomar Cermeno over to Japan to defend the WBA crown. The bout with Cermeno was a real gut test for Kubo, but one that saw him out lasting the veteran, who retired citing injury at the start of round 10.
Against Cermeno we saw Kubo show off some world class skills, but almost come undone following a knockdown, go through a torrid spell and show some self doubt as Cermeno used his experience to come on strong. Now the question to answer for Kubo is how much did he learn and develop from that tough win? Is he going to come undone under pressure again or will the win have boosted his confidence?
Also aged 27 Roman is a fighter looking to make his mark on the sport and continue a 14 fight winning streak that began back in March 2014. During his current run has has scored a number of notable wins, including victories over Christopher Martin, Christian Esquivel and the unbeaten pairing of Marlon Olea and Adam Lopez. Whilst it's a nice record, and one that proves Roman is top contender, it lacks a major A class win and it's hard to know exactly how good he is, and we could see that being answered here.
From watching footage of Roman he's a technically well schooled fighter who has nice textbook boxing ability, and solid, but unspectacular speed. Where he lacks are power and he has been out boxed before by lesser fighters. It's also worth noting that whilst he's not “short” for the weight he is going to be giving away some significant size, with Kubo being a freakish Super Bantamweight, who will look to use his height and reach to neutralise the jab of Roman.
Roman is a very solid boxer, but the reality here is that he is stepping up massively here to face someone who has the home advantage and all the physical advantages. Roman is more experienced, and was a more accomplished amateur fighter, but it's hard to see what he has to beat Kubo. Unless he can land a bomb on Kubo we suspect the champion will record his first defense, and could well find himself becoming the target of domestic rivals like Yusaku Kuga and Hinata Maruta.
April 9th is set to be a big day in Japanese boxing with a number of shows being held in Osaka. The most notable of those is a title triple header at the EDION Arena Osaka. The headline bout from that triple header is a WBA Super Bantamweight title fight pitting defending champion Nehomar Cermeno (26-5-1-1, 15) against unbeaten Japanese challenger Shun Kubo (11-0, 8). For Cermeno the bout is his third defense whilst Kubo will be fighting for the first time at world level.
Aged 37 Cermeno is a genuine veteran. He was a noted amateur before turning professional back in 2004 and it didn't take long for him to impress, claiming various regional titles before scoring two huge wins in 2009 against Cristian Mijares, to claim and defend the WBA “interim” Bantamweight title. He would suffer his first two defeats back-to-back in 2010 against Anselmo Moreno, but both were ultra close split decisions to Moreno.
The losses to Moreno weren't shameful but they began a major slump for Cermeno who went from 19-0 (11) before facing Moreno to 20-5-1 (12) in just 25 months. Inactivity then cost Cermeno a chance to have big fights when the division was stacked with talent, but he has bounced back well, and went 4-0 (2) last year with notable wins over Qiu Xiao Jun and Nop Kratingdaengym to claim and defense the WBA title.
Although he is past the age one expects a fighter to be during their prime Cermeno is a talent fighter who doesn't rely on speed and reflexes. Instead he relies on his skills, his ring craft and his experience. He cleverly dictates the pace of a fight and the distance it's fought at. He's offensively crafty and defensively intelligent, knowing how to counter, and control an opponent, whilst also having under-rated power. Whilst not a KO artist, by any means, he does hit hard enough to punish fighters who give him openings, as Nop found out last year.
At 37 it's obvious that Cermeno can't fight at a great pace, but with his skills he has found ways to neutralise younger, fresher, foes and break them down with his accurate and sharp punches.
With just 11 bouts, and 56 rounds, under his belt Kubo will enter as the boy looking to become a man. He will also enter as the fighter that Shinsei Gym view as their heir apparent to Hozumi Hasegawa, who retired at the end of last year having become a 3-weight world champion. Kubo is viewed as the next star from the Shinsei gym, but this is a huge gamble and a massive step up in class.
In his mid 20's Kubo is a fighter coming into his physical prime and although he's only been a professional for about 4 years he has racked up countless rounds sparring with top fighters and has fought in 3 title bouts, winning the OPBF title and defending it twice. His competition hasn't been the best so far, but he does hold notable wins over Monico Laurente and Luis May, both decent fighters. Sadly he's jumping from OPBF level to world level with out fighting a real gate keeper type opponent, a real worry here.
In the ring Kubo is typically a counter puncher, looking to draw leads and fire back. If forced to lead Kubo is happy for a slow pace and to use his height and reach to keep the bout at range and pick his opponent off. Whilst that has typically worked well there are worries in regards to his stamina, and he has only been the distance once, against Benjie Suganob. He has got good natural skills, and size, but there is a question mark as to how tough he is, and how well he takes a shot.
Although there is a lot of questions about Kubo we suspect he and his team are pretty confident that he's a special fighter. He might not have shown that in the ring yet, but there is enough belief that he is something a lot better than we've seen so far. He will certainly need to prove that if he's to over-come Cermeno, but in fairness he is up against the weakest champion in the division.
Coming in to the bout we're not expecting a classic. We're expecting a slow and tactical battle fought at range, with only a few moments of real action. The rounds will be close, with Kubo's size and youth going up against Cermeno's experience and boxing brain. We think that Kubo may have gotten this bout at the right time, and that his team have done a blinder in getting him a shot at Cermeno. However with Cermeno's late career results there is a real chance that he will upset the rising Japanese youngster, just as he did with Jun and Nop last year.
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.