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.
With 5 word title bouts taking place on December 31st in Japan we could have expected they would all be mismatches in favour of the local fighters. There is however one clear exception to that rule, in fact the bout in question is seen as a massive mismatch in favour of the visitor who is viewed by many as having the bout in the bag before the fighters have even stepped in the ring. That bout is the IBF Super Bantamweight title bout between explosive champion Jonathan Guzman (22-0-0-1, 22) and Japanese challenger Yukinori Oguni (18-1-1, 7), a former Japanese and OPBF champion.
Of the two men it's Guzman who is more well known. He's the champion and he's proven his ability against a series of notable fighters. That's included stoppage wins over the likes of Christian Esquivel, Danny Aquino, Daniel Rosas and most notable Shingo Wake, who he beat in July to win the title in Japan. The only blotch on his other wise perfect record is a no contenst from 2013, in a fight with Luis Hinojosa and since then he has stopped 11 foes in 48 rounds.
Although not the smoothest boxer, or the most rounded of fighters Guzman is a a monster and every shot he lands is damaging. His shots all look concussive and his belief in his power is incredible. Not only does he appear to be a big puncher but, worryingly for opponents, he appears to take a good shot too and has solid stamina allowing him to work at a high rate through out the bout, a surprise for such a banger. Whilst he did dominate Wake there were times he looked like he was flagging, before coming back a round later looking rejuvenated and it's clear that he's going to be a nightmare to fight for anyone in the sport.
Whilst Guzman is a monstrous Super Bantamweight with frightening power and physical strength the same cannot be said of Oguni, who is more of a pure boxer with skills and counter punching, along with speed to burn. Early in his career Oguni looked like a world champion in the making, and one on the fast track to the top. In just his 11th bout he claimed the OPBF Super Bantamweight title, defeating Roli Gasca, and defended it 3 times. Sadly though his rise was ended in 2013 by Wake, who totally dominated him before scoring a 10th round retirement win against Oguni, who looked under-powered. Since that loss Oguni has won the Japanese title and scored notable wins over Yasutaka Ishimoto, Taiki Minamoto and Mike Tawatchai, stopping Tawatchai in 5 rounds earlier this year.
Although Oguni is a pure boxer he has shown an improvement in power recently stopping his last 3 foes, including Tawatchai, and appears to be a fighter who is maturing into a more rounded fighter. He is still a speed based fighter but one who appears to be growing more confident. That confidence could cost him here if he decides to stand his ground and instead he will have to stay on the move, keep Guzman of balance and try to frustrate and tire out the champion.
Although Oguni is a genuinely credible top 10 top of Super Bantamweight this is an incredible tough bout for the challenger and one that we don't see him coming out on top of. We think Oguni has the potential to reach the top, but this bout is one that his lack of fire power will cost him and Guzman will likely stop him in the middle rounds, if not earlier. Oguni has the ability to move for a few rounds but once he feels Guzman's power we suspect he'll look to survive before being broken down.
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.