This coming Saturday fight fans around the globe will get the chance to see IBF Super Flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas (20-1-2, 20) defend his title against little known Japanese challenger Ryuichi Funai (31-7, 22). Ahead of that bout we though we'd try to to let fans become more aware of the challenger, who many won't have seen, and won't really know much about. In fact we suspect that most of the fans watching the bout on Saturday will never have even heard of Funai prior to him being confirmed as Ancajas's 7th world title challenger.
For those wanting to know a lot about Funai we'll go through his career in detail below, though for those just wanting a few quick factoids we'll begin with some cliff notes about Funai.
Now with those out the way, lets deep dive into Ryuichi Funai, and we're sorry for repeating some of the above facts in what is a pretty deep look into the upcoming world title challenger.
Despite being unknown in the West Funai is a 14 year veteran, having debuted in August 2005 and is currently 33 years old, which is ancient for a first time world title challenger at the lower weights.
The Tokyoite wasn't much of an amateur fighter, going 4-4 (2) in the unpaid ranks, and really did take a long time to develop into the fighter he is today. That development has come under the guidance of the fantastic Watanabe gym.
Whilst Funai was always overshadowed by his more notable stablemates, such as Takashi Uchiyama, Ryoichi Taguchi and Kohei Kono, those stablemates and their success certainly helped inspire Funai, and as we all know success drives success.
We are, of course, still seeing that success at the Watanabe gym continue to build today with the likes of Hiroto Kyoguchi, Hironori Mishiro and prospects like Ginjiro Shigeoka being part of the gym's newest wave of talent. Funai is one of the gym's veterans, like Nihito Arakawa and Shin Ono, aad seeing the youngsters rising through the ranks will continue to inspire the older fighters there.
Early in his career Funai struggled. He was 2-2 (1) after his first 4 bouts and despite having a good run in the 2007 Rookie of the Year he still failed to reach the All Japan final, losing to Takahiro Furukawa in the East Japan final. He would bounced back well from that loss, with two blow out wins in 2008, before suffering a 7th round TKO loss to a then unheralded Shinsuke Yamanaka, yes the future WBC Bantamweight king. Funai put in a good effort against Yamanaka, who was then ranked #5 by the JBC, but was eventually broken down by Yamanaka's power, the power that would take Yamanaka to the Japanese Bantamweight title in 2010. Funai was dropped in round 4 of that bout, but went on to give Yamanaka some issues, despite looking very clumsy at this point in his career.
The loss to Yamanaka saw Funai needing to rebuild, and he did that by stringing together a 5 fight winning run. Those wins weren't against particularly notable opponents, though a win over Hiroki Shiino was notable. Shiino, who was 3-0 before facing Funai, had been touted as a real hopeful and although Funai scraped the win he didn't really shine against the novice, and in many ways it was a bout where the loser enhanced their reputation more than the winner.
The win over Shiino saw Funai advance his record to 13-4 (8) and at the age of 24 his career didn't look like it was going anywhere. Things became worse just 6 months later when he would lose again, this time to Masahiro Ishida. That loss, as we'd seen many times during Funai's early years, was followed by a good winning run, with 4 straight wins. This run was argubaly the best of Funai's up to this point, defeating Gakuya Furuhashi, the then unbeaten Yuki Tsuge, who had won the Rookie of the Year in 2010 and former world title challenger Teppei Kikui.
That short, but notable, winning run lead Funai to his first title fight, a 2012 clash with OPBF Bantamweight Rolly Lunas, then fighting as Rolly Matsushita. As with the Yamanaka bout, Funai put up a decent effort, but was stopped in the 9th round by the then OPBF champion and WBC #7 ranked world contender.
At the age of 27 Funai was 17-6 (11), he had notable losses to Yamanaka and Lunas but by then the Yamanaka loss had aged well, with Yamanaka later becoming the WBC Bantamweight champion and Lunas being in the mix for a shot himself. His record wasn't great, but he was showing signs of real improvement from the early struggles he'd had, and was developing into a solid fighter. At least domestically. His form following the loss showed a continued development as he went 7-0 (6) in the 3 years following the defeat to Lunas, scoring notable domestic wins over Masafumi Otake, Akinori Hoshino and Ryuto Otsuka, all of whom would mix at Japanese title level. More notable than the wins however was the fact he seemed to be showing signs of being able to make Super Flyweight, a division he'd abandoned following his 2007 loss in the Rookie of the Year competition. He would finally lose the weight to begin a fully fledged second run at 115lbs, starting in 2016.
After a 10 month break from the ring, missing out on almost half of 2015, a hungry Funai challenged Japanese Super Flyweight champion Sho Ishida, then 21-0. Funai didn't just challenge Ishida however and instead ran him ultra-close in a very, very hotly contested 10 round bout. It was clear the move down in weight was a good one for Funai, who looked stronger, more powerful and physically better at 115lbs, where he wasn't being bullied and hurt by the bigger guys. After 10 rounds with Ishida he was beaten by a majority decision, though it was a decision that could easily have gone his way. The eventual scorecards, which were 96-96, 96-96 and 97-95, showed how close Funai was, and had this not been in enemy territory, in Osaka, there's a good chance he'd have had the win.
Since losing to Ishida we've actually seen Funai go through the very best run of his career. In 2017, than a year after the loss to Ishida, he would stop his friend Kenta Nakagawa in 7 rounds to claim the Japanese Super Flyweight title, his first professional title. That win came when Funai was 31 and he didn't rest on the win, defending the belt against Takayuki Okumoto and Shota Kawaguchi before the year was over. Interestingly Okumoto currently holds the title, with Funai vacating after his second defense to focus on moving up a level. The move up saw Funai become the WBO Asia Pacific in 2018, when he beat former world title challenger Warlito Parrenas in 8 rounds. He was losing before he scored the stoppage, and had made a slow start in what was his first scheduled 12 round bout. The stoppage of Parrenas showed that whilst Funai wasn't the most skilled he could battle through adversity, fighting through bad facial damage to stop Parrenas with a huge flurry. It was a bloody war and the type of bout that showed how hungry both men were for a big win, and a potentially huge step towards a world title fight.
Although Funai wouldn't get a world title fight on the back of the Parrenas fight he did manage to get a world title eliminator, taking on Mexican foe Victor Emanuel Olivo last November in an IBF eliminator. This bout was available live on Boxing Raise and was a really strange bout. The opening round saw Funai do almost nothing. It was a huge opportunity and yet it appeared that he had frozen, and was set to throw away a massive opportunity. Thankfully in round 2 Funai finally let some shots go, and connected with a monstrous straight right hand that dropped Olivo hard. The little Mexican warrior got up but Funai could smell blood and quickly saw off Olivo when the bout resumed. The finish managed to mask over what had been a very odd opening round performance.
Watching Funai's early bouts we see a very clumsy fighter, but in more recent years he has developed a much cleaner style. Even with his cleaner style he's a strange fighter to watch. He's pretty one paced for the most part, but when he smells blood he quickly jumps on an opponent and shows there is a class offensive fighter there. He has solid body shots, a brutal straight right hand and a decent jab.
The biggest problem for Funai is his lack of speed, he's predictable, straight forward and a bit too methodical. His right hand is a beauty, but all too often he just looks basic. Thankfully he has shown a willingness to grit results out and he has shown glimpses of being really good, but they are only glimpses and it's very rare to see him put on a complete performance. If he does show what he can do, as he did against Nakagawa, he could upset an off form Ancajas this coming Saturday. But in reality we're expecting his lack of speed to be a major issue against Ancajas , who we suspect will be too sharp, too quick and too intelligent.
Funai does have a dangerous right hand, which is typically the "southpaw killer", but doesn't have the speed or boxing brain to land it with any major consistency, and shouldn't really worry Ancajas with it too much, if at all.
(Image of Funai courtesy of Watanabe Gym)
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
-Kyotaro Fujimoto (19-1): WBO #7 / WBC #20
A heavyweight Japanese fighter is something very rare, let along being ranked in the top 10. The former K-1 champion debuted in 2011 and has had a successful run in the regional scene, currently holding the OPBF & WBO Asia Pacific Heavyweight belts while riding on a 14 fight winning streak. Even though we may never see him challenging for a world title, it’s fun knowing he is there.
Super Welterweight/Jr Middleweight:
-Takeshi Inoue (13-0): WBO #5 / WBA #13 / WBC #19
The undefeated 4-year veteran is climbing the Super Welterweight rankings very fast, managing to place himself as the #5 in the WBO. A former Japanese title holder and now the unified OPBF & WBO Asia Pacific champion, may very well be one or two fights away from his first world title opportunity.
Super Lightweight/Jr Welterweight:
-Hiroki Okada (18-0): WBO #3 / WBA #4 / WBC #9
One of brightest prospects in Japan right now, Okada has never lost a single bout in his entire career. A bona fide knock out artist (13 KOs), he held the Japanese crown for 32 months and defended it 6 times, before winning the WBO Asia Pacific championship from Jason Pagara (41-3) this past December. Since the WBO world champion Maurice Hooker will not participate in the WBSS, this title will probably be his main focus as of now. Okada’s next confirmed appearance is on September 14th in the US (opponent TBA).
-Masayoshi Nakatani (17-0): WBC #7, WBO #13
Much like Okada and Takuma, Nakatani is also another undefeated fighter, who just recently made a record 10th title defense of the OPBF Lightweight championship. Despite the fact that he is ranked “only” #7 by the WBC, it’s worth pointing out that his last bout took place on July 29, so that win wasn’t taken into consideration at the latest ranking updates.
-Nihito Arakawa (31-6): WBO #3
Former Japanese, OPBF and reigning WBO Asia Pacific Lightweight champion, Arakawa has been in many big fights through out his 14-year career. At 36, he is still looking for his second world title opportunity.
Super Featherweight/Jr Lightweight:
-Masaru Sueyoshi (18-1): WBO #7
The 27 year old is steadily making his mark in Japan, suffering only one loss in his 4th pro bout, Sueyoshi has been victorious in his last 15 outings and even won the Japanese title on October of 2017. Another successful year and we might see him challenge for a world title by the end of 2019/beginning of 2020.
-Satoshi Shimizu (6-0): WBC #6
The Bronze Medalist at the 2012 Olympics, made his pro debut on September of 2016 and he has KOed/TKOed every single one of his opponents since then, claiming the OPBF Featherweight crown in just his 4th fight. He will defend that belt against Shingo Kawamura (16-3) later this month. If he can pass that test too, a fight with Gary Russell Jr. for the WBC title could be up for debate.
-Shun Kubo (13-1): WBA #7
The former WBA Super Bantamweight world champion returned this April, after his TKO loss to Daniel Roman in 2017, and won his comeback fight against former OPBF Featherweight champion & world title challenger Hiroshige Osawa (33-5) making a huge impact on his Featherweight debut.
Super Bantamweight/r Featherweight:
-Tomoki Kameda (35-2): WBA #2 / WBC #4 / WBO #9
El Mexicanito, has been on a 4-fight winning streak since moving up a weight class and has already broke the top 5 in both the WBA & the WBC. A fight with Emanuel Navarrete (WBA #1) could potentially set up a world title fight in 2019 with the winner of Daniel Roman/ Gavin McDonnell, which takes place this October.
-Hidenori Otake (31-2): WBO #6 / WBC #8
The reigning OPBF champion is scheduled to take on Isaac Dogboe (19-0) for the WBO World Super Bantamweight title on August 25.
-Takuma Inoue (11-0): WBO #8 / WBC #9
The undefeated former OPBF Super Flyweight champion is set to face reigning OPBF Bantamweight champion Mark John Yap (29-12), in a WBC World title eliminator fight on September 11.
-Hiroaki Teshigawara (17-2): WBO #6
Teshigawara recently stopped former world title contender Teiru Kinoshita (26-3) to defend his WBO Asia Pacific crown, bringing him one step closer to a WBO world championship match.
-Ryo Akaho (32-2): WBO #13
This is more of an honorable mention as Akaho made his return to the ring this past July, since his forced retirement last year, and knocked out Robert Udtohan, thus making it in the WBO world rankings once more.
Super Flyweight/Jr Bantamweight:
-Kazuto Ioka (22-1): WBA #2
In what must be considered the most bizarre ranking of this list, the former 3 division world champion, who’s return to the ring was announced just a couple of weeks ago, is already ranked #2 by the WBA ! Ioka is scheduled to fight WBC Silver champion and 2-time world title contender McWilliams Arroyo (17-3) on September 8, in the States.
-Koki Eto (22-4): WBC #5 / WBO #7 / WBA #9
The former interim WBA World Flyweight champion is currently ranked in the top 10 of the WBA, the WBC and the WBO. He fights Delfin de Asis (9-5) on August 16.
-Ryuichi Funai (30-7): WBO #5 / WBC #10 / WBA #13
Funai knocked out Philippino standout and world title challenger Warlito Parrenas (26-8), in impressive fashion, this past June, and won the vacant WBO Asia Pacific title. A strong first title defense and Funai could be challenging for the world championship by 2019.
-Kosei Tanaka (11-0): WBO #1 / WBC #2
Arguably one of the best fighters that have come out of Japan, Tanaka has won 2 world titles in 2 different divisions within 5 years. Now he looks to add a 3rd one to his collection as he goes one on one with Sho Kimura (17-1) for the WBO World Flyweight championship on September 24.
-Masayuki Kuroda (30-7): WBA #1 / WBC #4 / WBO #5
The current Japanese Flyweight champion has been on a 6-fight winning streak and has defended his belt 5 times since 2017 and now is ranked amongst the top 5 in the world and most importantly #1 by the WBA. A world title match against Artem Dalakian (17-0) sounds very plausible at this point and since both men have already fought this summer and have come out with no injuries, a fight between the two could take place around December.
-Junto Nakatani (16-0): WBC #5 / WBO #13
Undefeated Japanese flyweight prospect Junto Nakatani scored another TKO win on July 7 and now is ranked at the WBC’s top 5.
-Takuya Kogawa (29-5): WBC #8
After a draw with Yusuke Sakashita, Kogawa has retained his spot at the WBC rankings.
-Masahiro Sakamoto (12-1): WBO #4
The former WBO Asia Pacific champion will probably be in line for a WBO World title match against the winner of Kimura/Tanaka in 2019. He is scheduled to face South Korea’s Flyweight champion Ki Chang Go (6-2) on August 11.
-Ryuji Hara (23-2): WBO #1
Much like Ioka’s, this is the second strangest ranking, especially considering that Hara hasn’t fought since October of 2017. Actually Hara has been the #1 ranked flyweight by the WBO since January, despite having only competed once in this division against the debuting Seneey Worachina. Hara was set to face Angel Acosta for the world title on April 7 but an injury prevented him from stepping into the ring.
-Tetsuya Hisada (32-9): WBA #1 / WBC #3 / WBC #6
The reigning Japanese Flyweight champion, since 2016, recorded a 4th successful defense against Koki Ono (12-5) on July 16, thus improving his streak to 11 consecutive victories. Now as the #1 ranked Light Flyweight by the WBA, he is rumored to face Hekkie Budler for the gold sooner or later.
-Hiroto Kyoguchi (10-0): WBA #2
The undefeated IBF World Minimumweight champion has recently decided to move up a weight class and has already reached the top of the WBA ranking. If Hisada doesn’t face Budler right away, then an eliminator between Kyoguchi and Hisada looks more likely to take place.
-Ryoichi Taguchi (27-3): WBC #4 / WBA #4
Despite losing his 2 world title to Budler, Taguchi is still ranked amongst the top Light Flyweights in the world and without a doubt he will gain another crack at the gold in no time.
-Reiya Konishi (16-1): WBO #6 / WBA #7
The former world title challenger and now new WBO Asia Pacific champion, is coming closer to once again fight for the world championship.
-Tsubasa Koura (13-0): WBC #3 / WBA #9 / WBO #11
At only 23 years of age, Koura has already amassed 13 career wins, including 9 KOs, as well as the OPBF Minimumweight championship. His 3rd title defense will take place on August 24 against an unnamed opponent as of yet. It’s safe to say that we will see him in a WBC world title match in early 2019.
-Ryuya Yamanaka (16-3): WBO #6
Yamanaka recently lost the WBO world title to Vic Saludar. Just like Taguchi, he is only a few fights away from competing again for the big one.
-Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-6): WBC #9
Fukuhara has been victorious in both of his 2018 fights but he will need a few more before he can challenge Chayaphon Moonsri again for the WBC world title.
-Shin Ono (22-9): WBO #9
Ono will make his first Japanese title defense against Riku Kano (13-3) on August 24. His last world title fight was in 2016.
(Image - of Fujimoto, courtesy of Kadoebi Gym)
When we have some free time we're hoping to add a series of fun articles to the site. Hopefully these will be enjoyable little short features