By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On September 25, undefeated world champion Hiroto Kyoguchi makes his light flyweight debut, against Tibo Monabesa at Korakuen Hall.
Hiroto Kyoguchi (10-0 / 7 KOs) was initiated into martial arts from a very young age, since both his father and uncle were karate masters, he took up the sport when he was only 3 years old. His focus was shifted to boxing 9 years later when he saw his brother training in a local Osaka gym. During his University years, he won the 69th National Sports Festival (2014), which is considered to be Japan’s premier sports event and also became captain of the boxing team. In 2015, he entered the 5th Taipei City Cup International Boxing Tournament, winning second place. Kyoguchi’s amateur record was 52-14.
Turned pro in 2016, Kyoguchi fought 5 times that year, winning all of his bouts via KO/TKO within 3 rounds. His first championship victory came on February of 2017 when he stopped Filipino fighter Armando de la Cruz (25-14*), with some lethal body shots, to win the OPBF Minimumweight title.
On July 23, 2017, the Osaka born star received an IBF world title opportunity against Jose Argumedo (20-3*), the man who defeated Katsunari Takayama for the same belt in 2015. Kyoguchi, with his fast combinations, controlled the fight, keeping him ahead on the judges score cards. Argumedo was no pushover though as he displayed a strong offense for a few rounds, not enough though to win him the fight. In the 9th round, Kyoguchi knocked the champion down after landing a well calculated left hook followed by a series of strikes. The barrage continued throughout the remaining rounds, much to the excitement of the Japanese fans. In the end, Kyoguchi got the unanimous decision and became the world champion, only 15 months after his pro debut.
Kyoguchi marked his first successful title defense over 3 time world title contender Carlos Buitrago (30-2*). Much like the previous bout, the Japanese boxer was in full control, even came close to ending the fight in the 6th round. After 2 more action packed rounds, Kyoguchi went for the kill in the 8th, putting the hurt on the challenger, leading to the referee stopping the fight. His second and last defense was against Vince Paras (13-0*) this past May.
Eventually, Kyoguchi decided to vacate his title and move up a weight class, as he looks on making an impact in the division, he conquered as an amateur. His light flyweight pro debut will take place next Tuesday when he takes on unbeaten Indonesian fighter, Tibo Monabesa (18-0 / 8 KOs). Kyoguchi’s already ranked amongst the top 5 of the division (WBA #2 / WBC #3 / IBF #5 – August rankings) so it’s safe to say that he’s only one or two wins away from competing again for a world championship. Monabesa will be a tough test as he is also a world ranked boxer (WBA #6 / WBC #13 / WBO # 8 – August rankings). However the experience factor lies with Kyoguchi here, despite being the younger of the two, since he has had a much more accomplished career, both as an amateur and as a pro. To conclude with, it’s important to point out that Hekkie Budler, the WBA Super champion, has expressed interest in fighting Kyoguchi for the strap. So if Kyoguchi is victorious against Monabesa, we could be seeing these two box for the world title, sooner or later.
*Denotes record leading into the fight
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On September 11, Takuma Inoue squares off with Mark John Yap for an opportunity at the WBC Bantamweight World Championship.
Takuma Inoue (11-0 / 3 KOs) is the younger brother of 3 division world champion, Naoya Inoue. He started boxing from a very young age, after watching his brother competing, winning several high school championships. After showing much promise as an amateur, Takuma made his pro debut in 2013, when he was barely 18 years old. His first opponent was future WBO Minimumweight World Champion Tatsuya Fukuhara (12-3*). Even though he was outmatched, Inoue managed to pull off the upset and get the unanimous decision over the much more experienced boxer. That was his only fight in the light flyweight division.
He immediately jumped to flyweight, facing a worthy foe in Teeraphong Utaida (25-2*). Neither the fact that he moved up a weight class nor that he went from 6 to 8 rounds, scared the young Japanese prodigy. Once again, Takuma proved that he was a force to be reckoned with, going the distance and earning yet another victory. After knocking out a debuting Chalerm Kotala, Inoue outclassed world title contender Nestor Daniel Narvaes (20-2*) at super flyweight, despite that being only his fourth fight.
Takuma’s sound skills and technique, earned him his first championship when he fought Mark Anthony Geraldo (31-6*), for the vacant OPBF Super Flyweight title, in 2015. At the time, he was just 19 years old! Before the year was over, he successfully defended the belt against Rene Dacquel (15-5*). Inoue was named the “2015 Prospect of the Year” by the Ring magazine.
In 2016, Takuma beat Filipino stand out Froilan Saludar (23-1*) at the Sky Arena in Japan, before moving up to bantamweight. Saludar managed to drop him early in the opening round but Inoue returned the favor in the later rounds. The Japanese fighter was set to face Marlon Tapales (29-2*) for the WBO Bantamweight World Title on December of the same year. Unfortunately, bad luck stroke Inoue as he fractured his hand in training, thus withdrawing from his one and only world title fight to date.
Inoue made his return on August of 2017, in an epic war with 4-time world title challenger Hiroyuki Kudaka (25-16*). Both men went back and forth for 10 rounds, exchanging shots and stealing the show. Takuma remained unbeaten and proved that he was back and stronger than ever. He went on to defeat former Japanese champion Kentaro Masuda (27-8*) and Indonesian journeyman Waldo Sabu (12-11*). Now back in the world title picture, his next fight could be the one he needs to finally compete for the big one. However, his opponent might have different plans.
Mark John Yap (29-12 / 14 KOs) is a veteran of the sport, who has been around for 11 years. Despite having lost 12 of his 41 fights, he has only been stopped twice, while his last recorded loss is back in 2014. He is currently on a 10 fight winning streak, with victories over the likes of Hiroyuki Kudaka as well as former interim world champion and 3-time world title contender, Juan Jose Landaeta.
His reign as OPBF Bantamweight champion has been a strong one. He dominated Takahiro Yamamoto (18-4*) back in 2016, showcasing tremendous power, as he had the then champion all bloodied up and on the run, before the referee had to step in and stop the match. Yap also knocked out Kentaro Masuda (27-7*) and Seizo Kono (19-8*) in 2017. His last fight was a unanimous decision win over Takafumi Nakajima (29-9*) this past April.
Both Takuma and Yap are great fighters but with completely different styles. Takuma is a technical boxer while Yap is a brawler with knockout power, something that his Japanese rival lacks. Inoue’s style though, has kept him undefeated in all of his 11 bouts thus far. On the other hand, the Filipino hasn’t been the same boxer he was 5 years ago. His game has vastly improved and he has tested himself against top level competition during his time in Japan, where his last 16 fights have taken place. It’s not easy to make a prediction here. Only one thing is for sure. It will be one hell of a fight !
*Fighter’s record before the fight.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On September 8th, a modern day legend makes his much anticipated return to the ring, as Kazuto Ioka ends his retirement to face McWilliams Arroyo, in the States, for the WBC Silver Super Flyweight Championship.
Kazuto Ioka (22-1 / 13 KOs) is without a doubt one of the best Japanese boxers of the last decade. He proved his worth quite early, back in his amateur days, amassing an impressive record of 95 wins in 105 bouts, including two All Japan championships, two Inter high school titles as well as a four time winner of the National Sports Festival Tournament, which is considered to be Japan’s premier sports event.
Turned pro in 2009, he showcased his amateur pedigree as he dispatched world title contender Takashi Kunishige (20-3*), in just his third fight. Ioka then went on to win the vacant Japanese Light Flyweight title after he TKOed Masayoshi Segawa (19-2*), only 18 months after his debut.
In February of 2011, Ioka’s first major test arrived when he challenged the unbeaten Kittipong Jaigrajang (35-0*) for the WBC Minimumweight World Championship. Jaigrajang was champion for 4 years and had 6 title defenses under his belt. The Japanese hopeful went toe to toe with the veteran Thai champion, even knocking him down as early as in the second round and then once more in the sixth, with a lethal left body blow, sealing the deal and becoming the world champion at only 21 years of age, the same age Masao Oba was when he won the world title for the first time as well. Ioka defended his championship twice the same year, against Juan Hernandez Navarrete (18-1*) and Veerawut Yuthimitr (8-0*).
On June 20 of 2012, he was involved in a unification bout with the WBA champion and fellow rising Japanese star, Akira Yaegashi (15-2*). Their careers shared many similarities. Yaegashi was also an accomplished amateur, with a record of 56-14, and had also won the National Sports Festival Tournament, back in 2002. Both men brought their A game that night, knowing what was at stake. An epic back and forth affair, that brought the fans to their feet, ended with Ioka earning the unanimous decision and leaving Osaka with two world championships.
Having conquered the Minimumweight division, Ioka decided to move up a weight class and in just 6 months, he was the WBA Light Flyweight World Champion. He enjoyed another long run with the belt, marking 3 successful defenses over Phissanu Chimsunthom (43-8*), former world champion Ekkawit Songnui (41-1*) and Felix Alvarado (18-0*), before debuting at the Flyweight division. Ioka tasted defeat for the first time as a pro when he failed to capture the IBF Flyweight World Championship from Amnat Ruenroeng (12-0*) in a very close encounter. Ironically, Ioka had lost again to Amnat in the past, back in their amateur days, when they met each other at the semi-finals of the 2008 King's Cup, an amateur boxing tournament held in Thailand.
Ioka came back even more determined, beating both Pablo Carrillo (15-2*) and former interim world champion Jean Piero Perez (20-7*), within the span of three months, thus earning another opportunity to a Flyweight world title, this time against the WBA champion, Juan Carlos Reveco (35-1*). After 12 action packed rounds, the Japanese superstar finally came out a 3-division champion.
His reign as WBA Flyweight World Champion lasted 2 years, with title defenses over Roberto Domingo Sosa (26-2*), a revenge fight against Juan Carlos Reveco which ended with a TKO this time, Keyvin Lara (18-1*), interim world champion Yutthana Kaensa (16-0*) and Nare Yianleang (62-4*). His 6th defense was scheduled to take place on December 31st of 2017 but due to getting married and reportedly falling out with his father and promoter, Kazunori Ioka, he chose to retire and vacate his belt, a move that surprised the boxing community. Fortunately though, Ioka is now coming back and faces no easy opponent in his return fight.
McWilliams Arroyo (17-3 / 14 KOs), much like Ioka, has had an extensive amateur career. He won the 2006 Central American and Caribbean Games, the 2007 Pan American Games and the 2009 AIBA World Boxing Championship, including victories over 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist Yan Bartelemí and 2012 Olympic Silver Medalist Nyambayaryn Togstsogt.
As a pro, Arroyo has repeatedly tested himself against much more experienced boxers, earning wins over world title contenders like Lorenzo Trejo, Luis Maldonado, Ronald Ramos, Victor Ruiz and Froilan Saludar and even beating former world champion Carlos Cuadras (36-2*), in his latest fight, winning the WBC Silver Super Flyweight title in the process. The Puerto Rican has also competed twice for the world title, with impressive showings against Amnat Ruenroeng (13-0*) and Roman Gonzalez (44-0*).
This fight will be a major stepping stone for both fighters. Ioka is currently ranked #2 by the WBA, whereas Arroyo is #3 in both the WBO and WBC rankings. Ioka is bent on becoming a 4-division champion while Arroyo is looking to finally win the big one. A win here can set either man at the top of the WBA/WBC/WBO with a promise of another world title opportunity. Will the Japanese Icon continue his winning ways or will the “ring rust” lead to his downfall ? This question will be answered at Superfly III.
*Fighter’s record before the fight.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
A “Young Lion vs. Old Lion” battle will take place on August 24, as Riku Kano challenges Shin Ono for the Japanese Minimumweight Championship.
One of the most promising Japanese up and comers, Riku Kano (13-3 / 7 KOs) began his professional career in 2013, when he was just 16 years old ! During his first years, he mostly faced debuting fighters and journeymen, in order to gain experience, knocking out many of them and even earning the WBA Asia title, only one year after his debut.
His first big test came when he fought former WBC Asia champion and 2-time world title contender Wicha Phulaikhao (58-8*) on December of 2015. With only 9 fights under his belt, the rookie fought a technical match, controlling the pace and landing good shots, scoring one of the most significant victories of his young career.
Kano proved his worth once more when he went toe to toe for 12 rounds with former WBO World Champion Merlito Sabillo (25-2*) for the interim OPBF title. The Japanese fighter pulled off the big upset again to the surprise of everyone, winning the prestigious belt in the process.
On August 20 of 2016, Kano gained his first ever world title opportunity, as he faced arguably one of the best Japanese boxers of our generation, Katsunari Takayama (30-8*) for the vacant WBO World Championship. This bout was also a milestone for Takayama, who had already held the WBA/WBC/WBO/IBF world minimumweight titles in the past, since that was his last fight as a pro (Takayama retired so he could focus on competing at the 2020 Olympics). The miraculous kid was running roughshod over the legend in every single round. Takayama offered almost no resistant as he kept on taking a beating from the younger fighter. The fans could feel that a change of the guard was imminent. However, bad luck struck Kano as he suffered a bad cut in his left eye, which led to the referee putting an end to this fight, thus depriving him of the chance to become a world champion at 18 years of age.
Kano’s “jinx” continued after he got stopped by Jerry Tomogdan (22-8*), while attempting to claim the vacant WBO Asia Pacific belt. After 2 rebound wins against Naoya Haruguchi and Kittisak Khamlong, he receives another title shot against yet again a formidable foe.
Shin Ono (22-9 / 5 KOs) is a veteran of the sport, already boxing for 17 years, with no indications of slowing down. Through out his entire career, he has boxed with some of the top talent in the world. Whether it’s a win over future world champions like Yu Kimura and Chaozhong Xiong or a loss to Katsunari Takayama and Thammanoon Niyomtrong, in his 2 world title challenges, it’s safe to say that Ono has been battle tested. Right now, he sits at the top of the Japanese Minimumweight division, claiming the crown back in April.
Both men, even though they may compete for Japanese gold, they clearly have bigger plans in their minds. Kano is looking to finally win what was rightfully his in the first place and become one of the youngest world champions, where Ono, at 35, aims to be one of the eldest. Much like Kuga vs. Wake, it isn’t easy to pick a winner here. What I can say is that it will definitely be an intriguing match-up and the winner will be closer to one more world title opportunity.
*Fighter’s record prior to the fight
Maruta and Mananquil clash!
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On August 23rd, Hinata Maruta faces Ben Mananquil at the Elorde South Mall in the Philippines.
Hinata Maruta (7-1 / 6 KOs) is one of Japan’s brightest young up and comers. He began boxing at the Morioka gym, when he was just 6 years old ! Maruta then went to Koyo High School, where he won a bronze medal at the 2013 Asian Junior Championships. His amateur record stands at 55 wins and only 11 losses.
Made his pro debut in 2015, Maruta wasn’t given an easy opponent as he went up against former Filippino champion Jason Canoy (24-5*). The Japanese prodigy put his skills to test against the veteran fighter, showcasing great hand speed and foot work. Despite getting caught a few times, he dominated the majority of the fight and got the decision as well as his first professional victory.
After dispatching Saranyu Kerdsuk on March of 2016, Maruta fought and beat the undefeated Wilbert Berondo (10-0*) for the vacant WBC Youth Bantamweight World Championship. He continued his winning ways by defending his belt against Joe Tejones (6-1*) and Hamson Lamandau (8-0*), knocking them both out.
In less than 15 months, Maruta has proven he was a worthy adversary. Where most boxers usually fight journeymen in their early years, Maruta was facing much more experienced foes and on March 26 of 2017, he met his biggest challenged today, as he went toe to toe with Hidenori Otake (29-2*) for the prestigious OPBF title. A former Japanese champion and world title contender, Otake was the clear favor in this bout. Maruta was playing a safe game, giving the veteran too much room to control the pace of the fight and constantly stay ahead in the judges scorecards. However in the last rounds, almost out of nowhere, Maruta started peppering the champ with a few strong combinations and even got him on the run in the closing seconds of the match. Even though it wasn’t enough to get him the decision, the young lion shocked many fans and critics alike with that performance. If Maruta had chosen to fight like that since the opening bell, he would have probably left the new champion.
Maruta’s next opponent will be Ben Mananquil (16-1 / 4 KOs). The Filippino, since losing to Jing Xiang, has won all of his 6 last fights, his most notable being against Glenn Porras (29-5*) for the WBF International Bantamweight title. This will be a challenge for both men and especially for Maruta as he looks to get back on title contention.
Legendary Yaegashi faces Mukai!
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On July 17 at the legendary Korakuen Hall, 2 of the most exciting Japanese boxers come face to face, as Akira Yaegashi takes on Hirofumi Mukai.
Akira Yaegashi (26-6 / 14 KOs) is a modern day Japanese legend. A successful amateur, with a record of 56-14, he won the Inter-High School Championship in 2000 as well as the National Sports Festival of Japan in 2002, which is considered to be their national premier sport event.
Turned pro at the age of 22, Yaegashi was thrown into deep waters quickly, as he fought Eagle Den Junlaphan (17-1*) for the WBC Minimumweight World Title, after only 5 fights. Despite his amateur pedigree and already the OPBF champion, he wasn’t quite ready for that level of competition, at that point of his career. However he did manage to go 12 rounds with the Thai fighter, showing his Bushido spirit of never giving up.
Yaegashi continued to grow as a fighter, pilling up victories over the likes of Kenichi Horikawa (17-6*), Junichiro Kaneda (19-3*), Kosuke Takeichi (10-1*), Norihito Tanaka (13-3*) while also collecting another title, this time the Japanese Minimumweight belt.
In 2011, he finally fulfilled his destiny when he stopped Somporn Seeta (23-3*), to become the WBA World Champion, for the first time in his career. Undoubtedly, that was Yaegashi’s breakout performance as he went to war with one of the best minimuweight boxers of all time and came out on top. That match earned him “Fight of the Year” honors from ESPN.com and BoxingScene.com, as well as the WBA's award for “Most Dramatic Fight of the Year”.
8 months later, Yaegashi was in another much talked about fight, when he took on undefeated WBC Minimumweight World Champion, Kazuto Ioka (9-0*) in a double title unification bout. Again a FOTYC as both men brought their A game that night, knowing what’s at stake. In the end, Ioka got the decision and both championships.
It didn’t take long for him to get back to the “gold game” as he fought Toshiyuki Igarashi (17-1*) on April of 2013, this time for the WBC Flyweight World Championship, moving up 2 weight classes. Much like himself, Igarashi was an accomplished amateur, with a record of 77-18. After 12 competitive rounds, Yaegashi left the victor and more importantly a 2 division World Champion (the Ring and Lineal titles were also on the line)
The “Sonic Fist” defended his championship thrice over Oscar Blanquet (32-5*), former world champion Edgar Sosa (49-7*) and Odilon Zaleta (15-3*) before losing it to Roman Gonzalez (39-0*) in another slugfest.
Yaegashi once more decided to switch weight classes, this time dropping to Light Flyweight. His debut at this new division was an unsuccessful one as he got knocked out by the WBC World Champion Pedro Guevara (23-1*). Those 2 back to back KO losses didn’t discourage the Japanese superstar from continuing his journey of becoming a 3 division King. His dream was realized on December 29 of 2015, after he got the decision win over Javier Mendoza (24-2*) and earned the IBF Light Flyweight World Title.
His reign lasted 2 years, consisting of 2 successful title defenses against Martin Tecuapetla (13-6*) and Wittawas Basapean (31-5*). On May of 2017, Milan Melindo (35-2*) pulled a major upset as he put an end to Yaegashi’s IBF reign in the very first round of their encounter.
Since then, the 3 division champion has fought once this year against journeyman Frans Damur Palue (15-19*), stopping him in just 2 rounds. His next opponent will not be an easy one though.
Hirofumi Mukai (16-5*) began boxing at the Nanjing Municipal High School, while serving as a co-chief in his third year, along with future Olympic gold medalist, Ryota Murata. Afterwards, he went to Nihon University and won 3rd place at the All Japan Championships, plus a national title.
Mukai’s first 5 wins as a pro were against much more experienced foes, such as Jin-Man Jeon (13-2*), Anis Ceunfin (15-10*) and future WBC Flyweight World Champion Sonny Boy Jaro (29-9*). In spite of an unsuccessful attempt at the OPBF Flyweight title, he was granted a world title shot against one of the best boxers to come out of Thailand, Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (83-3*). However the match ended in the opening round after Mukai’s suffered a nasty cut from an accidental head clash.
Throughout his career, Mukai holds notable victories over Sooksan Chaichana, Mark John Yap, world title contenders Tanawat Phonnaku (twice) & Konosuke Tomiyama as well as losses to Mark Anthony Geraldo, world title challenger & Japanese champion Shohei Omori, WBC Super Flyweight World Champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Chinese Superstar Rex Tso.
Specifically, his losses to Rungvisai and Tso were critical to proving his toughness in the ring. The WBC, Ring and Lineal world champion went 9 rounds with Mukai and the fight ended after the Japanese corner threw the towel in. Obviously Mukai wasn’t going to win the fight, but at the same time, he never gave up, despite the vicious beating that he took. On the other hand, his bout with Tso was a back and forth affair, a battle that must be considered one of the best fights of 2017. 3 titles were on the line (Mukai’s WBO Asia Pacific and Tso’s WBO International & WBC Asia). Both warriors had an old school brawl that the kept the fans on the edge of their seats. Tso’s hand speed and agility made the difference, as he dropped Mukai three times during the fight.
All in all, Yaegashi and Mukai may have very different careers, but the one thing they have in common is that whether they win or loss, both will always deliver the excitement. Keep your eyes glued to the screen when this fight is on.
*Denotes record going in to the fight
Kamegai returns on August 17th!
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
The International Japanese Superstar, Yoshihiro Kamegai returns to the American ring on August 17.
Yoshihiro Kamegai (27-4 / 24KOs) before turning pro in 2005, had an extensive career as an amateur, pilling up 57 wins in 69 outings as well as winning numerous national championships in different weight classes, even beating future stars like Masatsugu Kawachi (2007 World Championships Bronze medalist).
As a pro, he went undefeated close to 8 years ! First as a Super Lightweight, he dominated the regional scene and became the Japanese champion, after stopping Yosukezan Onodera (20-1*) back in 2010. Not long after that, Kamegai graduated to the Welterweight division and scored a huge KO victory over former WBA Lightweight World Champion Jose Alfaro (24-6*). In 2012 he made his inaugural trip to the US, going the distance with Jorge Silva (19-2*). He came back the next year to face future interim world champion Johan Perez for the vacant WBA International title, where he tasted defeat for the first time.
Kamegai made a successful return to Japan in June of 2013 when he knocked out Tim Hunt (16-3*) for the OPBF Welterweight championship. However, in 2014, Kamegai gave the belt up, because he wanted to focus on competing in the US. He soon found himself in a war as he came face to face with former WBA/WBO/IBF World Champion Robert Guerrero (31-2*) at the StubHub Center on June 21st, 2014. Both men had an incredible match, going back and forth, in what it was considered by many the fight of the year. Despite losing via decision, Kamegai established himself as a tough competitor amongst the American fans.
Once again, Kamegai moved up a class, this time trying his luck at Super Welterweight. His record in his last 6 fights has been 3-2-1, including a stoppage win over Jesus Soto Karass (28-10*) and a decision loss to Miguel Cotto (40-5*) for the vacant WBO world title. His next fight is scheduled to take place at the Fantasy Springs Casino against heavy hitter Greg Vendetti (19-2 / 12 KOs). Vendetti has been on a 15 fight winning streak since April of 2015.
At 35 years of age, Kamegai is still looking to become a world champion, in spite of his recent shortcomings. This fight will be a test for both men, since neither of them has ever been stopped in a fight. Who will prevail ? The experienced Japanese veteran or the much younger and stronger American ? We will find out soon.
*Fighter’s record before the fight
(Image courtesy of Boxmob.jp)
Lagumbay and Obara go again!
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On August 9th, one of the most anticipated fights in the Japanese scene takes place, as Keita Obara takes on Alvin Lagumbay for the WBO Asia Pacific Welterweight title.
Keita Obara (19-3/17 KOs) began boxing at the Iwate Prefectural High School, earning the 3rd place at the 2004 National High School Championships. After turning 18, he joined Tokyo University where he won 2 national tournaments, in 2006 and in 2008 respectively.
After a successful amateur career, he made his pro debut in 2010, at 23 years of age. Despite losing, against the way more experienced Kazuyoshi Kumano (23-9*), he quickly bounced back, stopping his next seven opponents, before winning the vacant Japanese Super Lightweight title. Obara defended his belt twice, over So Takenaka (18-6*) and Tetsuya Hasunuma (7-4*). In 2014, he faced his first international challenge, in Philippino standout and former WBO Asia Pacific champion Jay Solmiano (17-2*), for the vacant OPBF Super Lightweight crown. The Japanese fighter proved to be too much for Solmiano, as he knocked him out in the fourth round, thus gaining another prestigious championship.
Obara continued to impress the fans by knocking out his next four opponents, including former Japanese champion Shinya Iwabuchi (23-4*). In November of 2015, he was set to make his US debut against Walter Castillo (26-3*) in an IBF title eliminator bout. Both men went back and forth in an exciting encounter, which ended in a draw. A rematch was to be made in order to determine the #1 contender, but since Castillo refused to compete, Obara was given the spot and the opportunity to fight the undefeated IBF/IBO World Super Lightweight champion Eduard Troyanovsky (24-0*) in Russia. Things didn’t go as planned, as Obara got smashed in the second round, failing at his first world title challenge.
The former Japanese/OPBF champion, made his return to Japan, 7 months later, but this time, moving up a class, as he entered the Welterweight division, besting Larry Siwu (24-7*). In August of 2017, Obara won his third title, as he KOed former WBC International and Asian champion Narong Bunchan (26-2*) to win the vacant WBO Asia Pacific Welterweight championship.
After a successful first title defense over Shusaku Fujinaka (16-7*), Obara was already ranked amongst the top 10 Welterweights by both the WBO and IBF and was on his way for another world title match. However, the unexpected happened, when he came face to face with the unheralded Alvin Lagumbay (9-2*) in April of this year. The Philippino was clearly the underdog in this encounter, with only 11 pro bouts in total as well as no significant victories on his record. Obara was dominating the fight, up until the second round, where both boxers rocked each other hard, resulting in a rare double knockdown. Lagumbay got on his feet first, while Obara was still stunned on the ground, unable to answer the 10 count. In the end, the referee declared Lagumbay the new champion, in what it must be one of the biggest upsets of 2018.
Fast forward 4 months, the rematch is set as Obara looks to exact his revenge and not only regain his championship but also to put himself in world title contention once more. Was it a fluke or could Lagumbay be the breakout star of 2018 ? This question will be answered in less than 10 days at Korakuen Hall !
*Fighter’s record before the fight.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo )
We already have talked about the highly anticipated fights coming up at the end of July, in and out of Japan, with Kuga and Wake going toe to toe with so much at stake, Ito taking on Diaz for the vacant WBO Super Featherweight world title, Shohei Omori’s 2018 return. Now let’s take a look at another match-up that takes place during that time frame.
-Tatsuya Fukuhara vs Naoya Haruguchi (29 July):
Tatsuya Fukuhara (20-6) started his career in 2008, fighting in the regional scene for 7 years before earning his first title opportunity in 2015, when he bested Hiroya Yamamoto (9-3*) to become the Japanese Minimumweight champion. Fukuhara defended the championship thrice over the likes of Takumi Sakae (13-0*), Genki Hanai (7-0*) and former OPBF champion and world title contender Shin Ono (19-7*).
On February 26 of 2017, he faced Moises Calleros (25-6*) for the Interim WBO World Minimumweight crown at the Matsushima Athletic Park. Both men, realizing this was their big chance, left in all in the ring, trading punches like there was no tomorrow. After 12 rounds of hard hitting action, Fukuhara won a very close decision and the strap. In April, he was promoted as the undisputed champion, since Katsunari Takayama announced his retirement from the sport. The celebration didn’t last long though, as he lost his title to Ryuya Yamanaka (14-2*) a couple of months later. However, in November, he was given another shot at the gold, this time for the WBC championship, against the undefeated Chayaphon Moonsri (48-0*) in Thailand. Fukuhara got the advantage at the early rounds and even outclassed the champion on numerous occasions.
Much like his bout with Calleros, it was an even fight but this time the judges saw it in favor of Moonsri. Since then, Fukuhara has been looking to climb the rankings of the division and challenge once more for the world title. He defeated Japanese prospect Yuto Takahashi (8-3*) earlier this year and now he faces another rising star in Naoya Haruguchi (15-8), who recently earned a majority decision over former world title challenger Jeffrey Galero (16-3*) this past March. Fukuhara is currently ranked #9 by the WBC whereas Haruguchi is #38. This will be a test for both fighters. For Fukuhara is a chance to prove to that he still has that flame inside him while for Haruguchi is a tremendous chance to boost himself up in the rankings.
Takuya Kogawa returns for 2018!
By - George Delis (@Delisketo )
On July 27 at Korakuen Hall, one of the most exciting Japanese fighters makes his first appearance in 2018, as Takuya Kogawa (29-5) takes on Yusuke Sakashita (16-8).
During his 13-year career, we have seen Kogawa in numerous wars, in and out of his native country of Japan. In 2009, he faced world title contender and future world champion Chaozhong Xiong (12-2*). That was Kogawa’s, who himself was 12-1 at the time, first major challenge. The Chinese fighter was coming off his WBC championship match against Daisuke Naito (34-2*), less than 2 months prior to this bout, losing a unanimous decision but still looking impressive, even dropping Naito in the 6th round. It was obvious that Xiong was eager to climb up the rankings again and was looking for a quick KO win, which proved to be a mistake, as Kogawa was constantly catching him off guard and nailing him with some good combinations. After 10 action packed rounds, Kogawa got the decision and a much crucial victory.
One year (and 3 stunning knockouts) later, he was booked to fight Danilo Pena (23-7) for the vacant OPBF Super Flyweight title. Kogawa outclassed the Philippino for 6 consecutive rounds, until the referee was forced to stop the fight (Danilo suffered a deep cut during the match) thus declaring him the new OPBF champion. That fight put Kogawa in contention for the WBC World Flyweight title and on July of 2011, in Thailand, Kogawa got his big opportunity against one of the best fighters of our generation, Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (80-3*). The Thai boxer was clearly the more experienced of the 2 in this outing, as he was already competing for 17 years ! The last time someone managed to stop him was in 1996 while his last loss was at the hands of the aforementioned Dasuke Naito in 2007, which was a decision loss. Wonjongkam, who defeated Koki Kameda the previous year for the WBC, the Ring and Lineal Flyweight title, found himself in a much bigger fight, than he expected to be, against Kogawa, going the distance, in what it was a thrilling encounter. Kogawa didn’t get the decision, but he certainly proved that he can hang with the best of them, considering that this was only his 18th pro career fight.
Kogawa made his return to Japan, on January 26 of 2012, winning the vacant Japanese Flyweight title, in another barn burner, against fellow rising star Shigetaka Ikehara (22-2*) and successfully defending it thrice, over the likes of Tetsuma Hayashi (18-1*), Keita Yamaguchi (8-11*) and Ikehara again in a return encounter, knocking him out this time in the very last round. He eventually lost his belt, in a close call, to Suguru Muranaka (18-2*). However, despite that loss, he received an Interim WBA World title fight, once more in Thailand, this time against Sirichai Thaiyen (33-2*). Despite putting on an amazing performance, the Thai fighter got the majority decision…..a decision some may even call a biased one.
After yet another frustrating missed world title opportunity, Kogawa went on a winning streak that lasted 3 years, defeating top Japanese boxers like Hiroyuki Kudaka (22-12*), Tetsuma Hayashi (25-3*), Masayuki Kuroda (24-6*) as well as regaining the Japanese crown.
At the age of 33, Kogawa, who is currently No.8 in the WBC World Flyweight rankings, will face young knockout artist Yusuke Sasashita (11 KOs) on his way to yet another crack at the gold.
* The fighter’s record before the fight.
(Image courtesy of Miyata Gym)
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