On December 3rd we'll see a new Japanese Minimumweight champion being crowned as Masataka Taniguchi (12-3, 7) gets his second shot at the domestic title, and faces the unheralded Hizuki Saso (12-6-2, 4), in what will be his first title bout of any kind. Amazingly the bout comes almost 11 months to the day since Norihito Tanaka vacated the belt, ahead of his world title bout with Knockout CP Freshmart, and more than 8 months after Taniguchi was supposed to face Lito Dante for the belt, back in March.
Despite the lengthy gap between bouts for the title we can't help but be excited about this one, as it really does look set to be much, much better than the record of the two men suggest.
Of the two fighters it's fair to see Taniguchi will be the clear favourite, and with good reason. The Watanabe gym fighter is a former amateur standout who seemed destined for success when he turned professional in 2016. In his early professional bouts he looked fantastic, with speed, power, skills and a good ring IQ, and in 2017 he got his first title bout, losing a razor thin majority decision to Reiya Konishi for the Japanese Minimumweight title. Due to how close that loss was, in Konishi backyard as well, Taniguchi's career didn't really suffer and just 7 months later he got his second title bout, facing Tsuabasa Koura for the OPBF Minimumweight title. Once against Taniguchi came up narrowly close, losing a majority decision to Koura.
Thankfully for Taniguchi things did fall in place for him in 2018 when he claimed the WBO Asia Pacific Miunimumweight title, with a unanimous decision win over Filipino Joel Lino in Thailand. That win was followed by some wrangling over Japanese rules before Taniguchi fought Vic Saludar for the WBO world title, losing a clear decision to the big punching Filipino. Since that loss we've only seen Taniguchi fighting once, though that was a notable win in a Japanese title eliminator against the big punching Kai Ishizawa, in what was a legitimate barn burner.
In the ring the 26 year old Tanigcuhi is a fantastic fighter. He's skilled, he knows how to keep things long, has solid power, he's tough and he has the amateur background to fall back on. Two of his 3 losses could easily have gone his way, and against Vic Saludar he found out he wasn't ready for world level, just yet. Sadly though he his record paints the picture of a limited fighter, with losses in 20% of his career bouts, not a number that's actually reflective of his talent and he's much better than his record suggests. He's probably the best 12-3 fighter in the sport, and could just as easily be 14-1 at this point. Despite being talented he's not someone who has responded well to power, and at times he seemed intimidated by Saludar, who's stiff shots made Taniguchi think twice, and he was dropped by Ishizawa in their amazing 2019 clash.
When it comes to Hizuki Saso it's fair to say a lot less is known about the 25 year old, despite the fact his professional career dates back to 2015 and he has more professional bouts than Taniguchi. The youngster from Kanagawa has been a professional since 2013 and suffered his first loss in 2014. Notably his second loss came in the East Japan Rookie of the Year final to Tsubasa Koura and that started a bad run for Saso who quickly fell from 6-1 to 6-4-1, going win-less for more than 2 years.
The bad run for Saso saw him struggle to find his place in the sport and dip his toes at Light Flyweight whilst rebuilding his career, winning 6 of his following 8 bouts to rebuild to 12-4-1, and open up the opportunity for a title fight.
In the ring Saso is a tidy little boxer with a speedy and sharp jab, nice light movement and good body shots. Sadly though he lacks power, his work rate leaves something to be desired. From a physical stand point he doesn't seem the strongest or the most powerful, and he seems like the type of guy that could be bullied around rather easily by a decent, strong fighter, like Taniguchi. He also has questionable defense and in his last bout, against Yuni Takada, took a lot of clean shots, often when bending at the waist. In fact if we're being honest Saso was incredibly lucky to take home the win in that bout. He has nice skills, but they seem very unpolished, and like they need a lot of work for him to be ready for a title bout.
From what we've seen of both men it's hard to see a route to victory for Saso. He lacks the power needed to get Taniguchi's respect, like Ishizawa and Saludar, he lacks the work rate to out work him, and he lacks the physicality to try and bull him. As for Taniguchi this really is his fight to lose. He has the skills to outbox Saso, he has the power to hurt him, and he has the physicality to boss him around.
What we're expecting to see is Saso to show a lot of respect to Taniguchi early on. By round 3 or 4 however Taniguchi will have gotten the motor going and will be lining Saso up regularly with powerful straight left hands. When that happens it'll become less a competitive contest and more a test of how tough Saso is, and how brave his corner is. Sooner or later however Saso will be stopped.
Prediction - Taniguchi TKO6
If we're being honest it can be easy to hate on some weight divisions, and one of those that is an easy target is the Featherweight division, especially in 2020 when almost no big bouts took place in it. In a division that has the likes of Can Xu, Josh Warrington, Gary Russell Jr and Emanuel Navarrete there is the talent there for some phenomenal bouts but sadly we've not seem much at all worth being excited about. Fingers crossed 2021 will be a much, much better year for the division.
Thankfully whilst the division's biggest and brightest haven't given us much to talk about the division does still have some interesting action going on below the top level, and on November 23rd we get the chance to see one of the rising hopefuls of the division in action, as he takes on a serious puncher. The bout isn't set to get much international attention, but it should still deliver some action.
The bout in question will pit WBO Asia Pacific champion Musashi Mori (11-0, 6) against heavy handed challenger Tsuyoshi Tameda (21-5-2, 19), in one of the more interesting bouts the division has given us this year. On paper it might not look that interesting, but in reality the bout is a perfect mix of styles, and a serious test for a man who turns 21 the day before the fight.
The unbeaten champion is the big hope from the gym run by former WBC Bantamweight champion Yasuei Yakushiji, and has been guided brilliantly so far. He debuted aged 17 and won the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2017, the following year he won the WBO Asia Pacific title, narrowly over-coming Richard Pumicpic, and since then has been learning under the guidance of Ismael Salas. It's been under Salas' guidance that we've seen Mori build around his strength's and go from an aggressive fighter, to be a well balanced boxer, with a might better defense and understanding of the ring.
Under Salas we have seen Mori become a touch boring, dull and less exciting than he once was. On one hand that is disappointing, but it's clearly been a change that will increase Mori's in ring success and it's clear that he's not a much more polished boxer than he was. He's quick, sharp, moves around the ring well and has a razor like southpaw straight left hand. One thing we don't see from him often enough, for our liking, is a jab thrown with intent, but it is in his arsenal, as are short, crafty uppercuts to the body. Although he's technically very good we don't see the X-Factor with him at the moment. He's talented, but lacks that eye catching speed, good night power and we do query his physical maturity, with the youngster still looking like a body. In a year or two, when he build his man strength, that might change, but at the moment it very feels like he needs more time to develop and at 20 going on 21, talk of a world title fight is too soon in our eyes.
At one point Tsuyoshi Tameda looked like a star in the making, and was a stand-out, thrill a minute youngster. He turned professional in 2011, at the age of 17, and was one of the last students under the legendary eye of Kenji Yonekura. As a youngster he kicked off his career with 3 opening round KO's and looked like a destructive force. In just his 5th bout he fought to a draw with Masayuki Ito in the Rookie of the Year, before being beaten a fight later. Following his first loss Tameda went on a role and moved to 13-1-2 (11), including wins over future Japanese national champion Takenori Ohashi and Filipino fighter Mark Bernaldez. Then he lost to Simipiwe Vetyeka, losing a gruelling and 1-sided decision to the talent South African. Sadly Tameda has never really bounced back from that loss and has gone 8-3 since then with stoppage losses to the tricky Reiya Abe, the touted Hinata Maruta and the all action Jae Woo Lee. He's still shown rock hands, but those losses have shown that his chin is cracked, and that he can be stopped.
Now at the age of 27 there are real question marks about just what Tameda has left. Technically he's never been the best, despite being guided first by Yonekura and now by Hideyuki Ohashi. He has always been fun, a devastating puncher, and a real danger man, but has always struggled against fighters that can take his blows and those that can counter him. He makes a lot of mistakes, and gives opponents lots of chances to tag him, but if he lands he can take fighters out, as we saw in stunning fashion Takenori Ohashi.
For this bout we are really interested in several things. Firstly can Tameda land on Mori? And if so can Mori take the power of Tameda? We know Tameda can struggle to land on fighters but when he lands he does tend to chake them up and if Mori is caught clean by a right hand, even once, it will be very interesting to see how he responds. Secondly can Mori get Tameda's respect? If not is he capable of playing keep away for 12 rounds? Tameda does seem like he's somewhat damaged compared to the fighter he once was, but with Mori not having stand out power there's a chance his shots bounce off Tameda as the challenger comes forward.
We suspect the movement, skills, speed and timing of Mori will be the difference. We expect to see the youngster take a shot or two, but not cleanly and not solidly enough to really test his chin, and when he is tagged he'll tie up or get out of dodge. But there will always be that danger of him eating one and coming undone. Tameda will always try, and will always feel he had the power to turn things around, but we feel that after 7 or 8 rounds his steam will run out and Mori will ease over the finish line for a clear decision.
Prediction - UD12 Mori
One of the best division's in the sport right now is the Light Flyweight division, which is a division full of talented fighters, promising match ups, and exciting hopefuls. It's a division that has gone under-the-radar historically but has started to get more and more buzz around it in the last few years thanks to the emergence of some fantastic fighters, like Kenshiro Teraji, Felix Alvarado, Carlos Canizales and Hiroto Kyoguchi.
On November 23rd we see two more men looking to throw their hats into the ring and move towards a world title fight in 2021. The bout in question will see 23 year old southpaw Riku Kano (16-4-1, 8) take on the often under-rated Ryoki Hirai (13-6-1, 4) in a contest for the WBO Asia Pacific title. With the title here the winner will find themselves leaping the queue towards a WBO world title fight, and the loser will have a long, long road back to being a contender, making this a very important bout for the two men involved.
Of the two fighters it's the 23 year old Kano who is the more well known. The youngster made his debut way back in 2013, in the Philippines, and despite losing on debut he began to build some moment soon afterwards. Just over a year after debuting he claimed the WBA Asia Minimumweight title, at the age of 17 and still hadn't made his Japanese debut. When he did finally head back to Japan, in 2015, he did so with some genuine buzz around him and expectation around him. That buzz would lead to him getting a world title fight in 2016, at the age of 18, against Katsunari Takayama. The bout was set up with the hope of Kano becoming the youngest ever Japanese world champion, but in the end Takayama was too good, taking a technical decision over Kano.
Sadly for Kano that buzz has never quite comeback and he's gone 6-2 since that loss, with defeats to Jerry Tomogdan and Shin Ono. He has now moved up in weight, though it's hard to know id he will ever "come good" and reach the heights expected of him.
Despite falling short so far Kano is a solid boxer-mover. He's quick, sharp, has nice balance and good skills. Sadly however he's very much lacking in the physical aspects of the sport. He's a light puncher, who doesn't sit on his shots, and doesn't have the physical strength and power to hold his own against a man pressing him. Kano also has question marks over his heart, and he seemed to mentally crumble against Shin Ono. He's a talented fighter, but very an immature one, mentally and physically. Thankfully for him, those issues can be worked on and sorted out, but will need to be worked on NOW!
Whilst much was made of Kano's career early on Hirai never got that early attention. That was, in part, due to his struggles to build any career momentum. He won his first 3 bouts but quickly fell to 3-3-1 and was later 5-4-1. By that point his career looked like it was going no where and he wasn't helped by fighting with a small promoter in Kobe. And then things started to change for Hirai who began to not some good wins, including victories over Takumi Sakai and Ryoya Ikema. Those wins lead to him getting a Japanese title fight in 2018, with Hirai losing a close decision to Shin Ono. Following that loss he suffered another razor thin set back, to Yuto Takahashi, before getting his career back up and running in 2019, with 3 wins.
In the ring Hirai is an interesting fighter. He's not got the highest work rate and he's not the most destructive. What he is however is a solid body puncher, he knows his way around the ring and is surprisingly quick, with both hands and feet. At world level we don't see him making much of an impact, though he could be a banana skin against the right champion, however at domestic and regional level he's a legitimate threat and he could be too much for Kano here.
It's fair to say that Kano is the man with the expectations on his shoulders, and at the time of writing he's the clear favourite with those polled on Boxmob, however we see him really struggling here.
Kano is the better boxer. He's the quicker, smoother, better natural talent. He is however the sort of man who struggled with pressure, and tenacity, and we expect to see that from Hirai, as we saw against Ikema. Our prediction here is a good start for Kano, but as the bout goes on, and he begins to slow down, Hirai's pressure will get to him, and break him down. Eventually Kano's mental strength will be question, and he'll come up short for answers, eventually being stopped.
Prediction - TKO9 Hirai
On November 21st at Korakuen Hall we are being treat to a very, very good card thanks to Dangan. The main event of the show is up at 140lbs and will see the winner walking away as the OPBF champion. Not only is there a notable title on the line for the bout but it is also a very, very interesting match up in terms of the fighters involved, their styles, weaknesses and the type of bout we're expecting to see. In fact we dare that the strengths of each fighter match the weaknesses of the other man, making this an incredibly interesting bout.
Coming in to the contest Rikki Naito (22-2, 7) is the reigning OPBF champion Light Welterweight champion, having won the belt in 2018 with a victory against Jeffrey Arienza. Since winning the belt he has recorded 3 defenses but in all 3 bouts he has had trouble, being dropped in two of those defenses, and really running on fumes in the other. In the other corner is the often under-rated Yusuke Konno (16-4, 9), who comes into the bout with little fanfare, but at 31 he'll know he can ill afford another set back.
Of the two men we suspect Rikki Naito is the much, much more well known. The second generation fighter is the son of former Japanese and OPBF Middleweight champion Cassius Naito. As a fighter Rikki managed to create some buzz in 2011, when he turned professional, but really broke through into the wider consciousness of Japanese fans in 2014, when he claimed the Japanese Super Featherweight title. After making 3 defenses he dipped his toes at Lightweight, beating Nihito Arakawa, before losing a technical decision in 2015 to Kenichi Ogawa. A second loss to Ogawa in 2016 saw Naito abandon the Super Featherweight division and later settle at 140lbs.
At 130lbs Naito was a talented boxer, with respectable power, good speed, good stamina and he looked like he was going to find himself being one of the next notable Japanese fighters at the weight. He was young, naturally talented and ticked a lot of boxes needed to be a solid fighter. The one thing he seemed to miss was physicality, instead relying on his movement and counter punching to get an opponents respect. We suspect the move to 140lbs was going to be a fail, but Naito surprised us, bulking up well, and maintaining his speed and timing really well. Sadly though his lack of physicality has proven to be an issue, and so to has his relative lack of punching power. He has also struggled with stamina at the weight and the bigger men have been able to lose early rounds before making a late charge. This has been seen particularly in his last 3 bouts, and he has been some what lucky to have built up the lead in the first 8 or 9 rounds to rely on when going to the judges.
The 31 year old Yusuke Konno has never really had much acclaim from fight fans, but he's certainly better than his record suggests. Like Naito he debuted in 2011, doing so at Welterweight, and in 2016 he competed in the Rookie of the Year, losing in the East Japan final to eventual All Japan Rookie of the Year winner Ryota Itoyama. By the end of 2015 he was 9-3 (3) and seemed to be toiling badly among the Japanese ranks. In 2016 he moved down in weight and quickly settled at 140lbs, where he got his first title fight. Sadly Konno lost that bout, but was in the lead before being stopped in the 10th, and final, round by Koichi Aso. It was a coming out performance, despite the loss, and since then Konno has has gone 5-0 (4), scoring notable wins against Kazuya Maruki, Takashi Inagaki, Vladimir Baez and Baishanbo Nasiyiwula, a win that netted him the WBA Asia title.
In the ring Konno is slow, he's a little bit on the clumsy side, and he can be out manoeuvred. His feet look somewhat clumsy, and his hand speed leaves much to be desired. He looks like he's there to be hit, and he is relatively open defensively. Watching him it looks hard to see how he's managed to have much success. However although looking bad he fights to his strengths. He has a heavy, deliberate, jab, he has criminally under-rated power, especially at 140lbs, he's tough, rugged, strong and big at the weight. Physically he's imposing, he can push folk around, he can take a shot and in a shoot out he can hold his own, as we saw again Baishanbo. Although his hands aren't quick, he does have sneaky speed, and seems to find a home for his shots with surprisingly success. He's also the sort of fighter who doesn't get discouraged, even when he's struggling for success.
In terms of pure boxing skills Naito is head and shoulders above Konno, but that's not always the key to victory. Naito's issues with stamina and getting a fighters respect could be a real problem here. We have no doubt that Naito will take the lead early on, using his speed and movement to rack up the rounds early on. We think Konno and his team are expecting that to happen too. Though where this becomes an interesting fight is the final 4 or 5 rounds. When Naito slows down. The question will be whether or not Konno will be able to get to Naito in those later rounds, or do enough early on to take the legs out of Naito a few rounds earlier.
If Konno can take the legs away from Naito a little sooner than others have been able to, and really push him down the stretch, we see this one being a razor thin decision either way. Konno's strength, size, and determination will be a handful for Naito in those final rounds.
Sadly we see the early lead of Naito being too much for Konno to reel in, but this will be much, much closer than many expect.
Prediction - Naito SD12
On November 21st we're set for a really good Dangan card live on Boxing Raise. Much of the talk going into the show will be for the attractive main event, up at 140lbs. That bout however isn't the only title bout on the card, and another is a Japanese Youth Super Flyweight title bout between defending champion Suzumi Takayama (3-0, 3) and Hiroto Yashiro (2-0, 2). Despite the lack of experience for both men this has the potential to be a legitimate show stealer, and potentially the hidden gem of the entire month.
Before we talk about the bout, we need to cover a little bit of history here. Neither man is the first in their family to be an active fighter. Takayama's uncle is former 2-time world title challenger Yuji Watanabe, a former Japanese and OPBF champion and one of the most exciting Japanese fighters of the 1990's. Yashiro on the other hand is is related to Yoshimitsu Yashiro, who's cousin is Hiroto Yashiro's father, a man who is best known for his reign as the Japanese Super Featherweight champion. This shows that boxing is in the blood of both men. Both were influenced by older members of their family, both turned to boxing as kids and both have strong amateur backgrounds.
Yes they might have 5 professional bouts between them, but both are a lot more experienced than those numbers suggest.
Aged 24 Takayama is the slightly older man, and also the reigning Japanese Youth Super Flyweight champion. He made his professional debut in February 2019 following a 51 fight amateur career and has been moved very quickly, as one would assume from a man winning a Japanese Youth title in just his third bout. He had a relatively easy introduction to the professional ranks before stopping Korean fighter In Soo Jang in his second bout then scoring a tremendous win over Tetsuro Ohashi in his third bout for the Youth title. It was really that win over Ohashi that saw Takayama answering all sorts of questions. He showed he can bounce back from adversity, being dropped at one point, he showed stamina, stopping Ohashi in round 8, and that he was a determined, tough, fighter who could dig deep. He also showed what we already knew, that he was fantastic fighter, a good boxer with solid power, and the ability to box, punch or fight with a pressure style. In just his third bout he ticked more boxes than many fighters tick in the first 20 fights of their careers.
Yashiro, 23, made his debut in September 2019 and did so away from the TV cameras, stopping an over-matched Thai in 2 rounds. Thankfully however his second bout, which took place in February this year, was shown on TV and showed Yashiro to be a very good boxer puncher. He's quick, he took center ring and gradually broke down Abdul Rauf without ever needing to move beyond second gear. That however was no surprise given that Yashiro was a stellar amateur, winning 75 of 94 bouts in the unpaid ranks. Those skills that had got him so many amateur wins show through when he's in the ring. He's a razor sharp boxer, with great balance, good hand speed, impressive power, good timing and fantastic anticipation. Sadly his competition in the professional ranks is too limited to take much away from, but in terms of skills, he's evidently very good.
Although we've been impressed by both, both also have a lot of questions to answer. For example was Takayama quite lucky that Ohashi was very much a feather fisted fighter? If he wasn't would have managed to gut it out? Was he also lucky that Ohashi began to run out of steam? Admittedly that was partially a result of the pace of their bout and body work, but it's still a fair question.
As for Yashiro what's he like under adversity? Can he dig deep like we've seen from Takayama? Have his previous bouts as a professional prepared him for a bout like this one? Are his skills, by themselves, going to be enough against someone as talented, skilled, tough and heavy handed as Takayama? What's his stamina like? What's his chin like?
With those questions hanging over them this is a really hard one to call. We'd favour Takayama, due to the fact we know he can fight 8 rounds and we know he can dig deep, but this is certainly not a foregone conclusion and we can't rule out any result. The only thing we are confident predicting is a fantastic bout between two young fighters who will both have very good futures.
If pushed, we'd pick a late Takayama win. His experience over the long distance, and his performance over Ohashi being the deciding factors.
Prediction - Ohashi TKO8
The next of the Champion Carnival bouts sees our attention turn to the Flyweight division, where heavy handed champion Seigo Yuri Akui (14-2-1, 10) defends against mandatory challenger Seiya Fujikita (13-4, 6). The bout, set to take place on October 18th in Okayama will be Akui's first defense of the title and will be Fujikita's first title bout. For Akui it serves as a chance to build on last October's title win, when he beat Shun Kosaka inside a round, whilst Fujikita will be getting his first title fight, and gets it almost by default.
For those who haven't seen Akui he is a very fast starter. From his 14 career wins 9 having come in the first round, and all 10 of his stoppages have come in the first 3 rounds. What's more notable than being a fast start is the type of competition he has been blasting away, with wins already over the likes of Kenji Ono, Ryuto Oho, Masamichi Yabuki, Yoshiki Minato and Shun Kosaka, all of those have come in the opening round. He does however seem to struggle when he can't blast though opponents, and he found himself unable to blow out Junto Nakatani and Jaysever Abcede, both of whom went on to stop Akui.
For those who haven't seen Akui he's someone who is incredibly fun to see go to work. He's aggressive, powerful and lets his hands fly early. Defensively he is open, he can be tagged, and against fighters who can take his power he does appear to struggle, though at domestic level not many can take his power. Notably his 4 decision wins came in his first 7 bouts, with the final one being his win over Hiroki Hosoya in the 2015 All Japan Rookie of the Year, and since then he hasn't heard the final bell.
Interesting Fujikita has gotten this bout, as the mandatory challenger, for essentially making weight last year. The original plan had been for him and Ryota Yamauchi to face off in an eliminator, but Yamauchi was forced out of the bout due to an injury, leaving the door open to Fujikita, as long as he could make weight on the day of the planned weigh in. Which he did. That allowed him to become mandatory for his first title bout, and make up for the disappointment of losing in a title eliminator in 2018, when he lost a narrow decision to Naoki Mochizuki.
On paper the 32 year old Fujikita doesn't look much of a challenger. He has 4 losses in 17 bouts, and has got a single win of note of real note, a 2016 TKO over Yusuke Sakashita. His record is however one full of misfortune, with 3 split decisions and one technical majority decision. All of those close decisions have come to good domestic fighters, including Mochizuki, Yuta Matsuo and Hayato Yamaguchi.
Although he's without many wins of real significance Fujikita looks like one of those types of fighters who could score the upset over a decent guy. He looks solid, takes a shot well, applies smart pressure, and can fight on the back foot when he needs to. He's certainly more comfortable going forwards than backwards, and looks physically strong. When he is on the backfoot he moves very well and avoid shots really well, but seems to struggle to fire off counters.
Coming in to this we see Fujikita as the better boxer, the way he moves and the way he looks after himself in the ring makes it look like he could genuinely give Akui issues. If Akui fights the way he usually does, trying to steam roll Fujikita, things will be interesting. We suspect we'll either see Fujikita taken out early, in what would be a very impressive result for Akui, or we'll see Fujikita seeing out the storm, and then slowly picking Akui apart as the bout goes on. Fujikita looks like a tough guy, takes a shot really well when he needs to.
We expect Akui's aggression and power to be too much, and for Fujikita to be taken out early, maybe not the opening round but still early. Fujikita might be tough, but Akui is the most dangerous fighter he's faced so far. If Fujikita sees out the storm we could be in for a bit of a classic, but that's a huge "if".
Prediction - TKO3 Akui
On October 8th attention returns to Korakuen Hall for the next bout featuring the under-rated Hiroaki Teshigawara (21-2-2, 14), who looks to extend his reign as the OPBF Super Bantamweight champion as he takes on Shingo Kawamura (16-5-4, 8).
For Teshigawara the bout serves as his 4th defense of the title, which he has held since October 2018, and should move him one step closer to a potential world title bout.
For those those who haven't seen Teshigawara he's a talented, awkward boxer-puncher who is very much knocking on the door of a world title shot. He's ranked in the top 10 by both the WBC and the IBF, and has won his last 9 in a row, with 8 of those wins coming by T/KO. Of course it's not the numbers that matter but the opposition and he holds stoppage wins over the world ranked Keita Kurihara, and world title challengers Jetro Pabustan, Teiru Kinoshita and Shohei Omori.
In the ring Teshigawara is tough, heavy handed and can box or fight. When he needs to dig in and fight he can, and we've seen him do it more than once, but at his best he's a tricky, awkward boxer-puncher who sets an unusual rhythm, draws leads, counters them well and fights with a rather unique style. His hands are often down and he relies on herky jerky movement, applies pressure with his movement and is patient enough to wait for a mistake when he needs to. Although not a 1-punch KO artists he's heavy handed, every shot he lands has a good dose of pepper. Although he's not an elite level fighter he's the sort of fighter who will give anyone problems, and could, if he gets the right opportunity, win a world title.
Notably this will be Teshigawara's first bout since leaving the Koichi Wajima gym and joining the Misako Gym. Although a gym move like this can be an issue for some we suspect this will not be a problem at all for Teshigawara, who has long worked alongside Misako, who are expected to help open doors for the talented "Crush Boy".
As for Kawamura this is essentially him in the last chance saloon, after going win-less in his last 5 bouts. Those 5 bouts include 3 successive draws and losses to Satoshi Shimizu and Ryo Sagawa. He's dropping down in weight for this bout, and really does need a win. A good performance won't be enough to keep him relevant.
As a fighter Kawamura is an aggressive fighter but quite a limited one without much bang and without too much speed. He's not terrible, by any stretch, but he is very basic and at Featherweight fighters like Satoshi Shimizu and Ryo Sagawa have been able to walk through his shots and and manage to break him down. He's always been happy to let his hands go, but has never been a hard man to find, and to tag.
Although it's easy to write off Kawamura he has scored several wins of note. These include victories over Kyohei Tonomoto, Shingo Kusano, Kota Fukuoka and Tae Il Atsumi. They are however lower level fighters than Teshigawara, who we suspect will be too hard hitting, too smart, too strong and too good for Kawamura.
We expect to see Kawamura taking the fight to Teshigawara, and be made to pay as Teshigawara lands solid counters, and breaks down the challenger. Kawamura's toughness will see him survive a few rounds, but eventually he'll be broken down, and suffer his 5th stoppage loss.
Prediction - TKO6 Teshigawara
Earlier in the year we were anticipating the Champion Carnival being well under-way and we were set to see another Champion Carnival bout on March 7th. That bout ended up being postponed due to the on going global situation and instead of taking place in March, as expected, it will now be taking place this coming Saturday. Despite the delay we're really looking forward to the next bout in the annual series of "Champion Vs Challenger" bouts, and that's because it's a great looking up on paper. The bout in question is up at 154lbs where Japanese domestic champion Hironobu Matsunaga (16-1, 10) takes on mandatory challenger Yuto Shimizu (15-3-2, 5) in what we suspect will be an excellent bout for the Japanese Light Middleweight title.
The under-rated champion has done things the hard way, without much fuss and without much acclaim, but now in his early 30's he's reaping the benefits of hard work. He made his debut way back in 2012, but began to get some attention in 2014, when he reached the all-Japan Rookie of the Year final, losing to Yuki Beppu. That loss saw Matsunaga fall to 6-1 (3) but since then he has gone 10-0 (7) and been on an excellent run. Whilst he is obviously the Japanese champion right now it's worth noting that he has scored notable wins over the likes of former Japanese Middleweight champion Sanosuke Sasaki, Korean foe Je Ni Ma and multi-time Japanese title challenger Koshinmaru Saito. Those wins lead him to his 2019 title shot against Nobuyuki Shindo, which he won in by breaking down Shindo.
Since winning the belt Matsunaga has defended it once, stopping former amateur star Koki Koshikawa in a thrilling match up last November. That was the 5th straight stoppage win for Matsunaga, who has really come on since that loss to Beppu way back in 2014.
In the ring Matsunaga may not be someone getting much attention, but he is quickly becoming a must watch fighter. He's small for a Light Middleweight but is aggressive, moves well, and after getting a read on his opponents comes forward with heavy shots from the southpaw stance. At range he can struggle to get close, but when he gets into range for his shots he grinds opponents down, both mentally and physically. It's the grinding and consistent power shots that take their toll on opponents rather than any single shots. When he has his man hurt he doesn't let off them and really makes them suffer, and feel sorry for themselves. At the higher levels we suspect he'd struggle to make a mark, but at Japanese domestic level he is a very, very hard man to beat.
We mentioned that Matsunaga quietly climbed the rankings to his title and it's fair to say the same is true of Shimizu. He was 3-3-2 after 8 bouts before going on a solid 8 fight winning run to earn his first title fight. That winning run had seen him defeat Hikaru Nishida, who later won the Japanese Middleweight title and former OPBF title challenger Takehiro Shimokawara to earn a shot at Yuki Nonaka. Although he lost to Nonaka he had earned the shot on merit. Since then he has gone 3-1, earning this shot with a win over Nobuyuki Shindo back in November 2019 which had followed another solid win over Charles Bellamy.
In the ring Shimizu is a rather weird looking fighter. He has a very herky-jerky style, long arms and an awkward rhythm. There's nothing pretty about him, but he's yet he's still effective, frustrating and uses his size well. For someone who's big at the weight he doesn't have the busiest of jabs, or the quickest of footwork, but has proven to be a hard man to hit, and someone who can land from very odd angles, as we saw when he beat Shindo last year. Also it's worth noting that whilst not a puncher he does hit hard enough to get the respect of opponents, time and time again, in fact he actually dropped Shindo last year on route to his win.
For Matsunaga the big issue is whether he can get inside the long reach of Shimizu. The straight right hand of the challenger will be a real issue for the champion. If he can slip it, get inside and fight up close, using his edge in speed and sharpness, this could look easy for Matsunaga, however that is a big if. What we're expecting is for Shimizu to make it real ugly. We expect the challenger to land at range and tie up up close, but to do that effectively against a grinder like Matsunaga, for 10 rounds, is certainly not easy.
We expect this to be ugly at times. Shimizu falling in and clinching and holding and making a mess of things. Saying that however we struggle to see Matsunaga losing, his energy, volume and tenacity will simply be too much and too regular for the challenger.
Prediction - TKO8 Matsunaga
After an increase in fights in July and August it does appears things in Japan are going to quieten down a little bit in September, sadly. Thankfully however we do kick the month off with a brilliant match up this coming Thursdays from Korakuen Hall, and it really does have the potential to be something very special.
That is the triple title bout between JBC, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific Lightweight champion Shuichiro Yoshino (12-0, 10) and former Japanese Light Welterweight champion Valentine Hosokawa (25-7-3, 12). On paper it may not look like a sensational bout, but in reality this has the potential to be something truly brilliant, between men with styles that should gel brilliantly to give us something special.
The talented and heavy handed Yoshino has has been moved very quickly since turning professional back in 2015. After debuting at Welterweight he has cut his weight and become the face of Japanese boxing at Lightweight. In his 4th professional bout he beat veteran Yoshitaka Kato and just 2 fights later he became the Japanese Lightweight champion. He added regional titles to his collection last year and will be hoping to keep all 3 bits of silverware here.
In the ring Yoshino really is a boxer-puncher, with some of the heaviest hands in Japanese boxing. He's a clean puncher, has under-rated movement, good hand speed and solid footwork. If we're looking for flaws he can be a slow starter at times, his defense isn't the tightest and he can be out jabbed, out moved and out worked. So far his power had worked as a neutraliser when he has been in trouble, as we saw against Izuki Tomioka in February, but there are areas to work on. He's not a complete fighter, but he is a damn good one, and one who does have the potential to mix with some of the fighters in the upper echelons of the division.
Aged 39 and sporting 7 losses in 35 bouts Valentine Hosokawa is a fighter who loves to defy numbers. He should be too old, he should be too battle worn, he should be on the way on the way out. In fact he should have been on the way out years ago. Like a fine wine however the warrior from the Kadoebi Gym has aged wonderfully and has had the best form of his career at an age where most fighters are retired. He had been putting in great performances, win or lose. He has dropped in weight recently and now looks more dangerous at 135lbs than he ever did at 140lbs, where he was always a nightmare to fight.
Hosokawa made his debut in 2006, and won Rookie of the Year in 2008. He came up short in his first two title fights, both in 2013, but won the Japanese in 2017, beating rival and friend Koichi Aso. After twice defending the title he was dethroned last year by Koki Inoue and then dropped in weight and destroyed Kosuke Arioka last November. He had planned a fight against Jacob Ng in Australia, but that fell through due to the on-going global situation but he's now landed this fight.
For those who hasn't seen Hosokawa he's a physically strong, aggressive, tough, hard working pressure fighter. He comes to win, he presses and lets his hands go. Although not a huge puncher he is a serious volume puncher and makes for real action fights.
Given Hosokawa's aggression and willingness to go forward we see him pressing from the off, and actually copying a gameplan that Harmonito Dela Torre tried to use against Yoshino. That gameplan did see Dela Torre get to Yoshino, before eating an absolute part way through the opening round. For Hosokawa he needs to keep up the pressure, use his strength and try to grind down Yoshino without taking too many risks. Despite moving down in weight worth noting that even at Lightweight he's a small fighter, and will be dwarfed by Yoshino here.
For Yoshino the focus will be on creating space, catching Hosokawa coming forward, and landing his power shots. He'll have to use his feet, he'll have to land very hard clean shots, and have to try and stop the forward march of the challenger. Although Yoshino is a hard puncher it's worth noting Hosokawa hasn't been stopped since back to back TKO defeats in 2013 to Shinya Iwabuchi and Min Wook Kim, and those losses both came at 140lbs.
We do favour Yoshino to take home the win here, we feel his youth, power, height and reach will be the difference, but he will have to work very hard for the win and we do not expect this one to be an easy one for the champion.
Prediction - UD12 Yoshino
The WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight title has become one of the more important titles regional titles in recent years with a host of it's title holders moving on from the regional belt to a world title fight. Since 2010 we have seen holders include Tepparith Kokietgym, Froilan Saludar, Sho Kimura, Masahiro Sakamoto and Wulan Tuolehazi all go on to fight for a world title, with Tepparith and Kimura both going on to claim global honours.
With that in mind the August 19th WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight title bout between Ryota Yamauchi (6-1, 5) and Satoru Todaka (10-3-4, 4) is a pretty significant one, and will likely see the winner taking a huge step towards a future world title shot of their own. With that said the bout is one worthy of genuine attention and makes for a great main event on the upcoming "Slugfest" show.
Coming in to the bout the big favourite will be once beaten 25 year old Yamauchi, a Kadoebi promoted fighter who has long been tipped as a star of the future. He made his debut in 2017 and quickly scored notable wins over Lester Abutan and Yota Hori, wins that instantly got us excited about the trajectory he was on. Sadly his career hit a bump in 2019 when he travelled to China and lost a decision to Wulan Tuolehazi, in what was a truly brilliant fight. The loss was a debatable one, but it did, clearly, slow Yamauchi's rise.
Thankfully since that loss Yamauchi has bounced back, scoring wins against Alphoe Dagayloan and MJ Bo.
In the ring Yamauchi is a boxer-puncher, though he can employee a pressure style and a brawling style pretty effectively when he needs to up the tempo. Sadly for him he is still some defensively naive and was consistently tagged by Tuolehazi in their bout last year. He was dropped, and hurt several times, in that bout, and it's clear he does need to work on his defense. He is however a real talent and given he's only had 7 bouts he has shown a lot of potential and a lot of ability that suggests he could go on to win a world title sooner rather than later. With that in mind he's certainly wanting a regional title, to help open the door to a world title fight down the line.
In the opposite corner to Yamauchi will be 30 year old foe Satoru Todaka, who turned professional way back in 2012. He actually began his career with a loss, to Yukiya Hanabusa, before reeling off a 9 fight unbeaten run, taking his record to a rather peculiar looking 5-1-4 (1). Since then his he's gone 5-2 (3) though has notably been stopped in both of those losses, and has failed to get a top level domestic win.
In his biggest bout to date Todaka lost in a bout for Japanese Light Flyweight title against Kenichi Horikawa, just last year. In that bout he was out boxed, out fought and and forced to retire at the end of the 8th round.
Sadly, given how long his career has been, there isn't much footage on Todaka available, however he's shown little in terms of power, which we suspect a fighter will need to get Yamauchi's respect, and he's also going to be under-sized against the surprisingly imposing Yamauchi.
For Todaka it's the bout against Horikawa that we suspect tells us what we need to about this one. He wasn't really competitive at all with Horikawa, who was too good, too skilled and too experienced. Whilst Yamauchi lacks the experience of Horikawa he's is a very talented young man and a naturally bigger fighter than Horikawa.
We suspect that Todaka will struggle with the size, speed, aggression and power of Yamauchi who will break him down in the middle rounds, to claim his first professional title.
Prediction - TKO5 Yamauchi
Having canned the old "Full Schedule" of Asianboxing we have instead decided to concentrate more on the major bouts. This section, the "Preview" section will look at major bouts involving OPBF and national titles. Hopefully leading to a more informative style for, you the reader.