On January 16th we saw the first Japanese title fight of the year, with that bout seeing a regular and interim title being unified. On January 20th we see, barring a draw, a new champion being crowed as the vacant Welterweight title is on the line for a bout between the top two ranked Japanese fighters, the #1 ranked Yasuhiro Okawa (14-11-3, 5) [大川 泰弘] and the #2 ranked Nobuyuki Shindo (16-3-1, 6) [新藤 寛之].
Of the two men the one is better known is Shindo, despite his lower ranking with the JBC. The Miyata gym fighter is a former Japanese title challenger, losing a close decision to former champion Suyon Takayama, who vacated the title recently after 6 defenses. In that bout Shindo dropped Takayama before being out worked in the second half for Takayama to retain the title.
Although not a bit name Shindo is a huge Welterweight, stood at 6'1”. He will tower over most other fighters in the division, as will be seen when he fights the 5'8” Okawa, and of course he knows how to use that height, and reach advantages, to great effect. He has also shown a grit and determination as well as solid work rate and the ability to go 10 rounds.
Whilst clearly the favourite it does need to be noted that Shindo has has come up short in his most notable bouts. That has included two very competitive losses to Takayama and a loss and draw against Moon Hyun Yun. Whilst he has failed in his 4 bouts with Takayama and Yun he has scored notable wins over the likes of Tetsuya Suzuki, Toru Chiba and Yuichi Ideta, all solid wins on the Japanese domestic scene.
Aged 31 Okawa is a 13 year pro but has never fought at title level before, in fact this will be the first time that he's been scheduled in a bout longer than 8 rounds. His career has seen him going 8 rounds on 6 occasions, as well going into round 8 in two other bouts. On the whole he has been fighting on the fringes of the Japanese scene during his 28 fight career though has managed to face Hayato Hokazono, Takehiro Shimokawara, Hidekazu Matsunobu, Koshinmaru Saito and Toshio Arikawa, with a win over Arikawa being very notable now given that Arikawa will now be tha mandatory for the winner of this one.
Whilst we've never been that impressed by Okawa he is riding a 5 fight winning streak, including the win over Arikawa. That run is, by far, the best of Okawa's career and sees him coming into this one full of confidence. For us however the worry is really about him fighting over the 10 round distance and about his step back up in class.
Although Okawa is clearly in good form we can't see him claiming the win here, instead we see Shindo's extra experience over 10 rounds, and at a higher level, just being enough to take him the win, via a decision.
We're now a couple of weeks into the new year and it's only now we're looking at the first Japanese title fight of 2016, a fight that sees titles being unified with an interim title being unified with a real title, and only one man being able to claim they are the champion.
Unlike the WBA the JBC only use interim titles where necessary. Last year saw one such occasion as Japanese 140lb champion Hiroki Okada (10-0, 8) suffered a serious injury in training and instead of leaving the title scene on ice the JBC put together an interim title bout between Masanobu Nakazawa and Masayoshi Kotake, with Kotake having been lined up to fight Okada before the champion's injury. Sadly for Kotake he came up short against Nakazawa (18-1-1, 7) who will be hoping to turn his interim reign into a true reign as champion.
Coming in to this it will Nakazawa who is full of confidence. The 33 year old Teiken fighter has won his last 15 bouts and is unbeaten in more than 5 years, with his sole defeat being in his 5th professional bout to Shuhei Tsuchiya. Not only is he on a good run but he'll also feel that the win over Kotake, last September, has helped make him as a fighter and proven that he belongs in title bouts.
In the ring Nakazawa is a tall boxer who has shown respectable power, good skills, nice movement and he seems to know how to use his 5'11” frame to great effect. He does however have question marks about his chin, due to his defeat being a 2nd round KO loss, and about how he fares against good opponents, with the win over Kotake being easily his most notable victory.
At 26 years old Okada is seen as one of the more promising Japanese fighters in and around the Welterweight division. He began his career with 7 straight stoppage wins before going the distance against Kotake in a bout that saw Okada win the Japanese title. Since then he has defended the belt twice taking a hard fought decision over Koichi Aso, aka Shamgar Koichi, and a 3rd round TKO over Hayato Hokazono. That win over Hokazono was an impressive performance but came back in March 2015 and he has been out of the ring since, and has only had 23 rounds of boxing in the last 24 months.
At his best Okada is really exciting, aggressive and heavy handed fighter. He takes risks and makes a fight a fight. At his best we really don't see him losing to a fighter like Nakazawa, however questions regarding his inactivity and mental state following the hand injury will be hanging over his head here, will he through the power shots or will he be afraid of re-injuring his hand, which was damaged on the head of stablemate Yoshitaka Kato.
If Okada is the fighter he looked like being against Hokazono we see him taking out Nakazawa in the middle rounds. If however he lacks that little bit of sharpness and has a bit of weariness about his hand then Nakazawa could find himself extending his current winning run to 16 bouts.
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.