The 2018 Champion Carnival is a real mixed bag of fights. It was officially supposed to begin back on January 20th, with Ryo Akaho defending the Japanese Bantamweight title, but ill health forced him to vacate the title instead and as a result we'll have to wait until this coming Saturday to the see the first bout. Thankfully the wait seems to be worth it and we'll see Masaru Sueyoshi (16-1, 10) defending the Japanese Super Featherweight title against Ken Osato (13-1-1, 4). The bout looks really even on paper, features a fighter making his first defense against a fighter in his first title bout, and is a solid headliner for a Dynamic Glove card on G+.
Of the two men it's the champion who is the more well known. He has been on a number of G+ shows and faced several fighters of note. One of those was Masayuki Ito, who gave Sueyoshi his sole loss back in 2012, in what was Sueyoshi's 4th professional bout, whilst others have included Kazuma Sanpei, Shingo Eto, Allan Vallespin and Ribo Takahata.
In the ring Sueyoshi can be a frustrating fighter who sometimes seems to set a peculiar range and tempo. Whilst that clearly gives opponents headaches it can also be annoying for fans and it often seems like Sueyoshi is a touch too negative and too busy looking to fight on the back foot. It's something that has worked for him, and sometimes in eye catching fashion like his eye catching KO win over Vallespin last year, but can be very awkward to watch.
In his title win Sueyoshi impressively out boxed Takahata. It wasn't a performance without frustrations, but it was one that proved Seuyoshi can go 10 rounds at a good tempo, can take a shot and win in a battle against a hardened veteran. It wasn't an eye opening and outstanding win, but it was a very solid performance from the Teiken man, who turned 27 the day after the win.
The 23 year old Osato earned his shot at the title last December, when he took a split decision over 2-time title challenger Satoru Sugita, in what was a very competitive and interesting fight in Osaka. The win saw Osato extend his current unbeaten run to 10 fights, following an opening round KO defeat to Shohei Fujimoto in September 2013. His current 10 fight unbeaten run includes notable domestic wins over Retsu Kosaka, Sho Nagata and Sugita, as well as a draw with Kento Matsushita.
Against Sugita we saw Osato look sharp, aggressive and accurate in the early stages, with a busy snappy jab and a snappy right hand. He seemed to outbox the talented Sugita in the early stages and clearly build his confidence. His problem in the bout was that he slowed down as we went into the later rounds and Sugita's experience allowed him back into the bout. The shots that were landing clean in the early stages were missing and he was being countered regularly, whilst showing an inability to to adapt.
At times Osato has looked great, as he did early on against Sugita, but the question for him is whether he can do it for 10 rounds against someone as tricky and awkward as Sueyoshi. If he can then we could see a new champion. Our feeling however is that Sueyoshi's extra experience at a higher level, and training at the Teiken gym, will be enough for him to take home the win in a hotly contested battle.
In 2018 we're expecting to see a big year for the Bantamweight division, with the rematch between Shinsuke Yamanaka and Luis Nery already agreed and a lot of talk about super fights with Naoya Inoue involved. On the Japanese domestic scene there also appears to be plenty of be excited about, and this coming Saturday we'll see the first domestic title fight of the year, as Bantamweight champion Ryo Akaho (31-2-2, 20) takes on mandatory challenger Yusuke Suzuki (9-3, 6).
Of the two men it's Akaho who is by far the more well known. He is a 2-time world title challenger, a former OPBF champion and is now enjoying a Japanese title reign as he continues his career and seeks one more shot at world honours. He has had a long career, with his debut coming back in February 2005, and fought in his first title fight way back in 2009, when he fought to a draw with Daigo Nakahiro for the Japanese Super Flyweight title.
As a Super Flyweight Akaho was a crude bullying type of fighter. He would claim the OPBF title in 2011, battering Fred Mundraby for the then vacant title. As the OPBF champion Akaho would make 3 defenses, stopping Toyoto Shiraishi and Yohei Tobe, and taking a decision over Yoshihito Ishizaki, before getting his first world title fight. At world level we saw just how crude Akaho was, with Yota Sato really schooling him with some excellent pure boxing and movement. The loss to Sato was a major set back for Akaho but one that sent him to Bantamweight, as he finally gave up the battle to make 115lbs. As a Bantamweight he would get his second shot at the title, but get stopped in round 2 by Pungluang Sor Singyu in 2015. Since then he has fought on the Japanese scene, scoring wins over Shiraishi, for the second time, Hiroaki Teshigawara, Yushi Tanaka and Yuta Saito. The win over Tanaka netted Akaho the domestic title whilst the win over Saito was his first defense.
Aged 31 it's unclear how long Akaho has left, especially given he's an old 31, but he's still an exciting and fun to watch fighter. He's still a crude, tough slugger at heart, and not a fighter with much in terms of technical nuance, but the aggressive nature makes him a fun TV friendly fighter. He has shown some technical aspects recently, but they are few and far between and instead he gets through on experience, toughness, stamina and physicality. Against a decent boxer-mover he wouldn't stand much of a chance, if the boxer can keep it up for the distance.
Whilst lots is known about Akaho much less is available on Suzuki. He's 29 and turned professional in late 2012, following a respectable 78 fight amateur career, in which he went 54-24 (25). His amateur pedigree saw some excitement about his career and he began fighting in 6 rounders from his professional debut. Sadly for him he was thrown in deep early on, and would suffer a loss in his second bout to Yusaku Kuga, who has subsequently won the Japanese Super Bantamweight title. A short winning streak was then ended in 2015 with a close loss to Ryoichi Tamura and then another to Jeffrey Francisco in the Philippines. Those losses led to Suzuki to have a 6-3 (4) record.
Thankfully for Suzuki he now appears to have found his way in the professional ranks and has scored wins over Ken Kodama, Keita Nakano and Eita Kikuchi to secure this title fight against Akaho, and show that he is progressing as a fighter.
Although footage of Suzuki is rather hard to find there is some stuff out there of the hard hitting southpaw. He likes to come forward and apply the pressure, he uses a very fast range finder jab, which isn't accurate but it is busy, and a very vicious looking straight left hand. Watching what we can of him shows a fighter who knows he has vicious power in his left hand, but he's not someone who looks like he truly knows how to use that power. Physically he's a strong fighter at 118lbs and looks like he takes a very solid shot. He also has the killer mentality, if he gets his man hurt he will look to finish them off.
Given the limitations of both fighters we're not expecting much of a boxing contest. Instead we're expecting a fight, and this could be a very fun fight between two men who can bang, and two men who are tough. We suspect that Akaho's experience will be the key, byut Suzuki hasn't got the wear and tear, is the naturally bigger man and is a very dangerous southpaw. We favour Akaho, but it's a real 60/40 type of fight.
This coming Saturday fight fans at the Korakeun Hall will get the chance to see 2 OPBF title fights. One of those will see former Japanese Super Featherweight champion Rikki Naito (18-2, 6) take on Filipino Jeffrey Arienza (16-6-1, 10) for the vacant Light Welterweight title. For Naito the bout will be his first OPBF title bout, whilst Arienza will be getting his second shot at the title, having come up short against Darragh Foley last year.
Of the two men it's been Naito who has been on our radar the longest. In 2014 he became the Japanese champion at 130lbs, stopping Hiroyasu Matsuzaki, and at the time it seemed like the then 22 year old was on his way to huge success. His title reign would see him successfully defending the title against talented fighters, like Kento Mastushita, Shingo Eto and most notably Masayuki Ito. He would also score a win at Lightweight against Nihito Arakawa.
In late 2015 Naito's reign came to an end, as he was beaten by Kenichi Ogawa and since then his career hasn't really gotten going again. He scored a clear win over Chaiyong Sithsaithong, struggled past Argie Toquero and then suffered a second loss to Kenichi Ogawa. He seemed to put that loss down to making weight and has since dipped his toes at Lightweight before finally moving up to Light Welterweight, where he scored a notable split decision win over China's Baishanbo Nasiyiwula.
At his best Naito is a talented boxer-mover. At times he's ignored his strengths to fight as a brawler, and he can hold his own at brawling, but does lack some of the physicality that he may need to make a real mark at 140lbs. He doesn't hard, and has scored just 2 stoppages in his last 15 fights! When he boxes however he can look very good, as he did when he comfortably out boxed Nihito Arakawa and Chaiyong Sitsaithong.
Filipino fighter Arienza has been a professional since 2008 and went 9-0-1 to begin his career. Sadly though he would then suffer back to back losses, including one to future Naito opponent Masayuki Ito. A short run of stoppages was then ended back back to back losses to Daishi Nagata and Dante Jardon. Another small run of wins followed before he losses in a WBO Asia Pacific title bout to Akihiro Kondo and since then he has gone 1-1 with the loss coming to Foley.
Interestingly coming in to this bout Arienza has gone 0-3 in Japan, 0-5 outside of the Philippines. He's a decent fighter on the domestic level, but the reality is that his record is a very padded one with very few wins of any real worth. That's not to say he couldn't score a decent win, but he hasn't yet, and in fact he's often shown to be relatively easy to out box. He has struggled to even win rounds against the likes of Ito and Kondo and despite pushing Nagata hard it was just Nagata's 2nd bout at the time.
There are much better 140lb fighters in both Japan and the Philippines than these two. Out of these two however it's hard to see anything but a clear win for Naito, who should be able to take either a very wide decision or a late stoppage to claim the title. Unfortunately for Naito however a win here will put a huge bullseye on his back for fighters like Koki Inoue, who are going to be actively chasing titles through the rest of the year.
The Super Featherweight division has been one of the most interesting for Asian fighters in recent years. We've seen fighters like Manny Pacquiao, Takashi Uchiyama and Takashi Miura all take part in some amazing fight at 130lbs and help establish their legacies. Even now the division is a notable one for Asian fighters, with Kenichi Ogawa holding the IBF title and Masayuki Ito being one of a number of leading Asian contenders.
Last year the aforementioned Ito vacated the OPBF title, which has since ended up in the hands of Filipino fighter Carlo Magali (22-9-3, 11), who will be defending this title this coming Saturday against Masatoshi Kotani (22-2, 15).
The 31 year old Filipino made his debut in 2006 and has had a bit of a sow burning career. Despite that he did mix wit good opponents early on, losing Mark Gil Melligen in 2008 before scoring back to back wins over Mark John Yap and avenging the loss to Melligen. Back to back wins in Japan in 2009 began to build Magali's momentum but losses to Vicent Palicte and Randy Braga did slow his rise.
Magali scored his most significant win last July, when he stopped Sandeep Balhara in 10 rounds to claim the OPBF "interim" Super Featherweight title, but was subsequently upgraded when Ito vacated the full title. The win over the previously unbeaten Balhara was a second straight win for Magali, who is 6-2-1 in his last 9. Sadly that 9 fight run includes a tragic victory over Australian David Browne Jr.
Footage of Magali shows a pretty basic aggressive fighter, but one who looks physically strong,imposing and defensively tight. He's not going to win any awards for his slickness but he applies pretty intense pressure and comes to fight, with a high guard and aggressive, but somewhat plodding, footwork. Sadly for Magali he is pretty one-paced and and can be out boxed by a fighter who can keep the bout at range.
The Japanese challenger has been a professional since April 2007 but this will be is first title fight. He started his career looking destructive as he went 10-1 (9). A stoppage loss to Cirilo Espino seemed to change him and since that loss he has gone 12-0 (5) with his most notable wins voming against the likes of Edgar Gabejan, Rey Laspinas and Jason Egara, with both Gaebjan and Laspinas running him incredibly close.
Footage of Kotani isn't too widely available and the reality is that he looks pretty decent as a boxer-puncher. But pretty decent is usually a long way from OPBF title quality and he's not a huge puncher, he's not proven to be mega tough, or hugely skilled. He's just a pretty basic fighter who would likely be easily outboxed by the likes of Masayuki Ito or Reiya Abe. He has shown nice touches, but little to get too excited about about.
Although fighting in his first title fight Kotani does have 100 rounds of experience under his belt, he's been in 3 bouts scheduled for 10 rounds and has gone 8 or more rounds on 5 occasions, going 4-1 in those bouts. He can do rounds when he needs to and has proven he has decent stamina, even if he's not yet proven he can go the 12 rounds scheduled here.
With both fighters really failing to shine in the eye test it would be easy to be disappointed by the contest. The reality, however, is the limitations of both men should make for a fun and decent fight, at a very competitive level. We favour the slightly more proven and battle hardened champion, but the bout is a very, very even one.
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.