By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On February 1st, the world ranked Keita Obara challenges Yuki Nagano for the Japanese championship, at the legendary Korakuen Hall.
Keita Obara (22-4 / 20 KOs) began his amateur boxing career back in high school, before joining Tokyo University. During that time, he won the National Sports Festival, which is considered to be Japan’s premier sporting event, twice. Despite losing on his pro debut, to the 9 year veteran Kazuyoshi Kumano (26-12), Obara went on to win 16 fights in a row, 15 of them being finishes.
Specifically, after capturing the Japanese Super Lightweight title, he squared off with former WBO Asia Pacific champion Jay Solmiano (19-3) for the vacant OPBF crown. Obara scored a knockdown, courtesy of a counter left, and finished him off seconds later with a right straight to the chin. He then defended his new belt against heavy hitter Shinya Iwabuchi (26-6), in an exciting affair, where he ended things in the very last round, after connecting with the powerful overhand left hook.
In a clash of top world title contenders, Obara took Walter Castillo (26-5) to the limit, delivering the punishment for 12 rounds, while leaving the Nicaraguan bloodied and bruised. Even though the contest was unfairly declared a draw, since Castillo refused the rematch, Obara eventually challenged the unified IBF & IBO World champion Eduard Troyanovsky (28-2), but was completely dominated in less than 5 minutes.
The Japanese star decided to move up to Welterweight and almost a year removed from this crashing defeat, he faced former WBC International champion Narong Bunchan (28-7) for the vacant WBO Asia Pacific title. Obara put together an excellent combination, dropping his Thai rival in the 2nd round and kept throwing big shots until the referee stepped in and stopped the fight. He made a successful defense against Shusaku Fujinaka (16-12), whom he knocked out with a thunderous right hook.
In a surprising turn of event, Obara lost to the unheralded Alvin Lagumbay (11-5) in April of 2018, after a double knockdown occurred, from which only the Filipino managed to answer the 10 count, thus earning the biggest win of his young career. Obara would exact his revenge that summer, beating Lagumbay with ease and regaining the strap.
His second trip to America last year proved to be unfruitful, as he fought Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (17-0), for one more chance at the big one, in yet again another losing effort. Obara bounced back, when he scored his 20th knockout this past October over Toshiro Tarumi (12-4), showcasing his superiority in the ring, and becoming the number 1 contender for the Japanese Welterweight title.
Yuki Nagano (17-2 / 13 KOs) had also faced a few shortcomings early on his career but has been unstoppable since then, currently riding an impressive 15 fight winning streak for the past 6 years.
His first big match was against the then undefeated Yuki Beppu (21-1). Nagano displayed incredible power and hand speed from the get go, even dropping Beppu with a left straight in just the 2nd round, wining a clear unanimous decision. This victory gave him the opportunity to challenge the Japanese champion Ryota Yada (19-6) on April of 2019. It was a wild brawl that saw both men exchange punches nonstop as well as knockdowns. Finally in the 7th, Nagano overwhelmed Yada with a plethora of hooks in order to capture his first ever professional title. After demolishing Makoto Kawasaki (11-8) in his inaugural title defense, he will now be involved in the most important fight of his career.
Obara and Nagano are very similar, in the sense that they are quite relentless in the ring. Defense isn’t their strongest suit as they rather take a punch just so they can give one back. This strategy is always a recipe for an action packed match but has resulted in both men getting dropped on multiple occasions throughout their careers. Nagano’s favorite weapon is the left straight punch, which he uses in every single one of his outings, clubbing his opponents repeatedly like a caveman, until they go down. Obara also possesses KO power in his left hand, despite being an orthodox, as well as in his right, making him even more dangerous.
This will be a test of endurance and strength. Who can take the most and inflict the maximum damage at the same time. For Obara, who’s already at the top 5 of the IBF rankings, could be the win he needs to put himself closer to another world title opportunity, whereas for Nagano is the chance to finally burst into the world scene. So will Obara’s experience prove to be the difference maker or will Nagano’s unbeaten streak continue? One thing’s for sure. With 33 KOs between these 2 warriors, someone’s going down….hard!
The second Dynamic Glove card of 2020 takes place on February 1st and features two title bouts. The lesser of those is a very interesting Japanese Youth Super Featherweight title bout between Ryusei Ishii (8-5-1, 5) and the hard hitting Yamato Hata (9-1, 9). Neither of these men are big names, but both are looking to make a mark in 2020, and a win here would be a great chance to claim their first title and build momentum before the year really kicks off.
Of the two men it's the 22 year old Hata who is the more exciting and promising fighter. The man from the Teiken Gym has been a professional since 2015, and prior to that he had been a solid amateur, running up a 39-9 record. His power was obvious early on, as he stopped his first 3 opponents, but in bout #4 the then 20 year old was upset by Takuya Hashimoto, who stopped him in round 4. Hata was dropped and although he fought on he couldn't clear his head and his team threw in the towel soon afterwards. Since that loss he has gone 6-0 (6), and scored decent wins over Shingo Kusano and Ryuku Oho, with the win over Oho netting Hata his shot at the Japanese Youth title.
In the ring Hata is a talented and heavy handed boxer-puncher, who fights out of the southpaw stance. His jab is sharp, hard and hurtful, he moves around the ring well and looks to create openings with his movement. His variety of shots is a delight to see and when he lets his shots fly he looks a natural, capable of striking fight ending shots to head or body. Defensively he's a touch open when he lets his shots go, but it's so exciting to see him in full flow offensively, and every shot seems to be very, very hard. If you can't catch him when he's firing off shots it's going to be very tough to beat Hata.
Ishii is someone has had some very mixed success during his 14 fight career. He's managed to score some upsets, notably a 2017 win over Sho Nagata, but also lose a lot of his bouts, in fact coming in to this he has gone 3-4-1 in his last 8 bouts. His win last time out, against Masashi Wakita saw him earn this title fight, his second Japanese Youth title fight. In his first shot at a Japanese Youth title he was narrowly out pointed by Kazuma Sanpei in 2017, but since then he has gained valuable experience, even if he's not really shined in his last few bouts.
In the ring Ishii is a boxer-mover but one with very low hands, who fires in wild and wide shots and looks like the sort of fighter who could find themselves in all sorts of problems against an aggressive fighter. Given he drops his hands a lot Ishii is, understandably, a slick mover, he uses upper body movement well, and does have a sharp jab, and long reach. Sadly though his does seem to struggle with pressure and doesn't have the sort of power to scare opponents away from coming forward.
Ishii has the skills to make Hata look poor at times, but we suspect Hata's aggression, heavy hands, and fierce in ring mentality will break down Ishii in the middle rounds. It'll be an exciting fight until then but sooner or later Hata's power will be the difference maker.
Prediction - TKO6 Hata
We expect 2020 to he a year where young fighters really shine, as they look to kick off the decade and make their mark in a big way. One of the many young fighters who will be looking to shine through 2020 is is the unbeaten Kaiki Yuba (6-0-2, 4) who kicks off his year in late January as he battles Kanta Takenaka (7-4-1, 2) for the Japanese Youth Lightweight title, on January 28th. For Yuba this is a second at the title whilst Takenaka will be getting his most meaningful bout to date.
Of the two fighters it is Yuba who has the bigger expectations on his shoulders. Kaiki is the son of former Japanese domestic legend Tadashi Yuba, a 5-weight national champion, and has been earmarked for professional success from when he made the decision to turn pro. He looked good early in his career, following his 2017 debut, but his ascent was slowed in 2018 when he had a Youth title bout with Izuki Tomioka end in a technical draw. A second technical draw, just 14 months later, again slowed Yuba's rise but since then he has blown out two opponents and rebuilt momentum ahead of his second shot at a Japanese youth title.
In the ring Yuba is a talented boxer-puncher. The 21 year old Southpaw can box really well behind his jab, and knows that when he has his man hurt he can take them out. He lacks his father's truly frightening power, but when he puts his weight into a shot they are hurtful blows, and he's proven he can fire them off on the back and front foot. In reality he's better going forward, but when he is under pressure he has shown good composure and a sharp ability to counter.
The 23 year old Takenaka is much less well known than Yuba. He has been a professional since 2015 and had very mixed results, with the best of them being an opening round win over a then debuting Aso Ishiwaki who has since really impressed us. Despite mostly mixed results he has gone 4-1 (1) in his last 5 and seems to be finding his feet after once being 3-3-1 (1), despite that however there isn't really much buzz about him, and he did suffer his sole stoppage loss just under a year ago.
Watching Takenaka in action he doesn't really impress us. He's rather straight up, defensively quite open and wild with his offensive work. Worryingly he leaves his chin in the air and doesn't appear to be able to cope with southpaw very well, as seen when he was beaten last year by Masashi Wakita. Although technically flawed Takenaka does appear to a trier, and looks like he takes a good shot and gives a effort every time. Sadly though his stamina is questionable and whilst he does give a solid effort that doesn't make up for the defensive issues that we think will be a big problem here.
We expect to see Takenaka come to win, but the power, skills and speed of Yuba will be too much. Yuba will look to pick him apart with his jab, and have success with it, until he hurts Takenaka. When that happens we expect to see Yuba finish off Takenaka, forcing the referee to jump in and save the limited, but tough, Takenaka.
Prediction - TKO5 Yuba
The first big bout in Japan this year will be a mouth watering Middleweight bout as OPBF champion Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa (12-4-1, 11) takes on Japanese national champion Kazuto Takesako (11-0-1, 11). On paper this should be a unification bout, but politics has seen the Japanese title not being on the line, and instead only Hosokawa's OPBF title will be up for grabs.
Despite the title situation this is still a mouth watering clash between two heavy handed fighters who get into the ring with the intention of stopping their opponents, every time they fight. Neither is the most technically accomplished, but both are destructive, hard hitters who throw with bad intentions.
Aged 35 Hosokawa is a man who has had a strange career. He debuted at the age of 29, losing a decision and was 2-2 (1) after 4 bouts. He then began to build a reputation as a fearsome fighter, scoring 4 straight stoppages before losing a close decision to Yasuyuki Akiyama, and falling to 6-3 (5) From there he has gone 6-1-1 (6), gained revenge over Akiyama, to become the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific champion, lost to Yuki Nonaka than gone 1-0-1 (1) with Koki Tyson, becoming a 2-time OPBF champion in the process.
In the ring Hosokawa is an aggressive volume puncher. He's very much the type of fighter who comes forward and throws a lot, often happy to take one to land one. He sets a high pace and although he's heavy handed he's very much a fighter who grinds down opponents, rather than blasts them out. His last 4 stoppages have all come after the 6th round, and he's the sort of fighter who could find himself down on the cards before a strong finish. Technically he's crude and he can be outboxed, especially early on, but he's rugged, and his incredible output is a nightmare to fight against and does break opponents down.
Takesako is the younger man, at 28, and is the more powerful single punch hitter. In many ways he's the opposite of Hosokawa. He turned professional following an a notable amateur career and raced through to a title fight, winning the Japanese Middleweight title in his 8th bout when he almost gutted Hikaru Nishida. None of his first 8 bouts went beyond 3 rounds as he destroyed fighters like Nishida, Shoma Fukumoto and Elfelos Vega in impressive fashion. More recently however we have learned that Takesako can box, and can go longer in bouts. He took 7 rounds to stop Chaiwat Mueanphong, went 10 in a bout against the slippery Shuji Kato, in a bout that ended in a draw, before adapting for a rematch and forcing Kato to retire in the corner after 8 rounds.
Technically Takesako is the better boxer, and the bigger puncher, but he lacks the volume of Hosokawa and we have more question marks about Takesako's chin, which hasn't looked the best, than we do with Hosokawa's, which has looked solid. Although Takesako is unbeaten he has been shaken by Kato and seemed to really dislike being put under pressure by Sanonsuke Sasaki in their 2018 bout. He looks destructive, but like he could have a questionable chin of his own.
This has the hall marks of a special fight. Two guys who can punch, two guys who are aggressive and two guys with differing mentalities. Hosokawa tends to impose himself behind his bullish strength and high work rate. If he can land clean there's a genuine chance he could break down Takesako, and do so early if Takesako's chin is as suspect as it looks. On the other hand Takesako could just as easily land a counter as Hosokawa presses forward and shake him, before stopping him with a follow up.
This is a hard one to call, the only thing we're sure about is it will not go the distance!
With Takesako being more dangerous early we'll be going with him, but could just as easily see Hosokawa breaking him down.
Prediction - TKO7 Takesako
A year ago Japan's Takeshi Inoue (15-1-1, 9) was on the verge of the biggest fight of his career, a bout with WBO Light Middleweight champion Jaime Munguia. Although he lost to Munguia he impressed with his heart and determination and this coming Saturday he's back in the ring seeking the first defense of his second reign as the WBO Asia Pacific Light Middleweight title, as he takes on China's Cheng Su (14-2-1, 8). The situation couldn't be much more different to the one he found himself in last January, but a win here keeps him in the mix for another world title fight, whilst a loss is unthinkable for the 30 year from Tokyo.
Inoue, for those who missed the Munguia bout, is a rugged, aggressive fighter who comes in pretty square on and looks to make a fight of things. Early in his career he did seem to be more of a boxer-fighter but as his career has progressed he has become more and more of a pressure fighter, often abandoning his jab to ply forward behind his guard and get things up close. This sort of change seemed to happen in 2016 or 2017, and was particularly notable when he beat Akinori Watanabe. That was a clear win for Inoue but seemed like he could have made it far easier for himself had he made the most of his jab. Whatever the reason for the change it's not been bad for his career and since beating Watanabe we've seen Inoue unify the Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles, fight for a world title and then recapture the WBO Asia Pacific belt.
Although the bull strong Inoue lost to Munguia his record is actually solid, at least in regards to the regional scene. Wins over Akinori Watanabe, Koshinmaru Saito, Riku Nagahama, Ratchasi Sithsaithong, Yuji Nonaka and Patomsuk Pathompothong give him wins almost every notable fighter on the regional scene at 154lbs, barring current Japanese champion Hironobu Matsunaga. Though of course there is a gulf between the regional scene at the weight and the world level, which he'll be hoping to mix with once again later in the year.
As for Cheng Su the Chinese challenger, who is also 30, is much less well-known and well established. The southpaw from Shenyang stands at 5'11 and will be fighting outside of China for the first time in his career. Going through his record it's hard to pick out anything noteworthy, other than a win last May over Filipino Junjesie Ibgos, who used to be a Featherweight and is 0-4 outside of the Philippines. Footage of him however is more worrying than his competition.
Watching Su we see a rather slow, lumbering fighter who technically looks "alright" but lacks the tools needed to even make a legitimate mark on the regional scene. He seems to understand the basics doesn't always put them into practice. He's slow, lacks real snap on his punches, and when he throws his straight left hand his defenses completely fall apart. He follows opponents around the ring and looks like he's fortunate to be fighting at such a low level that his mistakes have rarely been punished, except in his 2017 loss to Nikolozi Gviniashvili.
On paper this might look like an interesting match up, but we weren't joking when we said Inoue can't afford to lose here. His entire career would be discredited with a loss to someone as limited as Su, who he really should be dealing with inside the distance. We expect to see Inoue closing the gap between the two men, working away on the inside and stopping Su relatively early on.
Anything but a stoppage for Inoue should be viewed as a disappointment.
Prediction - TKO5 Inoue
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.