In December 2016 we finally saw Shuhei Tsuchiya (22-4, 18) fulfil some of his early promise and claim the Japanese Lightweight title, eventually building on his 2010 Rookie of the Year crown. This coming Saturday Tsuchiya will return to the ring as he attempts to make his first defense of his title, and takes on mandatory challenger Kazuhiro Nishitani (16-4-1, 8). Whilst the bout is Tsuchiya's first as a champion it will be the second time Nishitani will have challenged for the title, having previously come up short in December 2015 against Kota Tokunaga.
Tsuchiya made his debut in 2009 but really burst on to the Japanese scene the following year, when he claimed the All Japan Rookie of the Year crown. On route to that title he beta a number of unbeaten opponents, including Masanobu Nakazawa in the East Japan final and Yuki Miyoshi in the All Japan final. Not only did Tsuchiya claim the Rookie of the year title but he did so with a perfect record, and was 8-0 (8) following the win over Miyoshi. Tsuchiya's power saw him advancing his record to 12-0 (12) before finally being taken the distance by Indonesian Heri Andriyanto.
Sadly for Tsuchiya the win over Andriyanto was the start of some career issues for the heavy handed Japanese fighter, who would suffer a number of losses as his record fell to 16-4 (14). Whilst those 4 losses were genuine set backs, they all came to decent fighters in the form of Shoji Kawase, Masayoshi Nakatani, Leonardo Zappavigna and Ricky Sismundo. Those losses could have been the start of the end for Tsuchiya but instead they were the start of Tsuchiya's rebuilding process, which has since seen him go 6-0 and defeat Kazuki Matsuyama and Masashi Noguchi, with the win over Noguchi netting Tsuchiya the Japanese title.
In the ring Tsuchiya is an aggressive fighter who relies on his power. He's not a world class puncher, but he is heavy handed and on the domestic level not many will take his power. Whilst he is a big puncher he does has defensive flaws, which Nakatani really took advantage of, and he also has question marks over his own durability, with 3of his 4 losses being by stoppage. Although his limitations are known, and it's very unlikely that he will compete above domestic level, he a very solid Japanese level fighter and could potentially be a long term champion at this level.
The 29 year old Nishitani has also been a professional since 2009, though hasn't had the success of Tsuchiya and didn't manage to make a name for himself in the Rookie of the Year competition. Despite that he got off to a good career start, winning his first 7 bouts and there was some hope put on his shoulders. Sadly that winning run came to an end in 2011, losing to Tetsuya Nishinaga and then Yuhei Suzuki in 2012. An unbeaten 8 fight run, which saw Nishitani go 7-0-1, followed before Nishitani lost to Yusuke Tsukada in 2015. The loss to Tsukada wasn't a huge setback as Nishitani got a Japanese title fight just 6 months later, and gave a very good effort as he came up short against Kota Tokunaga.
Although Nishitani has suffered 4 defeats they have all been by decision, and they have all been pretty competitive in all honesty. Whilst he is beatable he is certainly not limited and can put up a good fight the top of the domestic level. He has respectable power, good work rate and decent skills. Nothing out standing, but certainly nothing terrible and he can certainly make life difficult for a fighter like Tsuchiya.
Notably Nishitani has fought just 2 rounds since his loss to Tokunaga, and is coming in to this bout as one of the least active fighters to be involved in the 2017 Champion Carnival bouts. He might enter this bout refreshed and hungry or rusty and with his inactivity showing through the bout.
Given his status at champion, as well as higher level experience and activity it's hard not to favour the champion, but we don't think it'll be easy for him. We do think Tsuchiya will be too good, but we think Nishitani will make it competitive through out with the bout really being an entertaining one for the fans in attendance, and those tuning in on G+.
The 2017 Champion Carnival has a number of rematches taking place. The first of those was in February, when Yusaku Kuga stopped Yasutaka Ishimoto in 2 rounds and announced himself as a serious threat, the second will take place on March 2nd when we see Ishimoto's stable mate Kenichi Ogawa (20-1, 16) defends his Japanese Super Featherweight title against Satoru Sugita (12-3-1, 7). The two fought last year, with Ogawa recording a 9th round KO win against Sugita, but failing to really shine, with Sugita making the champion look clumsy and awkward.
Since their first bout Ogawa has again failed to really shine. He's defended the title twice since beating Sugita but those defenses were a very late stoppage win against against Kento Matsushita, in what was a very close bout, and a narrow decision win over Rikki Naito. Neither of those bouts showed that Ogawa could become a world champion, and perhaps they both showed that Ogawa is actually on the slide.
At his best the 29 year old Ogawa is a solid boxer-puncher. He's not the quickest but he can move, he can box and he can certainly punch, and he has also shown he carries his power late, with 10th round stoppages over Matsushita and Deivi Julio Bassa. Those stoppages have been part of a 12 fight unbeaten run from Ogawa, who scored 10 stoppages in those 12 bouts. Unfortunately his flaws have become more apparent in recent bouts and he does leave openings opponents to counter, his punchers are relatively slow and he's not the quickest on his feet, giving opponents a lot of chances to get him out of position.
For Ogawa the bout could be his final stepping stone before a potential world, or OPBF, title fight but he will need to impress here. Just winning won't be enough and hopefully that sort of potential reward will get the best out of the champion.
Sugita has been frustrating inactive since losing to Ogawa last April, with just a single bout since then. That sole contest saw Sugita claim an 8 round decision win over Tsuyoshi Tojo to earn himself a second title fight. In the ring Sugita is a well school boxer, more technically able than Ogawa, but he's lacking in terms of big wins and his notable victory to date is a split decision over Ryota Kajiki. That win is over-shadowed however by losses to Ryuto Kyoguchi and Kosuke Saka, which sort of suggest that Sugita is only in the middle of the domestic mix, as opposed to being one of the top domestic fighters in the division.
With good skills Sugita's major problems aren't actually his abilities. Instead he has serious question marks about his durability, with 2 stoppage loses, his work rate and his stamina. To date he has never never completed a 10 round, and has only gone 8 or more rounds 4 times, winning 3 of those bouts including 2 split decisions. It's fair to say that whilst he can box he has shown his flaws and those flaws will likely be openings for Ogawa, who will try to make Sugita work at a high pace and take advantage of his lacking durability.
Although Ogawa hasn't looked great recently it's hard to see him losing here, in fact we're expecting the champion to see off Sugita in the middle rounds, and really look like a totally different fighter to the one who struggled with Sugita 11 months ago. Sugita will show up some of Ogawa's flaws, again, but in the end the power and physicality of Ogawa will be too much for the challenger.
It's fair to say that the 2017 Champion Carnival was somewhat under-whelming, despite some really good looking bouts. There was a number of rematches and a number of bouts that just failed to spark the emotions. Not all bouts were bad, and the Super Bantamweight title bout between Yasutaka Ishimoto and Yusaku Kuga certainly proved rematches weren't a bad thing by default, but there was an under-whelming feeling over-all.
One of the divisions with that under-whelming feeling was the Flyweight division, where champion Takuya Kogawa is inactive, due to an injury, and as a result we have a bout between the top two ranked fighters, Yuta Matsuo (12-2-1, 6) and Masayuki Kuroda (27-5-3, 15). As an eliminator for a title fight this would be fine, but for a title fight it's self it's certainly a bit disappointing.
Unfortunately for fans in Japan the division is very top heavy and the likes of Kazuto Ioka and Diago Higa have gone well past Japanese domestic level and left a bit of a vacuum between the top in the country and the domestic level fighters. Although there are a number of rising contenders, such as Junto Nakatanii there is a lack at the domestic level.
Of the two men here Matsuo is the #1 contender, and on paper he is 7-1 (3) in his last 8, with his only loss in that run being a razor thin one to Ardin Diale. The reality however is that Matsuo has struggled to over-come a number of his opponents, including Yota Hori, Seiya Fujikita and Ryuto Oho, who was rather unlucky on the score-cards.
In the ring Matsuo is well skilled but, as we saw against Oho, he can be made to look lazy, isn't a big puncher and although he can hurt his opponents there is certainly not much too be too excited about. He seems happy to have a war, but hasn't yet proven that that's his type of fight, in fact it's fair to say he's probably best off avoiding them in future.
Although ranked #2 by the JBC Kuroda is the much better known fighter. He was the man Naoya Inoue shared the ring with in his test bout, he was the Japanese Light Flyweight champion in 2011 and 2012, defending the belt 4 times, and challenged the then WBA Flyweight champion Juan Carlos Reveco in 2013. In terms of his results he has wins over Shin Ono, Katsuhiko Iezumi, Hayato Yamaguchi and Yuki Sano as well as draws with Ryoichi Taguchi and Hayato Yamaguchi. Despite those notable results Kuroda has come up short in two recent Japanese Flyweight title bouts, losing to Suguru Muranaka and Takuya Kogawa in 2014 and 2016 respectively.
Whilst Kuroda was one a very good fighter he has gone 4-4-3 in his last 11, dating back almost 5 years and lacks in terms of notable recent wins. In fact over the last 24 months his only wins have been against Yusuke Sakashita and Masashi Odaira, hardly something to have earned Kuroda back-to-back Champion Carnival contests.
With Kuroda being a faded force and Matsuo failing to impress it's hard to be too excited for this one. We'll admit it should be fun, and both guys have been in entertaining fights in the past, but we can't help feel that this is less than title worthy. Both guys are flawed enough to be in a war, and we expect that will, happen with Kuroda doing enough to take the win, but it does feel like a bout that shows how badly the Japanese Flyweight scene needs some new blood rising through the rankings.
In 2016 we saw the Watanabe gym have a year to forget with both Takashi Uchiyama and Kohei Kono losing world titles, whilst other notable names like Shin Ono, Akio Shibata, Ayaka Miyao, Sansosuke Sasaki and Hayato Kimura all suffered notable defeats. Despite last year being an horrific one for Watanabe it's fair to say that 2017 has started with some promise for the gym with title wins already this year for Nihito Arakawa and Yusaku Kuga.
Looking to extend that success for Watanabe will be fast rising youngster Hiroto Kyoguchi (5-0, 5), who looks to claim his first title at the end of the month, when he takes on Filipino veteran Armando Dela Cruz (25-14-3, 11) in a bout for the vacant OPBF Minimumweight title.
Kyoguchi turned professional last year, following a solid amateur career, and was quickly on the road to success. His first two wins, in April and May, were against obscure Thai foes but in August he stepped up to take on Kenichi Miyazaki, who he dismantled in 3 impressive rounds go claim his first notable scale. In November Kyoguchi scored an excellent KO against Filipino Michael Camelion and in December followed that win with a win over Junel Lacar.
In the ring Kyoguchi is an aggressively minded fighter who can counter punch, as the win over Camelion showed, but call also go on a seem and destroy mission, as he did against Miyazaki and Lacar. His combinations are some of the most beautiful in Japanese boxing and his shots just flow together. Sometimes those combinations, and flowing shots, do end up making him look a bit wild and reckless but he never looks worried and appears to be full of confidence. Worryingly for opponents he appears to be improving every fight and is genuinely looking like a world champion in the making.
Although Kyoguchi is a novice,with just 5 fights and a total of just 10 rounds, the same cannot be said of Dela Cruz who has 42 bouts under his belt and an impressive 282 rounds of experience. Not only has the 32 year old Dela Cruz got experience, from a career that dates back to 2001, but he has also shared the ring with a who's who of the lower weight classes. That's seen him battle the likes of Oleydong Sithsamerchai, Florante Contes, Denver Cuello, Wanheng Menayothin, Marlon Tapales, Sonny Boy Jaro and Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr.
Although highly experienced it should be noted that Dela Cruz is very fortunate to have an OPBF ranking, never mind the bizarre #2 ranking he has coming in to this bout. He has gone 2-4 in his last 6, dating back 7 years, and has scored just 2 wins in the last 6 years. Through his 42 fight career he has been stopped 4 times, showing that he was tough, and he has been the distance with Marlon Tapales among other. However with his inactivity one could question his toughness, and whether could with stand the blistering assaults of Kyoguchi.
Whilst Dela Cruz did have a fun, almost warrior like, style it's not a style that will work work well against Kyoguchi who we suspect will be too quick, too sharp and too powerful for the Filipino veteran. Dela Cruz might have some moments but we really don't see him lasting long with the exceptionally talented Kyoguchi. We might be surprised, and Dela Cruz might put in a great showing, but we suspect the body shots of Kyoguchi will help take their toll on the Filipino and he'll be put away within 5 rounds.
On February 9th Japanese fight fans in Tokyo get a title double header at the Korakuen Hall. The show isn't a big one, but it does feature one of the first OPBF title fights to take place in 2017, and sees a world ranked fighter defending his regional title.
That world ranked fighter is OPBF Featherweight champion Ryo Takenaka (15-3-1, 8), who is seeking his 3rd defense of the title, and extending a 4 fight winning run. In the opposite corner will be the the hungry Ryuto Araya (11-4-1, 3), who will be getting his first title fight.
Of the two men the most notable is Takenaka. He was a talented amateur, running up an excellent 73-13 (38) record in the unpaid ranks and was matched pretty hard from the off when he turned professional in 2008. After going 7-0-1 (4) early in his career Takenaka took on Masayuki Wakimoto and suffered his first loss, before suffering a second straight setback as he came undone against former world champion Ryol Li Lee. A 4-fight winning run followed before Takenaka was beaten in an OPBF title fight by Hisashi Amagasa, being stopped in the final round whilst ahead on all 3 cards.
Since suffering such a heart breaking loss to Amagasa we've seen Takenaka really build a a nice little run. He beat Junki Sasaki in his ring return before stopping Filipino veteran Vinvin Rufino for the OPBF title and has defended it against Akira Shino and Randy Braga, easily out boxing Braga.
In the ring Takenaka is a talented boxer with under-rated sting on his shots. He's not a puncher, but his KO of Rufino was genuinely brilliant and he's a good all rounder. His weakness seems to be his somewhat suspect chin, and that will likely hold him from being world class, but stoppage losses to Amagasa and Lee are nothing to be ashamed of. At 31, he turns 32 in May, he is probably in the final stages of his career but he will know that if he keeps defending his Oriental title a major international fight might be on the horizon in the future.
Whilst plenty is known about Takenaka not much is really known about Araya, with the Kanagawa man not really making much of a splash so far. Like Takenaka he had an unbeaten run early in his career before suffering back-to-back defeats, falling from 4-0-1 to 4-2-1. Since then however things have been rather stop-start with Araya suffering stoppage losses to both Daisuke Watanabe and Takuya Yamaguchi, though the Yamaguchi loss was avenged last year. To date his best win is actually sandwiched between those loss, an upset win over Kazunori Takayama in July 2015.
Coming in to this bout Araya is riding a 3 fight winning streak, and appears to have found some belief in his punching ability with 2 stoppages in his last 3, as opposed to just 1 stoppage win in his previous 13 bouts. Despite showing that power this is a monstrous step up for him and it's hard to see him having the boxing skill, or punching power, to keep Takenaka on his toes.
We can't help but see this as another straight forward win for Takenaka, much like his defense against Shono. The two men are on totally different levels, and although Araya has shown some promise recently this is still a massive leap up in class. We wouldn't be surprised it Takenaka did however defend his title at this level for a little whilst whilst looking to move himself into a world title eliminator, rather than risk his ranking and title before being able to get a big bout.
On February 9th Japanese fight fans get a title double at the Korakuen Hall, as part of a Diamond Glove card to be televised on delay on Fuji TV. The lesser of those two fights is a Japanese title fight at 140lbs, and it will see the top two ranked Japanese fighters trade blows for the currently vacant title.
The match up will see former 2-time title challenger Koichi Aso (20-7-1, 13), the #1 ranked contender, take on first time title challenger Kazuki Matsuyama (13-7-1, 7), the #2 ranked fighter.
Of the two men it's Aso who is more well known. He's been a professional since June 2006 and has shared the ring with a who's who of domestic talent. He has fought to a draw with Valentine Hosokawa, suffered loss to Taisho Ozawa, twice, Shinya Iwabuchi and Hiroki Okada, twice, and holds wins over Yusuke Kikuchi, Kazuyoshi Kumano, Yoshitaka Katabami and Moon Hyun Yun.
Although those names might not resonate globally they do feature almost every notable Japanese Light Welterweight of the last decade, barring Yoshihiro Kamegai and Aso's Misako gym stablemate mate Keita Obara.
In the ring Aso is a rough around the edges pressure fighter, who brings the heat from early on and always looks to engage in a fan friendly battle. Sometimes that has cost him, as it in the opening round against Iwabuchi, other times it's kept him competitive in fights against more talented fighters, such as in the first Okada fight. Although not the most skilled, or the biggest puncher, few will double Aso's fighting mentality and he always comes to win whilst having a style that will always excite fans.
As for Matsuyama he's been a professional for a little over 7 years and has a very mixed record. He began with back-to-back losses before stringing together 6 wins to get his career off the ground. Sadly Matsuyama had another slide as he ended that run and suffered a trio of losses, including a notable set back to Masanobu Nakazawa in 2012. The streaky fighter bounced back again, winning 6 in a row, including a win over Masayoshi Kotake. That run ended in late 2015, when he was stopped by Shuhei Tsuchiya and he has since gone 1-1-1 with a loss to Daishi Nagata and a draw with Kentaro Endo.
At his best Matsuyama is quite limited. His poor recent form, with just 1 win in his last 4, would suggest he shouldn't be getting a title fight here, and although he can spring an upset it does seem like he's getting this fight more because no one else is seen as being quite ready for a title fight at the moment.
Aso might not be a huge puncher but with his style you'd have to favour him to over-whelm and break down Matsuyama. The style of Aso will give Matsuyama chances, but we don't think Matsuyama will be good enough to make the most of the openings he will be given, and will instead be stopped in the middle rounds.
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.