This coming Saturday fight fans in Kanagawa get the chance to see a brilliant Japanese title double header. The headline bout from the show is bout for the national Flyweight title and will see defending champion Masayuki Kuroda (28-7-3, 16) takes on the heavy handed Katsunori Nagamine (14-1-1, 10) in a mandatory defense, as part of the Champion Carnival.
The champion won the title last June, when he defeated Takuya Kogawa and unified the Japanese interim and regular titles. Since then he has defended the belt once, taking a 7th round TKO win over the limited but exciting Mako Matsuyama, in a mismatch. Those wins have seen Kuroda extend his current unbeaten run to 4 fights, following a bit rough patch in his career, where he went 3-4-3 in a 10 bout run. It was during that run that many felt Kuroda had seen his best days, but his current run of form looks like it's a bit of an Indian summer for his career, and he is moving up the world rankings, with top 15 rankings with all 4 world title bodies.
Kuroda had first made a name for himself fighting at Light Flyweight, where he won the Japanese title back in 2011 with a win over Yuki Sano. He would defend that title 3 times, including a defense against Ryoichi Taguchi, before losing in a world title fight to Juan Carlos Reveco at Flyweight. The move up in weight caused problems for Kuroda who never really seemed to settle at Flyweight until 2016, in which time he has gone 5-1 with his only loss being avenge last year.
In the ring Kuroda is a well schooled boxer with nice combinations, a good work rate, sharp speed and good skills. He's not the biggest puncher, but he's a solid fighter, who has has only been stopped once, by Suguru Muranaka, and is a handful for fighters on the Japanese scene. There is a clear gap between him and the elite Japanese fighters at Flyweight, world champions Daigo Higa and Sho Kimura, but there's no other Japanese fighter who would have an easy time with him. That include his upcoming foe Nagamine, the touted Junto Naaktani or OPF champion Keisuke Nakayama.
Aged 26 Nagamine is much younger than the champion and a more pure puncher, though is a man who has a couple of nagging issues over his head.
He debuted in 2011 and the following year he was crowned the Rookie of the Year at Flyweight and looked set for a big future. Sadly however he suffered an eye injury in 2013 that kept him out of the ring for almost 17 months. His return to the ring was a successful one in late 2014, but the following year was re-injured as he was stopped by Ken Shiro, in what was an excellent performance by the future WBC Light Flyweight cahampion. Nagamine would then spend almost a year re-healing his injury before returning to stop Kenya Yamashita in a 3 round thriller. Since then he has gone 3-0-1 (3) earning this title fight in the process.
Although a little rough around the edges, and a little bit slower than some of his opponents, Nagamine has proven to be a tough and heavy handed fighter, with good skills and a real will to win. His bout with Yamashita was a special shoot out, where he had to climb off the canvas to stop his foe, whilst a win over Mako Matsuyama showed he enjoys a war just as much fans watching. Sadly however he was totally out boxed by Ken Shiro, who used speed, movement and a jab to dominate. Those same tools are in Kuroda's arsenal and Nagamine will have to find a way to deal with them.
Although not the best boxer Nagamine has nasty power. His last 4 wins have stoppages, and he has shown he carries legitimate power in both hands, and whilst the shots might not always be the sharpest when he lands he is dangerous. Even his jab looks a very damaging shot. He will have a height advantage over Kuroda and will look to use that to his advantage, boxing at range and using his power. If he gets up close and manages to force a war he has a chance, but he needs to make it into a fight, and take away the edge in skills and speed that Kuroda has.
We favour the skills of Kuroda here, but not by much. Kuroda's extra experience at title level, slightly more rounded skills and slightly more refined know how are what swings us in his direction, it's not by much, and we know Nagamine has the power to stop Kuroda if he lands clean, but we do favour the champion to retain his title in a really compelling affair.
Through out history the Japanese Middleweight division has really lacked in terms of quality fighters,interesting match ups and real history. There have been a few talented fighters make their mark, and some really entertaining fights, but on the whole those have been few and far between. Thankfully however they have become more frequent in recent years, and we seem to be having a generation of exciting Japanese Middleweights, lead by Ryota Murata on the world stage.
On the domestic level the last decade has had thrillers like Tadashi Yuba's war with Carlos Linares, Makoto Fuchigami's win over Koji Sato, Fuchigami's loss to Tomohiro Ebisu, Ebisu's loss to current Japanese champion Hikaru Nishida (17-8-1, 8). We believe we're set for another thriller this coming Saturday as Nishida defends his title against hard hitting Kazuto Takesako (7-0, 7), who's 1-round win over Shoma Fukumoto last year was another all-action Japanese Middleweight bout.
Of the two men it's the 30 year old Nishida who is the more established fighter. He made his almost a decade ago, and certainly struggled to find his footing in the sport, in fact he was 4-5-1 (1) after his first 10 bouts. Since that poor start he has gone 13-3 (7), and avenged one of those losses. That 16 bout run has seen him defeat the likes of Kazuhiro Hidaka, Makoto Fuchigami, Ratchasi Sithsaithong, Akio Shibata and Tomohiro Ebisu. He might not be anywhere close to a world title fight, but in the last 3 years he has beaten 3 fighters who have held Oriental honours, and 3 who have held Japanese titles. A solid set of wins that really does show how much his career has turned around and why he was once the unified Japanese and OPBF champion.
In the ring Nishida has a style that makes for good fights. He trusts his toughness, his chin and his work rate. He brings a lot of pressure, using his high guard to cut the distance, before going to work big time up close. He's not the smoothest, the most powerful or the quickest, but he's an absolute handful with his constant pressure and his refusal to back off. At domestic level he is a handful and he hits harder than his record suggests, with solid hands, as opposed to explosive ones. Every shot he lands is solid, hurtful and chips away at a fighter, whilst his style is mentally draining on every opponent as he comes forward relentlessly.
The challenger is a 26 year old who only turned professional in the summer of 2015, following a 41 fight amateur career. He was ear marked for success from the off, and impressed with quick blow outs against domestic fighters like Tomoyuki Yokota and Elfelos Vega. In 2016 Takesako fought 3 times, for a combined 7 rounds as he blasted out Thai Tiendaen Chaiyonggym, Japanese fighter Hiroshi Ohashi and Korean visitor Kyung Joon Ahn. He was impressing, but doing so in way that seemed to be expected of him. It wasn't until last November that he really showed what he was capable of, as he stopped Fukumoto in a Japanese title eliminator.
Defensively Takesako has been shown to be less than fantastic, but offensively he is a machine. He's naturally heavy handed, not needing to put significant wind up into his shots, his footwork enables him to get into position excellently, and he switches between head and body brilliantly. Despite being an ultra offensive fighter he has great composure in the pocket,seems able to find holes in opponents defenses and measures distance really well. It should be noted that we have seen him rocked, with Ahn almost dropping him in their 2016 bout, but other than that he has looked physically solid.
Given that both men bring pressure, look to have a fight and have aggressive styles we can't see how this bout can be anything but thrilling. We favour Takesako's power and youth over Nishida's tight guard and more proven stamina, but the only thing that is clear about this contest is that the action will be intense, hard hitting and fought up close, with both men letting their hands go at will. Nishida is tough, but we see him cracking against the power and relentlessness of the challenger in an all action war.
One of the lesser title bouts this coming weekend, and a bout that could easily be over-looked given the quality of little men in action Stateside, will see OPBF Super Flyweight champion Rene Dacquel (20-6-1, 6) defending his title against Andrew Moloney (15-0, 10). The Filipino will be hunting his 4th defense of the title, all of which have been on the road, whilst Moloney will be seeking his biggest win as a professional and both men will be looking to take a huge step step towards a world title fight.
The Filipino 27 year old has been a great servant on the regional scene with bouts in both his homeland and in Japan since his August 2011 debut. Unlike many Filipino's he has had great success in Japan with a 4-2-1 record in the country,including wins over Go Onaga,Yuki Nasu and Hayato Kimura and is 1-0 in South Africa. Not only has he scored big wins on the road but also at home with wins over Lucky Tor Buamas and Melvin Gumban.
Although not a puncher Dacquel is a talented boxer with respectable power, good rounded skills and a good boxing brain. He couples those traits with good stamina, a lot of good experience and confidence. He has completed the 12 round schedule 7 times in his 27 fight career and despite only one stoppage in the last 36 months he has dropped a number of opponents. During that same 36 month period his only losses have been to quality operators in the form of Jonas Sultan and Takuma Inoue, both of who are genuine world class fighters.
The unbeaten Moloney is also 27 and before he made his debut, back in 2014, he had been a stand out amateur, winning Gold at the 2014 Commonwealth games and competing at 3 World Amateur Championships. That amateur experience allowed Moloney to be put on a bit of a fast track and he claimed his first title in just his second bout. Subsequent titles have been won since with Moloney claiming national and Continental titles early in his career. Despite his good record and title wins he has got questions about his competition, with his best win likely a decision over Ryohei Takahashi or Renoel Pael. Although he does have a win over world title challenger Jether Oliva it's fair to say that Oliva had seen better days down at Light Flyweight and seemed to have given up as a professional by the time Moloney fought him.
The Australian isn't just a talented fighter but also a solid puncher. He has stopped his last 3 foes, in a combined 11 rounds, and has stopped 6 of his last 7. Interestingly however he's never scored a stoppage after round 6 and it's possible that his power does go down in the later rounds. On the same theme he has only done 8 or more rounds 3 times, and has never gone the 12 round distance, perhaps giving Dacquel a gameplan of coming on strong.
One of two OPBF title fights taking place this coming Saturday will be at Lightweight as long reigning champion Masayoshi Nakatani (15-0, 9) makes his 9th defence of the title, for the 9th time, against Thai puncher Pharanpetch Tor Buamas (22-2, 18).
The champion won the title way back in January 2014 when he out pointed Yoshitaka Kato for the title. At that point it seemed like Nakatani was on the fast line to the top, something that seemed to be backed up when he made his first defense against Ricky Sismundo. Sadly however he has since floundered, taking on rather limited challenger ans not really being tested as his team has, in some ways, failed him as a fighter. Rather than continuing to test him Nakatani's team have had him defending his title against the likes of Kazuya Murata, Tosho Makoto Aoki and Ryan Sermona. That level of competition suggests that Ioka can't secure better opponents, Nakatani doesn't want a test or that Ioka aren't convinced that Nakatani can beat better opponents. Knowing what we do about Nakatani it seems like Ioka simply can't afford to get the fighter top opponents, or push him towards a world title fight.
In the ring Nakatani is an smart boxer-puncher. He's huge for a Lightweight, standing at close to 6', and uses his long arms to keep opponents at range, box on the outside. On the inside he has surprisingly ability, and his first big win show cased that as he broke down Shuhei Tsuchiya with body shots way back in 2013. When he's at his best he's fighting at range, making the most of his jab and keeping opponents at a safe range range, picking away with his activity and then lowering the boom when he's comfortable. We've seen him prove his ability to go 12 rounds, doing so 5 times, and show that he's dangerous through out bouts.
The Thai challenger has an impressive looking record, but like many Thai's it's a very padded one and one that has been exposed several times already. He debuted back in May 2011 and raced out to a 17-0 (13) record with the best win during that run being a close and competitive decision over the under-rated Rey Laspinas. There was some potential there, but it seemed like his handlers were unsure really how much potential there was. In 2016 we finally saw the Thai step up, and suffer a wide loss Billy Dib. A loss to a prime Dib wouldn't have been too bad, but Dib from 2016 had slipped and been stopped by Takashi Miura in 2015 and Evgeny Gradovich in 2013, and seemed to be clearly on the slide, so a loss to Dib was a concern. Just a few months later Pharanpetch suffered 6th round TKO loss to Brandon Ogilvie, in what was his only other bout of note.
In 2017 the Thai began to rebuild, claiming 4 very low level wins, which has helped him earn this title, though also suggest he really is a bit of a bully, padding his record and not really developing the skills needed to compete at title level. the footage of him he looks like a pretty basic come forward fighter, with a high guard, basic foot work and some nice combinations. On paper he has power, but it is hard to know how genuine that power is, given the level of competition.
We believe the basic work of the Thai will be toyed with by Nakatani who will pick, poke and eventually stop the challenger, and hopefully move on to bigger and better fights now, rather than continue to treat water at this level.
Over the last year or two we've seen Jerwin Ancajas break out as the Filipino fighter who has managed to catch the eye of fans world wide. With Ancajas's rise it's easy to over-look some of the contenders rising from the country which has given us a fantastic history or fighters. One of those other contenders making a name for himself is Edward Heno (11-0-5, 5), who claimed the OPBF Light Flyweight title last year, and it now looking to build on that title win. This coming Saturday we see Heno make his first defense of the title, as he takes on former world champion Merlito Sabillo (27-4-1, 13). A win for Heno will fast track him to a potential world title fight, whilst a win for Sabillo will resurrect his faltering career.
OF the two men it is the challenger who is more well known. He claimed the WBO Minimumweight title in 2013 and made a notable, albeit controversial, defense against Carlos Buitrago before being smashed by Francisco Rodriguez Jr and losing the title to the Mexican warrior. Since the loss to Rodriguez we've seen Sabillo go 4-3, losing in notable bouts to Riku Kano and Ryuya Yamanaka in bouts for the OPBF Minimumweight title, which Sabillo had previously held before winning the world title.
At his best Sabillo was a rough boxer-puncher. He wasn't a huge banger but at 105lbs he had respectable power, was a decent boxer but nothing exceptional and had more rough edges than a typical piece of sand paper. He was however a tough, rough fighter who was happy to get into a fight. Sometimes that came at his expense, which was certainly the case against Rodriguez Jr, but it was also something that he felt was his best tactic, and did net some notable results. At 34 however that style won't be the best for him, and he's a very old fighter for the lower weights, and will not be wanting too much of a war with a heavier handed and younger fighter like Heno. Instead he should be looking to make the most of his experience and his ring craft.
Aged 25 Heno has turned around a bizarre 0-0-3 start to his professional boxing career by winning 11 of his following 13, and remaining unbeaten. Many of his wins have been at the lower level of the Filipino domestic scene but he managed to stopped Cris Ganoza last March in a noteworthy win before a draw with Seita Ogido, in a bout that many felt Heno had deserved. A rematch with Ogido saw Heno score a 7th round TKO over the Japanese fighter to claim the OPBF title and show that he was a legitimate puncher.
Heno is naturally bigger than Sabillo, much younger and is riding an unbeaten record with a trio of good performances against Ganoza and Ogido. He might not be as proven as Sabillo, but he has all the momentum coming in to this bout and looks to be on his way up the rankings towards a world title fight. Whilst he is clearly some way behind the likes of Ken Shiro and Ryoichi Taguchi he is certainly on his way to mixing with that type of fighter, if he can get past Sabillo here.
We're expecting a bit of a slugfest here, as the two are flawed but aggressive fighters, but an entertaining one that sees the younger naturally bigger and stronger fighter come out on top. Whilst Sabillo might have that “one last hoorah” we don't see it happening here against someone with the hunger and drive of Heno.
Every year the Champion Carnival throws out some amazing fights, well worthy of being for a Japanese title. Sadly the Champion Carnival also gives us some relatively uninspired contests that struggle to get the hopes of fans up too much. One of those less than great bouts will be taking place this coming Thursday and will see Japanese Lightweight champion Shuichiro Yoshino (6-0, 4) defending his title against Masaki Saito (14-12-6, 5), in what appears to be a huge mismatch.
The talented Yoshino was highlighted as a potential star as soon as he announced his intention to turn professional, following a successful amateur career. He went on to make his debut back in December 2015 and progressed incredibly quickly with notable wins in 2016 against Chaiyong Sithsaithong and Kenta Onjo. Those wins helped him prepare for a break out bout against Yoshitaka Kato in March 2017 and after winning that he had proven that he had the potential to go a very long way.
In October last year Yoshino faced off with Spicy Matsuhsita in a bout that was originally part of the Strongest Korakuen but later became a Japanese title fight when Kazuhiro Nishitani vacated the title. Yoshino was too good for Matsushita and stopped him in the 7th round, despite Matsushita giving a very good account of himself.
In the ring Yoshino is a very talented boxer puncher with a very strong amateur background, solid skills, an understated composure and the stamina to pick up the pace after the first few rounds. He hasn't yet proven himself over the 10 round distance but with an 8 round decision over Kato and a7th round TKO over Matsushita it seems clear he can handle the longer stretches. There is still a few rough edges, given he's only been a professional for a little over 2 years, but his talent is undeniable and he he has the potential to go a very long way.
Aged 32 Saito is a 12 year veteran of the Japanese domestic scene and although his record isn't the greatest he does pose some interesting challenges at this level. He's a very tall Super Featherweight-come-Lightweight, and stands at 5'11”. He's not only a rangy and tall fighter but also a tough one and in his 32 fight career he has he has only been stopped once, way back in May 2006 by Kenta Kato up at Light Welterweight. Since then he has faced off with notable domestic fighters like Moon Hyon Yun, Daisuke Sakamoto, Masashi Noguchi, Tsuyoshi Tojo and Dai Iwai, without any of them stopping him.
Whilst Saito is a tough warrior he does lack in terms of notable wins. His best win to date is a 2015 win over former Japanese champion Seiichi Okada and he is 1-2-1 in his last 4 bouts, having been widely beaten by Masashi Noguchi in a Lightweight bout back in June 2016. He's not proven to be a nearly man of Japanese boxing, with this being his first title bout, and despite being better than his record suggests there is little to really make anyone think that he can hold his own with a talent like Yoshino.
We believe that Saito will ask questions of the champion, poke some holes in the inexperience man, but in the end Yoshino will take over, and claim a clear cut and wide decision, if not a late stoppage, over Saito. The challenger will be game for the most part, but in the end he will simply lack the skills and fire power to test the champion's chin, or heart.
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.