It wasn't long ago that the IBF and Japanese boxing had no real connection. If you wanted to be a Japanese fighter with an IBF title you had to be a renegade, you had to cast aside your JBC license and do it on the road, like Katsunari Takayama did. Now a days however the JBC do recognise the IBF and it seems that Japanese fighters have began a growing trend towards the IBF titles with fighters like Hozumi Hasegawa and Kazuto Ioka both set to fight for IBF titles in coming weeks.
Whilst Ioka and Hasegawa have both got their fights lined up another Japanese fighter, Kohei Oba (35-2-1, 14) hasn't yet managed to get his. Instead Oba will be fighting for the right to fight for the IBF Bantamweight title on April 4th as he battles in an IBF eliminator in the first big first in April.
Oba, a former 2-time Japanese Bantamweight champion and former 2-time OPBF title challenger, will be in his highest profile bout as he battles unbeaten Nicaraguan-American Randy Caballero (20-0, 12), a former US amateur champion.
For Oba this clearly the biggest fight of his career though the same too could be said for Caballero who despite showing a lot of early promise hasn't yet taken that next step, the step he'll be taking here in his first bout outside of the US.
For those who don't know much about Oba he's a 29 year old who has been a professional since 2002 and his three set backs have all come at the OPBF level. These have included a draw and a decision loss to Malcolm Tunacao and a stoppage loss to Rolly Matsushita/Rolly Lunas.
Although dubbed the "Nagoya Mayweather" Oba doesn't really look all that much like Mayweather in the ring. He's talented and skilled but posses none of those exceptional traits that Mayweather has, such as his lightning speed, cat like reflexes or once in a generation boxing brain. Instead he's just a very good counter puncher who likes to load up on his right uppercuts up top and his left hooks to the body. Unfortunately though Oba puts a lot into his work and he doesn't appear to be a big puncher. As a result his style is pretty draining and he could find himself drag into a battle of attrition at times especially when he's forced to lead.
In Caballero we have a 23 year old who was, early in his career, ear marked as a potential Golden Boy Promotions star in the making. Unfortunately for the youngster he's not risen as expected and now, 4 years on from his debut, he's being sent over to Japan rather than having Golden Boy's financial backing to bring the fight to the US. As we all know home advantage can be a big factor in fights and a fight like this could see home field playing a major role in the outcome.
Caballero is a lot Oba. Both have a good high guard when they need to use it, both look to dig to the body though Caballero is probably the quicker man with slightly more crispness on his shots though he is unproven near the level that Oba has been fighting. Sure Oba has come away with out a win in his 3 biggest contests but he does have the better wins, such as a decision over Nobuto Ikehara.
What we're expecting is a tactical encounter early on with both men looking to prove their speed and power over the other. On speed it'll be Caballero who marginally comes out on top but on poser we're expecting it to be pretty even, despite the relative KO % of the two men, and this will likely see neither man having the single punch power to bother the other. As a result we're expecting to see both men happy to take a risk or two and a really fun fight to break out with both throwing plenty.
With Caballero being the away fighter we expect him to know that he needs to fight at a higher gear than usual. This will likely bring out the best in Oba, who is a huge fan favourite in Kobe, and could see both men putting it on the line in a very close and competitive affair. With the home advantage though we do need to favour Oba who we think will just come out on top with the decision and should, in theory, get a world title fight with Stuart Hall later this year. Hall is clearly the weakest of the Bantamweight champions and we'd favour the winner of this bout to beat Hall.
Of course when the other champions at Bantamweight are Shinsuke Yamanaka, Anselmo Moreno and Tomoki Kameda it does make a lot of sense to target Hall. Whether you like the 4 title system or not you can't really blame the fighters for looking for an easy route to a belt, especially when you look at the champions in a division like the Bantamweight division where two of the top fighters are arguably on the fringes of the top 10 pound-for-pound fighters on the planet.
(Image courtesy of Boxmob.jp)
On Sunday we get the 4th OPBF title fight in less than a week and on paper this one is most one sided though from where we're sat we actually imagine this could be just as tough and just as good as some of the others.
The reason that this one, for the OPBF Minimumweight title, looks so one sided is because it matches an unbeaten fighter, Ryuji Hara (16-0, 10), against a man with almost as many losses as wins, Donny Mabao (21-20-1, 4). Unfortunately though records in boxing can be rather misleading and deciding that a fight is won or lost on paper alone can be a major mistake.
Hara's unbeaten record certainly has some "good fortune" to go alongside his solid and very credible skills.
Those skills of Hara's were on show very early in his career as swiftly rose to 12-0 (10) and scored notable victories over Shuhei Ito, Ken Agena and Yokthong Kokietgym. Since then though Hara as gone 4-0 and really struggled in all 4 of those subsequent bouts. He went from fast rising star in the making to a man who may never quite fulfil his early potential, in fact he may never even come close.
Whilst those last 4 bouts of Hara's have come at a higher level than his first 12, and have all been 10 rounders with the Japanese title up for grabs he's actually looked a lot worse than he did in his first 12 bouts. A clear example of that was he second bout with Shuhei Ito. After winning the first by 5th round TKO Hara only just managed to retain his Japanese title in a rematch. In fact all 4 of the Japanese title fights that Hara has been involved in were competitive with many viewing him as a lucky champion and as a fighter who perhaps lacks durability, he has certainly been down enough times for us to wonder just how tough he really is.
In terms of skills Hara is genuinely really good, but his power doesn't appear to have carried up to Japanese title level, his durability is questionable at at 5'1" he's also a short fighter even in the Mnimumweight division. Thankfully though he does have good movement, solid speed and can punch equally well with both hands. He's also part of the Ohashi stable which also includes Akira Yaegashi, Naoya Inoue and Ryo Matsumoto who all offer top quality sparring and will have helped bring out the best in Hara.
In Mabao we have one of those Filipino fighters, like Rey Loreto and Richard Pumicpic, who posses a misleading record. The first thing you notice is of courses the number of losses. Unfortunately for Mabao he suffered a lot of them in either controversial bouts, such as his loss to Ronald Castrodes in 2008 or his loss to Kwanthai Sithmorseng in 2009, or to very good fighters such as Wisanu Kokietgym, Noknoi Sitthiprasert, Paipharob Kokietgym, Merlito Sabillo, Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep and Ryo Miyazaki.
When you look at that second list of names it's no wonder Mabao has been picking up losses, it's a whose who of Asian boxing including world champions, top contenders and a veritable list of top level boxers. Mabao hasn't got an awful record due to losing to weak opponents but has a bad record due to the sheer number of quality fighters he has faced.
Not only has Mabao been losing to notable names but in recent fights he has also been beating them. He has actually scored very notable victories over both Mateo Handig, famous for beating Katsunari Takayama, and Florante Condes, the former IBF world champion. They may have been back a few years but they proved that Mabao has the ability and he is tough having only been stopped 3 times in 42 fights,
With his toughness and experience we actually view Mabao as having a great chance to upset Hara. The one thing holding back the Filipino though will be his lack of power. With just 4 stoppages in 42 fights it's to see him hurting Hara, though we do view him as a fighter capable of dragging Hara into a very tough bout, certainly tougher than the records would indicate.
Whilst Hara did defend the Japanese title 3 times, we think this could well be his toughest test and anything but a convincing win could see him dropping down the world rankings. Considering Hara is in the top 5 according to the IBF, WBA and WBO this could be a major opportunity for Mabao and a possible huge fall from grace for Hara if her under-performs in what we're sure will be a really tough day in the ring.
(Photo courtesy of Ohashi Gym)
One of the greatest things about the OPBF title is the fact that some of the matches ups are really world class and could effectively be world title eliminators. It may sound over-the top but we really do see some absolute belters made.
The next "world class" OPBF title bout takes place on March 25th and not only pits two world level fighters but also two Filipino's against each other in a battle that has real significance on both men, the world rankings and the OPBF scene.
This bout in question, for the OPBF Light Flyweight title recently given up by Naoya Inoue, will feature former WBC Light Flyweight title challenger Jonathan Taconing (17-2-1, 14), pictured, against recent IBF Minimumweight title challenger Vergilio Silvano (18-3-1, 10).
Of the two men it's Silvano who is probably fresher in the mind. His title challenger, late last year, saw him being widely outpointed by Japan's excellent Katsunari Takayama who literally boxed circles around the Filipino fighter. Whilst Silvano was made to look less than world class that had a lot more to do with Takayama who was genuinely sensation in the fight.
Prior to his failed world title challenger Silvano had been on an impressive 15 winning streak which had seen him winning the Filipino title and the WBO Oriental title, bot at Light Flyweight. Although his competition was no better than domestic level the 24 year old Southpaw had looked like a man likely to be a fixture on the world stage at some point and the loss to Takayama, whilst a set back, is unlikely to be his only world title fight.
Whilst Silvano was made to look second rate in his world title fight Taconing was made to look like the victim of genuine "BS" when he was controversially beaten by Kompayak Porpramook back in 2011. In that fight Taconing appeared to boss his experienced foe and cut him. Some how the doctor ruled a small cut, and we mean small, was enough to take the bout to the score cards which saved Porpramook with scores that failed to reflect the nature of the bout.
As with Silvano the loss in the world title bout snapped Taconing's unbeaten run of 10 fights. The loss, a hugely controversial one, was quickly forgotten and Porpramook would lose his title to Adrian Hernandez soon afterwards denying Taconing a chance for revenge.
Not only have both men lost in world title fights but both are, as mentioned, world ranked. Taconing is currently the WBC #3, WBO #10, WBA #15 at Light Flyweight whilst Silvano is the WBO #4 and IBF #8 at Minimumweight, in effect this is a major fight ignoring the regional title.
With what we've seen of the two men it's Taconing that has impressed us more. His fight with Porpramook was supposed to be a mismatch but the Filipino proved that he was world class and has speed, talent, bravery as well as genuine power. He may not by dynamite fisted but his shots aren't the type a fighter wants to take on a repeated basis and he has stopped his last 4 opponents, all Thai's in a combined 12 rounds.
It's unfortunate that Silvano was so clearly beaten by Takayama as it actually made Silvano look a lot worse than he is. In that bout he looked unable to deal with the movement or speed of the "Lightning Kid". Silvano is a better fighter than that though we do think that Taconing will grind him down in a genuinely exciting "must watch" OPBF fight.
For fans capable of getting to the Sofitel Hotel in Pasay City we'd really advise you to go to this it could well be one for the ages and pure war between two men looking to get their second world title fight.
(Photo courtesy of boxrec.com)
When it comes to Japanese fighters on the verge of a world title fight few are closer than "Eagle Eye" Ryosuke Iwasa (16-1, 10). Iwasa, who could well be favoured to beat some of the current champions, is a man who the WBC view as the #1 contender, the WBO have him at #3 and the IBF have him at #12.
Despite his high rankings Iwasa's next bout won't be for a world title though it will be a title bout as he attempts to make the first defence of his OPBF Bantamweight title in a bout that seems likely to be one of his last bouts before stepping up to fighting for a world championship.
Blessed with toughness, heart, power, speed and skill Iwasa is one of the most complete fighters to have not yet fought for a world title. Unfortunately for Iwasa he probably would have fought for a world title some time back had he not had the misfortune to run in to Shinsuke Yamanaka in a Japanese title fight back in 2011. Prior to that fight, the only loss on Iwasa's record, he seemed to be heading straight to the top.
The loss to Yamanaka really delayed the progress of Iwasa who went from being on the fast track to the top to being a man in need of rebuilding. Thankfully though the rebuilding process was a quick one with Iwasa claiming the Japanese title just 8 months later as he bounced back in style.
Since losing to Yamanaka some 3 years ago Iwasa has gone on an 8 fight winning streak claimed both the Japanese and OPBF titles and scored a hugely impressive victory over 2-time title challenger David De La Mora. He'll be hoping to extend that winning run to 9 fights on March 25th when he defends the OPBF belt for the first time and battles the criminally under-rated Filipino Richard Pumicpic (14-5-2, 4).
Whilst Iwasa is one of the rising stars of Japanese boxing Pumicpic is a man who has been over-looked and under-sold through out his career. Unfortunately for the Filipino he began his career 5-3-1 (1) after 3 close and somewhat debatable decision losses as well as a technical draw. From then on he was always fighting an up hill battle with people looking at his record and claiming he wasn't a fighter to really make a note of.
Those early losses on Pumicpic's record did seem to haunt him somewhat and although he moved to 9-3-1 more losses were on the way with the Filipino dropping hard fought decisions to more experienced fighters to drop to 9-5-1.
Since those last 2 losses Pumicpic has really developed in to a much better fighter and gone 6-0-1 whilst claiming the WBC Youth Silver and Philippines Boxing Federation (PBF) Bantamweight titles. He has turned his career around excellently and proven to be much better than one would have imagined. So impressive has Pumicpic been recently that he came incredibly close to upsetting the highly regarded Yohei Tobe just over a year ago, needing to settle for a draw in that particular bout.
Although Pumicpic is less proven than Iwasa we have been impressed by the little Filipino who has looked tough in his bouts to date, through some lovely combinations, seems defensively capable and hits harder than his record indicates. That's not to suggest he's world class, he has too many issues to be considered that highly, but he is very capable and upset minded, as he showed against Thailand's Ratchasak Kkg back in February 2012.
Although we do think highly of Pumicpic we're not as high on him as the OPBF who have him as the #1 ranked challenger, We do however agree that he is a very credible opponent for Iwasa and should bring the best out of the Japanese fighter who will be hoping that a victory here will move him on to world title fights in the first half of 2014.
From what we've seen of both men we do favour Iwasa who is a lot more clinical and well rounded than most of the men that Pumicpic has fought so far. Pumicpic isn't likely to fold under Iwasa's power but is likely to be widely out boxed by the Japanese fighter who can do it all when he's switched on. If Iwasa tries to make it a brawl and tries to take Pumicpic out he could find himself making life very difficult for himself, though he should still manage to come out on top in a brawl with Pumicpic's lack of power limiting him against the talented Japanese fighter.
When you see a fighter with a record like 34-15-3 (16) you tend to write them off by default, especially in this day and age of padded records, protected fighters and selective match making. That however can prove to be a costly mistake and sometimes you just need to realise that a record doesn't actually tell us a lot about a fighter. Although we think they do show us something about a fighter a record is rarely the bee all and end all of a boxer's ability.
We had a great example of misleading records just a few weeks ago when Filipino Rey Loreto, who boasted a 17-13 record, upset Nkosinathi Joyi who was 24-2-0-1.
Loreto, like a number of Filipino fighters, has a record that is hugely misleading due to controversial losses, losses in hard fights early in his career and just generally being matched tougher than he should have been. Another Filipino in a similar position to Loreto is Vinvin Rufino (34-15-3, 16) who boasts the record used at the beginning of this preview.
Rufino, the OPBF #1 contender, has won less than 66% of all his fights. Of his 15 losses though at least 6 are highly questionable and 12 have come on foreign soil where results are rarely expected to go in favour of the visiting fighter. If you switch the highly questionable losses to victories Rufino's record would be a somewhat respectable 40-9-3.
On March 24th Rufino will be hoping to shock the boxing world like Loreto did as he takes on OPBF Featherweight champion Hisashi Amagasa (25-4-2, 16) in a bout that is a lot more interesting than the records of the men would indicate.
Amagasa goes in to the bout a clear favourite. That's just stating the obvious, he's at home, he's the defending champion, he's world ranked by the WBC #11, WBO #12 and IBF #13, he's a man in the form of his life with 10 straight victories and he's a tricky customer at the best of times. As we all know however upsets happen and Amagasa will need to be fully aware that he's not fighting an over-matched foe, he's fighting his #1 challenger.
Amagasa won the title last year by scoring a decision victory over former world champion Ryol Li Lee who had beaten Amagasa back in 2010. The victory over Lee saw Amagasa avenging his most recent loss and putting his name on the world rankings in the process. Despite the victory many questioned whether he was fighting the real Lee or a man who was had mentally retired from the sport. Lee, not quite looking himself, managed to keep the fight close and although Amagasa was the rightful winner one has to wonder what a determined Lee could have done that fight.
Interestingly Amagasa had to himself turn around a poor looking record. After just 12 fights he had a record of 7-3-2 (6) and the only decision he had won in that time had come against Yoshiharu Yajima who was 3-2 entering his bout with Amagasa. Of course since then Amagasa has improved though should be fully aware that a bad looking record doesn't tell you how good a fighter is, as he himself has proven by winning 18 of his subsequent 19 contests.
Unlike Amagasa, Rufino doesn't hold a really notable win. His best victories are over the likes of Adones Aguelo and Rene Bestudio. He does however deserve major credit for his losses to Aleksander Bajawa, Naoki Matsuda, in an absolute thriller, and Sipho Taliwe all on the road. A number of which could easily have gone in his favour.
It's fights with South African Taliwe that really show how competitive this bout is. Taliwe gave the popular Daud Yordan a very close fight last year and with Rufino arguably deserving of two victories we refuse to write him off.
Whilst we won't write off Rufino we do think he'll struggle with the both the power and reach of Amagasa. The Japanese fighter is almost 5" taller than the Filipino, much rangier and a very solid hitter. If he uses his strengths then Amagasa should box off the jab, fire in powerful straights and slowly break down Rufino.
Rufino, to his credit, will try and get inside the champion and rough him up with his under-rated power and strength. If Rufino gets his way this could turn into a genuine war and a FOTY contender though the question is whether or not he can get inside. If he can't there is only one winner and it's not the brave and under-rated challenger.
We'll be picking the obvious choice in Amagasa though we do not expect this to be easy for him and we'd expect a least a few hairy moments for the champion who will know he's been in a real fight at the end of it.
This fight is one of two title fights on the same card, the other is the very good looking Japanese Super Bantamweight title bout between Hidenori Otake and Takafumi Nakajima.
(Photo courtesy of Boxmob)
It's not often a Japanese national title fight is considered a "4 star" fight on Boxrec.com though on March 24th we do get one of those rare oddities and hopefully it's not just a fight that will interest Japanese audience but in fact those around the globe.
The reason this fight is so highly regarded by boxrec.com is due to Hidenori Otake (21-1-3, 9) the defending Japanese Super Bantamweight champion who is seen by some hardcore fans as one of the fringe elite level fighters in his division.
It's not just the fans and the JBC who have been taking note of Otake but also the world title bodies, two of which have Otake ranked inside the top 15. One of those is the WBO who have him at #12 (at the time of writing) the other is the IBF who have given him a very lofty #3 ranking and will almost certainly view him as one of their top contenders.
The reason Otake is ranked so highly isn't due to a big stand out win but his impressive 15 fight winning streak that dates back more than 6 years and has included 3 Japanese title defenses in less than 18 months.
Otake's 4th title defence comes against Takafumi Nakajima (22-6-1, 9) a man he has already beaten, albeit in a very narrow and hard fought contest that could easily have gone the opposite way, back in August 2012. In effect this bout not only features a world ranked fighter, a Japanese national title but also a continuation of their back story together. Three separate but very significant features that all add up to making this a hugely notable clash.
When the men first met it was Nakajima on a great run of results. He was entering on a 6 fight winning streak which included victories over Kinshiro Usui, Coach Hiroto and Shingo Wake. It may have been a shorter run than Otake's, which saw him winning his previous 9, but it was a better run in terms of who he had beaten.
The better results going in to the first fight however didn't help Nakajima beat Otake for the then vacant title. It was a close fight but two of the judges saw it as a clear but competitive victory for Otake, both scoring it 97-94, whilst the third judge felt Nakajima had just nicked it with a 96-95 card.
Since their first fight Nakajima has been relatively inactive fighting just twice. Whilst one of those wins did come against Mikihito Seto, a former Japanese interim champion, neither were great considering Nakajima's relatively merits in the first Otake meeting. As for Otake he has, as previously mentioned, defended the belt 3 times though didn't look great in beating either Seto or Nobuhisa Coronita Doi.
If we look at the world rankings and their previous bout against each other you'd probably think that Otake has this in the bag. Instead however this is one of those true 50-50 fights. In fact using boxrec's rankings Nakajima, ranked #10 by Boxrec, should be the favoured fighter over the Otake, #13.
One thing that perhaps could swing it is age. Otake is 32 going on 33 and whilst he's not had a long career he has had a hard one with his lack of power causing him to have 148 rounds in his 25 fights to date, an average of almost 6 rounds a fight. As well as the total of 148 rounds his last 5 bouts have gone a combined 48 rounds and each of those rounds was very tough for Otake who often had to go to the well to secure wins. At 32 Otake isn't young for a Super Bantamweight and with hard rounds piling up he's probably "older" in terms of boxing years than many other fighters at a similar point in their career.
At 29 years old Nakajima is notably the younger man in terms of "real years". He may have had marginally more rounds at 163 though that's only just over 5 rounds a fight and his last 4 bouts went just a combined 28 rounds, including the 10 rounds he spent with Otake in their first fight together. Many of the other rounds were easier than rounds that Otake has been in with only Wake really giving Nakajima a good tough fight, other than Otake obviously.
The one thing that is clear is that neither man is a puncher and this is likely to go the distance. This will likely leave us with a lot of close and competitive rounds which will again be split very little. It really is a toss up and a draw wouldn't be out of the question.
If you put a gun to our heads we'd favour Nakajima with his youth but it really is too close to call. An excellent match up and the sort that national titles were designed to create. Two of the best Super Bantamweights in Japan colliding in a major domestic scrap great stuff.
The one hope we do have for this bout is that the winner will fight Shingo Wake in an OPBF/Japanese title unification later this year. That bout is better than this one though only just and it would pretty much serve as world eliminator between two of the top fighters in the division.
(Poster courtesy of Boxmob. Otake is the man with a belt on the right whilst Nakajima is inset nest to him)
The Welterweight division in Asia is the one that starts to see the big drop off in talent. Sure some top Welterweights do come from throughout Asia but the number is significantly less than one might imagine which is a shame, though it does meet with what we tend to think about Asian's in general with them being naturally smaller people than we typically find in the west.
The lack of real quality in and around the 147lb division has seen some pretty poor national champions in the past come out of Japan. Fighters like Takejiro Kato, Minoru Horiuchi (who was admittedly only and interim champion) and Dynamite Matsuo weren't really "national champion" level fighters.
At the moment however Japan does have a Welterweight champion to be proud of in the form of Suyon Takayama (19-1, 7) who may not be a world beater but is a credible champion and a world ranked fighter, holding a WBA #14 ranking. As well as his status on the world stage Takayama is a man who has already recorded two title defenses.
Of the two defenses already made by Takayama it's fair to say that one was a respectable one, taking a narrow decision over Moon Hyun Yun whilst the other, a decision over Cobra Suwa, summed up the weakness in the division.
Unfortunately for Takayama his next defense is another that suggests just how weak the Japanese domestic scene is as he takes on #1 ranked challenger Tetsuya Suzuki (29-11, 17).
On paper it's actually a great defense with Suuki being a 2-time Japanese Middleweight champion and a former OPBF Middleweight champion. In reality however Tetsuya was lucky that the Middleweight division at the time was weak. This was shown in the fact that Tetsuya's first reign began with a narrow decision over Keiji Eguchi, who was was stopped in his previous bout and his next bout, whilst his second came against Norifumi Suzuki, who had an impressive though thoroughly padded record.
As for the OPBF title that Tetsuya won, that came against Pil-Seung Oh who had last 5 of his previous 8 and would go on to lose his following 3. IT was another example of a fighter winning a title against a very weak foe.
Whilst it's unfair to say Tetsuya's a bum, he really isn't, he's also not the sort of fighter who should really be winning national titles. He's the sort of fighter who we think in another era wouldn't have made much of a mark on the domestic scene and in all honesty is a million miles from being fringe world class. This is shown perfectly in the fact he has lost 3 of his last 7 and of the wins he scored recently some have very poor. One of those wins came in a narrow decision against Thai veteran Prawet Singwancha whilst two of the other's were over winless Thai "body-donors" Udomsin Nonpitayakom and Petchmongkol Na Nonthachai.
We think that Takayama will clearly win this. It's been so long since Suzuki scored a notable win that we're unsure what he has in the tank and Takayama being younger, fresher, more suited to the weight and growing in confidence we can only see one winner and it could well be his most impressive so far.
As far as Japanese Welterweights go the only fight Takayama should be thinking about after this is a contest is a bout with OPBF champion Yoshihiro Kamegai. That bout would decide the best in Japan, unify the titles and see the winner take a big step towards a world title fight. That's three things worth fighting for!
(Photo Courtesy of Boxmob)
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.