The Japanese Middleweight picture has been an interesting one in some ways over the last few years. It's been fair to say that Ryoto Murata is the single shining star of the division domestically, and in all frank honesty no one else in Japan comes close to matching him in terms of ability or attention. Below him however we've had some interesting fighters mix it up in some really good fights.
On May 1st two of those fighters face off as we see the Japanese title and Japanese interim title getting unified in what could be a real classic for Japanese fight fans. We're not saying that to try and build up the bout, but more because we're excited about the styles of the two men involved. In one corner is Japanese “regular” champion Hikaru Nishida (15-8-1, 7), a rough and tough in your face pressure fighter, whilst the other corner has interim champion Tomohiro Ebisu (17-4, 17), a glass cannon who has never been beyond 8 rounds.
Going in to the bout we should explain why there are two Japanese champions at the moment. The situation has come about following an injury that Nishida suffered out of the ring last year. He was supposed to defend his title against Makoto Fuchigami, before fell down some stairs just days before the fight, forcing it to be cancelled with Nishida needing to receive medical attention for a head injury. As a result Fuchigami fought Ebisu last December in a late contender for Japanese FOTY, with Ebisu stopping Fuchigami in the 8th round of a real thriller.
Since Ebisu won the title Nishida has been given clearance to fight, with this being his comeback bout, ending a 10 month break from the ring, with his last bout being a loss to Dwight Ritchie in a bout for the OPBF title. We now need to go back more than a year to find Nishida's last win, a 3rd round TKO victory over Akio Shibata for the then unified Japanese and OPBF titles.
As mentioned Nishida is a pressure fighter. At 5'9” he's tiny for a Middleweight but he's built like a freak and is as strong as an ox. He uses that physical strength to bull more technically sound fighters around, before breaking them down. He's done to great effect in the last 5 years, turning around a 4-5-1 (1) record to his current 15-8-1 (7) record. On paper that might not seem amazing but he has scored notable wins over the likes of Yasuyuki Akiyama, Fukutaro Ujiie, Kazuhiko Hidaka, Makoto Fuchigami and the aforementioned Shibata. He has shown real grit and toughness and under-rated skills, whilst making the most of what he's been blessed with.
Ebisu has been inactive since his win over Fuchigami, a good thing given how damaging it was for both men, and is now seeking to become a 2-time Japanese champion. Having said that it's worth noting that Ebisu's first reign was a short one. He the title in February 2013, stopping Sanosuke Sasaki in 6 rounds, and lost it less than 6 months later to Daisuke Nakagawa in 7 rounds. That was Ebisu's 3rd stoppage loss and saw his record fall to 11-3 (11), it wasn't long for him to be 12-3 (12) with a loss and a draw in 2014.
In the ring Ebisu is a monster puncher, a real spiteful banger, but unfortunately he can't take a great deal in return and has either scored a stoppage or been stopped in every bout of his 21 fight career. The combination of power and suspect chin has made him great fun to watch over the years, not knowing what will happen at any moment. In recent times he has started to show more savvy in his boxing but at heart he's still a puncher, and brutish one at that.
One of the big questions coming into this bout is whether Nishida will have any knock on effects following his injury. If he's the fighter he was before his fall this bout has the potential to be something very special, as he looks to walk through Ebisu's rocket fire in an attempt to drag him into a war and break him down. If Nishida has lost some of his punch resistance as a result of a very nasty fall then he could well find himself being broken down by the power of Ebisu, and quickly as his shots are thunderous.
We think Ebisu has to be favoured here, given the possible issues with Nishida and the fact he's been inactive recently, but we're hoping that this bout delivers on action and that Nishida is fighting fit for it.
The rise of Hiroto Kyoguchi (6-0, 6) has been something special to watch and this coming Tuesday we get the chance to see it continue as he looks to make his first defense of the OPBF Minimumweight title, a title he won in just his 13th professional round! In the opposite corner to the destructive Watanabe gym prospect will be Filipino southpaw Jonathan Refugio (16-5-5, 4), the third successive southpaw foe for Kyoguchi.
Kyoguchi turned professional last year to some notable fan fare and expectation with many in Japan tipping the youngster as a special talent. His first two bouts however were low key, and a little bit under-whelming as he despatched hapless Thai's in a combined 3 rounds. In his third bout however he shone, stopping the capable Kenichi Miyazaki in 3 rounds,then blowing away Michael Camelion in just 33 seconds before ending 2016 with a 3rd round KO win over Junuel Lacar. To begin 2017 he claimed the OPBF title by stopping veteran Armando De La Cruz in 3 rounds.
Despite being a novice professional Kyoguchi has been nothing less than sensational so far and looks like another top Japanese pressure fighter, like Daigo Higa. He uses a lot of educated pressure, under-rated defensive work, frightening combinations and some of the best body work in the sport. He's a pure offensive machine, and fans of Roman Gonzalez should be following Kyoguchi's rise through the ranks, with Kyoguchi's style being similar to that of the Nicaraguan star.
Whilst Kyoguchi has looked amazing so far he has still got a lot of questions to answer. He's not been hit cleanly much, with De la Cruz having tagged him clean once and then being given a battering in the moments that followed. He has also never proven his stamina, with his longest fight to date not lasting more than 3 rounds. That's likely to change in the future, but we really don't know how well his style and stamina hold out in the later rounds.
Filipino fighter Refugio has been a professional for close to 7 years and has mixed with a number of top class opponents. Those opponents include current world champions Wanheng Menayothin and Knockout CP Freshmart, as well as former world champion Merlito Sabillo and world title contender Melvin Jerusalem. He may have lost to those notable names but only Menayothin and Sabillo have managed to stop him so far, and he does hold a notable win over Richard Claveras.
In the ring Refugio is a well schooled fighter. He moves well, has good technical ability and plenty of heart, having pulled himself off the canvas to fight on in the past. He's show a good attitude and a will to work hard to avoid a loss, but he lacks power and will struggle to force his will on good regional level fighters, despite his solid skills and work rate. If he can't make top fighters then he's set for problems here when he's taking on the likes of Kyoguchi.
Although Refugio is a quality operator it's hard to see anything but a win for Kyoguchi. We think he will have to prove his stamina, but will eventually break down Refugio with body shots to retain his title and his 100% stoppage record, before looking towards a potential world title fight later in the year.
The Light Middleweight division in Asia has been a bit of a confusing scene in recent years. There's been talent there but the match ups have typically lacked in terms of competitiveness, excitement and pre-fight expectation. That's not to say it's been a shambles, but it does feel like it has been underwhelming at times and that we've not had a lot to really be excited about.
Thankfully this coming Tuesday we do get something really interesting to look forward to, as the unbeaten Takeshi Inoue (9-0-1, 4) takes on Koshinmaru Saito (23-8-2, 13) for the now vacant Japanese title, which was recently vacated by Yuki Nonaka.
The experienced Saito is a 38 year old professional who has been around the professional scene since 2001, racking up more than 30 fights and 200 rounds. His career however has been and up and down one. He has fought on 7 title bouts during his career and gone a disappointing 0-6-1 in those bouts. The first of those came back in 2009, against Daisuke Nakagawa for the Japanese Welterweight crown, and since then he has fought for the OPBF Welterweight and Light Middleweight titles, the Japanese light Middleweight title and has had repeated shots at the Japanese Welterweight title. Sadly for him the closest he has come to winning a belt was last year's draw against Takayuki Hosokawa for the Oriental Light Middleweight belt.
Although he has come up short regularly Saito has proven to be a top contender on the national and regional scenes. He has beaten most of the other top Japanese contenders, such as Shusaku Fujinaka, Yuichi Ideta and Takehiro Shimokawara, and has improved with age. He's not a special fighter but he's a solid fighter with under-rated stamina, solid power, having twice dropped Hosokawa and a gritty determinedness, hence why he is still fighting today. Sadly at his age he's not got long left in the legs and although he pushed Hosokawa hard last year that was 9 months ago and he has been inactive since then.
With just 10 fights under his belt Inoue has been fast tracked, which seems to be a thing today in Japan with fighters having that surname. Although he is an “Inoue” he isn't a relation to Naoya Inoue or the clan of fighters trained by Shingo Inoue, and isn't part of the popular Ohashi gym. Instead he's from the less well known World Sports gym,where he is seen as one of the gym's top hopefuls. Part of that fast tracking is due to his amateur experience, where he ran up a 39-16 (21) record and competed on the university, whilst the other part has been his performances since turning professional, an he has already notched up solid wins against the likes of Hisao Narita, Elfelos Vega, Chan Ho Lee and Akinori Watanabe, with that win being a particularly impressive one.
In the ring Inoue can box, he has under-rated power and solid stamina, with a real ability to hold his own in a brawl. It was that brawling ability that impress so much last time out when he beat Watanabe in impressive fashion. At just 27 he's coming into his prime and looks to be a fighter who is still improving in many ways, though this is a big step up against a man hungry to end his career as a champion. If Inoue can show his own desire and out work and out battle Saito then he'll announce himself on the domestic scene in a huge way perhaps open the doors to potential Oriental title fights, and much more.
Coming in to this Saito certainly has the edge in experience, however Inoue is almost 11 years youngster than his foe and is just as hungry. Sometimes experience is the key, but here we have to side with youth and back Inoue to out work and out battle Saito over 10 rounds, in a thrilling back and forth contest.
Every so often the Japanese domestic scene throws us a real corker of a match up. The bouts might not get much global attention but they are bouts to be genuinely excited about if you follow the Japanese scene, or even the Asian scene at large.
One such bout comes this Sunday as Japanese Featherweight champion Shota Hayashi (29-5-1, 17) defends his title against mandatory challenger Kosuke Saka (15-3, 12), and without trying to sound to hyperbolic this could be one of the best domestic bouts in 2017.
Hayashi won the title last year, when he out worked Noriyuki Ueno for the belt that had been vacated by Satoshi Hosono. The title win was a clear victory for Hayashi and one that saw him notch his most notable result to date, whilst attracting more attention to the Hatanaka Gym. In his first defense, back on New Year's Eve, Hayashi over-came Akifumi Shimoda with a narrow and hard fought decision win, which was streamed world wide courtesy of CBC, who were showing Kosei Tanaka's bout as well.
Aged 29 Hayashi has found his groove in recent years and gone on a 15 fight unbeaten run since a loss in July 2011. That run has seen him go 14-0-1, with the wins over Ueno and Shimoda being joined by other notable domestic level wins over Koji Umetsu and Ryosei Arai.
In the ring Hayashi is a bit crude, a bit open, but he has a great engine, refuses to stop and has under-rated power, having dropped Shimoda on route to a unanimous decision last time out. He's not a KO artist but he really lets his hands fly and comes to fight every time he's in the ring.
For Saka this will be his first title fight and see him looking to announce himself as more than just a rising contender on the way up through the ranks. For some Saka is one of the most exciting and promising punchers in Japan, and that's been shown during his current 7-0 (7) run, which has included wins over Ryuto Kyoguchi, Burning Ishii and Takafumi Nakajima.
In the ring Saka is a bit of a monster who comes to fight, and comes to take his opponents head clean off their shoulders. That hasn't always worked, but he has improved a lot from early career defeats. It's worth noting that the lost of those losses, 3 years ago, came to Hiroshige Osawa, whilst others have come to Jun Hamana, at 130lbs, and Masayuki Ito, a world class fighter in his own right.
Whilst Saka has never been beyond 9 rounds he has shown that his power carries in to the later stages, with stoppages in rounds 7 and 8 so far. He is however a real danger man early, with his stoppage against Nakajima coming in 88 seconds and the win over Kyoguchi coming in 3 rounds. He is however a man who has a lot of question marks, still to answer, but looks like a monster rising through the ranks.
With Hayashi's high work rate and Saka's solid power this looks likely to be a barn burner from the opening bell to the end, when ever that comes. If Hayashi can take Saka's power, and there is a good he can, then this will likely be a second successful defense for the champion. Like wise if Hayashi can back up Saka then the challenger will struggle to land his bombs. However, if Saka can land his power shots on Hayashi and use his physicality he could wear Hayashi down, as he has done in the past. It's also worth noting that Hayashi has faced adversity in the past and had to pull himself off the canvas to beat Kyoguchi, showing that he can bounce up to win fights.
We're going to go out on a limb and pick Saka for the upset, but no result should be a real surprise with the bout set to be something very exciting!
The Light Middleweight division in Asia is, sadly, a bit under-whelming despite some notable fighters in the region. Sadly that means that we have had some under-whelming title fights in recent times, and it looks likely that we are in for another less than great title fight later this week, as OPBF champion Yutaka Oishi (14-5, 7) defends his belt against Thai challenger Ratchasi Sithsaithong (7-3, 5). Without trying to sound too annoyed, the match up does little for the Oriental title and does little to move the winner on in their career.
For Oishi the bout will be his first defense of the title, a title that he won last year when he upset Takayuki Hosokawa. The win was a huge one for Oishi, but seemed to be just as much about Hosokawa being a spent force as Oishi being something special. The win saw Oishi work hard, and earn the victory, but really not look like a great fighter coming of age.
At 32 years old Oishi is a veteran, and one whom debuted back in 2008. He suffered a number of early career set backs and had a 7-3 (4) record after 10 fights, with a notable loss in the 2011 All Japan Rookie of the Year final. Since then he has gone 7-2 (3) suffering a notable loss to Zac Dunn and scoring his career defining win over Hosokawa. That win over Hosokawa was Oishi's third straight win and interestingly it was the 7th straight win whilst actually fighting at Light Middleweight for Oishi, who is 7-1 at the weight!
Thai challenger Ratchasi, also known as Niwat Kongkan, is a 31 year old who debuted back in 2011 and has had miced success, losing by stoppage to Hikaru Nishida and Cobra Suwa, before defeating Suwa in a rematch last year. The win over Suwa is the most notable win on his record, but with two stoppages on his record, and a 0-1 record outside of Thailand, it's unclear what he really has to offer.
Footage of the Thai is scarce though from what we under-stand he was a hard working but limited fighter who is unlikely to score a stoppage at this level but could make for a good fun bout with a limited foe, such as Oishi. The styles should gel well, but it's hard to see the bout being fun, or exciting, with the Thai unlikely to over-come the Japanese local.
Although we struggle to defend this bout an as OPBF title fight, it should be a fun fight all the same, pitching two limited and beatable fighters against each other,
The Light Flyweight division in Japan right now is red hot. Not only does the country boast a trio of world champions, Kosei Tanaka, Ryocihi Taguchi and Akira Yaegashi, but the country also has a number of top contenders, like up coming world title challenger Ken Shiro and former champion Ryo Miyazaki.
Recently Ken Shiro vacated the Japanese title, just weeks before a scheduled defense, as a result he scheduled opponent Tetsuya Hisada (27-9-2, 17) had his proposed shot at the belt changed. Instead of facing Ken Shiro in early April it was decided that he would take on veteran, and former champion, Kenichi Horikawa (32-14-1, 7). The bout will finish off a trilogy between the two veterans and decide the new champion, and should be a genuine treat between two men who are well matched and both have a lot to gain from a win here.
Hisada began the year as the mandatory challenger for the title and when it seemed like that shot would come against Ken Shiro it seemed very hard to believe he would have any chance of winning the title. There appears to be a gulf between the two men, with Ken Shiro being not only the Japanese champion but also the Oriental champion and like a man who was ready to fight for a world title.
Although a talented fighter Hisada's limitations really are domestic level. He's never fought for a title before and has had mixed success at Japanese level. He's currently on a 7-2-1 (7) run, showing real belief in his power, but in the past his power has been questionable and even now he's got a sub 50% KO rate. Saying that however he has often fought above Light Flyweight and his power is more telling than his records suggests. Like wise he's also a tough fighter, with his only loss coming to Hiroyuki Hisataka, a former multi-time world title challenger.
Aged 32 Hisada is getting on in his career and this could be his one and only shot at a title. That could be the drive he needs to put in a career defining performance or it could well be that the shot is too late in to his career for him to make the most of it. After all if he's not managed to impose himself at the top of the division in Japan so far, will he ever be able to?
Whilst Hisada might be a late bloomer it's worth noting that Horikawa didn't actually record his career defining win until he was 35 and he claimed the Japanese title, with a stoppage against Shin Ono. He may not have held the title long, but it was a career defining victory, and his first title success, and he has since added the WBO Asia Pacific title to his career achievements. His career has been a long and remarkable one, with fights against a real who's who of the Asian scene, like the aforementioned Yaegashi as well as Florante Condes, Edgar Sosa, and Yu Kimura.
Horikawa's long career has had it's ups and downs but he's been a great servant and been a persistent figure on the Japanese title scene. He had his first title bout in 2009, against Yaegashi and would have numerous title fights before finally winning his first title. Although he came up short a number of times he was almost always competitive. Although he has 14 losses, he has only been stopped 3 times and has had a number of very close bouts that could have gone his way.
Both fighters like to throw punches, both are veterans and both are under-rated, in terms of skills, power, work rate and toughness. Also worth noting that these two have faced off twice before and both times it was Horikawa coming out on top. Potentially that's another reason for Hisada to be particularly fired up here, looking for not only the title but also revenge for two of his losses.
At their best Horikawa wins this, close but clear, but given he's now 37 and he's fighting for something he's won before, whilst Hisada is trying to claim a title in what may be his only chance we are favouring Hisada to just, narrowly, come out on top here.
This coming Sunday Japanese fight fans in Osaka will see OPBF Middleweight champion Koki Tyson (11-2-2, 10) make his first defence of the title, as he takes on Korean challenger Sung-Jae Ahn (6-3, 1). On paper this is an easy defense for the heavy handed Japanese fighter, tough he did win the title with a relative upset last year when he over-came Dwight Ritchie.
Tyson is one of the few Japanese Middleweights who actually looks like a Middleweight. He's 6'3”, a heavy handed southpaw and a fighter with decent boxing skills. At 24 he is still a boxing baby, but has already achieved a fair bit and looks to be maturing into a decent fighter, though he is still a flawed fighter.
Aged 19 when he made his debut Tyson actually had a draw on debut, before notching two stoppage wins. Then however disaster struck as he suffered an unexpected 3rd round TKO loss to the previously win-less Keisuke Kanazawa. That loss seemed to force Tyson to change and he took a 7 month break from the ring. By the end of 2013 improvements were clear and he won the All-Japan Rookie of the Year Crown. That was followed by a good run in 2014 and 2015 that earned Tyson a show at the then Japanese and OPBF champion Akio Shibata. Sadly against Shibata we saw Tyson up against a talented fighter who broke him down with relative ease, it was too much, too soon for Tyson.
The loss to Shibata could have broken Tyson's confidence but the follow year was a career definer as he claimed the WBC Youth Middleweight title and later the OPBF Middleweight title, out pointing Ritchie in a genuine upset in November.
Blessed with heavy hands Tyson is a real threat at Oriental level just because he hits so damned hard. He is however a fighter who doesn't like to be backed up, and can be out boxed. He also has a questionable chin. If a fighter can use the ring and either back him up, as Joon Yong Lee did last year, then they can out work him, out battle him and really give him fits. Likewise if an opponent uses a lot of movement, a sharp jab and can counter, like Akio Shibata did, then Tyson will struggle to impose himself and will, eventually, break down.
Aged 26 the Korean struggled to really get his career going. He won his first two fights but went on to lose his following three, falling to 2-3. That saw him suffer an understandable loss to Yong Sung Kim but more questionable losses to Woo Sung Yuh and Hyun Joong Kim. Since those 3 losses however Ahn has gone 4-0 (1) and claimed the KBF Middleweight title, whilst finally getting his career on track.
Ahn's career has not only been a bit streaky but also very stop-start, an issue with many Korean fighters due to the slow implosion of the Korean boxing scene. As a result he has two periods of 2 years + with out a fight, and hasn't fought since May 2015. In fact over the last 7 years he has fought just 4 times. If he'd been outside of Korea, and say fighting in Japan or the Philippines, it would be easy to know more about Ahn but the inactivity has been a real problem with knowing how good he is, and how sharp he will be.
Another issue with scouting Ahn is the footage available of him. Whilst there is plenty of footage it's not in the best of quality. The footage that is out there shows Ahn to be a rather crude fighter, he's a bit basic and like many Korean's he's not the most well schooled. He likes to come forward, he likes to apply pressure and he likes to try and force opponents backwards, but he's not incredibly quick on his feet and his out put isn't the highest.
Although using pressure is a way to beat the Tyson that we've seen, Ahn simply lacks the tools to do anything with that pressure and made a difference. He'll struggle to get inside, he'll struggle to land anything whilst up close. With that in mind we've got to back Tyson to retain, likely by stoppage, icing the Korean as he comes forward in the second half of the fight.
Japanese Lightweights rarely make much noise outside of the Orient, however the last few years we have seen Ioka gym's Masayoshi Nakatani (13-0, 8) slowly moving up the world rankings, and moving towards a world title fight. Nakatani, the OPBF champion, will be back in the ring this coming Sunday to make the 7th defense of his Oreintal crown, and will be up against Thailand's Kaewfah Tor Buamas (23-1, 16). On paper the bout looks like a good defense for the champion, but the reality is that this should be little more than a stay busy fight for the talented Nakatani.
Stood at just under 6' and with a huge wingspan Nakatani is a relative giant at Lightweight. He knows how to use his size well to fight from the outside, keeping good fighters at range with his jab and movement. When forced to fight on the inside Nakatani has proven capable of doing that, and throws brilliant uppercuts for such a rangy fighter. Although not the fastest, or the most destructive, he isn't slow by any means, and he certain earns the respect of his opponents.
On the subject of Nakatani's opponents he has a mix of good wins and less than great wins. He has really notable victories over Shuhei Tsuchiya, Yoshitaka Kato and Ricky Sismundo, with all of those wins coming in the space of 10 months. Sadly the last 5 wins on Nakatani's record all appear to have been lesser foes than 3 big wins he has. It's a shame that he never really built on the good wins, but he has been gaining valuable experience with 2 full twelve rounds, bringing his total to 4, and experience against fighters of different styles and sizes.
World ranked already it does seem like Nakatani is wanting to tip-toe himself towards a world title fight. Whilst that makes sense, given that competition in the region won't prepare him for the likes of Jorge Linares, Mikey Garcia or Robert Easter, one of the very few fighters in the division who match Nakatani for size, it's not exciting way to see his team develop him or his skills. He's a good fighter, he can fight at world level in the future, but his match making in recent times has been poor.
That poor match making continues here against a Thai with a nice looking record, but the reality is that Kaewfah is a very poor fighter.
The Thai debuted back in 2009 and went 19-0 (13) with out facing a fighter with a winning record. Whilst that's not always an issue with Thai's, it does set alarm bells ringing. His first win over a fighter with a winning record came in 2015, and saw him take a narrow decision over 37 year old Australian based journeyman Andrew Wallace, after failing to make weight. Whatever alarm bells were ringing at 19-0 were now going crazy. Since then he has scored 3 low key wins and suffered a 7th round TKO loss to Czar Amonsot, the only fighter of real note that he has faced.
From the footage of Kaewfah there is little to be impressed by. He's a basic fighter who is one paced, looks awkward fighting off the back foot and although there is some nice basic movement there is nothing outstanding about him. In all honesty against a fighter as talented and as natural as Nakatani it's hard to see how Kaewfah will have any success at all.
The reality is that this could well looking like a public sparring session with Nakatani going through a few things, before turning the screw and eventually forcing a stoppage, as and when he pleases. It's a shame that such a talented fighter is wasting time against the likes of Kaewfah or Kazuya Murata. It's time Ioka looked at moving Nakatani towards a bigger fight, and stopped wasting everyone's time with this type of mismatch.
The Minimumweight division has been one of the most interesting in Japan in recent times. It has not only seen the country develop world champions, like Katsunari Takayama and Tatsuya Fukuhara, but also top contenders like Riku Kano and Go Odaira. At the moment the country also boasts a huge number of prospects in the division, such as OPBF champion Hiroto Kyoguchi and Tsubasa Koura.
This coming Sunday we see a new fighter being crowned as the national champion, as unbeaten youngsters collide for a title previously held by Fukuhara. In one corner will be Masataka Taniguchi (6-0, 4) whilst in the other will be Reiya Konishi (12-0, 5). Both men are 23 years old, unbeaten fighters and fighters who are not only fighting for the Japanese title, but also looking to take a huge step towards a world title fight.
Having been a professional for just over a year Taniguchi has been a fast riser. He was touted as a top prospect when he turned professional and raced away to a 4-0 (4) record between April and June last year. His KO run came to an end in October when he scored a statement making win over Dexter Alimento, taking a razor thin 8 round split decision over the then 11-0 Filipino prospect. In his most recent bout Taniguchi defeated Vincent Bautista, claiming a 6 round decision.
At the start of his career Taniguchi looked like a wrecking ball, much like stable mate Kyoguchi. He showed free flowing combinations and an aggressive in ring style. In more recent bouts however his power hasn't carried up, and instead he has been relying more on his boxing ability. That's not to say he doesn't have solid power, as he showed when he dropped Alimento, just not the vicious power that Kyoguchi seems to have.
Taniguchi may only have 22 rounds to his name as a professional but he has had top sparring at the Watanabe gym, which has been fire this year, and was a former amateur stand out running up a 55-19 (16) record in the unpaid ranks. He is more experienced than his record suggests and as a southpaw he is also naturally a tricky proposition than an orthodox fight. The one flaw her perhaps has is that he's never been beyond 8 rounds, and this is likely to be his second toughest bout to date.
Hailing from the Shinsei gym Konishi is the far more experienced fighter as a professional. He debuted back in mid 2013 but really came to the attention of fans in 2014, when he claimed the All Japan Rookie of the Year crown. That marked Konishi was one to watch going forward, but sadly his career has since been a bit of a slow burner. He picked up 3 wins in 2015 against domestic foes, and two more wins last year against limited opposition. Although many of his opponents have been limited, with his 2011 win over Jun Takigawa being arguably his best, he has been racking up ring time with 55 professional rounds under his belt, and 4 complete 8 rounders.
Unlike Taniguchi there isn't much information available on Konishi's amateur credentials, but given he competed in the Rookie of the Year it's safe to say he didn't have much of an amateur pedigree. Despite that he looks to have learned his trade on the job and does look like a solid fighter who uses a lot of upper body movement and physical strength. He might not be a big puncher but he is a strong fighter who uses a lot of pressure. Sadly whilst he is strong he is flawed, his defense is lacking and he's not particularly quick compared to other fighters in the division.
Coming in to this bout there are a lot of questions to be asked about both men. Can they both go12 rounds? What happens when Taniguchi is under pressure? Can Konishi take the combinations of Taniguchi?
Sadly for Konishi we think that he'll come up short here. He'll certainly have moments, and will likely be the naturally stronger fighter, but in the end the more complete skills, power and speed of Taniguchi will be the difference with the Watanabe man taking a clear, yet competitive, decision win.
In recent times the OPBF title has given us some amazing bouts, and some less than great bouts. Sometimes we've seen fights we expected to be good, but ended up being mismatches like Daigo Higa's win over Ardin, and other times we've had bouts surprise and be much better than expected. Sadly though we can't see any way in which the upcoming OPBF Welterweight title bout will be anything but a disappointment.
The bout in question will see once beaten 25 year old champion Jack Brubaker (12-1-1, 6) battle against 35 year old Filipino journeyman Mark Sales (22-40-4, 8). We're sorry if we sound like we're being harsh, but this is little more than a sham defense for the very talented Brubaker.
The champion won the title back in 2015, when he stopped China's Xing Xin Yang in 4 rounds. He has since defended the belt twice, stopping Paddy Murphy in 6 rounds and taking a split decision win over Suyon Takayama in what was a genuine classic last July.
Brubaker is a million miles away from becoming a world champion, but he's a really good fighter, with good stamina, genuine grit and under-rated power. He's far from a puncher but has stopped 3 of his last 4, having only been forced to go the 12 round distance by the tough Takayama.
With two defenses under his belt we could really have Brubaker looking to either establish himself as a real champion and face some other top Oriental contenders, such as Czar Amonsot, Cammeron Hammond, or even a promising prospect like Yuki Beppu or Takeshi Inoue, though not fighting Inoue is fair enough given he will himself be fighting for a Japanese title later this month. Instead however he's up against Sale, who is at best a journeyman.
The 35 year old Sale has been a professional since 1997 , when he fought way down at Light Flyweight, and remarkably he picked up his first win as Minimumweight! Since then however Sale has filled into a bigger fighter, fighting all the way up the weights to Light Welterweight, where he has fought the last few years. During his long career he has faced a who's who of the Oriental scene. That has seen him face the likes of Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, Fahlan Sakkreerin, Nonito Donaire, Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo, Terdsak Kokietgym, Allan Tanada, Romeo Jakosalem and Al Rivera. Sadly for Sale he has lost to almost every notable name he has ever faced.
It's worth noting that Sale does have some good wins on his record, the last of which came in 2005, when he beat Bernabe Concepcion. Interestingly that win was the last time Sale beat an opponent with a winning record. That bout, fought around the Bantamweight limit, should tell you why we think this is such a horrible mismatch. Sale hasn't beaten a fighter with a winning record in over a decade, he hasn't scored a notable win above Super Bantamweight and isn't fit for an OPBF title fight, especially not at Welterweight, which he has never fought at.
Given Sales recent results it's hard to see him having any success here. He's proven his durability, with just 6 stoppages losses in 66 bouts, but it's hard to see him lasting the distance with Brubaker, who has shown respectable power in recent fights.
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.