Over the last few years we've seen a lot of Japanese hopefuls begin to make their name around the 122lb division. Some of them have already suffered shock losses, with Ryo Matsumoto, Sho Nakazawa and Shohei Omori all being upset recently. One man looking to avoid a similar fate is OPBF champion Shun Kubo (9-0, 7), who looks to make the first defense of his title this coming Monday as he faces Filipino challenger Benjie Suganob (10-4-1, 5).
The 26 year old champion is widely viewed as the next potential star from Hyogo and has been groomed as the spiritual successor to Hozumi Hasegawa at the Shinsei Gym. Like many promising Japanese fighters he has been on an accelerated learning curve, fighting in 8 rounders as soon as his third bout, and last December he claimed the OPBF crown with a stoppage win over Lloyd Jardeliza.
In the ring Kubo is a fast handed and highly skilled fighter with spiteful power. Whilst a very promising youngster he is also a flawed fighter with a very wide stance and some punches that could certainly be straightened out. Saying that however he is still a fighter coming through the ranks and he has been a professional for less than 3 years, progressing at a very respectable speed.
When it comes to the challenger, dubbed “Wild Beast”, things haven't been straight forward. Suganob drew on debut, against Julian Abines, and subsequently suffered set backs against Randy Braga, twice, Cristian Abili and Patomsith Pathompothong. Whilst those losses are notable he is known in Japan for scoring a win over Seizo Kono last year, with that win, along with victories over Vergil Puton and Rey Juntilla, showing that he can score notable upsets.
Whilst Suganob can be an upset minded fighter he has suffered in the past with bouts being marred by headclashes and although he has only been stopped once he has been dropped several times.
Given that Suganob has been involved in headclashes, and that Kubo is a southpaw. We could see heads coming together here, however we're expecting to see Kubo's wide stance work to his advantage and we're expecting to see him make the most of his speed and power, to force a mid round stoppage of a game but limited challenger.
The Inoue family appear set to have a dynasty in boxing, lead by 2-weight world champion Naoya Inoue and his father Shingo Inoue. Along with that father and son combination is Naoya's cousin Koki Inoue, who looks to be a fast rising star at 140lbs, and Naoya's younger brother Takuma Inoue (6-0, 1).
Takuma, the youngest of the Inoue clan, will be returning to action on May 8th to hunt his second defense of the OPBF Super Flyweight title as he faces little known Indonesian Afrizal Tamboresi (12-4, 6)*.
Coming in to this one very little footage is available of the Indonesian who debuted way back in 2004, as a 19 year old. Despite the lack of footage we do know that he has shown particularly good form outside of Indonesia. At home he is 12-2, including a win over former world title challenger Jack Siahaya, whilst on his travels he is 0-2 with losses to Brad Hore and Rocky Fuentes both last year.
Looking at the other details available on Tamboresi don't make him seem very impressive with his wins coming against very limited opposition, including Siahaya who was a terrible world title challenger and his losses have come when he has stepped up. Notably the footage that is available is less than exciting with Tamboresi looking offensively wild and defensively flawed, with his chin often being up in the air when he's punching.
Whilst little footage of Tamboresi is available we have a lot to go on when it comes to Inoue, who has had fights filmed from ringside by fans as well as having had several fights aired on TV, with Fuji TV showing them. Not only has he had a lot of footage but, for a man with 6 fights, he has faced some very notable competition including current Japanese Minimumweight champion Tatsuya Fukuhara, former world title challengers Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr and Nestor Daniel Narvaez, and highly regarded contender Mark Anthony Geraldo.
Although lacking in the power of his older brother we have been impressed through Takuma's career with his pure boxing, speed, work rate and skills. At his best he's an “outside fight” but has shown an ability to mix it on the inside when he feels he needs to and although not a puncher, like his brother, he does hit hard enough to earn the respect of his opponents.
Whilst it can be difficult to predict a bout when one of the fighters has very little footage available we do know enough about Takuma to know that he's the favourite and that he should extend his winning run here with out too many issues. The big question is whether or not he'll be able to stop the Indonesian or not. We suspect he will probably in the middle rounds, but of course Tamboresi may have real grit and survive the distance en route to a clear loss.
*Tamboresi's record has also been mentioned as being 7-9 and 10-3 in the past, though as wel know Indonesian records are rarely complete.
The last few years we've seen a number of Japanese prospects turn professional young and race through the ranks. Fighters like former champion Kosei Tanaka, current world champion Naoya Inoue and the fast rising Hinata Maruta have all made their mark on the sport already. Another youngster looking to add his name to a growing list of young Japanese super-talents is Riku Kano (9-1-1, 5). The youngster from the Taisei gym made his debut at 16 years old and this coming weekend, at the age of 18, fights for the OPBF “interim” Minimumweight title as he faces former world champion Merlito Sabillo (25-2-1, 12).
For those unaware Kano has got his eyes on a special achievement later this year, becoming Japan's youngest ever world champion. For a chance to achieve that he will have to over-come Sabillo and claim the OPBF crown.
For those who haven't seen the 18 year old in action he's a very high capable boxer-mover. He lacks power, though in fairness is just a kid, but has a very smart boxing brain, lovely speed and a genuine youthful energy. He perhaps lacks the limitless tank seen in some of his countrymen but has previously gone 12 rounds, shutting out Madit Sada in the harsh conditions of Thailand back in December 2014. Although he has gone 12 rounds his last few bouts have been over a shorter distance and his most notable win, last December, saw him easily out point Pigmy Kokietgym in Japan.
For Kano the bout is a big step up. Beating Pigmy in his 10th bout is impressive but Sabillo is a different kettle of fish to the Thai and Pigmy was 34 and just 2 fights removed from an unexpected stoppage loss to Jaysever Abcede, just 4 months earlier.
Aged 32 Sabillo is at the opposite end of his career to Kano, he's coming to the end and another loss is likely to see his career fade into relative obscurity. Unfortunately it's been a massive downhill for Sabillo who won the WBO Minimumweight title in 2013 and now, just over 3 years later appears to be looking down the barrel. Since winning that title he has gone a very disappointing 3-2-1, with a very controversial draw against Carlos Buitrago stopping it from being a 3-3 record.
At his best Sabillo was a crude, tough and aggressive fighter. He was fun to watch but a bit limited and somewhat lucky to face the limited Luis de la Rosa for the WBO “interim” title. He was also lucky, as mentioned, in the draw against Buitrago but was unlucky to face the then relatively unknown Francisco Rodriguez Jr, a man who simply battered Sabillo to a stoppage. An unlucky stoppage to Ellias Nggenggo followed 8 months later and since then he has been matched softly, in an attempt to let him rebuild his confidence.
Coming in to this the big questions are “what does Sabillo have left?” and “can Kano step up this high this quickly?” If we're being honest we don't think Sabillo has much left, maybe 1 more good performance we're not sure however if Kano can do it. His team are confident in it, but it's a big step up and one that will see him need to be at his best to succeed. If Kano has got that skill and ability that his team believes he has, he will win a very controlled decision, if not this could be a real dent in his dreams of becoming Japan's youngest world champion, especially with Sabillo's under-rated power.
At the time of writing this bout is officially for the OPBF “interim” title, it is however likely that the title will be upgraded, either before the fight or in the weeks that follow.
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.