To end the month of May Japanese fight fans get the chance to see the rescheduled Japanese Super Featherweight title bout, between defending champion Masaru Sueyoshi (17-1, 11) and 37 year old veteran Tsuyoshi Tojo (14-15-5, 3), who gets his first title shot.
The champion won the belt last year, beating Ribo Takahata for the title, which had been vacated by Kenichi Ogawa ahead of Ogawa's bout with Tevin Farmer. He would make his first defense this past February when he pulled himself off the canvas to stop Ken Osato in 8 rounds, with that win being Sueyoshi's 14th straight following a 2012 loss to Masayuki Ito. In the ring the champion is a pretty peculiar boxer, with a very unique style and awkward, almost frustrating sense of distance. He seems to fight a rather odd distance and timing and uses that to set up some unusual angles for counter punches. It often sees him look lazy on the back foot, until his opponent makes a mistake and he opens up.
Although awkward Sueyoshi is a really talented boxer-mover. He keeps fights at range, uses his impressive speed to counter and gets outside of his opponents range. He doesn't look like a puncher but does get the respect of most opponents, and when he lands cleanly he can turn the lights off on a fighter, with his KO win against Allan Vallespin last year being one of the best KO's in Japan in 2017. The power has also stopped the likes of Kazuma Sanpei, Nelson Tinampay and the aforementioned Osato.
We'll admit we feel frustrated watching Sueyoshi, as he seems to have a lot more in his arsenal than he sometimes shows and his use of distance and his patience is rather un-fan friendly, but when he's in full flow he looks a special fighter and would make for interesting bouts against the likes of Reiya Abe or Masao Nakamura down the line, both of whom would be interesting stylistic bouts for the champion.
Tojo, who made his debut back in 2003, has been a real servant to Japanese boxing and faced a relative who's who of the Japanese domestic scene. He has gone in there with Zuri Kanana, Hisashi Amagasa, Yuki Ogata, Hirotsugu Yamamoto, Rikiya Fukuhara, Koji Umetsu, Masaki Saito, Satoru Sugita and Daiki Kaneko. Sadly though he has struggled against the Japanese title level fighters and with father time battling against him too it's hard to imagine him giving the speedy Sueyoshi many problems.
Tojo is better than his record suggests, and many of his losses have come to good, solid fighters in often competitive bouts. He's also a very tough fighter, with only Daiki Kaneko actually stopping him, and even that took the heavy handed Kaneko 7 rounds. Despite being better than the numbers suggest he is still 37 years old and has gone 2-2-2 in the last 4 years, showing he's not in good form, he's old and whilst still a very busy fight in between the ropes his lack of power is a major issue against a counter puncher like Sueyoshi.
We're expecting a pretty straight forward win for the champion. Sueyoshi will be too quick and too smart for Tojo. Sadly though we're not expecting a particularly enjoyable bout, with the styles not likely to gel brilliantly, and Sueyoshi playing it safe early on before moving up a gear later in the fight to take a straight forward win. Tojo's toughness will likely carry him to the final bell, but we don't see him doing enough to make this a close or competitive bout with the younger, fresher, smart man.
Earlier this year Filipino youngster Jayr Raquinel (9-0-1, 6) announced himself as one to watch, ripping the OPBF Flyweight title from Keisuke Nakayama at the Korakuen Hall. This week the 21 year old southpaw returns to Japan to defend that title against Shun Kosaka (15-3, 4) in another bout that could help Raquinel enhance his reputation as Filipino prospect with the potential to go all the way.
In his title win Raquinel showed no fear of Nakayama, or of fighting in Tokyo. Instead he went about his business with the intention of scoring the biggest win of his career, stopping Nakayama in the 9th round of their bout, whilst up on all 3 cards. Other than his win over Nakayama there wasn't too much else on his record, a DQ win over Jimboy Haya, a split decision draw with Glenne Calacar and a majority decision win over Richard Rosales being the only things were even mentioning. Despite his thin record he has impressed, and he has risen to the challenges put in front of him and for such a youngster he looks like he has the ability to go a very long way.
As with many Filipino youngsters, though obviously not all with Mark Anthony Barriga being a notable exception, Rqauinel is a bit crude, a rough around the edges fighter who has heavy hands, a good engine and a second of toughness. He looks like he's a fighter who really could be moulded into an excellent fighter if he got the right training. There is a lot of natural gifts that he appears to have, and really just needs the right training to develop the skills to go with those gifts.
The challenger made his debut back in 2012 and reached the Flyweight Rookie of the Year final in 2014, losing a decision to the then unbeaten Kenya Yamashita. In 2015 he would suffer his second loss, being stopped by Tetsuya Hisada, who has since gone on the claim the Japanese Light Flyweight title. Since losing to Hisada we've seen Kosaka rebuild his career, going 6-1 (4) with a notable win against Yota Hori last time out, and a very close loss to Akinori Hoshino. Sadly the other wins were against most limited opponents, and it's hard to know how good he really is. A win over Hori is decent, but given that Hori had lost 3 of his previous 4, and was stopped last time out by Ryota Yamauchi, it's hard to put too much value on the win.
At 23 years old there is potential for Kosaka to become a really good fighter. He has got some skills and appears to be developing in terms of his power and physical strength. Sadly, though similarly to Raquinel, he really needs to be taken under the guidance of a top trainer if he's to reach his potential, which is likely to be below that of Raquinel. He doesn't seem to hard, have the speed or the experience to cope at title level, and has yet to go beyond 8 rounds. He might see this bout as a chance to prove himself, but it would take a career best performance to even test the challenger.
Given that Kosaka looks to lack in terms of power and top tier experience we are expecting to see him being stopped by the champion. Kosaka has got a chance of springing the upset, but needs to put everything together to defeat the impressive Filipino, and we'd be very surprised to see Kosaka see the final bell, never mind spring the upset win.
Earlier this year Japan's Rikki Naito (19-2, 7) became a 2-weight champion, adding the OPBF Light Welterweight title to a previous reign as the Japanese Super Featherweight king courtesy of a 9th round TKO win against Jeffrey Arienza. This coming Tuesday Naito looks to make his first defense of that title as he faces off with the tough and hard hitting Jheritz Chavez (8-2-2, 6). It's a tough first defense for Naito and a great chance for Chavez to pick up a major regional title, to add to some minor title reigns and a GAB title.
For those who haven't seen Naito the Japanese fighter began his career as a somewhat hyped hopeful, courtesy of being the son of Cassius Naito. The potential was quickly shown and in just 29 months Naito had gone from debutant to Japanese Super Featherweight champion. At that point he was just 22, tipped for huge things and looking like a real one to watch, despite only being 9-0 (5). Sadly since then things have never really come together like Naito would have wanted, despite scoring 3 defenses of the title and notching wins against Masayuki Ito and Nihito Arakawa.
In December 2015 Naito lost the Japanese Super Featherweight title, via technical decision, to Kenichi Ogawa, and would lose a rematch a year later before deciding to abandon the division and has since grown into a solid Light Welterweight and gone 3-0 (2) with a notable win over Baishanbo Nasiyiwula.
In the ring Naito is a speedy fighter, though has began to slow down more in the ring as he's gone up in weight and become more physical. He's not a brawler but certainly holds his feet more at 140lbs than he typically did at 130lbs. On paper that sounds like it could be a problem, however in his case it really does simply seem like a case of maturing into a bigger and stronger fighter. Rather than peaking early he has developed into a strong young man, and become a potential fixture in the fringes of the world rankings.
Aged 27 Chavez has been a man who has made marks domestically but failed to come out on top when he's gone outside of the Philippines, losing to Vage Sarukhanyan in Russia and Hiroki Okada in Japan. Despite those losses he has looked very comfortable in and around the Filipino domestic following a 2-0-2 start to his professional career. That faltering start has been followed by notable wins over Tatsuya Yanagi, Al Sabaupan and Reymond Yanong. Not only has he been notching up wins but also been flipping between divisions, picking up regional titles at Lightweight and Welterweight and a domestic title at Light Welterweight.
Chavez looks like a fighter who is powerful, tough and strong, but fights like a man who wants to use his skills, his jab and his footwork to win bouts. Sadly that seems to leave him looking like he's a fighter who is just half a step behind the likes of Okada and Sarukhanyan, who took advantage of Chavez's slow feet and unwillingness to truly commit to an attack. Chavez does have a nice jab, but lacks the speed to really fight the way he does against a higher level of competition, who will stick their jab in his face as he trudges forward.
Given Naito's edge in speed we strongly favour him here on a stylistic basis. Chavez won't go away, and will follow Naito round after round, but Naito will always be a step or two ahead of the Filipino. Given that Okada couldn't stop Chavez we don't image Naito will, but we would be surprised if this was particularly competitive as a bout.
The Japanese Light Middleweight scene is, arguably, the strongest it's ever been. At the top of the table is Takeshi Inoue, a talented and rising hopeful looking to move towards an IBF title fight, and Yoshihiro Kamegai. Below those two is an interesting array of veterans, and hopefuls, including the likes of Yuki Nonaka, Akinori Watanabe, Hironobu Matsunaga and two men who will be fighting for the national title this Tuesday.
That title bout will pit the hungry and hard hitting Ryosuke Maruki (15-4-1, 10) against former Welterweight champion Nobuyuki Shindo (19-4-1, 8) in a very well matched and potentially thrilling bout.
Of the two fighters Shindo is the more well known, having competed in a number of Japanese title fights. The elongated 31 year old picked up a couple of early career defeats before getting his first title fight in 2015. In that bout he came up short against Suyon Takayama, but would win the title the following year with a decision victory over Yasuhiro Okawa for the vacant title. His reign Japanese Welterweight champion would be short however as Toshio Arikawa stopped him in 10 rounds to rip the title from his waist.
Since losing the Welterweight title in 2016 to Arikawa Shindo has moved up in weight and allowed his 6'1" frame to fill out to that of a Light Middleweight. Since moving up in weight he has gone 2-0 (2), stopping both Sanosuke Sasaki and Cobra Suwa to earn a shot at the Japanese title at 154lbs.
In the ring Shindo is a physically imposing fighter, who is very tall and rangy, and a south paw. He has shown solid power since moving up in weight and has a solid work rate. Despite his physical traits he can be dragged into a battle on the inside, can be out worked, out boxed and hurt, having been dropped by Sasaku just 3 fights ago. We've yet to see him in with a hungry and primed Light Middleweight, and whilst the division should be better for him it's hard to really know what he has in his arsenal for top domestic competition at 154lbs.
Aged 27 Maruki is getting his second shot at a title, following a narrow 2016 loss to Nonaka. In that bout Maruki looked like a champion in waiting, and were it not for for the rise of Inoue would probably have won some sort of title since the Nonaka bout. He's aggressive, exciting and hard hitting and despite losing to Nonaka didn't really lose much career momentum, scoring 3 wins since that set back. Maruki turned professional in 2010 and reached the All Japanese Rookie of the Year final in 2012. A pair of losses in 2014 slowed his rise but he has since improved a lot, and is 8-1 (5) in his last 9.
Although a bit crude around the edges Maruki is a real danger man at this level and will be getting in the ring with a point to prove. We expect to see him start fast, and look to jump on Shindo, cut the distance and work on the inside. He's a not a monster puncher, but is a very solid hitter and that will be something he'll be looking to prove here as he looks to neutralise Shindo's southpaw straight.
Interestingly Maruki is 0-2 outside of Aichi, having lost to Ryota Itoyama at the Korakuen Hall in the 2012 Rookie of the Year and losing to Nonaka at the EDION Arena in Osaka. He'll have to show he can perform away from home if he's to come out on top here. He has the tools to win, physically, but the big mental question is whether he can do it when the audience isn't all his friends, family and essentially those there to support him.
We think that the youth and aggression will be the key here and Maruki will wear down Shindo, shake the shackles of being an away fighter and make an impact. We know that Shindo can be a nightmare to fight with the unique angles and size he brings to the ring, but can't say Maruki allowing the former Welterweight champion to dictate the pace or fight at a comfortable range here. Instead we think Maruki stops Shindo somewhere in the middle rounds.
This coming Monday fights fans in Japan will get the chance to unified Heavyweight champion Kyotaro Fujimoto (18-1, 10) defending both of his regional titles, the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles, against Australian challenger Aaron Russell (11-4, 4). For the champion, who also holds the Japanese national title, the bout will be his third defense of the OPBF title and the second of the WBO regional belt, whilst Russell will be fighting at this level for the first time in his career.
The Japanese 31 year old turned professional following a career in K1 and has had more success than many would have expected. He turned professional back in late 2011 and after winning his first 5 bouts was stopped by Solomon Haumono in a bout for the OPBF title, on the 1 year anniversary of Fujimoto's debut. At the point many fans wrote him off for a negative style, being under-sized and a perceived weak chin. Since then however he has reeled off 13 straight wins, 7 by stoppage, claimed the triple crown of domestic and regional titles and put himself in the world rankings.
As a fighter Fujimoto doesn't fight like a typical Heavyweight. He's not in there using his power and strength and instead fights in a pretty none-physical manner, relying on his speed, movement and timing. It's a small Heavyweight and uses that to his advantage by using his legs, making opponents look slow and tagging them with counters as well as speedy single shots when he leads. Rarely will we see him look to exchange blows of throw combinations, but what he does do works for him.
Despite not being a puncher Fujimoto does enough bang to keep opponents at this level wary. His speed on the counter has dropped opponents in the past and it will be something he'll look to make the most of again here.
In Russell we have a pretty underwhelming challenger. In fact it's hard to see what Russell has done to earn a shot at an OPBF title. He debuted in 2010 and after winning his first 3 bouts would fall to 4-3, losing a trio of bouts by stoppage. He's done well to rebuild since then, but his durability has always remained an issue, and he was stopped last year by Lancy Bryan after being dropped several times in the second round of their bout.
Whilst Russell clearly lacks in terms of durability he is also lacking in natural fighting size, having made his debut at Light Heavyweight and having never fought above 20llbs before. This will be one of the few times that Kyotaro is the naturally bigger man and that could again be a problem for the challenger, who is moving up in weight have not shown much punch resistance at Light Heavyweight or Cruiserweight.
Footage of Russell is mostly old but it doesn't show a very good fighter. We know he will have improved with experience but in the footage we've managed to get out hands on he looks slow, clumsy and unsure of himself. He looked like a fighter who really looked like he wasn't sure why he was in the ring. Again we accept that was old footage, but we don't suspect he's become a fringe world class fighter since that footage was shot.
We expect Russell to be stopped by Fujimoto in the middle rounds of their bout. He'll lack any tools needed to deal with the champion and his inability to take a shot will be a major issue here.
On May 7th Japanese fight fans are in for a treat, as Japanese Light Welterweight champion Valentine Hosokawa (22-6-3, 9) defends his title against the huge punching Vladimir Baez (24-3-2, 22), a Japanese based Dominican slugger. For the 37 year old old Hosokawa this will be his first defense, following a career defining victory over Koichi Aso last December, whilst Baez will be looking to record a 4th straight stoppage win and claim his second domestic title, following a previous reign as the Dominican Republic champion.
The champion is a 12 year veteran who debuted in May 2006 and despite some ups and downs has been a stalwart of the Japanese scene for much of that time. In fact he would get his first Japanese title fight more than 5 years ago, when he took on the hard hitting Shinya Iwabuchi, and despite a loss he remained very relevant. Just a fight later he took on the then OPBF champion Min Wook Kim in an incredible bout in Korea. Following those losses Hosokawa has been fighting on the domestic level and scored wins over Takeshi Goda, Jumbo Oda Nobunaga Shoten Petagine and Cristiano Aoqui en route to getting his second Japanese title fight in 2016. As with his first shot Hosokawa lost, though put up a fantastic effort against Hiroki Okada and seemed to have much of his work ignored by the judges.
Although Hosokawa is getting on for a fighter he has an incredible engine, he throws a lot of leather and whilst he's not a big puncher he does make for great fights on the domestic level. He tenacity and energy is brilliant and sees him over whelming opponents with aggression and work rate. Sadly it does mean that his fights are draining and damaging but they are thrilling, exciting and great to watch. His fight with Aso last year was a Japanese FOTY contender and his 2013 bout in Korea with Min Wook Kim was genuinely thrilling. Sadly those exciting fights will take a toll on Hosokawa and his career won't have a lot longer to go, even if he is successful here against Baez.
The challenger arrived in Japan a couple of years ago to be managed from the country. The change began with an easy win in Thailand before he suffered a loss to Teerachai Kratingdaenggym at Welterweight. Since then however he hasn't looked back scoring wins over Daishi Nagata, Ryusei Nakajima and Kazuyasu Okamoto all by stoppage last year. Those wins showed that Baez's power is legitimate, he's a brutally nasty power puncher, who swarms on opponents, and lets his shots fly. He might not be the most technically impressive but he is a strong, powerful, heavy handed and energetic monster at this level.
Aged 34 Baez is no spring chicken, but his 29 career bouts have averaged just 4 rounds a bout. They have been mostly short with his power being the key. He's not avoided damage all together but is a relatively young 34 year old and someone who can clearly have a few more years on the Japanese domestic scene. That's not to suggest he's the best in the country at 140lbs, but there's very few fighters in Japan who would be favoured over him, perhaps only Hiroki Okada and Koki Inoue.
Given his edge in power, aggression and sheer brutal physicality it's hard to bet against Baez here. We know Hosokawa is tough but unfortunately we suspect that will be his downfall. He will be there to fight against Baez but will take a lot of heavy shots, and we suspect he will be worn out in the middle to late rounds, as Beaz claims his biggest career and becomes a national champion in a second division.
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.