For us the most exciting and interesting division in boxing today is the Flyweight division. It's got everything we could ask for. From the super talented Roman Gonzalez to the exciting Koki Eto, from the over-hyped Zou Shiming to the under-rated Suguru Muranaka. The division really has it all despite being over-looked by many fans, especially in the west.
Whilst it is our favourite division there are still some disappointments in it. One such disappointment came earlier this year when the aforementioned Muranaka failed to make weight for a scheduled defence against Tesuma Hayashi. Muranaka's failure to over-come the scales saw him being stripped of the belt, though Hayashi failed to make the most of his opportunity losing a very competitive decision to the former champion.
The vacant title will be up for grabs again on July 17th as another of the division's really exciting fighters takes on an under-rated foe in what looks, on paper, like a mismatch, though in reality we're expecting a really good match up.
The exciting fighter, and clear favourite going in to the bout, is former champion Takuya Kogawa (23-4, 13) who has been one of the sports most over-looked action fighters over the last few years. He's been a former world title challenger, a former OPBF Super Flyweight champion and a former Japanese Flyweight champion. Over the last 5 years or so he has shared the ring with Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, Shigetaka Ikehara, Tesuma Hayashi, Suguru Muranaka, Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep and Hiroyuki Hisataka.
Whilst Kogawa has been matched hard he has more than held his own, and been involved in some hard and exciting bouts. His loss to Muranaka was a late contender to be the 2013 Asian FOTY whilst his 2014 loss to Yodmongkol was massively controversial, with Kogawa very unlucky not to claim the win. Those exciting fights have shown Kogawa's toughness, bravery and his incredible stamina which sees him throwing hundreds of punches, even in the later rounds.
Kogawa is battle hardened, experienced, hard working and a fantastic fighter in, and around, the domestic scene. His lack of power is an issue but his toughness and energy make him a handful for everyone in the division, except for the truly elite.
The other fighter involved in this bout is the lesser known Hiroki Saito (9-4, 5) who's record suggests he will be dominated here, but in reality he's a criminally under-rated fighter, especially on the Japanese domestic scene.
On paper Saito has won just over 66% of his bouts. Notably however his opposition to date has been tough and has seen him never face a fighter with a losing record. In fact his 13 opponents to date have had a combined record of 130-34-11. Not only has his opposition had good records but they have included good fighters as well, including Muranaka, Tetsuma Hayashi, Yuki Fukumoto, and the promising Jo Tanoka.
Footage of Saito isn't too easy to find though against Muranaka he looked very strong and tough as he came forward time and time again trying to impose his will and strength. Technically he's not the most proficient, or the fastest or the hardest working but he has the toughness and desire to really be a problem for more skilled fighters, as he showed at times against Muranaka.
Whilst the records suggest “mismatch” we do actually expect this to be very compelling and incredibly exciting. We do however suspect that Kogawa will know too much and out work Saito in what will go down and another instant classic in the Flyweight division. Saito's toughness and “in your face” style will compliment Kogawa's swarming assault and as a result we're expecting to see something very special.
Although a loss for Saito would look bad on his record it's fair to say his style will help him get more opportunities and at 28 he still has time on his hands. A loss for Kogawa however would be rather bad news given his long career already and the fact he's now 30, not an old man in terms of time but an old man in terms of ring years and another loss in a hard fight with Saito would certainly add to those ring years.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
The OPBF title is seen as a major stepping stone for many fighters in the Oriental region. It's the Asian equivalent to the European title and is a belt that many of the region's top fighters win before moving on to world level. Current world champions such as Naoya Inoue and Kosei Tanaka have both claimed the title in recent times as have so many others.
Sadly however the OPBF belt really isn't valued very highly in the higher weights and the Super Middleweight title has essentially been ignored year after year. For much of the last decade only one man has shown a real desire to hold it and hold it he has, for around 7 years through multiple reigns.
That man is hard hitting Japanese fighter Yuzo Kiyota (27-4-1, 25).
Kiyota is best known not for his reign as the OPBF champion but instead his 2013 world title challenge of Robert Stieglitz. That bout saw Kiyota suffer his most recent loss but get the chance to fight at the top of the sport in what was a very notable match up, as it always is when we see Japanese fighters competing at the higher weights.
Although not the most skilled Kiyota is a relatively solid fighter. He's not quite a fringe world guy but he's heavy handed enough for fighters to avoid rather than chase for the title. He's limited skill wise but has serious power, he improving after every fight and looks to be a much better fighter than he once was. Early on he was a wild and free swinging fighter, looking for the early victories though he has managed to develop his skills and is now more defensively sound than he once was.
On July 7th we see Kiyota defending his regional title again. It will be his second defense of his current reign, that began in December 2013, and his 7th defense in total across 2 reigns as the champion. Sadly however his opponent leaves a lot to be desired in what appears to be a horrible mismatch.
The champion will be putting his belt on the line against little known Thai Kajornsak Sithsaithong (7-5, 7). We know some Asian fighters have misleading records, especially Thai's, but Kajornsak's record does seem to reflect his ability pretty fairly, and that's not a good thing for the Thai.
Kajornsak comes into this bout with back-to-back losses, both suffered in China. Incidentally he is 0-4 outside of his native Thailand and is also 0-4 against fighters with a single win to their name, in fact his wins to date have come over opponents with a combined 0-1 record. To say he's not deserving of a title fight is really just stating the obvious.
Whilst his record and competition have been poor what's even more of an issue is his ability. Whilst we've only managed to come across footage from one of his fights, his 2014 bout with Back Kistkriengkrai, that footage sums up why his record is so poor. Back, a terrible fighter himself, seemed to out box Kajornsak in the opening round of their before mentally crumbling after being hit back and tiring himself out and being stopped whilst looking like a total novice. The finish not only showed how bad Back was but also how misleading Kajornsak's “KO rate” is.
From the footage of the two men there is only one outcome, Kiyota wins this by stoppage. There is nothing that Kajornsak appears to have in his locker that should trouble the champion who should feel disappointed if this goes beyond 8 rounds.
Hopefully when, not if, Kiyota wins he will then focus on getting a fight with a decent Australian, rather than more appalling challengers like Kajornsak and Abhay Chand before him.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
For those who haven't seen these two in action we've included footage of each man below.
Takuma Inoue looks to prove himself in first title bout, but will he over-come Mark Anthony Geraldo?
At the end of last year there was one Japanese name on the lips of every self respecting boxing fan. Naoya Inoue. The Japanese youngster had burst into the conciousness of fans around the world following a stellar 2014 that saw him being regarded by many as the Fighter of the Year. What many didn't realise however that Naoya isn't the family's only boxing sensation and that his younger brother, Takuma Inoue (4-0, 1) was also being groomed for stardom.
On July 6th we'll see the 19 year old Takuma take part in his first title bout as he takes on the very experienced Filipino fighter Mark Anthony Geraldo (31-5-3, 14), who despite his experience is only a youngster himself at 23 years old. The bout is potentially a break out contest for both men and the winner will almost certainly move towards a bigger bout later this year, whilst the loser will be forced to rebuild but will almost certainly come back stronger given their age.
For those who haven't seen him Takuma is very very different from his brother. Naoya, as we all know, is a Monster. Naoya trades not only on his speed and skills but also his incredible physical strength and his frightening power. As for Takuma his calling card is his speed, movement and accuracy. You won't see Takuma Inoue battering people with forceful shots thrown with the intention of breaking somebodies internal organs, instead you'll see Takuma circle his foe, punch on the move and accept winning bouts with wide decisions.
Unlike many novices Takuma hasn't been protected by his team. His father and trainer, Shingo Inoue, and manager, former world champion Hideyuki Ohashi, know they have a very talented fighter on their hands and they have already matched him with fighters like Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr, who he took on in his second bout, and Nestor Daniel Narvaes, who he fought in his fourth bout. They have matched him hard and seen him pass his tests with flying colours, scarcely dropping a round so far.
Despite not being a big puncher Takuma is physically very strong and when forced to fight in the pocket he can do so with no real issue. He looks more natural boxing and moving, luring opponents onto his shots but he can take the fight to his foes where needed. What is really impressive however is his understanding of range, both offensively and defensively and his his footwork really is incredible for such a novice with lots of clever half half steps.
It's easy to wax lyrical about Takuma but of course he's not the only fighter in action here. Of course the half of the bout is Filipino fighter Geraldo who has both impressed us and disappointed up, sometimes in the same fight.
For many fans the only time they've seen the Filipino is his 2014 bout with Efrain Perez. Early on in that bout Geraldo looked like a potential star in the making. He was fast, sharp, accurate, elusive and threw some beautiful combinations whilst thoroughly out classing Perez. For 3 rounds Geraldo looked genuinely amazing and like a nailed on future world champion. But then things changed and for the subsequent 3 rounds he struggled, spoiled, looked tired, and looked like a different fighter who struggled to actually win the 6 round bout. Incidentally that bout was originally scheduled for 8 rounds and seemed to be changed on the fly, had it not been Geraldo may well have come undone as he looked like he was really struggling.
Geraldo has only fought once since the bout with Perez, losing a very wide decision to McJoe Arroyo in an IBF world title eliminator. That bout was in Puerto Rico last December and was a very wide defeat for the Filipino who seemingly got out boxed, out fought and totally controlled by the talented Puerto Rican prospect. Unfortunately for Geraldo that bout seemed to show that he was a long way removed from being “world class”
Whilst his last two bouts were his most high profile they aren't Geraldo's only bouts of note. He has suffered notable losses to Arthur Villanueva, who beat him via a close technical decision and Oleydong Sithsamerchai, losing a unanimous decision whilst noting wins over Jerwin Ancajas, a close decision, and Hirofumi Mukai, who he surprisingly stopped in 2 rounds in Japan. Interestingly he's well travelled with fights in Thailand, Japan, Macau and Puerto Rico, and holds a 2-2 record on the road.
On song and in form Geraldo is a very classy boxer-puncher. He's accurate, effective and can look sensational despite only really doing the basics. There's nothing overtly flashy about him and he's not awesomely heavy handed, but he does do a lot of things very well. The question marks about him though are his stamina, how he reacts when things are going against him and how he'll fair with a guy who really fights well on the move. Geraldo is certainly experienced but there are a lot of things that we aren't convinced of.
Although we know not to rule out a Geraldo win, especially considering what he did to Mukai, we're not sure he can derail the rise of Takuma Inoue who looks like a nailed on future world champion. Geraldo will be a fantastic test for the Japanese teenager but we really don't imagine he'll run Takuma close.
We're expecting a competitive start before Takuma runs away with the bout in the middle and later rounds to take a comfortable decision win. If he manages to look impressive en route to a win there is every chance Ohashi will put a lot of money on the table for Takuma to get a world title fighter later in the year, possibly even on the same show as Naoya's comeback bout. Interestingly if Geraldo wins he would almost certainly become a target for Naoya to face either later this year, or early next year.
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.