This weekend we get a number of really good looking bouts, though perhaps the best of them is hidden away on G+ in Japan, and isn't being fought for a world title. In fact the bout in question sees one fighter coming in with 9 losses from 43 bouts and another who has never been the 12 round distance and is “only” for an OPBF title. But there is potential for a genuine FOTY contender to break out, and for the fans at the Korakuen Hall to get another treat this year.
The bout will see OPBF Flyweight champion Ardin Diale (31-9-3, 15) face off against a man dubbed “The Romagon of Okinawa” (The Roman Gonzalez of Okinawa), Daigo Higa (9-0, 9).
Like many Filipino fighters Diale has done things the hard way, he's not had things handed to him and has had to travel through his career with bouts in Thailand, Mexico and Japan. Not only has he travelled but he has faced some top fighters on the road, such as Wanheng Menayothin, Julio Cesar Miranda, Juan Francisco Estrada and Koki Eto. Bouts like those have resulted in Diale suffering 9 losses, 4 by stoppage, but he's proven an ability to be competitive with guys from 105lbs to 115lbs.
Higa on the other hand hasn't been protected, nor have the Shirai Gushiken Sports gym tried to protect his KO run. His first 4 wins were against limited opposition, but when he started stepping up he really did step up stopping decent Filipino's like Cris Alfante and then the promising Kongfah CP Freshmart in Thailand to claim the WBC Youth title. As the WBC youth champion he has recorded two defenses against decent Filipino fighters, including Renren Tesorio, and is now taking a logical next step.
In the ring Diale is a true veteran, in terms of experience, but at 27 is only coming into his physical prime. Yes there are years on the clock for the man who debuted almost a decade ago but those years don't seem to have done him much damage, despite an 8 round war with Koki Eto just over 2 years ago. Incidentally he is on a great run of results, winning his last 8 with 5 stoppages, and claiming the OPBF title last December. This will be his second defense of the title and potentially a chance to score a win over one of the most exciting prospects in world boxing.
Whilst Diale is a veteran with almost 300 rounds and 43 fights to his name Higa is the opposite. He's a 9 fight novice with just 30 rounds under his belt, he's a boxing baby and at just 20 years old he's a long way from fully maturing as a man, or building up his confidence as a person. Despite that he's a terror in the ring with an incredible output, heavy hands, intelligent shot selection and an improving, but still flawed defense.
In terms of technical skills Diale has those. He can genuinely box, he has criminally under-rated power, genuine guts and a real will to win. He perhaps falls short of world class in every category but he's one of those fighters who does almost everything very well, just comes up short at the higher levels. It's an unfortunate position to be but regionally he's a really hard fighter to beat and is 13-2 in the last 48 months, with the losses coming to world ranked fighters Eto and Petchbarngborn Kokietgym, in a controversial one in Thailand.
Technically Higa is flawed, he can be hit and his defenses, although improving, aren't great. That's a problem when you're a hyper-aggressive fighter. But Higa seems to be aware that his best defense is his offense and when that gets going he's a nightmare, swarming fighters with an endless assault of heavy and vicious shots to the head and body. It often seems like he has taken the in-ring spirit of his mentor, Yoko Gushiken from whom he has inherited the "Kanmuriwashi" moniker, and has given it a rebirth.
When they fighters get into the ring we suspect they will meet center ring. Higa looking to take the initiative and unleash his fire power, Diale looking to defense and reel off counters, making the most of the openings Higa will give him and he will give Diale plenty of them. If Higa can take the counters and continue firing back for 10 rounds we think he'll score a late stoppage. Diale however has his sneaky power and he'll hit Higa harder than the youngster has been hit before and if he can discourage the youngster there is a good chance he could turn this into a brilliant win and a genuinely great defense of his title. Either way, we're expecting this one to be the fight of the weekend.
Over the last few years things have been really interesting for Japanese fighters in, and around, the Bantamweight division. We won't pretend it's all been good news, in fact losses for the likes of Ryo Akaho, Shohei Omori, Tomoki Kameda and Ryo Matsumoto have all be very depressing for fans of the Japanese scene, however it has been brilliantly fun to follow. Some of the best bouts at the weight have been fights like the exciting 10 round bware between Kentaro Masuda and Tatsuya Takahashi and the up and down rematch between Yu Kawaguchi and Takahiro Yamamoto.
This coming Thursday we get the chance to see another potential war as Masuda (24-7, 13) faces off against Kawaguchi (25-7, 12) in a bout for Masuda's Japanese Bantamweight title. It will be the second time the two men face off, and will see Kawaguchi seeking revenge for a 10th technical decision loss to Masuda.
Back in 2014 these two men traded blows in a rough and tough bout for the then vacant Japanese title. Although it was rough it was a fight that Masuda was a comfortably winner of, with the bout going to the score cards more than 2 minutes early. Since then both men have been stopped, both have been in tough bouts and both have shown vulnerabilities.
Since their first bout Kawaguchi has gone 5-1, with his only loss being a thrilling cut stoppage loss to Takahiro Yamamoto. The loss to Yamamoto, in their second meeting, saw Kawaguchi lose the OPBF title, a title he had won in their first meeting, but now it seems like he's hungry for revenge against Masuda.
Interestingly Masuda has also gone 5-1 since their first meeting, with his only loss being a 1-sided blow out against Shohei Omori. Despite that loss Masuda has scored notable recent wins over Konosuke Tomiyama, Tatsuya Takahashi, Hideo Sakamoto and most recently Yushi Tanaka.
In the ring Kawaguchi can be dragged into a war. He's not the most technical, nor the most defensive, but his openness does lead to some very fun action and he's the sort of fighter that fans like watching as he will always give his all, and his limitations can lead to great wars. At 5'5” he's not a tall Bantamweight and at 29 he is a fighter who is older than his actual age, but he's still got a fair bit left in him and will be coming to the ring for a real fight.
Much like Kawaguchi it's fair to describe Masuda as a flawed warrior. He struggled to get his career off the ground, losing 6 of his first 20 bouts, but turned things around to become the Japanese champion, and to become a man who really has shown that hard work and dedication can turn a career around. He's won 10 of his last 11 bouts and has proven to be a dangerous puncher who can fight hard for 10 rounds. We're going to say he'll be a world champion, but the 33 year old has been like a fine wine and aged wonderfully.
When the men get in the ring on Thursday we're expecting a sloppy, yet enjoyable war. Masuda is probably the better boxer, but the two men will simple want a fight and we wouldn't be shocked to see this one be very closer over the 10 rounds, with Masuda just doing enough to retain his title.
Throughout the world of boxing we see fighters with “misleading” records. This could be world class fighters with a lot of losses, for example Rey Loreto, or domestic level fighters with records stacked with mismatch wins, for example Noknoi Sitthiprasert who is on a winning run of more than 50 bouts.
One fighter who is much better than his record suggests is OPBF and Japanese Middleweight champion Hikaru Nishida (15-7-1, 7) who returns to the ring this coming Tuesday, to defend his Oriental title against Australian challenger Dwight Ritchie (13-0-0-4, 1). On paper the champion should be the under-dog, if records were the only thing that mattered, but the reality is that this is a really, really, good match up.
Nishida's record belies the fact that he's a fighter who has totally turned his career around after a slow start, in fact he was once 6-6-1. Since the poor start Nishida has really developed and is a determined, tough, high intensity pressure fighter who has broken down fighters like Makoto Fuchigami, Akio Shibata, scoring stoppages over both, and scored other notable wins. Although not a big name he's a fighter who, at 28, looks like the type of fighter who will be a tough test for anyone outside of the top 20 or 30 in the world.
Whilst Nishida has picked up losses, early in his career, Ritchie has picked up No Contests, with his first 4 bouts all being listed as No Contest's due to a breach of licensing rules regarding his age. Were it not for those results being reversed Ritchie would be 17-0 (2) though his competition hasn't been great with his best wins coming over a semi-retired Ryan Waters and Dean Mikelj. Whilst he hasn't score really notable wins he has shown a good boxing brain, good speed and movement and knows how to fight to his advantages. Notably however this is his first bout outside of Australia.
On paper this is “unbeaten man Vs journeyman”, but the reality is that it's “proven pressure fighter Vs unproven speedster”. Given how unproven Ritchie is, having never fought outside of Australia and having never previous fought in a 12 rounder, it's clear the pressure is on him and with that in mind we have to favour the champion.
We suspect Ritchie will get off to a good start, and may well be 4-0 up after a few rounds, however as the bout progresses and as Nishida applies his pressure we see Ritchie wilting and losing a close but clear decision
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.