They often say that winning a title brings a fighter up to a new level, with the fighter showing a new hunger to go further and claim more gold. A taste of silverware never being enough to fully satisfy anyone in sport and the hunger grows. Sadly though it seems like the Japanese Super Featherweight champion Kenichi Ogawa (21-1, 16) [尾川 堅一] has hit a bit of a wall since winning the title, and instead of progressing and building to the next level he has struggled and faltered past opponents he was expected to defeat. This coming Saturday Ogawa looks to return to his best as he defends his belt against 33 year old veteran Hirotsugu Yamamoto (20-13-3, 4) [山元 浩嗣], with the champion seeking his 5th defense.
In the ring Ogawa has shown real touches of being a world class fighter. He has spiteful power, good boxing and and the ability to really go along way. There are holes in his game, and he's not the most natural boxer or the quickest fighter, but he's a brute of a puncher, and sometimes that's more than enough to make a name for yourself.
On his rise to the title Ogawa went 15-1 (13), avenging his only loss which came to Yuki Miyoshi in 2012, and stopping good opponents like Ribo Takahata, Raymond Sermona and Deivi Julio Bassa. He would then win the title by bullying the then unbeaten Rikki Naito on route to a 5th round Technical Decision. That should have been the start of a huge rise by Ogawa but instead he has struggled to shine, scoring late stoppages against Satoru Sugita and Kento Matsushita in bouts where here looked like a weak champion and then taking ultra close decisions against Rikki Naito and Satoru Sugita in rematches.
Since winning the title it has looked like the hunger has left Ogawa a bit. It looks like he has accomplished what he's wanted and that he's happy to remain fighting at the top of the domestic tree. It's a shame, but it does look like he has taken a step backwards, and if he can't find the hunger he had on his way up the title may well slip away in a bout that he's expected to win. The firepower might not be enough to bail him out late, and he may well find himself pushed down the pecking order if he does suffer another defeat.
Aged 33 Yamamoto has been a professional for almost 12 years and has, if we're being honest, gotten this fight as a reward for his hard work in Japanese boxing rather than as about earned on merit and results. In fact in terms of results he has gone 6-8-1 in his last 15 bouts dating back more than 5 years. Not only has has been losing more than winning recently but he has been doing so to domestic foes such as Satoshi Hosono, Hitoshi Ichiba, Dai Iwai, Yuhei Suzuki, Tsukasa Saito and Tsuyoshi Tojo, as well as international fighters like Juan Martin Elorde and Jhonny Gonzalez.
Whilst he is better than his record suggests, and has a number of very closes losses including the one to Tojo and one to Elorde, he has also suffered 7 stoppage losses and hasn't shown the best of durability, with Gonzalez stopping him in a round last September. That will likely prove to be his problem here. He can box well, but soon or later he will be caught by Ogawa, even a rather lacklustre Ogawa.
We suspect that Yamamoto will have success, at times, but sooner or later Ogawa will take him out, with the eventual stoppage covering over the cracks we've already spoken about. It may well be that a good win here could kick start Ogawa's rise to a world title, and be the confidence builder he needs, but we can't help but think his real hunger is gone and that a win here won't actually help him push on.
To begin 2017 we had expected to see Japanese Welterweight champion Toshio Arikawa (14-4, 12) to defend his title at the Champion Carnival against mandatory challenger Daisuke Sakamoto (13-8-3, 8). Sadly in the run up to that fight the champion suffered a training injury, breaking his jaw, and forced that bout to be cancelled. Rather than leaving the title on ice the JBC ordered Sakamoto to face off with Makoto Kawasaki (9-4-1, 2) in a bout for the interim title. That bout closes out the relatively quiet month of June and gives fans at the Korakuen Hall another potentially thrilling contest.
On paper the bout might not look great. After all between them they have a combined record of 22-12-4 (10) and neither has made an impact above domestic level. The reality however is that they are are well matched, both are hungry and both men are looking to make the most of their opportunity here. It's a bout that has real intrigue and has a genuine reward for the winner.
Of the two fighters it's Sakamoto who comes in to the bout with genuine form. The 35 year old veteran has gone 6-0-2 since losing a very narrow decision to Nobuyuki Shindo back in December 2013. That 8 fight unbeaten run has seen him score a now huge opening round win over Toshio Arikawa, a little more than 3 years ago,claim a decision over Ryoji Tanaka and fight to a technical draw with Takashi Inagaki. Whilst his last 3 wins have been against poor Thai's he hasn't been allowing ring rust to build up, and has instead been keeping his eyes focused on the Japanese title.
Although Sakamoto is in the form of his career, and has turned a 7-8-1 (3) record around, he is much better than the numbers suggest. He has lost close ones to the likes of Shindo, Kazuyoshi Kumano, Yasuhiro Okawa, and Yoshitaka Katabami and has been matched hard on the domestic level, fighting the likes of Yuji Wauke and Daichi Sakoda very early in his career. Like many he has been matched hard and had to develop the hard way, which is why he is now reaping the rewards of such a poor looking record.
Aged 33 Kawasaki is a man who is really a bit of an unknown outside of the most hardcore of Japanese fans, and really doesn't have the time to suffer another set back. His most notable result is a draw, on debut, with Koki Tyson, who was also debuting. Since then he has fought some notable names, but has come up short against the likes of Hironobu Matsunaga, Noriaki Sato and Ryota Yada. That's not to say he doesn't have any good wins, but victories over Mazuya Murata, Takeshi Goda and Koji Iida are scarcely amazing.
With a lack of power Kawasaki will depend on his work rate and stamina here. He has shown both at at the 5 and 6 round distance but has only gone beyond 6 rounds twice, being stopped in one of those bouts and taking a decision in the other. He has never shown that he can comfortable go 8, never mind more, and he lacks the experience to really know what to do when fatigue sets in.
The bout probably won't be a memorable bout that transcends Japanese boxing, but we do expect the bout to be a lot of fun, and high octane and we expect to see Sakamoto just being that bit too good, too experienced and too hungry for his long awaited rematch with Arikawa to come up short here.
The Flyweight division is one of the most interesting in Asia with so many top fighters coming from the region, and all 4 current world champions are from the region with Kazuto Ioka, Zou Shiming, Donnie Nietes and Daigo Higa holding the four world titles. As well as all 4 world champions the region also boasts a number of top contenders, like Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep, Toshiyuki Igarashi and Muhamad Waseem.
Due to all the top heavy talent there is a bit of a void on the Oriental title scene, and that's being seen this coming Tuesday when former world title challenger Richard Claveras (17-2-2, 14) battled against little known Japanese fighter Keisuke Nakayama (9-2-1, 4) for the OPBF title.
Of the two fighters Claveras is the more well known. As mentioned he is a former world title challenger, having fought Pedro Guevara for the WBC Light Flyweight title back in 2015. Since then he has gone 5-1 (2) and shown a developing skillset and less of a dependency on his power. Whilst we have seen him lose since the Guevara bout, suffering a decision defeat to Jonathan Refugio, he has also scored a number of notable wins on the domestic scene. Those wins have included victories over Jerry Tomogdan and Jeronil Borres and have shown that he's one of the best in the Philippines at the weight, even if he is a long way behind the aforementioned Nietes.
Early in his career Claveras looked like little more than a wild slugger, the type of fighter who is talented, but relied on power and lacked the skills to match. That was shown against Guevara, who stopped him inside a round showing just how unprepared the Filipino was for a world title fight. Since then however it seems like Claveras has taken the loss as a learning experience and is moving onwards and upwards, bouncing back in a really good fashion. He's still flawed, and still looks rough around the edges, but he's certainly better than he was just a few years ago.
Whilst Claveras is somewhat known, due to his bout against Guevara, the same cannot be said of Nakayama who has never fought out of Japan and has only shared the ring with a few men of note. Of those he has suffered losses to Kenichi Miyazaki and Hiroyuki Hisataka, and narrowly over-come Naoki Mochizuki. Although he does lack much in terms of notable wins he has won his last 3,and has rebuilt well following the loss to Hisataka just over 2 years ago.
Aged 28 it's fair to say that Nakayama may have some developing left, but the reality is that the southpaw is about as good as he's likely to get. That's not a shameful thing, but it's likely summing up that he's below title level. He's gutsy but has been ran close a number of times and could easily have had 2, if not 3, more losses on his record. He's talented, but lacks any outstanding quality and doesn't actually hits as hard as his record suggests.
Although home advantage will certainly help Nakayama, and could essentially help him win close rounds, it's really hard to see him defeating the Filipino puncher, who we suspect will win a clear and wide decision. Claveras' edge in experience and power will simply be too much for the Japanese fighter.
The Flyweight division in Japan is red hot right now with WBA champion Kazuto Ioka leading a group of fighters that also includes WBC champion Daigo Higa. Below those two world champions are the likes of Japanese champion Takuya Kogawa (28-4, 13) and interim Japanese champion Masayuki Kuroda (26-7-3, 15), who will meet this coming Tuesday in a potential FOTY contender, to unify the titles. Not only is the bout a potential thriller, but it will be a rematch of a bout fought in early 2016 and will see one man looking to avenge a loss, and the other looking to prove domestic dominance over their foe.
In their first bout, in March 2016, Kogawa came out on top, defending the Japanese title in a mandatory defense. That was the the exciting veteran's first defense of his second reign and saw him over-come Kuroda with a clear decision, but an exciting one with both men really letting their shots go in some thrilling back and force action.
Although relatively unknown outside of Asia Kogawa has been a staple on the regional since 2010. He won the OPBF Super Flyweight title in 2010 and then moved down in weight to take on the then WBC Flyweight champion Pongsaklek Wonjongkam. Although Kogawa came up short against Wonjongkam he has since stuck around, for the most part, at Flyweight where he is now a 2-time Japanese champion and has also fought for the WBA interim title, losing a close decision to Yogmondkol Vor Saengthep.
During his career Kogawa has faced a relative who's who. As mentioned he has faced Wongjonkam and Yodmongkol, he's also fought Zhao Zhong Xiong, Shigetaka Ikehara, Tetsuma Hayashi, Suguru Muranaka, Hiroyuki Hisataka, Kuroda. Through those bouts Kogawa has shown a warrior mentality, willing to have a tear up, he has shown a gritty toughness, under-rated power and a fantastic engine. Sadly however he comes into this bout on the back of a nasty ear injury and an 8 month lay off. He is also a fighter who has gone the distance in his last 8 bouts, coming for 80 rounds!
We've long been Kogawa fans, but the reality is that the 32 year old has had an incredibly tough career, with 210 rounds, many of which have been damaging and action packed, which are partly to blame for his injury last time out, and subsequent lay off.
Interestingly the 30 year old Kuroda has had a similar career to Kogawa, and has slightly more rounds under his belt at 217 career rounds. His career saw him really come to the fore at Light Flyweight, where he claimed a Japanese title back in 2011. As a champion he defended the belt 4 times, including notable defenses against Yuki Sano and current world champion Ryoichi Taguchi. His reign ended when he vacated, choosing to challenge WBA Flyweight champion Juan Carlos Reveco in 2013. Sadly Kuroda came up short against Reveco and the suffered a stoppage loss to Muranaka just a couple of fights later. Since then he has gone 5-2 and got his career back on track.
Although Kuroda's record is blotchy he has, like Kogawa,mixed with good company. He's fought Shigetaka Ikehara, Shin Ono, Taguchi, Reveco, Muranaka, and Kogawa. He was last seen scoring an exciting decision win over Yuta Matsuo for the Japanese interim title, and will be seeing this bout as a chance to become a 2-weight Japanese champion.
In the ring Kuroda is a tough and gutsy fighter, he's flawed, and is naturally smaller than Kogawa, but appears to have found the second wind of his career, after a bizarre 0-2-3 run in 2012-2014. He's still going to be the under-dog here, but he's hungry, he's going to be looking to make a statement and likely knows this will be his last chance at a Japanese title, and it's going to be now or never.
In the ring we're expecting a real war. The styles of both men is aggressive, energetic and exciting. Both men are tough, defensively flawed and open, but aggressive, exciting and most importantly well matched.
Although we think Kogawa is on he slide, we do favour him here, but only just in a close, competitive, exciting brawl between two fighter who will look to give fans a treat. We wouldn't be hugely surprised by a Kuroda win, but we do think Kogawa will come out on top.
Earlier this year Japanese warrior Koichi Aso (21-7-1, 14) claimed the biggest win of his career, stopping Kazuki Matsuyama in a bout for the vacant Japanese Light Welterweight title. It was Aso's third shot the title, and saw him finally win a big one. He returns this coming Friday to make his first defense of the title, as he takes on little known challenger Yusuke Konno (11-3, 5), who will be fighting in his first title bout, and looking to end Aso's reign.
For those who haven't seen Aso his style is the typical Japanese warrior style. He comes to fight, presses the action and always looks to have a fight. Sometimes that costs him, such as in his 2011 bout with Shinya Iwabuchi, but other times it sees him out battling and breaking fighters down, as he did against Matsuyama. It's a style, and mentality, that makes for fun action fights but has taken it's toll on him and his body isn't as tough and durable as it perhaps needs to be if he's to have a long career.
Although not a huge puncher Aso can bang, but often finds himself being dragged into wars of attrition, which is partly why he has been such a popular fixture at the Korakuen Hall over the last 11 years or so. During that 11 year career he really has faced almost everyone of note at the domestic level, including Valentine Hosokawa, Taisho Ozawa, Shinya Iwabuchi, Jung Hoon Yang, Moon Hyun Yun and Hiroki Okada, twice. He's generally struggled against the best domestic level foes, but has shown he belongs in there, and he has developed with experience.
Although Aso is well known and experienced at the top of the domestic tree the same cannot be said of Konno. In fact Konno's most notable bouts to date have all resulted in losses, with defeats coming to the likes of Hisao Narita and Kazuyoshi Kumano. To date his best wins have been over the likes of Kazuya Soma and Shusaku Fujinaka, which are decent wins but nothing outstanding.
Footage of Konno as easy to get as it is for Aso, and as a result it's harder to get a read on his style, but he's yet to be stopped, and has shown an ability to fight over 8 rounds at a good rate. This will however be a marked step up in class, and be his first over 10 rounds. Those two things alone will be a huge challenge for the 32 year old Kanagawa born fighter.
It's likely going to be a fun fight, and one fought at a high pace, but we suspect that Aso's extra experience will be the difference, with the champion coming out on top with a late stoppage, in a very fun and competitive bout.
For many fighters the OPBF title is a gateway to a potential world title fight. The belt might not always lead to biggest fights, but for many it is a gateway, and at the very least it tends to get the holders a world rankings. This coming Thursday we'll see one man hoping to use the OPBF title as a stepping stone, whilst another man will be looking to snatch the title away, and score their biggest win.
The bout in question will see world ranked OPBF Featherweight champion Ryo Takenaka (16-3-1,9) defending his title, for the 4th time, and battling against little known Korean challenger Sa Myung Noh (10-3, 3), who looks to secure a career defining victory.
Coming in to the bout Takenaka is one of the more proven Japanese Featherweights, he's faced a bit of a regional who's who, splitting a series with Ryol Li Lee losing to Hisashi Amagasa and scoring wins over Vinvin Rufino, Randy Braga and Ryuto Araya. During his career, which began in 2008, he has shown constant improvement and is a genuinely well schooled fighter with under-rated power, solid skills and he had developed his survival skills, following 2 stoppage losses including a 2014 bout to Amagasa.
Takenaka might not be a world champion in the making, especially given he is now 32, but he's a solid technical fighter who knows how to box, and can bang, as he showed against Rufino with a beautiful KO back in August 2015. That was a KO set up by his skills, but his power at Oriental level cannot be ignored.
Whilst Takeneke is seeking to extend his reign it's fair to say that Noh is looking to prove he's more than just a Korean domestic level fighter. Noh is a Korean Featherweight champion, but given the fractured Korean scene that doesn't say much, and given he lost last time out to Nam Joon Lee his limitations may have already been seen. It's worth noting that he was dropped last year by Min Suk Choi and hasn't really impressed, despite being a champion, on the Korean scene. In fact to date his biggest win has been a controversial one against Jaymart Toyco.
For the challenger the bout is massive step up. He's a good fighter, but he's not shown his ability above Korean domestic level, and although, like all Koreans, he doesn't know how to quit, he's not going to have the skills to hand with Takenaka, who should retain his title with real ease, by either wide decision or stoppage.
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.