Back in January we saw Japanese veteran Gakuya Furuhashi (27-8-1, 15) put in a career defining performance to break down Yusaku Kuga and claim the Japanese Super Bantamweight title, and in doing so gave us one of the very best fights of 2021. On August 2nd we see Furuhashi return to the ring to make his first defense of the Japanese title as he takes on 23 year old youngster Seigo Hanamori (7-3, 5), in what look like an easy first defense for the talented and all action champion. Whilst this looks like a mismatch, we do need to take a closer look and see if Hanamori can actually be a banana skin for Furuhashi, and whether, maybe, Furuhashi has had a career that is at it's peak, before a very, very sharp come down.
For those who haven't followed Furuhashi the 33 year old is a genuine fan favourite in Kanagawa and nearby Tokyo. He turned professional way back in 2007 and won the 2008 All Japan Rookie of the Year, winning his first 8 professional bouts along the way. Sadly however he started to pile up losses soon afterwards and went from 8-0 to 10-3 in just over 2 years. Just a few fights later he had fallen to 13-5 and it seemed like his career was going to be spent trying to fight his way out of the domestic mix. Since then however he has gone 15-3-1, fought for the Japanese title 3 times, winning it last year in his third shot, and held future world champion Yukinori Oguni to a majority draw in 2015. He has also maturing perfectly with age, winning his last 9 fights, the longest run of his career, including really good wins against Ryoichi Tamura, in 2019, and Kuga, earlier this year.
In the ring Furuhashi is a true blood and guts warrior. He gets in the ring, he wears his heart on his sleeve, and he fights. He's not a boxer, he's a fighter. He sets a high tempo, walks through fire when he needs to, sets a high pace, and really lets his shots go. He can be out boxed, he can be hurt, he can be beat, but at domestic level he's a real handful due to his incredible hunger and desire, toughness, work rate and refuse to lose attitude. It's those traits, rather than his boxing skills, that have seen him beating Tamura and Kuga in his last two bouts, and it's those traits that have made him such a huge fan favourite among the Japanese domestic fan base.
Whilst Furuhashi is a genuine name on the Japanese domestic scene the same cannot be said of Seigo Hanamora, who is, in fairness, a pretty obscure youngster, even for those who follow the Japanese scene in depth. He began his career in 2016 and had mixed success from the off, going 2-2 and 3-3 early in his days as a professional. Notably however he has won his last 4, all by stoppage, and has built some momentum coming into this fight. Sadly however his competition in those bouts has been very, very poor, and the one notable name on his record is Haruki Ishikawa, who stopped him in 2 rounds in 2018, and recently won a Japanese Youth title. Ishikawa is a very good fighter, but losing to him in 2 rounds is not a sign that someone is ready for a Japanese title fight. Especially not against a fighter like Furuhashi.
In the ring Hanamori is an aggressive fighter who throws everything with bad intentions. He's fun to watch, due to his aggressive nature, but he does leave himself open, he's very much there to be hit and he doesn't seem to hit as hard as he seems to think he does. He hammered away on John Yano in 2019 and took 5 rounds to stop him, and he had to put a lot into those 5 rounds before Yano ultimately wilted. Against someone like Furuhashi, who won't be bothered by his power, he's on to a hiding.
Hanamori might, one day, develop into a Japanese champion. It took Furuhashi over a decade and we might see the same for Hanamori. Here however we can't see anything but a loss for Hanamori. He'll come in confident, but be broken down, beaten up, and eventually stopped by a fighter who simply has too much of everything for him. Furushashi will take the fight to him, and will simply grind him down, likely within 5 or 6 rounds.
Prediction - Furuhashi TKO6
On August 2nd we'll see a new Japanese Youth Minimumweight champion being crowned as Shunsuke Isa (8-3-1, 1) clashes with Yuni Takada (8-7-2, 3) for a title recently vacated by Kai Ishizawa. On paper this is a clear mismatch, with Isa being the clear favourite, however as we all know records don't fight and we can't help but think that Isa may have bitten off more than they can chew here.
The 23 year old Isa, from Kawasaki, has been a professional since 2016, when he scored a TKO win over Dai Kamimachi. Despite scoring a stoppage in his debut he has shown no power at all since then, failing to register any stoppages in his 11 subsequent match ups. Early on in his career he showed some real promise, winning his first 4 bouts before losing to Retsu Akabane in the 2017 East Japan Rookie of the Year. Since then he has had very mixed results, going 4-2-1, and struggling in a number of those wins. More notable than the results however is the fact that in 2019 he was out pointed by Yuni Takada, the man he will be facing against here.
In the ring Isa is a fun fighter to watch. Despite his lack of power he lets shots go, he uses a lot of movement, and is a surprisingly aggressive fighter for someone with little to no stopping power. He's quick, he's full of energy and he's looks like someone who could develop into a decent fighter, one day. Sadly though he looks very much rough around the edges. His lack of physical maturity and power is one thing but he's also lacking in terms of accuracy, punch selection and at times composure. Things he will improve with experience and age, but for now there are clear flaws that fighters can take advantage of.
With just 8 wins in 17 bouts Yuni Takada has the record of a very, very limited fighter. What those numbers don't show however, is that the 23 year old is no push over and that he has faced some very, very good fighters over the years. His opponents include recent Japanese title challengers Tatsuro Nakashima and Huzuko Saso, recent WBO Asia Pacific title challenger Toshiki Kawamitsu, as well as former Japanese champion Norihito Tanaka and the hugely talented Kai Ishizawa. Not only that but he's actually managed to be competitive with some of those, earning a draw with Saso and taking rounds from Ishizawa and Tanaka. So whilst his record looks poor, Takada is certainly a better fighter than his record suggests.
In the ring Takada has a really some really nice tools in his aresenal. He has an excellent jab, good movement, good balance, and under-stands what he's doing in the ring. Like Isa he lacks power, but does seem much more polished, and is very quick. We'd like to see more from him in terms of work rate, but when he does pick up his pace he does look like a real prospect, despite his record. He's also pretty accurate when under pressure, which he used to great effect in the first bout with Isa in 2019. Since then he has had some of his toughest fights, best performance and learned so much.
With Takada having already beaten Isa, and having learned so much since then, we strongly favour him here. Isa has the tools to come good, and we think he will in the future, but right now we think he lacks the power needed to get Takada's respect, or hurt him. We think that whilst he will have moments, he will be out worked, out landed and out fought, in an entertaining, competitive but clear win for Takada.
Prediction - UD8 Takada
Over the last few years no Japanese title has been treat quite as strangely as the national Bantamweight title, which would be well within it's rights to have some sort of complex after what it's been through. Since Ryo Akaho won it in August 2017 it has been fought for just 3 times, successfully defended once, vacated twice, and had a host of bouts for it cancelled due to health issues, such as illness and a fighters missing weight. It must get the feeling that no one really wants it. Despite a lineage that includes legends of the sport, such as Yoshio Shirai, Naoto Takahashi, Joichiro Tatsuyoshi, Yasuei Yakushiji, Toshiaki Nishioka and Shinsuke Yamanaka.
That lineage will have another name added to it this coming Monday as Kyosuke Sawada (14-2-1, 6) takes on Ikuro Sadatsune (11-4-3, 4) for the currently vacant belt. Whilst the title may have been treated badly in recent years, it's clear, coming in to this, that both of these men are desperate to call themselves a Japanese champion and both are looking for the biggest win of their career, so far.
Of the two men it's Sawada who has earned this shot more. He actually earned a shot at the title back in 2019, when he beat Kazuki Tanaka in a Japanese title eliminator. That was meant to set up a bout with the then champion Yusuke Suzuki, who defeated Sawada back in 2013, but sadly Suzuki was forced into retirement following his bout with Yuta Saito. As a result Sawada was sat waiting for a shot at the vacant title when Covid19 destroyed the Japanese boxing schedule. That wait went on, and on, until Sadatsune stepped up to the challenge and and we ended up getting this bout arranged for a date in May. A date that would be postponed it's self due to Covid19 forcing a number of shows in Japan to be scrapped.
Despite all the issues around the title and bout we're expecting a good one here between a former amateur standout, Sawada, and someone who turned professional young and has learned the sport on the job, becoming a very good fighter in the process.
The 33 year old Sawada has been a professional since 2013, following an amateur career that had more than 80 bouts and around 60 wins. He turned professional with high expectations on his shoulders, but was matched hard from the off, and suffered back to back losses to Yusuke Suzuki, in Sawada's debut, and Hiroaki Teshigawara to start his career 0-2. Since then however he has turned things around, going 14-0-1 (6) and scoring notable wins over the likes of Kinshiro Usui, Yosuke Fujihara, Keita Nakano and Kazuki Tanaka. Those wins had lead him to becoming one of the main players on the Japanese domestic scene at 118lbs and one of the more under-rated domestic fighters.
In the ring Sawada really does rely on his amateur background. A lot. He's a pure boxer with good movement, good technical boxing skills and the sort of fighter who likes to do things at range on his jab and his straight shots. When dragged inside he can handle himself, but is very much happier at range where his shots seem to flow effortlessly. At his best he's a joy to watch, with fluid combinations and sort, though not destructive, power. At the age of 33 however, and with 21 months of ring rust coming in to this, we do wonder what he's going to look like here.
Aged 23 Sadatsune is a boxing baby, however he's been a professional since he was 17 and debuted way back in September 2015. He began his career with a 6 fight unbeaten record, going 5-0-1, before a loss in 2016, at the East Japan Rookie of the Year final, ended that run. Sadly he then struggled to get going again and fell from 5-0-1 to 6-2-2 in less than a year. It seemed like his career was going nowhere before he rediscovered some form winning 3 in a row before two razor thin losses in 2019, losing to Kenshin Oshima and Sho Ishida in bouts that he had a very valid claim to have won. Those setbacks could have been big but Sadatsune just kept ploughing on and picked two wins to get his career back on track before the pandemic struck, and slowed his ascent and he's now been out of action for around 18 months.
In the ring Sadatsune isn't as well schooled or as natural a boxer as Sawada, but he is a fighter who is improving with every fight, is criminally under-rated. He's strong, tough, has very over-looked technical skills and has more than held his own with the likes of Sho Ishida. He's also a southpaw, which further adds problems to facing him, and although he's not a big puncher he will hit harder as he matures physically, and now at 23 we suspect he will begin to show more and more pop. Since his 2017 loss to Kai Chiba, his second loss, he has never looked a clear second best in the ring, and has instead looked like a really hungry fighter who wants to prove something every time he fights. Whilst it is worth nothing that he's been inactive he does actually work at the boxing he fights out of, and we suspect with that in mind he will have stayed fit over the last 18 months or so and we think that could pay dividends here.
Had this bout taken place in 2020, we would have favoured Sawada, who at 32 would have been at the back end of his prime and would have been coming in on the back of the win over Kazuki Tanaka. With the long lay off however a lot of small things have changed against him. He's been inactive, he's aged, he's got ring rust, the momentum of his win over Tanaka, Nakano, Fujihara and Usui are now history and in that same time Sadatsune has matured and at 23, heading to 24, he's coming into his physical prime, he's developing as a man and is moving from a fresh faced boy to a fully fledged man.
We think the delay will actually swing this one from a Sawada win to a Sadatsune win, albeit in a very, very close decision. We see his youth, energy and the time Sawada has been out of the ring being the keys in a close, well fought, technical bout. We expect to see Sadatsune have that extra little bit of hunger and energy when he needs it, and to just bite down that bit harder than Sawada. It'll be close, it'll be amazingly competitive, but we see Sadatsune just, narrowly, coming away with the victory.
Prediction - SD10 Sadatsune
One of the unique, but truly brilliant, things about Japanese boxing is their domestic Youth title. It helps stop young hopefuls from meandering early in their career's and gives them something to fight for, before maturing and preparing for a proper Japanese title fight. The title might not have the reputation of the full national title, which is one of the most highly regarded titles below world level, but it's added a new spice in recent years to the Japanese domestic scene and has given us some amazing bouts since it was created just a short few years ago.
We expect another when Tsubasa Narai (7-0, 6) and Kyonosuke Kameda (6-2-1, 5) clash for the Japanese Youth Featherweight title, and put it on the line in what should be a very, very explosive, and very exciting clash.
The match up isn't one that will get international attention, but fans at the EDION Arena Osaka are in for a real treat, between two men who are young, exciting, heavy handed and flawed. Neither are the smartest or smoothest boxer. Neither has an impenetrable defenses, but both like to let their hands go, and both have fight ending power.
Of the two men it's fair to say Kameda is the more well known. He's the cousin of the Kameda brothers, and turned professional in with a lot of noise around him, on a show that was put together essentially put together by Koki Kameda at the very start of 2018. Despite the chatter around him, and his cousin matching him up, he also actually lost on debut, being stopped in 2 rounds by Shinnosuke Kimoto. Since then however Kameda has bounced back and gone 6-1-1 (5) with his two set backs being relatively understandable ones. The first was a draw in 2019 to the awkward Ryugo Ushijima, in the East Japan Rookie of the Year, and the second was a split decision loss in the All Japan Rookie of the Year final, against Jinki Maeda.
Between his losses we saw Kameda pick up some genuinely solid wins, including a victory over the then unbeaten Tom Mizokoshi, and a TKO win over the then 5-0 Daiki Imanari. He also score a notable win last year against Daiki Asai last year. He's not the most polished fighter out there. In fact he is very much a rough around the edges fighter, but he's very heavy handed and is a freak at Featherweight, standing at around 6".
Whilst Kameda has the Kameda name helping him with his career, and with the attention he's had, Narai doesn't have that and has instead depended on making a mark with his fists. Something he has done really well. He debuted in April 2019, with a TKO win overKento Nakano, and stopped Taison Mukaiyama just weeks later. At that point it seemed like he was well on the way to a place in the 2019 East Japan Rookie of the Year, before he sadly had to pull out of the tournament. At that point in time he was fighting at Super Bantamweight. More than a year after the victory over Yazan we saw Narai return to the ring as a Super Featherweight and re-enter the Rookie of the Year, and this time he went all the way, stopping all 4 of his opponents on route to winning the All Japan tournament. In fact he stopped all 4 of his foes in the tournament in a combined 9 rounds and looked very, very impressive doing so.
Interestingly, despite being the All Japan champion at Super Featherweight, Narai isn't a big fighter. He's he's around 5'4" and will be the shorter, smaller man when he gets in the ring with Kameda. In fact Kameda will seriously tower over him. Despite that Narai looks to be the more polished boxer, he's certainly the more aggressive and the bigger puncher. He does appear to have some defensive issues, and has been tagged in the past by lesser fighters than Kameda. Given how small he is, he will have to take risks, he will struggle with the size, but if he can sneak in, land his devastating right hand, we could end up seeing Kameda's chin being given a real check.
On paper Narai is likely to enter as the favourite. He's unbeaten and will have a lot of momentum coming into this on the back of his Rookie triumph. He's in great form, the man moving down in weight, and is a very, very dangerous fighter. He is however the man who will be much smaller, and could find himself really struggling to get around the jab of Kameda. If that happens, and if Kameda fights a responsible and intelligent, performance, he could frustrate Narai, rack up the rounds, and eventually catch Narai coming in, when he gets desperate. If he can do that we suspect he'll unload and force a late stoppage, or cruise to a clear decision.
That however would take a lot of concentration from Kameda and is not something he's consistently shown through his career. Instead we suspect Kameda will look to use his jab, use his reach, but end up making mistakes and getting tagged by Narai. When that happens we expect to see Kameda seeing red and trying to fight fire with fire. When that happens it'll become a shoot out, and we favour Narai in that situation.
We might see him hit the canvas at some point, but we favour Narai here, by stoppage.
Prediction - Narai TKO4
This coming Friday fight fans at the EDION Arena Osaka will get the chance to see 23 year old hopeful Riku Kano (17-4-1, 8) look to defend his WBO Asia Pacific Light Flyweight title for the first time, as he takes on the once touted Takumi Sakae (22-3-1, 16). On paper this really is a strange one. Both men are relatively young, with Kano being 23 and Sakae being 27, but neither man is in a position where they can afford a loss. At least not if they want to land a big fight in the next few years. They are two men who desperately need the regional title to remain relevant, and knowing that can often add a lot of excess pressure on to a fighter's back.
Of he two men the more well known is Riku Kano, the 23 year old champion who was once being groomed as the next Japanese wunderkind, though has sadly fallen well short of expectations. He debuted at the age of 16 in the Philippines, and despite losing on debut bounced back quickly and won the WBA Asia Minimumweight title just a year later. He then went on to win the OPBF "interim" title and fought Katsunari Takayama for the WBO world title in 2016, aged just 18! Sadly however Takayama out worked him on route to claiming a technical decision. Since that loss Kano has never really looked like a special talent, losing inside the distance to Jerry Tomogdan and Shin Ono, and struggling in other wins, including victories over Naoya Haruguchi, Tetsuya Mimura and, most recently, Ryoki Hirai.
Although once regarded as a genius prospect Kano's failings have become more and more apparent over the years. Against Takayama he was outworked by a man around twice his age, against Tomgodan he was broken and battered, against Ono we saw Kano pretty much fall apart and unravel after a cut, showing questionable heart, and in other bouts, even his wins, we've had to question his work rate and hunger. He pretty much comes across as a fighter missing a lot of the most vital tools for a star. Despite that there is still a lot to like about Kano, and you can understand why so many were excited about him at the age of 17. He's quick, he's sharp, he's light on his feet, has a good sense of distance and timing, and understands what he needs to do in the ring. He just sadly misses a lot of the physical traits needed to take that understanding and make it work in the ring. There's almost a sense that he thinks he's as good as he was told he was, and doesn't like it when fighters take it to him, and it almost offends him that fighters try to beat him. And rather than fighting with fire, he tends to crumble a little bit.
Takumi Sakae on the other hand turned professional in 2011 and ended up winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2013. He seemed to be moving towards success when he won the IBF Youth Light Flyweight title in 2015, but his rise through the ranks his a wall in 2016 when he lost to the then Japanese national champion Tatsuya Fukuhara. That was the start of a bad patch in his career as a technical draw to Lito Dante followed and a technical loss to Ryoki Hirai wasn't far behind. He had gone from a 22 year old with a 13-0 record to a 23 year old with a 14-2-1 record in the space of just 9 months. To rebuild he took on some very limited opponents, stropping 4 of his following 5, before losing against, this time to Norihito Tanaka in a Japanese title eliminator in 2018. Since then he has gone backwards, again, and faced very poor foes to try and rebuild some momentum.
On paper Sakae's record looks good, and not many fighters at 105lbs or 108lbs will have 16 stoppages in 22 wins. That makes him look like a legitimate puncher. In reality however his competition has been dreadful, and he's struggled when he's had to fight decent to good opposition. Sadly he's been stuck without a major promoter, fighting in Fukuoka, and not been able to develop his skills, and early potential has floundered, badly. He was also not helped but really never being able to get the fights he needed to prepare for his best opponents. Despite his flawed however Sakae isn't a bad fighter, he's just not one who has massively developed. He's got decent pop, a good work rate, he's tough, he comes to fight and, sadly, that can also lead to head clashes, and fights getting messy.
We feel that Kano is the better boxer, the more talented boxer, and the more technically skilled fighter. However we also know that skills aren't always the be all and end all, and sometimes the styles of the fighters involved is key and we actually think that will be the case here. We think that Kano's negativity will cause him a lot or problems against Sakai, who will trudge forward all day, and try to take the fight to the youngster. Kano won't have the power to get Sakae's respect and we actually see the challenger basing his game plan on that of Shin Ono. If he does that there is a very genuine chance he ends up stopping Kano here, at least if he comes with some real hunger.
We're picking the upset for this one, and going with a Sakae win, a career saving Sake win, by stoppage in the later stages of the fight.
Prediction - Sakae TKO11
On July 23rd we get a genuinely interesting WBO Asia Pacific Middleweight title bout, as veteran champion Yuki Nonaka (34-10-3, 10) takes on the once touted Koki Koshikawa (9-2, 6). Although the bout isn't a big one, and won't get much international attention, it is a really interesting one with a lot of sub-stories around it and different threads that need unpicking before the bout comes around.
For those unaware Nonaka is one of the real stalwarts of Japanese boxing. The now 43 year old began his career way back in 1999, and did so with some very mixed results going 2-3 in his first 5. Unlikely many fighters that have great longevity Nonaka really struggle early on. In fact at the age of 31 he was 19-7-2 (7), though by that point he had unified the Japanese and OPBF Light Middleweight titles. Amazingly since then Nonaka has gone 15-3-1 (3), reclaiming the Japanese title at 154lbs, and later winning the unified WBO Asia Pacific and OPBF titles at 160lbs whilst having a sensational late run to his career. Not only has he been getting good results, but also beating solid fighters, like Charles Bellamy, Yuto Shimizu, Ryosuke Maruki and Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa, all of whom were younger than Nonaka.
What has really been the key to Nonaka's success is his boxing brain and his fitness. He's never been a man with much power, or much speed, but he's a physical fit fighter with a really good boxing brain, in fact he almost beat Takeshi Inoue, by just keeping things simple, using good movement and countering the bull like Inoue. Not only is he smart, and does the little things really well, but he's also a tall, rangy southpaw, giving opponents even more problems in landing clean on him. It's also worth noting that his defense is, usually, very good and in his 47 professional bouts he has only been stopped once, and that was way back in 2002.
However with all that said it now needs noting that Nonaka hasn't fought in almost 2 years, with his last bout coming in September 2019 when he was run surprisingly close by Korean Hyun Min Yang, who was aggressive, busy and came to fight. Nonaka was cut in that fight, around the nose, and it was a really messy, tough bout that seemed to suggest father time was getting to him. And that was 2 years ago. We really need to wonder how's he going to look with the ring rusty at the age of 43. Can he still dig deep and can he still show the same skills and timing he did earlier in his career?
Koki Koshikawa made his professional debut in 2014 following an solid amateur background that saw him going 46-25 (23). He was expected to be moved quickly by the Celes gym, and debuted in 6 rounders before quickly moving into 8 rounders. Sadly however a loss in his 5th bout, to Koshinmaru Saito, slowed his ascent and he was out of the ring for more than 2 years afterwards. When he returned to the ring he scored 5 straight wins, but the most notable of those were a stoppage over former Japanese interim champion Daisuke Sakamoto and a close decision over Ratchasi Sithsaithong, with neither being a real headline grabbing win. Despite his competition he managed to get a shot at the Japanese Light Middleweight champion Hironobu Matsunaga in 2019, and despite looking good in the first round Koshikawa was broken down in 4 as Matsunaga retained his belt.
Sadly since losing to Matsunaga, in November 2019, we've not seen Koshikawa in the ring, and overall his career has fallen a long way short of expectations. He was supposed to be a domestic force, but lost to the two most notable domestic fighters he's faced. He has been outboxed by one and stopped by another, and coming in to this fight he's also moving up in weight.
Koshikawa is inactive, he's failed in his biggest fights, and he's moving up to Middleweight for the first time. However he can't be written off here. He was a good amateur, he has a decent boxing brain, at 30 years old he's pretty much in his prime and he will know this is his last chance to shine following the loss to Matsunaga. He has the boxing skills to be a problem, he has speed and decent movement, he lets his hands go well but he's also someone who has struggled on the bigger stages, and has come apart under pressure.
In their primes, there is no doubt that we'd strongly favour Nonaka. His skills, boxing brain, punch picking, timing and ring control of distance would be too much. He would catch Koshikawa coming in and rely on his straight shots, getting Koshikawa's respect, and racking up the rounds. Koshikawa would likely see out the schedule, but would look a bruised, beaten, battered man by the end of 12 rounds.
In their current guise however we really wouldn't be shocked by father time catching up with Nonaka. The veteran struggling to pull the trigger at times, falling short, being under pressure and missing when he does through. His body breaking down in front of us.
We're huge fans of Nonaka, and his career has been truly remarkable, but we actually suspect Koshikawa's youth and hunger will be a major issue, and he will manage to break down the veteran.
Prediction - TKO9 Koshikawa
On July 21st we get the chance to see a fantastic main event at Korakuen Hall as Japanese Flyweight champion Seigo Yuri Akui (15-2-1, 10) takes on the unbeaten Taku Kuwahara (8-0, 4). The bout may not have feature some huge name, but it's a match up between two men who have often been over-looked, and are quietly moving towards bigger and better things than the Japanese national title.
Given that neither man is a big name it's worth learning a little bit about both men before we look at how we think the bout will go.
The champion is a 25 year old from Okayama, a place not known as a boxing hotspot. Despite not having a big team behind him Akui has managed to make quite a lot of noise in his 18 bout career. He turned profession in 2014 and the following year he won the All Japan Rookie of the Year at Light Flyweight, aged 20. At that point in time he was 6-0-1 (2) and someone who looked promising, but not too much fuss was made about him, even with his Rookie of the Year triumph. He then went on a destructive run, stopping his following 5 opponents in a combined 7 rounds before losing to Junto Nakatani in August 2017. That bout said more about Nakatani than Akui, with Nakatani being too big and too good, but soon afterwards Akui bounced back with a blow out win over Masamichi Yabuki, the man who will challenge world champion Kenshiro Teraji later in the year. That win was followed by an unfortunate TKO loss to Jaysever Abcede in late 2018, when Akui suffered an injury and fought on with it until being stopped with just over 40 seconds left.
Since suffering his second loss Akui has been on a tear again, blasting out Yoshiki Minato and Shun Kosaka, both within a round with the win over Kosaka netting Akui the Japanese Flyweight title. He has also made a single defense of that belt, beating Seiya Fujikita last October, via 10 round decision.
With a 10 stoppages in 18 bouts it's easy to assume that Akui isn't a dangerous fighter. In reality however he's a vicious puncher, and a fast starter. From 15 professional wins he has managed to score 9 opening round stoppages, 10 stoppages in the first 3 rounds and has one got one decision win since the start of 2016. He is a brute of a puncher, a fast starter and a very, very dangerous man in the ring. Sadly though when fighters do see out the early stages of bouts with Akui he can be out boxed, out fought and can give him real problems. In saying that however he did impress with his engine and boxing skills against the tough Fujikita and that win did show there was more to him than his early power.
The 26 year old Taku Kuwahara was a very good amateur, with international experience, and despite originally being from Osaka he is now based in Kanagawa, fighting out of the Ohashi Gym, where he gets top quality training and sparring. There was some excitement about his debut in 2018, and he quickly built some buzz, but sadly it wasn't until 2019 that he managed to notch a couple of wins of real note, beating Jonathan Refugio and Ricardo Sueno. Those wins saw him build some real momentum, but that momentum, like with many fighters, was stopped in 2020 and he didn't fight at all during the the year. Thankfully however he returned to the ring this past March with a solid win, in a very exciting fight, with Yoshiki Minato. Notably Kuwahara went 8 rounds with Minato, a man blown out in a round by Akui.
Early in his career Kuwahara looked like a man with plenty of pop, stopping 4 of his first 5 opponents, but he's gone the distance in his last 3 and there are question marks about his punching power. However he is a high skilled boxer, with some lovely tricks up his sleeve, he's quick, he's sharp, and we've seen him go 8 rounds on 4 occasions, answering plenty of questions about his stamina. He also fights at a good tempo and keeps a high work rate whilst looking very relaxed in the ring.
Coming in to the bout it really is a compelling match up. Will Akui manage to launch himself to the next level with a big win in Tokyo? Will Kuwahara manage to make the most of his chance and take his first title? Will the power of Akui be too much for Kuwahara to handle? Will Kuwahara have the skills and experience to cope with the power and aggression of his foe?
The first thing we need to think about is whether Kuwahara can see out the early storm. We suspect that someone with the experience, amateur and professional, of Kuwahara should be able to fight smartly, being cautious early on, and then moving through the gears as the bout goes on. The second thing is whether or not Akui can change things when he's being out boxed, something we expect to see Kuwahara do. That's where we're less confident and we suspect that Akui will end up starting fast, being neutralised, and then really struggle to catch up with the quicker, sharper, smoother Kuwahara.
As the rounds go on we see Kuwahara getting more and more comfortable, and whilst he might end up eating a shot or two later in the bout, and we've seen him take some shots he's not needed to in the past, we don't see Akui managing to have any sustained success later in the bout. Instead we see Kuwahara having a scare or two, from single shots, but seeing them out and taking a clear unanimous decision over Akui, and becoming the new champion.
Prediction - UD10 Kuwahara
On July 17th we'll get the next Japanese Youth title fight, and it's a mouth watering on as teenage sensation Jin Sasaki (10-0, 9) attempts to defend his Japanese Youth Light Welterweight title against second generation fighter Kaiki Yuba (7-0-2, 5), himself the Japanese Youth Lightweight champion.
Coming in to this one we have the makings of something very special. We not only have two unbeaten fighters risking their "0", we also have two men who have real power facing off, and two youngsters who are each looking to move on to bigger and better things than the youth title. In fact the bout also doubles as an eliminator for the Japanese senior title, with the winner in line to face Andy Hiraoka for the vacant Japanese 140lb title. The bout has explosive fighters, fighting for something meaningful and we really can't ask for more than that!
Coming in to this bout all the momentum is with the 19 year old Jin Sasaki, who won the title in December when he battered Aso Ishiwaki in 3 rounds. That was Sasaki's 3rd stoppage win of 2020, his fourth successive stoppage, and his 10th straight win. Not only that but was, in many ways, a fight that saw Sasaki prove a lot more than we'd seen from him in the past. Prior to that win Sasaki had been blitzing fighters, with his power and aggression being the key to his wins, and he hadn't really had to show much in terms of boxing skills. Against Sasaki however we saw him relax more and show there was more to him that brutally heavy hands in what was a career best win.
Despite being just 19 Sasaki is a special talent. He has genuinely nasty power, very under-rated boxing skills, but also a real understanding of what being a star is all about. He brings showmanship to the ring, he oozes charisma and has that must watch quality that stars have. Whether he can reach the top is unclear, but at 19 he ticks pretty much every box a fighter can tick, and he looks like someone who just "gets" it. He is someone who understands what boxing is, what he is doing in the ring, and how he needs to act to build his reputation. He is however still a boxing baby with just 21 professional rounds to his name, since his debut in 2018, and he has only been beyond 3 rounds once in his career. He's very inexperienced, and we do have question marks about his chin and his stamina, but from what we have seen he looks every bit a star of the future.
At the age of 22 Yuba is the older, more mature fighter, and standing at 5'10 he's also the taller man, but he's actually moving up in weight here having won the Japanese Youth Lightweight title in early 2020, in his most recent bout. Moving up and down the weights does however, run in the Yuba blood line with his father being the legendary Tadashi Yuba who won Japanese titles in 5 weight classes during his long and storied career. Like his father Yuba is a tall, rangy fighter, with heavy hands, but flawed defense and sadly a frustrating history of head clashes, which have resulted in both of his professional draws. Sadly for him he's not fought since January 2020, and as a result he enters this bout on the back of a long period of inactivity, but that win was the biggest of his career.
In the ring Yuba is a talented boxer-puncher who fights out of the southpaw stance. He's a patient fighter, who likes to control behind his long lead hand and line opponents up for his heavy straight left hand. At times he does seem over-eager to land his left, with his poise going as he over-extends and at other times throws the left when well out of range, but most of the time he does show good composure, timing and very good counter punching skills. Like his father he does love his own power, and in fairness to him it is nasty when he lands, but he is much more polished than his father ever was, and is a better boxer than his dad, even if he's not quite the same puncher his father became.
On paper we really like this fight. Sasaki's aggression and power against Yuba's counter punching and power. Sadly though fights aren't won and lost on paper, and we can't help but feel things are stacked against Yuba. His inactivity feels like it could be an issue, moving up in weight seems like it could be a problem, and fighting in Sasaki's home of Hachioji could also be an issue. With out the ring rust we suspect Yuba would have a real chance here with his patience, his timing and his counter shots. But with such a long lay off, we think it'll take him 3 or maybe 4 rounds to get a read on Sasaki, and that's 3 or 4 rounds he doesn't have.
We expect Sasaki to jump on Yuba, apply a lot of pressure, and take the fight to the taller man from the off. Yuba might catch him with a counter or two, but will have to take some heavy leather in the process, and we suspect that Sasaki will hurt Yuba when he lands. Yuba will try to fight back, but we suspect the added weight and strength of Sasaki will play a major role in breaking him down, and this could be over in 4 rounds with Sasaki picking up his latest win.
Don't get us wrong, Yuba has a chance. He has the power and skills to catch Sasaki, and if he does we could see our prediction turn out to be very wrong, but we're backing the teenage terror here.
Prediction - TKO4 Sasaki
On July 16th we'll see a new OPBF Minimumweight champion being crowned as Melvin Jerusalem (16-2, 10) clashes with Toto Landero (11-5-2, 2) for the vacant title, in a second bout between the two men who fought back in 2018. Although the bout isn't a huge bout for global boxing, it is a very, very interesting one between two former world title challengers each looking to move towards a second shot at the top.
Of the two men the more well known, and more proven, is Jerusalem. The 27 year old who is now based in Cebu City has been a professional since 2014 and quickly impressed with some displays of real power punching as he raced out to 8-0 (7) within 2 years of his debut. He then got his first gut check, taking on former world champion Florante Condes, and beat the heavy handed Condes by decision. That win put him in the mix for a world title fight and just 11 months later he challenged Wanheng Menayothin, giving the then WBC champion one of his toughest bouts. Sadly after a close decision to Wanheng we then saw Jerusalem lose to tricky compatriot Joey Canoy in July 2017.
Since losing to Wanheng and Canoy we've seen Jerusalem get his career back on track with 5 straight wins, including one over Philip Luise Cuerdo and one over his upcoming opponent Toto Landero.
In the ring Jerusalem is an aggressive fighter, who lets a lot of shots go. He sets a high work rate, has heavy hands and really does bring the fight to his opponent, wearing them down with tenacity and volume. Whilst he is usually ultra aggressive, he is also very flawed, throwing a lot of shots that don't land, and being open to counters. He's also very messy at times, fighting with a mentality of hitting anywhere, and he was actually deducted points in both of his losses. Notable without the point loss against Wanheng he'd have earned a majority draw! His wild and sloppy work is a real flaw and something that he tends to get away with, but can be a problem against his best opponents.
Although Jerusalem is the more well known that doesn't mean Landero is a total unknown himself. In fact the 25 year old has been a professional since 2013, and like Jerusalem he went on a decent unbeaten run to begin his career, going 8-0-2 (2) in his first 10. Whilst the names he beat in that early run aren't amazing he did manage to beat Rolly Sumalpong and scored two wins over Philip Luis Cuerdo. Interestingly his unbeaten run came to an end in 2016, when he lost to Joey Canoy, before bouncing back and scoring an excellent win over Vic Saludar, the best win of his career so far. Sadly in his 6 bouts since beating Saludar we've seen Landero going 2-4, however his losses have come to notable names including Knockout CP Freshmart, Simpiwe Konkco, Jerusalem himself and Tibo Monabesa. Whilst those are, understandable losses, they are still losses that have killed any momentum Landero had on the back of beating Saludar.
In the ring Landero is very much a pure boxer. He's quick on his toes, he throws lots of jabs, looks to fight at range and is relatively busy, though not as busy as Jerusalem. Sadly though everything for him depends on his jab, and it's not a shot with much pop on it. In fact it's very much a pawing jab, a stay away from me shot, rather than anything hurtful or meaningful. Against fighters with poor footwork, or limited work rate his style works, but against most others his lack of power is a real issue, and doesn't impress judges. In fact that's likely why he has been losing in his most notable bouts.
Sadly for Landero we suspect his lack of stopping power, and low work rate, will be an issue again here. Landero is the better boxer, by some margin, but Jerusalem is the better fighter, and we suspect the pressure, aggression and work rate of Jerusalem will be the key here. Landero will stick the jab in Jerusalem's face, and have success early on, but as Jerusalem's engine gets going he will out work and out fight Landero to take either a late stoppage or a clear, decision.
Prediction - UD12 Jerusalem
On July 14th we get another sensation regional title match up in Japan as the unbeaten pairing of Ginjiro Shigeoka (5-0, 4) and Toshiki Kawamitsu (6-0, 3) clash for the WBO Asia Pacific Minimumweight title, which Shigeoka will be trying to defend for the second time. The match up pits two touted youngsters against each other in a bout that not only looks good on paper, but should also be a stylistic joy to watch with the two men having very different styles, but styles that should gel really well.
The talented, yet diminutive, Ginjiro Shigeoka was a standout amateur in Japan, only losing a single bout in the unpaid ranks, before turning professional in 2018 with very high expectations on his shoulders. He quickly showed what he could do, as an aggressive, explosive, boxer-puncher. He raced through the ranks, winning his regional title less than 12 months after his debut and seemed on the verge of stardom at the end of 2019, when stopped former world title challenger Rey Loreto.
At that point in time Shigeoka was the hottest prospect in Japanese boxing and as we entered 2020 it seemed he was only a fight or two away from a world title shot. And then Covid hit and Shigeoka hasn't fought since the pandemic started, costing him a lot of momentum and around 19 months of his career. Thankfully however he is still only 21 years old.
Prior to his break from the ring Shigeoka looked like he had all the tools to go a very, very long way. He was quick, sharp, physically imposing, picked his shots well, with great power up top and to the body, and despite being a born puncher he was scary quick. He looked like the only thing he was lacking was a little bit of experience, and he was rushing things just a little bit at times, but for a novice he looked like a nailed on future world champion and like a future star of Japanese boxing. Sadly with such a long lay off, it's hard to know just what he'll look like here. Will he be as sharp as he used to be? Will he be as hungry as he once was?
Aged 25 Toshiki Kawamitsu is not someone many outside of Japanese would have been too aware of until left year. That's despite the fact he was a solid amateur himself, and looked good in his early bouts, showing good technical skills, a nice engine and a good work rate. It wasn't until 2020 however that he really made a mark on the sport, upsetting former amateur standout Kenshi Noda in what was a genuine gem of a clash in October. He then build on that by taking out Kosuke Ando in January 2021, when he was called as a late replacement. With those two wins, and 6th round TKO over Yuni Takada, he has 3 solid domestic wins, all by stoppage, coming into this bout.
In the ring Kawamitsu is a good technical fighter, who enjoys fighting up close, applying educated pressure, picking his shots well, taking counter shots on the arms, and breaking down opponents with his clean punching. Since moving beyond 4 rounders he has really impressed with his work rate, accuracy, and ability to find holes in defense whilst mentally and physically forcing fighters to crumble. He does, at times, look a little bit like he could be hurt by a big puncher, and Noda did seem to rock him at one point. Not only does he have a good style though, it also seems he'd comfortable moving up and down the scales, with his last 3 fighters taking place at Minimumweight, Light Flyweight and Flyweight, and the reality is that his frame could fill into a good sized Super Flyweight down the line.
Had this bout been taking place early to mid 2020 it would have been one where we would have been confidently picking Shigeoka. He looked like someone special whilst Kawamitsu looked like a capable, but inexperienced, novice. Now however the bouts is actually a trickier on to pick. Especially given how Kawamitsu has looked in his last few bouts. We would still favour Shigeoka, his power, speed and physicality are terrifying and his body shots are crippling. However this is not a foregone conclusion. There's a chance that Kawamitsu could survive the power of Shigeoka, and could begin to grind down the inactive and rusty champion. The size difference could be key, and Kawamitsu is significantly bigger than Shigeoka, and the styles of the bout could also play a major fact.
We suspect Shigeoka will want to get close to Kawamitsu, but at the same time that's actually Kawamitsu's wheel house, as we saw against Noda where he protected himself well up close, and landed a lot of shots, wearing down Noda. If he can do that against Shigeoka he could end up stopping the champion. But that is a big "if".
We're expecting Shigeoka to look rusty for a round or two, to be under pressure from Kawamitsu, and to genuinely struggle with the bigger man. But eventually the power of Shigeoka will get the break through he needs, likely with a body shot, and he'll take out Kawamitsu in the toughest bout of his career, so far.
Prediction - TKO7 Sheigoka
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.