November 5th is a hectic day for fight fans who really got so much action that some stuff will simply be over-looked due to the big name fighters on the show in Las Vegas. Before the Las Vegas action, featuring the likes of Manny Pacquiao, Nonito Donaire and Zou Shiming, we also get the chance to see an OPBF Flyweight title bout, with the all action Daigo Higa (10-0, 10) looking to make the first defense of his title and continue perfect KO run as he takes on Filipino fighter Felipe Cagubcob Jr (6-2-5, 2). On paper this looks like a mismatch, and an easy first defense for Higa, however is it really that straight forward for the destructive champion, or could he actually be tested here?
Of course it makes sense to start this by looking at the champion, who has been dubbed the “Romagon of Okinawa” due to his stylistic similarities to Roman Gonzalez. Higa is an ultra aggressive pressure fighter who, like Gonzalez, cuts the ring off wonderfully, though devastating combinations to both head and body and appears to be more defensively sound than people realise. Not only is he incredibly exciting but his competition has also been impressive in recent years with wins against the likes of Kongfah CP Freshmart, Renren Tesorio and most recently Ardin Diale.
Higa is arguably the most exciting Flyweight on the planet. He's aggressive, exciting and looks for a stoppage in every bout. Whether that run continues right to the top is yet to be seen however he's already becoming a star in Japan with G+ televising his bouts and his mentor Yoko Gushiken helping him with his progression and growing fame.
Although yet to beat a truly world class opponent it does look like Higa is a fighter who will beat a number of the top guys, in fact it looks like he could already beat the likes of Zou Shiming, Kwanpichit OnesongChaigym and numerous other leading contenders. In many ways this coming bout is the next test as he continues to advance towards a world title, but appears to be hunting a defense to prove his championship status before getting a world title fight, likely early next years.
Sadly it's much harder to talk about Cagucob's style than it is about Higa's. Footage of Higa has been easy to come by, with a lot of his bouts being televised, however the Filipino is almost a mystery man in terms of style, with no footage available. That's disappointing however we have been interested in by his record which certainly looks better in reality than the numbers suggest. The 25 year old stopped Donny Mabao in 4 rounds back in July his only losses have been to Jake Bornea and Renz Rosia, and he has fought to draws with Lloyd Jardeliza, twice, and Joey Canoy, all in all not terrible results. He's also a southpaw, we believe the first that Higa will have faced.
Whilst his record is messy it's interesting to see that he has been in great form recently, after a bizarre 1-5-2 start to his professional career. He has since gone 5-0 (2) and has developed from the fighter he was in the early stages of his career. This is however his first fight outside of the Philippines, and only his third fight outside of the Metro Manila region.
With little footage of Cagucob available it's impossible to get a read on his style however to beat Higa he will have to be tough and either be tough enough to win a fire fight up close, protecting himself and finding holes Higa's under-rated defense. Of frustrate and out box Higa, another tough proposition given that Higa cuts off the ring amazingly well. That's not to take say it' impossible to beat Higa in other ways but he does seems like the fighter who will be incredibly difficult to beat and has proven his durability with his war against Kongfah CP Freshmart.
Given that Caguob's sole stoppage loss has come from a body shot, and Higa really does throw some sensational, the probably outcome is that the Filipino will likely be broke down, with the body shots being a key. The Filipino will likely look to fight fire with fire, but we'd be shocked to see him really push Higa here, with the the Japanese fighter being a human steam roller and suspect that will be seen again here.
The Minimumweight division has been one where Asian fighters have been the kingpins and in recent years we've seen fighters like Katsunari Takayama, Wanheng Menayothin, and Knockout CP Freshmart all ruling the roost at world level. Below the elite level are other Asian fighters looking to leave their mark and on November 3rd we see two of those face off in a bout for the Japanese title, as defending champion Tatsuya Fukuhara (17-4-6, 6) looks to defend his title against the fast rising Genki Hanai (7-0, 5). The bout won't immediately send the winner into a world title fight, but it will help prepare them for a bout at the top level.
Of the two men Fukuhara is the more distinguished. He's the current Japanese champion and has made 2 defenses since winning the title last November, over-coming Hiroya Yamamoto for the then vacant title. Those defenses have seen him take a win over the previously unbeaten Takumi Sakae and fight to a technical draw with former world title challenger Shin Ono, with that Ono bout coming in mid-September.
Whilst his 3 fights at Japanese title level have brought Fukuhara some fame he has got other notable bouts on his record. Those include a win over the then 5-0 Koki Ono, losses to Takuma Inoue and Yu Kimura as well as a draw with Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr.
Tough with intelligent movement, a solid toughness, a southpaw stance, a good engine, and sharp punching Fukuhara is a bit of a nightmare to get into a fight with. He can be out boxed, and probably out fought, but not many will win beat him at a domestic level, and he's a very capable boxer, despite lacking real power. Not only is he tricky to beat but he's also generated a big following in Kumamoto and will be fighting at the Foodpal Kumamoto, which has become a boxing home for him with 8 previous bouts there including his last 3 contests.
Whilst Fukuhara is well established on the domestic scene it's fair to say that the guy who has gotten the more attention coming into this bout is actually the unbeaten challenger, with Hanai being tipped as a potential star from the off. In fact since his debut in March 2014 many have tipped him to follow the likes of Kosei Tanaka and Ken Shiro and be fast tracked into title bouts. That expectation was obviously something his team believed in 2014 when he beat Crison Omayao in just his third bout.
Sadly after the win over Omayao we saw a huge change in Hanai's trajectory, which went from “mega fast rise” to “develop him a bit”, and since then he's had 4 bouts, including a surprisingly competitive one with Il Che earlier this year. Those 4 bouts have lasted just a combined 15 round, with the last of those bouts being a 32 second blow out against hapless Thai Poomsak Saknarong at the start of October.
In the ring Hanai has shown some variation. At time he's been an aggressive pressure fighter, bringing calculated and intelligent pressure into the ring. At other times however he looks more like a boxer, looking to use his skills to control and opponent. Sadly whilst he is touted there are numerous question marks still over his head, including how he'll manage to box over 10 rounds, how he'll fair in an opponents back yard and how he'll look against a capable southpaw.
On paper we think Hanai will win, he is after all the fast rising prospect ear marked for success and with an unbeaten record, in reality however this is a huge step up for him against a guy who looks to have improved significantly in recent years, and will have home advantage. If Hanai is as good as we first thought then he should claim the title, come through a really serious test and prove he is a diamond in the rough. If however Hanai's isn't quite what we thought then Fukuhara will retain the gold, and could well see his career move towards world title fights in 2017.
Although not one of Japan's deepest divisions the Light Welterweight division is slowly warming up, with a domestic scene being lead by current champion Hiroki Okada (13-0, 10), given that Keita Obara has out done the domestic picture with an OPBF reign and a world title fight. As the champion Okada has already notched 5 defenses and scored notable wins over the likes of Hayato Hokazono, Masanobu Nakazawa and Koichi Aso. On November 1st he looks to extend that reign and secure his 6th defense, as he battled veteran Valentine Hosokawa (20-5-3, 9), in what will impressively be the champion's 4th defense of 2016.
Okada won the Japanese title back in March 2014, when he took a wide and clear decision win over Masayoshi Kotake. Since then his career has really been on an upward trajectory, despite a lay off in 2015 when he broke his hand in sparring Yoshitaka Kato. That rise has seen him not only record 5 defenses of the Japanese title but also break into the world rankings, with the WBO listing him in their top 15, and receive some genuine international interest.
In the ring Okada isn't a hugely frightening proposition and he won't attempt to steam roll opponents, however that certainly doesn't mean he's not a good fighter. Unlike many fighters with real power Okada doesn't chase a stoppage, in fact quite often he fights as a counter puncher, with devastating shots off the backfoot, as fighters like Nakazawa and Aso can attest to. On the backfoot his uppercutt is something special. Although naturally a counter-puncher he can also fight going forward, but is very much a basic fighter going forward, using his straight punches to break down fighters.
Blessed with heavy hands, a good boxing brain and nice hand speed Okada is a handful, despite being flawed and not the quickest mover in the ring. On the Japanese domestic scene he is the king but now has fighters chasing him, like Daishi Nagata, and we could be on the verge of a really exciting period at 140lbs in Japan, something we've not really had in recent years.
At 35 years old the challenger will be coming into his third, and potentially final, title bout. His previous two both came back in 2013 when he was stopped in a Japanese title fight by Shinya Iwabuchi and then in OPBF title fight by Min Wook Kim, with both fights being damaging contests for Hosokawa. Since those defeats he has gone 4- (1) with a win over recent title challenger Cristiano Aoqui and a narrow loss to Noriaki Sato.
At his very best Hosokawa was a really tough, solid and game fighter. He however wasn't a top fighter and lacked any really outstanding quality. He wasn't a big puncher, he wasn't the quickest and he didn't have exceptional skills. He was though a grinder, with a good engine, a fantastic will to win and a never say die attitude. His two losses in title bouts showed his flaws, and took some of his prime, but also showed that he wasn't going to ever just lie down in the ring, even when a bout looked like a lost caused.
Sadly Hosokawa is several years removed from his best, he's a 10 year professional with serious mileage on the clock and we think that mileage will be added to here before he suffers his third career stoppage, likely quicker than his previous two given that he's now 3 years older than he was back then. Hopefully for Okada a win here will actually end with him dropping the title and hunting OPBF title bouts in 2017, rather than face a third bout with Aso.
One of most exciting fighters on the planet is Japanese Flyweight champion Takuya Kogawa (27-4, 13), who rarely has a bad fight and makes even the easy fights look hard, thrilling and fun. We saw that earlier this yea, when he defeated the limited but game Masafumi Otake and we suspect to see that again next week when he faces the relatively unknown Yudai Arai (8-3-3, 4). The bout will be Arai's first title fight, whilst Kogawa will be looking for his 4th defense of his current reign as Japanese champion.
Fight fans who have followed the lower weights over the years might be aware of Kogawa. The little man from Tokyo is the embodiment of the Japanese fighting spirit, he likes to really fight. When he gets in the ring there are limitations to what he does, he's not puncher, he's not lightning quick, he can be hurt and he's not elusive. He is however a complete and utter warrior who makes fights into wars, and wars in to epics.
Kogawa came to the attention of many lower weight fans back in 2011 when he challenged WBC Flyweight champion Pongsaklek Wonjongkam in Thailand. He came up short there but refused to fade away, winning the Japanese title for the first time in his very next fight, and holding it until late 2013 when he lost an incredible contest with Suguru Muranaka. That loss to Muranaka was followed by a hugely controversial defeat in Thailand to Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep. Since that loss we'vee see Kogawa have a resurgence with 5 victories, over-come the likes of Hiroyuki Hisataka, Tetsuma Hayashi and Masayuki Kuroda, whilst edging towards another world tile bout.
Aged 31 and with an 11 year career behind him Kogawa is on the back end of his career, especially given he has fought 200 rounds, but he's not looking like a fighter who is fading quickly and he could be around for another few years with his body holding up well for such a grinding battler.
The 24 year old challenger is certainly a major under-dog coming into this bout, but he'd be stupid to turn down the opportunity of a life time, and this really is the most significant bout of his career, by some margin. He turned professional in 2010 and began his career with a draw, before falling to 1-1-2. A 7 unbeaten run saw Arai advance his record to 6-1-3 (3) before back-to-back stoppage losses in 2015 put the brakes on his career. Since those losses he has scored back-to-back wins but has never competed near the top of the Japanese domestic scene.
Although footage of Arai is scarce it's fair to say that he's not a huge puncher, with 4 stoppages in 14 bouts, and with 3 stoppage losses against him he's also not the toughest of fighters. He is however a man being given a career changing opportunity and will have trained like a demon for this fight, and a potential chance to claim the Japanese title and a possible world ranking.
Although he'll be training hard Arai can't put muscles on his chin, or become a dynamite puncher suddenly. As a result we suspect he'll suffer a mid-to-late round stoppage, though put up a fun fight and probably go down swinging against Kogawa, who is looking to become the first fight to retain a title on two separate shows aired on boxingraise.com.
Earlier this year the Oriental boxing scene was shocked as the much unfancied Shintaro Matsumoto (13-4, 9) claimed the OPBF Super Middleweight title, upsetting former world title challenger Yuzo Kiyota. Part of the surprise was that Matsumoto managed to even see the final bell given he had been stopped twice previously by Kiyota, who had previously challenged for a world title.
This coming Monday Matsumoto looks to make the first defense of his title as he takes on once beaten Australian challenger Jayde Mitchell (9-1, 4) in one growing number of Japan Vs Australia bouts from this year.
The champion isn't anything special. Although he has 17 bouts not many of them are openly available to watch, but what there is out there certainly doesn't make him look anything particularly outstanding. He began his career back in 2008 and has suffered losses to Hiromitsu Miura, Robert Berridge and two defeats to Kiyota. Despite that he has improved in recent years and his win over Kiyota in April was, by far, his best win.
Matsumoto isn't the toughest, nor is he a big puncher, but he seems like the type of fighter who has started to bite down on his gum shield and refuse to go away quietly. He likely knows that another loss will be the end of his career and that could end either bring the best out of him going forward, or, potentially, see him essentially being happy to retire having claimed the OPBF title and gone further than almost anyone would have expected. That's not to say the title can't fill him with confidence and get the best out of him, but it could just mean that he's happy with what he's done and may be “happy” to know he's done more than most fighters.
Whilst footage of the champion is sparse there is plenty of footage of the visitor with the Australian having many of his fights currently available on youtube. Those include his opening round in over Gabor Farkas, who looked completely clueless in the ring. From the footage available Mitchell looks composed and patient. He's not the quickest, or most powerful, but comes into the ring with plenty of skill and nice timing. It is worth noting that he does look like a small Super Middleweight, almost a blown up Middleweight, but does have a lovely variety of shot, with his left hook to the body being very nice.
The footage of Mitchell makes him look like a pure boxer and we have seen him hurt before, with Francisco Benitez dropping him with a cuffing shot, even though the referee missed the call. He has however improved and matured from that bout, and at his best he looks really promising. There is however a lot between his promise and what he's delivered and this bout is a step up for the Aussie, who is fighting away from home for the first time.
Without trying to be mean to either fighter neither is exceptional, however that's part of the appeal here in what should be a really competitive bout. We think Michell is the better boxer, but he's a smaller Super Middleweight and is fighting in his opponents back yard, both of which may hinder him here. On neutral soil we'd favour Mitchell to get a close decision but in Japan though could be very, very close on the cards.
At it's best the OPBF title scene is one of the most interesting with a lot of great fighters winning the Oriental title before progressing into world title bouts. Fighters like Kosei Tanaka and Naoya Inoue both used the Oriental title as a stepping stone in recent years en route to proving themselves at world level. Other times they are at a slightly lower level, but usually a more competitive level. That's the case this coming Thursday when OPBF Featherweight champion Ryo Takenaka (14-3-1, 8) defends his belt against once beaten Filipino Randy Braga (19-1-1, 5).
Takenaka, a talented fighters from the Misako gym, won the title last year when he scored an eye catching KO win over former champion Vinvin Rufino. Since then he has defended the title just once, stopping the over-matched Akira Shono in 6 rounds.
Prior to winning the title Takenaka had had a career that had promised a lot but delivered little. He had turned professional with a lot of promise and was moved into 8 rounders in just his third bout. Sadly a technical draw against Nobuhisa Coronita Doi slowed Takenaka's progress before a disappointing 2012 saw him suffer losses to Masayuki Wakimoto and Ryol Li Lee. A winning run following those losses was ended in 2014 when he lost to the then OPBF champion Hisashi Amagasa, though came incredibly close to upsetting Amagasa.
Since the loss to Amagasa we've seen Takenaka go 3-0 (2) and prove that he's both a solid and well rounded boxer, as well as someone who hits harder than his record indicates. He's not world class, in any way, but he's a solid all rounder who shouldn't be ignored based on his losses. He's solid and whilst he's too old to really improve, given he's 31, he's still a very credible fighter and genuinely one of the top Featherweights in the Orient.
The once beaten Braga debuted back in 2006 though took a lengthy break after his debut bout, leaving the ring for more than 4 years. Since returning to the ring in 2011 he's been busy and built an impressive looking record. His competition hasn't been murderer's row but wins against Vergil Puton, Carlo Magali and Neil John Tabanao are all solid victories, and his only loss was a controversial one in South Africa to the big punching Macbute Sinyabi.
Although footage of Braga is rare and hard to hard we have seen him being dropped, with Danilo Pena dropping him with huge southpaw left hand. He recovered from that knockdown to defeat Pena but there are question marks about his chin, at least against decent Featherweights, and he'll be looking to avoid the under-rated power of Takenaka. If he can do that, and use his own skills, there is a good chance that he could out box Takenaka, or out work him up close.
Although the bout should be competitive we do imagine the champion has to be favoured here, and will probably make the second defense of his title, though should have to bit down and prove himself on route to a win
The Super Flyweight scene is arguably the hottest in the sport today with both great fighters and great match ups. Unlike many divisions the best seem happy to fight each each other and fighters like Naoya Inoue, Roman Gonzalez, Carlos Cuadras and Juan Francisco Estrada seem more focused on their legacies than on picking up easy win after easy win. Whilst the guys flying the flag for the division at the top are now becoming names known around the world the lower level guys are also not avoiding each other and when Sho Ishida vacated the Japanese title several fighters made it clear they wanted that gold and black title.
As a result of Ishida vacating we'll now the Japanese #1 and #2 face off with Kenta Nakagawa (12-2-1, 9) taking on Hayato Kimura (25-8, 16) for the vacant title. The two men are certainly very different, and have had incredibly different careers, but their hunger for the title is the same and both will come in to this looking to prove they are the better fighter.
The #1 ranked fighter coming in to this is the 31 year old Nakagawa, who made his professional debut in December 2004 but had a very frustrating start to the sport. After winning his debut he would lose to Yasutaka Ishimoto, yes the current Japanese Super Bantamweight champion, he would then fight once more in 2005 before spending more 6 years away from the ring. He returned to the ring with a loss, to fall to 2-2 but has since gone 10-0-1 (9) scoring notable wins over Jo Tanooka and Shuji Hamada as well as having technical draw with Toyoto Shiraishi.
Sadly footage of Nakagawa has been very hard to come by come into this one, however fans who have seen him have described him as a venomous puncher with his straight left and as he's a southpaw he's a nightmare to fight anyway. Although a puncher the fact he has a win over Tanooka suggests he can box as well as bang. Reports suggest that he is an exciting fighter and his win over Hamada was an eye catching KO.
Although very little footage of Nakagawa is out there the same cannot be said of Kimura who has had much of his career documented on film. He began his career in 2005 as a 16 year old fighting in Thailand before making a name for himself in Korea where he claimed the Korean national title in 2007. By the start of 2013 Kimura was 19-5 (14) having fought in Japan 7 times, Thailand 5 times, Korea 9 times and the Philippines, once. It was however from 2013 that he began to fight full time in Japan and he has since gone 6-3 in the land of his birth .
On paper that 6-3 record in Japan sounds pretty poor but he hasn't been matched easily with bouts against the likes of Marlon Tapales, Michael Dasmarinas, Jomar Fajardo, Sho Ishida and Toyoto Shiraishi. Given that level of competition his record is less poor, and given his “pre-Japan” record includes losses to AJ Banal and Oleydong Sithsamerchai it's again to say his record has suffered because he's tried to prove himself.
In the ring Kimura is a fast fighter with lovely hand speed and combinations, however he really lacks power at this level and struggles to get the respect of opponents. He's well schooled and tougher than one would assume, given he's got 3 stoppage losses but can still be hurt, though he now knows how to react to getting hit. His biggest flaw, at times, is actually knowing when to strike though he has proven to be capable late in fights and that could be a key here given that Nakagawa has only gone beyond 4 rounds once.
For Nakagawa the gameplan is obvious. Jump on Ishida, give him a shell shock early and don't let him off the hook, go for the finish and chase it before Ishida can take the bout in to the middle rounds. For Ishida the key is to avoid a tear up early on. If he can see off the early storm then he will grow into the fight whilst Nakagawa fades, and that could open the doors for the Watanabe man.
We think Nakagawa's power will be the difference, but we know that is Kimura can see off the early storm he really could take this in a potentially brilliant match u
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.