The 154lb division in Japan hasn't really been a particularly strong one, but it can still be a very interesting one, and the rare times it is relatively strong we do get some great fights. In 2018 we had an amazing example of that as Akinori Watanabe and Nobuyuki Shindo knocked lumps out of each other in a brilliant 10 round draw. Not all fights for the title are that good but when they are good, they tend to really be sensational.
On November 2nd we'll see bout between once beaten fighters, in what could be another instant classic for the title.
In one corner we will have new champion Hironobu Matsunaga (15-1, 9), who won the title in May when he stopped Shindo, and in the other corner will be the once touted Koki Koshikawa (9-1, 6), who is getting his first shot at the title.
Aged 32 Matsunaga is an example of what hard work, determination and a refusal to buckle after your first loss can do. In 2014 he reached the All Japan Rookie of the Year final, losing to Yuki Beppu in 2 rounds. That was at Welterweight. He then moved up in weight and has gone 9-0 (6) whilst notching notable victories over the likes of Hisao Narita, Sanosuke Sasaku, Je Ni Ma, Koshinmaru Saito and most recently Shindo. Despite the loss to Beppu in 2014 Matsunaga's career has easily over-shadowed the "Kyushu Tyson's" so far.
Matsunaga's success is impressive but he's had that success is telling. He's developed into a very good fighter, and gone about his work without too much fuss. He typically keeps things simple, and makes the most of his southpaw jab. There's nothing complicated about him, but he's persistent, has under-rated power and comes to fight. His left hand is solid and he always looks to get on the front foot and make opponents work to create their space. His head movement is smart and when he puts his foot on the gas he can go through the gears very quickly. The telling thing about him going through the gears is his style doesn't really change, he just does more and speeds things up, rather than taking significantly more risks.
Matsunaga's persistent front foot pressure, constant search for gaps and accurate output is a nightmare to go up against, and to beat him you really need to get his respect. He's not faced many punchers, and it will be interesting to see him in with one, but against opponents unable to hurt him he is a nasty fighter and is often all over his opponents.
At 28 years old Koshikawa is in the middle of his physical prime. Sadly though many had expected much more of him, much earlier in his career due to a solid reputation from his days in the amateur ranks. He turned pro more than 5 years ago and the hope was that Celes Kobayashi would guide him quickly through the ranks. Instead Koshikawa took more than 24 months out of the ring following a 2015 loss to Koshinmaru Saito, in what was Koshikawa's 5th bout and came just 15 months after his debut. Since his return to the ring he has scored notable wins over Daisuke Sakamoto and former OPBF champion Ratchasai Sithsaithong, whilst stringing together 5 wins, 4 by stoppage.
Sadly not a lot of Koshikawa footage is out there, though his win over Sakamoto was a good example of what he can do. Like Matsunaga he keeps things simple. He looks at his best when he's on the back foot, luring opponents in and setting the distance with his jab, however he can come forward and pressure pretty well when he feels in control. His right hand is a solid weapon and although he's not a 1-punch KO artist, he does chip away with his big shots and wears opponents down. He's still a bit reckless and rough around the edges, but physically strong and not an easy out at this level.
Given the fact that both men like to come forward we're expecting this to be a very fan friendly bout. Both are confident fighters, both are aggressive and both are pretty basic, which should give us a lot of trading and exchanges. The key issue is a question over who is the stronger man physically. If that's Matsunaga, which we suspect, then the fight could be a very close quarters war, and we wouldn't be surprised to see Koshikawa fighting off the ropes in a real under-rated war. If Koshikawa can force Matsunaga back, the fight really does change and we suspect his longer reach will come into play, and he will take a hard fought decision with his right hand really being used as a barge pole on the southpaw champion.
Prediction - UD10 Matsunaga
The main event of November's Dynamic Glove will be a Japanese Light Middleweight title bout as Hironobu Matsunaga defends his belt against Koki Koshikawa, interesting the winner of that bout will know their next opponent before their own fight. That's because the show's chief support bout is a Japanese Light Middleweight title eliminator pitting former champion Nobuyuki Shindo (20-5-2, 8) against Yuto Shimizu (13-4-2, 5), and the winners will be expected to face off at the Champion Carnival next year.
On paper this doesn't scream excitement or a great fight, but in reality both fighters are under-rated and, with the right dance partners, they can make for some sensational fights due to their flaws. This is seen most notable with Shindo who has been in his share of fantastic over the last few years.
The 33 year old Shindo is a physical freak at 6'1" and has the added benefit of being a southpaw, a very gangly and long southpaw. He's not a particularly big puncher, but he lands from really unusual angles and is a very relaxed fighter who can take punishment, and can dish it out. His 2018 bouts with Ryosuke Maruki and Akinori Watanabe, particularly the Watanabe one, were fantastic and showed what can happen when he's forced into a fight. Sadly his effort last time out, when he lost the Japanese Light Middleweight title to Matsunaga, was disappointing and looked like he was on the way out, but this fight will make it clear what he has left in the tank.
At his best Shindo looks to use his size and box behind a busy jab, using his legs and keeping distance between him an dhis opponent. Although not a powerful fighter he does throw crisp shots, and his straight left hand is a genuinely damaging punch whilst his jab is a shot that can control fights. Sadly though he can struggle on the inside and if fighters get at him they can legitimately get to him and break him down.
The 31 year old Yuto Shimizu will be viewing this bout as a opportunity to secure his second title fight, following a loss in a Japanese title fight in 2016 to Yuki Nonaka. Since his loss to Nonaka we've not seen Shimizu being active, with only 3 bouts, but he has proven his value with 2 excellent bouts, a win and a loss, against Charles Bellamy. Prior to facing Nonaka we had also been impressive by Shimizu thanks to wins over the likes of Hikaru Nishida, a win that has aged wonderfully, Toru Chiba, Takehiro Shimokawara and Yosuke Kirima. Those may not be big wins outside of Japan but in Japan they are very good domestic level wins.
Shimizu, like Shindo, is a freak at the weight with a very wiry frame. His punching isn't as crisp as Shindo's, and in fact his hands look really slow, but he's tough, has more power on his shots than Shindo and seems more consistent, with his overall output. He has more to him than his jabs and straights and has a capable, if not incredible inside game. Where he struggles however is that he looks to be a slow starter and in both of his bouts with Charles Bellamy he looked really slow to get going. When he got up to speed he never looked sensation, but looked consistent and was willing to go war.
To us this feels like one of those bouts where Shindo has the type of opponent to look fun with. Shimizu is flawed, very flawed, but comes forward and will be looking to force the fight to be fought on the inside. Early on that won't work and Shindo will make the most of his edge in speed, though as the bout goes on we see Shimizu getting more success, getting closer and out working Shimizu with heavier shots. It's just a case of whether he can start that charge early enough and whether he can keep up with Shimdo's movement. Out guess is it will be too little too late from Shimizu, and Shindo will be the one getting a chance to reclaim the Japanese title next year.
Prediction - SD8 Shindo
Earlier this year we saw Junto Nakatani win, and then vacate, the Japanese Flyweight title. On October 27th we'll see that vacancy filled as, two former Nakatani foes battle for the belt.
In one corner is the heavy handed Seigo Yuri Akui (13-2-1, 9), who has proven to be very dangerous early on, whilst the other corner will have in tough guy Shun Kosaka (16-5, 4). On paper it's not the most amazing of fights, but in reality it is an interesting looking one.
Of the two fighters it's Akui who has been the much more fun to watch fighter. The 24 year old from Okayama first made his mark in 2015, when he won Rookie of the Year at Light Flyweight. At the time Akui was just 20 years old and following his win he was 6-0-1 (2). He didn't seem like much of a puncher. Since then however he has gone 7-2 (7) with his only losses coming to Nakatani and the criminally under-rated Jaysever Abcede. The Nakatani bout saw Akui just beaten down in an action packed fight whilst the Abcede fight was a very competitive one that saw him being stopped in the final round.
Rather than focusing on Akui's losses it's more interesting to look at his success, and since the Rookie of the Year he has scored 7 T/KO wins, with 6 of them coming in the first round. Not only has he been destructive but he's been scoring them against decent opponents, like Kenji Ono, Ryuto Oho, Masamichi Yabuki and Yoshiki Minato. Although a flawed fighter he is a quick starter, pressing the fight early and looking to land big right hands and huge left hooks. He has got question marks about his chin, defense and toughness, but it's his own fire power and aggression that has made him a must watch fighter in Okayama. Everything is thrown with bad intentions from a very wide and open stance. Technically he's very flawed, but so much damn fun to watch!
Kosaka, who is also 24, began his career in 2012 and reached the Rookie of the Year final in 2014, losing to Kenya Yamashita over the 5 round distance. In his very next bout Kosaka was stopped by Tetsuya Hisada, who of course fought for a world title just a few weeks ago. He went from 9-0 to 9-2 in the space of 6 months but rebuilt with 4 straight wins. Those wins lead him to a bout with Akinori Hoshino, which he lost. Since then he is 3-2, including a loss in an OPBF title fight against Jayr Raquinel and a loss in a Japanese title eliminator to Junto Nakatani.
Kosaka looks a well skilled fighter, but seems a bit lightweight, lacking power and physical strength. He was unable to ever enforce his game plan against Raquinel, and was given a beating by Nakatani, though lasted the distance with the unbeaten Japanese fighter. He's tough but lacks the ability to compete at that level and doesn't have the fire power in his arsenal to get the respect of title level fighters. What doesn't help is the fact he has taken a lot of punishment in some fights, particularly the Nakatani fight, and punishing losses do add up.
Given the fast start of Akui there is a risk he will take Kosaka out early. His aggression is dangerous. In reality however we expect Akui to pay for his aggression and feel the toughness of Kosaka could prove a real issue. We're expecting a fast start for Akui, but counters from Kosaka will land clean and we wouldn't be surprised at all if Kosaka sees off the early storm and drops Akui at some point with a counter. We think as the bout goes on Kosaka will build in confidence, and come on strong as Akui tires. That could make this very close, and very competitive.
Prediction SD10 Kosaka
Whilst many of the Japanese title eliminator bouts this year look like good bouts, even if few look great, the odd one does look like a mismatch, where we feel confident who know who will be the challenger for the Champion Carnival next year. One bout that looks like a mismatch is the Welterweight bout, which will see former world title challenger Keita Obara (21-4-1, 19) taking on Toshiro Tarumi (12-3-3, 6).
Obara is, of course, the more well known fighter. He is a former Japanese Light Welterweight champion, a former OPBF Light Welterweight champion and a former WBO Asia Pacific Welterweight champion. He has fought outside of Japan 3 times, fighting to a controversial draw in 2015 with Walter Castillo, being knocked out of the ring in a world title fight against Eduard Troyanovsky and being beaten by Kudratillo Abdukakhorov earlier this year. He also went somewhat viral thanks to his first bout with Alvin Lagumbay, which featured a dramatic double knockdown.
In the ring Obara is a talented fighter. He's a good boxer puncher, and although he's not world class he is a very capable fighter. He's really solid in terms of his boxing and his power is nasty at the regional level. Sadly his issue is his chin, and 3 of his 4 losses have seen him being stopped, including dramatic and very visual losses to Troyanovsky and Lagumbay. He's also not the quickest, which allowed Abdukakhorov to out box him relatively easily back in March. Despite his flaws it does take a good fighter to over-come him, and the general feeling is that he's still the best Welterweight in Japan, despite the recent rise of domestic champion Yuki Nagano.
At 25 years old Tarumi is someone who is relatively unknown outside of those who actively follow the Japanese scene, and even then he's still got a relatively limited profile. He debuted in 2014 and fought to 3 draws in his first 4 bouts. Worse yet he was 3-2-3 after 8 fights, an odd record to say the least. Since then however he has gone 9-1, with his only loss coming to the current national champion Yuki Nagano, as part of Nagano's current 15 fight winning run. In those 9 wins he has scored some solid domestic victories, with wins over the likes of Noriaki Sato, Takashi Inagaki and Shusaku Fujinaka, twice.
From the footage of Tarumi that's out there he looks a genuinely capable fighter, who has has plenty to like about him. He moves well around the ring, has a decent jab and throws some solid combinations. Where he lacks though is in terms of that extra something. He's not the most aggressive, he's not razor sharp with his punches and he's not got serious power. He's good, and he's likely to be a future fixture on the domestic title picture, but there's little there to really challenge someone like Obara.
We expect to see Tarumi coming out to fight, but lacking the tools needed to really test Obara who will get behind his jab, dial in his straights and slowly, but surely, break down Tarumi. Tarumi will be there to win, but will be broken down and stopped in the later rounds from the heavy hands of Obara.
Prediction - TKO7 Obara
The bouts to decide who will be challenging for Japanese titles at next year's Champion Carnival are a mixed bag this year, with one of the most interesting on paper being the Lightweight bout between Kazuki Saito (7-1, 5) and Izuki Tomioka (6-2-1, 2). On paper both are novices, with less than 10 bouts each, but both fighters were capable amateurs, have proven to be talented professionals, and although both are flawed those flaws should make for a compelling match up.
Of the two we'd argue Saito is the more well known. The 27 year old from the Kadoebi gym, is an incredibly talented boxer-puncher, with one huge flaw. His chin.
Saito moves brilliantly around the ring has gorgeous sharp offense, wonderful combinations and looks like a natural in the ring, until he gets hit. When he gets tagged there's a real worry he'll go down, and he doesn't seem to recover quickly when he does get hurt. He's been down in several fights, and was stopped by Pharanpetch Tor Buamas after going down twice in round 2. Whilst having a poor chin hasn't prevented some fighters from reaching the top of the sport, we do see that as the big issue with Saito and what will likely prevent him from reaching the levels that his skills should have taken him too.
As an amateur Saito was really good, going 83-14, and you can see that amateur background when he fights. Unfortunately the smaller gloves have exposed his lack of durability and in some ways he's like a Japanese domestic level Jorge Linares. Talented, but lacking the toughness to back up his skills.
Tomioka on the other hand is very different. The 22 year old is a pure outside fighter, jabbing, moving, spoiling on the inside and getting back behind his long jab. He started his career at Super Featherweight but quickly moved up to Lightweight and in 2018 gave Masayoshi Nakatani a really competitive fight, before being stopped in the 11th round. Sadly he followed that up with a less than enthralling bout against Shuya Masaki, losing that by split decision. As with Saito it's fair to say that Tomioka is an incredible skilled fighter, and he really is, but like Saito he has a major flaw. Tomioka really lacks the physical side of the game, lacking power. The lack of power means that whilst he can win rounds on his he struggles to keep opponents at bay, and fighters will feel happy to take risks against him if they feel the need to.
Tomioka will be looking to keep this bout at range, moving and keeping up his effort for the scheduled 8 rounds. He's done 8 a number of times, and went into the 11th with Nakatani, but will likely need to be able to land a straight behind his jab to make Saito think twice. Whilst Tomioka is rather feather fisted he likely has got enough power to keep Saito honest, if he actually lets a power or two go.
We're expecting to see Tomioka attempt to set the tempo, and try to keep it at range, but due to a lack of activity and an unwillingness to let his bigger shots go we'll see Saito get into the bout, and after 8 rounds we suspect Saito will have done enough to earn the decision. This might not be pretty at times, but we expect a very close, competitive and intriguing match up, that is open to debate on the scoring.
Interestingly the winner of this may find themselves with a chance to become a triple champion next year, as current Japanese champion Shuichiro Yoshino holds not only the Japanese title but also the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles. There's a chance he vacates one, or two, of those belts but if not that would mean the winner of this will get a massive bout next year.
Prediction SD8 Saito.
On October 26th at the Korakuen Hall we'll get a host of Japanese title eliminators, included in those is an excellent Featherweight bout between rising youngster Hinata Maruta (9-1-1, 7) and former Japanese champion Takenori Ohashi (17-5-2, 11), who will be clashing to decide who challenges for the title next year at during the Champion Carnival.
Of the two men it's certainly Maruta who is the more talented and has the more upside. He's a 22 year old who turned professional with a lot of expectation on his shoulders. The expectation hasn't been fulfilled yet, but he has shown a lot of ability and already holds notable wins against the likes of Jason Canoy, Wilbert Berondo, Joe Tejones, Tsuyoshi Tameda and Coach Hiroto. His one loss came in an OPBF title fight to Hidenori Otake, in a bout that came a little bit too early, whilst his draw was a controversial one in the Philippines against Ben Mananquil.
In the ring Maruta is a real talent, and is incredibly skilled. He's a long, lean fighter, with nasty power in his shots, fantastic speed and a developing professional style. Early in his career there was question marks about his in ring mentality, often waiting too long and being a touch lazy, not getting on the front foot enough or letting his hands go. More recently he has been letting shots go, using his jab to keep opponents at range and showing an extra gear to his in ring work. There is still a slightly over cautious approach to what he does, but it is changing and he has shown an ability to force the fight more than reacting to it. Naturally he's a counter punching outside fighter, waiting for mistakes, but there is a fighter in there, even if it's not been on show often enough. If, or when, he unlocks his aggressive side he will be a very hard man to beat.
At 30 years old Ohashi is pretty much in the "must win" stage of his career. He is, as mentioned, a former Japanese champion though won the title in a weird circumstances after Kosuke Saka misheard the bell and got knocked out back in 2017. In his first defense Ohashi was given a genuine beating by Taiki Minamoto, and stopped whilst well down on the cards. Since then he has picked up a couple of wins, but looked poor in both performance, especially last time out when he was being outboxed by Shun Wakabayashi, before scoring one of the best KO's of 2019.
In the ring Ohashi is slow, cumbersome and deliberate. He can be hit, he can be out boxed, and he's really basic. He does however have a real equaliser in his mitts and his punching power makes him a genuine danger, to the very end of the bout. His KO of Wakabayashi completely bailed him out against a fighter who showed an easy way to beat him. Box, move, use your feet and keep it simple. If you can avoid the power of Ohashi you can beat him.
Given the styles of the two men involved this really doesn't look like it will be competitive. We suspect that Maruta will be too quick, too smart, too sharp and too good. As long as he can avoid the right hand of Ohashi he should make this look very, very easy. On paper it would be his biggest win, but we wouldn't be surprised if it was also one of his easiest, and will look like a sparring session almost.
Prediction - Maruta UD8
The 2020 edition of the Japanese boxing Champion Carnival is slowly coming together with Gakuya Furuhashi and Masataka Taniguchi already booking themselves Japanese title shots in the new year. This coming Saturday we'll see 4 more fighters claiming mandatory positions for Japanese title fights, with a host of eliminators taking place at the Korakuen Hall. One of those eliminators will be at Bantamweight and will see an interesting match up between Kyosuke Sawada (13-2-1, 6) and Kazuki Tanaka (11-2, 8).
On paper this isn't one of the most appealing bouts, given that both have already suffered a couple of losses and neither is a "big" name in regards to being an emerging force on the Japanese scene. The reality however is that the bout is set to be an excellent, hotly contested and very exciting one between two well matched, yet flawed, fighters with good amateur backgrounds.
Of the two Sawada is there more experienced professional, with 16 bouts since his 2013 debut, he is also the one who has had the bigger turn around with his career and the more peculiar record. He debuted in 2013 and lost to Yusuke Suzuki, the current Japanese Bantamweight champion, and lost in his second professional bout to Hiroaki Teshigawara, who currently holds the OPBF Super Bantamweight title. Since then he has gone 13-0-1 and beaten everyone he has faced, beating Keita Nakano in their second clash. Not only has he been on a good run after a very rocky start but he's picking up wins against solid domestic opponents, such as Kenta Okumura, Yuta Horiike, Kinshiro Usui and recent Japanese title challenger Yosuke Fujihara.
In the ring Sawada is a usually a technically sound fighter, with nice speed, clever footwork and a good jab who looks to fight at mid range. He's not usually the most exciting of fighters to watch, but he does gauge distance well and, with the right dance partner, he can be in some very fun bouts. Although Sawada does lack power he does land clean shots, and does so regularly, with an excellent work rate. It's also worth noting that while he is usually an outside fighter Sawada can hold his own on the inside, as we saw against Usui, with sharp clean punching and intelligent upper body movement. It's not something we often see from him, but it is something that's in his arsenal.
Tanaka is a 26 year old who made his debut in late 2014 and was tipped as a major star for the Green Tsuda gym, following a 63-14 amateur record. Sadly he has failed to live up to the early expectations, but has shown enough to remain a contender on the domestic scene. His career began with 7 straight wins, though alarm bells did ring a little bit when he struggled to get past Sukkasem Kietyongyuth. Since then he has gone 5-2, suffering stoppage losses to Ryohei Takahashi and Keita Kurihara with both losses showing he's not someone who can cope with being put under genuine pressure and isn't particularly durable.
Although not the toughest fighter out there Tanaka isn't actually a bad fighter. Technically he's solid, his amateur background shows when he's in the ring with a nice sharp jab, light feet and heavy hands. His right hand is a damaging and has got good understanding of distance. If you let him dictate the tempo he can look very good, and very strong with good balance. Sadly for Tanaka his competition in recent bouts has been poor, and since losing to Keita Kurihara in 2018 he has only scored 2 low level wins as he's looked to rebuild his confidence.
We believe that Tanaka has got the power to cause Sawada issues, but given recent form and how the fighters have bounced back from their setbacks it's hard not to imagine Sawada being the favourite. Sawada's all-round game seems better, his speed and ring craft are just a touch better. Tanaka certainly has the edge in power, but Sawada had the edge in tougness and we suspect that'll get him through some rough patches on route to a clear, but competitive, decision win.
Prediction - UD8 Sawada
On October 21st we see an intriguing rematch between Yusuke Sakashita (18-8-3, 13) and Naoki Mochizuki (16-4, 8), as Sakashita looks to avenge a prior loss to Mochizuki and record his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight title. Whilst neither are world class hopefuls, both are solid fighters and interesting their careers look like they are heading in different directions.
In their first bout Mochizuki took a clear and wide win over Sakashita. The loss was Sakashita's 4th loss in 6 bouts, which had also included a brutal 1-punch KO loss to Suguru Muranaka, and it appeared his career was on a rapid decline. At that point Mochizuki was riding a 5 winning streak and the win over Sakashita seemed to be hint that he had a bright future.
Since their first bout Mochizuki's career has rebounded, with a 5 unbeaten run which has seen him go 4-0-1 (4), including wins over Keisuke Nakayama and Masahiro Sakamoto and a draw with Takuya Kogawa. On the other hand Mochizuki is now struggling, and has gone 5-3 since the win over Sakashita. Those 8 bouts for Mochizuka has seen him score 2 very close wins, and suffer his only stoppage loss, which was a really punishing defeat to Junto Nakatani.
In the ring Sakashita is a pretty basic fighter, but he's tough has solid power and appears to be believing more in his power. His jab is a genuinely hurtful shot and he managed to mess up Masahiro Sakamoto's face with it earlier this year. When he lets his hands go it's clear there is plenty of pepper on his shots, and he is a very strong fighter with good range. Watching him he doesn't do anything spectacular, but he's consistent, picks his spots well and is tough enough at this level to take one to land one. One thing that is notable about Sakashita is how he goes at an opponent he's got hurt, and this could be a key here if Mochizuki is still feeling the ill effects of his loss to Nakatani.
Having just described Sakashita as being strong but basic, it's genuinely a fair description of Mochizuki too. Mochizuki took a real beating against Nakatani and stood up to a lot of punishment in a bout that got progressively more one-sided as Nakatani went through the gears. There's been nothing in other Mochizuki fights, such as the one with Seiya Fujikita for example, to suggest that there's another great with him. Instead he is very much what you see it what you get. He's a tried, he gives his all, he comes to fight and will let his hands go in range. Unlike Sakashita however he doesn't have that bang on shots, and his win over Sakashita back in 2016 seems to have been partly due to circumstance as well as everything else.
Whilst neither guy is spectacular in any way, we do see this as a pretty interesting fight all the same. We suspect that the damage done to Mochizuki by Nakatani will be an issue, and Sakashita will look to make the most of it, but Mochizuki won't go down without a fight and that should make this a fun one to watch.
We're expecting Mochizuki to make a good start, but as the bout goes on the power of Sakashita will take it's toll on Mochizuki's face and the challenger will be a swollen, if not bloody, mess when the bout comes to an early conclusion.
Prediction TKO10 Sakashita
Over the next few weeks we get a lot of Japanese title eliminators, as we find out who will be challenging for Japanese titles at the Champion Carnival in 2020. Whilst some of those are more attractive match ups than others one that looks like it could be a lot of fun is the Light Welterweight bout between Cristiano Aoqui (14-7-2, 10) and Daishi Nagata (13-2-1, 5). On paper this might not look like a great bout, but in reality we are expecting this to be one of the best eliminators this year, with the styles of the two men expected to gel perfectly.
Of the two men it's the Aoqui who is the more experienced professional. He turned professional back in 2006 and with 23 pro bouts under his belt the 30 year old puncher is a bit of a veteran. His record is certainly not great on paper, but losses to the likes of Valentine Hosokawa (SD8), Hiroki Okada (TD9) and Koki Inoue (RTD 2) are certainly nothing particularly shameful. Instead that show the level he has been competing at the last few years and there's certainly one or two of his career defeats that could easily have gone his way.
In the ring Aoqui isn't the most skilled, or the smoothest, but he is an entertaining fighter, with explosive power, an exciting and aggressive style. When he gets opponents hurt he goes for the kill with quick, heavy hitting combinations looking to take them out without giving them a chance to recover. Whilst it is the exciting combinations from Aoqui that catch the eye he does box well, using a good jab to open the door for his power shots, moving well and setting a solid tempo from start to end. He's always looking to get on the front foot and set the pace of the bout. As well as being aggressive Aoqui is quite flawed, he can be hit, and he can also been caught coming forward. Those defensive flaws, alongside his aggression, is why he makes for such good fights, and is a very TV friendly fighter.
Although less experienced as a professional Nagata was a solid amateur, running up a solid 41-21 (11) record, and he won the 2012 All Japan champion. He turned professional with pretty loft expectations on his shoulders, and those expectations didn't fade despite a draw on his debut, to Takeshi Inoue no less. Since then Nagata has been consistently matched tough, struggling with some opponents that he perhaps faced a little bit too early in his career. Those tough bouts have however toughened him up and last year we saw him give Rikki Naito all he could handle in an excellent bout for the OPBF Light Welterweight title, losing a split decision to Naito. In the bout with Naito we saw Nagata answer a lot of questions and prove what a good boxer he was, and show his will to win.
In the ring Nagata is a smart pressure fighter, he brings the pressure behind intelligent footwork and good jabs, pressing for openings, looking for gaps to strike in and mentally challenging his opponents. It's not the all action pressure of some other fighters, but it's a very clear style that is based around making opponents work hard for their space and their opportunities. Defensively he's relatively tight with his guard, but he can be hit through it and around it, and he is open to over hand rights, as we saw against Naito. He seems to be able to take a decent shot, but there are question marks about his overall durability given how he was essentially bullied and battered by Vladimir Baez in his first defeat.
Given that Aoqui likes to box at a high tempo, and unleash combinations, and Nagata applies a lot of forward movement, we're expecting to see the two men in range a lot, and trading blows in some thrilling sequences. If the power of Aoqui can trouble Nagata then this could be a short but thrilling action bout, but we're not expecting Aoqui to blow through his foe. Instead we suspect the jab of Nagata will offset Aoqui's power early on and we'll end up with a very exciting back and forth, in a bout that is very, very hard to call.
Prediction SD8 Nagata
The Japanese Youth title scene kicks up another fantastic match up on October 19th as we see unbeaten youngsters clash for the Super Flyweight title. in one corner will be 20 year old Tetsuro Ohashi (7-0-1, 2), looking to build on his 2018 Rookie of the Year win, whilst the other will play host to fast rising 23 year old Suzumi Takayama (2-0, 2) in what looks like an excellent match up, between men with very contrasting styles.
Takyama ran up a 35-16 (10) amateur record before turning professional with the Watanabe gym and making his debut this past February, as part of the card headlined by Vic Saludar's world title defense against Masataka Taniguchi. His debut, a 3rd round KO win over Rungniran Korat Sport School, showed enough to get excited about him, but hard to read too much into things, given the limitations of the Thai. What was exciting however was that Watanabe gym were willing to step him up quickly, which they did in his second bout and are doing again here. One thing that is clear about the Watanabe gym is they don't want their prospects to waste time and will instead allow the talent to shine as quickly as possible.
Having only turned professional in February there's not much footage of Takayama available, though thankfully his second bout, against Korean southpaw In Soo Jang, is available on Boxing Raise. The footage of Takayama's contest with Jang is short but but shows a composed, sharp punching young man who looks like he has a solid straight left hand and a very good right hook,to body or head. There is still work to do defensively and in terms of gauging distance against a fellow southpaw, but he looked good, stopping the Korean inside a round.
Whilst Takayama has the amateur background to allow him to be fast tracked the same can't be said of Ohashi who who made his debut in June 2017 and after picking up 3 wins that year. In 2018 he progressed quickly, winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year in December, when he shut out Shinobu Wakagi over 4 rounds. Watching Ohashi we see a very quick fighter who looks to fight on the outside, using his feet and his jab. He looks jittery in the ring at times but very sharp and like he's on a different level of speed compared to opponents. His jab, especially when it's doubled, is fantastic and the way he moves around the ring looks really natural and not like a youngster who has only been a professional for a couple of years.
We like who Takayama fights, we like his speed, his movement and the way he uses his jab to score points and punish opponents when they over commit. Sadly though he looks like a kid in the ring, his lack of physicality and power is an issue, and issues that can be hard to over. He's really skilled, but looks like he's not yet matured into his frame, and that could be something that doesn't happen for a year or two yet. Against a fighter like Takayama, who is a physically mature fighter, that will be an issue.
We feel Ohashi has the skills to have some early success against Takayama but in the end the power and strength of Takayama will be the difference. Whatever early success Ohashi can get on his speed will be erased by Takayama's power in the middle rounds, as his shots began to take a toll on Ohashi. When Ohashi slows it'll be the start of the end for him and Takayama will take him out in the later rounds.
Prediction - TKO7 Takayama
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.