This coming Saturday we'll see the vacancy of the OPBF Flyweight title being filled, as former champion Jayr Raquinel (12-1-1, 9) takes on former world title challenger Giemel Magramo (24-2, 20) in the Philippines. The bout looks likely to be one of the best all-Filipino bouts of 2021 and it should be regarded a genuinely significant bout, not just due to the OPBF title, but also due to the standing of the two men, and the fact the winner will be only a few win away from securing a potential world title fight in 2022 or 2023.
Of the two men the more well known is 27 year old Giemel Magramo, a hard hitting fighter who had looked like a world champion in the making until last year, when he was made to look third rate by Junto Nakatani in a bout for the WBO. That loss to Nakatani was the second of his career, and had followed a controversial 2016 loss to Muhammad Waseem, though it was a humiliating and one sided one which could leave lasting damage on him mentally. Prior to that loss Magramo had won 7 in a row, all by stoppage, showing off his heavy hands, he destructive in ring mentality and his willingness, to take the fight to an opponent. Whilst many of opponents were lower level he showed what he could do against the likes Wenfeng Ge and Richard Claveras, and he looked a natural in those bouts.
Technically Magramo isn't the most polished, but he's an aggressive fighter-puncher, with heavy hands. He's got slow feet, he can be out boxed, out fought and out thought, but he's very dangerous, he's tough and he comes to fight. On paper he has the tools to be in some thrilling match ups, but he also has the flaws that make him easy to out box, and if fighters can avoid a tear up with him they can make him look very limited.
Whilst less well known Jayr Raquinel is arguable the more promising and more proven fighter, despite having never fought at world level. "The Dreamer" is a 24 year old southpaw who debuted in 2014 and looked like a dangerous fighter straight from the off, with 3 opening round wins. In 2017 Raquinel had his winning run ended, fighting to a draw with Glenne Calacar, but he bounced back from that with 4 wins, including KO victories over Keisuke Nakayama and Shun Kosaka in Japan to win, and defend the OPBF Flyweight title. Sadly for him he was made to look rather flawed in 2018, when he lost to Wulan Tuolehazi, but boxing backed in 2019 with wins over Takuya Kogawa, a brutal KO, and Jack Amisa.
In the ring Raquinel is a real danger man, but also someone who is easy to over-look, especially given he's not fought in close to 2 years. Despite that he's an explosive puncher, with truly spiteful power, as seen in his KO's against the likes of Nakayama, Kosaka and Kogawa. He's not just powerful however but he's also quick, and explosive, making him a really dangerous fighter at Flyweight. Sadly he can be caught between minds, and we've seen look timid, against Tuolehazi, and we've seen him look wild. Interestingly he's very similar, in many ways, to Johnriel Casimero, and despite the loss to Tuolehazi we wouldn't write him off as a future world champion.
Coming in we're expecting this to be a barn burner. Both men can fight, both like to throw bombs, and both like to unload. For us however Raquinel is the more dynamic, the more explosive and the more unpredictable. Magramo is probably the better boxer from a technical standpoint, but we're not sure if that will make a difference. Likewise it's hard to not feel like the loss ot Nakatani has negatively affected Magramo, and if that's a case he may be more timid and gin shy than we've seen from him. If he can't get respect from Raquinel he'll be in serious trouble.
We're expecting to see Raquinel take a few rounds to get going, but when he does we suspect he'll be pinging right hooks and straight left hands off of Magramo with ease and by rounds 7 or 8 will have destroyed the desire of MAgramo.
Prediction - TKO8 Raquinel
This coming Wednesday we're going to see a new Japanese Youth champion being crowned at Bantamweight as the enigmatic and exciting Takahiro Tai (3-0, 3) takes on the talented but light punching Fumiya Fuse (10-1, 1) in a very interesting and well matched bout between two promising young fighters. Both men are 23 years old, both a very well regarded, both are seen as very promising fighters and they have very, very different styles.
Of the two men Fuse is the more experienced and the more technically well schooled fighter. The youngster from the Watanabe Gym made his professional debut in 2017 and by the end of the year had won the All Japan Rookie of the Year crown, beating 4 unbeaten fighters along the way. The following year he made his international debut, fighting in South Korea and stepped into 8 rounds in 2019, before losing to the brilliant Toshiya Ishii. Since that loss however he has gotten back on the right track, beating Melmark Dignos and Fuya Tomita.
In the ring Fuse is a wonderfully talented boxer, with nice hand speed, an aggressive mentality, but very light punches. Despite lacking power he is very fun to watch, lets his shots go in bunches, controls distance well with fast feet and very fast hands. Sadly Fuse's lack of power is his big downfall and he struggles to get respect of opponents, even when he lands clean, which he does a lot. He picks shots really well, switches things up well, but really can't hurt opponents and that is something that will be a major problem for him down the line. Defensively he's decent, he has a good guard and he moves well, but can be caught going in straight lines at times, thankfully it's not a common thing but it does happen.
Whilst Fuse is the more well known the more interesting fighter is Takahiro Tai, a switch hitting boxer-puncher who gets into the ring with the intention of putting on a show and increasing his profile. Unlike many impressive amateurs in Japan Tai decided to turn professional with his father's gym, and take more control over his career than had he joined a bigger gym. That has allowed him to be moved quickly and show what he can do without needing a slow build up. Although only 3 fights into his career he has already shown a real charisma in the ring, an exciting style, heavy hands and the mentality that suggests he wants to make fans sit up and pay attention. Sadly though he has also looked like a fighter who is flawed, and depends on his athletic ability, strength and power rather than his actual boxing ability.
Since turning professional, with his debut coming late last year, Tai has beaten some solid domestic level fighters, including Koichi Wakita and Joe Tanooka. He has looked flawed, open, and defensively flawed, but he's beaten the fight out of more technically capable fighters and has got the combination of speed, power, strength and aggression to go a long way domestically. He'll certainly need to polish up before thinking about international titles, and focus less on entertaining, but we dare say he has a more polished style in his locker for when he'll need it, and so far he's simply not needed it. Instead he's been happy to have fun, to entertain, and to get fans talking, even if it has resulted in him taking some extra shots as a result.
Coming in to this the speed and technical edges are both with Fuse, but the power, strength and physical side of things are all with Tai. Sadly for Fuse we think the physical side of things will be the difference maker here and that despite a good start, Fuse will be broken down in the middle rounds, with Tai going on to stop his man and win the title.
Prediction - Tai TKO6
On October 19th we are expecting fireworks at Korakuen Hall thanks to a mouth watering OPBF Bantamweight title bout between the unbeaten Kazuki Nakajima (10-0-1, 8) and former champion Keita Kurihara (15-6, 13). On paper this might not look like a special bout, or something worth getting too excited about but, as we've learned over the years, records don't do the fighting and instead that's the job of the fighters. In this case we have two men who are both happy to have a war, both have fight changing power, and both have a lot of flaws that the other will look to target.
The 28 year old champion won the belt back in May when he took a competitive decision over Kai Chiba to claim the title, the first of his career. That was only the third time Nakajima had seen the final bell since debuting in 2017, and it was his most polished performance to date. In fact given how he had looked in the past he seemingly re-invented himself for the bout and showed that he was more than a basic puncher, which he had looked at times. He still looked flawed, tense, slow and tight, but there was more polish there and he has clearly been developing over the last year or two at the Ohashi Gym.
In the ring Nakajima is very basic, he's flat footed, he's not the most fluid of fighters, but he is a legitimate puncher, who has frightening power and has a very textbook-like style. He fights as a southpaw, making him awkward, but due to his lack of speed he can be out boxed, out moved and out though, as we saw in 2020 when he was very lucky to get a draw against Seiya Tsutsumi. The power of Nakajima is particularly potent early on, with 5 of his wins coming in the opening round, but his shots continue to be thudding much deeper in bouts, as we saw in his win against Yoshihiro Utsumi in 2018, where he broke Utsumi up in 7 rounds. If you can keep him moving, and not allow him to set himself, Nakajima looks very basic and poor, but if you stand at range and don't use lateral movement, or even worse engage him in a mid distance war, Nakajima's power will almost certainly be a difference maker.
The challenger, also aged 28, is a very different type of fighter to Nakajima, but shares some of the same strengths, and weaknesses. Kurihara is less of a flat footed puncher, and more of an aggressive, puncher-fighter, who looks to take the fight to an opponent, and get into range for his bombs. Technically he's very flawed, but very tough, exciting and heavy handed. Unlike Nakajima, who needs to be set to land his power, he can throw bombs from any where, and seems at his best coming forward. He's open to counter shots, and doesn't have the quickest of feet, but is very much a fighter at heart wanting to cause chaos in the ring and force a war up close, beating the fight out of opponents. Sadly for him, though similarly to Nakajima, it's boxer-movers that give him problems and we saw that earlier this year when he lost the OPBF title to Takuma Inoue, who used basic boxing fundamentals to make Kurihara look very limited. Against fighters looking for a fight however, Kurihara is a real threat to anyone.
Although his record might suggest he's limited Kurihara is not a typical 15-6 (13) fighter. He lost 4 of his first 7 and has gone 12-2 (10) since then with his only defeats in recent years coming against Hiroaki Teshigawara and Takuma Inoue, two world title contenders. In his last 14 bouts he has proven to be a top domestic level, and regional level, fighter who has managed to beat the likes of Ryan Lumacad, Kazuki Tanaka, Yuki Strong Kobayashi, Warlito Parrenas and Sukkasem Kietyongyuth. He has looked like a devastating fighter, and whilst we have seen him out boxed, in both the loss to Inoue and his controversial win over Kobayashi, he is very, very dangerous in the ring.
Given the styles, and mentalities, of the two men we can't see this one being dull. Instead we expect the fight to be tense early on, with Nakajima looking to take center ring quickly, setting his feet and trying to catch Kurihara coming in. Kurihara on the other hand will look to get a feel for Nakajima's power, speed and timing. After 3 or 4 rounds we expect to see Kurihara begin to feel comfortable and up his tempo, trying to take the fight to Nakajima. When that happens we'll start to see a fire fight, and we wouldn't be surprised to see both men being dropped.
We know this is a fire fight in the making, and when we get bouts like that it's hard to pick a winner. We will however be edging to Kurihara, thanks to his higher level experience. Though can just as easily see the more polished Nakajima winning with his straighter, more accurate punches.
Prediction - Kurihara TKO6
On October 19th we're set to see a new double champion being crowned in Japan at 140lbs as the unbeaten pairing of Andy Hiraoka (17-0, 12) and Jin Sasaki (11-0, 10) clash for both the Japanese national and WBO Asia Pacific titles. Notably however this is a match that genuinely doesn't need titles to be a must watch match up as we get two unbeaten youngsters risking their records in a bout that promises genuine fireworks, excitement, thrills and danger. In fact this among the very best bouts that we could make in Asia at 140lbs, and seems destined to be something very, very special for fans at the legendary Korakuen Hall this coming Tuesday.
Of the two men it's the 24 year old Hiraoka who is more well known internationally. The Ohashi promoted fighter has been showcased in the US on Top Rank shows a couple of times, and has shown some potential in his wins over Rogelio Casarez and Rickey Edwards. Prior to his US excursions though he was coming along nicely as a prospect in Japan winning his first 14 bouts before making his US debut. In those early bouts he had reached the All Japan Rookie of the Year final, though was unable to compete due to health reasons, won the Japanese Youth title, and scored a very notable 10 round win over Akihiro Kondo. He had proven himself as a domestic prospect, but still had a lot to work on, and we've seen he still has areas to improve in his US bouts as well.
Whilst Hiraoka is the more well known of the two fighters, he's not someone who has looked the most polished. He's a tall, rangy, young kid, who started his athletic career as a runner before developing into a very promising boxer. He has a lot of enviable tools in his kit, such as his height, reach, wide shoulders, speed, stamina power and atheltic ability, but is very much a fighter who is still developing as a boxer, and his lack of amateur experience does show in his performances. He's also a man who hasn't always looked comfortable in the ring, and we've seen him hurt before, with Hiraoka battling through adversity to take home wins more than once. He has answered plenty of questions, but still has a lot of question marks hanging over his chin, his heart and what he does when he's taking big shots or under intense pressure.
Aged just 20 Jin Sasaki is very much the type of fighter who is looking to break out, and has really created a lot of buzz in the last 18 months or so thanks to some impressive, destructive, exciting, flawed and heavy handed displays. He's, at times, very raw, very flawed, and almost looks unskilled at times, but he's also a truly brutal puncher, with a must watch style, and a willingness to bet on himself every time he's in the ring. Unlike many Japanese fighters there is an aura of cockiness and arrogance surrounding Sasaki. That confidence gives him an air of being a man "you want to see lose", but his power, and excitement factor leave him being someone you want to follow, see more of, and be entertained by. In many ways he's a breath of fresh air for Japanese boxing, and was very much one of the few winners from the Pandemic era of boxing in Japan, with A-Sign boxing showcasing him on their YouTube events.
Watching Sasaki is like watching a wrecking ball. He's very, very heavy handed and wins over the likes of Shun Akaiwa, Tatsuya Miyazaki and Aso Ishiwaki in 2020 really helped put him on the map. Earlier this year however he really struggled in a 2-round fire fight with Kaiki Yuba. That bout saw Sasaki coming close to being stopped, more than once, before being bailed out by his power, when he seemed close to done. That performance against Yuba showed that Sasaki has balls of steel, and that stereotypical Japanese will to win. That will to win makes him almost as dangerous as his lights out power and ultra-aggressive in ring style. He comes to fight, he comes to pressure, and he comes to land big shots. From the off. He can be out boxed, he can be made to miss, and he gives opponents chances to punish him, but if he lands we know he can turn bouts on their head in an instant.
We certainly feel Hiraoka, for all his flaws, his the much better boxer. He's the more polished, the technical, and whilst not an in ring genius, he has a much better boxing brain. However as we saw when Sasaki fought Yuba, another much better boxer, he only needs to land one good shot to turn a fight around. That what we expect to see again here. We suspect Hiraoka will look to control the fight behind his long reach, catching Sasaki numerous times in the first few rounds, but won't be able to keep Sasaki at bay and sooner or later the younger man will get in a good, clean, hurtful shot. We then suspect that Hiraoka will not be given a chance to recover, with Sasaki unloading on him and forcing a stoppage.
Prediction - Sasaki TKO4
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.