The Super Flyweight division has been on fire internationally the last few years, with the likes of Roman Gonzalez, Naoya Inoue, Juan Francisco Estrada, Donnie Nietes, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Jerwin Ancajas and Kazuto Ioka all making a mark at 115lbs. Sadly however the Japanese domestic scene has been awfully lacking in terms of quality, in what seems like a genuine oddity. Since Sho Ishida vacated the title more than 3 years ago we've not seen a champion hold the title who seemed like they had the ability to go all the way to the top. Instead we've had Kenta Nakagawa, Ryuichi Funai, Hiroyuki Kudaka, and now Takayuki Okumoto (23-8-4, 11) holding the belt.
On December 8th Okumoto returns to the ring in search of his 4th defense, as he takes on former champion Kenta Nakagawa (17-3-1, 12).
Okumoto is a strange one. We can never criticise a fighter for being a trier and he is certainly a trier. He was a young prodigy who failed to have things immediately click, and bizarrely fought former world champion Ratanapol Sor Vorapin in just his second pro-fight. After 18 bouts he was 10-6-2 (5) but since then he has gone 13-2-2 (7) with both losses coming to fighters who have fought for world titles, Eaktwan BTU Ruaviking and Ryuichi Funai.
In 2018 Okumoto finally scored a big win, narrowly over-coming Hiroyuki Kudaka to become the Japanese Flyweight champion, and since then has defended the belt against Masayoshi Hashizume, Yuta Matsuo and Dynamic Kenji. Sadly he's only looked genuinely good in one bout, the one against Kenji, and he's typically been rather lucky and had to battle hard for the wins. He's not got any massively impressive traits, but he's tough, has a lot of desire and is a hard man to beat, without being a huge puncher, or particularly fast. He's just a tough, solid, all rounder.
Aged 34 Nakagawa is very much coming to the end of his career, but the southpaw boxer-puncher is another who has turned around a faltering start. He began his career 2-2 but has since gone 15-1-1 (10), with his only loss during that 17 fight run coming to Ryuichi Funai. Sadly his run isn't as impressive as it sounds however and his best wins have been against Joe Tanooka, Ken Achiwa and Hayato Kimura, the man he beat for the Japanese Super Flyweight title. His recent wins have been, mostly, low key with 3 wins coming against novice Thai's.
At his best Nakagawa likely had the skills, the power and the tools to give Okumoto absolute fits. Sadly though it's hard to really know what he has left in the tank. He has fought just 7 rounds in the last 20 months, is 34 and whilst he hasn't taken too much damage he is certainly an ageing and worn out fighter.
We suspect that Okumoto's team have again got him a fighter who he can scrape a win against with out impressing. We suspect he will see out the storm that Nakagawa will bring and will do enough to rack up the rounds needed to take the victory, even if he doesn't look sensational doing it. He will out work, out battle and out box the older man just enough to take home the victory.
Prediction - U10 Okumoto
The EDION Arena Osaka is a busy venue on December 8th hosting 2 shows, with a combined 3 title bouts. On the second of those cards we'll see Shinsei gym promoting a low key card that really is all about it's main event, the only non-4 rounder on the show. That main event will see fast rising youngster Musashi Mori (10-0, 6) defending his WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight title against once beaten puncher Takuya Mizuno (17-1-1, 14), in what looks like a mouth watering match up between talented young men.
Mori really burst on to the scene very quickly. After debuting in December 2016 he would go on to claim the 2017 Rookie of the Year, stopping the big puncher Zirolian Riku in the final. By the end of 2018 he had notched wins over Allen Vallespin and Richard Pumicpic, with the win over Pumicpic netting him his WBO Asia Pacific title, and a defense against Pumicpic in a rematch earlier this year showed that he really is a fighter still learning. Talking about learning Mori has began linking up with Ismael Salas, who trained him for his last fight, and real changes were made in how the youngster tames his aggression and boxes more smartly.
With Salas again behind him Mori is expected to make his second defense here against Mizuno, and continue to build on the skills, power and speed he has shown. The one real notable flaw early on was his defense, but that now appears to be getting corrected, and although their are a lot of areas for Salas to tweak with his new charge Mori looks like the type of youngster with the foundations in place to go a very, very long way.
At 24 years old Mizuno is a mature man, whilst Mori is still only 20, and with 19 fights already under bis belt since his debut more than 6 years ago, he is a man who is very much the more experienced fighter. Notably he has had more soft touches than Mori, but he has also scored a number of solid wins, such as a victory in July over Roli Gasca and a 2017 over Yuki Iriguchi. Like Mori he made his mark quite young, and reached the West Japan Rookie of the Year final in 2015, though lost to Tenta Kiyose in what is his only defeat to date.
Watch Mizuno it seems like he is someone who has the tools to go far, but is missing the mentor that Mori has. Mizuno has power, work rate and desire, but needs to be polished, a lot. During his 19 fights he has had 5 that have ended by majority decision or split decision, going 3-1-1 in those 5 bouts, and it very much feels like he needs to be shown how to use his power better and how to control fights more. He has always struggled when he's been unable to beat opponents with his power, and that needs to be sorted out sooner rather than later.
Sadly for Mizuno we see his biggest strength, his power, also being his weakest point. If that power can't take his opponent out he really doesn't look good. Mori looks like he can take a shot if he needs to, and can also avoid shots. His defense was his weakness but with Salas working on Mori's technical skills we suspect his defense will be tighter here than ever before. Mori is likely to need to stay on point, but we suspect he'll box smart, temper that aggression further and take a wide decision against the dangerous but flawed Mizuno.
Prediction - UD12 Mori
The Welterweight division, on the international stage, has long been the money division with a host of the best fighters on the planet competing there. We've obviously had the likes of Floyd Mayweather Jr, Miguel Cotto, Manny Pacquiao, Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad. In Asia, on the regional scene, the bouts have been far less high profile, but we've regularly had action packed bouts, where the limitations of the fighters involved have made for fun contests. Be it for the Japanese, OPBF or WBO Asia Pacific title we've had some brilliant Welterweight title bouts. On December 8th we're expecting another, as the once beaten Yuki Beppu (20-1-1, 19), dubbed the "Kyushu Tyson", takes on former Japanese Welterweight champion Ryota Yada (19-5, 16), in a WBO Asia Pacific Welterweight title bout that looks very explosive on paper.
Of the two fighters it's Yada who is the more well known. He is a former Japanese champion who is now competing in his second WBO Asia Pacific title fight. The 30 year old Osakan, dubbed the "Terminator of Naniwa", is no world beater but he is a heavy handed, aggressive and exciting fighter. In 2018 he claimed the Japanese Welterweight title with an excellent win over Toshio Arikawa and made 2 defense before losing the belt this past April to Yuki Nagano. Since then he scored just a single win, stopping Robert Kopa in 4 rounds, in what was little more than a confidence building following the loss to Nagano.
Yada is an aggressive and exciting fighter who has heavy hands, an impressive work rate but some very flawed technical issues and questions about his durability. Not only was he stopped by Nagano this year but in 2016 he was stopped by Filipino fighter Jayar Inson in a bout for the WBO Asia Pacific title, and really just got beaten up in that bout before the bout was finally stopped. He can certainly punch, but his ability to take punishment doesn't match up with his own power and he can be hurt, rocked, and stopped.
The 28 year old Beppu has been banging on the verges of a title fight for a while, and now finally gets his first shot as a belt. He made his name originally by winning the Rookie of the Year in 2014, stopping Hironobu Matsunaga in the final, but then decided to string together wins over terrible opposition. Thoise wins saw him race his record to 14-0 (14) before he was even tested, though showed he was capable by earning a draw with Charles Bellamy in 2017. Another string of low level early wins followed until he lost a competitive decision to Yuki Nagano in a Japanese title eliminator in 2018. Since then he scored 2 wins and earned this shot at a regional title.
Although Beppu has frustrated at times, and his career would have been further along had he not faced so many terrible opponents from Thailand, he is a very credible fighter on the domestic and regional title picture. He's incredibly heavy handed, tough and knows when to bite down on his gum shield. However he's technically not very sharp or quick and his competition, overall has been appalling.
Coming in to this we have two legitimate punchers. One is a more single shot puncher, Beppu, whilst the the other wears people down with heavy hands hands. We know both can bang, but we're actually more interested here in who can take the most punishment, and we suspect that is Beppu. With that in mind we suspect he'll come out on top here, in a war. We think both will land bombs, but in the end Yada will wear down and be stopped in the second half of a total thriller.
Prediction - TKO 9 Beppu
The first Saturday of December is set to be a huge one at Super Featherweight for Japanese fans who get a Japanese title fight and a WBO Asia Pacific title fight, both on the same show. For us the most interesting of those bouts is the regional title one, which will see WBO Asia Pacific champion Joe Noynay (18-2-1, 7) look to continue his run in Japan as he takes on former Japanese champion Kenichi Ogawa (24-1, 18). On paper this good, and with Noynay's recent momentum we are expecting something very exciting.
The 24 year Noynay made his debut as a baby faced youngster in 2013 and had a nice winning run to begin his career, before a draw with Alie Laurel and a loss to Richard Pumicpic saw him fall from 10-0 to 10-1-1. A loss a few fights later to Reiya Abe showed how good he was, but ended up with him dropping to 12-2-1. Since then however he has gone 6-0 (4) with the biggest struggle being a tough 10 round win over Hector Garcia in 2018. That win over Garcia was a hard win, but seemed to inspire real belief in Noynay, and his power, and he has subsequently stopped Kosuke Saka and Satoshi Shimizu, both in upset wins in Osaka.
In the ring Noynay is a very talented boxer, who picks the right shots at the right time. Despite his recent run of stoppages he's not a "big hitter", but he's a very, very clean hitter, and his shots have more than just a bit of spite on them. He can be dragged into a brawl at times, but tends to get back behind his boxing before taking too much punishment. His current run of form is fantastic and the way he has become a Japanese-Killer this year has been incredibly impressive, and suggests he won't care too much about Ogawa and his reputation.
The 31 year old Ogawa is best known for his 2017 bout with Tevin Farmer, which he won by decision before having the result over turned due to a drug test. After serving a ban of a year he returned in February and has scored two relatively low profile wins over Filipino fighters. This bout is is however a huge step up from those wins, and on paper may actually be the toughest bout of Ogawa's career. At his core Ogawa is a boxer-puncher. He has shown plenty of basic boxing skills, though was made to miss a lot against Farmer, and has got heavy hands. It's really his boxing skills that are his biggest issue though, and he can be out boxed, as we've seen at domestic level against the likes of Kento Matsushita and Satoru Sugita.
At the moment Ogawa can ill afford a loss, and whilst he hasn't been beaten since having his jaw broken way back in August 2012 this is a bout where he needs to put on a great performance to take a win. He's up against a man who can out box him, who can hurt him, and who fights from the southpaw stance. Ogawa needs to be careful, he needs to fight smart and he needs to avoid a tear up. He really needs to be disciplined, use his 1-2 and avoid the power shots from Noynay. If Ogawa believes he can take the power of Noynay he will almost certainly find himself in problems here.
We suspect that Noyany's boxing skills, his control of distance, and movement will be key early on. He'll get on his toes, box, make Ogawa look silly and slow. Noynay's power may not have the effect on Ogawa that it had on Saka and Shimizu, but it will still be enough to shake Ogawa, a natural Super Featherweight. For Ogawa the key is to get through the early rounds, hope that Noynay slows down a bit, and try to land the big right hand in the later rounds. Ogawa certainly has the power to take Noynay out, but will need to see off the early storm.
Sadly for Ogawa his recent performances don't make us believe he has what it takes to see out the early part of the bout, especially not against the clean left hands of Noynay. Ogawa is tough, but his technical limitations and openness to counters will be a major issue here.
Prediction - TKO8 Noynay
On December 7th we'll see a really interesting Japanese Super Featherweight title fight, as the defending champion Masaru Sueyoshi (19-1-1, 11) takes on former Japanese Featherweight champion Kosuke Saka (19-5, 16). On paper this is a bout that, if Sueyoshi wins, will likely see him begin an ascent towards a world title fight, whilst Saka will know that a win brings him a second Japanese divisional title, and set up a very interesting first defense at the 2020 Champion Carnival against Takuya Watanabe.
The once beaten champion is on a 17 unbeaten run, going 16-0-1 (8) with 4 defenses already under his belt. Whilst he hasn't always shone as the champion, and certainly doesn't appear to have found that new level that title holders often find, he has shown enough to suggest that he can get beyond this level, though may well need to see the stakes rise to get the best out of him. He is a smart boxer-moved, with a very odd and unique sense of distance and range. He looks talented, is a sharp puncher, but often a bit too negative to really enjoy watching, no matter how skilled he is.
At his best Sueyoshi is a brilliant counter puncher. His 2017 KO win over Allan Vallespin is one of the best KO's we've seen in years, but at his worst he struggles to make opponents make mistakes and can't always force the fight himself. We've seen him twice fail to shine against Ken Osato, winning the first in 8 rounds against a tired Osato and struggling to a majority decision in a rematch. He very much needs the right type of dance partner to look great against, but is a genuine talent and if given an aggressive foe he can look sensational.
In Kosuke Saka we'll Sueyoshi take on a legitimate puncher, but a flawed puncher and someone who hasn't looked great in recent performances. Saka has been a professional since 2012 and suffered his first loss to Masayuki Ito in the 2012 Rookie of the Year, incidentally Sueyoshi suffered loss to Ito in the same tournament, and his career really struggled afterwards with Saka losing 2 of his 4 bouts following the Ito bout. Those losses were however followed by a strong run of results as Saka beat the likes of Ryuto Kyoguchi, Takafumi Nakajima and Shota Hayashi, to become the Japanese Featherweight champion. As the time it seemed his career was going places, and he had stopped 8 in a row, but then he lost the title when he mentally switched off and lost to Takenori Ohashi. Since the loss to Ohashi we've seen Saka going 3-1 but a loss in 2 rounds to Joe Noynay certainly suggested that he'd become a bit of a glass cannon.
Saka, at his best, is a wrecking machine, but we've not really seen that in recent bouts, with losses to Ohashi and Noynay leaving us with more questions about Saka, his concentration levels and his willingness to dig deep.
Given how Saka is a naturally smaller, aggressive, slugger, he has the style that Sueyoshi should be very happy facing. Yes Saka is dangerous, he's a legitimate brute of a puncher, but Sueyoshi should get a lot of chances to counter him, and catch him with some very clean shots as Saka comes forward. There's a chance Sueyoshi gets caught, and we do have doubts over Sueyoshi's chin, but we suspect this will end up being a bit of a showcase performance from the champion who will take out Saka with a perfect counter right hand in the middle rounds.
Predictions - TKO7 Sueyoshi
Back in early November we saw the Inoue brothers, Naoya and Takuma, both fight in world title bouts. On December 2nd we see their cousin, Koki Inoue (14-0, 11), attempt to claim his first international title, as he takes on hard hitting Filipino Jheritz Chavez (9-3-2, 7) in a bout for the WBO Asia Pacific Light Welterweight title.
Whilst Koki isn't as well known as his cousins he is usually a fun to watch fighter and Chavez, although not unbeatable, is a tough and heavy handed fighter who will be in there looking to take out Inoue and make a name for himself.
Trained by his uncle, Shingo Inoue, Koki Inoue was a stellar amateur with over 100 amateur wins and a number of notable amateur titles. Since turning professional in 2015 he has been moved aggressively and despite some frustrations has managed to score solid wins over a string of national and regional fighters. Earlier this year he claimed the Japanese title, with a decision win over Valentine Hosokawa and made his first defense in July, stopping Ryuji Ikeda.
In the ring Inoue is a boxer puncher. He's managed to show his boxing ability in decision wins over Marcus Smith and Valentine Hosokawa, boxing on the move and using the ring well. He does however look better as an aggressive fighter, using his combinations to demolish fighters with excellent hand speed, stinging power and smart punch placement. Sometimes he does seem too happy to get on the back foot and move, but when we see his aggressive mentality come through he really does look like an excellent prospect, able to make a mark at a much higher level.
The 28 year old Chavez isn't particularly well known but has shown himself to be a dangerous and tough fighter. He's certainly not the most polished, or technically sound, but he's heavy handed, always comes to win and does take a good shot. Sadly for Chavez he is pretty clumsy, quite flat footed and can be made to look very slow whilst opponents stick their jab through his guard. That was seen in 2017, when Hiroki Okada out boxed him whilst comfortably boxing behind his jab and it was clear that Chavez had no answer to Okada's reach. Notably however he did look a lot more positive in his 2018 loss to Rikki Naito, where he came on strong and had Naito in real trouble late on.
Although not the busiest fighter Chavez does have the tools to give problems to fighters. He's small and tough, a very hard man to budge with a good engine, heavy hands and a man who can fight with a smart gameplan. He boxes cautiously early on, gets an under-standing of his opponent and then presses with more intensity later in a bout. Despite his traits he can be a slow starter and whilst he is tough he does have holes in his defense, holes that Inoue could well make the most of.
We're expecting Chavez to press forward, but his lack of speed and size will allow Inoue to rack up the rounds early on, by simply boxing and moving. As the fight goes on however Chavez's pressure could end up causing Inoue problems, and that's when the bout will get interesting. Despite that we see Inoue having the energy in his legs to remain on the outside and control the fight.
Inoue certainly has the power to get Chavez's respect, and that may be the big difference between this bout, and contest between Chavez and Naito. Naito couldn't hurt Chavez, and when Chavez mounted his late surge he had nothing to be afraid of. Here we suspect Inoue's power could be enough to keep Chavez shelling up. Chavez will unload late, but we don't expect him to have much success against the talented Inoue.
Prediction - UD12 Inoue
The Champion Carnival in 2020 is still having it's eliminators and title bouts being fought for through November and December. Among the bouts that are left are a Japanese title fighter, between Masaru Sueyoshi and Kosuke Saka, which is set to take place in December, and an eliminator between Taiki Minamoto (16-5-1, 13) and Takuya Watanabe (36-9-1, 21), with the winners fighting next year. Whilst the title bout is an excellent match up, we wouldn't be surprised by the eliminator actually being the better bout, pitting a true puncher against one of the most insanely tough guys in the sport.
The 28 year old Minamoto is a former Japanese Featherweight champion, and is someone who left his previous division due to issues making weight. Hisreign was a short one, beginning in April 2018 and ending after just 2 defenses, when he vacated following a draw with Reiya Abe. Despite the short reign reign he left an impression, winning the title in an excellent performance against Takenori Ohashi and pulling himself off the canvas to stop Tatsuya Otsubo and then twice dropping Abe to earn a draw. Prior to winning the Featherweight title he had challenged for the Super Bantamweight belt, but been beaten by Yukinori Oguni, before moving up.
As a fighter Minamoto is a very good boxer-puncher. He's got real venom in every shot he throws, he sets a good work rate and has under-rated speed. He's good at getting behind his jab and working at range, boxing and moving. Where he lacks, is just touches of polish, and if he had that polish there's a good chance he'd have taken the win over Abe. He's defensively a little bit open, though usually his offensive work keeps opponents from taking advantage of those flaws. To date his chin has proven to be generally good, and it's unlikely the extra 4lbs will be a major issue in how he takes a punch, but he has been down in the past, and can get dragged into a toe-to-toe brawl. Something that is not good for him.
Watanabe has been around or years, and it's genuinely hard to believe that he's only 30 years old. The teak tough Watanabe has been around, and around, and actually debuted way back in 2007. His career has been a road less travelled, and he has legitimately fought through much of Asia with bouts not only in Japan but also Thailand, South Korea, Hong Kong, China and Taiwan. Given he such a road warrior it's worth noting he's actually had success on his travels, though is best known for his bloody and brave effort against Jae Sung Lee than any road win. His bout with Lee was a genuine blood bath with Watanabe bleeding profusely from very early on. Despite his long career he's never been stopped, and has gone the distance in all of his losses, including defeats to Satoshi Hosono, Masayuki Ito and most recently Hironori Mishiro.
Watanabe is a very capable boxer. He's got solid size, power, speed and very impressive toughness. Sadly though being solid in all areas doesn't make you great in them, and his toughness alone won't win all fights. He can be out boxed, as Ito and Mishiro did, and he can be out fought, though fighters will have to go through hell to outfight him. Like Watanabe he prefer to box than fight, though perhaps he would have had more career success if he had been a fighter and swarmed opponents bringing them into a war and testing his toughness against theirs. Sadly it does appear that Watnaabe is slowing down, and although he was competitive, at times, with Mishiro he lacked the foot speed to really push Mishiro all the way when the two men fought back in March.
At his best Watanabe is a nightmare for anyone at domestic level, and we would love to see him to go up against either Sueyoshi or Saka, though unfortunately we do think he's slipped a little. Against a fighter like Minamoto, who can box at range and land sharp shots, we see Watanabe struggling for sustained success. We do see Watanabe having moments, but not enough of them to convince the judges that he's doing enough to win. Up close Watanabe has the ability to out work and slow Minamoto's foot work down, but we don't imagine that happening early enough for Watanabe to ever be in control of the bout. Instead we see Minamoto as a little bit too good, too light on his feet and too quick.
Prediction - UD8 Minamoto
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.