On December 19th we'll get the last title fight to take place in Japan this year, as Ryosuke Nishida (4-0, 1) makes his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight title, as he takes on Tetsuro Ohashi (8-2-1, 2) [大橋哲朗] at the Sumiyoshi Ward Center in Osaka. On paper this isn't a big bout, in fact the contest actually seems like a notable backwards step for the champion, but it is good to see the champion return to the ring before 2021 is over, and before all the momentum of his last two wins has been lost. As for the challenger, the bout is a big chance for him to claim a title and to put his name on the boxing map.
Aged 25 Nishida is one of the many rising young prospects in Japan that has been making waves over the last few years. Like many of the top Japanese youngsters he has been moved incredibly quickly, beating former world title challenger Shohei Omori in his third bout and then upsetting Daigo Higa earlier this year, in a career defining best performance, to take the WBO Asia Pacific title. That win over Higa took Nishida from Japanese prospect to regional champion and fringe world title contender, and shows he was very much a legitimate talent, with a lot of potential, skills, and boxing IQ.
In the ring Nishida is a brilliant boxer-mover, he uses angles well, has excellent footwork and puts his shots together really well. Technically he is an excellent boxer, and does everything really well. Within just 4 bouts he has two very good wins, he has managed to prove his stamina, going 12 rounds with Higa and getting stronger in the later rounds, shown his boxing skills, and looked every bit a future world champion in the making. There is however a few areas where improvements could be made. Notably he's not a physically imposing fighter, and whilst he hits hard enough to get respect from the likes of Omori and Higa, he's not got concussive power. We know he can hurt fighters, but he doesn't seem to have the belief to finish them off, yet. We also wonder what his chin is like, with Higa having been an excellent Flyweight but not really showing the same power at Bantamweight, and we do wonder what he can do against naturally strong really Bantamweight physical fighters. Thankfully we think he can answer all the questions left for him to answer, and only merely needs the competition to prove it, rather than lacking the tools to answer them questions.
Sadly Ohashi won't be the type of opponent to get the best from Nishida. In fact it's hard to see what Ohashi really brings to the ring to test the champion.
Aged 23 Ohashi, like Nishida, is a skilled southpaw. He turned professional in 2017, won Rookie of the Year in 2018, but is 2-2 since his Rookie of the Year win, with a KO8 loss to Suzumi Tkayama in a Japanese Youth title bout and a 2020 decision loss to Hiroyuki Kudaka. What makes this worse is that his only notable win since his Rookie of the Year triumph was a decision win over Isao Aoyama this past July. Whilst his competition hasn't been great it's hard to deny his skill, and Ohashi is genuinely a very talented fighter. Like Nishida however he lacks power, physicality and with 2 losses in his last 3 we do wonder about his confidence and ambition.
In the ring Ohashi is a very solid boxer. He has nice movement, good boxing skills, and nice quick hands. Sadly though he is very negative in a lot of what he does, and whilst he does do a lot of things really well, he's not very aggressive, physical or demanding. Despite only 2 KO's he does have enough pop to keep fighters honest, but he's not going to really hurt them, and we saw that against Suzumi Takayama when he landed the best shot of his career and put Takayama down without really hurting his man.
In many ways Ohashi is the perfect foil for Nishida. He's like a smaller, weaker, but similar, fighter to Nishida. A B grade Nishida if you will. With that in mind it's hard to imagine Nishida losing, but the focus will be on honing his skills in the fight, answering new questions, and showing how he deals with a fellow boxer-mover, and how he neutralises a man with good speed.
We expect this to be a very technical bout early on, both men getting their jabs into play, a lot of movement, and looking to set up and range. As the bout goes on however Nishida's size, strength and more rounded abilities should prove to be the difference makers.
We don't see Nishida going for the finish, but if he does he should get it, but instead we see him getting good, competitive rounds under his belt here, en route to a wide decision win.
Prediction - UD12 Nishida
This coming Tuesday is a massive day for Japanese boxing, thanks to the return to a Japanese ring of Monster Naoya Inoue. Inoue's show however isn't the only one in Japan, and a second show, set to take place at Korakuen Hall, will also be an interesting one with a pair of regional title bouts.
One of those bouts will see OPBF Light Welterweight champion Rikki Naito (23-2, 8) defending his title against Koichi Aso (24-9-1, 15), in a bout that was supposed to take place earlier this year before Naito contracted Covid19 and has to pull out of the original date. For Naito this will be his 5th defense, following his title win in early 2018 against Jeffrey Arienza, whilst Aso will be fighting in his first OPBF title bout, though he has fought for and won a Japanese title earlier in his career.
Of the two men the more natural talent is Naito. He's a second generation fighter, following in the footsteps of the success Cassius Naito, and a very pure boxer. The 30 year old southpaw is fast, fluid and a naturally athletic fighter who has had a very solid career since turning professional in 2011. He won the Japanese Featherweight title early in his career, and and made 3 successful defenses, including one over Masayuki Ito, before losing the title in 2015 to Kenichi Ogawa, who also beat him in a rematch a year later. His only two losses as those to Ogawa, and we all know how good Ogawa is now given his recent world title win. Following the losses to Ogawa he moved up in weight and has settled at Light Welterweight, winning the OPBF title in his in his third bout at the weight. Since winning that title he has defended it against Jheritz Chavez, Daishi Nagata, Gyu Beom Jeon and Yusuke Konno, with the Konno bout being his most recent, coming in November 2020.
In the ring there is no doubting Naito's ability as a boxer. He is an excellent talent, with a great array of punches, eye catching speed, natural footwork, good heart and desire and a very good boxing brain. There really is a lot to like with Naito. Sadly however there are also some real issues for him. Like many "fast" fighters he lacks power, and his shots don't really shift fighters. Since winning the title he has only scored a single stoppage, and that was when Yusuke Konno injured his arm and had to pull out of their bout after 9 rounds. He has had to go the distance with Chavez, Nagata and Jeon, and worryingly in the later rounds of all 3 fights he has been in trouble as his speeds has dropped off and his stamina has let opponents into the bouts. Chavez and Nagata both dropped him and we do wonder whether he can really shine against the other top 140lb fighters in Asia.
Aso on the other hand is a true stalwart of Japanese boxing, and a legitimate veteran of the domestic scene, even if he is an unknown outside of his homeland. The 35 year old made his debut all the way back in 2006 and quickly made a name for himself domestically as a very fan friendly fighter, who came out fighting at a high tempo, applying pressure, and letting shots go. Early on he had plenty of good results, reaching the 2008 East Japan Rookie of the Year final, being eliminated on the tie breaker rule against Valentine Hosokawa but his style would come up short against the bigger punchers, and he was stopped inside a round by Shinya Iwabuchi in 2011. After 21 fights he was 15-5-1 (9) and his career looked like it was going to be a fun to watch one, but one that never really went anywhere, but in the years that followed he would distinguish himself as a legitimate contender on the Japanese scene, battling twice with Hiroki Okada, in 2014 and 2016. When Okada vacated the national title he was there to pick up the pieces and finally won the title in 2017, and made a single defense of the belt, in a Japanese Fight of the Year contender against Yusuke Konno. Sadly since that win he has gone 2-2 and looked like an old, fighter.
At his best Aso was a bull in the ring. He was all energy, all aggression and all action. His style made him must watch, and although he was always crude, and lacked single punch power, he was made for TV. His output was high, his risk taking was obvious and overall he was incredibly fun to watch. Sadly his style does not age well, and at the age of 35 he isn't the fighter he was in his late 20's and early 30's. He can't keep up a high tempo, and his energy is lacking. He can no longer march forward for 10 rounds and throw a huge number of punches and instead fights in selective bursts.
In his prime Aso would have been absolute hell for a fighter like Naito. Naito's skills would have won him rounds, but Aso's pressure, output and volume would have helped sap the tank of Naito, and left Naito in hell in the later rounds, perhaps even being dropped late on for Aso to take a close decision, or a potential stoppage.
Sadly this isn't a prime Aso, but is a near prime Naito. Aso's inability to keep a high work rate will be a major issue here, and although he'll try to bully Naito early on, he'll not be able to keep up the output, allowing Naito to get in and out, get his shots off, create space and dictate the tempo. In the later rounds Naito won't be under too much pressure as Aso simply doesn't have the legs or energy more and will instead follow Naito as opposed to hunting him. After 12 rounds Naito will be running near empty but will end up easily surviving and taking home the victory.
Prediction - UD12 Nait
On December 14th fight fans will have their attention on Japan, with a major show at the with Western fans focus in on Kokugikan, in Tokyo. That show however, with two world title bouts, isn't the only Japanese show show this coming Tuesdays, with a smaller card set to take place at Korakuen Hall. That Korakuen Hall show is much smaller, but it promises to deliver so amazing action with two OPBF title bouts.
For us one of the OPBF title bouts looks like a potential hidden for the month, and that is the OPBF Super Featherweight title bout between Kosuke Saka (21-5, 18) and Yoshimitsu Kimura (12-2-1, 7), who battle for the currently vacant title, which was vacated by Hironori Mishiro. The bout certainly doesn't have the star power of the bouts at the Kokugikan, but may well end up being the most explosive bout of the day.
Of the two men the much more proven is Saka. The heavy handed fighter from Osaka is a bit of an unknown outside of Japan, but has already won both the Japanese Feather and Super Featherweight title, and came runner up in the All Japan Rookie of the Year, all the way back in 2012 where he lost to Masayuki Ito in the final. He is a very aggressive, heavy handed monster who often goes over-looked when we talk about exciting Japanese fighters, in part due to having 5 losses. The first of those was to Ito in 2012 and by the summer of 2014 he was 8-3 (5). Since then however he has gone 13-2 with his only losses in that run coming in a freak ending against Takenori Ohashi and to the criminally under-rated Joe Noynay. As for his wins during that 15 fight run, he has beaten the likes of Ryuto Kyoguchi, Takafumi Nakajima, Shoita Hayashi, Masaru Sueyoshi and Takuya Watanabe. (For those curious, Ryuto Kyoguchi is indeed Hiroto Kyoguchi's brother).
In the ring Saka, when he's on song, is a nightmare. He's very heavy handed, his shots hurt every time they land, and he combines his break like fist with a style that bring constant, intelligent pressure. In just a few years he has developed from a crude, but powerful puncher, into an intelligent, heavy handed pressure-puncher, who comes forward, puts opponents on the back foot and hurts them, time and time again, breaking them down physically and mentally. That was seen to great effect against Masaru Sueyoshi, who he beat for the title, and against the incredibly tough Takuya Watanabe, who had his incredible resistance broken. His current run has seen him climb into the WBO world rankings, and a win here would help him earn a place into the WBC rankings, and help him move towards a world title fight.
Whilst Saka is a proven force on the domestic scene Kimura isn't, at least not quite. The 25 has come close to making a mark a couple of times, but hasn't yet managed to win the big fights that he needs to win to put down a mark on the scene. Despite that he has shown he has the skills, the desire and the ability to mix it on domestic and regional level, though perhaps lacks the experience and maturity at the moment. He turned professional in 2015, winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2016 and was 9-0 when he faced off with the always tricky Richard Pumicpic, suffering a competitive loss to the Filipino. He bounced back from that loss with 3 wins, before losing a razor close bout to Hironori Mishiro in late 2019, in a legitimately fantastic 12 round battle for the OPBF title Super Featherweight title. Sadly since that loss he's only fought once, fighting to a thrilling draw with Shuma Nakazato late last year.
In the ring Kimura is a technically well schooled fighter who can either fight as a pressure fighter or a boxer, but does tend to prefer a high tempo bout up close, with shots being thrown on the inside. He's shown fantastic determination, getting up in his last two bouts, impressive stamina, having already been 12 rounds twice, a great work rate and smart movement. He has decent power, but it's not destructive, and will get respect of fighters, but it's not fight changing at the high levels, and the likes of Mishiro and Pumicpic weren't too affected by it. Sadly he does, at times, look just a touch fragile, and whilst there's no doubting his heart and determination, we do have to wonder whether he'll be able to with stand the power and physicality of Saka.
We expect this to be a really fun, explosive fight. The styles should gel really, really well and we should see the two men getting close and exchanging heavy leather. Sadly for Kimura it does feel like his style will pay into the hands of Saka, who hits hard, is physically more imposing, and has that killer instinct. We see Kimura having moments in the first couple of rounds, before being backed up in rounds 3 and 4, and then finally being broken down in the middle rounds. The sheer power and of Saka will be the difference maker, and whilst this will be a great fight, we don't see Kimura have what he needs to take home the victory.
Prediction - TKO6 Saka
On December 9th Japanese fight fans at Korakuen Hall will see Japanese Welterweight champion Keita Obara (24-4-1, 21) make his second defense, as he takes on Masaya Tamayama (14-2, 8), who will be competing in his first title bout. On paper this is a huge step up for the challenger, whilst Obara will be looking to continue his domination of the domestic scene, and potentially move towards a triple crown fight in 2022.
Of the two men involved in the fight it's fair to say that Obara is the much, much more well known fighter. He is, after all, a former world title challenger, a 2-weight Japanese national champion and a fighter who has previously held both of the notable regional titles. He is also someone who was long viewed as one of the few Japanese Light Welterweights who could make a mark internationally, and in fairness to him he did with a world title bout and two bouts in the US. Aged 35 he is certainly getting towards the end of his career, but with just 29 fights to his name, and a total of 156 rounds, he's not taken much punishment and does take very good care of his body outside of the sport.
In the ring Obara is a relative basic boxer, but one who does what he does pretty well. He is a pretty typical boxer-puncher, who wants distance to work at, and wants to be able to get full extension on his shots. At domestic level, and regional level, his power is brutal and it's rare that opponents have been able to survive against him. His power has carried up at domestic level from 140lbs to 147lbs and in fact it's probably fair to say that his 5'11" frame was always more suited to Welterweight than 140lbs. Although heavy handed Obara isn't the quickest out there, and he can be made to look slow of foot, he also doesn't like being forced to reset, something we've seen in a number of his losses, and he does have question marks over his chin, with 3 of his 4 losses coming by stoppage. Whilst we'll forgive his first loss, on debut when he ran out of gas in a scheduled 6 rounder, his other two stoppages have been devastating KO's worthy of a highlight for each of his conquerors.
Aged 28 Tamayama is coming into his prime but there is still a lot of question marks over his head. He turned professional in 2013 and reached the East Japan Rookie of the Year final in 2014, losing in the final to Hironobu Matsunaga. Following that loss he went on a nice winning run, picking up 8 wins before losing in 2019 to Riku Nagahama in what was a very well contested bout. Sadly whilst his 8 win run did look good on paper it didn't really hold up to scrutiny and he lacked a win of any note, and several of his wins, including one over Toshiro Tarumi was incredibly close. None of those wins really aged well either. Since lose to Nagahama he has notched two wins, but again they lack in terms of quality, with the best of them coming against Hisashi Kato, a limited "win some, lose some" domestic fighter
In the ring Tamayama is an aggressive fighter, who likes to bring pressure and force a fight. He's not particularly polished, or a big puncher, but his style is certainly one that could make for fun action bouts with the right dance partner. Despite bringing pressure he is a patient fighter, and he doesn't like wasting shots. He'll bring the pressure with his feet and look to get a mistake from his opponent before firing off shots. It's worth noting that he fights out of the Teiken gym and in some ways his style is similar to what we recently saw from Kenichi Ogawa against Azinga Fuzile, albeit with out the "Crush Right" of Ogawa. Against certain opponents, such as Shoki Sakai, he would make for a great fight, but against other fighters he just lacks those touches needed to make a mark at a higher level. Sadly he also doesn't have the tightest of defences and we regularly see opponents landing clean shots on him as he comes in.
Sadly for Tamayama his limited defensive skills will cost him here. Against the likes Hisashi Kato he can afford to get hit, against Obara however he can't. Obara's power is devastating at Japanese level, and we suspect that we'll see that here. We expect to see Tamayama pressing forward, showing some good hunger, but getting tagged with hard right hands on his way in. Sooner or later those will be his undoing and he'll get rocked before Obara puts him away.
Prediction - TKO6 Obara
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.