On August 9th we'll see Japanese Youth Super Bantamweight champion Toshiki Shimomachi (11-1-2, 7) make his first defense of the title title over a year after winning it. In the opposite corner to the champion will be fellow youngster Hiroki Hanabusa (8-0-3, 3), in what looks like a brilliant match up. We know not many fans will be aware of who these two are, but fans who do follow the Japanese Youth Scene will know that this is a bout to be very excited about.
The once beaten champion is a 23 year old who made his debut back in December 2015. His first 12 months or so were a struggle, as he went 2-1-1 (1) but since then he has rebuilt well, winning the 2017 All Japan Rookie of the Year, at Super Bantamweight and won the Japanese Youth title in 2019. Whilst he hasn't made too much noise he has notched decent wins over the likes of Arashi Iimi, Renan Portes and Kenta Nomura, and also has a very credible draw with Daisuke Watanabe to his name.
In the ring Shimomachi is a very talented southpaw boxer who creates space well, lines up his quick left hand but can increase the tempo when he needs to. His overall style is really relaxed, but he's also really sharp and accurate and when he lets his shots go they are thrown with bad intent. One big complaint is that he is too relaxed, and doesn't pick up the pace very often. He can look lazy, and too negative, but is very good at avoiding shots even in the middle of the ring. If, or maybe when, he can find his extra gear he looks like a man with the potential to go very far and his skills can't be questioned.
At 21 years old Hanabusa is the younger man and, on paper, he's also the man stepping up. Despite that he's actually been really impressive, winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2018 showing what he could on foreign soil, with a draw against Ayati Sailike in China last year. He impressed last December when he beat Baolin Kang and looks like a real prospect for the future. Despite that he is still a youngster and a real boxing baby.
Early in his career Hanabusa looked rather awkward, his balance was poor, his threw wild shots and was rather lucky at times that fellow novices didn't make him pay. In 2019 however he rounded off his skill set pretty impressively and now seems a much more rounded, polished fighter. There are areas to work on but the 21 year old has improved so much from his early bouts. He's still not totally polished, but is becoming a much better boxer-mover and has looked very good in recent bouts.
Whilst we do see Hanabusa as being an improving fighter, he's still not as polished, smooth or natural in the ring as Shimomachi. We could see Hanabusa out working Shimomachi at times, but we expect to see the champion's natural skills and class prove to be too much over the 8 round distance. There will be moments where Shimomachi makes life difficult for himself, by virtue of his low activity, but as the bout goes on and he settles down he will end up landing more and more accurate, eye catching, blows and take a clear decision over his compatriot.
Prediction - UD8 Shimomachi
From all the postponements and other issues there hasn't been many bouts officially cancelled, with many of them being either postponed or delayed indefinitely. One bout that has been cancelled however was a planned Japanese Light Flyweight title bout which would have seen Yuto Takahashi defending the title against Masamichi Yabuki. This bout was totally cancelled when Takahashi decided to vacate the belt and retire from professional boxing at the age of 27, citing issues with motivation and training. The bout, which had been scheduled for much earlier in the year, was a Champion Carnival bout that left the Japan Boxing Commission with a vacancy to fill. That vacancy will be filled this coming Friday as we see a mouth watering clash the big punching Yabuki take on a very exciting youngster with an all action style.
Instead of the originally planned what we'll have instead is a match up between Masamichi Yabuki (10-3, 10) and Tsuyoshi Sato (10-1-1, 5), in what looks likely to be a real thriller.
Those who haven't seen Yabuki have been missing out on a really exciting boxer-puncher, who has recently moved down in weight from Flyweight to Light Flyweight. At 112lbs he was a heavy hitting, with under-rated boxer skills, and used those skills to set up his power. Despite being a good boxer puncher at Flyweight he wasn't a world class one, or someone showing traits of being world class. He had he has looked impressive in his wins but had lost his 3 most meaningful bouts at the weight, with those losses coming to Junto Nakatani, Seigo Yuri Akui and Daniel Matellon.
Last year Yabuki dropped down in weight and the power on his shots told, as he stopped Rikito Shiba in 4 rounds to become the number #1 contender for the Japanese Light Flyweight title. He looked a bully at the new weight, and although he wasn't charging forward wildly it was clear the extra 4lbs of lost weight wasn't going to do him any harm. Instead it seemed, at last, as it he was at the weight that suited him and his arsenal of heavy straight shots and ability to box on the move.
At the age of 28 Yabuki is coming into his physical prime, and given his average bout length is 3.7 rounds he's not taken punishment. Instead he has typically blasted opponents out early, with 5 wins in the opening round and only 4 of his 13 career bouts going beyond 4 rounds. He's a dangerous fighter.
At just 23 years old Tsuyoshi Sato is quickly becoming a fan favourite with an aggressive pressure style that has made his bouts must watch. He debuted at the age of 18 and was 1-1-1 after 3 bouts, but since then has reeled off 9 wins, won the 2017 Rookie of the Year, and has stopped 3 of his last 4. Whilst his competition hasn't been great, and can't be compared to that of Yabuki's, he has got good wins already over the likes of Daiki Kameyama, Yoshiki Abe and Masashi Tada, the only man to take Sato 8 rounds.
Watching Sato in action we really do have a fun little fighter. He comes forward, he pressures and presses and looks to back up his opponents before going to work on the inside. Physically not as imposing as Yabuki, which could be an issue here, but he always looks to make a fight his fight, and what we could find is that his pressure can give Yabuki issues. At least up close. Yabuki likes to fight at mid-range and if Sato can close the distance and work inside he could give Yabuki fits.
Sadly whilst we do love watching Sato we do feel this fight might be coming a little too soon for him. At 23 he's still a boxing baby and given what Yabuki did to Rikito Shiba we worry about something similar happening here. We see Sato pressing but the power of Yabuki simply being too much, with Yabuki landing clean hurtful shots as as the younger man comes in.
We suspect Yabuki wins, but Sato will bounce back in the coming years.
Prediction - TKO6 Yabuki
This preview was originally posted for the bout's first scheduled date, March 1st. Rather than re-writing it we'll be using it for the new date of July 26th. This was posted before their was a huge hiatus in Japanese boxing due to the global situation that essentially put boxing, and life for most of us, on hold. As a result there are some fairly obvious issues, but we have tried to make it clear that we are aware of the issues.
The reason it's being reused is it's still essentially our view on the fight, despite the changes in date, and the fighters both aging since the original March date for the bout.
After a couple of relatively quiet months things really amp up through the month of March, with a whole host of notable fights taking place all over the place. The first of those will see Japanese youngster Daiki Tomita (14-1, 5) take on veteran Kenichi Horikawa (40-16-1, 13) in a bout for the vacant OPBF Light Flyweight title. The bout, which takes place on March 1st at the City Plaza Yayoinokaze Hall, in Izumi City.
The one clear thing to note is the experience between the two fighters.
The 22 year old Tomita has fought 15 times as a professional since making his debut in 2015, as a fresh faced teenager. He would win the 2016 Rookie of the Year, at Minimumweight, and moved up the professional boxing ladder to an OPBF Minimumweight title fight with Tsubasa Koura in 2018, losing that bout but putting in a performance that showed the 20 year old had real potential. Since then he has moved up in weight and won the WBO Asia Pacific title. He is, for all intents, a man with a very bright future ahead of him, and not someone to be written off for a single loss, that he learned a lot from.
Horikawa on the other hand is a 39 year old, in fact he turns 40 later in March, who has been a professional since 2000 and will be competing in his 58th professional bout. During his long career he has faced off with a genuine who's who of the lower weights, including Akira Yaegashi, Florente Condes, Edgar Sosa, Tetsuya Hisada, Yu Kimura and Kenshiro Teraji. Whilst he's not often been able to over-come his toughest opponents few have got past him without working incredibly hard for victory. At his age, and with wear and tear, we do wonder what he has left in the tank.
So with Horikawa having the edge in experience, and Tomita having the edge in youth, lets look at other areas of the two men.
Tomita is very much a boxer. The 5'4" fighter is someone who looks to create space and use his jab to control the tempo and range of the bout. It's a sharp jab, he doubles it up well and he does follow it up with the right hand pretty well. Since moving up in weight, to Light Flyweight he's looked stronger and has began to show a more proficient body attack, and it does seem like he really has learned a lot from the loss to Koura. Just last time out he looked much more rounded as he took a win over Hayato Yamaguchi, and showed a much more varied attack on the inside. He still seemed happier at range, but was able to do more than just hang with Yamaguchi up close.
Horikawa on the other hand is an aggressive, in your face type of warrior. He gets up close, wants to fight, and likes to get close where he can dictate the tempo of the bout. Given his age it'll be no surprise to learn that his tempo, speed, energy and reactions are much reduced from what they once were. As a result he is more conservative than he used to be and approaches opponents with less intensity than he once did. In his late 30's however he is more technically solid than he's ever been and will look to counter to get inside rather than rush in like he used to.
In Horikawa's prime his energy, aggression, and willingness to pursue and harass opponents would have been a huge benefit here. Sadly though Horikawa looked like an old man last time out, losing a clear decision to Yuto Takahashi, who was too quick, too sharp and too mobile.
We expect the youth factor of Tomita to a massive factor here, and for him to essentially out youth the now faded Horikawa. There will certainly be moments where Tomita is backed up, tagged and on the receiving end of flurry's from Horikawa. Those flurry's will win Horikawa a round or two, but not be enough to take the decision.
Prediction - UD12 Tomita
The sport of boxing is back in Japan, and has been for a few days now, following the hiatus we had due to the ongoing global situation. On July 16th we had our first Japanese title bout and now we return with another from Korakuen Hall. Like the bout from last week this is another Champion Carnival bout, pitting a defending champion against their mandatory challenger, though unlike that bout neither of these two men are all that well known. Despite that this may end up one of the month's better bouts.
In one corner wee will have Japanese Super Flyweight champion Kenta Nakagawa (18-3-1, 12), looking to make his first defense of his second reign, whilst the other corner will play host to mandatory challenger Yuta Matsuo (15-4-2, 8), who is hoping to make it third time lucky after previous losses in title bouts.
Of the two men it's Kenta Nakagawa who will be entering as the favourite. The Southpaw from the Misako gym is part of a gym having great success in recent years, and we know success breeds success in boxing. He's the champion going in, he's riding a 5 fight unbeaten run and claimed the title in a bit of an upset last December, dethroning Takayuki Okumoto in Osaka. He has proven that he's a solid boxer-puncher and the win over Okumoto just added to his reputation.
At the age of 34, and turning 35 in August, Nakagawa is an old fighter for the division, but hasn't taken too much punishment. His 22 bouts have combined for 102 professional rounds and he has only suffered a single stoppage loss so far, when he lost the Japanese title the first time in a 2017 clash with Ryuichi Funai. Sure he's old, but he's a young 34 at the weight, without too many hard miles on his body and has scored plenty of quick wins to keep the miles off the clock.
The challenger has gotten this bout despite failing to secure a single win last year, going 0-1-1. His loss came to Okumoto in last year's Champion Carnival, when he challenged Okumoto for the title Nakagawa now holds, and he then went on to fight to a draw with Hiroyuki Kudaka in what was a title eliminator. Despite the draw he gets this shot due to being ranked #1 going into that bout. Not only is he without a win in the last year but he's also come up short in 2 title bouts, the one with Okumoto and one with Masayuki Kuroda in 2017. Added to those set backs is the fact he's also the naturally smaller man, fighting mostly at Flyweight.
Although the under-dog Matsuo is a live challenger coming in to this bout. His form might not be great but wins over the likes of Ryoji Fukunaga, Ryuto Oho, Seiya Fujikita and Yota Hori show he can beat good fighters. Also he's stylistically a nightmare at this level. He's strong, comes forward, tough, throws solid shots, even if they aren't destructive, and can keep a good work rate. He's not the most intense, and he can be found walking in without letting shots go, but he will make people fight for every minute of every round, pressing them and trying to break their heart.
We expect to see Matsuo pressuring, getting on the front foot and making Nakagawa work hard, from the opening round the champion will need to be on his toes, picking his shots. Thankfully for the champion he does appear to be a solid, hard hitter who lands clean, and he may well manage to get Matsuo's respect with his heavy straight shots. We don't think Nakagawa will stop Matsuo, but we do think he'll land the better blows, create the space he needs to work from and keep Matsuo at bay and take a clear, but hard fought, decision to retain his title.
Prediction - UD10 Nakagawa
Whilst the most notable member of the Inoue family, Naoya Inoue, won't be in action until later in the year he's not the only member of the clan with a belt at the moment. The other is his cousin Koki Inoue (15-0, 12), who returns to the ring on July 16th to make a mandatory defense of the Japanese Light Welterweight title. The unbeaten champion will be taking on Daishi Nagata (14-2-1, 5) as part of the Champion Carnival, in what looks like a genuinely fantastic looking match up, though one the champion will enter as the clear favourite in.
Originally this bout was scheduled for a March date, which was originally delayed due to Inoue being injured in training. It was then rescheduled for May before being delayed again due to the out break of the on going issues that have had global impacts. As a result this bout will actually be the first Japanese title fight in months, after boxing was put on a hiatus in Japan.
The champion, who not only holds the Japanese title but also the WBO Asia Pacific title, turned professional with a lot of expectations on his shoulders. By the time he made his debut in late 2015 Naoya had already become a 2-weight world champion whilst Naoya's brother Takuma was the OPBF champion, winning that title in just his 4th professional bout. Sadly it did take Koki a bit longer to make an impact than either of his cousins, as domestic fighters seemed to give him a pretty wide berth at times. Despite some frustrations Inoue managed to secure himself a mandatory title in 2019, which he won by out boxing Valentine Hosokawa, to win his first title in his 13th professional bout.
Since winning the Japanese title in April 2019 Inoue has defended it once, beating Ryuji Ikeda in 5 rounds, and unified it with the WBO Asia Pacific title, by stopping Jheritz Chavez in 7 rounds.
In the ring Inoue is a southpaw boxer puncher. He's not quite as heavy handed, relative to his weight class, as Naoya, but he holds plenty of pop. He likes to move, use the ring and lure opponents into his shots, whilst calmly boxing on the back foot. It's not always the most exciting to watch him do his thing, but when he goes through the gears and lets his hands go he looks sensational, with quick, hard, free flowing combinations. Sadly he does often seem too cautious, which is a shame given that he's such a great fighter to watch when he does turn up the tempo.
Aged 30 this is Daishi Nagata's second shot at a title, following a very close loss in an OPBF title fight against Rikki Naito. The challenger is a very fun fighter to see in action, pressing fighter and looking to force opponents to break, mentally and physically. He's not unbeatable, and was taken out in 7 rounds back in 2017 by Vladimir Baez, but he's a real tough out at this level with his pressure and aggression. He used that pressure to out work and out point Cristiano Aoqui last October, to earn his title fight, and build on previous wins over Yusuka Tsukada and Min Ho Jung. He's not the biggest puncher, but he's physically strong and does enough power on his shots to get the results of opponents.
Nagata, like Inoue, is a southpaw and stylistically he very different to the champion. Whilst the champion likes to uses his legs, establish range and chip away before moving through the gears Nagata would prefer a tear up, and will press from the off. That pressure is a tactic that could beat Inoue, but will need to be amped up and sped up from Nagata, who will need to find a bit more zip in his footwork compared to what we've seen from him in the past.
Although we think Nagata has the style to cause problems at domestic level we do see Inoue as being too quick, too sharp, and too good. The pressure Nagata brings will, like Chavez's, be used against him and he will walk into shots, with Inoue chipping away against someone who appears to be a willing participant in their own beating. Nagata will be looking to try and walk down Inoue but it will not a successful idea and by the middle rounds Inoue will begin to come forward more and take out the gutsy, but over-matched, challenger.
Prediction - TKO8 Inoue
As part of an Ohashi card on July 16th we'll see OPBF Featherweight champion Satoshi Shimizu (8-1, 8) defending his title against former Japanese Youth champion Kyohei Tonomoto (9-2-1, 4). On paper this doesn't look the best of bouts, but there is a lot that makes this bout really interesting, and something that could be, potentially, a slippery match up for the defending champion.
The 34 year old Shimizu turned professional in 2016, with many thinking he turned pro far too late to make the most of his ability. Prior to that he had been a very successful amateur, fighting at 2-Olympics and winning bronze at the 2012 Olympics in London. Had he turned professional then we would likely be talking about Shimizu having made an impact at world level. Sadly he wanted to battle for a place at the 2016 Olympics, falling short and turning professional afterwards.
In the ring Shimizu is a crude, but awkward, gangly southpaw puncher. Despite a very strong amateur background he's very unorthodox and throws shots from weird angles, often with his chin exposed. Typically he's gotten away with it in the professional ranks due to his freakish power and absolutely bizarre dimensions for a Featherweight. Last time out however he was punished with Joe Noynay stopping him in 6 rounds in a Super Featherweight bout. That loss not only scuppered Shimizu's unbeaten record but also left him injured and requiring a lengthy break from the ring to recover. As a result Shimizu is now 11 months removed from his last bout and 18 months removed from his last win, which was also his last defense of the OPBF Featherweight title.
With the inactivity, injuries, age, and potentially low confidence Shimizu may well be there for the taking.
In Tonomoto we have a challenger who is just starting to come into his physical prime. He turns 25 in July and appears to finally have some momentum in his career. He made his debut in 2013, reached the All Japan Rookie of the Year final in 2014, losing to Reiya Abe, and then vanished from the sport in late 2015 for over 3 years. Since returning to boxing in December 2018 Tonomoto has gone unbeaten in 3 fights, including winning the Japanese Youth Featherweight title in May 2019, and defending it 7 months later.
Sadly footage of Tonomoto is relatively scarce, though in his Japanese Youth title win he did show a lot to like. He moved around the ring well, was accurate and smartly neutralised Hikaru Matsuoka early on before finding his range and boxing well behind his clean and effective jab. It wasn't the most exciting or explosive of performances but it was a smart and efficient stuff from the youngster who was well deserving of the win. He looked like he had the ability to go further in the sport than the Japanese Youth title, but also looked like there was areas holding him back, including his lack of power and lack of intensity.
We do believe this is the perfect time to face Shimizu. If he was in with a dangerous fighter, someone with some bang, or a high work rate, he could be in a lot of trouble. In reality however he's in with a light puncher who he should, really, be able to walk through.
We suspect Shimizu will start slowly, ease his way into the bout, and then begin to step up on the gas in the middle rounds and break down the game challenger. Tonomoto will be there to win, but will, sadly, lack the ability, strength and power to cope with the champion.
Prediction - TKO6 Shimizu
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
Top 10 world ranked Super Featherweights clash on March 7th, as the undefeated Akzhol Sulaimanbek Uulu challenges Mark Urvanov for the WBO International championship in Ekaterinburg.
Akzhol Sulaimanbek Uulu (15-0 / 8 KOs) before entering the professional ring, he had a good amateur background behind him. A participant in the Asian Games and a 2 time finalist of the Kyrgyz Championships, Uulu finally made his pro debut in 2016, winning 8 fights within 13 months and also gained the WBC Asia Continental title.
His first serious opponent was former IBF Intercontinental & WBO Asia Pacific champion Andrei Isayeu (30-15). Uulu looked like the veteran in this one, controlling the pace from the get go, peppering Isayeu repeatedly with jabs and body shots to earn a clean unanimous decision.
He then took on another experienced fighter in Devis Perez (34-19). Even though the match was back and forth for the first 2 rounds, the pace changed quickly with Uulu rocking him on multiple occasions in the 3rd with the left straight. When the round ended, Perez seemed to have been in great pain and couldn’t continue.
Uulu would go on to win the vacant WBA Asia title in 2018 at the expense of Leonardo Padilla (18-3), who was also undefeated at the time. The Kyrgyz displayed excellent head movement, while also kept countering every big shot and other than suffering a knockdown, which was basically him losing his footing, Padilla couldn’t follow Uulu’s pace and eventually succumbed to his foe’s fast offense.
One of his most dominant victories was over 1x world title challenger Aristides Perez (31-13), with the referee stopping the fight in the 4th round, after Perez offered no offense of his own and was just taking punches repeatedly. 6 months later, he faced Thai knockout artist Pipat Chaiporn (47-13) in what was the toughest battle of his career so far. Both men were trading inside the pocket, with neither one gaining an advantage over the other. The former IBF Pan Pacific champion started losing ground near the end of the 6th, after taking 2 heavy blows to the jaw and got blasted for the entirety of the next round as well. Uulu would then drop him thrice with the straight left to the body during the 8th to finish the fight and retain his WBA Asia crown.
After making short work of Milner Marcano (21-9) last summer, stopping him with a perfectly placed liver shot, Uulu will now go toe to toe with a hungry young prospect that has quickly risen in the world’s rankings.
At the age of 23, Mark Urvanov (17-2 / 9 KOs) has already been in the game for almost a decade. His amateur career expanded from 2011 to 2014, winning multiple regional championships and also earned the rank of candidate for national Master of Sports.
Despite coming up short on his debut, he made a quick turn around and went on a 12 fight winning streak, before losing to fellow amateur star and past rival Muhammadkhuja Yaqubov (15-0). During that time, he fought and beat the afformentioned Andrei Isayeu (30-15) in a close contest as well as Rauf Aghayev (28-7) for the WBC Asia & Eurasia titles. In that second match, Urvanov was fighting with an injured right hand. The Russian did a great job of predicting Aghayev’s moves and countering his attacks, dropping him twice during the last round.
Urvanov piled up a couple more victories, during which he showcased a much more aggressive style. His latest and most important one thus far was against former WBO European & Intercontinental champion and 1x world title challenger Evgeny Chuprakov (21-2). Urvanov stunned his opponent with a left hook to the chin and followed it up with a barrage of punches, attacking the head and the body, overwhelming him with his power and speed to capture the vacant WBO International title. He is now set to make his inaugural defense against an unbeaten fighter, who could very well be his hardest challenge yet.
Looking at the styles of both boxers, this promises to be a fast paced, action packed match. Uulu is a skilled and smart fighter that loves to push the pace and throw rapid combinations, especially to the body. Urvanov’s mean streak began after losing to Yaqubov. Since then, he has been relentless in the ring, finishing 3 of his last 4 fights in less than 10 minutes. His physical prowess gives him the edge over most of his opponents, “bullying” them around while looking for the knockout.
On the other hand, when it comes to their careers, even though both guys have been in the ring with experienced fighters, Uulu has had overall better competition and the more impressive performances. The best example is the way Uulu outclassed Andrei Isayeu, whereas Urvanov had a much tougher time dealing with him. Moreover, Urvanov’s inability to properly defend himself, especially when he’s moving backwards, is the reason he has been knocked down a couple of times, as he lets his guard down. Good thing is that we didn’t see him repeat that mistake in his bout with Chuprakov, so hopefully he has learned his lesson.
To sum this up, what the fans should expect is a crowd pleasing encounter between 2 strong boxers that are always on the attack and don’t like to slow down. On paper, Uulu has the best chances of walking away the winner but the “Russian Canelo” surprised many people with his latest performance, looking like a completely different fighter, more focused and more aggressive than ever before. So who will prevail and bring himself closer to a World championship opportunity? We will find out this coming weekend in Russia!
The Welterweight division in Asia hasn't been the most amazing to follow, despite some entertaining bouts such as 2019's fantastic bout between Yuki Beppu and Ryota Yada. Despite not being the best it does give us some interesting match ups on paper, such as the one at the start of between Keita Obara and Yuki Nagano, and the one we're going to focus on in this preview. That's the February 27th bout for the the OPBF title between Riku Nagahama (11-2-1, 4) and Kudura Kaneko (11-0, 8). On paper this looks good and in the ring we expect it to be even better than it looks.
Ranked #3 by the OPBF Kaneko is getting his first shot a major title, having previously won the Japanese Youth Welterweight title. The Japanese based Afghan born 22 year old is someone who has quietly been making a name for himself without too much attention on him. Since debuting in 2015, as a teenager, Kaneko has developed himself a reputation as a very talented boxer-puncher. He claimed the Youth title in 2018, when he beat Change Hamashima in their second bout, then scored a trio of solid domestic wins over Toshio Arikawa, Rikuto Adachi and Moon Hyun Yun. Those 3 wins have helped secure him this title fight, and have seen him get a title on merit, something we don't always see.
Although not well known outside of Japan Kaneko is a very physically strong fighter. He's not the quickest or the sharpest, but he's certainly not slow and sloppy and is instead more of a deliberate fighter, with heavy hands. There's power in both hands and for a fighter who isn't lighting quick with his hands he does move well, especially with his upper body. One other thing to note about Kaneko is that he finds the target well and varies his shots smartly. Defensively there is work to do for Kaneko going forward but at the moment no ones really been able to make him pay for the little flaws with see. Instead he tends to be the one making opponents pay, and make them pay rather quickly with 7 of his wins coming within 3 rounds.
Aged 28 Nagahama is a man who is now starting to fight for his career. He's not shot, or past his best, but he is in desperate need for a notable win, following stoppage losses in 2017, to Takeshi Inoue, and 2018, to Yuki Nagano. This will be his second title fight, following a loss in a Japanese title fight at 154lbs to Inoue, but isn't an easy one. In fact on paper this is his third toughest bout on paper, and he has lost his two toughest bouts to date. Looking through his record his biggest wins so far were 2015 Rookie of the Year win, at Middleweight, against Brandon Lockhart Shane and his 2019 win over Masaya Tamayama. The win over Tamayama was good, but that wasn't a win that really showed Nagahama was ready to mix it at regional title level.
Watching Nagahama we see a solid fighter, but one who doesn't blow us away, in any area. He's technically decent, but lacks speed, lacks power, and doesn't appear physically imposing. He lets good combinations go, but the never appears to have any sort of fight ending power on them. If you let him dictate the pace it'll be a slow, controlled fight and a win for him. To beat him, you need to dictate the pace, and for most fighters at regional title level that won't be a problem.
We expect this to start pretty slowly, with the two men looking to stand off and box against each other. It won't take long however until Kaneko puts his foot on the gas and lands something heavy, and begin to break down Nagahama, who will feel the need to respond and that will only speed up his demise.
Prediction - TKO5 Kaneko
On February 14th we'll see Filipino slugger Froilan Saludar (31-3-1, 22) make his first defense of WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight title as he takes on fellow puncher Ryoji Fukunaga (11-4, 11) at the Korakuen Hall. On paper this isn't a bout that we expect to see a lot of international attention, but with both men possessing serious power there is a real chance this could end up being a bit of a sleeper classic.
Saludar's career has been an odd one. He was once tipped as a future star of the Filipino scene, before suffering a loss in his 21st bout, when he was taken out by McWilliams Arroyo in a world title eliminator. He would later come up short against Takuma Inoue and then lose in a world title fight in 2018 against Sho Kimura. Those losses essentially saw him being written off, and he'd gone from 19-0-1 (12) to 28-3-1 (19). Since then however he has quietly rebuilt, with 3 T/KO wins, including a spectacular one of unbeaten Japanese hopeful Tsubasa Murachi last September to win the WBO Asia Pacific title.
Early in his career many in the Philippines touted Saludar as a future star. So far his career has fallen short, a long way short, but at 30 years old his career is certainly not over. He's now more mature than he was younger, a little less bouncy and less wasteful in terms of energy, though there does still seem to be a bit too much wasteful movement in his work. He's never had the greatest of engine, but seems to use his experience more to hide that, moving more intelligently and occasionally "old manning" his way through rounds. It's not the most exciting thing to see, but given how exciting he is when he lets his hands go it's certainly not a bad game plan for the "Sniper", who has shown he can strike at any moment. It's that experience that also helps Saludar defensively and he's certainly looking like a man who rides shot better now than he did just a few years ago.
The 33 year old Fukunaga is a bit of an unknown if we're being honest. His record suggests he's a monster puncher with 11T/KO's from 11 wins but the quality of those wins is relatively low. His best win to date came in the 2016 All Japan Rookie of the Year, against Kota Fujimoto, and since then he has really not done anything of note. In fact since his triumph in the All Japan Rookie of the Year Fujimoto is 3-2 (2), though the two losses have come to good competition in the form of Yuta Matsuo and Kongfah CP Freshmart, both in competitive bouts.
Despite his relatively weak wins Fukunaga does actually look to be a pretty solid boxer-puncher, albeit one with questionable defense. He moves forward looking to fire off his stiff jab and uncork his thunderbolt of a southpaw left hand. Defensively his hands are lower than they should be, but he seems to be trying to draw mistakes out of his opponents, and opening them up for counter shots with his head movement. Against the low level opponents he's been taking out it's a tactic that has worked, but against the better fights, such as the ones that have beaten him in recent years, it's not been as effective.
We certainly believe that Fukunaga has the power to hurt Saludar if he lands clean. Sadly for Fukunaga we don't see him landing too much clean, and would expect Sauldar to have the tools to out box him. In fact we wouldn't be surprised if Saludar saw how 1-dimensional Fukunaga was and started lining him up for big counters of his own by the middle rounds, and stopping the challenger.
Fukunaga has a puncher's chance, of course he does, but that is pretty much all he has, from what we've seen. Our prediction is a Saludar win, inside the distance, likely from a big overhand right in the middle rounds.
Prediction - TKO6 Saludar
The Japanese Lightweight scene is a frustrating one at times. On paper it should be interesting, there's plenty of talent there, and lot of interesting match ups that could be made there in the coming years, but sadly we seem to be between waves of fighters. At the moment Japanese national champion Shuichiro Yoshino (11-0, 9) looks to be head and shoulders above the rest, having unified the Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles. Despite the fact Yoshino looks to be well ahead of the others he hasn't yet vacated, and will instead defend the national title on February 13th against mandatory challenger Izuki Tomioka (7-2-1, 2) as part of the 2020 Champion Carnival.
The 28 year old Yoshino has really been on a relative fast track right from the start of his professional career. The talented boxer-puncher had been an excellent amateur on the Japanese scene, going 104-20 (55), before beginning his professional career in late 2015. In just his 4th professional bout Yoshino had beaten Yoshitaka Kato. Just 6 months after that he had won the Japanese title, which he has now defended 4 times, and last year Yoshino unified the national title with the 2 regional thrones.
In the ring Yoshino is a real talent. He can box, he can brawl and boy can he punch, with his last 7 wins all coming inside the distance. We actually need to go all the way back to his Japanese title win to see the last time someone was even semi-competitive with him, and even then Yoshino stopped Spicy Matsushita in 7 rounds. The power of Yoshino really is brutal and his KO's against Kazumasa Kobayashi and Harmonito Dela Torre have shown that it takes only a single left hook for Yoshino to finish someone off. The fact he has scored 2 awesome KO's whilst on the back foot shows how dangerous he is and how brutal his left hook is.
The 22 year Tomioka has been a professional since late 2016, and has shown some promise and also been in some frustrating fights. He's a talent, but a frustrating one who is perhaps getting this shot a little too early in his career. He won his first 5 bouts, winning the Japanese Youth Lightweight title in just his 4th bout way back in August 2017. He would defend the belt twice, beating Taiju Shiratori and fighting to a technical draw against Kaiki Yuba. He then faced the then OPBF Lightweight champion Masayoshi Nakatani and was stopped in 11 rounds by Naktani, following a very close bout. Another loss to Shuya Masaki followed up and really frustrated as Tomioka refused to really let his hands go. Since then however he has picked up 2 straight wins and earned this title fight, thanks to a win over Kazuki Saito.
At his worst Tomioka is a frustrating mover who looks unconvinced by himself, moving more than puncher and ultra-negative, as we saw against Masaki. At his best however he is brilliant boxer, with a sharp jab, excellent speed, great ring IQ and a fantastic judge of distance and timing. He's tall and rangy, and dictates things really well whilst picking great shots. It was these traits that were all on show last time out, when he schooled Kazuki Saito in a career best win. Despite schooling Saito the youngster still showed touched of negativity, and also a lack of physical strength and punching power. He's skilled, but we do wonder about his physical maturity.
We think Tomioka has future national champion written all over him. He's such a natural talent and a pure outside boxer. A truly fantastic young boxer. Sadly for him however he's up against a strong, powerful, heavy handed fighter who can hold his own when boxing, and bang. We see Tomioka having success, but Yoshino's pressure will build and he will begin to find a home for his left hook and straight right hand. Sooner or later we see Tomioka being stopped, and having his good early work being undone.
If Yoshino is successful here, fingers crossed he moves on and begin to face fringe world class guys and move towards a world title fight. There is, after all, no point wasting time at domestic level. As for Tomioka he will come again, and will find himself in an interesting era of Japanese Lightweight fighters, along with Shu Utsuki, Masahiro Suzuki and Katsuya Yasuda.
Prediction - TKO8 Yoshino
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.