OPBF champion Magramo faces Kuwahara
This coming Tuesday we'll get a really good looking regional title bout, as OPBF Flyweight champion Giemel Magramo (26-2, 16-2, 21) takes on Japanese challenger Taku Kuwahara (10-1, 6) at the legendary Korakuen Hall. For Magramo the bout serves as he first defense of the title, which he won back in October 2021, whilst it also sees him return to the scene his of his most notable bout, a 2020 loss to Junto Nakatani. As for Kuwahara the bout will see him get a second title fight, following a loss to Japanese national champion Seigo Yuri Akui in 2021. For both the bout will not just be on for the prestigious OPBF title, but also for their future, with neither man really able to take another loss so soon after their losses to Nakatani and Akui.
Of the two men the more established is Magramo, the current Oriental champion and former world title challenger. The 28 year old is part of the third generation of fighting Magramo's, which includes his father Melvin Magramo, his grandfather Ric Magramo, his brother Arvin and uncles Renato, Ronnie and Alvin Magramo. Given he is from a long line of boxers it's fair to say the sport is in his blood, though unfortunately natural talent only takes a fighter so far, and Magramo is very much someone who would have really done better had his team focused on developing those ability with top training and good development fights. Instead of developing his natural abilities Magramo has become something of a hard hitting boxer-puncher who gets by based on his natural tools, rather than the development of them.
Since making his debut in 2012 Magramo has long been tipped as one to watch. Sadly however it wasn't until his 15th fight that he faced someone of some value, in Jeny Boy Boca. His next bout of note was a close decision loss to Muhammad Waseem in 2016 before he went back to facing low level Filipino domestic fighters before scoring notable wins over Petchchorhae Kokietgym and Wenfeng Ge, wins that saw Magramo prove what he could do and begin banging on the door of a world title fight. That title fight came in 2020 and he was made to look third rate by Nakatani who really did toy with him until stopping him in 8 rounds. Notably he has bounced back from those losses with good wins against Jayr Raquinel and Jerry Tomogdan.
In the ring Magramo is a hard hitting fighter, with has very good straight shots and heavy blows up close. Sadly though he is relatively easy to hit, crude, unpolished and slow. Getting into a war with him isn't a smart idea, but boxing and moving, punishing him for his lack of speed, and making the most of the fact he needs to set his feet can make him look rather limit. Keeping that up for 12 rounds however is tricky, and he does apply pressure, have a great chin and a brilliant will to win. He is flawed, but to beat him a fighter will need to be world, or fringe world, class due to his power, toughness, determination and tenacity.
As for Kuwahara, the Ohashi promoted 27 year old was a notable amateur, competing in international competitions before beginning his professional journey in 2018. He was eyed as part of the next wave of Ohashi gym fighters and quickly impressed taking good wins over domestic fighters like Takamori Kiyama and Kyomu Hamagami before stepping up and beating Filipino visitors Jonathan Refugio and Ricardo Sueno. By the start of 2020 he seemed on the verge of a domestic title fight, but the pandemic slowed those plans and he had to wait until July 2021 for a crack at Japanese champion Seigo Yuri Akui. Their bout was nip and tuck through 9 riveting rounds, before Akui's power finally broke him down in the 10th round of a great fight. Since then he has picked up two low level wins including one over Parinya Khaikanha the younger brother of Suriyan and Nawaphon Kaikana.
In the ring Kuwahara is a really good boxer, with a smooth look to his work, some fantastic body shots and a really good boxing brain. Sadly for him he does look top domestic level power, and although he has stopped his last 2 opponents, he doesn't have the type of power which will scare opponents away. Instead he's more of a clean puncher, who will get respect from opponents, but not turn fights around with it. Coming in to this particular bout he will very much be the boxer against the power punching Magramo.
For this fight the real question is who will be able to dictate the range and tempo. If Kuwahara boxes and moves, like we've seen from him in the past, we certainly expect him to rack up the rounds, especially early on, and if he can get to the body of Magramo he can likely hold off the surge that Magramo will make. If however Magramo's pressure forces Kuwahara into a war then this isn't going to end well for the challenger. The champion needs to either set a high intensity, and force Kuwahara to stand and trade, or stand off early on and make a charge for things late in the bout. As for Kuwahara he needs to box, he needs to be smart, and whilst Magramo doesn't have the power of Akui, Kuwahara still needs to be wary of how punishing Magramo's hands are.
We think that whilst Kuwahara will make a good start we actually see him breaking down in the middle rounds, and potentially see the wheels falling off late on, much like they did against Akui, with a late stoppage for Magramo.
Prediction - TKO 11 Magramo
This coming Thursday fight fans at Korakuen Hall will get the chance to see unbeaten Japanese Bantamweight champion Seiya Tsutsumi (6-0-2, 5) make his first defense, as he takes on Kenshin Oshima (7-2-1, 3), who will be getting his second shot at the title. The bout is a great chance to see Tsutusmi build on his title win, earlier this year against Kyosuke Sawada, whilst Oshima will be looking to rebuild from a loss to the aforementioned Sawada, in what was a bout for the vacant title at the start of the year.
Of the two men it's the reigning champion who has the higher profile, but has also had no luck at all. The heavy handed Tsutusmi, who is now 26, debuted in March 2018 and quickly caught the eye following a solid amateur career. Unlike most Japanese fighters he got some international experience under his belt early, with 2 of his first 4 bouts taking place away from home before scoring an eye catching and destructive win over tough Filipino journeyman Ryan Rey Ponteras just 13 months after his debut. He seemed to be racing to big things, but unfortunate draws in 2020 against Kazuki Nakajima and Daigo Higa, in bouts that many felt he should have won, slowed his rise through the ranks and cost him. In fact within 6 months of those draws both Higa and Nakajima had gone on to win regional titles, regional titles that he probably felt he should have fought for. Despite those draws, and being out of the ring for the entire of 2021, Tsutusmi put in a career best performance back in June, when he stopped Kyosuke Sawada in 8 rounds to claim the Japanese title, and show the Japanese boxing world that he could get over the winning line in big fights.
In the ring Tsutumi combines a solid boxing brain, under-rated movement and very solid power, with an aggressive mindset and a calm, confident in ring demeanour. He is well schooled, dating back to his days as an amateur, but has developed a style that is very much that of a professional boxer, who has spiteful powerful. Despite being heavy handed he's also not an idiot or a glass cannon. He showed he was smart when he faced Nakajima, choosing not to fight fire with fight but instead boxing and moving, and making the most of his advantage in foot speed, but also showed he was tough and determined in his 10 round bout with Higa, showing he had the stamina to go 10 rounds with the hard hitting former WBC Flyweight champion. He's small, at Bantamweight, and could likely drop 3lbs to become an extremely dangerous fighter at Super Flyweight, but is a ball of educated power punching that few will enjoy facing off against.
Whilst Tsutsumi has been in with a string of notable names the same can't be said of Oshima. The 28 year old Teiken fighter began his career in 2016, and there was expectation on his shoulders following a good amateur career. Sadly though a loss in his second bout, to Yuki Iriguchi, and a draw in 2018 against Nobuaki Kanazawa left him with a 3-1-1 (3) record. Whilst those early results were mixed, who's more notable is the fact that as he's build his record since then, he has shown a distinct lack of power, going 4-1 with out a stoppage since his first 3 wins. Whilst that has seen him face better opponents than his early foes, he's only really been beating capable domestic and regional level fighters, such as Ikuro Sadatsune and Wilbert Berondo, whilst the loss came against Sawada via technical decision. Not having a stoppage to his name since 2017 is a worry here, though there is no doubting his technical ability, there is a worry that he's not got the power or self belief to to be aggressive and turn bout around when they aren't going his way.
In the ring Oshima has a nice variety of shots, and does throw some of those shots with a sense of sharp crispness. Sadly though he is defensively poor, and whilst some of his shots are crisp and tights, especially his body shot, he does leave himself open when he throws, which did cost him against Sawada who scored a knockdown against him in round 2. Against a talented but light handed fighter, like Sawada, that wasn't too bad, but against an explosive heavy handed fighter like those defensive flaws are going to be a massive issue. Worse for Oshima is the fact he seems to have the Japanese fighting fire, and often takes one to land one. Again that's not too much of an issue against someone like Sawada, but against Tsutusmi that's not a good idea. Notably that Sawada bout is his only one since the start of 2020, and ring rust could be a major issue for him here
Whilst there is no doubting that Oshima has plenty of tool, we see him missing an important one here. Power. His lack of power will lead to Tsutsumi having little respect for him, and instead of the fight being a tough first defense we suspect Tsutusmi will press, and force Oshima into the wrong fight, there his heavier and hard shots will be the difference maker. Oshima's willingness to stand and trade against Sawada, and relative inactivity over the last few years, will not help him in what was always going to be a very, very, very tough bout for him.
Prediction - TKO5 Tsutsumi
This coming Tuesday we'll see two become one, as the Japanese Welterweight champion Keita Obara (25-4-1, 22) faces interim champion Takeru Kobata (12-5-1, 5), to unify the two titles and leave us with just a single Welterweight king pin.
The title became "split" earlier this year, when Obara was forced to pull out of a planned defense against former champion Yuki Nagano, with Kobata beating Nagano for the interim belt whilst Obara was given time to recover from his injury. As a result of the Nagano Vs Kobata bout we not only saw Kobata claim the interim title, but also send Nagano into retirement, ending his career before he got a chance to avenge his 2020 loss to Obara.
Of the two men Obara is the much, much, much more well known. He isn't just the Japanese champion, but is also a man known outside of Japan. He famously got knocked out of the ring in a world title fight against Eduard Troyanovsky, as well as suffering a KO2 at the hands of Alvin Lagumbay, following a highlight reel worthy double knockdown, and he has also fought in the US, losing to Kudratillo Abdukakhorov in 2019 and fighting to a draw with Walter Castillo in 2015. Although he's come up short on the road he has proven to be an excellent fighter on the domestic and regional scene, and is a fighter who has the size, power and technical skills to essentially control the domestic scene. Since turning professional in in 2010 he has gone 25-2 (22) at home, avenging one of his losses, with the other having come on his debut.
Aged 35 Obara is coming to the end of his career. He's getting on in terms of age but also in terms of his body. He's not had long, hard fighters, and his 30 fight career has only consisted of 161 rounds, but he has started to suffer regular injuries and whilst his body hasn't been beaten up in the ring he is certainly feeling the effects of a long career, as both a professional and an amateur. Despite that he is still a hard man to beat, at least domestically. He has brutal power, he can box pretty solidly and when he can dictate the tempo of a fight he's very hard to beat. Sadly for him fighters above domestic level have got the speed, and skills to neutralise him, but typically domestic Japanese fighters lack those. The international fighters make the most of Obara's slow feet, predictable in ring style, and the fact that he doesn't like to throw until he's set. He can box well, but struggles to change things around if they aren't going his way. He also struggles with durability, and 3 of his 4 losses have come by stoppage.
Whilst Obara is well known among Japanese fans and has had some international attention the same can't be said of Kobata. The 24 year old from Oita is something of an unknown, even within his homeland. He debuted back in 2015 and went 0-2-1 in his first 3, before finally stringing together some wins to reach the 2017 All Japan Rookie of the Year, losing in 2 rounds to Kosuke Arioka at Lightweight. That loss saw the then 19 year old fall to 5-3-1 (1) and there was no expectations at all on his shoulders. Over the following few years he matured, and his body filled out, taking him from Lightweight, to Light Welterweight and then Welterweight, which has now become his weight. Since moving through the weights we have seen Kobata have genuine success, and score notable domestic wins over Change Hamashima, Rikuto Adachi, Tetsuya Kondo, Fumisuke Kimura and, most recently, Yuki Nagano. That good run has caught the eye domestically, most notably the wins over Adachi and Nagano.
In the ring Kobta is a stubborn fighter, with under rated power, an awkward southpaw stance, and a busy work rate. He has a busy jab, throws nasty body shots, and has been breaking fighters down. For many fans, even those in Japan, the bout with Nagano was the first time they had been able to watch Kobata and they would have been impressed. He fought largely in the pocket against the dangerous Nagano, slipping and sliding shots well, whilst tagging Nagano over and over with his jab, straight right hand up top, hooks to the body and uppercuts, eventually breaking down Nagano. That performance was excellent, but maybe showed Nagano's lack of boxing IQ rather than just rounded Kobata is.
Whilst Kobata has skills, we can't help but feel that this bout will be the exact opposite of the Nagano fight. Whilst Nagano was happy to close the distance and walk into Kobata's range we suspect that Obara will be happy to create space, fight at distance and use his his straight shots to keep Kobata at range and off balance. The skills of Kobata could see him catching Obara with counter shots, but sadly we don't think he'll land enough of those to beat Obara. Instead we suspect Obara's power will take it's toll and he will, eventually, breakdown the interim champion.
Prediction - TKO 7 Obara
This coming Sunday fight fans at the Sumiyoshi Ward Center in Osaka will see the fast rising Ryosuke Nishida (5-0, 1) look to make his second defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight title, as he takes on Filipino challenger Aljum Pelesio (11-1, 6). A win for Nishida would likely leave him only a fight or two away from a potential world title fight whilst a victory for the challenger would give his career a massive boost, whilst also painting a target on his back for other fighters in the region.
Of the two men the more well known is Nishida. The professional novice was a solid amateur before beginning his professional campaign in in 2019, in Thailand.His rise since then has been rapid, and in just his third fight he beat former world title challenger Shohei Omori, who was once seen as the successor to Shinsuke Yamanaka as Japan's next big Bantamweight star, before beating Daigo Higa last April to claim the WBO Asia title, and make the world sit up and take note. Sadly his only defense so far came last December, when he beat Japanese foe Tetsuro Ohashi, in something of a weak first defense. The wins over Omori and Higa, in his 3rd and 4th bouts, are hugely impressive, and make it clear that Nishida's team not only believe in him, but also know that he has the self belief to beat well known names.
In the ring Nishida is a fighter who certainly doesn't have an explosive or powerful style, but what he does have is a brilliant boxing brain, fantastic ring craft and a complete understanding of what he's doing in the ring. He's light on his feet, keeps things simple and uses his jab to control the action, tempo and range of a fight. In terms of pure boxing skills, he is excellent, and is a wonderful outside fighter who made Higa look like a novice at times. His style might not be the most exciting, or fan pleasing, but it's effective, and as he matures and gains valuable experience we do expect his style to change slightly. We expect him to begin on sit on his punches more, grow belief in his power, which is criminally under-rated, and start to record stoppages, especially in the 10 and 12 round bouts that he'll now be competing in.
As for Pelesio, the 24 year old "Nightmare" is something of an unknown outside of his homeland. He debuted in 2017 and won his first 9 bouts, including wins over Dave Barlas (then 4-0-1) and John Mark Tihuk (then 2-0-2), before losing a razor thin decision to Lienard Sarcon in August 2019. Since then he has picked up 2 wins, in a career that has been clearly disrupted by the pandemic. Sadly for Pelesio there are a lot of question marks over his head coming in to this one. One of those is how he will deal with the 10 round distance. He has been in one scheduled 10 rounder, but that ended in the opening round, and to date his longest bouts are 8 rounds, with him going 2-1 over that distance. This will also be his first bout away from home and is a massive step up from his previous competition.
Watching Pelesio in action In the ring Pelesio is a fairly basic looking fighter, who's patient in the ring, rather open when he comes forward, and seems to have very little to trouble a fighter like Nishida. He does have quick hands, and likes to fighter as a counter puncher, but seems to like the crisp, clean punching needed to make the style a success, and he also doesn't have the power needed to make his counters really tell. On paper his record looks impressive, but in reality it is paper thin and has no wins that have really shown how much potential he has. He has wins that we think will age well, but proved little at the actual time.
Sadly for Pelesio it's hard to see him having anything to really test Nishida. What we expect is something of a slow burner early on. Both men being patient, waiting to see what the other has to offer. When Nishida figures out Pelesio can't test him we expect to see his confidence grow, and grow and in the later rounds he will push for the stoppage, getting his man out of there in the later rounds.
Prediction - TKO9 Nishida.
This coming Thursday fight fans at Korakuen Hall are set for a treat as the hard hitting OPBF Bantamweight champion Keita Kurihara (16-6-1, 14) defends his title against the once touted, though now somewhat forgotten, Kai Chiba (13-3, 8). The bout might not be getting much attention outside of Japan, but the bout has the potential to be something of a thrilling fire fight between two flawed, but typically fun to watch fighters.
For fans who have followed the Japanese scene at Bantamweight over the last 6 or 7 years Kurihara is a name they should be somewhat familiar with. He began his career by losing 4 of his first 7 bouts, but has since turned things aground, going 14-2-1 (11) since his sketchy start to professional boxing. Whilst the numbers alone don't tell us the story of a fighter Kurihara has scored notable domestic and regional level wins against the likes of Kazuki Tanaka, Yuki Strong Kobayashi, Warlito Parenas, Sukkasem Kietyongyuth and Kazuki Nakajima, whilst his 2 most recent losses have been to Hiroaki Teshigawara and Takuma Inoue.
In the ring Kurihara is crude. He's unpolished. He's defensively poor, slow, cumbersome and limited. He is however a man who has brutish power, an incredible will to win, and a real mean streak in the ring. He can be out boxed, he can be out-sped, out thought and out fought, but in a war he's a hard man to beat he can take a good shot and has the belief that he will come out on top in a fire fight. He has developed over the years, and isn't anywhere near as raw as he once was, but he is very much reliant on his heavy hands and brutish physicality. Notably he is only 29, he's big at Bantamweight and has matured significantly from the early losses in his career. Even if he will never be a technical marvel he is always someone who is dangerous and if a fighter makes a mistake against him, his power can, and often does, make them pay for it.
Also 29 years old is Kai Chiba, who began his career in 2015 and won his first 7 bouts, 6 by T/KO, to create some early buzz. His most notable wins were a 6 round decision over Ikuro Sadtsune and a 5th round TKO win over Ryo Matsubara, with those wins expected to move him onwards to big things. He was already being eyed as, at very least, a future Japanese champion. And then he was shocked by Filipino Brian Lobetania. Since then he has gone 7-2 but never quite looked like the fighter he looked set to be and he's only scored 2 KO's since that loss, both over very limited international fighters. Sadly for him his most noteworthy wins since his impressive early run have been decisions over Matcha Nakagawa and Haruki Ishikawa, solid domestic fighters, but not title level fighters. In his bouts against top domestic foes, he has lost to Kazuki Nakajima and Suzumi Takayama, who's unfortunate not to have landed a big fight following his 2021 win over Chiba.
In the ring Chiba is a solid boxer, though originally he seemed more like a boxer-puncher. As his career has progressed he has shown that his power can't carry up, and at times he has also looked apprehensive, worried and like the loss to Lobetania is still on his mind. He's technically well schooled, and is a very solid boxer, but there does appear to be something missing with him, and we dare say he's a bit too tense and worried now a days. He has good timing, and understands the theory behind boxing, and creating space, but there does seem to be something of a boxer fighting by numbers, rather than things coming naturally too him. Almost like he's looking to hide his deficiencies and is constantly thinking about them.
Technically Chiba is the better boxer. He might have his issues but he's the better boxer. Sadly for him however in ring results don't always favour the better boxer and this is likely to be shown here. The power of Nakajima seemed to scare Chiba at times, and Kurihara is much more dangerous than Nakajima, in our eyes. If Nakajima makes someone worry, Kurihara will do the same. With Chiba looking to avoid a fire fight we expect him to fall behind on the scorecards, with Kurihara pressing the action later on and closing the show in the second half of the fight, his power simply being too much for the challenger.
Prediction - TKO8 Kurihara
This coming Saturday fight fans in Osaka are set for an explosive encounter as Japanese Super Featherweight champion Kosuke Saka (21-6, 18) takes on Tsubasa Narai (8-1, 7), with both men being known as flawed but very heavy handed fighters each looking to prove a point.
Of the two men Saka is the much, much more well known and established. The 30 year old Osaka native has been a professional since 2012 and has really made a great name for himself in Japan, whilst proving to be one of the most fun to watch and exciting fighters in the country. He began his career with 6 straight wins before losing to future world champion Masayuki Ito in the All Japan Rookie of the Year final in 2012. He would then lose 2 of his next 4, falling to 8-3 before reeling off 8 straight wins, which included a 3rd round TKO over Shota Hayashi for the Japanese Featherweight title. Sadly in his first defense Saka really didn't look there, and was stopped in bizarre fashion by Takenori Ohashi, with Saka mis-hearing the 10 second clacker as the bell. Saka would lose again just 3 fights later, being stopped in 2 rounds by Joe Noynay in a bout for the WBO Asia Pacific Super Featherweight title, before claiming the Japanese title at 130lbs with a dominant TKO win over Masaru Sueyoshi, who retired soon afterwards. In his sole defenses of the title he scored a brutal TKO over Takuya Watanabe, but was stopped in 3 rounds last time out, as he ran into the criminally under-rated Yoshimitsu Kimura in a bout for the OPBF title.
During his 27 fight career Saka has looked both, amazing, and terrible. When his head is one he is a brutal swarming fighter, with rocks for hands, a great engine and a terrifying mix of tenacity and intensity. It's those tools which saw him beat the likes of Ryuto Kyoguchi, Shota Hayahasi, Masanori Rikiishi, Masaru Sueyoshi and Takuya Watanabe. He is a nightmare to fight, with incredibly heavy hands, a high work rate, and the type of energy that forces opponents to fight his fight. At other times however he's open, he's clumsy and he can look like he just doesn't want to be in the ring. He's open to counters, and whilst he is dangerous he is also very vulnerable, with 4 stoppage losses to his name. In fact his last 4 losses have all been inside the distance. It really can be hard to predict what Saka will turn up.
Aged 22 Narai is a talented youngster, who is getting this shot very, very early in his career. He debuted in 2019 and won his first 7 bouts, picking up the 2020 All Japan Rookie of the Year along the way. His power was evident, as he won 6 of those 7 bouts inside the distance, and only went beyond the 3 round twice, a 4th round TKO witn over Tomohiro Igarashi and a decision win over the awkward Yuki Yazan. Sadly for Narai his winning record came to an end in 2021, when he was stopped in 2 rounds by Kyonosuke Kameda, the cousin of Koki, Daiki and Tomoki Kameda, in a bout for the Japanese Youth Featherweight. That loss was expected to be a major set back, but just 9 months later Narai scored the biggest win of his career, stopping Shinnosuke Hasegawa in 2 rounds to climb towards a Japanese title fight. In the months that followed that bout Narai was announced as the next challenger for Japanese Super Featherweight title, thanks to the big win over Hasegawa.
In the ring Narai is a big puncher, but he's also a rather crude fighter who hasn't really had time to develop from his Rookie of the Year triumph. In the ring he tries to box, looking for openings and then lower the boom on his right hand. He's cautious and doesn't take many risks, instead waiting for an opponent to make a mistake before committing to his own power shots. When he's feeling like he's got his opponent hurt things change completely and he often over-commits when they are hurt. It's a tactic that has worked, but does see him make mistakes, and the type that good domestic fighters will make him pay for, and we saw that happen when he faced Kameda. His major issues in the ring is that he's not razor sharp, and his style of trying to draw a mistake before going for the kill needs him to either be ultra quick, or be willing to take a risk to draw a lead and he's simply not got the tools to do that, at the moment.
Going in to this fight the feeling is that the first man to land a clean bomb could end up winning. Saka is certainly the more proven and the man who has answered more questions, but is also worryingly inconsistent, and when tagged clean we have seen him fall apart, numerous times. As for Narai, it's hard to know what he's learned since losing to Kameda. When it comes to a shoot out, like this is expected to be, the man who's more proven and more experienced tends to take home the win, and that's what we expect to see here, with Saka perhaps getting dropped, but recovering to stop the challenger. This could last just a few rounds, but every round will be tense and could see chaos in the ring, but we do favour Saka to emerge from that chaos with the title.
Prediction - TKO3 Saka
This coming Tuesday fight fans at Korakuen Hall will see see WBO Asia Pacific Light Welterweight champion Andy Hiraoka (20-0, 15) look to record his third defense, as he takes on hard hitting Filipino challenger Alvin Lagumbay (13-5-1, 11). On paper the bout looks like a total mismatch, in favour of the talented, unbeaten and hotly tipped Hiraoka, but we have seen in the past that Lagumbay has the power to be a very threat and isn't someone to look past, despite his limitations.
The unbeaten Hiraoka is widely regarded as one of Japan's brightest hopes, and potentially their next world champion at 140lbs, a division they've not had a champion at since 1992. Aged 26 he's still young but coming into his prime and has improved over the last few years, developing from an athletic fighter, who relied on athleticism, to becoming a well rounded boxer, who just so happens to be a bit of an athletic freak. Also despite "only" being 26 he is already something of a veteran, with 20 bout to his name in a career that dates back to 2013 and saw him advance to the All Japan Rookie of the Year final in 2014. His talent has caught the eye not just at home, but also in the West with Top Rank working with him, promoting two of his bouts Stateside, and has also seen him having notable success, as he has won both the Japanese Youth, Japanese and WBO Asia Pacific titles at 140lbs.
In the ring Hiraoka was once a fighter who lived on his freakish size, with long limbs and a body that looked like it was made to be an athlete. He had size, speed, stamina and power. But he was somewhat lacking in boxing basics. As the years have gone on he has really worked on the boxing side of things, and now looks like a natural fighter, fighting behind a solid southpaw jab, and with good timing on his left hand. There is still work to do, but he looks like a totally different fighter to the one who was being badly beaten by Takahiko Kobayashi in late 2017. That bout seemed to make him realise he had to take this seriously, and he has since gone on to score very notable wins over the likes of Akihiro Kondo, Rickey Edwards, Jin Sasaki and Shun Akaiwa, by relying on his boxing skills, not his athletic tools.
With a 13-5-1 record Lagumbay doesn't look anything special, and in fairness the 27 year old isn't anything special. But he is someone that everyone needs to be careful against, because he has something every fighter fears. Brutal power. Since turning professional in 2015 Lagumbay has never developed into a good boxer. He has however been blessed with power. He lost in his debut, to Joe Tejones, before reeling off 8 straight wins with 7 by stoppage, 6 in the first 3 rounds. He almost continued that run when he rocked Kazuki Saito, before Saito bounced back and stopped Lagumbay in 4 rounds. He would score his most notable win just 5 months after that loss, when he stopped Keita Obara in 2 rounds, to claim the WBO Asia Pacific Welterweight title, in a sensational bout that saw a rare double knockdown. Sadly since that win Lagumbay has gone 3-3-1, and despite winning his last 3, it's hard to know what he has left to offer the sport. Other than his brutish power.
In the ring Lagumbay is slow, clumsy, easy to hit, and whilst his boxing has gradually developed he is still very limited. He has got size going for him, and he is a tall, long, rangy puncher, but technically he's still very limited. He does however have that aforementioned power and he's also a southpaw. No one likes facing hard hitting southpaws, with long reaches and Lagumbay is certainly a freakish puncher who throws from horrible angles and has bricks for hands. He's also a quick starter, and is very, very dangerous over the first 3 rounds. If he doesn't finish and opponent early however, he is likely to be stopped himself, or picked apart at range as wide sweeps take a toll on his own gas tank.
With Lagumbay being dangerous early on we expect to see Hiraoka fighting smartly for the first few rounds, looking to get his jab in Lagumbay's face and staying t range. By round 4 or 5 however we expect to see Hiraoka look to change to tone of the bout, taking the fight to a tiring Lagumbay and taking him out in in the middle rounds. If Lagumbay lands early on he could give Hiraoka real fits, and the focus from the unbeaten man, for 2 or 3 rounds, will be to stay away and keep himself safe. After that however the bout will be as easy, or as hard, as he makes it.
Prediction - TKO6 Hiraoka
On September 3rd the EDION Arena Osaka, in Osaka will play host to a WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight title fight, as the world ranked Riku Kano (19-4-1, 10) faces Yuga Inoue (13-2-1, 2) for the vacant belt. The bout will push the winner to the verges of a WBO world title fight, against fellow Japanese fighter Junto Nakatani, whilst the loser will begin the arduous climb back to where they are, a task that could be a rather tricky one in a division with the emerging talent that Flyweight currently has.
Of the two men the more well known is 24 year old Kano, who debuted way back in 2013,as a 16 year old, and quickly earned attention by winning the WBA Asia Minimumweight title in 2014. At that point Kano was just 17 and wasn't old enough to even debut in Japan despite having a 5-1-1 (3) record. He made his long awaited Japanese debut the following year, winning the OPBF "interim" title in 2016 before fighting for the WBO title in an attempt to become the youngest ever Japanese world champion, a dream ended by Katsunari Takayama. Since that loss to Takayama we've seen Kano go 9-2 and show real development. He looked like an immature youngster against Shin Ono in 2018, boxing well until being cut and then bullied into submission, but has developed into a brave, tough young man, showing real determination and guts to defeat Tetsuya Mimura, Ryoki Hirai and Takuma Sakae in recent bouts. He's not longer the frail child who looks like he could be broken mentally, but instead looks like a genuine fighter, who has learned from his set backs, and physically matured as he's moved from Minimumweight, to Light Flyweight and now to Flyweight.
In the ring Kano has always been a rather technical fighter, who has a lot of speed, with hand and feet. He's never been a big puncher, but he's a clean accurate puncher, who lands and gets in and out. In his Flyweight debut we so a more physical side to him, as he stopped Sanchai Yotboon in 2 rounds, but that bout really doesn't tell us what he's going to be like as a Flyweight, given Yotboon's limitations and the fact he's a natural Miniumweight himself. We expect a Flyweight Kano to focus on his speed, his accuracy and his skills and movement, and not massively change his style, especially not here as he takes on a legitimate test at the weight. Sadly at 5'4" he's not a physical match for the top guys at the weight, and will struggle with the heavier handed fighters at 112lbs, though to his credit he is a tricky southpaw and he is genuinely talented, even if he's yet to live up to the potential he clearly has.
As for Inoue, no relation to Naoya, the 23 year old debuted in 2016 and got a lot of attention in 2017 when he won the All Japan Rookie of the Year at Minmumweight. Sadly for Inoue his unbeaten record came to an end less than 11 months after his Rookie of the Year triumph as he was broken down in a 6 round thriller against Kai Ishizawa, in what was a brilliant bout for the Japanese Youth Minimumweight title. Since then Inoue's body has filled out as he's matured and gone 6-1 (1) winning the Japanese Youth title along the way. He has, notably, faced solid domestic foes, including the likes of Daiki Kameyama, Katsuya Murakami, Daiki Tomita and Aoba Mori, but unfortunately for him his form belies a man who has regularly struggled at this level. Whilst his 6-1 record since the Ishizawa fight looks good, it should be noted that it includes 4 controversial decision wins and there is a feeling that he has had the benefit of the doubt in a number of bouts.
In the ring Inoue is a technically well polished fighter, with a lovely jab, good balance and quick feet. He moves around the ring well, he looks poised and polished, and his jab really is the key to his work. There are other weapons in his arsenal, but there's no denying his best work is either the jab it's self, or comes off the jab. Sadly though the lack of variation in what he does is really against him, and whilst his jab is polished his other punches don't look very natural to him and they seem like they need real work. The lack of power is also something that's against him, and although he's still young, at 23, it does appear that he isn't going to develop much in terms of punching power. A double issue given how forced and pushed his shots in general are. It's due to his lack of power and lack of variation that many of his bouts end up being really close, as fighters figure him out, work out his jab and then begin to rack up points. Here that will be a massive issue against someone as well rounded as Kano.
To beat Kano the main tactic has been to bully him, either with physicality or work rate. Set a tempo he doesn't like, keep it up and watch him crumble. Sadly for Inoue he doesn't look to be the type of fighter who can either set a high output for 12 rounds, which he'd need to given his lack of power, or hurt him with any single shot and get his respect that way. Instead we expect the rather back approach of Inoue, and the lack of pop in his shots, in general, to work to Kano's advantage. Kano will show his speed early on, maybe losing a battle of jabs for the first few rounds, but then begin to show more variation, changing things up, and simply out work and out fight Inoue en route to a clear decision win over 12 rounds.
Prediction - UD Kano
The final Japanese show this month takes place at Korakuen Hall and has a really solid looking main event as Yoshimitsu Kimura (13-2-1, 8) faces former foe Kanehiro Nakagawa (11-6, 5), in a bout for the WBO Asia Pacific Super Featherweight, and a contest that has the potential to be something of a sleeper classic. One that is easy to over-look, but should deliver something a little special. The bout not only has two guys who are often over-looked, but two guys who have very fun styles, and also have a bit of history, with this being the second bout between the men.
Before we look at where we are today, we need to discuss the fact the two men faced off way back in 2017. That bout saw Kimura take a very hard fought decision over Nakagawa, who at the time didn't look like someone we'd be talking about 5 years later. The bout saw Kimura move to 8-0 and continue his ascent through the ranks, whilst Nakagawa fell to 4-5, and seemed to be heading towards total obscurity. Since then Kimura has gone 5-2-1, and proven to be one of the most fan friendly fighters in Japan, with notable bouts against the likes of Hironori Mishiro, Shuma Nakazato and Kosuke Saka, with his win over Saka landing him his regional title. As for Nakagawa he has totally turned his career around, going 8-1 and scoring notable domestic wins over Seiichi Okada, Ryuto Araya, Ken Osato, Taiki Minamoto and Shinnosuke Hasegawa.
With the short history lesson out of the way, lets talk about the two men, and who they are today, and how that could also play a major role in this bout.
The 25 year old Yoshimitsu Kimura is one of the most fun to watch fighters in Japan. He debuted in 2015 and would go on to win the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2016, fighting as a Featherweight. He ran up a 9 fight unbeaten record, including the aforementioned win of Nakagawa, before challenging Richard Pumicpic for the WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight title and coming up short, in a really competitive bout. That fight, at the age of 21, showed there was real potential with Kimura. He bounced back from that loss by by moving up in weight and scoring 3 solid wins before challemging OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro, and losing a very close, incredibly competitive bout by split decision, in what was one of the best fights of 2019. That loss was followed by another set back as he suffered a draw, in another thriller, with Shuma Nakazato. In his bout following that draw Kimura scored the biggest win of his career, stopping Kosuke Saka in 3 rounds to win the OPBF Super Featherweight title.
One this to note coming into this bout regarding Kimura is that earlier this year he was scheduled to face Samir Ziani. That bout was cancelled at short notice, and coming in to this bout it's going to be interesting to see if that cancelation effects Kimura or not, as he did admit he had lost motivation due to that fight falling through.
In the ring a driven Kimura is a nightmare to fight. He's gritty, determined and as we saw against Mishiro and Nakazato, he simply doesn't know when he's beaten. That has made him a fan favourite and a must watch fighter in Japan. He can be hurt, he can dropped, but it's going to take something very special to stop him and stop his desire. In terms of his style he's someone who can box and move, and is a very solid boxer, however what makes him so much fun to watch is that he has real dog inside him. When things are tough he often forgets his boxing skills and goes all out, setting a high tempo, applying a lot of pressure and simply try to grind down opponents. Although his best offense is his volume he is also a solid puncher, and that was shown in his bout with Saka, when big head shots from Kimura left Saka stumbling around the ring. At 130lbs, and now in his physical prime, Kimura looks like a nasty fighter, as he develops his power, his strength and his confidence, making him even tougher to beat. He can box, he can fight, he can punch, and although he's not world class in any area he is a very, very solid all round.
On paper Nakagawa is very limited, and his 11-6 (5) record includes not just 6 losses, but also 2 stoppage losses. Despite that the 27 year old is regarded as one of the top Super Featherweights in Japan and in Asia. He is highly regarded not due to a padded record, like some fighters out there, but due to his current form, and the way he has totally turned his career around. He debuted in 2014, losing in 2 rounds, and was 4-5 after 9 bouts with losses to the likes of Toru Kiyota, Kimihiro Nakagawa and, of course, Yoshimitsu Kimura. Since then however he has developed in so many ways, and taken those losses as a sign to improve, to develop and to grow as a fighter. He has gone 7-1 since that start, and really should have been 8-0 with the loss to Ren Sasaki in 2018 being a very debatable one. He now fights like a man determined to never lose again, and victories over the likes of Seiichi Okada, Ryuto Araya, Taiki Minamoto and Shinnosuke Hasegawa have certainly helped in still a real confidence in him.
Sadly it's not all been plain ailing for Nakagawa, despite his great form, and he, like Kimura, has had a bout cancelled this year. For him it was a planned bout against Kosuke Saka, that had to be scrapped when Nakagawa suffered an injury. That means he has been out of the ring since October 2021.
In the ring Nakagawa doesn't do anything amazingly well. He's not got lights out power, or lightning speed, or incredible movement. Much like Kimura however he's become a very, very hard man to beat, with a great sense of will and desire in his in ring work. He comes forward, is determined and sets and odd rhythm to things, which upsets fighters. He does a lot of things wrong, isn't technical, but is tough, has plenty of pop on his shots and throws from some really awkward and peculiar angles. His footwork is odd, his punches are weird and yet he still managed to use his really odd style to great success. Trying to prepare for Nakagawa and his really odd style, that looks amateurish as hell at times, must be a nightmare and few will be able to replicate it in sparring, making him even tough to fight.
Sadly for Nakagawa we do feel that Kimura is genuinely a special fighter. Maybe not a future world champion, but special enough to compete at that level even if he does fall short. As for Nakagawa he's awkward, clumsy and hard to beat, but we do feel that, over 12 rounds, his style will be tiring to himself, and after 4 or 5 rounds Kimura will begin to read him better, time him more consistently, and take over the fight. We see Nakagawa having some really good success early on, but as the rounds fly by Kimura will begin to take over, and do enough to win a clear decision.
Prediction - UD12 Kimura
Since turning his hand to professional boxing in 2021 former K-1 World Grand Prix Super Bantamweight Champion Yoshiki Takei (4-0, 4) has been a man ear marked as a stud in the ring. Some one put on the fast track and someone with huge expectations resting on his shoulders. This coming Friday we get the chance to see if he can live up to those expectations as he takes a major step up, and challenged the highly skilled Filipino Pete Apolinar (16-2, 10), in a bout for Apolinar's OPBF Super Bantamweight champion. A win for Takei would cement his place as the next anointed star of the Ohashi Gym, and potentially the gym's second biggest name, behind Naoya Inoue, whilst a win for Apolinar would top off a brilliant break out year for the unheralded Pinoy.
The 26 year old Japanese southpaw had been a legitimate star in K-1 before deciding to turn to professional boxing. In K-1, a kick boxing organisation, Takei had shown educated and heavy hands, those skills as a puncher have converted over to boxing perfectly well and he has quickly shown that he’s a devastating puncher, with brutal power, and solid technical boxing skills. He made his debut in March 2021 and needed just a round to off his first 3 opponents, including the then unbeaten pairing of Azusa Takeda and Kazuhiro Imamura, before stepping up this past April and taking out Shingo Kawamura in 2 rounds. What those bouts proved was that Takei was a natural puncher. He wasn’t setting a high tempo with a guns out, ultra-aggressive style, but instead was boxing and using his heavy shots to detach opponents from their senses. He was doing so responsibly, intelligently, and in truly devastating fashion.
Whilst we can’t doubt Takei as an intelligent fighter, or a hard hitting one, he does have a lot of questions to answer. The most notable of those is regarding his stamina. In his entire combat sport career, consisting of 25 professional kick boxing bouts along with his 4 professional boxing contests and numerous Muay Thai bouts, he has never had to fight for more than 9 minutes. He is an established talent as a fighter, but we really are interested in seeing what happens if a fighter can take his power and take him 6 rounds, or deeper. Does his power carry? Does he have a gas tank for 12 rounds? Does he question himself when his power isn’t having an impact on someone after 4 rounds? These questions are ones he will have to answer if he’s going to make it to the top in professional boxing, and ones we expect to see Apolinar asking him.
Despite entering as the challenger Apolinar is very much the under-dog here, and this is shown in a on Boxmob.jp where only 14% of correspondents have picked Apolinar* to win. Notably however he is much, much more proven as a professional boxer than Takei. The 27 year old Filipino has been a professional boxer since 2014, racked 109 rounds over 18 fights and has shared the ring with a number of notable fighters, including Jeo Santisima, Jetro Pabustan, Jong Seon Kang and Jhunriel Ramonal. And notably he’s had some success against those fighters, with his biggest win being his 10th round TKO win over Ramonal for the OPBF title back in April.
In the ring Apolinar is a crafty fighter. He fights with a shoulder roll defense, is accurate and sharp with his counters. He's not the most aggressive, or the biggest puncher, but he's patient, he waits for mistakes and he strikes when opponents leave themselves open. He's very quick with his hands, very accurate and a fighter who is clearly an intelligent young man. His jab is an excellent weapon, as is his right hand too the body, and his uppercuts. Despite being a good defensive fighter he can drop his hands at times, and become somewhat dependent on his reactions as opposed to his technical skills, but due to his speed this is rarely a real issue for him. One are where he is lacking is power, and despite stopping Ramonal last time out, in what looked like a very impressive win at the time, it's worth noting that Ramonal was blitzed in 2 rounds in his only fight since losing to Apolinar. That lack of power might be an issue if this becomes a fighter fight.
There is no doubting that Apolinar is the more rounded boxer, and the more skilled pure boxer. But the power Takei has is brutal and he has been taking opponents out in impressive fashion. Although his stamina hasn't been tested he has been working with Akira Yaegashi, who will have pushed him hard in training, and we think worries about his stamina are some what unnecessary given that training. More interesting will be what happens if Apolinar can frustrate and counter Takei, and making things tough. Sadly for Apolinaro however, we don't imagine that happening. Despite some good moments from the Filipino, we see him taking a hard left hook from a patient Takei, who will give few openings to Apolinar. That left hook, potentially in round 3 or 4, will stagger the Filipino and a follow up will force a stoppage.
Prediction - TKO4 Takei
*Poll data take on August 19th.
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.