Flyweights in Japan have real momentum right now. Not only do you have Kosei Tanaka at the top but fighters like Masayuki Kuroda and Junto Nakatani are both having really good runs, with Kuroda set for a world title fight and Nakatani set to make his first national title defense.
Sadly the youth level Japanese scene isn't as hot as it is at senior level, and this coming Sunday we'll see that being exemplified pretty well, when Japanese Youth Champion Arata Matsuoka (7-6, 4) makes his first defense. The champion, who won his title last December, will be taking on little known Jukiya Washio (7-2-1, 2), in a bout that doesn't really get the juices going. The champion has a less than stellar record, whilst the challenger is unknown and isn't much of a puncher.
Whilst it may not be something special on paper, we do actually expect a pretty decent fight here, and one that's much more competitive than the records suggest.
There isn't a huge amount of footage of the 24 year old champion, though rather kindly his last bout, his title win, was shared by TV channel Osaka TV. That bout was a clear decision win over Hikaru Ota, in what was one of the worst Japanese Youth title bouts on paper. In that bout Matsuoka showed what he was able to do. He was a much more skilled fighter than his record suggested, he had a really nice southpaw jab, picked his shots better than you'd expect of someone who's lost such a high percentage of his fights, and almost moved well, using the ring well to neutralise Ota before firing off his own counters. Not all his shots are crisp, and his defense could certainly do with some work, but there is a pretty talented fighter there, something his record doesn't show.
Despite looking pretty good against Ota we can't ignore Matsuoka's losses. The most recent of those came last September, when Shunji Nagata stopped him in 4 rounds. That ended a 4 fight winning streak, a streak that had followed up 4 losses in 5 bouts. In fact Ota started his career 2-5 so has turned things around really well. There is clearly a lot for him to do, but he does have some momentum here.
Sadly it's not just Matsuoka who is lacking in terms of footage but also Washio, and the only fight of his we've seen in full was his 2016 clash with Junichi Itoga. Washio, who is now 21, was just 19 when that bout took place, and it lasted just 156 second, so what we can really read into that bout is unclear. However he did look like a confident youngster, finding holes in Itoga's limited defense, and landing at will. He looked good, but Itoga looked awful and it really is hard to take too much from this bout.
Since the fight with Itoga the youngster has gone 4-2, though both of his losses were razor thin defeats. What needs to be noted is the level he's been fighting at, and that's a concern. He has really never faced anyone with real promise, and arguably his best win came in April 2017, when he beat Naoki Tanaka.
Whilst this bout isn't appealing on paper we do expect it to be hotly contest, with Matsuoka's experience, southpaw stance, and level of competition, being the difference. Whilat the bout isn't going to get much attention, it should be a solid and competitive bout, where the styles of both gel well. Neither, from what we've managed to see, like to make things messy, and although the southpaw vs orthordox stances could cause some issues, we're expecting a clean contest here.
Preduction - Matsuoka SD8
Some Japanese Youth title fights look amazing on paper, sadly others don't and when Junto Nakatani vacated the Flyweight title there wasn't a great deal of suitable fighters to fill the vacancy. Sadly that has lead to a less than appealing match up between Arata Matsuoka (6-6, 4) and Hikaru Ota (9-8, 5). On paper this looks like a joke, given the previous title fight had Nakatani fighting against Seigo Yuri Akui in what was a match watering match up, however it does look competitive and in our eyes that's better than a mismatch for the title.
The 23 year old Matsuoka, who's twin brother Hikaru Matsuoka will also be fighting for a youth title on the same show, made his debut in 2014, as a 19 year old made his debut in 2014, as a 19 year old and went 2-5 through his first 7 contests. He then, finally, found his footing in the sport with 4 wins though that winning run came to an end in September when he was stopped in 4 rounds by Shunji Nagata. The fight with Nagata was a big step up in class and resulted in Matsuoka suffering his first stoppage loss, though we suspect more will come in the future.
Ota is also 23 and he debuted at a 17 year old, back in 2012. Like Matsuoka his career also struggled going 3-3 after 6 bouts before stringing together a few wins. Sadly however he has gone from 6-3 to 9-8. What he has done however is faced notable fighters, losing to the likes of Kenji Ono, Naoki Mochizuki, Seiya Fujikita and going 1-1 with Ganbare Shota. His win over Shota is the best of his career, and is better than anything Matsuoka has, but still does suggest that he's a particularly promising fighter, going places.
With neither having made a name for themselves yet this bout gives both fighters a chance to claim their first title and put themselves on the map. We suspect both will fight like they have something to gain, and will really put it on the line, but sadly it's an underwhelming contest and we don't expect the holder to have a long reign, with several fighters now likely eyeing up the potential winner.
It's an even fight on paper, but we suspect Matsuoka's slightly better durability, southpaw stance and power will be the difference, and he'll take the victory in the second half of the fight.
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.