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 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
Over the last few years the Japanese Bantamweight title has been something of a cursed title. Ryo Akaho was forced to give it up due to issues making weight, Yuta Saito, we then saw injuries ill and weight issues force the cancellation of several fighters with Yuta Saito and Yusuke Suzuki amassing just a single successful defense between them, before men retired, following a war together in 2019. We then saw the title remain vacant after Suzuki gave it up, due to a technical decision and then a planned bout fall apart when a fighter failed to make weight.
Between January 2018 and today we've had only 5 bouts for the title, along with a single interim title fight. We've seen 3 champions crowned but none managing to establish themselves as the king of the division, and this is in a brilliant division in terms of Japanese talent. A division that could, and should, have given us a string of great bouts in recent years.
This coming Thursday we hope to see the curse finally broken as defending champion Kyosuke Sawada (15-2-2, 6) seeks his first defense and takes on the criminally under-rated Seiya Tsutsumi (5-0-2, 4). The bout is not just one that we hope breaks the curse, but also ends up delivering something of a special bout between two highly skilled, intelligent fighters with different styles, but very polished styles.
As the reigning champion Sawada comes into the bout with a lot to lose, especially given this is his first defense of the title he waited so long to fight for. He was supposed to get a shot in 2020, before Covid and Suzuki's retirement thwarted plans. He had to wait until July 2021 to finally get a shot, only to see his bout with Ikuro Sadatsune end in a technical draw. A rematch against Sadatsune was then cancelled when Sadatsune failed to make weight. He finally won the belt in February, when he took a split technical decision over Kenshin Oshima, but aged 33 when he won that bout it's clear his time at the top is limited.
Now aged 34 Sawada is a fighter who is easy to over-look, especially with 2 losses on his record, however those losses really can be ignored. They came in his first two bouts to Yusuke Suzuki, who later won the Japanese Bantamweight title, and Hiroaki Teshigawara, who later won the WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight and OPBF Super Bantamweight titles. Since those losses he has gradually built a very, very respectable career for himself with wins over the likes of Gaku Aikawa, Kinshiro Usui, Yosuke Fujihara, Kazuki Tanaka and Kenshin Oshima.
In the ring Sawada is a gorgeous fighter to watch. He is text book through and through with a brilliant boxing brain, wonderful speed, timing, and understanding of the ring. His downfall really is a lack of power, though even that isn't the major issue it seems as he can hurt and drop people due to his ability to land clean and consistently. He is very much a pure boxer. He keeps range well, he lands clean, and he lands a lot whilst getting full extension on his shots. Sadly at age of 34 it's fair to say he will begin to slow down soon, and will need to rely even more on his skills than his, but he does look like he's been aging well and looks to be, arguably, be better than ever in recent bouts.
Although he's never held a title Seiya Tsutsumi is one of the most unfortunate fighters in the sport. He had a solid amateur career, though Sawada's was better, before turning professional in 2018 and quickly made a split winning 4 bouts in the space of 7 months and getting international ring time in Thailand and China. It seemed obvious, almost immediately, that he was going to be moved aggressively and that was shown in his first bout of 2019, when he splattered the tough Ryan Rey Ponteras inside a round. He was then part of the God Of Left Bantamweight tournament, where he reached the final by default. Sadly in the final the judges weren't on his side, as he was forced to accept a draw with the dangerous Kazuki Nakajima, in a bout that it seemed Tsutsumi deserved the win in. His only bout since then was another draw, that time against former world champion Daigo Higam in a bout that he again should have got the W in. As a result of those draws it's now more than 3 years since Tsutsumi scored a win, and more than 1.5 years since his last bout.
In the ring Tstusumi can genuinely do it all. He's a very heavy handed fighter, as he showed early in his career, against the likes of Ponteras, but he can also box, as we saw in his "draw" with Nakajima, where he moved, boxed and seemed to make Nakajima look really silly for large swathes of the bout. He has also shown he can do 10 rounds, as he did against Higa. He's not flawless, but as an all rounder he really can do it all, at a very, very high level. The major issue for him coming in to this bout is the lengthy lay off, and potentially his confidence. He's not fought since the end of 2020, when he fought Higa, and with such a long lay off, it'll be interesting to see if he has ring rust and is less sharp than usual. Notably, despite the recent lack of activity, Tsutsumi is still only 26 and we suspect his team will have kept him busy with good sparring perhaps limiting his rustiness.
Coming in to this, we expect to see Sawada starting fast, looking sharp out of the blocks and looking fantastic in the first few rounds. As time goes on however we expect to see Tsutsumi growing into the bout, and the rounds go on his power, aggression and in some ways his frustration, will show throw as he begins to get used to the speed and sharpness of Sawada and begins to turn. When that happens we suspect that the power and heavy hands of Tsutsumi will change the flow of the bout, with Sawada being hurt, and stopped later on.
Prediction - TKO9 Tsutusmi
On February 5th we'll, hopefully, see a new Japanese Bantamweight champion being crowned as Kyosuke Sawada (14-2-2, 6) and Kenshin Oshima (7-1-1, 3) battle for the title which has been vacant since Yusuke Suzuki retired in January 2021 due to injuries. Since then we have seen one fight take place for the title, with Sawada having a technical draw with Ikuro Sadatsune, before a scheduled rematch was cancelled with Sadatsune unable to compete, continuing what has been a rather cursed run for the title over the last few years, with cancellations, injuries and weight issues cancelling a surprising number of bouts for the belt. Despite the "curse" the belt still has real meaning, it's been held by some Japanese legends and is a title both men will be desperate to win. For Sawada the bout is, as mentioned, his second crack at the belt whilst Oshima will be getting his first title bout, and his first real chance to show just how good he is, after something of an underwhelming start to his professional career, so far.
Sawada is a very well schooled pure boxer, with lovely hand speed, textbook skills and a lot of amateur experience, having scored over 60 wins in the unpaid ranks. That amateur experience was supposed to help him race through the ranks, though unfortunately he came up against Yusuke Suzuki and Hiroaki Teshigawara in his first two bouts, and a lot of the expectations that were on his shoulders were quickly forgotten, with some then wondering whether he was going to ever make a mark on the sport. As it turned out however his losses weren't actually bad ones and both Suzuki and Teshigawara went on to achieve plenty themselves, with both winning titles, it was just unfortunate that Sawada had come up against them so early in his career, and theirs.
Since his bad start to the pro ranks Sawada has gone unbeaten and managed to show genuine improvement along the way. He has adapted his amateur style without throwing all the amateurs away. As a result he's a wonderfully skilled boxer, who sticks to the text for the most part, but can switch things up when he needs to. He's most comfortable range, his punches are very crisp and he's light on his feet with excellent shot selection. Sadly he can be made to look a little bit lost up close, but in fairness to him he has the tools, typically, to avoid an inside battle, and the composure to see things out, tie up when he needs to, and create space. Notably he also has solid power, much more so than his record suggests, and he gets opponents respect due to how cleanly he lands, especially with his counter shots as we saw against Sadatsune. His speed, timing and placement are all excellent, and make him a very tough opponent, no matter who he's against, and helps explain how he's turned his career around in such an impressive fashion after back-to-back losses to start his days as a professional.
Oshima turned professional with some buzz, and was regarded by some as a potential face of the future of the Teiken Gym. Prior to turning professional he had gone 27-13 in the unpaid ranks and seemed to have the potential to make a mark in the professional ranks, especially given his style was rather "pro-ready". Sadly however he would lose his second professional bout, to Yuki Iriguchi. he would then suffer another set back when he fought to a draw with the then win-less Nobuaki Kanazawa. With a 3-1-1 record after 5 fights it seemed like Oshima's amateur promise wasn't going to be realised in the professional ranks, but just like Sawada he has turned things around, winning his last 4 bouts. Not only has he won 4 in a row but they have included some solid wins too, including decision victories over Joe Tanooka, Ikuro Sadatsune and Wilbert Berondo. Sadly though the most win on his record did come more than 2 years ago, way back in November 2019.
Whilst it has been a while since we last saw Oshima in the ring, and by a while we really mean "too long!", one thing is undeniable. He's a talented boxer. He's very much a boxer-come counter puncher, with a nice array of punches, a very impressive sense of composure and good timing and distance control. He's never going to make for the most fun of bouts, and he does rely on his movement and jab a little too much at times rather than using the rest of his arsenal, but there is clearly a lot of skill there. He times fighters well, he picks good counter shots, and creates distance forcing opponents into errors. His style is awkward, he's a nightmare to fight and although he lacks the speed, power and explosiveness of top prospects, there is no denying his boxing brain and his ring IQ, he's just a little big unlucky to lack the physical traits to go with his brain.
Sadly for Oshima whilst his run was nice, this is a notable step up especially after such a long break, and in many ways he's the type of fighter that Sawada would have loved to face. Oshima lacks fight changing power, something that Sawada would perhaps be wary of, and Oshima is also not a high tempo guy, allowing Sawada to out work him. Sawada is also the quicker, sharper, fighter and the more polished boxer.
We suspect that the early portion of this bout will be a good technical chess match, with Sawada getting the better of things. As it goes on however Sawada will begin to take total control, and the bigger question isn't going to be who wins, but rather whether or not Sawada will manage to stop Oshima late on. We don't think so, but we do think Oshima will be in trouble in the final few rounds.
Prediction - UD10 Sawada
On December 19th we'll get the last title fight to take place in Japan this year, as Ryosuke Nishida (4-0, 1) makes his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight title, as he takes on Tetsuro Ohashi (8-2-1, 2) [大橋哲朗] at the Sumiyoshi Ward Center in Osaka. On paper this isn't a big bout, in fact the contest actually seems like a notable backwards step for the champion, but it is good to see the champion return to the ring before 2021 is over, and before all the momentum of his last two wins has been lost. As for the challenger, the bout is a big chance for him to claim a title and to put his name on the boxing map.
Aged 25 Nishida is one of the many rising young prospects in Japan that has been making waves over the last few years. Like many of the top Japanese youngsters he has been moved incredibly quickly, beating former world title challenger Shohei Omori in his third bout and then upsetting Daigo Higa earlier this year, in a career defining best performance, to take the WBO Asia Pacific title. That win over Higa took Nishida from Japanese prospect to regional champion and fringe world title contender, and shows he was very much a legitimate talent, with a lot of potential, skills, and boxing IQ.
In the ring Nishida is a brilliant boxer-mover, he uses angles well, has excellent footwork and puts his shots together really well. Technically he is an excellent boxer, and does everything really well. Within just 4 bouts he has two very good wins, he has managed to prove his stamina, going 12 rounds with Higa and getting stronger in the later rounds, shown his boxing skills, and looked every bit a future world champion in the making. There is however a few areas where improvements could be made. Notably he's not a physically imposing fighter, and whilst he hits hard enough to get respect from the likes of Omori and Higa, he's not got concussive power. We know he can hurt fighters, but he doesn't seem to have the belief to finish them off, yet. We also wonder what his chin is like, with Higa having been an excellent Flyweight but not really showing the same power at Bantamweight, and we do wonder what he can do against naturally strong really Bantamweight physical fighters. Thankfully we think he can answer all the questions left for him to answer, and only merely needs the competition to prove it, rather than lacking the tools to answer them questions.
Sadly Ohashi won't be the type of opponent to get the best from Nishida. In fact it's hard to see what Ohashi really brings to the ring to test the champion.
Aged 23 Ohashi, like Nishida, is a skilled southpaw. He turned professional in 2017, won Rookie of the Year in 2018, but is 2-2 since his Rookie of the Year win, with a KO8 loss to Suzumi Tkayama in a Japanese Youth title bout and a 2020 decision loss to Hiroyuki Kudaka. What makes this worse is that his only notable win since his Rookie of the Year triumph was a decision win over Isao Aoyama this past July. Whilst his competition hasn't been great it's hard to deny his skill, and Ohashi is genuinely a very talented fighter. Like Nishida however he lacks power, physicality and with 2 losses in his last 3 we do wonder about his confidence and ambition.
In the ring Ohashi is a very solid boxer. He has nice movement, good boxing skills, and nice quick hands. Sadly though he is very negative in a lot of what he does, and whilst he does do a lot of things really well, he's not very aggressive, physical or demanding. Despite only 2 KO's he does have enough pop to keep fighters honest, but he's not going to really hurt them, and we saw that against Suzumi Takayama when he landed the best shot of his career and put Takayama down without really hurting his man.
In many ways Ohashi is the perfect foil for Nishida. He's like a smaller, weaker, but similar, fighter to Nishida. A B grade Nishida if you will. With that in mind it's hard to imagine Nishida losing, but the focus will be on honing his skills in the fight, answering new questions, and showing how he deals with a fellow boxer-mover, and how he neutralises a man with good speed.
We expect this to be a very technical bout early on, both men getting their jabs into play, a lot of movement, and looking to set up and range. As the bout goes on however Nishida's size, strength and more rounded abilities should prove to be the difference makers.
We don't see Nishida going for the finish, but if he does he should get it, but instead we see him getting good, competitive rounds under his belt here, en route to a wide decision win.
Prediction - UD12 Nishida
Back in July we saw a scheduled Japanese Bantamweight title fight between Kyosuke Sawada (14-2-2, 6) and Ikuro Sadatsune (11-4-4, 4) end in an inconclusive manner, as a head clash early in round 2 left both men bloodied, and saw the bout being waved off as a technical draw. It was a disappointing conclusion to the bout for both men and the fans, and it also left the title vacant. Prior to the early ending we had seen a lot of things happen in the opening round, including a knockdown and some really telling moments.
Rather than looking back of the career of the two men so far, as we usually do in their previews, we're going to focus on that first fight as the basis of how we expect to see the second bout go.
The first bout, or rather the first round of it, was controlled by Sawada, a former Japanese amateur standout who used two really effective tools through the first round of their first bout. One of those was his boxing brain and the other was his movement. Through out that first round he out thought Sawada, made him make mistakes and used his quick hands and understanding of range and distance to counter, land cleanly and dropped Sadatsune with a gorgeous combination. Through out the round, not just on the knockdown, Sawada seemed too quick, too sharp and too smart for the more bull like Sadatsune, who trudged into shots at times.
Although Sadatsune is a southpaw, that didn't really help him, and in fact Sawada seemed more than comfortable with the lefty stance of Sadatsune, and it helps him landing his straight right hand damaging left hook.
Whilst the first didn't lead to a conclusive ending, it was clear, just from the first 3 minutes, that Sawada is a much, much better boxer than Sadatsune.
Despite feeling like Sawada is the better boxer, and the man who looked likely to win the first bout, had it not ended the way it did, it is worth noting that that was only round 1 and Sadatsune was likely to find his way into the bout. We think that'll be the case again here, and he will begin to get a read on Sawada's speed and timing, will begin to close the distance, and make it a rough fight in the later rounds. By then however we feel it will be too little too late for Sadatsune, who will be in a deep hole by the time he begins to have success against a tiring Sawada, who will finish the bout on cruise control.
Prediction - UD10 Sawada
Fuse and Tai battle for Youth title
This coming Wednesday we're going to see a new Japanese Youth champion being crowned at Bantamweight as the enigmatic and exciting Takahiro Tai (3-0, 3) takes on the talented but light punching Fumiya Fuse (10-1, 1) in a very interesting and well matched bout between two promising young fighters. Both men are 23 years old, both a very well regarded, both are seen as very promising fighters and they have very, very different styles.
Of the two men Fuse is the more experienced and the more technically well schooled fighter. The youngster from the Watanabe Gym made his professional debut in 2017 and by the end of the year had won the All Japan Rookie of the Year crown, beating 4 unbeaten fighters along the way. The following year he made his international debut, fighting in South Korea and stepped into 8 rounds in 2019, before losing to the brilliant Toshiya Ishii. Since that loss however he has gotten back on the right track, beating Melmark Dignos and Fuya Tomita.
In the ring Fuse is a wonderfully talented boxer, with nice hand speed, an aggressive mentality, but very light punches. Despite lacking power he is very fun to watch, lets his shots go in bunches, controls distance well with fast feet and very fast hands. Sadly Fuse's lack of power is his big downfall and he struggles to get respect of opponents, even when he lands clean, which he does a lot. He picks shots really well, switches things up well, but really can't hurt opponents and that is something that will be a major problem for him down the line. Defensively he's decent, he has a good guard and he moves well, but can be caught going in straight lines at times, thankfully it's not a common thing but it does happen.
Whilst Fuse is the more well known the more interesting fighter is Takahiro Tai, a switch hitting boxer-puncher who gets into the ring with the intention of putting on a show and increasing his profile. Unlike many impressive amateurs in Japan Tai decided to turn professional with his father's gym, and take more control over his career than had he joined a bigger gym. That has allowed him to be moved quickly and show what he can do without needing a slow build up. Although only 3 fights into his career he has already shown a real charisma in the ring, an exciting style, heavy hands and the mentality that suggests he wants to make fans sit up and pay attention. Sadly though he has also looked like a fighter who is flawed, and depends on his athletic ability, strength and power rather than his actual boxing ability.
Since turning professional, with his debut coming late last year, Tai has beaten some solid domestic level fighters, including Koichi Wakita and Joe Tanooka. He has looked flawed, open, and defensively flawed, but he's beaten the fight out of more technically capable fighters and has got the combination of speed, power, strength and aggression to go a long way domestically. He'll certainly need to polish up before thinking about international titles, and focus less on entertaining, but we dare say he has a more polished style in his locker for when he'll need it, and so far he's simply not needed it. Instead he's been happy to have fun, to entertain, and to get fans talking, even if it has resulted in him taking some extra shots as a result.
Coming in to this the speed and technical edges are both with Fuse, but the power, strength and physical side of things are all with Tai. Sadly for Fuse we think the physical side of things will be the difference maker here and that despite a good start, Fuse will be broken down in the middle rounds, with Tai going on to stop his man and win the title.
Prediction - Tai TKO6
On October 19th we are expecting fireworks at Korakuen Hall thanks to a mouth watering OPBF Bantamweight title bout between the unbeaten Kazuki Nakajima (10-0-1, 8) and former champion Keita Kurihara (15-6, 13). On paper this might not look like a special bout, or something worth getting too excited about but, as we've learned over the years, records don't do the fighting and instead that's the job of the fighters. In this case we have two men who are both happy to have a war, both have fight changing power, and both have a lot of flaws that the other will look to target.
The 28 year old champion won the belt back in May when he took a competitive decision over Kai Chiba to claim the title, the first of his career. That was only the third time Nakajima had seen the final bell since debuting in 2017, and it was his most polished performance to date. In fact given how he had looked in the past he seemingly re-invented himself for the bout and showed that he was more than a basic puncher, which he had looked at times. He still looked flawed, tense, slow and tight, but there was more polish there and he has clearly been developing over the last year or two at the Ohashi Gym.
In the ring Nakajima is very basic, he's flat footed, he's not the most fluid of fighters, but he is a legitimate puncher, who has frightening power and has a very textbook-like style. He fights as a southpaw, making him awkward, but due to his lack of speed he can be out boxed, out moved and out though, as we saw in 2020 when he was very lucky to get a draw against Seiya Tsutsumi. The power of Nakajima is particularly potent early on, with 5 of his wins coming in the opening round, but his shots continue to be thudding much deeper in bouts, as we saw in his win against Yoshihiro Utsumi in 2018, where he broke Utsumi up in 7 rounds. If you can keep him moving, and not allow him to set himself, Nakajima looks very basic and poor, but if you stand at range and don't use lateral movement, or even worse engage him in a mid distance war, Nakajima's power will almost certainly be a difference maker.
The challenger, also aged 28, is a very different type of fighter to Nakajima, but shares some of the same strengths, and weaknesses. Kurihara is less of a flat footed puncher, and more of an aggressive, puncher-fighter, who looks to take the fight to an opponent, and get into range for his bombs. Technically he's very flawed, but very tough, exciting and heavy handed. Unlike Nakajima, who needs to be set to land his power, he can throw bombs from any where, and seems at his best coming forward. He's open to counter shots, and doesn't have the quickest of feet, but is very much a fighter at heart wanting to cause chaos in the ring and force a war up close, beating the fight out of opponents. Sadly for him, though similarly to Nakajima, it's boxer-movers that give him problems and we saw that earlier this year when he lost the OPBF title to Takuma Inoue, who used basic boxing fundamentals to make Kurihara look very limited. Against fighters looking for a fight however, Kurihara is a real threat to anyone.
Although his record might suggest he's limited Kurihara is not a typical 15-6 (13) fighter. He lost 4 of his first 7 and has gone 12-2 (10) since then with his only defeats in recent years coming against Hiroaki Teshigawara and Takuma Inoue, two world title contenders. In his last 14 bouts he has proven to be a top domestic level, and regional level, fighter who has managed to beat the likes of Ryan Lumacad, Kazuki Tanaka, Yuki Strong Kobayashi, Warlito Parrenas and Sukkasem Kietyongyuth. He has looked like a devastating fighter, and whilst we have seen him out boxed, in both the loss to Inoue and his controversial win over Kobayashi, he is very, very dangerous in the ring.
Given the styles, and mentalities, of the two men we can't see this one being dull. Instead we expect the fight to be tense early on, with Nakajima looking to take center ring quickly, setting his feet and trying to catch Kurihara coming in. Kurihara on the other hand will look to get a feel for Nakajima's power, speed and timing. After 3 or 4 rounds we expect to see Kurihara begin to feel comfortable and up his tempo, trying to take the fight to Nakajima. When that happens we'll start to see a fire fight, and we wouldn't be surprised to see both men being dropped.
We know this is a fire fight in the making, and when we get bouts like that it's hard to pick a winner. We will however be edging to Kurihara, thanks to his higher level experience. Though can just as easily see the more polished Nakajima winning with his straighter, more accurate punches.
Prediction - Kurihara TKO6
Over the last few years no Japanese title has been treat quite as strangely as the national Bantamweight title, which would be well within it's rights to have some sort of complex after what it's been through. Since Ryo Akaho won it in August 2017 it has been fought for just 3 times, successfully defended once, vacated twice, and had a host of bouts for it cancelled due to health issues, such as illness and a fighters missing weight. It must get the feeling that no one really wants it. Despite a lineage that includes legends of the sport, such as Yoshio Shirai, Naoto Takahashi, Joichiro Tatsuyoshi, Yasuei Yakushiji, Toshiaki Nishioka and Shinsuke Yamanaka.
That lineage will have another name added to it this coming Monday as Kyosuke Sawada (14-2-1, 6) takes on Ikuro Sadatsune (11-4-3, 4) for the currently vacant belt. Whilst the title may have been treated badly in recent years, it's clear, coming in to this, that both of these men are desperate to call themselves a Japanese champion and both are looking for the biggest win of their career, so far.
Of the two men it's Sawada who has earned this shot more. He actually earned a shot at the title back in 2019, when he beat Kazuki Tanaka in a Japanese title eliminator. That was meant to set up a bout with the then champion Yusuke Suzuki, who defeated Sawada back in 2013, but sadly Suzuki was forced into retirement following his bout with Yuta Saito. As a result Sawada was sat waiting for a shot at the vacant title when Covid19 destroyed the Japanese boxing schedule. That wait went on, and on, until Sadatsune stepped up to the challenge and and we ended up getting this bout arranged for a date in May. A date that would be postponed it's self due to Covid19 forcing a number of shows in Japan to be scrapped.
Despite all the issues around the title and bout we're expecting a good one here between a former amateur standout, Sawada, and someone who turned professional young and has learned the sport on the job, becoming a very good fighter in the process.
The 33 year old Sawada has been a professional since 2013, following an amateur career that had more than 80 bouts and around 60 wins. He turned professional with high expectations on his shoulders, but was matched hard from the off, and suffered back to back losses to Yusuke Suzuki, in Sawada's debut, and Hiroaki Teshigawara to start his career 0-2. Since then however he has turned things around, going 14-0-1 (6) and scoring notable wins over the likes of Kinshiro Usui, Yosuke Fujihara, Keita Nakano and Kazuki Tanaka. Those wins had lead him to becoming one of the main players on the Japanese domestic scene at 118lbs and one of the more under-rated domestic fighters.
In the ring Sawada really does rely on his amateur background. A lot. He's a pure boxer with good movement, good technical boxing skills and the sort of fighter who likes to do things at range on his jab and his straight shots. When dragged inside he can handle himself, but is very much happier at range where his shots seem to flow effortlessly. At his best he's a joy to watch, with fluid combinations and sort, though not destructive, power. At the age of 33 however, and with 21 months of ring rust coming in to this, we do wonder what he's going to look like here.
Aged 23 Sadatsune is a boxing baby, however he's been a professional since he was 17 and debuted way back in September 2015. He began his career with a 6 fight unbeaten record, going 5-0-1, before a loss in 2016, at the East Japan Rookie of the Year final, ended that run. Sadly he then struggled to get going again and fell from 5-0-1 to 6-2-2 in less than a year. It seemed like his career was going nowhere before he rediscovered some form winning 3 in a row before two razor thin losses in 2019, losing to Kenshin Oshima and Sho Ishida in bouts that he had a very valid claim to have won. Those setbacks could have been big but Sadatsune just kept ploughing on and picked two wins to get his career back on track before the pandemic struck, and slowed his ascent and he's now been out of action for around 18 months.
In the ring Sadatsune isn't as well schooled or as natural a boxer as Sawada, but he is a fighter who is improving with every fight, is criminally under-rated. He's strong, tough, has very over-looked technical skills and has more than held his own with the likes of Sho Ishida. He's also a southpaw, which further adds problems to facing him, and although he's not a big puncher he will hit harder as he matures physically, and now at 23 we suspect he will begin to show more and more pop. Since his 2017 loss to Kai Chiba, his second loss, he has never looked a clear second best in the ring, and has instead looked like a really hungry fighter who wants to prove something every time he fights. Whilst it is worth nothing that he's been inactive he does actually work at the boxing he fights out of, and we suspect with that in mind he will have stayed fit over the last 18 months or so and we think that could pay dividends here.
Had this bout taken place in 2020, we would have favoured Sawada, who at 32 would have been at the back end of his prime and would have been coming in on the back of the win over Kazuki Tanaka. With the long lay off however a lot of small things have changed against him. He's been inactive, he's aged, he's got ring rust, the momentum of his win over Tanaka, Nakano, Fujihara and Usui are now history and in that same time Sadatsune has matured and at 23, heading to 24, he's coming into his physical prime, he's developing as a man and is moving from a fresh faced boy to a fully fledged man.
We think the delay will actually swing this one from a Sawada win to a Sadatsune win, albeit in a very, very close decision. We see his youth, energy and the time Sawada has been out of the ring being the keys in a close, well fought, technical bout. We expect to see Sadatsune have that extra little bit of hunger and energy when he needs it, and to just bite down that bit harder than Sawada. It'll be close, it'll be amazingly competitive, but we see Sadatsune just, narrowly, coming away with the victory.
Prediction - SD10 Sadatsune
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.