This coming Sunday a lot of attention will be focused on Osaka, as we get the long awaited WBC Light Flyweight world title bout between Kenshiro Teraji (17-0, 10) and Tetsuya Hisada (34-10-2, 20), around 4 years after they were first supposed to fight. That however isn't the only bout of note in Japan this weekend, in fact over in Okinawa around the same time we get the chance to see a very notable WBO Asia Pacific title fight between a former world champion and youngster looking to secure a a massive win, in just his 4th professional bout.
That bout is the one between former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa (17-1-1, 17), the current WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight champion, and highly touted prospect Ryosuke Nishida (3-0, 1), who is looking to build on a huge win from late 2020. The bout lacks the allure of the world title fight in Osaka, but is certainly not a bout that should be ignored, and could end up actually being the more compelling bout when all is said and done.
It's needless to say that Diago Higa is the more well known fighter. In fact there was a time, not too long ago, that he was among the most spoken about Japanese fighters in the sport. He was a steam train early in his career, blowing away fighters in quick fashion and winning his first 15 bouts by stoppage. Along the way he took notable scalps, including Kongfah CP Freshmart, who he beat in Thailand for the WBC Youth title, Ardin Diale, who he beat for the OPF title, Juan Hernandez Navarrete, who he beat for the WBC title and Moises Fuentes. In many ways he looked like the Japanese Roman Gonzalez, with the Japanese press dubbing him "The Romagon of Okinawa" after Gonzalez.
Sadly Higa's stoppage run came to an end in 2018 when he lost in 9 rounds to Cristofer Rosales after coming in overweight for a defense of the WBC Flyweight title. That loss, and the subsequent suspension for missing weight from the JBC, saw Higa stay away from the ring for almost 2 years, before returning in early 2020 and beating Jason Buenabora in 6 rounds. That bout was followed by Higa soon leaving the Shirai Gushiken Sports Gym, who had guided his entire career, and signing up with the newly established Ambition gym. It was thought a new gym would reinvigorate Higa, who had admitted his motivation for the sport was waning. Sadly for him his first bout as an Ambition gym fighter didn't end well, with Higa only managing a draw as he met former amateur rival, and close personal friend, Seiya Tsutsumi. It seemed that a forced move from Flyweight to Bantamweight was going to be a problem for Higa, with the new weight not playing well with his style. At least that's what we though until the very end of 2020 when he demolished Yuki Strong Kobayashi in 5 rounds to claim the WBO Asia Pacific title and looked like the Higa of old.
At the moment it's still unclear how the forced move up in weight for Higa will work longer term. He looked brilliant against Kobayashi, not quite his best but still a brilliant and destructive performance, but he looked poor against Buenaobra and certainly didn't look his best against Tsutsumi. He also didn't look great when he took part in an exhibition against Naoya Inoue, when Inoue seemed to want to teach Higa a bit of a lesson at times. It's going to be interesting to see how he develops at the weight, and whether he has the tools, and size, needed to be a success here. If he does he'll be a brilliant addition to an already fantastic weight class.
Whilst Higa is a big name, a well established fighter and someone who fans will have heard of if they follow the lower weights, the same cannot be said of Ryosuke Nishida. In fact Nishida is one that only hardcore fans of the Japanese scene will know anything about. Though they will likely tell you, as we will, that's a hidden gem of a fighter who has already been hugely impressive in his 3 fight, 15 round, professional career.
Nishida turned professional in 2019, following a strong amateur career, and his team did the usual big talk, claiming that no one in Japan wanted to fight him and he had to debut in Thailand as a result, where he blew out Sakol Ketkul. Around 10 weeks after his professional debut he made his Japanese debut and dominated Filipino journeyman Pablito Canada, taking a very wide decision win over 6 rounds. Sadly his rise through the ranks was slowed in 2020 due to Covid19, which decimated the Japanese boxing calendar for the year, but in December he squeezed in a fight and put on a brilliant performance against former world title challenger Shohei Omori. He entered that bout as a big under-dog but put in a performance not befitting a then 2-0 (1) prospect. In fact if anything he looked every bit as good as his team had told us he was.
In the ring Nishida couldn't be much different to Higa if he tried. Whilst Higa is a short, powerful, pressure fighter, with a major offensive mindset, who has had to move from 112lbs to 118lbs Nishida really is the opposite. He is a tall, southpaw, who is moving in down in weight, and focuses on boxing and moving, using his educated feet, his amateur pedigree being clear every time he steps in the ring. He has quick hands, good movement and he boxes with his brain, not his brawn.
Although there is only limited footage of Nishida to get a read on him as a fighter, with his debut not surfacing and being pretty pointless to scout him off regardless, it's hard to say how good he really is, but it's clear that he is, at the least, very good. He's patient, has good timing, he's composed, smart and a sharp fighter. His jab and footwork are really good and in the bout with Omori he looked like a man with much, much more to offer. In fact in the later rounds, when he already had a comfortable lead, he seemed to want to put the cherry on the top of his performance and stop Omori. With that in mind we suspect his stamina is going to be good, he had energy to burn late on. One worry about him however, is how his body reacts to moving down to 118lbs, having fought all of his bouts at, or around, 122lbs so far. If he can make the weight with no issues he could be a real handful. Not just for Higa, but for a lot of very good fighters.
If Nishida makes the 118lb limit without taking much out of himself, and there's a good chance he can, then this is going to be a real test of character for Higa. Nishida is the type of fighter who we feel has the footwork, jab and timing to frustrate Higa, round after round. We've not seen his chin really being tested, though he was caught a few times by Omori and took them well, but if he can take a good shot from Higa he has a real chance off scoring an upset. That will be an even bigger chance if Hishida, moving down, has some more pop on his shots.
Higa will, obviously, be strongly favoured, and many who haven't seen Nishida will feel he's being thrown to the wolves. In reality however he's the latest Japanese fighter to show a willingness to take risks early and want to advance his career quickly. He will come into this bout as a very live underdog. It's a huge step up for him, but it's certainly one he has a chance in.
In regards to how the bout will be. We see Higa barrelling forward, it's how Nishida deals with that that will decide the bout. Higa is what he is. A strong, pressure fighter with lovely combinations, but a poor defense, and a significant size disadvantage at Bantamweight. If Nishida can cope with the pressure he'll win here however that's a huge if, and many will suspect he'll fold under the Higa pressure.
We are believers that a good big guys beats a good little guy, and with that in mind we're going with the surprise upset here. We feel Nishida will struggle at times, but manage to, just, do enough to take the win, using his size as a major tool.
Prediction - UD12 Nishida
New Year's Eve is always a big day for boxing in Japan, and this year is no exception with a brilliant WBO Super Flyweight world title bout between Kazuto Ioka and Kosei Tanaka set to headline the end of year festivities. It is worth noting however that the brilliant main event for the day is set to be one of two title bouts on this year's final Japanese show. The other will WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight champion Yuki Strong Kobayashi (16-8, 9) seek his second defense, and his biggest win to date, as he faces former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa (16-1-1, 16).
The bout, which will be aired in the Kanto region of Japan, is one that looks poor on paper and we suspect many will see it as a mismatch in favour of the challenger. In reality however we suspect this could be an absolutely brilliant bout, between two well matched fighters, who's styles should gel and make for a very hotly contested and action packed battle.
Of the two fighters it's certainly Higa who is the more well known. The former WBC Flyweight champion began his career with a brilliant and thrilling run of 15 straight stoppage victories. He looked like he was set to be one of the major stars of Japanese boxing over the coming years, and looked, in some whats, like a Japanese Roman Gonzalez, with a style that saw him being dubbed the "Romagon of Okinawa". He connected quickly with fans, and seemed like a quiet guy out of the ring and a destructive one between the ropes, whilst also having the legendary Yoko Gushiken as his mentor.
Sadly after making 2 defenses of the WBC Flyweight title Higa's career came to a startling halt, after he lost the title on the scales ahead of his bout with Cristofer Rosales. He was the first Japanese fighter to ever lose a world title in that fashion and it seemed like he was mentally done going into that fight, being stopped in the 9th round. The weight issue saw the JBC suspending him, and it was almost 2 years later before he returned to the ring, with the JBC not allowing him to fight at a weight below Bantamweight. On his return to the ring that wasn't an issue, as he took out Jason Buenaobra, with no issues at all. Sadly though for Higa and his fans, his second bout back was an issue as he struggled against fellow Japanese fighter Seiya Tsutsumi in October, with the two men fighting to a draw. A draw that many felt Tsutsumi should have won.
At Flyweight Higa a lot of things going for him. He was physically intimidating, with really impressive core strength and power. He was quick on his fight, pressured fantastically well and threw brutal combinations to head and body. His shots at 112lbs were damaging, and he was able to rip opponents apart with combinations, and force them to back off with single, clean jabs. He had it all at 112lbs. At 118lbs however it does seem like his physicality is less dominant, he looks small at Bantamweight, and his style hasn't had the same effect as we saw at Flyweight. He looks somewhat average at the weight. As well as the move up in weight Higa has also left long term mentor Yoko Gushiken and is now fighting out of Tokyo, whilst sparring at fitness gyms, something that has gotten the AMBITION Gym in trouble recently. There is very much a feeling that things are not what they once were for Higa.
When it comes to Yuki Strong Kobayashi we have a fighter with a record that looks unimpressive, and in some ways very limited. With 8 losses from 24 fights we're not even going to pretend he's close to world class. However his numbers don't really reflect the fighter he is today, but more the journey he has taken to get where he is. The 29 year old has had a hard career since beginning his journey way back in 2011 and the man from Osaka has not had the chance to build his record, and pad out his experience with easy fights. He began his career with some success, winning his first 4, but soon began slipping and was 6-3 (4) after 9 bouts, and 10-7 (5) after 17 bouts. His career was going nowhere in early 2017, after losses to Takahiro Yamamoto, Ye Joon Kim and Rey Megrino. But then things changed, and he has gone 8-1 since then, with the one loss being a controversial one against Keita Kurihara, which saw Kobayashi out boxing Kurihara long stretches of the bout, but hitting the canvas numerous times, costing him the win. That same Keita Kurihara is now a world ranked contender just a few fights off a potential world title fight. And the fact Kobayashi went 12 rounds with Kurihara is a testament to his toughness and determination.
Since his loss to Kurihara we've seen Kobayashi score a career best win over Ben Mananquil, defeating him for the WBO Asia Pacific title, and make his first defense, surprisingly going 12 rounds with Ki Chang Go en route to a wide decision win.
In the ring Kobayashi is a pretty basic come forward boxer. Watching him you don't see anything that stands out as spectacular, there's no eye blurring speed, or dynamite power, there's now intense work rate and super high output, and there's flash. Despite all that he's actually a solid boxer, he understands what he's doing and why, he gets the fact he needs to use a jab to set the table, he throws a good solid straight right hand behind it and his defense has improved no end from the early days. He's unfortunate not to have been blessed with any of those traits that a top fighter needs, but he's strong and he always comes to fight. He's also a very natural Bantamweight, which could play a major part in this fight.
Coming in to this the obvious prediction is for Higa to steam roll Kobayashi, applying intense pressure early and breaking down the champion. That however seems far fetched given how Higa has looked at Bantamweight, and the fact Kobayashi, whilst not the most intimidating of fighters, is a strong, well schooled guy, with a tight defense and a good jab. After all if Kurihara, a big puncher at Bantamweight, can't put Kobayashi down and out, we don't think Higa can either.
Instead we expect the smaller Higa to be cautious and instead of trying to break down Kobayashi with pressure and power, he'll use his brain, be quick, get in and out, landing combinations before getting away. Despite that tactic we still expect the power, strength and jab of Kobayashi to be a problem for Higa, who will eat a lot of punches on his way in, and his way out. The jab and right hand of Kobayashi will be enough to get Higa's respect, and we suspect enough for him to pick up rounds, giving us a very close fight.
As the fight goes on, we expect Higa to tire, and the bout to slowly become a war of attrition in the later rounds. We suspect neither man will manage to finish the other off, taking us to the scorecards, in a very hotly contest bout. Just, narrowly, won by Higa, in what would be his first decision win.
Prediction - MD12 Higa
After almost 2 years out of the ring we finally see the return of former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa (15-1, 15), as he competes in an 8 round bout at 119lbs against Filipino Jason Buenaobra (7-4-3, 3). On paper this is a very, very, easy bout for Higa but given his long lay off, 22 months, and the move up in weight it's still a very interesting fight and a great chance to see how Higa looks as he begins a new chapter of his career with a new trainer. It also gives Buenaobra a great chance to make a name for himself.
For those who haven't seen Higa you've missed out! The Yoko Gushiken protege is one of the most exciting fighters on the planet. He's very much a fighter who has taken clear influence from Roman Gonzalez. Like Gonzalez the once beaten Higa is a heavy handed, exciting pressure fighter, who cuts the ring off well, lets combinations go on the inside and has under-rated defense. He is all action, and a thrill a minute fighter to watch who is now being trained by former world champion Tadashi Tomori.
Sadly Higa's career was curtailed in 2018 when he failed to make weight for a WBC Flyweight title defense, losing the belt on the scales, losing his unbeaten record the following day and later having his Japanese license. That almost lead to him retiring from the sport. Thankfully last year he decided to return to the Shirai Gushiken Gym and since then has decided to return to the ring, which gets us to where we are now.
At his best Higa was a steam roller. His first 15 bouts all ended with Higa stopping his opponents, and taking out the likes of Kongfah CP Freshmart, Ardin Diale, Juan Hernandez Navarrete, Thomas Masson and Moises Fuentes. In his last bout however he looked a shadow of his usual self before his team threw in the towel ending his effort against Cristofer Rosales. Aged just 24 he has a lot of time to rebuild his reputation and with Gushiken and Tomori behind him the plan is for him to be back in the title mix by the end of the year.
Aged 25 Buenaobra is a relative unknown, even among the typical Filipino fans. Despite that the southpaw has faced some fighters of note, and had somewhat mixed results. He's the only fighter to have taken the all action Carl Jammes Martin the distance, lasting 8 rounds with Martin 2017, he also beat the then unbeaten Jerry Pabila and upset Robin Langres, before losing last time out to Joseph Ambo. Although he's a "win some, lose some, draw some" fighter he's not yet suffered a stoppage loss.
Sadly there is very, very little footage of Buenaobra available, so we can't say too much about his style. He is however a southpaw and he'll have a clear height, and likely reach, advantage of Higa. Notably his last 2 bouts both ended early due to headclashes, and 3 of his last 5 have been technical decisions. With that in mind we wouldn't be surprised to see Buenaobra being a tough clumsy when he comes in. Also his suggests a genuine lack of power, and you need to go back to his 5th bout for his last win inside the distance.
Although it's always hard to predict a bout where footage of only 1 man is available it's hard to see anything but a win for Higa. The real question is just how long can Buenaobra last when Higa goes through the gears. We expect Higa to start slowly, take a round or two to ease his way into the bout then increase his pace. Breaking down and stopping the Filipino in the middle of the 8 round contest.
Prediction - TKO5 Higa
November 5th is a hectic day for fight fans who really got so much action that some stuff will simply be over-looked due to the big name fighters on the show in Las Vegas. Before the Las Vegas action, featuring the likes of Manny Pacquiao, Nonito Donaire and Zou Shiming, we also get the chance to see an OPBF Flyweight title bout, with the all action Daigo Higa (10-0, 10) looking to make the first defense of his title and continue perfect KO run as he takes on Filipino fighter Felipe Cagubcob Jr (6-2-5, 2). On paper this looks like a mismatch, and an easy first defense for Higa, however is it really that straight forward for the destructive champion, or could he actually be tested here?
Of course it makes sense to start this by looking at the champion, who has been dubbed the “Romagon of Okinawa” due to his stylistic similarities to Roman Gonzalez. Higa is an ultra aggressive pressure fighter who, like Gonzalez, cuts the ring off wonderfully, though devastating combinations to both head and body and appears to be more defensively sound than people realise. Not only is he incredibly exciting but his competition has also been impressive in recent years with wins against the likes of Kongfah CP Freshmart, Renren Tesorio and most recently Ardin Diale.
Higa is arguably the most exciting Flyweight on the planet. He's aggressive, exciting and looks for a stoppage in every bout. Whether that run continues right to the top is yet to be seen however he's already becoming a star in Japan with G+ televising his bouts and his mentor Yoko Gushiken helping him with his progression and growing fame.
Although yet to beat a truly world class opponent it does look like Higa is a fighter who will beat a number of the top guys, in fact it looks like he could already beat the likes of Zou Shiming, Kwanpichit OnesongChaigym and numerous other leading contenders. In many ways this coming bout is the next test as he continues to advance towards a world title, but appears to be hunting a defense to prove his championship status before getting a world title fight, likely early next years.
Sadly it's much harder to talk about Cagucob's style than it is about Higa's. Footage of Higa has been easy to come by, with a lot of his bouts being televised, however the Filipino is almost a mystery man in terms of style, with no footage available. That's disappointing however we have been interested in by his record which certainly looks better in reality than the numbers suggest. The 25 year old stopped Donny Mabao in 4 rounds back in July his only losses have been to Jake Bornea and Renz Rosia, and he has fought to draws with Lloyd Jardeliza, twice, and Joey Canoy, all in all not terrible results. He's also a southpaw, we believe the first that Higa will have faced.
Whilst his record is messy it's interesting to see that he has been in great form recently, after a bizarre 1-5-2 start to his professional career. He has since gone 5-0 (2) and has developed from the fighter he was in the early stages of his career. This is however his first fight outside of the Philippines, and only his third fight outside of the Metro Manila region.
With little footage of Cagucob available it's impossible to get a read on his style however to beat Higa he will have to be tough and either be tough enough to win a fire fight up close, protecting himself and finding holes Higa's under-rated defense. Of frustrate and out box Higa, another tough proposition given that Higa cuts off the ring amazingly well. That's not to take say it' impossible to beat Higa in other ways but he does seems like the fighter who will be incredibly difficult to beat and has proven his durability with his war against Kongfah CP Freshmart.
Given that Caguob's sole stoppage loss has come from a body shot, and Higa really does throw some sensational, the probably outcome is that the Filipino will likely be broke down, with the body shots being a key. The Filipino will likely look to fight fire with fire, but we'd be shocked to see him really push Higa here, with the the Japanese fighter being a human steam roller and suspect that will be seen again here.
This weekend we get a number of really good looking bouts, though perhaps the best of them is hidden away on G+ in Japan, and isn't being fought for a world title. In fact the bout in question sees one fighter coming in with 9 losses from 43 bouts and another who has never been the 12 round distance and is “only” for an OPBF title. But there is potential for a genuine FOTY contender to break out, and for the fans at the Korakuen Hall to get another treat this year.
The bout will see OPBF Flyweight champion Ardin Diale (31-9-3, 15) face off against a man dubbed “The Romagon of Okinawa” (The Roman Gonzalez of Okinawa), Daigo Higa (9-0, 9).
Like many Filipino fighters Diale has done things the hard way, he's not had things handed to him and has had to travel through his career with bouts in Thailand, Mexico and Japan. Not only has he travelled but he has faced some top fighters on the road, such as Wanheng Menayothin, Julio Cesar Miranda, Juan Francisco Estrada and Koki Eto. Bouts like those have resulted in Diale suffering 9 losses, 4 by stoppage, but he's proven an ability to be competitive with guys from 105lbs to 115lbs.
Higa on the other hand hasn't been protected, nor have the Shirai Gushiken Sports gym tried to protect his KO run. His first 4 wins were against limited opposition, but when he started stepping up he really did step up stopping decent Filipino's like Cris Alfante and then the promising Kongfah CP Freshmart in Thailand to claim the WBC Youth title. As the WBC youth champion he has recorded two defenses against decent Filipino fighters, including Renren Tesorio, and is now taking a logical next step.
In the ring Diale is a true veteran, in terms of experience, but at 27 is only coming into his physical prime. Yes there are years on the clock for the man who debuted almost a decade ago but those years don't seem to have done him much damage, despite an 8 round war with Koki Eto just over 2 years ago. Incidentally he is on a great run of results, winning his last 8 with 5 stoppages, and claiming the OPBF title last December. This will be his second defense of the title and potentially a chance to score a win over one of the most exciting prospects in world boxing.
Whilst Diale is a veteran with almost 300 rounds and 43 fights to his name Higa is the opposite. He's a 9 fight novice with just 30 rounds under his belt, he's a boxing baby and at just 20 years old he's a long way from fully maturing as a man, or building up his confidence as a person. Despite that he's a terror in the ring with an incredible output, heavy hands, intelligent shot selection and an improving, but still flawed defense.
In terms of technical skills Diale has those. He can genuinely box, he has criminally under-rated power, genuine guts and a real will to win. He perhaps falls short of world class in every category but he's one of those fighters who does almost everything very well, just comes up short at the higher levels. It's an unfortunate position to be but regionally he's a really hard fighter to beat and is 13-2 in the last 48 months, with the losses coming to world ranked fighters Eto and Petchbarngborn Kokietgym, in a controversial one in Thailand.
Technically Higa is flawed, he can be hit and his defenses, although improving, aren't great. That's a problem when you're a hyper-aggressive fighter. But Higa seems to be aware that his best defense is his offense and when that gets going he's a nightmare, swarming fighters with an endless assault of heavy and vicious shots to the head and body. It often seems like he has taken the in-ring spirit of his mentor, Yoko Gushiken from whom he has inherited the "Kanmuriwashi" moniker, and has given it a rebirth.
When they fighters get into the ring we suspect they will meet center ring. Higa looking to take the initiative and unleash his fire power, Diale looking to defense and reel off counters, making the most of the openings Higa will give him and he will give Diale plenty of them. If Higa can take the counters and continue firing back for 10 rounds we think he'll score a late stoppage. Diale however has his sneaky power and he'll hit Higa harder than the youngster has been hit before and if he can discourage the youngster there is a good chance he could turn this into a brilliant win and a genuinely great defense of his title. Either way, we're expecting this one to be the fight of the weekend.
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.